During the writing institute this summer, a discussion regarding online dating came up in our writing response group. I had mentioned that in my earlier days, I had been a beta tester for a very popular online dating site that was still going strong today – and as such, I had a free basic membership. Over the course of a few years, I probably went on about two dozen blind dates borne from connections made on this particular site. Some were bland, some were odd, and a few were extremely absurd. My colleagues were intrigued and wanted to know more. I promised to share the most absurd of all my online dating experiences at the end of the institute. Here is the all-time worst blind date I ever had (and my very last online date – I cancelled my free membership after this one) for your amusement, sorrow, and pity!
“Yep, they call me Bitale from Italy”, he boasted as he threw his shoulders back, patted his roundish belly, and laughed heartily. Some spittle flew out the side of his mouth and landed on the edge of his bushy mustache. I smiled wanly as I prayed for locusts, a kitchen fire, or the second coming of Christ – anything that would have saved me from the horror of this first, soon to be only date at the Taunton Galleria Bertucci’s. The dining room was not at all crowded for a Saturday afternoon, and this was a mixed blessing. It meant that the food would be out shortly, but also gave the other diners full view of my misery.
Bitale from Italy and I had met online in the late 1990s. He was in his mid thirties, from the Boston area, and lived with his parents. I should’ve known. However, in my late twenties, I was getting desperate to find a nice guy, and I figured that one date couldn’t be that bad – at least I was getting out there and meeting new people! His picture was decent – he wasn’t classically handsome, but wasn’t repulsive either, so I decided to give it a go! Well, the man on my date was a bit older than his picture, which he admitted was taken years ago – before the bushy mustache and the Santa Claus physique.
Well, Bitale from Italy was certainly a social fellow. He had a lot to say – a real lot. He liked to tell stories, this guy. With every story, his arms waved in the air and his boisterous laugh echoed in the dining room, and he shared his enthusiasm with me, and my lunch, which he sprinkled with spit every time he enunciated words with an S or P in them. Despite my best efforts to shield my plate with my napkin, and unintentionally with my arm, this guy’s saliva was like a guided missile – straight to my pasta.
I was granted a stay of execution when Bitale from Italy had to visit the little Italians’ room, and I sat at that table with a clear choice to be made. My fight or flight instinct was handing down directives and I was being urged by just about every fiber of my being to quietly get up, grab my coat, and depart immediately. My conscience, however, was having none of it and I acquiesced and waited for my tormenter to return to the table. Wallowing in my resignation, I glanced to the left where a mom, dad, and two young children were seated, waiting for their bill to arrive. The parents were staring at me and this look of horror mixed with sympathy filled both their faces. The mother mouthed to me, “I’m so sorry – you poor thing”. I nodded my thanks for their pity on my soul as my lunch date returned to his seat.
“So”, he states. “I was just thinking – why is it that you cut your hair so short?” It took me a moment to register the question, as it was asked so bluntly, so randomly, and it was the first thing he had asked me about myself all afternoon. “Excuse me?” I replied.
“Your hair – it’s really short. How come?”
“Uh, because I like it,” I stammered. He wore a look of surprise on his face, which then softened into a smile, and he leaned in and said conspiratorially, “Ok, I’ll let you keep it that way”, as he placed his hand on my thigh.
My fight or flight instinct was screaming “I TOLD YOU SO” a million times in my head and was beating my conscience into oblivion as I quickly grabbed for my purse and told Bitale from Italy that I really did have to be going. I fished ten dollars out of my purse and placed it on the table. He accepted it. Somehow I knew he would! He stood up and kissed me on the cheek with that disgustingly damp mop of a mustache and asked me if he could see me again. I’m not sure how I made it out of there, as by that point, the screaming in my head was holding the rest of my body hostage. I think I said something like “we’ll talk later” and left.
Upon returning to my apartment, I promptly walked to the computer, logged into the online dating site that matched me with the human sprinkler, and cancelled my membership, which I had for free for several years since I was a beta tester. “Are you sure you want to cancel?” the screen flashed. I took a deep breath, clicked “Yes”, and washed Bitale from Italy off my body in the shower, thereby pouring my world of online dating down the drain once and for all.
Kim Sutherland 7/25/10