The Tinder Date Fiasco
A true tragicomic story about yours truly.
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We all know what’s happening in Ukraine right now. Frankly, I don’t think I can analyze it any better or any differently than it already has been — and I'm far from an expert — so I’m not going to delve into it. And while I do have more to say about covid (which I hope to share soon), I figured it might not be a bad time to grace your inbox with a true tragicomic story about yours truly.
Time and space do not permit a comprehensive survey of the reasons why, at the age of 27, I had the fashion IQ of someone raised in a log cabin. For the sake of brevity, let’s just say that when I was 17 years old, I left home for the first time and spent the next decade enjoying a rather spartan lifestyle that rarely called for wearing anything other than a uniform. Strange though it may sound, there’s a certain comfort in being told what to wear every day, and it’s something I miss very much.
Before driving across the country and moving to L.A., I’d never even been to California. Needless to say, culture shock hit me like a brick wall. I felt out of place and self-conscious and clueless about how to dress—so much so that the idea of sealing myself off in my apartment like an agoraphobic stranger in a pay-by-the-hour motel was beginning to sound eminently reasonable.
But I got antsy. Maybe a little lonely, too. And so, I did something that was… foolish, you might say.
I decided to look for a lady friend.
As is custom, I downloaded the Tinder app on my phone and proceeded to immerse myself in its cryptic underworld, eventually stumbling upon a young lass who seemed like a suitable match, whereupon I subjected her to my dreadful attempts at small talk via text messaging. You can probably assume at this point that I (very unfortunately) somehow managed to kindle and subsequently maintain this girl’s interest until a meeting (a date) was mutually agreeable.
I was inflated and on the confidence train, of course, thrilled by my success and surprised by what I supposed was a previously unknown natural shrewdness with girls, a knack for panache that had simply lain dormant for 27 years.
It was only after setting up this dinner date that I remembered I still didn’t have anything “appropriate” to wear, fashion neophyte that I still was. And this was Los Angeles. The procurement of new garbs was imperative.
Ergo, I did what any other clueless dude would do: I went to Kohl’s and bought the same outfit displayed on one of the mannequins.
On the list of unfortunate events brought about by my own stupidity, this was probably second only to the time at football practice in the 4th grade when I went to engage in some alfresco elimination behind the high school (it was a city team) and was about 3/4 finished when a lady opened a door nearby and said, in a tone of voice I’ll never forget — like 70% amazed, 20% angry, and 10% amused — “Little boy, there’s a classroom of people in there!”
I had no idea what she was talking about. My 4th grade mind was more concerned about this random lady putting eyes on my bird, which left me in a state of paralysis—because, you know, I was trying to attend to a decidedly private personal matter, and here's this stranger-danger who more or less ambushed me in medias res, as it were, two hands steadying the action as I attempted to turn away from her carnal gaze.
And it was at this juncture that a wave of cold, stark realization crashed over me: What I had mistakenly assumed was a room with the lights turned off — assumed because the windows were so dark — was in fact a classroom with those one-way windows, and per The Lady With The Carnal Gaze, there was an “adult night class” going on — probably like Woodworking 101 or the like — meaning God only knows what kind of audience I had.
The point being that this Tinder escapade was a personal experience of a certain gravitas, folks.
It turns out some stores don’t always bother to dress their display mannequins in congruent outfits; apparently, mannequins are sometimes clothed in attire that doesn’t match well. At all.
You’d think that the people in charge of this sort of thing could be relied upon to ensure customers weren’t led astray. God forbid someone lacking a keen eye for fashion and sartorial aesthetics and all that jazz walk into the store in search of something to wear on what is for all intents and purposes a blind date.
Naturally, I bought the clothes the same day I was supposed to meet my Tinder soulmate. Indeed, I bought them no more than a few hours before our rendezvous. Hell, I changed into my new duds at the store.
What kind of new duds are we talking? We’re talking a pink shirt (I read somewhere that “confident guys wear pink”; don’t ask), brownish dress paints, black shoes, and a walnut-brown belt.
Even under the most charitable of interpretations, I looked, in a word, inelegant. Like a walking exhibition of regret.
And it wasn't like we were meeting at McDonald's. We did the cutesy “No, you pick!” game where you politely defer the decision—and let me tell you, boy am I glad I stuck to my ladies-first principle, because I was seriously going to pick The Cheesecake Factory or Chili’s — both of which I'm of the belief are quality establishments, mind you — and when she finally agreed to choose, she actually picked The Cheesecake Factory, to which I said sure, sounds good, or something like that, only for her to quip back, “OMG, just kidding!!! Could you imagine that for a first date!?” and I lied, “Oh wow, yeah I just wanted to be nice!” or some such BS.
The Edmon. That's the place she picked. It's on Melrose Ave in Hollywood. I'm pretty sure there was even a popular show named after that street. The Cheesecake Factory this was not.
I arrived early, maybe 45 minutes. I wanted to scope the place out; check out the vibes; match the energy; maybe even mingle with some kindred spirits, I don’t know.
I'm kidding. I had no idea what I was doing, but I sure as shit wasn't going to be late.
I entered the lobby in what you might call “a state of agitated calm.” A hostess looked up at me with vacant disinterest.
I said hi.
She said nothing in reply, instead doing a kind of double-take, looking back down at what she’d been reading and then back up, her expression remote, her smile wan. Then she gave me the ol' elevator eyes—a full body scan, the works.
That was the first sign that something was wrong.
