Mary Ann is a 39-year-old customer-service representative. She says “I’m fit, athletic and fresh-faced. I gravitate toward bright colours, but dress conservatively.” Mary Ann’s friends would say she is “positive, upbeat, friendly and ready for anything.” She likes running, cycling, swimming, hiking, camping, fishing, antiquing, movies and art shows. Mary Ann says “I would like to date someone who is intelligent, honest, kind, thoughtful, well-read and passionate about something in his life.” She adds “There’s got to be a spark.”
I met Ben online, where his photo caught my eye. He had a gentle smile, with warm eyes. His profile was clever: smart, but not smarmy. He mentioned the name of a writer I like, which confirmed my interest in him.
We emailed back and forth for about two weeks, and then had some delightful, effortless phone calls. We bounced from topic to topic, connecting on so many mutual interests and shared points of reference. He was educated and informed but not arrogant, and had a great sense of humour. I was definitely curious.
When we met in person, it was the same, but amplified. The conversation was great and the chemistry was palpable, and two hours flew by. We had only planned to meet for coffee, but decided to order food, too. Eventually we realized that the restaurant was becoming crowded and there was a lineup for tables; our lingering was conspicuous. I knew a place close by for dessert, where we could continue our evening, and I suggested it to Ben. He was in.
Ben had excused himself to the washroom briefly as we were finishing our food, and while he was absent I tried to flag down the waitress. I was going to pay the bill so we could give up our table faster. It wasn’t an issue for me to pay, and since Ben was away from the table, there would be no awkward back-and-forth about who was going to pay. I asked another server if she could send our waitress over with our bill, but by the time she arrived, Ben had returned. The waitress presented him with the cheque, and I thought, OK, I would pay for dessert and coffee at the other place.
We walked out of the restaurant, and it was immediately obvious that Ben was angry. His demeanour changed in the blink of an eye. Just outside the door, when I was about to point out the dessert spot, he launched into a tirade. Shaking with anger, he said that he knew women like me who want to have a night out, all at some guy’s expense. According to him, women take and take, and give nothing back. I was completely blindsided, absolutely dumbstruck, and insulted.
The intensity of his anger was frightening. Thankfully, we were in public. Clearly he had some issues around money and women. It was so disproportionate to the situation.
The date ended with Ben storming off to his car and driving away. It took me several minutes to gain my equilibrium and go to my own car, then a few more days to shake the surreal feeling.
When the waitress presented the bill to Ben, he hadn’t hesitated or fumbled with his wallet. He didn’t suggest we split the bill or ask for separate cheques, either. He just pulled out his card and paid it. There was no indication that this was a problem for him. I hadn’t told him during his rant that I would have been happy to pay, because that seemed like something added after the fact to make myself look better, or like more of a victim.
It seemed obvious to me that Ben had “staged” the date in order to act out his drama. If he was invested in the date, and having as good a time as he appeared to be, he could have suggested that we split the bill between us: that would have been completely reasonable, and afforded him the opportunity to see and gauge my reaction. I felt like he must have had his tirade rehearsed in his head. That seemed to be his objective.
I sent him some money, with a simple note. I did not hear from him again.