The Next Scene from My Romantic Comedy of a Life

There are three very simple things every man should do on a date ...


Today, I'm going to tell you how the impromptu date with the man who walked out of a romantic comedy and straight into my life on Wednesday night went. (And, seriously, if you haven't yet, you should read the whole story. The level of serendipity involved completely blew my mind.)

Now, let me emphasize, before I go any further, just how astonishingly cute this guy was. If the romantic comedy was going to be made, I think I would cast Elijah Wood to play his role, or possibly a much younger Hugh Grant. But he wasn't cute in a gym-built, hair-gelled, Ken-doll way. He seemed just appealingly scruffy enough to seem like ... a real possibility.


And what was really knocking me out was how much he'd been smiling at me in the coffee shop, before he had any idea that I was the chick he'd been corresponding with via the online dating site. In fact, when I left the coffee shop, I even noticed, out of my peripheral vision, that he turned to watch me walk out! Woo-hoo! All of which is to say, I got the feeling he genuinely thought I was quite cute, particularly because he seemed just as happy when we were shaking hands in greeting on the sidewalk.

Interestingly, after I called him back--after I said "Was that just you in the coffee place?"--and he crossed the street to meet me, he said something about how he'd noticed me looking at him in the coffee shop, but it hadn't occurred to him that I was the same girl as the person he'd just called. (Who knows why; I think I am a little more on the look-out for coincidence than most people; I'm also REALLY good at remembering faces, and identifying people I've only seen in photos.) I mention this fact because it seems to indicate that part of the reason he noticed me in the coffee shop at all is because I was making quite ardent *eye contact* with him ... so there's one more bit of evidence in favor of doing your best to cast your gaze on someone, if you're interested in him or her.

Anyway, after the preliminary hello's, we decided to walk a couple blocks down to a low-key neighborhood bar so we could chat for a bit. He had a fresh cup of steaming coffee in his hand, so he wasn't going to have a beverage, understandably. ... Less understandable, however, was what happened next.

I said, "Where shall we sit?" and he said, "Well, do you want to get yourself a beer? And then maybe we can find a spot out in the garden."

Does any woman want to get herself a beer after a guy says to her: Do you want to get yourself a beer? I sure don't.

Now, I know, I know: Women's lib and all that. But I HATE it when a guy doesn't at least buy my first drink, especially when nothing in that place could've cost more than seven or eight bucks.

Is that unfair? Am I alone here?

Anyway, I told myself to forget it, that maybe he didn't make much money. I got myself a club soda. (I know I'm a total dork, but biking and drinking don't mix! Besides, I'm on my meds.) And then we rolled out back.

After we settled into wicker chairs, slightly damp from the afternoon's rain, the conversation started off auspiciously enough. He was quite talkative, and full of lively opinions about all sorts of things; I was getting a kick out of him!

But then, after we'd been there for about thirty minutes, I started to notice that he'd more or less done nothing but complain--about how people were so closed off in New York that it'd found it hard to make friends since moving, in the fall, from the West Coast; about how the environmental movement has failed; about how obsessively-compulsive clean his roommate is.

I tried to be understanding--I know how grating it can be if you don't get along with your roommate.

However ... it wasn't just the complaining that got to me. He'd also shut me down a few times when I tried to voice certain opinions or thoughts of my own. For instance, he disagreed with my suggestion that New Yorkers might seem closed off largely because everyone here is so ambitious--and that even if you're not, especially, you often have to work long hours just to pay your rent.

"It's a myth that New Yorkers are ambitious," he said.

"Why do you say that?" I asked.

"It just is."

I decided not to press it ... even if this is the undisputed center of the financial, media, art, culinary and fashion worlds in the U.S.!

Then we got into an absolutely unpleasant argument about "what art is" after I mentioned my disgust over a (best-selling) new book called PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES (which is apparently a direct rip-off of the Jane Austen classic, with a few zombie scenes inserted).

At the tail end of that, he said, "Sorry, I wasn't trying to be devil's advocate."

And I said, "Oh, but you WERE being one!"--a line I tried to deliver in as playful a way as I could.

But he practically screamed back at me: "You were the one who was so upset about that zombie book!"

I was so flustered at that point, I was starting to feel incoherent--even though, may I remind you, all I was drinking was a fizzy water with lime. So I took a deep breath and wondered: Had I mishandled the conversation in some way? Why was I so worked up? I decided maybe I was being weird in some way, but I figured all was not lost in the situation; it could be salvaged.

So I tried to dial things back. "Fair enough," I said. "Maybe I did get a little ridiculously worked up. But literature is really important to me. That stuff matters to me. I'm trying to be a writer, after all."

The next thing he said was: "Well, you know, you've been avoiding the issue of what your novel is about."

Had I been avoiding the issue? I didn't think I had! But, okay, fine. "A friend of mine who has read my manuscript says my book is a cross between THE BELL JAR and NICK AND NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST ..."

Chef Du Jour jumped in right about then and spent the next 10 minutes or so talking about the different novels he's read in the last decade.

When he was done, I said I had to go.

Now my peeps, I fear you're going to tell me I was too hard on this dude. Am I too judgmental?

I admit, I do generally conduct "phone interviews" with guys I meet online, and I often decide not to meet up with people, if I feel like we don't have conversational chemistry. But ... I don't know. I don't think I'm THAT judgmental. At the same time, there are three things that I think are more or less necessary on a first date, for me to feel like it went decently.


1) Offer to buy me a drink! (At the very least.) I mean, come on! One measly drinkat a dive bar! Even if you're broke, even if you're a struggling grad student, hopefully you can spare the five bucks. Call me old-fashioned, but the one arbitrary thing that I really do detract points for is whether or not a guy is generous about paying.

2) Go easy on the negativity. A person who hates everything: That doesn't turn me on, and I think it's the rare person who feels drawn to an out-and-out hater. Sure, we all appreciate a healthy dose of cynicism now and then. But it shouldn't be the only emotion a person is capable of expressing ... especially not on the first date.

3) Ask questions! Find out a little about me! I do not bring a stopwatch with me on dates. I do not track the minutes that Bachelor #574 spends talking about how traumatic it was when Ralph, the golden retriever of his childhood, was hit by a car; or about how much time Bachelor #628 spends telling me about how his screenplay is sure to be the next big thing. And in fact, when it comes down to it, I prefer it to spend the vast majority of a first date--the first few dates, even--talking about HIS life, rather than mine. (I'm somewhat shy in that way, believe it or not.) Or just talking about books, movies, friends, whatever. But when I start to notice it's been about fifteen minutes since I've had an opportunity to say anything but "Oh, really? Interesting" ... well, then I feel disengaged and disappointed and just not that into it.

In fact, come to think of it, maybe part of the reason the whole exchange with Chef-Boy got so heated was because I began to feel like he was oppressing me--like I wasn't given much of a chance to speak.

I don't know. What do you guys think?


I'm off for a weekend trip ... more when I get back, on Monday!


PS: DEAR COMMENTERS: Rachel and Raye ... no need to worry any more that I'm going to get too wrapped up in the romantic meeting, huh?

Also, Rachel, do we need to hear more about your tube love, love? (Love that you guys in England call it the tube--a little more colorful than our word for it here in NYC: subway.)

Edwinna: NYT Weddings section is crack cocaine! A guy friend of mine calls it "The Lady's Sports Page." It's a must-read for moi.

And Nikki, I love that you appreciated the foreshadowing! That's totally why I mentioned my gym imaginings.