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Ah, spring. The birds are singing, the flowers are blooming and people are leaving behind their seasonal-affective-disorder-related afflictions to embrace hope for the future. Maybe this will be the year you’ll finally get in shape to fit into that cute little sundress you’ve been eyeing. You promise yourself you will return the entire winter’s worth of empties that have accumulated on your back porch. You will buy a self-tanning bronzer to disguise your deathly pallor. You will fall in love.

While we heartily encourage you to pursue your hopeful fantasies, we would hate to see you float away on a cloud of unrealistic happiness, only to be sabotaged by a guy with plastic explosives in his shoes (don’t laugh, it could happen). So for your own good, we offer you the following dose of reality: That sundress will be out of style in six months. You will get rid of those empty cans and bottles only to replace them with—you guessed it—more empty cans and bottles. Self tanners almost never look real. And before you fall in love, you’ll have to do some dating. Sure, it sounds like a walk in the park—romantic dinners, picturesque picnics, flowers from your paramour—but before you leap headlong into the dating pool, remember one thing: There’s sharks in them waters, my friends.

Just to prove it, we checked with an assortment of staffers, freelancers and acquaintances—and did they ever have stories, which we offer now for your amusement and, let’s say, as a cautionary reminder. In some of the stories, names, places and embarrassing personal habits have been altered to protect the innocent—and the guilty.


Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

What is a dirty four-letter word? Date.

I say this only because I’ve had so many bad ones. For example, when I was young and living in a lakeside resort town for the summer, I accepted a date with a coworker. From where I was standing, he seemed so “normal.” He was outgoing and funny, not to mention cute, and he got along well with others.

The date started out well enough. He picked me up and brought me to a party with a bunch of our friends from work. That went well, so I saw no reason to pass up an invite to a late-night swim with our fellow partygoers. We all had fun, jumping from the docks, drinking beer and participating in perilous water games. Eventually my date and I found it agreeable to separate from the clan and enjoy a walk on the beach.

We found a place to sit and talk and soak up the moonlight. I took a handful of sand and explained how I loved the feel of it running through my fingers. I should’ve made a run for the lake when he said, “Yeah, I love the way rubber gloves feel on mine.” I let this comment marinate in my mind for a moment. Maybe he was just trying to be funny, I thought.

The night wore on, and we all decided to go to his place for a nightcap. He offered to give me a lift home afterward. Since he was my date, I felt this was appropriate. Soon his friends left, and we were alone. He turned out the overhead light and turned on a very strange-looking lamp with a red bulb. Suddenly I felt very uncomfortable, so I asked him what he was doing. “I can see better in red light,” he said eerily. Hmmm . . . rubber gloves, red light—yeah, this guy is twisted. Before I had a chance to suggest I cash in on my ride home, he commented on how secluded and far away from town we were. At this point I was waiting for him to whip out his human-skull collection.

I remembered that he had mentioned earlier that his grandmother lived upstairs, and I thought I’d remind him that we were, in fact, not alone. “She’s very hard of hearing,” he said. “Actually, if you were to scream, she wouldn’t hear you. No one would.”

OK! Time to go.

I tried to think of a tactful way to tell a potential serial killer I needed to go home now. I discovered that “Take me home now please” was not it, because next thing I knew, he threw a fit and the lamp with the red bulb. It came crashing down at my feet, and he continued toward the door, which he threw open in a rage. The floodlight outside poured in, lighting his silhouette in the doorway. I thought this would be the last image I would ever see. Then he said in a militaristic tone, “Well? Are you coming? Let’s Go!”

I took a second to think this over because you gotta think fast when faced with the possibility that your grave might be in your date’s basement. I do have a metal file in my purse, I thought. I could stab him with that. . . .

“Well?” he said waiting for me to follow his command.

Maybe he isn’t a psycho, I thought. Maybe it’s just my imagination running away with me. Reluctantly, I accepted.

The ride home was hellish. He drove like a maniac, barreling down the road to the blaring tune of “Psycho Killer” by Talking Heads. Psycho Killer, qu’est que c’est, fafafafafafafafafa. . . . Isn’t that ironic? He pulled up to my place with a screeching halt in his little red Pontiac and tore out of there.

As I watched the psychomobile disappear around the corner, I thanked God I was in one piece and had all my fingers and toes, not to mention a newfound keen sensibility: I can now spot the crazies within a few minutes of conversation. I’ve had plenty of bad dates since and expect more in the future, but they are a welcome relief compared to my date with Satan.

