For the single me, every potential date starts out as a promise of some kind. Initial conversations are filled with ambiguous flirting (ooh, he is so clever with those double entendres!) and glimpses of personalities (ooh, ooh, he's quoting the Pogues!) that may entice or be cause for superficial concern (ooh, bummer, he totally can't spell). All in all, however, it is relatively low risk. After all - you don't know this person so you try to reserve judgement. There are varying degrees of investment (both emotional and financial) but overall, you just slap on some lip gloss, grab your whistle and hope for the best! In some cases that could mean you might have amazing chemistry and spend all night talking whilst watching the sunrise on a white sandy beach or maybe just that he doesn't push you out of his car into a snowbank in a parking lot in Mission Hill with no cell phone in a blizzard. The world is your oyster and rather than banking on the pearl, the experienced dater is just hoping for a minimum of sand and perhaps (if possible) to avoid paralytic shellfish poisoning.
In this particular instance, the prospective date was named Alex (not really, but we must protect the somewhat innocent here). Alex was 36, had spikey blond hair, a winning smile and was self employed (cool, right?). He earned his duckets giving seminars for people who were bereft of social skills and found themselves unable to connect effectively with other people, professionally and in the dating world. Our phone conversations were warm and tempered, polite and mature. He asked me for a date as if I was going to say no, which was charming and I thought, although he was different from any other man I had ever dated, I should give him a chance and see what would happen.
Alex didn't drink (which he had told me) and had suggested we go for tea or hot chocolate. He asked me three times if I liked hot chocolate over the week preceding the date. Each time I said not really, but I liked tea. When he actually appeared for our date and asked me for the fourth time, I assumed I must have been giving the wrong answer and just said "sure" so off we went for hot chocolate extravaganza!
From the get he was the hands on type. Guiding me across the street and onto the sidewalk by the small of my back. Hand on my arm, quick pat on the head. Kinda weird, but ok, maybe sort of chivalrous or something? En route to hot chocolates we talked again about his not drinking and I learned that not only did he not drink but he hated bars. This was going to be a little limiting for our evening I thought - but we can be creative and figure it out. I had been with boyfriends who didn't really drink before, but most of them were not opposed to being in a bar - but it was becoming clear that Alex had some serious issues with alcohol (he complained an ex girlfriend liked to have a glass of wine with dinner and he had to taste it on her when he kissed her). Flags had been raised, but we bravely sauntered forth into the date, unsure of what would happen next (although I was pretty sure it would involve the brightly lit consumption of hot gooey chocolate sauce - ew).
So we are drinking our $4 hot chocolate, things are going along ok... and then the hair stroking begins. His eyes are locked on mine and he is smiling at me (right at me people!) in a way that reminded me of about 30 seconds into a family picture where your grandfather can't figure out the camera and everyone's pose is starting to crumble a little? Forced with a dash of bizarre and a whole underpainting of uncomfortable learnt behavior. My reaction to this grimacey thing and to him stroking the hair on both sides of my head is to freeze completely and look up at his hands helplessly like I can Carrie them away with my telekinetic powers. No dice. I withdraw from him so gradually and slowly that I believe it is not perceptible until he cannot reach me any longer and the nightmare ends. My breathing resumes at a normal pace. I notice sweat beading on my upper lip.
More uncomfortable stalling type things go on. I spend 10 minutes at least looking for a picture to show him of my little sister on my phone. He seems annoyed. I don't really care, although the general mood of the date has definitively gone borderline which is less fun. I'm getting a very strong "this isn't working out" vibe, and yet he is still smiling, like, a lot... and I start to realize that he is weird. I mean, to be fair, I am super weird, but he is weird in a way I don't like or get. He excuses himself to go to the bathroom. I make small talk with the barista and we are laughing and joking within seconds. It is so much more amusing than the entirety of my date with Alex that I can feel the muscles in my neck realizing. The barista does not touch my hair but does ask me if I am ok. I consider asking him for a hug. Alex is in the bathroom for about 5 minutes. I feel vaguely ill. I think about calling Gibb.