I would only believe in a God that knows how to dance. ~Nietzsche
I planned this date over a week in advance, which I can’t say I recommend. A few days before, I went out with some friends and announced I was going on a date later in the week. They of course wanted to know who he was, where he worked, etc. They had been nodding along approvingly until I mentioned that he doesn’t dance. “Well, at least not salsa” I continued. “Then why are you going on a date with him?!” one of my friends blurted out, and the growing bubble of excitement I had been feeling about our date was instantly deflated. After my divorce I had a made a long list of desired traits for my future partner, only a handful of which were truly non-negotiable, including notably: He must dance. Now, I had three days left to wonder: Why had I agreed to go on a date with this man who doesn’t dance (or speak Spanish for that matter)?
I had also decided what I was going to wear a week in advance, which was a mistake, because the weather has been bizarre and erratic (Did someone mention global climate change?), but I came up with a couple viable options: one for colder weather and one for warmer and was satisfied by this. Ultimately, it was not the weather that ruined my pre-planned ensemble, but rather that a week ago, I did not anticipate that a small bruise would appear on my neck the day before my date. I could not have predicted that neither the sexy v-neck sweater nor the scoop neck dress nor anything other than a turtleneck was going to conceal something that looked remarkably like a hickey at the base of my neck. Hence a half-thought-out wardrobe adjustment that involved a shirt with a collar from the teaching clothes portion of my closet. I had not actually worn said shirt in over six months, and it might have been wise to try it on before 7:15pm for my date at 7:30pm. Not surprisingly, I looked more like I was going to either a casual business meeting or a job interview rather than on a first date, but I did not have time to change. I slapped some concealer on the hickey -I mean bruise-, brushed my hair in front of my shoulders and dashed out the door.
Do I need to explain why it seemed like a bad idea to show up to a first date with a bruise on my neck? Right. Moving on.
He did not notice the mark on my neck. He noticed that I was cuter than my pictures and “in shape,” which I thought was odd. Honestly, I look just like the pictures I have on my profile, and I posted them precisely because they are recent and they look like me, which is easily explained because … they are pictures of me. He looked like his pictures too, but I did not comment on this because I wasn’t expecting him not to. I felt confused and a little concerned about why he had thought I might look different. I am what I am. I am not a ruby red dress you order online that arrives at your door looking more like the color of an orange traffic cone. (Note to self: must return that dress) His telling me that I am “prettier in person” made me feel like I was merchandise being reviewed on Amazon, but I knew it was meant as a compliment, so I decided to let it slide for now.
We ordered. He paid without hesitation. We sat down.
I had picked the restaurant because my date had only recently moved to town and because I wanted to go somewhere that I already knew I liked. I did not think about the fact that I had had a first date here previously until I found us walking toward the very same table to sit. Memory is related to space and perhaps that is why after the initial “Hi, how are you?” small talk, I prodded my date with the very same uncomfortable and highly personal question of “Do you consider yourself to be religious?” that I had asked in that very same chair, months before, to a very different person. For what it’s worth, their respective responses were essentially the same.
I continued asking such potentially difficult to navigate questions throughout the night, including “So when your wife cheated on you did you guys try to work it out or was that a deal breaker?” I was not testing him, not looking for a particular answer, though I imagine it probably felt that way. Really, I was just trying to get a sense of his character and whether or not the kind of person he is, might be the kind of person I want to share my time with.
He did not seem particularly phased by my interrogation and answered my questions with apparent honesty and frankness. He also did not turn the interrogation lamp on me, a fact that I considered a quiet victory. He asked me the basic questions: “How long were you married?” “Do you have siblings?” “Where’d you grow up?” etc. and when my answers were brief or I looked down and stopped talking, he did not press me for more information. We walked to gelato after I explained the wonders of gelato drizzled with sipping chocolate, and he concurred that it was indeed as delicious as I had insisted.
When we left, a large crowd of college kids intent on enjoying their last few days of “freedom” before the school year began were billowing out of the bar next door like a throbbing migraine of bad fashion marinated in cheap booze and hipster cigarettes. In all fairness, these were not of the hipster cigarettes crowd, so probably Marlboro. Anyway, my date suggested we cross the street before we intersected them. Until recently, this gesture would not have been noteworthy, but commonsense and courtesy seem to be in short-supply these days, so I was grateful and made note.
Our cars were parked, coincidentally, right next to each other. We said goodbye and hugged. He did not try to kiss me (again, recently discovered as noteworthy) but held my hand for a few seconds as we parted, not quite ready to let go.
Shortly after I got home, I received a text from him saying that he’d had a nice time, really enjoyed meeting me and hoped I’d have a good night’s sleep.
I did not sleep, but instead stayed up typing this, trying to sort out how I felt about the evening. At around 2am, I got up from my desk to get a drink of water and stopped to look at myself in the mirror, catching sight of the thumbprint sized reddish-purple mark just above my clavicle that was peaking through my insufficient application of concealer. I shook my head at myself. I suppose there are worse reasons to have a bruise on your neck, but there are better ones too. And I wondered if my date had noticed but was simply too polite to say anything. And it occurred to me that allowing myself to be marked was a not so subtle attempt at self-sabotage… maybe I am not ready for this.