Love & Sex

Five Stories: Disturbingly Bad First Dates

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Bed bugs, Bibles, bigotry, and the terrible evenings they caused.

Erin Kelly

The shape of my earlobe

I worked as a cocktail waitress at a swanky downtown hotel and had gotten into the habit of ignoring the portly, old businessmen and their propositions. But, on occasion, I've met people closer to my age and body type and gone on a few semi-successful dates. Matt was staying in the hotel and tipped me well on his Stella. Later that same evening, he came back down to the bar and we got to talking. He actually lived in my neighborhood in Brooklyn, but told me he enjoyed taking a little Manhattan vacation every now and again. He was tall, handsome, and apparently had a good enough job to allow him to pop over for luxury stays in the city, so when he asked me on a date I said yes. Little did I know that this svelte, sweet-talking fellow was going to provide me with the single worst date in my entire romantic life.

“He told me about his days as a party promoter, bragging about his rock-star lifestyle and repeatedly referring to himself in the third person.

We met at a bar, as is customary. Although I'm not a big drinker — and I never drink on first dates — I'm used to sitting at a bar and getting to know someone. Usually it's not a big deal, but when I ordered sweet tea with Matt, he began grilling me on why I didn't drink and encouraging me to have something, all while drinking heavily himself. I was already irritated, so I suggested that we head to the movies, as was the plan. We set off to the theater, only to realize that he hadn't looked up movie times. By the time we got there, the theater was closed. 

But, I thought, I'd write it off as a simple mistake. He then suggested we go to a great sushi place he knew. Since I was starving I agreed. When we got there, it turned out to be a total dive, not the sort of place you hike across town for. And the kitchen was closing. He ordered us one small dish and tried to order two glasses of sake. I politely reminded him, again, that I didn't drink. He was already a bit tipsy, but by the time I finished my sashimi, he was full-on drunk. He began his drunken confessions by explaining that he was once in Alcoholics Anonymous, but had decided it was a cult and that he didn't need it. Watching him down his fourth sake, I wasn't so sure.

He told me about his days as a party promoter, bragging about his rock-star lifestyle and repeatedly referring to himself in the third person. Then, he made one of the creepiest confessions I've ever heard. He leaned over and touched my earlobe, saying, "The shape of your earlobe, I noticed it the first time I saw you. Every single girl I've ever been in love with has had an earlobe of that shape. This is something special." At this point, I was  bored, annoyed, and freaked out. I was also hungry and my feet hurt from walking around.

He tried to do this weird embracing, cuddle thing as we walked out. It then became obvious that he had chosen this "great sushi place" because it was right under his friend's apartment, where he had been crashing. I did not go up. Oh, and in his drunkenness he had let it slip that he wasn't residing at the hotel for a quick weekend getaway, but because his apartment was being fumigated. Yeah, he had bedbugs. I finally escaped into a cab and felt a wave of relief at that disastrous date finally coming to an end. He called and text messaged me nearly every day for the next two weeks. Needless to say, I never saw him again. — Kelly Bourdet

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A Jew in Germany

I’d been living in Germany for a couple years already. At that time, I had just moved into a small one-bedroom apartment in Leipzig with a shower in the kitchen. The boiler was also broken, so it was a cold shower in the kitchen. My windows looked out onto a concrete wall, an elevated train track, and some graffiti. I cycled my clunky East German bike around town, worked minimally, paid no rent, and lived pretty decadently.   

One day when I didn't have much to do, I was milling around the music section at the big-box electronics store. I was looking at some indie band and started chatting with this other guy with great indie taste. He was about to go buy a record; I said I'd heard good things about it. He said, “Write down your address, I'll give you a copy." A few days later there was a stack of CDs at my doorstep. Charming! I texted thanks, and we set up a coffee date.

He was cute, had good music, and worked on the night train from Leipzig to Vienna. The date seemed like it was going well. When he asked me where I was from, I told him that I was American and that my father was Israeli.

A quick side-note: especially against the monoculture of eastern Germany, I look very Jewish. My father's Sephardic, my mother's half-Ashkenazi, and I have big brown hair, eyes, eyelashes, and a nose that's unmistakably non-goy.

