The Best Mistake

I went on my first real “date,” and I’m extremely hesitant to call it a date for reasons you’ll soon learn. Everyone is going to want to hear about this and I’m going to streamline this story by posting it here. For those who may be wondering, it was not with the person I last posted about; turns out that person was a catfish. If you don’t know what that term means, it’s just a person who pretends to be someone else. I can’t tell you why they decided it was appropriate to impersonate not just one person, but two. That’s a bit of a long story about how that relationship fell apart, but let’s just stick with the fact that they were a liar and a fraud. But let’s get back to my first “date.”

Once again, I met this person through an app. I was NOT going to start a relationship with this person without seeing them in person like the catfish, so I really pushed for it and it happened. From the get-go, it was doomed though. She seemed to be really goofy when we were texting, but when I started talking about going on a date, all I got back was apathy and warnings. I was told that every person in her life had fallen out of it and she’d lost all confidence in dating so she wasn’t expecting me to be any different. She doesn’t have a job or an education and live with her parents, so life isn’t really going her way. I figured all of this was a front or some kind of modesty that everyone uses to downplay themselves. You know how someone offers you a compliment and you brush it off saying, “Oh, well I’m not THAT great,” or, “Thanks, but my hair doesn’t look THAT good?” That’s what I was thinking was happening. “I’m awkward, I’m bleh, I’m not cute,” are all things I was told and I played it off like she was just rejecting my compliments politely or something. I was wrong though, and she was right.

So as to the actual date, it was yesterday. She lives in a town about 20 miles south of Ogden, so I took the bus down there. It was about an hour long bus ride, but I was just excited so I had no problem with that. I got down there and after being confused about where the house was, we found each other. The picture(s) I’d seen made her look pretty attractive, but the actual person was not quite as done up. I get that there are filters and editing and different factors leading to better photos, but I was a little disappointed. I’d showered and done my hair for it hoping to look presentable, but she was not reciprocating my effort. She took me inside and asked what I wanted to do, and I said I was hungry. She mentioned a couple places around, so we walked to a fast food place called Arctic Circle. It’s like McDonalds’ ugly cousin. At first I tried to strike up conversation, but it was totally one sided. I commented on how many LDS churches I’d seen on the drive down and how there was one on every block, even directly across the street from each other. That had a little potential when she talked about her spirituality and saying she wasn’t interested in organized religion or being “preached at.” But after that, I was expecting a little effort to be made on her part to offer another topic. But for half the walk, it was just me making observations about the town and trying to start conversation, only to receive single sentence answers and more disinterest. The second half of the walk was basically silence. We ordered food, ate in almost complete silence, and I went to the bathroom after I finished. I would’ve paid, but the date was already going so poorly I didn’t offer. I went to the bathroom and messaged my friend saying something like, “She’s out.” I was having a miserable time. I knew that I wouldn’t want to see her again. I hate to play right into her ploy, the one about nobody ever sticking around, but I felt as if this was intentional. She believed she had nothing to offer me or to offer a relationship, so she didn’t even bother trying to make it work.

We walked back to her house in complete silence, all the while I was looking for buses out of there. I missed them all, so we went back to her place and I met her dogs. I would have to stay there for more than an hour until the next bus came. We got inside and she asked what I wanted to do there. She had movies on DVR and DVD, and she said, “I might have a board game somewhere.” I just said lets watch Seinfeld, which is what was on when the TV turned on. So I sat there on the couch, mostly silent, watching Seinfeld and petting a dog occasionally. I made it through one episode before parents started coming home and I was like, “Ok, I can’t stay any longer.” I informed her that I was going to leave and it was nice to meet her; then I left. There was a bus stop right outside the house, but I wanted to keep putting distance between myself and the house, so I kept walking several stops. A surprise bus drove right by me while I was between stops, so I missed my last chance out of there and condemned myself to 50 minutes of sitting on a bench at the next bus stop and waiting. It started getting cold because it was in the twlight-y hours and I had a phone that had minimal battery and an iPod with a sliver of battery. I was expecting the iPod to die really fast, but it made it through the entire 50 minute wait and about 30-40 minutes of the bus ride. I was grateful and impressed with it. I did make it home safely and in time for Intervarsity, but I was pretty discouraged. The catfish had given me hope (before I knew it was a catfish) that I could avoid the whole “terrible dates” thing that everyone goes through. I wanted to believe that my date would be like a movie and we’d talk and get to know each other and hold hands and maybe have a kiss or something, but all my date turned out to be was 90 minutes of mostly silence, Seinfeld, and mediocre fast food.

