About a week before I went to T.G.I. Fridays with Kara, my friend, Steve, and I were discussing our requirements in a boyfriend/girlfriend. Having ended a tortuous 4-year relationship two years prior, I was ready to return to the dating scene from my self-imposed sabbatical. I was smarter and more confident in what I wanted. In fact, I had it narrowed down to two requirements:
1. He had to like art and museums.
2. He had to remember I was lactose intolerant.
And no, the prior boyfriend could never seem to remember I was lactose intolerant during roughly 1,460 days of our relationship.
Steve was concerned my list of requirements couldn’t weed out the riffraff, but there was a method to my madness. I felt a museum lover would be reasonably intelligent; less likely to spend Monday nights smashing beer cans against his forehead, if you will. More to the point, we would have something in common and share similar interests and hobbies. Someone who remembered I was lactose intolerant would be caring, attentive, and not self-involved. I was looking for the opposite of everyone I had ever dated.
I thought it was genius; Steve remained unconvinced. One week later, I walked into T.G.I. Fridays with Kara and unwittingly put my requirements to the test.
Kara and I were sitting at the table in the bar area debating what to eat while The Mister served drinks to the regulars sitting at the bar. I knew I had to stick with diet coke or water since I had class in less than an hour.
“So, ladies,” the Mister asked from his post behind the bar, “what can I get for you?”
I looked at him looking at me, opened my mouth and said, “I’ll take a shot of tequila, please.”
Kara grinned into her menu. A regular spun around in his seat, took one look at me, and chuckled.
“Well, alright,” and the Mister also chuckled. “What kind can I get you?”
I didn’t really care, so I asked for Cuervo 1800, which was on special.
“You don’t want that.” The Mister said firmly.
“Really. Is that a fact.” He had caught my eye, but not my tongue. “And why are you so sure?”
“Because it’s not good Tequila, so you’re just paying for a heavily marketed label. If you want to come over here, I can explain to you the different types of Tequila and how it’s produced.”
And that is when I left my perch in the safety zone and walked over to the bar, trying to ignore the smiles and elbowing going on by the regulars. The Mister placed several different bottles of Tequila on the bar and explained at length the production process. He explained the difference between silver and gold; añejo and reposado; American brands, Mexican brands; and the best climate for the agave plant. All of a sudden, the cocky, backwards-cap-wearing bartender had turned into a nerdy scientist and I, who spent hours as a child reading the encyclopedia for fun, was immediately and hopelessly smitten. It was geek love.
I had one shot of tequila and maybe another drink. I never did make it to class. But, I did call Steve from the parking lot to tell him I met the man I was going to marry.
I spent the next couple of weeks going to T.G.I. Fridays with various friends, all of them curious to catch a glimpse at the first guy to ever make me gush. I made sure we sat in the dining room, far away the bar. We never saw him, until one night when I was there with my friend, Tiffany. I was walking back from the bathroom to my table, minding my own business when some rude punk all but screamed in my ear, “MOVE IT, OR LOSE IT!”
I turned around to watch The Mister rush past me with two arms full of hot plates.
I returned to the table and told Tiffany I saw him, but that it wasn’t going to work out. “I couldn’t possibly marry a guy with thighs thinner than mine.” Tiffany agreed it was a deal breaker and that I had made the right decision.
A month or two later, Kara wanted to go to Fridays. Again. I told her no way. She begged and pleaded and promised we would not go anywhere near the bar. I told her since I was wearing old jeans and a slouchy sweater plus didn’t have time to do my hair or put on makeup that I would only go if she went in first and made sure the Mister was not working in the bar, which sat in plain view of the front door. Not that I was interested, but still.
To her credit, she lived up to her part of the bargain. She scoured the bar for any signs of him and, finding the coast clear, waved me in. Almost immediately we were seated. I all but dove into my seat in the booth and tucked myself into the corner, slouching to prevent anyone from the bar seeing a hair on my head.
The hostess handed us our menus, smiled sweetly and said, “Your server, The Mister, will be with you in just a minute.” No. No, no, no. NO and NO and HELL NO. I told Kara she was on her own, grabbed my purse to leave and started sliding out of my seat. When I looked up, there was The Mister. I could tell he recognized us immediately. I wanted to die. DIE. Jeans, no makeup, slouchy-90s-sweater-DIE.
I smiled and said hi, like there was no one on Earth I wanted to see more than a cocky server with skinny thighs.
I couldn’t leave, so we ordered dinner and drinks. He was friendly and chatted with both us in between serving tables. Nerves kept me from eating anything more than the ice in my very stiff drinks. I hadn’t planned on ordering drinks, so I had to go use the ATM and get more cash. When I returned, the Mister was kneeling next to Kara talking, and it occurred to me he liked her and not me. He left immediately upon my arrival, leaving Kara looking guilty.
“I think that guy wants to…” Kara never got to finish her sentence because the Mister was back, and this time he sat next to me.
We had the world’s most stilted conversation. We might have said, “Hey,” twenty two million times. Then he looked at me and said, “Well, I like you. I was wondering if you would like to meet up someplace and have coffee.”
To which I responded, “I don’t drink coffee.”
Because that’s exactly what you say when someone you like and kind-of-sort-of stalked (before you saw his thighs) asks you out on a date.
The Mister looked a little surprised, but didn’t miss a beat.
“Okay,” He said, smiling. “Do you like art? Would you like to go to the LA County Museum of Art with me?”
Why, yes. Yes I would.