Last week, I wrote about meeting someone in the wild. “Yes! It’s possible!” I touted from my meet-cute pedestal. I was flexing, but can you blame me? Last Sunday’s younger, more naïve Victoria was drunk on the statistical improbability of the whole thing, intoxicated with the idea of un-ironically saying, “You’ll never guess how we met!” I was stunting and I’m sorry for that. You’ll be happy to know, however, that there will not be a second date with my dream IRL guy. I’m fairly confident he wants nothing to do with me. One could say the date was not a success. Well, I guess it depends on your definition of success, but that’s a story for another column.
After the failed romance of the boy and the hot dog stand, I thought momentarily about throwing in the towel. “I’m exhausted,” I said to my friends over drinks. It was a Monday night, but somehow our “early dinner” had turned into early drinks. It was happy hour, so you know, we were saving money.
“I can’t win. I think I’m going to take a break,” I whined.
In response, like the adorably sweet girls they are, my post-grad friends straight up laughed in my face.
“Shut the fuck up,” Addie replied. “You think you, Victoria, are going to stop dating?”
I’ve never seen such an aggressive collective eye roll. That being said, those assholes are right. I’m not done. I’m not even close to done.
The game is my battlefield and the playbook is my sword. First date ecstasy doesn’t come easy, or everyone would be doing it. Either you live life or you let life live you and in that moment, sitting with my girlfriends, shooting back Sake like we were freshman in college, I chose the former.
Once I shifted my attitude, I felt it. I felt the tingle from my toes to my nose as that hot rice wine slid down my throat. “Oh, baby. I’m back. I. Am. Back!” I hollered.
“Will you relax – it’s been like 7 days,” Kara replied.
Friends, man. They’re here to keep you grounded.
Even with my spirit reinvigorated, however, I felt I needed to ease myself back into things. I didn’t want to launch into a convoluted first date plan when I knew I wasn’t ready, that’d be foolish.
So, when I matched with Rich two days later, I didn’t go in with guns blazing. Instead, I went for total transparency, a lay-all-my-cards-on-the-table approach. I chose to bare my soul, and out of that honesty like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, the Forts and Snacks maneuver was born.
First, you should know that I usually don’t send literal paragraphs to potential suitors after only a few exchanges, but Rich was easy to talk to. He wasn’t judge-y and he said “I understand” a lot. He was goofy and had this mop of brown hair, the kind you want to ruffle. I liked the kid because he was incredibly endearing, he felt like an old friend more than a stranger I met via algorithm. Plus, he was hot, so I went for it.
“You know that feeling when you’re lying in bed after a night out? You’re groggy and a bit hung over, but you’re so grateful to have someone next to you to keep you company? It’s like you’ve got a bed buddy, someone to ease into Saturday with. Right now, that’s what I want in a first date. Just once I don’t want to pull out all the stops. I want a comfy date, something that feels almost indulgent in a youthful way. I don’t know, maybe that’s just winter Victoria talking? You probably think I’m crazy.”
“I totally get it!” he replied. “The cold makes me want to hunker down, but like when we were kids with forts and snacks.”
Wow, he kind of got it.
“Forts and snacks, that’s the dream,” I laughed.
We began to talk about our favorite snacks as kids. Mine were obviously the superior snack, peanut butter pretzels, and his were Hawaiian rolls with Fluff. I told him about how I used to get Chex Mix and Sour Patch Kids and eat them in one bite and he laughed at how he used to put chocolate syrup on his fruit roll-ups. It wasn’t until halfway through this conversation that the maneuver started to take shape in my mind.
Then all of the sudden I had it! Maybe, just maybe, I would get my comfy date after all.
Prepare The Play
We planned our date for Tuesday night. The weather was perfect; chilly and a little damp. I texted Rich to meet me after work outside of a local grocery store.
“A grocery store?” he questioned. I could tell he was beginning to wonder if it was a bad move to let me plan the date.
“Trust me, will you?”
“I don’t think I half-joked” he half joked.
