Love is Blind (Or At Least Nearsighted)
So here I am, out with my gorgeous date. And his date.
A little background:
I’m on a blind date with this cute guy named Craig. He’s a friend of a friend of my friend Jenna. He’s new to the Chicago area and single and Jenna assured me he was cute. But when she first suggested that I go out on a blind date with him I was hesitant. For one thing, dating is hard enough when you know what you’re getting into (or at least think you do). For another thing, well, Jenna’s taste in men leaves something to be desired. I love Jenna more than anything, but she’s not exactly normal. She works as a hairdresser at the salon where I work as a make-up artist, and you just have to take one look at her to know that she makes her living in some sort of creative field. She couldn’t get away with wearing her long dark hair streaked maroon working at some desk job, that’s for sure. She makes her own clothes and beaded jewelry. She covered her red Converse tennis shoes in hundreds of rhinestones to give them a little pizzazz. She’s the kind of person who will gladly be the first person out on an empty dance floor despite the fact that she’s a spectacularly bad dancer—she jerks her body around paying no attention whatsoever to the actual beat or rhythm of the music, and she flings her elbows about as if she’s trying to flee from a burning theater and is attempting to gore the people standing in the way of her escape. And she does this move with her feet that looks like a cat trying to cover up its waste in the kitty litter box. It’s not pretty, trust me. Plus, more than once I’ve seen her go spinning around so fast on the dance floor that she loses her balance and goes flying into a table bordering the dance area, causing drinks to go flying and sending innocent bystanders tumbling to the floor (think of the Saturday Night Live character Mary Katherine Gallagher). Anyway, I love Jenna because she is such a free spirit. I love that she thinks for herself and doesn’t worry about what others think of her. However, do I necessarily want to go out with men chosen by a woman who thinks that wearing knee-high orange-striped gym socks with olive shorts is a good idea? Under ordinary circumstances, the answer would be no. But when she told me about Craig, I decided what the hell. I thought, what’s the worst that could happen? I’ll end up with another funny story to share as I paint the faces of brides on their wedding day or aspiring actresses before they get their headshots taken.
Craig called me a couple days ago and we chatted briefly. He asked me what I wanted to do on our date, and I suggested that we go to the amusement park because it was something we could do outdoors. It’s been such a gorgeous summer that it seemed logical for us to be outside enjoying the weather. He was up for the plan but didn’t know how to get to there so I offered to drive. When I picked him up, I couldn’t believe how good-looking he was. I felt momentarily stunned that his DNA could possibly have been assembled into such striking features. His smile was of the megawatt variety that reminded me of cartoon advertisements for toothpaste where the character smiles and a little white star glints off his teeth with a little ting! noise. His arms were thick with muscles and I suspected a six-pack lurked beneath his white polo shirt.
I tried not to let myself get too excited, however. Just because I was attracted to him didn’t mean he was attracted to me. For all I knew, he thought I looked like a failed science experiment or moo shoo pork after it’s been in the fridge for three weeks or something.
We drove to the park making polite chit chat.
“Jenna tells me you grew up in Wisconsin,” he said.
“Yep. A tiny town about forty minutes from Madison.”
“Do you go up there very often?”
“I used to when my parents still lived there, but they retired to Arizona three years ago. Now I don’t go back very often, although Jenna and I are going there this weekend for a wedding. What about you? Where did you grow up?”
“Ooh, winter in Chicago is going to be brutal on you. What brought you here?”
“Ahh.” We drove in silence for a moment before Craig asked me what I like to do for fun. “I read a lot. I love movies.”
“I like movies, too,” he said. He told me about an art film he saw recently.
“I didn’t see that one,” I said. As soon as I said it I worried that he would think I was some uncouth simpleton who never saw artsy movies so I blundered on, “I like movies like that. That’s one I’d like to see. Yeah. I like art films, independent films. I have a friend who works at the Telluride film festival every summer.”
What on earth did that have to do with anything? Why did those words come out of my mouth? That was apropos of nothing. Think, Heather, think. You need a follow-up comment to somehow tie in that non sequiter. “Have you seen any other movies lately?” It was the best I could come up with on short notice.
We talked about movies a little more, but it was a pulling-teeth type conversation. I wasn’t too worried—first dates are always a little awkward.
Little did I know how awkward it could get . . .
I parked in the vast parking lot and we paid the extravagant entrance fee. The amusement park was a riot of noise and colors and eye-catching excitement— spinning rides with flashing lights, an endless string of souvenir stands to separate parents from their hard-earned cash, park staff walking around in Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck costumes pretending to be cheerful when inside they were dying of heat stroke. Screams from the roller coaster riders filled the air and the area thrummed with energy and commerce and squealing children strung out on sugar from ice cream, funnel cake, and colorful lollypops that were bigger than their heads.
For a time, things seemed to be going well for Craig and me. We screamed our heads off on the Demon, the Vertical Velocity, and the Viper; we ate our weight in cotton candy. The only bad thing was that it was hot and humid out, and waiting in the long lines for the rides gave us no protection from the heat. Sticky pools of sweat gathered under my bra and beneath my armpits and across my forehead and upper lip. My deodorant was losing the battle with each passing moment. I knew without having to look in a mirror that my eyeliner was bleeding and clumpy mascara boogers were forming on my eyelashes and that the humidity was electrifying my hair into frizzy lightning bolts jolting out from my skull. Though I suspected that I wasn’t looking my best, I wondered if Craig and I might have a future together despite the fact that he looked like a Baywatch star whereas if I were cast for TV, it would be as something like “girl-in-line-at-drugstore-number-four.”
