As most of you reading this should already know, my love life is (and always has been) thriving. [Please read as: I’m single AF.] I actually have a theory that I peaked in the fifth grade, but we’ll save that for a rainy day.
Sophomore year of college I met a guy. I don’t want to character paint this guy too much, I’d prefer we go into this story with as few preconceived notions as possible. Let’s just say, we had a mutual interest: each other; and in this story, we were on a date.
Have you ever had an experience, or phrase, or word, so embedded in a memory that every time you experience, see, or hear this experience/phrase/word, you can’t help but think back to that moment? I have, and I heard it today.
For this particular memory, it’s triggered by the mere mention of the word AMBIANCE.
[FADE IN] It was a Saturday night in Clemson, South Carolina, where date night location options were limited. Most restaurants were bars. Or fast-food restaurants. So we chose a place with this description on Yelp, “Homemade pasta, plus mix-&-match options, are found at this buzzy spot with vintage Italian posters.” Not Italian cuisine, Italian posters.
Despite it being a fast-food Olive Garden, they decorated well. The tables all had salt and pepper grinders, candles, water glasses with a carafe for refills, a basket of toasted baguette slices. I was impressed (enough).
This wasn’t our first date, but awkward conversation with me is a relationship-long experience (as I was told by a recent date, I’m awkward “in an endearing way”). I end up rambling to fill what I think are awkward silences and in this instance, I commented on how the food wasn’t great here, but I did like the ambiance.
He gazed at me with a mixture of concern and affection I’ll never forget, and he responded in the most sincerest of tones,
“Then why didn’t you order the ambiance? Why did you get the rigatoni?”
In the split second afterwards, I was forced to decide how I wanted to react. I could (as rationally as possible) explain why I didn’t order the ambiance, I could hysterically laugh with such vigor and for such a long period of time that the entire restaurant would begin to stare, or I could leave. And I’m not entirely proud to report, I chose option #2.
The intensity of my laughter eventually died down.
I explained to him what caused it.
He said he knew. I think he said something along the lines of “I was just kidding” or “I misheard you.” I let it go. I’m forgiving. And I liked going on dates with him.
As in most developing relationships – platonic or romantic – this turned into an inside joke. Combined with my love of extending the lifespan of a joke to the point of beating a dead horse, I brought this up at most likely every restaurant we ever ate at following. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.