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True Stories: My Date's Nationally Broadcast Revenge
When I went on a talk show to discuss dating, I should've expected disaster.
By Barry Gilmore
Dating is not necessarily something you want to be an expert in. What you want is to be a lightly experienced novice. You want to go out on some dates, meet the girl of your dreams, then never go on another date ever again. An expert, on the other hand, goes on lots and lots of dates and fails lots and lots of times.
I am a dating expert. Last year, my title was made official when Whatever with Alexis and Jennifer hired me to be their Internet dating expert. Whatever with Alexis and Jennifer was a morning talk show on the Hallmark Channel, and don't feel bad that you've never heard of it — no one has. That's why it got canceled. It was hosted by Alexis Stewart (Martha's daughter) and Jennifer Hutt, who were genuinely lovely people, and for that I will forgive them for tricking me into quite possibly the most awkward ten minutes of my life.
On the premiere episode of Whatever, they introduced me with the self-esteem-fortifying description of "Man Who's Been On More Than 100 Internet Dates," and we were off to the races. I told stories, they pointed out how ridiculous my life was, I wholeheartedly agreed, and we all had a grand time.
A few weeks later, I visited Alexis and Jennifer again, and just as the segment was ending, Jennifer snuck in a new question: "So, do you ever talk to people you went out in the past to see how you did?"
I warily replied that no, my self-esteem was low enough already, to which Jennifer said, "Well, we have a special opportunity for you then. Someone who can maybe tell you what you've been doing wrong..." At this, I began to contemplate making a break for the dressing room, when I turned around and, sure enough, a girl I went out with over a year ago was standing off-camera, grinning like a maniac.
I should have been panicking at that point, but I just beamed back at her, because I was so damn excited that I actually recognized the girl and remembered her name. You have no idea how unlikely that was. As I said, I've been on over a hundred dates. There are times when I've forgotten a girl's name twenty minutes into the first drink, and "Can I call you again sometime... chief?" generally ends an evening on a poor note. This girl's name, however, I remembered.
She was obsessed with Bette Midler, so I'll call her that. As the audience made that sort of "Ohhh, you're in trouble" sound that must not have existed before surprise guests on daytime talk shows were invented, she sauntered over to the set and sat down, looking ready to strike. I vaguely remembered that my date with Bette had been uneventful — nothing I should be ashamed of revisiting on national TV — but something about the glint in Bette's eye suggested I was in for it.
Jennifer: "So, did you know that Barry here has gone out on a hundred dates?"
Bette: "He'll probably have to go out on a hundred more if they're as bad as mine."
With this, the audience was officially in the palm of Bette's hand. There was hooting, and also hollering. She continued, "First of all, he took me to a bar that was on the ground floor of his apartment building." The audience hissed. What sort of a lazy jerk makes his date meet him in his own building? A fair point, except the bottom floor of my apartment is a laundromat, and no matter how many times I've begged, they don't serve alcohol there. The truth was that I always try to pick a bar in my date's neighborhood, so she'll feel relaxed and comfortable. I had this time as well — Bette and I lived in the same neighborhood. But I kept quiet, because I suspected that quibbling over the facts would make me look defensive. As the audience finished grumbling, Bette leveled her second charge. "Get a load of this: when he showed up on the date, he was wearing a backpack! Who brings a backpack on a date?"
It was like someone set off a fire alarm in the place. Women were laughing, screaming, shaking their heads at me as if I couldn't see them from ten feet away.