I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it until y’all believe me: dinosaurs make great first date fodder! In South Dakota, I went on my second first date with a Ben and second first date within the paradigm of dinos. Lots of twos on this first date.
A mild moment of anxiety whiplashed through my head as we drove toward the Dinosaur Walk in Rapid City – it’s an eighty-year-old park made up of “lifesize” dinos. I wrenched open the visor mirror while driving across four lanes of traffic to double check that my makeup didn’t look like I’d been beaten by a bear recently. All the while, Megan was gripping her “Holy smokes” handle above her head for dear life and holding a camera up, asking me to describe how I felt and why. Instead of answering, I looked out the window at the swing set we were driving by, wondering why I was about to go on a date with a near-stranger instead of swishing my legs back and forth for a few moments of airborne freedom.
Mouth: dry. Palms: sweaty. Sweater: oh yeah, sweaty too. Hair: kind of frizzing out. Rest of myself: really in need of being under control. Great.
My best recipe for wiping out wildly out of control nerves is to start talking like I’ve just been handed a vocabulary about anything that comes to mind. After saying hello and shaking hands, Ben and I took a flight of stairs to the first dinosaur, where I made out the tail of the creature to be a Jurassic hammock.
Jokes came out of my mouth about picking dinosaur noses and soon I was looking for “bats in the cave” on T. Rex, brontosaurus, and some dino that looked like Boba Fett. Ben, also likely rather nervous, made a look at the size of his wenis joke and managed to scare two children regarding how tasty they looked to the fearfully great beast. We eventually moseyed downtown to pick the noses of the presidents (all are represented in statue form on the street corners), compare shoe sizes and grab a beer.
Ben, already very sweet, endeared me to him twice over: first when he responded to a text from his mom, who had checked in to make sure he hadn’t been smuggled away by pirates. Second, by pretending not to notice that our waitress was hot beyond all reason in a Britney Spears “Baby, One More Time” inspired outfit, complete with ripped abs and a jangly navel piercing.
By this point, my nervousness had worn off and I was instead simply enjoying myself. Flirting a little, but letting the conversation tangent forward and backward, diagonal and cockeyed. Existential chit-chat, nerdy jokes about numbers and literature, discussing mortality, waxing poetic about life, comparing the brain to the most complex of electrical systems, shamefully telling stories of mean things we’ve said to others and how it made us feel.
We walked to his car — evidence of his anxiousness about our date was evident in the fact that he’d left his windows down and doors unlocked. South Dakota’s adorableness was noted in the fact that no one had broken into his automobile. Hugs were exchanged, doors were shut, He lit a cigarette; Megan and I put NPR on.
Oddly, this was the first date that has felt like a real date. A bit unsteady to begin, followed by finding conversational footing, then off and running with rapport, and an uncertain goodbye. Everyone else, I have either known too much or too little about, so our dates have felt blind or a bit more second date-ish.
Reminder to self: nerves are a good thing. Right up there with dinosaurs.