I’ve been on a lot of bad dates. As a former internet dater, there is no avoiding them. I’ve been told I’d look cute pregnant on a second date, I’ve had a guy’s dog pee on my shirt, and one time I got my thumbnail caught on my date’s coat while hugging him goodbye, shredding it halfway down my finger and causing me to bleed profusely over us both. A guy bought me an expensive outfit on our first date (okay that wasn’t sooooo bad), and I’ve paid for the whole tab because my date was at the time “technically” homeless and jobless (which he conveniently remembered to tell me seconds before the waiter left the check). Nothing, however, compares to this one date.The date.
His name was Rien. Si vous parlez Français, you know this name literally means ‘nothing’. This should have been my first clue.
I met Rien through the ad-riddled, poorly designed website, Plentyoffish.com (truly, just a garbage dump of html. Whoever designed that site should take a good, hard look in the mirror). At 20, I was far too young to be using an online dating service, but I was still debilitatingly shy at the time and figured at least the awkwardness of first dates would help mask my awkward personality.
Rien was a “business consultant” who majored in “Buddhism” at some “accredited holistic university”, I shit you not. He was also a formal fitness model. I should have been more skeptical that an incredibly in shape and attractive man would be using an online dating site, but after a lot of google searching I verified his name to his face. And it was a nice face. He sort of looked like the groom in The Hangover, what’s-his-face (Edit: Google checked. Justin Bartha. Dated one of the Olsen twins), except not as hot. After a few benign messages back and forth, we agreed to get coffee one afternoon at a popular café in the University District.
I wore my cleanest clothes and did my hair up in a jaunty ponytail to give off a hint of athleticism, although walking across campus from one class to another at a decent clip was about my physical limit at the time. I arrived before Rien, so I nervously settled down and waited in the open-air patio in the alley behind the café, which had plastic deck chairs whose legs shuddered like Catherine O’Hara’s sprained knee in Best in Show (is that too specific a reference? It’s worth looking up to get the full visual. I’ll wait. Seriously, you’re already on a computer if you’re reading this. Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3io93ee0GTY. I even did all the work for you!). After five minutes of sipping my cappuccino veeerrry slowly (as to not give the sense I’d been waiting long, of course. There are rules, you know), Rien appeared from the back door and flashed a preternaturally white smile as he casually strolled over to the bird poop Jackson Pollock-ed table.
Pleasantries were made, we asked the obligatory questions about our respective jobs/schooling, and we lightly tossed flirtatious banter back and forth. It was…fine. In my starry-eyed youth, however, just ‘fine’ conversation was more than I had ever expected, especially with someone whose stomach looked like the underside of a muffin tin (I’ve clearly missed my calling as a romance novelist with my staggeringly great abdomen similes).
After about an hour of conversation that rivaled plain oatmeal on the excitement scale, Rien suggested we grab a meal, perhaps at that “charming looking” (that should have been my second clue) vegetarian restaurant across the street? In my dumb-dumb delusion, I gleefully accepted.
We were the two only patrons in the restaurant, as it was that awkward post-lunch/pre-dinner timespan. Rien ordered a draft beer and Caesar salad. I liked that. Plain and simple. But it would be neither. I ordered a Diet Coke and something non-offensive (my own meal seems irrelevant at this point), and soon after sipping our age-revealing beverages for a few minutes, the waitress brought out Rien’s salad. The second the ceramic chimed the table, a light flicked on in Rien’s eyes: a manic, yet pretentious look that I’m sure Whole Foods employees see on a regular basis (“What do you MEAN you’re OUT of the Synergy Brand Green Chia Kombucha? I will DIE, sir.”).
“There is cheese on this salad.” Rien said, appalled, as if the waitress had garnished the plate with grated kidney stones.
“Um…it’s a Caesar salad…” the waitress retorted cautiously, probably only half anticipating what an asshole this guy was about to be.
“I can’t HAVE cheese, or ANY dairy products. I will get completely bloated and it is not pretty. This isn’t what I wanted.” Rien patronizingly explained.
“Well, I’m sorry sir, but you didn’t specify anything about your salad!” The waitress was starting to stand her ground a little more firmly.
