June 08, 2004

Extremely judgmental and immoderate post to follow

Preface: For those of you who are new to me: I use hyperbole and exaggeration as a form of comedy. If you don't find it amusing ... well, too bad. Here we go:

Sat next to a couple last night who were obviously on a first date. All the signs were there.

And at first, the signs touched me. It was sweet. I felt like I was 80 years old, beaming back on the happy days of my youth.

And then the tide turned. What had seemed sweet now filled me with contempt, scorn, and self-righteousness, a bitter affirmation: "This is why I don't date."

The guy (with neatly combed hair, nice big watch) had obviously chosen the joint. He knew the menu. He made recommendations. This, to me, is good date behavior. (However: Please take my opinion with a grain of salt. After all, for Valentine's Day, I once gave a man my eyeball.)

I felt suffused with sweetness as I heard him tell his date what was good on the menu. I thought: "Ohhh. Lovely young people. Out on a date. On a misty night. Will it work out? Will there be love or scorn? Who can tell? But how lovely it is to have a date make menu recommendations..."

In case you haven't guessed, I can be a bit of an ass.

The girl was dressed up - but not too much. She looked nice. Her voice was a little bit annoying, but hey, nobody's perfect.

When I first tuned in, (and by the way: I eavesdrop. And people-watch. Blatantly.) - they were discussing Budweiser. He must have ordered a Budweiser, and she gave it a ringing endorsement. She said something about "where I grew up, Budweiser is THE beer to drink."

I didn't realize what I was doing, but I was most definitely waiting for him to say what was, to me, the next logical question: "Where did you grow up?"

Seems like normal date banter to me. But then again, like I've said, I'm kind of crazy. Maybe my standards are too high. Maybe expecting general politeness and general awareness of CONVERSATIONAL SKILLS are too-high a bar. This is why I no longer date. Cannot deal. I also cannot keep my mouth shut. Especially not now, in the twilight of my youth.

If I said something like that, and no "where did you grow up" came in response - I would immediately bring it up. "Uh ... see, to me it seems normal that you should ask where I grew up - after me mentioning it ...Are you not listening, or...?"

And then. Obviously. The date would end in a crashing fiery mesh.

I am not putting the onus on the male, either, to have good manners, so don't start whining about that, please. Some women also do not listen, some women also do not have good manners, but RIGHT NOW I AM TALKING ABOUT THE MALE SIDE OF THE DISASTER AT THE TABLE NEXT TO ME. Okay??

If some date mentioned to me, casually, "where I grew up", I would - like a knee-jerk response - like saying "God bless you" when someone sneezes - I would say, "Oh - where was that?" Even if I didn't give a crap where the hell he spent his precious boyhood. Because ... I don't know. Just because.

I'm not saying I'm great and perfect, God knows. After all, we have the eyeball to consider. I'm just saying I have some manners. Also: I have many faults, yes indeed I do. I could list them for hours. But I can say, most definitely, without a shadow of a doubt, that NOT LISTENING is NOT one of my faults.

Sometimes I wish I could STOP listening, to tell you the truth. I wish I could be lost in my own damn reflections, and stop being so damned concerned with listening to every single word that comes out of every single person's mouth.

I was sitting at the table beside them, and ... the ABSENCE of his question struck me as unusually loud. It was as though someone had skipped a line in a script. "Oooh, what he should have said there was..."

I was born in the wrong century or something.

I wanted to lean over, interject my crazy face into the conversation, and say, "Uh ... where'd you grow up, sweetheart? I'd actually like to know, even if he doesn't."

But again - take this with a grain of salt. I am the girl who had no patience with "The Whisperer", and said to the man at point-blank range on our first and only date: "I am no longer going to ask you to speak up. I cannot hear a word you are saying".

My good manners don't stretch far enough to tolerate idiots who waste my time, or who whisper and think that that is a normal tone of voice. I did my best. Really I did. I said to him, "What?" "What did you say?" "Sorry - what was that?" 5,000 times, until I lost my patience.

