For the sake of context, I’d like to note that the date I’m about to write up is date number thirty. We’re not at state number thirty since I doubled up on Washington, Illinois and Nebraska, but the fact remains that I’ve gone on thirty first dates. This seems in and of itself some kind of bizarre dream. And the strange truth is that when I wake up each morning, I’m still single. But that’s neither here nor there.
Onto the date!
I met Sean, my Maine date, on (where else) OkCupid. Why did I pick Sean? Well, he’s not tall. I know that’s a weird reason to latch onto someone, but honestly, I’ve been out with a lot of tall guys on this dating expedition and I really wanted someone who I could look in the eye. Arching my neck up at guys – and people in general – is my MO, as I stand on a good day at the same height I was in seventh grade, five foot three. Combined with the fact that pigtails aren’t an uncommon hairstyle for me and I have a penchant for rainbow striped socks…well, let’s just say I’m not known for looking my age. Which is totally fine, except when people card me at rated R movies (true story) or at a pub in London where the age to enter a pub is sixteen (another true story), or when I know part of the reason I’m not being entirely considered an equal on a date isn’t just my overly bubbly demeanor, but rather a combination of my appearance and lack of stature.
So Sean stands at my height, has lived the same number of years as me, has sleeves of tattoos from wrist to shoulder, and teaches first grade. And to top it off, when I suggested bowling for our date he knew just the place – a little brick building that from the outside might have been a church back in ye olden days. Plus when we met he totally went in for a hug. Strike!*
Bowling is another one of those activities, like miniature golf, in which I do not excel. Sean, like the minigolf date before him, promised he was in the same boat. Sean, like the minigolf date before him, was telling a fib. He rocked out three strikes in a row on frames four, five and six, not to mention strikes and spares all over the place besides that. I offered to do a silly dance every time he clobbered all the pins at once, figuring it would keep him from feeling weird about excelling (do people even feel weird about being better at a game than others or is that just me?). Also there was music blaring, and darn it if I was going to pass up a chance to shake it with Top Forty.
Sean was graced with the Running Man, Gangnam Style, an unidentifiable version of the Mashed Potato, the Shopping Cart, and naturally, a lot of free-styling. He scored almost whatever the highest score of bowling is. Is bowling scored the same as Pac-Man? Whatever, I scored some small dots and like, two big dots, and Sean scored all the dots, all the ghosts twice over, and most of the fruit.
Post a game and a half (our time ran out halfway through the second round) we steered ourselves toward the bar for a beer. For the beer aficionados out there, I’d like to note that Allagash White was only four dollars a pint at this alley bar, which is a downright incredible price. Wondering if Sean thought I was a lush for a) being excited by the price of a beer and b) knowing the common price of a beer, I ordered the Allagash with glee, and then spent about thirty seconds panickedly deciding if I should explain myself, and if I did, how: by being self-deprecating (which I’m sort of over as a genre of conversation tactics), or by just smiling like this is just what all California girls do. I went with the latter. In retrospect I doubt any of this was even noticed by him.
As we got to talking, it quickly became apparent Sean and I have more in common than our height and age. We’re both quasi-recently single: me a few months before this trip began, and him a few months before my trip began. He’s good at bowling because he and his ex used to come to these very lanes together, and he hadn’t been back since. I wondered if the meaning of him coming here and going on this date felt a lot larger for him because of all this history. He shrugged and smiled mysteriously.
Realizing I had jumped into mildly personal territory, I retreated to what felt a little less invasive: the stigma of being single at thirty. As it turns out, he feels it too: as though you’re sure other people imagine there is something horribly wrong with you, like leprosy of your character or you talk with your mouth full when eating Cobb salad or maybe you’re so boring you’re incapable of capturing anyone’s attention. Even if you’re not feeling woe is me about your relationship status, it can be hard to ignore the fact that other people may be looking at you thinking, for shame.
Of course, the argument here is that all Sean and I are doing is projecting our insecurities onto others. And in the process of doing so, helping set a boundary between the fact that we want a relationship and ourselves (because really, is it ever attractive to say you want a relationship when you’re looking for a relationship? No).
As we wrapped up the date, I thought about what I’ve learned this trip regarding body language, flirting, and how to portray the right signals. I realized that while I’d have been happy with Sean kissing me, I’d managed to go too far in the look disinterested direction, keeping the angle of my body toward him to a minimum and trying not to look doe-eyed ever. Or could there be some other reason I gave off those signals? We hugged, away he walked, and I went back to Megan and Noah, happy Sean felt I was an equal. And damn, kissing or not, that’s a great feeling.
*Anyone else think it’s weird that in baseball a strike is bad, and in bowling a strike is good? I can’t decide if I want to streamline conventional sports-lingo, or if it’s better to differentiate. I mean, can you imagine trying to learn the intricacies of English and learning about two of America’s pastimes and realizing one word means the opposite depending on sport?**
**I apparently need to take a moment somewhere down the line to write a five paragraph essay about this to some sports/ESL-education organization.