About a year ago, while hanging out with a friend of a friend, I was complaining about how emotionally exhausted I was by online dating and seeking romance in general. She mentioned how she’d been speaking to a couple guys herself, and that she’d be happy to pass one along to me. She gave me the guy’s number and let him know someone would be contacting him. Thus began one of the most confusing experiences of my life.
His name was Eugene*. (*Names have been changed). Eugene and I exchanged texts over the following days, during which I learned that he was a graduate of Ryerson’s engineering program. I also learned that he apparently didn’t have a sense of humour, because he didn’t “lmao” or “hahaha” at a single one of my very funny jokes. No matter, I thought, wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt. It’s hard to detect tone over text, and since we’d never spoken in person, he had no way of knowing that 95% of the things I ever say are dripping with sarcasm and/or irony. I tried to remain optimistic.
Eventually, we decided it was time to set up a date. He suggested we go for dinner, followed by attending his friend’s concert performance, which sounded perfectly acceptable to me. He asked me what sort of food I liked so he could decide on a restaurant, since I would be travelling to his hometown of Etobicoke.
“Well,” I said, “I will eat pretty much any food except peppers (because they are disgusting) and molluscs (because I’m allergic), so unless we’re going to a pepper and mollusc restaurant, I’ll be happy. However, I am partial to ethnic/non-white people food!”
“Alright,” he said, without a single “lol” at my hilarious line about the pepper and mollusc restaurant. “So a pasta place then? Does that work for white people food?”
Slightly confused, I replied, “Sorry, I think you misread my message, I actually meant that I enjoy non-white people food more! So like sushi, curry, that kind of thing.”
“But you said you were ‘partial to it’,” he wrote. “Doesn’t that mean you don’t like it?”
Lamenting his failure to properly grasp the English language, I explained, “No, ‘partial to’ means I like it more.”
“Okay,” he said, “Sounds good!”
The night of the date arrived. I put on a cute but not-too-cute outfit (if he sucked, I didn’t want him thinking I’d put in too much effort), lied to my mom and told her I was going to visit a friend (she gets really weird and annoying when I tell her about my love life [if you’re reading this, sorry, Mom]), and made my way out to Etobicoke.
I pulled up to his house, let him know I was there, and waited.
An aside: Since we’d been set up through someone else and hadn’t had a chance to peruse online profiles or anything of the sort, we had no idea what the other looked like. He hadn’t asked to exchange pictures. I suspected that this was for one of two reasons: one, he was afraid I was ugly, or two, he was ugly and scared I’d reject him right off the bat.
As he approached the driver’s seat door, I concluded that it was probably the latter. He was a kind of skinny, mousy-looking white dude. I know I’m being mean, but had the date gone better, I would probably have a different opinion (you know how people’s personalities kind of influence how attractive they are? Which rather sucks for me, because I have no eyebrows, more than one chin, and a pretty abrasive personality. There’s really no saving grace. But I digress). As I got out of the car to greet him, I also realized that wearing platform boots had probably been a mistake; with them on, I was taller than him, a fact that he seemed rather taken aback by.
“Hey, Eugene,” I said, “Nice to meet you.”
“You too,” he replied.
We shared one of those awkward first-meeting hugs. (Side note: What are you even supposed to do when you first meet someone? Wave? Handshake? No matter what, it’s awkward.)
“Shall we go?” I asked.
“Sure!” he replied. We hopped in the car and were on our way.
At his direction, we made our way towards the restaurant. He didn’t laugh at my jokes about how bad at driving and directions I am. My apprehension grew. We parked across the street from a sushi restaurant, and so I figured that at the very least, I would get to have sushi for dinner. I followed him down the sidewalk, growing confused as he bypassed the sushi restaurant and led me into an Italian place. I said nothing, and the hostess led us to a table.
“So, is this good for your white people food?” he asked once we’d settled in.
Mentally face-palming at his continued lack of understanding, I once again explained what I’d meant when I’d said I was “partial to” ethnic food. “But this is totally okay!” I assured him. “I said I’d eat anything but peppers and molluscs, remember?”
And thus, over a meal of what I am pretty sure was cooked-from-frozen ravioli, we settled into one of the most awkward conversational dynamics I have ever experienced. It felt like he’d never actually been on a date before, and perhaps had only read the most bare-boned instruction manual on how dates are supposed to go. He would ask me a question; I would answer, and ask him the same question; he would answer; silence. Rinse and repeat.
