Yesterday I went to a nearby restaurant for lunch and a quiet place to work on a presentation. Initially I was seated in a section by myself, but then a 20-something woman was seated at the next table over, and about 10 minutes later a guy sat down with her.
As I sat, silently scratching away at my papers, I couldn’t help but overhear the guy’s end of their conversation. (Honest!) It quickly became apparent that they were on a first date arranged by one of those matchmaking services that promise to get busy working people who are interested in romance together for a workday lunch. The ads suggest that it’s a no-pressure situation — hey, it’s just an hour, over food, in a neutral location — but my eavesdropping experience yesterday tells me that an awkward first date remains an awkward first date. I’m guessing that, for these two, there won’t be a second one.
After initial chit-chat about their jobs and the restaurant, there was a too-long lull in the conversation, then the guy started talking about his health and the fact that he had high blood pressure. (What? Am I wrong, or should personal health discussions be deferred until much later, when a relationship reaches a different level?)
The guy’s nervous efforts to fill the gaps of silence then caused the staccato flow of klutzy comments to become a torrent, with references to “girls” at his workplace, the fact that he smoked only a few cigarettes a day but couldn’t quit even though he didn’t like the way it made him smell (I’m guessing the woman couldn’t help taking a brief, sampling sniff of the air over the table after that one), and his view that staying in hostels was a great way to travel because it was just like being back in a college dorm. He came out with other, similar bon mots, but I’ve managed to successfully put them out of my head.
I’m not sure the guy noticed, but the woman wasn’t saying much to hold up her end of the conversation; she probably was eating her food as fast as she could so she could gracefully get the heck out of Dodge and chalk up the experience as a bust. I had the same urge to escape the zone of intense awkwardness and made an early exit stage left.
Those of us who are happily married to wonderful spouses have gladly forgotten the red-faced feeling of embarrassment during a stumbling first date. I suppose it’s useful to get a tangible reminder of how bad it can be from time to time. And yes — it’s bad.