For Ethan Fixell, a blind date went a little sideways when she was not quite what he pictured.
On a whim a few years ago, my friend Dave and I posted a YouTube video in which we invited women to double date us. In the months to follow, we would embark on over 200 double dates together, many of which would provide us with horror stories for our live comedy show. However, none was a bigger disappointment than one I experienced on my own.
As usual, it started with an email:
from: tres bien ****@gmail.com
date: Sun, Apr 6, 2008 at 8:56 AM
subject: two can have a party
"all of my girlfriends are taken.
but ethan, you are adorable."
Finding the email quite sweet (but still scarred by the "naughty 21-year-old college beauty" who turned out to be a 16-year-old high schooler with a learner's permit for an ID), I cautiously wrote back:
She sent a photo within hours: a strangely expressionless but attractive close-up, her face illuminated as clear as day.
Quickly changing policy (but still scarred by the "fiesty 22-year-old Latina" who turned out to be a 45-year-old Puerto Rican lady boy), I secured her number and called the next day. Following a long, casual conversation about mutually-adored music, books, and movies, I wrote the following playful email:
"OK, here's what needs to happen: you're going to move to NY, preferably this week. Then, I will completely bail on my plan with Dave and single date you myself. Screw him--honestly, how many friends do I really need? Then, after dating for a few weeks (days?), we can elope.
I propose this all based mostly on the fact that you are incredibly cute.
Does this all work for you?"
Here is where I made my first mistake, and learned an important dating lesson: Never joke too aggressively with a blind date. Little did I know, I was inviting disaster into my home... But I'll get to that. Dating Disaster: A Guy, A Girl, Her Gas
Over the following week, we engaged in written correspondences filled with flirtation and sexual tension. The excitement came to a peak when she revealed her prior "occupation" over the phone one night:
Ethan: Well, a desk job isn't inherently bad. Why don't you like it?
Tres Bien: It's just so boring. Way more boring than my last job.
Ethan: Which was…
Tres Bien: Are you familiar with Suicide Girls?
Ethan: (long, astonished pause) YOU'RE… A SUICI – Yes. Yes, I believe I'm familiar.
For those who aren't familiar, SuicideGirls.com is a softcore porn website that features goth, punk and indie-rock women – often heavily tattooed and photographed in the style of 1950s pin-ups. In other words, dating a Suicide Girl is a former Magic-card-playing, Fugazi-loving emo-teen's dream come true. I needed to meet her. Immediately, if she wasn't available sooner.
Which illuminates the lesson learned from my second mistake: Never fixate romantically on one aspect of your date. Becoming infatuated with a person because of one idealized element of their personality will spark nothing more than inevitable disappointment. However, when a man is gifted with sexy nude shots, lapses in judgment are not uncommon. Dating Disaster: Did You Steal My iPod?
So, I invited her to take the train from Philadelphia to New York City for a date I'd plan. With that established, I learned more about her via Gchat throughout the week:
Tres Bien: I used to do drugs when I was a teenager
me: Drugs? Like crack?
Tres Bien: Haha no
Tres Bien: Um…let's talk about this later ok?
me: Ha, OK. But can I call you Methy McGee?
Tres Bien: No. It's kind of a touchy subject for me
me: Oh. OK. Sorry
Tres Bien: It's okay... that's why I wanted to talk about it in person.
And there was yet another interaction I failed to assign a red flag to, when she asked to sleep on my couch when she came to New York. I said I'd feel more comfortable if we had met at least once before, but it was a lot for a first date. She said she understood.
But, like all the others, I swept this warning sign under the rug. And soon, I was waiting patiently on the steps of New York's midtown Post Office for my future-lover to arrive at Penn Station. Amtrak was running late as usual, so I waited, and waited, until my phone rang at last. She was here!
"I'm here…" she said quietly, apprehensively – almost a question.
I made my way through the winding station, weaving through corridors and commuters to retrieve her, a precious gem to be plucked from a coalmine. Finally, I arrived at the track, but found no sign of my girl. A few random stragglers peppered the platform: a homeless man, a large woman in a giant overcoat, a young child and his mother, an elderly janitor…none of which resembled my amour. I stood there scanning the room again and again for a full minute until I heard a tiny voice:
I turned to see the large woman in the giant overcoat. I had no recognition of the stranger in front of me, someone who had likely mistaken me for... Oh my God. It was her.
