Let me reiterate – I love bad dates. And not just because they make the best stories, which is a pretty good plus, but because I’ve given myself a list of games to play for when I realize that a date has gone downhill. I have about five games currently, though the list is growing steadily, and I want to share with you, my non-existent reader, some of these games.
I invented the game system about two years ago when I went on a date with a friend of a friend whose not-real-name-but-I-want-to-call-her-something is Jenna.
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I was playing in a university orchestra at the time, and I was kind of the lets-get-drinks hype guy. It was going to be a slow night. Our drinking crew was feeling the heat of the semester, so Tuesdays were work days for many, even well after the sun went to sleep. So it was three of us regulars, plus my friend invited some of her friends for a total of seven, including Jenna.
For the cheapest of cheap beer – cheap enough to excuse the (lack of) ambience – the nearby university bar was our best bet. The bartender was attempting to resuscitate the atmosphere with some 90s throwback music, but that’s kind of like trying to save a choking person by giving them food. (I swear I’m an optimist deep down.) We had some pitchers and started chatting. I found myself at the center of attention, telling some of my favorite stories of failed relationships to a new batch of open ears. I couldn’t have been terribly attractive, talking about bad dates and in large part about my own short-comings. My humor tends to be rather self-deprecating. But no matter, I had the spotlight. I felt liquid confidence flowing through my veins faster and faster, and I was embellishing and twisting my words into whimsical equivocations. (A friend once told me that the truth is not as important as the story.)
After what felt like hours of being on stage, making fun of my love life, calling myself out for my vices, I turned to Jenna, and I asked if she wanted to go on a date. “Yeah, sure, when?”
It wasn’t exactly the response I expected, in that it didn’t contain the word “no.” I felt like I had asked semi-rhetorically, to punctuate my joking about my being undateable, and I was met instead with approval. Here I was, coming face to face with the fact that my self-deprecation hides a kernel of truth, and that I was incredibly happy to successfully ask Jenna on a date.
* * * * *
We headed to her second favorite dinner place. Not the first, of course. I had asked her specifically for her second favorite, because I didn’t want to ruin her favorite place if the date was awful. It was pretty clear to me a few minutes in that this was going to be one of those dates where there just wasn’t a close connection. The conversation was clotted. There was no flow, no life, no energy. She seemed like a very intelligent person, but I didn’t feel the same kind of enjoyment of spontaneity and overall joie de vivre that I tend to be attracted to. We were getting along, but I was running out of things to say. I was honestly interested in hearing her out, since her perspective on life seemed quite different than mine. But as it went on longer and longer, I noticed there was no laughter, and maybe there hadn’t been the whole night.
Suddenly, like a flash, a thought came to me. I wondered, “how quickly can I make Jenna laugh?” And all of a sudden, I felt rejuvenated, like I had found some sort of antidote that people didn’t know about. Sometimes people just get bored on a date, and they kind of give up a little bit. I was definitely guilty of that in the past. It’s not that the other person’s a bad person, just that there’s a disconnect. The clouds of silence start rolling in, and the conversation becomes more strained, and you start wondering when the check is coming so you can leave. But no, fear not. You can just play the make-the-other-person-laugh game instead! It’s a lot more fun, I promise. Part of the fun is that it’s not a terribly difficult game, once you think to play it.
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Although my main goal was to introduce the game system in this post, since I’ve talked about Jenna, let me finish the story.
A few weeks later, after some polite rejection texts from my end, I ended up running into Jenna again through our mutual friend. She told me I apparently did ruin her second favorite dinner place for her. Turns out she was pretty happy with the date and disappointed there wasn’t a second. Some quantity of alcohol later, we starting making out. Oops.
She texted me soon after asking if I wanted to come over and play a drinking game. I told her I was busy. She texted me, “You sure?” I replied, “Yes.” So she responded, “Have a good life.” A month later, she moved to the other side of the US, and we haven’t kept in touch.