This story will be familiar to long-time readers. I re-post it here, for your enjoyment.
It is from years ago – and … to be honest with you, makes me look completely ridiculous. (My favorite kind of story.) I call it An Eyeball and a Dozen Roses.
I was living in Chicago, having a grand old time. There were a couple of men buzzing around me. One of them, who was so sweet, so nice, a guy I had seen perform numerous times, approached me at a party and, after chatting me up for a while in a very humorous and effortless way, asked me out to dinner. (He shall remain nameless, although I will say that he has a couple of national TV commercials running right now, and I feel a bolt of weird recognition every time I see his face yapping away on TV).
I said Sure, I would go out to dinner with him. I already knew he was very talented and very funny (having seen him on stage. Henry Kissinger was wrong. Power is not the ultimate aphrodisiac. Talent is. Or – I would say, more specifically, Comedy is the ultimate aphrodisiac.)
As I have said before, I’m not a real date-r, I haven’t been on too many “let me pick you up and we’ll go have dinner” kind of dates. But this guy was very traditional, and so – like a true gentleman – he set up this entire date (picked the spot, picked the after-dinner spot, etc.)
It turned out being one of the best dates I have ever been on before IN MY LIFE. Not because there were amazing sparks between us (there weren’t) – but because of where he took me to dinner, and the people we met there, and what we ended up doing. To give you a small image, it involved a bunch of 70 year old Greek women, caked with makeup, dancing around in a circle, holding hands, holding their hands out to us to join their dance, as their 70 year old Greek husbands, or lovers, stood on the outskirts, throwing money up into the air. 78 year old Greek women picked up 20 dollar bills and plastered them onto their sweaty necks and sweaty 78 year old cleavage. Everyone was LAUGHING, and DANCING, and everyone except for us was over 70 years of age. It was 3 am, and he and I joined the geriatric Greek dance, as money swirled through the air. We scuffed through the bills on the floor.
But that’s a tangent, and not the story I want to tell which is the story of the Eyeball and the Dozen Roses.
During the great date at the late-night Greek place – for some UNFATHOMABLE reason – I told him that my eye doctor had taken a picture of the back of my eyeball. (Great date banter, Sheila. Way to go.)
He: “Your grey eyes look so lovely. I could drown in their sparkley depths.”
Me: “Oh yeah? I should show you a picture of the BACK of my eyeball, pal.”
I have no idea how the subject came up – but anyway, he (bless him) seemed completely fascinated by the idea of having a picture taken of the back of his eyeball. (Or maybe he was just being polite. Politeness was in this man’s veins. He did gentlemanly things instinctually. Holding out the chair, holding out my coat, holding open the door …)
Okay, so there’s the eyeball setup.
During the date at the Greek place – he already set up the next date. “Okay, so Valentine’s Day is next week. And I know we don’t know each other at all or anything, but I think it would be fun to have a date on Valentine’s Day. Whaddya say?”
I said, as I Zorba-the-Greek’ed my way through the carpet of money, “That sounds like fun!!”
A date on Valentine’s Day. I’m not big on Valentine’s Day – not being a romantic type (as this story will OBVIOUSLY prove) – and also: it just seems like a hell of a lot of pressure. But he and I had such an unbelievably fabulous time on that first date, I thought: It’s cool. It’s cool. We’ll have a good time again.
And then I came up with what I considered to be an inspired idea.
I know you all will laugh out loud at me. Feel free. Go ahead. (Ann Marie – I believe you laughed right in my face at the time it was happening. You said something like, “How in the world could you have thought that would be appropriate??”)
Instead of getting him a nice Hallmark-y little Valentine’s Day card, I PUT THE PHOTO OF THE BACK OF MY EYEBALL into a little red envelope, with his name on it. On the margins of the photo I wrote, “Happy Valentine’s Day.”
I know it is insane.
I cannot defend it.
I am just reporting the facts of the case, which are: I put a photograph of the back of my eyeball into an envelope to give to a guy on Valentine’s Day.
So I went over to his apartment. We were going out to dinner or something like that. He greeted me at the door, so nice, so sweet. He let me into the apartment – he got me a drink. We didn’t really know each other at all, but we had had (hands down) the best date EVER. One for the books. We were kind of proud of ourselves for that.
He went into the kitchen, and came back out, holding a dozen red roses for me. For Valentine’s Day.
He got me a dozen red roses.
I gave him a picture of my eyeball.
Let me say it again, just so we all are clear:
He got me a dozen red roses.
I gave him a picture of my eyeball.
The second I saw the roses (and I don’t know why I didn’t anticipate that he would do such a thing! He was such an old-fashioned gentlemanly kind of guy – I should have expected it – but I have never received a dozen red roses in my life – I never expect that kind of behavior) – Anyway, the second I saw the red roses coming at me, I remembered the little red envelope in my purse, and I could feel my face getting all hot with mortification.
Oh my God. I am such an asshole. I have given him a photograph of the back of my eyeball. To echo my friend Ann: What the hell was going through my mind at the time that made me think that was appropriate???
My head was literally burning with embarrassment and shame about my eyeball.
I could no longer bear the agony.
I said, “Okay, so this is completely embarrassing, seeing as you gave me a beautiful bouquet of roses … but here’s what I got you.”
He opened it up – and he BURST into laughter. (Thank God.) He thought it was hysterical.
Throughout the night he kept making jokes, pretending he was describing who his Valentine’s date had been to friends who didn’t know me:
“Hey, man, did you go out on Valentine’s Day?”
“Oh yeah, dude, I went out with this sweet girl I just met.”
“Really? What does she look like?”
Long long pause.
“Oh …. she’s a circle.”
Or – when someone would ask, “What did your date look like?”, he would take out the photograph of the back of my eyeball and give it to them.
“Here she is. Isn’t she beautiful?”
He ended up being very kind about the whole thing, turning it into a huge joke – which I needed.
But that is the mortifying story of a man who gave me a dozen roses, while I only gave him my eyeball.
And a brief coda to this tale –
He and I ended up going on something like 4 dates, stretched out over an 8 week period. Obviously there wasn’t a sense of urgency to it all – Occasionally we would hook up and go to a movie, or out to dinner, whatever – but nothing ever really happened beyond that. There were no games, no weirdness, nothing like that. It just was what it was. I would forget for 4 weeks at a time that he even existed, and then he would call and invite me to do something.
So the whole thing ended when I called him up, after another 3 week break, and asked him to go to a movie, or something like that.
He sounded very hesitant. I could tell immediately something was up.
I said, “You don’t want to? What’s up?”
He said, “Well … I guess I’m thinking that we should slow down.”
I sat there, on the other end, filled with utter blankness. I thought nothing, I felt nothing – I was completely blank.
Finally, random phrases started floating through my brain.
Slow down? What? 4 dates in 8 weeks? Slow down?
And what came out of my mouth, finally, was: “I literally do not know how much slower I can go.”
This was greeted with a deafening pause.
And then what came out of my mouth was: “If I go any slower, I think I will stop.”
An even louder pause from the other end.
So the long and short of it was, we stopped. And to this day, amongst my group of friends, “If I go any slower, I think I’ll stop” is a favorite phrase.
I ran into him a couple of years ago at another party in Chicago, and we had a hilarious conversation about it all. I said, “To this day, that date at the Greek place is the best date I’ve ever gone on.” He said the same was true for him as well.
But I didn’t ask him if he had kept the picture of my eyeball. That would have been too embarrassing.