Let me say, in all honesty, that I would feel a twinge of regret if my dear friend Spen ever knew that I wrote about her asking me to tell about my dating failures for the amusement of others in anything less than a jaunty tone. But, as with most of my tales, there is a darker side, a chiaroscuro that makes the light points that much more noticeable and visceral.
And actually, there's some therapy in the telling of my own sad tales. I truly hope someone laughs at them more than I am able to.
I will allow Spen's words from last night introduce tonight's account. We were circled around ice cream cones (topical, you will come to find) by a bench in Coolidge Corner, visiting with Wellesley girls I don't know so well but whose company I enjoy. I tell Spen that I had another mediocre date just across the street at the Regal Beagle. She begs for details, gets them, then opens the field a bit wider:
"Tell them about the stinky guy!"
'Twas the dog days of summer, when a girl hesitates to make a date on a school night because it's a wee bit hot on the subway and she doesn't want to look as disheveled and not-so-fresh as she feels. She makes the date anyway. Besides, the soon-to-be-christened Revere Beach date has been kind and patient and very persistent. Might as well meet the guy.
So off I go to Revere Beach, wondering where in hell we're supposed to meet. This is a recurring nightmare in online dating. Do you meet in the station? On the platform? Outside the turnstyles? Near a landmark? At the destination for coffee/drinks/etc? Leaning against a grecian urn with the last, rosy rays of waning sunlight glinting in your hair?
For lack of grecian urns, and for the sake of being as close to the beach for as long as possible, I chose the boardwalk; in particular, a sweet little bench by some rose bushes. I waited.
Text from dude: I'm almost there! (Bizarre posed picture of self in subway attached)
Text from JoBiv: Cool. I'm by the beach.
The phone rings. I hate the phone. I answer it because normal people answer phones and one should protect one's image of normalcy for as long as possible when one is meeting new people.
He's at Wonderland. He thought Wonderland and Revere Beach were the same thing. An odd thought, given that there's a T stop called Revere Beach, which... I don't even have to go into this, do I?
He gets on a train, travels one stop. Meanwhile, I look over the water and watch the full moon, wonder why I can never take a decent picture of it, how it never looks as big as it feels in my eye.
The man arrives, suddenly, from around the bandstand. The man looks mostly as pictured, and smiles as he evaluates me in a similar manner with a dissimilar conclusion. The man wants to exchange hugs. The breeze whips up and delivers a scent to my nose which results in a quick handshake and How-do-you-do.
The scent, I decide while in the ice cream shop, enclosed with it and forced to order ice cream as though having an appetite, is that of a hobo who not only urinates on himself, but over time comes to dry out his pants just to soak them a second, third and perhaps a fourth time. I find some distraction in the man's breath, which reminds me of a grease trap I once met at the bottom of the sanitizer at Starbucks. (Let us simply say, things could not possibly emerge sanitized with whatever was living in that trap.) I stop myself from warning the girl at the cash register. I stop myself from paying to curtail the horrible search for crumpled dollar bills from his various pockets and crevices. I stop myself, again, from interfering on behalf of the poor teenager who must handle the money. (I scold myself in silent anguish for weeks afterward, regretting my lack of action.)
I am enthusiastic about ice cream if only to distract myself from the scent of this man. I also think, maybe his slushie will wash out the sewage in his mouth. I think, perhaps this guy has some medical issue that affects his nostrils and he simply doesn't know that he smells. Maybe he did the Smell Test, and having been smacked on the head by an anvil at a tender age, did not register the foulness that emanate from his clothes. How sad. For me.
There was some air of martyrdom about me, I believe, as I sat and made small talk with this sweating, heaving, reeking man. I thought, "he's probably a good guy who doesn't get out much. He's intelligent enough, just socially awkward."
Then he said, "I think this is going really well. How do you think it's going? Do you like me?"
Hint to all mankind, for free from me to you: never ask these questions on a date, unless... nope. NEVER ASK THESE QUESTIONS ON A DATE.
And if you get this answer, "Oh, I kind of take my time to decide these things..." do not attempt to parse out the exact meaning of the response. MOVE ON. Or, wiser still, end the date.
