by Kelsey Halling
I met him at Kelly’s because that’s where I met almost all of my first dates. There was something comforting about the old booths and sticky floor and dim light when confronting strangers. Kelly’s proximity to other restaurants meant that if things went well, I could suggest walking to get dinner, and if they didn’t … well, I could easily excuse myself after one drink and be home quickly. Inevitably, I ran into people I knew (this is Pittsburgh after all) who would glance over from their own booth, entertained to watch a first date play out. The staff knew me by then, they must have witnessed these rendezvous dozens of times, but they never said anything. This mutual silence felt like an unspoken agreement, but was more likely apathy.
I treated online dating like a job. Nearly endless prospects were funneled into an ever-growing pipeline with a swipe. I maintained a decent conversion rate, which resulted in a few face-to-face meetings per week. I even outsourced the work for a while, handing over my passwords to a trusted friend with excellent taste. She swiped, screened initial conversations, and when approved, shared my phone number so the potential suitor could reach out to schedule a date.
By the time we were sitting across from each other, I had a routine. A routine that was quickly disrupted when he told me that he was attending a Quantum Theatre production that night and needed to leave by 7:30. I was simultaneously relieved to have an early out and intrigued by a person who went to plays alone.
He was genuine, smart, and interesting, so that even the most mundane aspects of a first date conversation (the sibling exchange, explanation of work, etc.) felt fresh and exciting. We were finishing our second beers and nearing his 7:30 deadline when he asked, “Do you want to come with me?” I already knew that I did.“What’s the play about?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he said.
“Do you think they’ll have extra tickets?”
“I’m not sure,” he replied. “Is this weird?”
“OK, let’s go,” I decided. “Let’s be weird.”
And that’s how I ended up not at dinner in East Liberty, or home early, but in an auditorium in Troy Hill. It was the best first internet date I’ve had. Thankfully, he’s still disrupting my routine.