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.


  1. I think the key line here is, "For some reason, neither of us canceled the date."
    When she changed her profile to bash (you) a stranger for a phone call leading up to a date is a huge red flag. That should have been the end of that.
    Spending over $100 for a first date is nonsense as well. You barely even met the person. $50 maybe tops, but focus on the conversation not the check.
    Better to call this "long list of what not to do in attempting to start a relationships."

  2. It's nice to hear what a bad date is like from a man's point of view. Personally, I think it was smart and courageous of her to take off soon after you met. Maybe that's why those 5-minute dating scenarios are good--you can pretty much tell quickly if there's any chemistry. But Bill, maybe in the future you could worry less about the kind of wine you can or can't get and more about he comfort of the lady. Show some interest in her, her feelings, her point of view. Could the voice have been due to nerves? I would have been curious to find out the story of the Voice. Good luck in the future.

  3. Putting aside Jane9Ev's truly arrogant assumption that you showed no interest in this woman's feelings (not to mention confusing being rude with being smart and courageous) dday76 has a point... the profile thing should've told you what a spoiled dingbat this lady was.

  4. Jane, I think I was sensitive to her values, within reason. For example, I had wine rather than beer to make a better impression. And there's no way the weirdness of her voice was just nerves -- it was WAY weirder than that.

    And I was willing to spend $80 on a date that I had already decided wasn't going to lead to a second date because I figured it MIGHT be up to her standards. And I found a French restaurant, though I don't particularly like French food, just to make her happy.

    So I was accommodating her in many ways.

    -- Bill

  5. Who is Bret Tallman and why is he calling me arrogant? This is why I never blog. It's such a waste of time and you have to tolerate insults from people you wouldn't want to be in the same room with.

    Of course the girl was smart and courageous. A lesser person would have sat there through the whole pointless meal and tried to make polite chitchat. Instead, she got up, offered to pay for her tea and left with, apparently, no explanation. A time saver. Why should she explain anything when she knew she would never see Bill again? I, not being as courageous, probably would have remembered I had a dental appointment at 7:15! He: On a Saturday? Unarrogant: Well, my dentist often works nights...

    The longest paragraph in Bill's description of this sad date is not about the girl or what she looked like or what she was wearing but Bill's taste in wines. I would deduce from that, Sherlock, that pleasing milady was not as important to him as what he imbibes. Not an auspicious characteristic.

    And what makes you think she's a dingbat, Creepo? That is such a male chauvinist piggo thing to say. This is a girl who went to Johns Hopkins and has two Masters degrees. Women are always "dingbats." or some such putdown, to guys who can't score. I bet Creepo isn't getting any better dates than you are and it's obvious why. His dislike of women comes through. (Well then, try some other gender.)

  6. Bill, also, never talk about how much you spend on a date or plan to, or almost did. I know you make good money, so what the hell? Allot so much in your budget for "experimentation" and forget about it. Think of all you spent on your education at that topflight California version of MIT. Think of what you spend on dates as investing in finding someone who will share the rest of your life.

    And Bill, when you're out with a lady, don't talk computers or the Museum of Natural History. Be a little mysterious. Listen to her. Make eye contact. Talk about vacations in Acapulco, moonlight on the beach, sunsets seen from a Greek cliff. Whatever your idea of romance is. And ask discreet questions. Don't put down her her interests prematurely. You don't have to have all the same interests. All you have to have is the same values.

    Compliment her dress, hairdo, whatever. If she wants a French restaurant, do it without kvetching--you're trying to please her, remember? Ethiopian is esoteric. Sounds like grasshoppers and hedgehog meat & my first thought was "Ewww." Besides, steak is always safe at a French restaurant; they do steak well. And it's easy to say, "No mushrooms." The French do well with fish, too. My favorite at a French restaurant is Moules Mariniere.

    I think you have to be confident in yourself, and then immerse yourself in finding out about your date and appreciating what she brings to the table. Forget about yourself, your wine preferences, your budget. Relax, tell a joke, tell her she has beautiful eyes. A smart girl can smell out an insecure, self-engrossed, penny-pinching, unromantic guy faster than you can say Hold the Mushrooms.

    As far as her "weird" voice, there are ways to find out what the problem is. Very discreetly, of course. She may have had esophogeal surgery. She may have been deaf, as you guessed (but then, wouldn't she have told you?) She may have swallowed lye as a kid. Who knows? Next time, phone the girl first and find out if you can stand her voice. I know a guy who married a paraplegic girl, so physiological disabilities mean nothing when there is chemistry.

    I hope you appreciate my womanly view. I only give it because I know you are a kind, gentle giant who is intelligent, hardworking and with a certain bearish, self-effacing charm. There is someone for everyone, my Mom used to say.

  7. Several people have emailed me saying I shouldn't have gone through with the date. I made it clear in the blog that I was going though with it for sheer entertainment value, to see what she would pull in person. A relationship was already out of the question.

    I am reminded of a friend who went counting cards at blackjack in a small-time casino in Nevada. When the casino realized he was winning, they sent a crooked dealer to deal to him. He realized what was going on, but he kept playing just to watch the guy cheat...

    As for talking about computers on a date, when you're both programmers, as was the case, it's a completely reasonable thing to talk about.

    One piece of advice that was good, always talk on the phone first.

    As opposed to my being able to afford $250 for a date, but it says a lot about a girl if she demands that. Christ, it's only food.
    Jane, you're a facebook friend. You saw my post about Rolexes. The cheapest Rolex is $9000. Yes, I could buy one, but if someone spends that much on watch, it says a lot about them, and not all good things. You can get a great watch with a stopwatch, timer, and alarm, accurate to 1 second a month, for $30. If a girl likes you to spend your money on such stupid things as a Rolex, she's going to want constant stupid ostentatious gifts all the time, and you'll waste HUGE amounts of money just to keep her happy. Plus, she's an idiot. It's not worth it.

  8. Jane, my discussion of wine was based on the fact that certain type of people totally pass judgement on you depending on the wine you drink, and exactly the wines I like are the unfashionable ones.

    Also, saying that I was focused on what I imbibe and was ignoring her values is wrong -- I bought wine and not beer to appease her. Once she was out of the picture I bought Coors Light, which is totally looked down upon by beer snobs.

  9. Grasshoppers and hedgehog meat?! Seriously, are you brain-damaged?

  10. I've done speed dating a couple of times. I find that on many occasions dinner dates have paid off with more dates and girlfriends. I got nowhere with speed dating, Apparently I can't get a girl to like me within 5 minutes.

    That's another reason a first dinner date is better than just meeting for coffee or drinks. I can afford the meals if I pick the restaurant, and it gives me more time to develop a mutual interest.

    On the internet I post a LOT of pictures, so if she doesn't like the way I look, there won't be any waste of time with her.