Tag Archives: romance

A party of one isn’t much of a party

man eating alone at restaurantIt’s inadvisable to go out to dinner on Valentine’s Day if you don’t have a date.

Common sense, you say? A nugget of knowledge so blatantly obvious that it need not be spoken?

Perhaps. But unfortunately, I speak from experience.

Unattached and dateless — and working at a new job in a new town — I decided one evening to check out the local dining scene. I’d been living on my own cooking for nearly three weeks, so I was undernourished and ravenous for edible fare.

The inspiration struck on a Tuesday in February. After work I went home, spruced up, and wandered across the highway to a Mexican restaurant in a neighboring shopping center.

A waitress greeted me with a large smile. “Are you meeting someone, sir?”

“No,” I said. “Just me.”

“Oh.” Her face fell, and her upper lip started quivering. “Yes, well … I’m so sorry. Please, follow me.”

She grabbed a single menu and scurried through the restaurant, keeping her gaze on the floor. I followed, feeling perplexed. I’d eaten here alone twice before. Why was the waitress acting so squeamish?

As we wormed through the restaurant, I noticed candlelights on all the tables. And there were no families or children; only couples sitting across from each other, some holding hands and gazing into each other’s eyes.

I passed one booth, and I noticed a man fastening a silver bracelet around his date’s wrist. She was smiling as the diamonds sparkled orange from the dim dining-room light.

Now, I’m not the most observant person. I don’t connect the dots in a given situation as easily as, say, Columbo or Matlock.

But walking past the patrons, I started to piece together a series of what should have been obvious clues:

Happy couples. Candlelit dinners. Glittering jewelry. A Tuesday evening in early February.

Oh no, I thought, as the realization struck. It’s Valentine’s Day. 

I’d completely forgotten. As a freewheeling bachelor subsisting on Swanson TV dinners and Grey Goose vodka, Valentine’s Day wasn’t exactly a holiday I had circled on my calendar.

My cheeks flushed as the waitress continued to guide me to my table. She led me to a booth in the middle of the restaurant, in full sight of all the other patrons — which is exactly where you want to be when you’re eating out alone on Valentine’s Day.

I swore she sniffed as she set down the menu. “I’ll be back for you drink order, sir.”

“Please,” I said. “And I suspect you’ll be making a few return trips. Keep them coming.”

I glanced around the restaurant, then gazed down at the table. A candle flickered before me. I resisted the temptation to blow it out.

For the first fifteen minutes, my aloneness wasn’t so obvious. I imagine the other diners suspected my date was running late. In my head, I could hear the unsolicited advice of a nonexistent bystander:

“Oh, you know how women can be, son. They have to doll themselves up before a big date. Romantic evenings like these are very special to them. I wouldn’t worry — I’m sure she’ll be here in no time.” 

But once twenty minutes came and went — and my aloneness became more apparent — the surreptitious stares started coming. Discrete glimpses pierced me like pinpricks. Sideways gazes stabbed me like lightsabers.

One woman even stared at me with a hand held to her mouth, as if I were a two-legged dog dragging its haunches across the floor.

I read and re-read the menu. It was as if I was lounging on the beach with a page-turning novel. It’s amazing how fascinating entree descriptions can become when you’re awkward and uncomfortable, and you have no one else to talk to.

But then when the waitress took my order and whisked the menu away, I was left with nothing but the saltshaker to capture my attention. Individual grains beaded from the lid.

So I took out my iPhone and set it on the table. I scrolled through the headlines on Google, but didn’t really read them. I’d look up every now and then just in time to catch another patron looking away.

And when my dinner came and I started picking at my food — still sitting there, alone — I could almost hear a collective shudder escape from the crowd. It was like the live audience on a sitcom when the main character experiences a moment of anguish.

On this most joyful and romantic of holidays, everyone’s heart was breaking — and it was all my fault.

I swallowed some refried beans, but couldn’t taste them. It was like gnawing on a mouthful of mush.

