Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

After attending an art walk, I went to get drinks with a couple of friends, one guy and one girl.  A girl friend of the girl joined us to put our group at 4.  We chatted about the art walk and we made the typical small talk that’s associated with meeting someone for the first time.  As the night ended, the girls headed out together, while my friend and I headed back to his place.  After we were well out of earshot, I asked my friend if he had noticed that the girl, while very attractive and friendly, had a single broken finger nail.  He had also noticed it, and then we delved into some strange deconstruction of why she was attractive, in her mid 30s and still single.  Somehow, that single broken finger nail was emblematic of some level of “crazy” that this girl had that we didn’t see in our brief introduction to her that night.  It was like a crack in the veneer.  I felt pretty awful that we had come to that conclusion based off of very little knowledge, and then felt worse because, I know many guys that would come to the same conclusion.  There’s a “crazy” stigma for pretty girls over the age of 30 that haven’t been married or engaged before.

Since I knew it was silly and unfair, I tried to push that stigma out of my mind.  It was moot for the most part since I wasn’t meeting many older girls in their 30s, but I didn’t need to complicate my already less than robust dating life.  That was before I came home late on a Friday night, and I decided to log onto my online dating account.  I typically didn’t log into my account on Friday nights because I didn’t want to give girls the impression that I have nothing better to do, but there I was, at 1 in the morning, seeing if Mrs. Right was also at home, seeing if I might be out there.

After a few minutes of browsing, when I was about to log off and call it a night, I received an IM from a girl on the site.  In the handful of years that I’d dabbled in online dating, I had never once received an actual IM from anyone, so it was kind of unsettling.  The girl IM’ing me was a girl I had seen on the site before, one that was attractive, but ultimately not interesting enough for me to actually pursue.  Since she was reaching out to me, I decided that I should reconsider and see if we had any chemistry.  The chat software was awfully slow and buggy, and I was pretty exhausted, so we decided to arrange a phone call the next day.

I called her the following afternoon and things seemed pleasant at first.  She was 33, and she was working as a substitute teacher, hoping to latch onto a permanent teaching position for the upcoming new year.  Less than ideal details about her life started to surface, like the fact that she lived at home with her mom, but these things were typically due to circumstances out of her control like losing her full time teaching job during the 2008 recession, and the fact that her father had passed away a few years earlier. These things made me sympathetic to her situation.  Of course, shortly after feeling for her and her situation, she offered me the unsolicited advice that most girls don’t like facial hair, and that I should consider shaving on a regular basis if I wanted more dates.

I decided to ignore her rude advice and proceeded to set up a date with her.  I would take her to a Oaxacan restaurant that I had gone to a few times before, over by where she lived.  I figured that if the date wasn’t going so well, that I would at least be able to enjoy a good meal for my troubles.  She agreed to the date and we agreed to text back and forth to get to know each other better in the meantime.  Sparks weren’t flying, but I was enjoying to get to know her and I hoped that things would progress.

Unfortunately, things started to unravel even before we arrived at the restaurant.  A couple of hours before the date, she texted me if I was on my way.  I told her I was still at work.  She asked me what time I was planning on arriving, and I told her the time we agreed upon.  She seemed skeptical.

About an hour before the date, she texted me again.  She asked me if I had left yet.  I told her I was at home, for a quick change of clothes, and that I’d be leaving shortly.  She asked me again if I was going to be late.  I said no.  Once again, she seemed skeptical.  I grew slightly annoyed by her constant badgering.

I arrived at the restaurant on time and texted her that I had arrived.  Surprised, she texted me that she’d be there in a few minutes.  I checked in with the restaurant, got us a table, and soon after, she arrived.  She told me she had often driven by the restaurant but had never eaten there, so I found this promising.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know there would be live music that night, so noise became a bit of an issue, but not to the point that we had yell.  When the waiter arrived to take our order, I ordered a margarita.

“You’re drinking on a Wednesday?!” she asked, on the verge of outrage.

“Yeah…” I responded, confused that my order was causing any sort of reaction.

“But it’s Wednesday.” she persisted.

“It’s not like I’m ordering shots.” I muttered, frustrated by her interrogation.

I told her I wouldn’t drink if it made her more comfortable, but instead of taking me up on my offer, or just letting me have my margarita, she decided that she shouldn’t let me drink alone.  I reassured her that I was fine, but she quickly started browsing through the beer list, and then out of nowhere, decided that she should have a long island iced tea.  I didn’t understand her logic, but I just wanted to move on, so I didn’t bother to ask her to explain.  The food and drinks came out, and I tried to steer things back to a normal conversation.  Things went well for a while, until she decided to let me know that she thought the restaurant was more ideal for a happy hour gathering, than a first date.  I was already pretty sure that there wasn’t going to be a second date at this point, but I still nodded politely, trying to keep things from completely becoming a catastrophe.

