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True Stories: My First Date, At Age Thirty-Three
It had always seemed easier to skip the formalities.
by Melanie Hamlett
At the age of thirty-three, I went on my first date.
I met the Brazilian at a nightclub a month before I was set to leave New York City indefinitely. The fact that he danced well and wore a scarf while doing so gave him away instantly as a foreigner.
After grinding together to techno music until four in the morning, we grabbed a cab back to his apartment in Queens and swung by my place on our way. I wasn't sure what I might need, so I packed a toothbrush, a water bottle, my cell phone charger, an Edward Abbey book in case I couldn't sleep, a headlamp to read it by, and some trail mix. I hadn't ever slept over at a guy's place in New York City before, so I wanted to be prepared.
I was moving away soon, so of course I slept with him — there was no point in playing hard to get. Taking on a lover before leaving New York seemed like the perfect way to end that chapter in my life, especially since I didn't go on a single date in the four-and-a-half years I lived there. I always wondered what it would be like to participate in one of those classic New York moments between couples — the ones where they hold hands before jumping over a puddle, feed each other Indian food in a restaurant window, and fall asleep on one another's shoulders on the subway. I told myself I was too busy to date, that working in the film industry by day and performing in comedy clubs by night didn't allow for such luxuries.
But the truth was, I'd never gone on dates. Ever. Maybe that's because I'd spent a good deal of my adult life living in a truck. Having worked as a raft guide, ski instructor, and backpacking guide all over the country for years, I'd rarely lived anywhere long enough to actually have a relationship, even if I'd wanted one. Besides, nomadic men were just as hard to pin down as I was. Sure, I'd witnessed a few successful relationships in my world, but they usually involved a scenario like this: boy meets girl, boy sleeps in girl's truck to stay warm one night when it's exceptionally cold out, boy and girl's innocent cuddling session in truck goes too far, boy and girl have one week to decide if they're a good match before leaving for their respective rafting jobs in different states. When you're a gypsy, there are no first dates, no waiting three days to call, no goodnight kisses on the porch, no porches to speak of at all, and no taking things slow. You either move into a truck with someone who could be The One, or you do what I did and settle for the occasional fling.
So, when I got a phone call the next morning from the Brazilian, I wasn't sure what he wanted, and I let it go to voicemail, where he left the following request: "I want to take you special dinner tonight, Melanie."
I texted him back several hours later, "Sure." Not really wanting to deal with this whole dinner-date nonsense, I packed a sandwich and ate it on the subway on my way to meet him. Later at the restaurant, when I ordered a soda water with lemon for dinner, he threw a hissy-fit. "What? Why you no eat?"
"Nah, it's okay. You eat! Menu looks great."
"But I bring you here for special dinner. You no like?"
"I like. I just no hungry."
The Brazilian was visibly upset and said nothing for most of the night, just sawing off slabs of steak and looking around. I finally gave in and ate a few bites of his mashed potatoes, just to make him happy. Maybe food is really important in Brazil, I thought. Either way, I wanted to leave. After dinner, we went back to his place, where we could finally stop wasting time with such silliness and have us some fun.
I started sleeping over at the Brazilian's place more often. Every morning he left for his job as a professional dog walker around six a.m. Then, like clockwork, he'd send me some sappy text from a park bench.
"Good morning dear Mel. We see each other tonight? I wish I hugging you like pillow. :-( "
Four or five hours later I would text him back, "sure. I'll be there at 11."
Other than his annoying texts — which I suspected most women would find romantic — he was a lot of fun. Way more fun, actually, than any American dude I'd been with. For starters, he was obsessed with my butt, a butt I'd always assumed was too big for white guys in the States. He couldn't seem to keep his hands off it, sometimes grabbing it like a pile of dough and shaking it wildly while murmuring sounds of approval.
He always wanted me to strip for him too, but only so he could stare at my butt longer. I'd usually get a dollar. "I dance for you now!" he'd say, then lock his fingers behind his head and do that helicopter thing. His goofiness was strangely hot. One night he ripped off his shirt and showed me that he'd shaved his entire chest "for me." The next night it was his crotch. "Now I soft like baby for you." Everything about this relationship was weird and hilarious and amazing and I couldn't get enough of it.
Well, all except the nagging. He just wouldn't drop the whole "date" thing. I couldn't figure out why on earth he felt the need to go on dates. Wasn't getting laid the whole point of guys spending money on women? If you own a house, it doesn't make sense to also pay a mortgage, does it? I usually lied and promised we would go out soon, just to get him to shut up.
On one of my last nights in town, I showed up at his place close to midnight and broke the terrible news that it was "that" time of the month.
"That's okay! I have special sheet!"
"Uh, I don't know what this period sheet is, but I want nothing to do with it."
For a few seconds, he laid there, splayed out on his bed, looking confused.
"So, I guess you're just going to have to be okay with cuddling," I said.
He lit up, clapped his hands, lifted the covers, and patted the bed for me to join him, like I was a puppy. I ate a handful of almonds from my backpack then crawled into bed, where he just stared at me with a smirk.