First Date with the Grouchketeer (or: that time S’s date took her to a puppet show)

I’d like to kick off this doozy of a post by quoting…myself:

“If hell freezes over and a date actually makes a non-bar suggestion, unless that suggestion is ‘Tea Party rally’ or ‘anonymous orgy’, I’m going to throw caution to the wind and just say yes.” —S, 9/2/14

Will I never learn to just keep my mouth shut? It’s like I was asking the universe to present me with an insane first date scenario that I’d be forced to say yes to. And the universe did not disappoint. 

Let me back up for a second. When I wrote the above line in my fall dating to do list, I’d been chatting a bit with a reasonably smart, cute and nice dude on Okc. We had no plans to meet up yet, but less than 24 hours after publishing my post, that changed. I have dubbed this guy “Grouchketeer”, and you will find out why later in this post. Anyway, when the Grouchketeer texted me this:

fringe fest

I thought, well look here; a challenge. Bring it on, good sir. Fringe Fest is known for being kind of….alternative, but how weird could this “idea” be? An art exhibit? A play?

Oh, it was a play. But not just any play. 

incongruousoffice ryan awkward

I read that description approximately 8 times, thinking I just wasn’t getting it. Then as the words “explosive”, “frenzied”, and “anatomically complete” sunk in, along with, you know, “physically disabled”, I began to panic. Why did this guy pick this bizarre puppet show out of all the Fringe Fest events and all the things we could do in the world? What would this even entail? Would we be watching wheelchair-bound puppets have sex? Did this mean my date was into puppet porn? IS PUPPET PORN A THING I DON’T EVEN KNOW ABOUT?!?!?

Then another thought occurred to me: clearly this “guy from Okcupid” was L and/or D in disguise fully catfishing me for shits and giggles. Well played, co-bloggers. Well played.

Except L and D, while positively DELIGHTED to hear about this date proposition (a little too delighted, honestly), assured me it wasn’t them. They also reminded me of my comically recent promise to be open to non-traditional dates and I was all, “I KNOW, DAMN IT, I KNOW WHAT I WROTE” in a howler monkey voice. Because I knew they were right. I had baited the universe, and the universe dared me to go back on my word. Hell, it triple dog dared me. 

I had no choice, dear readers, but to stick my (proverbial) tongue to the (proverbial) flagpole.

puppet

So many adjectives, Gouchketeer. So many. And then he upped the ante:

tickets

I’m usually opposed to dinner on a first date, let alone dinner on a first date on Saturday night, but given the fact that a complete stranger was apparently taking me to watch dolls have sex in South Philadelphia, dinner seemed like the least of my problems. So as promised, I “just said yes”. To everything. Ugh.

Saturday arrived, and Grouchketeer and I met at the restaurant. He was just as cute in person (score), but had committed the classic single guy act of 2+ inch height fraud. Dinner was pretty good, actually… he was witty and interesting, and the conversation flowed pretty well. One thing that made it more awkward was the fact that he was kiiiind of a mumbler. He was one of those people who would start a sentence off at normal volume and then sort of trail off as he talked. The restaurant wasn’t exactly quiet, either, so I found myself repeating, ‘What?”, “I’m sorry?” and “Excuse me?” an uncomfortable number of times, and homeboy would not take a hint to speak up.

Beyond the mumbling, there were a few…red flags.

Red flag #1: College drop out. He allegedly went to a few different schools, one of which was Ivy League so clearly he wasn’t stupid or lacking opportunities, but “hated it” and never finished. Oh, Philadelphia bachelors (without Bachelors–hiyooo).

Red flag #2: No actual 9-5 job. According to Grouchketeer, he did “a lot of things” such as: concert booker/promoter for a local music venue, had his own landscaping business…? and (drumroll please) was training to be a “rescue diver”. No, I don’t know what that means, either.

Red flag #3: Rest assured, there’s a #3, but it was revealed later in the date. Stay tuned. 

