Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Small Talking

This is me around the age when I started Cotillion.
It's no wonder the boys were banging down my door --
my sex appeal is unmistakable.

Before I met my husband, Steven, I went on, like, a million blind dates.  I was always the eternal optimist, believing that this guy could actually be the one.  I would also date five or six guys at once, letting them take me to dinner, maybe kissing them goodnight, but that was it -- had to keep them wanting more, you know?  (shut up, Amy)  At one point, I actually kept a whiteboard up with all the names of my suitors, and the days of the week I was to rendezvous with them.  That was a capital F-U-N time, but, as you can imagine, there were disastrous moments, as well.  So I thought I'd recap some of my most darling dating catastrophes -- and there were many.

The first time I became mildly interested in boys was during my forced and unbearably awkward ballroom dance education, also known as, "Cotillion."  I was 13, and my mom and I would feverishly shop at The Wind in the Willows (the only exclusively kids' store in Ojai) for Laura Ashley dresses (50% off, of course).  I would don these frothy, floral, below-the-knee concoctions (mmm...pretty), pouf up my bangs, and stuff my little white gloves (these were required) into my plastic purse of choice.  Once inside the ballroom, the girls would sit on one side of the room, while the boys would huddle in another.  Then, the Cotillion directors, Mr. and Mrs. Martine, would float in, as if they were celebrities, and would denominate us young "ladies" and "gentlemen."  They would perform a few of the numbers we were to be learning that evening, and, I swear, they really got a kick out of all the pre-teen attention.  After the directors floated away, it was then up to the boys.  They would amble across the room, pick one of us lucky little ladies, and we would commence the foxtrot, the waltz, the cha-cha, or the polka, just to name a few.  This is where I can honestly say I have never, EVER had the opportunity to use these dance steps again, although I still remember them vividly, probably because they were forever infused in my brain with rote memorization, and, of course, electro-shock therapy.  (Occasionally, though, when I'm feeling especially lonely, I crank up the Hungarian music and polka naked by myself -- it's so very healing.)  Anyway, during these one-on-one dances, I would feel the slightly sweaty back of my partner, or smell his Old Spice mixed with his beguiling body odor, and I would almost get lightheaded with hormonal imbalance. 

Midway through the evening, my partner of the moment was supposed to escort me to a chair along the perimeter of the room, while I was to take off my little white gloves and hand them to him.  He then folded them (smushed them) into his inside suit pocket.  He would go to the snack table, and get us two Chips Ahoy cookies (fancy!), two napkins, and two sodas, and bring them back to where we were sitting.  This is when the hard part began.  We were supposed to make "small talk," according to Mr. and Mrs. Martine.  The only problem is, small talk is really difficult when you're 13 and obsessing that you probably have a chocolate chip stuck in your braces, while simultaneously thinking that your partner's ears look exactly like Spock's from Star Trek.  Needless to say, I had my work cut out for me.

Ten years later, I was still working on my date-worthy small talk.  On one particularly horrendous blind date, a guy comes to pick me up at my house with a face that looks like melted wax, a head that's as bald as my knee (and this is before bald was cool), and a body that says, simply, Stay-Puf marshmallow.  I determinedly put looks aside (as I'm inwardly cursing my "friend" who set us up), and decide to make the best of it.  He asks me if I like baseball, he has tickets.  Yes!  It is a perfect activity for two people who have absolutely nothing in common!  Great, he says, the game is in Anaheim!  What the...?  I was expecting a hop, skip, and a jump over to Dodgers Stadium, but Anaheim???  In Friday night traffic, that's three hours away, at best.  Shit, it's too late, I've already said yes.  I crawl into his Mazda Miata, grit my teeth, and prepare myself for some riveting small talk.  Small talk that slowly becomes...heavy as fuck!  Turns out, the guy had had brain cancer, lost his pituitary gland, is on steroids for the rest of his life, and no longer produces testosterone.  This is promising.

Seven hours, an interminable drive, a boring baseball game, and a soft-pretzel-for-dinner later, I am absolutely DRAINED.  I have small-talked until my mouth foamed, praised the guy effusively, and been blatantly over-the-top nice -- because, well, how could I not be?  When he walks me to the door and leans in for a kiss...aaack! what do I do?  I duck.  That's right, you heard me.  Poor guy never knew what hit him.  And it wasn't even a foul ball.

A few months later I agree to go out with the son of one of my grandmother's best friends (what, in God's name, was I possibly thinking?!  Oh, that's right.  I wasn't.)  He picks me up and takes me to the one of cheesiest and most obvious Italian restaurants in L.A., and after 2 hours of mindless small talk, he suggests frozen yogurt for dessert.  I should have said no, because I already knew that I had zero interest in the guy (and, let's face it, you always pretty much know immediately), but at that point in my life I was absolutely infatuated with non-dairy, sugar-free, fat-free frozen yogurt (I mean, who wasn't?  It only tasted exactly like Elmer's Paste, but with fewer calories -- yum!).  So we're at Penguins, and suddenly he pulls out his cell phone (impressive -- not everyone had cells back then), and starts dialing someone.  Next thing I know, I hear, "Mom, it's me.  Do you want me and Sarah to bring you and Dad some frozen yogurt?  You do?  Great!  We'll be right over!"  Oh fuck!  I knew I should have turned down the fro-yo!

Twenty minutes later, I'm sitting at the kitchen table of the parents of some guy I'm not even interested in, small talking some more.  Only now, the small talk has to be extra polite and formal.  I'm absolutely withering inside, and silently wishing for a garage full of carbon monoxide.  After a solid hour-and-a-half of this, I plead that I have to get up early for work the next morning, and, when he finally drops me off, I race inside before he even has time to go in for a hug.  And I couldn't even yell at the person who set me up, because it was my GRANDMA!  But I did vow to be a tad more careful about who I let set me up in the future:  no carnival ride attendants, no homeless people, and definitely no grandparents.

There are so many more of these types of stories, that I could go on forever.  I went on dates with younger guys, older guys, much older guys, actors, Kermit the Frog (I wish!), politicians, one guy who told me his mom had paid him $500 to go out with me (so sweet of him to tell me!), the works.  But there was one guy who, when asked to go on a date with me, said no, not interested.  And that turned out to be the best blind date I was never set up on, because that particular guy turned out to be my husband.

But THAT, my friends, is a whole other story entirely.

1 comment:

  1. Ahhhaahhhaa! You poor thing! I will be waiting for your hubby story....
    I remember wishing I could go to Cotillion. It sounded so glamorous! I never learned any dance steps until a friend from high school taught me how to move in a "square" with a partner, though I always stepped on his feet. Is that the fox trot???! Years later, he must have been laughing watching Hubby and I dance at our wedding. My train got all wrapped around our legs, as we were just doing that sway side-to-side as you slowly turn in a circle kind of high school slow dance. Tell me you pulled out some of the moves you learned at your wedding, at least!!