I was tempted to rise, clink my fork against a glass, and make a quick speech:

“Can I get your attention, please? Folks, I know how this must look. But I assure you, I’m not a hapless loser who’s been stood up — or worse, didn’t have a date to begin with. I genuinely forgot about the holiday. I swear. See, I just moved to town and started a new job, so my entire focus has been on settling in and adjusting. It’s not like I couldn’t get a date if I tried. I mean, once I’m settled and get everything unpacked, I intend to renew my eHarmony subscription and hit the local dating scene hard. Aside from the untrimmed goatee and hair that needs cutting, I have a lot of desirable traits. I’m passionate. I like long walks on the beach. My ideal Friday evening would be cuddling on the couch with my lover, watching a romantic comedy. So please, don’t get the wrong idea. I’m just as much dedicated to the pursuit of soulful intimacy as the rest of you. My quixotic yearnings run just as deep. My heart, too, burns for the passionate embrace of a loving kindred spirit, with whom I’d promise to share the rest of my life.”

Instead, I flagged the waitress. “Excuse me. Can I get a box?”

“A box, sir?” she asked.

“Yes — and the check. As quickly as possible, please.”

I scooped up my dinner and scurried out of the restaurant like a mouse running along a wall. Returning home, my one-bedroom hovel never looked so cozy and inviting.

I turned on the latest episode of Top Chef and finished the remains of my Valentine’s Day dinner. In the privacy of my apartment, it tasted delicious — especially when washed down with a generous glassful of Grey Goose.

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Don’t throw garbage in there! That’s a decorative wastebasket

man daydreaming

Sure, I may have a string of failed relationships, but it’s not like I’m the one who’s the problem.

Roberta, I hope you’re having a good evening. Thank you so much for coming. I’ve been wanting to have you over to my apartment for quite a while.

I also hope you enjoyed your dinner. Sorry I burned the fish sticks! I’m just not used to baking them in the oven. I usually use the microwave, but then they get mushy. I always try to put forth a little more effort when I have a woman over. But you could probably tell that from the sprig of parsley and the slice of lemon I laid over the fish sticks when I served them.

Next time you’re over, I’ll use a timer. Either that, or I can whip up some Pasta Roni. It’s really good if you add a can of tuna fish. Then it becomes a more sophisticated version of Tuna Helper. And if I want to get really fancy, I’ll sometimes substitute a can of Atlantic pink salmon for the tuna.

I was thinking about doing my own cooking podcast, or maybe a series of YouTube videos. But I wouldn’t want people copying my recipes. Maybe I should self-publish a cookbook, first. I have so many money-making ideas, I just don’t know where to start. I’m ambitious like that. And ambition’s attractive. Aren’t I right?

Anyway, I’m so glad you’re here, sitting on my couch. Can you tell I cleaned up? Only this morning, there was a dirty pair of underwear right where you were sitting. Laundry Day isn’t until Wednesday, so I shoved the underwear underneath the cushion. You’re sitting on it, but you can’t see it. Pretty clever, huh?

So if you drop some loose change down the cushions, be careful as you feel around. There may be a condom or two down there, too. I don’t know — I’ve never lifted the cushion to see what’s under there. For all I know, there could be a mummified cat. Mine disappeared two years ago. You would have liked him. He was precious. I still have his litter box in my bedroom as a sort of shrine. I haven’t touched it since the day he vanished. For all I know, all his turds are mummified, too.

Anyway, before this evening gets serious and I dim the lights, I wanted to ask you something important:

Did you happen to use the bathroom earlier?

I’m not asking because there was a funky odor, or anything. In fact, I’m not even sure why I’m asking. I know for a fact you were in there, because you excused yourself during dinner. I could even hear you peeing, though I tried not to listen. I was trying to eat, and bathroom noises ruin my appetite.

