First Dates Gone Awry

If you’ve ever had a disastrous first date, don’t despair! These daters found success despite their initial, often hilarious, missteps.

By Mark Amundsen

hings don’t always go the way we expect. (Obviously!) But MacGillicuddy’s Corollary to Murphy’s Law dictates that not only will those things that can go wrong actually will go wrong, but also that those things will go wrong at the worst possible time — say, on a first date.

Fortunately, this does not mean that a happy ending
He was much more scared than I was.
is precluded, despite the fact that, as Robert Burns wrote, “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,/Gang aft agley.” So if you’ve had some first-date bombs, take some heart in these stories of how things gone wrong can turn out all right.

Horror Show
“My now-fiancé took me to watch Red Dragon, which I completely didn’t know was related to the ‘Hannibal’ series. He was much more scared than I was.”
— Elizabeth Lui, Cerritos, CA

To Diorama For
“After meeting at a synagogue singles weekend, I invited a woman to see an art gallery exhibit in downtown New York City. When we got there, the artist’s work consisted of about a dozen shoebox-sized dioramas you’d peer into one person at a time and put on headphones to hear the accompanying music. Each started out as an identical bedroom, but had been decorated by the artist to represent a different emotion of love, from lust to jealousy to infatuation. It was pretty intense, and clearly not appropriate first-date material. She was stunned, and it certainly didn’t help us get to know each other. Now, more than two decades down the road, with a 16-year-old daughter and twin boys turning 11, my wife and I can look back and laugh. But at the time, it was pretty awkward and embarrassing.”
— Gary Baker, New York, NY

Hivey-Covered Halls
“I once dated a guy who bounced back from ignominy in style. I met him at Cornell University. When he came to pick me up for our first date, he was so nervous he broke out into hives all over his torso! I suggested splashing cold water on them, but I lived in an all-girls’ dorm and there wasn’t a men’s bathroom close by. So I told him to take off his shirt, and I ran to the bathroom and soaked my bath towel and brought it back. He wrapped it around him and looked like a refugee. I looked at him pityingly, and he smiled and said, ‘I think I love you.’ I thought that was hilarious. We dated for months.”
— Deborah Skolnik, Scarsdale, NY

Shotgun Dating
“I had a first date with a beautiful country girl whose dad was a real backwoods type. He actually had two other daughters just as beautiful. When I came calling, I was greeted in the driveway by a vicious family dog with a 30-foot chain that stopped inches from my car door; in fact, the dog’s saliva was all over my window. I was afraid to get out. But after about five minutes, they called the dog off and put him in his cage. I was invited in and had to sit and wait for my date while the dad, just as intimidating as his dog, stared at me.

There were mounted guns on the wall and bullets with different casing shells on the mantelpiece, and deer heads with antlers and a big carp mounted on the wall. But what really got me was when the dad took a nail and one of his bullets down from the mantel and asked my name. I said, ‘Steve,’ and he said, ‘I like you, Steve, and I am going to carve your name on one of
My wife-to-be was lying in wait, looking for a chance to meet me.
my bullets because I am dedicating this bullet to you. Now when you take my daughter out tonight just remember how nice I was to dedicate this bullet to you. You watch my daughter with your life because your life depends on it.’ Later that night, I found out from my date that was just her dad’s warped sense of humor and he did that to all the guys.”
— Rev. Stephen Ongo of Your Special Day Wedding Services, Toronto, ON

Arrivederci, Aroma
“I am the immediate past dean for the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, one of the eight colleges of Rochester Institute of Technology. In 1971, I was teaching civil engineering technology to students who were deaf at RIT. I was bringing my class on a field trip to the Rochester City Sewage Treatment Plant. Having contracted a large bus, I sent an invitation around to the members of the faculty asking if anyone might like to accompany my class to the plant.

Unbeknownst to me, my wife-to-be (another member of the faculty of RIT who taught students who are deaf) was lying in wait, looking for a chance to meet me. She had decided it was time to marry and she and her department secretary had gone through the faculty directory and had settled on four eligible bachelors. She had met the other three but had yet to meet me. Under cover of claiming interest in the field trip, she accompanied me with the students and ingratiated herself by serving as a sign-language interpreter for me — her parents were deaf, as were her grandparents and great-grandparents. We had a delightful time, even though the bouquet that surrounded our visit was somewhat rich.

Thinking this was a chance encounter, I invited her for coffee after the trip and we spoke for hours. It was not until five years after we were married that she relayed to me the entire intrigue that lead to our ‘first date.’ Just goes to show that love can be found in most interesting places.

I have now been married to Pat for 37 years. After a first date at a sewage treatment plant, there was no place to go but up.”
— James J. DeCaro, Ph.D., Rochester, NY

“My wife, Bernadette, and I had a somewhat amusing first date. After a nice dinner, we went to see Oliver Stone’s critically acclaimed movie JFK, not realizing how tediously long it was (189 minutes!). About 120 minutes into the film, my office pager went off, much to my relief. It was set to silent, vibrate mode, so Bernie didn’t realize I was carrying a pager, and not wanting to disrupt her movie-viewing pleasure with a long explanation, I excused myself and said I had to make a phone call.

After some time on the phone, I returned back to the theater to watch the rest of the movie with my date. The movie was so long that a new weather pattern had moved in while we were watching it, and we exited the theater to find ourselves in a fairly hard snowstorm. Not wanting to insult the other person’s taste, we both talked about what an interesting movie it was. Some time later, probably a couple of years, we both admitted that we hated the movie. Bernie had been dozing off during it.”
— John Yannacci, Monroe Township, NJ

Mark Amundsen is a writer and editor in New York who never had a perfect first date.
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