Dating While Poet #3: The Meatpacking District
I met a girl at a product-testing study for a hangover remedy. They rented the top floor of a bar, got us all really drunk, then gave some of us the product and some of us a placebo and told us to fill out a questionnaire about how we felt the next day. They also gave us free cans of the product on our way out, which obviously everyone drank as soon as they left, including the people who’d been given the placebo. I kind of suspect the officiators did not know how to conduct a study properly. Anyway, I got her number and asked her to meet me for a drink the next night at a place I like in the East Village. She texted back and asked me to pick a place in the Meatpacking District instead. I called Danny and asked him for the name of a bar in the Meatpacking District that wouldn’t give me a panic attack. He said there was only one of those. I texted the girl the name of that bar and met her there. I was five minutes early and she was half an hour late. Actually, she was only ten minutes late, but then stood outside the bar talking on her phone for twenty minutes before she came in, which I know because I could plainly see her through the window. I spent that time pretending to do things with my phone, which was difficult because my phone can’t really do anything. I just held it up in the air and pressed the screen over and over with my thumb while trying to look engrossed. It wasn’t even unlocked. Luckily, no-one was sitting behind me. Then she came in and this happened.
Me: Everything okay?
Date: Yeah, why wouldn’t it be?
Me: No reason.
Date: Oh my God, I was so drunk last night.
Me: Me too. I guess that was kind of the point.
Date: That was weird. Wasn’t that weird? We were like rats in a cage.
Me: I don’t know. If someone’s going to get me drunk for free all night and all I have to do is send them an e-mail the next day about whether I have a headache—
Date: RATS IN A CAGE. So what do you do again?
Me: I’m an English teacher. You?
Date: I’m the [I can’t write this part accurately because her job made no sense. I think she’s someone’s assistant or something]. And I love it! But really, I can’t even drink tonight. I’m just going to stick with white wine.
Waitress: What can I get you?
Date: Vodka tonic.
Me: Citrus martini. What were you up to today?
Date: I’ve been running around like crazy trying to find a dress for New Year’s Eve. I finally found this one, it has ruching, and [edited for length, but it took about twenty minutes, so this may well be the same story she was telling someone on the phone outside the bar]. So yeah, it has ruching. Sorry, do you know what that is?
Me: Yeah, I know what ruching is.
Date: Oh my God, really? Are you bi?
Me: I think in theory everyone is, but no, not actively.
Date: Then why do you know what ruching means?
Me: Well, I’m an English teacher, so I guess I know what it means because it’s a word.
Date: That’s funny. You’re funny!
Me: Thank you.
Date: So you’ve never made out with another guy?
Me: Well, yes, I have, but just in those situations where two girls say they’re going to make out, but only if two guys make out first.
Date: Uh-oh. You’re not poly, are you?
Me: No, not really. But I’ve had girlfriends who were, so I guess I was at those times.
Date: Because that is a dealbreaker for me.
Me: It’s not what I’m looking for either, at this point. But when you’re in your twenties, if you’re dating some girl who’s like “We’re going to have a bunch of threesomes!”, you’re going to be like “Okay, sure.”
Date: (blank stare)
Me: Uh… right?
Date: So you’ve had threesomes?
Me: Well, yeah, I have.
Date: Oh. What was that like?
Me: Not a big deal, actually. I mean, when you’re growing up, you think if you ever had a threesome you’d be happy every day for the rest of your life, but then it happens and your life doesn’t really change at all. It’s like how before I published a book, I thought—
Date: No way! You wrote a book? What’s it about?
Me: Well, it’s poetry, so I guess it’s not about anything.
Date: I write poems! (rustles around in purse; produces phone; shows me poem she posted on Facebook)
Me: Well, that certainly… rhymes.
Date: Can I hear one of your poems?
Me: Uh… sure. (recites poem)
Date: You’re really intense. You remind me of Vince Vaughn in Wedding Crashers.
Me: I knew I shouldn’t have gotten a short haircut.
Date: Well, there’s no way I’d be on a date with you if you had long hair.
Date: So what are the five questions you would need to ask someone to determine whether you could ever be serious with them?
Me: You mean like, if I was going to marry someone?
