As I have stated in the last installment, my recollections of past adventures with the opposite sex are coming to an end. That’s the major downside to only having genuine memories to deal with, instead of an ever increasing fictionalized life to work with such as the figures behind “The Wonder Years” or “How I Met Your Mother”. I let a month pass between posts last time, due both in part to a heavy workload as well as some subconscious unwillingness to officially end this chapter of my life. I know that it won’t be as simple as I intend, to simply abandon all desires and urges of companionship and romance once I finish all of my recollections here and released them from my mind onto some other format for some other audience besides myself. However, there are two dueling parts within me; a part which despite all evidence to the contrary doesn’t want it to be over, and another which is absolutely tired of all of the years of futility. I’ve never done anything like this project before, and there’s no way to know how I will or won’t react to finally reaching the end of my “stories about women” until I actually get there. It’s only symbolic, but symbols can still have meaning.
That may seem like a long and disconnected introduction to this latest flashback sequence, but there’s a good reason for it. There’s not a whole lot to unpack with this one. No instances of bad timing, no jocks or stoners, and no drunken friends. It was just a blind date which worked out as well as most blind dates tend to for most people – poorly.
It took place seven months after I graduated college and while I was still looking for a steady bachelor’s level gig (which I would find, then lose, with the “Great Recession”). It was also under two years since my previous date, which I’d gotten via the dating website OkCupid. About two years between dates is a rut for some people, but for me it was actually impressive. It’s a track record I’ve never duplicated, after all. That’s the biggest advantage of having absolutely no love life, or much prospects for one; the sorts of scraps or droughts which would drive the average person batty are simply no big deal for me. After all, as a hopelessly inexperienced post-30 virgin, I literally have to cling onto memories of all of my awkward first dates, frustrating crushes, or miscommunications if I want to talk or type about women at all. At any rate, I was in my mid 20’s and it was the beginning of the year, before my birthday. At this time, I was spending a lot of my “off time” when I wasn’t looking for work, fiddling online, or hanging out with friends trying to help my handicapped mother tend to my aging grandmother. To recap her final 3-4 years of life is to get into a lot of sordid details which this blog isn’t about. Suffice it to say, between an aunt who was directly sabotaging things and not having much money, it became a years long effort to keep grandma out of a permanent nursing home and in her own apartment until the inevitable happened. Unfortunately, every time she would become hurt in a fall or react poorly to some medication, she would have to be hospitalized and often sent to some sort of elder care center to recover. Mom would tend to her almost 5-6 days a week, and I would cover for her twice a week, either at home or keeping an eye on her at whatever home or care center she was at, to ensure no further acts of malpractice occurred.
At about this time, I’d had a few conversations and visits with one of my mother’s friends. As stiff and boring as I am, my mother is actually the exact opposite. She is an ex-“flower child” whose youth was full of a lot of sex, drugs, and rock & roll, and whose adulthood has remained connected to the arts as best she can. That included her last profession before becoming handicapped herself, and many of her friends are related to those fields. This friend is quite a character, a few years older than my mom (as in, late 50’s) and perhaps even more “adventurous” when it comes to sex (and proud of it). My mother’s claimed that she’s even flirted with me on occasion, but I hardly noticed. Her current boyfriend is a priest (who seems to not mind breaking his vows, nor she for encouraging it). Before anyone reading this gets any ideas out of “The Graduate”, this older woman is absolutely not my type in any way, which is a shame. As free spirited as someone may be about sex, I wouldn’t want to exploit someone that I have no emotional or physical feelings for based on nothing more than getting “something” from them. Besides, at this point this was nothing unusual; by this time, most of the only women who I ever knew found me attractive were middle aged, usually married, and not my type. At any rate, eager to “help me out”, this friend of my mother’s arranged for a blind date with a younger woman that she knew from her artist circles. As someone in his mid 20’s who was already embarrassed enough that mom would talk about me and my lack of a love life to her friends, I wasn’t entirely enthused to the idea of a blind date set up by one of her friends. It’s humiliating, to say the least. However, soon it was set up and I went through with it. I’d like to think a part of me was optimistic that it could work out; after all, in the Spider-Man comics, Mary Jane Watson was originally the niece of Aunt May’s neighbor who the old widow was constantly trying to get Peter to date, who he’d never seen and assumed was hideous. In reality, it was likely a mix of both desperation and humoring my mother (and her friend) that got me to go along with it.