Not only was he robotically boring, but he also had all the wrong opinions about things. He could “see where Stephen Harper was coming from” and referred to girls as “sluts” and “whores” more than once.
Those opinions, while wrong and offensive, were not surprising; I try to give straight white men the benefit of the doubt, but I am often disappointed. No, the most surprising and just plain silly thing he had to say was on the topic of travelling. He said that the only travelling he’d done had been a European cruise with his parents; I told him that I didn’t like cruises because you only get to spend a few hours in each stop and therefore barely get to see or experience anything. He disagreed.
“I think cruises are the best way to travel, because you get to see so many things in less time!” he explained.
Like, I mean, I guess? You get to see a bunch of harbours and some tourist traps for .05 seconds, all in the space of a few days, so if that’s your idea of experiencing a culture…then enjoy, I suppose. I don’t know, that just really baffled me.
As the meal came to an end, I had to run to the bathroom. When I returned, I found that he had paid for our dinners. This will probably come as a surprise to precisely no one, but I generally don’t like when dudes I just met buy me things. It’s not like “I am a FEMINIST and men are OPPRESSING ME by BUYING ME THINGS,” or anything, though. I have little pride in that respect and don’t turn my nose up at free food lightly. No, I have a whole separate reason that I will explain later. I’m sure all three of you are very excited. Stay tuned.
Anyway, counting down the hours until it would be socially acceptable to make an excuse to go home, we hopped back in the car and headed towards the concert venue. We pulled up to a curb on a dark side street, a church looming in the evening sky.
I put the car in park and turned off the engine. I started to gather my things in preparation to get out when I noticed that Eugene was leaning back against his seat, looking at me with an expression resembling this:
Now, I later realized that he was wanting to have a little post-dinner make out sesh and that that was supposed to be his seduction face, but in the moment, I started internally freaking out. I was alone in the car with someone who was essentially a stranger, at night, down a random side street in a city I didn’t know, by a church with a big dumpster beside it. Naturally, my immediate thought was, This is it. I am going to be murdered. He took me out for mediocre Italian food and now he’s going to murder me and chop me up and throw the pieces in that dumpster and I’ll never get to tell my dogs I love them.
Heart beating a million times a minute, brain furiously trying to figure out how to discreetly call 911, I nervously asked, “Um…are we going to go?”
He continued to stare at me with his weird murder/seduction face. Finally, right as I was about to punch him in the nose and make a run for it, he said, “Yeah…yeah, we should go.” I have since deduced that his tone was meant to convey, “Yeah, we’ll save this for later.”
We made it to the event and I met his friends, who were all much cooler and funnier than him, so I don’t know what happened there. He insisted on paying for my beer, and throughout the hour I stuck it out, he kept trying to make casual physical contact with me; touching my leg with his leg while we were sitting, draping his arm around the back of my chair, leaning his arm into mine during conversation, that sort of thing. And each time, I shied away from his touch as though he was covered in slime. I don’t exactly relish physical contact with Stephen Harper-loving, kissy/murdery-faced mouse boys, you see.
Finally, it was late enough that I could make a reasonably graceful exit. I told him that I had to get home because I was dogsitting a dog with severe monophobia (which wasn’t a total lie, but the dog definitely would have been okay for another couple hours). Either way, I thought it sounded like a pretty bullshitty reason, akin to “I left the stove on” or “My mom needs help folding socks”. He offered to walk me to my car, to which I agreed, because I wasn’t exactly sure where I’d parked and I was in the middle of an unfamiliar city at nighttime. Mama didn’t raise no fool.
As we walked side-by-side, I counted down the seconds until I could be alone and scream continuously for the next thirty years. After what seemed like an eternity, we reached our destination. I put one hand on the driver’s side door. I could almost taste my freedom. Eugene turned to face me, that murdery/bedroomy look in his eyes once again.
“Um, well, thanks for dinner!” I said awkwardly. “It was nice meeting you!”
“Yeah, you too,” he purred.
The next thing I knew, despite every pore of my being trying desperately to emanate waves of Do Not Want, Eugene’s puckered lips were homing in on their thoroughly unwilling target. Thinking fast, I dodged his face and hugged him. Unfortunately, he apparently thought I was going for some pre-make out foreplay; he pressed his scrawny body against mine, rubbing my back in a slow, quasi-sensual fashion. As quickly as politeness would allow, I tried to pull away.
