Tipping the scales at 300 pounds through college made meeting my beloved at a frat party or in the dining hall impossible. It wasn’t just the reactions I received from the opposite sex, but since I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin, how could I trust anyone else to be comfortable with me? At 23, I found myself with a great job at CBS News, living in the city that never sleeps and 132 pounds lighter – aka suddenly desirable to men. Yet not only had I never been kissed, but I had never been on a date. I had worked hard to lose the pounds, but was not ready for the attention that came with it.
Talking to the male gender outside of friendship brought with it culture shock similar to taking a vacation to Antarctica. There was an entire list of rules and regulations that I’d never learned. One of my friends signed up for online dating with me. She was more determined than I was to jump start my dating career and even wrote my profile for me:
Gentleman, start your engines. I’m a clever, eclectic hybrid of multi-dimensional brains and beauty, who is fully ascribed to the following notions: Chinese food is the ultimate dinner-for-breakfast mainstay, which I believe should be offered on any morning menu, and Sunday morning public affairs programs and newspapers are critical components of a (read: my) balanced diet of information.
I sounded fabulous.
I began to study up on this dating thing. I read everything I could get my hands on. I started buying Cosmo and analyzing every printed word. It was my bible. Being a Type-A overachiever, I figured I could learn everything I needed to learn about dating from these resources. And, I needed to learn it fast.
It was astonishing how quickly someone so inexperienced can score a dates online. For the first time in my life, I was in charge and desirable, and unlike the other guys in my life, the men online had no idea about my weight loss. It was almost too easy to hide my past.
I always requested that we meet for coffee or sushi. Coffee with skim milk and Splenda will not damage your waistline, and sushi, well, I make it a rule to not trust anyone who doesn’t like avocado.
My first date ever was at a sushi restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
“Hi, you must be Shoshana,” he said shaking my hand. “And you are?”
He was looking at my friend Katie; I’d brought her with me to make sure that this guy was not an axe murderer. I wasn’t taking any chances. All the advice I’d read said not to be alone and to always meet in a public place. Granted, bringing a friend along might have been taking it too far. But I was terrified.
“This is my friend Katie,” I said.
I didn’t want her to leave. If this were a job interview,I would have been more comfortable. Networking I can do blindfolded, but dating, I suspected, was not my forte. I looked at her, my eyes pleading for help. But she must have misread the “do not leave me alone look,” for a “it’s time for you to go” look.
“I’ll leave you two alone. Call me if you need me,” she said.
I did need her, or anything that could help guide me through my first date. The restaurant he took me to was a favorite of his and his ex-girlfriend’s. My expertise was limited, but I knew this was not a good sign. Things got worse over spicy tuna rolls.
“I really want you to come with me to my hockey game tomorrow. It’s in New Rochelle. You can take Metro North up and I’ll pick you up at the station,” he said.
I remembered some advice from Cosmo that you’re supposed to be riveted by a man’s interests.
“Oh, what position do you play?” I asked,ignoring the fact that I had barely said anything to him but he was already inviting me to his hockey game.
“I don’t play, I’m the EMT. I take care of the players. I like to have my girl there with me,” he explained.
“Your girl?” I said,my palms sweating.
This wasn’t going well.
“I want to go home now,” I told him the second the check came.
“We’re not going to the movie?” he asked, disappointed.
We walked outside and he proceeded to kiss me. I didn’t see it coming considering I had just canceled the rest of our plans. He ambushed my lips. Missing were the fireworks that Cosmo said I was supposed to experience. It was awkward, uncomfortable, sloppy and not at all what I had envisioned my first kiss to be like on my first date as a skinny girl.
I waited 23 years for this? I thought. I want a redo!
I had always thought that there was a party that only skinny girls were invited to. I assumed that they always found jeans that fit, that they were happy by default, that dream men just found them on the street, that their dates were good, that their kisses were passionate. As this guy slobbered on my face, I realized was mistaken. Being thin made not one bit of difference. Discovering who you are is not just about a dress size and happiness is not determined by a number on the scale.
Four years later, newly engaged and in love with an amazing man I met on at that same site (many first dates later), I couldn’t have dreamt it any other way.