Monday, December 10, 2007

writing prompt #3: four second dates

Thanks to Nicole for the following writing prompt: "I’d like to see you write an extremely personal non-fiction story about something you experienced in your life."


I like fiction because I can be ruthless—i.e. more honest—in that form, while nonfiction brings out the nice—i.e. more boring—side of me. But I do have this blog thing. And while everything you read here is the truth (with the exception of the occasional clearly demarcated evil pig or flower vendor), it is not the whole truth.

It couldn’t be, not unless I strapped a web cam to my forehead. And even then you wouldn’t know what was happening directly behind me. But before this turns into a post-structural dissertation on the slippery nature of truth, I will say that even by old-fashioned definitions, you’re still not getting the whole truth.

For example, I almost never write about:

  • work
  • fights with AK
  • dating (back when I was)
  • people I dislike but will have to face again

So, basically, things that would make my blog much more interesting and possibly get me a screenplay deal. I don’t write about stripping either.

But it wouldn’t kill me to let my tight-ass guard down for a second. So I’m going to write about dating.


Once upon a time in January of 2006, I was newly single and bored. I didn’t have a TV and I did have DSL. It was almost inevitable that I landed on MySpace and

But not totally inevitable—I had not been raised to believe that if you wanted a girlfriend or boyfriend you could just go out and find one. I come from a family of nerds. My parents both had master’s degrees, but not many friends. My dad had had, I think, one serious girlfriend and a handful of blind dates when he met my mom at age 29. My mom, who was 30, had had zero boyfriends. She read a lot, drew a lot, and babysat her niece and nephew.

They encouraged me to do my homework and get good grades. When I expressed interest in something (gymnastics, drama), they signed me up for classes through the parks and rec department. Careers, it was clear, were a matter of deciding what you liked to do, then working hard to get good at it.

But a social life? That was something that just sort of happened to you. I remember worrying, like an eight-year-old Jane Austen heroine, about my marriageability, and my mom saying, “Most people who want to get married do.” At another point, she said, “If you prepare yourself to live happily alone, you’ll never have to.”

Both of these things are true, but there’s an underlying passivity there. And in the same way that kids whose parents haven’t gone to college might need a little help with their applications—or even in seeing college as an option—I needed help becoming an active player in my own social life.

B was the first person who opened my eyes. She had several close friendships with people who had never lived in the same city she did. This amazed me—so friends weren’t just people you were thrust together with? They could be people you met, liked, thought would enrich your life in some way, then made a concerted effort to see and talk to?

B marveled at my passivity and sometimes implied that I must only be dating her because she’d crossed my path and asked me out. While you can’t attribute four and a half years to happenstance alone, it was true that she’d been the driver in the early stages of our relationship.

Ironically, it took our breakup (also initiated by her) for me to take her advice.


The first girl I went out with post-B was Sofia*. She was an Ivy League-educated screenwriter, which meant she made lots of really intelligent jokes about Britney and K-Fed. I fell pathologically fast.

There were some good signs over the period spanning our first two “dates.” Sofia called and emailed and didn’t rush home. (And I should stop here to say that I never even so much as made out with any of these girls, which makes me so not a gay man and, again, not someone whose blog is going to land her an agent. But when you meet someone online and you’re of the same age and sexual orientation, it’s a date until someone declares it Not A Date.)

But despite the good signs, she didn’t make a move, not even when we shared an oversized chair as we heckled her favorite bad movie on DVD. Confused, I sent her a confessional “I guess what I’m trying to say is I really like you” email a couple of days later.

It was the first time I’d ever told someone (even electronically) that I liked her-liked her.

Sofia had the good East Coast breeding and genuinely kind heart to give me the bad news on the phone instead of by hitting “reply.”

“I think you’re awesome. It’s just that I’m getting more of a friend vibe from you,” she said. She did not have the good memory to recall that she’d told me a story about a friend of hers who’d also turned down a girl with the “friend vibe” line.

But maybe it wasn’t entirely a line, because she proceeded to aggressively pursue me as a friend, inviting me to hang out multiple nights per week with her and her crew of Ivy League film industry hipsters, who spent most of their time making fun of hipsters.

Suddenly I’d been invited to sit at the popular kids’ table. They would say things like, “Would you mind taking off your incredibly awesome shoes on the wood floor?” They had wood floors. They got their T-shirts tailored. If they seemed a little snobby and mean, well, it wasn’t in the natural order of things for me to dump them. They would have to dump me.

And eventually they did, of course. Maybe they all got staff writer positions and got busy. Maybe they decided my jeans were lame. I never got to know them well enough to guess or inquire about their motives.


I got busy too. No, not like that. But I found myself with first and second dates with three other girls in a short enough period of time that it would be easy to edit them into a first-date movie montage.

Except in a movie montage, they would be hideous or rude and you would feel sorry for me. But in real life they were great and I was picky, and I come across as a much less sympathetic character than in the Sofia story, where I’m the victim.

Would you like me if I told you how much the smallness of Jenae’s teeth turned me off? To the point that I passive-aggressively showed up 40 minutes late for our second date? That Sam had great taste in music but radiated a subtle aura of desperation?

Esme was cute, straight forward, and yeah, she kept dropping out of college, but only because she kept having to pay for family members’ funerals. So she was loyal and a little tough too. I had every reason to want to date her, and I would have given it a go if I hadn’t been so distracted by this other girl at the time.

A girl I emailed out of the blue because she looked good in a hoodie and listed “the dirty parts of L.A.” as one of her interests. It took me a while to become one of her other interests. She was distracted by this other girl. It was like The L Word without sex in locker rooms.

But I’d finally learned what can only be learned through sheer desire. If you like someone, go after her and hang in there (until they tell you not to—after that it’s stalking). In a couple of weeks, AK and I will move to a dirty corner of L.A. together.

Sorry, was that too sappy? In that case, be glad that my blog will continue to be largely about writing and movies and my book club. You can take the girl out on the town, but you can’t take the nerd out of the girl.

*Names have been changed to protect the author’s spinelessness.


Tracy Kaply said...

Dude, that was AWESOME. You should do that more often. The writing about stuff. Not the dating. Because I LIKE AK.

AK said...

I always thought that Ivy Leaguer Sofia sounded like a weird mixed-message sender. Nobody pursues friendships with the aggression that she did. Maybe like Matt, the Czech immigrant 11-year-old you had a crush on, she'll find this blog and set you straight.

Cheryl said...

Tracy: Thanks! And I should do it more often--specifically, for your blog. I owe you a post! It's coming soon, I promise.

AK: That's a scary yet intriguing thought. We'll see what happens if she Googles her pseudonym.

ER said...

That was intense. Well done.

Cheryl said...

I am but a slave to the prompt.

thelastnoel said...

I liked seeing this side of you. You inspired me. I think I'll be doing more of this on my own blog.

John said...

Like everyone else, I'm a big fan of this piece so much so, that I'm willing to bet it could be tailored for a spot in the Sunday NYT's Modern Love column.

Meehan said...

You also can't take the nerd out of the town, I've heard.

Ms. Q said...

I am so glad that you share my philosophy...I also had parents who didn't seem to think that you could determine your social fate and I have become a strong advocate of being more proactive. You guys meeting on line is one of the examples I cite regularly when I bully my single friends to try the internet. :)