by Stacia Friedman
“How did I fail you?” Ben asked.
The question flummoxed me. We had met via MatingWorld.com. After two dinner dates and one movie, I was ready to move on. Ben wasn’t.
“It’s nothing you’ve done,” I said. “I just don’t think we have good chemistry.”
I was being purposefully vague. Why tell a guy that his imitations of Pakistani accents aren’t hilarious but border on racism? That his relationship with his cell phone is incestuous. Or that when he slams on the brakes at every curve on Lincoln Drive, I envision myself in an ICU?
Ben wouldn’t take no for an answer. He barraged me with emails and phone calls with the intensity of a Congressional investigation. He wanted specifics. A play by play account of what went wrong. The thing is, even if I had a video of our three dates, I had a feeling that Ben and I wouldn’t agree on what we were watching. It would be as contentious as Trump and Jeb Bush debating what really happened on 9/11.
For the record, here’s my version. Our first meeting took place at a BYOB in Ambler. I got there first and had time to scan the menu before Ben walked through the door and dropped a bottle of Merlot, creating a small red lake at the feet of the hostess. Thinking it was the only wine that I’d have with my veal scallops, I was tempted to get down on all fours and lap it up. But patrons at a nearby table kindly gave us the remains of a fine Melbec and Cote du Rhone.
Dinner was exceptional. The food, that is. However, I have learned not to mistake an affinity for tiramisu for long-term compatibility. Conversation was congenial, but the only sparks were from the cutlery. In the interest of full disclosure, I was dating several MatingWorld candidates at the same time with the detachment of an archeologist sifting through the rubble for buried treasure.
I was unprepared but initially flattered by the quantity of emails, texts and phone calls that followed our first date. A week later, I invited Ben to join me at the screening of a documentary film that was being introduced by a dear friend of mine. (Gentlemen of the Jury, this was my mistake! However, please note that when Ben suggested I join him for dinner before the film, I turned him down.) We drove there separately, and I didn’t think of it as a date as much as sharing an activity. Mea culpa!
It wasn’t until our third meeting that I realized that Ben and I weren’t on the same page. In fact, we weren’t even reading the same book. He was deep into “Romeo and Juliet,” and I was casually thumbing through Cosmopolitan. This was the first time Ben actually picked me up in his car. He didn’t come to the door but waited with his engine running. Not a deal-breaker, but a clue.
It was quickly apparent that in spite of a GPS system on his dashboard that rivaled the cockpit of a Boeing 747, Ben had no sense of direction. He also had the driving skills of a highly distracted seven-year-old. Ben chattered non-stop while driving below the speed limit, jamming on the brakes at whim and allowing his car to drift into other lanes often enough to anticipate my being in a neck brace for the next six months. Unfortunately, Ben’s poor navigating skills didn’t end when he parked in a Center City garage.
“I could’ve sworn the restaurant was on 16th Street,” he said as we walked around the block for a second time. “It must’ve moved!”
But, no, it was where it had always been on 17th Street. It was a small, popular eatery with the noise level of a high school pep rally. The hostess showed us to a cozy table in a broom closet. It was during that meal that I realized Ben and I were not a match. How did I know? Because I was more interested in my risotto than in my date. The evening went downhill from there with the speed of an Olympic luge champion.
The next morning, there were multiple messages from Ben that he had sent starting at 6 a.m. Clearly, he sensed something was amiss. But rather than accepting the inevitable, Ben vacillated wildly between anger and appeasement, as if negotiating a truce between Palestinians and Israelis.
“I was planning on taking you on a road trip to Savannah,” he pleaded.
Sweet offer. But my insurance doesn’t cover it.
Stacia Friedman is an author and satirist who lives in Mt. Airy and may soon be hiring a security guard when she goes out on another computer date.