Remember Date #4? I certainly do. And not because I’m still pining away for him (I’ve come a long way since I was 24) but rather because I’m still not quite sure what happened between us. More importantly, I’m still not quite sure what happened to me.
Looking back, it seems a rather straightforward descent into arm candy on my part. At the time, however, I was too dazzled by his fancy-ness in all aspects of life (or at least those I considered important at the time, namely dress, speech and restaurant patronage) to notice.
“Is this normal?” my mother asks as I prep for my fourth first date in as many days. She has a right to be concerned; I’m wearing another of her dresses. Although I’m not really sure what constitutes “normal” in the world of online dating, I’m fairly certain four dates in four days does not.
My cuticles hurt. My feet hurt. My eyebrows hurt. My legs hurt because Date #4 is taking me to Time, a restaurant and jazz bar that boasts a main dining room, a whisky bar and an absinthe lounge; I’ve never drank absinthe and I don’t know if we’re going to drink absinthe but my knowledge of the green fairy consists entirely of classy looking folks in classy advertisements. I figure I had better have silky smooth legs (for the fourth day in a row) just in case.
I’m foiled again in my attempt to arrive fashionably late (one of these days, I’ll get the hang of it). To kill time, I slip into a high end pet supply shop on 13th, Doggie Style, but I feel rather stupid standing there in my way cool absinthe-drinking outfit checking out the tins of cat food and pug greeting cards. At 6:05, I finally deign to make my entrance, and there he is.
Let’s talk about men in their 30s, shall we? At 24, I really don’t have any business dating men in their thirties but it’s a nasty little habit I picked up during my senior year of college and aside from the occasional unsuccessful dalliance, I’ve never looked back. Men in their 30s are smooth (Date #4 kisses me on the cheek, introduces me to his friend, who just so happens to own the restaurant, and orders me a glass of Chardonnay in one swift movement). Men in their 30s are well dressed (Date #4 is wearing cufflinks. Actual cufflinks). Men their 30s are generous (he refuses to let me pay, which is nothing unusual for a first date, but he also gives me the best seat at what is easily the best table in the entire restaurant. Either he’s been reading up on his first date etiquette over at match.com—there’s an entire article about giving your date the seat that affords the nicest view—or he simply knows to do these sorts of things instinctively).
Men in their 30s are also well-connected. Every few minutes, a blonde waiter appears at our table with another little something, “courtesy of the chef.” First it’s a spoonful of diced melon; next, a plate of tuna crostini. Halfway through the meal, Date #4 recognizes a friend at the bar. We join him for a post dinner drink (which turns into several drinks, followed by a glass of port) and given this particular friend’s allegiance to Switzerland, I’m able to do some more participant observation on the subject of international greetings. I recall my dissertation supervisor telling me that it’s three kisses in Switzerland: left, right and then left again. Sure enough, it is. And I manage to get it right.
By the time the owner of the restaurant stops by with his wife and a gaggle of French-speaking friends from The Continent (actually, there were only two of them but given the excess of double air kisses and rapid fire French, it felt like a lot more) I feel like I’m having an out of body experience. Here I am sipping port and discussing Sophisticated Things (the Matterhorn, the cities of southern France and the battle of Hastings) in my mother’s dress and a pair of bargain basement heels. Is this allowed?
At the advice of Date #4, I had ordered the chilled melon soup as my appetizer. When the waiter places a large white bowl in front of me, in which slices of cantaloupe and tiny rounds of watermelon are artfully arranged, I’m a bit puzzled—where’s the soup part of this soup? But then the waiter reveals a teapot (a freaking teapot!) and proceeds to pour a perfect stream of chilled melon into my bowl.
I attempt to be blasé (“Why yes, I drink chilled melon soup from a teapot all the time”) but to be honest, I’m so damn impressed that if I hadn’t had such a lovely time with Date #3, I’d swear off men in their twenties all together.
We feast on roast salmon (fabulous), risotto balls (even more fabulous) and a tiny rectangle of chocolate cake masquerading as something-or-other-a-la-mode. Here, I attempt to be blasé once again because small portions, as everyone knows, are the very mark of culture. But when Date #4 puts on an Irish accent and swears, “Christ on a cross, could they spare the chocolate?” I can’t help but laugh. Men in their 30s, as it turns out, also have a sense of humor.
Entirely too many glasses of Chardonnay later, Date #4 tucks me into a cab, kisses me goodnight and sends me on my way. We never did make it to Time’s Bohemian Absinthe Lounge but as I sail towards the lights of Broad St., I’m feeling high on life nonetheless.
Here is what happened our first date: