The first thing I did when I decided to date with a paper bag on my head was immediately try to get out of it.
This was exactly a week ago today. The night was freezing, I hadn't showered in days, my life felt a mess and doing some schtick-y gonzo dating stunt that was an hour train ride away in Queens felt like about the last thing I wanted to do.
So I called three single friends 90 minutes before the Loveflutter-sponsored event was scheduled to begin and I did my best sales pitch.
"Hey, want to go speed-date in Queens with a paper bag on your head?" I summoned my best perky voice.
"No way, dude." "Uh, what." "Hellll no."
"Fine," I said. "So -- any thoughts on what dress goes with a paper bag on your head?"
"Dude," one of my friends said. "Who cares what you wear on your body?
"I mean, what if you're supposed to bring your own paper bag? Do you even have a paper bag? What if your paper bag isn't as good as other people's paper bags? What if some people have a designer paper bag and you don't? What if it's like that day at school where everyone has a Halloween costume and you don't?"
She had several good points, but I still decided to throw caution to the wind, and I arrived at the New York Hall of Science, totally bag-less an hour later.
At the entrance, the organizer whisked me to the women's side of the event -- away from anyone with a penis -- to a secret little arts and crafts party in the back filled with not only all the paper bags any single lady could ever possibly want but also an impressive array of arts and crafts supplies. Like green felt strips, flashy buttons and a dizzying display of kindergarten-style pipe cleaners.
I suddenly felt woefully lacking in flair.
Instead I tried to think of something funny to write on my bag to make up for my totally inadequacy in the crafts department. Desperate, I grabbed a thick purple felt marker and scrawled on my bag, "I'M SUPER HOT."
Ha-ha. You know it was like how Stephen Colbert pretends to be a pompous ass.
But instead of everyone congratulating me on my lame attempt at hilarity, a TV cameraman nodded enthusiastically and gave me a sassy "you do you, brown paper bag girl" thumbs up. And that was when I realized I had established myself as the biggest asshole of the night.
In a room filled with people wearing paper bags on their heads.
After 15 minutes or so, once everyone's bags were properly decorated and placed on top of our heads, we were all dragged to our designated speed-dating seats.
I started to feel myself getting excited to have a conversation with a bunch of strange men where all we had to do was talk, with none of that pesky sexual chemistry.
The organizer yelled "go" (there was about 25 guys and 28 women), and the first bag person came to sit next to me. This dude was talkative as hell with a bag on his head. He asked me question after question, and I watched as he furiously took notes, asking me everything from my name to my job to where I was born to why I would ever go to an event with a paper bag on my head. He then said what many men said as they looked across at me.
"So you're super hot," he said.
I laughed out loud. "No, I was, trying to be...sarcastic?"
"So you're not super hot," he said.
"I don't know," I said, blushing underneath my idiotic bag and its idiotic decoration. "I'm like a 7 on a Tuesday."
"TIME!" the organizer called, and my paper bag dream man shuffled off while a new one sat down across from me.
"So," he said. "You're super hot."
When I tried to reply, I felt my paper bag slip to the side as I laughed, and I suddenly felt kind of spitty and claustrophobic and deformed. I tried to hold my bag with my right hand so that my mouth aligned better with the bag hole better. It all felt vaguely sexual and wrong.
It was actually hard to understand my latest paper bag man through his dumb paper bag and when I tried to explain how my oh-so-clever sign was a critique of the superficiality of society, he repeated back to me, "So you're superficial?"
"Wait, no," I stuttered. "I mean, sure. Everyone is aren't they? But I try not to be."
"So what do you like best about being superficial?" he asked.
"I -- don't know?" I replied, unsure of where this was going.
"Well," he said, "let me tell you what I like about being superficial. I like it when a woman is sexy for me. And I like it when I make her feel more sexy for me."
"Uh-huh," I said, nodding my paper bag back and forth.
My next paper bag suitor challenged me, "Are you actually looking for a guy here?"
"Yes," I said. "Definitely. Aren't we all? That's why we're here."
"Uh, no way," he said. "Each of these media chicks in paper bags keep asking me questions that have nothing to actually do with me. Instead they're like, 'So describe your feelings about being here.' They're just looking for a quote."
I didn't really know what to say to that.
"So -- how does that make you feel?" I replied politely.
He glared at me through his eye holes.
After a stream of seemingly endless paper bags, the one dude I couldn't forget had a sign on his paper bag that read: "I will not take this off until I leave the building."
That seemed like as good an icebreaker as any.
"So you won't take your bag off," I said. "Until you leave the building."
"So -- you're super hot," he said.
"Why won't you take your bag off?" I asked.
"Why are you super hot?" he retorted.
I laughed, and he replied by mumbling something back to me.
"What? Come again?" I asked.
As paper bag guy repeated his mumbled reply, I saw for the first time he had actually constructed a paper towel safety net underneath the bag itself. This dude was really into paper identity protection.
Then, as he tried to talk more clearly, he somehow managed to stick his tongue through his paper mouth area to increase the size of the hole. I began to laugh hysterically.
"You like that?" he asked. I couldn't even reply. I just laughed and facepalmed into my bag.
It was probably the most erotic moment of the night.
Find Mandy long-form at http://tinyurl.com/stadtmiller.