Tuesday, February 17, 2009

never be cheap on a first date

I agreed to meet Bachelor #4 at a Starbuck's. I was a little early, so I ordered myself a latte and settled in by a window with a prime view of the parking lot so I could scope him out before he walked in. A few minutes later, I saw someone resembling his online dating profile picture saunter towards the door. I breathed a sigh of relief, happy that it wasn't one of those situations where you wonder why the guy set himself up for failure by posting a picture in which he was a much younger, thinner version of his current self.

We greeted each other, and he excused himself so he could go get a coffee. It was only when he came back and sat down with his grande dark roast that I noticed there was a small, round, bubbly looking thing perched on the corner of his mouth. There were two obvious explanations for this: a cold sore, or herpes. I tried not to visibly recoil in horror as I contemplated the latter option. Personally, if it were me and it was a cold sore, the first thing I'd have done, however awkward, was make sure my date knew that it was NOT the gift that keeps on giving courtesy of an unfortunate encounter with the opposite sex. If it WAS herpes, maybe I would just hope my date didn't notice it. Which is maybe what he was doing. I didn't have a clue and wasn't about to ask.

At any rate, #4 was pleasant and had a gift for gab, unlike some of the other guys I've dated, who've had the conversational skills of a sea anemone. By the time we'd finished our coffees it was dinnertime, and I was hungry, so when #4 suggested grabbing a bite to eat at the Chili's down the road, I was game. We took the first available table, which happened to be at the bar, and chowed down on some burgers. We talked about how we both like fondue, and #4 said that he wanted to take me to his favorite fondue restaurant a few towns away.

The waiter dropped off the check, and a few minutes later, #4 turned it over and placed it down in the middle of the table, in my line of sight. "Not too bad!" he exclaimed. OK, there are 2 things wrong with this picture:

1. In my opinion, it is oh-so-tacky for a guy on a first date to let the woman view the bill, and even tackier for him to comment on it.
2. Of COURSE it wasn't too bad - it was CHILI's for G_d's sake! And we had burgers! I don't think the most expensive item on the Chili's menu is more than $15! How bad did he really think it was going to be? This was a bad sign. A very bad sign.

There are conflicting viewpoints on whether a woman should offer to pay on a date. At that point in time, my belief was that it was ok for a woman to offer to pay part of the bill on a first date, particularly if she wasn't interested in ever seeing the guy again. However, my belief was also that if the man wants to ever see the woman again, that he should refuse the offer. I would almost always offer to contribute some money, and if the guy accepted it, that was a strike against him. I don't really hold the same viewpoints now, but that's a discussion for another time.

So, I offered up some money, and what do you know, #4 took it, without even an 'Are you sure?" or a "Maybe you can just leave the tip." I mean, it was only twenty five dollars. We're not talking a high end four star restaurant where an appetizer can cost as much as a pair of shoes. If he couldn't man-up and pay for our dinner at Chili's, what was he going to expect of me when we went to the fondue restaurant, which was surely more expensive?

After paying the bill, we headed out to our cars, and I prayed that he would not try to kiss me goodnight with his bubbly lip. The praying apparently worked because all he attempted was a hug.

A few days later, #4 called me to set up our date at the fondue restaurant. I made the mistake of asking him how his day was. His response was to ramble for - I kid you not - 15 minutes about mileage reimbursement. Here is an excerpt:

Him: "Well, I have to go to this work-related training class that's 60 miles away, which is 120 miles round trip. I have to go to six training sessions, so that's a lot of miles. I'm only getting reimbursed $.36 a mile, but with the price of gas nowadays, that's really not enough. I think the IRS just raised standard reimbursement rates to $.42 per mile, but I don't know if my company is going to honor this and raise their reimbursement rates too. I am really worried about this. I want to ask my boss to see if they will reimburse me at the new, higher rate, but I'm afraid that if I ask him he'll fire me."

Me: "Why would he fire you for asking about being reimbursed for a job-related expense?"

Him: "Well, they are getting very strict about things. There's a girl I work with who also goes to the training classes and she came in late the other week and the boss came down on her. I am just so scared that I will not get reimbursed at the higher rate for all the driving I'm doing. It would just be so not fair if they only pay me the $.36 per mile. I mean, this is wear and tear on my car. It's a lot of driving and maintaining a car is expensive these days. I really need to get that $.42 per mile. All this driving is killing me."