I know — it’s a little awkward that the bathroom is located right next to the dining-room table. But I’m not the dumb-ass architect who laid out the apartment. If you ask me, dining rooms and bathrooms should be located in separate counties. No one wants to eat next to a full view of a toilet. But sometimes I light a cinnamon candle in there, and it gives me a craving for Christmas cookies, even though it’s July. So that’s kind of weird. Whenever someone serves me cookies at a Christmas party, all I can think about is my toilet.

It’s also too bad the bathroom fan broke. It’s useful not only for removing unpleasant odors, but also for masking private sounds. That’s why I could hear you peeing. If we’re going to keep dating, then I’ll have to get the landlord to fix the fan right away. The way you drink wine, you’re going to be in the bathroom every five minutes, and you sound like an overflowing stream surging toward a waterfall. (In other words, you seem like a lush. No offense.)

The reason I’m asking whether you used the bathroom is because I saw a wadded-up Kleenex in the wastebasket. I know I didn’t put it there, and unless my mummified cat somehow leapt back to life and wormed his way out from under the couch cushions, you’re the only obvious suspect.

The thing is — and I hesitate to ask — but I’m going to need you to go the bathroom, fish out the Kleenex, and flush it down the toilet.

See, the wastebasket isn’t really a wastebasket. I have it for decorative purposes only. I never intended for people to throw garbage in there. You should have known that, because the wastebasket lacks a bag. Nobody’s supposed to toss garbage into a bag-less wastebasket. It just isn’t done in polite society. I’m not sure if you’ve ever taken a course in manners, but you should at least be familiar with the works of Peggy Post. She used to write an etiquette column for Good Housekeeping. Not that I’m an ardent reader of Good Housekeeping. It’s just that my ex used to keep them next to the toilet, and they’re great to thumb through if you haven’t had enough fiber and are taking longer than normal to do your business.

Speaking of etiquette, I know that I’m the host and that I should pick up the Kleenex if it bothers me so much. I’m not one to inconvenience my guests. I didn’t even ask you to remove your shoes prior to coming inside. But that was more for my sake, as you appear to be wearing shoes without socks, which doubles the likelihood of your having foot odor. I like you and everything, but I don’t want to have your disgusting, pungent feet tromping all over my carpet. I just vacuumed two weeks ago, and I can’t afford to have it shampooed after you leave. So if you insist on going sock-less, then I’m going to insist that your shoes remain on. If you want to get comfortable later and make out, maybe you can put your feet in a plastic sack.

But anyway … if you could kindly flush the Kleenex for me, my appreciation would know no bounds. I just don’t know what you used it for. Maybe you blew a wad of snot into it, or maybe you dribbled a little while you were peeing and had to wipe it off the seat. I often to have to do that myself. In fact, when I get up to pee in the middle of the night, I’ll often splash all over the floor, because I can’t see where I’m aiming. Which reminds me: I neglected to mop before you came over, so if the bathroom floor was a little sticky, that’s why. The pee dries near the base of the toilet, and then it’s like chiseling earwax to remove it.

You look a little ill, Roberta. Are you feeling OK?

My point is, I don’t know what you used the Kleenex for, and I’m not going to make it my business this evening to find out. We’re just getting acquainted, and there’s still some secrets we should keep from each other. Like the gimp suit I keep in the back of the closet, for instance. Only I didn’t just tell you that. I was planning to mention it after we got to know each other better. So if you don’t mind, go ahead and forget I mentioned it.

Whatever you did with the Kleenex, I can’t bring myself to touch it. Even if you just dabbed makeup with it, that’s still gross. Your face is a little sweaty on this warm summer evening, and forgive me, but I don’t want to touch a tissue that touched your sweat.

Besides, I can tell that you tried to conceal a zit on the side of your nose. Maybe if you didn’t sweat so much, your noise wouldn’t sprout zits?