—Christina Saburro


And Daddy Makes Three

A date from heaven can be worse than those from hell. When I was 17, I dated a born-again Christian who was inexperienced at the whole dating process. She seemed really nice, so I asked her out to a movie. Of course, the day of the date my car died, so her father agreed to take us. I thought it might be nice to get her a rose. With the car dead, I had to walk to the florist. Oh yeah, and it was winter. Two miles, 10 blue fingers and a head full of frozen hair later, I got back to find them waiting for me in the driveway.

After a cozy ride to the theater, just my date, my date’s father and me, we watched a movie and decided to call it a night. When her father dropped me back off at my house, I invited her inside to for a quick tour. After the tour, I leaned in to give her a kiss goodnight.

Well, you know the feeling you get when you kiss someone and you know they’re the one? There’s electricity, there’s magic, there’s instant attraction? Well, this was the antithesis of that feeling. The fact that she had no experience in kissing only added to the unbearably awkward moment. The sensation can only be likened to kissing a hole. She didn’t shy away from the kiss, but pushed her tongue to the back of her mouth and opened up like she was trying to swallow my head.

It only lasted for a moment, but when it was done my eyes must have given something away because she ran away. Actually ran.

Another date gone horribly awry occurred when I had the incredible idea of taking a girl out for a picnic under the stars. We got there at just past midnight and set up our blanket and candlelight. I bought her flowers and spent the day making dishes that I knew she would like. I even remembered to bring batteries for the CD player so we could listen to music. Unfortunately I didn’t take into account that the police actually enforce the hours of parks. The moon and candlelight aren’t nearly as romantic with flashing red lights and a flashlight shining in your face. Luckily, we didn’t get a ticket, but the cop did force us to leave the park.

Strangely enough, most of my dating horror stories have to do with body fluids. One day I gave blood (what did you think I was talking about?), and a female friend was gracious enough to take me out for a couple beers afterwards. For those of you that don’t know—because I didn’t—drinking alcohol after giving blood makes one drink seem like 10.

It turns out my “friend” was really trying to seduce me. Now, I’m not one of those people that puts great stock in the assumption that men are ignorant to women making passes at them. I like to think of myself, and most of the male gender, as receptive and aware when people are interested. This one flew under the radar. Normally, I would be thankful for any type of seduction that would come my way, but seeing as this issue is about dates from hell, you can probably guess that this encounter was not a good one. As a matter of fact, it was an excruciatingly painful one. Let’s just say I walked with a limp the next day.

—Jan Thomas


Questions That Bothered Me So

So my friend tried to set me up with an eligible “match.” I’m tough, because I want to be with someone cool (no baseball caps, please) but also smart and definitely not cocky. So my friend (let’s call her “Betsy”) found this guy (let’s call him “Mr. X”) who happened to be best friends with her boyfriend. I met them at dinner. I ran in late and sat down (they were already seated). It was an OK dinner, but there were no fireworks. Mr. X was definitely a baseball-cap wearer, I could tell. He didn’t have one on, but he seemed to have that feeling about him. Anyway, after dinner was over, we all stood up to leave the restaurant. Lo and behold, this guy was literally about 3 inches shorter than I am—and I’m only 5’2”! I almost gasped; I had never come across a guy older than me, yet also shorter. But because I was trying to keep an open mind, and I know that height has nothing to do with a person’s real identity, I agreed to go out to coffee with him the next Saturday.

Saturday rolled around and he called me to arrange the “date.” I was cautious at first because I wasn’t sure if conversation would be difficult without Betsy and her boyfriend, so we agreed to meet at a Starbucks before my yoga class. We met and sat down with our coffee, and then it started:

“Where are you from?”

“What made you move here?”

“Where do you live?”

“Where did you go to college?”

“Why?”

“What did you major in?”

“Why?”

“How do you know Betsy?”

“Do you like yoga?”

“Why?”

“Do you have any brothers or sisters?”

“Where do they live?”

“Why?”

“What do your parents do?”

“Do they like it?”

“Do you like NutraSweet?”

“Are you afraid it might kill you?”

“Why?”

Etc., etc.

It was like 20 Questions—the Ultimate Challenge. This guy asked me every single question you could think of, rapid fire. At first I tried to answer. Then, after a while, it got ridiculous. I got really tense. Here was this miniature interrogation addict sitting straight across from me, revving up to ask the next one as soon as I opened my mouth to answer.

The worst part was that people sitting around us were stopping their conversations to lean over and stare at me, the girl under rapid-fire attack. I started to panic. Fortunately, I had somewhere else to escape to, and I ran away to yoga class.

He called me the next day.

I never called him back.

