I Think I Messed Up a Guy’s Hot Date Last Night
Dating. It’s such a weird thing and so many people are really bad at it. Getting older doesn’t seem to help them get any better at it. If anything they are worse. I tried to help a guy out last night and I think I made things worse.
I was at the end of a restaurant bar having a quiet drink and dinner. They were just around the corner from me, sitting close together, with drinks, talking. It seemed at first glance to be pretty idyllic. She was leaning towards him listening with a sympathetic yet provocative look on her face. I couldn’t pretend to not hear the conversation because it was quiet in there and they were a few feet away. So I did my best to pretend I was preoccupied.
One of the curses of being a writer is a keen interest in other people’s lives. I was definitely listening. The key word is ‘listening’ because both the woman and I were on the receiving end of a monologue about his divorce, his ex (who he disconcertingly referred to in the present tense as his wife), his kids, etc. I definitely had the impression the divorce was a recent event.
The woman was trying to help him understand the stuff he was dealing with. I would not have been surprised if she was a therapist in her professional life. Twice she started to talk, he kept rambling, and to her credit, she called him on it, telling him she was trying to say something, all while maintaining a voice that told me she still found him attractive.
At one point I heard her say, “I know we’ve only known each other 48 hours…” so I assume this was a second date. She got up to go to the restroom. I had been thinking that she might be someone I knew from the past so I asked him if her name was the name of that person. It wasn’t. We struck up a conversation, the guy and I. He was a nice guy and when she returned she joined in on the conversation.
It occurred to me later that she may have welcomed a break. I told them I was a writer, which is often a good conversation starter for me, and that I had not intended to eavesdrop on their conversation. Neither seemed to care and she asked me about my work. This is where things unintentionally went downhill a little for him. At least it seemed that way because she was focused on our conversation, a conversation that quickly covered a bunch of topics. There was some kind of connection, not my goal.
The guy got up to go to the bathroom and I picked up my coat to leave. She asked if she could text me about my writing and without thinking about it I gave her my number, told her I’d enjoyed my talk (she was genuinely interesting), waited till he returned, and left.
One thing she and I found in common was one of my favorite hangouts. I didn’t think much about it. When I left they resumed their date with her arm resting on his. It looked like chemistry.
That was last night. And today I got a text from her. Would I like to get a drink sometime?
I’m going to shift gears a bit here
It was not my intent in any way to hit on her and I was careful to not exclude the guy from the conversation that had veered largely to comparing commonalities. And I am not some kind of great catch and definitely not a hunk, but I love conversation and learning about other people. It’s hard-wired into me. So I ask questions.
I’m not sure the guy saw any of this. She obviously liked him and in spite of his relationship insecurities around his ex, he seemed pretty interested and confident. But he had made a fundamental error in communication, in my judgement.
His conversation with her was not a conversation, it was a monologue. Conversations are two-way. His other error was talking to her as though she knew every person he was talking about, their issues and his. There is no way she could know any of that in 48 hours.
I hear these date conversations all the time and this pattern is common. I can tell a first date because both sides typically bring the other person up to speed on their own entire life to that point, selectively editing. I know, I’ve been there. In some ways it seems to be something everyone needs to get past to then move onto the present, typically on a second date.
A strategy for these kinds of conversations
Once you’re past comparing notes on your lives to date, put that aside for a while. If things progress there will be time for that. I’ve learned that the best way to do this is to ask questions and listen, then briefly respond. Always leave space for a response.
There’s a correlation in the video voiceover world. I’ve worked with professional voiceover talent and they all do one thing the average person doesn’t do. They leave a silent space at the end of each line, some dead air. There is a technical reason for this. Most people connect their sentences together with breaths, leaving no place or an editor to cut in with an edit. The audio editor cuts each sentence into its own snippet that can be paused or moved around. Without that dead air you can hear the transition breath.
The date guy was not leaving any openings for his companion to the point where she had to stop him verbally so she could respond. That is not going to be sustainable.
In conversational chess, the back and forth is the fun
An early date is not a place to air your troubles or ignore the unspoken connection you should be forming. You’re both testing the waters and looking to see if there is a spark that is worth pursuing. When it becomes a thoughtful and interesting interchange both parties get a chance both contribute and listen. It should be fun.
Now, in my little experience last night, I don’t think any real damage was done. They seemed quite happy when I left and our three-way conversation had gotten him off his monologue and troubles. So, I may have unintentionally served a useful purpose. I hope so.
Now, I have to decide what to do about that text. She was a very interesting woman…
(there may be more to come on this story)