Monday, March 4, 2024

The Contract - Episode 3

Chapter 3


Having a child is a life changing experience. But having one you are not allowed to see is something I never anticipated when I was 19 years old.

To say that I was socially awkward at that young age would be an understatement of galactic proportions. I never had a date. I was too shy to ask any of the girls I knew if they would consider going to a movie, a dance or just joining me for a hamburger. Several of my male friends had asked me if I was gay.

Oh sure, I did go to the Senior Prom with my cousin Alice. Because my mom insisted I couldn’t miss my senior prom, but you couldn’t call that a date. Mom and her sister conspired to make sure Alice and I went to the prom.

It turned out that Alice, who was equally shy, was actually asked to dance by another young man at the prom. Freddy was also there with his cousin. Alice and Freddy hit it off. They became serious high school friends and ultimately married.

I was too afraid to ask a girl to dance. I sat in the corner with a couple other awkward classmates. No girls came to ask any of us to dance. A situation that at the time further cemented my insecurities.

It wasn’t until my freshman year in college that I decided I needed to do something about my shyness. My roommate, Mike Hammerschmidt, was always going on dates. So, I asked him one night what he said to girls to get them to go out with him. He laughed and said, “hey beautiful, can I buy you a cup of coffee?”

“Really?” I said.

“Yes. It’s not complicated. It’s just an ice breaker.” He said.

“And you buy them a cup of coffee?” I queried.

“Not always. Sometimes they blow me off,” Mike said. “But there could be a hundred reasons why they turn me down and most have nothing to do with me.”

“Like what,” I said.

“Well.. maybe they have a boyfriend or even a husband. Maybe they don’t like coffee. Maybe they’re in a hurry or maybe they don’t like men,” said Mike. “I just choose to not take it personally.”

I mulled on that for weeks and everyday Mike would jab me. “So, have you asked any girls to have coffee today?”

Mike had lots of girls calling him and he wasn’t exactly the most attractive guy. While he said he never took their rejection personally. I couldn’t help but turn that around and consider there was something about me that turned girls off.

One night when Mike jabbed me with his challenge, I asked him why, if it was so easy, no girl ever called me or even hinted that I should give her a call.

Mike was suddenly without words. Finally, after a long pause Mike said simply, “That’s a good question.”

We both sat silently for a long time working on our computers.

I was beginning to become quite depressed about my lack of a social life. Fortunately, I recognized it was a problem I could fix if I could just muster the courage to step out.

Suddenly Mike said, “We need to get you a date.”

“And how are we going to do that?” I said.

“The easiest thing is for me to set you up with a blind date. But in your case, I don’t think that would be the best idea. I’m afraid that you would just sit there and not talk to the girl.  So, she would think you didn’t like her, and she wouldn’t want to go out with you again. That would just add to your insecurity. No, we have got to set you up with someone who already knows something about you. Have you ever thought about online dating?”

“No!” I said

“No, you’ve never thought about it or no you don’t want to try it?

“No, I’ve never thought about it.”

Mike turned his computer around.

“Look, there are lots of these online dating sites. You just pick one. We build you a profile and post it. They’ll send you back a list of profiles that match your criteria and then you can decide if you want to contact them, or not, based on their profile. The girls looking for a date will also receive your profile so if they like what they see they can contact you.”

“I don’t know.”

“Look, you communicate through email and see if you can build some synergy before you ever meet for that dreaded cup of coffee”

“If you see someone you like you send an email. If you get a response you’ve already cleared the first hurdle. You know they liked what they saw in your profile.”

I didn’t say anything as I pondered what he said.

“The good news is you might actually get some calls from girls who like what they see in your profile. That should ease your fear that nobody out there would have any interest in dating you,” Mike said.

“But what if nobody responds?”

“Geez. You are so negative! There are thousands of women out there who are equally as insecure as you are. Trust me!”

After years of struggling with my shyness I decided to try and get a date from an online dating service. My roommate Mike convinced me that he would help me develop a profile. It took us three weeks.

