Dessert Before Dinner
When two people experimented by copying the greatest romantic-comedy of all time. This is the true story of what happens when two people cut to the chase, and go straight to dessert.
What if you decided to be in a "relationship" on day one? No matching on an app, no texting, no first date... you just take a gamble and jump on the next plane to California.
This is one story of how it happened...
It was St. Patrick's Day and I was meeting for a group dinner. We gathered at the bar, waiting to be seated at a restaurant in Meatpacking. He was from out of town. A friend of a friend.
I noticed he was cute (in a non-conventional way) and he instantly caught my attention for two important reasons. One, he made a joke within the first few minutes (about what I don't remember, but it was important to know he was funny). And two...he introduced me to the best tequila I've ever had.
Actually, thank YOU George Clooney for Casamigos Blanco.
The next paragraph doesn't really have any significance, but gives you the impression that our first meet and greet was slightly interesting BUT mostly uneventful. Kind of how a romantic comedy always starts.
We sat down on opposite sides of the table, dinner had fun but normal conversation. The night went on, we party hopped from bar to bar, danced in Ubers. There was chemistry, something there, but nothing too apparent. I made this very cheesy joke how the guy on the dance floor with white hair was Julian Assange and everyone else ignored it, and no one laughed, but him. And seriously, I swear it was.
Truth be told though, I was still caught up with my feelings for another guy, checking my phone periodically to see if he had texted. And when we finally got to ACME, his eyes suddenly thwarted to another girl...quickly putting on the messy-dance floor-make out-moves.
My heart stopped for a second, but I decided it was for the best. I'd probably never see this guy again.
Then a few days go by, and we add each other on Instagram. I remember being oddly excited to hear from him. We then made casual plans to hang the following weekend (because he was still in town).
We hung out Friday AND Saturday, having enough life conversation to pique each other's interests, but not enough to say we know each other by any means. Or enough to make a completely rash and romantic decision.
Chapter 1: Dessert
There's a scene in the movie Annie Hall (despite the director's popularity, it's still a masterpiece) where a sort of genius date idea is introduced. A "cut to the chase and lose the bullshit" kind of move - if you will. A man and woman on their first dinner date are walking down the streets of New York. Before they get to the restaurant, the man says:
Alvy Singer: Hey listen, gimme a kiss.
Annie Hall: Really?
Alvy Singer: Yeah, why not, because we're just gonna go home later, right, and then there's gonna be all that tension, we've never kissed before and I'll never know when to make the right move or anything. So we'll kiss now and get it over with, and then we'll go eat. We'll digest our food better.
So that's kinda what happened. We kissed before we digested the food...and bought a round-trip plane ticket to San Diego.
We went straight to “dessert”. We cut the bullshit of awkwardly flirting on social media, starting a texting relationship, and taking a few weeks to plan a weekend trip. He explained this would be a new and spontaneous idea, and I really had nothing to lose. So, the day after he left New York, I committed to 6 nights and 5 days in California before getting to the "restaurant."
I'll admit, the minute the plane landed I texted my best friend, "WHAT HAVE I DONE?! Please don't let me ever do this again" (future blog posts will explain, this wasn't my first cross-country romance). But, anxiety, panic, regret, set in.
I didn't even like the guy that much, or okay, enough to spend an entire week with him. Was this going to be the most awkward "vacation" of my life?
Fineeee, at least it would be a good blog post.
Trey McDougal's Mom's Name.
During the days he'd plan to go to the office, and I'd work from his house or coffee shop. We'd meet up for lunch in between.
My main request before traveling all the way to California was to get some decent Mexican food. Apparently, New York has zero comprehension of it. I'm talking, seriously, in 2.5 years I've yet to see an avocado where I don't have to scrape out the brown gooey stuff before kind of enjoying it.
Funny enough, he was originally from Mexico City, so he kept his promise and knew exactly where to go.
So, we sat down at this taco shop ordering one large guacamole...and that's when I knew my feelings were about to change.
We started playing SATC trivia with one another. You didn't expect that, right? Neither did I.
I'll preface this by saying, I actually think it's completely normal for men to enjoy Sex and the City. It's a rarity, and more so, for a man to admit he's seen every season, but if he can watch a show that hits almost every single dating note on how women analyze relationships, maybe he'll be a bit more understanding...
