I should have ordered the lemonade… talk about a bad date!
I met Paul* online. He lived two hours away, worked as an assistant in a forensics lab, and played drums in a band on the weekends. His profile photo showed a man of about 30, weighing maybe 225 pounds. He admitted it was “a little old, but still looks like me”. He was wearing a band t-shirt and jeans, standing behind a drum kit with what appeared to be other band members.
I was a tax professional, living alone with my kids. I was on an 8-week layoff, so things were tight, but I’d been quite honest about that. It was the reason I was home a lot and online in the first place. The photo I’d sent was, admittedly, the best of many shots I took that day, but recent and honest.
We e-mailed, then chatted. He seemed nice, and we seemed to have several interests in common.
Our original plan was that he would drive down to meet me on a Saturday evening. We’d have dinner, maybe drinks or coffee and dessert after, and go our separate ways. I was clear during this period of my life that I chose not to bring men home to where my children lived, and my sitter couldn’t stay over. He made it clear that this was a “date”, and that he would like to pay.
Our plan changed when he won tickets to a sportsy event. The game, I no longer recall even the sport or season, was scheduled for that Sunday, about 90 minutes from me, but in the opposite direction from where he lived. He asked if I would like to extend the date. We’d go to diner Saturday, then he’d pick me up at home Sunday morning I planned for my kids to be with my mom on Sunday, and offered to help pay for gas to the game. I felt like it was the right thing to do, since it wasn’t part of his original plan for the date. He accepted. Plan made, everyone clear on what would happen and who would pay.
Bad Date Reality
(My thoughts, NOT words I actually spoke, are in parenthesis)
I showed up at Paul’s hotel, showered, dressed with care, and wearing (gasp!) heels and make-up. He met me fresh from his drive, wearing a wrinkled Hawaiian shirt, casual trousers that has once been black, white socks, and black shoes. His profile picture had been taken a few years and about 100 pounds ago. (“OK, so if we start a relationship, I’ll help him out with the clothes… and he knew I didn’t care about weight, so why did he lie?…maybe it’s just the only picture he has that he’s comfortable showing… but seriously, you could have told me you were running late and needed to grab a shower and change… unless he wasn’t planning to shower and change… eh…”)
On the way to our cars, he told me all about his special keychain. It was made to assist with giving mouth-to-mouth breathing assistance. Upon further discussion, he disclosed that he was not trained in CPR in any way, he just thought maybe one day he’d need to be the “hero”, and this way he wouldn’t risk getting AIDS. (“Well, you’re a little odd, but so am I. Maybe we can get certified together. In CPR, that is…”)
He’d asked at the front desk for restaurant suggestions. When we got to the Italian place he’d chosen, we found a two-hour wait for a table. Knowing the area, I suggested another restaurant with a similar price point. We made the 5-minute drive to find this restaurant had a 20-minute wait. Much better.
During our wait, he brought up the delightful and appetizing subject of his digestive problems. With my interests including home remedies, I related the story of seeing my grandfather use baking soda to help with occasional heartburn. Paul responded that he didn’t think it would be a good idea to use such a strong acid on his stomach. I giggled, thinking it was a joke. It wasn’t, and my nervous laugh spurred a long and utterly nonsensical dissertation of “strong acids”.
(“You are a lab assistant, but don’t have the middle-school science knowledge to discuss baking soda? Baking soda is alkaline, a “base”, not an acid. Remember the volcano projects? Uh-oh… but maybe I just don’t really understand what he does… I’m not sure this is going well. Just the poor manners are making this kind of a bad date.)
We’re seated, and the waiter arrives. He takes drink orders – a small, ordinary margarita for me, with a glass of water. Paul had lemonade.
We look at our menus and I ask about his band. Well, it’s not so much his band as his roommate’s. And he doesn’t so much play the drums as he plays with the drums trying to learn something after they have practice in the garage. His profile photo? Oh, that’s from a concert where he got to go up on stage because he’d loaned them his truck. (“Well, now, this is a lot of lies piling up right here… Maybe I just don’t quite ‘get’ him… or maybe I’m really glad I insisted on driving myself, and that he doesn’t have directions to my house…”)
We order. Small sirloin with baked potato and salad for me. He orders the big ribeye, and adds the cheese, mushroom, and onion toppers. He chooses two sides, then an add-on order of fried shrimp. I don’t care what he eats, and the only reason I remember is because of what happened later. (“My sister orders her steak with the cheese, too… I might have to try that sometime…”)
By the end of dinner, I had discovered his lab job wasn’t what he’d let on, that he sometimes Googled things I said I liked, so he could pretend he knew about them, and that the truck he was driving had been borrowed from a friend. (“So, you saw boobs and decided to tell “little white lies” to get me to agree to a date… fan…tastic…”)
The check came. He reached for it, and his expression soured.
