When I first moved to New York City, I did what any single person would: I downloaded Tinder. And, like many users, I went on bad date after bad date. My “settled” friends got a kick out of my stories. Tales of disappointing evenings became my party trick.
One winter, I met a very interesting character. For privacy’s sake, I’ll call him Nick. After chatting for a couple of weeks on the app, he sent me a Facebook video introducing himself. Weird, certainly, but I thought the extra effort was a nice touch. We decided to meet.
After discovering our mutual love for mac and cheese, Nick picked the perfect dinner spot for our first date—Beecher’s. We arrived and put our names in for a table. While we waited, Nick ordered us a tasting tray of cheeses. Classy, I thought.
Once his name was called, we followed a hostess downstairs to a dimly lit room aptly named “The Cellar,” where we were shown to our table. That’s when things started to get interesting.
We were seated uncomfortably close to the couple next to us. After politely nodding and smiling my way through their small talk, I began to skim the cocktail menu.
“Are you ordering a drink?” I asked Nick, while trying to decide what a hip, young New Yorker might order. The response that followed was something I will never forget.
“Oh, no, I have to be in a toga in two weeks.”What? Was I on a date with some New York frat god? (And if so, kill me now.) Nick continued: He was an actor who was gearing up to go on a tour with his theatre troupe, where he would star in a show described as “Greek theatre for kids.” We ordered two waters.
When the waitress returned and inquired about food, we selected what we came for: “The World’s Best Mac and Cheese.” After a few awkward minutes that felt like hours, our double order of cheesy pasta arrived.
“Smells good!” the husband next to us exclaimed. Aren’t you two done yet? I thought. Between bites, I begrudgingly learned more about Nick’s acting career. The cast-iron pan of pasta before me became my saving grace. The more tired I grew of our one-sided conversation about abs and acting, the more solace I found in my mac.
“In two weeks, I’ll be gone for three months with one other girl from my theatre troupe!”
As I took my first few bites, the rich and creamy cheese sauce greeted my tongue with just the right amount of tang.
“For my day job, I work at Equinox!”
The baked bread crumbs on top added the perfect amount of crunch.
“I’m really not that nervous to be in a toga again. I think I’m prepared for it.”
The cheese pulled beautifully as I lifted my fork from the pan.
Finally, after about 45 minutes, we finished up and split the check. Nick and I walked back up the stairs of what suddenly felt less like a cellar and more like a bad-date dungeon. After a short goodbye that involved an uncomfortable hug on the street, we parted ways. A few days later, I received a long “I think we’d make better friends” text. My response was short but polite: “I appreciate your honesty. Good luck with your toga.”
Months later, presumably after he completed his tour, I received an out-of-the-blue text from Nick, who for whatever reason made attempts to bond, yet again, over our mutual favorite food: “Not sure how I feel about this yet,” read his message, followed by an image of the latest Lay’s potato chip flavor: Cheddar Mac and Cheese.
We never spoke again.
Illustration by Tom Bingham