—Anna Smith


Misson: Inedible

Here’s a promise you can bank on: You’ll never hear me use such phrases as “the wife” or “the ball and chain” or “she who must be obeyed” when speaking about my spouse, because I really, truly, honestly love my wife so very much, and would never dream of speaking about her in such a fashion. I love her, of course, because she is kind and smart and lovely and good—but I love her also because she agreed, for reasons mysterious, to marry me some 15 years ago, freeing me forever (I hope) from the depravations and degradations associated with dating.

Because I have to tell you, just between us girls here, that I simply wasn’t very good at the whole dating thing at all, so that most of my hopefully romantic evenings out on the town would qualify for “Dates from Hell” status. And not because of my company for the evening, mind you, since most of my companions were fine, on a date-to-date basis (It was only over the long term that they turned scary). Nope, where most people’s hellish dates are driven by the fact that their chosen companions turned out to be horrible, selfish, stupid, bumbling, boorish, loutish, insensitive, stupid monsters, my dates were all nightmarish because the monster was me.

Take one of the times when I was at my most monstrously stupid, for instance. To impress a particularly cosmopolitan date, I made reservation at a sushi bar in the early ’80s, when sushi wasn’t as commonplace as it is today, and when I’d never actually eaten the stuff. Things were going fine as I gulped down all sorts of raw-fish matter, then smoothly picked up the big, sticky, green lump on the corner of my plate and popped it whole, ignorantly, into my mouth—unwittingly introducing myself to that fiery Japanese horseradish known as wasabi. As my tongue disintegrated and my palate collapsed into my lower jaw, I quickly pondered spitting the offending substance out, but decided instead to play it cool and swallow it all. That way, you see, it could burn out all of my insides, too, over the course of the evening. Lesson learned: It’s hard to be charming when your pancreas is trying to escape from your body through your nose.

Or what about the time when me and my friend (who, for the purposes of this article, we’ll call Tim, because that was his name) decided to tag-team two classmates at graduate school by inviting them to come to Tim’s swinging bachelor pad with us for a home-cooked meal. Now, it’s important to note that for the six months that Tim and I were neighbors prior to this evening, he had eaten a pepperoni pizza from Domino’s for dinner every single evening, and most of my dinners came out of boxes, cans or free-food buffets at happy hours. But, by golly, we were gonna cook and impress our dates with our sensitive ’80s kitchen skills, prior dinners and lack of culinary skills be damned. So Tim got four gorgeous steaks, which we marinated and grilled and sliced thin—tender, medium, perfect—and then served spectacularly over pasta with vegetables on the side, all of them marinated in the same delicious juices as the meat. And that was about the point at which our dates coolly informed us that they were vegetarians, a fact of which we should have been well aware, had we had even the most rudimentary observational skills, seeing as how we all ate in the same cafeteria every day. Things went downhill quickly from there. Tim and I went out to Domino’s for pizza together later that night.

And those are just a couple of my more socially acceptable, humorous dates from hell with the monster that is me. Many of the others were just flat-out ugly monster stories. Like the night I spent comatose in my date’s bathroom, waking up in the morning to the sound of her roommate banging the door into my head. Or the night of my senior prom, when I accidentally left home with no money in my pocket, but didn’t want my girlfriend to know, leading me to spend the evening grubbing for cash (from classmates, from their dates, from strangers) to pay for dinner, photos and other sundries. Or the night when I sneaked out of a bar with my best friend’s girlfriend, leaving him to drive forlornly home by himself. Or almost home, anyway, since he hit a tree on the way. Or the time when a bartender at my favorite saloon with whom I’d become intimate turned to me during a snuggly moment and said “It’s so nice to actually develop a relationship with someone, instead of just doing the whole bar pickup thing,” to which I replied “What relationship?” And then there was none . . .

So, you see, the world and our community are probably far, far better places with me out of the dating pool altogether, thereby reducing significantly the opportunities for dates from hell in the Capital Region. Y’all be sure to thank my wife for that, the next time you see her, y’hear?

—J. Eric Smith


The Floor is Yours, Counselor

I was essentially living hell on a daily basis as a bartender at QE2.

I dated a string of loser drugged-up musicians—and drugged-up nonmusicians. They were the type of guys you rarely actually go out on a real date with. They just became your boyfriend and you never knew how it happened. So when a first-year Albany Law School student from Connecticut asked me out, I was psyched.

