This past winter, I met someone. For a month, it worked out, and then due to a host of inevitabilities that I'll save for future blogposts expositions, things fractured. The day following our split, I went on Bumble out of spite. I wanted friends to report Cazey is back in the game (was he ever in the game?), he wasted no time, she meant nothing, he really is a Slytherin (all dubious assumptions). I also wanted to keep up momentum – dating had been fun for an inexplicable moment. Maybe several moments.
“Juliet” was the second person I matched with. She was obviously attractive, tall, well educated, and prompt enough at replying. We also maintained conversation slightly above small talk, though we did regress to discussing central air conditioning by day six.
I asked if she wanted to grab drinks. I showed up uncharacteristically on time. She ran late. I said that’s normally me.
She looked slightly different in person. Don’t we all? I like to think I look better in person. Probably not true.
She went for a hug. Gosh, I should have told her I’m not a hugger. I felt like our hug revealed us as a first date for the entirety of the restaurant. Gag me.
We retook our seats. The conversation stumbled, then regained course. Did she enjoy being a lawyer? How long had she been a lawyer? What type of law did she practice? Had I asked this before? Did that make me seem disinterested? Was I disinterested?
She declined food at first. Not a good sign. I ordered a second drink because it was happy hour. And this was a date. Around the hour mark, I said directly, “Do you want to get food? I’m hungry.”
I couldn’t tell what she was thinking. I couldn’t tell what I felt. This felt like every other online date I had ever gone on. Nothing terrible, nothing great, she laughed at my jokes, I felt comfortable despite fleeting airs of tongue-tied stiffness at just meeting under artificial pretenses.
We split nachos. She didn’t get a third drink. I did.
As the nachos wound down, I wondered who would eat the last chip. I realized she was talking. She was answering the questions I posed. She wanted to buy a house soon. I looked at her hands. I thought about holding them. I didn’t. Because I felt nothing. I wasn’t hung up. I didn’t wish my winter flame sat across from me. Juliet was perfectly pleasant.
When the waitress came for the empty nacho plate, neither of us asked for the tab. The waitress asked if we were good. Juliet nodded. The waitress’s eyes landed on me. And that’s when I realized I wasn’t into this. Actually, I didn’t feel nothing. I just felt nothing for Juliet. While nothing was bad, neither was anything good. The waitress did not receive this communication from me. Instead, I smiled. The waitress seemed to nod as if waiting for more from me, and I think some panic fled into my eyes: Please bring the tab, but I’m too nice to ask.
“Okay, I’ll get you all some more water,” she said.
Not what I was going for.
“So, what are you doing this weekend?” I prolonged our date.
I realized every online date I had gone on felt just like this. What had changed was, in the past couple of months I learned – or possibly relearned – what legitimate romantic interest feels like versus sitting through a date thinking romance will come because I’ve downed three vodka sodas and we matched on Tinder. Old me would sit through another hour and maybe pay the whole bill and suggest a second date. New me recognized this stop sign. As wonderful as Juliet was, I was not going to be her Romeo, and I didn’t want to be.
The waitress reappeared with a water.
“Thank you,” I said. “And when you get a chance, could we get the tab? I guess?”
No, I don’t guess. I know.
“How do you want to do it? Together or…?”
“I’ll take the nachos,” I said decisively. I didn’t look at Juliet’s face. (Was I an asshole? At the very least I was a cheapskate.)
The checks came. I checked my phone. I faltered. How did I gracefully exit this without offending Juliet? It’s not you, it’s me?
“This has been great,” I found words. “We should hang out again.” Hang out, not date. “But I lost track of time. I have to go meet my friends for trivia. I should’ve said something earlier.” I cannot believe this lie coming out of my mouth. But it’s a white lie. Right? The nature of the lie, that is. It was definitely a lie.
“Oh!” She seemed taken aback. I would be, too.
We hugged goodbye on the sidewalk. I could feel her disappointment. I also felt disappointment, but also relief. Dating is supposed to be about meeting people and learning about yourself and deciding what you want in the long-term. And I had unlocked a bit more of that mystery. I know what a date should feel like and what it shouldn't.
If you liked this, then you may also like: