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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Pre-date rituals

Confession: the original idea for this post was not my own. It came from a post on an awesome blog, Brunch for Every Meal, that LSD are now kind of obsessed with. Go check it out when you have a sec, just promise to come back even if you think Dara is funnier than me (spoiler alert: she is). After reading her hilarious recap of getting ready to go out, I was inspired to pull back the curtain and share my own pre-date rituals with you faithful readers. Here’s what typically goes down before a first date:

Morning of date, 10 am:  Hold a strategy meeting on gchat re: my upcoming date with 4-6 of my closest girlfriends. Review all possible scenarios and outcomes. Rate level of excitement from 1 (considering faking a bird flu outbreak) to 10 (actively naming our future children). Look at date’s profile one more time to ensure I remember his general story/deal, and also to increase the likelihood that I actually recognize him. This is an uphill battle, though, since we know from first hand experience that dates often show up with completely different identities.

11:00 am: Confirm with date via text that we’re still on. If either of us is going to bail, this is the last socially acceptable moment to do it.

3:05 pm: Read some online news to make sure I’m up on current events and ready for intelligent adult conversation.

6:15 pm: Arrive home from work. My apartment is three blocks from my office so I usually have time to change and primp a bit. And by change and primp, I mean eat pop chips and commence drinking.

6:30 pm: Put on some chill but upbeat jams, pour myself a glass of vino, munch on a snack, plug in my straightening iron and let the transformation begin*:

*Lazily re-straighten the front third of my hair and put on mascara. Not everyone has a Paolo.

6:45 pm: Pretend to consider my outfit options when in reality I 100% have a (boring) first date uniform: dark jeans, black top, dangly earrings, flats.

7:10 pm: Psych myself up. Seriously. Give myself a pep talk in the mirror, compliment myself on looking cute and being hilarious/charming, glug that last bit of Pinot Grigio, grab my purse and strut out the door. This routine sounds fairly cool, calm and collected, particularly the strut, but in reality it’s a bit closer to this:

7:15 pm: Phone a friend or my mom en route. Tell them I’m going on my date and if they don’t hear from me later tonight, to call Detectives Stabler and Benson and have them get right on my case.

7:25 pm Attempt to time my arrival perfectly. I’m actually usually early but in this case I try to be five minutes late, because I would much rather make an entrance than sit alone at a table/bar awkwardly looking up every time someone walks in. I’d like to think I’m pretty breezy about the whole dating thing, but those few minutes when I’m waiting for a date to arrive always manage to unglue me. Every single time I 100% think I’m being stood up and that everyone in the bar will know/pity me (I’d like you all to know I just spent 15 minutes searching youtube for the Sex and the City episode where Samantha gets stood up and is so upset she kisses a bus boy. Clearly I was unsuccessful.) Annnywayyy, avoiding a traumatic scene like that sometimes means walking super slowly and loitering on street corners like a lady of the night, but it’s a small price to pay for my sanity.

7:35 pm Outside the bar. My date’s (hopefully) in there. He might be my future husband. He might be in a mime costume. He might have a grenade in his pocket. Literally anything is possible. Take a deep breath. This could be great or awful, but it will probably be somewhere in between. All I can do is cross my fingers, pray I don’t do this, and hope for some blog material.

Safety tips from S and D, or how to avoid being murdered while online dating

Good morning, class. Today’s lesson is sponsored by our mothers. Specifically, S’s mom, who requested that we write a post on how to “be safe” while we navigate the world of internet dating. My initial reaction was: Ugggghhhh mom. I’m 28. I’m a grown ass adult and I can take care of myself. Also, no one wants to read a stupid PSA about watching your back and carrying super sized pepper spray which your dad insisted on giving you and your roommate multiple cans of when you moved into the city. But the more I thought about it, the more I decided it’s actually not a stupid idea at all because let’s face it, the internet can be a terrifying place. There is some effed up sh*t out there, and the three of us are doing our best to avoid becoming the subject of a Lifetime movie. So this is actually a totally appropriate blog topic. You were right, mom, just like you were right about me plucking my eyebrows too thin in middle school. Damn it.

So without further delay, we present to you S and D’s safety tips on how to avoid being murdered while online dating:

  • Look for profile red flags. Pure common sense. Obviously the reason online dating is so scary is people can (and do) make up whatever they want about themselves and there’s no way to 100% know what’s true and what’s not. Even so, before you say yes to meeting someone, go over their profile with a critical eye. Have they posted clear pictures of themselves? Do they mention alarming details about dead animals or collecting medieval style weapons? Do they give troubling answers to okc questions?

safety post                                          If so, for God’s sake run, don’t walk, to the next profile.

