Bad With Men: Dancing On My Own

by: Dana Norris

Dana Norris is the founder and host of Story Club.  She once went on 120 internet dates.

John’s Match.com profile picture shows a man with large brown eyes and a receding hairline.  Other pictures show that he has a son who looks a lot like him, only smaller and with more hair.   John messaged me, he seems nice, and after Benji I’m looking for someone nice.  Nice and employed.  I agree to meet him.

I suggest that we meet at the Grafton, an Irish pub in Lincoln Square not far from my apartment.  The Grafton has 13 kinds of single malt scotch and macaroni and cheese with bacon, which means it’s my personal heaven.

Our date is scheduled for 7p.m. on a Saturday and I wake up that morning with no plans other than to slowly get ready for this date.  At 5p.m. I’ll start shaving my legs, flat ironing my hair, and trying on multiple outfits.  But most of the work will take place earlier in the day, when I’ll be psyching myself up.  Meeting a stranger in a bar is a terrifying prospect and, even though I’ve done it a few times already, I feel extremely nervous, like I’m about to go skydiving or apply for a small-business loan.

I tell myself I have to go on this date.  I have to go on this date because when I’m sitting alone in my apartment, quiet and small on my couch, I ache to be part of a relationship again.  I hate being single.  I don’t like going places by myself, I don’t like coming home by myself, I don’t like sitting in my apartment by myself. It’s uncomfortable.  I try to keep myself busy with friends, but they all have husbands or boyfriends and I know that I sometimes encroach on their couple time.  I hate not having couple time.  I hate just having to sit here, by myself, with myself.  I want this part to be over. I want this part to be over, so I have to go meet this bald baby daddy at a bar.

There is a full-length mirror on the back of my closet door.  I stand in front of it and begin my pre-date psyche-up ritual.  I turn on “Let it Rock” by Kevin Rudolf and I DANCE.  I don’t dance as if no one’s watching; I dance as if Beyonce’s watching and I’m auditioning to be in her video.  I check my moves in the mirror.  Yes.  Beyonce would hire me for sure.  I will go on this date with John, and he will fall in love with me, and my single days will be over, and I will help him wear hats and raise his child. This is crazy thinking, but it works.  I leave the house at 6:50p.m., ready to meet this stranger.

As I walk down Lincoln Ave I walk as slowly as possible, because I don’t want to be there first, but I’m still five minutes early for the date.  John’s not there yet.  The hostess shows me to a tall wooden booth.  I can’t see the door from here, which is a blessing because that means I won’t be able to stare at every man who enters the restaurant in that creepy “Are you John?” way.

I use my phone to help me pretend that I’m not alone and scared.  I’m just by myself, hanging out with all of my Facebook friends.  I order a Macallen 10-year-old single malt scotch on the rocks.  It helps a tiny bit.

Fifteen minutes later I’m still by myself.  Oh, hell.  I take a breath and call John’s number.  His phone rings without answer, but meanwhile my phone buzzes with a new email.  I hang up and check my messages.  The email is from John, perhaps with an explanation for what the what is going on. I open the email – it’s blank.  So maybe John’s been kidnapped and is sending me blank emails from inside the trunk of a car?  Or maybe he’s just fucking with me?  Regardless: I’m out.  I finish my scotch and pay the waitress.  I ask the waitress to keep an eye out for a balding man who looks like he’d stand up a lady for an internet date.  I ask her to, if she sees him, say “Your date left,” but to say it in an accusatory manner.  Like the way you’d say “You have mustard in your beard.”

I walk back up Lincoln Ave to my apartment.  I’m careful to keep my head down.  I’m honestly relieved that this date isn’t happening but I’m afraid that I’ll pass John on the street and he’ll recognize me and suddenly I’ll have to go on this date after all.

I get back to my apartment without running in to him.  I take off my high heels, put my sweatpants back on, set my iPod to shuffle all my party songs, hit play, and dance as though I’m at Beyonce’s callback auditions. Later, John will call me, will let me know that he had to work late tonight, will apologize and will ask to reschedule the date.  Later, I’ll meet him at the Grafton, and he’ll talk a lot about his kid and his ex-wife and his job and I will barely talk at all. Later, I’ll have too many scotches and think that he’s interesting and I’ll be disappointed when he doesn’t ask me out on a second date, even though right now, right now, I’m alone in my apartment, dateless, dancing in front of my mirror, happy.

Dana Norris is the founder and host of Story Club, a monthly show for stories. She has served as the Nonfiction Editor and Managing Editor of TriQuarterly Online. She performs around Chicago with Mortified!The KatesEssay Fiesta, Stories at the Store, This Much is TrueBeast Women, Waiting for the Bus and Cafe Cabaret. Her stories have been published in Tampa Review, Partner Dance Press, and been featured on Vocalo.org (89.5 FM). Dana received a Bachelors in Creative Writing and Religion and from Wittenberg University and a Masters in Religious Studies from The University of Chicago.  She has a Certificate in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Chicago and is currently pursuing her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Northwestern University.

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