The closest I’ve ever been to a blind date is watching Blind Date while delaying homework as an adolescent. So when my newly married friends Sacha and Matt offered not only their couches to me and Megan, but to set me up, I figured there was no place like Bozeman to try blind dating.
Bozeman is basically a lush Montana oasis of left-leaning, academic, nature-loving lads and lasses. As we rolled in, it reminded me of my college town, Eugene, Oregon — just much more flat. Nary a hill graced the city limits, though in all directions mountains were etched under the Idaho-fire haze.
I was sitting on the grass in front of Museum of the Rockies, a large cast of a full T. rex hovering above me, when Ben walked up. He was a bit of a ginger, and I was immediately happy to see his arms drizzled with freckles. I complimented them as I shook his hand. He was a bit taken aback, so I had to explain I’ve always wanted a sprinkle of my own, but alas, only if you squint your eyes and wish as hard as I do would you be able to see the faintest of freckling on the bridge of my nose.
From there, we made awkward small talk (I am fairly certain about sixty seconds after the freckles comment I made a joke about fingering bones, of which I am not proud) and then went into the museum basement to watch the paleontologists at work.
If there’s one thing that breaks the ice better than a heated sledgehammer, it’s dinosaurs. Our tongues loosened as we gawked at triceratops, spun ideas about why the beasts’ spikes widened and dulled, and discussed what it was like to be a kid and immersed in the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Add in the fact that I almost broke a dino-bone (or thought I did when a chunk of dirt chipped off what we were touching), and then Ben and I were chatting away merrily.
Ben wasn’t at all what he appeared to be — which, in a plaid shirt, jeans and an easy smile, was a ski-rabbit waiting for the winter. Instead, he was an accomplished photographer and writer who had spent time studying abroad. He had a truly open mind after coming to terms with his family’s religious nature in order to be his own person and make his own choices. What began as jaunty small talk fell into questions, answers and discussion.
Matt and Sacha met us at a local pizzeria for drink — and funnily enough, despite our friends sitting next to us and chattering about art, writing and the town, Ben and I kept having side conversations where we were literally leaning around the side of the table to make sure we could hear each other. So if you’re ever on a blind date and don’t know what to say: start with dinosaurs.