“Excuse me,” he said to the waiter, “I have a Groupon— is there a separate menu for that?”
And thus began our second date. I was already unsure about this guy after our first date (a quick after-work beer), but, thanks to my mother’s strict Two-Date Rule, I was giving him a second chance. The Two-Date Rule states that if you had an even semi-decent time on the first date, you must give the guy a second chance when he asks you out again, as people are typically not their true selves upon first meeting. This rule was born from the experience my mom had when she met my dad— complete and utter underwhelmment (yeah, I know— not a word. But it should be. And next to the word in the dictionary should be a picture of my mom’s face when my dad declared, within minutes of knowing her, “I could marry someone like you,” and she felt not even remotely the same way. My dad denies this story, but my mom insists it’s true, and I can totally picture it happening so, there you go. FACT.). Despite my dad’s lukewarm first impression, my parents went on to become the coolest couple I know. So, I figure the Two-Date Rule must have some legs, and I’ve been steadfastly following it for my entire dating career.
That being said, this rule has never once brought me success. Ever.
But fine. This guy was just “eh” on the first date, but he was pretty cute and seemingly normal, keeping in mind that my threshold for normal in the NYC dating scene is “He probably won’t murder me. Right away, at least.” What was the harm in letting him take me to dinner?
Oh, doe-eyed, innocent me. Don’t you know there is always harm to be had?
“Yes,” the waiter replied. “Let me go grab the Groupon menu.” My date looked at me, satisfied with himself, as if being privy to this special menu meant he was some kind of in-the-know VIP, rather than a raging cheapskate.
Now, time-out for a second, Zack Morris style. Let me just clarify that I have no problem with people using Groupons. I use them all the time. New York City is expensive, and dating is costly for men. I get that. But, I don’t know— maybe don’t use the Groupon so SOON in the dating process? Perhaps save it for date 4 or 5, when you’ve already made a good impression, and I’ll be more likely to see your Groupon usage as responsible, rather than sad. Or if you simply HAVE to use the Groupon on our first dinner date, maybe don’t wear that shit like a badge of honor? Maybe don’t state, as you’re asking me out, “I’m going to take you to this sushi place in your neighborhood because I have a GREAT Groupon deal there.” Maybe just say, “Hey, I know this sushi place in your neighborhood, want to try it?” and then discreetly let the restaurant know that you’re using a Groupon. Don’t proudly announce it like you deserve points for being so darn thrifty. No one here is impressed. Including the waiter, who I swear walked away with his head in his hands.
Furthermore, if you are going the Groupon route, at least choose a semi-decent restaurant. To be clear, Asian Station does not fall into that category. It is a brightly-lit hole in the Upper East Side wall, specializing in a combo of Chinese and Japanese food. No no, not asian fusion, that upscale trend of cool, inventive asian-inspired cuisine. This was one of those places that straight up had a Chinese food menu and a completely separate Japanese food menu, because “Hey, guys, one-stop-Asian-shop over here!”
While we’re riding this time-out wave, allow me to provide a bit more context and background. As mentioned above, my date made it very clear that he was taking me to this place SPECIFICALLY because he had a Groupon. Ok, fine. No big deal. Then he asked if I eat sushi. I do not. I don’t eat seafood at all. I told him this, but, not wanting to seem difficult, I offered that I can always find things to eat in a sushi restaurant, I just might not be the easiest person to share with.
“Cool,” he said, not pausing for even a second to consider reevaluating the plan. Alright, so we’re going to my least favorite kind of restaurant, my options will be limited, and he’s using a Groupon. Not exactly on the most direct route to Impressivetown, USA. But I’m openminded.
One last factor here— I wasn’t feeling well. I probably should have just cancelled, but I decided to plug through. It turns out I would wake up the next morning with a horrible case of strep throat, but as of the beginning of the date, I was just feeling slightly off.
Ok, time-in. Still with me? Great.
We’re back in the offensively bright, white-walls-with-no-decor, Chinese/Japanese, more-bang-for-your-buck establishment. The waiter returns with the Groupon menu and smiles at me, the undertones of which said, “I’m sorry, and may god have mercy on your soul.”
I perused the menu. There was not one non-seafood item on it. NOT. ONE.
“Sooo, what looks good to you?” my date asked, eyeing the menu excitedly.
“Um, I hate to be a pain, but…literally everything on this menu is seafood.”
He looked at me and back at the menu. “Hmmm….you don’t think you can expand your horizons for one night?”
Alright. Fuck you, man. No need to leap to the conclusion that I am not a horizon-expander. I have tried my entire life to enjoy seafood— I have tasted every damn thing the sea has to offer. For whatever reason, I am averse to it. It makes me sick. I don’t like the smell, the taste, the texture, the idea of any of it. But not for lack of trying! Asshole.
“This isn’t a matter of not being adventurous,” I replied politely, resisting the urge to kick him in the face. “Seafood makes me physically ill.”
I hoped he’d say something along the lines of, “Ok, just order off the regular menu then. No big deal.”
He did not.
“I’ll see if they can make an exception to the Groupon options,” he said with an “I got this, girl” wink. He explained the situation to the waiter, who said he would speak with the manager. At this point, all I wanted was a glass of wine. Sore throat be damned, I was not surviving this date without a drink.
He said he was going to order himself some saki and asked if I wanted any. “Thanks, but saki isn’t really my thing. I’ll have wine,” I replied. He looked at me, then looked down at the menu quizzically.
Him: “That’s not included in the Groupon price.”
Him: “Can you just get saki?”
Me: “I can’t stomach saki. I really only drink wine and beer. Occasional cocktail, but not straight alcohol.”
Him: “Yeah, those are not options…”
I waited for him to say “but it’s totally cool, get whatever you want.”
Me: “Ok, I guess I’ll just have water then.”
Him: “You sure?”
No I’m not sure, you cheap douche canoe. In this moment, I need wine more than I need oxygen.
Me: “Yeah. I’m sure.”
The waiter came back and said that the manager had agreed to add orange sesame chicken to the Groupon menu. And once again, he apologized with his eyes. I started to wonder if HE was single….
“Perfect!” said my date. “She eats chicken. Thanks!” and, without even asking, committed me to a meal of fried Chinese food while in the beginning phases of fever.
I wish I could explain how absurdly over-sized this chicken dish was, how difficult it was to swallow with my ballooning throat, and how stupid I felt eating it. Imagine ordering three pints of gooey, oil-dripping, orange fried chicken from some cheap Chinese place around the corner, and dumping it all into a heaping mountain on your plate. This is perfect for a Sunday night alone on the couch, nursing a lingering hangover. It is less than ideal for a first dinner date, chilled with fever.
I begrudgingly picked at the food while counting the seconds until I could leave. “They sure did give you a lot of chicken!” my date exclaimed with ignorant cheeriness as he popped sushi rolls and shots of saki into his clueless, inconsiderate pie hole.
The date ended with my having to awkwardly dodge the attempts of a kiss, explaining that I wasn’t feeling well. “Also, I hate you,” I added silently.
I then entered my apartment and promptly vomited all over the bathroom floor.
And to be honest, I couldn’t think of a more fitting way to end the night.