“Hey beautiful. Happy Birthday.”
I smiled. Standing before me was the guy I’d been sorta kinda dating for a couple months, picking me up for a birthday date from my appointment at the hairdresser. I hadn’t really expected much from him since we hadn’t known each other that long – but there he was, flowers and card in hand and looking – dare I say, nervous? It was really sweet… the kind of thing that makes you want to go from sorta kinda dating someone to actually dating him. The kind of thing that makes you happy you wore those nude slingback heels from Aldo instead of the flats you’d contemplated about that morning. The kind of thing that just puts a big smile on your face.
If only the date had stopped there.
“Thank you,” I replied, leaning in to give him a big hug.
“You’re welcome. I had to do something, right? I know how big of a birthday person you are.”
He’d been listening, I thought to myself. So even though I’d been nervous about this date all day, suddenly – I was put at ease. Surely, he wouldn’t do anything to make this night go badly.
We walked to his car – me still so surprised at the effort he’d put into things and basking in the glow of my flowers and the card that strategically had his name on the front. The effort, unfortunately, hadn’t extended to his outfit, which included a white t-shirt, jeans, and kicks, but hey – I guess you can’t expect perfection, right? The only problem was that since I’d decided to wear those heels and my khaki shift dress that day, we looked like quite the odd couple – a fact that even while basking in my glow, I couldn’t quite shake.
He opened the car door and showed me that the surprises weren’t over yet. Waiting for me on my seat was a pretty, round birthday cake with my name on it in beautiful handwriting, just urging us to dig in. Yep, at that point – I was good to go. I picked up the cake, slowly made my way into the seat and then leaned over to open the door for him while he walked over to the driver side.
I was excited now and couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.
Since he’d bought a cake, my first thought was that we were going to go near the Potomac or by the monuments or even to the National Harbor to sit around, hang out and enjoy the weather, and eat this cake that was now calling my name. But as he continued to drive, I realized that thought was wrong.
“So where are we going,” I eventually asked.
“Don’t worry. You’ll be happy about it.”
“Well, I was just wondering because we have this cake we need to eat, but we don’t seem to be heading near any place where we would actually eat it.” I chuckled – one of those “now I’m actually getting nervous” kind of chuckles.
“Don’t worry. We’re going some place nice to sit and eat dinner,” he said. “I can’t have you outside in that dress and those heels.”
“Okay,” I replied. I was still worried, though.
Twenty minutes later, we pulled up to a restaurant that looked nice, but also looked to be slightly out of his price range.
“This is where we’re going?”
“Yep – nice, right?”
You could probably see the butterflies flittering in my stomach. Sure, I was a big birthday person, but I certainly didn’t want him to spend this kind of money on someone who didn’t even consider him her man.
I didn’t say anything, though, and just followed him into the restaurant, noticing even more now the difference in our clothing choices. Who decides to bring someone to a fancy restaurant in a white t-shirt and kicks, I thought to myself. I was also now acutely aware of everything. I could hear the difference between the click clacking of my heels on the pavement and the sliding, slightly swooshy sound his sneakers and jeans made. And I noticed the way the hostess looked at me and then him and then back at me in confusion as if to say, “really girl?”
But I remembered his comments to me in the car – “Don’t worry.” So I happily (at least outwardly) walked with him to our table and slid into the booth, making sure not to trip on my heels as I walked or expose my “Britney” when I sat.
The beginning started off nice enough. We ate and talked about what we’d done so far during the day, laughing about everything and nothing at the same time. And while there were moments that were really good, for the most part, things had been off from the moment we walked into the restaurant. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but he was just… different. He’d started reverting to class clown antics whenever the waitress came by to see about us, to the point that I felt the need to apologize to her on a few occasions. And he made more than a couple comments about how I just had to wear my heels that night and show him up. He’d laugh while saying it, but I could tell he really meant it.
I was confused.
Did this man not know me? Because of course I was going to wear heels for something that was pitched to me as a birthday dinner, unless I was explicitly told not to. And further more, if anyone was dressed inappropriately for our surroundings, it certainly wasn’t me! I mean, what the hell?!
The more the dinner went along, the more frustrated and annoyed I grew. What had happened to the sweet guy who’d picked me up a couple hours before then? Who was this person sitting in front of me, chip on his shoulder, not confidant at all, and taking swipes at the waitress every chance he could get? Finally, after realizing that this dinner date was becoming too painstakingly awful for either of us, we asked for the check.
While he was looking at the bill, I sat and watched his reaction – not because I was expecting one, but because there was one so significantly happening in front of me. He was clearly flustered. And in one minute, he’d looked at the bill a few times, looked in his wallet, looked at the bill again, and then looked in his wallet again – like someone continuing to open the refrigerator even though they know there’s nothing in there they want. I couldn’t take it anymore.
“Is there a problem?”
“Uhhh, yea……… I don’t think I have enough to pay for this.”
“I don’t… I don’t think I have enough to pay for this.”
“But you picked… ”
He interrupted me. “I know.”
“I just don’t.”
“But you said, don’t worry!”
“I know.” His head was down. I’m sure it was humiliating for him. And I wasn’t sure if I felt sorry for him or if I was angry at the position he’d put us in or both.
“Well, how much are you missing,” I asked – now acutely aware I was about to pay for my own birthday dinner that I didn’t even ask for.
Oh, it was definitely more of the latter. Especially because his calculation of lacking $50 didn’t begin to include the tip.
“Fine,” I said and pulled out my credit card, handing the bill back to the waitress with his money and my credit card now in the folder.
“I’m really sorry.” His voice had turned to almost a whisper at this point. I cared, but I was still pretty upset.
“Uh huh. It’s fine.”
We moved in silence the rest of the night – from the walk back to the car to the ride home. When he finally pulled up to my apartment complex, I picked up my flowers, card, and cake, thanked him for night, and stepped out of the car – no hug, no smile back, and certainly no kiss to end the night. As far as I was concerned, me and my heels (that I’d supposedly worn to show him up that night) had had enough of him, and I just wanted to go upstairs and try to enjoy the last couple hours I had left of my day.