The worst New Year's date (and worst date period) I ever had. This story won an award in a college story contest, and I used elements of it in my Regular Show book that was published this past year.
“I would really like to go out again!” I said as we pulled up to Tami’s home. It was sincere, too. I, for the first time in a very long time had had a great time on a first date with a girl.
With a smile, she said, “I would too! It was fun!”
I was relatively new at the first-date gig. Since my return from my missionary service, I had been involved in a pretty serious relationship that had ended quite badly. This date with Tami was technically my third first date in a year. Consequently, my inexperience combined with my enthusiasm got the better of me: I asked her out right then…
“I have two tickets to the New Year’s Eve play at the Hale Center Theatre next week. I would love to go with you,” I said eagerly.
She got the look on her face that my previous girlfriend got whenever I’d do something stupid. I am convinced that they teach that look in Young Women’s right after they stand and repeat the Young Women’s Values. In Borg-like unison: “We are daughters of a loving Heavenly Father…and when boys do something stupid we will look at them like this,” followed by a half-glare, half-pity “I’m so sorry you’re so clueless” expression.
“Well, I’ll call you. I’m not sure what’s going on New Year’s Eve. I’ll let you know,” She said before making her escape to the sanctuary of her house. But I didn’t care! It wasn’t a “No!” And so, I thought I had a chance.
Now lest you think that was the bad date, fear not, little flock. It was merely the catalyst for what was destined to become the worst date that any man had embarked on, except perhaps for that dinner Adam and Eve scheduled where Eve brought the fruit.
The days passed, and I, as though I were awaiting news from the moon, patiently waited by my phone, anticipating Tami’s call. Ok, that’s a lie. There was nothing patient about it, and I wasn’t by the phone, the phone was by me. I carried my cell phone everywhere. Waiting.
One day: no call.
Two days: no call.
Three days: no call.
Four days: no call.
Five days: no call.
New Year’s Eve: still no call.
The hours passed. The evening was drawing closer with each tick of the clock. Certainly she would call soon! The show was tonight! But it was not to be.
At around 5:00, I realized that my glimmer of hope was not to come to pass. But I still had two tickets. Not to mention that I had talked up the date to my many friends who also would be attending the play that night. I’d had such a good time with Tami that I KNEW she was to be the one! And I’d made that clear to my friends.
“Just you wait,” I told them. “Jake’s back on top of the mountain!”
Because of my background in local theatre, I knew that the 400-seat Hale Center Theatre would be full of people I knew. And since theatre people are notorious for gossip – well, I knew that they knew that I was bringing someone I thought was pretty special. Someone who didn’t call me back.
It was time to act. I started calling every girl I could think of, inviting them to spend New Year’s Eve at the theatre with me! It should’ve been obvious to me. 5:00 on the biggest party day of the year. Who wouldn’t have plans?
Apparently no one I knew. I made 15 phone calls. EVERYONE had plans. Most of them were going to the show already. Some were out of town. Who to take? Who to take?
Suddenly, the light switched on. Christy. I’d never really even talked to her. But, my bishop told me she’d expressed an interest in going out with me. Now, I tend to avoid the “Ward Incest” concept at all costs, but I’d spent good money on these tickets, and darn it, I was going to use them! Plus, if I could fulfill her wildest dream by asking her out, well, that was a service I was happy to perform!
I made the call.
“Yes! That sounds so fun! But you need to pick me up a bit early, b/c you need to pass an interview with my family before I can go out with you,” she said with as much enthusiasm as I’d displayed with Tami a week earlier.
Relieved that I finally had a date, I missed the warning: “You have to pass an interview with my family.”
At 9:00, I arrived at Christy’s house. Like I said before, Christy wasn’t really someone I’d though of asking out before. In pioneer times, she probably would have been referred to as a “Plain Jane.” She never really cared about making herself look good. Ratty hair, no makeup, and very little fashion sense. But, in the times that I’d seen her (mostly at church) I saw that she could be very pretty if she took the time to make herself that way. I was sure that a dream date with her dream guy would cause her to take that time.
She answered the door. No dice. Same old Plain Christy. But, that was ok. It was only one date, and she seemed nice enough, which is much more important that how she looks anyway. She invited me into the family room at her home, so I could have my interview. Expecting Mom and Dad, and perhaps a sibling or something, I approached this meeting with cool confidence. She obviously wants me, so her family will automatically love me.
She opened the sliding door into the family room. To my shock, even horror, there were thirty people waiting, staring at me with anticipation. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, nieces, nephews, siblings. It was a full-blown family reunion. And they wanted to play Congressional Inquisition with me.
The rapid-fire questions began: “How old are you?” “Where do you work?” “How much money do you make?” “Are you Republican?” “Where did you serve your mission?” and so on. I tried to answer as many as I could hear, but their overlapping speed made it nearly impossible to answer them all satisfactorily.
