Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Fixer Upper

My philosophy about blind dates was pretty simple. I wasn't opposed to them because I figured this:

The best that can happen is I find my soulmate; the worst that can happen is I die (and we all have to do that eventually, anyway.)

Ah, the set-up. The blind date. The fix-up. (I was fixed up so often I was literally a walking, breathing, "fixer upper.") Everyone seems to think they are a matchmaker. I was single for a long, long time (I didn't get married until I was 40), so I heard this a lot: "Hey, I know someone who would be perfect for you!"

Perfect? Not likely. Most people's idea of someone "perfect" for their single friend can be summed up by this simple equation:

1 (random single person) + 1 (random single person) = 1 (Perfect Couple)

Singleness is usually the single attribute required for someone to think someone else will be "perfect" for you. Occasionally, prospective matchmakers get extra creative and add a second attribute. My mother-in-law, who stands at over six feet tall, relates that people would be smugly sure that their fix-up for her would be perfect because he was both single and tall.

I'm not sure why it is, but people who are in a relationship seem to want to get people who aren't in one into one. I have an aunt who likes to brag about her matchmaking prowess, saying that she has introduced about a dozen couples to each other. (She then adds, "Although, I shouldn't count Jasper* and Brenda*, because he turned out to be such a jerk.) [*Names have been changed to protect the jerk (and his wife.)]

Unfortunately (for her, anyway) I proved difficult for her to fix up for a variety of reasons (besides being a nerd and a doofus.) Most notably, because she lived in Boise and I lived in Salt Lake City. A Boise-to-Salt Lake relationship might work just fine for a budding college athletics rivalry, but not for a budding romance, especially when the two parties are only minimally interested in each other to begin with.

Over the years I've been on my fair share of fix-ups. They started in college. (There were no blind dates in high school because, growing up in a small town like Arimo, I already knew who every girl was.) (And worse yet, they knew who I was, too.)

The first blind date I remember, I was fixed up by my college roommate's married friend with a girl from one of her classes. My date was a very beautiful young woman who happened to be a former gymnast. (She had, a few years earlier, been in competitions with Mary Lou Retton!)

I thought the date went rather well. (I made it through the entire evening without farting or spilling anything on my shirt!) So, a couple of days later I tried to call her to set up a second date. No one answered. I tried again. Still no answer. I tried yet again. Her roommates said I had just missed her. I tried several more times. She was never home. Or, she was busy. She was washing her hair. She was washing the dishes. She was giving her cat a manicure. She had a mouth full of Skittles and literally couldn't talk. For whatever reason, she simply could not come to the phone. I bumped into her once on campus and tried to talk to her, but she was late for something and had to get going. "Maybe later," she said. I never saw her or talked to her ever again. It is quite possible that at the end of the semester she entered the witness protection program to get away from me. (I hope she likes her new life in Nebraska.)

A few years later I was fixed up by my aunt (a different aunt than the one I mentioned earlier) with a gal she worked with at the college. My date was a tall (6'1"), attractive woman who played on the college volleyball team. We went on a double date with my aunt and uncle, which I thought would be awkward, but wasn't too bad because my aunt and uncle are pretty cool.

I thought the date went rather well. (I made it through the entire evening without burping or talking with my mouth full!) So, a few days later I called her to try to set up a second date. Unfortunately, her team had away games on seemingly every single night for the next three months. I wished her good luck with her games. She replied by saying, "Good luck with...your truck driving."

Now, maybe I was just being overly sensitive about my job, but I took "Good luck with...your truck driving" to mean "You're just a truck driver. I have no interest in you." Looking back, I probably misjudged her. She was probably just trying to be nice, but didn't know exactly what to say to me. Maybe I should have tried harder to persue her. (After all, it would have been more difficult to hide a 6' 1" woman in the witness protection program.)

As time went by, my singleness became legendary. (Okay, not exactly legendary, but at the very least well known.) Everyone knew about that "weird old guy who is still single." So, I would get blind date offers from strange and unusual places featuring strange and unusual match-ups. One time I was fixed up with my friend's sister's chiropractor's sister-in-law! (I am not making that up.) Once again, she was a perfectly attractive woman (I think she was a nurse), and once again I was unable to make a connection with her.