I was feeling self-conscious about looking like a “Before” picture with my model-perfect date when we passed by a booth where a radio station was doing this promo for a dating service. It was hosting a contest where a woman chose one of three men from the audience as her date and they would get an evening out paid for by the radio station. It was a Dating Game kind of situation: the woman was behind a screen and couldn’t see her three choices. She had to ask a series of questions and pick her date based on their answers. Anyway, at the very moment Craig and I were passing by the make-shift stage, the announcer was asking for men to volunteer. Guys were killing themselves to be picked and the moment I saw the girl they’d be going out with I could see why. She was breathtaking. She seemed to me to be about eight feet tall, but then, I’m pretty short so that could skew my perspective. I’m sure she was only about 5’10”, but compared to me the girl was a giantess. She looked eerily like Jennifer Connelly, with long dark hair cascading down her back in buoyant waves. The problem was that all the guys trying to rush the stage to get their chance at her were mutts. Mullet-haired, pot-bellied monsters. Obviously, these cave trolls would not be good for publicity for the dating service. The radio station needed a handsome prince type and fast.
It was Craig’s gleaming smile that did it. One smile from him and the brilliant whiteness of his teeth beamed out like a spotlight and caught the attention of staff people running the Dating Game show. In a flash we were accosted by a kid in a KRTG Rock On! T-shirt.
“Hey, would you mind coming up on stage? We need another guy up there.”
“Oh, thanks, but I’m with someone,” Craig pointed to me. I felt a wave of relief. Most guys would have ditched me in a nanosecond for the Jennifer Connelly look-alike goddess. I thought it spoke well of Craig not to abandon me.
“Come on. It’ll be fun. Everyone who competes will get a free dinner at Shaw’s.”
Shaw’s Crab House is a pricey seafood restaurant. For a free meal there I might have left even the beautiful Craig behind in my dust. A free lobster dinner is a free lobster dinner, after all.
“Thanks, but really, I can’t,” Craig said. Even as he protested, the kid in the Rock on! T-shirt was essentially pushing him on stage. Craig flashed me a look of, what-should-I-do? I just shrugged and smiled, thinking it might be fun, and anyway, the chances were only one in three that Jennifer Connelly would choose him.
Jennifer Connelly chose him.
After Jennifer, whose real name was actually Raquel, asked her litany of inane questions (If you could be a kind of tree, what kind of tree would you be? It’s a cold day: What sort of hot drink would you prefer to drink to warm up? What is your favorite color underwear?) the announcer asked her to choose from bachelor number one, two, or three. Craig was number three. As I stood there with both my fingers crossed, silently chanting “Not number three. Not number three,” the traitorous crowd cheated. The audience booed when the announcer said, “Bachelor number one?” They hissed when he said, “Bachelor number two?” and they whooped and hollered and cheered when he said, “Bachelor number three?” Just because bachelor number three was a Brad Pitt God among men, the crowd chose him.
“We have a winner!” the announcer said. “Raquel, come meet your bachelor!”
Raquel emerged from behind the screen in all her graceful-limbed perfection and squealed when she saw her handsome date. She laughed and got teary-eyed as if she’d just won the Miss America Pageant and gave Craig a hug.
In that moment I came to deeply hate her.
“Raquel, meet Craig,” the announcer said. “Tonight a limousine will pick you up and take you out to a wonderful meal at Morton’s Steak House, followed by a private boat ride down the Chicago River and an all-expense paid night in a suite at the Four Seasons hotel! I want to thank all our bachelors for participating today. To show our appreciation, I have vouchers for a free dinner for two at Shaw’s Crab House for all our participants. If you don’t have a date to accompany you for a romantic dinner, remember single-no-more.com! Just post your profiles and find the right match for you.”
The crowd cheered and clapped and the announcer said some other things that I couldn’t hear because I was too busy trying to figure out if there was a way I could have Raquel briefly kidnapped by terrorists. Then Craig and Raquel were pulled off stage to a tent. I saw one of the radio station staff people in a Rock on! T-shirt talking to them. Craig gestured back in my direction.
That’s about the time I started getting a very bad feeling. I stood there melting in the sweltering heat for what felt like an exceptionally long span of time. It was so hot out I thought my brain might just be liquefying, but despite the hardship, I continued mentally plotting Raquel’s kidnapping until I finally saw Craig come out of the tent. I was excited for only a moment when, to my dismay, I saw that Raquel was with him.
“Hi Heather,” Craig said to me. “I’m really sorry. I didn’t expect that to happen.”
I wasn’t thrilled that he would be going out for a luxurious night on the town with Raquel tonight, but what was I supposed to do? This was our first date after all. It was a little early to demand that he be exclusive. But why was she with him now, while he was supposed to be with me, on our date?
“Uh-huh,” I said, waiting for an explanation.
“I’m really sorry about this,” Craig said, “but the radio station asked for Raquel and me to spend some time together this afternoon so they can get some promotional photographs for their website.” It wasn’t until that moment that I noticed the photographer who had followed them out of the tent.
“All three of us can have fun together!” Raquel said.
And this is how it came to be that I am on a date with a gorgeous man and his gorgeous date.