Random snippets of the date-conversation would reach our ears at the next table.

At one point, I glanced over - she was talking about something. Maybe it was boneheaded, I don't know. Maybe she was telling him that she had a photograph of the back of her eyeball. I don't know. Like I said - I'm no good at date banter. But I glanced over, and saw his face - and all I saw was his brain clicking, trying to think of his next response.

Yes, a human thing. I know. I know. He wanted to impress, he wanted to seem smart, he wanted to have witty repartee ...


It's annoying just the same. I can't stand it when someone is not listening to me, and as I speak is just formulating his or her next point.

It's tiresome. It's not a conversation. I don't know what it is, but it's not a conversation. I love the art of good conversation - which is one of the reasons I love having a blog. It's like one big good conversation. God, when you find yourself in a great conversation, give and take, listening, giving, conceding, laughing, going up, going down - there is nothing like it. And it is DAMN rare.

The man next to us only spoke about himself, and never once asked her about herself - not even with the clues she was dropping along the way. He was like a bad actor - missing ALL of his cues.

And I thought: Jesus, now I remember why I don't date anymore. Life is too short to spend a night like that.

After all - I've got to finish Reflections on the Revolution in France and watch The Big Sleep for the 8th time. I just don't have room to go out with someone who misses all his cues.

As a coda to all of this: My dating experience in New York has been, pretty much, an utter disaster. I can't even talk about it without getting upset. I was actually quite successful, in this dating regard, while I lived in Chicago - and so - weirdly - even though I have met WONDERFUL men in New York, and even dated a couple of them (to disastrous results) - I associate romance with geography. Love = Chicago. I think: "Hm. I should move back to Chicago." Stuff like that.

When really I think it's just me that has changed.

Posted by sheila

But what *did* he say after her Budweiser comment?

I've noticed at restaurants that with many pairs or groups of people--dates, families, business associates, whatever--there is one person who does 90% of the talking and everyone else listens, occasionally tries to interject something, and is pretty much ignored.

Also, I've noticed that with couples on dates, generally the girl is leaning forward with the body language of a person who is undergoing a job interview, and the guy is leaning back with the body language of the person who is doing the interviewing. Not universal, but pretty common.

Posted by: David Foster at June 8, 2004 12:26 PM

Oh, he did a monologue about how Budweiser is an under-rated beer and he loves it.

Pure pontification.

Posted by: red at June 8, 2004 12:28 PM

You are not wrong, or imagining things. It is easier to date in Chicago.

Posted by: Anne at June 8, 2004 12:30 PM


I have been spoiled, admittedly, by the guys in my life. There haven't been many - but the couple who have made lasting impressions were, on the whole, everything you could want. SO much fun to talk with - they were interesting, they thought I was interesting - and not afraid to let me know - they had the gift of the gab, blah blah.

So ... because I've been spoiled, I have ZERO tolerance for anything less.

This is one of my faults.

Posted by: red at June 8, 2004 12:31 PM

"I wish I could get lost in my own damn reflections ... " You need to hang out with Eurotrash.
P.S. I knew Smarty Jones would lose, just not to whom.

Posted by: michael at June 8, 2004 12:34 PM

You know, I have a friend who is an L.M. Montgomery fan, who is often accused of having impossibly high standards. When we first met, at the start of college, she often talked about how she was looking for her Gilbert Blythe. And the thing is, she found a very Gilbert-like fellow, someone she absolutely adored, and was with him for five years. But they broke up a long time ago, and there has really been no one to replace him. She finds it hard to compromise, having a) formed high expectations in the first place; and b) actually having been able to meet them.

Posted by: Anne at June 8, 2004 12:45 PM

One day they'll wake up in bed, after years of marriage, and realize they don't actually really know each other. And they'll have no one to blame but themselves; pretty sad, really.

