Paradise in the parking lot, Part 2

The cad speaks! Will last week's villain emerge as this week's hero?

By Salon Staff
Published July 16, 2003 2:57PM (EDT)

My side of the story

It's fair to say that I completely adored Aimee from the beginning. I'd seen pictures and knew that she was tall, had a slight build and a preposterously warm smile. But above all other superficialities, she had soft blue eyes. They had a sort of peculiarly Southern radiance about them -- the kind of Middle America poster-girl eyes that make me lose my train of thought. Still, it was Aimee's worldliness, her intelligence and admittedly her politics that drew me to her the most.

Finding a liberal (and attractive) girl in the South is the very definition of the needle-haystack cliché. And whenever she delivered especially poignant or scathing political diatribes, I knew we had a connection. So naturally we met. I'm usually OK on first dates, because I have a few stock stories ready to tell when conversation wanes. I was hoping the activity on our date -- exploring a massive aquarium -- would divert attention from any awkward conversation pauses. She seemed to overlook the fact that I have a bachelor's degree in biology and couldn't tell a grouper from a marlin. She bristled a little when I asked about her past relationships. I come from the "lay everything out there" school of dating, and find that most people ultimately prefer that kind of radical openness.

But it seemed like Aimee had some unresolved issues relating to Lance (is there a more pretentious name?), so I decided to drop it. It bothered me a little, in as much as it interrupted the flow of our date. We left the aquarium, ate Mexican and spent some time in a bookstore indulging our mutual obsession with the written word (to me, just reading the jackets of books is entertaining -- probably because I have the attention span of a hyperactive dolphin). Then we bought ice cream and made out in the back parking lot of an orthopedic surgeon's office. It felt more comfortable than I'd imagined -- like it was "fate," and I don't even believe in that.

On the ride home, I realized that I was unabashedly stupid for this girl after one meeting. I felt obliged to admit to her via cellphone that I was masturbating. I think she liked to hear about it, and that made it even better for me. So what went wrong?

It's been a month, and I haven't called her. It could have been the stress of deciding whether to pursue a decadent profession (read: take the bar exam), the prospect of a semi-long-distance relationship, I don't know. But I think I'll regret it. I think I already do.

-- Patrick, Tennessee

My blind date with New York City

It takes a certain kind of delusional optimism to go on TV looking for a date, but after six lonely months in New York City I wasn't in a position to be discriminating. I had tried Internet dates, blind dates and eight-minute dates. I had hung around coffee shops, haunted indie rock shows, and begged my friends to hook me up with someone. Nothing was working. Every date I went on was a study in my reproductive unfitness. So when I was invited to be on a TV show called "Strictly Personal," I saw it as a double opportunity. First, it would broadcast my desperation to the widest possible audience -- and second, it would give me video documentation of exactly what it was I was doing wrong. The format of the program was simple: take a camera crew around your apartment and talk about yourself. It's sort of like MTV cribs for urban singles. I'd watched it a few times on TV -- partly out of solidarity with the lonely lives chronicled there, but also because it was always refreshing to see others more desperate than I was.

The crew showed up at my house at 8 in the morning. There was a young producer with a clipboard and a tired-looking cameraman. I was hung over and unshaven. I met them at the gate and showed them around the backyard. "This is where I garden in the summer," I said to the camera, picturing a beautiful girl sitting across an imaginary table, sipping coffee. "We can sit out here and eat strawberries."

Suddenly a stray cat leapt out of the brush and attacked the cameraman -- he jumped back and got tangled in the vines behind him, nearly dropping the camera. I helped him up and explained, "The cats are a bit feral."

He looked up and pointed the camera at me. I realized that I was on a blind date with television, and that it was going very badly. "Let's have a look inside," the producer said. I showed them the bookshelves, the bathroom, the lamps and anything else that was sitting around. I tried to make every little thing wonderful and interesting. "This lamp, well, this lamp and I have a long history together. This door? I'm not sure why it has carpeting on it, but it's very soft. Oh, hang on." My house is next door to an elevated subway line and every 10 minutes a subway rumbles by and rattles the windowspanes. We waited a few minutes in silence as the tape kept rolling. "You get used to it," I said when it finally passed. The camera wasn't buying it.

We went into the kitchen and I pretended to know how to cook. "Oh, I just love cooking for friends," I lied. I walked over to the stove. "This is my chicken fryer. Chicken fried steak is my specialty." The cameraman zoomed in on the stove, which was covered with grease. "Let's move on," I said. The cameraman adjusted the light and took some shots of the grease at different angles. I took them upstairs and showed them my room. "This is my bed!" I said, trying to look cheery. "It's really more of a couch, I guess. So I'm looking for a girl with a comfortable bed." The funny thing about trying to woo a camera is that when you say stupid things you feel just as useless as when you say them on a first date, only since it will be on TV it's like saying something stupid on a thousand first dates all at once. I grinned at the camera, and pictured thousands of single women in New York flipping the channel back to "Sex and the City" all at once.

"Are you a boxers or briefs man," the producer asked. "Boxers," I said, and showed them my bureau. As I opened the drawer, the bottom fell out and 20 pairs of ill-fitting boxers tumbled to the floor, along with a few books and -- to my surprise -- an unopened can of tuna fish. The producer and the cameraman burst out laughing. "Can you please put the drawer back together and do that again? That was hysterical." We ended up shooting the underwear falling out of the collapsing bureau four times.

Then we filmed a few cutaway shots of me picking up the underwear and looking sheepish. "I think that's a wrap," the producer said, and they started to pack up. I stood at the door like an anxious suitor and begged them not to make me look like an idiot. "It's all in the editing," they said. I wasn't reassured.

When the show aired a few weeks later I had a bit of a metaphysical crisis. It was like hearing my voice on an answering machine, only in 3-D, humiliating, and broadcast across the five boroughs. I got two responses from the ad. One was from a girl who lived in New Jersey and began her e-mail with "I'd eat your chicken fried steak anytime!" The other was from a girl in Brooklyn.

We decided to meet at a bar downtown, and I showed half an hour early to get drunk and try to convince myself to leave before she arrived. When she did show up I was pleasantly surprised -- she was beautiful. "I'm at a disadvantage," I said. "You've seen me at my worst. But I got a real bed and I fixed the drawer and I have mothballs in the back now to keep the feral cats out and ..." She smiled and said, "It was the chicken fried steak that won me over." We're still together.

-- Alex Lencicki

Salon Staff

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