A few years back I met a guy named Justin on Plenty of Fish. At least, I’m going to call him Justin because this date happened so long ago that I don’t actually remember. But there is one thing that sticks out in my mind: The nickname. Let me explain.
I met Justin at a wine bar in Hollywood for drinks. We had been chatting on POF for a little over a week and he was pretty forward about wanting to get together in person. He gave me his number right away but I had stuck to messaging on the app, so he didn’t have my number. I agreed to meet him for a drink. When I parked, he messaged me via POF to tell me he was there and would meet me out front. As I walked up, I saw a tall, slightly bearded white guy wearing a cowboy hat. And boots. Bold move. At least in LA, or anywhere outside of Texas, really. He smiled when he saw me coming and greeted me with a big hug. I was slightly overwhelmed by him right away, but I also had not been on too many online dates before so I chalked it up to my own general apprehension.
We went inside the bar and he picked a high-top counter towards the back for us to sit. He didn’t ask me if I liked that spot, just told me where to sit. It felt a little pushy. Mostly because he picked the most uncomfortable bar stools in the whole place, (especially when one is wearing a dress) and I would have suggested literally any other seat, had he asked. But he didn’t. Not that big of a big deal, but it did sort of set the tone for the date.
We sat down and the waitress came and grabbed our order. I got a glass of wine, he got a beer. And then we talked. Well, I should say, he talked. A lot. I learned everything there was to know about this man, including the fact that he was not actually a cowboy. He told me about his childhood, his high school experience, how he joined the military after high school, and pretty much everything up to present day. He worked at The Improv comedy club doing lights and sound, which I thought was pretty cool. I tried to ask more questions about that but he clearly preferred to talk about his military experience. I have the utmost respect and gratitude for his service, but I can’t relate to it on a personal level so it turned into him talking at me for about an hour straight.
I would nod and say “Uh-huh” or “Wow” or “What?!” at the appropriate times, and he would just keep talking. Sometimes he would acknowledge that I had in fact spoken with a small nod of the head, or curling up the corner of his mouth just the slightest bit. So you CAN hear me… But he just kept talking. I felt like I could have been a wall, or a chalkboard, or more likely a mirror, and he would have just kept talking at me all the same. He clearly wasn’t looking for feedback or any sort of back and forth. It was almost like he had rehearsed all of this and he had to power through it before he forgot it all. Like a monologue. By the time I finished my wine he had barely touched his beer. Hard to drink when you’re talking nonstop. I ordered another glass of wine.
Now, grown up me now knows that I shouldn’t have ordered that wine because it sent the signal that I was enthralled by his stories and wanted to stay longer and hear more of them. But little me (you know, 25-year-old me) just needed a glass in order to have something to do with my hands. This guy was talking so much I was trying not to fall asleep. Maintain eye contact. Head up. Don’t yawn. I needed something to keep me busy, alert. Not that wine made me alert, but the prospect of having a glass in my hand that would spill were I to fall asleep mid story did. I drank my wine. He blabbered on.
Then came an unusual moment that has only ever happened on this date. Justin decided that we should give each other nick names. I laughed it off. Don’t you have to know someone to give them a nickname? He was serious. I said “You don’t know enough about me to give me a nickname,” and he just laughed that off. I’m a fan of nicknames in general and I give them to my friends all the time. I have different nicknames from different people as well. I think nicknames are great, but they usually happen organically. You can’t just look at someone you barely know and give them a nickname because you want to. Well, you can, but it’s probably not going to be one that they’ll ever use again.
But he was set on it. He looked into my eyes, then looked me up and down, smirked at me, and said “I’m gonna call you Tiger.” He sat back, crossed his arms, looking pleased with himself. “How you doing, Tiger?” He looked at me waiting for praise, for me to say “Oh my gosh! It’s like you know me!” But I didn’t. Because, come on guys, it was pretty lame. Tiger is a nickname for a child, not a grown woman. It’s what a 1950s Dad would call his son when they were playing catch in the backyard. It’s like Sport, or Kiddo, at least in my mind. “Go get ‘em Tiger!” is the only thought in my head when I hear the nickname Tiger.
