Matthew Launder

One of Courtney’s and my favorites pastimes is the act of observing other couples in the wild and criticizing the fuck out of them. As I’m sure most of you have also seen and done, we meticulously analyze each and every detail of the alleged couples sitting within our immediate vicinity. Whether at a restaurant or the movies or the mall, absolutely no one is safe around us. Tall or short, black or white, fat or skinny, I repeat: No one is safe from this dream team of mean. And is it really so awful of us to do? Most of these other couples get along in their day-to-day by being idiots or being whipped into submission by their mate. We find other ways that work for us—like dissecting the Neolithic-era Neanderthals that occupy the modern dating pool around us.

But I want to get back to the idea of morality. Is it wrong of us to sit at Chili’s and analyze ourselves, comparing the smallest of details and situations to other couples? It’s not like we’re leaping up from the booth and screaming, “You look like you hate your life because you had a kid too early!” It’s discreet and interpersonal just between us. But that Mexican chick did not look happy. Or maybe it was just her robust, protruding belly from underneath the shrink-wrapped t-shirt…? You know, the epidermis is the largest single organ in the human body. Do you think it might need to breath now and again? That goes for those pockets-with-a-zipper you call shorts that have been sucked up into your thunder thighs as well. And lose the bellybutton piercing until you can see it again.

But it’s not just the chola’s wardrobe that gets scrutinized. To my left and Courtney’s right, we have the awkward couple. In a pitiful way, it’s romantically beautiful and tragic what’s happening here. Let me set the scene for you: This guy, while most likely having spent most of his high school and college years glued to a computer screen battling wizards and spells, finally got up the courage to ask out a fairly beautiful girl. She’s not the bleach blonde buffoon that only goes out with meatheads who have tribal tattoos and drive enormous trucks with “Tapout” plastered across the back window. On a side note, fellas, I’ve caught on to the fact that that’s what your girlfriend has to do to survive the roid-raged assault you think sex is.  Our friend and his date are different than that. I’m actually cheering for them to be happy in the long run. So she’s kind of cute for him in a grew-out-of-my-nerdy-glasses-and-became-hotter-than-anyone-thought-I-ever-would sort of way. And why shouldn’t she be? When I look at pictures of Courtney and of myself from the middle school times, neither of us looked like we were the most popular kid in school. She, fortunately, grew up to be really hot. I’m still waiting for my growth spurt.

Now this couple on the date is just quietly sitting there. I can see how it happened. This guy was laying awake all night, attempting to formulate and understand why this girl agreed to go on a date with him. What if she stands me up? What if she only agreed to be nice? What if she actually likes me and I screw up? With these questions and scenarios racing through his head, he’s not doing the important thing, which is to get some sleep and relax. For every scenario in his head, he uses his superior problem solving skills to ensure the best outcome possible. If she’s better looking that you are, you have to act to cooler to make up for not looking as good. If she does really like you, make sure you are funny enough to sustain it. If she stands you up, spend her dinner money on a case of Mountain Dew and play Xbox all night. This poor guy—because society has repeatedly told him that he’s not good enough just as he is to be on a date with a girl this pretty—thinks that he has to overcompensate for being himself. And ultimately, that will be his downfall.

Before showing up at her house, he thinks, “It’s a first date so I better dress pretty nice.” But he gets scared about how much he dressed up. Maybe a tie and jacket was too much. At this moment, his confidence is already shot. She’s going to open the front door, looking casually dressed up and nice, and he’s going to stand there, with a cheesy smile and looking like he has to poop because he’s so nervous. When he denies having to use the restroom, she wonders if he’s not actually a little crazy. Not off to a great start. At the car, he knows he should open the door for her. There’s a moment of waiting where she sees if he’s that type of chivalrous guy or not. He opens the car door for her and gives her a hand inside. She smiles, genuinely of course, and thanks him. He now has a spark to go off of. Feeling confident, he rounds the car and climbs into the driver’s seat. The whole car ride is an awkwardly uncomfortable silence. At the restaurant, he opens the door for her and follows her to a table, looking around at the other couples, seeing how they gauge him and his date. He lets her pick her seat and sit first. She does.

At this point, I look over and notice her immediately pick up a menu. This could because she’s very hungry and wanting to get straight to business, or she doesn’t want to appear like she available to talk. I kick Courtney under the table and throw a nod. I whisper, “Now” and she slowly turns to look. We know who they are. They’re the Hitch date. On our second date, Courtney and I were sitting in a circular booth at Maggiano’s on 16th Street. We were laughing and spewing drinks and poking one another under the table. Very cute. A few booths away, we saw them: The Hitch date. It was the exact same scenario. And there was no talking. No looking. No smiling. Just eating. At one point in the dinner, the guy stood up and went to the bathroom. I had considered running into the bathroom after him to give him a Hitch-like date-doctor type of pep talk.

It was happening again here and now. This poor guy had built up such a false image of what this girl would want that he tried to be that instead of himself. The truth is, the ability to genuinely ask most girls out will genuinely work for most guys. Just don’t be an idiot or a douche bag. Upsetting to this girl, she saw something in him when he asked her out. And now he was clearly not that. If he hadn’t judged her and just showed up to have a nice dinner with a nice girl, things would be going so much better for him. And the more awkward and upsetting the date becomes for her, the more she will show not wanting to be there at all. That makes the poor guy think he’s not good enough and she doesn’t like him. It’s a vicious, downward spiral, this dating game. At the end of it all, she was too disappointed that he couldn’t just be himself to actually consider this a date. To her it was a dinner. And she should pay for dinner. The killer move happened when she forced herself to pay for half of the meal. Bummer.

The moral of the story is that maybe it’s not such a good idea to blatantly judge people based on appearances. Now, I realize that this contradicts where I was going with this column in the first place, but even I can learn something from myself, no? I can’t promise that I won’t turn around notice that someone has an enormous shelf butt or a little bit of poo on their jeans (seen it). But I promise to not judge them as human beings for it.

*To avoid vicious hate mail and death threats, I have to specify that I am of Hispanic origin and do not mean to insult or hurt anyone. That said, I am unfortunately not a roid-rage rapist meathead who drives an F-350, so damn.