N.C. Harrison recounts some of his weirdest first dates and explains why those incidents won’t stop him on his quest for true love.
Cat Stevens wrote a little song called “The First Cut is the Deepest” back in 1967. P.P. Arnold recorded it first, and then the Cat himself, and then a host of other artists including Rod Stewart, Keith Hampshire and reggae greats like Norma Frazier and Martha Griffiths. The version of this with which I am most familiar, however–like most of my generation–is probably Sheryl Crow’s 2003 cover. I say this without shame, as a longtime fan of Ms. Crow dating back to my middle school days, and I spent many a post-breakup high school afternoon (cause hey, really, those high school breakups can be murder) listening to her strum an acoustic guitar, perched artistically in the desert according to Wayne Isham’s simple but well executed video, and mourning lost love with her.
The line that has stuck with me all these years, about the first cut being the deepest, resonates in a different way than it was probably intended to. I am a master of first dates that are bizarre, off-putting and creepy to the extent that a soul less hearty than mine would come home, throw his hands up in despair and say to the ceiling, “That’s it, okay, we’re going to be celibate, now, you and I.” Presumably our hero has been driven insane at this point, because he is talking to the ceiling. I have always stuck with it, though, and found myself going on first dates with more and more progressively interesting and objectively unusual young women.
Two in particular stand out in my mind. The first of these was a relatively harmless outing with a printmaker whose heterochromia iridum fascinated me almost as much as her work involving celebrities and skeletons paired in the danse macabre or the full color, red and black panther tattoo that ran the length of her calf. Our actual date went well, pretty normally in fact. We went to see some movie or the other, got pizza and walked in the park talking about art, politics, and life in general. A kiss at the door of her apartment, and then goodnight.
She texted me, at three that morning, to inform me that demons had broken into her room to inform her that our auras were not compatible with one another. It could only end in tragedy since her aura was purple, mine brown. She could only love a man, she told me, who had a triangular, golden aura. I thanked her for letting me know. It is a rare woman, after all, who will put so much thought and care into the health of a humble umber aura like mine. Still… triangular and golden. It stuck in my craw. I had very possibly been dumped for The Legend of Zelda’s Link. Oh well. At least he is a heroic man (or elf) to be shunted to the side for.
That girl, as odd as she was, wasn’t anything but a sweet, harmless eccentric. The other person I’m thinking of manifested weirdness of a slightly more sinister and socially embarrassing kind. I wish she had not. Oh my God I wish she had not. This young woman, a beauty queen from the top of her head to the bottom of her toes, bled elegance and poise from each pore. Her voice dripped sugar, moonlight and the smell of magnolia blossoms. We flirted, canoodled and wandered all over campus for about a month, staked out spots in the library to skip class and talk, touched accidentally on purpose each day. Being a much younger and dumber man with kissing on my mind I managed to… ignore… certain problematic statements she tended to make when she thought others couldn’t see or hear. She couldn’t mean it, right? Surely she was joking, yes? Even if it’s in bad taste, I can help her to understand that this isn’t the way to act, maybe? You can’t teach people if you just shut them out, right? Please God let her be joking…
She wasn’t. We sat together at a nice restaurant on our first official date, holding hands and trying the kebabs. For some reason, she brought up the subject of Darwin. “Y’know,” she said, “I don’t reckon I believe in evolution. I just don’t believe people could have evolved from monkeys.” And then, I knew it was coming but could not stop it. I saw the twinkled in her eyes, the impish grin cross her lips. “Well, not white people. Maybe black people.” She laughed. I didn’t. Neither did the lovely African-American couple at the next table, with whom I had spoken so nicely while she’d been powdering her pretty little nose. The date ended there. Would that my life had. I haven’t spoken to her since, nor have I been back to that restaurant. I really like their kebabs. C’est la vie.
The first date is the weirdest, and I have been on some weird ones. If I wasn’t willing to go out on a limb, though, to try new things and even subject myself to a little bit of discomfort, I would never have been to some of the great eating places that I know of, fallen in love some of the times that I have, or have many of the friends whom I love and met through those failed relationships. Stepping into life’s danger zones can be scary, but without doing so we just stagnate, like a summer pond, and the only things that like stagnant summer ponds are mosquitoes. Don’t let a mosquito lay eggs on your face. Take a chance and get out there, even if it gets a little weird.