It started with an email. "I need to be set up on a blind date by a friend, please," I wrote to a dozen friends. In its full glory:
As you well know, my work takes me to all manner of places: drag bars, art galleries, gay motorcycle club meetings...and now, blind dates. I have been commissioned to write a piece about what it's like to be set up on a blind date by a friend. So...I need to be set up on a blind date by a friend, please. This is where you come in!
Surprisingly, at least I think so anyway, this is low pressure. It's for Science. What is going on a blind date like? If you know a man who might also want to find out what this experience is like with me, please let me know. For Science. My deadline is April 16, so ideally I would be able to go on this date in the next three weeks.
For better or for worse, you know what I am like. I trust your judgment. Bonus points if the person you select is a good conversationalist, interesting, smart, and funny and over the age of 28. Extra bonus points and all the baked brie you can stuff in your face if they are Jon Hamm.
Some notes: I realize in our internet age this is asking a lot of a person I have never met, so if they seem not at all into the blind part, you can send them my picture. But please not my last name (though I realize it's easy to just Google based on details, I want to at least try to keep some mystery for the piece). I will remain blind because Science, so you can tell me about them and their first name, but please no photos or last name. Also, I don't have to use their real name/occupation in the piece if that scares them.
If you have any questions, please let me know. Thank you so much for your help and consideration. I promise not to murder your single male friends.
All my love,
Within 30 minutes, I get a text from my friend George, who was included on the email. As a professional dating consultant and matchmaker, he has a potential date in mind for me: his friend Cameron*, who is a photography blogger. Sure, I say — that’s super interesting to me since I am a person who writes about photography for a living, among other things.
So George acts as a go-between, setting up this date between me and Cameron. We’ll meet at 6:45 at a cute ramen spot in Long Island City. And that’s all I know!
Cameron has seen my photo, though — George tells me that Cameron isn’t into the idea of a fully blind date which, as I wrote in the email, is totally fair in these times. With people’s images literally at our fingertips every second of the day, it’s probably highly unusual, if not totally disorienting, to ask someone to not look at a photo of a person they’d potentially go out with. I didn’t see a photo of him in return since I’m a lady of my word, but it did feel kind of powerful to know he had seen me and was interested in going out — he was already attracted to me, at least enough to say yes to going out with me. The ball, as they say, was in my court.
A photo of my face.
I’m curious about the world before we could hold the internet in the palms of our hands, about the blind dates of yore. So I ask my parents about their experiences. The opportunity for what my mother calls a “naked blind date” — that is, one where you never met the person or saw a picture of them and vice versa beforehand — was a rare one, at least for her, because friends and family already had their own standards of who to send through. I can’t imagine the scenario is much different today, with the added bonus of just being able to Google everyone. But really, my parents didn’t go on a whole lot of blind dates, partially because they weren’t set up on a lot of them, and partially, well, because they didn’t want to go.
“I had no reason to be on a blind date. I’d rather just stay at home,” my father, a man of few words, says. And it’s a sentiment I understand. Because while the upside of being on a blind date is a a fun, cool, new experience with a fun, cool, new person, the downside is the total opposite and the total opposite sucks. I think about Cameron, who has agreed to go out with me for Science: being confronted with the possibility of a blind date is, I imagine, a disorienting one for a person who is not a journalist specifically tasked with taking on the endeavor.
I also think about what is probably a loose translation of a Margaret Atwood quote: “Men are afraid women will laugh at them; women are afraid men will kill them.” As a woman, going out on a date with a stranger can be terrifying. A person you meet at a bar could be anyone, even Patrick Bateman. In terms of going on a blind date set up by a friend, however, I am mostly optimistic, not just because that’s my nature but because I trust George and I don’t think he would set me up with a total creep freak axe murderer vampire.
And Cameron is not a creep freak axe murderer vampire. Cameron, through George, wants to make sure that Long Island City is convenient for me, that 6:45 is convenient for me, which is kind and respectful and considerate. So far so good.
I arrive in Long Island City a little early because I am always a little early, and go for a walk around the block. But George texts and says Cameron is already there too, in a hat, glasses, and blue shirt.
I head over with a chuckle, amused there’s someone who’s as anal retentive about being on time as I am. But I arrive at the ramen bar, a petite spot decorated in light wood and warm yellow neon, and I look around and... he’s not there. I must appear confused because the host comes over and stops me.
“Are you the one meeting a man for a date?” he says. “He’ll be right back.”
And soon, there he is. Cameron is soft spoken and mild-mannered but funny and worldly. He’s had quite a life, what with running his own successful photography blog and a military career and meditation training and a former life as a paparazzo and training to eat the world’s hottest pepper. Conversation moves quickly, no awkward pauses, and we have a lot of the same interests — burlesque being one of them, which is fantastic because I never meet men who like burlesque.
I find him endlessly interesting, but at the same time I know he’s not quite right for me romantically. It manifests in my body language, too, with my arms folded tightly in front of me. Cameron is a rock star, an extraordinary, very accomplished and fascinating person I feel like I could talk to all night, but I get more friend vibes. Later, he asks me how this works, does he tell George he’d like to see me again? I tell him my thoughts. I do hope we can be friends, too. Perhaps a little too business-like, I say thank you for your time. I mean it. A busy person myself, I hate it when people waste my time, so I wanted him to know I valued the space he made for me in his life, even for a little while.