“I’d like to speak with your manager. I don’t like your attitude.” Rien crossed his overworked arms, which awkwardly squeezed his hamburger bun pecs out (seriously, I am a true romance novelist. What am I doing with my life?).
The waitress was clearly taken aback by this move. She furrowed her Rockabilly pin-up perfect eyebrows and turned back, mumbling furiously (I don’t blame her), and therapeutically running her fingers through her Veronica Lodge blue-black hair as she stomped back toward the kitchen, where she most likely reevaluated some of her career choices. Or spit in my meal that had yet to arrive (I wouldn’t blame her).
All the while, I’d been inching ever so slowly down in my seat, desperately hoping to somehow slump off into a parallel universe, one where enraged lactose intolerant dickholes were only a thing of legend.
Rien turned to me, taking no notice of my roasted beet red cheeks, and declared that this whole situation was “BULLSHIT!”, and that it was time to go. Without paying for his half-finished beer, Rien stormed off and motioned for me to follow like he was some brooding Greaser, beckoning his absolutely mortified Sandy.
To this day, I don’t know why I didn’t just book it in the opposite direction. Perhaps I had the foresight to know that one day this whole debacle would make a mediocre essay (way to go, past Sidney! Always have that end game in mind). Instead, I idiotically followed Rien as he huffily continued up the street, ranting about “that bitch waitress”. We continued to aimlessly walk until we passed by the neighborhood’s staple Mexican restaurant, known for its charmingly out-of-place board game decor from when the property was a Wizards of the Coast-esque geek boutique.
“Let’s go here,” Rien declared, stopping abruptly in front of the restaurant.
Of course! What better dining selections for those who shun dairy than a MEXICAN (well okay, Americanized Mexican, if we’re getting into semantics here) restaurant? I looked to him, searching his face to see if it was just a ruse. It was not. The man wanted to go to a restaurant that probably buys shredded cheese by the industrial-sized barrel.
Rien immediately beelined for one of the dark teal pleather booths against the far end of the restaurant, and proceeded to prop his back against the wall and kick his legs up directly on the seat, completely disregarding any semblance of decorum.
The restaurant’s host had been on the phone when we arrived (I like to pretend someone was making reservations for this restaurant that had chess piece light sconces), so he did not immediately welcome us. The lack of lightning fast service was clearly unacceptable to Rien. In fact, it seemed to personally offend him. Thus, Rien decided to take a plunge into the brisk waters of awkward racial stereotyping.
“YO PADRE!” Rien literally snapped his fingers at the waiter, as one does trying to get a distracted dog’s attention.
The poor man walked quicker than he rightfully should have over to our booth, and kindly asked us if we would like to order something.
“Yeah, I want the veggie burrito, but I CAN’T have dairy. That means, no queso, no leche. NADA, okay? Comprende?” Rien’s Spanish dripped with a shockingly awful Speedy Gonzales accent.
I somehow mustered the words to order a cheese enchilada platter, because if I was going to die a slow, painful death on this date, I might as well have some hot greasy cheese numb my senses a little. If food be thy medicine, then goddammit, let it be my Vicodin.
Rien did not seem to notice, or at least acknowledge the fact that he was a total fucking asshole. As we waited for our food, Rien began, out of thin air, to barrage me with inappropriately specific questions about my sexual history. Did I like being tied up? Threeways? College lesbian adventures? When I just shook my head and quietly requested a blanket moratorium on the topic, he simply delved into his own hateful diatribe about his former girlfriends (Who were these girls? Were they clinically sane? Holyshitweretheystillalive?), and all the stuff they wouldn’t let them do, because, and I quote, “hot girls are bigger fucking’ teases than the butter faces”.
I swallowed down some rage vomit that was desperately attempting to project itself directly onto Rien’s face, and quietly excused myself to the restroom. In the checker board patterned stall, I evaluated the situation. Do I call somebody? What would I say? Who will believe me? Why, why, why did I shower for this? Valid questions all, I texted some of my friends to at least tell them where I was, lest Rien got cotija in his burrito and mass murdered the entire restaurant staff.