So at this point I know Grouchketeer kiiiiind of sounds like a zero. Believe me, the same thought crossed my mind. But I could tell he was really smart. He was clearly self sufficient (didn’t live with his parents THANK GOD), loved to travel and had been all over the world, and had a lot of interesting things to say. And he was cute. So I ignored these flags for the time being and just focused on understanding what the hell my mumbling date was actually saying. And against all odds, I was actually having a good time.

Such a good time, in fact, that we both lost track of time and almost missed the, ahem, show (and what a…pity…that would have been). Unfortunately Grouchketeer realized what time it was (damn him) and we cut dinner short. While we waited for our check, I took the opportunity to ask what I had been wondering for the past week:

Me: So, can I ask why a puppet show? What made you pick that out of all the Fringe Fest events going on?

Grouchketeer: I don’t know, it looked like it could be interesting and also, I’ve always had a thing for puppets.

Me: internally-screaming

Me (thinking): Oh God. Ew. Does he mean, like, a sexual thing? So puppet porn IS a real thing, then. I KNEW IT.

Obviously my date must have caught the horrified/alarmed look on my face.

Grouchketeer: Oh man, no, not in like, a creepy way! I actually was  a child actor for a few years. I was on Sesame Street, so I’ve always thought puppets were kind of awesome.

Who has two thumbs and has seen WAY too many episodes of Law and Order: SVU?

stabler

This girl. My date was trying to tell me about his childhood stint on Sesame Street, and mama’s brain went right to ‘puppet porn’. Not my most sane moment, readers.

Me: Oh! That’s awesome! What did you do on Sesame Street?

Grouchketeer: I was a member of Oscar the Grouch’s posse. We were like a spoof on the Mouseketeers.

Me: Oh my God, yes! I remember! You guys were covered in trash, right?

(Lest you think I’m exaggerating, check out a Google image of these poor, pathetic kids smeared with dirt, wearing low budget DIY t-shirts and trashcan lids ON THEIR HEADS.)

grouchketeer

The Grouchketeers were basically Mugatu’s Derelicte campaign for kids, and my date was a part of this elite club. Maybe he had some sort of puppet Stockholm syndrome.

Okay, readers. Now that you know the origin of my date’s nickname, it’s time for today’s main event: the puppet show.

We walked, almost ran to the theater since we were late. I was secretly hoping the show had already started but alas, when we knocked on the door to the tiny, nondescript South Philly theater, they let us right in. 

A woman handed us two programs and ushered us towards the entrance. “Don’t worry,” she assured us. “He hasn’t started.”

We walked in and found two seats in the back row. The theater was full, and by “full” I mean the 20 seats in the theater mostly had people in them, presumably all family members of the puppeteer or possibly people on equally bizarre Okcupid first dates. I was just opening my program when the lights dimmed and a booming male voice announced:

“Welcome to this evening’s performance of ‘Incongruous’. If you need to use the restroom, please do so now, as you will not be permitted to leave during the show.

wait what2

We trust that you have had the chance to read your program and are well versed in the disabilities we’ll be discussing tonight.

wait what

Enjoy the show.”

Then, to add to the already uncomfortable vibe, someone came into the theater and TURNED OFF THE AIR CONDITIONING. In case you were wondering, here’s what the weather in Philly was like on the day in question:

weather

So there I was, readers, trapped in a tiny box of death, sweating, barred from using the restroom, unable to see the program which was apparently required reading beforehand, on a first date with an ex-child star whose parents allowed him to be covered in trash in exchange for money.

Just when I thought shit could not get weirder, a man dressed in all black appeared on stage, and produced a puppet from behind a table. The puppet was a naked woman with one leg. He then produced a baby puppet and proceeded to make the mom breast feed the baby. Then he started to sing. A lullaby. In Spanish. This continued for an UNCOMFORTABLE amount of time. I’m not talking 30 seconds. Like, for at least 3 minutes we all sat there in sweaty silence, watching a puppet breast feeding another puppet while being serenaded with a creepy Spanish lullaby.

One piece of good news (the only piece, really): I glanced over at my date during this spectacle, and he appeared to be just as baffled as I was. He was literally mouthing:

what the

Good, I thought. At least he’s equally freaked out and isn’t thoroughly enjoying this insanity.

