Second Chapter

Method #1: Speed dating can be a fun and quick way to meet guys.
I, Denise Miller, had been suckered into spending a perfectly good Saturday helping my childhood friend Mia Crosby look for bridesmaids dresses. I’d much rather be home stretched out on the couch watching the TV Land Channel. Oh, and by the way, I don’t like TV Land.
I wasn‘t big on spending my whole day shopping. When I went to the mall, I was in and out. Not the diva of shopping, I circled once, maybe twice, around a store and if I didn’t see the “it” that I was looking for, I was gone. But nooo, not Mia, she had to circle ten, twelve times, like we were taking laps around a track, before she could make up her mind. Having all but given up the search, I retired to a chair in the corner of the fourth and, I begged to the heavenly Father above, final bridal shop visit of the day.
Surrounded by racks of poofy gowns, I quickly surmised that I’d have to be either over sixty or under sixteen to look good in any of the dresses. Visions of Molly Ringwold circa Pretty in Pink and Bea Authur as Dorothy in the Golden Girls made me shudder in disgust. I was no slave to fashion but there was a limit.
“What do you think of this dress?” Mia asked as she held up a peach monstrosity.
Blinking my eyes twice trying to shift away the glaze of boredom that had formed over my brown eyes, I studied the dress. It was a long empire cut gown with a square neckline and bell shaped sleeves that stopped at the elbow.
Why didn’t she just give us painted trash bags if she wanted us to look like Cinderella’s wicked stepsisters? At least it’d be cheaper.
I swear if she was still my friend when by some awesome miracle I actually got married, she, and nobody else, was wearing an orange muumuu as my bridesmaid. “If you’re going with the Gone With The Wind look I suppose it’d be fitting.”
“That’s ugly, put that back,” said Juanita Guerra in a disgusted tone, as she walked past Mia looking the dress up and down before plopping down in a seat near me. I thanked her with my eyes and she smiled knowingly. Juanita could say stuff like that to Mia because they were like sisters and if you couldn’t be rude to your sister; who could you be rude to, at least without getting pimp-slapped or cursed out?
“Well, it’s the only thing peach I could find?” Mia whined flinging her shoulder length brown hair.
Whatever. The bridal shop told us that they could dye the gowns on display so she didn’t have to go by color when she picked out the crap she would force us to wear. The heifer just wanted us to look like bad ‘before’ pictures before she strolled down the aisle looking like Miss USA. She couldn’t risk a bridesmaid upstaging her. I couldn’t wait to see the hairstyles she wanted for us. Images of tight French rolls and Shirley temple curls stormed through my mind, forcing me to shake my head and shudder yet again. I swear if she did that to me I was bowing out. Friendship be damned!
Mia finally settled on a dress with a cowl neck front and low back and it clung to every curve and bulge we had. Sigh, guess it was time to actually utilize my gym membership.
Not wanting to argue, I just shelled out the $150 dollars for the dress. I guess I should be happy that she finally even picked out our gowns. She was definitely pushing it on the wedding time clock.
After leaving the dress shop Mia was kind enough to treat her five bridesmaids to lunch at a nice Italian bistro in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and we ate outside overlooking the water since it was such a beautifully warm April afternoon.
I began to look around, people watching was my favorite pastime, as the five other ladies began to chitchat about love. A natural topic when a wedding was drawing near. I kept my mouth shut. I’ve been single since God said ‘Let there be light’ what could I add?
Yeah, I know, you’re probably saying don’t give up hope. Stay positive. I just keep thinking my chances for love get lower and lower the older I get. Especially because I’m a black, well educated female. I have a higher chance of getting hit by a car while sitting in my living room watching the Sci-Fi network than finding love. Those of us who had found some concoction of love felt as though we had won the lottery and not the scratch off kind either. The big ones. The national news making ones.
Anyway, they wouldn’t ask me anything about my life because they thought I was just uninteresting. When you get in a relationship you get in this whole “it’s all about me and my luva” and you only ask other people about their lives as polite conversation. I mean no one wanted to hear about your job (I was a college Pre-Law professor), or your hobby (writing), or your travel or diet plans. No one cared. They just wanted to know about your love life and if you had one people wanted to talk to you. All of a sudden you were wise now. You could give love advice. They could tell you their dirty secrets. They could double date with you. You were fun!
“So, Denny,” Mia began.
I tore my gaze from a small group of people stepping onto a water taxi and reluctantly turned back to the table.