Date: Yeah. You can ask me your five, and then I’ll ask you my five.
Me: Okay. Let’s see… Do you believe in God?*
*(Okay, I was the one who brought this up, so technically everything that happens afterwards is my fault, but she tricked me.)
Date: Yes! Absolutely. I unequivocally believe in God.
Me: Okay… So, what does that mean to you? I mean, do you believe literally in one of the Gods from the major religions, or just…?
Date: No! Religion, no way. I’m just spiritual.
Me: Oh, good, okay. So that means believing that…?
Date: That everything happens for a reason.
Me: Well, sure, in the sense that effects have causes, but where does God come into it?
Date: I believe that everything is destined to happen, and God is what’s doing that.
Me: Doesn’t belief in a constant state of all-encompassing divine intervention go considerably beyond what is generally meant by “spirituality?” That sounds like a fairly hardline religious doctrine.
Date: Okay, how about you? Do you believe in God?
Me: I’m a theological noncognitivist.
Date: What’s that?
Me: It means I don’t think the term “God” has a definition, so I can’t answer the question.
Date: So you’re an atheist.
Me: Not exactly. An atheist’s answer to the question “Do you believe in God?” is “no,” an agnostic’s answer is either “we don’t know” or “we can’t know,” depending on whether they’re an agnostic-temporary or an agnostic-in-principle, and a theological noncognitivist’s answer is “what do you mean by ‘God’?”
Date: So does that make you an atheist or an agnostic?
Me: Neither. It’s its own thing. I guess it’s similar to the position of the agnostic-in-principle, except theological noncognitivism doesn’t mandate the impossibility of reaching a definition of God, as far as I know. On the other hand, I guess I would call myself an atheist if I were talking to a fundamentalist who is asking me specifically about their definition of God, since I am an atheist with respect to that definition.
Date: Okay, have you ever almost died?
Me: Yeah, actually. One summer during junior high, me and my friends built a zipline in the woods, and when I went on it, the pulley broke. I fell pretty far, but I landed on my back in some bushes and was fine. Then I looked to my right and saw there was this jagged stump from where we’d cut down this one tree. I was almost impaled. I missed it by like six inches.
Date: Aha! So what do you call that?
Me: What do you mean, what do I call it?
Date: I mean you could have been impaled, but you weren’t. You landed in some bushes. What do you attribute that to?
Me: Well, the bushes were directly below me, so… gravity, I guess?
Date: Really? Gravity, that’s it? You don’t think that was God saving you?
Me: If God wanted to save me, why did I fall in the first place? He could have just made the pulley not break. Plus if it was “destined” to happen that way, then he didn’t technically “save” me.
Date: Okay, well, you can choose to believe that, but why wouldn’t you choose to believe it was God?
Me: Wouldn’t that be kind of obnoxious of me? I mean, people die all the time. Someone probably just died in a car accident within a few miles of here while we were having this conversation. Six million Jews died in the Holocaust. I’m supposed to believe that God let all those people die, but I’m so great that he intervened to save me?
Date: Okay, well, you know, fine, whatever, we can just call this whatever and go dutch and keep talking as friends, but seriously, like, when it comes to dating, if I’m going to say that I’m on a date with someone, then it’s really important to me that that person be an optimist.
Me: Does someone really need to believe that the world revolves around them in order to count as an optimist?
Date: What’s your second question?
Me: Okay, um… What’s your favorite song?
Date: It’s [some song I’ve never heard of and don’t remember]. What’s yours?
Me: It changes a lot, but right now I’d have to say that my official favorite song is “Don’t Worry Baby” by the Beach Boys.
Date: Really? Wow, I wouldn’t have expected you to have such an upbeat favorite song!
Me: (defensively) That song’s not upbeat! It’s a bittersweet ballad.
Date: Okay, but why do you consider it an insult to be called upbeat?
Me: I guess you’ve got me there.
Date: It’s because you’re an atheist.
Me: Theological noncognitivist.
Date: So what does that mean again? Is that like an atheist or an agnostic?
Me: I told you, it’s a distinct third thing. An atheist’s answer to the question “Do you believe in God?” is “no,” an agnostic’s is—
Date: So then do you believe in Jesus?
