As I’ve mentioned once or twice before, I’m moving in a couple of weeks, and I’m getting a little sad about leaving my neighborhood. So I decided to plan a dinner with friends at one of my favorite neighborhood spots before I leave, but I had a hard time choosing the place—not necessarily because there are so many great places—but because a lot of my favorite restaurants have been spoiled by the memories of awkward and worthless dates.
As my list of possible venues dwindled, I started to wonder why dinner is such a popular first date activity. It’s a disaster waiting to happen. First, there’s choosing where to go. I am so tired of guys wanting to go out for sushi. I don’t know if they’re trying to show how hip and adventurous they are, but I think it’s safe to say sushi is officially mainstream these days. And with the likelihood of someone having subpar chopstick skills (okay, that’s always me) and trouble gracefully shoving a giant tuna roll into their mouth (me again…), I’d rather avoid that minefield.
And then there’s interacting with the waitress. I was a waitress in high school and college, so I’m hyperaware of any awkwardness—on either end. One guy I went to dinner with told me while we were looking at the menu that all he wanted was “a big bowl of fruit.” Excuse me? Why then, are we eating dinner at this great international fusion/South American restaurant—that you picked? Perhaps he was in the mood for international fruit? I thought it was a weird enough comment to make to me, but then he actually told the waitress that’s what he wanted, and obviously it wasn’t on the menu. She was visibly confused—and annoyed. And I hate being the annoying table. I literally feel the server’s pain. Another guy I went out with a few times was inexplicably disliked by every waitress we had. It was very odd. On the one hand, their rudeness gave us something to talk about, but that didn’t make up for the discomfort—especially when one purposely failed to help the poor guy out when he was obviously mistaking Pinot Grigio for a red. Of course I didn’t say anything either because—shocker—I felt too awkward. Then again, he ended up being an ass, so I suppose our servers just knew something it took me a little longer to figure out.
And then there’s the eating. There was an episode of My So-Called Life in which Angela sat at the dinner table with her family, horrified by the sight of all of them eating, and her voice-over said, “I cannot bring myself to eat a well-balanced meal in front of my mother. It just means too much to her. I mean, if you stop to think about, like, chewing—what it really is?—how people just do it, like, in public.” I think about that episode a lot. The act of consuming food is pretty disgusting. If doing it in front of your family is questionable, why would anyone ever think it would be a fun thing to do on a first date? (Ah, My So-Called Life…now I’m thinking how much I’d rather stay home and watch a marathon of Angela Chase’s awkwardness than get off of the couch and live out my own.) Anyway, spinach stuck in your teeth, red wine splashed on your favorite shirt, chewing with your mouth open, talking with your mouth full—the potential offenses are endless.
Why, why then is this what everyone wants to do on a first date? And it’s hard to say no because I really like going out to dinner…or at least the idea of going out to dinner. I guess maybe I’ll just have to keep moving to new neighborhoods to flee the memories of bad dates past. Although a major problem remains: I can keep switching restaurants or even activities, but my awkwardness seems to follow me regardless.