Part I: Grooming
My friends often tell me I was born old. That I’m the kind of asshole that spends most of his days telling the kids to keep off my lawn. Ironically, I lack a lawn and spend most of my days loitering on the lawns of others. Yet the comparison to a crotchety old man is not without merit, and aside from looking like one… SHIT!
For years I took pride in the idea that even crotchety I was still young, and while never actually spry I at least looked my age. Now I don’t even have that. The other day I got a haircut and realized the hair I saw in the mirror on my upper back had not fallen from my head, but was actually affixed to that spot. The individual hairs (partially due to the haircut being so short) were several INCHES longer than the ones on the top of my head. Grabbing a razor I quickly did the thing I had been dreading all these years: I shaved my back.
Instantly I understood why many of my friends had settled down at 25 or even younger: They had retired from the game before they were too old to run the court. They left before their hair fell out and their stomachs expanded. They wanted to make sure that by the time they grew hair on their upper back (that I’m certain serves absolutely no evolutionary advantage) there was already a lady so deeply in love with them (or at least the person they once were) that she would shave it for them.
Here I was: 30 years old, shaving my own back and wishing, if only for a moment, that I had a wife. A wife who loved me so unconditionally that this basic grooming ritual would not appall her. Sure, right now I could handle it, but I am only 30… what will happen 10 years from now, or even five?
I shuddered as I dipped the razor under hot water for the final time and continued the preparation for my date.
Part II: Prelude to a Date
It was with rather decent amount of skepticism and understanding that I opted to deviate from my usual choice of date (tattoos, piercings, an ethically and morally dubious view on societal norms) and pick someone a little more conventional. Blonde hair, blues eyes, and holding a wine glass in every photo of herself, Beth seemed like the ideal choice for a look into what a white picket fence future would look like for me.
Several factors lead to this decision:
1.) I was interested to see if I could keep up a conversation with someone I had very little in common with.
2.) But, she claimed to like Star Trek, so I had an out if I couldn’t.
3.) And, I had been thinking it was time for a change.
4.) Also, she looked like she had arms of ample length to reach the top of my back with a razor.
My first suggestions were met with scorn.
“Really? The Field or The People’s Republik?” she texted back, followed by “Those are the worst bars in Central.” To be fair, there are, in my opinion, no good bars in Cambridge’s Central Square. All bars are packed with gaggles of recent college graduates wearing polo shirts almost as white as they are. That being said, my suggestions had cheap drinks, no loud music, and generally, a place to sit.
Her choice, on the other hand, was the ACTUAL worst bar in Central. Brick & Mortar is the bar equivalent of a veggie burger. It was built (or rather rebuilt) in the early part of the decade to resemble a craze that never really caught on in Boston but was popular in New York: the speakeasy. It looked like one in that they removed the sign from the door, but it just didn’t taste like an NYC speakeasy, or anything else really. It just wasn’t meat.
So when Beth invited me, I was hesitant but agreed. The bar always had a line about 10 people deep to go inside, and having immigrated to this country from the former Soviet Union (the land of breadlines) the idea of waiting in line to get inside a place when there is a perfectly empty bar right next door that is owned by the same people, serving the same drinks seemed bizarre. Many a night I would walk past Brick & Mortar on my way to a better (read: any) place and wonder if there wasn’t something I was missing. Perhaps the bar gave out free blowjobs upon entry. That would explain the wait.
Being a Sunday, there was no line, and as I entered and scanned the crowd for my date, I was surprised to find that aside from the name being appropriate (there was in fact exposed bricks, and mortar), there was nothing particularly special about the bar. It was a bar. In fact, the only thing special or unique about it was the line one usually had to wait in to get in.
Part III: The Date
Having set up the date with a generically attractive blonde who looks like every other generically attractive blonde, I found it difficult to figure out which woman staring off into space with an empty seat next to her was my date. Needing a rather quick solution I ducked down so no one could see me, and sent a text: “almost there, where are you?” I waited a minute, looked back up, and scanned for ladies sitting alone staring at their phones. I found two, a brunette and, thankfully, a blonde.
I hurried over to the blonde, and in a joking fashion said “Beth? You can ignore my last text.” She chuckled and gestured for me to sit down.
As I sat I realized I had no idea how to start a conversation with her. The reality is I never know how to start a conversation with ANY girl, but I always think I do, so I muddle through the first 10 minutes until the alcohol kicks in, but in this case I had so convinced myself that I needed a plan, that the first words out of my mouth were “Who is your favorite Star Trek Captain?”
I think the bar collectively gasped at my lack of “game,” while Beth made a pretty decent case for Captain Sisko. Sadly, when she was finished with her explanation I realized we were back to square one with nothing to talk about. Worse still, I had used my one lifeline way too early to win the million dollars. Yeah, I make Regis Philbin references. Is it a shock that I sometimes have a problem communicating with women?
The drinks came far too slowly, while I learned that she had no interest in politics, did not share any common movie or book obsessions, and really loved money. To be fair, we’d all like to have more money, but it isn’t exactly a riveting topic of conversation. When she went to the bathroom I frantically searched her OKCupid profile to find something else to talk about. I found nothing. The only glimmer of hope was that if I punched in her name to Facebook, we might have a common friend, her name would pop up, and I would be able to learn more.
I brought it up.
Part IV: Creepiness
The following sentence seemed significantly more acceptable in my head:
“While you were in the bathroom I looked you up on Facebook to see if we had any common friends, and we do! You know my friends Amanda, and Catherine. Isn’t that funny? How do you know them?” I blurted out over the high pitched screams of the part of my brain still sober enough to understand how insane that sounded.
She looked puzzled before replying that she had met one of them in med-school. She did not ask me where I knew them from. In fact, this is the point when the date shifted gears entirely and began to resemble and Errol Morris documentary. Every question I asked a painstaking gamble to get her to talk about something, ANYTHING, for more than a few seconds.
“So you went to med-school?” I asked.
“Yep.” She replied.
“So after you left med-school, why didn’t you pursue a career in medicine?”
“I wasn’t interested in it.”
The date went on like this for another two hours, while my partner in this catastrophe kept looking for an easy exit. I was “that guy.” I was the one who was looking for a serious relationship apparently, and screening his dates on our first outing for compatibility beyond the usual norm. This is what I figure match.com dates must feel like. This is what it means when people take finding someone on the internet seriously enough to present all flaws up front so as to streamline the process and be married within several months. Except my date wasn’t there for that, and I had stumbled into it by accident in an attempt to avoid having to sit there for another hour with nothing to discuss but Star Trek.
There was no escape. The next two hours crawled on a like a snail on sandpaper. Neither one of us wanting to be the first to leave, yet neither of us could bear the excruciating discomfort. She chose to stay out of what I can only assume was either pity or fear. I chose to stay because I wanted to give this the maximum amount of time before deciding it wasn’t for me. After two hours we left the bar together hugged politely, and parted ways with a promise to hang out again. We wouldn’t.
She crossed the street and I went in the other direction, before suddenly remembering I needed something at the CVS on her side. I ran across, and right past her as she stared puzzled.
“I forgot that I need a new razor.” I yelled back.
Fuck it. I can shave my own back, it’s far less painful than the alternative.
I also bought two bags of beef jerky.