My Date with Pink Panther

The Story of Pink Panther_DbagDating4

In the age of predator crackdowns and pussy-grabbing presidents, women are adamant about their desire for conscientious men. They want partners who are not threatened by strong females, who are in tune with their emotional selves and are not afraid to talk about their feelings, or cry, or meditate, or whatever.

Or so they think. Clearly, none of them have ever actually been out with a Highly Emotional Male, i.e. the Pink Panther.

It was one of the first warm Spring weekends and I had just come back from the annual Randall’s Island art romp that is Frieze. Still running high on the rare bout of socializing, I agreed to meet a girlfriend for an (even more uncommon) attempt at a “night out.” Said girlfriend had an early drink date, which meant that I had the majority of the evening to myself and my dog. By 8pm, I was ready to bail and nail down the hibernation coffin with a movie and food order, when a message suddenly popped up on my screen.

“Hi! I’m walking around the West Village, looking for a place to eat. What are you up to?”

It was from a guy I had matched with on good ol’ Raya earlier that week. Very tall and very blonde and very Midwestern, he wasn’t at all my type. What had piqued my interest was his Tony Robbins-esque slideshow, which was basically a montage of him giving Ted Talks and motivation speeches and saving the world, one Pinterest quote at a time. Intrigued, I swiped right, ignoring the fact that he lived in a flyover state that I probably can’t locate on the map.

That day, geography was a non-issue: Tony Robbins was in town for the weekend and was roaming around just a couple of miles away, looking for a “not douchey” place to eat. West Village being New York’s restaurant haven, I rattled down a list of casual places he could pop in for a quick bite. (Tartine, Empellon, Joe’s Pizza, the list goes on.)

Fifteen minutes later, I received another message.  “I just sat down at Sushi Samba, would you like to meet me?”

Now, I’m far from a restaurant snob here, but a person looking for a non-douchey restaurant should NOT go to Sushi Samba. Sushi Samba is where douchiness goes to grow wings, reserved but for bridge & tunnel folks who had once seen it on Sex and the City. (At least this was the case about ten years ago, when a Jewish doctor from Long Island had taken me there and had promptly offered to buy me Gucci shoes over our $20 California rolls.)

There was no way I was going to Sushi Samba, but maybe meeting to him was a good way to hold myself through the evening? Repeating to myself that life is worth living outside of the prism of an Apple device, I told him that I would message him once I got to the West Village.

It was prime jacket weather so I just spruced my usual jeans and t-shirt with a leather trench, adding a chunky gold watch that had belonged to my great-grandfather. In the elevator, I paused to study the effect. “I look like an 80’s gangster,” I texted him, just to issue a warning.

“It’s ok, I’m wearing a pink sweatshirt,” he texted back.

I wasn’t sure what to think. Sure, millennial pink was trending, but was he even a millennial? Or was it an ironic thing, like one of those meta sweatshirts you see on skaters lined up in front of Supreme? I figured it couldn’t be that bad and responded with an emoji.

By the time I got off on the West 4th Street stop, it had started raining. Luckily, one of my favorite restaurants, Palma, happened to be right around the corner, so I ducked in for shelter. The bar looked warm and welcoming, and I could pretty much hear a glass of Sauvignon Blanc calling my name. I asked to be seated and instructed my date to meet me after his sushi fiesta.

Sipping my wine, I basked in the soft candlelight, admiring the restaurant’s trademark fresh-cut peonies. Spring was finally here and not even the rain could deter its much welcomed new energy.  It was all quite lovely… That is, until my date walked in, looking like a human homage to Pepto Bismol.

That’s right – he was wearing his pink sweatshirt. But it wasn’t millennial or meta or anything else that would have made it somewhat redeemable. It was just obnoxiously, unapologetically, intensely PINK, like a cotton candy explosion or a trip to Victoria’s Secret. The warm lighting in the restaurant picked up the hue, illuminating the violent garment like a giant muleta to my crazy bull. Or, perhaps, not just mine, because I soon realized that Every. Single. Person. Was. Staring.

Completely unaware of the, shall we say, magnitude of his presence, the Pink Panther scanned the small space. Spotting me by the bar, he walked over and enveloped me in a big, damp hug.