Me: In what sense? I mean, I believe that there was such a person as Jesus, and if the records of what he said and taught are basically accurate, then I think he was a really good person and I respect him highly as a philosopher. I don’t think he rose from the dead or walked on water, but I don’t think Gandhi or Martin Luther King did those things either and I still respect them. I think of Jesus basically the same way I think of those people.
Date: Oh, good! So you believe Jesus existed?
Me: Yeah, I would say so. We don’t know for certain that he did, but we don’t know for certain that Socrates or Homer existed either, and I’m still perfectly happy to make reference to such-and-such a thing having been said or written by Socrates or Homer.
Date: But you said you were like an atheist?
Me: Well, I said I was a theological noncognitivist, but then you asked me to dumb it down. In any case, most atheists believe in a historical Jesus anyway. A few don’t, and have gotten into the whole “Jesus didn’t exist” thing, but I see that as a bad strategy and just an arbitrary selective application of the general level of doubt that we could be said to have about any number of figures from that long ago.
Date: Oh, okay. I just wanted to make sure, because some people believe in, you know, the Big Bang or whatever.
Me: (in confusion/terror) Uh… What? I believe in the Big Bang, but the Big Bang is about how the universe came into being. It has nothing to do with the existence of Jesus. I guess it could sort of conflict with the existence of God, but it doesn’t necessarily have to. You could just say God caused the Big Bang.
Date: But wasn’t the person who came up with the Big Bang trying to say there was no Jesus?
Me: Probably not, because the person who came up with the Big Bang was actually a Catholic priest. His name was Georges Lemaître, and he was a Jesuit who—
Date: I’m going to run to the bathroom real quick.
Me: You do that.
Other Girl: Are you on a first date with a girl in a spangly top?
Other Girl: I just saw her in the bathroom. She said she was on a weird first date. Good Luck.
Me: I have no idea whether that was a good sign or a bad sign.
Date: So like I said, I’m not religious, I’m spiritual.
Me: How is belief in the divinity of Jesus “spirituality” rather than specifically Christianity?
Date: You believe in spirituality, right?
Me: Sure I believe in spirituality. Spirituality is an emotion people feel, so therefore it exists. Freud called it “the oceanic feeling.” (aside, to myself) Fuck! That’s why it was the name of the airline! Those assholes! God, fuck that show!
Date: So you really think that’s all it is, an emotion?
Me: Well, sure. I guess I’m using the term “emotion” loosely, but it goes on inside people as opposed to being an external force. If people didn’t exist, spirituality wouldn’t exist.
Date: But your heart beating and your blood pumping go on inside you too. Are those emotions?
Me: No, those are autonomic processes governed by the medulla. Spirituality is something we consciously experience and think and talk about, an idea we’ve created to describe how we feel, so that would be happening in the cerebrum. I guess we can’t say there’s a specific part of the brain that—
Date: (sarcastic voice) Oh, yeah, okay!
Me: I don’t… So does that mean you agree with me, or you don’t, or…?
Date: Like I said, we could let this turn into an argument, or—
Me: Well, technically it’s already an argument. An argument is anytime someone says what they believe and gives reasons for it. It doesn’t mean the person has to be angry.
Date: I kind of want nachos.
Me: Yeah, we can get some nachos.
Waitress: More drinks with your nachos?
Bro at Next Table: Did you say you were an atheist? I’m an atheist.
Me: Um… Okay.
Date: I’m going to go smoke a cigarette. (leaves; bro follows her outside)
Me: (to wall) Wall, do you find it odd that she scolded me about being an atheist for over an hour but then immediately went outside to smoke a cigarette with a bro who interrupted our conversation to announce that he was an atheist?
Me: Yeah, me too. And what’s really weird is that she didn’t even have any cigarettes, but somehow magically knew that the bro would follow her and that she could bum one off him.
Me: I should probably leave.
Wall: What about the nachos?
Me: Oh, right, there’s nachos coming. Thanks, Wall.
Wall: You’re going to pick up the whole check, aren’t you?
Me: Yeah, probably.
Wall: There’s really no reason to punish yourself like that.
Me: Why stop now?