I thought it would be refreshing to date a guy that actually graduated from high school and never spent time in juvenile detention! He picked me up in his Saab and we went to, of course, Justin’s. The dinner went fine, and I arranged for some of my friends to “accidentally” show up there so they could see what a little hottie he was! After dinner, he insisted we go straight back to his dorm room. I thought it was sketchy, but I went along thinking maybe he had some fabulous furnishings or a good jazz collection. When we arrived I found the most institutional dorm room ever. It lacked anything that might promote comfort or entertainment. He tried to kiss me and I was like, “Are you kidding me?” I asked if we could go out somewhere, and he became annoyed and nasty. As we entered the elevator to leave, he looked at me and said, “You thought I was going to make you walk home [alone] didn’t you?” Yuck. I said that had never even occurred to me but it sounded like a great idea.

Another date, with an Albany Academy for Boys alum (button-down shirt, khakis and loafers, of course), ended with one of my wacko, druggie musician boys poking me in the eye (intentionally) after stalking me down and finding me on the date. It was very Three Stooges!

—Lisa Randles


And For My Next Trick . . .

The word “date” sends chills down my spine. From the time I started dating at 14, there were subtle clues that I did not have the skills to pick out men who were “boyfriend” material. There was Jeff, who was so cheap he demanded that we both order the same meals (usually some sort of pizza slice) so that the check could be split to the exact penny. I dated Andrew, who was more attracted to his soccer ball than to any woman who might come his way. There was also Tom, the man who set the table on fire.

Tom worked behind the counter at the local Mobil Mart. He wasn’t smart, nor was he attractive. We met when he showed up, uninvited, to a friend’s party, and attached himself to me like white cat fur on your good black sweater. My friend Caroline thought he was a “diamond in the rough.” My mother just thought he was rude.

After a few weeks of his constant telephone badgering, I broke down and agreed to meet him for dinner. He arrived at the restaurant with a small chocolate sampler and a long-stem silk rose covered in a thick layer of dust. Once we were seated, he promptly ordered a vodka tonic and informed me that he did not have enough money to cover appetizers or dessert. That was fine by me, as this would limit the amount of time I would have to spend with him. The restaurant was packed, and Tom continued kicking back drink after drink while we waited for dinner to arrive. At some point, he loudly stated, “I gotta piss,” and began walking toward the restroom. Before I knew what was happening, the flatware on the table began to make a clinking noise, followed by the glasses, and a lit candle. As the tablecloth ignited, it became apparent that Mr. Mobil had at some point tucked the tablecloth into his pants! As he nonchalantly stamped out the flames, I slowly exited through the side door. He later told several of my friends that he didn’t understand why I left that night, and that he thought I owed him for my dinner, as he was stuck with the bill.

That was almost 10 years ago, and I still peek in the window of the Mobil Mart before entering. How I ever got the nerve to date again I’ll never know. I hear that the new trend is “adventure dating,” where you get together and to go mountain biking, rock climbing, kayaking, etc. I think that’s great, especially since these are sports I actually like, but for a first date? How does one make that perfect first impression while wearing padded spandex shorts and a large plastic hat? It all sounds like too much work to me, and quite frankly it gives me nightmares.

—Kathleen Chuvala


We Had New Orleans—We Should Have Left It That Way

It wasn’t all your fault.

When we first met in New Orleans, it was different. With a couple of friends from college, I was on a winter-break adventure; I was loose, fun-seeking, undemanding, willing and able to adapt to strange new places and people. I was a good visitor. You were grounded in familiar surroundings, comfortable, accommodating, eager to show us your city. You were a good host.

When you came to visit me in New Jersey, you were nervous, uncomfortable, a fish out of water. You didn’t adapt easily to a new environment; you were awkward around my friends, clingy with me. You weren’t a good visitor. I was self-absorbed and insensitive, resentful of the intrusion into my ordered life, reluctant to break my routines for you, unable to make you feel at home. I was a lousy host.

It was a date from hell for both of us. And it lasted an entire three-day weekend.

I knew it wouldn’t work the second you stepped off the plane. There you were, a woman I had never seen before, a proper Southern belle in some sort of pastel-colored chiffon dress. When we were hanging out in New Orleans, weren’t you always in jeans?

At my dorm, you parked your suitcases. As you opened them up, and clothes and perfumes and makeup and hair-care products began spilling out and taking over the entire end of the room, I began to visualize, almost immediately, those same suitcases packed up again and zippered shut and being lifted onto the train that would take you away forever.

We walked around campus under the hot May sun until there were no more buildings to show you. I introduced you to friends who shook your hand, mumbled perfunctory “Nice to meet yous” and hurried off to more important engagements. I struck up strained conversations with you that made me wonder if I had merely dreamed those late-into-the-night talks in New Orleans. We went to parties and drank a lot, which made it only a little easier to forget what an awful time we were having. Morning brought only headaches, more sweltering heat, and more agony at the thought of how we would fill the remaining hours until your morning train on Sunday. I began to feel a kind of stifling loneliness that comes only from being trapped with someone you can’t connect with—a loneliness much worse than being alone.