Mike made me make lists of things I liked to do, including my favorite books, music, sports teams, favorite games and activities even my favorite foods. It was challenging and I was tempted to embellish some of the information. But Mike was great at pointing out dishonesty would be a turnoff.

After three weeks this is what we came up with:

College student of few words majoring in history seeking women age 19 to 25 for stimulating conversation to help him develop his communication skills.

Primary interests include fly-fishing, reading and listening to classical music. I love strong black coffee, lasagna and cherry pie.

Favorite books include Mutiny on the Bounty, At Dawn we Slept, and The Source. Favorite movies are Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Wars and Midway.

Reply to Box 3510 with your profile and a brief description of your interests. Include a sample of stimulating topics you would like to discuss.

We posted the profile to a local personals website under men seeking women.

We attached a photo of me without my glasses, which was a little deceptive because I can’t see very well without them.

The response was fairly quick if not particularly interesting. I had three responses in as many days. The first two were obviously much older than 25. I thought about meeting with one of them but realized I was looking for a date not a conversation with mom.

The third young lady was attractive but made it clear she wasn’t especially interested in stimulating conversation if you know what I mean.

I didn’t respond to any of those although Mike used them to try to convince me that my fears were unjustified.

A week went by with no other responses. I was beginning to feel rejected and disappointed.

Then I received a response from Malinda James, a stunningly beautiful redhead. Malinda was perceptive in her response to my interests including describing herself as a shy young woman who needed a coach to overcome her ability to maintain a fluent conversation. She said she joined Toastmasters and took speech and debate. She said she loved reading historical novels because it made her wonder how much was true and how much was just a writer’s overactive imagination.

Although Malinda didn’t say how old she was I could tell she was a little older as she said she was working on her law degree.

I sent her an email and said I would love to meet her for a cup of coffee.

She returned the email the same day and suggested we meet at a coffee shop I had never heard of in downtown Denver.

When I responded that I didn’t know where it was, she came back with detailed instructions and said, “10 a.m. Don’t be late. Skip class if you need to. I can’t wait to meet you.”

WOW! No girl had never said that to me. I was suddenly anxious to get to meet her too. I immediately got in my car and drove downtown to make sure I knew where it was and how long it took to get there so I could be on time.

When I got back, Mike said, “Where have you been? I was worried. It’s not like you to be out this late.”

“Oh!” He said. Seeing the big smile on my face. “Who is she?”

“Her name is Malinda. I haven’t actually met her yet. But she wants to meet me for coffee tomorrow and I wanted to be sure I knew exactly where this place is because she said don’t be late.”

“Slow down!” said Mike. “Are you sure you want to meet her? What does her profile look like?”

“She’s smart and beautiful,” I said, “And, she says she is anxious to meet me – that’s a first.”

“I may bomb, but I’m over the first hurdle. Unless she pulls out a gun and shoots me. I’m going to sit down and have a conversation with a beautiful woman.”

I showed Mike Malinda’s profile photo. He was impressed. Actually. I think he was shocked that such a beautiful woman would want to talk to me.

“That woman could get a date with anyone she wanted to. I wonder what’s wrong with her,” said Mike.

“Thanks Mike,” I said. “Now you’re making me nervous. Maybe I shouldn’t take the chance at embarrassing myself.”

“Geez…I didn’t mean it that way. I just don’t want you to be hurt if she turns out to be a whack job. Remember, this is just a test. An icebreaker. A way for you to discover that girls aren’t that hard to talk to. If you hit it off, great, but if you don’t then you just learn to dust yourself off and get back on the horse again.”

I blew off my morning classes and headed out early. I walked into the coffee shop 20 minutes early. My hands were sweating, and a little bead was running down the side of my face.

I grabbed some coffee at the counter then sat down in a corner where I could see the front door. I picked up a newspaper and pretended to be reading it, but my gaze was fixed on the entry.

Malinda walked in precisely 2 minutes early and saw me immediately.

She came over to the little corner table, put down her purse and reached out to shake my hand.

“Hi, I’m Malinda James. Nice to meet you.”


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