A collection of essays by Bill (website@ccjj.info) accompanied by feedback from his friends.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Worst First Date I Ever Had

A couple of years ago, I signed up for the Brainiac Dating site on the internet. It wasn't a particularly great site, but it was free. I didn't do much with it. Eventually they started charging for it. I never paid them anything, but they didn't take down my profile. The result was people could pick me, but I couldn't pick anyone else, which was fine with me.

Brainiac Dating isn't like Mensa -- you don't have to pass any test to get in, you just have to think you're smart.

A couple of weeks ago, a girl picked me. Let's call her Sandra. She had a lot of pictures up, and they looked fine. She said reasonable things on her profile. She had gone to Johns Hopkins and had two master's degrees, one of them an MBA.

I was about to leave town on a snowboarding trip, so I asked her on a date a couple of weeks in advance. I suggested an Ethiopian restaurant that I liked. I don't take all my first dates to Ethiopian food, but if I date someone several times, we usually make it there. I really like the cuisine, but also, it's a good date because most people have never tried it and nearly everybody who does likes it -- so at that point I've introduced them to something they like, which gets things off to a good start. I emailed her a link to the menu.

While I was in Aspen, I checked my email. She had looked up the building the restaurant was in on bedbugrgistry.com, and someone had had a bedbug problem two years ago in an apartment several floors above the restaurant. I don't see how you're going to get bedbugs from visiting a restaurant. Maybe if you're sitting in upholstered seats, but this restaurant, like most restaurants, just had wooden chairs.

She said "I don't know much about Ethiopian food. I'd like to go to one of these three restaurants", and she named 3 French restaurants.

I don't like French food. They smother everything in mushrooms, and I despise mushrooms. It's so pervasive they sometimes put mushrooms in a dish without even mentioning it on the menu. And everything's got thick creams that don't taste particularly good. And nothing's spicy, and I love spicy food.

I googled the three restaurants to look at the menus and see if any of them had anything I'd be willing to eat. None of them had a full menu on the internet -- they only listed about 5 dishes each, and they didn't list prices.

One of them was right near work. I've been walking past that restaurant for 5 years and never gone in. That's partly because it was French, but I try to keep an open mind. There must've been some other reason, but I didn't remember what it is. Anyway, I picked that restaurant.

I checked her profile again, and she had changed it. She complained that most men wanted to take her to ethnic food or cheap hole-in-the-wall places, and she named the three restaurants she preferred. It didn't seem to occur to her that French food is ethnic.

When I got back to work, I checked the restaurant. It was exorbitant. She had said how much she liked wine, so I figured she would probably order a bottle, and not of something cheap. I estimated $250 for dinner for the two of us with a bottle of wine. I sent her an email telling her she was too high-maintenance for me and canceled the date.

I was surprised to hear back from her. She apologized, and said she had been planning to pay for her half (a likely story -- what's more, that's still $125 out of my pocket for a first date eating food I don't particularly like). She said I could name the restaurant.

I had gone to a French restaurant with a friend about a year before, and had enjoyed the place reasonably well. I asked that friend for the name of the restaurant. She couldn't remember where we had gone, but she recommended 3 French places. I looked up her favorite and it was fine. I estimated it would cost $80 for the two of us. The building didn't have any bedbugs reported.

I suggested that restaurant to Sandra and it was fine with her.

For some reason she sent me an email telling me she frequently went to the opera, the ballet, the symphony, and chamber music. I replied, telling her I didn't go to live music very much, the only band I saw in 2010 was ZZ Top.

She had also mentioned she liked museums. I told her that I am a card-carrying, contributing member of the American Museum of Natural History, and hate MOMA and the Guggenheim. She replied that she had never been to AMNH.

For some reason, neither of us canceled the date. It was really clear at this point that we were not at all compatible, but she had thrown so many curve balls by this point I was morbidly curious about what she would be like in person. So I continued with this hopeless date, expecting it to have some entertainment value.

On Saturday night, I showed up at the restaurant. She was sitting at the bar. She looked reasonably like she did in her pictures.

We conversed. Then I found out what her voice was like. It was by far the worst voice of anybody I've ever dated. High pitched and squeaky and garbled, almost difficult to understand. "Speech impediment" doesn't begin to cover it. I wondered if she was deaf and thus hadn't learned to speak properly. She had talked about listening to music, but her tastes were so pretentious that I wouldn't put it past her to go to symphonies she couldn't hear.

Further conversation revealed she didn't even live in NYC. She lived 4 hours (and about $100 one-way) away by train in Washington DC. She said she came to New York about once a month and stayed with her sister in Brooklyn.

She worked in IT. I'm a computer programmer, so we talked shop. It turned out she knew nothing but Microsoft. I deal with Microsoft a bit, but I'm a Unix/Linux bigot who feels Microsoft is evil.

I ordered a glass of wine. I would've preferred a beer, but I knew she wouldn't like that.

I'm not a total ignoramus on wine. I don't like red wine, partly because I don't like warm drinks, partly because I don't like the taste, but mostly because it leaves a really bad stain when you spill it. I know that among white wines, you're supposed to like dry wines, but I don't. I like sweet, fruity wines. Those also happen to be cheap, but I would be willing to pay a premium to get them. I also know that, according to the ads, I'm supposed to like Pepsi more than Coke. Screw that -- I will drink either, but given a choice I will drink Coke. What everybody else likes is one thing, what I like is another. So I ordered my favorite wine, which is White Zinfandel (which is also one of the cheapest wines you can get). I'm sure that cost me some points. The restaurant was too snooty to carry it. I run into that a lot. I didn't even ask for Chablis, because restaurants that don't carry White Zin usually don't carry Chablis either. Hardly any place carries Chablis. I settled for Chardonnay.

A few years ago, I did a taste test of six wines that were lying around my house. Two Buck Chuck did pretty well, but my very favorite was this really cheap stuff that came in one gallon bottles. I figure I could take a course in wine and learn what I am supposed to like, but liking what I'm supposed to like is so not me. Furthermore, I had nothing to gain from such a class. A cheap taste is a blessing. If I learned to like other, more expensive wines, I would just be harder to please. What good is that?

Soon afterward she said she wanted to pay for her tea. I told the bartender to put my drink on the table tab and he was fine with that.

Once she had paid, she got up, scooped up her coat, turned to me and said "Bye" and slipped out the door.

I am grateful to her for abandoning me before I had spent any money on her.

I paid for my wine, left the restaurant, and finished the evening with a nice dinner and a Coors Lite at an Irish pub.