Speaking of insanity, the puppeteer finally spoke, in a heavy accent. I understood maybe 20% of what he was saying. There were four different puppet…vignettes, and not for a million dollars could I tell you what any of them were really about. I can tell you the puppeteer flubbed his lines about 10 times and he kept trying to make the puppets do things (pick up a tiny coffee cup etc.), except their limbs were getting stuck… so he would literally break character in the middle of the show and say ‘sorry, hang on a sec’ so he could FIX THE PUPPET. I can’t.

The longer this went on, the funnier it was to me. The whole thing was so nuts, such an out of body experience, that it started to become straight up hilarious. Grouchketeer nudged me a couple times at weird moments, and we kept exchanging half terrified, half bemused ‘WHAT IS HAPPENING??’ glances and trying to stifle our LOLs. I may be the first person in the history of time to say this, readers, but that nude puppet show was oddly conducive to flirting.

The show continued, with puppet genitalia galore but mercifully, no actual puppets doin’ it. (Score?) There was a triple amputee puppet, a little boy puppet with prosthetics, a model puppet with short arms (at this point the puppeteer verbally reprimanded us for not reading our programs and knowing what the disability was called), and then came the piece de resistance: a gimp puppet in full S&M bondage gear. This puppet, called “Mr. Sick”, delivered the final monologue which was a truly unhinged amalgamation of political buzzwords. Literally it went something like this (clearly paraphrasing, please no one sue me):

Mr. Sick: YOU ARE SICK. I AM SICK. VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN, GMOs, CAPITALISM, ANTI-ABORTION LAWS, GLOBAL WARMING, THE MIDDLE EAST, ALL OF THESE THINGS HAVE MADE US SICK. WE ARE ALL SICK!

The lights came up. That was the end. There was stunned silence and then confused applause. Having had to pee for the past 40 minutes, I jumped out of my seat and ran to the bathroom, where I texted L and D this picture of my program as proof that I’d actually attended:

unnamed

When I emerged, Grouchketeer was waiting for me in the lobby, looking appropriately sheepish.

Grouchketeer (chuckling): Well that was…interesting.

Me: Um, yes.

Grouchketeer: So wait, why were the puppets naked?

Me: Wait, you didn’t know they’d be naked? Didn’t you read the description before you bought the tickets? It definitely said they’d be nude.

Grouchketeer: I skimmed it, but I guess I didn’t read it carefully enough.

Me: Clearly you didn’t!

Grouchketeer: Yeah, sorry about that. Also, they’re selling Mr. Sick shirts over there with his monologue on them. I genuinely considered buying you one.

I was actually pissed that he didn’t buy me one, and I told him so, because I thought after such an insane first date experience I at least deserved a souvenir. I would have worn that Mr. Sick shirt with pride, readers.

We walked back towards the restaurant, giggling about what we’d just seen, quoting Mr. Sick to each other. Grouchketeer asked if I’d like to go somewhere else to chat more.

Me: Sure, sounds great. I know a few good bars that are right around the corner.

Grouchketeer: Oh, uh, sure, we can totally go to a bar, but I feel like I should just mention so you know… I don’t drink.

***Red Flag #3 Alert***

Ugh. So many red flags, you guys. I asked Grouchketeer why he didn’t drink, and to his credit he was very frank and forthcoming: he was drinking to the point of abusing alcohol a few years back, decided to take a break and realized it was the best thing he ever did, so just stuck with it. He assured me he had zero problem being around alcohol and was totally cool with others drinking, he just didn’t want to make me uncomfortable for being the only one doing it (I hadn’t even noticed he didn’t drink at dinner–I was too busy hearing about his days as a human trashcan).

So….that made the night take a serious turn. I mean look, everyone has their shit, and he appeared to be very open and mature about the whole thing, and it’s not like I’m some huge binge drinker, anyway. And I told him all those things. But honestly, what do two near strangers do on a Saturday night when they’ve already gone to dinner and watched naked puppets prance around on a stage? They GO TO A BAR.

