I was experiencing this â€“ the restaurant around me was frozen, my salad fork hovering over my plate. The world disappeared into a tunnel and nothing existed but Hot Yoga Girlâ€™s eyes, boring into my forehead while waiting for an answer to the question that is the anathema to every bachelor heart.
â€œIs this your girlfriend?â€
You know itâ€™s coming. Weâ€™ve all been there. There will always be a waiter cruel and heartless enough to roast you on that spit. Like a predator, they can smell fear.
I could try and avoid restaurants, but the only thing in my refrigerator was half a bottle of Chardonnay and some expired mustard. Dining out was a necessity.
I might cook, but why? Eating Salisbury Steak out of a plastic tray in my underwear is not exactly the image of the man-about-town I was hoping to promote.
It was our sixth date. We were firmly entrenched inside the nebulous area between â€œjust-metâ€ and â€œboyfriend-girlfriend.â€ Make no mistake, this is an important question. The wrong answer could halt all progress immediately.
Donâ€™t expect any help from the woman. Thirty-nine years of intermittent bachelorhood has produced one solid piece of certainty concerning women: They will never, ever, help you with this question. They like to watch you squirm.
I looked her over. She was wearing a baby-doll shirt with Daisy Duke cut-offs and cowboy boots, which showcased her tan, sculpted thighs.
Was she claimable? From a purely superficial perspective, it seemed so.
She was completely Looney Tunes, but thatâ€™s never really been a problem for me.Â Sheâ€™d also been spending several evenings at my house, but no sanitary napkins or feminine hygiene products had mysteriously appeared in one of my bathroom drawers, so I surmised full co-habitation was a few weeks away.
But was she my girlfriend? What did that even mean? Did she want to be my girlfriend?Â What if she wanted to be my girlfriend, but didnâ€™t want me to know it? What if I didnâ€™t want her to be my girlfriend but didnâ€™t want her to know it?
It was too confusing. I started imagining incredibly creative ways to torture the waiter with my salad fork. That rotten bastard had cornered me. It was a precarious situation.
Leaving this question hanging would destroy the relationship before it began.
â€œYesâ€ would mean â€œYes, I want to continue having sexual relations with you without actually making a commitment.â€
â€œNoâ€ would mean â€œNo, I donâ€™t want to stop having sexual relations with you, but Iâ€™m not willing to make a commitment.â€
The room started spinning around me like some kind of carnival ride. I was being crammed into one of two pegs, neither of which was appealing.
I had a flash of inspiration.
It was certainly not definitive, but it was beyond reproach. We were on a date. You couldnâ€™t argue with that!
The problem was that I didnâ€™t know whether I really wanted to give up my bachelorhood. Itâ€™s difficult to invest that level of commitment into somebody you barely know.
Pursuing a woman as your girlfriend requires a certain level of desire and long-term attachment. Did I like her? Yes. Did I trust her? Hell no. But who can you really trust?
The look on her face was telling. This was not the preferred response. It was the beginning of the end.
I have no regrets. If Iâ€™d wanted to be her boyfriend, my answer wouldâ€™ve been different. This wasnâ€™t Junior High. We were adults. The stakes are higher. We all have more to lose.
We would quickly drift apart after that. Sometimes thereâ€™s no getting around it. If youâ€™re not willing to make that leap in front of a waiter at CafÃ© Mimosa, you arenâ€™t ready to have a girlfriend. No matter how sexy she is. There are times when every bachelor will measure his life by the women he didnâ€™t end up with.
But by then, heâ€™ll already be in a committed relationship. Howâ€™s that for irony?
You should never make a commitment unless you are 100 percent sure thatâ€™s what you want. If you do, it will only be that much more painful when you both realize it isnâ€™t going to work.
Itâ€™s OK to be single, if thatâ€™s what you want. Be true to thyself, and all things will work out. At least, thatâ€™s what I keep telling myself.
Contact R. Chase at YourVoice@voice-tribune.com.