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21st Century Love

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When I was in middle school and had just started to cope with the fact that girls didn’t actually have cooties, I dreamt of the day when I’d be old enough to go on a real date. 

I remember watching Smallville, an episode where Clark Kent finally got up the guts to ask out Lana Lang, and they went on a date to their town’s coffee shop. 

I was mystified; a guy can drive himself somewhere, to hang out with a girl he likes, and drink things that he paid for with his own money? The Gameboy-playing me was fascinated by the adult world and all of the freedom that apparently came with it.

 As I moved onto high school, the pre-driver’s licensed me started to immerse himself in the world of film—a world which glorified the proper manners of dating. 
I tried to learn what correct etiquette was in my early teenaged years, so that when I could finally drive, I wouldn’t miss a beat.  

I imagined picking up the girl at her house and she’d be wearing her best sundress in the summer heat. I envisioned opening the door for her, as she shyly nods, and I close it behind her. I dreamt of going to a nice restaurant, smiling at each other while candles flicker on our faces and shimmer in our eyes. 

I’d pick up the tab, drive her home and we’d listen to music all the way, giggling when we discovered we liked the same musicians. Then we’d kiss goodnight and fall deeply into an abyss of love, to have and to hold from that day forth, in sickness and in health.

 Well, reality isn’t like that. At least my reality wasn’t.

 After high school let me down, college came. Surely these emotionally and intellectually advanced women would see the allure in an Arthur Avenue dinner, some Italian wine, and good conversation with a college athlete, right? Unfortunately, the result was familiar: complete aversion to any sort of formal romantic engagement.

 I’m 23 years old now, and I only went on my first “official” date a few weeks ago. I’m not any sort of social recluse or a hermit – I’ve been romantically involved with an adequate amount of girls – however, I don’t really consider any of my previous experiences dates. The type of romance I’m used to is when a “hang out” turns physical – dorm room romance while Friends plays in the background.

 A few weeks ago, when the girl I liked said yes to a real date, I was over the moon. Finally, someone mature who wanted to really get to know me, and didn’t just want to wear my soccer sweatshirt around campus.
I walked into the tavern where we’d agreed to meet, hugged her, and sat down to order drinks. I was smiling like an idiot; I could feel the grin glued to my lips. We had already met and knew each other a bit, so we didn’t need the beginner’s questionnaire. However, she didn’t seem to be as happy or smiley as I was. She kept saying ambiguous things about work and life, and talking about future plans. All the while, the look on her face suggested she was waiting in line at the DMV.
I leaned across the table, still smiling likely, and said, “You know this is my first date? I know I’m not supposed to say that, but I felt you should know.”
She laughed (loudly may I add) and clapped her hands together, as if I had been joking, before sipping her drink and subsequently shaking her head in disbelief. When she noticed I wasn’t kidding, her eyes refocused on me, as she said, “You’re joking, right? It’s just a date. It’s no big deal.”
About a year ago, a female friend of mine told me that I should start casually dating, that it was the normal thing to do at our age. She said, and I quote, “You should just go on dates. It’s a great way to get a free meal!” When I responded that I was the guy and that I would be paying, she quickly changed the subject, and we hung up soon thereafter.
I didn’t believe people thought this way until my date.
We shared an awkwardly-spaced walk to the car, an emotionless hug, and both drove off our separate ways. After my first date, I had always expected to drive home with the windows down, wind tossing my hair about, shoulders bopping to a Beatles song, while I shout the lyrics back without a care in the world.
I drove home in silence, in the frigid aftermath of Blizzard Nemo, with the windows up and the heat blasting. As I drove, one hand lightly gripping the wheel, the other flat against my face, I had a bit of an epiphany. Maybe my first date didn’t go well, but that doesn’t mean my second one will be a disaster too. That girl wasn’t right for me, but that doesn’t mean the next one won’t be.
It hit me that love is just as much about dealing with rejection as it is about finding someone. I thought about my beat up Honda Accord and how even though it was dinged and battered in certain places, it still functioned more than adequately. The scratches and dents gave it character, proved its mileage.
I tapped my fingers on the steering wheel of the car, matching the music’s beat, and smiled, knowing we both have plenty left in the tank.

