I don’t go on blind dates as a rule.
However, my friend begged me to go on this one. His girlfriend had a friend who was new in town and was a great person and could I do them all a favor, and yada yada yada.
“You’ll like her,” my friend said, “Bekah says she’s quirky.”
Quirky? That should have been warning enough to back away from this venture, but like a good-hearted schmuck, I decided to go through with it.
On the designated evening, I arrived early at the restaurant, took a seat on a bench outside the entrance and waited. I tried to remain cool and detached, but truthfully, I was feeling a little nervous. I was given a brief description of what she looked like so I would be able to recognize her. At least from a physical standpoint, she sounded all right.
I heard my named called. I glanced up and there she was.
She was quite beautiful; there was no question about that. She also seemed to exude a sense of calm self-assurance that I found immediately appealing. After the obligatory introduction and small talk, we moved toward the restaurant entrance. This date might not be a disaster after all I thought as I opened the door and stepped aside to let her pass. Only she didn’t pass. She remained rooted before the entrance with a look of incredulous pity on her face.
“Um, after you,” I said, a bit confused by her reaction. She heaved a sigh and shook her head.
“You really don’t need to hold the door open for me.”
“Er,” I replied. “It’s no trouble.”
“No, what I mean is…some women don’t like having doors opened for them.”
“Some people find the custom outdated and demeaning to women; that we’re not able to open doors for ourselves.”
“I…was just being polite,” I replied, a little stunned at this turn of the conversation.
“Oh, I know,” she said with a small smile. “I know you meant well, and don’t worry, I’m not offended.” She chuckled. “You see, where I used to live, almost no one does it. I keep forgetting that it’s still done in other parts of the country.”
“All right,” I said, not quite sure of what to do next, “would…you like to open the door?”
She laughed again.
“Okay, now you’re just being patronizing.”
“Ah. So…how do we get inside the restaurant without offending anybody?”
We managed to enter and a waiter led us to a table.
Without thinking, I started to walk around to her side of the table in order to pull out her chair. She gave me a strange look.
“What are you doing?”
“I, uh…oh, nothing. I was just, uh, never mind.” Sheepishly, I returned to my side and sat down. I picked up my menu and scanned the items.
“So,” I said, glancing up, “are we going Dutch on dinner?” My date looked up from her own menu and pursed her lips. “Look,” I continued, sensing trouble, “I just figured that since you are of…an independent state of mind that you would prefer that I not pay the entire check. I mean, I can pay it, but…” She raised a hand.
“I understand what you mean, and yes, I would like to split the check. I just wish you had used a different term.”
“‘Going Dutch.’ That’s a bit offensive, don’t you think? It implies that the Dutch are cheap.”
“You clearly haven’t met my Dutch grandparents,” I mumbled.
In awkward silence, we resumed our study of the menu. Mercifully, the waiter arrived. Wanting to make the most of what was quickly becoming a train wreck of a date, I decided to splurge on a steak dinner. By reading my companion’s face, however, this was clearly the wrong choice.
“I’m a vegetarian,” she explained.
She started by ordering a salad, and then went ingredient by ingredient, asking the waiter if the vegetables were fresh and organic. If the waiter wasn’t sure, the offending produce had to go. By the end, her salad consisted of a plate of spinach.
“Is that it?” I asked. “Won’t you still be hungry?”
“Yes,” she admitted, “but I’ll have a clear conscience, and that’s more important.”
Our meals came and I carved into my steak with obscene pleasure. My date picked through her spinach and heaved a sigh. I paused with a forkful of meat halfway to my mouth.
“You seem like such a nice guy,” she said. Now what, I wondered as I set my fork down.
“It depends on who you ask,” I said, trying for humor.
“Doesn’t it bother you that you’re eating a fellow living being?”
“I’m pretty sure this is a cow.”
“That’s what I mean. A poor, defenseless cow was murdered for human consumption. If it were me, I would feel so guilty.”
I looked at my half-eaten piece of meat, still delightfully drenched in steak sauce, and I came to a decision. I shook my head.
“Nope,” I said, picking up my fork, “not feeling the guilt.”
She heaved another long-suffering sigh.
“It seems,” I continued with deceptive casualness as I cut away another piece of steak, “that we are at a Mexican standoff.”
“Oh, pardon my French! I’m not trying to get your Irish up or anything.”
“I cannot believe how culturally insensitive you’re being!”
“I’d like to abide by the rules of political correctness, but, shoot, it’s all Greek to me!”
“All right, all right…” I threw my hands up in mock surrender.
“Look, you may think this is all a joke, but there is a serious problem in this country with the discriminatory, derogatory, racist, sexist, elitist, outdated, unenlightened terms and phrases that plague our modern language. We must all strive to wipe them out and condemn those who continue to spew such filth!”
“And freedom of speech?” I inquired, continuing to blithely poke at the hornet’s nest.
“Everyone is entitled to freedom of speech,” she replied with an air of dignity, “as long as they don’t offend, embarrass, or verbally injure another living being.”
“Is sarcasm on that list?”
“Then we better change the subject.”
More awkward silence ensued. I finished my meal and debated on whether I wanted to hang around for dessert. I had my eye on a piece of German chocolate cake, but I wasn’t sure if it was worth the lecture. At last, I decided to give the noble art of conversation one more try.
“So…what sort of things are you interested in?”
She then proceeded to give me a lengthy list of the organizations she was involved with; environmental protection, animal rights, civil rights, women’s rights, politic activism. She had a finger in every pie.
“That’s pretty impressive,” I said, “you sure keep busy.”
“Yeah, but it’s worth it. So, what are you interested in?”
She waited a few moments in silence, apparently waiting for me to continue with my own list of activities.
“Football, and…” she prompted.
“And that’s about it.”
“I see,” she said rather coolly. I could tell she wanted to say more, but she held it in.
“Yeah, I like football; playing football, watching football, talking about football, thinking about football…”
“Yes, thank you. I think you made your point. I suppose you have a favorite team?”
As a matter of fact, I did have a favorite team. Growing up in Washington D.C., there was only one clear choice. Boldly, I told her this. Then she exploded.