It all started with one bad date.
One bad date, that became the standard to which all my other dates would be compared.
I could have got out. I had plenty of opportunities to grab my things and run as far away from the man as possible. But, I had to stay...just to see how bad this date could get. This is the story of that date.
09/2010: The Dishwasher
I had already been on one date with James* a week prior. Nothing fancy, just sushi and a glass of wine on a sunny, Sunday afternoon. When he texted me later in the week asking if I would like to see him again, I thought: "Sure!" He was a nice enough guy, we had a nice enough time. Why not see him again?
We set the date for September 19th, the same day as Race for the Cure. I happened to be participating in the 5k walk with some co-workers. I told him I would probably have to take a nap, but would love to hang out afterwards.
A week later, the day arrived. I walked for a cure, MAXed myself home, took about an hour nap, and got ready for my date. I called James to let him know I was on my way.
This is where the fun began.
"Hey, could you bring some needle nose pliers?" he asked. I paused, with a little flashing, red light going off in my mind. "Um...yeah! Yeah, if I can find them, sure!" I replied. "Oh great, I just need to borrow them for, like, five minutes." he said. Again, I paused, hoping he would follow up with a reason for why he needed this tool. No reason was given. "Ok, yeah! I'll let you know if I find them and head on down!" I said, wondering if he could hear the confusion in my voice. After digging around in the workbench in the garage, I found the requested item. I sent the text "Target Acquired! Heading out!" (to which I received no response) and made my way to the Pearl District, where he lived.
Walking up to the parking meter I dug in my purse for my wallet, only to discover I had left my ID, debit, and credit cards at home. Also having a complete lack of change, I realized I had absolutely no way to pay for parking. I called James, who came down from his apartment to meet me, when I broke the news to him.
"This is so embarrassing! I left my ID and all my cards at home..." I said, motioning towards the parking meter. He looked at the meter, then back at me. "So, how are you going to pay?" he asked, sounding confused. I laughed, thinking he was joking, only to find out he was serious. Trying to gather myself, I stuttered "That....that's kind of what I'm saying..." Finally it hit him: he was going to have to pay $3 and change for my parking. He hesitated a bit, mumbling to himself about having change upstairs, before finally conceding to put the balance on his credit card. Still somewhat taken aback, I thanked him, and we officially started our "date."
He confessed he had nothing planned for us, but thought maybe we could watch a movie. I told him that sounded like a splendid idea, but that I should probably eat first. After a short banter back and forth regarding where to go for food, we decided on Italian.
As we walked to the restaurant, he told me his birthday was the following Friday, and his mom and sister were going to get him a bookcase. However, since they lived on the East coast, they decided it would be easier if he went to Ikea, purchased the bookcase, and they would pay him back for it. Before he could finish his thoughts regarding his present, we arrived at our destination, only to find it was closed for lunch. My stomach grumbling, he said he had just planned on grilling some chicken and making a salad back at his place. "Great, let's do that!" I said.
Along the way to his apartment, he finished his story regarding the bookcase, thus revealing the true purpose for needing to borrow the pliers. He had been trying to build the bookcase in a hurry, and hammered the back of the shelves in too quickly, not realizing he hadn't actually slid it down all the way. He needed the pliers to get the nails out.
I spent two hours with James helping to build his bookcase once we got back to his apartment. It was a tall, narrow case, with two shelves, with a door to cover the bottom half. Blame it on him being nervous, or just being a big guy (probably about 6'3", pretty husky), all throughout our furniture building, drops of sweat would fall off his forehead and onto the bookcase. Every now and then he would pause to wipe himself with a towel, and go right back to work. He even felt so comfortable to go to the bathroom and leave the door slightly open. Needless to say, I was less than smitten.
After finally getting the back on properly, and the shelves in place, it came time to attach the door. This proved to be the most difficult part of the adventure. We fiddled with it for a good half hour or so, until it was finally in place. To me, it looked flush and fine. To James, it was off 2mm, it was going to drive him insane.