“Tell us all about the horrors of single dating life,” she inquired, leaning on the table. Everyone looked at me, eyes wide with curiosity. Only Juanita rolled her eyes at Mia, obviously knowing how rude the question was. I guess I should be happy they decided to include me in the conversation but come on!
“I know it must be hard, what with AIDS, STD’s, down low brothers, cheating men and all the other things out there,” said one of the bridesmaids who was married.
Yeah you wench, like none of that can happen to you when you’re married, I thought.
I sighed, looking around at the hobgoblins surrounding me, minus Juanita. “It’s all good. Got nothing horrifying to say.” And that was the honest truth. Wasn’t dating at all for there to be any so-called horror. Picking up my glass of water, I shrugged as I took a sip.
“Well, we’re going to make sure you get a date to the wedding,” Maya said, patting me on the back. “Maybe you’ll connect with one of my Eric’s single bachelor friends.”
I fought the urge to roll my eyes. It was one thing for me to pity my nonexistent love life but I certainly didn’t want anyone else to. What was it that inhibited my love life? I was on the kinder side of the visual department. I had a caramel complexion, dark brown eyes, curly brown red streaked hair that fell to my shoulders and was 5’4. I weighed more than I cared to mention but my curves were in control. So what was the deal? Maybe Sheila’s little plan would give me an answer. Yeah, right.
*
“This is really good, mom,” Bryant said, while chewing on the crab cakes our mother had made that Wednesday night at her house.
I put a hand to my mouth and made a face, signaling to him that I didn’t enjoy seeing the chewed up contents of food swirl around the inside of his mouth.
He grinned and closed his mouth. Bryant was the closest person to me. Even closer than Sheila. And it wasn’t just because he was my brother.
My brother and I tried to get together at our mom’s once a week for dinner. Which wasn’t hard. I would be hungry and only lived in Baltimore City in a small apartment in Mt. Vernon, not too far away from Mom’s Laurel, Maryland home. Bryant lived in downtown Baltimore as well in the Patterson Park area, working as a graphic designer.
At 27, my brother looked just like a lighter version of my father and I looked like my mother who was absolutely beautiful if I don’t say so myself. At 55, my mother looked at least 10 years younger. She stayed in shape by going to an over 40’s exercise group three times a week, got her weekly pampering (she was the partner of a black accounting firm so she could afford it) at her favorite naturalist day spa and was stylish to boot.
Yes, Ms. Camille was someone to admirer. You put her in the right dress and she looked like a movie star with her well-kept shoulder length bronze colored dreadlocks and perfectly put on makeup.
You put her in the kitchen and she could throw down on the ingredients better than anybody’s mama. You put her in the boardroom and she could capture the attention of all in her presence. She was a very sophisticated Afro-centric earthy woman interested in recycling, burning incense and community service. In fact she used to be a civil rights activist before she married my dad. I thought she was pretty cool.
I glanced over at Bryant chomping merrily away. He was single too but he had a different burden to bear in the dating world. He was gay and although there was a large community in the city, it still didn’t mean he had a wide pool of people he liked to choose from.
My mother was accepting of his sexual orientation, of course, she loved us unconditionally. Another cool point for Mom. Now my father was different. Long story short, my brother “came out” when he was 21. He hasn’t talked to my father since or should I say my father hasn’t talked to him since. Pretty easy to do since my parents were divorced.
“Have either of you ever heard of Speed dating? I’m doing it this Friday,” I informed them.
Bryant nodded. “I did one once. No luck. But I’ll meet up with you after it to find out how you liked it.”
“What is speed dating?” mom asked with a curious frown.
I explained it to her and she raised an eyebrow.
“And why would we want to do that?” she asked as if it were the most ridiculous thing she had ever heard.
“Because we need a date to Mia’s wedding.”
“Uhhh, that wedding. I can’t believe she’s getting married to a man she’s only known for a year and that’s including since they’ve been engaged,” she huffed.
“Guess her wedding clock was ticking.”
“Wedding clock? Her divorce clock gonna be ticking soon after that.”
“It’s good that you have faith in the negative, Mom.”
“Trust me, I know. You have to take time when it comes to love. Don’t want to go and make the wrong decisions,” she said looking away.
Bryant and I eyed each other. We knew who she was thinking about, the one we did not speak of: Dad.
“You and your brother are still single because you want the best and the best takes time.”
“Well my friends seem to think they got the best and it didn’t take them much time,” I commented as I stabbed at my broccoli.
“Well their best isn’t as unique as yours. Would you want any of their men?” she asked before sipping her red wine.