So with it only being a month or so before my birthday that year, a meeting was arranged for me to meet her in front of a small Spanish restaurant. There was still a chill in the air, and I avoided wearing a winter parka in some attempt to let my dress clothes shine a bit. I arrived a few minutes early and she was right on time. An artist herself (into painting and weaving), she had short brown hair, glasses, and was quite lean. Contrary to some beliefs, not all men desire only to date “lean” girls, and I am one of them; I have desired women of various shapes and sizes. She was about 8-9 years older than I was, and was in her mid 30’s. When we met, we were friendly and cordial, but there seemed to be no immediate sparks. As we were looking over the menus for dinner, she asked me my age, and after I told her, I saw her face sink a bit. It was obvious that she wanted to date someone her own age, not in their mid 20’s. I recall literally telling her that with my birthday being only weeks away, I’d be older very shortly. After that we talked about hobbies, jobs, majors in school and other various chit chat of little substance. Being fussy about food, there was actually nothing on the menu that I “liked”, but I ordered the closest item there was and choked it down.
Once our meal was over (and I picked up the check, as expected), she noted that there was an arts supply shop across the street. I forget whose idea it was for me to tag along with her as the final “activity” of our date, but the next twenty or so minutes were spent in the shop as she picked out various supplies she needed for various projects and we made more small talk. As usual, I tried to keep the tone light and I usually am good for some humorous banter, at least so long as my nerves are in control. We weren’t having a bad time, but even I could notice the absolute lack of any chemistry or much common ground in terms of desire. While I certainly was willing to try things out with her, our age gap seemed to have stifled any interest on her part cold. Despite my age I was mature, at least compared to my perennially drunken, bar hopping and club going pals, but that rarely helps me either; I come off as stodgier than someone’s grandfather. After barely two hours, it was time for an obligatory friendly hug, a pat on the back, a line about “doing this again some time” and then a parting of ways. I doubt I ever got her number, and if I had, I doubt she would have responded. By this point, I didn’t take such words literally and I usually caught on that unless concrete plans were set, it was usually the nice way of saying, “better luck next time”. I completely understand why women do this, rather than be honest and direct about a rejection; most men react rudely or even violently to such things. Despite how obvious it was that things were not going anywhere beyond the first (and last) date, I wasn’t feeling bad at all. I’d been on a date. I’d had a shot. And it wasn’t a bad time at all. When your love life is a big fat zero, even something which elevates it to a decimal number is still progress. I never regret any first date.
The next week or so, my mother’s friend asked about how the date went. She seemed surprised that the lady seemed disinterested in dating a younger man, and thought we would have been more compatible. I wasn’t disappointed or angered; after all, I’d barely even wanted to go on the blind date in the first place, and had been proven right. I chalked it up to one of life’s little non-events. If me merely being younger was a turn off, I imagine she’d have fainted once it became obvious that I had no experience as any sort of lover! Thankfully, she avoided such an awkward turn of events for herself.
As of this writing, that date was a little over seven years ago. I had no idea then how much worse and lonely my love life would be. I imagined I would find a steady job, earn some serious money, and be able to better provide for myself, my family, and have extra for dating. Little did I know how poorly that plan would work out, or how long a drought it would be after that. Looking back, I am glad that I bit on the blind date idea after all; at least I could say that I had dated after college and not be lying. Of course, I barely dated in college, or high school, but that goes without saying.
Like the title states, it was the last “actual” date I was on. If I succeed in my desire to exorcise all of my romantic desires from me via this long form act of storytelling and journal writing, it will also be the last date I will ever go on. It seems so final when stated like that: the last date. And it was very much like all of my previous dates, and most of my interactions with women. Awkward, ham-fisted, with any sort of desire or potential for it being one-sided (mine). Always a prelude and never a novel, always the bread and never the meat, always an appetizer without a main course. And as always, having to make due and become excited with the sorts of incidents that most men wouldn’t even notice.
This won’t be my last recollection. I had one more major attempt at some sort of dating strategy a year later, and one more woman from my past to talk about who I have saved for last. And there will, no doubt, be general opinion or whining pieces to come to break up the pace a bit. But in terms of romantic dates with other women, this was my third and last. As my twenties were coming to an end, it was becoming more and more clear how woefully behind I was in the realm of romance, and that unlike fiction, there were no shortcuts. There was no chance to make up for lost time, no opportunity to have the sorts of youthful trials, errors, and successes which most people use to propel themselves more meaningful and adult romances and relationships. There was no chance of my love life being anything normal or satisfying for anyone (myself or another person) then, and that was ages ago. It merely took me until I was over 30 to see it for what it was in stark black and white. I was the Dateless-Man, and at least in terms of love, that is all I’d ever be.
My last date. So be it.