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  1. Anonymous

    May 17, 2013 at 2:47 am

    “Oh, Danny boy…” So I don’t get you. In one breath you’ve got an assortment of college girls running around campus donning your soccer sweatshit and you’re randomly hooking up with them while watching Friends (seriously?!), and the next you’re lamenting that after ONE “real” date you haven’t fallen into the “deep abyss of love”? This sounds like the plot of a bad romantic comedy starring Kate Hudson and one of the douchebags from Twilight. You’ve got to lighten up a little, bro! You used your Honda Accord as a metaphor, so I’d like to take advantage of it as well. Put some mileage on that bad boy! Get out there and live a little! No one wants to hear about how 23 year-olds have plenty left in the tank. You’re just a kid! I should hope you’ve got some left in the tank (even after all those undergrad romps you allegedly had in the back seat). You can’t take these things so seriously. You had one date and the girl didn’t jump your bones. These things take time. I’m sure it took at least a good two-part Ross and Rachel episode for you to seal the deal back in your college days, didn’t it? Was Rome built in a day? Did Derek Jeter win the World Series his first year in the Maj…oh wait, he did. My bad. My point is, ditch the flickering candles and the abyss of love act. You sound like you’ve gotten plenty Miss Right Nows in your time, so I’m sure Miss Right will come along eventually. So until then, enjoy the ride, wear your seatbelt, remember not to text and drive…and “ANONYMOUS” said it perfectly, pay for the date, dude! I saw that Smallville episode too, and coffee was on Clark Kent, not Lana Lang. Even for guys from Krypton, that’s a no-brainer.

  2. Anonymous

    May 16, 2013 at 1:14 am

    As a man over the age of 21 there are certain things you might want to consider. If this is your first “date” ever, you may want to mention that before the date, as someone hearing this may want to know why(were you in prison, the seminary, etc.). As a grown man my reaction probably would have been similar, either that or just a mouth open in shock. As for your post 1st date reaction that you expected to have, honestly that sounds more like a 7th grade girls dream. She was right, it was just one date. And as the asker, you shouldn’t be surprised that you are expected to pay. If you don’t date a lot of people, you are missing out on so many chances to meet “the one” Don’t give up but be realistic, dress to impress(hoping you didn’t wear your soccer sweatshirt on the date), and listen when any woman talks.

  3. Anonymous

    March 13, 2013 at 2:56 am

    In this day and age, it has been my experience that women want exactly what you described in your post but have been conditioned through experiences of their own with the male gender to not expect it. Seriously, think about all the guys you know and how many of them feel the way you do? I wager not many. So, what is a girl to do when they have their wildest dreams and expectations reduced to merely a shake down in the back seat of the car after every date (or at least the expectancy of that)? It leaves them emotionally unsatisfied, unfulfilled and jaded. The worst part is that a woman doesn’t even have to experience that type of relationship (or lack thereof) to catch the mood. Her friends that are dealing with those issues will let her know what’s out there and it all trickles down, whether she has experienced it first hand or not.

    Hope can be a great thing but eventually, it wanes. If you’re a woman and you keep going out with guy after guy after guy like the problematic ones I just mentioned, you eventually shut down emotionally to protect yourself. Although dangerous, what else can you reasonably expect from them?

    Is this our fault? No, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that we have to deal with it.

    As a member of the male gender, our emotional immaturity and lack of consideration is killing the tenderness and vulnerability in women. We can only blame ourselves.

    However, there are still women out there that have strong hope and have held out. The good news is these women are still tender, sweet, and vulnerable. I’ve even have the fortunate experience of meeting a few. They’re the diamonds in the rough and they’re worth holding out for.

    I don’t know if I would encourage you to keep casually dating but I would definitely encourage you to hold out hope for that woman. She’s out there, just keep searching.

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