Outside the restaurant after dinner, Jeremy seems as shy as I am, toeing the pavement with his hands in his pockets. Okay, maybe not as shy. He can make eye contact without blushing. He’s the ‘oh, isn’t he sweet’ kind of shy, while I’m more the ‘oh, she has trouble functioning in society’ kind. He seems my speed. Slow. Three-legged turtle on a glacier slow. He’s nice too. Non-threatening. Safe.
Dinner was only mildly awkward, a raging success in the relative terms of my dating life. But it’s the end of the night and this is the part I hate.
What do we do now?
Shake hands? No, that’s weird.
“I had a good time tonight,” Jeremy chirps with an innocent smile on his lips. Meanwhile, my stomach is trying to turn itself inside out. Calm down, Elizabeth.
He’s far from my dream guy, being barely taller than me at all of five foot nothing. He can only be considered ‘in shape’ if you mean round. He’s never going to grace the cover of GQ, or even Wired. I don’t care. I want him—anyone—to sweep me off my feet. I want to feel something—anything— other than this paralyzing fear.
My palms are sweaty. My heart’s beating faster than if I’d run a marathon. My brain has unfortunately kicked into hyperdrive.
What if I have something stuck in my teeth?
What if my breath smells like onions?
What if my deodorant stopped working?
What if I’m a bad kisser?
What if I think he’s going in for a kiss, but he’s actually just going in for a hug and we do that awkward back-and-forth dance, resulting in knocking our heads together?
My stomach continues its acrobatics, tying itself into knots. I wrap my arms around myself, silently pleading for it to settle. I’m unaware of the pinched shape my face must’ve taken on when he asks with genuine concern, “Are you okay?”
I can’t tell him I’m freaking out, so I lie. Admittedly, not something I’m particularly good at.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” I try to pull off a nonchalant shrug and say the first thing that pops into my head. “Just a little gassy. You know, Mexican food…”
You did NOT just say that!
Jeremy’s soft smile falls into a disgusted frown.
“Right,” he says. He eyes his car in the parking lot, undoubtedly eager to get away from my train wreck of a personality.
“I had a nice time, too,” I try to backpedal.
He gives me a forced smile. Now who looks gassy? This guy’s officially lost interest. Can’t say I blame him.
“Well, it’s getting pretty late.” He backs away with a wave, clearly avoiding any physical contact at this point. “Have a nice night, Elizabeth.”
“You too, Jeremy.” I return the awkward wave and make my way home, my head hanging in shame the whole way.
The second my front door shuts behind me, I beeline for my computer. I pull on my headset and stare at the video chat window, waiting for Jackie to answer. Jackie is my best—and only—friend. With bright red hair and a nose ring, she’s also my complete opposite. She’s a fierce and feisty woman, the human equivalent of a chihuahua. Small but bossy, Jackie is hellbent on conquering the world. So. Not. Me. I hate being noticed and try to fly under the radar. She loves being the center of attention and ends up bossing everyone around. I count on her for brutal, unabridged honesty.
“¿Qué pasa, chica? That’s Spanish for sup, girlie? Thought you could use a little culture in your life.” Jackie’s megawatt smile and flaming red locks light up my screen. The smile fades when she sees the defeat stamped across my face. Or, is it loser stamped on my forehead? Or, maybe twenty-one-year-old virgin?
“Hey, what’s with the sad face?” Her voice drags my brain away from contemplating facial tattoos to commemorate my failures and back to the real world.
“I had my date tonight with Jeremy.”
She stares at me blankly. “Who the fuck is Jeremy?”
“You know, CommanderUxorious?” His username finally sparks recognition in her eyes.
“Oooohhhh, that geekalicious noob you’ve been chatting with for…” She pauses, taking an overly dramatic deep breath before adding, “Fooooreeeeveeeer?”
“Shut up. It hasn’t been that long. Only six months.”
“That’s three times the life expectancy of one of my relationships. So, was he hot?”
I try to think of a nice way to describe Jeremy. “He’s kinda cute. In a hobbitish sort of way.”
