Dear Lily June,
As a serial monogamist, I know next to nothing about dating. I think I mentioned that I’ve been with four men in my whole life, and the last of these was your father and my now husband. The “first date” I shared with him is a story for another time entirely.
But if you don’t count harmless flirtations and unattached kisses (and I don’t), my first real boyfriend boyfriend took me on my first real date date when I was already sixteen years old (ancient by modern dating standards, since I hear kindergartners are now exchanging digits on their iPhones).
Even before the era when the personal PC and the internet was everybody’s best frenemy (it’s true! I lived before computers got big. Ask me how to make fire and what killed the dinosaurs sometime), you had to be careful because you never knew what kind of a freaky creep you might be meeting. Because the freaky creep I ended up dating for two years was a friend of a friend, I asked her to accompany us, at least until I was sure he’d been frisked (not in a good way) and had submitted to a full cavity search (again, driven by fear and not foreplay).
It became quickly (and painfully) clear that my “friend” was the real creep. She tried to sit between us, and there’s nothing like having to ask your wing woman to swap seats in the theater so that you can actually be within hand-holding distance of your own date. She talked throughout the entire movie, gasping audibly at some of the more gruesome scenes.
Admittedly, the choice of film was a bit ill-advised, as we had bought tickets to see The Cell. Films hardly get more romantic than the plot of an FBI agent agreeing to be put into an experimental coma so she can enter the mind of a serial killer who enjoys torturing women in carnal and carnivalistic ways. The scene where they use glass slats to slice up and section an entire horse like an orange is probably what sealed the deal, and as my friend shrieked like an ASPCA angel, my date and I exchanged a wry grin.
We weren’t psychopaths bonding over cruelty to animals. But we were sickos–me, a pseudo-goth girl, he, the kind of guy who listened to hair metal far after the band members themselves were in wheelchairs–and we did take a kind of schadenfreude delight at my friend’s theater theatrics.
But the end of the film, I was ready to fake an emergency with this male stranger just to escape my friend. We’re sorry, “Kirsten,” but our family’s mutual friend just got into an accident. We must go lift a burning car off of the body. See you at school on Monday? Of course, we didn’t, and I can’t remember if she tailed along to the bitter end or if, in some O.J. Simpson style Bronco chase, we were able to ditch her at high speeds. (I’m so sorry, “Kirsten.” You were probably an excellent chaperone, wherever you are.)
The date must have concluded well, because I ended up spending the next two years “dating” this guy, but the dates started to consist less of exiting the house, and more of sneaking upstairs to make out while his stone deaf grandfather was responsible for “watching us,” playing games of Monopoly that he’d always cheat at when his eagle-eyed mother actually was home, and other misdeeds and misadventures of youth that I’ll share with you when you’re older (which isn’t saying much since, at three months old, I’ll have to share everything with you when you’re older).
Eventually, we’d been together long enough for me to know that one particular misdeed–okay, I’ll say it, Lily. Sex–was the only thing we had in common. I hated his taste in music (KISS? Meatloaf? Really?!); I hated his snooping mother (she sat my mother down once to have the “What will we do when my son knocks up your daughter” talk); I hated his “Roman eyes” and “Russian fingers” (not only would he flirt with anybody–male or female–at the workplace we both shared, but he also became quick to turn any outing into an opportunity to “score” with me, making it seem like that’s all he cared about and, at his tender age of fifteen, it might well have been).
If I’d spent more time out on dates with him and less time in his home, if I’d gotten to know his mind and not his body better, I would have learned that we weren’t exactly on the same page. Hell, Lily, we weren’t even in the same library. That’s reason enough to date as widely as you can, though to say that, I’m pulling a classic “Do as I say, not as I did” on you.
Suffice it to say, I’ve not been much of a dater in my life, but I come by that honestly. One of my father’s (your grandfather Edward’s) first dates took place at a drive-in movie that contained a violent rape scene, resulting in, when he went for the goodnight kiss, his date peeing in fear in his car. I don’t know much about dating etiquette, but I’m pretty sure it’s poor form to relieve yourself in your date’s vehicle. Of course, your grandpa is the kind of guy who says terrible things like
“A kiss is a knock at the front door to see if anybody’s home in the basement.”