After dinner, she suggested that we go get coffee.  I agreed to coffee, not because I was hoping that things would turn around, but because I figured I should kill some more time before making the long drive back home.  We got in our respective cars and met at a local cafe.  She offered to pay for the drinks, since I paid for dinner, and we sat down, resuming our strangely friendly but sometimes contentious conversation.  She opened up about her family for a little bit, and this revealed some resentment towards her father, who she unfortunately wasn’t able to make peace with before he passed away.  She then went on a rant about some teacher that she knew and how he was a bad influence on the kids he was teaching.  While I understood that the guy shouldn’t be teaching kids that his superficial and pathetic lifestyle was something to aim for, I couldn’t understand why this was such a “hot button” topic that we needed to discuss on our date.  I had already given this date plenty of chances, and this was finally the straw that broke the camel’s back.  I told her I had to get back home, I walked her to her car and said goodnight.

I drove home and immediately regretted going on the date.  The age thing crept into my mind, but it would be a disservice to dismiss her as crazy, or that any of these 30+ year old pretty girls are crazy.  This was simply a girl with a lot of baggage, who couldn’t keep that baggage from creeping up time and time again.  Life had dealt her a bad hand of cards and it was understandable that she had accumulated a good deal of bitterness along the way.  From losing her job, to having to move back home, to not making peace with her father, that’s a lot of disappointment for one to handle.  It’s a miracle that the only visible signs of her disappointment were in these little spurts of negativity. There wasn’t anything wrong with her, she wasn’t crazy, and most importantly, she was stilling putting herself out there, even if I ended up being a dead end.  That’s not crazy behavior, that’s down right respectable.

 

 

I know sports fans can be nutty.  I definitely enjoy sports and know my share of the crazies.  I’ve chuckled many times at friends for turning off the TV during a game because their team started doing poorly when they started watching. I’ve done the same thing or something similar countless times, but just never in front of people.  I know it’s silly, and because of that, I’ve always felt that my silliness was somewhat reasonable.  I wasn’t one of those fans on TV, half naked with paint all over their bodies, or one of those fans who wouldn’t shower because they believed it was helping a winning streak.  I loved my teams, but I didn’t try to antagonize people who didn’t feel the same way.  I bought jerseys and I attended games, so I thought I was fairly normal.  It turns out that I was wrong.

I went to a Wild vs Ducks hockey game a few months ago with a friend, my girlfriend and her brother.  I wore my new Wild jersey (the green one) that I got last year and brought my old Wild jersey (the red one) just in case someone wanted to wear it.  For previous games, that someone was my dad.  Since none of the people I was with were Ducks fans, I was hoping someone would help me represent the visiting team, but those requests fell on deaf ears, so I just held on to it.  After a period or two of futility from my favorite team, I decided to swap the jerseys.  I had gone 0-3 in my new jersey and was about to go 0-4, so I figured it might be bad luck and that switching to the old one would perhaps bring my team good luck.

When I took off the first jersey, a guy behind him asked me “are you really giving up on your team?” and when I told him that I was just switching jerseys, he totally understood my logic without needing me to explain it to him.  No one else around really seemed to notice the switch or they all inherently knew what I was doing.  The game was finally ended, and my jersey switch couldn’t turn the tide.  To me, this game was just one of many hockey games, and unfortunately it ended in a loss.

A few months later,  I ran into an acquaintance and after exchanging pleasantries, he asked me if changing jerseys at a hockey game was a normal occurrence for me.  I was immediately taken aback by his question, partly because of embarrassment, but also out of shock.  My acquaintance didn’t know anyone who I went to the game and I didn’t even recall ever having a conversation with him about sports.  It turned out that he was also at the game, and while he and his co-workers were trying to spot their Minnesota Wild loving friend elsewhere in the stands, they spotted me, and later spotted me in a different jersey.  I explained my superstitious logic behind the swap and he at least feigned understanding about it.  I was somewhat embarrassed about it, but not embarrassed enough to not try it again at some point.

For the first time that I know of, I looked like a crazy sports fan, and in the eyes of my acquaintance and his co-workers that night, I looked like a loon who couldn’t decide which jersey he wanted to wear.  Unfortunately to me, that doesn’t sound all that exciting.  If I was going to be deemed sports crazy, I’d like to be like the group of Minnesota Wild fans that brought a Minnesota state flag to a game to a hang over the railing, or my friend who I didn’t realize I was seated next to at a Clippers game because they were wearing a cape and was screaming that every player on the opposing team was a rapist, not just the guy who kept switching between jerseys at a hockey game.

My brand of crazy just isn’t crazy enough.  It’s a nerdy crazy and it just doesn’t feel as bold and brave as I’d like it to.  I can’t spin yarns about how I painted my face and torso, knowing it was going to be below freezing weather.  I can’t tell tales about how I screamed obnoxiously at opposing players without a single drop of alcohol in my system.  While I often look down on these people, or in the case of my friend, not recognize them until they’ve turned to me and asked me if I remembered her, I secretly envy them and their ability to totally immerse themselves in their fandom for their team.  For now, the Minnesota Wild will have to accept me and my two jerseys.  Hopefully the next time they’re in town, I’ll have embraced a whole new level of crazy, a crazy that will help them over that final hump and to victory.