Oh, and I'm sorry, but Budweiser is tasteless watery swill. I know I'm a snob about beer, but come on, seriously. The one good thing about it is that you can pour it into a champagne flute, tell people it's champagne, and I swear to God, at least half those who drink it will believe you.

Posted by: Dave J at June 8, 2004 12:55 PM

DaveJ; An excellent point. Anyone who does a monologue about the greatness of Budweiser deserves to be dismissed out of hand as a non-entity.

Posted by: red at June 8, 2004 01:04 PM

Oh hell, anybody who considers Budweiser to be beer is a one-timer in my book. How fast can you lose a phone number? This fast. *Snap*

Posted by: Emily at June 8, 2004 01:06 PM

Oh Red, you sound like you're one of THOSE.

Specifically, those women who have a script of precisely what a man is supposed to say, or do, given a specific stimulus. If the man does not respond correctly, he gets demerits. I dated a girl like that - she would constantly tell me "You were supposed to do THIS" or "You were supposed to say THAT" - and be genuinely peeved that I did not respond in accordance with her template. She would be telling me how insensitive and non-empathetic I was, and I would be sitting there thinking to myself - and not saying - "Do you know how insensitive and non-empathetic YOU seem?"

This particular girl would also criticize me whenever I talked about myself - which I learned not to do - yet she never seemed to notice that she mostly talked about HERSELF. Everyone talks about themselves sometimes, and listens attentively sometimes. On a date, especially a first date, often a man will feel the need to "impress", and will talk about himself a lot - maybe more than normal. This may not be adequately sensitive first-date behavior according to the female playbook, and may not actually impress, but it is common, and not evil.

Also I vote with Emily on the Budweiser... Any one who thinks Budweiser is beer doesn't get a call back.

Posted by: CW at June 8, 2004 01:21 PM


That's not what I meant at all. And my meaning is in the writing. I'm not talking about expecting people to be mind-readers. I'm talking about common courtesy and I'm also talking about knowing how to be a good conversationalist. This guy wasn't.

What constitutes a "good conversation" is, of course, in the eye of the beholder - and to my taste, this guy sucked.

I didn't make any HUGE blanket statements about how "all men do this". You're hearing something that I did not write.

Posted by: red at June 8, 2004 01:28 PM

And don't lump me in with complaining whining women. Or having a "female playbook". I resent that and that's not what I'm about at all.

Posted by: red at June 8, 2004 01:33 PM

CW- You missed her point entirely. Sheila was pointing out the fact that they were NOT having a conversation- just one incredibly long monologue. About yucky beer. And one person. And the other person might as well have been invisible. I don't think it necessarily mattered if it was the guy or the girl that was ponificating, just the fact that one person talked and two people listened. Hopefully, only one person was impressed. Not that he would notice if she wasn't, anyhow.

Posted by: Beth at June 8, 2004 01:41 PM

I made sure that I put in the hated "his or her" qualification in one of my points, to make it clear I wasn't talking about just one gender.

Posted by: red at June 8, 2004 01:45 PM

OK I read it again - and it sounded the same the second time.

The fact that the guy didn't ask the girl about herself is certainly non-optimal first date behavior, but not asking her where she was from in response to a comment about Budweiser does not mean that he wasn't listening. It just means he's a typical guy, and what he probably heard was "blah blah blah BUDWEISER blah blah", and he responded to that. Duh - ordinary guys key on beer references. If that means they're not worth dating, than that's fine.

You used the phrase "misses his cues", a reference to following a script. If that's not pretty close to a "playbook", then I don't know what is.

What men think is "common courtesy" and what women think it is seems to be very different.

Posted by: CW at June 8, 2004 01:53 PM

The first thing I thought was: "He already knows where she's from." I guess I'm losing my sharp edges.

Posted by: spd rdr at June 8, 2004 01:54 PM

Well, then perhaps you and I differ on what constitutes a good conversation - and also what is a good date. Who knows. I told you it was "extremely judgmental and immoderate" in the title. That's my writing style.

