"I think you should have lunch with him."
I stared at Chesty LaRue through squinted eyes, surprised by her declaration. I gave her the rundown on the man who just extended me an invitation via email to lunch the next afternoon. I'd met him on OKCupid. He seemed nice enough and wasn't bad looking. However, he was on the short side and wasn't particularly vibrant or interesting. However, this was his second request to meet and I really had no reason to turn him down.
"At the very least, you get a free meal," she reasoned.
Free meal. That sealed it. I emailed him back and agreed to meet him at a restaurant about 15 minutes from my home. The menu looked decent. I could eat well and still stick to my "don't eat (too much) crap" diet. I wasn't excited to meet him, but what could it hurt to give him a chance. Besides, in my experience instant sparks have a tendency to spontaneously combust. As I've gotten older I've stopped making snap judgments about my interest level based solely on first impressions. However, when I pulled into the parking lot and saw a man with a familiar face dressed in denim shorts, an oversized t-shirt, and dusty sneakers paired with high white socks I got the sinking feeling that my first impression radar was right on.
I found him at the bar ordering a beer. When he opened his mouth to say hello a slight discoloration on his front tooth caught my eye. As the conversation meandered from the jobs he'd lost over the years to the progress of the relationship advice book he's writing I kept staring at that tooth. It had a slight inward slant. The dimly lit bar area prevented me from determining whether the tooth was tinted gray or simply clouded by tartar.
The ring of his phone distracted me from the tooth analysis. He glanced at the number flashing across the screen, turned back to me and said, "Bill collectors, hmph," with a smirk that seemed to invite me to commiserate. I guess I was supposed to view the bill collectors as the culprits since it's totally unreasonable to expect bills to be paid on time, if at all. How dare they pester him for money he owes them! I offered up a tight lipped smile and nearly burst a blood vessel to suppress my eye roll reflex.
At that moment I was ready for the check. However, since I'd only gotten a water with lemon I still needed to actually make a check. I suggested we get a table. The sooner we ate the sooner I could make my escape. "So tell me something new," he asked, his mouth full of cheesy crab dip. The interview portion is always my favorite portion of any date. It's especially enjoyable when the questions are completely vague with no context. When I asked him what he meant by new he relayed the details of my life I'd divulged earlier but somehow managed to get them wrong. He said, "Well I know you really enjoy your job. Tell me something about you that I don't know." Umm, dude you don't even know what I just told you 40 minutes ago! I told you that I'm okay with my job but that I can't say that I truly enjoy it.
My eyes scanned the room for the waitress, willing our entrees to arrive. If I heard one more word about his broken down car I was liable to thrust my fork into my left temple. When my grilled tilapia and mashed potatoes arrived I dove into my plate. He ate his salad and continued to talk while I continued to pray that our waitress would just drop off the check. When my prayers were answered the waitress placed the check between us.
"So what do you have planned for the rest of the day?" he asked. I quickly rattled off a long list of errands and hoped he'd accept my "busy day" at face value. After several more minutes he reached for the check, effectively pulling the plug on the date and obliging my silent request. I'd known for over an hour that there would not be a date #2. However, my decision was sealed when I glanced at the credit card receipt and saw that he left a $5 tip on a $42 bill. Unemployment and bill collectors are one thing, but bad tipping is unexcusable.
On my drive home I called Chesty LaRue and berated her for convincing me to take a chance on that man. I know that I'm supposed to be more open to men to whom I might not initially be drawn. However, struggling to stay polite and semi-engaged through awkward conversation as evidence of incompatibility is heaped upon my head is draining. True, I wouldn't know for sure whether or not he's a dud unless we went out. Plus at the very least I get fed just for taking that chance. While I am a huge proponent of dating for food, I'm realizing that there's a point of diminishing returns. Yeah, I got fed but I also lost over 2 hours of my Sunday afternoon. That's 2 hours I could have been napping, researching schools, catching up on General Hospital, tweezing my underarm hair or dozens of more productive activities. Shit, I could've had a V8.