Who knows why we revisit these memories? Perhaps–like every time we try pimiento cheese sandwiches, or listen to Cannibal Corpse–we keep these memories around to periodically check if they make sense yet.
These are the top 3 weirdest ways that anyone has ever asked me out on a date. No, I don’t understand them. Perhaps in some small way, they represent a general unknown quality of the universe. They are, if you will, the theoretical sub-atomic particles that the Large Hadron Collider exists to make sense of.
I have no such relationship collider. I only have you.
Here are my personal dating mysteries. Maybe you can figure them out. Alas, I cannot.
1. The Sears Guy. My college roommate and I went to Sears one day, which was the only company stupid enough to extend credit to college students. We were on a mission to outfit the new summer apartment. We had, so far, painted our shared room mint green, and attained two questionable roommates, and a dim-witted cockapoo we named “April May June” because we were idiots and we thought we were funny.
We were doing better than when we decorated our dorm room, when we had gotten a moss-and-black thin-striped indoor-outdoor rug, several shitty posters, and a pile of multi-colored jewel-toned reeds that we stuck in a 3' tall $2 wicker vase and charitably called it an “arrangement” (they shed each and every damn time you walked by them).
This time, we were looking for serious home goods. After thoughtful discussion, we obtained a wastebasket, a dish drainer, some kind of toaster, and several rolls of wallpaper border featuring Winnie The Pooh, because we were not yet grownups (nor, as it turns out, would we be for many decades). We spent a lot of time calling the wallpaper border “pre-pasted Pooh paper” and giggling at our brilliance, which explained why the store was kind of empty when we approached the cashier.
All together, it cost something like $8,359. (How else was Sears supposed to recoup all the bad debt they unwisely extended to college students everywhere?) I handed over my card and as the register did its thing, the shyest cashier in the world said in a voice so quiet that even Piglet would have slapped him, “Do you dance?”
This question took me by surprise, since I was pretty sure his next question was supposed to be, “Can you sign this?” Plus, I had no idea what he meant. In college, as a major? In a strip club? As part of a polka team?
“Do I…dance?” I asked.
“Would…would you like to go dance with me?”
I still wasn’t exactly sure what was happening. Did he mean now? What sort of dancing did he have in mind? He had asked me exactly two questions in the span of our short relationship and I didn’t understand either one of them. Suddenly, it dawned on me.
“Are you asking if I’d like to go out with you?”
I declined as politely as possible, got my stuff and walked awkwardly away. Not that I wasn’t flattered, or that I didn’t appreciate the clear effort. But in our short time together, I knew it wasn’t going to work. Communication issues.
2. Frank at the “Laundrymat”. So, there was this guy who was probably in his late 50’s. He was the custodian for our apartment (the same one from the last story) and also he was the guy who took care of the “Laundrymat” around the corner. (The misspelling on the actual laundromat sign makes more sense if you say it with a Jersey accent. Try this: “LAWN-dree-mat.”) .
At any rate, I had a bad habit of enjoying the company of people when I was younger, and apparently that was often translated as, “It’d be awfully nice if I could sleep with you.” In fact, almost 99% of the time I meant nothing of the sort.
I liked Frank from the Laundrymat. He was a matter-of-fact guy with a dry sense of humor, and he thought everyone was an asshole. You know, when you’re sitting around doing your laundry, this is exactly the kind of guy you want to talk to. I mean, you could make small talk with other college students or the tired local ladies who only wanted the day to finally be over. Or you could sit and talk with Frank, and he would tell you shit about his life that you never knew could happen. Mistresses. Drunk neighbors. The time he woke up behind the house you happened to be living in. That’s quality laundry talk, right there.
Anyway, Frank came over to check on the fuses in the basement one day. But we had been out, and he was just kind of there when we got home. And, he also brought me a bottle of wine. Did I want to drink it with him?
I’m sure he didn’t mean to send the message, “‘Let’s have sex, and by the way, I have a key to your house.” But gosh, that sure was what I was feeling.
I mean, sometimes you know that a bottle of wine is more than a bottle of wine. Plus, I was 19 and he was a million. And now, he was a little creepy. He was no longer cool-bullshit-at-the-Laundrymat Frank. He was now weird-uncomfortable-Uncle-Frank who you’d heard rumors about. Nope. That wouldn’t do. No thanks, I said. Lots to do tonight. Keep the wine.
Which sucked, because that laundromat was right around the damn corner.
3. Fonz, the Grocery Store bagger. Yes. Yes, he did go by the name “Fonz.” To get the full effect, I have to physically describe him to you. Imagine Rick James. Now, imagine someone has squashed Rick James with the Thumb of God. Not all the way, but making him about 5' 1", and more portly in circumference. Also, imagine him with those gradient, tan-tinted, wire-frame glasses that were popular in the early 90’s. Now, give him a very slight skin problem.
Let me tell you about Fonz the Grocery Store Bagger. This was a Nice Guy. Like, a Really Nice Guy. I worked at the store right next to the grocery store, and we talked a few times and had absolutely nothing in common. Not attitude, nor hobbies, nor music, nor sense of humor. But he had it in his head that he was going to date me. He stopped by every evening after work to say hello to me, and it wasn’t long before he began bringing me plastic-wrapped flowers from the floral department.
It wasn’t long after that when I learned his schedule, and I was pretty adept at hiding in the back room for the half-hour surrounding his scheduled end time. My co-workers at the time were the best kind of friends–all of them men–and they would often run interference for me. Ceil was getting her car fixed. Learning to juggle. Swimming the English Channel.
We’ll give her the flowers.
You know, you do that often enough and you feel like a big asshole. So, eventually, I capitulated. Yes. I will go to dinner with you, you persistent nice lunatic with whom I have nothing in common. But only if you stop it with the fucking flowers.
He was elated that I’d said yes, and he knew exactly where he would take me. He worked a second job at a really nice steak house.
That’s great, I said. By the way, I am a vegetarian.
So, the following week, we went to the steak house.
We went to the steak house, and I was the most illustrious guest that the steak house had ever had pass through its two sets of imposing wooden doors.
Apparently, Fonz talked a bit to them about the date.
I met every single person on the staff. I met the maître d’, and every single waiter, and a few of the cooks, the busboy, and at least one dishwasher. They all had this look that was more of a question: Who the hell is this person that would go out with a guy who willingly calls himself “Fonz”?
I was given a rose. We ate an interminable dinner that consisted of small talk and pleasantries, and me being uncomfortably fawned over. Unsurprisingly, it confirmed our lack of crossover anything. Near the end of the dinner, I broke it to him: I really appreciated all the attention. This is going nowhere. Please stop.
He didn’t come to say hello very often after that night, and I felt slightly bad. But mostly, I was happy that I didn’t have to sit in the back room for a half hour every day. And eventually, my apartment lost the look and feel of a small, but cozy, funeral home.