Catching Up, Punching Out

DBAG DATING_CHECKING IN PUNCHING OUT

Editor’s Note: Today is a very special day for Dbag Dating. After years of vying for a male contributor, I had the pleasure of meeting a charming (and very cute) Miami expat at an art show the other day. We got chatting, I told him about the blog, he told me about his own dating nightmares.. Boom! A match made in dating disaster heaven was born. After a bit of, um, mild pressure, my new friend assigned himself the pseudonym of Marcel Mignon and got typing. Without further ado, here is his first chef d’oeuvre.  

“How’d it go last night?”

I stared at the question that had popped up on my screen, which, coincidentally, happens to be one of my personal favorites. Whether met with elation or dread, you are almost always guaranteed an entertaining story.

This time, I was the one under interrogation. Pressing one hand against my cheek to feel for any bruising, I used the other one to forward a screenshot that I felt sufficed as a response:

dbagdating_punchingout

Let’s backtrack. One day earlier I had been enjoying a typical winter afternoon in South Beach, catching up with a friend over drinks. Occasional moments had made their way onto my Snap story, and, shortly after my last post, I received a Facebook message:

“Hi Marcel! Looks like you’re having fun. I was with your ex today and we chatted about you. How have you been?!”

It was from a high school acquaintance I hadn’t spoken to in several years – we’ll call her Katie – who I knew had been working as a pilates instructor via the power of social media. The chat quickly evolved and she suggested meeting up that very evening for dinner / drinks. Even though we had never been close friends, I was happy to catch up on nearly a decade of gossip and booked a table at a popular spot in her neighborhood.

For context, I had gone out with Katie once in high school to see The Ring, a then-popular supernatural thriller. At that age, conventional wisdom held that a scary movie increased your chances of ending the night with an adrenaline-induced kiss (or more). It had worked, and, as a result, the shedding from her pink sweater had completely covered my black shirt. The movie also happened to be so terrifying that I was in a state of catatonic shock by the end of the night. Covered in pink plumes, I had driven  her home without saying a word, speeding off like a flamingo taking flight. Somehow, one of Katie’s close friends had found this story endearing and eventually ended up becoming the ex she had referenced in her message.

Fast-forward a decade. I got to the restaurant early to be there when Katie arrived. She walked in a few minutes later looking cute: she was tan, in great shape and, thankfully, not wearing a sweater. Equally attractive was her self-assurance (#ladyswag), something that my teenage self would not have immediately noticed. As she recognized me from the entrance, a smile spread across her face. We decided to have a glass of wine by the bar before being seated.

The evening began with the routine dialogue – what became of mutual friends, who ended up with whom – combined with the requisite updates on our own personal and professional lives. Things were progressing well and, somewhere into the third glass, the friendly catch-up began to resemble a date. We asked to be seated, and do so right next to each other.

Over dinner the conversation deepened with talk of past relationships and recent romances. At this point we seemed to have more of an appetite for each other than our food. It was all completely unexpected, in the best of ways.. That is, until Katie’s emotions became as uncorked as the bottle of wine we were drinking.

“So where do you see this – us – going?” She suddenly asked, while staring at me intently.

“What do you mean, ‘us’?” I thought that maybe I had misheard her. After all, could someone I hadn’t seen in so long really be referring to “us” in the singular tense?

“You know… Us. Me and you. Do you see this going anywhere?” This time, she pointed to herself, and then to me.

Now, under different circumstances – after a few dates, perhaps – it would have been a fair and valid question. In this case though, I was taken completely off guard. I decided to tread lightly.

“Well, I think some dessert is definitely in the cards…”

A vague yet diplomatic response that would allow us to switch topics and continue catching up, right? Wrong. She was fixated on understanding why I had agreed to meet, if not to begin a romantic pursuit.  I decided to change tactics, explaining that I had recently ended a committed relationship and was not yet ready for another:

“Look, I don’t think you’re the type that wants to just casually hook up, so I’ll be honest. I recently split with my ex after a disastrous couples’ trip.* I’m not really in a place to get into something serious at the moment.. Selfish, I know.”

*Side note: True story – we went to South America and broke up after she nearly lit the hotel on fire and I came close to falling off a cliff. I’ll share further details with DD readers in a future post.

My honesty was met with a blank stare. The mood changed. It was clear that the dinner had unraveled into a collision of confusion and frustration. Ever the optimist, I order a slice of key lime pie (a must at this particular restaurant), which I definitely enjoyed more than Katie. After we were done, I paid the check and we stepped outside.

It was a warm night, the palms were rustling in the breeze and it all would have been quite charming – if it wasn’t for the fact that Katie was still sulking. On a mission to end the awkwardness, I proposed a solution that was partially a joke and partially a dare (and partially the result of one glass of wine too many):

“If you’re so angry, why don’t you just punch me in the face?”

She laughed and refused, but I could tell she was still angry. In an effort to lighten the mood a bit more, I repeated my offer.

“Come on. If anything, it will help you let go of all that emotional dry powder.”

My second attempt was more convincing.

STARS.

Her fist landed on my cheek as if a bullseye had been painted on it. For a moment her athletic form was a turn-on, a feeling that quickly dissipated  and was replaced by pain and a brief concern about braving my morning meeting looking like I had just been in the ring with Muhammad Ali.

“Oh my God, I’m so sorry…I can’t believe I did that!”

Katie’s voice trailed on and on as she realized what had just happened. Although the empathetic part of me felt bad for her, the survivalist part told me to run for the hills.  Survivalism prevailed, and I was on my way home in an Uber shortly after.

After the initial shock and pain had faded, disappointment began to set in. You see, I gradually realized that Katie’s premature question and poignant reaction to my neutral response had stemmed from a genuine desire for a meaningful connection. Untimely or not, her sentiments resonated with me because, in them, I recognized the universal search for one’s counterpart, as well as my own.

While I felt sad to have disillusioned her, the night became a valuable reminder of how raw, messy and human our romantic journey can be. And, although often idealized, it can sometimes sting like a punch in the face.

– MM

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