Even so, people love to set them up. Once my aunt set me up on a blind date, but I knew the minute the guy pulled up in front of my house in an El Camino that it was not going to go well.
I was right. Unless you consider a dinner conversation centered around El Caminos successful.
But the all-time worst blind date experience was orchestrated by my mom. I guess this wasn't technically a "blind date" since I saw the guy beforehand, but it might as well have been for all the impression that he made upon me during the several hours that we were in the same room together.
It all started at a wedding reception for the daughter of one of my mom's friends when my mom and some other ladies struck up a conversation with a friend of the bride, a guy named Shay. Apparently they found him to be so charming and hilarious that my mom felt compelled to invite him to my upcoming 21st birthday party, despite the fact that he lived two hours away. He promptly agreed to attend...with one caveat: that in exchange I would be his date for his sister's wedding. (Let me just say, who does that? Bartering with the mother of a girl you don't even know for a date to a family function is clearly a sign of desperation or the height of social awkwardness.)
Without skipping a beat (or asking if I minded!) my mom agreed, adding, "Gretchen's up for anything!"
The week preceding my birthday party was fraught with prayers that Shay would not attend so that I would not have to fulfill my end of the deal. And, miraculously, the party came and went with no sign of him.
But not for long. (You knew this part was coming, though, right?) Upon arriving home from work the day after the party, I was greeted at the door by my sister, holding a FedEx envelope and the phone. My stomach dropped.
"It's Shay!" Bridget mouthed with apparent excitement, which seemed to me to be an inappropriate reaction to such a phone call.
I answered with trepidation, and Shay immediately launched into an apology for missing the party. "But, I FedExed you a birthday card explaining all that."
"I...I see that," I replied, opening the thick cardboard envelope.
"So, you'll be able to go to my sister's wedding with me next weekend, right?"
This is when I had to start thinking fast. There was no way I was going to a wedding with this guy! Our family reunion was conveniently the next weekend...the perfect excuse.
"Oh, sorry, I can't. My family reunion is that weekend, so..."
"But your sister said that you wouldn't care to miss it."
What?! Well, I could always throw out our annual camping trip to the island, even though we weren't going this year, he didn't know that.
"Yeah, but we always boat out to camp at the island with my cousins and uncles afterwards, and I really don't want to miss that part, so..."
"Well, your sister said that you weren't going this year since your cousins will be on vacation. So, you'll go, right?"
Unbelievable! What else did my sister tell this guy? How long had they been on the phone before I got home? And, why was she smiling like that at me from across the room?! I was painted into a corner, and as the word "no" does not seem to be a part of my vocabulary, I replied, "I guess so."
My fate was sealed. I was going to an out-of-town wedding with a guy I didn't even know, or care to, for that matter.
A few days later he called to see if I wanted to go miniature golfing with him so that we could "get to know each other better" before the wedding. I learned two things after this encounter: one--we had little in common and two--he had a lazy eye (which my mom swore she didn't notice previously).
The day of the wedding arrived and Shay picked me up at nine in the morning, with my family happily waving goodbye. So began our marathon date.
If there is one thing that you take away from this story I hope it is this: never invite someone you hardly know to be your date for a wedding that you are in! The reason being that you are too busy to even be around that person, who is then forced to endure countless awkward situations.
Let me just backtrack a slight bit. My date's name was Shay, his sister who was getting married was Shannon, his older brother was Shawn. Apparently his mother wanted to name his younger brother Kevin, but couldn't bear to break the pattern, so she went with Shevin. This guy was an aspiring rapper who also answered to the name "The Amazing Caucasian." And, to top it off, as soon as we arrived at the hotel, I was forced to spend my time with him as Shay had some "family duties" to attend to. It turns out that Shevin did too, and I was finally dropped off at the room where the bride was getting ready. I tried to blend into the hideous hotel wallpaper while the two of them had a screaming fight over some minor wedding detail. I feel like if you were to look up the definition of awkward in the dictionary, you would find this incident described there.
After a couple of hours of being pawned off on various relatives who had no idea who I was, Shay finally returned to drive me to the wedding. It was to take place on the campus of Dusquesne University, where the bride and groom met. But, while I thought we were heading straight to the ceremony, I learned on the way there that there that Shay would again be leaving me. This time to take part in a bagpiper-led procession to the chapel, and while I waited, I would get to babysit his one-year-old niece! These people were extremely trusting to leave a small child with a person that they barely knew.