I made a face, then shook my head.
“That’s because you are picky. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s like this children,” she began, putting her wine down. “Your attached friends like ham sandwiches. It’s filling and it doesn’t take that long to make. But you, my dears, like a good steak. And while that is filling too, it takes a little longer to make than a ham sandwich.”
“So you’re saying our friends are happy with losers otherwise known as ham sandwiches?” Bryant asked, leaning into the table.
“No dear, I’m saying that it’s all a matter of taste. And your type is taking a little longer for God to make.”
“Well, let’s just hope that good things come to those who wait,” I stated.
“Well, then speed dating won’t get you good things.” she smiled before sipping her wine.
*
Staring across at the man in front of me that Friday night, I wondered if mom was right about speed dating. Looking past him, I could only pray that time was going fast and that my friend ,Tina Wienburg, was having just as lousy a time.
The trendy Charles street lounge was more popular for their Asian cuisine and local celebrity DJs than meeting guys. I took another sip of what was deemed the best Mai Tai ever and reapplied the smile I’d forced myself to wear.
Just as I thought, there were way too many women and the pickings were way too slim among the men.
The man across from me, named Aaron, was not among those slim pickings. He was black with a mini Afro, had a beer gut, and had to be about 35, at least. When he smiled at me, I realized he didn’t need a dating service; he needed a dental service! Holding a frown back from my face, I not so discreetly stared into his unappealing mouth. A front tooth, yellowish in color, was hanging on for dear life. And certainly if he sneezed too hard it would pop out smacking me in the center of my forehead.
So far, loser after loser had come my way. Some tolerable, some not, but all not my type. Didn’t they screen the guys? To Aaron the Tooth Decayed, I nodded and gave simple answers.
When the bell rang, I caught Tina’s eye and gave her an angry look. The short haired red head smiled and shrugged. She would pay dearly for talking me into this. I stared at the painted red walls which of course did nothing to calm me down.
The next Mr. Wrong plopped down in front of me and I wondered if poisonous gas had been let loose as I wrongfully inhaled what he must have considered cologne but what surely was instead toxic fumes. It seemed he had poured it all over him.
“Good Lord,” I whispered, giving a light cough to prevent from gagging on the stench.
We introduced ourselves. His name was Sam. As we chatted, I kept rubbing my nose trying to inhale the peach fragrance of the lotion still on my hands. He probably thought I was a drug addict because of that but I thought he stunk so we were even.
The bell rang and Sam Needs a Bath left. I was losing hope as I gasped for fresh air. But suddenly a light appeared, the heavens opened, and Mr. GQ stood before me. I tried never to let looks be my guiding light but things were getting rough tonight and a little eye candy would be a much-needed boost.
His name was Oscar, I think. He was from some country in Southern Europe (I really didn’t know, I was too into his accent to pay attention to what he was actually saying) and had just moved here for graduate school. The tanned, dark eyed, tall stack of goodness eyed me wantonly and I thought, jackpot, if ever there was one. He reached his hand over to touch mine, gently caressing it. Then he parted his lips to speak again.
“I was thinking maybe you would want to go out with me. I would take you to an elegant restaurant, maybe the theater and then maybe later we could make sweet passionate….,” he winked instead of finishing the sentence, smiling seductively at me.
We could what? This time I did not bother to hide my frown. I know he didn’t think I was going to just up and have sex with him just because he was good looking and would get me something to eat. I just wasn’t that hungry.
I snatched my hand back and looked around the room with heated anger. The man across from me had only one hope: that the bell rang before I reached across the table and bitch-slapped him.
Lucky for him the bell did ring and he quickly got up. I tried to breathe deeply like they taught me in the one yoga class I attended at the suggestion of my mother (there were just some ways humans were not meant to bend) but it wasn’t working.
Resting my head in my left hand, it seemed that I had wasted one of my few dressy outfits tonight (a cute sleeved turquoise dress with tall tan wedged boots).
This time a nice looking white guy with loose curly black hair and green eyes so intense they were shocking even behind his black framed glasses, sat down in front of me. I sat up in my seat and offered my hand. As soon as my hand was extended to shake his, he began to sneeze. I quickly pulled my hand back. No I would not waste a perfectly good Friday, a cute outfit, and my health all at once.
He sneezed again.
“You alright?” I asked, leaning back in my chair.
He nodded. “Sorry, my allergies have come on and I forgot to take my allergy pills,” he explained in an adorable British accent. But after Oscar The ‘Bout to Get Bitch Slapped, I would not fall for another accent.
