A lesson in being yourself

It’s precisely 8:27pm when I am escorted out of the restaurant. I’m calling it: this is the last blind date I’ll ever have. Reluctantly I remove the contact lenses and fake beard as I walk to my car. It was all a very bad idea from the get-go: asking my friend to set me up with one of her friends, making sure she made me look like the biggest catch the world could offer, and finally actually attempting to be that person.

There is a fatal flaw in blind dates: no one wants to go out with a person who has to rely on blind dates, but when the person that sets you up tells the date that you’re a little less broke than you are, but a lot more muscular and intelligent, there might be a problem. And tells her about a beard I couldn’t grow if I tried.

Now, while I am undeniably bad at being myself, I am rather good at being someone else. It’s all a question of preparation. So I bought some store-ready contact lenses in what I assume to be my prescribed strength, as well as an unbelievably expensive fake beard that is almost exactly the same color as my hair. There is no question: This needs to be a perfectly executed operation. That’s why I decide to go to the restaurant 6 hours early and do recon.

During lunch I observe every movement at the restaurant, every detail that could help me. Since first impressions count, an awkward attempt to open the door and a failure to get us a good table would be bad. So I slip the head waiter, who can’t stop focusing on my fake beard – which I register as a problem to be dealt with later, 100€ to treat me like the best and coolest customer he’s ever had. I also spent 2 hours asking about every minute detail of the decoration. There will be no awkward silence, I will be charming and intellectual as f*ck.

I measure the time it takes to go to the toilet from the table in order to know how much time I have to google inspirational quotes if I should run out of smalltalk. Never in my life have I been this prepared for anything.

Then, the time has come: Seeing her arriving at the front door – I’m being told by the waiter, the contact lenses do nothing for me, I swiftly exit the restaurant through the back in order to come round the block, excusing my fashionably late arrival.

It’s at that point that it hits me: there no chance in hell this is going to work. Even if this date was a success, being late is not one of my qualities. I like being a bit early. And in a larger sense, none of the things that I am pretending to have or be are things I particularly want or need to have in my life. I want to make people laugh. I want to make her laugh.

Lucky for me, laughter is what she is giving me. Through the entirety of my introduction, Elisabeth tries to suppress a smile. Maybe that would be my cue to come clear and just have her choose if she is into the real me, but I’m already committed to the bit. Even though she has seen through it and makes it her goal for the evening to see how far she can push me with this.

At the table and nearly blind from the contact-lenses, I tuck the table-cloth instead of the napkin into my shirt. Without a doubt a peculiar look.

All of my outlandishly brave – and fictitious – stories draw amazement from her. The kind you show a child when it presents you with one of its drawings. However, she then proceeds to outdo my story by telling a straight up supernatural story. It becomes funny, somehow.

But as every good tragedy, this story needs a fall from grace. And my fall begins when she looks at me and starts grinning.

“You know”, she says, “Anna told me about how you are afraid of not being good enough for anyone.”

At this perfectly chosen moment, a part of my beard falls into my tartar, a dish I chose for the lack of vision my impromptu contact lenses had provided: “Wow, did she make a good sale of me or what?” After a moment of silence, both of us staring at the bearded tartar, I look up: “Wait, why the hell are you here if she told you that? Wait, did she even tell you about the muscles and the beard and the money?”

“Not even a little bit”, she burst out laughing to my bewildered look. “But I have to say, I did not think you’d actually go through with this character.”

“I thought this was who you were expecting.”

“I don’t think this“, she picks up the beard from the tartar, “is what anybody was expecting. Also, you’re pretty google-able, so I knew how you looked. But here’s the thing…”

“That’s never a good start for a sentence.”

“I don’t date people who don’t believe in who they are, trying to be something they’re not to manipulate me into liking them. Every disguise is a self-portrait, Garry. And you tried to be an absolute jerk. What does that tell me?”

“No idea, that I’m a jerk?”

“Give me a call when you’ve figured it out.” With that, she takes her handbag and sets off. I jump up to follow her, dragging the entirety of the table-cloth and everything that was on top of it with me. I turn around, trying to fix the mess I’ve made, but slip on the tartar and fall down into the menu. It’s not clear to me if she turned around to look at me out of curiosity for the comedy-sketch that was unfolding or because she liked me.

The head waiter helps me up, but is quick to point out the 100€ would not be enough in order to let me stay. So I pay what I broke and think about the very expensive lesson in being myself I got today.

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