1,001 [Bad] Dates

If you will recall, I wrote a marvelously lighthearted post around three months ago that poked fun at the fact that my heart had just shattered (again). (How wonderful; my dating life is becoming one of those.) In the three months since I’ve been back in the game, I’ve had a few opportunities to dust off my skills, oil up my rusty joints, and put myself out there, so to speak. (My goodness, could that sentence have been laden with any more trite phrases?)

I tried my hand at online dating and was in and out of there about as quickly as a guy sent into a store to buy tampons. I went on an actual date with an actual guy from the site, but the evening proceeded in situational-comedy style, including me being kicked underneath the table at least twice, without either acknowledgment or apology. And I found more interest in the Royals game on the TV than I did in my companion, which should’ve sent him a strong message because this was about four days before the All-Star Break, and the Royals were in a losing spiral leading up to the break. My date, however, was so bad at reading social cues that he actually asked me to take a walk and get ice cream after dinner, apparently thinking the night was going wellIt would be my luck that my attempt to pay more attention to a baseball game than to my date would be interpreted as me being an into-sports type of girl rather than a not-into-him type of girl. I guess I should’ve fixed my rapt interest on something clearly less engaging, like counting the number of hipsters who passed on the street, walking alongside their fixed-gear bikes. (Can’t make it up that hill, huh? Serves you right, trend-chasing suckers.)

I also tried the traditional blind-date route. My grandpa had a guy in mind for me, sort of. That phone call actually started like this: “Audra, I have a date for you. [My friend’s] grandson is a very nice man, and he’s married.” Yes, that’s really what Grandpa said, but as it turned out, the only involvement the married grandson had in the situation was offering up the name of his single friend. Grandpa quickly surrendered my phone number to the grandson for delivery to the friend, and several days later, I ignored a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize and listened to a garbled and static-filled message from a guy whose name I couldn’t make out. This must be Grandpa’s guy. I shot him a text by way of response. He immediately asked if he could see me the next night. I said I preferred to get to know him a bit before we jumped into the going-on-a-date part. He said okay and then asked to meet the following weekend. Not exactly what I had in mind, but of course, I was fresh off the online-dating scene, in which you exchange about a hundred messages and then about a thousand texts before you graduate to actually meeting. He seemed nice, and his hadn’t-been-updated-for-three-years Facebook picture was flattering enough, but he was chomping at the bit, whereas I was meandering through the meadow and munching dandelions, so we never ended up meeting.

There was one more short-lived, fairly ridiculous, and awfully humorous evening during which I got hit on somewhat aggressively by a pretty intoxicated out-of-towner one night when I was out with my married friends and was clearly the single wolf in the pack.

When I realized how little fun I was having trying to wrangle dates and meet new guys, I shut down the online profile and took myself off the market, telling myself I was (am) perfectly capable of meeting a guy in real life, in a normal scenario, where we introduce ourselves to each other on our own impetus rather than someone else’s. And then I spent most of the summer going to Royals games and forgetting about real boys because I had an attractive first baseman (and third baseman, and left fielder, and right fielder, and a coupla pitchers) to set my sights on and fantasize about meeting in various places around town, including (but in no way limited to) the stadium itself.

Because the Royals suck (and have sucked for so many years), Kauffman has perfected the art of gimmicky fan promotions in an attempt to boost attendance. Therefore, I have been at the park this year for various events and attractions such as Buck Night (which is also Fireworks Friday), Mizzou Night, K-State Night, KU Day, Family FunDay (every Sunday), Oktoberfest, and more. In August, I found out via the Royals Twitter feed that Singles’ Night at the K was coming up. I abhor singles’ events, just to throw that out there. The desire I had to be at the stadium on Singles’ Night was driven by only one overriding ambition: my goal of going to 20 games this year. Perhaps luckily and unluckily, I already had a conflict written on my calendar for that night: I had to lead community group. Darn.

Several days before the event, a (single, female) friend texted and asked if I knew about Singles’ Night and whether I wanted to go. This got me thinking about whether there was a way I actually could go. The church my community group is rooted in (even though most of us don’t actually attend that church, including me, the group’s leader) just had a community group revival kickoff party in August to attempt to drum up new business or renew old interest in this particular aspect of the church’s ministry efforts. Then the thought occurred to me, What better way to invite new people to experience our community group than a relaxed outing in a nonthreatening environment, say, at a baseball game?

