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When I was a junior in high school I worked at the Baskin Robbins in the Freehold Mall in New Jersey. It was a solid gig. Along with all the Cappuccino Blasts my nervous system could handle, my co-workers and I would make hilarious prank phone calls on our our lunch breaks, and drink beer in the back room when it was slow. Also, there was Ryan.
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Ryan didn't work at Baskin Robbins. He worked directly across from it at the Sunglass Hut, and he was one of the few blonde-haired, blue-eyed boys in the swarthy Italian/Jewish part of town in which I lived. He was exotic. He could have been from Florida. Or Australia. And all the ladies in the mall wanted him. The Express girls, the women from Perfume Kraze, and of course, me.
For a three-week stretch, Ryan came over to Baskin Robbins during his break and ordered two scoops of pralines 'n' cream with gummybear topping. And then he asked me out. I had an inkling that my attraction to him was reciprocated -- the XXL brown t-shirt and baseball cap I was required to wear to work was irresistible -- but I certainly didn't think he would act on it. I hoped he would. Sort of. But when he asked for my number, I can honestly say I was shocked. And so was my co-worker, Daniella.
"Oh my God, you're soooo lucky," she said after the angsty exchange took place. "I wonder where you guys will go. He has a nice car, you know. And I heard his grandfather owns Zales, so you can expect some nice jewelry."
"I wonder," I thought. "Where will we go?" I had only been on a handful of formal dates in my life, and I didn't particularly enjoy any of them. I favored group trips to the woods to drink Bud Ice, followed by a sloppy makeout session in the back of a car. But that didn't seem like Ryan's style. He had been out of high school for a year. He managed the Sunglass Hut.
We wound up at a diner. And not just any diner, the diner I went to with my family when we couldn't all decide on what to eat -- which was usually once or twice a week. It was weird being there on date, as opposed to with my mom, dad, and sister. What I felt was akin to seeing a teacher outside of school, or being fired in your Halloween costume. It was mildly embarrassing.
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When the waiter, who obviously recognized me but knew better than to let such knowledge be known, came over to our table, Ryan took the liberty of ordering for me. Without asking. If my life depended on it, I couldn't tell you what he told the chef to whip up "for the lady," but I know it wasn't a plate of french fries with a side of gravy, which is what I wanted. It was nice, albeit odd, gesture, and clearly something he had recently seen in a movie or on 90210. But he so didn't have the swagger of Dylan. Or even freakin' Steve.
As the dinner went on, it was obvious the only thing we had in common was that we were both human beings. He was much more arrogant than I imagined, and actually kind of funny-looking up close. All I kept thinking was, "I wonder if my friends will still be at our spot in the woods when this bloodbath is over."
When we got out to the car, despite the complete lack of chemistry, Ryan's chivalry continued. He walked around to my side to open the door for me, but before he let me in, he began keying the car parked next to him. Yes, keying.
Before that night I had never seen a car keyed, nor had I even heard of it. When Ryan started vigorously shaking his body back and forth, scraping the paint off the shiny black Ultima, I had no clue what he was even doing. I asked, and he just said, "This mother-f**ker is on top of me." So not Dylan. So not Australian.
The ride home was as awkward as any ride after a vicious automobile defacing would be. I got the impression that Ryan felt slightly foolish for doing what he did, and for that I felt bad. I thought about how he would feel driving home alone, replaying the scenario in his head, realizing he was a tool, but still. I just wanted out of his presence.
After a phony exchange of "See you around" and "When are you working next'," I went inside my house and found my mother, always the night owl, painting her toes on the couch. "Where'd you go?" she asked.
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"The diner," I said.
"French fries and gravy?"
"Nope," I said, and opened up the fridge.
What was your worst date ever?
Image via jakeliefer/Flickr
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