Inside and outside of the bedroom?!
Because this guy was super smart (he did have his Ph.D. in Psychology), I went for a harder question. Such as, what is Trey MacDougal's mother's name and how did she decorate his apartment?
"Bunny, with lots of plaid." The lunch continued with lots of this. And so much laughter.
Note: Life’s irony? I have Carrie Bradshaw hair and am writing this on my Apple computer in my small New York apartment.
Chapter 2: Dinner
The second night, we head to this amazing seafood restaurant in Little Italy. He loves wine. Has a wine fridge. Brings one of his favorite bottles and we start talking. Three hours into our meal, the "world starts fading away around us".
His words, not mine.
We really connected. Instead of going into all the adorable details for what we talked about, the most important part of the night was how much I laughed.
Like slam the water glass down and burst out kind of laugh. There was lots of that, and lots of, "ohmygod I can not believe you just said that!" Because it was that funny (okay, you get it).
After work one day we decided to go for a walk along the waterfront. What started out as a casual "How was your day, what did you?", catapulted into one of the funniest walks I can remember ever going on.
For some reason, we just started whistling instead of talking. And we were both exceptionally good whistlers. I'd whistle a tune, he'd guess the song. Visa Versa.
Whistling turned into accents. And his elderly southern-belle rendition (nicknamed Peaches) was again, slam your water glass down funny. My Savannah twang back wasn't so bad either, so we finished the walk crying with laughter being as weird as we possibly could be.
The Slow Dance.
They say it’s easy to list the qualities of a classic Woody Allen film: witty dialogue, jazz music in the background, all tucked into a summer or spring romance. This day, we hit all three.
On Saturday we had brunch, did some hat shopping around La Jolla, rode in one epic sports car down the highway - windows down, speedy like Gonzales, headed to a local fish market to buy premium San Diego seafood, and back home for a low-key night in.
We start cooking, pouring an amazing bottle of buttery Chardonnay, and sit down for another amazing meal with even better conversation.
I'm not sure how it happened, but he talked me into smoking weed. I never smoke weed, except for maybe at a concert or two a year (okay, and that one time at Central Park a few weeks back). But a little stoned, a little giggly, we start hopping around the apartment listening to our favorite music, twirling our wine. We then lay on the couch, side by side, staring at the ceiling, and sing every Dave Matthew's song word for word. (hey, I'm from Seattle, it's not that lame).
Then my favorite part of the night happens.
Then I go: Hey Listen.
He goes: Yeah?
I go: Can we do something I've always wanted to do? There's this one song I love, and I always hoped one day I'd get to...
Straight out of a movie, we start slow-dancing.
With only the streetlights lighting up the all-glass apartment, we then danced cheek-to-cheek with the Flamingo's playing in the background."
Seriously, listen to this for like 20 seconds just to get how romantic it was.
Is Love Blind?
Okay, this sounds like the best week ever, I know.
In fact, the trip went so well that we extended if for four more days. 10 days of pretty much perfect. romantic. bliss. We joked that it felt like we had been in a relationship for 3-4 months, and maybe emotionally, we had.
The last day before I went home, I was sitting on his couch starting to write this very post. Soaking in how lucky I was to have experienced such a beautiful damn week.
Was this guy the one?
Was I about to foreshadow our script without realizing it?
At that moment, I realized what the morale of our movie really was, and why I was typing this in the first place...
The movies get it wrong when they end a romantic storyline with the two main characters ending up with their "one great love".
There isn't such a thing as one great love OR one great date OR one great moment...life is about gathering MULTIPLE until the right person comes at the right time.
Repeat, it's the right person, not the one person. Like I’ve said before, romance is about fit and circumstance.
Think back to those few perfect dates you've been on, but nothing came out of it. Or that guy you dated for two months that all of your friends knew about, even your mom, and still, nothing.
Believe me, I know it’s so confusing because it can feel "totally right" when you're in each relationship and feel “totally wrong” when you look back at all of them.
It's the beauty of human nature that love, really does blind us. But it's more beautiful, that we’re able to genuinely be blinded, and feel those feelings, each and every time.
