Good dates might foster emotional connection, blossom into relationships, and maybe even end with a happy couple on the alter, but no one wants to hear about that. Bad dates might not end the way anyone wants them to, but at least they end with a story. This is one of those stories.
“Right here is fine,” she said to her Uber driver, who pulled up outside a trendy tapas joint. She gathered her purse and phone, as well as her thoughts, as she walked through the doors and smiled at the hostess. She was uncharacteristically excited for this date. Unlike most of her first dates in recent years, this one hadn’t been the product of an app’s algorithm and the swipe of a thumb, but had actually stemmed from a real-life connection.
She had met Dan, the man who was waiting for her at the bar, at an after-hours museum function she and a few girlfriends had attended after seeing tickets for it on Groupon. He had quipped a witty line about an especially dense piece of abstract art, and soon they were engaged in conversation while their respective friends deserted them to hit the open bar.
He had seemed funny, intelligent, and above all, respectful, a characteristic that she had mentally placed at the top of her “date qualifiers” list after enduring an 18-month relationship with her douchebag ex. He had even mentioned participating in the Women’s March, made a disparaging joke about the rampant sexism in the media, and didn’t appear to be phased when she took the lead set up a date for them later that week.
Excited to finally go on a date with a modern, forward-thinking man, she walked up to him at the bar and greeted him.
“Hey! I’m glad you found the place okay!” She exclaimed as she gave him a hug. He smelled of cologne and whiskey, which she wasn’t expecting, but didn’t allow it to phase her. After all, it’s not like she hadn’t had a glass of wine at home to loosen up before the date.
“Of course, I did. I’m actually surprised you didn’t draw me a map to make sure I wouldn’t get lost when you planned out our night.”
She hesitated, taken aback by the derision in his voice, before responding, “Oh, I didn’t do much planning, I just Googled-” He cut her off with a smile that seemed a little forced.
“I’m totally kidding. I love that you took the lead. Strong women are the future.” She laughed uncomfortably, but decided not to read too much into the “joke.” After all, she didn’t want to be seen as a girl with no sense of humor. She ordered a glass of the house red to match his Whiskey Ginger, and soon they were deep in conversation. He seemed to be the nice, charming man she had met at the museum, and her hopes of a meaningful connection returned.
The topic turned, against all dating rules, to politics, and he once again mentioned his experience at the Women’s March they year prior.
“It was just really inspiring to see so many men take work off to march for women’s rights, you know?” He gushed, while she tried to process the phrasing he had used. “Like, it doesn’t specifically benefit men, and yet, so many were out there, selflessly, to protect and help the women they care about. I’m just proud to be a feminist.” He finished, mistaking her squinted expression for admiration.
“Well…” She began slowly, trying to formulate her thoughts through the haze of wine. “I don’t think feminism is about protecting women, it’s about people wanting equality, which benefits both genders. I do agree that it’s inspiring that so many men and women took work off for the march, however.” She looked at him, hoping that it was just the alcohol that was creating a miscommunication. I mean, he had called himself a feminist, right? And what he had said was almost the same as the beliefs she held, although some of the phrasing was off.
Still, the date was going relatively well. They shared some tiny Spanish dishes, and carefully moved the discussion away from politics and into the safer realm of their families. He talked about growing up with three sisters, and how it “helped shape him into the nice guy he is today.” All was going smoothly, until she mentioned that both her brother and sister actually worked for the same engineering firm.
“Engineering?” He said incredulously. “Wow, that’s impressive. Nice of big brother to put in a good word for her, huh?” He winked, and her expression turned cold.
“Actually, my sister is the older one and helped my brother get the job. She was always the smart one of the family.” She said, watching his expression closely. “Why would you assume she only got a job because of my brother?”
Dan stammered, clearly trying to backtrack his words. “Well, you know, it’s just so hard for women in the STEM fields. They have to try twice as hard to overcome the boy’s club mentality-“
“Bullshit.” She cut him off. “You know what? I don’t think you’re a feminist at all, Dan. I think you just claim to be one to hide how sexist you actually are.” She knew she was speaking too loudly in the quiet restaurant, but she didn’t care. Someone had to tell this guy that no one was falling for his act.
“Whoa, relax. Don’t get too emotional.” Dan said with a grin, clearly unaware how close he was to getting a $14 glass of wine thrown at him. “I’m a nice guy. I love women. I even let you plan out our date tonight, how is that sexist?”
She laughed mirthlessly at his almost impressive lack of awareness. “The fact that you think you ‘let me’ plan our date is how I know you’re not a feminist. I don’t have time to teach you all the ways you’re wrong, but I would like this date to be over. Could we get the check?” She spoke the last part to the bartender, who, sensing that this date was coming to a rapid end, nodded curtly and turned to close them out.
“You know what?” Dan slurred, the alcohol and anger at getting “talked back to” by a woman causing him to drop the act, “Girls like you just don’t realize how well you have it. I’m a good-looking, decent guy who would treat you right, but that’s not what you want. You want some asshole who will treat you like garbage, and then you’ll complain about how there’s ‘no nice guys out there.’ You’re just a slut who doesn’t see what a good thing you’re missing out on. And in fact, I’m such a feminist that I’m happy to let you pay for this bill.”
She smiled brightly at him and replied. “You’re right, Dan. I both have my standards set too high and am a slut. That makes perfect sense. And I will gladly cover this bill, which I was going to offer to pay for anyway because there is no price too high to pay to be able to not interact with you anymore.”
She signed the tab while he looked on in shock, and walked proudly out to the street. As she hailed a cab and headed home, she contemplated on the night. Sure, she was bummed that the date she had thought had potential was, in fact, a nightmare, but there was a silver lining: She had a killer bad date story to tell all her friends at brunch on Saturday. .