I’ve reached the five-date mark with the Man from Marshalls and despite the fairy-tale encounter that gave birth to our relationship, there’s trouble in Camelot. I won’t go into the details (at last not all of them, seeing as there’s an actual human being on the end of this equation who may or may not be reading) but we’ve somehow skipped right through the honeymoon phase and into the Danger Zone, in which two people with little more in common than their Sou’ Philly zip codes must determine whether or not a mutual admiration for Vietnamese coffee is enough to sustain a relationship.
Don’t get me wrong: if there is any coffee capable of bringing two such disparate souls together, it’s the French stuff made with sweetened condensed milk that they serve at the Vietnamese restaurant on Washington Ave., but what if the restaurant were to close? What if I were to overdose on condensed milk? What if one of us was to develop diabetes or discover we were lactose intolerant? Or worse still: what if we became vegan? Considering all of the potential caffeine-related catastrophes that could befall the Man from Marshalls and me, I’m not sure that coffee is the greatest foundation.
My previous field work (conducted this past summer with Date #4) would suggest that the fifth date is the point at which the relationship is either made or broken. By a fifth date, both parties have become somewhat comfortable with one another, so much so that they’re no longer on their best behavior, and the truth starts to come out. My fifth date with Date #4 ended rather poorly (by which I mean I stomped off as conspicuously as my flat sandals could carry me) and my fifth date with the Man from Marshalls nearly suffered the same fate.
Fortunately he had the good sense to follow me, but still: do I really want to spend the rest of my life stomping off to prove my point?
I’ve been so wrapped up in the ongoing drama of my love life (and you can’t get more dramatic than meeting a stranger in a strip mall parking lot) that I’ve failed to consider how spending time with the Man from Marshalls makes me feel. Sure he’s gorgeous (and he’s asked me to tell you all that he didn’t really spend an hour changing his shoes. He claims that he was gone for thirty minutes at most, whereas I maintain the Criminal Minds, plus Jeopardy plus Seinfeld equals more than thirty minutes, but who knows; there are two sides to every story) and he’s very intelligent. I fear, however, that my happily ever after tendencies may have clouded my judgment—and that real life never works out quite as well as it does in the movies.
(And stomping off is never quite as fun as it looks.)
The good thing about taking the “quantity, not quality” approach to dating is that it leaves very little time for self doubt. In the past, when faced with road bumps in my romantic relationships, I’ve generally descended into a self-indulgent mourning period in which I convinced myself that it really was okay to eat frozen cookie dough by the spoonful because, Can’t you see I’m grieving here, people?!?
(Just ask my college roommates if you don’t believe me. I should have bought stock in Pillsbury long ago.)
But Match.com has sent a little silver lining my way: Date #17. His profile came up in a post-Date #9 search and we’ve actually been corresponding for several weeks now. When I started spending more and more time with the Man from Marshalls, I fell behind on my emails to Date #17 but he kept right on writing, with the same wit and sarcasm that had originally caught my eye in his profile. He invited me to meet him for dinner at Alma de Cuba in Center City and we’re meeting later tonight so get ready folks: I’m back on the horse.