Okay, so I dated some guys that weren't so smart. I dated some who might have been underemployed, and some might have been under ambitious. But mostly, in the early nineties, they weren't real bright.
At one point in undergrad, in the depths of my "Big and Dumb" phase, one of my friends developed a scale correlating my boyfriends' intelligence to appliances. As in "Brennan, he is so dumb he'd barely make a four slice toaster. No wonder you like him."
The levels, as I remember them, started with Osterizers at the top, then self cleaning ovens, then toaster ovens, then four slice toasters, then two slice toasters, then, finally, ice cube tray melting on the counter.
That last, I realize, is not an appliance, but wow, Rich wasn't real smart. Real cute, but not so smart. So my friends had to go to something with no moving parts and no real agenda.
I met Rich at La Cage, like every good queer boy met every other queer boy in Milwaukee at the time. He was cute, so cute, with a cute pug nose, white blonde hair, about 5'6, and had a certain... well, what at first I took for studied insouciance. Turns out that there just wasn't really anybody home.
It was the winter of 1990-91, and it was really cold. The windows in LaCage would steam up and the fog machine would start and they'd play "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)" three times a night and the dance floor would fill each time.
And I would look over at Rich, across the dance floor as I flailed around to C+C Music Factory or Black Box or Dee-Light, and when he looked at me I'd look away. And then I'd wait for a flail or two and I'd look back and he'd look away. In more contemporary parlance, you could say that I had NO GAME. None.
In my defense, I was new to dating - I didn't really date in high school, not boys, certainly, so all the awkward mistakes and discoveries that adolescents usually get to make before they move on and leave high school wince-inducing moments behind I was making in my early 20's. And I was making them with a vengeance. I started slowly, and moved slower still, and without the intervention of my friends I'd not have gotten very far at all. But I still made more than share of wince inducers.
I found out from a friend of a friend of a friend - it was Milwaukee and the dance floor wasn't that big - that his name was Rich and that he worked at the TGI Fridays at Northridge Mall. I didn't have a car then but I was working at Northridge Mall for a Mortgage Company (of all things) and I thought there would be a great chance for me to go over there and see him at work. What I would do once I got there, well, I had no plan, but at least I could go see him. And pretend not to, presumably.
Weeks went by, and Rich and I kept avoiding talking to each other at La Cage, and I kept avoiding TGI Fridays, and finally my friends got tired of hearing me talk about how cute this Rich guy was so it was time to either put up or shut up already! We piled in to my friend Tom's Jimmy 4x4 one cold Wednesday night and made the trek out to suburbia.
I was really, really nervous - I mean this guy was CUTE, and what was I gonna say, like, "Hi, I think you're really cute, you wanna go out" (see above re: missed adolescence)?
We get there and I'm too nervous to be asked to be seated in Rich's section, so we just get seated. I didn't even ask if Rich was working that night. My friend Cheryl had heard and seen just about enough, so she walked back to the host stand, asked if he was working, asked to meet him (she hadn't seen him yet), brought him BACK to our table, and asked him if he would please just give me his number.
Blushingly, he did. Blushingly, I took it, and actually called him that night when I knew I would get his machine (yes, wayyy before cell phones). Something like "Hey, Rich, you met my friend Cheryl and me tonight, and I was wondering..." Wince-inducing. Oddly enough, he called me back and we agreed to go out on Friday. Again, I had no car - he had a VW Rabbit, which I thought was adorable and at least he knew how to drive a clutch, so that was something - so he agreed to come to my place and pick me up and we'd go to a movie.
I was still so smitten with him that I was shedding IQ points around him and didn't have too much to say, but after a few dates we went to dinner at the East Side Big Boy and my roommate was gone so we came back to my place and were sitting on the couch and...
To this point, we hadn't properly kissed. We'd exchanged chaste good night pecks on the cheek, but that was all, and it was clearly time for some advances in this department. He hadn't been pushy but it was a few dates in and we were in our 20's, for god's sake; it was time for a more proper make out session.
And I had very little practice in this department. And I was really nervous, because I just found him so dreamy.
Our apartment was a one bedroom that I shared with a roommate, and it was all hard floors, bare walls and dorm furniture. From the sofa to any other part of the apartment was not very far, and it was an open floor plan so sound traveled and there was no place to hide.
Our couch was six foot long and orange Naugahyde, and if one got nervous and started to perspire one would stick to it. I was nervous, and perspiring, and I was sticking to it, so I went to the bathroom, three feet away, and promptly got sick. Multiple times.
He HAD to have heard me - the door was exactly what you'd expect from a college apartment and the entire apartment was tile flooring. I was in there for ages, brushing my teeth in the vain hope that maybe we could pick up where we left off, but after fifteen minutes or so I come back out, sheepishly, and sit back down next to him. He asks "Did you get sick?!" and I say no, yeah, I was just feeling a little funny after dinner. He says he should prolly go, I understand, he stands on his toes to kiss me on the cheek, we say we'll talk tomorrow and he leaves.
To his credit, he did call, and we went out again, and he was a good kisser and I had to have improved with his tutelage. The more we hung around, the more I realized, though, that this guy who I found so attractive - literally, debilitatingly attractive - didn't have too much in common with me. He didn't read, he wasn't into sports, he wasn't into music, he didn't care about politics at all, he didn't play cards, he couldn't really carry on a conversation with me or anyone in my social circle, and he wasn't interested in anything. After the third time having dinner with my group of friends, they were unsparing: "Puker, this is the guy you threw up over?" And "Well, he sure is blonde." And the final, lasting assessment from my friend Erin: "I'd have to say 'Ice cube tray melting on the counter.' He's really, really dumb."
All told, from first TGI Fridays foray to final date, it was six weeks, tops. It's about the cumulative experience with dating, right? And from Rich I learned that I could be a little more assertive; I learned that making out was fun but wasn't enough to sustain a relationship; I learned that beauty is skin deep, sometimes, and I learned that my friends could be counted on for an honest opinion (not that I'd had much doubt on that score to start with).
And never again did I slide so far down the appliance scale. Live and learn.