Introduction to “The Date”
You have to appreciate that I’ve never in my whole life been what I could call a “dater“. Yeah, I had some dates but certainly not anywhere close to what most women my age would have had in a lifetime. It’s really too bad that I didn’t have a normal, or what I perceive to be normal, high school life — sock hops, slow dances, first kiss, going steady, multiple broken hearts. Isn’t that what makes up “normal” dating in high school? Well, anyway, it didn’t happen and I blame that lack of experience for all subsequent years of unsuccessful dating. My mother would have said that it was because I always carried my heart on my sleeve for anyone who showed interest in me. She figured it just scared them off before the second date or had me hooking up with the wrong men.
But I think she would have been proud that I did become pickier the older I got. I wasn’t hanging my heart on just any Mario, Ned, or Richard’s sleeve. But, gosh, it didn’t keep me from fantasizing about my first date after the murmuring ex-husband moved onward. Maybe this one would be different?
Well, here’s the story of that date! You decide for yourself.
Could Love Happen Here?
I sat there in the Free Times Cafe on College Street in my Toronto neighbourhood waiting for my “date”. He was late. Had he changed his mind or was lateness the accepted strategy for dating in the new millennium? I was a little nervous, no, not really nervous but more apprehensive. I was wondering if I would remember all the gesturing involved in this mating game. I was never really good at it even when I was in my 20s, but now, at the cusp of 60, how would I do? And, to be honest, I had become quite content in my singlehood. It was like a comfortable old flannel shirt to hang out in. Sure, I would have liked some romance but never enough to take what appeared to be bold, forward steps to find someone. Until now. This was to be my first date since the murmuring-ex-husband skeddaddled out of my life and back into the life of the woman he was with before me. He never did have a lot of imagination.
The “date” had suggested we meet at a wings place out by “him” in the East End for this rendevouz. No, I thought. If I’m going to venture forward into this new world of dating, it had to be someplace where the bartender knew my name, the washroom was clean, there were at least two beers on tap that I liked, and there was absolutely something other than wings on the menu.
I had met this guy a couple of days before when he came up to me after I had delivered what I knew was an inspired and entertaining 3-hour workshop to him and the other 25 downsized, restructured, fired victims of the modern workplace. I could be passionate about lifting the spirits and employability of the masses. He stopped by while I was packing up and said the workshop really helped him a lot. I modestly answered that it was nothing. Then, surprisingly, he asked me if I wanted to go out with him on a date sometime! Out? Me? He was waiting for an answer. It had been so long since I had been “out” that I had forgotten how this game was played. So I just said, “Why not?” and recklessly gave him my phone number. He called the same night.
Now here he was coming into the Free Times, towards the bar. I could watch him from my strategically selected seat that had me just far enough back so that I could get this quick once-over before he spotted me. He was wearing shorts and a buttoned up to the neck short sleeved blue shirt. Hmm, not great but okay. I always told myself that how a guy dresses isn’t really all that important, now is it? My friend Gertie would disagree — she went into shock after having a blind date with a guy in Dockers and a plaid shirt.
My date apologized for being late (one point to him) and told me he was helping his daughter refit her kitchen and forgot the time. Ah, a man who knows how to fix things. I once did a research paper on single women, asking them what they missed most about not having a man around all the time. Regular Sex was Number One and, coming in as a close second, was Someone to Fix Things Around the House.
But back to my date, we had a pleasant enough time. He had a good sense of humor albeit bordering on the adolescent style that I find a tad distasteful. But I was forgiving this night. Then it was time to go — the fake black leather pouch with the check inside had been sitting by his elbow unopened ever since the waiter had brought it over. My date slid it slowly towards him and pulled the check out. I waited to be magnanimous when he offered to pay. He didn’t. Instead he said, as he calculated his share of the tab right down to the last little penny (no taxes or tips included), “I just wanted you to know that I’m a modern kind of guy.” He smiled at his modern ways, put down what he owed, and left me to pay the rest.
On the sidewalk, he must have rethought his “modern ways” because he offered to walk me home. I only lived a block away but I thought, why not, it’s nice to be out with a guy for a change. I even, brazenly, slipped my arm into his. And that’s when he wiped out any hope I had of really having a relationship or even a second date with this guy. He smiled condescendingly at me and patted my hand as he said, “Atta, girl!” Atta, girl? Isn’t that what cowboys would say to their trusty horses when they were calming them down after a rough ride? Did this guy really just say that to me? Was he giving me his approval? As fast as a slippery eel, I yanked my arm away from his and said that maybe he might want to stay in his “modern” ways and go over and catch a streetcar back to his own side of town. “I ain’t no ‘Atta, girl’ kind of woman!” I informed him as I turned onto my street and walked back into my comfy state of contented singleness to wait for the next date or maybe the one after that.