How Improv Got Me Through The Worst Date Of My Life

katie-bad-dateIt was like any other Tinder date: a Friday night with zero expectations. I was still riding an improv high from the night before—the kind where late night laughs propel you through the sludge of a 9-5.

I was even saying “Yes And” to everything that day. (“Yes I’ll wear a dress! AND comb my hair!. YES! I’ll have a bagel for breakfast AND lunch! “)

Things were looking up for this ol’ improviser.

I actually happened to be excited for this one. His texting banter was spot on, (a skill which I’m learning is actually not that difficult to perfect) and we took turns poking fun at the ridiculousness of our mutual advertising speak. And even though I had cancelled on his ass two times prior because I just had more important things to do than go on a Tinder date, statistically speaking, I was due for a home run. (Insert image of a man swinging and imaginary bat and clicking his tongue.)

I arrived to immediate disappointment. He was much older than his lying NOT 25-year-old-ass claimed on his profile. Not that I’m against dating older men, but let’s just say he was WAY older than he should have been, given his profile. Strike 1 for the Shifty Tinder Magician.

It also took him about 15 minutes to “send an email right quick,” and order himself a drink. Being a self-respecting adult with zero patience for shenanigans on a Friday, I had already purchased and consumed half my Alagash White by the time he slid his stupid Android in his back pocket of his terrible white-washed jeans and asked the bartender what was on draft.

Deep down in my heart, I knew this guy wasn’t my future husband. Actually, my brain, my toes, my face, my knuckle hair, my radius and ulna–literally every part of my body, knew he wasn’t even worth a second drink. But I had my improve instructor’s (Jason Shotts) voice in my head from the night before: “You don’t have to be interesting. You have to be Interested.” So I put on the  “Yea Yea Yea” Hat and stepped into the Lion’s Den.

We covered most first date topics. After he promptly told me my taste in music was “stoner music” (Alt-J, Jack White, Led Zeppelin), he proved his taste was that of a 13-year-old girl by showing me all the Katy Perry he had on his cell phone.  (“Yea, yea, yea, Dark Horse is totally a great song. Yea, yea, yea.”)

He asked me about my passions. I told him about my dreams of writing and starring in my own sitcom and he chuckled like a Mall Santa, said, “good luck” and raved about his aspiring career path of Project Management, but like, Corporate. Of course. (“Yea, yea, yea, money is definitely the most important thing in life. Yea, yea, yea. Corporate jobs aren’t boring at all. Yea, yea, yea.”)

The grip on my pint glass was getting stronger by the moment. And then he asked the Question.

Him: “So, when was the last time you were in a relationship?”

Me: “Um, (Ha, guess we’re doing this.)… it’s been about 5 years.”

Him: “Oh, so you choose to be alone.”

Me: “What?”

Him: “I feel like if girls just show up and are agreeable, they could have a boyfriend.”

My mind swirled with responses. (“Yea, yea yea yea, standards are pointless! You’re so right man, what was I thinking? I’ll go back and say yes to the married guy I met on a boat earlier this summer who was very into this. –NO AVOID CONFLICT, KATIE. AVOID. CONFLICT.”) I bit my tongue.

Him: “I mean guys will ask girls to buy them drinks at bars and they just turn them down. It’s like, well what do you want then?”

Me: “Yeah, guys don’t ask to buy me drinks.”

Him: “….What do you mean?”

Me: “I mean I don’t get approached in bars. Guys will ask the blonde that’s 15 pounds skinnier than me if she wants a drink but I never get approached.”

Him: “Yeah, that makes sense. Though, guys don’t go for 75% of what they could have.”

If there was ever a temptation to delve into conflict, this would’ve been the point.

A million arguments rushed to the tip of my tongue.

  • You’re basically calling me too overweight to be attractive.
  • You’re out with me right now so, are you just desperate?
  • You’re a dick and the world would be a better place if your jaw got broken by my surprisingly giant fist, then wired shut so you never speak ever again.
  • Etcetera.

I remembered a nugget of knowledge from another one of my instructors, Jorin Garguilo: “Don’t dump piranha tanks on each other.”  And another, “Practice not being a dick as much as possible.” Wise words from a wise man. The Tinder Magician could break both of these rules and dump tanks of piranhas on me. But in my heart of hearts, I could not.

After a very long, deep breath, and the second half of my Alagash White, I simply cleared my throat and made him sit in the silence. In my mind, I had walked to the opposite side of the stage, as far as humanely possible from him, and waited.

He finally took the first step towards me.

Him: “You think I’m an asshole don’t you.”

Me: “No.”

Him: “I just meant that people never think they’re good enough.”

Me: “That’s an entirely separate conversation and not what you said. But okay.”

We swiveled our chairs to face the bar and the mirror stained with the many faces that had come in and out of this bar over the years. I was in deep contemplation of my life choices. He was probably figuring out where he could possibly get a bigger watch.

Him: “So you want another drink?”

Me: “Sure.”

The scene played out for a couple more beats but I can’t be sure what else we begrudgingly talked about. I was on Improv Autopilot: n., the act conversing with someone well enough to come across as genuine, but actually not giving two shits.

We said out goodbyes as I sprinted into my Uber. I lied when I said it was nice meeting him. I also lied when he asked if I’d want to go out again. When I got home, I deleted Tinder. And Hinge. And Coffee Meets Bagel. (And accidentally Netflix.) I decided to focus on what truly makes me happy: comedy. If I could get through the Dating Nightmare on Kinzie, this journey is going to be a walk in the park.

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