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I’ve spent Valentine’s Day a lot of different ways. What I have never done, however, is go on a date with a reader who asked me out via Playbook. I generally don’t go out with readers at all, quite frankly. Not because I don’t want to, but because I am fairly confident they’re in it for one reason and one reason only: To unmask the pseudonym.
Look, I don’t blame them! But the imagination is a crazy place and living up to whatever standard a stranger has conjured up via a two-dimensional internet personality is slightly intimidating. That being said, the reader I went out with last week was a little different. The effort he put in was creative and ballsy and I thought to myself, why not? Practice what you preach, you know?
So, last weekend I messaged Nate saying yes, I’d love to take him up on his offer. I suggested I plan the date because, let’s be real, it’s kind of my thing.
I chose Valentine’s Day as the night of our date, not because it was the only evening I was available, but because I figured it’d be fun to up the stakes. I’ll admit it, I wanted to stoke the fire a little bit, get the adrenaline pumping slightly more than normal.
As the week progressed I figured I’d come up with something, but the more I thought about it, the more I pushed it out of my mind. There were a lot of missing variables that you normally have when planning a date, so I froze.
On Valentine’s Day, as I rode the metro to meet my mystery reader, I had no time to go home and change, no idea what we were going to do, and a growing nervousness that I was way out of my league.
“Think, Victoria!” I thought to myself.
Luckily, by the grace of Cupid himself, my 6th sense kicked into gear just in time.
The below is a rundown of the very first Single Woman’s Dating Playbook: A Valentine’s Date With A Reader. Not only does it contain my perspective, but also includes a recap from the very reader himself.
This is the first time I have ever received feedback on my first date skillz. It was weird, but I think I like it. I hope you like it, too!
Let’s rewind the clock to 7:00 PM last Wednesday (Valentine’s day for those keeping track at home). That is when I finally got to “call her Victoria.”
I had no idea what to expect, technically I didn’t even know what she looked like before meeting up. It turned out to be pretty easy to figure out, as there was only one 23-year-old blonde wearing a blazer on the corner of Ocean Avenue and Santa Monica.
First of all, please imagine my horror at arriving at our meeting point and realizing Nate knew neither my first name nor what I looked like. Of course, I had already back-stalked him! I knew what he looked like, what his job was, and that he had an appropriate amount of Facebook photos to fall under the “not sociopath” category.
It didn’t even cross my mind that he had absolutely no idea who I was. What if he saw me and immediately turned the other way?! Upon realizing this, my heart rate started to elevate quickly.
Also, for the record, I chose the corner of Ocean Avenue and Santa Monica strategically (more on that later).
We were both starving, so food was the natural next move. We opted for a sushi place, which I enjoy, but I did hold some reservations about. As an east coast inland guy, my chopstick skill-level would be described as somewhere between rookie and amateur.
Immediately, I liked Nate. Upon meeting on the corner I introduced myself quickly and cleared up the whole “oh yeah, my real name is…” debacle. He was outgoing from the onset and seemed only a little bit nervous, which I could appreciate. I was nervous too.
I scanned him up and down the minute I met him. Wouldn’t you? He is a brunette, in good shape, and had a nice smile. No, it is more of a grin. He has a grin that makes you want to smile too. If he also checked me out I didn’t notice. Points for you Nate.
The server comes over and CMV starts the song and dance with an order of edamame. Full disclosure, she asked me if I liked it, I claimed I did and was somewhat surprised to find out that I had absolutely misconstrued was edamame was. I thought it was a type of sushi. Newsflash, it’s a soybean still in the pod.
So, in an attempt to do what any respectable date would do, I rolled with the punches and ate it as if it was a string bean. Yep, pod and all. Thankfully, I don’t think she noticed, or if she did, she pretended not to.
When I read this part of Nate’s email I laughed audibly. Nate, you sweet guy. I did, in fact, notice you eat the edamame pod and all. I never in 1 million years would have called you out for it if you hadn’t included it here. I actually marveled at how quickly you adapted and learned how to properly consume the bean sans pod.
It was at this point that I realized you probably were not as familiar with sushi as you led me to believe, so I was equally as intrigued when you let me order dinner for both us.
Clearly, you were game for anything. I like a guy that can roll with the punches.
I quickly learned the correct way to eat the edamame (shout out to the table next to us) and the rest of sushi and sake went off without a hitch. We had great conversations about work (#consultinglife), side hustles (Yay for 23-year-old entrepreneurs!) and our next career moves.
Nate had a lot to say which made my job easy. I sat back, sipped hot sake, and listened as he told me stories of his life as a post grad. Very early into dinner, I realized we both have big personalities. One of us would have to relinquish control of the conversation and I was happy to oblige. Nate talked a lot, and rightfully so. He’s a passionate guy.
As the sushi came to an end, neither of us seemed quite ready to call it a night. And on that note, Victoria decided to pull out all the stops to show the east coaster an authentic LA experience. It was onto the local’s favorite jazz club, a hole-in-the-wall a few blocks away. She claims she didn’t plan this, but she also had tickets on her phone, so I’ll let you fill in the blanks. And what an experience it was. It was about as close to being in the movie La La Land as I expect to be.
The sushi restaurant we went to was one block down from a jazz club I frequent. Nate is right in saying this was indeed not a coincidence. The fact that I had tickets on my phone was also not a coincidence. I bought the tickets on the metro about four minutes before our date. I knew they had Valentine’s Day drink specials and I also knew it wouldn’t be packed because it’s never packed. The place is all velvet seats and 50s decor and the crowd that frequents are an eclectic group of locals, to say the least. The live band is always really good and they only take cash at the door. I’d say the name but I don’t want to burn my spot.
We were the youngest in the establishment, and absolutely thriving. Two martinis (extra dirty please) later, and we were on the dance floor. Not to be outmatched by the old-heads killing the game, we gave it the ole college try. Did I execute the spin as well as Ryan Gosling’s Seb? Probably not, but in that moment, I might as well have.
After our first martini, I asked Nate if he liked to dance. “I don’t usually do it, but I’m down to try” was his response. Like I said, he was game for anything.
It was the first time I’d really touched Nate all night, which may be strange to say, but I remember it well. He took my hand and he was firm and steady. He let me lead for a bit while he got his bearings, then he took control of the spinning and dancing.
The lights were dim and red and the band was really good. We danced and chatted and in that moment I finally let my guard down.
The night ended and we went our separate ways. It was magical, to see her scootering into the distance towards who knows where (apparently renting scooters on the street is the thing to do in LA).
What a sentence! “Scootering into the distance.” To clarify: In Santa Monica, we can rent electric scooters on the street. That is my preferred method of transport these days.
So Victoria, thank you again for an awesome night, cheers to the best sushi and jazz night I’ve ever had.
I remember looking over at Nate while we were on the dance floor. We were swaying between couples in fur coats and top hats, the band loud enough to drown out all the other noise, and he was smiling. He was smiling that grin of his and it made me smile too. I started to think about life and taking chances and how, in the middle of this crazy time, good people still far outweigh the bad.
So Nate, thank you. Thank you for taking a risk and emailing a writer you’d never even seen before. Thanks for sharing your Valentine’s Day with me, and for eating sushi and drinking martinis even though I’m fairly sure neither is your favorite. Thanks for dancing with me even though that must have been scary as hell. But most of all, thanks for showing up entirely open to whatever came your way.
So often are we inhibited by our fears or ego or preconceived notions, but last week you were none of those things. You were a gentleman and you were brave.
If there’s anything I can say, it’s that whatever girl you go out with next is incredibly lucky to have found you..