A couple of Fridays ago, I arrived at the Hotel Americano to meet J — a Tinder date I was quite excited about. He seemed smart, and was a self-proclaimed "reader" (something of a rarity on Tinder). He was also super cute.
A few hours before the date he sent me a text message saying:
You might want to dress up tonight… I can get us in to a private party.
Any person who drops a "private party" bomb into the conversation before we’ve even met is the kind of person I tend to avoid. I became slightly less excited.
Because I have been on enough Tinder dates to know that you NEVER make post-date plans unless you particularly enjoy awkward situations (and because I’m not big on "private parties"), I replied:
That sounds fancy! I have plans with friends afterward but thanks for the invite.
I arrived at the Hotel Americano rooftop bar and he was already a drink deep.
He was sitting on a very small sofa so I took the seat opposite him, which seemed to me like the natural place to sit, but to him seemed like an outrageous offense.
He demanded to know why I hadn’t sat on the sofa with him. He then mused (out loud) upon what this might say about my character. When somebody talks at you about your suspected intimacy issues in the first five minutes of a date, it is jarring.
I ordered a glass of wine and then, knowing that we had at least a drink’s worth of conversation to fill, tried to turn the conversation somewhere more agreeable. I asked him about his job.
With a vague wave of his hand he said he worked in marketing for a company based out of San Francisco. He seemed reluctant to discuss his job further, and changed the subject entirely when I asked where the Manhattan office was.
I chalked this up to distaste for small talk, because he immediately launched into a lengthy monologue about human connection and intimacy.
The man was seriously riled that I had not sat next to him on the sofa.
This led him to tell me that he usually has sex on a first date because "you can learn so much more about a person when the lights are off." I tried not to cringe.
I would have been happy to steer the conversation in a different direction but he pressed me for my own feelings on first date sex, which are, as I told him, that people should do as they please but I prefer to get to know a person before being physically intimate.
This, of course, mortally offended J.
He angrily monologued at me again about intimacy (I don’t have intimacy issues!) and then excused himself to go to the restroom.
While he was gone I sent the following text to my best friend:
This is a weird date.
He was taking such an incredibly long time that I started to panic that he had skipped out and subsequently stiffed me with the check (I’m so poor!), but finally he came back to the table.
No sooner had he sat down than he turned to me with an angry expression and said, “So I’m going to go meet my friends. My time is limited here and I’m not feeling a connection. You wouldn’t even sit on the sofa.”
(Note to J’s future dates: He REALLY cares about sofas.)
So many different emotions hit me at once. In all of my bad dates past, there has never been an actual acknowledgement of the lack of chemistry. There are usually vague murmurs of "doing it again sometime" while we both hastily jump in cabs and rush home to watch Netflix.
I said, “OK… I wasn’t feeling chemistry either but I wouldn’t have ended the evening like this.”
He said, patronizingly, that he didn’t want to waste time and wanted to be "straight up." He also didn’t want to give me false hope that he would call. (Arrogant.)
He then repeated that his time with his friends was limited.
I realized that something wasn’t quite adding up. “What do you mean? You don’t live in New York?”
He looked away then said, “Uh, no, I live in San Francisco. I’m on vacation. I want to move to New York, though.”
Wanting to live in New York and actually living in New York are two very different things.
I suspected that if I had sat next to him on the damn sofa and been excited about private parties and sex on first dates, his need to be "straight up" would have diminished somewhat and he might have neglected to mention the fact that he lives in San Francisco.
He had heavily insinuated that he lived in New York throughout our conversation, but I ignored his deliberate deception and said, “Honestly, this feels kind of rude.”
He replied, “You’re assuming that your time is more valuable than mine.”
Obviously I do value my own time above an unkind stranger’s, but I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to this so I said, “I just try to be a good person,” before getting up from the table and leaving.
I feel a bit silly admitting that I left the hotel in tears. Although I was equally disinterested in J, this felt like a personal rejection. Couldn’t we have both made false excuses for why we couldn’t stay for another drink and then gone about our business, safe in the knowledge that we’d never have to force awkward small talk with each other again?
Why did he feel the need to outwardly reject me? And why did it matter to me so much? I’d thought he was a jerk from the moment I sat down (in a CHAIR of all things).
In J’s mind he’d been a hero, pulling the plug on a bad date and saving me from (perceived) delusions that I would hear from him again. In all likelihood, he expected a thank you.
I’ve thought far too much about this whole regrettable experience and my takeaway is this: Whenever you agree to go on a date, you’re always taking a gamble. First dates can be wonderful and they can be terrible, but a bad date is part of the whole dating experience and, in my opinion, you ride it out and try to make the best of it.
But in my opinion, having now experienced it, an hour or two on a bad date is a whole lot less painful than the sting of humiliation.