We’ve all been there – a date riddled with awkward silences, repeatedly looking at the time wondering how much longer till it’s over or trying to find a plausible excuse to abruptly, yet politely, end the date.
I’ve had my fair share of dates where things just didn’t click with another person. As painful as they may have been, they’ve taught me one thing: how to embrace the cringe. They also make for great stories.
Last June, I was finding my footing after a long-term relationship and decided it was my time to have a “hot girl summer.” I’m not sure if it was as much of a decision on my part as it was largely brought on by the persuasion of my extremely spirited friend, Anissa.
Throughout the summer, I used Tinder, Bumble and Hinge as a way to kill time, as many of us do. At this point, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to go on a date from an app, but, staying committed to having my hot girl summer, I tried to make conversation with matches I made.
One night while spending time with Anissa, she peered over at my phone and spied that I had been exchanging messages with a Tinder match. Excitement gleamed in her eye as I looked up at her. “Sooooo, when are you going out?” she asked.
“Probably never, he hasn’t said anything,” I replied. For the longest time, I was completely averse to making the first move — I left that task to whoever I was talking to at the time.
This night I didn’t. After enough badgering by Anissa, I broke and finally asked him. We planned a date for the following night.
As I stood outside my house waiting to be picked up, I stared at the pink sunset skies, and began mentally talking myself out of going, a habit I’ve come to develop in anticipation of any date. “It’s going to be so awkward,” “What if we don’t have anything to talk about,” “What if I end up not liking this and then I’m stuck on the date?” etc.
Before my mind could fill with more anxiety-inducing questions, I heard the loudest car that I’ve ever heard in my life round the corner. "Oh no," was the immediate thought that crossed my mind as I said a silent prayer that what I was hearing wasn't my date's car.
This was the first of many signs that my night was going to end badly. Still, I ignored it and got into a car that was so low to the ground, the status of its street legality was a coin toss. I had, unknowingly, said yes to a date with a “car guy” — an immediate red flag in any circumstance.
Upon entering the car, I immediately noticed the numerous stickers of various voluptuous, anime-style women covering the dash of his car.
As you’ll read on, you’ll notice, dear reader, there were a lot of times when I should’ve just gotten up and left throughout this date. Opportunities for me to exit often presented themselves, yet I did not. I could not tell you why I didn’t leave. Perhaps a part of me thought, “Well it can’t get any worse.” Spoiler alert: it does.
The car ride to the theater was awkward to say the least. No conversation was even attempted over the overpowering blaring of his music through the sound system and —of course —the sound of his after-market engine.
Thankfully, we made it to the theater in one piece despite my doubts —as I mentioned, the car was incredibly low to the ground, which unfortunately resulted in me flying up out of my seat whenever we drove over the smallest pebble.
Walking up to the entrance, I instigated typical small talk, trying to fill the silence between us. As my date went to pay for the tickets, I could see him shuffling around the screen, trying to pull up Apple Pay – which, to both our surprise, the theater didn’t accept.
“I dropped my wallet in the ocean … I can pay you back,” he said, shrugging.
“Sureeeeeee,” I replied, pulling out my debit card.
As we walked to our seats, I remember trying to convince myself that it was an honest mistake and that the date could totally turn around. Either way, I was committed to two hours of “Top Gun: Maverick.”
We sat down, sans movie theater popcorn — another red flag. Soon enough, the movie began and with it, so did his colorful commentary. Like the characters of the movie, my date was also in the U.S. Navy…I had been unaware of this coincidence. For a large portion of the film, comments on how “unreal” it was and how “this never happens in real life” filled the theater.
I couldn’t tell you what had even happened throughout the course of the film, my brain being consumed with only one thought: “How much longer till this is over?”
Finally it was — over, that is. As we walked back to the car, we exchanged light commentary about the movie. When he started his car, “Roslyn” by Bon Iver and St. Vincent began to blast through his speakers.
“Roslyn” is the ending credits song in “Twilight,” and for whatever reason, hearing this song and seeing Bella, Edward and Jacob staring at me through the Apple Car Play was just the final kicker.
I’m not even sure what was so funny about this song playing. Perhaps because it was that song, of all songs, or because it was playing in that car, of all places, or maybe because we had just finished watching “Top Gun: Maverick,” of all movies. For the entire duration of that song and the ride back to my place, I struggled to contain my laughter.
Eventually I was dropped off, without anything else crazy to report on — thank goodness. As I walked back to my door, I remember thinking how much I couldn’t wait to tell Anissa about this date.
I would like to note that this guy that I went out with wasn’t a horrible or awful person. I think we were both trying to make the best out of a situation that wasn't right for either of us.
Recently, I came across an episode of “Parks and Recreation” where the protagonist, Leslie, has incredible anxiety about first dates. To combat this, her friend, Ann, decided to have Leslie go on a practice date and tried to use exposure therapy, making everything on the date go wrong. Afterward, Leslie wasn’t nervous about her date.
After I was dropped off from my date, I remember thinking to myself, “That was like an episode out of a sitcom – just about everything that could’ve gone wrong did.” In a way, I guess I had my own kind of “bad date exposure therapy.”
I still get really nervous for first, second and even third dates. But now there’s a part of me that just doesn’t care. I don’t think anything could top that date, and if it does, I’ll certainly have a good story to write about.
Tallie Johnson (she/her) is the opinions and DIO editor for The Front this quarter. She is majoring in journalism with a public relations focus. Tallie enjoys covering arts and entertainment, bringing attention to nonprofits, and sharing her opinion on everything and anything. In her free time she spends time with friends, family, and her many animals.
You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.