by Kara Crawford
Jenna says that he typically goes for redheads, so I run to Target and buy a box of hair dye. Jenna’s the one who set this up. She’s my friend from work who knows this guy who would be “just perfect” for me. But he likes redheads, or so I’m told. Well, that’s easy enough.
And it works. It’s the first thing he notices when he sees me sitting at the bar. He comes up and introduces himself and says, “Your hair is so lovely!” We’re off to a good start.
Later, though, while we wait for our food to arrive, he asks if I have any tattoos hiding under my pretty purple dress. “No,” I say. But then, to add mystique, a sense of possibility (this is important on first dates), I say, “Not yet.”
“That’s a shame,” he says, “I go crazy for women with tattoos.”
The date ends, and when I suggest scheduling another, he defers. I book an appointment at the tattoo parlor instead. The skin around the area is still raw when I meet up with someone from Tinder. During our lovely walk through the park he leans in close like divulging a secret. “You know,” he says, “I usually go for gals with green eyes. That’s my type.”
My color contacts arrive in the mail the following week, but that guy never calls me back. They irritate my eyes.
The next date is annoyed because I have to turn in early. “I have work the next day,” I say.
He shrugs, “So call out.”
“But I could be reprimanded, or fired.”
“I didn’t realize you were so uptight. Just say you’re sick, or that you got hurt.”
So I do. He and I spend the night together but he wakes me up super early and asks me to leave. I guess I could have made it to work on time after all. Instead, I have to commit to the lie I texted my boss. The bookshelf lands on my foot with a dull thud. I get a doctor’s note that gets me off work for the next two weeks.
I wake up nervous for my next date. That’s never good for me. I have what you could call a sensitive stomach. It is my least sexy attribute. I make several trips to the toilet while I’m getting ready. I’m like a toxic chemical plant oozing with sludge. This won’t do at all. Men, so I’m told, like women who are spontaneous and fun, not women who have to excuse themselves to the restroom every 15 minutes. But I refuse to cancel this date.
I carefully carve my stomach open.
I drag out my intestines (both large and small) and replace them with some stuffing that I cut out of an old throw pillow. Then I gently stitch myself back up with all-purpose cotton thread. If anyone asks, I can say I had a C-section or some kind of operation. “Yes, it looks bad,” I’ll say, “but he was the only doctor who would take my insurance. You know how that goes.” Plus, scars are sexy, right?
I avoid eating on the date because I’m not sure how that would work with my new insides. I just take little bites of salad that I can clandestinely spit into a napkin when he’s not looking. I think maybe he noticed though because he left for the bathroom about 20 minutes in and never came back. Or maybe his stomach was bothering him, too.
Then Jenna tells me about this other guy she knows. She tells me he’s free on Saturday, and that I could meet him for this local outdoor music thing.
I almost don’t go. My tattoo doesn’t seem to be healing correctly and my roots are starting to show underneath the hair dye and I hate touching my eyes to put in the contacts. But I rally. I put on a pair of short shorts and a shirt that almost exposes my midriff but not quite (It’s best to keep it classy on a first date), and make my way to the venue.
I meet him there and we chat in-between sets. But when we go to sit down on the grass together, I feel the all-purpose cotton thread snap. I should have sprung for twine or fishing line, something more durable. The thread snaps in one place, and then in another, and I can feel the stitches unraveling. And I’m nodding along to whatever he’s saying because it’s important to be an active listener on a first date, but I can feel the stuffing start to spill out onto my almost crop-top and then before I know it some of it has landed on my thighs and on the ground next to me. And I watch his eyes catch the movement and follow the fluffy usurpers as they tumble down, even as I clutch my hollow midsection. I would throw up right now if I could.
But then he smiles. He smiles right at me as he takes off his jacket. “Look,” he says, still grinning.
It’s a wonder. His arms are stitched up with something. Yarn, maybe. “Stress balls,” he says, “to look more muscular.”
Then I’m smiling too. I let go of my stomach and reach for him. I take his handsome hands in mine and I give them a squeeze.