When the procession was over, the baby was collected, but I was left, yet again, alone. This time to find my way to a chapel on an unfamiliar college campus. Some wandering in the direction of the sound of the bagpipes led me to what I presumed the wedding. Shay's mother saw me standing, ill at ease, and ushered me into the chapel, reassuring me that I could sit with the family during the ceremony. This would be fine except for the fact that everyone in the family was in the wedding, which left me in the front row of the chapel by myself. I could actually hear people in the pews behind me whispering about me.
"Who is that up there?"
"I don't know."
"I think it's Shay's girlfriend."
I wanted to turn around shout the congregation: "NO! No, I'm not! I'm here against my will and having the worst time ever, but thanks for asking!" At the very least, I hope that sentiment was recorded on my face as I'm quite certain that my seat left me in position to be recorded for posterity in the wedding video.
With the ceremony finished, I was hoping that we could quickly head to the reception where I could at least get a drink for my troubles, when I heard some panicked voices coming from the back of the chapel. The bagpiper, who was a 14-year-old boy, was now missing and his mom would be arriving to pick him up at any minute. Who ever could be sent find him? Oh, that would be me. It probably for the best that I leave to find him, as I might have ended up in one of the formal wedding pictures.
By the time we got to the reception I was starving. I hadn't eaten anything since breakfast, and I was highly irritated. Needless to say, that the few drinks I was served during the cocktail hour improved my mood but left me a little less than sober. As it turns out, this was nothing compared to Shay's father. By the middle of the reception he was at a point where walking on his own was no longer an option. He was sloshing and careening around the dance floor in a most dangerous fashion. One minute, I was awkwardly dancing with Shay, trying to avoid looking into his lazy eye, and the next he vanished with his brothers to escort his inebriated father to his hotel room.
As the reception wore on, I kept waiting for Shay to return. Not because I was enjoying his company, but because I had no way of getting into the room where I would be sleeping that night. Not only did I not have a key, I didn't even know the room number, which was somewhat problematic. It became even more so as the reception slowly died out and I was one of three people left sitting in the ballroom when the hotel staff began tearing down the decorations.
I realized that unless I wanted to sleep in the hotel lobby, I was going to have to figure something out. I inquired at the front desk as to what floor the block of rooms for the wedding was on. Once that was determined, I plopped myself down on the floor in the middle of the floor and waited. Surely, someone would find me here, right?
After who knows how much time passed--I was so livid that I could not even think clearly--Shay finally came out of a room down the hall. He looked surprised to see me, "What are you doing out here??"
"Well, considering that I have no key, let alone a room to use it on, I had no where else to go."
That's right, Shay. Thanks for being such a gracious host.
As soon as we were in the room, where Shevin was peacefully slumbering and dreaming of his sweet rhymes, I made it quite clear that I would be getting MY OWN bed, where I would be sleeping BY MY SELF, thank you very much and GOOD NIGHT. I didn't even wait for Shay's lazy eye to refocus before jumping into the bed, dress on, and pulling the comforter over my head.
I realize now that if cell phones had been as ubiquitous then as they are now, I could have called or texted someone to come and pick me up or at least to have gotten some sympathy. The only consolation at this point was that I would finally be going home in the morning after the world's longest, most terrible blind date.
But, I was soon to find out that the morning would hold new levels of awkwardness. I woke up early, showered, and was sitting on the bed with my bag packed when Shay informed me that we would be attending a family breakfast. During said breakfast, I was bombarded by the questions of well-meaning relatives who were under the impression that Shay and I were dating and in a committed relationship. I wondered where they had gotten such an idea until Shay told me that he had mapped out a route from his house to my college so that he could come up on weekends. I was like, whoa, whoa, whoa, back up this train, if all goes my way the last time I see you will be the moment you drop me off at my house.
After the breakfast, I breathed a sigh of relief. But luckily I didn't breathe too deeply because when we returned to the room to get our things, Shay stepped into the bathroom. The hotel buffet must not have agreed with him because I soon heard the sounds of explosive diarrhea coming through the paper-thin wall. If you have never had to hear such a thing, then I hope you never do. This was the crowning moment of horror in this twenty-four hour date from hell.
The drive back to my house consisted of Shay trying to hold a conversation and me refusing to comply. At this point I was out of patience and polite behavior was almost impossible for me. I thought I was home free when he didn't even ask me for my phone number. Great! No screening my calls!
Little did I know that he had obtained my email and mailing addresses from my mom's friend. The string of cards and emails were easy to ignore, and the final email came right before Christmas, stating:
I realize that you aren't going to talk to me, but my family has been asking about you. Can you please send me an update of what's been going on in your life so I can tell my family at Christmas?
No, Shay, no I cannot.