I couldn't have taken more than two seconds to reciprocate her greeting, but a lifetime of emotions cycled through my brain in this instant. Confusion quickly gave way to shock, then disappointment, resentment and, finally, self-pity.
This girl looked nothing like her pictures. That she was 30 pounds overweight wasn't the issue—it was the fact that she had deceived me with outdated photos which rattled me. I'd been blindsided, hoodwinked, bamboozled into an evening with a different person than expected. Dating Disaster: Stop Crying And Get Off My Porch
"Sorry I'm late," she apologized, and I quickly realized that the reason for her closed mouth in every photo had nothing to do with the "gothy" image I had assumed she wished to uphold: from her front gums protruded what can only be described as The Greatest Snaggletooth in the History of the World. She made Steve Buscemi's mouth pretty.
Thus was a third lesson learned: Never. Trust. Photos.
"I… I'm sorry I didn't see you at first. I was distracted… about… something else," I stammered as I led her towards the train station exit.
But she had already begun walking ahead of me. Quickly. I called after her to slow down. She paused and slightly turned her head only long enough to coldly state the obvious: "I walk quickly."
While awkwardly dispensing directions to this out-of-towner who refused to be lead, I made the decision that I'd overlook this disturbing introduction by making a fresh start at dinner. So what if she looks a little different than expected, I reasoned. We'd already shared some great conversation – why couldn't we share a great night together?
My question was answered at the restaurant, as inquiry after inquiry received tersely mumbled responses and eye-contact was a feat rarely achieved. Despite being able to hold down perfectly normal interactions for weeks online and over the phone, she was now more inaccessible than an unwed Mormon's privates (thanks, I'll be here all week).
I tried every approach to lighten the mood: cracking jokes, broaching ultra-casual topics, speaking more, speaking less, even impressions. (Yes, impressions. I'm sorry, Jay Leno.) But nothing seemed to dent her icy wall. Eventually, I went for broke:
"So… why so ‘touchy' about the whole… you know, meth thing?" I asked.
At last she looked up at me, though slightly horrified it seemed—either that I would inquire again, or perhaps because she was now mentally reliving her meth den days. "It's none of your business," she finally hissed.
The evasion was now too much to bear. Could it be that this whole "meth thing" wasn't a "thing" as much as an "addiction?" And if so, could drugs somehow be responsible for her stark change in appearance and demeanor? Whatever the answers were, I would eventually learn yet another valuable lesson: When your date refuses to answer questions about prolonged use of mind-melting psychostimulants, it's time to walk away.
After dinner we saw a comedy show at one of my favorite improv theaters, but the entire performance was a blur. I was too preoccupied with my date's refusal to reveal a single fact about her personal life. Who was sitting next to me? She could have murdered a thousand babies for all I knew. My eyes fixed on the show, I forced myself to laugh (too loudly) while she stared deep into the abyss, her soul seemingly lost to the darkness.
By the end of the performance, all I could think about was how to get her back as quickly as possible to Philadelphia. Panic set in when we discovered that the last train had departed only minutes ago. Dating Disaster: I Kissed My Cousin
"So we'll head back to your place?" she asked with a confidence that was, at this point, entirely out of character.
"Oh, it's late, I think I'm ready for bed," I euphemized.
"That's fine," she responded. "But I'll stay with you."
I paused, pondering the most delicate way to deliver rejection. "I thought we…kinda…discussed that already?" I smiled lamely and half-shrugged, my inner Woody Allen bubbling to the surface.
"I'm not gonna try to f*** you."
"Well, I'm not. I won't even come into your room, if you want. I can sleep on your couch."
Call me paranoid or heartless, but there was no way I was entertaining the possibility of a potentially mentally-ill former nude model / drug addict robbing me or, worse, hacking me to pieces while I slept. In a panic, I explained that my roommate was uptight (an exaggeration) and uncomfortable with strange guests staying over (an outright lie) mainly because he was an Orthodox Jew (if there's a Hell, I'm going). Then I made her call every New York contact she had in her phone. Eventually she reached some male friend, ex or pimp, who said it would be cool for her to come by, and I walked her underground to wait for the first uptown C train to arrive.
"So. Second date?" she asked, flashing her snaggletooth.
"We'll see," I lied as the C train came to a stop. I gave her a pitiful hug and gently nudged her onto the subway car.
I think she waved as the train left the station, but I'm not sure—I was already running as fast as I could.