I do not lump all guys together when one annoys the hell out of me. So I still resent being lumped in with "those"- but let's just say we disagree and leave it at that.

Posted by: red at June 8, 2004 01:57 PM

spd rdr:

Hmmmm, never considered that ... yeah ... maybe they were old high school sweethearts or something! He already knew where she was from!

Posted by: red at June 8, 2004 01:58 PM

I never said you lumped them all together - only that you have very specific expectations. In that sense, I am (perhaps incorrectly, but responding the style of your original comment, rather judgementally) "lumping you in" not with all women, but with a very specific group that thinks a certain way. I could be totally wrong - I'm speculating.

My (previously unstated) point is that there are lots of different ways to have a meaningful conversation and what the world really seems to need is a little more slack.

Posted by: CW at June 8, 2004 02:19 PM

Well, your "you sound like one of THOSE" comment and the "female playbook" comment set me off. I wasn't coming from any female playbook.

Also, if I cut the guy any slack, I wouldn't have written the post!!

If you knew me, you would know that I am the epitome of cutting guys slack. Cutting people slack, in general.

We all have filters for the opposite sex - like: how we listen to them, how we perceive them. In this post I was not complaining about your gender. I made that clear. You will never hear a "Men always blah blah blah" statement out of me. It is against my nature. What I was bemoaning was his lack of conversation skills, as I see it. I do not expect prim and proper etiquette, but I do believe that - in human interaction - there are certain cues, and if you don't pick up on them - you aren't really an interesting person. The cues may be different for different people - and again, I am not talking about mind-reading.

For example: some people just ask you a question - and then TOLERATE your answer - so that they can then give you THEIR opinion. You know the type?

That's what I'm talking about here.

Posted by: red at June 8, 2004 02:25 PM


If you thought like I did, this would be a very boring blog. I come here precisely because you don't. Plus, there's nothing quite like a red head at full rant.

Posted by: spd rdr at June 8, 2004 02:35 PM

Amen to that, spd rdr!

Posted by: Dave J at June 8, 2004 02:36 PM

We all steer conversations. To do so, maybe we don't always take the "where I grew up" bait. Very few people can do that graciously so I tend to forgive/overlook that in most. I think a certain amount of graciousness has to be a part of the conversation. That said, I would have taken that bait. Start talking about your hemorrhoids and it's "Check, please".

Posted by: Rob at June 8, 2004 02:37 PM


How would you feel on a first date if a girl told you that her doctor had taken a picture of the back of her eyeball?

Posted by: red at June 8, 2004 03:07 PM

I'd take the bait and you'd then hear how I woke up during my arthroscopic knee surgery. I'd have thought nothing of that tidbit.

Not entirely fair on my part but several of my family have had a similar procedure done. One of my nephews was thought to have Elephant Man's disease, which is hereditary, and one of the tests they performed was on our eyes.

Remind me to tell you an eye-related thing my wife and I experienced on one of our first dates.

Posted by: Rob at June 8, 2004 03:42 PM

God, just love "eye-related things" on first dates. Tell! You can put it in an email if you don't want anyone else to know.

Posted by: red at June 8, 2004 03:45 PM

We were at a fun arcade and we were playing some submarine game. You look through a periscope and shoot torpedoes at passing ships. It's her turn and she presses her head against the periscope and starts firing away. She was wearing contacts then but I had never seen them and knew very little about contacts. The contacts had turned inside out from her pressing her face against the periscope and they were resting in the bottom of her eye sockets. It looked like shards of glass were stuck in her eyes and when she turned away from the periscope and looked at me, I almost fainted. I was horrified and all she could say was "What's wrong?".

Damn insensitive of her if you ask me. :-)

Posted by: Rob at June 8, 2004 03:55 PM

Once again, I have to apologize, perhaps for the insensitivity this may to show to Rob, but I'm afraid I've been inspired to quote,a dnI'm really sorry...