“You are as just as pretty as I expected.” (Aw. But people were still staring!) He sat down and removed the hood of his pink Snuggie, revealing an angelic blonde halo. His eyes were blue, his smile was kind, and he seemed genuinely nice. I felt like a bitch already.

He requested to see the cocktail menu, and, as if on purpose, promptly selected a drink called La vie En Rose. The picture was complete: my 6’3 Ken Doll of a date was now sipping a pink cocktail with a bona fide rose petal. The bartender stifled a giggle; I stifled the cry of my inner seventeen-year-old, who was begging me to run.

Unfortunately, I was 30 and escape was not an option. Using a warm and caring tone that made me want to rip my hair out, the Man In Pink began asking me a multitude of personal questions. Telling myself I was being irrational, I answered to the best of my ability, recounting my Russian background and the struggles of freelance penny-pinching. It was bullshit banter, but light, first date bullshit banter – ya know?

Apparently, my date didn’t know. “I want to meet the real Marina,” he proclaimed, gazing at me with unexpected intensity.

Huh? Which Marina did this little peony garden think he was meeting?!  Suddenly, I remembered the Tony Robbins factor – no wonder he was probing me for emotional data! I asked him to fill me in on his humanitarian endeavors, at which point when I began to realize that I was on a date with a bona fide saint. It turned out that he had started a self-help movement that had spun into a charity that had spun into a book and even a web series. He was the entrepreneurial Mother Theresa, and I was a bitter, angry nobody. Great.

Trying to be bigger than myself, I complimented him on his accomplishments. So much success, so quickly!

“Thank you. It’s more than I could have hoped for. Now, if only I could be this lucky in love,” he responded.

It seemed like an invitation to ask emotional questions that I didn’t necessarily want answers to, but I did it anyway. “I just want what we all want – to love and be loved. But I’m a sensitive person and I always end up getting hurt,” he confided.

Now, had I known the guy for, I don’t know, longer than twenty minutes, I probably would have admired his highly evolved sensitive side. But we had just met! And he was wearing the Hallmark color of love! Wasn’t this, I don’t know, a little too much?

It turned out that he was just getting started. Before I knew it, he was sharing the gruesome details of his last heartbreak, which involved a Hollywood actress (ahemmmm) dumping him after three idyllic months together. “It broke me,” he whispered, his eyes glistening, before adding that the experience has inspired the entire second season of his web series.

I decided to show some tough love. “You shouldn’t let people get to you that much. Especially after 3 months!”

“Don’t minimize my feelings.” The light tremor in his voice indicated that the next step could be actual tears.

I was confused. Wasn’t this guy a self-improvement guru? Wasn’t he, of all people, supposed to have his shit together? Not knowing what else to say, I resorted to generic compassion. “Look, I’m sure it’s hard, but it will all be worth it when you will find somebody amazing. And you will.”

Big mistake, huge. He looked at me intensely, then uttered the scariest words of the evening: “You are amazing. Perhaps, it could be you.”

Oh no no no, it could NOT be me! Feeling my oxygen supply slowly begin to dwindle, I reached for my phone and texted my friend to come and get me.

Suddenly, the pink cloud was hovering over my shoulder, peering at my phone.  “You’re leaving? Already? Nooooooooo,” he moaned.

I explained that I had prior plans, then immediately felt bad. “I can ask my friend to come here if you want!” I suggested. “No! I want to be with you alone!” he pouted. I half expected him to lay down on the floor and start stomping his feet like a five-year-old. My patience level as low as my O2 supply, I handed over a twenty and informed him that my friend was scooping me up on Bleecker.

“Can I come with you? Please?” he asked. At this point the situation was starting to get a little creepy, and yet I doubted that one could get abducted by a pink cloud in the West Village. And so, I allowed him to follow me to a deli for an emergency candy fix.

Before he left, he had one last request. “Can I have a hug?” he asked.

It felt like being in Disney World and hugging one of those giant stuffed animals – except, in this case, the plushy was the one seeking the love.

This is how I learned that sensitive men are not the blessing they are made out to be. In fact, when accompanied with a bit of emotional instability (and a violent pink sweatshirt) they are an unpredictable trip that most of us are not yet programmed to deal with. A douchebag? Easy breezy! A chauvinist? A walk in the park! A giant teddy bear who cries at the drop of a hat?  Terrifying.

As for the brave uber-feminists with big hearts – I am happy to give the Pink Panther your number!

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