On a typical coffee date, because we're meeting for the first time, awkward conversation comes with the territory. Neither of us completely reveals what we're thinking or feeling. We're shy, holding back, concealing, putting on a good face, feeling the other person out.
How much more interesting the first date would be if we both were to communicate our true emotions. Still, those actual thoughts and feelings are definitely present, whether uttered or not. They're simply bubbling under the conversation's surface; biding their time until we feel more comfortable and trusting with one another.
For instance, take this (nearly) verbatim transcript from one of my coffee dates. All un-uttered thoughts have been italicized for the protection of the emotionally fragile.
Here I go again. Date No. 163, but who's counting? At this rate, by next May I'll have dated every unattached woman in the city. At which time I'll have to start importing them from other countries and taking Berlitz classes.
Lauri: Hi, Mark. Nice to meet you.
Dear Lord, please don't let this one be a stalker, a jerk or have serious psychological issues like the last six. I believe I've reached my annual quota for restraining orders.
Me: Should we get some coffee and sit down?
And then decide within 10 minutes whether there's a chance we might eventually see each other naked or, and most likely, never see each other again?
Lauri: Sounds good.
Looks like I'm gonna have to train this one how to dress, make eye contact, speak, stand up straight and do something with that hair. Yep, this one's a definite fixer-upper. Again. Dear Lord, just shoot me now.
Me: So, have you been doing this Internet dating thing long?
Exactly how many guys have you rejected, and how many have rejected you? Be specific. You have five minutes to answer. Show all work. Begin.
Lauri: You're actually only the first coffee date I've been on.
Today. The sum total of all my coffee dates could fill Dodger Stadium. And it's always I who do the rejecting, because I am perfect and they are flawed. Capiche? So unless your own perfection level approaches mine, you might as well start heading over to the stadium right now.
Me: What are you looking for in a relationship?
Are you a) High maintenance? b) Emotionally needy? c) Nuts?
Lauri: Oh, I don't know. I guess the usual -- chemistry, shared goals, friendship.
A man with Brad Pitt's looks and Bill Gates' bank account who can make me yodel in bed. That specific enough for you, Sparky?
Me: What kinds of things do you like to do for fun?
And please know that the red flag goes up immediately with any hint of chick flicks, shopping or eating at restaurants whose names begin with a "Le."
Lauri: I'm pretty down-to-earth. Just the usual.
That is, if you define "usual" as a) Frequent, "where is this heading?" talks about our relationship; b) Having my mother visit us as often as possible; c) Making it my lifelong mission to interest you in ballet and opera.
Me: Is it just me, or am I sensing some chemistry here?
I'm picturing you without your clothing right now, but I'm gonna have to do some up-close and personal research in order to get the full effect.
Lauri: You might be right.
It's just you.
Me: May I walk you to your car?
And check out your rear view as I, the perfect gentleman, allow you to walk in front of me?
Lauri: Sure. Can I contribute something to the bill?
And need I remind you that a "yes" answer on your part will forever brand you as a cheapskate of the highest caliber?
Me: Oh, no, I've got it. Thanks.
I accepted one of those invitations to contribute once before and ended up as the featured newcomer on www.cheapdatestoavoid.com for two months.
Me: Well, here we are. It was really good to meet you.
Because I enjoy taking two-hour chunks out of my day to spend time with people I'll never see again.
Lauri: You, too. You seem like a really nice guy.
And we'll have our next date when Paris Hilton becomes a nun.
On second thought, perhaps those dates are better off with the actual thoughts and feelings remaining bubbling under the conversation's surface. After all, if you start off a romantic relationship with absolute honesty, no telling what madness and chaos would result.
Mark Miller has written for TV, movies and celebrities, been a professional stand-up comedian and a humor columnist for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.