Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Fun, In Theory.

(Names and a few details have been edited for the sake of those involved. And "Jim" was not Jay, for those who will wonder.)

I went on an awful date in college. Nothing was wrong with the guy; I even felt bad for him because he was quite sweet. And he had a great idea for a memorable first date.

In theory.

It was August, the beginning of the Fall Semester. My friend, Laurel, and her boyfriend, Russ, picked me up from the airport. On the way to campus, Russ told me that he and his friend, Jim, wanted to take Laurel and me on a double date that evening. I was hot and tired from traveling all day, but he was so excited about a surprise they'd planned that I rallied my strength and agreed. We dropped off my luggage and collected Jim.

The guys' original plan was to take Laurel and me for a sunset picnic at a pretty, little river they'd found the previous spring. There was a tiny island in the middle where they could build a bonfire at nightfall and make S'mores for us to eat under the starlight. 

It was a romantic idea.

In theory.  

In reality, we drove (as the air-conditioner struggled) and drove (while night fell) and drove (as the conversation lagged) and drove (while I fought to stay awake) and drove until we finally turned off-road, crossed a field, and came to a bumpy stop at the edge of a copse of trees. 

The guys helped us out of the car like gentlemen. In the failing light, we watched them open the car's trunk to proudly hand us roses that they'd stashed. Giving a girl a rose on a first date is a sweet idea.

In theory.

In reality, roses don't do well in 100 degree weather. 

Without water. 

In a trunk. 

They emerged from their stifling coffin quite dead.

We entered the woods. A nighttime stroll on a pleasant path through a moonlit forest is a lovely idea.

In theory.

We could hardly see the trail in the dark. Especially since the flashlight batteries quickly died. The vegetation was so overgrown that with each step we blindly fought hostile limbs, treacherous vines, and grasping thorns.

"It wasn't like this in the spring," the boys protested, trying to keep branches from whipping us in the face. "It was really nice." Apparently, the friendly flora of May turns into angry, barbed undergrowth by August.

We burst from the forest, panting, scraped, and bleeding, at the edge of the shallow river. Taking us to a cool stream on a stifling, summer evening was a splendid idea.

In theory.

I'm sure the river was refreshing when, filled by gentle spring rains, it flowed freely. But by the end of the summer, the water was rather still. 

And when I say "still," I mean "stagnant." 

Stagnant and stinky.





You get the picture.

The boys were undaunted. They loaded us on their backs and waded through the odoriferous water to deposit us on the little sandbar island. Which was a nice idea. 

In theory.

There was nowhere to sit except on the barren, moist ground. Which was covered in a black blanket of hungry mosquitoes. I was actually grateful for the smelly sand and packed the damp grit on my bare calves and sandaled feet, desperate for anything to discourage the blood-sucking insect hoard.

Since we'd already missed the sunset, the guys decided to light the bonfire. Rallying around a cheerful fire was a great idea.

In theory.

Did I mention that it was over 100 degrees and muggy? We didn't exactly need additional warmth. The damp wood didn't burn well, but we were thankful that the dense cloud of smoke in which we sat, coughing and hacking, slowed the feasting mosquitoes down a mite (pun intended). 

At least everyone looks good in the soft glow of firelight.

In theory.

When our eyes adjusted, we were treated to the sight of each other mottled with bites, scratched and bleeding, hair frowsy from the humidity, dirty, and pouring sweat like coal-shovelers.

The boys looked less confident at this point, but neither wanted to admit defeat. They thought they could salvage the date by introducing food. S'mores are the perfect snack to eat when sitting around a bonfire.

In theory.

The chocolate bars were melted, the Graham crackers mushy, and the marshmallows congealed into one gluey blob. The guys somehow managed to drip, squish, and mix the goo and served it on napkins. Laurel and I gamely ate the sloppy mess, pretending that the bits of napkin inexorably affixed to the sticky S'mores were actually dietary fiber.

Fortunately, our dates remembered to bring something to drink. After eating all that sugar and madly perspiring for two hours (not to mention blood loss from the mosquitoes), we were desperate for fluids. So, drinks were a perfect idea.

In theory.

They'd brought only one bottle of sparkling grape juice. Which was hot, sugary, and held only enough juice for two people.

If they were really small. 

And not very thirsty. 

With no cups, we swigged drops of the precious liquid directly from the bottle. When it was gone, I would have wept but I couldn't spare the moisture for tears.

At that point, the boys (God bless them) finally gave up. They carried us across the rancid water, helped us fight our way through the hostile wood, and found the car in the dark by smashing into it. 

I breathed a fervent prayer of thanks because I was worried we'd spend the rest of the night stumbling through the field until we passed out from heat exhaustion, only waking in the morning to lick dew off the grass. 

We crawled into the car and headed home.

We drove (blinking smoke-stung eyes) and drove (with swamp-stench clinging to our sweaty skin) and drove (covered in reeking, damp sand) and drove (as I tried not to scratch my forty-plus mosquito bites) and drove (exhausted into silence) and drove until we finally made it back to civilization. 

I wanted to kiss the pavement. 

Russ and Jim walked us to the door to say a glum goodbye. Laurel and I were gracious enough to thank them for the date.

Because it was a sweet idea. 

In theory.

Verse of the day:  (I Thessalonians 5:16-18) "Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances..."


  1. Only you & Laurel have these kind of adventures--even today!! ;-)

    Both of you could write several books of your experiences & never run out of entertaining topics!


  2. I love the hair adjective, "frowsy!" Is that a greek word?
    Love ya!

    1. I love that word. And it described us perfectly.

  3. Poor guys.... :-)
    Love the way you describe everything - I felt like I could have been there! (thank goodness I wasn't!)

  4. Haha that is hilarious!
    This is why movie theaters were invented. To discourage guys who want to carry out their romantic first date ideas on girls who have to bear the consequences. :)
    (As I'm writing this, I'm crossing off "sunset and smores on island" on my first date ideas list)

    1. It's not a bad idea...in the spring. On second thought, that probably would have been worse:

      The river was so high that we almost didn't make it across, and the crackers and chocolate fell to a watery grave. All we had to eat were marshmallows, and as we tried to melt them over the fire, a spring storm sprung up. Not only did the fire quickly go out, but we were drenched. We tried to make it back across the river, but a flash flood kept us stranded on the wet sandbar. We spend the night huddled in the freezing wind and rain waiting for the morning light to bring us help. There was nothing else to eat and we sucked rainwater out of the sodden fabric of our sleeves for drink. At least the roses weren't thirsty!

      Yeah, stick to dinner and a movie, Seungmin. Or call your Aunt Pamela who can tell you how to plan a SUCCESSFUL date.

  5. Thanks for being so entertaining, Pamela. I am quite sure that your date (in theory) was not funny at the time but it was great for a laugh now! (in actuality)

    1. Actually, half way through I was thinking, "This is going to make a great bad-date story!" which cheered me up.