I took you to Manhattan for an afternoon and evening, but I didn’t know my way around, and I didn’t have much money. So we wandered aimlessly, and I made nervous small talk about cool places I had heard about but couldn’t seem to find. I didn’t even locate a decent place to eat.

I don’t recall any fights. Once or twice, we pretended to show each other affection that wasn’t really there. Maybe that got us through the weekend. Maybe the fading memory of a better time in New Orleans helped us remain civil.

But I did feel a kind of quiet rage welling up on Sunday morning when you were moving so slowly that I thought you would miss your train. I began stuffing things into your suitcases myself, becoming all the more agitated when I couldn’t get the zippers around the bulges. Finally, we got them shut, and we made the two-block walk to the station, me lugging both bags and still walking faster than you, turning around every now and then to shoot you “Hurry the hell up” looks. Your train was almost ready to pull away. We had only a moment for goodbyes; we embraced tentatively, me fighting back anger and exhaustion, you fighting back tears.

As I walked back to my dorm, I involuntarily broke into a trot, then a run. Running from you, running from me, running from the overwhelming sense of failure.

Later I would regret that I wasn’t nicer to you that Sunday morning, that I couldn’t find some words to make you feel a little better, to make us both feel that somehow it had been worth the try.

And I would have to remind myself that it wasn’t all my fault, either.

Stephen Leon


Unjust Desserts

I love to cook and I love to eat out, and for a long time my ideal for a perfect first date was a good conversation over an interesting meal. I rarely could translate that ideal into reality, however, and I eventually concluded that there was something about the combination of food and low lighting that brought out the bizarre in a guy’s personality. Crass remarks, gross manners, ill-timed revelations—I saw all these and more unfold from across the table.

There was the date with my parents’ next-door neighbor—tall, good-looking and smart—who sat down in the restaurant and without any preamble, craned his mouth wide open, inserted his middle finger—it seemed to be going down his throat—and began fishing around for something way back around his molars. I stared, wondering what he was doing, at a loss for words. A few moments later he finished extracting the rubber bands from his dental retainer and was ready to eat. I had pretty much lost my appetite.

Romantic dinners at home didn’t fare much better. One memorable effort involved a birthday dinner I cooked for someone I thought might have boyfriend potential. We’d gotten together a couple of times, and I wanted to dazzle him with special effects from my closet-sized kitchen, so I did up the works: fettuccine alfredo, salad with homemade vinaigrette, a bottle of wine and my mother’s apple pie recipe. After polishing off a large piece of pie, Mr. Interesting told me he was involved with someone else.

Fast-forward a few years. Another dinner at home, another guy. Things were humming along nicely. For our first date, this man had surprised me with a picnic in the Connecticut countryside on a summer afternoon. He liked jazz. He liked to cook. He was a fellow reporter and an interesting conversationalist. An ex-girlfriend was safely out of the picture.

I invited him to dinner. We were in my kitchen, cooking together. The mood was lighthearted, and for some reason, I started to tell him about the birthday dinner that had ended so disastrously after the apple pie. By now, I thought the story was hilarious, and that my ability to tell it on myself demonstrated a humorous flair.

He didn’t laugh. We sat down to eat. His silence continued. He looked ill or upset or maybe both.

“Are you OK?” I asked. “You’re awfully quiet.”

He put down his fork. At least he was only halfway through the main course.

“I don’t know how to tell you this,” he said. “Remember that story you told me while we were fixing dinner? Well, Marianne and I patched things up.”

—Darryl McGrath

Darryl McGrath is a freelance writer in Albany who went out for dinner on a first date with the man who is now her husband.


No Hugh Hefner

Having recently ending a six-year relationship, the thought of being part of the dating pool is completely depressing. The comfort factor is gone, not to mention that I don’t know what to expect or what is expected of me on a first date.

I fell into a date situation recently that, if it weren’t so comical and surreal, probably would make me cry. But I have chosen to keep a stiff upper lip and chalk it up to experience. Not to mention that every time I tell the story, I get a solid, hearty belly laugh from listeners, followed by “I can’t believe that happened to you.”

It started out innocently enough. A friend of mine—let’s call him Brad—and I were going to a show, where we were meeting up with another friend of Brad’s—let’s call him Rico (as in Suave). I had a wonderful time at the show, and thought Rico was a nice-enough guy, considerably older than me but young at heart. A few days after the show, Rico left me a message at work inviting me to lunch. I thought to myself, What the heck, I guess I have to start dating again sometime. I called Rico and told him I thought it would be fun to see him again.

