"I realized last night that I do a strange thing when I’m trying to get to know someone. I imagine them in all sorts of random life occurrences as if they’re some character in a series of young adult books: Andy Goes to the Beach, or Andy Takes a Road Trip, or the more telling Andy Attends a Funeral.
I take what I know about the character in question and apply it to the imaginary event. How would they act? What would they say? What would I think? I realize two hours with a person provides little indication of how they would behave at, say, their first Boston College Football Game, but I surmise none-the-less because I am a. a girl and b. a freak."
It was a problem for a lot of reasons - namely that you can't really make those calls based on how the guy orders dinner and if you zone out while someone is talking you miss important things they say and subsequently come off like a bitch who isn't paying attention when you're actually a freak paying way too close attention to invisible things. Those two things are very different.
Well I'm pleased to report that I've since broken that habit and replaced it with a new, potentially worse one.
I now find I treat first dates like personal stand-up routines involving only one audience member and the constant interruption of a wait staff -- also I'm usually sitting, unless a given joke calls for movement.
I can't say exactly when this started, but I'm thinking it developed following my date with the guy who answered every question by repeating my same question with an inflection that turned it into a statement:
- Me: So have you been busy lately?
- Guy: Have I been busy lately...
- Me: Wow -- that's too bad -- do you have mostly contract work going on?
- Guy: Do I have mostly contract work going on...
- Me: Oookaayy... -- you hungry?
- Guy: Mmm - hungry!
After that I decided I needed to go in with material. Not "jokes" in the traditional sense -- more well-told stories highlighting my finer qualities and inspiring the other person to laugh a lot.
I know what you're thinking.
Jessie -- don't be so chronically hard on yourself! -- sounds like you're just opening up, sharing your life, and making the date like a very fun two-person party.
True, yes -- thanks Dad -- but see, I test this material out, sometimes extensively, and then once finally on a date I'm so excited to use it that I find myself awkwardly shoving it into conversation in a way that makes me seem like I'm either not paying attention or have perhaps rehearsed a very specific powerpoint-style date presentation. What's actually going on is both those things at the same time.
- Guy: So I started out in dividends research but now I'm doing more personal finance management.
- Me: Hahaha - funny because I recently went to my accountant who took one look at my credit card statement and said, "you'd make more money if you just worked at the bar..."
Apparently I'm not testing extensively enough.
I realized this was a real problem on a recent first date with an incredibly interesting guy. He had a lot of incredibly interesting things to say that did not end in punch lines -- interesting job, interesting background, interesting hobbies. As such I did a lot of listening and asking of follow-up questions. But I found that with each even more interesting answer he delivered I 2/3's listened intently and 1/3rd tried to find some way, any way to bridge from his response to one of my bits. Things like this were going on inside my head:
- Hhmm, San Diego -- that's not far from L.A. where I had that friend who started that web project and asked me to write that thing which I did only to find out I wrote a story he'd heard somewhere else already because my pre-school boyfriend was his grad school classmate. HA! That's a good one. I could probably work that in now....shiiit he's on to San Francisco -- too far....but there was that...
This is gross. And not just because none of the above example are actually funny.
I figure I'll grow out of it in time -- much like I did with the first, first-date issue. Let's just hope that happens before I tell some really promising guy a stolen joke centered around a totally unbelievable story that you'd never even image could be possible -- unless of course you've already heard it from someone else.
- Me: HAHAHA. I mean can you believe that?!?! He left the O out of COUNT in an email to the entire New York office!!!
- Guy: Actually, yeah -- that guy Dave in your story is my cousin Dan -- and it wasn't all that funny when he had to go for six weeks of sexual harassment training...