Penny on the Farm
My friend Susan (who, oddly enough, is increasingly going by Suzie for professional purposes) has been blogging for the speed-dating company Fastlife and has been made the resident blogger for not only Canada but also the U.S. and Australia. You can read her here. The fine line a dating blogger must walk is that, to maintain her position, she must continue to get dates, but they can’t go so well that she retires to connubial bliss and stops dating. The key to success is failure, namely, a steady stream of bad first dates.
My personal best first date (and hopefully, my last) was with my lovely current girlfriend, but I’ll spare you (and her) the details. The worst first date I’ve had was not, contrary to what one of my ex-girlfriends might suggest, involved taking her to McDonalds. I didn’t even know we were on a date. I thought we were just hanging out, hungry, and near the golden arches. This only got retroactively defined as such later, after we began dating, and then she got to tell anyone who would listen that I took her to McDonald’s on our first date, which unfairly cast me as some kind of archetypal cheapskate. There’s a lesson in there for men. I think that it’s that women are the ones who determine when you are or were on a date, although it might just be that you shouldn’t ever eat at McDonald’s.
No, my real worst first date involved the girl before her, whom I took to a restaurant in Kingston called the Copper Penny. I got some kind of appetizer, and she got a hot chocolate while we waited for our entrees. She went to the washroom and was gone a very long time.
She was gone so long, in fact, that I received my meal and ate the whole thing. This wasn’t an ordinary entree, either. I’d ordered the biggest thing on the menu, the Penny on the Farm, an enormous platter consisting of an 8 ounce New York steak served on garlic toast, a grilled chicken breast, a quarter pound of ribs, chicken fingers, mushrooms, steamed vegetables, and my choice of potato, the Copper Penny’s signature French fries with chicken stock seasoning.
I ate my entire meal while her chicken Caesar salad sat there, the chicken part cooling, the salad staying much the same. I ate partly because I was hungry, but also to distract myself from the increasingly obvious conclusion: that I had been ditched. She was gone so long that I was sure she had just run out the back door of the Copper Penny rather than spend another moment with me.
You’d think I might have taken comfort from the fact that her purse was still there, but I didn’t. That just made things worse. By abandoning her purse to ditch me, I figured she’d done the dating equivalent of an animal chewing off its own leg to escape a trap. Long finished my dinner, I considered examining the contents of her purse to see if it was in fact a decoy purse to be deployed to distract me while she made a clean getaway in the event of a terrible first date.
Then she finally came back, trembling violently and looking grey. She had passed out in the bathroom, evidently having contracted some kind of food poisoning from the hot chocolate. Only years later did I learn that she had actually passed out while sitting on the toilet, soiling herself in the process.
So I immediately paid the bill. Because of the seriousness of her condition and the fact that I was on a first date and still trying to make a decent impression, I paid for her untouched dinner without trying to dispute the bill or have it put in a doggie bag. (I never said I wasn’t a cheapskate — just that I didn’t like being called one.) Then I hailed a cab and rushed her back home.
By 9:00 p.m. that Friday night, I was back in my room, lying on my bed, listening to the first half of The Queen Is Dead, and wondering what had gone wrong and how the hell I’d gotten back home so fast. She certainly had looked deathly ill, but I still had a lingering paranoid suspicion that she’d somehow convincingly faked the whole thing to get away from me. Then again, considering the sheer quantity of food I’d gobbled, I did leave open the possibility that I’d somehow eaten so much that it had made her sick.
Amazingly, we rebounded from this to date and break up on a regular basis for the next couple of years. There were a lot of things about me that made her sick, it turned out, but the Penny on the Farm wasn’t one of them.
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