I’ve always been mystified by the Great Date Debate. Women – and men – have spent countless hours using their sheer strength and analytical skills, all in the hopes of answering one elusive question: Was that a date?
The whole debate seems to be one giant, rampantly running wild river: murky, muddy, full of detours that make you change your direction at every turn.
But isn’t it all obvious? A date is, well, a date. It’s like a Disney fairytale. There’s a beginning (the awkward introduction, maybe mixed with a handshake or a half-hug), a middle (a long, lingering conversation about your lives, perhaps over candlelight or over coffee in some little shop where you sit for hours, the people around you coming and going, yet you two remain locked to the table in deep, introspective conversation) and an end (a half-hug or a kiss goodnight after he walks you to your door and you try to think of something witty, but the only words that escape your lips are “I had a great time.”
That, my friends, is a date. Plain and simple. How could anyone be unsure or miss those obvious markers along the Dating Highway? Hearing these debates rage on sort of made me feel a bit elitist, like I was somehow blessed with a heightened intelligence given to very few mortals who held the secret recipe to The Date.
Then a year and a half ago, my own toes were forced to step into that muddy, murky water. I didn’t want to go. I went kicking and screaming, believe me. And I owe it all to my Cute Guy Friend.
MORE JUICE AFTER THE JUMP…
It’s actually hard to describe the relationship I had with Cute Guy Friend. Although our parents had worked together and we went to the same school, we never really got a chance to know each other back then. I was shy and quite reserved. He was two years older and one of the smartest guys at my high school. Needless to say, we didn’t exactly run with the same crowd. But our families always kept in touch – through Christmas letters and graduation parties – so, by default, I suppose, that meant Cute Guy Friend and I kept in touch as well.
So when my father died a few years ago and he came to the funeral, it was nice to see him. A familiar face from my past at a time when the past and happier times was all I could think about. We kept in touch sporadically after that – he’d call to wish me a happy birthday or just to see how my family was doing – but it was through email that we really got to know each other. We emailed back and forth for a few months, and I’ll admit, he made me smile with his self-deprecating humor. And yes, I may have thrown some flirtations into the mix, but I didn’t really think twice about it. After all, we were just two old friends reminiscing, right?
Wrong, or so I started to wonder after he sent me this email:
How are you? How’ve you been? Your mother once suggested we meet up for lunch or dinner. I would like that.
Cute Guy Friend
Aside from the reference to my mother, it sounded like a date invitation to me (Date Sign #1). The fact that I was, perhaps, maybe falling for him swiftly swayed my decision to a ‘Yes.”
That’s how we found ourselves at the local Starbuck’s one rainy and crisp October morning. I was nervous. My hands jittered as he shook mine. Was he feeling as awkward as I was in that moment (Date Sign #2). We settled into a table as I tried unsuccessfully to pay for our cocoa and coffee (Date Sign #3).
The next two hours (yes, we were there two hours. I didn’t really seem to notice, though, actually (Date Sign #4) flew by in a sea of laughs (we talked about how our post-college life wasn’t how we’d pictured it), smiles (we talked about my father) and pauses that, surprisingly weren’t very awkward (Date Sign #5).
Wow, I thought. I am actually on a date with this guy. Who would have thought the shy high school girl would be, well, giggly like a shy high school girl as she hobnobbed with the high school brainiac?
And then I found myself almost choking on my now-cool cocoa as he began that sentence.
“So my girlfriend…”
Whoa. Back up there. Did he just say girlfriend? And not as in girl friend, but girlfriend, as in the person I do romantic things with, like probably going to places like Starbuck’s and paying for her caffeine fix. She sounded perfectly nice. They had been dating for a few years, but for some reason, I already didn’t like this girl I’d never even met.
A tried to smile, as if I was completely happy by this sudden revelation, but all I could do was slowly begin to weep inside. A girlfriend? So apparently, this wasn’t a date; it was simply a meet-up between friends (and not even a potential meet-up between friends-that-could-turn-into-more-than-friends, either).
Eventually, we made our way outside, into the rain (how appropriate, huh?) and I had fully prepared myself for our goodbye. A hand-shake between friends and then we’d go our separate ways – he probably had to get back to his girlfriend, I figured.
“Where are you going now?” he casually asked.
“I have some shopping to do at Target,” I replied as I pointed to the store across the street.
“It’s raining. Let me walk you over,” he smiled.
Date sign #6.
This guy was good.
As we sloshed our way through the rain, we made small talk; I had to be careful now not to convey any deep, emotional revelations since we were obviously just friends. There went my speech about how funny life can be and that maybe certain people come into your life at the right moment and you never know the sparks that could fly. Besides, he probably already had that conversation a long time ago with his perfect girlfriend.
We did have our goodbye hand-shake. We even said how great it was to see each other. But as I stood in the entryway of Target, raindrops still falling from my cheeks, my clothes feeling as soggy as my now-confused heart, I watched him walk away. And that’s when I realized that I could look at today through one of two lenses. Here I’d just wasted a perfectly good morning on some guy who sent me mixed signals. Or, I’d just enjoyed a nice breakfast with an old family friend, someone who remembers my dad, and it felt nice.
The adult in me chose the latter. The shy high school girl in me chose the former.