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The Diplomat

Published: October 1, 2013

What does a good date look like? I had been asking myself this question. It has been so long. I avoid dredging up the details of my last good first date: It was with an ex; it ended with shingles on my face. That date now seems like a lie, colored by its ending, there’s bitterness where sweetness should be.

A really good date is all potential, and contains within it the possibility that it won’t end at all, ever. A good date is bright colors, an eternal spring.

Then I had one, and I remembered.

The Diplomat and I had been emailing for six months. He does not live in New York. We were introduced by a mutual friend whose recommendation was highest praise. We may or may not have a lot in common, except that we both think the other writes well. In our epistolary romance, I had offered to go to his city and flirt in person, but he refused my overtures. In six months, we had never met.

One day he put a stop to it, and I got dumped by a man I had only seen in pictures who had no standing whatsoever to kick me to the curb.

Then out of the blue he arrived in New York. Was I available on a Friday night? Could we meet? He had obligations and might be early, might be late, might be on the east or the west side, but somewhere above Midtown. Yes, I said, yes.

I made reservations for a reasonable time, but he didn’t arrive at a reasonable time. I waited at the bar, reading, and asked the hostess for a later table. That reservation passed too. When I hadn’t heard from him, I apologized to her. By then, we were on a first name basis. “It’s OK, Sarah. If you think he’s worth it.”

I did.

Long past when I was hungry – or much in the way of sober – he arrived. He had a bright smile, a beard, and in the flesh affirmed my e-crush. He apologized for being late and took care of my bar tab. I wish I could remember the ways he made me laugh, but I was toasted and thoroughly tired.

Diplomat: I’m from Canada; it is the world’s second largest country.
Me: By landmass. It’s only 100 miles tall if you look at the population distribution.
Diplomat: It’s cold; they’re hugging the southern border.
Me: They’re hugging the U.S. border, the 49th parallel. It’s America’s hat, an accessory, an afterthought.
Diplomat: So Canada is America’s foreskin. Just cut it off?

It is a good date when I am not cracking all the jokes. He did at least half the work of conversation. I could listen to the Diplomat for a very long time.

There had been holes in our stories, too big to make sense of in a blind email chain, even over six months. I’d found comfort in his letters while my mom was sick. He was wary of long distance flings because he had gotten out of one. There were reasons he didn’t want me to chase him across state lines. But now what, now that we had met?

He walked me a cab. It was a drizzly, spitty night and cold. We kissed under his umbrella and I was giddy.

Diplomat: I would invite you back to my hotel room …
Me: Or you could get over your long-distance thing and actually date me.
Diplomat: Look, I live far away.
Me: One of us has an important job, and one of us writes about makeup and celebrities. The asymmetry is obvious, and the burden of distance isn’t yours. You’ve seen what you’re saying no to now. Sort yourself out.

With that, I got into my cab. I don’t know if I’ll ever see him again. But this is what a good date feels like — full of promise, kinetic, a story unwritten.


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