First Dates

By Janey Womeldorf

First dates are brutal. They either succeed and you live happily after, or they reek of cringe-worthy moments that sadly become fodder for party stories years later.

I once engaged in a long-distance relationship with a guy after I met him once, for three hours, when both of us were sitting at an airport bar. Six months later, I flew eight hours to meet him for our first official date only to discover he walked like Big Bird. I had to look away every time he got up; I never knew whether to laugh or cry. My return flight was not until after the weekend, so my first date with Big Bird lasted three excruciating days. There was no second date.

I also once accepted a date from a taxi driver. A week after he picked me up as a fare, he came to pick me up as a date. When we arrived at the bar and he got out of his taxi, I caught my breath – he only came up to my shoulders – a startling first for me as I’m only five-foot two myself. “He looked taller from the back of the cab,” I anguished later to my friend. I tried to pretend everything was normal but ached with uncomfortable regret that I had chosen to wear four-inch heels that night. As fate would have it, it quickly became apparent that the only thing we had in common (apart from being short) was absolutely nothing. On a first date, this stark realization slams you within the first five minutes and then lingers like a bad smell. You pretend to listen to the words coming out of their mouth, but only one thought consumes you: What excuse can I find to leave? Despite every minute growing more silent and awkward than the last, I chose to be polite and stay; besides, I needed a lift home – a risky venture when you’re in a cab after a bad date with its driver.

It’s illegal to have a passenger in your cab if you don’t have the meter on so he left it running. On the way home, the unmistakable click, click of the running meter punctuated our stony silence. By the time he pulled up, I was in the hole for a potential $221. I made a hasty exit with barely a goodbye, no tip and never looked back. There was no second date.

When she was a teenager, a friend of my Mum’s went on a blind date to the cinema. When her date turned up, he had a visible booger stuck on one of his nose hairs. It vibrated with every breath, and it was all she could do to look at him. The date spiraled downhill from there, and even in the dark she cringed at the thought of staying. Finally, she excused herself to the ladies’ room but could not bring herself to go back. Afraid to walk out through the lobby in case he had also decided to go the bathroom, she was left with no other choice: She climbed out through the bathroom window and went home. My heart still aches for the poor guy, sitting there, waiting and breathing. Needless to say, there was no second date.

The reality is, unless we married the person, most of us, at some point in our dating life have been on both ends of first-date spectrum – if you even made it that far. I still don’t know what was more painful for me – getting stood up or going on the date, only to sit afterwards, my heart desperately waiting for a phone that was never going to ring. The only comfort I can derive from this agonizing, first-date rite of passage is that you have to date the frogs to recognize your prince.

And to think, I almost missed mine.

He was my last customer at the end of a stressful day. Feeling guilty for keeping me after hours, he casually offered to buy me a drink to make up for it. My automatic reaction was to refuse, but it had been a long day. After one drink, and some pleasant conversation, I left him at the bar and returned to my office to finish working. A week later, he came into the office and asked me if I’d like to go out on a proper date. “No,” came my punch-in-the-gut response. He was a nice guy; I was just more into my career.

A few days later, he tried again. “No,” I replied for the second time. The following week, in one last-ditch attempt, he came into my office, announced he was going to the launderette to do his laundry and if I wanted to join him for a drink afterwards, to come on down to the launderette to meet him.

At least, I’d be able to see how he folded his socks, I joked to myself. (This was of fundamental importance if we were going to have a future as I came from a long line of ballers.) I laughed at the absurdity of an invite to the launderette, but 30 minutes later, smiled, locked up the office and headed over. I squirmed when I saw that he knotted his socks – a practice that, in my mind, looks messy and takes up too much room in the sock drawer – but admired the way he diligently folded and neatly placed everything else into his basket. Once done, we headed back to the same bar from three weeks previous to share a drink and our first formal date together. It was my last, first date ever.

Twenty-six and a half years of fantastic marriage later, my heart skips a beat when I think how close I came to what could have been. He turned out to be my rock, my soul-mate, my sunshine and my prince, and with every passing year, he continues to rock my world.

Even if he does still knot his socks.

About this writer

  • Janey Womeldorf Janey Womeldorf once went to work wearing different shoes. She now freelance writes and scribbles away in Orlando, Florida. It’s probably best.

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One Response to “First Dates”

  1. Mary Ann Crimi says:

    I, too, almost said no to Mr. Right. Thanks for your wise words and reminding me to tell him I still love him–even after all these years!

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