And on and on it went. I tried asking why he didn't just carpool with the girl who also went to the training classes but never got an answer that made sense. Eventually I had to interrupt him and end the conversation before I went completely insane. This conversation revealed two things to me about #4:

1. He was too tightly wound. No one had told him that he wasn't going to get reimbursed at the higher rate- he was freaking out about a 'what if' scenario. If he could work himself into such a snit about something that had not yet become an issue, it would be truly scary to see what he'd be like should a real issue arise, and I didn't want to be around to experience it.

2. He was cheap. The fact that he was freaking out about mileage reimbursement, coupled with the fact that I ended up footing part of the bill at Chili's, just screamed CHEAP to me. I understand the need to conserve money and be thrifty, particularly in today's tough economic times. But there is a difference between thrifty and cheap. Thrifty people spend wisely. Cheap, according to dictionary.com, means "stingy and miserly." Not attractive qualities.

Hence the one and only lesson to be learned from this post: "Never be cheap on a first date!" It's my opinion that failure to man-up and pay for the first date does not reflect well on any guy, no matter what the circumstances. And, if I may put my psychoanalyst hat on, it may indicate on some primitive level that the guy is not a good provider, and therefore not a good prospect for a long term relationship. My feeling is that if #4 did not want to spend the money to buy me dinner at Chili's, then he should have just called it a night after Starbuck's.

I ended up canceling my second date with #4, deciding I'd rather spend my Saturday night home alone waxing my legs than hearing parts two through twenty five of the mileage reimbursement saga and trying to avoid kisses from his potentially bubbly lips.

Monday, January 19, 2009

never practice extreme fishing or lie about your age

My girlfriends and I were sick of hanging out at the same old places and decided to try someplace new. Someone suggested checking out a new bar/restaurant located in a very affluent suburb where the family pet is as likely to be a polo pony as a dog, and most women would never think of walking out of the house without a perfect mani-pedi. Being the adventurous single gals we are, and intrigued to experience the nightlife of the rich and not-so-famous, we decided to go for it.

The place itself was very nice, with lots of exposed brick and touches of brass in all the right places. The crowd was what we expected - very Stepford-esque. Everyone was expertly groomed, and looked like they just stepped off a golf course. The overwhelming number of Polo sweaters in that bar would have made Ralph Lauren proud.

Shortly after our arrival, Bachelor #3 sat down next to me and introduced himself. He had a name the likes of which I had never heard before, and of course I cannot reveal within this blog. It was a family name, and apparently other members of his family had names that were just as strange, such as Happy and Cappy. No joke. What I CAN tell you, because I think it's hysterical, is that my sister nicknamed #3 'Brioche.' Like the bread. Brioche told me that he had retired from investment banking a couple years ago and was now a full time golf pro. Judging from his weather-beaten exterior, which was probably a result of many leisurely days sailing, golfing, or just hangin' with the homies at his country club, I guessed him to be around 45, possibly older.

Eventually, my friends grew weary of the Polo Palace and wanted to move on. Brioche expressed his disappointment and asked me if I wanted him to come with us to our next destination. He said that he really wanted to talk more, and volunteered to drive me in his car and follow my friends, so that they would know I was safe. Failing to see how driving behind my friends could stop him from suddenly veering off into the woods and bludgeoning me to death with his golf clubs, I declined the offer. After giving him my number, I bid him adieu.

I like to Google my dates when possible to make sure they're not convicted felons, and figured it would be easy to find information on Brioche out in cyberspace given his very unique name. I turned out to be right, and found his high school reunion Web site, which revealed he graduated in 1978, making him 48 years old. OK, so he was a bit older than the guys I usually date, but maybe that meant he would be more mature.

I should have known it wasn't going to go well when during a phone conversation Brioche repeatedly asked me if I was excited for our date, if I was nervous, and if I had planned out what I was going to wear yet. Just for the record, guys, these are not appropriate questions. These are the kinds of things that women discuss with their girlfriends, not with their dates. However, I decided to give Brioche the benefit of the doubt and we planned to meet for dinner.