To my horror, his arms held fast around my waist. He re-puckered and extended his head like a turtle. Taken aback and, by this point, honestly rather offended, I reflexively put a hand on his chest and gently pushed him away.
“Um, sorry,” I said. “Not on the first date.” That was the best excuse I could come up with.
“Oh, no?” he replied, seeming genuinely confused. “Oh, okay.” Looking as if he’d been snapped out of some kind of (woefully one-sided) lustful trance, he mercifully released me.
Wanting to die of awkwardness and ickiness, I yanked open the car door and squeaked out, “Have a good night!” before basically diving into the seat and shutting the door in his face.
Thankfully, I think he (finally) got the hint that I didn’t want to kiss him, because he never contacted me again. However, I was left with one big question: Why in the everloving fuck was he so certain that he was going to get some? We had absolutely nothing in common, we didn’t click personality-wise, and I dropped multiple hints that I wasn’t into it. It took me physically pushing him away for him to finally give up. He wasn’t even one of those douchey-but-hot guys who was probably used to getting girls; honestly, he kind of seemed like he’d never touched a boob before.
I have two prevailing theories.
The first relates to my aforementioned discomfort with strange men buying me things: Men, whether consciously or subconsciously, are raised to believe that they can essentially “buy” women’s affections. This relates to Nice Guy™ Syndrome, which I have previously discussed; the core idea is that if a guy gives a woman anything, whether it be paying for her meal or buying her a drink or just, you know, treating her with general kindness, the woman then “owes” the guy something, that something usually being sexual in nature. Guys buying me things makes me uncomfortable because I fear that accepting the things is equivalent to signing an unspoken contract that dictates that I owe them. Sexually, I mean.
Here’s an example. One night, I made a grave shoe choice error and ended up with horrendous blisters on my feet. On our way home from the bar, I gave into the pain and decided to walk in bare feet. One of the guys in our group insisted that I wear his shoes home, as he was at least wearing socks, and also, he is just a genuinely kind person. Along the way, we passed a group of bros. They noticed the shoes in my hand, the shoes on my feet, and the lack of shoes the guy’s feet and asked what happened. We explained. As they walked away, they shook their heads, laughing in pity, and shouted back, “Hope you get laid, man!”
And there we have it, an example of society’s mindset: the only reason to do something nice for a woman is if you’re going to get sex out of it.
Also, in terms of buying drinks, it’s often a ploy to get the girl drunk and lower her defences, thus making her more susceptible to sexual advances, which is pretty rapey if you ask me (or, like, anyone else). But, I’ll save the in-depth rant about that for another post; say what you will about Eugene, but at least he didn’t try to get me drunk and rape me! What a hero!
Before the cries of “Not All Men™!” arrive, let me be clear: I know that not every guy who wants to buy a girl something is being predatory. Sometimes they are just genuinely being nice. And I have no problem with male friends or dudes I actually like and have been on a couple dates with offering to pay (as long as they let me get them back!). But the point is, as with all such “generalized” statements about men, most (if not all) women have encountered this “buying you a thing equals buying your time and/or affections” assumption. And furthermore, I’ve even heard this sentiment echoed casually within my own circles; “I bought her a drink and she didn’t even suck my dick! What a waste!” Insidious, I tell you! Honestly, if that’s how it’s gonna be, I’d rather spend my own $5 and not have to come face-to-face with your sweaty junk.
My other theory as to why Eugene truly thought I was going to kiss him was that Dating for Dummies or whatever dating instruction manual he read indicated that a goodnight kiss was mandatory. It would certainly explain his extreme confusion. Maybe he thought I was the romantically inept one. And really, that’s not an assertion I would be able to entirely deny.
So, I guess it wasn’t really the worst date possible; I suppose Eugene didn’t really do anything that horrible, besides make me feel unbearably awkward and very confused. Frustrating enough to make me give up dating for a while, but at least he didn’t show up at my doorstep or mail me cookies with his hair baked into them or anything. It could always be worse. But in any case, I hope we all learned a valuable lesson today: Don’t make strange “sexy” faces at people you’ve just met, or else they might think you’re contemplating murdering them and have a panic attack.