You should probably be embarrassed for me. I had a lunch date a while back. And let me be the first to say I’m 100% at blame for screwing this one up.
We were finishing our salads at Sweetgreen. I had been impressed with his flexibility—few guys I knew were willing to meet up for lunch on a first date. The thought of forced conversation with a stranger isn’t something most people like to tackle stone cold sober, especially when you haven’t decided whether or not you’re attracted to the other person yet. But we both had busy schedules and a work break lunch was all we could fit in.
He had been extremely interesting. Interesting to the point of incompatibility. Because while he had spent the previous year traveling the world alone—living in a monastery for months on end, studying Japanese culture, and temporarily adopting a Shanghai club-going life-style—I had moved from Nashville to DC and thought that was drastic. I didn’t see a romantic future for us but spent most of lunch wondering if there was a way we could stay friends.
After the date was over, we started walking to the metro. “What are you up to this weekend?” He asked.
An innocent question, and it should’ve been a simple response. But that weekend I happened to be attending a beer fest with some friends, including my ex best guy friend. I had bought the ticket a few weeks prior (before he and I decided to hook up and had a horrible falling out) and I wasn’t looking forward to it. “But I can’t drink beer. God I hope they have other options for me. These are NOT friends you want to be sober with. They’re always blackout and to be sober would be horrible.”
I’m not a big drinker. I’m often teased for not drinking enough, for bowing out early from parties, for never being the one to go to a club. But this poor guy who had just met me did not know this.
“What about you?” I asked back.
“I’m going to dinner with some friends on Friday. And then we’ll probably go out. But I actually don’t drink.”
A very uncomfortable silence fell over us.
“Oh.” I managed, my foot stuck in my mouth. I had just talked about how horrible it is to be sober and how desperately I needed alcohol to hang out with friends. This guy who didn’t drink must have thought I was a raging alcoholic. And then, out of a compulsive need to fill an awkward silence, I said the worst next thing I could have in that moment. “Why not?”
He paused. And I thought the last silence was uncomfortable…this one seemed to drag out forever. I wished more than anything I could retract the question. As I walked next to him, I was more aware of my hands and how long two people could go without speaking than I ever thought possible. Could we make it to the metro in time and just never have to speak again? Finally he said “uh, it’s a long story.”
The moment could not have been more uncomfortable. I immediately started rambling. “Oh my gosh no you don’t have to tell me, sorry that was too personal, I didn’t mean to ask that…” My arms were flailing at this point.
He probably felt sorry for the sputtering spaz in front of him and interrupted me to speak up and explain how he had gotten too involved in the club life in Shanghai and gave up drinking to regain control in his life—a personal story that the accidentally rude and alcoholic first date did not need to know.
Luckily, we reached the metro shortly after. He politely asked if I’d like to hang out again and in my state of shock I said of course.
I never heard from him again.