This Date is Going Very Well

First dates can be tricky, but Joe Berkowitz has all the right moves.

Illustration by Brad Jonas

Before leaving the house, I agonized over my appearance. I must have spent an hour in front of the mirror, worrying about whether to tuck in my sweater vest or not. So many decisions! The cologne from this morning had begun to wane, and so had the cologne from this afternoon. I could barely smell it on myself, so I applied some more to my wrist, neck, and thighs. Then I stuffed both pockets full of condoms and headed out into the night.

Halfway to the restaurant, I realized I’d forgotten to feed my pet ferret, Hector. Should I turn around and risk being late to my date? It was a tough call. A hungry ferret is like an angry lady — both will claw you in the face with their crazy nails so hard — but it’s the ferret I have to live with. After going back and hand-feeding Hector, I still made it to The Cheesecake Factory with twenty minutes to spare.

When Jenny finally arrived, I flailed my arms and called her name out three times so she’d see me as she walked through the parking lot. All this waving jostled the sweater vest loose from my corduroys. I had one hand tucking the garment back in my pants as she approached. Luckily, the hand in my pants is not the hand I shake with. That would have been awkward! I went easy on the handshake so as not to hurt Jenny’s dainty fingers, but when she responded with a solid grip, I turned up the juice. The confused, slightly pained look on her face seemed to say, “he will protect my young.”

I assured her right away that it was no big deal, her showing up four minutes after the time we’d agreed on.

When the hostess led us to our table, I sprang into action. If anyone is pulling a chair out for my mujer, it’s going to be me, thank you very much. The hostess took a step back, no doubt surprised to see chivalry alive and well, and then she asked for our drink orders. Nothing says “total player” like ordering for your date, so I ordered margaritas for both of us, and there were no complaints. A little thank-you would have been nice, but whatevs.

With the economy the way it is these days, most people are dying to know what it’s like to run an independent jazz record shop. As soon as the waitress left, I launched right into a play-by-play of how I talked a freshman into buying two Miles Davis LPs this afternoon. Jenny kept looking off to the side, so engrossed that she didn’t dare break my concentration by looking directly at me.

The subject of music segued right into the topic of piracy. After she denied ever partaking in the illegal downloads that are hurrying along my financial ruin, I knew that this girl and I park our cars in the same garage — and that perhaps we would soon render this figure of speech quite literal. Just so she didn’t get the wrong idea, though, I reassured her that despite the grim outlook of my business, I could still handily afford half the meal we were about to enjoy.

There was a brief flash of panic when I realized I’d already checked off all of the rehearsed talking points on my talking points checklist, but I quickly thought of a new topic. When talking with a woman, it is best to appear agreeable on all fronts. Any difference of opinion might be perceived as a potential “red flag” of incompatibility. That’s why, when my date seemed to disagree with me, I took back what I said about abortions. Smoothness, thy name is Dan.

I’m about 80% sure my date believed me when I explained that saying aloud the words, “Smoothness, thy name is Dan,” was in fact a joke, and not a cognitive fart I was internally kicking myself over at that very moment. After I wiped the flop sweat off my forehead with a packet of Splenda, Jenny’s BlackBerry went off and she became absorbed in checking her messages. Whew — talk about being saved by the bell!

My favorite scene from the Woody Allen film Annie Hall has got to be the one where Woody is in the middle of his date with Annie Hall and he suggests that they get the goodnight kiss out of the way early. I can’t do justice to Woody’s dialogue, but I think my retelling of the scene scored some major points with my date. I mean, she did laugh quite loudly. Right before she excused herself from the table.

My guess is that she went to the restroom. Probably to see if the thing I said about her makeup was true, which it is. That would explain why she’s been gone over twenty minutes. I hope she gets finished soon — this date is going very well and I don’t want to slow the momentum. As soon as she gets back, I’m going to do my impression of her. That ought to close this deal.

Illustration by Brad Jonas