I popped a squat on a bench in the waiting area. At length, a woman1 in a yellow sundress walked in with two toddlers, both boys, both with a high number of freckles per capita, both in the age frame I imagine is when parents begin drinking coffee for medicinal purposes.
She sat down. I could feel her eyes lingering on me. I looked up from my phone, watched as the kids started having little apoplectic fits, the two of them unable to sit still for more than five second intervals and each making unreasonable, arbitrary demands.
I started to compile a mental list of violations I would willingly endure of my own volition before agreeing to have a kid. The list was long.
“Are those real?” She was looking at my arm, my tattoo sleeve.
Mascara-caked eyes. A long ski-slope of a nose. And that telltale sign of Los Angeles living: lip fillers that you just know made the lips look way worse than before.
Her head was subtly tilted back as if repulsed. And there was something vaguely primal — almost equine — about the way her nostrils flared out.
Her eyes narrowed, eyebrows raised in feigned incredulity. “Wow. Don’t you think that’s a little much? A little too chillingly permanent? That's going to feel like a mistake soon enough.”
What I wanted to say in response was along the lines of “Listen lady, I've thrown fisticuffs with people in the past for saying a lot less, so mind your business.” You know, something dramatic. A little Tom Cruise flair added to it.
I looked at the pair of gremlins she’d walked in with, who, to the consternation of the hostess, were now walking freely about the restaurant entrance, seemingly bent on making as much noise as possible and communicating in their own unique pidgin.
I pointed with my head.
“Don’t you think those are kind of ‘chillingly permanent?’”
She opening her mouth to respond, but I continued.
“I mean, if you think about it, it’s not like you can just release them into the wild once… you know. Once you realize it.”
“That you have to live with the forfeiture of all the other options having kids at such a young age forecloses. On top of the fact that they’re basically going to glacially siphon you of wealth and vitality, and—”
The hostess came back, said her table was ready.
“At least they’re not lecherous eye sores. Who dressed you? A blind man?”
I pretended not to hear her. “You know what they say: Act in haste; repent in leisure. Eh?”
She shot me another haughty look and snapped at her kids.
Well. As you can imagine, this warm exchange didn't infuse me with confidence.
I thought about what she'd said — especially the “Who dressed you?” part — and started to feel as if I were islanded amid a crowd, as self-conscious as ever. I looked down at my ugly brown pants, my brown shoes.
A thought suddenly occurred to me. I pulled out my phone and Googled “Do brown pants, brown shoes, pink shirt, black belt, go together?”
No. I didn't get an exact match on my “outfit,” but according to Google, that omniscient arbiter of truth, it was a negative.
I clicked on an article by GQ. Scanned it. Found what I was looking for: A hard no on the sartorial combo. I clicked on another article, this one by BuzzFeed, which detailed the reasons why the colors simply don't “mesh.”
I was suddenly overwhelmed by the sphincter-loosening understanding that I looked ridiculous. And now, sitting there in a mental purgatory and trying to figure out what to do, more patrons began streaming into the restaurant—several of whom confirmed, with looks of bemused curiosity, what I worried was true.
There was just no way I’d be able to get through a dinner date knowing how stupid I looked. I’d be constantly second-guessing myself, constantly wondering if the girl sitting across from me thought I looked as stupid as I feared, or if she was desperately wishing the date would just end already so she could escape and tell everyone and their mother about the dude who looked like he’d been dressed by the Los Angeles Goodwill for Wayward and Hopeless Souls.
I decided to cancel. I said that something personal had come up (which, technically, was at least sort of true) and that I was really sorry. I didn’t elaborate. I was heavily conflicted, but in the end, I figured it’d be better to simply reschedule.
Luckily, she was totally cool with it; she was running late anyway and hadn't even made it home yet because of traffic. We did reschedule, though. And we did go out. And it was about as awkward as you'd expect after reading this.
But, at least I walked away with some newly earned fashion acumen, right?
Yes. This really happened. But I want to add a few things since it probably stretches credulity:
1.) The conversation as I describe it isn’t verbatim, so I don't pretend to remember it word for word. Some small details were changed, too. (number of kids, dress color, etc.)
2.) To be fair, the woman probably wasn’t as snobbish as I make her out to be. The dialogue actually had a small-talk vibe—she mentioned the tattoos right away but in a friendly-enough tone (more like, “Oh, wow! Nice; those are real?”)—until the end, when she did make a really stupid comment about regret and permanency and “forever,” that was way out of left field. In retrospect, it’s possible that she didn’t mean for the comment to be rude, and it was just aloofness/obtuseness/I don't know.
3.) The other thing I should’ve talked a little more about was context and brevity. The scene went by much faster than it’s conveyed. For example, the woman never sat down but remained standing at the hostess podium, waiting, and the dialogue happened like that—her looking around and then back at me, with only a few meters separating us; it wasn’t like we were yelling at each other from one side of the room to the other or performing in front of people. The fact that she was standing matters, as it implies she was more or less shooting the shit, not trying to have an actual conversation. It was quick, small-talkish, awkward.
4.) My remark about her decision to have kids at a young age was much more lighthearted than the text suggests. Sure, her tattoo philosophizing rubbed me the wrong way, but I was just trying to be cheeky in reply.
5.) Somewhat ironically, she didn’t take very kindly to my remarks as she parted, and did indeed fire back with the “who dressed you? someone blind?” quip along with something about being an adult instead of an “eyesore.”
6.) Lastly, I feel obligated to say that her final comment might’ve saved me some serious embarrassment since it served as a big red flag. Perhaps a thank you is in order.