I guess my main advice to anyone that experiences the beginning of what feels like "love", or lust, or whatever you want to call it, is to realize it's still just the beginning of a story. Don't race to the end.
Even if you do have that slam your water glass down kind of feeling, or have just gone on the most perfect date of your life. I've lived and written about the most exciting dates one girl can possibly have, but they still didn't mean it was my turn, just yet.
After lightly talking about our next steps, we decided to "digest the food" when we got back to normal life.
Maybe missing each other 3,000 miles away wouldn't make a difference in how much we liked each other?
Chapter 3: The Appetizer
Back in New York, the reality soon hit that the trip to San Diego was really just the appetizer.
The extended trip allowed us to get to know each other pretty well, but it only hit the surface in the grand scheme of dating in real life.
We didn't know each other's communication styles outside of the same city, or what it felt like to talk after a long day of work, or how awful time zones play in.
He ended up "not being a texter". Or rather, didn’t know how to communicate, how he wanted to communicate. He also lacked empathy and the ability to understand my thoughts, my emotions, and the complicated feelings that come with long distance. He wasn't as warm as the San Diego weather like I thought he was.
I tried to be patient, but I didn’t know his work schedule, or what he was thinking about during the days. And because I was getting limited communication from him, I took his chatting very literal. Limited chatting equalled limited feelings?
There weren’t simple and cute good morning texts (girls LOVE these). There wasn’t a lot of fun banter or flirting, tags on Instagram, memes or funny articles sent back and forth (the normal things you do with all of your close friends). For an entire day, he’d send an a-okay emoji back or simply “like” a thoughtful text I sent. A full sentence was a good day. When I'd bring it up, it was like walking on eggshells... his first defense mechanism was to get cold and angry instead of talking through it.
If you’re thinking it, no I wasn’t being needy or texting too often.
I felt more and more disheartened to talk to him and share parts of my life as the days went on. Being giddy to hear from one another is vital at the beginning of a relationship.
He’d call me a few times a week, but it wouldn’t be until 10:30 pm when I was tired and ready for bed. It was hard to connect when I was exhausted and he was just getting off work. And when we spoke, I wasn't myself because of all the self-doubt described above.
Looking back at old texts, his communication style was the exact same in San Diego. However, I didn’t care at the time because I knew I’d see him later that night.
When you're doing long distance, the ONLY thing you have keeping the relationship going is strong communication (with your damn phones), and if that isn't naturally there for both people, then the movie is over. Our passionate talks about life, love of Woody Allen films, whistling for hours, funny voices...all of that was gone.
We did one more weekend trip a few weeks later but the romance wasn’t the same. I noticed that the weekend was all about him and maybe it always was and I was always the bystander of the script. Mixed with the pressure of communicating well, wondering what would become of us, how we’d get closer living so far away, etc. the feelings were fogged from our initial trip. To be honest, it felt like I was in a movie with completely different characters than from before.
While this was an amazing few weeks of my life in many ways, I decided afterward that long distance wasn't my favorite kind of dessert. Or at least, our script was going to go on pause until our dialogue changed and we found a better middle ground.
Chapter 4: The Dead Shark.
Now that you’ve read our entire story, you might be thinking, was cutting the bullshit and kissing before dinner the right move?
If we had talked for a few weeks before planning a trip, our texting patterns would have undoubtedly set in. Time zones would’ve crept. Communication would have probably lessened, and according to how the story played out, San Diego would have never happened in the first place.
That famous question rings in my ears, "Is it better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all?”
Was our romantic week still worth it, knowing we have a dead shark on our hands?
I'm still digesting it, but I think I'd rather have the kiss. It's another blog post to tell you about, and another love story I get to keep in the repertoire of my very filled thirty-something life.
And most importantly, I learned how important empathy and communication are in a relationship. You can laugh for hours with someone, but if they lack both of those qualities then it's only going to be a fun vacation.
Alas, going back to the movie that got us here in the first place...the very last line in Annie Hall says:
“It reminds me of that old joke- you know, a guy walks into a psychiatrist's office and says, hey doc, my brother's crazy! He thinks he's a chicken. Then the doc says, why don't you turn him in? Then the guy says, I would but I need the eggs.
I guess that's how I feel about relationships. They're totally crazy, irrational, and absurd, but we keep going through it because we need the eggs.”