It happened to me: I went on a date with a bro.

And, weirdly, I was really excited about this date. I can’t totally explain why, except he had a huge smile in his pictures and he used a lot of exclamation points and said things like “Cool beans!”—which no, is not something I recommend, but combined with his smile, it made me feel like I was going to have a good time—even if I didn’t like him. Even if I didn’t want to. Which, isn’t that the point of this whole thing? To be forced to enjoy the company of others?

Dating! When you’d rather watch Netflix but make yourself act like a human with a normal amount of emotions and desire for companionship!

The day of the date, I sent him a message.

Me: …do you have a beard or no beard right now? Trying to up my chances of recognizing you!

Him: Hahaha right? No beard right now… I’ll probably just be in chill clothes or something. I’ll keep you posted!

Me to my sister: What do you think chill clothes means?!?

My sister: Haha. Matt thinks sweatpants. I think he means it’s a casual event so he doesn’t know what he’s going to wear. Which he shared with you in a particularly hilarious way.

Me: Pretty happy with this date so far. And it hasn’t happened yet.

Let’s keep in mind this is Date #13. I must have been getting complacent, because I made a rookie mistake. I didn’t eat dinner early enough. All of a sudden, I had a half hour before my 8 pm date. Don’t eat? Try to find a snack on the way? Like an idiot, I opted for showing up at the restaurant early, ordering, and hoping my food comes in time for me to eat it—all before he gets there.

Hahaha. Yeah, right.

He showed up around the same time my salad did. I really was at the point of not caring. Plus, it’s just hard to feel like someone who says “Cool beans!” is going to be too hard about minor points of super awkward etiquette. He was broad-shouldered and well-muscled and wearing shorts and a t-shirt (chill clothes?). He looked—let’s just say it—like sort of a bro. And then he had such a sweet, big smile and deep, low rumbly voice.

Oh, I thought. Right. This is a date. I might like him? Woah, wait, what?

And: stupid salad.

As we talked, it gradually dawned on me that he had two responses to everything I said.

1. That’s awesome.

2. That’s crazy.

Me: “Yeah, I grew up here.”

Him: “That’s awesome.”

Me: “I work in communications.”

Him: “That’s crazy.”

Sometimes—if things got really exciting—he combined them.

Me: “I’ve been reading food memoirs.”

Him: “That’s awesome. That’s crazy.”

Well, I thought, maybe he’s just nervous. Dates are nerve-wracking. And even though I’m so overly comfortable with this whole process that I’m shoving giant pieces of Romaine lettuce and garlic into my mouth right now, and he isn’t even eating, maybe he hasn’t been on 12 dates in 12 weeks, or whatever insane schedule I’ve kept to.

As we got deeper into the conversation, his responses got longer. And he ordered mac’n’cheese. Ok, I thought, we’re settling into it.

Me: “I almost always prefer the book to the movie. And by almost always I mean always. It seems to me one exception might be Game of Thrones. I’m not sure the books add much. It’s mostly action, and the style of writing isn’t spectacular on its own.” Note: I have neither read the books nor watched the show; I’m just an asshole who offers opinions on things I know nothing about.

Him: “I thought the books were interesting. There’s quite a bit of landscape description in them. But yeah, I can see how you don’t really lose anything when you translate to the show. …That’s crazy.”

Me: “Even The Hunger Games—which is another action-oriented series—lost quite a bit.”

Him: “Yeah I really thought we missed quite a bit of Katniss’s character development and her interior motivation.”

Me: You read the books of both those series?!

Him: “Plus, The Hunger Games really are well-written and are elevated somewhat by having access to the author’s voice and style.”

Me: Don’t say it don’t say it don’t say—

Him: “…That’s awesome.”

Me: Sigh.

To his credit, he is the first and only person who has looked me dead in the eye and done this:

Him: Do you come here a lot?

Me: Yep. It’s close to my house. I like the atmosphere.

Him: You bring all your first dates here?

Me: Umm…yes?

Him: You have a routine.

Me: Yes.

Him: Let’s have it.

Let’s talk about my routine! I generally take first dates to the same bar. 8 pm on a weeknight. The bar’s close to my house. I like the atmosphere. It’s always busy enough that you can people watch, and noisy enough that you don’t feel like the whole restaurant is listening to you. It’s big enough that you can always find a seat, and not so noisy that you have to strain to hear. They serve cocktails, beer, and wine, as well as coffee and other NA beverages. I’ve had the bartenders make me non-alcoholic mixers. There are french fries on the menu, and a pretty insane brownie that comes freshly baked in a cast iron pan, if anyone’s feeling snacky. There’s a variety of portraits and taxidermied animals on the wall you can talk about if conversation stalls. I recommend sitting at the bar, so you can be close to one another—if things are going well!—but also looking forward rather than trying to stare awkwardly into each other’s eyes all night.

If dates go badly, it’s easy for me to get home.

And as someone pointed out recently—if dates go well, it’s also easy for me to get home. Tells you something that this viewpoint had not even crossed my mind, cheerful pessimist that I am.

Me: So what’s your routine?

Him: I don’t have one. This is my first Tinder date.

Me: Oh god. Do I have to make this a good experience? I know. I’ll do what I want a good first date to do: I won’t murder him!

If standards are going to be so low for good dates, let’s make it an even playing field.

Unlike my first Tinder date, I did not walk him around the city under the stars and talk about poetry and films and kiss him under a streetlight. I couldn’t get up the energy. I ate my salad, and he ate his mac’n’cheese, and we both had our drinks and conversation.

Grade: I don’t know anymore. People are surprising in all kinds of ways. He texted and said it was nice to meet me, and I said the same, and that was that.

Date #1
Date #2
Dates #3, 4, 5
Date #6
Date #7 (not a date)
Date #8
Date #9
Date #10
Date #11
Date #12
Date #13
Date #14
Date #15
Date #16
Date #17
Date #18
Date #19, Part I
Date #19, Part II