Rico and I met for lunch on Friday. We talked, joked and just started to get to know each other. Rico made me feel really good; he was full of wonderful compliments. “You have an intoxicating laugh, you’re really sweet and I would like to see you again.” I accepted the offer.

On Saturday Rico called me to talk about getting together. He mentioned a few different things, but ended with, “or you could come here.” Normally, I would not agree to such a request, but Rico was a friend of Brad’s, so there was an element of trust already in place.

I arrived at Rico’s house around 10 PM on Saturday night. In retrospect, that should have been my first clue to how the evening would go. Rico has a wonderful home, classically decorated, well-kept (by the maid), and comfortable. We retired to the family room with a bottle of wine, some cheese and crackers. We spent the next couple of hours talking about family, friends, past relationships, careers—we were having what I would consider a good first-and-a-half date.

Rico decided to put the food away, and I lent a hand. As Rico came back to the family room, he suggested lighting a fire. I said, “Why not?” Little did I know it would turn into the backdrop for a porno flick.

He turned off the lights in all the other rooms except for the family room, and built a fire. He then dimmed the family-room lights and sat back on the couch. I mentioned that the crap jazz he was listening to was starting to be—or should I say had been—annoying. I decided to grab a CD from my car. Rico walked with me to my car, and as we returned to the house I realized that the CD was still in the player in the car. I ran back to the car to retrieve the CD.

This is where it gets weird.

I walked back into the family room, the lights were turned way down low, the back couch cushions were on the floor, there were two pillows at the head of the couch facing the fireplace, and Rico was laying on the couch. I looked at him and exclaimed, “I am not lying on the couch with you!” I think I should have left at that point, but I was having such a good time until then, I was hoping things would return to the way they were before. I put the CD in, and Rico and I sat on the couch. I tried to resume the conversation. Rico then said, “Look, I am putting my cards on the table. I am attracted to you.”

I was thinking, I just met this guy, so I replied, “I am not quite sure how to handle that.” I once again tried to resume the conversation, but I noticed that Rico was losing interest.

Then the hammer came down: Rico said, “Look, I am done talking!” I think it took me a little while to process what he was saying, so I replied, “Well, I guess I better leave.”

Rico’s last words were, “I’ll walk you to your car.” So he got up, turned the lights all the way up (you know, like last call in a bar: You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here—not that I would have stayed). So I took my CD and he walked me out.

—Christin Felock


It Came From Out of Nowhere . . .

I almost became gay because of this: I met this young stunner when I was in my mid-20s at a booze-addled, drug-fueled all nighter in North Yorkshire (U.K.). Christ, it may have been the concoction of alcohol and various narcotics that warped my delicate mind, but she looked just like a young Liz Taylor, small in stature (though too tall to be a certified dwarf), but perfectly formed, almost like a human-sized china doll.

Anyway, I managed to walk her home in the company of her slightly older and haggard friend, whom I didn’t really pay much attention to, stuck one on her cupid’s-bow lips and arranged a date for the following Saturday, just me and Liz Taylor, down the local pub, lovely.

Saturday came around, I’d managed not to go out the night before, so I wasn’t suffering from an impossibly bad hangover and would be in fine form to woo her with my hippified charms. All went well on the meeting, neither of us were late, conversation flowed, as did the booze. Last orders was called and I walked her to her door again. Imagine my surprise when she invited me in for a late-night snifter of booze and/or a jazz cigarette to take the edge off the evening’s quaffing.

Naturally, I accepted the invite, and when I plonked myself down in the living room I found myself sitting eye to eye with the older, haggard friend from last week, rolling joints and grinning like a fuckin’ ogre. I smiled and said hi, and she started into some rant about men being bastards, users, worthless whores, drunks, aggressors . . . and on it went, all this time my date had completely disappeared and I was getting a bit worried. The ogre offered me a smoke of her joint, and as I reached over to take it from her, she grabbed the back of my neck and proceeded to try and suck my face off. Then her legs came ’round my waist in a vicelike death grip, and she managed to get me on the floor. I couldn’t breathe and was about to take drastic measures by punching her in the kidneys (if she had any—I was thinking she might be supernatural), when I just heard a siren-like shriek and it all went quiet. The grip was released, and as I gasped for air, I saw Liz Taylor standing there in her saucy lingerie, mouth agape. The ogre looked down at the carpet like a beaten dog, and all I heard Liz bellow was “MOTHER!” I nearly threw up.

Turns out Liz (note, this is not her real name) was expecting me to go up to the bedroom for some shenanigans, and took me not coming up as meaning I fancied her mother. I’m still seeking counseling, if anyone can help.