I was at a total loss for what to do next; homeboy was not being invited to my place, and it was starting to rain. Luckily Grouchketeer suggested dessert (something mama is always up for), so we got gelato. And talked some more/LOL’d some more about Mr. Sick. Then he drove me home. We kissed a little bit in his car (he was a good kisser but we were literally parked in a bike lane with hazards on, so it was quick) and I said goodnight.

Phew. That was quite the marathon. If you actually stuck with me through this insane recap right until the bitter, booze-free end, I’d like to offer you an appreciative and frankly, impressed, round of applause.

applause

Date rating: 7/10.  Given the fact that I attended a nude puppet show with a total stranger, it was a surprisingly fun night. Despite multiple red flags, my date was smart, interesting, and cute, and Mr. Sick (bless his heart/bondage gear) gave us plenty of things to talk about.

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Message Monday: “very rude”

How are we doing out there, readers? Does everyone have a bleary-eyed, DST fueled case of the Mondays? Me too, friends. Me too. Well let’s take those feelings out on a total stranger, shall we?

As you loyal readers know, I’m seeing someone, but I’ve kept my Okc profile active for blogging purposes. I feel slightly sketchy about this, but D and I talked about it and he understands that my interests are purely professional/research related. As a certain hyperbolic but wise co-blogger of mine put it:

L: THIS IS YOUR CAREER

I have noticed recently that there’s a ‘seeing someone’ option that you can choose on your profile. The other day I clicked it on a whim, but I have to be honest, I don’t get it. What kind of weirdo would announce that they’re seeing someone on their profile, and then just stay on the site? (besides dating bloggers, of course.) I know, I know. The answer, obviously, is cheaters. Except if you’re in the market to step out on your S.O., why not just pull a J and lie about being single? Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not encouraging people to lie. Hell no. I just don’t understand the logic behind being perfectly willing to lie to your significant other but not to complete strangers.

Maybe I’m just super old fashioned/naive/jaded/need to read more Dan Savage. Maybe there’s a sea of people in open relationships out there, happily looking for some consensual, mutually agreed upon fun on the side via Okcupid. In which case, mazel tov! Truth be told, I have come across people in arrangements like that, but they’re always super up front about their unique situations on their profiles, I’m sure to avoid being thrown shade by people like me. So when that isn’t the case, and they don’t say a word about their ‘seeing someone’ or even ‘married’ status, I can only assume I’m dealing with a sketchball. Also, as we’ve experienced time and time again, the internet is full of liars. So there’s that.

I know, I know, I was technically lying for that month or so when I was no longer single and still on Okc as ‘single’. And my profile doesn’t explain my ‘seeing someone’ status either. I hear you. Good point. Huge hypocrite. That’s me.

pot kettle

Via: http://frombeginningtoendandbackagain.blogspot.com/2012/06/and-once-againpot-and-kettle-meet.html

Sorry, that was a serious tangent I just took you all on. What can I say? I’m easily distracted. In writing; in life.

squirrel-up-dog-gif

Via: http://belieber.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/squirrel-up-dog-gif.gif?w=500&h=250

Let’s move on, shall we? When I mentioned to D that I’d picked the ‘seeing someone’ option on my profile, he was confused.

D: But wait… won’t that prevent you from getting more crazy messages from dudes? Won’t they stop?

Me: I dunno. Maybe. Only one way to find out.

FYI, they did not stop. My message volume actually increased. I mean, the quality of the messages didn’t increase; if anything, that decreased, which I wasn’t even aware was possible given some of my past encounters.

Obviously, it’s Message Monday, so I have an example for you. I received a pretty standard one the other night, right as I was getting home from work. I clicked it open briefly on my phone to read:

snowman

I mean, certainly not the best message ever, but CERTAINLY not the worst. Semi complete sentences. Mostly correct spelling and grammar. Polite. Because I was heading out, I closed the Okc app for the time being, intending to reply later. I really do try to respond to anyone who writes me more than two words and appears to be reasonably sane, and tell them thanks but I’m just not interested. I think it’s only fair/polite, especially given the fact that I’ve been a non single person posing as single for the past few months.

Also, I didn’t forget to censor his profile pic; there was no need. More on that later.