“Hobbitish? What the fuck does that mean? Like hairy feet and a fetish for second breakfast?” Jackie asks with a chuckle.
“Well, he’s kind of short. And hairy. And chubby. He reminds me of a hobbit. Not in a bad way. Or maybe a guinea pig?”
“Sweet baby Jesus, stop. No. Just no. You can’t be hobbitish in a good way. No one wants to fuck Frodo. Could you imagine screaming Harder, Baggins, harder!”
She makes crazy sex noises, moaning and slapping her desk à la Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally. I’m desperate to hold back my smile, but I can’t. The second she sees me cracking, she goes full tilt.
“Oh, your feet are so big and hairy. Give it to me, baby! Take me to Mordor. Destroy that ring!” We both burst out laughing. I laugh until my sides hurt and my eyes are watering.
“My precious! My precious!” Jackie finishes with a flourish, leans back in her chair and smokes an imaginary post-coital cigarette. “So, what happened? Did you show him your hobbit hole?”
Jackie knows me well enough to hear the embarrassment in my voice. And, in true Jackie style, she calls me on it.
“Lizzy, what did you do?” She uses the nickname she knows I hate just to be a brat. Like I’m the family dog that got into the trash. She’s disappointed, a twinge angry maybe, but in no way surprised.
This isn’t my first colossal disaster of a date. Epic failure is kind of my thing.
“I-I…” I stutter, thinking of how to explain. “I might have told him I was gassy.” I hide my face in my hands, sure I’m turning redder than Jackie’s hair. She’s still laughing when I finally peek through my fingers. Keeled over in hysterics, she nearly falls off her chair. Luckily, almost cracking her head open sobers her a bit.
With a few deep breaths, she composes herself. “What, and hobbits aren’t into that? Guess you won’t be hearing from him again any time soon.”
“Seriously, Jackie, what’s wrong with me?”
“So many things, my child. So very many things.”
“I’m serious. We had so much in common. We spent two hours debating AMD versus Nvidia.”
“Oh, gee. Graphics cards. What a panty dropper.”
“I thought he was perfect. Respectful. Sweet. Mild-mannered—” Jackie’s obnoxious fake snore interrupts me. “And even with him, I freak out and ruin it! Why am I so pathetic?” I drag my fingers through my hair and tug at the roots until it almost hurts.
“You’re not pathetic,” Jackie assures me, albeit with derision and frustration in her voice. “You spent six months building this spectacularly boring guy up in your head and you’re surprised when he comes up short? Pun intended.”
“Why can’t I meet a nice guy and not freak out when it comes to the physical stuff? I can’t even kiss a guy.” I bang my head on my desk in classic toddler-meltdown fashion.
“Darling, sweetie, beautiful, light of my life, you know I love you, right? I mean in the strictly BFF way. I don’t do Taco Tuesday.”
“I love you too. And, eww.”
“Lizbit, listen to your momma Jackie. You don’t need a nice guy. You need a sexy filthy man who won’t just pop your cherry—he’ll obliterate it. You need to get fucked. Then it won’t seem like a big deal.”
I shake my head, almost losing my headset in the process. “It’s not that easy.”
“Yep. It really is.” Jackie holds up one hand in a circle and moves the index finger of her other hand back and forth through it. Classy.
“It’s not. Not for me. I get stuck in my head and overthink things. I get all panicked and say something stupid that ruins it. Like I’m gassy!”
Jackie lets out a quick chuckle at the reminder of my ineptitude. “That’s because you’re going out with hobbits! But yeah. Don’t say that again. You need someone so fucking hot you turn your brain off and think with your pussy for once.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“It means dress slutty, go to a bar, find a guy who gives you a lady boner and ride him until he’s dry.” She gives me a shoulder shrug. “Easy.”
“That’s so not me. That’s never going to happen.” I shudder, panic trickling up my spine at the idea.
I don’t do slutty.
I don’t do bars.
I don’t do riding.
“Well, I guess you’ll be a virgin forever then. Is it too late to switch your major from pre-med to religious studies? You’d make an awesome nun.”