—Clive Baguette Fear

Clive Baguette Fear is from London.


So Whaddya Do for an Encore?

I ought to tell you about some really hellish dating experiences: Like the guy I dated a couple times who, it turned out, was obsessed with weaponry—especially ancient weapons like swords and things—who my friends eventually dubbed “Battle-ax Jim.” Or the alleged “model” who I thought was the Hottest Guy in the World, until I found out he really worked at a Sunglass Hut in Poughkeepsie and was borrowing a friend’s studio apartment to hide the fact that he lived with his parents. Or the stock-car racer who had me drive all the way to New Jersey for our date, which consisted of dinner (pizza and beer) and a walk through the mall. Or the guy who wanted nothing more than for us to trip on acid together (being more of a drinker and less of a drug-taker, I refused. He called off the date!).

But no. I think instead I will tell you about another hellish dating experience—one with a guy who was extremely nice, smart, good-looking and considerate. I couldn’t stand him. Which just goes to show what a horrible person I am.

“Wesley” was a doctor—or at least he would have been in a few months. He was completing his residency at a local hospital, and planned on going into practice as an orthopedist. We met at a party in another town, struck up conversation and talked for at least an hour. We decided to set up a date in Albany a couple of weeks later.

I really don’t recall much from our first date, except that it was rather innocuous: We had dinner, we went home, goodnight kiss, end of story. Everyone was excited that I wasn’t dating a broke bohemian waiter/bartender, a shiftless, pot-smoking loser or a cocky, obnoxious frat boy—the kinds of guys that I always seemed to meet.

Our second date, however, was much more memorable, unfortunately for me. He came to pick me up, and I couldn’t help but notice that he had the most horrendous shoes—blue, boiled-wool clogs with some kind of design woven on them in tan thread. They said, “I am confident in my sexuality, I am comfortable with who I am, I am not a slave to fashion trends.” They were awful. I hate to be shallow, but they really colored my perspective on this guy. In my eyes, he instantly went from attractive, kind, sensitive and smart to tasteless, simpering, dull and perhaps tacky.

But I went on the date anyway. We went out to dinner, and afterward, he invited himself in to meet my roommate and have a beer. And he asked if I minded if he brought in his guitar—it was downtown Albany, after all, and he didn’t want it to be stolen.

Wesley came in, made nice with my roomie, had a beer and eventually, we wandered out to the back deck. He brought his guitar and asked if I wouldn’t mind if he played a song or two. I did mind, actually—in my book, nothing is more painful than listening to a mediocre musician try to woo you with his bad taste in music—but this was a date, and, I reminded myself, he was a nice-enough guy. I would be polite if it killed me.

“Sure,” I said, trying to drum up enthusiasm. “That would be fine.”

My novice-guitarist friend played a tune. And when he was done with that, he played another tune. And then another tune. And then another. And another. First a Hootie, then a Sheryl Crow, then a Sister Hazel, then a Blues Traveler. I think you get the idea: They just kept coming, bad Top 40 hit song after bad Top 40 hit song. He crooned, he wailed, he serenaded, he tried to rock out. Wesley was so lost in his acoustic-rock-star fantasy that he failed to notice (or perhaps he just didn’t care) that I had stopped paying attention and had begun playing ball with my dog so she wouldn’t howl at him (I’m not kidding). I glanced up at the second-story window of my house, and I could see my roommate looking down from her bedroom, laughing, ha ha ha, at me and my self-absorbed guest.

It must have gone on for about 45 minutes before I reached the end of my rope. He was having some trouble finding the right chords to some Hootie and the Blowfish song, so I made my move. “Hey, Wes, you know what would be cool?” I started in.

“Hold on, I’m trying to find the right chord!” he snapped.

“But,” I tried.

“In a minute!” he cut me off, without even looking up at me.

“I’m really tired, and . . .”

“SSHHHH!”

Now that pissed me off.

I stopped being polite and rudely cut good ol’ Wes off in mid “Hoooooold myyyy haaand!” crow. I ushered him out the door, promising I would call some time next week. I didn’t call him, but in a few days, he called me. And he stopped by a couple of times. And he called again. I finally agreed to meet him for drinks one more time, but I just couldn’t get the wool clogs and irritating guitar thing out of my head. I decided I wouldn’t see him anymore, but he just kept calling. I kept declining, making excuses, telling him I didn’t really want to get involved. But nothing seemed to phase him. He kept calling and calling and calling . . .

Finally, I ran into him at a bar. Since I wasn’t returning his calls, he apparently called one of my friends and asked her where I was going to be that night. He approached—wool clogs and all—and asked me, “So, what do you wanna do tonight?”

