Cue the triumphant fanfare: I had an impromptu date with someone really great. I did not blow it by sleeping with him, and we even have a full-fledged date scheduled for this coming Friday. Things like this don’t normally happen to me. But then again, the world hasn’t been all that normal of late.
For starters, I made my 2009 billable hours requirement this past week—a couple of weeks AHEAD of schedule. I’ve been asked to do the direct examinations of our experts at an upcoming insurance recovery arbitration. The UC Bearcats are playing in a BCS bowl game. The Bengals are 9-4 (FIRST in the AFC North), while the Steelers have collapsed and are playing like total losers. The once dazzling Patriot dynasty has completely lost its luster. The Crimson Tide has produced a Heisman Trophy winner. The formerly imperviously flawless pre-programmed golfing robot otherwise known as Tiger Woods actually has holes in his character so gaping you could drive a Mack truck through them.
In other words, the recent past has been so full of the improbable that I should have seen this coming.
Here’s how it all started. The Bengals’ matchup for Week 13 was the Detroit Lions. A victory seemed imminent—but I was nervous. Like all longtime Bengals fans, I approach games with extremely cautious optimism. Rather than risk bad karma by interrupting my 2009 regular season habits, I slipped on my youth large Maualuga jersey and headed to Kendall’s. And that’s where fate came knocking.
I hadn’t even ordered my first beer when I felt a tap on my shoulder. My eyes had barely adjusted to the dim, murky light, so it took me a second to decipher the owner of the grinning face standing beside me. Racking my focus, I was clueless. But suddenly I placed him. It was another associate from my firm, who we’ll call “Carson.”
Carson laterally joined the corporate department sometime this past year. I can’t be sure when, exactly, because he’s not only in a different practice group, he’s on a totally different floor. But I first noticed his unfamiliar and surprisingly attractive face at a bullshit all-associate cocktail hour that was held in June to fool the summer associates into thinking that our firm is fun.
I was fairly surprised that he both recognized and approached me, given that my brief attempt at an introduction at the firm function hadn’t resulted in any reciprocation from him. Could it be that he’s actually been secretly pining away for me ever since? I envisioned him saving a copy of the high-res version of my firm portrait to his desktop for easy access viewing throughout the day.
That obviously wasn’t likely, but his geniality was shocking. I shushed the voices in my head and greeted Carson with my best attempt at early-morning, dazzling wit…
“Hey! What’s up?!”
Apparently not one to be outdone, Carson replied, “Not too much.”
“What are you doing in a Bengals bar?”
“I’m here with a couple of my buddies who grew up in Cincinnati. Are you . . . ? Well, listen, if you want, you can join us at our table? We’ve got a better view of a bigger television. Clearly you’re a fan. I mean, unless you’re meeting someone. Or just don’t want to.”
He was stammering. Which meant something. I cut him off by hopping off my stool, grabbing my purse, and offering my best semblance of a nonchalant-yet-flirty smile.
“Are you . . . ? Oh, so you do want to join us? Cool.”
At his table, I gleefully noticed a bucket of beer. Thank God. Hopefully it was only a matter of time before he would morph into the sarcastic, funny and confident guy I remembered flirting with at the cocktail party.
“Guys, this is [LF10]. She works with me at [Firm]. Though we never really work together. Unfortunately.”
Two things: (i) He remembered my name; and (ii) he briefly locked eyes with me on the word “unfortunately.” I noticed, and I liked it. A lot.
His friends and I engaged in the ubiquitous greeting of all Cincinnati expats, the mandatory initial question that’s asked irrespective of age: “What high school did you go to?” I was happy to notice that the really handsome one had a wedding ring, and the other two resided in not-cute-but-not-ugly purgatory, so I knew that I wouldn’t be distracted by anyone else at the table. Carson was giving a vibe—and Carson was the only one I was interested in. An extremely rare moment of kismet.
