Somehow I’d managed to forget the first eleven dates. I suspect they were duly forgettable. How else could I explain Brad’s twelfth date appearance on what was actually a first date? More accurately, it seemed like the kind of get-up you wear twelve years into a relationship, but I couldn’t possibly forget such a chunk of time. Not even with a guy like Brad.
His entire outfit looked like it was ready for the thrift store…or maybe that’s where he got it. The shoes were the worst. Overworn dad shoes, a cross between a hiking boots and slippers. Hideous. Practical for walking the dog—in the dark, on a deserted street—but not first impression material. My commitment to fashion consciousness may be waning but even I know you have to pick out something other than the 70% Off bargain you scored at a Polo factory outlet store…fifteen years ago.
Harsh, I know, but the first coffee is not the time to flash your I-don’t-care attitude. Save it for your coworkers, the ones who got you a Safeway cake with too much blue icing for your last birthday, one of whom keeps eating your peanut butter and banana sandwich in the staff fridge. Let them have to stare at the discount shirt eight hours a day at least once a week—twice if you really want to send them a middle finger. (They’re eating your lunch, after all!)
But Brad doesn’t work at an office. As he told me, “I’m a realtor. When I have clients. Otherwise, I guess I’m unemployed.” Too honest. This I-don’t-care vibe can be so off-putting.
In retrospect, I suppose I pissed him off at “Hello.” He’d shown up with his new puppy and I crouched down to pat Rowley before shaking hands with Brad. It’s a puppy! A golden retriever! It was only once I got eye level with Brad that I realized my own first faux pas. Rowley wore one of those Guide Dog in Training vests. I was supposed to ask for permission. Wait until the pooch was sitting and totally connected with its master. Oh, but a puppy! So cute! I apologized. Profusely. Brad shrugged it off. Clearly he’d already encountered plenty of stupid people like me. Vancouver is such a dog city.
|Come on, smokers. You can do better.|
We walked half a block. That’s as far as Rowley wanted to go. (Smart dog. He knew this date wasn’t going anywhere.) We sat on a low concrete wall as Brad tried to keep Rowley from putting cigarette butts in his mouth. (Rowley’s mouth, not Brad’s. To be clear, the dog was only beginning training.) The conversation crawled achingly along. Rowley insisted on being the primary focus. When he wasn’t trying to satisfy nicotine cravings, he barked repeatedly and tried to jump up on Brad. I didn’t mind. What can you expect from a twelve-week-old pup? And, of course, I’d established a primary orientation toward Rowley from the outset. Golden retriever! Puppy! Twelve weeks old! Even Ryan Reynolds would play second fiddle.
“Have you had dinner yet?” Brad asked.
“No,” I said. Nothing more. Even if I wanted to extend our twelfth date, it wasn’t practical. Rowley was barking plenty. Just because a guide dog can go in a restaurant doesn’t mean it should. As much as I love dogs, even I know that. Even in a dog city.
Then it was Brad’s turn to bark. “Stop it, Rowley! You’re getting on my nerves.”
And just like that, I was done. You bring your dog at your own peril. A dog can misbehave, but the owner can’t.
“I think Rowley needs to go home,” I said. “He just needs some attention. So adorable!”
I told the dog to sit. I waited for eye contact. “Good dog, “ I said. “Such a good dog.” I needed Rowley to hear that. The three of us walked the half block back to Starbucks. Brad and I exchanged obligatory “Nice to meet yous” and then we parted ways.
As I walked home, an initial sense of indifference evolved into gratitude. Mr. Date #12 was out of sight, gone for good. I surveyed myself as I waited for a signal to turn green. Yes, I hadn’t gotten my dates crossed. I’d thought about what to wear. Classic casual punctuated with a sense of fun from my light blue Chuck Taylors. Every stitch of clothing was bought in the last six months (and nothing from an outlet mall). I’d even ironed! I’d shown up in first-date mode and departed with the satisfaction that I’d been spared eleven more. In no time, even the first will be forgotten.