“A quick side-note: especially against the monoculture of eastern Germany, I look very Jewish.

When my date found out I was an American Jew, things changed. He felt immediately compelled to note that America was a terrible place, so materialistic and greedy. He said angrily that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were terrible ideas. I vowed to pass his sentiments on to President Bush. He felt personally insulted that America was a superpower, a role it clearly didn't deserve, and that it did not deserve to keep it. On Israel, he proudly told me that he thought the country shouldn't exist and that the Jews should leave. To where, exactly? Back where they came from! Wherever! America and Israel together have too much power and are colluding on some kind of conspiracy to exert even more power. He paused, and looked satisfied.

I'm not sure where he thought this date was going to go from there. It went nowhere. — Sarah Falcon

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Sweet Jesus

I was involved in a local theater group for a few summers in my early twenties. The last year it existed I wound up making friends with the guy who was playing my fiancée in the show. He was shorter than me (I'm 5'3"), over thirty, still a virgin, lived with his parents, and was devout Catholic — basically everything exactly opposite of the mischievous, newly single sexual deviant I was at the time. I couldn't have been less attracted to him (and very bluntly told him so one night after a few drinks), but we had some really great, stimulating conversations, and I always enjoyed debating on things like religion and movies with him.

He told me he was working on a young-adult fiction series, and asked me to come over one day to help him work on his outline. I was morbidly curious, so I agreed. What followed was the most uncomfortable afternoon of my life.

Pictures of Jesus decorated the hall down to the kitchen where we sat. His mother (recall he was thirty) stood not quite out of sight the entire time, apparently monitoring our conversation, visibly tensing every time I moved or spoke in a manner not demure and retiring. After nearly an hour, he finally suggested we go up to his "office," I finally decided I'd had enough, made my excuses, and left.

“I was morbidly curious, so I agreed. What followed was the most uncomfortable afternoon of my life.

I later found out from mutual friends that he'd been talking about how I needed someone to "guide" me, and how I was a "lost soul" who just needed someone to take care of me, and one night he got trashed (probably on two beers  the guy had the tolerance of a toddler) and confessed to a few people his desire to lose his virginity to me, but not until we'd gotten married. Apparently their firm statements of "Dude… hell no," didn't dissuade him. He'd been planning out how to get me to his house to meet his parents for a while. I'd just been on the most uncomfortable first date of my life and didn't even know it until weeks after I broke contact with him. Some dudes, huh? — Annabeth K.

Submit to our next "Five Stories" contest! Cheating I Don't Regret — Infidelity gets a bad rap, one it mostly deserves. But maybe not always. Have you ever cheated, kept it a secret, and felt glad you had? If so, let us know. Click here for more details, or send your story to submissions@nerve.com.

marjam of the woods

Feminism Schmeminism

I met a young woman  let’s call her Jessica  out one night at a bar. It was a pretty standard pickup scenario, except for one thing: the roles were reversed. I'm the kind of guy who considers himself a feminist; I hate glass ceilings, and I would have voted for Hillary. But, if you’re a guy trying to date, feminism schmeminism  most women want you to come up to them, ask them out, hold the door, and pay on the first date.

But that night it went the other way. She bumped into me, perhaps on purpose, started a conversation, and then after about twenty minutes, said she had to get back to her friend but asked me for my phone number and said we should get dinner. She was gorgeous and seemed intoxicatingly confident. Of course I said yes.

“For the record, I don’t consider myself an argumentative person.

Three days later, we were at dinner, and it became apparent that her desire to break gender stereotypes wasn’t just strong, it was combative. As we approached the restaurant, we were walking side by side, and I subconsciously reached across her to hold open the door. She stopped dead, and we waited for an awkward minute until I walked in in front of her. At the restaurant, she ordered my drink and tried to order my dinner. I interrupted her, not out of masculine panic, but because I had an allergy she wasn't taking into account.

This seems like a relevant time to bring up the fact that the restaurant (she’d chosen, of course) was a tiny French bistro that would have been packed with twenty people in it. Except it was a Tuesday, so we were the only ones there — for the entire duration of our meal. The sole waiter spent the entire evening standing about a foot away from our table.

