Friday, December 13, 2013

The Armenian Pianist

Time for a little follow up on my earlier December blog, The Twelve Dates of Christmas.

I met #12 - The Armenian Pianist on OkCupid, like the majority of my online dates.
Pros: He sent me a message that was smart, funny, insightful, and showed that he had actually taken the time to read my profile. He was thoughtful and sweet and complimentary - all the things a man should be.
Cons: He's younger than me, shorter than me, not the best looking guy I've ever seen, and he lives in New Jersey. can't win them all.

Still the Armenian Pianist was determined to win me over and after several long emails back and forth (a good sign), he told me that he would really like to get to know me better and could we please talk on the phone (another good sign.) When I messaged him back with my phone number, he called right away.

Let me take a moment to explain to anyone who isn't familiar with online dating etiquette. You never call first. Everyone goes from emailing to texting to calling to actual in person dating. He skipped a vital in between step! I was comfortable hiding behind my computer screen but he wanted to skip the phone screen and go straight to voice? I panicked, but I answered.

The Armenian Pianist has a higher voice than I do. Sigh...

It turns out that he was just as sweet on the phone as he was online, almost too much so. The Pianist was so very happy to talk to me that he wanted to talk to me all the time. I'm not kidding. ALL the time. After the first phone call, he texted incessantly and worried if I didn't respond right away. He called and if I didn't pick up, he would leave a voicemail asking if everything was ok. He freaked out if he thought that I didn't want to talk to him, that I was mad at him, that we weren't going to date after all. He hated that I couldn't meet up right away. I explained that I have a broken foot and can't walk or drive on it yet. He asked if I really had a broken foot, or if that was just an excuse because I had no intention of meeting him.

Dude. Calm your shit down!

After hearing his stories about relationships gone wrong, I realized that the poor kid was just nervous. I've had my heart handed to me in a trash bag before, with a note that says "I ran over this with a Mack truck. Good luck putting the pieces back together." I'm exaggerating slightly here but you get my point. He just didn't want to get hurt again and if anyone understands that, it's me.

The Pianist traveled from New Jersey to Long Island by train to have brunch with me on a Sunday as he was nervous about driving someplace he's never been to before. Also, he doesn't like bridges or tunnels. (You're living in the wrong area, buddy!) Besides, he didn't know how long it would take him to get here and he didn't want to be late. So instead he walked to the bus stop, took a bus across town, walked to the subway, took a subway downtown, got lost in Penn Station, and took a train out to me. He was over an hour late. Oh the irony!

As soon as we met, I realized that these nerves of his wormed their way through every part of the Pianist's life. Sure, everybody gets the jitters before a first date, but he truly obsesses over everything. His work, his family, the cut on his pinky finger, the static on the radio station, whether the scarf he's wearing makes him look fashionable or gay, if he's been eating too much cheesecake lately, what his plans will be for the holidays, how much sleep he's getting, how much water he's drinking, what movie he's going to watch tonight... The list goes on and on. He's a worrier. He's a panicker. He's an overthinker. And he's starting to grate on my nerves.

I met the Pianist at the train station and we wandered over to the Cheesecake Factory to lunch. The five modes of transportation he took to get out to me plus the hour he got lost in Penn Station meant that their brunch menu was over, which was our original plan. Instead, we chose tapas - appetizers and small plates to share - where he admitted to despising the Cheesecake Factory.

There are thirty million other restaurants we could have gone to! I offered him oodles of choices, but he told me that whatever I wanted was fine. Why did he let me pick the one place he "hates more than all over chain restaurants combined?!?!" Because "it's not about where we go or what we do or what we eat. I'm just happy to be sitting across from a woman who's so much more beautiful in person that she is in her pictures," he said. I was about to say "Awww, that's so sweet" when he followed up with "Seriously. It's distracting." And looked away.

Shaking my head.

Thankfully the very cute waiter came over to take our order at that moment. He gave us a bread basket (oh carbs how I love you!) and said "Hi, my name is Josh and I'll be taking care of you today." Josh had the kind of smile that young guys auditioning for the part of an extra on a daytime soap opera flash at a casting agent and the demeanor of a Southern gentleman. This is precisely how I like my waiters. Attractive, attentive, and polite. Before I could say anything, the Pianist grumbled the dishes we'd chosen at him, thrust the menu into poor Josh's hands, and dismissed him. What the hell was up with that?

"Oh I'm sorry," he snarled at me, "Are you sad that Josh is gone? Do you want me to get him back here so you can flirt with him some more?"

"What the hell are you talking about?" I stared at him quizzically. "All I did was smile at him!"

"Well I'm your date, you should be smiling at me, not flirting with the waiter. Unless you like him more than me. Do you want me to leave?"

"I smile at everyone!" I beamed back at him, trying to turn the situation around. "That's just who I am. I'm a nice person to everyone. Besides, I think it's extra important to be kind to the person who is serving us food, don't you???"

The Pianist bowed his head a little, clearly shamed by my Pollyanna approach to the world. He apologized, claimed to be teasing me and asked if we could start over.

He wanted to know everything about everything. My whole life story. What I do for work, what my family is like, what my past relationships have been. Normally, I have no problem sharing. In fact, I've been accused of being an oversharer (Guilty as charged. See also: this blog!) but the way he was asking seemed scrutinizing instead of caring. Like when he asked about my divorce, I told him that it was an amicable split after several tough years together and he responded "Your voice got quiet when you talked about your ex husband. Why is that? Do you still see him? Talk to him? Have feelings for him?" (Answers: No one has ever told me I'm quiet, no, no and no.) Or when I was talking about the difficulties of ordering food in other languages while living in Europe, and making sure that in Italy, I got peaches instead of fish (peche versus pesce), he asked if I could please be less adorable. (Answer: No, I cannot.)

In our three hour lunch together, the Pianist seemed uncomfortable, fidgety, ants-in-his-pantsy. The worst part though may have been every single time he brought up points. Such as, he's never seen Roman Holiday, my favorite Audrey Hepburn film. "Uh oh, do I get minus points for that?" Or when I complimented his sweater and he replied "Should I have worn a button down instead? Minus points?" Or when he told me how to survive on his music career as a piano player, he subsidized income with teaching piano lessons and working at a grocery store. "So now you know, I worked at a supermarket until this summer. Minus a lot of points?"


Dating is not about points or keeping score. If any grade was given, it would be on a curve. We are all nervous, we are all learning. We are all trying to make the best of an awkward situation. The only thing you can do is acknowledge that it's weird and crazy at times and try to laugh at yourself and each other. But please, for the love of all things holy, stop expecting to be handed a report card at the end of the evening!

I give this one a B flat.

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