Fine, I’ll say it. I went on a date in Oshkosh, Wisconsin and managed not to make any b’gosh references. But I thought them loudly from the moment we entered the city to the moment we left. After the Duluth incident, I wasn’t quite gung ho to immediately go on any dates. Sure, one should always get back on the horse, but seriously, after an exhausting date I wasn’t eager to put myself in that situation. With a stranger. From the internet. Again.
Also, after the other Duluth incident, I was not super stoked on trying out another Midwestern version of Asian cuisine. But when Dan, my Wisconsin date, suggested a trendy new Oshkosh hot spot, I figured since I was still managing to giving dating a go — I may as well say yes to the food, too. B’gosh.
One of the most interesting things about Dan was the fact that he knew absolutely nothing about me — including my name. On this trip I’ve had the strange experience of dates knowing a lot about me, from my most recent breakup (“tell me about this pony,” they all say) to more recently being able to know about dates because of this blog. Rarely do I have such intimate knowledge of them. But I walked up to Dan, said hello, and he immediately said he didn’t know my name — he had just said yes to the date.
Though a hippie in the broad sense of the word (works in recreation, long hair, a bit spacey), Dan remained true to the midwestern manners brigade. He opened doors for strangers and myself alike, and he pulled out my chair to sit. Yes. He pulled. out. my. chair. Without fanfare or production — this was a gesture he’d obviously done throughout his life.
Two absolute strangers with nothing currently in common but a dating site and proximity at the same table. Nothing to do but get talking!
We began slow, talking about music and work, obviously feeling each other out and how we’d react to conversation. From there, tales of travel were exchanged, including an interlude about hitchhikers. By the time our food arrived we were in a conversational stride, no lulls or lags to be had.
I’ll be honest: when I met Dan, I wasn’t sure we’d have anything to say to each other. I’m a bit high strung at times; he was obviously a mellow fellow. I was intrigued by an autumn tree full of chirping birds, so many that it was impossible to tell where the feathers ended and the leaves began. Dan thought my intrigue was odd. Dan used to follow The String Cheese Incident around (à la Grateful Dead style). I never considered that option for music I enjoy.
Funny how wrong I was. Those differences were superficial and said very little about us as compatible human beings. Because sure enough, we were quite compatible. We saw the world in the same light: as a stage for kindness, fairness and patience (though he has far more of the latter than I). We were both interested in each other and interesting in return. And as the date wrapped up, Dan mentioned the chirping tree, apologizing for minimizing my experience of it, and said in retrospect it was a pleasure to see someone so in awe of nature when he takes that much bird for granted.
You’d think after this many days with people who surprise me, I’d eventually stop being surprised. But I continue being a bit taken aback by just how capable people are at being different than what I expect.
Note to self: keep giving people a fighting chance.