I was, of course, fully aware of my ulterior motives in trying to kill two birds with one stone by upping my baseball game attendance count and also conducting my previously-committed-to community group meeting. But I wasn’t so attached to the idea of the baseball game that I would’ve abandoned community group altogether, so I emailed the core regulars and asked them what they thought about going to the game that night. Everybody except one emailed back and said they were down, so that became the plan. When the actual night rolled around, however, I gathered the carpool group on my porch, simply to find that only one from my community group had shown up. Everyone else had flaked. Luckily, I’d invited another friend, who invited another friend, who invited another friend, so we ended up with a group of five, and coincidentally, we were all female. I had asked my friend Toni to curl my hair all fancy-like, and she did (and did a fantastic job), and then we headed out to the park, peppering the drive with a few jokes about the fact that it was Singles’ Night and the grand plans we had for snagging cute guys.

Then we got to the park, got our five-dollar tickets (?!) – thanks, guy in line behind us, for the BOGO coupons – and headed up to our seats, at which point I promptly forgot all about meeting a guy. How could I focus on that when 1) the baseball game was about to start, and 2) the Royals were trying that night to complete a three-game sweep of our division leaders? (We are rapidly snowballing toward the postseason, after all.) Exactly. I couldn’t.

Right after we trekked and climbed to our very-high-up, very-far-out seats and were about to sit down, the section usher came down and suggested we move infield a few sections. He made it seem like he was doing us a favor, but really I think he was supposed to patrol multiple sections, and, since we were the only ones out that far, he didn’t want to have to traipse all the way over there all night just to check that we weren’t… I dunno, spitting sunflower seeds or peanut shells onto unsuspecting fans in the lower deck or something. So we humored him and moved a few sections over.

We were down at the bottom of the upper level, right in front of the railing. It was my friend Toni’s first MLB game ever, and things hadn’t gotten underway just yet. She was very excited to be there and to see all the pre-game festivities. She took quite a few pictures and then spent the rest of her time standing up and leaning over the railing to see as much as she could. All of this was fine, until the game started. At which point, when Toni was still standing up at the railing (and I next to her, to explain the game and answer her questions), the usher came down again and asked us to take our seats so the people behind us could see. We apologized and obeyed. The game got started and moved along at a swell pace.

A few innings in, one of the girls in our group, Kimberly, pulled out some snacks to share. In the spirit of making them accessible to the entire row, she set them on the concrete part of the wall/railing in front of her, which, when noticed, brought the usher to our section once again. I felt embarrassed at this point, and probably blushed, because I’m not really used to calling so much disciplinary attention to myself. I also felt that I, as the resident stadium-etiquette expert (for 2012, anyway), should’ve recognized these peccadilloes for what they were and extinguished them before an authority figure had to. But, lo and behold, I cared more about the baseball game than what rules my compatriots might be flouting.

On the usher’s fourth descent to our seats, I began to feel like a child in a dunce cap. However, this time, he said, he wasn’t coming to say anything to us; he merely had to stand in the aisle for a bit to give the appearance of good patrolling. I sighed with relief and said to him, “Sorry we’ve been such troublemakers tonight” and flashed a shy smile.

He smiled back and said, “Trust me, you haven’t. I’ve had much, much worse.”

It was only when he smiled that I realized he was actually quite attractive. After he left his post and went to stand guard elsewhere, I turned to Toni and told her I thought he was cute and had already surreptitiously checked his hand and found no ring. Toni immediately went into wingwoman mode and started offering up the various options I had for execution of continued flirtation. I laughed her off but kept a peripheral eye on him for the next couple of innings. After all, I had nothing to lose, it was Singles’ Night, and my hair was all done up! (Kimberly had made a jesting comment earlier in the night about how I could be “one of the super-pretty girls who gets on the big screen,” since they only seem to show dancing children, extremely old people, or really pretty women. Alas, despite my lustrous, flowing curls, the cameras did not make their way to our section that night, not even when we all stood up and swayed back and forth while we sang the Garth Brooks song.)