All of the above admitted for evidence, you should know that Stinky Dude was sort of loveable in an orphaned kind of way. If I had met him with a plate of glass between us, I would have entertained his comments a while longer.
Wait, I had done that. The plate of glass was my monitor. Hmm.
So, no more making of excuses, I realized as another powerful waft of peepee made it's way into my lungs. I had to end the date.
JoBiv: Yeeeeeaawwwn. I'm so tired... Time to get myself back to my home.
Stinky Dude: I must be boring you to death.
Stinky Dude: Okay, well let's get ourselves to the train. Do you know how to get there?
JoBiv: You... came from there... didn't you?
Stinky Dude: Yeah, kinda.
JoBiv: Whuh?? Okay, whatever, it's this way.
Stinky Dude: Oh, I guess we're both going Inbound.
JoBiv: (Internally: MOTHEREFFER) We are?
Stinky Dude: Looks like you'll have to put up with me for a little while longer...
JoBiv: (Nervous laughter) Looks like it.
We board the train, which comes a little late just to taunt me, but then again there's more free air movement on the platform and I'm not relishing the idea of being stuck inside a closed space with this man. Once we do board the train, it does, in fact, remind me of working as a camp counselor and having to help a kid who lost his watch in the port-o-potty during the sleepover night. Less of the earthy scent of nature, though, and there was far better lighting on the train. I would have taken the flashlight and the latrine over the subway car, all things considered.
Stinky Dude: (Patting the seat beside him) Why dontcha take a seat?
JoBiv: (Looking for Ashton Kusher and his army of cameramen) Um... I'd rather stand.
Stinky Dude: Naw, you're wearing a leg brace, for christ's sake.
JoBiv: I'm much more stable with the brace on, actually.
Stinky Dude: C'mon, sit next to me.
JoBiv: Not gonna do it.
Stinky Dude: Why not?
JoBiv: Because... I'm stubborn... and don't like being told what to do.
Let it be said that I did not lie to this man, but did I do him a disservice by protecting him from the truth? How do you tell a guy, "You're only marginally attractive, and the aroma of an adult diaper isn't helping your game." A leaky diaper. A leaky diaper that someone else peed in before the current wearer pulled it on. A leaky diaper cured in a brine of... Okay, I'll stop.
The end of this story is swift and neat. I got off the train. I never had the guts to tell the dude he smelled. There were simply too many things to point out besides the smell, I told myself, that listing them would be cruel. Let his close friends (assuming he had some) give him the straight talk. I am not in the business of making over divorcees in leaky diapers, and there's only so far that whole Pygmalion thing will take you, really.
I told a shorter version of this tale, along with snippets of others. There are others, of course, and many of them are nearly as pathetic. I think Stinky Dude takes the effing cake, however. But, after the general murmur and laughter died down, one of the Wellesley girls looked at me thoughtfully.
Blonde R: Oh, it just occurred to me that since you're going on dates, you're not dating Sir Knight anymore...
JoBiv: (On the spot in front of strangers, hooray) Yeah, I gave him a list of the ways he didn't love me and he kinda agreed and that was that.
Blonde R: Oh. I'm sorry JoBiv.
JoBiv: Thanks, Blonde R. I think it's mostly a good thing. And after all, he was kind of a whiny bitch.
Blonde R: I thought maybe he just wasn't comfortable around your friends.
JoBiv: Maybe that too, but really... he was a whiny-ass bitch.
Blonde R: Well good riddance, then? You're better off without him, right?
Spen: You're more JoBivvy without him, that's for sure.
Spen: It's a compliment.
JoBiv: I had hoped so.
Perhaps I am more JoBivvy this way, on my own and making people laugh at the daily incidents that churn my stomach and bring tears of frustration. It's far more JoBivvy to switch trains and find a corner seat where I can hide and hold myself and try not to cry, missing some life I keep trying to have. It's very JoBivvy to walk the few blocks home... I'm sorry, limp the few blocks home... full of self-pity and bubbling with tears and gazing at a huge moon that I can never capture in a photograph. This is the shading around all things that brings the glint of light into greater focus.