August 4, 2006
No Deposit, No Return
Dating is difficult enough without asking for a guarantee. Imagine my surprise when the last guy I went out with wanted just that.
I had met "Bob" at a Jewish networking event. We took a nice walk afterward, talked about what we were and weren't looking for in a relationship, shared our favorite and least favorite ways to meet people and discussed how neither one of us wanted to "settle" on a life partner.
By the next morning, I had an e-mail asking me out for dinner the following weekend. Let's just say the actual date was not nearly as inspired as the groundwork we laid when we first met. We both wanted the same things, but unfortunately that does not a match make. You need to have common interests, physical chemistry and the right kind of energy. Maybe he had it, but I was not comfortable.
On the date I did 90 percent of the talking, which at first I didn't mind. I always have something to say. But it seemed the questions I had for him were conversation-killers. As the evening progressed, I ran out of my stories and found myself going to second- and third-tier conversation, including stories that belonged to other people. Pop culture (my favorite subject) was out -- he wasn't a TV or movie-watcher.
After dinner and another walk (which rekindled nothing), I bowed out early. He walked me to my car, and leaned in for a goodnight kiss. I dodged that bullet, by kissing him on both cheeks, European style.
Shudder. Well, at least that was over.
Imagine my surprise when I got a call from Bob the following Tuesday. After pleasantries -- which I exchanged while cursing my roommate for not answering the telephone -- Bob got to the point.
He got the impression that my wanting to go home at 8 p.m. on Saturday night meant that I didn't have a good time. You think? It has always been my experience that such a forgone conclusion did not necessitate a confrontation. But if he had the nerve to ask, I had no choice but to answer.
I told him he was a nice person, but I didn't think we were a match.
"There's no easy way to say this," I said, which, believe me, I meant.
He went on to say that he usually took a first date out for a walk or coffee to get to know her and see if there was something there before proceeding to an actual date. Well, we did go for a walk the first time we met, and if he thinks I wanted to have a bad time on our first "actual date," then he was mistaken. Of course, I didn't say that. Instead, I admitted that I enjoyed walking and talking with him the night we met. But beyond that, there really wasn't much we had in common to talk about.
In the next few seconds, he went from passive aggressive to just plain aggressive.
"I know, you said that," he barked.
Now comes the kicker.
He continued: "I just want to know why, if you weren't having a good time, you didn't at least offer to split the check."
I am rarely at a loss for words, but this time was an exception.
I replayed the evening's events in my head:
When we sat down to order, he asked if I wanted a glass of wine or a drink, I said a soda was fine. An appetizer? No, thank you, I'm good. He even offered to order dessert more than once.
"I just can't decide if I want the salad or a steak," I said.
I'll admit, I was testing. Rules in business say you should never order more than the host. My steak and soda was equivalent to his ahi tuna salad and alcoholic beverage.
"If you want the steak," he said, "order the steak."
He didn't say, "You can have the steak, if you like me a lot. But, if you're not sure if you like me, then get the salad. If you are planning to blow me off shortly after dinner and go out with your girlfriends, then I think an appetizer and tap water are sufficient."
What he doesn't get is I didn't want to not like him. Quite the contrary. It would have made my life a lot easier if he were a match, because then I wouldn't have to keep dating dolts. See my point?
Fortunately, the silence on the phone lasted only a moment; I was able to find my words:
"I'll tell you what," I said, "If you have the chutzpah to e-mail me your address, I would be happy to send you a check. Goodbye."
More than a week had passed before my next contact with him: eight days later, he sent an e-mail ... with his mailing address.
So, here's the question: if I send him a check, does that mean, in return, I will get my Saturday night back?
Debra L. Eckerling is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles whohas written for Script magazine, Venice and Latin Style. She also leads a writers' support group in Santa Monica.