Love Handles: Chapter Eight

4.24.2005

By Bob Merrick

He spoke quickly so I couldn't have time to react. 'Your Brit Boy is suffering from serious jet lag and had to back out this morning. But he does want a rain check and everything's fine. My friend's cousin is coming in his place. You have nothing to worry about, you're going to have a great time.'

My heart rate increased. 'But you know this guy. You're not just setting me up with someone you've never met, right?'

'It's a blind date. This one's just blinder than usual. My friend is great-looking and he says they look like brothers. And he's tall.'

I contemplated turning the car around, saying I was suffering from jet lag after a meeting in the Valley, but I kept driving. I needed this experience to get over my fear of dating, even if the guy turned out to be a total jerk. I had to remind myself repeatedly, 'This is all for the experience.'

The six of us meet at the new Cheesecake Factory at the Grove, L.A.'s shopping hot spot. We wanted a casual restaurant that was large enough for each couple to go off on their own (after meeting up as a group, the plan was to each get our own table for a 'private date'). We all knew each other well enough that a small restaurant would have us shooting looks at each other across the room throughout the night. I was the last to arrive while the others were standing in front of the restaurant.

From behind, Adam had done well for me. My date was tall (maybe 6'2') and blond, and by the time I got to the front, his looks were just as agreeable. The elephants in my stomach relaxed and my perma-smile took over my face for the remainder of the evening as I was determined to be my most charming self. My date, Ian, stuck out his very nervous hand and introduced himself, tripping slightly over his words.

I have heard that when horses meet for the first time, they both sniff and circle each other until one of them finally bites. The one who bites first becomes the dominant and controls the relationship. I find humans to be subconsciously similar. Ian's nervousness was all I needed to find my inner confidence and take charge of the evening.

We stood huddled, trying to spark up conversations as we waited for our tables to be ready. Ian declared he knew 'everything about everything.' When I asked him if that included pop culture (my best topic), he said, 'That doesn't count. I don't know much about that. I studied pre-Socratic Greek philosophy in college.' Faced with another hour of pre-Socratic anything, I contemplated telling Angelo there was a misunderstanding and I would be his date for the evening.

Ian and I were seated first. Our conversation was clunky at best, but not unbearable. His nervousness stayed with him well into his first cosmo, as evidenced by his hand trembling like he had a mild form of Parkinson's. I was surprised to see anyone nervous around me, but it was a gentle reminder that I am not the only one afraid of stepping outside my comfort zone.

Halfway through our meal, his cell phone rang. I gave my best polite smile as he apologized for having to take it, as it was a call he had 'waited for all day.' But when he took the second call, 10 minutes later (which, after chatting a moment, was followed with, 'OK, can I talk to Mom now?'), I knew a second date was not in our future.

Adam and his date finished first. Adam's date was a last-minute find from the afternoon after Katie's two potential matches for him backed out. She couldn't have found a less compatible match for Adam, but they seemed to have a nice enough dinner. As the four of us were headed to the door, we came up to Katie and Angelo's table, where the two were thick as thieves, both eating heartily from a tower of mashed potatoes and very obviously enjoying each other's company.

Adam and I said goodbye to our dates, handshakes all around, and waited for Katie and Angelo, who wandered out 20 minutes and a six-carb cheesecake later. They exchanged phone numbers in front of us, and I was happy that at least one of us had found success, giving us hope for trying this again.

The next day, my phone and e-mail were buzzing about the Circle Date, everyone wanting to know the results. Even though the night didn't turn out great, I felt that as an exercise, it was successful, and I even came out of it with more confidence. But more than an exercise, this was a team sport and everyone I know now wants to play. I have three dates lined up for Katie, Katie's looking to redeem herself with Adam, and I'm genuinely excited about re-entering the dating game. If involving my friends gets me a date or two and a rain check with a British meat-lover, I'm ready to compete, stretch marks and all.

To read part seven, 'A Walk Down (Unpleasant) Memory Lane,' click here.

To read part six, 'Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures,' click here.

To read part five, 'Sex, Lies, and the Internet,' click here.

To read part four, 'Sweatin' with an Oldie' But Goodie,' click here.

To read part three, 'What Happens in Vegas, Doesn't Always Stay in Vegas,' click here.

To read part two, 'Let's Get Physical,' click here.

To read part one, 'Resolutions and Commitment,' click here.

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