June 18, 2011 by Kat Richter
I’m so jittery on my way to meet Date #7 that I get off the bus two stops early and have to walk the last four blocks to the art museum in my new four inch espadrilles. (I know I said I wasn’t going to buy anything special for the arrival of Date #7 but I’ve decided that gift card purchases don’t count, hence the new shoes, new lipstick and new nail polish.)
On my way, I see a man standing by himself next to a statue outside of the museum and my heart sinks. Why? Well, he’s alone and he’s got that lost looking-for-my-date look about him that I’ve come to know so well over the last 50 or so dates but there’s something wrong with this picture. In fact, he looks nothing like his picture.
Not even remotely.
My first instinct is to the flee the scene but then I remember that Date #7 has just driven five hours to meet me. At the very least, I owe the man the courtesy of saying “hello.”
Fortunately, I’ve got the wrong man.
My date is still around back parking his car (thank God!) which means I’ll have just enough time climb the front steps and catch my breath before he makes his way around to the front. (One of my greatest fears in life is to arrive at the top of the steps panting and out of breath, especially when I’m trying to look fit and sexy, and these are the very same steps from Rocky so they’re definitely a workout.)
I wander around the fountain. I reapply my lip gloss. I sit on one of the benches and imagine I’m in Paris outside the Lourve but then I get bored with the idea and get up to watch a bunch of school kids run up the steps. Finally, a figure coming around the side of the museum catches my eye.
Is it love at first sight? Not quite. But it’s definitely him this time.
My first thought happens to be—and this is the unfortunate, bitchy, albeit honest-to-God-truth— “Oh my God, he’s wearing a Hawaiian shirt. A bright red Hawaiian shirt! A fucking Hawaiian shirt to go to the art museum on a Friday night where they’ll be playing jazz and serving Steven Starr… who does that???”
Note: I hate Hawaiian shirts. Almost as much as I hate the movie Grease and roasted red peppers on a perfectly good tomato and mozzarella sandwich.
But again, a little voice in my head says, “Give the man a chance, Kat. Maybe he hates four-inch espadrilles. Maybe this Hawaiian shirt has some sort of special significance to him…”
So I resist the urge to go running in the direction and instead find myself walking towards him, and he smiles and starts walking towards me, and then we both go all awkward and avoid eye contact for the next few steps and finally we’re there, together, at the top of steps in front of the fountain and he folds his arms around me and says, “It’s so great to finally meet you.”
It is at this point that I discover the Hawaiian shirt is not actually a Hawaiian shirt, nor is it bright red. It’s actually an understated rust-color and the floral motif is more Colonial Williamsburg than tiki bar.
We make our way into the museum and although I picked Art After 5 specifically to cut down on the inevitable awkwardness of our first meeting, I’m a wreck and he’s sweating bullets.
Fortunately, I’ve learned a thing or two over the past 50-some dates. The first is that I do excellent impression of appearing to be calm and collected; I lead Date #7 towards the Impressionist wing and we talk art.
The second is that everything goes better with a glass of wine so after we take a look at the medieval armor on the second floor I march him straight over to the bar and order us each a glass of wine.
“Red or white?” I ask.
He nods and reminds me that we’ve already had this discussion, and so we have—it was the very same night that we discovered how many other things we have in common, the night that I found myself thinking, “Hmmm… maybe I should stop blowing this guy off?”
So we sit, and we talk, and we both drain our glasses and he heads off to the bar to order another round. He figures out a lot about me very quickly, things that most guys never pick up this early into a date and granted, he’s had a bit of a head start, but his perceptiveness catches me off guard.
We talk about teaching, about art, about writing, about travel and academia and things that I really care about and most surprisingly of all, I don’t feel like I have to dumb myself down or pretend to be smarter than I actually am in his presence— this, in my book, is huge.
The rest, I’m afraid, will have to wait until tomorrow but rest assured: there’s more. Much, much more.