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I’m not a follower of horoscopes or astrology but I’m about 80% sure some sort of outer space shenanigans were happening this week. I couldn’t tell you if it was Pluto entering full moon retrograde or the tides shifting Saturn to its 5th house, but there was certainly a cosmic force at play. Some sort of intergalactic magnetic vortex went all freaky sci-fi on us and, I swear to god, influenced the PGP collective consciousness to be even more frighteningly aligned than usual. How do I know this, you ask? Because between Sunday and Thursday, no less than six readers emailed me about one thing and one thing only: dating an acquaintance.
If that’s not spooky woo-woo shit, then I don’t know what is.
Whether it is the pretty family friend from childhood or the flirty waitress you’ve kind-of known for years, it’s like there’s this overwhelming desire from the single readers out there to give it a try with someone they have been acquainted with for a while but hadn’t ever previously considered. And you know what? I’m all in. Forget Bumble, forget blind dates (okay, actually don’t forget them because they’re fantastic tools for meeting people) but fuck it, let’s put them on the back burner this week and give the ol’ swiping finger a rest.
The apps, with their ever complicated algorithms and instant gratification-ness, allow us to reach into pockets of the city we’ve quite literally never visited in real life. I mean, have I ever been to Echo Park? No. Have I gone on dates with 1-3 gentlemen who call that neighborhood their home? You bet I have.
In this day and age, we have the ability to meet strangers in any corner of the globe. Hell, we can actually swipe in different cities before we visit them! Now, while that is a dope dating app feature for the ever-transient consultant or Bible salesman, this week I began to wonder if it may be blinding us to potential candidate’s right in front of our eyes. What about the people you kind-of know through yoga class or because you were both associates at the same firm a few years back? Shouldn’t they be factored into the equation somehow?
Have we pigeonholed ourselves by confining our dating pool to two very distinct buckets: the stranger or the friend. Upon examining the consistency in reader inquiries all from this past week, I wonder — Are we missing out on possibly the best crop of potential suitors by ignoring the acquaintance right in front of our nose?
When Single Squad™ comes forth with such a consistent string of inquiries about the exact same topic, I can’t help but get all tingly and obedient. So, in response to everyone looking to give it a shot with that girl you went to summer school with or the neighbor who fixes your cable every time it goes out, I would like to humbly enter into the record this week’s Single Woman’s Dating Playbook. It is a tale of my one and only relationship with an acquaintance, and all the things he did right to make it happen.
Plant The Seed
The year was 2015 and the city was Washington D.C. I was a full-time student, part-time bartender, and an overwhelming combination of both very single and very busy. Anyone would tell you I should have cut down my hours at the bar — if not to focus more rigorously on my studies, then to at least socialize like a normal 21-year-old. That being said, I was addicted to the grind and the cash. Anyone that has worked in a popular bar or restaurant knows the trappings of being flush with restaurant money – it’s intoxicating to say the least.
On a particularly busy night in February, I was pumping out margaritas as fast as my pruned fingers would let me. It was one of those evenings where I barely looked up to take an order, relying on whatever drunk 20-something most desperately wanted drinks to yell in my ear above the Latin music blaring from the speakers.
Just as things started to slow down from bat-shit crazy to mildly insane, I heard a voice from the end of the bar.
“Victoria! Hey, Victoria!” I looked up, assuming it was a coworker.
“What?” I said, wiping the salt off my hands onto my already drenched apron.
Through the crowd, I saw a face I barely recognized. Finn was waving and squeezing to the front of the bar, saying something inaudible over the roaring chatter around us. I walked over to him quickly, both surprised to see him and hoping to make the interaction as short and cordial as possible – I had money to make, after all.
See, he was an acquaintance by every definition of the word. Both from California, we went to different high schools but worked at the same beach camp as teenagers. Freshman year of college, when we ran into each other at orientation, we were ecstatic – for about a week. Soon after reuniting in all of our West Coast glory, Finn plunged head first into Greek life and I, well, I didn’t. We were always peripheral friends, happy to chat at parties and smile, but for the most part, I left him in his box and he left me in mine.
“Hey Finn, how are you?” I asked, wiping down the bar and pouring him a mug of whatever we had on draft.
“Cheers,” he said, taking a sip of the drink. “Listen, I didn’t realize it would be so crazy in here. I was hoping to catch you when it was quiet. I don’t have your number, otherwise, I would have texted.”
“Oh, that’s nice. Ummm, so what’s up?” I said, looking over my shoulder to assess the bar. Things had calmed down sufficiently; I probably had five minutes max.
“I saw you last week…” he continued, not at all bothered by my hesitation. “ I saw you at 9:30 Club. I wanted to say hi but it was packed. I thought we could get a drink, you know, catch up.”
Four years later and he wanted to catch up? I weighed his proposition in my mind, curious and slightly suspicious all at once. See, as a bartender people give you their number a lot, it’s really just part of the job. The first few times it’s flattering until you realize they’d probably give their number to whoever was serving them their fifth margarita.
Even though I knew Finn, I still wasn’t sure I wanted to go out with him. Here’s the thing about getting propositioned by an acquaintance, your mind will always go back to “why now?” Why didn’t they consider me a viable candidate sooner? Was I not good enough six months ago?
While I am a notorious believer in the “shoot your shot” approach to dating, the acquaintance has to be handled a little differently. I dare say, “play it safe.” You must tread lightly around an acquaintance so as not to scare them off.
That’s why, as Finn leaned over the bar, an inquisitive smile on his lips, I finally wrote my number on a napkin and handed it to him. “I usually get off at 11,” I said.
“Great!” he replied, “I’ll be around the corner with some buddies. I’ll text you.”
I wasn’t entirely sure why I gave him my number other than the fact that he had made it so incredibly low pressure. I know for a fact, if Finn had stormed into the bar and asked me on a dinner date, or propositioned some overly flirtatious event invitation, I would have smiled and told him I was “so busy lately,” and never would have handed him a margarita-soaked napkin with my number on it. A drink around the corner from my job, however, that was something I could do.
Shoot Your Shot
“Hey! We’re over at Bread Soda, how about that drink?” Finn texted me at 10:30 as I was closing out for the night.
“I’m so exhausted…rain check?” I typed, ready to push send. Then, for the second time that night, Finn made the perfect call.
“We’re playing pool, I’ll introduce you to my friends!” he texted before I could respond.
Normally, if a guy tried to introduce me to his friends on a first date I would file him under “psycho” and cancel immediately. That being said, this was an acquaintance scenario. A quick beer and opportunity to shoot the shit with his friends was perfect for re-getting to know someone I knew peripherally (at best). In 10 minutes of my getting there, we’d be able to tell if there was any chemistry at all. If there wasn’t, no harm no foul, we’d both move on and go back to polite nods and flirty smiles at parties.
Four beers and two games of pool later, however, the chemistry was there and it was evident.
“What made you ask me out?” I finally asked, my IPA-fueled confidence doing the talking.
“I saw you the other night and I thought, you know, we get along well and you’re cool, why not see if there was anything here…” he said, fumbling over his words. “I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner,” he laughed.
“Me either,” I replied, “But I’d like to do it again if you’re interested”
And that, my friends, is how Finn moved from acquaintance to not so acquaintance with one very low-pressure date.
So, if you’ve got someone on the mind (and if you made it through this article), I dare say you do. Do me a favor and give it a shot. And if she asks why you waited until now, you tell her, “that’s easy, it was now or never.”
After all,you never know who’s waiting on the other side of the bar. .