20 is… plenty?

Sometimes you meet someone who satisfies a significantly decent portion of your dating criteria… Meet Joe Black, a 37-year-old entrepreneur from Winona, Minnesota. (Confession: I don’t know his actual last name, which isn’t shared as part of the It’s Just Lunch process, but it seems to fit so let’s just go with it. Also, not to confuse the reader, but my Joe Black has black hair, which is distinctly, and not unfortunately, different from Brad Pitt’s delicately golden, wispy 90’s highlights.)

Joe and I met at the newly opened Pittsburgh Blue in the Galleria. Our reservations weren’t until 8:00 p.m. so I had plenty of time to wrap up the work week, stop at Marshall’s for new workout pants and carefully paint on weekend-appropriate date make-up, which is essentially a lot of Bare Escentuals strategically applied to look like a little bit of make-up. Feeling the need to dress more formally for such a fine establishment, I slithered into my thank-God-I-just-dry-cleaned-these black tuxedo pants, pulled over a slightly sequined Banana top and popped my toes into my favorite pair of red pumps. Grabbing a fitted jacket, I was down the stairs and out the door with time to spare, and steered my trusty, non-gas-guzzlin’ Honda towards the Southdale area.

The date started out on the wrong foot. I had arrived and been seated before Joe arrived, and so when he slid into the booth shortly thereafter, I naturally began with “You made it!” and then spent the next five minutes explaining that no, he indeed wasn’t late, I was just early, and really it’s no big deal because, hey, I’m late ALL of the time. Awkward. (I’m also not sure he heard a word that I said, I was talking so fast.)

Joe was tall, dark and handsome. Well, two steps down from handsome, but still a good looker with a smattering of silver hair at the temples, which made him look distinguished rather than old. As we inspected the drink menu, I put my other foot in my mouth by sharing that obviously I don’t drink white wine (I mean, come on) and, since that was in fact all he drank, we settled on a Grey Goose gin-and-tonic for him and a Malbec for me. (P-Blue is spendy so I had to go with the cheapest red on the menu — classy!) Conversation eventually drifted towards fitness and the gym. Joe used to run several clubs and was a dedicated athlete — he ran, lifted and swore by yoga and kettlebells — and a bit of a health nut who loved his juicer. I didn’t have much to add to the conversation except a quip about the hydrating powers of coconut water and sat there in hopefully strategic positions designed to camoflage what I shall refer to as my “date weight.”

Our doting waiter shared the night’s specials and I selected the salmon (because it’s better for the world than red meat — Joe didn’t agree) and he elected for the steak because, well, it’s a steakhouse. The food was sumptuous and we turned the chatter to our professional lives. Joe was an entrepreneur in the strictest sense. He thrived on taking an idea and building it into a successful business, regardless of industry or trade, and had managed to secure quite the nest egg for himself. He worked when he wanted to, just moved into an apartment approximately five times larger than my 600-foot space (no exaggeration — he shared the square footage) and pretty much lived a fine life as a single, independent, well-heeled thirtysomething man.

In fact, after poking around a bit, I wasn’t sure if there was even room for somebody else in his larger-than-life world. He didn’t seem especially interested in asking any questions about me and when he did, it felt like a competition. Also, we weren’t laughing — just talking. And that’s huge. In my opinion, if you aren’t laughing on a first date, it’s not going anywhere. Life is long, our skin sags, friends disappear, money runs short, unfortunate things happen — if the person next to you isn’t there to laugh through it all once the tears are brushed away, what do you have?

So there I sat, spooning deliciously creamy butternut squash onto my plate and trying to make this into a great date. He was far better than any of the other guys I’ve met since July and technically I should be interested, right?

I have Joe’s business card and it’s been sitting on my dining room table for a solid week, collecting dust and slowly being overtaken by junk mail. When it catches my eye, I keep thinking I should send Mr. Joe Black a text (I’m too lame to actually call), but feel like I would just be forcing myself to do so. I wish had more to say, but that’s really it — I just never felt the urge to pick up the phone.

But here’s the thing — and I truly believe this — no one ends up with Mr. Perfect. We end up with Mr. Right. The one who failed our endless checklists, but still stole our heart.

Candidate #4

I prepped for tonight’s date as any classy woman would — with a stop at Taco Bell for two chili cheese burritos and a Diet Mountain Dew. I had just received a note in the mail from my $401k manager stating that I did NOT have a designated beneficiary, a big financial no-no and firm reminder that, no, I did not have a husband or children to whom to leave my vast fortune. My pseudo date with Mike #2 earlier in the week was a nonstarter — to keep it short and sweet, he was short and sweet — but the It’s Just Lunch ladies had lined me up with three dates in four days so I was feeling good heading into the weekend.

After a last-minute wardrobe change from one navy Banana Republic dress to another clearly superior navy Banana Republic dress, I descended upon Ciao Bella to meet Brandon. I was slightly flustered upon arrival. I had poorly estimated my primping time and ended up hastily applying a clear coat of nail polish to my fingernails in the restaurant parking lot and arriving accidentally fashionably late.

Brandon, an electrician lineman at a local company, was nice, unassuming, in shape and way cute. He owned a house (+10 points) in Rosemount (-10 points) and ran a side business with his dad. We bonded over our common affinity for cereal, although he prefers Lucky Charms and Fruit Loops to my Kashi Go Lean. He had never heard of 89.3 The Current (wasn’t sure what to do about that one), and grew up with a steady diet of rap music. I, of course, spent my teenage years in worship of Hanson, N*SYNC and BSB (that’s the Backstreet Boys to the layman).

We swapped Vegas stories — don’t worry, Grandma, they were funny, not crazy escapades — and chatted about our families, including his sister who had told him he was NOT allowed to wear just a t-shirt and jeans to the restaurant. (Thanks, sister!) I was impressed when he didn’t balk at my snarky, and obviously hilarious, comments and wild hand gestures, and he seemed genuinely interested when I told him the most exciting part of my day so far had been the blender I just purchased at Target.

We spent a good two-and-a-half hours chatting and both enjoyed the super yummy halibut on special, washed down with beer for him and an extra-spicy Bloody Mary for me (always keeping it classy).

Although part of me wonders if we have enough in common, I didn’t inwardly flinch when he asked for my number, as I had done before on earlier dates. Although I did outwardly flinch when he pulled out of the parking lot in a monster-truck-like Chevy.

Feeling as though I’d semi-mastered the art of the first date — smile a lot, wear a fun dress and ask a lot of questions to avoid awkward silences — a second date presents a whole slew of new challenges. But that’s a topic for a different post at a different time should he call me.

For now, I’m mixing up a fruit smoothie in my snazzy blender, spinning the new Brett Dennen CD and then heading north to Roseville for the next rendezvous. Carpe diem!