First Dates Gone Wrong: Gustave
From the time I got my first serving gig at McDonald’s as a pimply teenager, I have served over 99 billion first dates. Apart from my BA in English (which is still collecting dust) one could say that I am a little bit of postdoctoral fellow when it comes to awkward human encounters. In my time turning tables, with only a keen sense of intuition and a drink tray, I have managed to:
1. Bring back seemingly hapless dates from the brink of collapse
2. Save countless damsels and bachelors in distress and
3. Sabotage any romantic pairing in which I deemed the couple too good looking to ever deserve happiness and/or everlasting love.
While it is true that I am somewhat of a scholar when it comes to first dates, like any other academic, I am also inept when it comes to real life and actually being on one. Discounting the total number of times I have found myself on a date without even realizing it… 6; my overall track record has been, well, humiliating.
Case in point:
Winter, 1999. I was in grade nine when my first date with Shannon was ruined after I kept coming up with excuses to go upstairs, where her attractive older brother Jason could be found.
Fast forward to -
Spring, 2007. I was fresh out of the closet and 22 when my first date with Frederick Davenport (the man would who later take my virginity to a Britney Spears album) was soured when I threw up before dinner.
And now that I am 32 and living in the Fox Den, I can’t say I have done much better.
If it’s okay by you, I would like to share with you the story of my first date with Gustave.
The Story of My First Date with Gustave
The season was spring and the year was 2016 when I first met Gustave on Grindr. At the time, I was living in a basement in East Vancouver and one bottle of red wine in, when I logged on to the gay hook-up app. 60% vulnerable, 25% hungry and 15% up way past my bed time, I found myself interested in any man that replied. Even though I rarely hosted while taking up residence underground, most nights I still logged on to feel like there was someone out there.
“You are the most handsomest man I have ever seen in my entire life,” arrived a message to my inbox.
“That is very kind of you,” I replied.
“I am Gustave.”
“My name is Rugged.”
Expanding his profile, I was pleased to see the face and upper body of a lean French man in his early twenties. Within moments, my phone lit up with a plethora of compliments that I could not accept fast enough. Opening up the cap on another bottle of red wine, we chatted long enough for me to learn that Gustave had a delightfully hairy chest, penchant for taking selfies wearing ball-caps, and his favourite channel was the weather network.
Deeming these all suitable qualities to meet in person, I agreed to meet him for coffee the next day.
It was approximately 3:57pm the following afternoon when I found myself taking a seat at the Starbucks on Marine Drive. It had been years since I had been on a date with another man, and I found myself more excited than usual. Checking for dry skin on my forehead, I sucked in my stomach and sat up straight before taking a sip of peppermint tea. I was going to order my usual dark roast but I was afraid my hopes would get so high they would float right out the window.
Ten minutes later I received a text message asking if we could move our date to the A&W across the street.
Alright, now I am going to stop myself here for a hot second. Before we move forward to my response, I must disclose to you my Achilles heel of first dates: extreme tunnel vision. If I want to see green, I will look passed every red flag that gets in the way.
“As much as I love a good Papa Burger,” I texted back, “I just sat down with a tea.”
As I waited for his reply, I ignored the alarm in the back of my head that kept sounding: ABORT, ABORT, ABORT, ABORT. And then I received another message.
“There is a monster behind you.” It read.
Twisting my head back, I practically fell out of my seat when I laid eyes on the man standing behind me. Not quite a Quasimodo but by no means a Prince Eric, one thing was clear, and that was that, each photo he had sent me was unacceptably out of date. The man on my Samsung was ten years younger, forty pounds lighter and wore ripped denim jeans instead of torn sweatpants. The only part of him that I did recognize was his ball-cap; which apparently never disappointed.
I debated running but was paralyzed by a state of shock. Unable to stand up to greet him, he knelt down, gave me a gigantic bear hug in my seat and then sat down across from me. Now to describe his behaviour as animated in the seconds that followed would be a drastic under statement. He was frenetic. Fidgeting furiously in his seat, I had to rescue my tea after his knees almost bounced out from under the table.
Trying to calm his nerves, I started a casual conversation about the weather.
As it happened, our “coffee date” only lasted twelve minutes. It took me that long to discover that his struggle with mental health was greater than I first thought, his coming out story was heartbreaking, and the pressure of us sitting across from each other, at a table in a coffee shop, was too much for him to handle. When I suggested that we retreat outside to get some fresh air, he practically sprinted for the door.
Following behind him, I remembered a message that he had sent me the night before that I had mentally moved to the trash bin, “Please, whatever you do, do not be scared of me.”
As I walked outside, I had no clue what to do next. A large part of me really felt for this guy. He was not a jerk, but he was also not the man he presented himself to be. While I acknowledged that yes, he had cat-fished me; I also recognized that, truthfully, I had cat-fished myself even more. Because in less than 24 hours, I had managed to build this guy up so high; that regardless of who showed up, they would never be the person I was expecting.
“Gustave,” I began talking, trusting that words would just naturally follow suit.
“Did you know that I saw a fortune teller this morning?” he interjected.
“No, I did not,” I said. I had no idea where this was going but was unsure I wanted to find out.
“Do you know what she said to me?” he asked.
“No … what?” I hesitated.
“She said that I was going to have sex with a cute redhead in the very near future.”
ABORT. ABORT. ABORT. ABORT.
Taking one step back, I decided that now was officially the time to leave.
“You know what man,” I retreated, “It was nice to meet you but I think it is time for me to go!”
“I thought we go could for a bite at A&W,” impressed Gustave.
“Nope! I’m good! Really! But don’t let me stop you!”
Thirty minutes later, on opposite sides of the city, he was sitting in front of a Teen Burger and I was cracking open a bottle of rose.