Thankfully, the Bengals secured a fairly easy victory, which allowed for lots of chatting between Carson and I. He loved my impressions of several of the firm’s more notoriously laughable partners, and I was pleased that he didn’t seem to be into firm gossip—nor did he seem outwardly obsessed with really lame things like how many hours he bills a month.
At halftime, I realized I was genuinely having a great time. Carson was balancing his friends and me perfectly. I knew I could immediately check off “must have numerous friendships with solid, good guys that I get along with” from my (lengthy) list.
After the fourth bucket of beer had been polished off and the last rendition of The Bengals Growl had been sung, Carson secured my agreement for an upcoming Friday night date. Anxious not to overstay my welcome, I gave him my number, told his friends it was great meeting them and made my way out of the bar—long before my low tolerance could cloud my judgment and potentially lead to disastrously premature sexual contact.
Naturally, I was thrilled. I sat in the back of the freezing cab with a gigantic grin all the way back to my apartment. But the worry-free bliss faded before I had even paid my fare.
Who was I kidding? Isn’t it epically bad judgment to have a company pen dipped in my ink? I had tried this before (once as a summer associate, and once during my second year of practice), and to no avail. There’s a reason dating a lawyer from your firm is unanimously frowned on by management, mothers, girlfriends, and shrinks. No matter what happens, you become the center of the thriving and toxic intra-firm gossip stratosphere.
All it takes is your secretary noticing that you’ve gone to lunch with another opposite-sex attorney more than once, and the next thing you know your fledgling relationship suffocates to death under the intense scrutiny of a bunch of people who aren’t getting laid and are otherwise bored, miserable humans with nothing else to do but make you feel paranoid. Before long, you’re in a fishbowl and can’t be within 20 yards of the object of your affection without scrutiny.
I quickly convinced myself that the universe might still be on my side. My gossip-whore of a secretary is on maternity leave, and the floater that I’ve been given in the interim doesn’t appear to mix well with the other secretaries. My hostility towards most everyone else at the firm (disdain for all women’s groups and 99% of other associates) means that privacy might not be too much of a problem.
The truly troubling issue, however, is the time of year this is all happening. There’s nothing worse than a first date in mid-December. If the date falls flat, then I can’t tell my relatives, “In fact, I am dating someone” at Christmas. But if the date goes well, there’s still trouble because that leads to the question of gift giving. It’s impossible to pick out gifts for guys—especially when the relationship has just started—but a Christmas gift for a co-worker you’re (at that point) sleeping with is next to impossible.
(Mental note: Send an email poll to all of my guy friends requesting a workable list of gifts that are cool but not so extravagant that they’ll freak him out.)
Then there are “maintenance” issues. The only waxer I trust and my favorite manicurist are always booked solid this time of year. Do I try to squeeze in a Brazilian and a pedicure? Or do I refrain from these personal grooming activities in order to strengthen my resolve (but risk totally grossing him out if for some reason a rare exception to the rule against first-date sexual contact arises)?
And last—but certainly not least—there’s the curse of New Year’s Eve. Beginning my freshman year in high school and occurring every applicable year since, any guy that I spend New Year’s Eve with is no longer my boyfriend come the next New Year’s Eve. So do we spend it together if things are going well? Or do we pretend it doesn’t exist to one another? Maybe he won’t even be in town. Or one or both of us will have to work. Either of those sound like best-case scenarios at this point.
Finally, it occurred to me this morning. I am obsessing. (See, therapy is working!) But getting through this week has been hell. I’m perpetually fighting the urges to jump ahead and over-analyze. Constantly wondering why he hasn’t stopped by to say hello. Feeling exposed. Curbing my carb intake while trying to work off perceived beer puffiness from the weekend. Freaking out that he’s going to cancel. Having heart palpitations when the elevator stops on his floor. It’s been ages since I’ve been this simultaneously excited yet miserable.
Which brings me to my new mantra: Focus on the date. Look forward to only the date. But, thanks to already having made my hours, I’ve got plenty of time to torture myself (plus a smaller-than-usual-but-still-sizeable bonus to devote to online shopping for the perfect first-date outfit). I’ll keep you posted.