The preemptive phone call and admission of arousal were not enough to convince me we were doomed, they were uninteresting at best. So, too, was poetry. But uninteresting will stymie my already modest enthusiasm for the dating project. I stop talking, stop contributing to the evening entirely, and pray it will end. My defensive posture on a middling date is to start interviewing my companion.
Mr. Terrible ran with the opportunity like a dog with a BBQ beef rib. He wanted to tell me all about himself. He was very important and went to Davos and knew how to drop names. He did not know anything about quantum physics but was prepared to lecture me extensively on the subject. His life story spooled out before me as if I could ever care as much as he did about himself.
Mr. Terrible: Really the last year has been just full of Mr. Terrible-isms — that’s the word my friends use for the novelistic way my life is so full of coincidences — my life is just like that.
It was not as full of Mr. Terrible-isms, as of narcissism. The more he spoke, the less I heard. I had stopped paying attention entirely when it dawned on me that novelistic was another word for fictitious.
Mr. Terrible: I shouldn’t mention this on a first date, but my ex-fiancée almost killed me.
He pulled a Ziploc out of his pocket to show me the protection order he carried with him.
Mr. Terrible: She was a CIA agent and her mission was to seduce important and powerful people. I’ll just throw out a few names: Prince William. Lance Armstrong. Roger Federer. And there’s a better than 5 percent chance she was assigned to sleep with me.
I did not leave. I requested alcohol. He was the VC’s friend, and I was stuck for the meal. He placed an order for cold sake and sushi for two. It was 6 degrees out and snowing.
His ex-fiancée had been a classical music conductor but was felled from her ambitions by arthritis, so instead became a gold medal–winning Paralympic hand cyclist and blogger while carrying on her undercover spy-slut career. The intelligence community cares about bicyclists, tennis players, and constitutionally inert monarchs because of the international culture of celebrity. She had a kid who had a congenital lung defect, he was named Achilles, though not because of his fatal flaw. Despite CIA orders not to mix business with pleasure, Mr. Terrible and the Special Agent had fallen in love upon first sight when Achilles was a baby and Terrible became the effective, albeit not biological, baby daddy. Now that the restraining order was in place, he was prohibited from seeing the child he helped raise and mourned the loss.
It was all so traumatic, all this Terrible-ism. It really troubled his teenaged daughters from his first marriage, who had to be interred in mental institutions. They were both named Marie: Marie Louise and Marie Cecile Terrible.
Me: You couldn’t branch out with a Marie LaToya? Marie Lavern? Marie Shirley?
Mr. Terrible: God, we have such amazing banter together.
In their respective asylums, they had each asked to be called just Marie.
He said he loved nothing more than standing in tropical tide pools looking at colorful fish and in his next life he was going to be a marine biologist and with his next girlfriend he was going to travel the entire planet. He had once been to Japan and eaten a meal that took 23 minutes to describe in detail. He couldn’t travel with his ex-wife, that bitch Marie Rosemarie, she only ever wanted to go to Holland, where she was royalty. And he couldn’t travel with the ex-fiancée, because of her son’s Swiss cheese lungs. The fiancée and her tyke had moved in with the multiple Maries after she had failed to adequately strangle Mr. Terrible to death.
Mr. Terrible: She is such a bitch.
Me: You were clearly terrorized by her.
Mr. Terrible: That’s what my shrink said, so I got a vasectomy so she couldn’t trap me.
I consider the way a date talks about his exes to be an important dating metric. Odds are at least even I will be an ex someday. Also, I prefer an absence of restraining orders. And vasectomies. To be fair, the order wasn’t against him. But I’m still pretty sure these are the right standards to have.