JOHN: Claire, you wanna' see a picture of a guy with elephantitis of the nuts? It's pretty tasty.

CLAIRE: No thank you.

JOHN: Claire, would you ever consider dating a guy who looked like this?

CLAIRE: Can't you just leave me alone?

JOHN: I mean even if he had a nice personality and a cool car... although you'd probably have to ride in the back seat because his nuts would ride shotgun.

Posted by: Dave J at June 8, 2004 04:00 PM

Rob - My god. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Okay, I'll laugh.

"Uh ... Oh my God ... you have shards of glass sticking out of your eyeballs..."

Posted by: red at June 8, 2004 04:02 PM

True story:

I was 10 or 11 years old. Had worn glasses for a while. Had never heard of contact lenses. I was at a piano lesson. And in the middle of the lesson, my teacher stopped me - and said, "Hold on one second ..." and she reached into her eyeball and pulled something off of it...

I could not BELIEVE it. It was a contact lens of course - but ... what???

Here's what I thought when I saw that: that we ALL have this re-moveable part on top of our eyeballs ... and NOBODY HAD EVER TOLD ME ABOUT IT.

That was my introduction to contact lenses. Now of course I wear them all the time.

Posted by: red at June 8, 2004 04:04 PM

Perfectly harmless, Red, but I didn't know that. They were soft contacts. Hard ones probably don't do that. All she did was pop them back in. Thinking back, that was equally horrifying.

Posted by: Rob at June 8, 2004 04:06 PM

Of course! Watching someone pop some random thing back onto her eyeball ... horrifying, indeed.

I never could understand those who had the hard lenses. They ... frightened me, for some reason. I thought that my eyes couldn't "breathe".

Posted by: red at June 8, 2004 04:08 PM

She had RK surgery about 10 years ago when the pioneering surgeon (Brint) here offered two eye surgeries for the price of one. Best $1100 we ever spent. Contacts are a thing of the past.

Posted by: Rob at June 8, 2004 04:14 PM

We have a bit in common. I also blatantly and without apologies, people watch and eavesdrop. It's one of my favorite things to do.


One of my biggest pet peeves, (closely following lying), is when people do not listen...as you said, and I've said it before too, you can SEE that they are not listening because they are thinking about what they are going to say next.

I. Hate. Repeating. Myself.

It drives me nuts! It tells me that what I say is absolutely unimportant to the "listener" and I have been known to throw in completely random statements in the middle of the "conversation". I don't have an accurate scientific percentage to give you but the results are very high, not in favor of the "listener".

When someone asks me a question I have answered previously or they say, "You never told me that", it makes my blood boil. Another thing like you, I have ZERO patience for this sort of thing. None. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

And The Whisperer? You were far more patient about it than I was. I would have become so annoyed and grown so impatient within the first...oh, 3 minutes that I would have asked him something snarky like, "Do you have larangytis [sic] or are you trying to be sexy cause if it's the latter, it's not working, it's pissing me off." That would mean I may have made it no further than the end of my driveway but G-d...argh, it seems rude to me.

Oooh, that was what I was trying to say, when people aren't listening, they are being extraordinarily rude and lying and being rude are my two top pet peeves.

You just said it more eloquently and far more interestingly than I did the 200 hundred times I've posted about this topic of, "Those Who Do Not Pay Attention!"

And of course, now I too really want to know where she grew up...Budweiser was THE beer to drink? Eewww! I want to make sure I never move there.

Posted by: Serenity at June 8, 2004 05:10 PM

"we ALL have this re-moveable part on top of our eyeballs ... and NOBODY HAD EVER TOLD ME ABOUT IT."

I love that. ROFTLMAO (I'm laughing with you, not at you, of course. Well, not THAT much.) Sort of like your wings?