Pretty soon, the game was nearing the 7th inning, which meant I was nearing the end of my chances to get something started with the Attractive Baseball Stadium Usher (ABSU). Some of the girls had gotten some food earlier, and the trash was under our seats. Lame and transparent an excuse as it was, I decided to get up and throw it away myself. Unfortunately, this task only took about forty-five seconds, and ABSU was nowhere in or around our section during the time I ascended the steps and stepped out to the trashcan. (Since when do they put them right outside the concourse entrances? I remember times of having to hunt for them, walking around aimlessly with a pile of trash just because I can’t find a fricking bin!) So I returned to my seat without talking to him.

In the top of the 8th inning, I decided to try again. Toni suggested I visit the restroom. I nodded and said, “I could pee.” Again, as I exited, ABSU was nowhere to be seen, but I figured I could waste enough time in the restroom that he’d appear again before I got back to my seat.

Sure enough, when I came out of the restroom and headed back to my seat, I had to pass right by him, so close that it would’ve been absurd not to stop and flirt. So I stopped. I stuttered for half a second then opened with, “So… What are some of the worst fan experiences you’ve had?” He turned toward me, smiled, and immediately regaled me with no fewer than three horror stories of drunk fans who had either thrown up (on themselves and on strangers) or peed right in the seats.

I smiled and laughed and OMG’ed in all the right places, acting appropriately scandalized and sympathetic in turn. When that topic died down, I checked the game, saw that the White Sox were still up to bat in the top of the same inning, and started him on another track of conversation. We talked baseball and the Royals mostly, as well as the particulars of the stadium itself and some of the other requirements of his job. Then the Royals recorded the third out and were coming up to bat, which I didn’t want to miss, so I ended the conversation by giving him my name and asking his then returned to my seat, where Toni was all aflutter with accolades for my successful execution of her Faux-Restroom Flirtation Mission.

The game got so exciting after that, I almost forgot about ABSU. Until Eric Hosmer’s walkoff RBI single to score Dyson in the 9th and complete the White Sox sweep, that is. Then I looked around for ABSU so I could 1) chat with him on my way out about the great win, 2) tell him goodbye, and 3) try to work up the courage to ask him for his phone number.

Toni had a slew of wingwoman suggestions for this scenario too, one of which involved me writing my phone number on my game ticket and slipping it to him as we left the stands. I refused this idea, though, because I like saving my game tickets. They make great bookmarks. Besides that, nobody had a pen. I resolved to just be brave and ask him straight out.

I walked toward him across a row of seats as my girlfriends ascended the opposite set of stairs to the exit. He saw me coming and flashed that smile once again (boy, I’m a sucker for a good smile). I thought for a millisecond that I might not make it all the way over there. Then I remembered that I’ve never fainted in my whole life and reminded myself that, to faint, you actually have to be feeling weak and lightheaded, neither of which I was; just excited and nervous. (Sorry; no southern-belle hysterics for me.)

ABSU spoke first. “Wasn’t that a great win? How ’bout that Hosmer, huh?” I nodded enthusiastically and immediately launched into a diatribe about the horrendous season Hosmer has had and how much it warms my heart when he does something clutch like that to redeem himself (he’s had more than a few of those shining moments over the course of his mostly disappointing season). ABSU agreed heartily with everything I said, and then the conversation flatlined. It was very clearly time to make my move and/or say goodbye.

I completely lost my nerve and blurted out, “Well, it was really nice to meet you. Have a great night.” He echoed the sentiment, and then I walked up the stairs with the feeling that he was watching me go.

When I got to the top and was near the exit, I asked myself once again, What have you got to lose? I took a deep breath and turned around. He was about halfway up the steps behind me, and he saw me turn around and come back down. I began to stutter again when I reached him (what’s with the sudden speech impediment?) and did my best Carly Rae Jepsen: “Uh, this might be dumb, but… Could I maybe…have your phone number?”

He smiled immediately (again), appeared flattered but not totally surprised, and said, “Sure.” Then he rattled it off while I punched it into my phone. Then I thanked him, said goodbye (again), and left.

I spent the rest of the night on an adrenaline high, full of many emotions. Relief that I wasn’t rejected. Pride about my ability to be brave. Confidence about the fact that I was, as I texted a friend, “back” [in the game]. Vanity about the boundless power my curled hair might contain. Excitement about a new dating prospect. Hope that there do exist other guys in the world (other than The Ex, that is) who love baseball. (After the breakup, I kind of let myself sink into the depressing mire of the idea that I had unearthed [and subsequently released] the world’s only unmarried baseball – and not just baseball, but Royals! – fan. Do not mock me. We have all painted ourselves into corners filled with absurdly untrue messages.)

