Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Date to End All Dates...At Least for the Next Six Months!

The other day I remembered why I rarely go on dates anymore. He was a loud, voluble and robust reminder: 6'4", with salt and pepper hair and an annoying way of blurring the line between an insult and a compliment.

The first thing he said to me: "I can't believe you're American. But you use English so well. Are you sure you're not from London?"

When I pointed out that Australians mangle the Queen's English more badly than people in any English-speaking country, he was obliged to agree. Ah, a glimmer of hope. But it didn't flicker for long.

His next anti-Yankee crack arrived when I mentioned that the AC in my apartment has been out of order since I moved in three weeks ago. I was happy to be out enjoying the cool Saturday evening breeze.

"Oh, you Americans and your AC!"

It wasn't long before I found myself wondering why I hadn't followed my gut instinct, which had told me to cancel on him for the second time. But I didn't want to be that Sydney-sider I've grown to semi-hate. I couldn't even remember the last time I went on a decent date, though. It was a wonder I was still willing to occasionally go on them.

Who needs to spend a couple of hours sitting across from a guy who has too much to prove? (Gay men and their insecurity masquerading as arrogance…ugh.) I would have preferred to have been home watching an Oscar-nominated movie on my laptop (the obnoxious music instructor in Whiplash was less of a blowhard than this guy), but I knew I'd have to get off the couch if I was going to meet people and make friends in Sydney.

Is it worth it? No disrespect to Pat Benatar, but dating is the battlefield. I love a good game of chess once every few decades only, but the last thing I needed after a challenging work week was a meet-and-greet that felt like a sword fight.

During this particular match, I could have sworn I heard a voice whispering "en garde" in my ear before every sentence my opponent/date uttered. It was the only whisper I'd hear all night. My opponent/date had another annoying habit of keeping his volume between 8 and 10. Oh, and about blurring the line between insult and compliment... He was certain I had to be a Londoner, yet he couldn't understand why I would want to live in such a shitty place.

Frankly, I've never really understood people's reaction to my reaction to London. Years ago when I was more actively dying to live there, people would often say things along the lines of "The grass is always greener" whenever I broached the possibility of moving to London. So, I figured, I wasn't allowed to like London, and I certainly wasn't allowed to want to live there either.

Huh? But it's a world-class city, and it wouldn't be one if someone didn't love living there. But who even cares whether anyone else loves it? I don't care for Paris or Rio, and I'm not as big a fan of Sydney as most people who aren't from Melbourne, but I can understand their appeal. I'd never challenge anyone for loving any of them, or hating a place that I love. What difference does it make to me anyway? It's simply a matter of personal taste. Why rain on someone's parade when it comes to a city they love? London is moist enough as it is!

Oh, but well-traveled people can be so insufferable, especially when they've parked themselves on several continents for more than one year. Some of them seem to think that having lived in numerous places not only gives them special insight into how everyone should feel about those places, but it also somehow gives them the edge in every conversation because most people aren't particularly well traveled. Oh, dear God in heaven, please don't let people think I'm one of those obnoxious world travelers!

Too late for my opponent/date. He was a well-traveled fortysomething know-it-all from Melbourne who has lived in New York City, London and Hong Kong and has visited Buenos Aires. In other words, he knew everything. He seemed to have very little interest in anything I had to say about anywhere I've lived because, well, he'd seen it all before.

He was the kind of person whose gestures are like semaphores. He talked too loudly, announcing instead of stating, pronouncing rather than offering opinions. Some would accuse me of sometimes doing the same thing, but I pick my battles. Every topic isn't fodder for debate. So you hate London? Why?... Oh, really? That's too bad. Pass the wine, please.

This guy seemed to be listening to me only long enough to figure out what he wanted to say next. After two hours spent conversing/clashing with him in a cute little bar off Crown Street, I decided to hang up my sword. I won't be going on another date for a while. At this point, I only go on a handful a year. This one should carry me through September.

My opponent/date's three most absurd comments/reactions:

The idea of a New Yorker never having lived above 34th Street is unfathomable. I thought he was going to have a seizure right there on the sidewalk when I dropped the bombshell that I'd never lived in midtown or higher. Actually, I didn't even realize it was much of a bombshell when the words were coming out of my mouth. I know plenty of downtown types who have never lived above 14 th Street. And considering that I lived in three apartments over the course of my 15 years in NYC, spending three years in Alphabet City, three near Penn Station and five in Union Square, I'd say I got around just fine.

Somehow I brought all of my travel misadventures -- positive and negative -- on myself. So, I had to ask, how exactly did I bring about having my apartment burglarized by three men and being attacked by them on a sunny Sunday afternoon six months after moving to Buenos Aires? Was it my fault for having the nerve to come home after lunch and walking out of the elevator on my floor mid-burglary? Should I have never dared to buy an apartment in a building that was under-construction, leaving it vulnerable to inside-job break-ins after I moved in?

If you don't have anything intelligent to say, keep the cheap psychobabble to yourself. That's always been my rule. Oh, but my date/opponent couldn't possibly do that. He was the kind of person who so loved to hear himself talk that he had some declaration to offer about every sentence I uttered, whether it be an unsolicited opinion, a generalization, or a sort-of-matching story. (Guess what: He was robbed once, too...on the New York one guy...Not the same thing!)

Chances are if you're a non-Londoner who moves to London you'll hate it because, well, everyone is addicted to sunshine. I really should know better than to bring up London, especially to people who have already gotten on my bad side. But I did anyway, and when I dared to call it the one city I've never lived that I would love to live in, my date/opponent looked at me as if I'd just chopped off one of his arms.

He suggested I'd hate London after the first winter because five hours of sunlight a day would simply be too little to bear. I asked him what led him to this conclusion about someone he barely knew. What if I'm a fan of dreary weather? Maybe I don't suffer from seasonal affective disorder. I could be a night person…or a rainy day kind of guy. After spending an hour mostly talking at me, did he really know enough about me to lump me into the category of "most people" when it came to London?

When I dared to suggest that he didn't, he got frustrated. How dare I challenge his all-knowingness, or be contrarian? That was his thing. At that moment, I knew the date was unsalvageable. Thirty minutes later, it was mercifully over.

Thank God. My opponent/date and I parted with a hug, and as he walked away, I deleted his number from my phone. Yes, I was laying down my arms. Let someone else fight the good sword fight. From now on (for now), dateless is the new black.

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