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Even bad dates can be good for something.

I am naturally inclined to be a wuss, a girlie-man. Let me just get that out of the way. I constantly struggle with myself to act cool when what I really want to do is profess undying love or write gooey poems or serenade with guitar. So I had this silly 5th grade crush on the girl who serves me coffee every morning, and I brought her flowers one day during the summer, just to be nice. Of course she said she loved them and they were beautiful. Shortly after that I wore a shirt that she commented on (A picture of a dog holding a missile in his mouth with the caption "My dog ate the weapons of mass distruction"). Since I'm the only one around who knows where to get this shirt, and seeing as I was going to the city that day, I bought one for her and gave it to her the next day. When she insisted on paying for it I refused, saying, "why don't you buy me lunch instead?"

Really I just wanted to talk to her outside of her work and I couldn't figure out how to do it. But the process of me finding a way, the time invested in it, made me more interested in her than I was to begin with. And I fell into my goobery, wussful ways. Anyway, my ploy worked and we made a lunch date for Friday. "I'm dating someone," she said, "but we can go as buddies, OK?" Ouch.

Friday arrives and I meet her at the coffee shop. It's awkward from the start. I am never happy and energetic when it is socially expected of me. "Do you still want to go?" she asks as I walk in.

"Well, now that you mention it, not really, but I guess we should," I try to be sarcastic whenever possible. It gets a smile out of her and we go to lunch. Nice place with a lovely view of the SF bay. We're talking about the typical stuff. She's a dog person. I love rare steak. She's not from California. I make my own beer. Things are not going badly.

I ask what her last name is.
"Why?" she replies.
Danger! Red Alert! must.... recover... "That's a short last name," I say.
"I don't like my last name," she says.
"What's wrong with it?"
"Next question, please."

Next question please??? OK, is it too much to ask her last name? What am I, a stalker? That's the least personal bit of personal information I can think of. I've been drinking coffee there for years and they all know me. Forget dating the girl, I don't even have any "buddies" who won't tell me their last name.

I change the subject, start talking about empty things like the weather and what's in the news. At this point, she is disqualified. Thanks for coming out. It's really too bad for her because my gooey poems are rather good. I try to wrap things up as gracefully as possible. Drive her back to the coffee shop. "I'm really just trying to make new friends and see where things go from there. Maybe we can go to a movie sometime," she says as she gets out of the car. Maybe not.

Feeling a little dejected, I stop by my favorite bar to console myself over a Stella. A girl I know passingly walks in and says hi. I tell her a little about my bad lunch date and we start talking about our misadventures.

"You're adorable," she says out of nowhere.
"Stop it!" I reply, "No, tell me more."
"Walk with me to where I'm going, and I will."

She looks me right in the eye. I can't help myself. "What's your last name?" She tells me right away.

I should not comment on the rest of the day, except to say that you KNOW when it's working and when it isn't. Everybody does. Why struggle over something that isn't working? Just let it go, and be mindful for the next opportunity. They are everywhere!

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When Life Gives You Lemons
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