Look, I’m not trying to sound harsh. I’m just offering some constructive criticism. That’s how you can tell I truly care about you. That and the fish sticks with the sprig of parsley. (And I already apologized for burning them. At least I tried to scrape off the scorch marks with a butter knife. I hope you know, not every man would go to such extremes to please a date.)

If our relationship’s going to grow, then you’re going to have to respect my fondness for decorative wastebaskets. You won’t be able to toss snot-encrusted Kleenex or earwax-coated Q-Tips in there all willy-nilly.

Don’t you know that garbage in the bathroom is gross? When I’m soaking in an Epsom salt bath, luxuriating in a candle-lit spa of my own making (with cinnamon-scented candles, no less), and listening to the soothing soundtrack of Enya’s Orinoco Flow, the last thing I want to look at is an overflowing wastebasket. Yet thanks to you and your lack of etiquette, here we are.

I would have been happier if you’d left piss all over the seat.

Wait a minute. What do you mean you have to go home right now? Are you upset? Was it something I said?

Are you sure you’re not ill? You look all sweaty and disgusted. You’re not developing explosive diarrhea from the fish sticks, are you? I sure hope you’re not. I was worried if I cooked them thoroughly. Even though the outsides were burned, the insides felt a little raw.

Roberta, if you need to throw up, feel free to use the bathroom. I won’t mind. If you retch, just be sure to use the toilet, and not the wastebasket.

After all, it’s a decorative wastebasket.

Sweet serenade in the moonlight

If you’re looking to serenade a special someone in the moonlight, it’s never advisable to bring a synthesizer. Trust me on this one. Even if it’s portable and uses four D batteries instead of an electrical cord, the hassle is sure to undermine your amorous intentions.

Man serenades woman in dark alleyFirst of all, you have the lug the oversized thing four blocks to your lover’s downtown apartment. And being an underpaid artist with starry-eyed aspirations, she of course lives in a sketchy neighborhood. Tromping along the sidewalk with the keyboard hoisted upon your shoulder — like a lone pallbearer at a Yamaha funeral — you’re always afraid some hoodlum’s going to approach you, pull out a switchblade, and demand you play the distinctive riff from “Low Rider.” (Which would be terrifying, because you’ve never practiced any War songs.)

Then you have to set the thing up on the sidewalk beneath her third-story window, and the latch on the flimsy plastic stand breaks when you pry it open. And there are no streetlights near this deteriorating, forlorn structure, so you can’t see what you’re doing. You end up setting the keyboard off-center, and it slips off the stand and onto the sidewalk, chipping one of the keys — with your luck, probably a C.

And then the wretched thing won’t turn on because when it fell, one of the batteries came loose. So now you got to flip the keyboard over to find the hatch. And when you step backward, you end up kicking an alley cat that was rubbing against your shoe, because it has a thing for slip-on Vans with checkerboard patterns.

So the miserable feline screeches and belts for a nearby Dumpster, knocking the metal lid off a trashcan, which echoes like a sonic boom in the otherwise silent night. It almost sounds as if you’re jamming with Stomp.

When you finally get the keyboard on, you stare up at your beloved’s window and launch into a soul-wrenching rendition of “Broken Wings.” The bass notes thud in time to your hammering heart, and your soul pours out in a quixotic display of melody and harmony … even though you tend to sing off-key.

And lights flicker on throughout the apartment building, like individual stars blinking to life in the twilight sky. And a blue-haired old bag in a ratty bathrobe sticks her head out the window and screams “Shut the hell up, you whiny bastard! You sound like Justin Bieber with his testicles caught in a blender!” (You decide to take that as a compliment.)

And other tenants start yelling, too. An empty bottle of Early Times whizzes past your ear and shatters in the alley behind you. And now that cat is screeching too, perched on the Dumpster and clawing on the lid, almost as if it were a DJ scratching a metal turntable.

“Shut up!” the neighbors scream.

“You suck!”

“Play ‘Freebird!’”

