If it worked for Aziz Ansari on "Master of None," it should work for me, right?
There are certain things that seem inappropriate to experience in long stretches, like Keeping Up With the Kardashians, erections, and first dates. In Aziz Ansari's new (and totally awesome) Netflix series Master of None, Ansari's character Dev invites potential love interest Rachel to Nashville for a weekend trip.
What seems like a totally crap idea turns into sitcom magic, and Dev and Rachel (SPOILER ALERT) start dating and fall in love.
Yeah, you may be thinking, whatever. TV also tries to tell me life will be perfect if I just buy the new iPhone or get Mr. Clean to mop my floors. Neither could be further from the truth. But a marathon date? Well, I'm here to say that could be a good thing.
I met Dex when we were both living in Ireland working as waiters in the Irish version of Central Perk, the most "American" American among a sea of young foreign workers. We would delightedly sing off-key while cleaning up after work or making cappuccinos.
I didn't find him remotely attractive. He looked and acted like Woody from Toy Story — tall and gangly with a predilection for shouting "Yee haw!" at the most inopportune moments. His pants never fit, and he refused to wear t-shirts and sneakers like a normal 20-something guy, instead choosing to wear long-sleeve button downs and loafers. I always laughed at his jokes and vice versa, but did I want to enter the bone zone? Nah.
Though I lost touch with many of the others I met back then, we stayed intermittently in touch thanks to the wonders of Facebook. One day years later, he sent me an email. He wanted to go on a road trip — together.
At the time he lived in Australia and I lived in NYC. He had tried to get me to visit him many times before but I always said no because I was beginning to sense he liked me as more than friends and I knew I didn't.
But this time was different.
I was sick of the ho-humness of dating and wanted to shake it up. Perhaps a little adventure was what I needed. Sure, he lived in Australia and I lived in the U.S., but people have fallen in love and made it work in crazier circumstances.
A Spoon song came on my Spotify. "Got nothing to lose but loneliness and patterns," the singer crooned. A sign, I thought for sure. I told him I would come.
As I walked toward him on that steamy New Orleans night, I began to question myself. What on earth was I thinking meeting a man I hadn't seen in years for an impromptu road trip? What if there were no sparks? What if this whole trip ended up being disturbingly uncomfortable, an exercise in polite rejection?
Upon seeing him, I immediately decided that I could never have his tongue in my mouth. After all these years he still looked exactly the same. Just as goofy and gangly. The overall effect was quickly drying out my vagina.
"Hey Dex!" I waved. I had to at least pretend I was excited. In reality, I was as enthused to see him as I would be to see Celine Dion in concert.
"Rachel!" he exclaimed, grabbing me, picking me up, and swinging me around as he did back in the old days. "You look exactly the same!"
"So do you!" I replied. And it was true.
The humidity lay thick on us, like the layer of uncomfortability I couldn't shake off. We made our way over to a bar where we began to catch up on the years gone by. As we chatted, the reality of what I had committed to do for the next week overwhelmed me. So I ordered another drink.
After we got back to our hotel and settled into bed (conveniently there was only one), he decided to confess something.
"Rach, I have to tell you something," he said carefully.
I knew what it was and I wasn't ready to hear it.
"I've been in love with you all this time. I think you're one of the—"
He had been in love with me? Maybe he was on Quaaludes. Or maybe he had dengue fever and it rendered him delirious. I rolled over and started snoring. There was no way I was ready for his bedtime confession, especially not when he was lying next to me.
When we woke up the next morning, I acted as though nothing happened. We picked up the rental car for our trip out west.
As we drove across the swampy Louisiana landscape, we talked about everything two people who hadn't seen each other in years could talk about: Our families, work, exes, politics, music, healthcare, the invention of Korean tacos, my uncanny ability to get out of speeding tickets, and of course, our good times together in Ireland.
Somewhere along the way, (actually I think it was at a Mexican chain restaurant somewhere in Alabama), I realized I kind of liked Dex.
I didn't see it coming at first. It snuck up on me like a lion ambushing a zebra. Over his stories of working at refugee camps in Africa, how he almost got jailed in China, teaching Guatemalan farmers more profitable techniques, leading a revolt against ill treatment of foreign workers when he was working in France, and fibbing about being a master chef just so he could finally get a job in Ireland, Dex totally sucked me in.
He wasn't tormented or covered in tattoos or rebelling against anything (except shady employers and economic injustice). His job didn't entail music or clubs or graphic design. He actually knew about things like good food and architecture.
It was practically ear porn the way he described pouring alcohol on his foot after discovering a worm growing in his foot and stabbing it. Instead of a doofy cowboy, I suddenly saw someone bold, adventurous, manly, and successful.
When we finally kissed hours later at our hotel in Austin, it was as cliché as being like fireworks. (Or the result of excessive caffeine, as the case may be.) After our road trip, we continued our long-distance relationship with a flurry of emails and Skype sessions.
As far apart as we were, the distance never felt like an obstacle. Love could always find a way.
Or so I thought.
After long-distance dating for almost a year, we realized it wasn’t going to work. Though he initially said he'd be willing to move back to the U.S., he ultimately realized he didn't want to. And I sure as hell wasn't interested in leaving my family and friends to live so far away.
There are many things in my life I would love to back and redo, or at the very least expunge from my memory. The time I awkwardly kissed a guy because I was convinced he wanted to kiss me; the time I queefed in yoga class is another. But my marathon road trip date isn't one of them.
Though it didn't work out, it was one of the most adventurous and magical experiences I've ever had. Life, particularly as you get older, can be so ... planned out, so safe. You get hurt a few times or you have car payments or a 9 to 5 job, and suddenly throwing caution to the wind seems riskier.
Saying "f*ck it" and embracing the uncertainty of a week-long date with a guy I had never been attracted to was pretty nuts. But it was also pretty damn fun.