"I think...I think I need to call my mom. Is that ok?" he asked. I looked at him in disbelief. The man needed to call his mother to make sure this was normal. I chuckled and responded "Yeah, go ahead." and took a seat on the arm of his couch. He proceeded to call his parents, and discuss the placement of the door. He explained the situation in great detail, as I played "Need for Speed" on my phone. Not getting the answer he was looking for from his parents, he decided to call his sister, who had put together several of these cases. "Jen? Hi, it's James. So, I'm putting this bookcase together, and the door isn't sitting exactly right on the bottom half...is it supposed to be like that?.....Yeah?....Yeah it's like, 2mm off." I could almost hear the annoyance on the other end of the phone.
I beat my high score on my racing game, and decided to mess with the door again. By the time he was off the phone with his sister, I had solved the door debacle. We set the bookcase up, and moved it to it's new home near his front door. "Looks great!" I said, admiring our work. "Yeah...." he muttered to himself, turning on all the lights in his entryway and checking out the piece of furniture from every angle "...and the way the shadow hits it you can't really tell it's off."
We shared an awkward high five, after which I asked "So, why don't we get dinner ready while we wait for the movie to finish downloading?" He chose MacGrubber for our viewing pleasure. Such the romantic, that James. He turned down my initial offer to help prepare dinner. Trying to be polite, I insisted I wanted to help with at least some part of the preparation. That's when he said the line to me that will follow me for the rest of my dating days:
"Want to wash dishes?"
Simple enough question, but NOT one I was planning on hearing. I glanced at the counter, covered in at least a weeks worth of dishes settled all along the counter top. "Ok..." I squeaked, walking into the kitchen. "Great, so we'll just need two dishes, silverware, and the salad bowl." he said, grabbing the chicken out of the fridge and heading to the patio to grill. The dishes stared at me. The automatic dishwasher to my left was open, half full with clean dishes. With a heavy sigh, I started my chores.
I washed two dishes for us to eat off of, two sets of silverware, and a salad bowl. I looked to my right, and overwhelmed with awkwardness...I grabbed another dish. And another. And another. He, in the meantime, was sorting through his mail, hanging up a picture, and grilling the chicken. All the while, absolutely no conversation. I would try and tell him a funny story here and there, while scrubbing away at oatmeal stuck to the bottom of a bowl. He would chuckle, and go back to whatever he was doing. It was date number two, and we had become an old married couple of 13 years.
"There, now you have some open counter space!" I said triumphantly, admiring my work. He thanked me, then proceeded to use this new found space to cut up the chicken and make the salad. While he prepared our meal, an actual conversation started to take place. We talked of sports, and high school, and what it was like on the East coast (he was from Maryland) compared to Portland. My spirits started to rise, and I found myself having a good time. For a brief moment, I felt like I was on a bonafide date.
Once the salad was prepared, and the movie was put on, I found myself curled up into the tightest ball I could maneuver my body into facing away from him as we sat on the couch. I quickly ate my salad, would stretch my legs occasionally, then curl up into my ball of safety. The moment the movie was over (which was all too soon) I let out a big yawn and said "I should probably get goin...need to do laundry for work tomorrow." Remaining in his slouched position on the couch, he responded "Yeah, I think I may head to bed." I slowly looked over at him. "It's 8:45pm" I said. "Oh...uh...well I'll probably clean up...or something" he stuttered.
Around that time, I think he finally came to realize I was most likely not going to agree to a date again. I quickly got my shoes on and headed for the door. He asked if I knew the way back to my car, and I assured him I did. "Well, if you need help building a bookcase again, you know who to call!" I said as I stepped out to the hallway. I said goodbye, gave him the ol "Shooter McGavin" and made a beeline for the elevator.
I shared this story with a few of my co-workers the next day. It has since become a legend, and the basis for which all my other dates are compared. After every date I go on. the next morning someone asks me "Did you have to wash dishes?" I simply shake my head and laugh. While part of me wanted me to smack the guy upside the head for asking me to do his chores, the other part of me thought "What an amazing story this could be!" And an amazing story it was.
*name has been changed to protect identity