I showed up for our date right on time at 7:30, and stood awkwardly pressed up against a potted plant in the cramped waiting area. At 7:45 I was starting to think I'd been stood up, when a very frazzled Brioche rushed in, muttering something about having trouble finding a parking space. Lesson #1: If you're running late, call! Keeping your date waiting is bad enough, particularly on the first date when it's really important to make a good impression, but not to call is inexcusable and shows a complete lack of respect for the other person.

It was 30 degrees outside and I noticed that Brioche was devoid of any outerwear. I figured the cold had permeated his body and stopped the flow of blood to his brain, making it impossible for him to recall the rules of dating etiquette. Apparently it also had made him impervious to common sense because it was a Friday night and he hadn't made a reservation. It wasn't like we were dining at Robby's Rib Shack - this was a popular, upscale restaurant that is known to get very crowded. Call me old-fashioned, but my opinion is that any guy worth dating will take care of little, common sense details like this, particularly if he's the one who asked for the date in the first place. If he can't properly orchestrate a simple dinner date, there really isn't much hope.

Thankfully, the wait wasn't supposed to be too bad, so we took a seat at the bar, and Brioche asked the bartender's name. "I'm Leah," she said. "Well, I'm Brioche and this is Susie," he replied. It's usually a wise move to make friends with the bartender, so this didn't faze me. What did, however, was when he did the same with the host who escorted us to our table, and also with the waitress. Yes, it's helpful to know the names of the people serving you. But I doubt either of them really cared what our names were. I wondered if he also made a habit of introducing himself to those annoying people in club bathrooms who guilt you into tipping them by handing you paper towels.

It struck me as very ironic that while he was obviously bent on making an impression with the restaurant staff, he didn't seem as interested in making an impression on me. Or maybe he just didn't know how. Shortly after we were seated, he proceeded to cough and sniffle, and then wipe his nose on the arm of his Polo sweater. Disgusting. He claimed it was allergies. For someone who supposedly lived and worked among the privileged, he didn't seem to know squat about basic manners. Brioche then asked me how old I was, and not wanting to reveal that I'd done some homework, I asked him the same question in return.

"I'm 39," he said.

Oh boy. I knew at this point that I wanted our first date to be our last, and I didn't want him to think he got away with this whopper, so I decided to call him on it. Although I did give him credit for trying to pull off a lie of this magnitude, which to me was the equivalent of Gary Coleman trying to tell someone that he's of average height.

Me: "Really? I happen to know you're 48."
Brioche: "WHAT? You're saying I look 48?"
Me: "I didn't say you LOOK 48 - I just said I happen to KNOW you're 48."
Brioche: "What do you mean?"
Me: "It's this thing called the Internet.....I Googled you."
Brioche: "What? I don't understand."
Me: "I put your name into the Google search engine and it brought up your 1978 high school reunion Web site."
Brioche: "Ohhh. Well....actually I'm 49. Age doesn't matter though. I date a lot of women your age, and I've even dated 28 year olds."
Me: "Really? So do you tell the 28 year olds you're 39 also?
Brioche: "Well, yeah."

Spectacular. Lesson #2: Do not lie about your age. Or anything else, for that matter, if you ever want to see your date again. Because it's just a really bad way to start off a potential relationship, and if you're found out, it will not go over well. Even if the woman doesn't dump you straightaway, the relationship will probably be doomed because you will have lost her trust and she will question everything else you've ever told her.

After the age conversation, things didn't get any better. Brioche was perhaps the most tiring, annoying person I had ever met. It was impossible to have a normal conversation with him because every other sentence out of his mouth was geared towards trying to get me to tell him how great he was. It went something like this:

Brioche: So what are you doing this weekend?
Me: I'm meeting some girlfriends for lunch.
Brioche: So, what are you going to tell them about me?
Me: I'm not sure yet. What are your plans for the weekend?
Brioche: I'm playing golf. Isn't this the BEST first date you've ever been on?
Me, trying to be tactful: It's good....
Brioche: No, really. Isn't this your best first date ever? Good food, good atmosphere.....do you want to step out for a second and call your friends and tell them what a great time you're having?
Me: Not right now, thanks. I'm enjoying my dinner.
Brioche: I was just kidding. Do you like my sense of humor? I'm always joking.
Me: So, what do you like to do when you're not golfing?
Brioche: I like gardening, and listening to music. If you hang around with me, I'll teach you a lot about music. So when I walked in the bar, and you saw me for the first time, did you know right away that you wanted me to ask you out?
Me: Well, to be honest, I didn't know immediately.....
Brioche: Because when I handed you my phone you punched in your number very quickly. You really liked me, didn't you?
Me: We'd been talking for about an hour at that point, and you seemed nice, so I was ok with giving you my number. So do you have any brothers and sisters?
Brioche: Yes, I have a sister and two brothers. Are you sure you don't want to call your friends right now and tell them all about me?

And on and on it went. Lesson #3: Never practice extreme fishing. As in continually fishing for compliments. It will make you seem very insecure and self centered, which is a big turn off. I want a guy who is confident in who he is, not one who constantly needs his ego stroked. Plus, why would you want to receive compliments that didn't come naturally, but were forced out of someone?

Throughout dinner, Brioche made a point of periodically looking over at the bar. He said that he really wanted to have another drink over there when we finished dinner, and was worried it would get really crowded. Against my better judgement, I agreed to have one drink with him before heading home. Back at the bar, I learned all kinds of interesting facts about Brioche, like that all of his exes were still in love with him, and that if we continued to hang out, that I would benefit from his extensive knowledge of the arts. At one point he got up to use the restroom, and while he was gone, I asked the bartender for a glass of water. The bartender also brought over a second glass of water for Brioche.

Upon his return, Brioche asked, "Did you get me this glass of water?"
"Not exactly," I said. "The waiter brought it over."
" No, really," said Brioche, "Did you get me this glass of water?"
"Well, I asked for one and the bartender also brought one over for you," I explained again.
"NO!" Brioche said loudly, "What I mean, is, did you GET me this glass of water?"

At this point I was really irritated and couldn't figure out where he was going with this. So, very slowly, I said "Like I just told you, I asked for a water and the bartender brought you one too." To which Brioche replied, "Because I just wanted to say thank you," as he leaned in, tried to kiss me, and got my cheek. "Thank you again for getting me this glass of water." And he leaned in a second time. And for the second time I gave him my cheek.

If that isn't cheesy, I don't know what is. At that point I'd had enough and said I thought it was time to go. Brioche agreed, and as we were walking out he mentioned that he'd parked across the road because the restaurant lot was full. This road is actually a very busy two way highway of sorts, so it's not easy to cross. Call me a glutton for punishment, but that, combined with the fact that dumbass hadn't worn a coat, made me feel sorry for him, so I offered to drive him to his car. He took me up on this offer and I was subjected to him trying to make out with me. I know this sounds awful, but it was just easier to close my eyes, pretend it was someone else, and get it over with rather than fight him.

After ramming his slimy tongue down my throat, and perhaps sensing I wasn't enjoying myself, Brioche said "Susie, I think that you should ask me out on our next date." I readily agreed to this, knowing full well I was never going to call him.

"I really mean it," he continued. " You need to call me and say Brioche, I want to go out again."
"OK, that's fine," I said.
"No, really," he continued. "You need to call me. Because I am not going to call you."
"All right, that's fine," I reiterated.
"Really, Susie. It's up to you to call me," Brioche stated adamantly. "Because I'm not going to call you. I mean it."
"I understand," I said with my teeth clenched. He was like a broken record. I couldn't take anymore.
"I'm not kidding. I'm not picking up the phone. You need to call me."
"OK!!! I get it!" I screeched. "I think you should go now."

And so he was off. And true to his word, Brioche never called me again.

Monday, January 12, 2009

never use the "f" word or make creepy instant follow up calls

In hindsight, there were certain things about Bachelor #2 that should have sent me running for the hills before we even met. The first was that the only picture posted on his online profile was so blurry that you could barely make out his silhouette. The second was that he told me the following about his food preferences during our first phone conversation: "I like my KFC like sex - once an hour." Now, of course he was joking, but seeing that this was the first time we'd spoken, it seemed a little inappropriate. However, I'd just started dating after a 10 year marriage, and was, quite frankly, completely clueless about dating in the 21st century, and about men in general. I hadn't yet retrained myself to listen to my instincts, which were manifesting themselves as little people in my head whispering "run, Forest, run."

