The last first date

Remember the movie 50 First Dates? It’s about a guy who falls in love with a girl. 

Simple plot, right? 

Wrong.

The girl has short-term memory loss. When the sun comes up, the two meet all over again—morning after morning after morning.

The comedic film would be a real-life horror.

I haven’t experienced a first date in a decade or four, but it’s not the kind of thing a girl (or guy) forgets. 

My first date jitters began with my father.

“If a boy comes to this house looking for you, I’ll meet him at the door with a baseball bat,” Dad said—more than once.

After I convinced myself that he was joking, I obsessed over what to wear. I mulled over what to say. My heart skipped a thump at the thought of holding hands. 

If the teeniest image of a goodnight kiss popped into my mind, there was no need to apply blush before the boy picked me up.

All that said, I doubt my first date anxiety compared to what current couples endure. From what I hear, today’s first dates are way more complicated than hand-holding and goodnight kisses.

Meeting potential suitors becomes more difficult post-college. Singles turn to online dating services like eHarmony, It’s Just Lunch, and OKCupid (not kidding).

If you want to get a friend’s attention, all you have to say is “I have a date tonight.”

That’s what my friend said after a tennis game a few years ago. 

We said, “Wait. What?” and she said, “I went through Match.”

Again, we said, “Wait. What?” 

I should have said, “Excuse yourself to the bathroom at the first negative sign. Text me. I’ll give you time to get back to your table before I call with an emergency.” 

But I was not savvy enough on the subject of Internet match-making to think of that one. Match was fairly new and scarier than scary to the rest of us. 

I knew all about blind dates. But for me, a blind date meant a double date—a friend pairing me up with her boyfriend’s friend.

As our friend drove away and toward her “Match” date, we discussed plans to trail her to ensure her safety.

In the end, we prayed—a lot. Our friend is now happily married to her Match-guy.

Lately, I’ve been reminded of my very last first date.

Twice within a six-day span—my husband and I dined at Muriale’s. Maybe you know Muriale’s. It’s a highly regarded Italian restaurant in north-central West Virginia.

It had been a long while since we had revisited the site of our first date. Making time to frequent cool spots in neighboring towns isn’t easy. 

Another one of life’s unsolved mysteries. 

Gary and I pulled into the restaurant parking lot. A large building with seating for hundreds of people sprawled before us. 

But that’s not what I saw.

I saw one room, now the entryway where the hostess stand is located. That small room—no additions to either side—was the whole of Muriale’s at the time of my first date with my now husband.

I saw two teenagers seated at one of the six or seven total tables. Nervous laughter connected the sentences they managed between bites of her spaghetti and his rigatoni. 

I saw him gallantly pay the check. He opened the car door for her and took her to a movie: All the President’s Men. So romantic.

He did not attempt a goodnight kiss that night. Pierre, her terrier mix, wouldn’t let him.

She floated inside and found her Dad, waiting.

“He took me to Muriale’s and a movie,” she gushed.

“Muriale’s AND a movie? You let that poor boy spend that kind of money. Did you offer to help him pay?” 

This from the baseball bat Dad.

And, no, I did not offer to help pay.

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