This is relevant because after we’d completed our order — talking over each other in what must have been a near nonsensical stammer — we began to fight. Like, not quibble, argue. I said, “You’re very assertive,” to which she responded, “Ugh, does that make you feel weak?” Her tone of voice was downright mean. For close to an hour, we yelled at each other like an old married couple, with the poor waiter awkwardly intervening every once and a while.  

For the record, I don’t consider myself an argumentative person. But I’m also not willing to sit calmly by as a woman with whom I've spend a total of one hour calls me a Neanderthal. So I argued back. And I lost. In retrospect, yelling “I do respect women, goddamn it!” at a pretty woman in a dress is about as effective as yelling “I’m not an alcoholic!” to an AA meeting.

When we left (we split the check), we parted ways at the door without so much as handshake. I walked down the block after the worst first date ever. Half of me wanted to go to a boxing gym and punch the shit out of something. The other half wanted to go home and cry. — Jason Mendelson

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Photo by Cindy Ho

Three of the strangest things

I am a narrative opportunist. I am the person who, in my early twenties, lived in a vegetarian group home with twenty-six cats, two painters, and a middle-aged man with long red hair who liked to discuss string theory and not wear pants — not because I wanted to be there, but because I knew it would make for a good story.

That’s why, when introduced to a man named Marmaduke, I let him ask me out. I am absolutely certain that, had his name been Jim, or Mike, or David, I would have said no. I had to, for the sake of story. How many times do you meet someone named Marmaduke?

I met him in Bryant Park, having taken a train in from just outside Manhattan. “You are my queen,” he told me, by way of greeting. “Um. Okay,” I fumbled. “Should we get something to drink?”

“What happened next still baffles me, years later.

He suggested, instead, that we spend the summer evening walking around. Bryant Park is not large, and so to avoid walking in circles, he began a strange variation on Musical Chairs. The new, unimproved rendering of the game went like this: We sat on a bench. He tried to lick my ear. I jumped to my feet and started walking again. He followed, then sat when we arrived at the next bench. There, the same thing happened. He remained hopeful that I would permit the lollipop treatment; I remained hopeful that he would cut it out.
 
As we did so, Marmaduke, who was born in Morocco, made a valiant but misguided effort at romance. He spoke to me primarily in French: a language of romance. A language of sex. A language this girl didn't and does not understand unless we’re singing “Frere Jacques.” And perhaps it was for the best that I couldn't understand most of what he was saying. Because when he did begin to speak English again, he suggested that I move in with him and his cousin.

“That’s okay,” I said. “I live somewhere already, and it’s pretty nice. All my stuff is there.”

“You are too far away,” he said. “If you move in with us, we can be together always.” And seeing the look in his eyes, a switch flipped in my mind — the evening officially shifted from awkwardly entertaining to something much darker. He meant it. We'd known each other for two hours, and spent significantly less than that speaking the same language. 

“I should go,” I said. “The last train leaves soon.” A lie. It wasn't yet ten o’clock.

“Before you do, I have to give you something. Maybe you will come live with me after I give it to you.” Then Marmaduke reached into a plastic bag he was carrying and produced a combination of things that, years later, still baffles me. First, a foot-long sandwich dripping with meat. (I am a vegetarian, as I made clear in the pre-date phone call.) Second, a one-pound bag of Hershey’s chocolate chips. (I don’t know why.) And third, a Kinko’s folder that contained three paper copies of a poorly written love poem (beginning with the phrase “You are my Queen”) and two color copies of his drivers-license photo.

The combination of objects actually scared me — why the extra copies? Why a pound of chocolate chips? What did he expect we’d do together with these things? — and so I took the opportunity to get the hell out. I wasn't certain how to say goodbye or convince him not to follow me home, but I left. I gave the sandwich and chocolate to some homeless kids outside Grand Central, and tossed the drivers-license photos in a garbage bin on my way to the subway.

For some reason, I kept the poem. An artifact, a morsel of proof. For the sake of story.  — Jen Goldsmith

Submit to our next "Five Stories" contest! Cheating I Don't Regret — Infidelity gets a bad rap, one it mostly deserves. But maybe not always. Have you ever cheated, kept it a secret, and felt glad you had? If so, let us know. Click here for more details, or send your story to submissions@nerve.com.