  • Use the buddy system. That is, make sure at least one other reliable human being knows about your date. It can be a parent, a close friend, a roommate, whatever, just make sure that someone knows you’re meeting x at y location (always a public place, obviously) at z time. Tell them as much as you can about your date (okc username is a smart thing to include) so if your ass goes missing, Munch and Fin can start cracking skulls.                                                                                  Munch_Fin_Noncompliance
  • Google the shit out of your dates. Sorry, boys, we don’t care if this makes us sound like stalkers. Believe it or not, we’re not dying for a glimpse at your LinkedIn profile to see where you interned in 2006 (okay I lied, we want to know that too, but it’s of secondary importance). We mainly want to confirm that you are who you say you are and that you seem to have some sort of traceable identity/history that doesn’t include being on a list of registered sex offenders. Obviously this isn’t foolproof before a first date… #1, I often don’t have the guy’s last name yet since I refuse to give out mine (see D’s tip below) and #2, if he has a super common name, this could prove difficult without much else to go off of. But it’s always worth a try. You may even find out some fun shit about the person that you’ll then accidentally reveal that you know on your date. What? That’s never happened to me.
  • Never give a first date your full name or address. I may be able to google them, but they can’t google me. Even on the first date, I don’t supply my last name. Unless he manages to see it when I’m ID-ed ordering a drink, that shit stays secret until at least the third date. I have a very unique last name. If you google my full name, I’m the only person that comes up. Granted, most of it’s uninteresting, and some of it’s not even true (I did not graduate from Holy Cross School in Springfield, MA in 1985 – I was 1). But there’s also my parents’ home phone number and other identifying info that no date needs to have before I’ve even met him. And he’s most certainly not finding out where I live until date #5 at the earliest. If I’m being completely honest, that’s 60% related to safety, and 40% related to my piss-poor housekeeping abilities. If we make it to a 5th date, I’m invested enough to put some effort into tidying up and stop treating half my couch like it’s a dresser.
  • Accuse every guy you go out with (half jokingly) of being a murderer and/or rapist. This has become my schtick. At some point on a first date, I will casually drop a “Hahaha let’s hope you’re not a serial killer! J slash k! Not really!” into the conversation. I am 100% serious. I can’t even remember a date where I haven’t done that. It sounds silly, but here’s my thought process… I throw it out there, and if by some chance the guy is a rapist or serial killer, one of the following will happen:
  1. I’ll be able to tell by his reaction.
  2. He’ll be too worried about my superior crime solving skills to go through with his plan.
  3. He’ll be so impressed with my intelligence that he’ll spare my life.

This is foolproof, I tell you. Foolproof. It’s science.

  • Carry a Weapon. Seriously. In the storage compartment of my driver’s side door is a giant blue maglite that my father gave me when I first got a car. It’s come in handy for lots of flashlight related things over the years – finding something I dropped in the dark, checking out the damage after hitting a deer, etc. But my father was also not shy about instructing me to use it as a weapon, if needed. Maglites are heavy. And if you grip the flashlight head, it stays in your hand easier. Swing that fucker at someone’s temple and he’ll go DOWN. That maglite gets transferred into my purse for first and second dates. It’s a good thing I have large purses. And as I mentioned, my dad literally ordered me enough industrial grade pepper spray to bring down the fleet of Budweiser Clydesdales when I moved to the city, so I carry one in every bag.                                                                                            Maglitepepper spray

Now here’s the six million dollar question you may be asking yourself: have we ever broken our own rules?

Mom, before I answer this, it’s been real but it’s time for you to click away now. In fact, all moms everywhere: please go turn on OWN while your kids have a little chat. Love you guys!

…………………

Yes, I’ve ignored my own advice. I’ve accepted a ride home after a date. Twice. Usually I’ll walk to the date location, so if at the end of the date it’s cold or raining, and the guy seems legit, and I plan to see him again, and he offers me a ride home, he may get an extra “LOL as long as you’re not about to chop me into little pieces HAHAHA seriously please don’t do that”, but mama’s not about to turn that offer down. I do make them drop me at the corner and drive away so they can’t see exactly where I live (seriously). Also, not to sound like a ho fo sho, but the car is an ideal first kiss/make out locale for those times when you don’t want to risk life and limb and invite a stranger over to your apartment. Speaking of…

I’ve gone back to an okc date’s place after a first date. Once. Get your minds out of the gutter; we literally didn’t even kiss. But this move resulted in perhaps my most absurd first date story of all time which, while PG, I’ve been hesitant to tell you all about since as you now know, my mom reads this blog. In hindsight this was a stupid and careless decision but hey, I made it out alive and got a pretty fantastic story out of it (truth – it’s a really great story).

So, I’m probably going to come off as a prissy, uptight chick here, but I actually haven’t broken any of these rules (aaaand now I feel like an irresponsible floozy). I haven’t ever accepted a ride. This is really related to the fact that I hate the T and drive almost everywhere, so I’m never really in a position to need a ride. I will most likely break this rule if/when I leave my car at home and give the T a chance to get back in my good graces. I’ve also never gone back to a dude’s place after a first (or second) date, no matter how legit the guy seems or how into him I am. This is partially a product of cases I hear about from my best friend who is a DA, as well as my own experience interning at the public defender’s office here in Boston (an internship I loved and the kind of work I hope to do again, but still, there are some seriously sketchy people out there). It is also partially a product of my troubling pattern of being deeply attracted to actual, convicted felons (who’s the real floozy here? feeling less irresponsible now S??) (Yes! A little. Thanks, D)

For example, I encountered the most attractive man I have ever met, still to this day, in a prison back in 2006 while studying abroad. I interned with a criminal defense firm in London, and one day went with a solicitor to a prison out in Devon to visit a client. The Brits seriously love their tea, and one of the cushiest gigs an inmate can get while serving his sentence is to serve tea to solicitors visiting with their clients. I ordered at least a dozen cups of tea during the hour or so meeting I had with our awful client, just so that stunning specimen of a human being would keep coming back into the room. (Unbenownst to both of us until the train ride back, the solicitor I was with was doing the same thing for the same reason. That beautiful, beautiful man came into our meeting room more than 20 times. It was magical.) S can vouch for the fact that I got back to our flat that day swooning HARD (It’s true. F’d up, but true). I have no idea what he did to land himself in a prison in rural England, but I would have gone home with him in a heartbeat (you know, had he had the option of walking out of the building like I did, minor detail). I 4000% still would if I ever saw him again. Knowing that about myself, I think it’s best to abide strictly to the don’t-go-back-to-his-place-on-the-first-date rule. There’s a good chance he’s done hard time.

What do you single ladies out there do to ensure you don’t become a human lampshade on a first date? Any tips or suggestions that we missed? Do you possess the same level of paranoia that we do about online dating, or are you more relaxed? Leave us a comment and let us know.