I had to think fast on my feet and be perfectly clear about my intentions—apparently Wes wasn’t the kind of guy to take a hint. So I grabbed a hold of a male friend who happened to be walking by at that moment, hissed at him to agree with me, introduced him to Wes and said, “You know what I really want? I want to go home with this guy tonight. I’m really sorry.”

Funny thing is, even that didn’t really faze him. He called me again the next day, perturbed but wondering when he could stop by again.

—Erin Sullivan


The Lord Giveth, the Lord Taketh Away

Date From Hell No. 1:

When I was 20 I worked at a CVS in Rochester and started to fall in love with Theresa, a coworker with beautiful blue eyes, a more beautiful smile, and the most beautiful sense of humor. She had just graduated from high school and still lived at home. For three months we flirted and teased, sharing an interest in literature and poetry. We both wrote and started sharing snippets of verse while “facing and dusting” or stocking shelves, only meeting at work.

I started working more hours.

We hadn’t dated yet but always made plans to get together. Finally, I took the plunge, called her at home, and proposed an autumnal picnic at the pinnacle of Cobbs Hill Park, a hill overlooking the city of Rochester. I persuaded her with a chance to read each other’s poetry and a $50 (a lot of money for a CVS clerk, and crass to mention, but I was desperately in love) picnic lunch from Perfect Picnics. The basket even came complete with a bottle of red wine and one of those red-and-white-checked tablecloths. It was set, she let her parents know that she was meeting me at noon at the pinnacle of Cobbs Hill, and I raced off to get the perfect picnic spot on the first weekend in October.

It was perfect, it was sunny, it was noon, and Theresa was not there.

I spread the tablecloth, got the wine glasses (a bonus set of French crystal wine glasses I got for opening a checking account the day before at Columbia Bank), laid everything out in the warm October sun, and waited as first 12:15, then 12:30, then 12:45 went by without Theresa showing up. I revised some of my poetry, wrote a new poem, then couldn’t contain myself and walked to the pay phone.

Theresa’s older brother answered. “She’s not here,” he said.

“I’m waiting for her at Cobbs Hill. We had a date for a picnic,” I explained.

“I know that. She’s not here,” he said, and hung up. Having dealt with protective Catholic brothers before (from 10th through 12th grade I was enamored with the girls from Saint Agnes High School), I waited 15 more minutes and called again.

The brother answered, told me Theresa wasn’t there, and, when I persisted, finally handed me off to Theresa’s mother. “Theresa is not here. She has joined the convent,” Theresa’s mother said, and hung up.

I’d been crapped on by mothers before, but that was over the top, so I called back, but no one answered.

I found out the next week at CVS that Theresa had quit; she had indeed joined the Sisters of Saint Joseph. While I was embarrassed (and a little pissed over the wasted $50 perfect picnic, as I hated red wine), I took a little measure of satisfaction that at least I had been stood up for God.

Date From Hell No. 2:

One of my first post-divorce dates was through a personal ad: I didn’t have time or patience or inclination to start dating the acceptable way, and I really couldn’t date anyone from work. You don’t want to date your fellow teachers. So I placed an ad (not through Metroland), did some phone screening of the responses, and went on some dates.

The one from Hell was with a woman who turned out to be a minister with a prominent local church. She had moved into the area, found it difficult to date people from work (I suppose unless you’re a priest it’s tough to hit on your practitioners), and she started answering personal ads (not in Metroland). We chatted. We had a lot in common: She was a “fellow traveler,” worked in some of the same causes, liked theater, and was the antithesis of my ex-wife, a Mormon Republican.

That pretty much was my only criteria for dating at that point: no females who thought Pat Buchanan was pretty smart.

So the minister and I dated. By the third or fourth date, she even picked me up and drove me to dinner and a movie; Angels and Insects, I think.

Then on the drive home, she stopped by Washington Park and we chatted, as we often did, and she stated that, though a minister, “I am a woman with a woman’s needs. Does that bother you?”

I didn’t think it did, so I started playing what in high school was known as “baseball.” I got to first base easy enough, but as I was leading off first, ready to steal second, I started to think about what I was doing, rather than just doing it.

And you really can’t steal second if you’re thinking about whether you should steal second. I started imagining her the next morning at church, sermonizing, standing in her robes before the altar, and as her tongue wrestled with mine, I realized that I really couldn’t steal second, or, God forbid, find out that the coach put on the “hit and run” play and I’d have to end up sliding headfirst into third base all out of breath and dirty.

That pretty much ended the date. I walked home, and I did not even get into the dugout on our next date, which was our final one.

But I had, I now realize, returned the favor. I stood up God.

—James Yeara


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