Later that night, I noticed that I had a second message from the same dude:

snowman2

What in the fuckity fuck? First of all, crazypants, less than two hours had gone by when you sent that. Some people have lives they’re trying to live. To quote a comedy great:

simma down now

Via: http://gimme-gifs.tumblr.com/post/41451599851

Second, I know all too well the experience of sending a message to someone you’re into and getting this response:

tumbleweed

Via: http://giphy.com/search/tumbleweed

But that doesn’t mean I write a hostile follow up message to a total stranger an hour later calling them out like a mentally unstable lunatic. That’s not how this online dating thing works, because if it was, I’d have to quit my job to make time for all of the mentally unstable replies I’d be writing to people who were “very rude”.

Third, let’s consider the actual message sender for a moment, shall we? Take a look at his profile picture (his ONLY picture), which as I mentioned I’m able to show you all in its full, uncensored glory:

snowman3

Ummmmmm…………………?

Real talk: that’s straight up the saddest excuse for a snowman that I’ve ever seen in my life. Here’s a tip: if you want to entice me with a snow creature, might I suggest this guy:

Frozen-Movie-Olaf-HD-Wallpaper1

Olaf 4 Life.

And the final thing I noticed about this dude, which brings us back to my rant at the beginning of this post:

married

Oh, cute! Adorable. Now my blood was officially boiling. I had to respond. And I did:

rude

My original reply was littered with obscenities, but I decided that restraint would be more effective. I sent this knowing it was self indulgent of me and totally unnecessary, but I didn’t GAF. I reaaaaally didn’t.

I blame my blinding rage on behalf of women everywhere for the fact that I didn’t even put two and two together at first. Sadly, it only occurred to me as I was writing this post that this dude totally messaged me because my status is ‘seeing someone’, and he (fairly) assumed I was also looking for some fun on the side. Yup. That’s definitely what happened.

oops

Via: http://ineedthisforreactions.tumblr.com/post/39598152479

Lol. Oh me. Do I feel bad about sassing him? Of course not! He was still an asshole and he still deserved to be put in his place. I regret nothing. But maybe I’ll just go back to my good old ‘single’ status for the time being, so as not to attract and get into a fight with every cheating douchebag in the tri-state area. Good call, right?

beyonce

Via: http://gossipgirl.alloyentertainment.com/the-top-grammy-moments-presented-in-gifs/#1

Lady B agrees. It shall be so.

Textual feelings: My short-lived, mostly virtual, romance with M

Mark my words, in the next fifteen years, there will be a college course on dating, probably cross-listed under psychology and history. I mean, when I was in college, there was already a course, that, according to my loose recollection, was called something like, “Peeping under the Petticoat: Images of female sexuality in popular British magazines.” (Of course, being the gender studies junkie that I am, I think I took it.)

This hypothetical future course on dating would include, at the very least, three hours of course material on text messages, the form of communication that seems to dominate dating these days. We’ve already written about texting a bunch (texting too much, sexting, texting fails, etc) on this site. I personally HATE texting, but believe it’s one of those annoying, but inevitable things that one must do, especially when dating people you’ve never met in person with whom you want to avoid an awkward phone conversation full of long pauses, static, talking at the same time, and asking things like, “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you. Can you repeat that?”

But texting too can have its awkward and frustrating pitfalls. I really think this Aziz Ansari clip says it all:

PREACH AZIZ! I hereby declare that the first college course on dating be named: Guess who is uninvited to the pizza party?: Texting and other humiliations you will experience when dating.

A couple months ago, I met a guy who was, at the very least, case study worthy for this course, if not a guest lecturer. His name was M, and he was a scruffy, tall, flannel shirting wearing, sarcastic, sound engineer. He worked at some very well known music venues in DC by night and made extra cash during the day shooting weird documentaries and promotional films for nonprofits and small businesses. Now, as I have alluded to briefly in my other posts, I am not exactly what you would call COOL when it comes to music and pop culture. I often find myself at the bar requesting a combination of Bob Seger and Whitney Houston, depending on what time of the evening it is. I get my clothes at Target (not ironically, for real) and the most recent thing I downloaded on my Ipod may or may not have been the soundtrack to Disney’s Frozen, which I sing along with while I fold my laundry.