While waiting for the bus though, I had a lot of time to think about what had just happened to me. I do my best thinking when I’m alone and/or upset, so I had many thoughts. First of all, I really got to know that street corner as I watched cars drive by and people walking by. I looked at the houses, the trees, the mountains, the yards, the types of cars people drove, and I actually really liked the town. It reminded me of back east where my mom’s family lives. Even more than the town, I watched the people. I’ve addressed this idea of people watching before, but it always feels new to me. At a four way intersection around 5:30-6:20, there were a lot of people passing by. Everyone was going somewhere different. Family’s in station wagons, young women getting home from work, old couples returning home from dinner, a whole mix of them. I have bittersweet sentiments about people watching. I feel sad and curious when I do it, but I like to do it anyway. It’s interesting to me, and I doubt I’m the only one, but I love tragedies. I don’t mean I hope lots of people die in fires, I mean I love having emotions and sympathy or empathy. My favorite episodes of television are the ones where people die because they evoke the most powerful emotions in me. In a way, I love tragedy and the feeling of sadness. Watching all these people drive by is sad to me because I get to thinking about stories they have to share. I want to meet them all and be friends with them all and just listen to them tell their stories. There are more than seven billion people on this planet and all these people go about their lives in a small town in Utah as if it’s the only thing that exists. We only meet a handful of people in our lifetime before we die and so much of human existence is a complete mystery to us because we’ll never meet more than a couple hundred, or a couple thousand people in our lives. We’ll never become close to more than a few dozen if we’re being generous. Ultimately, the number of people we choose to form lifelong, romantic relationships with can be counted on one (or two I suppose if… you know…) hands. We only a tiny sliver of the world and its people, and that is at once both fascinating and tragic to me.

And of course, I thought about my date. I had two people I was interested in a relationship with, and this date was with one of them. After that date, I knew there was only one person left I had any interest in, but then I began considering the possibility of that one failing too. Then I’d be left with nobody and I’d have to start all over again searching for the right person. But I also thought about whether I regretted that date or not. I didn’t want to reinforce my date’s belief that nobody could love them, but I probably did exactly that without meaning to. I gave an honest and real effort to start something, but you can’t do it on your own. It takes two to make a relationship work. I thought about the time I’d wasted that day taking two hour long bus trips to go to a failed date when I could’ve been with friends or sleeping or having fun. I thought about my decision to leave 50 minutes before the next bus came instead of staying and watching more Seinfeld and being warm. But it occurred to me that I could view that failed date as a failure or a lesson. Lots of people wonder why we can’t learn from others’ mistakes. Parents are constantly telling kids not to do things that the kids go out and do anyway. Life would be so much simpler if we could learn from other peoples’ mistakes, but we don’t. We have to go off and make them for ourselves.

I don’t think that’s a bad thing either. This goes back to that idea in How I Met Your Mother about making mistakes even if you know they’re mistakes. I’m choosing to see this as a learning opportunity. There’s such an aversion to making mistakes that every one of them feels cataclysmic, like we’re embarrassed to be wrong and we pretend we’re not usually wrong. We’re wrong all the time though. We make mistakes daily and its the one thing that causes to seek to be better and grow. We learn from them and become better because of them. The date sucked and I was wallowing in self pity. I was thinking I could avoid the world of terrible dates, but I fell into it anyway. I was seeing my misery as a bad thing, a shameful thing, and something that I should’ve never done. But while sitting there, I thought to myself that maybe I did need to have that bad date so when another opportunity comes along, I’m wiser. As much as we think we can, we can never really become wiser through listening to others. We can become more knowledgeable and informed and intelligent, but that doesn’t do us any good if we don’t internalize it and learn how to apply it to our own lives in practice. You see, I don’t think we teach others as much as we provide opportunities for others to teach themselves. All a teacher does (or should be doing) is provide you with information that you personally transform into applicable knowledge and wisdom. This isn’t to discredit teachers at all; their jobs are extremely important and I value them incredibly. I think the best teachers, though, know that they’re neither the ultimate authority nor accountable for the students’ learning. They recognize that they can only do so much and it takes as much from the student as it does the teacher. We are the ones who decide whether we learn or not, not the teachers. Sure, I made a mistake going on that date, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have done it. I learned from it and now I’m more prepared for the next time I have a date.

Anyway, that’s the story of my first date. I had romanticized dating and held it up as this amazing thing. I only wanted to do it once withe one person. I had this idea of, “What if I could marry the first person I go on a date with and get everything right the first time?” That’s not realistic, and this showed me that. I learned from my mistake and  I’m glad I made it. Thanks for reading everyone.



One thought on “The Best Mistake

  1. I can only recommend the book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. You have so much time to be married. Enjoy being single. No reason to push being in a romance. Something to think about.

    Enjoy your writing.

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