Posted by: Dave J at June 8, 2004 05:19 PM

Oh my gosh, Dave, you remembered about my wings.

You get a gold star. And another drink bought by me. Hey, I know - I'll buy you a Budweiser when you come to town!!

I know - I truly believed that we all had detachable eyeballs ... and I interrogated my piano teacher. "What is that?? Do I have one? Where did it come from?? What????"

Posted by: red at June 8, 2004 05:30 PM


Another thing I have no tolerance for is if I have to say "I was kidding" or "That was a joke" more than 3 times. To me that means the gentleman in question does not get my sense of humor and in my opinion - that is a hopeless situation. It cannot be overcome. Thinking the same things funny is essential.

There are plenty of guys out there think I am hilarious, and seem to "get" when I am kidding - so life's too short to try to train someone into the exquisite-ness of my own particular wicked sense of humor.

Posted by: red at June 8, 2004 05:32 PM

Budweiser!? Renee Zellweger and Princess Michael can share a fucking Budweiser! ;-)

Posted by: Dave J at June 8, 2004 05:34 PM


I think I need to see a Photo-shopped image of the scene you just put in my head.

Posted by: red at June 8, 2004 05:36 PM

Sheila, you have way too many commenters and I am too impatient to read all of them before I have my say. Ironically, this is exactly the sort of thing I want to share.

I am one of those people who often misses the cues. Don't get me wrong. I have my good moments, but I am often so overwraught with anxiety and insecurity that I find it hard to focus on anything other than how I am being perceived and what I should say next. I go through entire conversations just barely getting by and having absolutely no idea who or what is being discussed. It's horrible, I know. However, it is not only due to rudeness and self-centeredness. It also is often attributable to a complete lack of self-confidence. This guy was maybe just nervous on his first date so he went to auto pilot. Sometimes guys are assholes because they sincerely can't help it. Take me for instance.

Budweiser and Bud-Lite are hardly great beers. However, I would rather suffer them than suffer the additional sit-ups and cardio I would feel compelled to do if I drank anything else, but Bud-Lite. There I said it. I drink Bud-Lite. Sue me. I own a beer cozy as well for trips to Lake Mojave with my family.

Posted by: Patrick at June 8, 2004 10:45 PM


*waits some more*


*waits even longer...*

Posted by: Wonderduck at June 8, 2004 10:58 PM

Jesus. I think I'm never going on another date. Too many ways to screw up.

Posted by: CityIslandMichael at June 9, 2004 12:05 AM

Red and CW are both right, from my point of view. In everyday life, it's not at all unreasonable to expect someone to actually listen to what you're saying, or to expect them to have a semblance of a sense of humor. However, a date with someone who's a relative stranger is not everyday life. There's all sorts of crap going on under the surface, and it's not hard to understand how someone who is normally a good conversationalist could come off as inattentive or even boorish. Of course, there's no shortage of people who actually are self-obsessed, inattentive and boorish, but the very fact that they're so prevalent can lead to incorrect interpretations of behavior in certain cases.

This is why I think it's usually better if you can manage to become friends with someone before the romantic phase begins. In romantic situations, the unnaturally heightened scrutiny on both sides frequently leads us to prefer the wrong people, and dismiss some of the right ones. If you get to know someone in a non-romantic context, there's plenty of time to figure out whether you like them, and the odds of making an error are far lower.

Of course, making the switch from friends to lovers is still tricky and perilous, but I would say it's the lesser of two evils. Dating people one hardly knows is just a painful and thoroughly unpleasant activity.

Posted by: MikeR at June 9, 2004 01:06 PM

Commentary from people who've had both Budweiser and Budwar Pilsner indicates that Budweiser is, in fact, a perfectly good Czech-style Pilsner.

Now, I can't blame anyone for not really liking Pilsners - they're not my favourite either - but Budweiser really is beer. And a fine example of a famous style, even.

Posted by: Sigivald at June 10, 2004 03:37 PM