My favorite bad date story then, since you asked.
I bought my business (a gift store in a mall) not too long after breaking up with Tony, a guy I was really fond of; a great guy who later turned out to be gay. No, this bad date story is not about him, although you DO see the potential, don't you? I was 25 then, single, frumpy, with a startlingly bad perm, and way too busy for any entanglements. But about a year later I was a little more used to things, and ready to date someone. One evening a hugely attractive young man in the most perfectly-ripped Levis EVER (before rips and tears were something you could pay money for) came into the store. He was very tall, lanky, and blond, with perfect white teeth. I recognized him as a former employee of a jewelry store that had since left the mall, and we chatted for a while. He was charming, handsome, self-confident, poised, friendly, and about three years younger than me.
Waiting for the other shoe to drop, aren't you? Wait for it . . .
I can't tell you his name, because that would be wrong. But I kind of have to, because his name was significant, like a signpost that I missed. Okay, he had the same name as a popular topical cream for sore muscles. And he was the fourth son in his family to be named that. The 4th. I'll call him IV.
So he said goodbye, nice talking to you, and left the store. My good friend/employee, Kit, started teasing me RIGHT away. I'm sure I was blushing, because that's what I do. Just when I was about to knock Kit's block off, who should stick his handsome head around the door frame but IV, again. Very casually, he asked, "Hey, would you like to have dinner with me tomorrow night?"
If you think I said no you're crazy. And if you think Kit let up on me, you're crazier still.
So the next night I put on my favorite, partially frumpy dress, tasteful jewelry, a little makeup, and spritzed my huge hair. IV met me at the store because I lived 20 miles away.
how he looked. Gorgeous suit -- how many 23-year-olds have suits? -- with French cuffs, gold cuff links, even a gold man ring. He was even more suave and debonair than I remembered, opening the door for me, saying all of the right things. WOW. As soon as we left the mall he asked if I would mind if he smoked. Oh. Well. Not a big fan of smoking, but it wasn't a big deal to me, either. Sure, why not? So he lit up as we walked to his car.
There are so few decommissioned police cars on the road these days, that your eye goes right to one when you see it. My eye went right to the unmistakable black and white vehicle parked not far away, and my sense of dread grew as we approached the car. TELL me this isn't your car, I thought.
Of course this was his car. Mr. Perfect is Mr. Car 54, Mr. Adam 12, Mr. NYPD Blue. Just without a badge, or training.
Photo stolen from http://www.freewebs.com/robod/carphotos.htm
Drove to a lovely place, a seafood restaurant with an antique longbar, a nautical motif and mahogany everywhere. I was happy to be getting out of that car, hoping not to be seen by anyone who might think I was on a ride-along in a dress and heels. Oh, but I should have mentioned that I, in my forge-ahead-farm-girl style, made the mistake of opening my own door and getting out of the car all by my self. IV was so disappointed -- he wanted to come open the door for me. Now, I'm nobody's feminist, but -- never mind. Back inside the restaurant.
We were seated in a cozy little booth, and the conversation was lively and riveting. When people tell you about family members in prison, it tends to be riveting. I was surprised to realize that IV's original question "Mind if I smoke?" really meant "Mind if I smoke from now through dinner and forever and a day?" (This was back in the days when California still allowed smoking in dining establishments -- you know, The Bronze Age.) But we really seemed to hit it off, and I thought I could get past the smoking, and the prison stories, and maybe even the cop car.
After our smoky dinner IV took me back to my car, which was parked in employee parking at the mall. He pulled up next to my driver side door, and insisted on getting out of the car to run around the ridiculously long hood to open the door for me. AARRGGHH. I wanted to bat my eyes and bleat, "Ah have always relied on the kindness of strange-ahs," but I bit my tongue. The date ended about like most first dates do, with a smoke-filled kiss and a suggestion of a second date. I drove home in bemusement.
The teasing I got the next day from Kit, and Dennis, and Kristin, and everybody I had ever met, was epic. It's easy enough to tease someone about a new possible romance, but a romance that came gift-wrapped in a decommissioned cop car, with a guy named for an ointment, seemed too good to be true. They were brutal, and I had to suck it up.
A night or two later I went out to my car to drive home, and there was a Hallmark card on the seat of my car. They must have an aisle for smokers in Hallmark. I had left my window slightly open, and IV had pushed a card through. The gesture was very sweet, but slightly creepy. When I read in his note that he had come by my store and watched me through the window for a minute (but not come in to say hi), every hair stood up on my neck. WAY too creepy, and the scales had just tipped. Something was wrong here, and I felt violated somehow.
I told him when he called that I just wasn't interested in a second date, which must have confused him. I couldn't tell him it was his car, or his insistence upon extreme chivalry, or his chain smoking. I told him that I thought it was creepy that he watched me through the window, didn't come in to say hi, and put something in my car when I wasn't there. He was quite a catch, if you can ignore the family member in prison, and I was rather plain and frumpy with a butt as big as Texas, so he must have found it rather odd that I should be so finicky, but he was a gentleman and didn't say so.
Now before you start thinking that I was a melodramatic turd, the epilogue: my mom called me at the store a few months later, a little bit breathless. She read me something from the local paper, a correction from the police page a week earlier. It seems that Mr. Topical Cream For Sore Muscles the 4th had demanded that the paper print a retraction for inaccuracies they had printed about his arrest the week before. IV had been arrested for pulling people over in a decommissioned police car, pretending to be a police officer, and false detainment, I think. He allegedly had some kind of uniform and a big spotlight on the car, which, the paper said, he had used to pull people over. The article didn't mention any flashing red lights, or cigarettes, or French cuffs, for that matter. IV planned to fight the charges.
BOOM! Did you hear that?
A shoe dropped. It may have been prison-issue.