Another weeknight. Another setup. This was from a friend’s sister’s bridal shower: The brother-in-law-to-be’s sister-in-law didn’t want her own baby brother going unloved. Got that? Six degrees of Ivy League life-cycle events. There ought to be better dating filters than women who play X-rated party games wearing ribbon hats, but this is as good as it gets.
A setup demanded we schedule dinner together, not drinks. He was neither tall nor short, nor especially memorable looking. He arrived in a swanky car that I tried, dutifully, to find impressive.
Me: Wow, I just realized I’m almost never in cars. I’m probably on a plane more often than I sit in the passenger’s seat of a car. The fate of a New Yorker, I guess.
Suburban: I drive into the city every day.
Me: From Connecticut? That’s such a schlep.
Suburban: I don’t believe in public transportation.
I am a public transportation romantic. I took a boat to work every morning when I lived in Hong Kong. I ride a train almost every day in New York. I get face-to-face with the melting pot, we occupy the same space, go the same direction – for a moment – and then it ends. I love it.
Despite the cost of parking, not to mention to the ozone layer, the Suburban drove us to an undistinguished but overpriced SoHo Mediterranean restaurant. I leave restaurant decisions to my dates; they’re paying and I’m not. I have been a freelancer too long to even pretend to go Dutch. If a man driving a $100,000 car wants to split a check, he will be ungenerous in other ways too.
But, yes, the date chooses and then I judge him. That is, when he drives past 20 of the greatest chefs in the best eating city on the planet, to an equally pricey but entirely charmless spot I might question why? Had he been before? Does he know the owner?
Suburban: They have a great cheese plate.
Me: I love cheese! I’m a savory girl, unless it’s chocolate.
Suburban: For an entrée, I don’t eat fish or meat.
Me: Oh, you’re a vegetarian.
Suburban: I don’t like vegetables. I just can’t eat meat that looks like it came from an animal. I eat boneless chicken breasts. And salami or lunch meat, but beef not pork.
At that moment, the waiter placed a dish on the table beside us: a stuffed double veal chop with bones as big as my arm. I could picture myself gnawing on those bones. In bed. With a man who celebrated carnality.
The Suburban ordered a cheese plate for two.
Waiter: Will you be having wine?
Suburban: I’m driving.
Me: I’ll have a glass of Chianti, please.
Suburban: I don’t drink.
We were doomed.
Me: Tell me about your work.
He was in finance. Connecticut offered tax advantages. He refused to pay for schools and social services when city dwellers were so poor and unworthy. I couldn’t tell if he thought I was too. He motored in and out daily, never touching the scruffy place in which he minted his fortune.
Suburban: I loan money to companies until I own them. I just took over a business that sells models of ballparks. You have no idea how big the sports memorabilia market is.
Me: Ballpark dollhouses?
Suburban: Think tiny Wrigley Fields. They manufacture these stadiums in China for $3 and sell for $300 online.
It was as if matter and antimatter had gone on a blind date. We were approaching a cosmic singularity. The universe might end. I might end it. I couldn’t help myself.
Me: That would be stadia.
He scowled at his cheese. I fantasized about taking the train home.