Girls Just Wanted To Have Fun

not sure why the duck photo from Saigon Zoo, but I heard photos increase traffic, and I actually use the word “duck” (not autocomplete you-know-what) in the text

When describing pop culture in the internet age, words like “warp speed” or “vapid” may be a tad stuffy, but I find them quite fitting, especially for stories that, for reasons often under wraps to my eye, go “viral.”

The feel-good story of last weekend belongs to The Guardian, actually not even a story but a Q&A in their normally tight-lipped Blind Date column. In it, two presumed lesbian millennials share some deliciously unsavory details of their arranged date, and what’s left to the imagination sounds like a lot of fun, even to the non-LGBTQ crowd. Now, I didn’t think the piece the “best ever” or that it warranted post-mortems on their site or, funnier, here, but the girls in question are so eminently likable that even this hard-to-impress GenX-er increasingly disillusioned with what passes for a mindset couldn’t duck their charm, which sprayed from every short sentence; the Britishisms helped.

But let’s not linger on love, lust and laughter, there’s a month til Valentine’s Day, if you’re among the 14 people left who care about that. I couldn’t help myself and dig for deeper meaning. Can’t claim I came to a conclusion, not zeitgeisty like The Guardian’s own Suzanne Moore, who sees two girls having uninhibited crazy fun and living to tell as so momentous as to be the elixir to heal an entire nation of its doldrums, which I suspect in the UK is not limited to January. Moore correctly distinguishes the latest Blind Date from another, where a young woman reported to have gone home because it was “freezing outside” and she “really wanted a cup of tea.” But wait — I detect, in the quotation marks alone, a bit of snark, some form of admonition, as in Girl, don’t you wanna have some fun, you’re young, forfuxake?!

Ah, but what about Baby, It’s Cold Outside? It’s been only a few weeks since Christmas, surely you remember the fluffup that keeps recurring, how it’s date-rapey, and Oh My Gosh, that “What’s in this drink?” line? So now a young woman actually exercises her ability to brave the damn cold outside and go home for a non-spiked beverage, and that’s somehow — lame. Yup.

The other news in the publishing sphere that boggled my mind was that the debut story collection by Kristen Roupenian, she of Cat Person in The New Yorker, hailed as the bad date story to end all bad date stories, garnered a cool seven figure $$ advance. Reviews were lukewarm, completely unsurprisingly; yours truly has read said superviral story and another, and if someone asked I’d attest that it’s the most overrated book deal ever that came out of it, though in fairness it’s hard to impossible to live up to that kind of hype.

Becoming famous seems easy. Being famous, not so much.

It’s also interesting. There’s tension at play here. Becoming famous has never been faster and easier, it seems, based on the “virality” I’ve evoked a few times already. Being famous, as in sustaining fame for good reason, not so much. With the fruit hanging so low, you really have to know how to limbo, break the internet in ever more outlandish ways (to be clear, I’d take literary fame, even if I don’t “get” it, over Insta and YouTube or any “influencer” fame any day, which I get even less.) At the same time, the records to break are becoming less reasonable if they ever were, and not just digitally: The highest advance/salary/settlement, the youngest ever to do anything, the fastest/farthest/fiercest, it’s frankly tiring to keep up. Why I’m even trying, evidenced by writing about it, can best be explained by the joys of low expectations, one of the perks of middle age and lack of celebrity.

But I am not so old as not to remember my own many dates, some so-so, some excellent, and quite a few ignoble. When I think of the bad ones, I could probably square them into one #MeToo box or another, but the truth is, I laugh. I laugh at my youth, my ineptitude, and that of my dates of course, then I cry a little at how my youth’s gone and how someone should have alerted me this would happen before I grasped the greatness of youth, then I laugh again, because no one gets that on time. There’s a phrase about wasted youth but I don’t want to overdo it with the metaphors.

Instead I’ll offer up one of my own bad date stories, and I’ll bridge it by choosing my one and only blind date (like the good time girls in The Guardian), when I was 20 years old (the age of the girl in Cat Person; I realize all my worst dates happened when I was 20 — go figure, must have been the deodorant I was using.)

So: I went on a blind date with the wrong guy. Or, more truthfully if you wonder how that’s even possible, the guy named Dominic Bonk (real name, swearsy) went on a blind date with me expecting me to be someone else. There. Sounds like a helluva meet cute, right? I was moonlighting at an IT convention in Hannover, Germany’s dullest big city, I was fun-starved and self-conscious, and I’d basically date anyone who asked, and a few who didn’t. This is how Bonk came in: The “real” girl he passed his business card to must not have been interested in going out with a random guy who liked her locks and, in a move that still has the power to puzzle me because she was nice otherwise, passed on the card to me, claiming Bonk had wanted me to get it.

Unsuspecting and eager, I phoned him when I got back to Frankfurt, where I lived. We had a pleasant talk, and we agreed to meet at the Opera café. (Brief reminder for the U35 set, this was when no one but the most pompous posers had cellphones, and years before the Internet went public, so there was no remote exchanging photos or anything. Think Tinder on horse tranquilizers with a pixelated screen). After walking by and checking each other out several times, I finally approached the lost looking suit and confirmed that he was indeed Mr. Bonk, whereas he confirmed that I was not the one he wanted. Even after the visible disappointment in his (not ugly) face, I could not turn down an invitation from a man polite enough to say: “Oh well, let’s have some coffee(!) anyway, now that I’m here”, since he had driven all the way from Stuttgart, two hours away. He even paid, though not before asking for the name and number of the girl he had wanted to meet in the first place. Aaakwaaard.

Worse dates in store, never fear.

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Dragana Laky

Dragana Laky

Reader, Eater, Talker, Traveler.

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