I’ve been watching this reality show on TV called, “My Crazy Ex,” where people describe their most bizarre dates and partners, and the crazy things they’ve done. On the show I just recently watched, a clean-cut young man discussed how he’d chauffeured his new girlfriend around town one night so she could run into a few stores and do some quick shopping. He later found out (when he got arrested!) she’d actually been robbing the stores at gunpoint and he unknowingly had been driving the getaway car.
Too often, the show makes me recall some of the crazy dates I suffered through during my younger days. While they weren’t quite as bad as the ones featured on the TV program, I’m pretty sure they still would quality for a prominent place in the “Bad Dates Hall of Fame.”
One such date, for example, involved a guy named Bill. He was tall, good-looking, and managed a store in downtown Manchester. He always wore a business suit and tie and looked as if he’d just stepped off the cover of GQ magazine. I was 20 at the time and was a regular customer in his store. We always ended up chatting and sharing interesting conversations when I shopped there, and before long, I began to develop a crush on him. One day, he surprised me by asking me out.
“I want to treat you to the best steak dinner you’ve ever had,” he said.
Flattered and secretly thrilled, I accepted the invitation.
Believe me, never in my wildest imagination could I have guessed what kind of date it would turn out to be.
When the big day arrived, I spent hours getting ready. I must have tried on 10 different dresses, rejected all of them, and then tried them on again. About 30 minutes before Bill was due to pick me up, I finally selected a short black dress (“short” was all the rage back then) and black high heels. My mom even let me borrow her real gold earrings, because most of the earrings I owned had been bought at Woolworth’s and were in various stages of tarnish.
Bill arrived right on time. When I opened the door, I just stared at him. He was wearing a plaid short-sleeved shirt and khaki shorts. I’d never seen him in anything other than a business suit, and frankly, I hadn’t expected to see him wearing anything else – especially not on our big dinner date.
During the drive to dinner, Bill was relaxed and sociable. We never lacked for conversation, so my case of first-date jitters rapidly began to wane.
“OK, I’m dying to know,” I finally said to him, “where are we going for this so-called fantastic steak dinner of yours?” I’d thought of every upscale restaurant in the Manchester area…and realized we weren’t heading in the direction of any of them.
He smiled slyly. “It’s a surprise.”
He drove away from the city and toward Auburn, on a wooded road that ran along Lake Massabesic. Finally, he pulled into a small clearing and parked the car.
“Here we are!” he said.
Puzzled, I looked around. I saw woods and more woods. There wasn’t a restaurant within miles – not unless the squirrels and chipmunks were running it.
It was a summer night, so it still was light out, but that didn’t make me feel any less uneasy. I mean, some guy I’d never dated before had just driven me out to the woods after promising me the best steak dinner I’d ever had. Unless he knew of a secret herd of wild cattle grazing in the woods, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be eating a steak. Feeling panicky, I mentally calculated which part of his body I was going to kick first with my spiked high-heels.
Bill noticed my stricken expression and laughed, clearly amused.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I didn’t bring you out here for evil purposes. I promised you a great steak dinner, and I never break my promises!”
He then got out of the car and opened the back door, where he retrieved a brown paper bag and a blanket. He held them up so I could see them.
“I stopped at my favorite butcher’s shop and bought two of his best T-bone steaks,” he said, smiling. “There’s a makeshift stone fireplace down this path here. I’m going to cook up the steaks, and then we can sit on the blanket and eat them while looking out at the lake. No restaurant can give us that kind of atmosphere!”
He seemed genuinely excited about his plan. I, on the other hand, wondered if I had enough strength to shove a guy of his size into the lake. It turned out, I realized, he wasn’t some pervert – he was just incredibly cheap. I also realized I probably wasn’t the first girl he’d brought to this “special” spot of his.
Still, like a fool, I, high heels and all, walked down the trail with him. My pantyhose ended up covered with snags and runs, and every leaf, twig and mosquito I passed seemed to stick to my hairspray. Fortunately, the trail wasn’t very long or very far from the main road.
The view of the lake was as nice as Bill had described, but I’d have preferred to be seeing it while wearing jeans, a tee shirt and hiking boots…and about a gallon of mosquito repellent.
As I sat on the blanket, trying to discreetly swat at bugs and also cover my knees with my short dress, Bill set to work gathering twigs and small branches for a fire. Once the fire was blazing, he found two thin, straight branches about three feet long, then took a pocket knife out of his shorts pocket and whittled the branches into pointed sticks. He slid a slab of raw steak onto each one, then held them over the flames.
“Perfect!” he finally said about 10 minutes later, smiling with satisfaction at his culinary creation. He handed me one of the branches with the steak on it. “Time to dig in! I guarantee you’ll love it!”
Feeling totally ridiculous, I sat there, eating steak on a stick. No salt, no pepper, not a thing to go with it…not even anything to drink. Just steak on a stick. Even worse, he didn’t remember to bring any napkins. The grease stains never came out of my dress.
By the time we finished eating, the sun was starting to slowly make its descent. The scene was beautiful, picture-perfect. But the last place I wanted to be after dark was in the woods with Bill.
“Well, that was really good,” I said, rising to my feet and brushing off my dress (with my greasy hands). “But I do think we should get going now. I don’t want to be out here in the dark.” Before Bill could answer, I quickly added, “Every nocturnal animal that’s a carnivore probably will be rushing over here, searching for steak!”
He frowned at me, which indicated he wasn’t pleased. And the fact he wasn’t pleased made me nervous. I thought maybe I should bend down and pick up my steak stick, just in case I needed to use it for a weapon and shishkebob him with it.
“So what have you got planned for dessert?” I asked, attempting to sound lighthearted. “A trip to one of those farms where you pick your own strawberries?”
His frown deepened. “You didn’t really enjoy your dinner, did you?”
I decided to answer truthfully. “Well, it definitely wasn’t what I’d expected. I mean, I thought we’d be going to a nice restaurant…not a caveman’s cookout.”
“Sorry,” he said. “I’m the type who likes to do the unexpected.”
“Well, you definitely succeeded.”
So he put out the fire, rolled up the blanket and we left. Never was I so glad to get back home…unscathed.
A week later, Bill called to invite me out for another steak dinner.
“This time, it will be at a restaurant,” he said, chuckling. “How does Six Acres sound?”
Back then, Six Acres was a very popular and classy restaurant. Even stars like Frank Sinatra, Jr. ate there when in town. It was on the outskirts of the city, in a wooded area near yet another lake – Crystal Lake. I was beginning to think Bill was part duck.
So he and I went to Six Acres and had a wonderful time dining and dancing. And after that night, I no longer considered him to be a cheapskate. In my eyes, he definitely had redeemed himself.
But a couple days later, one of Bill’s employees tipped me off about why Bill was so fond of places that were far off the beaten path.
His wife was less likely to find him there.
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