The next day I agonized over when to contact ABSU, and how. I polled the Facebook masses, who mostly said to call but who also mostly seemed to misunderstand the context, either thinking it was *I* who was expecting to be called or texted (or had possibly already been called or texted), or that this was a much more advanced acquaintance than it really was. So I mostly disregarded everyone’s advice because I’ve found that the oldest piece of writing wisdom in the proverbial book – Write what you know – usually works best in any life situation. Modify it to fit your context, but basically, be yourself. And calling isn’t me.

Also on that day, the Day After, I got a piece of mail from the library announcing October library events. One such event is a public-speaking engagement by Frank White, former Royals player and true club legend. Being the advance planner (and also the look-too-far-ahead and hope-for-too-much) girl that I am, I penciled in my imaginary first date with ABSU for this specific event. It would be perfect. It would be a public setting, and it would be something that featured the one thing we already knew we had in common. Could this be any more perfect? Obviously God was telling me to marry this guy.

I waited one more day and then texted him Saturday afternoon, the two-days-later mark. I was clever and light and friendly. I mentioned the game the night before, which I’d been at again, and which we’d won again. I also left things wide open for continued communication. Approximately fifteen minutes passed before my phone buzzed with his response. I laughed before I read it because, knowing only his first name when I added his number to my phone, the text showed up as being from “[First Name] From the K.” Oh yeah. Totally marriage bound.

He started off really amicably. “Hey! It’s good to hear from you!” (Notice: Two exclamation points.) Then he responded to my quips about the previous night’s game with a couple of light and sarcastic jokes of his own. (So far, so good. I’m already planning how to answer next – I’ll ask him to meet for coffee next week.) Then the Weird bomb dropped: “I should probably go ahead and tell you this up front. I have a girlfriend. I think you seem really awesome, and it was great meeting you, but she probably wouldn’t like it if I continued to talk to you. :(”

[Insert record-skid sound here.]

Holy mixed messages. On one hand, my eye seems to be able to focus only on certain words, like “you…really awesome” and “great meeting you,” and yeah, he said we shouldn’t keep talking, but he added a sadface. And what about the two exclamation points at the beginning?! But on the other hand, I also can’t ignore the words “girlfriend” and “but” and “can’t keep talking [sadface].”

Now I feel another onslaught of emotions. Rejection, first and foremost. Deflated balloon. Wounded ego. Hurt pride. Disappointed hopes. Anger. Annoyance. Self-righteousness.

So what do I do? I delete his number and the texts and then get on Facebook to publicly decry men.

All’s well that ends weird…or something like that. Bring on the next round.

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7 Comments

Filed under baseball, bloggy, experimental, irreverent, sentimental, writing exercises

7 responses to “1,001 [Bad] Dates

  1. Kalyn

    Audra, you wrote that so well that my heart started racing and my hands got all clammy sweaty when you walked over to ask his number! I think you should still feel really empowered because a) not many people (myself included) could ask for someone’s number–his subsequent unavailability in no way negates that; b) he gave you his real number instead of immediately telling you no or giving you a fake number, which I interpret to mean that he took the two days you waited to figure out how he was going to respond when you did call/text; and c) your curly hair obviously makes men forget they are romantically attached.

    • Ha. Wow, thanks. Definitely one of the best compliments on my writing that I’ve ever received! The curly hair DID feel like a powerful weapon. Good thing I don’t wear it that way every day! I’d probably be president by now. Except not, because I’d never oust Obama!

  2. b longfellow

    Great job writing the resolution / last three little blocks. “All’s well that ends weird.” Your creation? Brilliant.

  3. You’re so brave! I would have never done that. It was funny when you said he was cute, because I always picture ushers as being like 100 years old. That’s how it is at Wrigley. Not kidding. I’m pretty sure those same ushers have been working there since they last won the World Series.

    • HA. Kauffman has its share of old ushers too. In fact, this was the first young-ish and attractive one I’d ever noticed. Anyway, it’s easy to be brave when there’s virtually nothing riding on it. I had nothing to lose, and I knew it would likely turn into nothing (because really – what are the odds? pretty low, I’d think), so it was just fun to do it.

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