August 26, 2007

Liza called me at 10pm from her mobile on her way to a date with a man named Stew. She was excited. It was only their third date, but he'd already talked about taking her to a wedding next month, which obviously meant he saw a future.

The next day, at 10am, she called me on her way to the subway, having just left his house. She was in tears. "He dumped me," she cried.

How did it get from inviting her to a wedding to directing her to the subway? I think it must have been to do with the texts. In between date No 1 and date No 2, they'd been texting each other like they were engaged. But when she met him for the second time, she could barely remember what he looked like. For now, however, she had more important considerations: namely, investigating the medicated gel she'd discovered while snooping in his bathroom cabinet. She had scribbled the name down on the back of her chequebook and, through her tears, read it to me over the phone so I could research it online. She had to know what was wrong with him.

If anyone has a question about something medicinal, I'm the one to call. Within seconds, I had the answer: the phosphate gel she found is used to treat... acne. What a disappointment. "That's it?" Liza said. It was even more of a let-down than getting dumped.

I decided to take her to dinner to cheer her up. We went to a new restaurant and as soon as we sat down she said she thought the waiter, Shea ("like the stadium"), was adorable. He could do no wrong in her eyes. "I like that he crouches down when he talks to us," she said. "That takes effort."

I said it wasn't an act of chivalry, it was just easier to hear us. Which was important, as I had a lot of questions.

"See how attentive he is?" she said, after he returned from the kitchen to answer the one about garlic.

Liza is easy to please. I'm not. When he asked if I enjoyed the salmon tartare appetiser, I told him the truth: "No."

He looked crushed. "You didn't like it? Really?" he repeated. I shook my head.

Liza told him she liked it, even though she hated it as much as I did. She didn't want to hurt his feelings.

From then on, each time he came to the table to ask how we were doing, she would say "Great!", while I, not wanting to waste the opportunity, would ask for something, whether I needed it or not. Extra lemon, freshly ground pepper, and so on. At the end of the meal, I ordered a cappuccino. While discussing the foam, he put his hand on top of mine, looked into my eyes and told me not to worry, he'd take care of me.

"See that?" Liza said as he walked away, "I'm jealous."

She decided that being a pain in the neck gets all the attention. In her eyes, I was getting "positive reinforcement" for negative behaviour.

Was this true? Was there an upside to being me that I didn't know about?

Most of the time, being a pain is a drawback, and I didn't want her to get the wrong idea. It's not as interesting as she thinks, and whatever charm there is at first quickly wears off. "Maybe," she said, "but it makes people want to make you happy."

Not really. Only in situations where there's a tip involved.