We had been out several times on friendly dates - nothing serious, mostly just for fun, but I had several friends see us together and ask how long we had been boyfriend/girlfriend. After I would tell them that it wasn't like that, they would tell me that she obviously liked me and that I should go after her.
Those are the kinds of things that get a guy thinking.
There's one thing about men that all women should know: We always think we can turn a situation around, no matter how miserable, bleak, and dismal it may be. You could have a date where by the end, you've cried 4 times, are missing a shoe, had half your hair scorched off, and had your date accidentally punch you in the boob, but darn it! he's a man and he's gonna try to turn that goodbye into a memorable, romantic moment!
This date, while not nearly as dramatic as that example, did not deviate far from the model; for some reason, I kept telling myself "I got this. I got this."
Our plans were to go to dinner, watch some of the basketball game at school, go see an improv show that some friends were putting on, and then maybe something else after if we felt like it.
The night started out surprisingly well. We went out to dinner at a Mexican place in town. I'm not entirely sure how a small group of Mexicans found its way to and then settled in the very center of Virginia, but I'm glad they did. Their food is nothing special, but it's about as ethnic as you can get around here (unless you want Chinese food, which is like Asian Mexican food). So when given a choice between Wendy's or the Mexican place, I chose Mexican. The food is technically worse, but someone brings it to you and the lights are dimmer, which means it's nicer for some reason.
Brandon's dating advice for the blog post:
But I have a weakness, and that weakness is Lucky Charms.
So I may or may not have "accidentally" eaten an entire family-sized box of Lucky Charms just a half hour before leaving for my date while watching Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. That in and of itself is a pretty stupid mistake, but here's the kicker - I'm pretty sure I'm at least slightly lactose intolerant (if that's possible) because when I have milk, things get a little more loud and smelly than normal (if you know what I mean). So after having a box of Lucky Charms and enough whole milk to properly supplement it, I was the rapidly-expanding opposite of hungry.
Now keep in mind that I was still on the fence trying to decide if I liked HER, or just liked being AROUND her (there's a difference - one romantic, one friendly). She had, thus far in our brief flirtationship, shown no signs of any red flags, had shown good signs of maturity, shown signs of knowing how to properly deal with problems, shown numerous physical signs of finding me attractive, and had a really cute butt.
Our conversation at dinner was great and funny, like always. Then we ordered our food.
While ordering food from a Mexican in a Mexican restaurant, my date had the metaphorical balls to pronounce quesadilla incorrectly (like in Napoleon Dynamite).
And that's the moment I decided that I liked this girl.
I LOL'd and ROFL'd left and right at how brave she was to say that kind of thing to a genuine Mexican man who struggled slightly with English. After that, every time he asked us how our food was, we would say that the quesaDILLA was especially great. It was great, stupid fun (and by "fun", I mean "haha").
That's pretty much where the "haha" fun ends, and the "awkward silence" fun begins.
I, without thinking, ordered a lot of food - something that I normally do when I'm on a date for a few reasons: 1) Girls hate to eat more than boys, so I purposefully order more food than them to take that pressure off; and 2) I'm an idiot.
Lucky Charms and Mexican food. You do the math.
We had a great time at dinner, despite my extreme discomfort. Now for some basketball...
We step up to the cash register to pay. I pull out my wallet, dig through it for a second, and present my trusty-trusty debit card.
"Wait, what's this?" the dating gods inquired while sitting upon their throne of lies, "Brandon is having a successful date so far? Well we certainly can't have this! Something must be done!!"
And then my debit card got declined.
Turns out I forgot to deposit my last paycheck...
If I were on my own, that wouldn't have bothered me too much, but TV shows and movies have drilled it into my head that THAT is the worst possible thing that can happen on a date. I even said in a pretentious voice that "that isn't possible" and commanded the hostess to run it again. Of course, it gets declined again because when you don't have money, you don't have money. Luckily, I followed another one of my dating rules: Always carry enough cash to cover the next activity.
So I was reduced to paying the hostess in cash (like some kind of animal).
On the outside, I was like:
But on the inside, I was like:
My date handled the whole thing about as well as a date can handle realizing that she's out with a broke-ass loser: She looked at her shoes and avoided eye contact with me. And when she finally did break the silence, it just made it even more awkward: "At least I actually recognize that it's awkward" - in reference to an earlier experience of mine where my date didn't recognize the awkwardness.
That's not what a man wants to hear on a date.
So we go back to my place before going to the basketball game. I've worked myself into a dilemma in that I now don't have enough money to get us into the improv show that we were going to go see. To get us in, it would cost $10. Aside from my emergency $100 bill (which I'm sure a bunch of friends at a small improv show can't break), I am completely out of dollar bills. So she sits down on my bed while I proceed to ransack my room - searching for anything that could be passed as currency in a desperate attempt to make it all add up to $10. After about 5 minutes of searching, she offered up a $5 bill in her purse. Weighing my options and my current level of financial austerity, I agree that it's probably best if I let her pay for herself (and accept the punch in the mancard for it). I piece together $5 worth of change, set it on my dresser for when we return, and we walk up the street to campus to watch the basketball game.
I love basketball. A lot. And when I watch it, I kind of get into it and tune everything else out. I think she may have known that because she was pretty good at also being enthusiastic about it. I tried to keep my energy at a reasonable level and not mutter curse words when there was a bad call. One of my friends sat with us and he and my date sat and talked while I watched the basketball game. Hindsight, I probably shouldn't let my friends do that.