“I left my other card in my room, and I don’t think there’s enough on this one to pay the bill. I didn’t realize you would order alcohol. It’s just so expensive!” (“I had one drink! It wasn’t even a specialty drink or top-shelf alcohol! The shrimp cost more! The prices are right there on the menu.”)
I suggested that he could go back, the hotel being just across the road. I realize that wasn’t the most polite thing to do, but I really didn’t have the extra dough. He balked at this, and I knew that there was no other card. (“There is no other card… If there was another card he’d have run for it… it’s ten minutes… there is no other card, and we’ve already told the waiter it was on one check… ”)
I offered to pay, knowing it would mean another bill would be paid late. I’d suggested this restaurant, though the bill would have been similar at his choice. He quickly accepted my offer, then asked,
“So, would you like to order dessert?”
I’m not even kidding. Neither was he. I politely declined. (“Yes, I’d love to spend $8 on a slice of cheesecake that I won’t finish… Wait, did you just “offer” that I could buy myself dessert?!”)
I paid the bill, left the smallest tip I’ve ever been embarrassed to leave, and we headed out.
At this point, I was glad dinner was over. I assumed he would be of the same mindset, but no. He suggested drinks. He’d come all this way, and I didn’t want to leave him hanging. He wasn’t dangerous or obnoxious, so I might as well stick it out. If only I’d known Barney Stinson’s Lemon Law at the time, the date wouldn’t have gone this far. I’ll skip the “lemon” jokes, but this bad date was not getting any better.
“We can, but I can’t cover you for that. I just don’t have the money.”
“It’s OK, I have a little bit of cash” (“You have a little bit of cash, but couldn’t even offer to cover the tip? What the heck is wrong with you?…It’s not even about the money, it’s just decent manners!)
We went to a place where I knew the owner/bartender. I stuck to water and soft drinks. Turned out, he did have the cash for beer. (“The single life isn’t too bad, really. I could be snuggled on the couch reading right now…”)
I was glad my plan had included sound reasons for needing to go home. But what about tomorrow? Yikes!!!
I did a bad thing. When he asked for directions to my house, I instead gave him directions that would direct him to the on-ramp to the interstate to get to the game. I didn’t want him to get lost, I just wanted him to get lost from me. It was wrong, but I’d call in the morning.
Sunday morning I tried to call him, to let him know I wouldn’t be going. He didn’t answer and did not have voicemail. As I write this, ten years or so later, I realize the best thing to do would have been to call the hotel and try to reach him that way.
I figured he didn’t answer because he was avoiding me. I was OK with that, and went about my day. The idea that he wouldn’t want to see me again seemed perfectly logical. I didn’t have a cell phone, so I did hang around to see if he would call. Half an hour after he should have picked me up, with no call, I left to check the mail I didn’t get on Saturday, start some laundry in our building’s laundry room, and check on the kids playing next door.
I came home to a dozen messages on my answering machine, all from Paul. I’d been gone 45 minutes, tops. Here are the highlights:
“Hey, it’s Paul. I can’t find your apartment, and I’m here at the interstate by the BP station.”
“This is Paul. I know I was running late, but I’m driving up and down this road and there aren’t any apartments.”
“Paul again.. I’m running low on gas. And I’m getting angry.”
(“He probably has reason to be upset, but he’s right there by gas stations and the interstate. He’s a grown-up, he’ll be OK. I’ll call him after I listen to all the messages…”)
“Hey, it’s Paul. I ran out of gas. I’m at the intersection of Route 40 and Route 149. You need to come and get me, and bring gas for my truck.”
(“Dude, seriously? You’re maybe 200 yards from a gas station, and another 100 yards from a second. Even on an overcast day you can see both signs easily from your location. What kind of adult chooses to run out of gas, keeps driving past the gas stations, then admits to it and insists his date bring him gas? But I’ll put shoes on, get the gas can, and make sure the neighbor is OK with keeping the kids for a few minutes…”)
“This is Paul. I’ve been standing here by my truck, and you still aren’t here. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. You’re leaving me stranded. You were supposed to pay for gas! How am I supposed to get home? You NEED to come and bring me gas! Then you can fill my tank and whatever. But just don’t leave me stranded!”
(Um, say what now? I was going to chip in for gas to the game. That’s a whole lot different than filling your tank. Which I probably would have done, but… what? And I “need” to come save you? I am glad gender roles aren’t what they used to be, but seriously? This isn’t a quality I’m looking for in a partner…”)
“This is Paul. Someone else went and got me gas. I was practically stranded and could have lost my job and been homeless because of you. I waited and waited, but you never came. I’m glad you were so worried about me that you can’t even answer your phone after all this time. You never mentioned that you’re a spoiled brat who doesn’t care about anyone. You’re lucky that lady was willing to go get me gas. How would you feel if I’d been out there for even longer? I don’t need a woman who can’t get off her ass and do something simple like bring me gas!”