Fifteen minutes before we were supposed to meet, I walked into a diner across the street. This diner is a good one, as so many are. They do a mean chocolate chip pancake and burned black coffee – the kind that gives you jitters all morning.
I scanned the restaurant and found a booth in the corner that I liked. The place already had Christmas lights up and there was only one other patron half-dozing at the counter. I marched up to the hostess and smiled by best “can you help me” smile.
“Hi,” I said. “Can you help me? See, I’ve got this date…”
After two minutes of explaining my maneuver, the hostess was all in. She too was a comrade in dating arms and was practically hyperventilating at the “adorableness” of it all. A few strips of duct-tape later and I had successfully attached a flask of whisky to the bottom of the booth of my choosing. I scurried out of the restaurant and across the street, waving good bye to the incredibly enthusiastic waiters. They just liked feeling a part of something, you know?
Shoot Your Shot
“Hi, hi, hi!” I said, rushing to Rich’s side. “Nice to meet you!”
He kissed me on the cheek.
“Okay, Victoria, what are we doing here?”
“Remember when we were talking about forts and snacks?” I said, nervous he wouldn’t make the connection. He nodded as a smile crept onto his face.
“Well, step one of the date, procure childhood snacks!” I pointed to the grocery store and laughed. Was I totally out of my mind?
We spent the next 45 minutes wandering around the aisles reminiscing on the simpler times – the care free Oreo dunking, peanut butter scooping, bologna sandwich eating days. He told me about his childhood and what his parents are like. I told him about the night I broke my wrist trying to get cookies from the top of the refrigerator and about my relationship with my sister. As we checked out, I realized I knew more about this guy after the first half of our first date than I did after most third dates. The grocery store, it just opened us up.
“So now for the taste testing I presume?” Rich grinned. He put his arm around me as we walked through the parking lot. “We can eat at that bench.”
“Well” I said. “Now that we have the snacks, we need the fort, don’t we? I figured we could go to a diner, which is the basically a fort-restaurant.”
Rich was over the moon, but then again, who doesn’t like diners?
As we walked in, our bag of snacks swinging between us, I swear every staff member in the establishment was smiling at us in giddy anticipation. I tried to scream “stay cool guys” with my eyes, but this was probably the most exciting thing that had happened in months.
We sat down, ordered coffee and fries, and proceeded to unpack our loot. He explained to me the history of each of his favorite snacks and I did the same. I nearly peed my pants as he demonstrated how to make a perfect Nilla Wafer and String Cheese sandwich.
“And for my final trick,” I finally said, grabbing the flask that was taped under the table. “I present an adult addition to our trip down memory lane.”
Rich cracked up. As we sipped our very strong whisky coffees he made me go over in detail how I’d set the whole thing up.
So there we were, sitting in a diner eating childhood snacks and drinking whisky coffees. The Christmas lights took the ambiance from comfy to cozy. Somehow, we’d created a stress-free first date bubble fun and easy banter and little to no pressure to perform. I was warm, maybe from the whisky or maybe from Rich’s arm around me. Either way, I liked it.
Our cheeks were both pretty rosy by the time we reluctantly paid the bill and walked outside. The air was cold on my face.
“Okay,” Rich announced, “This was amazing. You have to let me plan the next one!”
“Deal,” I smiled. It would be nice to have someone call the shots every once in a while.
“Perfect,” he replied.
I couldn’t stop staring at his lips.
“Wait! What are you doing next Thursday?”
“I think I’m free.”
“Well, I’m having a Christmas party,” he whispered, pulling me close. “If you stick around afterward, we could build a real fort. You know, the kind with sheets.”
I laughed, my heart racing out of my chest.
“And what will we do in this fort made of sheets?” I said so quietly he had to lean in extra close.
Rich raised an eyebrow, wrapping one hand around my lower back.
“Well, Victoria. Certainly nothing we would have done as kids.”
I kissed him softy, just once, then turned to leave.
“We’ll see about that. You better make a damn good fort.” .