Dates are funny things. Sometimes you have your hopes up and sometimes you’re just along for the scenery. Sometimes you ask her out because she’s the most extraordinary woman in a substandard room. Sometimes you ask her out because she reminds you of someone. Sometimes you ask her out because she doesn’t. Sometimes she seems to know things you don’t, but then you realize those things aren’t remotely worth knowing. Sometimes you realize the intelligent look on her face is just Revlon blush. Sometimes her name reminds you of asparagus, and when you were a child, you absolutely loved cheese sauce. Trust me, it’s happened.
But you have to take dates somewhat seriously, because we’re all looking for the one, I mean, that’s our prime directive, looking for the one. My parents found each other by accident, two 21-year-olds who met at a dance and were married three weeks later. I, on the other hand, deliberated for years. I enjoyed the deliberation process. There was lots of free milk.
Once, I went out with a pretty woman who was artistic and interesting. It seemed promising, so I called back in search of deliberation.
“I had a good time,” I said, “so I thought I’d ask you out again.”
“Oh, you thought we had a good time?” she answered. “Hmm.”
Another time, I was on a date with a woman I had met in a Learning Annex class. During dinner, I didn’t really get a good sense of who she was. She worked in PR, but not high-powered PR. She was fairly smart, I guess, I don’t know, how would I know? Ditto on her looks. And she had hair that seemed to be thinning, for some reason, although I’m not stupid enough to ever mention anything like that to her face.
“Love your hair. Watch out, though. It’s getting thin faster than Mary Kate and Ashley.”
Truth telling has its limits.
Afterwards, I took her home and she invited me in. I didn’t know what was going to happen. Didn’t know what I wanted to have happen. Things don’t always happen when you get invited in. Sometimes, you step into a woman’s ambivalence, and at other times, her demons. One time, I got invited in, sat down, and within ten seconds, the woman stood up and said, “I have to get up in the morning. I have to kick you out.” It was kind of like somebody who thought she wanted a Porterhouse, but when it arrived and really got a close look at it, realized she didn’t like the look of this particular cut of meat.
But getting invited in does mean you’ve passed the first test. It means she might let you touch her. It means she might like to eat this particular cut of meat.
“Restroom?” I said, standing up.
So I walked in and closed the door. Looked in the mirror, rearranged my hair. Took a couple of tissues and blew my nose. Splashed some water on my face, dried it off. Gave myself a last look in the mirror, smiled at myself.
“You look great,” I said to myself.
Then I walked out.
My date was waiting for me. She had a look on her face that was accusing and incensed.
“You just snorted some cocaine, didn’t you?” she said.
“Excuse me?” I said.
“You heard me. You just went into my bathroom and snorted some cocaine.”
“No, I’ve never had cocaine in my life.”
“I heard you!”
“I was blowing my nose.”
“I don’t believe you.”
I smiled at her. It was disorienting, like getting hit in the eye. This was a moment I’d never had before. In that moment, I realized that there were very few ways to prove that you hadn’t snorted cocaine short of a blood test, and I was fairly sure she didn’t have one of those handy.
And besides, a woman who would accuse me of a crime merely on the basis of a sound that she heard my nose make from behind a door seemed, to be precise, both ridiculous and damaged. She’s the kind of woman of whom her friends might say, She has issues.
“Gee, I’ve had a great time,” I said, suddenly backing out of her apartment. “We’ll have to do it again sometime.”
No matter how far you are from being a substance abuser–and I’m at least 12,000 miles from it–you can’t avoid being touched by it. Hell, I’ve written a novel about it. And on the drive home, as entertaining as this woman’s clownish behavior was, I had a sobering thought: that this woman’s paranoia wasn’t so different from my mother’s. Both her father and her stepfather had been alcoholics, after all, and there were screaming fights, death threats, early-mornings accusations, courtroom appearances, and drama enough to put her off liquor for an entire lifetime.
And when my mother met my father, she made it clear that they would never have liquor in the house. Never ever. She didn’t want to go through all that again. But paranoia is paranoia. Liquor, cocaine, same thing. In the end, Mary Kate and Ashley Hair’s demons were much the same as my mother’s demons.
My God, one more reason never to have a second date with this one.