C’mon, you’d be blasting this too.

Anyway, M somehow overlooked the lack of coolness on my profile and asked me out. After I agreed to meet, he wrote:

m message

Oh,  how M LOVED to text. But the thing is, he was pretty good at it. Funny, witty, and could keep up with my jokes.

M is a wit

We planned a date for the following week, so had a full week to know each other through text. The weekend before our date, M even drunk texted me.

Now, we all know that I don’t believe in sexting before the first date. Honestly, in my early years of online dating, this may have scared me off. But M played it off well, and soon enough we were joking around.

m drunk text apology

Sometimes, M’s texts reached beyond the point of my understanding. He liked to send me pictures, which was normal enough when he was in vacation in California, but less normal when he was texting me selfies from a brunch downtown. I mean, how many selfies can one woman take before she actually meets the fellow? 

When M and I finally met, I was super psyched to find out a few things about him.

1) He was better looking than in his profile picture. 

2) He was even funnier in person than in text.

3) He had access to free tickets to any show at any live music venue in DC.

M and I proceeded to have, what I thought, was a very good date. Drinks turned to more drinks turned to dinner and then to more drinks. We were joking around like old friends by the time we finished our first beer. I swear to god, readers, it was like a movie-worthy first date. People at the restaurant were literally jealous of our chemistry. The host at the second bar thought I was M’s WIFE. 

After the date, M and I began to walk home (it was 11:00 on a weeknight after all). He lived a block away from the bar and when we got to his door, and said goodbye, he went in for a kiss. And it was a pretty awesome kiss, though it took me by surprise. And then we stopped kissing, and I turned to walk away, and he pulled me back in for a second kiss.

kate and leo kiss

We were basically Kate and Leo at sunset, minus the good looks and the boat. 

We said a goodbye, and he said, “Promise me something. Never let go.” and I said, “I’ll never let go M. I’ll never let go.” And he then he shivered and floated away on a piece of driftwood. 

PSYCH, SUCKERS! What I just described is a scene from James Cameron’s Titanic. But it was almost that magical, I swear. 

The next day, he sent me this:

mysterious pic

What IS that,you ask? I. DON’T. KNOW. I sent the image to no less than three other experts, and they were just as stumped as I was. If you can figure it out, let me know.

So I replied in the only way I thought possible. With another inexplicable picture.

weird dragon photo

Yes, that IS me giving bunny ears to the stuffed dragon in my office. And, don’t worry, the actual photo was sent right side up.

And then, NO RESPONSE. FOR 2 DAYS. I was pretty bummed. I thought the date had gone well. I thought when someone kissed you and said they wanted to see you again, they meant it. I took the absence of his communication as a sign he wasn’t interested in me and sulked around for about a day, and then decided, the chemistry between us had seem so FREAKING GOOD that it was worth one more try. So, I texted him:

The next day, he replied:

M last time i heard from him

WHAT? HUH? I did not know what to make of this response. Was he flirting? Blowing me off? A little of both?

Sure enough, I never heard from M after that inexplicable text, and about one week later, he disappeared from OKcupid altogether.

Date rating: 9.5/10. Like I said, the chemistry going down would make Jim and Pam jealous. I deducted .5 for the two nasty remarks he dropped about his ex girlfriend. Ovaries before bro-varies my friends, even when the ovaries belong to a stranger.

Lesson learned: There is no way to predict what will happen after a date. People often don’t mean what they say, and they have a multitude of reasons for doing what they do. This date definitely contributed to my journey into cynicism.

**Author’s note: For those of you who are wondering about why I am blogging about something that happened around Halloween, please accept my apologies. I went on a man-bender for the last quarter of 2013, and got very distracted by W and some other gentlemen who I will write about shortly. The Chris Christie-esque traffic jam I’ve caused on this blog is one of the reasons I am trying to limit myself to one guy at a time in 2014. (Three weeks in, btw, and I am about .75 of a guy away from this goal. So TGFMA (thank god for my archives)!