[WARNING: The following content may cause uncomfortable squirming. Viewer discretion is advised.]
They say that momentous events and life-threatening situations reveal one’s true character, but I have reason to believe this self-discovery can occur just as effectively on a first date (but let’s be real, a first date could be considered a life-threatening situation…) I’m talking about a scenario where both participants know little else about the other besides first names and grocery preferences.
The following narrative is a true story.
Part 1: The Anticipation
8am. Staring in the mirror. Why did I make a New Year’s resolution to be more spontaneous? Had I not turned over this new leaf, I would have politely smiled at the stranger on the sidewalk the week before, declined his invitation for a date, jumped on my bike and carried on with my delightfully mundane existence. But the leaf had been turned. There was no going back. After brushing my teeth for the third time that morning and checking the time on my phone (8:27), I strolled out into the “romantically” overcast Isla Vista morning.
Walking the two short blocks from my house to the courtyard, inconsequential thoughts forced their way into my normally mature mind: What should I order? I really just want a plain black coffee but would that imply I am dull and emotionless? Is it weird to arrive at 8:30 on the dot? Should I stall and show up a little late? Or does that make me look rude? The only advice I had received from friends was “Don’t talk so much”—far more difficult than it sounds.
When I reached the predetermined coffee shop, I scanned the surrounding courtyard, sparsely populated with the other humans crazy enough face the light of day this early. Then it dawned on me that I didn’t even remember what he looked like. All I knew was he just moved here for a job after graduating from an east coast school, and his name was Jake*. All he knew of me was my first name and my partiality to carrots from the IV Food Co Op. There was still ample opportunity to mess this up.
Since no one seemed to acknowledge me outside the shop, I entered and pretended to be examining the pastry selection while actually examining the real possibility that he had not shown up. It’s okay, I can still order a coffee and do some self-reflection, I comforted myself, then felt a tap on my shoulder.
Part 2: The Introduction
I spun around to behold a good-looking guy who turned out to be Jake. He had remembered what I looked like, at least. Who knows what I said as we got in line—I was too preoccupied with the oddity of the situation: two strangers agreeing to spend two hours talking only to each other—How do we fill the time if we can find no common ground? Every other date I had been on was with someone I had known beforehand. In line we had the whole “How are you”, “Cold”, conversation. But then when I asked him where on the east coast he’d graduated and he told me Harvard, all the cool calmness I had allowed slowly to settle over me fled, chased away by the burning heat of insecurity. Time to whip out the only tool in my disposal: my obnoxious vocabulary.
Thankfully, before the overuse of pretentious adverbs, came The Epiphany.
Part 3: The Epiphany
What is the point of putting on a show if the goal is for him to get to know me? Worst-case scenario: he despises me, but so what? I had nothing to lose. Yeah, he went to Harvard and I didn’t, but a school does not define a personality. Neither does a beverage choice, hairstyle, sweater color, arrival time, or anything else that had tormented me earlier that morning. Jake is a person, just like me, and for all I know he did a bit of overthinking on his way here as well. Even if he had been the really hot prince of England, that would not have made our personalities any more or less compatible. Granted, the distance would have been an obstacle.
The details of the date itself pale in importance when compared to my realization at its start. We are told all our lives “Just be yourself”, but to actually consciously do so is both terrifying and rewarding. I discovered that my true self is confident, drinks black coffee, maybe talks a bit too much, and is capable of dropping stereotypes and childish concerns in order to have a natural conversation with a complete stranger.
Long story short, the date went very well. (He wants to read my writing, but will NOT be reading this.)
So, ladies, I hope next time you feel the need to impress a guy, you remember me, that awkward girl who bared her soul on social media, and are encouraged by my cheesy tale to be your perfectly imperfect self. Chances are, he’ll like it.
*Name has been changed