Monday, June 16, 2008

My Cousin and I Have Dated the Same Guy. Don't Judge Us.

In the middle of winter last year, I went on a blind date. The boy was a boy my uncle knew from the place where he likes to play pool and smoke cigars. My uncle swore the boy had a good job, a nice disposition. He swore I would like him. He swore we would be a smart match. I said okay, but pretty much only because I'd been drinking. I'd been drinking and eating a lot of brownies and feeling sorry for myself because I'd been back in Buffalo for months now, and I hadn't yet figured out how to make my heart stay out of my throat every time the Wily Republican called. It was time for an intervention, and so I let my uncle set it up.

The boy and I were going to go to dinner, then maybe a movie, but a few days before the date he called and asked me if it would be alright if we changed our plans. He had gotten a hold of his father's season's tickets for the Sabres and was wondering if there was any chance I was the type of girl who'd rather go to a hockey game instead of a movie. At that point, I was in the middle of my somewhat ill-advised delusion that I was going to meet and successfully charm Ryan Miller, the Sabres' goalie, and convince him that I was his ultimate dreamboat. I figured there was a chance I could make this happen, and the two of us would be married, and that when we were introduced at the reception, we'd run in underneath the team's crossed sticks as everyone chanted Let's Go, Buffalo!

So I said yes. I said, "Yes! Let's go to the hockey game!" The way I figured it, even if the date sucked, I would see some fine hockey and perhaps get my face on the Jumbotron at just the right second--the second Ryan Miller had his face tipped up as he drank from his water bottle. I also figured that's all it would take, and that in that second Ryan Miller would understand that I was the type of girl who thought it was not at all weird that my best friend's bust of Abe Lincoln was dressed up in his own construction paper jersey to support the Sabres' run for the Cup. And what hockey player wouldn't admire that?

The twist of fate that landed me and my date at the hockey game was a lucky, lucky, lucky one. I don't know what I would've done if we'd been forced to wait for a table and then food at a nice restaurant, and I don't know what I would've done if we had to drive from the restaurant to the movie theater and decide what we wanted to see.

The boy, while nice, was completely not for me. I knew it the moment he opened his jacket and revealed that his glasses were clipped around his neck with one of those eyeglasses chains that are all the rage in nursing homes. That might seem like a small and petty thing, but trust me when I tell you it's not. It seemed to me that if he was so consumed with the idea of mislaying his glasses that he would be consumed with a lot of other safe, steady, precautionary measures. He didn't seem very spontaneous. And say what you will about predictability and steadfastness, but there is something inside of me that needs a little more than the same old thing over and over and over. The boys I fall for are always a little off, a little strange, a little wild. The Boy From Work, after all, cornered me by a bathroom and kissed me less than forty-eight hours after we started working together. That kind of thing would have never occurred to my blind date.

So, after our quick dinner at the club in the arena, and before we went down to our seats I snuck off to the bathroom. After washing my hands and fixing my hair, I texted Diana. He is wearing his glasses on a chain around his neck! I typed frantically. A few seconds later she responded. He doesn't sound very wild, she said. You need a little wild.

And that was exactly it. She understood exactly why I was a little panicked about making it through the rest of the date. It wasn't that it was unpleasant--he was nice, sweet, gentlemanly--but it was saturated with guilt. I knew that after he dropped me off at home, I wouldn't go inside and call my girlfriends and squeal about how much fun I'd had and how excited I was to see him again. Instead, I would be calling my girlfriends and telling them it was beginning to become clear to me: I was compatible with no one. I was never going to be loved, not ever. I was going to die in bed with my fifty-nine cats I'd named after famous literary figures.

When the boy called for another date, I ignored his phone call. I waited a few days and tried to muster the courage to call him back and tell him I wouldn't be seeing him anymore. This was something I'd never done before. I'd never rejected anyone. I was really used to being the one who was getting the brush-off. And that's what made it so hard for me. I felt awful about the sudden role reversal, and I didn't know how to go about it. Should I tell him the truth? Should I tell him he was just too dull for me? That I had no interest in being naked around him? Or was it better to fabricate some lie and tell him I wished it could be different--oh, if only!--and it were different, we'd be able to keep on seeing each other, no problem.

In the end, that's what I did. I cried for about forty-five minutes before I picked up the phone and told the boy that I'd just picked up another section of composition at another local school (true) and that I'd be so consumed with developing this new class to meet the school's requirements that I'd be too busy to do anything with him for months, and that it wouldn't be fair to ask him to wait around until I was less busy (false).

I felt like an asshole. I still do.

Well, a month later I saw my uncle and my cousins again. My uncle didn't seem to give two hoots that it didn't work out with his friend, but my cousin seemed a little more ruffled about the whole thing.

"What do you mean he's too dull?" she asked when I filled her in on the date and my reasons for declining another. She's known this guy for a long, long time. She's hung out with him several times. And when I was drinking wine and letting her father talk me into going out with him, she gave him her endorsement when I asked, "Hey, he's not some weird toad, is he?"

"He's really great! And he's cute!" she'd insisted. In reality, my date looked a lot like Andy Richter, but without his goofy charm and bumbly voice. But--to be fair--my cousin and I don't really have the same taste in men. Whereas she gravitates toward the "interesting looking" boys (think: bald or grossly short or both), I've been accused on many occasions of liking frat boys. We definitely weren't working with the same definitions when we discussed my date's looks.

But it wasn't his looks that caused me concern. It was the wild. I told her about the glasses, about the monotone way he spoke at dinner, the polite way he clapped when the Sabres scored. She said that didn't sound all that bad. She asked if I was sure I hadn't maybe been too quick to judge. I said no, no, I hadn't. I said, "If you went on a date with him, you'd see that, too," to which she said, "Well, maybe I will. I've thought about it before." And after that, we both went on drinking and eating desserts and talking about how gross our brothers are.

I hadn't thought of our discussion about my date in a long time, but when I was back home last month after the Boy From Work and I came back from Mexico, my father threw a party, and my cousin and her family came to that party. As soon as she walked in the door she grabbed my arm and said, "I've got to talk to you."

I nodded.

"I went on a date," she said. "A date with someone you know."

I blinked. My cousin and I hadn't gone to the same school. There weren't many people we had in common, except those who shared blood with us. Who that I knew could she have possibly been dating? There had been a brief second when I wanted her to date my friend Josh's best friend, but that never got off the ground. I wondered if the two of them had been secretly consorting behind our backs.

"Who?" I asked.

"You know who," she said. "Robbie."

"Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh," I said. "Robbie. Right. And how did that go?"

She looked stricken. "It wasn't good," she said.

"How come?"

"He's so dull!" she said, and then she listed the things he had done over the course of the night that caused her alarm. There were many things. But my cousin is a stronger girl than I am. She went on another date with him.

"Wow," I said.

"I felt like I owed it to him," she said. "Maybe we just got off on the wrong foot. Maybe he was nervous. Maybe I was nervous. I wasn't sure. I just wanted to be sure."

So we continued to compare notes about this boy and our dates and how we realized we were both the types of girls who needed something wild, something spontaneous, something more. We both admitted our date will someday make some girl a fine and sweet and doting husband, but that girl just wouldn't be one of us. Neither of us was going to get the opportunity to stand up at the other's wedding and give a little speech about how we'd dated the groom, too, and we were so thankful it didn't work out. There would be none of that. And it wasn't until later that I got the chance to sit around and reflect how weird it was that we spent time sipping mojitos and discussing just what it was like to be on a date with the same guy. Only in my family. I swear. We are such freaks.

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