I looked at him, unimpressed. “How’d you come up with that?” I queried. “I don’t know, I just did.” He was so satisfied with himself. And unfortunately for me, the nickname stuck. He called me Tiger for the rest of the night. Looking back, maybe he forgot my name halfway through and decided to give me a nickname as a cover? If that’s the case, it was a smoother move than I realized. But I’m gonna go ahead and make fun of him for it instead, cool?
Once he finished his beer and I finished my wine, I got up to go to the restroom. When I came back, he was not at the counter anymore. I thought he had ditched me at first, and was feeling a bit relieved to be honest. But then I saw him waving at me from the couch. He had taken it upon himself to move over to the couches and order me another glass of wine. Damnit.
Some of you might be thinking “Well that’s sweet, what’s wrong with that?” and find me ungrateful. But here’s the thing; this was a first date. I hadn’t spoken two words and this guy hadn’t checked in with me, hadn’t asked me anything about myself, hadn’t gauged whether or not I was enjoying myself. He just moved to the couch and ordered more drinks because HE wanted to. It was a power move and it made it much more difficult for me to just say good night and walk out the door. If we had been dating for a while and he knew that I enjoyed his company and would want a third glass of wine, then yes, this is a thoughtful move. But on a first date, when I didn’t know him, it just felt like he had decided for me that I was going to stay.
I made my way over to him reluctantly; scouting the door to see if I could sneak out without him seeing me. I would never actually do that because I’m not a dick, but the thought crossed my mind. When he saw me he put his arm out and motioned for me to sit next to him, rubbing the couch cushion. Like, right next to him. Real close. FYI dudes, this is another creepy move when you do it to someone you barely know. I just looked at him for a second. “I got you another glass of pinot” he said, trying to tempt me to sit down. “I have to drive, you know” I reminded him. He dismissed that as if I had told him something completely irrelevant. “Just sit with me, come on, Tiger.” I quelled the urge to throw up in my mouth and went to the bar to get a water.
I came back and warily sat down, placing my purse in between us. I had it between his thighs and mine, very much on purpose, so that he couldn’t scoot any closer to me. And you know what this motherfucker did? He picked up my purse, moved it, and literally said “Let’s just get this wall out of the way here” as he reached over me to set it behind me on the couch. Again, gentlemen, and ladies for that matter, READ THE ROOM. This is a recurring theme in my stories and I hope it will make at least one person more cognizant of the fact that a date is a two-person activity. It’s not all about you and what you want.
Once he moved my purse, I tensed up a bit. I was just trying to maintain my personal space. My bubble. He did not pick up on that. He put his arm around me and tried to pull me into him, and I ducked out from under his arm and sat back up. “I’m good like this” I said. He chuckled at me, looked at me like I was a horse that needed to be broken. I could see it in his face: Challenge accepted. Oh no.
He began his second monologue of the night, occasionally putting his hand on my thigh, or scooting closer. I continued to rebuff his advances and would scoot a tiny bit farther away from him each time. I was getting dangerously close to the end of the couch. Once I finished my water, I told him I needed to go home. I tried to leave quickly so as to avoid the cumbersome walk to my car and subsequent farewell, but he was too quick. He had already paid the bill and he jumped up to walk me out.
As we walked to my car, he put his arm around me. “This was really fun, Tiger. We should do it again sometime.” “Thank you for the drinks” I deflected. We arrived at my car. I started to walk around to the driver’s side but he grabbed my hand, pulled me towards him, and kissed me. I pulled back quickly. “Okay have a good night” I murmured as I turned away again. I walked around the car and as I opened the door to get in, he said “I’m gonna call you, Tiger. You better believe it!” I laughed as I saw the realization come over his face that he didn’t actually have my number. “Oh wait, you have to call me! You better call me, Tiger!” I laughed some more as I waved and drove off into the sunset. Well, down Sunset Boulevard anyway.
Epilogue: One of my coworkers at the time was a comedian who performed at the Improv regularly. She asked about my date and when I told her that he worked there, it turned out that she knew him. I told her how the date went and she laughed. A lot. She asked him about the date the next time she saw him and got quite a different version from him. According to Justin, I was nervous, shy, and immature; not uncomfortable and disinterested. He said that it was kind of a turn off and that he wasn’t really interested in seeing me again. Cool cool. The feeling is mutual, Tiger.