I was planning to take a few weeks off from dating after Date #15. I was tired of hanging out with strangers. It was summer. I was hot. I just wanted to eat popsicles and sit on the beach after work in the setting sun with my friends Stephanie and Carlos—who showed up wearing Aquasox. A+, Carlos.
But I already had a date scheduled with Mick Jagger.
This was my third date in as many days—I’d had my second date with Arnold Palmer, my first date with Walt Whitman, then this with Mick Jagger. I’d set it up for my usual time and place, but when the time came the last thing I wanted to be doing was sitting in a dark bar having a drink. And Mick Jagger had already proven himself a seasoned online dater—he texted a few minutes before our date, suggesting we meet outside the bar. So I figured he wouldn’t be thrown if I changed the plan on him and made him go eat ice cream with me in the park.
I pulled this off super smoothly, by saying quickly the minute he showed up: “Hey you mind if we go eat ice cream instead I just really want an ice cream cone and it’s a nice night but we don’t have to if you don’t want to it’s fine it’s just down the street.” Then I smiled like an insane person to prove I’m normal.
He looked bemused. Or confused. It’s hard to tell the difference. But he agreed and we started off, me trying to walk at a normal pace—ice cream!—and him trying to decide what to do with his hands.
He was skinny, rangy, jittery. He walked with a tight bounce. He was wearing an oversized cardigan and jeans on an 80 degree night. He looked underfed and wired. I guess it won’t surprise you that he was a musician.
I have a rule against musicians (and artists and writers). I don’t remember why I swiped right. We talked about my rule before we went out. It was a point of flirtation, as so many exceptions granted and given and taken are.
(Later, someone would tell me my rule is not against musicians, artists, and writers—it is against assholes. This is fair.)
The flirtation was full of fits and starts, walk-backs and awkward pauses. So, too, was our conversation as I led us down the hill and away from the dark bar toward the ice cream shop and the park.
I knew I was tired but I couldn’t tell why things felt so awkward. I wasn’t really attracted to him but I had been on many of those dates at this point. Was I being tense? I did a quick body scan. I didn’t feel stressed. I decided not to be stressed. I was reacting to, not creating, the tension. I started people watching instead of focusing on what we were or were not saying or doing or connecting.
He told me he doesn’t sleep much. I tried not to have a panic attack. No sleeping? How do you live like that? Who does that? Is it contagious? Dear god what a life.
We sat down on a bench. He finished his ice cream and I, being the slowest eater in the world, started to think about mine.
And then, as we watched hipsters wearing tank tops with armholes cut down to their waists play trash can frisbee, we started talking about art. About how it’s easier to get friends to come to the shittiest band’s show than to a poetry reading. About how it’s on artists to hustle their own art now. About how artistic communities are created, and disbanded, and what it means to find ways to make a living from art. About how music might be the people’s art, and alcohol never hurts. About how people want to be outside in the summer, and stay home in the winter, and where does art live. About how to keep scrapping and how to jump up to the next plateau, and what it means to turn your art into a steady paying gig and what might be gained and lost by such a transformation and whether the hours and hours and relentless hours of doing art—of writing, of making music—as a day job will wear you out or keep you in shape and what to say when people say that isn’t art.
(I know that trash can frisbee is called KanJam, but I like trash can frisbee better, and anyway, they weren’t playing with the branded set of trash cans you can buy online for $39.95 but with trash cans from the park that they’d emptied and repurposed and I could see all the girls’ bras and all the boys’ scraggly chest hairs and everyone was so awkward, sticking their tongues and elbows out as they tried to angle discs into the flat gaping mouths of the trash cans and so celebratory, jumping high into the summer air when they found that sweet spot of silence, and then a drop and sudden clang, flat smack of hand against hand.)
We hit that turning point in the date when we both realized “this”—the date part of the date—wasn’t going to happen for us, and we were both ok with it, and we relaxed and time passed more quickly and gently. The hipsters kept throwing their frisbee into their trash can. I finished my ice cream cone just before it transitioned to soup (it’s an art).
And then we walked back up the hill, I having inadvertently extended our date in my harried attempt to confine it. As we neared my turnoff I said something about being the youngest child, and that’s when Mick Jagger told me birth order theories didn’t really apply to him, because he grew up in a missionary family way out in the countryside with five or six siblings, most of whom were adopted—some adopted when they were older than he was, some younger, all of different races and nationalities. All of whom have grown up to live extremely disparate lives—I can’t remember now—a musician, an investment banker, a lawyer, an early bride, a drifter, a mechanic.
I was so dismayed that he’d withheld this fascinating information until the end of the date when I couldn’t ask ceaselessly nosy questions about it that I just made some polite murmuring sounds about how interesting that must have been and turned for home a block early after an awkward handshake, our hands angular and bone-filled in one another’s, my brain shortcircuiting with alternative family realities.