Sunday, September 25, 2011

My First Blind Date

When I walk up to the coffee shop on 20th Street and 5th Avenue, there's a young man leaning against the brick wall reading a thick novel and dressed entirely in blue and green from head to toe (green and blue striped shirt tucked into blue pleated pants with bright green tennis shoes). "That's definitely not him," I think, and walk right past him into the coffee shop. 

"Kate, is that you? It's me, Charles."

I turn to see the green and blue striped man pointing at me with the novel tucked under his free arm. He's about as short as me (around 5'2'') and as dorky as can be, but then again what was I expecting an art history phD student to look like?

We introduce ourselves and I ask him if he comes here often. He tells me yes, and explains that the "buttery pastries" are to die for, but then follows with, "I live on the Upper East Side, so I don't make it down here too often." I chalk up his contradictory answer to nervous chatter and order a cappuccino. When the barista tells me my total is $5.00 (!!), I hand her my Visa and Charles does not offer to pay. I think this is a bad start to a date, but also realize it happened so fast I probably didn't give him the chance to buy my overpriced coffee anyway. 

Charles orders the same drink (and exclaims, "TWINSIES!") plus a madeline almond cookie, pronouncing it with a French accent. He tells me he just got back from a summer-long archeological dig throughout France. 

"I LOVE Paris!" I say, well, because that's the only place I've ever been in France (and it was only for two hours when our cruise ship was passing though). And that was about 15 years ago. I act as if I was there as an adult as opposed to when I was a nine-year-old, and we sit down in a corner booth. He sets the novel on the table in between us, and the title is the type of title I cannot pronounce, complete with a painting of a naked boy holding a snake in front of a king sitting in a throne. "I've seen this painting in real life." Charles says.

There's a few other people in the restaurant, and none of them are talking. I can tell the others are eavesdropping, and they are probably doing so because my conversation with Charles is making it blatantly obvious that we are meeting for a blind date: Questions like "Where are you from?" and "What part of the city do you live in?" are all answered within the first thirty seconds of sitting down.

The barista brings us our matching cappuccinos and Charles immediately pours two packets of Splenda into his oversized mug, which has "parlez vous francais" painted on the side. He takes a slow sip and I watch the frothy foam stick to his thick beard like a milk mustache, which I mentally predicted would happen anyway. He doesn't seem to notice (or care? Geeky people don't care about looking unkempt) and I wait a while to drink mine so as to avoid looking like Santa Claus.

He immediately talks about his blue blood-ish family (He went to boarding school in DC, father and both brothers have law degrees from Harvard, he keeps a boat in Cape Cod, etc.) and I chime in as best I can. I tell him my mother once worked on Capitol Hill (for about 2 months before she got knocked up with my illegitimate half-sister), my brother just started law school (I don't mention he's in Oklahoma, not Cambridge), and my grandparents have a boat at their lake house (which is actually a doublewide camp site in Indiana). I tell myself everyone embellishes on first dates. If he knew the truths of my life so soon, he'd run for the subway before he finishes his French cookie.

What I do not embellish are stories about my dog and my job - both of which he seems genuinely interested in.

"So is Fashion Week like The Devil Wears Prada?" he asks, the first of 5 million questions. It is now I realize he talks a damn lot. When he isn't talking about himself, he's asking me more questions than I can even answer before he's on to the next. While he's firing off his questions, I examine every inch of him to determine if I could ever sleep with him. His hair is mousy brown and mop-like, with a thickness that my half-bald ex-boyfriend would happily trade his investment banker salary for, and his beard covers about 80 percent of his face. His brown eyes are pretty, but I am too distracted by the black forest of hair creeping out of the collar of his Lacoste shirt to spend much time looking in his eyes. 

The Lacoste shirt. That reminds me of his outfit. I point to his seafoam green shoes and he says he got them "in Italy by way of California" and chuckles loudly. They are Vans, and he purchased them because his top-siders gave him blisters from walking all over Bologna. 

"A lot of guys like boat shoes, but really the only thing they are good for are cleaning the boat deck because of the rubber soles." he says. I tell him I hate guys who wear boat shoes and he should just stick to the Vans.

Soon the conversation is waning, so he asks if I want to "wander" with him. I agree, and we walk around Gramercy Park, I tell him some more Fashion Week stories, and he laughs his ass off. A couple times he puts his hand on the small of my back. I feel grossed out, but don't do anything about it. Finally I make up something about having to meet a friend, and he offers to walk me to the subway. When we get there, I am already not close enough to hug him goodbye unless I walk back towards him, which would be weird and forward, so he extends his hand and we barely touch fingertips, which is 100x worse than an awkward ass-out hug. I can't imagine what people walking by must have thought of us!

"Kate, it was a pleasure." he says in his dorky lisp. We both agree we'll see each other soon, and I thank God this whole thing is over as I walk down the subway steps. 

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