February 12, 1998
Kissing A Lot of Frogs
Over drinks, I try to decide which eye to look at.A choice must be made, as his eyes occupy slightly different planeson his face. He explains - in vivid detail - about the accident hejust had while traveling abroad and the miraculous series of plasticsurgeries he has only begun. I feel for him, but his lengthy storymakes me queasy. I nod genially, but this only encourages him to tellme more. The face I can get used to, but the three-hour monologuetries my patience.
This was no Love Connection. Granted, you don'tusually open the door to find an oversharing Phantom of the Opera,but blind dates and first dates with those you barely know involve alot of variables. You're stepping into the vast valley of weirdnessthat is other people, and you never know what craggy rocks you mightfind there..
To be sure, there are sometimes pleasantsurprises, but in honor of Valentine's Day, I consider some of mystranger little first encounters. I know this is a time to be warmand fuzzy about love, but in the tradition of smashing a glass at awedding to remember suffering at a moment of great joy, I recall someof my less stellar dating moments as those around me break out theroses and champagne.
In college, I met a law student at the library andgave him my number. The night we were supposed to meet was a rainyone, but he insisted I walk several miles through my slummy New Yorkneighborhood to meet him at his door. This was not an auspiciousbeginning, but I was still game. Just before hanging up, he alsorequested I stop by his favorite deli to pick up some groceries forhim. That was it. I walk through rain, but I don't deliver.
Although, someone has to, I suppose.
Once, I stepped into a first date's car andcouldn't help but notice the distinct scent of chicken chow meinwafting through the vehicle. It seems his shift delivering food for aChinese restaurant hadn't quite ended. At least he showed up on timeand gainfully employed. And he split the tip.
And I can't forget my odd intersection withCompulsive Chapstick Man, who seemed normal enough when we met at aparty. On our first date, however, he was in constant contact withhis Carmex, whipping it out of his pocket like a parched-mouthgunslinger.
At the end of the night, he ramped up hischapsticking efforts to epic proportions, probably in anticipation ofa goodnight kiss. I had to get away. He looked like a man who hadjust eaten a pork chop with his hands.
John, and I doubt that's his real name, contactedme online. Normally, I would dismiss such advances, but at the time,I was working a boring temp job and hungry for any distraction. Johnwas charming enough in his e-mails, and even offered to send me aphoto file. What he didn't tell me was that the photo was circa1976.
When I met John for lunch, he was not only yearsolder and inches shorter than he lead me to believe, he was alsowearing a wedding ring, which in his haste he had forgotten toremove. "Oh this thing? Yeah, you know. It's kind of an openmarriage. We have an understanding. Just don't ever call me at home.Ever." Don't worry.
And the fun continues.
A few months ago, a friend of a friend took me outfor a drink. As he was sidling up to the bar, I noticed him ferretingthrough his wallet and finding just two lonely dollar bills.
Hoping to spare him an embarrassing moment, Iquickly insisted on paying. Half an hour later, Mr. I Forgot To Go ToThe ATM was ready for another round. Four drinks later, I was broke,he was drunk, and we were both ready to leave. He borrowed my lastfew bucks to pay the valet and I never heard from him again. Maybehe's still trying to borrow a quarter for the phone call.
These experiences, and most of us have had them,don't sting for long. In fact, they generally morph into good partystories, and ultimately accentuate the unexpectedly great firstencounters that do come along. For every time I've arrived home, shutmy door and looked like I just drank sour milk, there are those timesI've closed the door sighing and grinning like an idiot.
My mother always told me you have to kiss a lot offrogs to find a prince. She just didn't tell me they might be coveredin chapstick.