After that date (the one with my friend's sister's chiropractor's sister-in-law), people still talked about setting me up, but few people actually followed through with the fix-ups. People would mention that they knew other single people that would be "perfect" for me, but they wouldn't actually set me up with them. For my part, I made little to no effort to help these people. With my blind date track record I saw little use in trying. I had pretty much given up and had settled into my role as "weird, nerdy uncle." If people wanted to fix me up, they would have to do all of the arranging for the date. I would show up if I was set up, but I wasn't going to call anyone I didn't know.

I was locked into this status for the next several years. People talked about setting me up, but nobody actually did. And, I didn't do anything on my own, either. I went several years without going on a date. And then, a co-worker set me up with his sister. We double-dated with my co-worker and his wife.

I thought the date went rather well. (I didn't fart, burp, or pee my pants!) And then, when I called her to set up a second date, she actually answered her phone! I was so excited to be going on a date that I overdid things. I set up a triple date with two of my best friends and their wives. So, here was my poor date, quiet and shy, getting completely overwhelmed by these two couples who have been married for 18 or 19 years. She didn't get a word in. She didn't even take off her windbreaker. I, obviously, had no idea what I was doing.

Looking back, I think this date with my co-worker's sister was a very good thing. (For me. Not for her.) I got some of my spastic "Look at me, I'm going on a date!" energy out of my system so that when someone fixed me up again a few months later I was a little less gonzo.

That someone was the wife of one of my best friends from high school. For the purposes of this story, we'll call her "Terri." (Which makes sense, because that's what her name is.) Terri was neighbors with a cute, nerdy schoolteacher. Unlike many fixer uppers who thought that any two single people would be "perfect" together, Terri knew each of us well enough to see some possible compatibilities.

We were at a get-together of the Arimo Mafia (the four buddies from my small town who grew up together) when Terri mentioned that she thought she knew of someone to fix me up with. I shrugged. Whatever. I had heard it all before. I didn't think anything would come of it.

Still, I wasn't too surprised when I got an invitation a few weeks later to have dinner with Terri and her husband (we'll call him "Chris") (because that's what his name is.) When she invited me, Terri did not mention that she had invited someone else. But, I knew that was the reason for the invite. I thought it would be funny if I brought someone with me. (It would have been funny, but it never would have happened. Because it would have involved me finding a date for myself.)

The four of us had a nice dinner and played some games. The four of us being Terri, Chris, some girl named Amber, and I. I thought it went rather well. (No inappropriate bodily functions or discharges.) But, there was also no "love at first sight" or fireworks. (Those would come later.) When I left that night I thought of it like just about every other blind date I had been on. Despite what it sounds like from what I wrote above, I actually didn't drive all of my fix-ups into the witness protection program. Most of the time I left the date not being able to tell if the girl had any interest in me. So, more often than not, I let it drop right there. Asking for a second date meant putting forth a little effort and, even more damning, putting myself out there for an opportunity to be rejected. So, I usually just let it be.

This time, however, things were different. The next day, I got an e-mail from Amber. It was a quick, simple e-mail that effortlessly conveyed this message: Nice meeting you. I had a good time. I wouldn't mind getting together again some time. (I later found out that Amber, with Terri's help, had spent a good bit of time carefully choosing every word of that e-mail so that it would sound quick, simple and effortless.) (I now call it the Most Important E-Mail I Have Ever Received!)

This was new territory! A blind date had actually expressed interest in a second date! (Okay, this wasn't the first time a girl had been interested in me after the first date. But it was one of the first times it had happened with a girl that I was interested back in.)

We sporadically exchanged e-mails for the next couple of months, then finally got together for our first real date. And the rest, as they say, is history. (But don't worry, you won't have to remember any of it for the test, because you'll be lucky if your history professor gets as far as the Vietnam War before the semester runs out.)

So, for those of you who are still single, remember my philosophy about blind dates. (The best that can happen is you find your soulmate; the worst that can happen is that you die.) I went on a lot of blind dates and I never died. Not once. Not even a little bit. So, I guess from my experience I'd say that if you go on enough blind dates, that "soulmate" thing might actually work out for you. (It did for me!)

[Special message to Amber: Happy Valentine's Day, SweetSweet!!!]


  1. Joe, you are hilarious! Thanks for being such a good sport!

    1. No, Terri, thank YOU!!! (Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!)