And yet the window of your beloved’s apartment remains dark. Perhaps she’s a deep sleeper, or maybe she’s pulling a late-night shift at the animal shelter, where she volunteers her time comforting abandoned alligators rescued from the sewer. She once said she’d like to adopt one for a pet, to give it a nice home.

“You could learn to stick your head in its mouth,” she once said. “You could perform on the street corner, and the crowds would love it. You’d probably make more money than you do now playing your stupid synthesizer in the subway.”

Now, as you launch into an elegant rendition of “Nights in White Satin,” every window except your lover’s is lit up. And as your voice cracks during the long, wailing refrain, you remember suddenly that Tuesday is her night to dance downtown at Trixie’s Gentleman’s Club. It dawns on you that she’s not even home tonight. (It also dawns on you that in addition to “Nights in White Satin,” the Moody Blues sang “Tuesday Afternoon,” which is either an eerie coincidence or a completely unrelated tangent to this rambling narrative.)

So you decide to pack in the operation as bottles and beer cans pelt the asphalt around you. But when the apartment’s lobby door flies open, and the overweight landlord starts charging toward you in his bathrobe, you can’t help setting the synthesizer to “tuba” mode and providing a rapid succession of bass notes to accompany his huffing, heavy-footed gait.

“Shut up!” he screams. “I’m big-boned!”

Just before he reaches you, you grab the keyboard and stand and start running. The alley cat prances alongside you. The landlord collapses on the pavement in a massive coughing fit.

Music is the pulse that surges through the night, like a saxophone on a street corner or a synthesizer in a subway. And because you brought the damn thing all this way (and also because is your lover is busy collecting dollar bills in her G-string), you decide to lug it down the stairs to the grimy station to entertain the late-night commuters.

And if someone requests “Broken Wings” or “Freebird,” then so much the better.

The kind that produce gas

man and woman on date in dinerI like to conclude a romantic evening with a beautiful woman by reaching across the table, taking her hand, and extolling the many virtues of beneficial gut bacteria.

It’s not often I get a second date.

Actually, I’m not even a big proponent of probiotics. Not anymore. I took them regularly for a few years, guzzling the little buggers before every meal and championing their magnificence as if I were Dr. Oz.

But there are so many different strains — so many brands and varieties — that my microflora mastery is quickly degenerating to obsolescence.

So no longer do I extol the virtues of beneficial gut bacteria.

Instead, I reach across the table, take my date’s hand, and urge her to research the subject herself.

It’s still not often I get a second date. But I can tell I’ve given her something to think about, even as she’s dashing in a panic for the restaurant door.

After all, the scientific literature regarding the safety and effectiveness of probiotics is quite extensive.

At least, I assume it is. I wouldn’t know. Everything I know about probiotics, I learned from the Internet (as well as how to self-diagnose on WebMD):

  • Some probiotics inhabit the small intestine while others inhabit the large.
  • Some work best with others; others work best alone.
  • Some slim the stomach while others cause gas and bloating. (Try not to confuse the two before a big date. I’m speaking from experience, here.)
  • Some should be stored at room temperature while others are best kept cold.

I guess it’s not the best dessert conversation — at least judging from the looks I get. I admit, the mental image of microorganisms surging through your digestive tract (and we’re talking billions and billions of them, here), is a little unsettling.

But they say dating is a learning experience, and if I can impart some of my wisdom over cheesecake and coffee, then I feel I’ve served humanity.

Of course, the dates always end soon after — and often, the women insist on driving themselves home.

Which is understandable … considering that earlier in the evening, I confused my waist-trimming probiotics with the gas-producing variety.

Please don’t set me up with one of your psychopath friends

When taking a date to a Mexican restaurant, I tend to establish dominance right away. So when the server brings the chips and salsa, I’ll quickly drag them to my side of the table.

My date will laugh and reach for the chips … so I’ll fend her off by tucking the chip basket under my arm.

