Above: Justin’s favourite thing about courtside tickets
BY VINCENT VARNEY
“This place is really nice,” she said. “Never been here before but I already love the décor.”
Dinner was off to a good start. Picking a restaurant for a date is never easy, but judging by her approval of the furnishings, I figured I could stop worrying. We looked through our menus; she umpired a one-person debate over chicken or lamb; I held back the urge to snobbishly point out a spelling error.
As she recounted her day, my hearing remained attentive while my eyes began to wander. I wasn’t tuning her out. Like most people, I’m rarely spraining any ankles to keep eye contact – I just let my gaze drift anywhere within 20 or so centimetres of the face. I started with her eyes, which hovered around the ceiling as she thought. I watched her earrings gracefully sway in time with her lips and jaw. I moved onto her hair, which must have taken a good hour to straighten, making me feel bad about my lack of effort. And then I looked at her dress, gasped, and made a quick return to eye contact.
I saw cleavage. It may have only been for a quarter of a second, but in the blink of an eye I’d returned to my former state of unease. Women don’t like men who ogle their goods, and while the southern drift of my eyes was entirely innocent, I began to panic. What if she caught me for that brief moment? What if she’d already labelled me a sleaze? What if I was overthinking the situation like I normally do? Unable to confidently answer any of these questions, I decided to play it safe and maintain eye contact at all costs.
I couldn’t risk looking downwards unless faced with a life or death situation, so when the waiter came to take our orders, I pointed to a random dish on the menu and hoped it was dairy-free. I was staring at her eyes so intently, if laser vision existed, I would have already melted two neat holes through her skull.
“Hey,” she remarked, “you look a bit on edge. Are you okay?”
“Yep,” I hastily replied, not breaking her gaze.
I lied. Of course I was on edge, but I wasn’t in any position to make up an excuse like “Oh, I was just thinking about that old lady I politely helped cross the road earlier – I hope she got home okay.” Guys aren’t the capable multi-taskers women are, and keeping my eyes fixated on hers was a challenge of will power. My capacity to hold conversation was akin to a zombie’s. I spent the next 10 minutes smiling and nodding while she ranted about her irritating co-workers and her callous cat. Suddenly, she stopped.
“You’re not going to ask about my new necklace?” she probed, peeved.
Hesitantly, I briefly glanced at her necklace then launched my eyes immediately upward. With the same indifference her cat gives, I told her it looked nice.
“Nice?” she yelled. “Nice? I take it you gathered that from the whole half a second you looked it! This whole night, you’ve been treating me like I’m invisible.”
I’d been found out. She was a perceptive one, she was. Still, I couldn’t work out if I should break eye contact already. I mean, I didn’t want her to think I was the kind of guy who buckles under pressure. I had too much pride.
“Spit it out then. What is it? Is there something on my face?” she asked.
“No, no,” I answered.
“So you’re just staring because you can. Ugh, I can’t believe I went to all this trouble with the hair straightening and the necklace. People told me you were a normal guy. A creep is what you are. I don’t even want to know what’s going on in that sick head of yours.”
She walked out. It was the last time I saw her; the first time I wondered if I was being unnecessarily prudent. But if there was an upside to the evening, I’d learnt a valuable lesson: Not that I should be more relaxed on dates, but that I should Google “Dating site for women in turtlenecks.”
Vincent Varney is a Sydney-based writer who recently stumbled upon a business opportunity: A dating site for people who exclusively wear turtlenecks and skivvies. If you want to share in the riches of his romantic revolution, follow him on Twitter @VincentVarney