One hears so many stories about first dates. The horror stories, the love stories, the so-drunken-they-are-now-forgotten stories, and the stories that only resurface years after the fact.
But what about the second dates? These little guys get seriously overlooked, and I’ve had a recent revelation as to why.
Being recently single, a human’s priority tends to be focused on the first date -- singular -- post breakup. There’s a 99 percent chance it’s going to be a heinous disaster with no future. You have no investment whatsoever, beyond getting through it and calling your friends afterwards to deliver a detailed postmortem complete with hilarious anecdotes and over-indulgent sound effects.
The first date after a breakup is a milestone. A necessary hurdle on your path to repair, closure, and peace. One of the many pieces of the puzzle to be reassembled, to remind yourself that you still got it, that you can still do this, and that you haven’t morphed into an un-datable monster that no one could ever want, love, or simply share a meal with ever again.
Once this ordeal is over with, and the wounds have healed, first dates become a different kettle of fish, so to speak. Going into it, your levels of apathy have decreased dramatically -- this is no longer just a thing that you’re doing on a Thursday because you have no other plans and you’re trying to make a point to yourself that you’re doing fine.
Now, you are actually fine. Now, you are actually going on a date with a human that vaguely interests you.
So what happens when, without realizing it, your mind has suddenly taken this colossal shift forward, and you are going on a first date that might lead to a second? Up until now, there have been zero second dates -- intentionally. And the intention has been to keep it that way, but things change.
The problem with second dates, as I realized last week, is that they are infinitely more difficult than the first one. Why is that? Because we have had infinitely more practice with the first one.
Everyone has their first date tricks ready at the sleeve. The outfit, the location, the degree of lateness in your arrival time, the perfume you wear, how you style your hair.
You have three to five anecdotes on a range of topics that are the perfect blend of interesting and funny, without being too personal. You have three to five questions that are conversational and inquisitive without -- yet again -- being too personal.
Both parties drink a little too much, because nerves, etc. Both parties put their best self forward and receive the same in return. If it goes well, both parties leave happy, relieved, and satisfied with their own performance.
And then comes the follow-up text, an appropriate two to three days later, and suddenly a second date has been arranged. This time it’s more low key, second-tier location, second-choice outfit -- probably coming straight from work -- second-best anecdotes or just re-telling the same ones because your memory from the first date is a little foggy from all the Champagne and you both politely let each other tell the same stories again, because manners, etc.
That’s where I was just last week. The first date had been perfect. Could have easily been the opening sequence of a soft, sweet Drew Barrymore movie, complete with panoramic views of the New York City skyline, aforementioned Champagne, black-tie, Central Park and a twinkly balmy night as the summer transitioned into fall.
The second date felt more like the opening scenes of a Judd Apatow movie, complete with 500,000 comically awkward moments that still make me want to die.
Having been ill earlier in the week, I decided to borderline overdose on painkillers to the point where I was literally hallucinating. We somehow ended up eating miscellaneous meat that was primarily served on sticks, and to be eaten with chopsticks, which resulted in manual chaos. Try removing chicken gizzard from a skewer with chopsticks while trying to look endearing and sexy -- I dare you.
Having agreed to drink less than on our first date because of the crippling hangovers we both had to work through the following day, our conversation had to rely entirely on actual conversational skill which, when mixed with an absurd amount of medication, led me to often lose the ability to form words. I was highly aware of the 900 times I repeated myself, asked questions that he had already answered and said things that were more non-descript sound than sentence.
I was paranoid, self-conscious, tripping up both literally and figuratively on my words and on the subway steps like the clumsy, blithering idiot I am, and that I try so desperately to conceal from the real world.
Needless to say, there has been no appropriately timed follow-up text to arrange a third date, and honestly, I couldn’t be more relieved. Going on a first date when you have zero intention of a second is fun, easy and totally normal in the fast pace of life in this city. Putting yourself out there for a second is absolute torture.
I don’t want to get to know someone, and I certainly don’t have the time or energy for someone to get to know me. The effort of it all is beyond daunting. Perhaps the only Drew Barrymore movie I need on my radar is 50 First Dates, because perhaps that’s how many it takes to get your head back in the game and be in any way ready to take on a second.
The problem lies in the language -- a FIRST date implies that it will be the first of many. I think it’s time to change the dialogue.
From now on, I will be referring to a first date as “A Single Date.” Not only because I plan to remain single until the end of time, but because it will be a singular experience. Fleeting, floating, and fleeing from the scene.