“When was the last time you got a speeding ticket?” One uncle asked, drowning out all the other family members.
“On my mission. But it was a photo cop, so it was, like, entrapment,” I said, confident that my clear understanding of Constitutional law would impress the family. They all went silent. Grandma gasped. An older sibling smirked.
“Steve, Christy’s older brother, is the number one lobbyist for photo cop in California,” Christy said.
Steve stood up from the couch, walked over to me, and said, “It’s not entrapment.”
Christy shot him a look, and he retracted his claws, and sat back down next to his wife. Christy’s mother stood up.
“Well, Jake, you seem nice enough. We just have a couple of questions left,” she said. I inwardly rolled my eyes in a way that would make teenagers around the world proud.
“Do you have a cell phone?” She asked.
“Yes,” I replied, thinking that a mother wanted reassurance that if I tried to rape her daughter or something, Christy could for help.
“We need the number before you walk out that door,” she said matter of factly.
You have GOT to be kidding me! I thought as I scribbled my number down on a piece of paper.
“Before you go, please bear your testimony,” Christy’s father said. It was not a request.
I shared a brief statement of belief, in shock at the audacious thoroughness of this interview.
As Christy and I turned to go, her mother told us that Christy’s curfew was to be at Midnight. On New Year’s Eve. Midnight. I expressed my concern that the play was starting late so as to include some midnight celebrations, ringing in the New Year, and would not have ended by 12:00. Her mother saw the logic in this, and granted an extension. 12:30. Not a minute later.
Finally, this torturous event was over. I opened the door to leave with Christy, but as I did so, her mother had one more thing to say….
“Jake, you need to know that the men in our family got new firearms for Christmas, and are not afraid to use them to defend Christy’s virtue. No kissing, or anything!” She said with a coldness outside that made my winters in Canada as a missionary seem like a tropical paradise.
“Duly warned,” I said.
A few short minutes later, we arrived at the theatre. In all of the chaos of the interview, I had forgotten that my friends were waiting with baited breath at the theatre to see the special girl I was bringing. We were greeted by Sarah and Joseph, who, when they saw Christy were nice, but clearly unimpressed. The usher took out tickets, and we entered the theatre.
The Hale Center Theatre is a small black box theatre. That means that the stage is surrounded on all sides by audience seats. It is kind of like a tiny football stadium in its seating arrangements. For New Year’s Eve, the Hales go all out. There was a great buffet spread out on the stage, sandwiches, drinks, cookies, etc. Plus every audience member had been given serpentine ribbons, and a noisemaker to use at midnight. We still had several minutes before the show was to start, and I wanted to visit with my friends. Christy had no interest in this, and requested to sit in her seat until the show started. So, she did. Leaving me to visit with my friends alone. I told them about the interview, and explained how she wasn’t my first choice of date. Had to safe face in front of my friends at all cost. But, I soon felt the pang of guilt for letting Christy sit by herself. So, I joined her.
She, apparently, had gotten a sandwich on her way to her seat, and was finishing it as I sat down next to her. She looked at me, smiling from ear to ear.
Looks like she’s having fun! I thought.
After asking me the usual question about if I had fun, etc. She said, with a deadpanned seriousness that reminded me of Wednesday Adams, “I was eating my sandwich, and bit into the toothpick that holds it together. I swallowed it.”
I was speechless. All I could think of was how this kept becoming a better story. Just as she’d said that, we were joined on the row behind us by Meagan and Rachel, my dear friends. Meagan, at one point, was more than a friend. We’d ended the relationship very amicably, but it was still a little surreal to have her there. I hoped Meagan and Rachel hadn’t heard the toothpick comment. But I didn’t have to wait long to find out. Christy excused herself to use the ladies’ room before the show started.
While Christy was gone, Meagan reached her hand from behind me, handing me a toothpick.
“Just in case,” she said.
“Ha ha,” was all I had time to say. Christy was back.
The theatre was full at this point, and we were ready for the show to start any minute. Christy looked at me. Same big smile.
“Don’t you hate it when you go to the bathroom, and your sitting on the toilet,” she said, moving her hands into a model of a person seated to take care of business, “And the wall of the stall rubs against your thigh?”
What do you say to that?!?! For one thing, the rest room stalls at the Hale Center Theatre are HUGE. The mechanics alone of what she described would require a Yoga master! But what was most shocking about the experience was the fact that she said it at all! Whos says that on a date? Who says that ever?!?! Fortunately I didn’t need to come up with anything to say in response, because the lights faded, and the play began. All I could feel was Meagan and Rachel kicking the back of my chair in a mocking pity for the date I’d found myself trapped in.
