For years afterward, when I was back with my husband, girlfriends (who were themselves pursuing mates) had to hear me tell the story of that most perplexing date, a cautionary tale about trusting your first take, which boiled down to: If you’re not excited about seeing a guy a second time, cut your losses. Move on.
More than two decades later, here I was breaking my rule, agreeing to go out on a second date when the first hadn’t done anything for me. And sure enough, this one was falling flat too. We weren’t running out of topics, but our chat about the prescience of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” our children’s endless college tours and the decline of the subway, felt generic.
Not that there was anything off about Rich, an intelligent, affable guy who simply wasn’t as exciting as his Bumble persona. But since I was feeling no chemistry, why waste time? At our age, who has time to waste?
I restlessly veered to a stock question: “Have you done much online dating?”
“Yes, since my divorce,” he said. “And I met my ex through an ad, pre-internet, in The New York Press. Which you may not have heard of.”
“Hah!” I said. “Actually, I went on my worst date of my life thanks to that newspaper.” And I told him about the man who seemed to want to reject me because we had so much in common, so aversive in body language and expression that I never wanted to see him again. “When he called to ask me out for a second date, to go see a Spalding Gray show, I hadn’t prepared an excuse, so I pretended I was getting back together with my husband.”
“You made that up?” Rich said, seeming bothered.
“But it turned out to be true!” I said. “Not long after, my ex and I did agree to try again. So, happy ending, for a while, at least. Though I’m sorry I missed Spalding Gray.”