I brushed blush on my cheeks, staring at myself in the mirror, trying to imagine how I might look when Marc first glimpses me...
First, I smiled broadly... and then I rolled my eyes at my transformation into some stereotypical romantic comedy heroine: the daffy, plucky secretary played by Ashley Judd or maybe Lea Thompson, if it was a TV movie. In the end, the wacky character would get her man and the plum job.
-- Well, I thought cynically, as I wiped off half the blush with a tissue, at least I'll get dinner out of it.
I sighed deeply as I picked up my keys and walked out the door, rolling my eyes (again) at my reflection in the mirror.
Why am I so nervous?
Has it been so long since I was on a blind date?
It wasn't that, I knew. Okay, so this was the first time I'd gone out since my breakup with Rick. But I'd deliberately waited until I felt really ready. I didn't think that was the issue.
Was it maybe the idea of meeting someone I met online?
I didn't think so. In our phone conversations, we'd talked about how strange it seemed: like a blind date, except no one had set us up.
"No," Marc had replied drolly, in the deep voice I already dug, "I found you on what is essentially a public, computerized Rolodex."
"How post-modern!" I cheered.
I'd always been a sucker for voices and Marc had a great one: deep and resonant, able to convey through sound the subtle nuances of expression what eyebrows did visually.
I wondered if his bearing and appearance would live up to the voice...
Eureka!, came the realization. No wonder I'm nervous: I actually have high hopes for tonight.
No wonder I'm nervous: I actually have high hopes for tonight.
It's so much easier to be blase about a date when you don't feel much invested in it.
How many times had Alison said she couldn't meet me after work because she was meeting the Goon of the Week?
"If you've already resigned him to goondom," I'd invariably respond, "what is the point of going out with him?"
"Goons can be rehabilitated," she'd cheep. "It's rare, but it happens."
"But you've dismissed him before you even go out."
These guys, it seemed to me, had the cards stacked against them. She didn't see it that way, though.
"No, I just get pleasantly surprised if they manage to act semi-human."
I rolled my eyes. If he's a goon-until-proven-otherwise, and you're looking for evidence that he's a creep, you're going to see every flaw. If, on the other hand, you go in with a positive attitude, you're more open to seeing the good.
I drummed my fingers absent-mindedly on my steering wheel as I pulled into the parking structure at the bottom of the Mill Avenue pedestrian mall. (I still have yet to learn to parallel park.)
If you go in with a positive attitude, you're more open to seeing the good.
I thought my Goon might turn out to be great. In his profile, Marc came across as sort of blah, but over the phone, he seemed smart, funny and nice. What if meeting him in person was a disappointment?
And of course I was worried that he'd find me a crashing boor after our entertaining chats. Or that he'd think I showed more than a passing resemblance to the great comic actor Marty Feldman (a bad thing).
I looked up from the vanity mirror.
"Uh, Marc?" I asked, hoping he hadn't seen the inspection.
"Yeah," he said softly -- but in that extraordinary voice. "I, uh, recognized the car."
On the phone, we'd had a talk about how I felt that my 8-year-old gray Volvo sedan was the perfect car: nice enough to be valet parked anywhere without embarrassment, yet old enough to avoid the tinge of yuppieness.
Still feeling nervous, I stepped out and tried to look casual, as if I wasn't dying to see him in the flesh.
"You still think it screams, 'I voted Nader'?" I said, smiling the much-practiced "greeting" smile.
"Actually, no," he said, assessing the vehicle with mock-gravity. "There is a distinctly Republican possibility to it. Maybe it's the conservative color? Ann Stone could easily drive this car."
I laughed as I assessed: Hmm. Cute smile. Nice-looking.
(I hoped again that he wasn't looking at me and thinking Marty Feldman. He seemed not particularly horrified. A good sign.)
As we walked over to the sushi bar where we'd planned to meet, he confided that he didn't know how to parallel park and thus was always consigned to parking in structures.
"It's actually why I moved to Phoenix," he dead-panned. "Even the metered spots in downtown Phoenix are pull-in."
"That is a noble reason to relocate," I said, confessing my, ahem, parallel inability.
"So did you just banter all night," Rina asked me when I called her the next morning, "or did you manage to get a real conversation in?"
"No! We actually talked!"
Rina has this theory that we Seinfeld-generation singles can fling bon mots at each other for hours and hours and never actually communicate in any way. Thus, we can date for weeks, months even, and never really form an emotionally intimate relationship.
We can date for weeks, months even, without forming an emotionally intimate relationship.
I had teased her that she was becoming my own personal dating trainer, watching my social life with precision.
With less subtlety than Brenda barking at me to flatten my pelvis, Rina had grilled me about Marc's and my plans and made me promise I would make an effort at some point in the night to take the conversation somewhere substantive.
"If you just joke around all night," she'd said, "you'll never get anywhere. You want to actually get to know this guy and help him get to know you."
I felt proud at having requested that we not go to a movie or play where we'd just sit beside each other and not interact at all. And I also took Rina's suggestion that we avoid having a night-long intellectual discussion about Kosovar freedom fighters that has little to do with who we are. And, as Rina added pointedly, "it also means doing more than playing little Miss Reporter and getting him to talk about himself while you reveal nothing about you."
So, in some sort of inhibition-free moment, I had told Marc that I had been quite nervous -- and my theory on why.
Marc completely understood, and we ended up having a long talk about how people tend to try to avoid investing too much in a first date, and then sort of damn it from the beginning.
"I've had women suggest that we meet for a 20-minute cup of coffee," he confessed. "I guess they aren't willing to invest more than that until they ascertain that I'm enough of a non-loser to merit the full half-hour. It's like they want to have some pre-arranged, painless encounter."
They have to ascertain that I'm enough of a non-loser to merit a full half-hour.
"They literally mean a time limit?" I had asked incredulously.
"Yeah, but it's so naive. You can't get anything out of a date if you're not willing to put something into it."
-- "He really said that?" Rina said, sounding pleased.
I nodded into the phone.
"Wow. He sounds reasonably evolved," she said.
"One question," she said.
"This one's Jewish, right?"
"Yes!" I said, half-indignantly, bristling at the Rick reference. "Very funny."
"Well," she said, "you may have something serious to go on.
I suspected she might be right. Now I just had to wait for my Goon to call.