When I met #2 for coffee after work, it was quite obvious why his picture was so blurry - he was smart enough to realize that looking like Barney Rubble wouldn't score him many dates. However, I am not a shallow person, and, hoping that his beauty would radiate from within, tried to initiate some pleasant conversation. This tactic failed miserably, however. After some small talk about hobbies, #2 started ranting about how trashy most of the women are on online dating sites, specifically women from a nearby city, who, as he so delicately put it, "just want to f#@k." "But," he told me as he grabbed my hand across the table, "you're different." I quickly feigned a coughing fit and wrenched my hand from his death grip. Lesson #1: Do not use the "f" word or any other 4 letter word on a date unless you want to come across as trailer trash.

After that statement, I figured that the only way the conversation could go was up and tried to focus #2 on other, more mundane subjects. I mentioned that I had a friend who was moving and needed to find a new home for his cat. "I love cats. I have two. I think that I could take that cat," he said. Then I mentioned that one of my girlfriends wasn't having much luck selling her mom's condo in Boca. "I like Florida, I think maybe I'll buy it," he said. I told him that I needed a new air conditioner. "I'll find you one," he exclaimed. I told him I was interested in learning tennis. He said - you guessed it - "I can teach you!" Apparently #2 was Superman - he could do it all! I'm certain that if I told him that I wanted to learn to speak Swahili or adopt an orphan from China he would have been able to help me out with that, too. It was flattering that #2 wanted me to be his Lois Lane, but I was just not up for that role.

I decided it was time to end our date. Since it was early April, I told him I had to go home and work on my tax return. As he walked me to my car, I coughed loudly, wondering out loud why I still hadn't shaken my cold, to proactively ensure that he would not try to kiss me.

I escaped into the security of my car, happy to be headed home. I pulled onto the highway, tuned the radio to my favorite station, and had just started to relax when my cell phone rang. It was #2. I couldn't imagine why he could possibly be calling me literally 20 seconds after our date had ended unless I'd left something behind.

Me: "Hello?"
#2: "Hi, it's #2."
Me: "Did I forget something?"
#2: "No. You know that supermarket next to where we just had coffee?"
Me: "Yes...."
#2: "Well, I'm in there buying cat food!"
Me: "Ah...ok..that's nice...."
#2: "Yeah, I'm buying some food for my cat..." Silence.
Me: "Look, I don't have my hands free device, so I really need to go."

Apparently, #2 hadn't been ready to end our date. Maybe he figured that since I also had a cat, that I'd keep him company on his errand and debate the merits of dry food vs. wet as he perused the pet food aisle. Lesson #2: Do not make creepy instant follow up calls after a first date (or any date, for that matter). There were two very disturbing things about this phone call:

1. It was made less than one minute after the date ended. Unless you're relaying something that requires immediate attention such as a forgotten handbag, calling your date this soon after your initial encounter will just come off as creepy and desperate.
2. He called about cat food. Maybe he planned to say something else after the cat food statement and froze up. Regardless, I find it amazing that anyone would use this as a conversation starter.

#2 called left me a voice mail the Friday after our date, asking me if I wanted to hang out with him that night. As I'm sure you can figure out, I did not return the call.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

never insult a woman if you want a second date

The above-mentioned rule is only one of several that came out of my date with Bachelor #1, who I met on a popular online dating site. #1 was 42 years old, divorced, with two teenage boys. It was summer, so we agreed to meet at a restaurant with outdoor seating.

I arrived at the restaurant to find #1 sitting on the trunk of his car reading a newspaper. He was dressed casually in a polo, shorts and flip flops. After getting the initial awkward introduction out of the way, I assumed we'd head straight into the restaurant. Not so. "Wait!" #1 exclaimed, "I need to change my shoes." He proceeded to reach into his back seat and exchange the flip flops for a pair of boat shoes. I wondered if he had really agonized over flip flops vs. boat shoes and brought both so he could swap out at the last minute if the flops seemed too casual, or if he maybe had a shoe fetish that compelled him to keep an entire shoe collection in the car ready to go for any mood or occasion.

