Are you brave enough to take on these death-defying tasks? Are you man enough to go where no man has gone before? Are you bold enough to attempt the impossible? Take my challenge: prove your mettle by performing one or more of these terrifying stunts:
1. In earliest morning, put on your fanciest cocktail dress. At about 11:00 a.m., go alone into an upscale restaurant in your city’s business district. The restaurant will be nearly empty at this hour, but there will be a few servers sitting toward the back, eating breakfast and polishing silverware for the lunch crowd. Stand there patiently until one of them approaches you. Ask if it’s too early to be served. Request a large, central table. When seated, do not get out a novel, newspaper or cell phone. Rather, make eye contact with the staff, all trying very hard to look anywhere but at you. When the busser brings bread and asks what you’ll have to drink, ask for a wine list. When the server offers the lunch menu, ask if there’s a prix fixe. Order several courses. Have the Porterhouse steak for two, or, if there’s a dish that involves the server wheeling out a cart and/or setting something afire tableside, go with that. Get dessert – ask if the chef can do a tasting menu. Linger as the restaurant fills up with businesspeople and their clients, all having Diet Coke and chef salads. Ignore the hustle, the bustle, the fact that your large table is now desperately needed. Sit, placid and content, in your gown and jewels, polishing off your bottle of wine, and working steadily through your feast.
If you can pull this off, you are more courageous than 98% of the population.
2. Think back to your junior-high or high-school years. Who was the first boy you ever dated? Google him. Look him up on MySpace. Email him and ask him if he remembers you. He’ll probably reply, excited to hear from you, and ask what you’re up to these days. Ask for his phone number – tell him that there’s something you must discuss with him, and you don’t feel like typing it all out. There will be a couple days’ delay after this request, but he’ll probably give it to you eventually. Call him up. Get drunk first. Call at about 11:30 p.m. on a Tuesday evening. Tell him that you realize this probably comes as a shock to him, but you’ve been seeing a therapist lately about your inability to connect with men, and you’ve decided that the only way to move past your dating hurdle is to confront it, head on. Inform him that he is that dating hurdle. Tell him that you never got over him, that he was your first and only love. That in the twenty-odd years since the two of you shared your first tongue kiss under the bleachers at that Saturday afternoon JV soccer game, you’ve never had more than a single date with any other man. Tell him that you think about him every day, and wonder where he is and what he’s doing. That at night, you dream of him, and wake up feeling bereft and empty. That you compare every male friend, every coworker, every actor on the screen with him…and they all come out unfavorably. Tell him that, even though you know you must move on, if now or at any point in the future, he were to call to you, you would leave whoever you’re with, and any children you might have with that person, and you would run to his side – immediately and without question. Tell him that you’ll always be his deep down in your heart, and that you need him to know that, so that you can go on with your life. Ask him if he knows that.
If you can do this, there’s really nothing you can’t do.
3. Ask out that guy that seems like he kind of likes you, but is far more attractive than you are, and is already sort of dating that really stunning woman who works in accounting. When he starts to politely decline, begin to cry and tell him that you’re sorry, it’s just that your parents and your cat recently died (your parents were cat-sitting for you and all three of them were shot to death by a couple of junkies in what was probably a gang initiation of some kind) and sometimes it hits you at odd moments. Get yourself together, and ask him, sorry, he was saying? He’ll probably agree to go out with you. Tell him that since you invited him, you insist on picking the event and paying. Tell him that he’ll be coming along to see you make your open-mic debut at Caroline’s. Tell him he has to promise to laugh really loud, even if you totally blow. On the evening in question, wear a dress that is a little too young for you, and a lot too short. Wear it with heels that are brand new and uncomfortable. Part your hair on a new side, and wear a giant flower pin in a totally ironic way, but worry that people might not get that you’re joking. When you’re all awkwardly trussed, take a cab to Caroline’s and wait out front for your date. Get there 40 minutes early, and mention this when he shows up ten minutes late. Get over your nerves by having a few martinis. Tell him that you totally didn’t eat because you wanted to look pretty in your dress, which you think is maybe just a tidge too small. Tell him you can admit these things, because you have a good sense of humor about yourself. When your name is suddenly called, take the stage. Perform the following stand-up routine:
“Hey there, folks! Whoo, are we having fun tonight? Having a few drinks? I know I’ve had a couple. Who here finds me attractive? Huh? Anybody? Did you note my giant flower pin? I put it on today and I thought boy, this looks goofy. I sometimes will do things to be funny, and people will think I’m serious and feel bad for me! But the joke’s on them – because I think that’s hilarious! I’m on a date tonight, folks. First time in awhile. Stand up, Eric! Take a bow. Oh, that’s…where did he go? Oh, there he is. He’s cute, right? Yeah. Dating’s tough these days, am I right, ladies? It’s hard to DATE when you’re DATED!!! Ha, ha. I dated a Hispanic one time, and boy, did he love my cellulite. Am I right, ladies? You know I’m right! I sure do find my body hair unmanageable. But life today, with the Britney Spears and the iphones…. Who can keep up? I don’t know, it’s crazy. All my friends are gay guys. And cats. And that’s my set!!! Thanks, you folks have been terrific.”
Run excitedly back to your seat and ask your date how he thought it went. Tell him you thought it was awesome, and you’ve never felt so great. Tell him you’ll probably give notice at work the next day, and ride this wave all the way to the top. Ask him if he’d like to do something insane and just go to Maine this very night! Just go to freaking Maine! Fart audibly, and giggle in embarrassment. Tell him that, okay, you understand…in that case, he can come back to your place. Topple over onto the sidewalk, and stand up, blaming it on the heels. Explain that you’re really not that drunk. Tell him that, alright then, you’ll go back to his place. Start to cry. Scream that he’ll be sorry someday, when you’re the next Lisa Lampanelli and he’s still working IT in his dippy little tie and dating his anemic, beanpole of a girlfriend who’s never made a joke in her life. Calm down, and ask him if he can spot you a $20 for cab fare. Tell him that you’re super stoked he was on your arm to witness your big debut, and that you feel the two of you are going to be really great friends, no matter what else fate may have in store for you.
If you can pull of this evening, and show up at work the next day, you are the bravest mortal ever to walk the face of the Earth.
I do the first thing at a small French place in Seattle. Your auntie is built somewhere between a lumberjack and an hourglass, and she dresses in black. There was a sign at the IKEA store in Seattle recently: thin is out, curves are in. Wow, my life motto.
Anyway, I order three pitchers of wine, charcuterie, a cheese platter, several entrees, salads, I command the waitstaff to keep the breadbasket filled if they want a good tip. And I sit where everyone can see me. I eat like the amazon I am. Then I say to my serving staffer as I leave in a voice loud enough to be heard that I’m off to hand-split four cords of firewood, then learn a new Mozart piano piece. Before dinner.
As for the other two ideas, they have one big problem: they revolve around men. And I don’t.