People often complain about the lack of a dating culture at Princeton, but maybe it’s better off that way. At least if the guys on campus are anything like me.
I don’t know why I’m such a bad date. Maybe it’s a lack of experience. My first real date—the one where I finally took out a girl I’d been pursuing for what felt like forever, and, after a nice dinner, proceeded to ask her whether I should pick up the bill, decided to pick it up, and then complained about it for ten minutes—was during my freshman year. It’s probably just because I’m a shitty, immature person. My most recent date was at the Mathey Dining Hall (in my defense, they make a mean grilled chicken).
But by far the worst date I ever subjected anyone to came in between those two momentous occasions. It was with that first girl, the one I’d wanted for months and then finally got. Sometime after that, I inevitably fucked things up and then we had an overly complicated, passionate on/off deal for who knows how long. The other real great thing about this relationship was that we decided to keep it secret. So we didn’t go on many dates. Or like any, at all.
But all of a sudden, we were approaching Fall Break of our sophomore year, and an opportunity for a second (yeah, really) date was looking feasible. Friday night after classes ended: her roommates would be gone, and mine too, so we’d be able to go out and keep lying to our friends. We’d figured out the scheduling gift the gods had given us about a week ahead of time—so we both had time to build our hopes up, and I theoretically had time to do some planning. Like pick a place to eat. Or check movie showings for that night. But, what works in theory doesn’t always work in practice. And so, on the night in question, I arrived at her door at about 6:30 without the slightest idea of what I was doing. We lingered in her common room for a little while, and headed out at about 6:45 or 7:00, at which point I asked her where she wanted to go. Of course she said she didn’t care; I thought the lines at Winberies and Teresa’s would be too long, so how about something casual like pizza or Hoagie Haven or Qdoba.
That’s how we ended up having our long-awaited date at Princeton’s elegant outpost of Qdoba, or “The Place You Get Burritos When The Nearest Chipotle or Local Joint Is Too Far Away.” Did I mention that, on this particular evening, Qdoba was out of rice? And not just because they’d used it all—no, there’d been a product recall. Their rice had been causing food poisoning. How is that even fucking possible?
Anyway, the point is, there’s nothing like infected rice to set the mood. And so, rice-less burritos in hand, we went to find a table. The problem was, all the tables in the place were full. Except that nice, awkward six-seater counter/table hybrid that faces the TVs and plays home to all of the restaurant’s condiments. This is how we ended up spending the first part of our evening watching Wolf Blitzer and meeting lots of nice people who needed a splash of Tabasco on their quesadillas.
So 0-for-1. But at that point, I think I still had a chance to redeem myself. I had taken the initiative to suggest that we should go back to her room and watch a movie together. I had also picked out that movie, and, no, I couldn’t resist. I couldn’t bear to sit through an hour-and-a-half of a modern rom-com like 27 Dresses or tearjerker like The Notebook; I couldn’t even play it safe with a recent blockbuster—Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides or some shit like that.
In my defense, I did pick a romantic comedy. Not so much in my defense, it was Hannah and Her Sisters, a 1986 Woody Allen classic, complete with everything so great about Allen—late 20th-century Jewish neurosis paired with a Big Band Era jazz score. The film stars Allen and Michael Caine (it’s so old that it was shot before Caine started making 30+ movies a year), and features a healthy dose of Dianne Wiest. For those of you who don’t recognize the name, Wiest is the old chick in Edward Scissorhands. Romantic, huh?
The strange thing is, Hannah and Her Sisters seemed to go over fine—or was in the middle of going over fine. My date seemed relatively interested, and the movie was only building up; we were getting towards its truly sweet and funny ending. And then I stopped the movie and dragged her to the nearest res-coll common room to watch the final inning of the World Series.
This is one of those things that might be acceptable in some circumstances. The game was Cardinals v. Rangers. So if I were a Cardinals or Rangers fan, and just wanted to see my team, maybe it would’ve been OK to skip out on five minutes of a date for the last inning. If I followed baseball closely, I mean, it’s understandable for someone who loves the game to savor the last action of the season, no? The problem was: I hadn’t watched a full game all season. I could name about 11 or 12 combined players on both teams.
And, the previous night’s game, with the Cardinals on the verge of elimination, had been one for the ages—an 11-inning, 19-run bruiser. Where was I? At Cap for “Princetonween,” pretending to know people there. This one was a relatively boring 6-2 game. We got there in time to see a flyout or two. At least I got a sense of what the scene in lovely St. Louis was like.
From there, we did go back to her room and finished the movie. And mercifully, at least for her, the date. We fell asleep and when we woke up, I discovered that I’d been punished for the previous night’s debacle with the world’s worst head cold. I spent the entire morning sneezing all over her room. We never went out again. Surprise!