All was well for the first fifteen minutes of the play. Christy was well mannered, and seemed to be enjoying the show. Way more than I was, certainly. But, as nothing on this night was in any way predictable, another socially mortifying experience was about to take place. A certain twist in the play occurred. The audience giggled a bit, as it was an entertaining little twist. The laughter and applause died down, and there was relative silence in the theatre, when Christy said, full-voice, “Ahhh. So, the plot thickens!”
Full-voice. In a silent theatre. Full-voice. I knew at that moment that all 800 eyes were fixed on us. I slumped down as far down in my chair as I possibly could.
We are always told to have a prayer in the heart. Mine at that moment was one of repentance. I promised God that I would do nothing wrong for the rest of my life, because my personal hell, I knew, would be to relive this date over and over again.
Mercifully, God must’ve heard my prayer. Things were fine – that is uneventful – until intermission. But little did I know that more craziness waited!
Just as before the show, a buffet was set up on the stage during intermission, though this time it was only desserts. Christy said she didn’t want anything, except a drink. Being the loyal, dutiful date I was, I left her side to fetch her a glass of water.
The theatre staff was filling water in cups from a punch bowl with floating lemons. I took a cup back to her, which she immediately emptied.
“Wow! This is really good! What is it?” She said.
“Uhhh….water!?!” I said, in a bit of disbelief.
Was she serious?!? I thought.
Apparently so, because she said, “Oh. I just thought it was really watered-down lemonade.”
More kicks on the back of my chair from Meagan and Rachel. And the lights faded for Act II.
In the middle of Act II, the show stopped suddenly. It was two minutes to midnight, and we had to do the traditional countdown. The clocked ticked off its seconds, and my heart began to grow more and more concerned. It was traditional to kiss your date at midnight. Was she expecting that? Her mother’s warnings of death and destruction in defense of virtue echoed through my head.
We got our noisemakers ready….
Serpentine ready to throw….
Meagan patted me on the back with an understanding tap….
Across the theatre Joseph had his camera fixed on me and Christy….
I hate you Joseph…
Why didn’t you call me, Tami?…
Christy doesn’t look like she’s expecting a kiss…
All the men in our house got new firearms…
FLASH…. Joseph’s camera….
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!
The melodious strains of Auld Lang Sine rang through the theatre amidst the noisemakers, yelling, and jovial celebrations! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!
Suddenly I felt a pair of hands on my head. Only they were coming from behind.
All the men in our family got new firearms…
A sweet, fast kiss. Someone kissed me! At midnight! Someone kissed me!
Fortunately Christy hadn’t seen that I’d been kissed by another girl while we were on a date! Dang, I love Meagan! Only she could understand how difficult this night had been.
As the midnight festivities were winding down, and the play about to continue, I wanted to throw out my serpentine ribbon, but because Chinese scientists designed serpentine as a follow-up to the finger trap, I couldn’t get it to unravel. So, like any guy would do in that situation, I tore it to pieces and threw each piece after piece at the people around me.
Christy would have none of that. Grabbing my hands, she look me square in the eye, and said very sternly, “Be gentle!”
Yup. I would never sin again, because an eternity of this date would be true hell. The play continued. And it ended. I’m not sure if Christy did anything else. I was so shut off from paying any kind of attention to her. In some ways, in hindsight, I was acting like a toddler who’d been scolded. But this was my money we were spending! I was supposed to be out with the beautiful Tami! Not this crazy girl! But I digress.
The show ended – at 12:25. I had five minutes to get this girl home, because her parents were NOT going to call my cell phone. We raced out of the theatre, and I pushed my 1989 Honda Accord to its limits on the icy roads. As I pulled in front of her house, I was nervous. It was 12:31.
“Thank you soooooo much, Jake,” she said, flashing that same smile she’d smiled all night. “I really had a GREAT time!”
She’d had a good time.
She wants to go out again.
Christy ripped off her seat belt, and dived on top of me. She gave me a huge hug that never ended. Ever. Ok, maybe it did. But she kept telling me that she’d had such a good time. I felt a little guilty because I’d been so miserable on the date, and she’d had fun!
“Are you sure that you don’t want to come inside and light fireworks with my family?” She asked.
“Yeah, I’m pretty tired,” I lied. I just didn’t want to have to face Steve and his fascist photo cop agenda.
“Well, I had the best night ever! Thank you!” She said. And she left.
I moved out of the ward a week later to pursue a job opportunity in California. This was good, because it allowed me to avoid the awkwardness of seeing her at Church. But, the postscript to this adventure is that upon my return to the ward, Christy was engaged. She was engaged! She was going to get married before I was! I blame the Bishop. But, you know, sometimes he does know best. Just not this time. Maybe I’ll give Tami a call….