“Here, I have some tissues,” I said bringing a pack out of my purse.
He gratefully took one and turned to blow his nose. I actually felt bad for him as he turned his Rudolph the Red Nose reindeer face back to me. That couldn’t be helping his game tonight. Not with only eight minutes to impress someone.
“My name is Denise,” I waved, keeping my hands to myself.
“I’m [sneeze] Terrance [sneeze] but people call me [sneeze] Terry,” he smiled apologetically.
I couldn’t help but laugh at him. He held the pack of tissues out to give back to me but I shook my head. “I think you’ll get a lot of use out of them. No worries.”
Finally his sneezing died down, for the moment. “I feel bloody awful. I should really just give up and go home. The women here look like they think I’ve contaminated them.”
I smiled at him. His accent was too cute.
“Hey, it’s only allergies, I understand. But I know this pollen can’t be helping it. You know there’s a Rite Aide on the other block, make sure you pick up some allergy meds or something. That‘s just too much to suffer with.”
He smiled back and nodded as he blew his nose again, quickly turning.
“You know, I know the impression I’m making. You’ll be calling me Terrance of the Red Nose when I leave,” he said.
“Of course not.” Yes I would.
We made some light conversation about ourselves and I wanted to continue talking to him and it looked like he wanted to talk more to me but the bell rang and he had to get up because a scary looking Mr. Clean look-alike stared down at us ready to take Terrance’s place. Terrance grabbed my hand and kissed it before he walked away and left.
How sweet.
Remind self to wash hand.
Germs from his cold and all.
Maybe he’d sign up under my name so that I could call him. I would sign up for him. If we both signed up for each other then the match making company would provide email addresses to both parties.
It turned out that even though the night had gotten a little better by meeting Terrance there were no other goodies in the batch.
By the end of the night, I signed up only to speak to Terrance, looked under my name and found only two names. Neither of which were Terrance’s. Only two damn names and then no Terrance! What the hell? The rejection resonated strongly in my system, feeling like a punch to the stomach.
I voiced my concern to Bryant, who met up with us at the lounge, and Tina when we had a couple of drinks afterwards. Tina faired only slightly better than me.
“Denise, you were not a happy looking camper, maybe you scared the guys off,” Tina suggested, pushing her trendy black framed classes up the bridge of her nose.
“That’s what I wanted to do for the ones I had no interest in but what about Terrance the Pretty Green Eyed? I thought he would be interested.” I pouted, leaning on the bar counter.
“You said you didn’t get to talk much.”
“But he looked like he wanted to get to know me some more.”
“Do you think he just wasn’t interested in black chicks? He may have just been polite,” Bryant offered.
The little asshole was probably right.
“Doubtful. A lot of European guys are really open-minded about interracial dating,” Tina stated, nodding.
My eyebrows knitted together in thought as I sipped my drink. “Tell me guys, I trust you two to be totally honest, am I ugly? Should I be cowering in dark tunnels instead of walking in the sunlight?” I asked yelling over the bass of the house music playing.
Tina said no and Bryant said yes.
I quickly thanked Tina with a smile and Bryant with a middle finger.
“Hey, if you have to ask us that question then you deserve to be told yes. You know you aren’t ugly so why ask?” Bryant said.
“And if you were a little on the scary side why should that ban you to dark tunnels?” Tina asked.
I shrugged. “It’s what they do in the movies. Or they make you the loveable but slightly dumb sidekick. Never the star. But ok, so I’m not ugly. What could it be then?”
“You know, why is it when something doesn’t work out women are always blaming themselves? Do guys do that? We have shows and books dedicated to showing what a woman does wrong when she dates with no care that maybe, just maybe, things don’t work out because the guy she’s dating is an asshole. Guys get to run free with no checks and balances on their bullshit while we’ve got to learn to be Stepford wives,” Tina wondered before taking a swig of her beer.
“Denise, I think we hit Tina’s soap box topic,” Bryant replied grinning. “Seriously, Denise, men are just odd creatures. We aren’t as simple as we’d like women to believe. Trust me, I know. We do one thing but say another just because we think that’s what you want to hear.”
“So in the meantime what do I do?”
“Nothing. Just keep doing you.”
“Well, thank you for those words of wisdom,” I replied, this time rolling my eyes.
What kind of answer was that? I couldn’t get a date with that in three months. How had Sheila got me to think I could? And more importantly why was I so bummed about a guy I barely even knew?

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