As we waited for our table at the bar, I took in all the usual bar noises: talking, laughing, music - along with a very loud smacking sound, which I quickly realized was coming from my date, who was chewing gum with his mouth wide open. Maybe he felt a need to fill the awkward silence between us. Or maybe he just didn't realize that he sounded like a cow chewing its cud. Whatever the reason, it was not attractive. Which brings us to lesson #1: Never chew gum with your mouth open.

Finally, we sat down to dinner. My eyes opened wide in amazement when all of a sudden, while perusing the menu, #1 took off his boat shoes and propped his bare, sweaty feet up on the empty chair next to him. OK - if you are at home, hanging out by yourself, or with the guys, this is perfectly acceptable. But there is no excuse for doing this in public, particularly on a first date - no matter how casual the restaurant, or how beautiful your feet may be. First dates are for putting your "best foot forward" so to speak. Take it from me, it is impossible to enjoy your company or food with the smell of foot odor wafting across the table. Lesson #2: Never take off your shoes during dinner. You may think your feet are odorless, but more likely you've just grown accustomed to your own stink.

The remainder of dinner actually proceeded fairly smoothly, and my date proved to have a very interesting sense of humor. He told the waitress that our names were 'Susie' and 'Tim' (not our real names), and that she should watch out because I was high maintenance and can be very belligerent if my needs aren't met. The waitress was unusually attentive, so I think that his little joke actually resulted in better service than we would have received otherwise.

After dinner #1 suggested we go for a drink elsewhere. I wasn't feeling any sort of chemistry, but I agreed because it was early on a Saturday night, I wasn't in the mood to sit home, and he wasn't altogether unpleasant as long as he kept his shoes on and didn't chew gum.

We ended up at an infamous dive bar that I'd wanted to check out for a long time. We shot a game of pool amidst a heavy metal cover band sporting mullets, and a bachelorette party serving up a cake shaped like a large male organ. After that we settled at the bar. All I wanted was a beer, but #1 presumptuously ordered me Bailey's on the rocks while telling me what a good date he thought this was. For all he knew, I hated Bailey's. To shut him up, I drank it anyway. And then he proceeded to order me another one, at which point I half-jokingly accused him of trying to get me drunk. Lesson #3: Never order a drink for your date without first asking her what she wants. It's just plain rude to do otherwise.

To top off my special experience at this dive bar, the elderly gentleman on the other side of me, who smelled like he hadn't showered in quite a long time, told me that he spoke Japanese. I determined that he either a. suffered from dementia, and/or b. had tied a few too many on when he decided to show off his mastery of the language by rambling on and on in what was definitely not Japanese, but complete and utter jibberish. He also told me, in English, that he was with his wife, but she was hanging out on the other side of the bar because "she bore the children so she can do whatever she wants."

After this debacle, my date and I parted ways. I was pretty sure he had a better time than I did and that I would hear from him again, Sure enough I did, a couple of days later via an email that contained as its main source of content - now brace yourself - a dumb blonde joke. The email did not express that he'd had a good time on our date, or any of the normal things that a guy who wants to pursue a second date with a girl would write. All it said was 'Good morning. Check out the best dumb blonde joke ever."

Now, I am blonde. And if we'd had a conversation during our date about dumb blonde stereotypes, sending me this joke would have made some kind of sense. But we hadn't discussed anything even remotely related to my hair color. It just came across as a very immature attempt on his part to get a rise out of me. Kind of like when I was a kid and the boys would call you names or pull your hair on the playground when they really liked you.

I'm sure he thought that this was really funny, and that it would definitely get me to respond. Which it did - being the non-confrontational people-pleaser that I am, I told him in the nicest way possible that while the joke itself was funny, that I thought choosing that type of joke was kind of insulting. To which he responded not with an apology, but with this:

"What, did you get up on the wrong side of the bed this morning? Here's another dumb blonde joke for you." At which point I wrote back that I was not interested in hearing from him again.

I mean, I have a sense of humor. I really, really do. And I understand that people find different things funny. But if a woman indicates that she's offended by something you did, you don't do it again - you apologize. I think #1 must have been spending way too much time with his teenage boys and not enough with adults. Hence, the 4th and final lesson from Bachelor #1: Never Insult a Woman if You Want a Second Date.