So he may have had that urination coming. And one of my mother’s (your grandma Raelyn’s) first boyfriends–Dudley the Studley–wore a woman’s cape everywhere he went. So if it turns out you’re kind of a dating dunce, it was in your blood all along.
Your dad has some fairly funny dating stories himself, but I’ll mostly let him share those with you. (Ask him about the lady who puked in his car so that he had to drag the mats out of there and let them dry in the hot Alabama sun, reeking of baked vomit all the while. Or about the crazy who used to do what she called “the pixie dance” through his apartment, flailing her arms and skipping like she was flittering on the breeze. Or about the nutjob who writes a blog about those things, even though she knows it’s her all along.)
For now, I think you can glean enough from these experiences to know the following rules about dating:
1.) If you do bring a friend, have her serve as a spy from the back of the theater instead of as an anchor sitting between you.
She can wear an Inspector Gadget style trench coat with a fedora or something, so that if anyone does happen to see her, they’ll just think you’re being tailed by an overly friendly drug dealer or a 1930’s detective. And if the date’s going really well, you can scream whisper towards her, Go, Gadget! Go! and a helicopter may spring out of her hat, flitting her off to another person’s date.
2.) Choose a film, if you do dinner and a movie, that’s not horrifying.
Of course, one person’s horrifying is another’s humorous. A good rule of thumb is that the film should neither include serial killing psychopaths nor should it include dippy rom-com actresses like Katherine Heigl. Unless, of course, the serial killer plans to attack Ms. Heigl. But with your luck, you’ll end up seeing her share a heart-to-heart moment with the murderous curmudgeon over coffee or the singing of “Benny and the Jets” and then things will get truly horrifying. Maybe stick with Pixar?
3.) Only repeatedly date someone if you truly like them.
Of course you may want to find out more about someone by going on a date with them. But ultimately, a partner is not an outfit you try on with the hopes that, if they figure out a way to surgically remove your arms, those pinched sleeves will someday fit. The same rule applies to dating as applies to shopping: If it doesn’t fit in the store, don’t bring it home!
4.) Don’t pee.
At least, not anywhere other than a toilet. Or do pee somewhere else. And then tell me the story. Because I have got to know why and how and where that happened. Or don’t share it with me, because I’m your mother and that’s weird. But if you think, by this point, I haven’t seen a lifetime’s worth of your pee already, you’re deluding yourself, my darling daughter.
5.) Unless you or your date are a superhero, no one should be in a cape.
If you are both in capes, though, be prepared for me to call you two “The Dynamic Duo.” A lot. Like even after you both break up and your date goes off to a different college.
6.) Don’t date any guy who sees a kiss as a “knock at the front door.”
And if you do, keep your welcome mat flipped over. And your basement locked tight.
7.) Don’t settle.
Ever. For any reason. If you don’t like the people courting you, you don’t have to go out with them just because they asked. (And hey, Sadie Hawkins, you don’t have to wait to be asked, either.)
Some day, the right person may come along, and that may create the perfect date. Or the right person may come along, and you’ll know it because you’ll have a horrible first date where you’ll eat at Taco Bell, and at some point while nibbling nervously at your chalupa, they’ll turn to you and ask, “Wait. This is a date?!” and you’ll think, “Wait. I shaved my legs for this?!” and then you’ll end up kissing this near-stranger during 27 Dresses because watching the film would be way more disturbing, and then you’ll end up walking down the aisle with the guy and making a baby Lily and starting a blog and that horrible first date will make excellent writing fodder. That’s how you know the love is for real real.
Fairy tales can come true. I’m just sayin’.
- “Frédéric Soulacroix – Flirtation 2” by Frédéric Soulacroix – http://www.artrenewal.org/asp/database/image.asp?id=10015. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fr%C3%A9d%C3%A9ric_Soulacroix_-_Flirtation_2.jpg#/media/File:Fr%C3%A9d%C3%A9ric_Soulacroix_-_Flirtation_2.jpg
- “Taco Bell Night” by Anthony92931 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Taco_Bell_Night.JPG#/media/File:Taco_Bell_Night.JPG
- “Thecellposter” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Thecellposter.jpg#/media/File:Thecellposter.jpg
- “Lobo Guará urinating on tree” by Jonathan Wilkins – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lobo_Guar%C3%A1_urinating_on_tree.jpg#/media/File:Lobo_Guar%C3%A1_urinating_on_tree.jpg