I admit, I did not write this post in 5 minutes. But I did write it almost 5 years ago. And it’s funny. And it’s Friday. So you all get a date story. Enjoy…
He was a graphic designer who had been to Paris and London and the Taj Mahal. I wasn’t sure of him but I had an “everyone gets a first date” policy and he fit the category of “everyone”.
We were to meet at a coffee shop that I hadn’t yet made it to but always wanted to visit. A little hipster joint that all the cool kids thought had the best java. We planned to meet there at 8pm, grab a cuppa and see where the night took us.
I arrived a few minutes late as girls are wont to do on a first date…or at least me. I like them to get there first. As I walked down the sidewalk towards him, my hopes rose. He was tall and handsome and didn’t come across as the awkward guy that existed in his online profile. I smiled, he smiled, and then he said hello.
It was that moment when I realized that nothing good would come of this. (These were the days before I embraced the fact that my first dates almost always result in a tragically comedic story that bring endless enjoyment to my friends in the retelling.)
How is it that one word can completely cement a first impression?
I know this sounds judgmental and I can’t explain in words exactly what I mean, but sometimes a girl just knows.
The hello was followed by an apology because he had miscalculated when setting the time of our meeting. The coffee shop closed at 8. He was very sorry, but there was a tea shop right next door and he preferred tea anyway.
At this time in my life, I legitimately hated the taste of almost every tea I had ever tasted.
I did not tell him this.
“Sure,” I said. “Tea sounds great.”
I have to admit that the teashop was pretty cool. It had an exotic name and a nice vibe. I went back many times before it closed and brought other friends now that I’ve embraced tea as a beverage.
Now, if the coffee shop was the place where the hipster coffee connoisseurs gathered, this was the place where the tea snobs go to strut their knowledge of herbs and flowers and flavor combinations. There must have been a hundred teas listed on the chalkboard above the cash register.
“What kind of tea do you like?” he asked.
Keep in mind that I did not like tea. However, I was aware of the flavors I hated least.
“Well, I’m usually up for something spicy, like a chai. I really don’t like teas that taste flowery. Oh, and I’m not a fan of the sort of tea they serve in Chinese restaurants…I’m not sure what kind that is. But anything else is fine. I don’t really know much about tea, so why don’t you decide.”
He chose an Oolong.
Oolong is the “type of tea they serve in Chinese restaurants”.
We stood for a while in that first date awkward silence, waiting in the ordering line.
“These desserts look amazing. Do you want one?” he asked.
I didn’t. I can’t remember now exactly why. Maybe I was avoiding sugar. Maybe I was on a diet. Maybe I was already uncomfortable enough that I was not wanting to do anything to make the date long. I don’t remember. I had no skills in dating at the time, unless “excels at feeling awkward” is a dating skill.
I told him no, thank you. Just the tea would be fine.
And then he got really attentive to the dessert case and decided we needed a dessert. He suggested that we get a plate of dried fruit and baklava.
“Great,” I said. “That sounds great.”
I was trying to be a good sport. Really, I was. It was probably less than 10 minutes in but the odds were already, in my mind, stacked against success. I know…I know. Quick to judge. But wait…it gets better…
We sat down with our little teapot, waiting for our dried fruit and baklava plate while the tea steeped. He poured me some tea and then his own. We talked, who knows about what, and I looked at his hands. I know this will sound weird but I’m a hand girl. I’m very particular about this sort of thing.
“He has gay hands.”
This is a terrible thing to say, I realize. Firstly because there are no such thing as “gay hands” and secondly because…why would you judge someone on their hands? But, well, I’m a hands girl. There are butt girls and arm girls and muscle girls. I go for hands, eyes and smile, so this is what my brain decided to focus on and declare.
“He has gay hands!”
He held his tea with both hands. He gently cradled his cup with only his fingertips. His pinkies extended off the cup as he took the first sip. You can picture it. Don’t pretend you can’t.
“He has gay hands!”
Our dessert plate soon got delivered, and I made a hail Mary conscious decision to brighten my outlook. “This can go well,” I told myself, “Just don’t look at how he holds his cup.”
I dove into our plate of dried fruit and baklava. I picked up some sort of something that had a pit, so I picked it apart with my fingers and munched on it as we chatted.
This apparently made him very uncomfortable.
“Do you need a fork?”
I was eating dried fruit.
“No. I’m fine using my fingers. This is sort of finger food.”
He left me alone, but silence hung in the air. 5…4…3…2…
“I think you need a fork. I’m going to get you a fork.”
He came back with a napkin and two very large spoons.
“They’re out of forks,” he said.
So now I had a spoon with which to eat my dried fruit and baklava. I gave it the old college try but…guess what? In order to eat dried fruit and baklava with a spoon, you still have to use your fingers…to get said dried fruit onto the spoon. I was in a no-win situation having to eat a dessert that I didn’t want with a useless utensil. And I sensed that he was getting increasingly uncomfortable.
“I’m going to go get you a fork.”
He left again but shortly returned to the table. He handed me a fork. Saved the day. A knight in shining armor.
This apparently put him at ease to proceed. At that point, though, I was done…and a little weirded out. My resolve to enjoy the time was quickly fading to nothing. But I played the good sport and ate my dried apricot with my fork.
“So, you’re a graphic designer,” I said. “Do you have any cool clients?
I live in LA. I, for some reason, assumed that he designed movie posters. That was not the case.
“My favorite client is Olivia Newton John. I work on her website.”
I love Grease.
“Oh…no way. That’s cool. What kind of website? For her music, or…?”
“She has a website for breast cancer awareness.”
And then he got excited.
“They sell this really cool device that helps women perform their self breast exams. It’s pink and it’s shaped like a heart…” (he made the shape of a heart with his gay hands)
“…And you rub it over the breast and it magnifies the lumps. Like, if you put a grain of salt on this table…” (he mimed putting a grain of salt on the table) “…and put this over it and rub it around…” (he mimed his hand making a slow rubbing circular motion on his fake breast exam tool over a fake grain of salt) “…you’d feel it. It’s really cool.”
I was on a first date drinking gross tea, eating dried fruit with a fork and being taught how to properly perform a breast exam by a guy with gay hands.
I was looking for an emergency exit.
Maybe a half hour later, as the tea got drained and the dried fruit consumed, he asked if I was interested in checking out a used bookstore across the street and I did something that I had never previously done on a date. I lied.
“Gosh, it’s getting kind of late and I have to wake up pretty early for work tomorrow.”
It was 9pm and, generally, if I roll into the office before 10am, it’s a miracle. This sweet awkward boy had driven me to lies.
I mentioned earlier that I have an “everyone deserves a first date” policy. I also have an “everyone deserves a second date” policy…unless they’re creepy. I was not, however, interested in heeding my own advice, so I also did something else I had never done before at that point. I went home and immediately sent a preemptive email that let him down easy because I knew that he was planning to ask me out again, and I didn’t want to have to tell him no over the phone.
I was a coward.
Days later, he emailed me in response and asked if I would be willing to give him some pointers as he was new to dating.
No. No, I would not.
I knew that this guy was going to meet some sweet girl who wanted the kind of guy that would order the wrong kind of tea and go on a quest to find her a fork so she wouldn’t have to eat dried fruit with her fingers. And I knew that this girl was not me.
My instincts were quite right. It turned out he was a friend of a friend and I learned that he was engaged within a year.
She, apparently, did not notice that his hands were gay.
(This post is a part of a series called 40 Before 40. 40 random thoughts on the 40 days before I turn 40 years old. If you have a post suggestion, send it on. Creativity is collaborative and I’ll take any writing prompts you want to send my way.)