Man and woman kissing

“C’mon,” she’ll say, laughing. “Don’t be greedy. Gimme one.”

So to show her I’m not fooling around, I’ll place the tabasco sauce, the bowl with the sugar and Splenda packets, and the salt and pepper shakers in a precise line down the middle of the table.

“This is the boundary,” I’ll say, motioning to the line. “You keep to your side of the table, and I’ll keep to mine. You are not permitted to reach across the boundary. I’m imposing a no-reaching rule as of right now, so consider yourself warned.”

She’ll laugh again and reach for the chips … so this time, I’ll push her hand away and hide the chips under the table.

“You just invaded my boundary,” I’ll say. “That’s a flagrant violation of the rule. Do you not recall our discussion from two seconds ago?”

She’ll frown. “OK. You’re being a little weird about the chips.”

“If you want chips, you’ll have to get your own,” I’ll say. “This isn’t a charity. I’m not going to sit here and allow you to purloin my reserves.”

“If you’re trying to be funny, I wish you’d stop,” my date will say. “Melanie said you were a little high-strung, but this is getting awkward.”

“I don’t give my chips to anyone — whether they’re a blind date or an old friend,” I’ll say. “Now keep your hands on your side of the boundary, where they belong. If I see so much as a fingernail slip across the saltshaker, you and I are going to tangle.”

“I think the joke’s gone a little too far,” my date will say, grimacing. “I’m getting uncomfortable.”

I’ll place the bowl of salsa on my lap, so that it’s securely out of her reach. Then, I’ll dip a chip into the salsa and eat it — all while maintaining an ominous gaze, and without breaking eye contact.

My date will swallow and reach for her purse. “Maybe I better go. Melanie didn’t mention how overprotective you were of your appetizers.”

The server will reappear at our table. “Are you two ready to order drinks?”

She’ll glance down at the basket of chips and the bowl of salsa in my lap. “Um. Is everything OK?”

“She tried to steal my chips and salsa,” I’ll say, pointing across the table at my date. “Maybe you should bring her her own basket, so she doesn’t have to pilfer from mine.”

“Don’t worry,” my date will say, grabbing her purse and jacket. “I was just leaving. You’re way too weird.”

As she gets up, she’ll swipe at the tabasco sauce, so that the bottle will tip over and fall into my lap, landing in the basket of chips. Then the basket will fall from my lap, spilling chips all over the floor.

“Oh, great,” I’ll say, as my date storms out of the restaurant. I’ll look up at the server. “See? Look what she did. This is why none of my dates ever works out. I swear, I’ll never let Melanie set me up with one of her psychopath friends again.”

‘This TV dinner tastes like shattered dreams and singledom’

I can read women like a book.

Of course, that book is an indecipherable, sprawling tome written in Egyptian hieroglyphics.

It also sits on a high shelf, where I can’t reach. Plus, the writing’s faint.

But beyond that, my expertise is unparalleled.

My search for love hasn't been going too well.

My search for love hasn’t been going too well.

In fact, when it comes to comprehending the mystifying intricacies of the female mindset, I consider myself a scholar. And if I could find a girlfriend, I imagine she’d agree.

I’m confused on a few things, however. For example, how do you tell if a woman is interested in you?

In my case, the answer is simple: no woman has ever been interested in me. I have a fridge full of TV dinners to attest to that fact … as well as my horrific experiences with online dating.

Plus, if you introduce yourself to a woman, and she throws up a little bit in her mouth, I tend to assume there’s no relationship potential.

But in general, how can a man tell if a woman is interested?

It’s a good question, because women tend to resort to subtlety, whereas a man’s motives are rarely in doubt.

For example, a woman might convey interest with a discrete glance from across the room.

On the other hand, a man will demonstrate his amorous intentions by offering to buy a woman a drink … or gawking at her with his mouth hanging open … or even hollering sexual disparagements while grabbing his crotch.

Such are the distinctions that separate the sexes. Keep reading…