When I first stopped drinking I thought I would never be able to date again. Of course, like everything else in sobriety, it’s gotten a lot better and now I actually prefer sober dating because it’s a clear barometer for whether you like really like someone. But there have definitely been moments, especially in the beginning, when I wished I had something to lubricate the awkwardness of meeting a stranger from the Internet.
Last year I matched with this guy on Tinder. From here on out, he will just be referred to as “my date.” He had a beard and said he was from North Carolina so I was pretty much in just for those reasons alone (I love a neatly kept beard and a Southern man). He asked me to meet him at an always crowded place called El Compadre on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood on a Friday night at 9 pm. My immediate thought was, “What is this, amateur hour? We’ll NEVER get a table there at that time on a Friday” but I was trying to let him take the lead (I’ve read way too many dating self-help books) so I agreed. The second I parked, he called me and said there was a 45-minute wait. Instead of saying “I told you so” I offered to come pick him up (I was clearly already killing this guy-take-the-lead thing) since I knew he’d taken Uber to meet me. When he got into my car he suggested Plan B: Aroma Café on Sunset. This is when I really should have ditched him and sped off. If you’re a non Angeleno or haven’t been there, let me just explain that I never trust a place with multiple cuisines on one menu, especially when that menu is 84 pages. When we got there, the host took us to a table at which point my date said, “We’re going to need a bigger table.” I asked, “What? Why?” He responded, “Oh, do you mind if my boss Nick joins us?”
Nick (not his real name), I find out, is the millionaire my date works for—they are old friends from high school and it turned out my date lived in his guest house in the Hollywood hills while Nick polished his Ferraris and did Periscope videos about how he reads a book a day. My date told me that within a few minutes of meeting. “Nick is a motivational speaker,” he said. “His big thing is you’ve got to read a book a day.” Basically, Nick fancies himself a Tony Robbins type and does TED talks about how he used to have $45 in the bank but now he’s rich…but he never really explains what the fuck he actually does to be so rich. He makes money off speaking but I’m still not entirely clear what he’s selling in these speeches.
Anyway, I agreed to let Nick the Millionaire join us despite how inappropriate I thought it was to invite a friend on a first date. Nick arrived, with not one but two very young women. My date told the girls Nick had brought that I was a comedian and they immediately started doing the things every comic, especially the non-famous ones, hate:
“Do you love INSERT CURRENT IT GIRL COMIC OF THE MOMENT?”
“Tell us a joke!”
“What are your jokes about?”
“Where do you perform?”
“Tell us a joke, please!”
“I was an extra on a Comedy Central show that shot in Portland; I could probably hook you up.”
We moved inside to a table for 10 and that’s when two more girls showed up. They looked to be about college age. Three of them sat across from me while I sat next to my date, who was still trying to have typical first date banter as if none of this was happening, while he’s got Nick the Millionaire and the other girl on the other side of him. I asked the girls across from me how they knew each other and they kind of looked back and forth before one of them said, “Oh, we just met.” I was really confused by this. But before I could delve more into it, Nick the Millionaire said to me, “Hey Mary, you want to go salsa dancing?” Then he stood up and started to obnoxiously mime salsa dancing. “You got to try something new every day,” he explains. “It’s one of my rules.” I said, “I thought you said we have to read a new book every day? We have to do something new every day too?”
All the girls started to chatter about the pending salsa dancing excursion and my date was softly saying to me, “Do you want to go? It could be fun.” All I could think was how much of a kick I’d be getting out of this if I were still drinking but how terrible it felt when I was sober. I wanted to get in my car and go home. We all got up to leave and were waiting on the valet and I was still thinking of how to get myself out of any more time with this circus. Then I remembered that my date rode with me to Aroma so he immediately got in the car with me when the valet pulled up. He said, “Let’s just go for a half hour to please Nick.” I thought, “TO PLEASE NICK? This is never going to work.” I very reluctantly agreed and drove onto Sunset. This was pretty much our exact conversation:
Me: “Whelp, that was weird!”
My date: “What was weird?”
Me: “All those people with us on our first date.”
My date: “Oh, I guess I’m just used to there always being a lot of people around with Nick.”
Me: “Even when you’re meeting a girl from the Internet for the first time?”
My date: “Was it because they’re young?”
I sort of gasped and said no but was really insulted that he thought the mere presence of younger women around me would make me uncomfortable. I was 32, for the record—not knocking down the door of a nursing home any time soon but I guess pretty far from college.
My date told me to turn into the strip mall parking lot where the Latin nightclub was. We pulled in and Nick was stepping out of his red Ferrari then directing the two cars ahead of us as if he was the parking attendant. Two women stepped out of each car. They were also there to join Nick the Millionaire.
So then it was me, my date, Nick and SIX random women, all strolling into this tiny, cramped room of people sweating all over each other salsa dancing.
We went to the bar and I got my standard sober favorite, club soda with a splash of cranberry and a lime. We found a table by the dance floor and all the girls were dancing that typical college girl sexy dance where they’re not really dancing but trying to get attention while simultaneously pulling down the Lycra bandage dress that’s barely covering their va’jay. I wasn’t one of these girls even when I was drinking so you can imagine how awkward I was feeling in my sensible jeans and black top as they beckoned me to the dance floor to join them and Nick. Meanwhile, my date was STILL behaving like this is just your average first date, asking questions like, “What was it like growing up in Alabama? Does your family support your comedy?” I felt so uncomfortable—like I was going to burst into tears if I had to be in these circumstances sober for another second. I was borderline contemplating just ordering a vodka soda.
Realizing there was no way I was relapsing over these assholes, I snapped and asked my date if we could leave. We ended up going to our original destination, El Compadre. We talked for an hour one-on-one for the first time all night and I found myself actually kind of liking my date. I agreed to drive him home and he was like, “Come check out the view” and the next thing you know, we were making out in Nick the Millionaire’s guesthouse. You may remember all your choices in sobriety but that still doesn’t always make them good! At least we kept it PG and I headed home, exhausted.
When I was telling a friend about the whole evening, she asked what Nick the Millionaire’s last name was. When I told her she said she was going to ask her friend who works in the TED Talk/public speaking circuit about him. She found out Nick is apparently notorious for finding women on sugardaddy.com. I had clearly been on a sugardaddy.com encounter.
A few months later I was at the movies with another guy I met on Tinder. And I saw my date from that night, Nick the Millionaire and a gaggle of women waiting in line at the concessions. Like something straight out of a rom com, I ducked, told new Tinder dude to get the popcorn and bolted to the theater. I was sitting sort of high up and saw them all walk in (of course they were seeing the same movie as me) and then watched them sit down—my former date had one girl to his right; Nick the millionaire and the rest of the women were to his left. My guy kept leaning over just to talk to the one girl.
Here’s hoping she at least got to be a little drunk for it.
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