(“Stranded and homeless? Over a tank of gas? Two days ago you were fine to make the drive, but now it’s somehow my fault that you ran out of… well, I’m glad that other lady helped you out… Wait, I’ve been gone like, 45 minutes… you couldn’t have been without gas for more than 30 minutes… I’ve actually been stranded, and getting help in 30 minutes is a freaking miracle! Of course, I’d have just walked to the gas station and back… And did you even once consider that I could have been sick or injured and unable to answer? You never expressed the least bit of concern!…
And I left the house well after you were supposed to have been there, anyway! None of these messages says “I’m running a bit late, but I’ll be there soon!” So I was just supposed to sit at home and wait for you, so that I could either be your date or bring you gas? Oh, hell, no!…”)
I’m sure it all would have worked out better if only I’d ordered lemonade…
*Not his real name. Frankly, it’s been a long time and I no longer remember it. Maybe it is Paul. If so, I’m sorry, dude.
While it was warmer weather for our date, I like lemon year-round! Lemon in my tea, lemon cookies at the holidays, and the hot lemonade I prefer over spiced cider. So, whether you have your “forever date” sitting by your side, or are laughing your way through a “Paul” or two before you find them, here’s some fantastic lemonade to warm your loving soul!
This drink is not only wonderful to sip with toast slathered with the homemade jam your neighbor gave you, it has some great health benefits. Lemon is full of vitamin C, the golden child of the immunity world. Ginger helps fight heartburn and other tummy ailments along with its immune-boosting properties. Honey soothes sore throats, fights bacteria, and about a hundred other wonderful things.
I’m all about convenience. With this recipe, you can keep portions of the spiced lemon and honey in the freezer, and thaw when you need them. I find it much easier to pop one in a mug, let it thaw a bit, then add hot water to finish, than to do the squeezing and steeping every night. This makes 5-6 servings, but you can easily double it to get a good stash going in your freezer!
Plus, a handy dandy Pinnable recipe reminder, so you can keep it handy!
Soothing Hot Lemonade
4 Cups Water (one to prepare, three for serving)
1 Tablespoon fresh grated or chopped ginger (about a 2-inch piece)
1/3 cup Honey. Raw and local is best.
- Peel, scrape, or grate the yellow rind from one lemon. For this recipe, I use a paring knife to get a few big strips. You don’t have to be particular.
- Peel and grate, chop, or smash your ginger. If you don’t have fresh ginger, you can substitute 1 teaspoon powdered ginger, or 1 Tablespoon dehydrated ginger cubes. I use this gadget for ginger.
- Squeeze your lemons. Strain the pulp if you prefer, but it’s not necessary.
- Tie the ginger and lemon peel into a square of cheesecloth, or place it in a tea ball. You can skip this step and add the peel and ginger directly to the water, but you’ll need to strain it out later.
- Bring one cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat, and add the lemon peel and ginger. Yes, yes, you can do this in the microwave if that’s your thing, just use a glass container.
- Allow to steep for ten minutes, then remove the cheesecloth or strain out the ginger and peel. No harm would come from leaving them in, I just don’t find it appetizing to have too many bits of stuff in my drink.
- Add lemon juice, then honey, and stir to combine.
At this point, you can finish and serve, or portion and freeze.
To serve: Add ¼ cup of the lemon honey mixture to a mug. Stir in ¾ cup of hot water. Add a lemon slice or some fresh mint if you’re feelin’ fancy. Done.
To Portion and Freeze: Allow your lemon mixture to cool to room temperature. Add ¼ cup portions to zip-top freezer bags, and remove as much air as you can. I like to do this step in a cake pan to help prevent and contain spills, but it’s not difficult.
With the baggies still in the pan for a fat surface stick them in the freezer, zip-top up. They’re just more difficult to open if the liquid freezes in the zipper.
Once frozen, I just leave them in their bags for when I need them. But you could also transfer them to a larger freezer bag.
To Use Frozen: Place one frozen portion in a mug. Allow to thaw, or stick it in the microwave if you choose to use one. It doesn’t have to be all the way thawed, I just like to give it a head start. Then add ¾ cup of hot water. Poof, you have Warm Winter Lemonade!
It’s great to have on hand for illness, unexpected guests, and just because!
Of course, this is how I like it. You’re welcome to adjust the amount of water you add at the end, the amount of honey, or the ginger. Tone it down or step it up! Pin this for later, and let me know your favorite soothing beverage or worst date in the comments!