We left at halftime so we could make it to the improv show on time. On our way out, while walking across half court, we were stopped by her parents who were in town. Her mother asked if they could borrow her for a few minutes and I agreed. Then they all turned away from me and I stood in the center of the basketball court for several minutes all by myself during a halftime with no halftime show - with everyone watching me.
I have never been more aware of myself in my entire life.
We exit the building, and she says something about liking my friend that she had previously spent half a basketball game talking to. I didn't know how she meant the word "like" (it has so many meanings these days), so I just brushed it off (as best as I could).
While walking back to my place to get in the car, it was really cold and a little windy. In light of my recent decision to like my date, I was considering holding her hand - an action that, at least in our culture, is small, but says a lot. The usual doubts flashed through my mind (mainly that this date is already a disaster and that I should just cut my losses and jump ship), but I dismissed them with my "I can turn this around" male mentality and I went for it.
I'll go ahead and admit that I haven't done a lot of hand-holding since coming to SVU. My dating endeavors have certainly been numerous, but the number of physical moves that I've made towards members of the opposite gender are minimal at best, so my hand-holding technique has, as a result, suffered miserably. As my hand reached out to hers, I somehow missed, and grabbed her hip instead. I've never done that before (on accident). She looked at me all weird and I played it off like I found a piece of string on her clothes and I was just getting it off for her while laughing sheepishly. Then I prayed that she wouldn't wonder how I noticed a piece of string on her hip. She never did (out loud).
We put all my change and her $5 bill in her purse before leaving my house. Normally, as a matter of principle, I don't keep things in women's purses (I am a man, after all). However, in light of my declined credit card and the fact that my date would now be paying for her own ticket to the show, I was already feeling pretty emasculated so I didn't really have much to lose. We got in the car and began our journey to the show. Partway there, I realized I didn't know where we were going. She did. So I had my date (that I asked out) tell me how to get to the place that I was planning on taking her.
But it's ok, because I'm a man and I can turn any crappy situation into a romantic one.
We find the place and park the car. As we're crossing the street to go inside, she offers to take the money out of her purse and let me hand it to the cashier. I assume it was so that I wouldn't feel emasculated (because men are supposed to pay for things), but really, it felt like when you were a little kid at the grocery store buying a candy bar with your parents right there behind you saying things in a really condescending voice like "Now let them scan the candy bar... Good!... now hand them the money...". I tried to appreciate the sentiment.
We went inside and she went ahead to find seats while I payed. Turns out I'm terrible at counting money, because I was 25 cents short. I had to quietly beg the cashier to let me in without my date noticing.
So let's do a quick recap of everything that has happened so far: Declined card, my date offering to pay for herself, standing by myself in the middle of a basketball court for several minutes, hearing my date say she likes my friend, trying (and failing) to hold hands, putting my money in a woman's purse, me having no idea where I'm going and having my date navigate, and begging the cashier to let me in despite not having enough money to get in.
What else could possibly go wrong?
I didn't get the memo, but apparently that particular improv show was also a reunion for every girl that I've either dated or tried to date during my time here at SVU. And as we walked in, they all simultaneously turned around and stared - some (I hope) in heartache, and some in raw unadulterated anger.
I could feel my face turn bright red and I started to sweat a little. I wanted to disappear - just find a seat in the back and pretend that there was nothing going on. But the only seat left was in the very front (seat: singular). The problem is that it was one seat and my date and I were two people. On top of that, she's got Latina blood, and my butt isn't exactly small, so we're talking about two larger-than-average problems and one small solution. If we were dating-dating, we could have done a cute "sit-on-lap" or something to that effect, but we weren't, so we had to take the best available (but still crappy) option. We shared the seat, each of us with most of our butts hanging off the other edge of the seat. Never in my life has half my butt been so uncomfortable. That, combined with the Lucky Charms and the Mexican food currently jousting in my stomach, means I had a really tough time focusing. I tried turning to my date during funny moments so we could laugh together, but the entire situation - the exes directly behind me, the seating arrangement, and the stomach discomfort - kicked me into survival mode, so I totally shut down and just thought about video games for an hour.
The improv show finished and we both immediately agreed to leave - apparently she had also noticed that all of my exes were present and was also feeling pretty awkward. We get in my car to drive home (my car that was parked in between two of my exes' cars).
It's at this point where I get to gauge how she feels about the date (good? bad? fun?) - I asked if she wanted to go back to my place to "watch a movie or something" (emphasis on something) or just call it a night. She didn't really hesitate before saying she wanted to go to bed. It was about 10:30 at this point. Not a good sign.
But I'm a man and I can turn any bad situation into a good one.
I honestly don't remember what we talked about on the ride home. I was busy coming up with an "End of the Date - I Like You" speech. My rational mind told me that right now would be a terrible time to confess any sort of romantic feelings, but my man-ego wouldn't have it.
As we drive up to her place, she thanked me for a good time and said that she really enjoys being with me because I'm normal. I was surprised at her positive reaction to such a terrible date.
Then I started talking. And no matter how much my brain screamed at me to stop, I just kept talking. It was a severe lapse in judgment.
I explained to her that I wanted her to know that I liked her as slightly-more-than-a-friend, but didn't want our relationship to change because I liked how things were going so much. She said she was "still at just friends" and promptly got out of the car and bee-lined to the door without any opportunity for any kind of discussion and without allowing me to at least walk her to her door. Her reaction leads me to believe that what she heard wasn't what I said.
And I haven't seen her since.