You know how Robert Frost wrote “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both,” right? Sometimes I feel like he wrote that just to taunt the rest of us into indeed attempting to find a way to take both paths — or at least, experiencing both of them. So when I could either go on a breakfast date with a gung ho thirty-three-year-old never-been-married Air Force Reserve officer or go to Vala’s Pumpkin Patch (aka, the Disneyland of the Midwest pumpkin scene) with a thirty-one-year-old who admitted to being skeptical about the idea, I couldn’t see myself turning either of them down.
I misidentified Patrick, my pumpkin patch date, twice in the parking lot before finally meeting him. Internet photos are still, so I see someone moving and try to imagine what they look like frozen in a moment. This is a terrible way to identify someone, and I hope to soon put to a vote an amendment that states all first dates (or zero-th dates) should have to agree to be the girl with a bird on her sweater, or be the man with the feather in his cap, so as to avoid the embarrassment that comes with asking a strange man if he is Patrick just as his wife and kids walk up.
Vala’s is a sight: from the petting zoo to the pig races, the corn maze to the haunted house, the apple launcher to the pumpkin launcher, from the animatronic sideshows to the cone of just-made cookies. Oh right, and pumpkins. Pumpkins, pumpkins, everywhere. This squash-a-palooza was quite a way to hang out with a new person — we were constantly presented new stimuli to discuss, interact with, and simply allow to be the background of us getting to know each other.
My second first date was breakfast with Ben (the Air Force Reserve officer) at one of Omaha’s highest ranked morning-meal establishments, Cafe L. As I’m not sure I’ve ever been on a first date over scrambled eggs, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m a morning person to the umpth degree, but I know most people are a bit more mellow post sleep. Was my best option to tone down my chipperer-than-thou morning routine, or should I just be myself for better or for worse?
Ben was a cool cucumber who I managed not to misidentify upon meeting. There are not a tremendous number of single men hanging around breakfast joints though, so I suppose the odds were in my favor. As we got down to brass tacks of dating — learning about each other’s relevant past, noteable present, and hopes for the future — I settled into a muted version of my morning-self. A little calmer, but with flares of excitement.
Though both dates differed in an obvious fashion (location, location, location), they did have one common conversation topic: dating in Nebraska. And despite their differences in life, upbringing and dreams, both Ben and Patrick agreed on one opinion: getting a girl in the big NE is hard. Both men were in their early thirties and were frustrated with trying to find a girl who had never been married and did not have any children (or even just one of the two). They felt stifled by the girls they could find, and were looking for something more. Mostly though, they really just wanted to be someone’s first for something — preferably walking down the aisle or birthing classes.
I accept their point of view, but in some ways, I really don’t understand it. We’ve all made choices that give us a personal history, and we are all exactly who we are in the present because of those choices. To block out someone at age thirty because of a choice they made at age twenty seems a bit preposterous. (I dare any thirty-year-old to tell me they are who they imagined they’d be a decade before).
What worries me about Ben and Patrick, less so than their seeming unwillingness to consider partners with what they’ve deemed as flaws, is the fact that what they desire seems to be nothing short of a mythical creature in their fair city. These guys are hunting for pixies. And what happens if they are not able to capture that pixie? Do they live unfulfilled? Do they eventually change their tune but resent the fact they had to “settle”? Do they move away?
On another note, what frustrates me about the singleness of Ben and Patrick is they both seem to be decent human beings. There is nothing overtly flawed about them. They were gentlemen, they asked questions, they were interested and were in turn interesting. I felt like any gal would be lucky to have one of them in her life. So I guess I really shouldn’t worry about them. They’re going to be fine.
We’re all going to be just fine.