As my 32nd birthday approaches (yes, I’m an Aquarius, obviously) I can’t help but look back on how much I’ve learned. I know most people say college is one of the most formative times for dating, but I didn’t know how right they were. Here’s a story of how my Jewish upbringing discouraged me from dating in high school, and how my first Ever date went. This even includes a lesson at the end! [Note to future Alana: better make it a great and amazing lesson!]
I grew up pretty sheltered and also followed the Modern Orthodox practices of Judaism, which lean heavily on “only date if you’re ready for marriage” and so I didn’t date in high school. Not that I didn’t want to. I think it was mostly because I was super weird (still am) and super awkward and also full of seething hatred for well, everything. Luckily, I grew up in the 2000’s when “emo” and “scene” kids were a thing and I could listen to all the scream-o I wanted and feel all angsty and cool. All while wearing a jean skirt below my knees. (That’s part of Jewish law). Anyway, this all lead to me not really being asked out on a “real date” until college.
Boy, college was so weird to me. While in high school, being a new kid every year was intimidating and odd, but in college, every Freshman was new and we all felt like we were in some kind of fun never-ending summer camp. I joined on-campus clubs right away and had no trouble bonding with the students in my dorms, as we were all part of the “arts quad” which just meant everyone smoked pot all the time.
One of the clubs I joined was Hillel, which was super influential and amazing and I still have lifelong friends from people there. It included all different kinds of Jews, from Orthodox to non-practicing, and we mostly all got along except when two of my friends decided to learn more about Orthodox Judaism and started becoming more observant and making others feel bad for not doing similar things. This is a whole other issue that I would be glad to write about but it has nothing to do with my first date so let’s move on.
I stayed observant throughout college, keeping kosher and the Sabbath. This is one of the reasons I chose to go to a New York school, because growing up in Colorado, there were no kosher dining halls or multiple Orthodox Jews on campus. Not that Stony Brook was known for having religious Jews, but New York just was used to all the Jews and easily made accommodations. I spent most of my life either eating or working at Delancey Street, the kosher dining hall that was exclusively meat. This was also at a point in my life where I stopped eating red meat altogether as well as developing my lactose intolerance, so my food options were very limited. But still I had plenty to eat, don’t worry Jewish moms out there. In fact, during my senior year, my amazing roommate had a Kosher snack drawer especially for me when I needed an extra boost of calories during studying or whatever.
Anyway, I’ll get on with the point in my story: the guy. Let’s name him Brad. He was such a Brad. He was on the rowing team. He was pre-med. He had dimples. I think I met him through a Hillel or Chabad event, probably at a Shabbat dinner. These are great because it’s just free food that you can just show up and eat on Friday night. The key to get anyone to an event in college is offering free food.
Anyway, as I said before, as a new freshman, suddenly guys were like, into me. It was such a fantastic and weird experience for me and I made sure to spend time meeting lots of different kinds of people. Suddenly, I was an extravert.
Brad and I weren’t one of those couples that “hit it off right away.” The fact that I remember very little about meeting him is very telling, because I’ve met people in the most boring ways like sitting on a bench and I remember that. So Brad and I say hi to each other and he somehow gets my number and later texts me and says he wants to ask me out! On a date!
I try to play it cool.
He asks where he can take me to dinner and it’s like, the only cafeteria that I can eat at on campus! So we arrange to meet there.
He is sweet and pays for my dinner with his meal plan points and then we enter the dining hall and I automatically go and sit with my friends.
Why, Alana? Why must you do this?
There isn’t even room for Brad to sit next to me so he has to sit across the table from me among a bunch of other nerdy boys who are arguing about how to calculate the volume of something. I remember this because as an English major, I had no idea and had to resort to feeling awkward that Brad now had to sit across the table from me. On our date.
I say to him mid-meal “You’re so far away from me!” as if I had just noticed this and as if there were no other open tables with no one else sitting at them.
I’m so smooth.
Then we finish eating and Brad invites me to take a drive with him (!!!) to the pier (!!!). Guys, I have never been to a pier in my life. I grew up in Colorado, where there are some lakes, sure, but just mostly we have snow. Sometimes we have bears. I mean, not in Denver.
Although when I was teaching the words for animals to a student a few years ago (I’m an ESL teacher), we got to the word “bear” and I mentioned that bears live in Colorado, and my student asked if they just wander around, and I said yes, because like, they do, and now he is convinced that if he travels to Colorado he will be walking around and suddenly meet a bear. Like, while he is in line at the bank and a bear will also be there.
But c’mon Colorado people, tell me that that hasn’t happened to you.
Anyway, I was excited that a) I got to be in a car (freshmen weren’t allowed car parking on campus) and b) I was going to a pier with a boy! A cute boy!
We had more privacy at the pier and Brad started asking questions about me. I tried to play it cool but I’m also imagining my answers made me seem extremely awkward.
“So what kind of movies do you like?” he would ask.
“I like horror. Have you ever seen Donnie Darko? I guess that’s not horror. But it has this time travelling bunny in it but then he pokes out his eye, but like in a cool Indie way, you know?”
I didn’t say anything too scary for him, though, because he even leaned in for a kiss at some point. It was sweet and nice and also I noticed he had the softest lips ever! This wasn’t my first kiss, which I had unfortunately gotten from a stranger I had met on MySpace. But this was a great kiss. With a cute guy!
Brad drove me home and I was deliriously happy. We kissed goodnight and I rushed upstairs to tell my roommates about the soft lips guy.
Brad did not ask me out again, I’m assuming it had to do with our “dinner.”
I learned a lot from that date, like what I am oblivious about (how to act on a date) and about how pleasant it is to spend time with a guy who likes me. It was a great baseline for me to start dating other guys on and off campus. I said that there’d be a lesson here so I guess I’ll leave you with this: sit next to the guy you’re on a date with. It shows you’re interested. You’re welcome for that valuable information.
Would love to hear other people’s first date stories. How old were you? What silly mistakes did you make? Did you fall in love? Lemme know!