Little italian place in Menlo Park. I was early. I parked and walked up to the entrance of the restaurant and stepped inside. The blonde middle aged hostess at the front greeted me warmly, she had a motherly appeal to her. Does she know why I’m here? Was she looking at me with a certain curiosity? Or was it all in my head… I couldn’t help the quiet paranoia that lives deep below the surface of each one of these dates. Like I am doing something I shouldn’t be. Something wrong.
But am I?
Is it in fact morally wrong to agree to go to dinner with some one for a fee, or is that perfectly within my moral rights? I have decided that it is, so long as I am clear and upfront regarding expectations on both ends. So why then do I feel like a child sneaking out to meet a friend who she has been forbidden to see?
I keep thinking back to all of the horrible tinder dates, bumble, etc… where the guys were disrespectful, groped me, tried to kiss me, forceful as if I owed them physical intimacy because they took me out to dinner – or simply because they gave me two hours of their precious time. No, you cannot come back to my place… no, I will not go back to yours. And isn’t it ironic, that the dates I have been on so far – these “unconventional” dates – have been with men who I found to be the most respectful, intelligent, interesting and gentlemanly men I have met in life thus far. Not one has tried to so much as lay a pinky on me beyond an initial handshake or hug upon meeting. None of them have pressured me for a kiss. None of them gave off the impression that I owed myself to them in any way shape or form, despite them each paying me a (hefty, in my opinion) fee to take me out. This fact both amuses me and frightens me at the same time… whats the deal?
Anyways. Back to the homey Italian eatery. With as much normalcy as I could muster, I greeted the hostess.
“Hello! I am meeting some one,” I said to the hostess hastily. “I’m a bit early, I’ll just wait outside.” And immediately turned and walked right back out the door. Smooth… A few moments later I hear a man walk up behind me and turn around as he greeted me.
“Well, it looks like I managed to get the most beautiful girl in town out to dinner with me tonight! Hello, my name is Simpson. And you are?”
“Hi.” I smiled at him, “I’m JAG, it’s nice to meet you” I accepted his handshake as he bowed slightly towards me. He was very tall. Maybe 6’4. He didn’t hold my hand for longer than comfortable, just a friendly and simple handshake.
He opened the door to the restaurant and followed me inside. The hostess walked us over to our table for two. I made eye contact with her, smiled. No shame. I looked around and saw a mix of families out to dinner, business partners, and a small handful of couples on dates. Everyone looked to me as if they lived there. Totally comfortable and at ease, totally familiar. This was definitely an old timer type of place.
Simpson ordered us a bottle of some fancy wine (yes – despite all of the sophisticated wines I have had the pleasure of indulging in, I still remain a complete dummy when it comes to naming or recognizing them… and I still don’t know which I prefer, is it Zin? Merlot? Chardonnay? That’s the white one, right? Embarrassing, I know) and the story unraveled. His wife left him 9 years ago, apparently she had been seeing a psychic who advised her to leave Simpson immediately or he would ruin her. According to him, she left him with no warning and no discussion. He told me that he is young in soul and spirit. He is not done with life, he is not done with romance and he wants to date young to stay young. To continue to feel young. He enjoyed talking himself up a bit – how impressive he is to women, and all of the things he has taught his teenage sons over the years in regards to women. Still, not once did he make any advances on me – even at the end of the night when we walked down the quiet street together back to our cars. Some where in that restaurant during our dinner he handed me a plain white envelope with 4 $20 dollar bills inside, which I took politely and slipped into my purse. I said thank you and the conversation carried on as if nothing had happened.
He enjoyed meeting me, and wanted to go out again.
But everyone has rules, and when I started I made a few for myself. No second dates was one of them. I never have been a stickler for the rules though… But I’m afraid I won’t be breaking any rules with this one.
I watched him climb into his shiny new BMW, and as he drove away his license plate faded into the distance… it read “SIMPSON.”