When I emerged from my momentary sanctuary, I noticed Rien wasn’t chaise-lounging in the booth. ‘IT’S A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE!’ I internally exclaimed, but as soon as this glorious thought filled my body with the warmth of a thousand suns, I saw the shining glint of a cactus-shaped shot glass in the corner of my eye. Rien had apparently decided my bathroom excursion was the perfect time to sidle up to the bar and take a tequila shot. As I death marched back to the booth, something suddenly clicked. A state of zen, nay, numbness settled over me. I felt like Zach Braff in the first 10 minutes of Garden State, but with a less indie, more mariachi-based soundtrack. I could get through this. I could tell this delightfully funny story of my bad date to my friends. Oh, the foreshadowing.
I don’t remember much of the actual meal, except for the small delight I took in eating his cheesy kryptonite directly in front of him. When Rien wasn’t being a prick, he was as boring as his dry veggie burrito. When the check finally arrived, I firmly insisted on paying my half (and an apologetic 35% tip to boot), because I would be damned if I’d let him feel entitled to any ‘payback’ for fronting the bill.
In my mental compartmentalization, I hadn’t noticed the torrential downpour that was already starting to pool on the sidewalks. I panicked. I lived about 2 miles away, and was wearing nice shoes that didn’t deserve a fate as awful as the traumatized girl wearing them. Did I accept the offer of a ride home? Were $50 shoes worth it? I decided they were. They were really fucking cute.
We ran to his overcompensating BMW and for the first time on the date, felt grateful towards him, or rather, his leather seats warmers. I had quickly devised a plan to have him drop me off a couple blocks from my actual building, to ensure that he wouldn’t know exactly where I lived. Freedom was close. I was already making plans to jump into my warmest pajamas, consume a cow’s worth of milk products and leave bad Yelp reviews for his consulting firm. But as we drove up the street that was a straight shot to my ‘place’, Rien suddenly veered the car into an abandoned alleyway.
This is it. He’s going to either rape me, murder me, or both, in either order, I frantically thought. Now I was going to be just another Dateline story and this would validate my mother’s belief in anything Chris Hansen or has ever spewed to overly concerned parents. Rien jerked the brake and my throat closed up, as I slowly reached my hand in my purse to grab my keys, Wolverine-style, in case I needed to punch him in the nuts. But Rien didn’t turn the car off. The brake lights still blaring, he jumped out of the car, rounded to the front of the hood, and proceeded to whip his unsurprisingly small penis out, and pee directly onto his car, floodlit, glaring directly in my direction.
I’ve visited Thesauraus.com multiple times, and I still haven’t found the words to express just how I felt during this sequence of events. The relief of not being molested and/or killed combined with the surreal horror of seeing an unnaturally lit man staring at me while he took A League of Their Own worthy pee. His expression was inexplicable as well. It was a placid, neutral look, but the heavy rain caused a Clint Eastwood squint that chilled me to my core. I bore a mental hole staring down in my lap and prayed that this was the extent of his batshit crazy behavior.
And by the grace of Buddha, it seemed to be. Rien casually zipped himself back up and slid into the car, backed out of the alley, and silently continued up the street as if the detour from hell hadn’t just transpired. He kept the same emotionless air the rest of the thankfully short trip, but when he pulled to the curb of my street, it was like pulling the blinds up when you’ve slept too long, and it’s jarring to see the sunlight.
“I had a really great time today! You’re a fun girl!” He seemed too earnest to be mocking, but I had no idea what the hell was happening anymore. In my disoriented confusion, I somehow mustered a quiet “uhhhhhhhhthanksokaybye” and did my best to not flat out sprint back to my dorm.
Once I felt safely secured in my room (I manically looked over my shoulder almost the entire walk back), I pulled my phone out to call someone, someone, though I wasn’t quite sure I could speak yet. There was a little envelope flashing on the screen, indicating a text message.
It was from Rien. It read: “I had a really great time today! You’re a fun girl :)” His parting words to me, verbatim. I’ve never had a smiley face creep the shit out of me before. Naturally, I never responded, and somehow, that was enough to keep him from ever contacting me again.
When I started writing this story, my curiosity got the best of me and I looked Rien up on Facebook. To my wickedly morbid delight, he is now married! And by the looks of her very, very thin figure, she probably doesn’t eat cheese either.