I wrote this piece many months ago inspired by a friend’s Facebook post highlighting her…let’s just say amusing…experiences with online dating and dating apps. It’s been through quite a few iterations by this point, but I really enjoy this particular version of the story, and I hope you will too.
Thanks for reading!
A Good Date
By Colette Marie Murphy
“You know something…”
Emma continued looking at Steve expectantly. She wasn’t skilled at breaking conversational lulls, whereas Steve only stopped talking to chew. Sometimes.
“…you’re my fifty-first.” He gulped down his mouthful with a satisfied smile.
“Fifty-first?” Emma reached for a roll from their shared breadbasket.
“Yeah. Been going on about one date per week, which makes you fifty-one.”
Emma felt herself nod as she glanced around the restaurant. She’d picked this bistro in hopes of avoiding the onslaught of cheesy holiday decorations that mocked her singleness every December. But as she began to count the petals on the poinsettia over Steve’s left shoulder, she realized there was no escape.
“So, what made a gal like you sign up for At First Sight?” His mouth was full again.
“A gal like me?”
“Yeah.” He swallowed. “You’re way hotter than at least half of the other fifty.”
She wondered if any of the other fifty had found him charming. If they were swayed by his bravado, enchanted by his oblivious confidence.
“Well, what made you choose At First Sight?” She tore off a chunk of the bread and slipped it between her lips.
“Tinder sucks,” he replied. “And Bumble is too political. Why shouldn’t I message a girl first?”
“Mmhmm.” She nodded again.
At First Sight was only a year old but had surpassed the popularity of most other dating apps because of its hook: it was text-only. Gone were awkward selfies, obviously staged “candid” photos, and unsolicited dick pics (though Emma received some number eight – equals sign – equals sign – equals sign – letter Ds in her inbox. She assumed in each case it was likely two equals signs too many).
The app had been appealing to Emma, who never released her penchant for grammar after serving as editor of her college newspaper. Rather than looking through dozens of dude-bros flexing alongside a parade of hipster beards, she could scan for a misused apostrophe or incorrect “your” to sort out potential mates. Of course, this blind approach – “A true blind date!” the app promised – did present the risk that she’d end up sitting across from a dude-bro with a hipster beard, but if he could correctly use a semicolon, it was worth it.
Or so she thought. Then, she met Steve.
Steve was the definition of a “good-on-paper” guy. He’d graduated from a small liberal arts college, worked in a mid-sized office, and had never been married. He loved dogs and outdoor activity, but also enjoyed Emma’s guilty pleasure, baking competition shows. Every line of his bio, answer in his questionnaire, and message they’d exchanged were thoughtful, interesting, and grammatically correct. No wonder Emma wasted half her last paycheck on the new dress she was wearing.
It wasn’t that Steve was bad looking. After her first few encounters with her matches on At First Sight, Emma worried the no-photo policy was a trap. But Steve was a perfectly normal level of handsome. Still, every admirable bit of his personality was reserved for the way he wrote sentences, leaving nothing of merit for the flesh and blood man sitting across from her.
“But you didn’t answer my question.” He poked his breadstick at her.
“I like to read,” she shrugged. “I guess I thought that would be a good way to get to know someone.”
When the waiter came to take their entrée order, Steve picked a bottle of wine from the list. Emma knew she wouldn’t be drinking much, if any, of it. It was her policy on first dates. Well, it was her policy on first dates now. Three months ago, when Emma woke up on a futon tangled in red sateen sheets, staring at a velvet blacklight poster, while the ten years too young for her drummer brewed coffee in an already-used filter, she decided one glass of wine (or less) would become her regular practice.
Emma was a good date. She knew this. She didn’t speak with her mouth full. She smiled and nodded at all the right moments. She made an appropriate amount of eye contact, conveying interest but not aggression. She was apolitical. She was the type of woman you’d ask on a second or third date, and could see bringing home to meet your mother, who would later tell you that Emma was “such a nice girl.”
But as Steve monologued about his previous fifty women, the promotion he’d received, and the quality of in-flight entertainment on different airlines, Emma found herself wondering if being a good date was worth it.
The waiter approached and set a single dessert menu on the table between them. “In case you’re in the mood for something sweet.”
“Well,” Steve wiggled his eyebrows in Emma’s direction. “I already have you.”
Emma forced herself to chuckle at the joke, because she knew it was how a good date would respond.
Steve picked up the menu and scanned it quickly. “Pie? No one actually likes pie. Who serves pie at a place like this? They should fire their pastry chef.” He sighed, flicking the menu across the table towards Emma. “You pick something. We’ll share.”
As Emma scanned the list of options, she resigned herself to the fact that, once the check was paid, she would be spending the remainder of her evening with the bottle of Chardonnay in her fridge and the trusty battery-operated companion in her nightstand.
The waiter returned with his pen poised above his notepad.
Before she could order, Steve grabbed Emma’s hand and said, “You know, you’re a really good date.”
She smiled her good date smile directly at Steve, turned to the waiter, and said “We’ll have the pie.”