November 19th, 2010
Dater Unknown: Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire
I am an avid teller of the truth – especially in the world of dating. Being honest and being yourself are key from the get- go. Now, I know this is nothing profound. These dating tenets are sometimes hazy, however, when you are sitting across from a new someone who makes your heart race and gives you sweaty palms.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying to go all Ally-Sheedy-dumping-out-her-purse-in-the-Breakfast-Club style on the first date. I’m also not saying that telling white lies to avoid hurting someone’s feelings is wrong. That’s simply having manners, folks. That’s not lying.
What I am saying is that honesty – both with yourself and others – decreases stress and the chance of having to eat alone at a Fuddruckers on a Saturday night off the tollway in Dallas. Really.
Let me explain…
Years ago, I was a part of the team planning my high school reunion. A fellow graduate had emailed and reminded me we had agreed to do this when we were seniors. He’d be in town this coming week; would I want to meet to chat about it? Under normal conditions the reaction to planning a reunion would be along the lines of “I think I’m washing my hamster that night,” but said fellow graduate was a guy I had a crush on during my senior year. He was oh-so smart and had a breezy coolness about him. In middle school he had given me a small ceramic knick knack on Valentine’s Day, and I said thank you and went back to doodling another boy’s name on my book cover. You know the rest. Boy blossoms and becomes smoke show and ten years later, Girl spends 45 minutes picking out what she’ll wear to meet him like it’s Sophie’s Choice.
We met for sushi and exchanged “it’s been a long time” pleasantries. My palms were sweaty, and he looked great – the same, just older like we all do. He’d been in investment banking but had given it up to teach inner city kids in California. He ordered a water and a vegetarian roll. I, in contrast, was continuing to sell my soul to the corporate devil and ordered a red wine and some spicy tuna. I was so impressed, but as we continued to chat I felt more like I was in an interview. He was intense; just who I want to be saving the world. Prepped for “remember when?” stories, he instead peppered me with questions about my life’s priorities and passions. My answer was along the lines of “I guess figuring it all out.”
I asked him about what he does in his down time, and he told me about his interest in stand-up comedy and his passion for his church.
“I’ve been meaning to get more into church again,” I blurted out, surprising myself. “Wait, you are? That’s news to me,” I immediately thought to myself. Was I so eager to have something in common with my old crush that I unconsciously resorted to the ol’ “you-don’t-say-I love that too” line?
He continued to talk, and I began my second glass of wine and the image of me as a 10-year-old at church camp with a ball o’ bangs popped into my head. Back then, church was like the local watering hole of adolescence – an evening/weekend petri dish for mingling with people of the opposite sex.
“This sushi is good,” he says.
“Very,” I reply.
I didn’t feel the chemistry I had hoped for. Instead of being honest with myself about it, however, I started making internal to-do lists for the new church-going me: learn to make bread, reconsider wine consumption, and stop speeding on I-10.
Me: So what are you doing this weekend?
Him: Well, I’m actually MC’ing a comedy show at my church.
Me: Oh, how fun. I’d love to see it.
Him: It’s one of the last ones before I move. It’s a show for the 30 year-olds Singles Group up at my church in Dallas.
Me: Dallas? Well, how funny because my friend and I were thinking of going to Dallas this weekend to visit a friend.
My pants were now raging with fire. Who did I think I was trying to be, the second coming of Laura Ingalls Wilder? I had blatantly lied about road tripping to Dallas. I hadn’t been there in years, and frankly would be okay if I didn’t have to go there anytime soon.
Him: Sounds great. I’ll call you Friday and fill you in.
Two days later, I rounded up a friend and an inordinate amount of clothes for Saturday night at church. A girl’s got to have options. On our way, my mom called and I casually slipped the fact that I was heading to a church in Dallas to meet someone into the conversation. Her response was something like, “Church? Wait, did you join a cult, honey? Well, whatever you do, just be yourself.” Too late, Mom.
I walked into the largest church I have ever seen. It was a sea of white people in capri pants and puka shell necklaces. I walked up to the booth that had a “New Joiner” sign and got a name tag. The show didn’t start for 10 minutes. I walked around pretending to be looking for someone and managed to kill 5 minutes. Everyone knew everyone, so I decided to look around for someone to sit with. I spot a girl wearing some Elvis Costello glasses and decide to move in. I introduce myself, tell her I’m new, and ask if I can join her group. Being good church folk, they oblige and Elvis introduced me to everyone. The group was welcoming and friendly but before the lights went down, Elvis asked me which church I attended in Houston. Embarrassed, I stammer something about being between churches.
And then he walked out on stage. “Welcome, everyone. Well, I’ve come down with a bit of food poisoning so if I have to take a seat or leave the stage, bear with me.”
Elvis Costello looked quizzically in my direction. I shrugged and said I thought he was kidding. I wondered if this was part of his stand-up? Within five minutes, however, it was clear he was not kidding. In the middle of his set, he ran off the stage to the bathroom. He came back, got a few jokes into his act, and then the poor guy exited stage left and quickly made his way to the loo, again.
A post-church outing looked grim.
The show ended, and I stayed around talking to a few people who were at my table to see if he would appear. Elvis leaves and I was left talking to a nice guy who reminds me of a young Danny DeVito when I heard Bathroom Humor call my name.
Him: I’m not well. I am going to the hospital.
Him: I’ll call you tomorrow.
Cut to a Fuddruckers somewhere off of the Tollway at 9:30 pm. I am at a table between two little league teams, eating a burger and talking to my sister over the phone about the evening. As we hang up, she leaves me with the adage of “everything happens for a reason.” As I pump more cheese sauce into my empty paper cups, I begin to pull the wool away from my eyes and start laughing.
Morning comes and I open my eyes and am bombarded with two thoughts: (1) Last night I went to a singles event at a stadium-sized church in order to see a guy I had a crush on ten years ago who is now in the hospital thanks to Jason’s Deli. (2) I drove to Dallas to do this.
He called that morning and thanked me for coming to the show. His sister, who is in town visiting, now has food poisoning as well.
“I’m so sorry. Do you need anything? I ask.
“Thanks, but we’re okay” he says. “I’m sorry I couldn’t talk. Did you have a good time though?”
“Absolutely. You did great, and it’s obvious you are very well-loved there.”
“Well, thanks. Yeah, I’m going to miss everyone,” he says.
“Well, thanks for letting me see your show. It was a really good experience. Honestly,” I say and mean it.