Bruce. Bruce Goldman.
On my machine, he sounded like a cross between Super Fly and Tony the Tiger. Infusing "This is B.G." and "What's the d-low?" with a closing trilled, "Have a grrrrreat day."
I wondered, did he mean "hope you had a grrrrreat day" or "have a grrrrreat day, tomorrow"? This would haunt me through the last trowel of the pooper-scooper that evening, and make me yearn for bygone days of Frosted Flakes and no frets about dating.
B.G. was a bit hefty, goateed, with a cell phone appendage. Within moments, he displayed the continuous habit of pulling his black, cotton, untucked, button-down shirt away from his body, to a place where it would snap back against his mild corpulence in a wave-like motion. He was sticky -- sticky as thigh flesh against vinyl boothing on a hot summer day. Shortly, "what's the d-low" was uttered live by The Beeg ("B.G." I deduced, was assigned to others, while "The Beeg" was his own term of endearment -- to himself).
"Is d-low in any way related to J.Lo?" I asked in my sweetest aren't-I-funny-and-not-at-all-condescending voice.
"J.Lo. Man, I like 'er," he said, the drool nearly escaping the side of his now slightly intoxicated grin.
"Yes," I said, "she is beautiful."
He got this wild, beady-eyed, smirky look of a 4-year-old on Ritalin and replied, "I totally want to do 'er."
Concealing revulsion, I aimed to seamlessly mesh "big whoop, you just said that you inappropriate freak" with "anyway, while Jenny from the block may be beautiful, she is morally reprehensible -- what with being practically naked all the time and having dated a felon," which came out: "It's pretty tacky that she had a gigantic, elaborate second wedding when her gigantic, elaborate first wedding was, like, only a few years ago. And now she's getting divorced again. Jeez."
"Are you angry about that?"
Why would I be angry about J.Lo's weddings, divorces or that she was recently on the cover of GQ in the same ruffled panties my 1-year-old niece wears as part of a Baby Gap romper set? Him asking me if I was angry made me angry. Angry to the extent that I wanted to tell him that his vulgar verbal desecration of females, in the presence of a female -- a female he did not even know -- was a sure sign that he was a self-loathing goat.
B.G. turned to me, "So, what's the most important thing to you in a relationship?"
Huh? This is the segue? Did this interminable shlub really feel so displaced in the modern world, so baffled as to his role, so consumed with impression management, that he traveled the extreme regions of conversation like a castaway trying desperately to reach civilization?
Has all the political correctness of our age left men at one moment straining toward a belligerent and contentious version of machismo and at another tapping into their yin and endeavoring to emulate female bonding through profound discourse?
I wanted to scream, "Gadzooks! Don't verbally regurgitate! Don't feed me this tuna casserole of a guy you've concocted! Absorb your actual surroundings and respond accordingly, instead of performing some rehearsed nonsense."
He went on. "It's really important, I mean totally, totally important, the most important thing that someone is spiritual. If they're not spiritual, forget it. They have to be totally spiritual."
You slay, Bruce.
In case any doubt remained, I now knew for sure that this B.G., this Beeg, was totally vapid. The word "spiritual" had found its place as my most hated irrelevant groovy spew. The word has been so truly diluted -- signifying anything from davening every morning, to practicing yoga during Tuesday and Thursday lunch, to worshipping at the 3 p.m. "Temple of Oprah." It's used so frivolously that it almost has ceased to have any meaning at all.
So I wanted to tell him, that while I understood that characterizing yourself as "spiritual" is truly hip, most often it is used as a catchall phrase used by those who want to appear evolved, but are not the least bit interested in actually defining their belief system -- for fear it will be discovered they really don't have one.
But before I was forced, by a power greater than myself, to go there, his cell phone rang. He gave me the finger -- as in the index "hold tight while I take this" finger.
At the same time it occurred to me that the phrase "one date, you never know" had become "staying still in the presence of lunacy."
So before his Motorola had flipped shut, I had flipped outta there.
Kate Axelrod is the story editor on HBO's "The Mind of the Married Man."