What is a cool feeling, though, is that George would think to set me up with someone so interesting and accomplished, that he thinks I deserve a fine person like that. I mean, of course I do deserve those things, we all do, but our friends’ jobs are not to lavish us with compliments on the daily so sometimes you don’t quite know exactly what their feelings are about you in words, you only find out in actions. So thank you to George and Cameron for a lovely evening.
A few days after I send the email, I get a text from Shannon, my friend of nearly 12 years, who once let me, in a drunken college haze, blow my nose on her knee. That’s true love.
“I have a blind date for you,” she says.
His name is Nick* and he’s an actor with own production company, and works on a lot of independent creative projects. He’s also apparently “funny and nice and very talkative” and “high energy” and “from Maine, of all places.” That sounds fun, I say. Because why not?
While I’ve already been on a blind date for this article, I keep this one blind too because I actually like the surprise of it. You have literally no idea how your evening is going to go, and I think that’s invigorating, Margaret Atwood aside. With my mind on the optimistic side, at the very least I get a story out of it, right? I had a good first blind date experience, but that doesn’t always happen so I understand if it’s not for everyone. I’m looking forward to doing it again this time, however, and I’d probably do it again in the future, too.
The difference this time is that Nick doesn’t ask for my picture, either. This, I will learn later, is part of his nature, to say, “Okay, sure!” when interesting opportunities present themselves. Or, as his mother would say, “When someone asks you if you speak French, say ‘oui’ and Google it later.” Shannon gives Nick my number and not long after I get a text.
“Hi there! My name’s Nick and Ms. Shannon [redacted] informed me that we are going on a date :) Hello, and how are ya?”
It makes me smile instantly, as do the rest of his texts from then on. He seems clever and effervescent and curious even in the little text bubbles that pop up on my screen, plus he uses proper grammar and punctuation. It’s a thumbs up so far. I’m actually excited to meet him, which will happen the coming Sunday, at a place we decide upon together. I hope he’s not one of those people that’s great via text and horrible in real life. But again, I trust Shannon’s judgment on this one, so it feels like the odds are in my favor.
Sunday comes, and he’s in front of the restaurant, a modern bistro of sorts, in a black jacket and messenger bag adorned with a small smiley face, like he said he would be. He’s tall with a friendly smile and eyes a color blue I thought was reserved only for crayon boxes.
We sit at the bar and the seats feel a little too close together for me at first, but I don’t want to obtrusively, obviously look like I’m trying to move away from him, so I stay. He has me laughing in not so much minutes but seconds. There’s something about him that exudes warmth and positive energy, as if he’s a person you can imagine curling up under a blanket and sipping hot chocolate with you in a log cabin. Admittedly, the plaid shirt he’s wearing feeds that “cabin in the woods” vibe. In as little time as it takes for me to make me laugh, I also don’t mind sitting so close to him anymore.
I wish I could say what the restaurant looked like inside, but I hardly remember because he had my attention from almost the moment we sat down. Sitting next to him feels like sitting next to a sparkplug, all electricity and vibrance. He’s unabashedly himself and passionate about the things he loves — theater, football, board games, music, among others — and talks about them with a spirit that’s catching and really makes you want to see those things through his eyes. He wants to hear what my passions are, too.
I’m surprised at my own body language, how I find myself touching the arm of this total stranger when he says something funny (which is more than once), or how, when he reaches out his hand to look at my rings, I move my hand just a little closer so he can touch it. It’s almost like my limbs are moving independently. An alarm goes off in my brain: “Ohhhh, Elyssa, you like him.” Which is so surprising to me because it’s not like I wasn’t expecting to like him, but a blind date was just supposed to be a fun thing I did for an article. You know, for Science.
We order a bunch of food and share everything, and soon a dessert menu arrives. Fun fact: I love banana pudding and the only reason I wanted to go to this restaurant was to try theirs, a butterscotch version. But we had so much food already... Would he think I was gross if I wanted dessert, too?
"Does anything appeal to you?" Nick asks.
“Well,” I say, “I do love banana pudding…” I am standing outside of myself and thinking god, Elyssa, you are such a joke. Just f*cking order the pudding.
But what happens next surprises me even more.
Nick leans in close, inches away from my face and looks directly in my eyes. In a low-voiced purr that makes my ears and my spine tingle, that makes me think we are suddenly not on two barstools but rather in entwined in front of a fire on some sort of fuzzy rug as snow falls gently outside, he says, “Do you want... butterscotch banana pudding?"
And in my mind, I have fallen off of my chair. Is it warm in here? Are my clothes still on? WHY IS THIS THE SEXIEST THING ANYONE HAS EVER SAID TO ME?
Needless to say, the pudding was delicious, but damn if hearing that indulgent query from an adorable fella sitting next to me didn’t make it that much sweeter. I notice we’ve hardly stopped talking since we arrived three hours ago and have pretty much shut the restaurant down.
Moving to a second location for wine, we talk more. He asks for a second date and the word yes falls out of my mouth without hesitation.
Nicely done, Shannon.
*Names have been changed.