On the latest season of “The Bachelor,” contestant Brittney showed up armed with an escort to meet Ben Flajnik — her 72-year-old grandmother Sheryl, who hobbled out of the limo on crutches. An adorable little stunt for “The Bachelor,” where it’s customary for women ride in on horses or do back flips to win a rose. For the record, Ben and Sheryl seemed to like each other way better than Ben and Brittney. Sheryl may have helped Britney earn her first rose, but she left of her own accord on the third episode. Can you blame her? Watching Ben is like watching paint dry.
In real life, on real dates, these types of schemes are far less endearing. Now don’t get me wrong, I do love grandmas. Especially my own. But when Charles* asked if he could bring his “Bubbe” (Yiddish for grandmother) along on our second date, I wasn’t sure how to respond. Is there an appropriate way to turn down a man’s granny?
Charles and I met at a writer’s conference and had what I thought was a sexy one-night-romp. But Charles insisted we keep in touch while he traveled to South America on business for several months. In his emails, he was polite, charming and witty. He sent funny stories from remote villages in Uruguay. He always asked how I was doing. Occasionally he sent me a random, funny You Tube video of a cat in a box. Our virtual correspondence was a nice compliment to how tall, blonde and handsome he was in person. And did I mention his impeccable post-punk hipster style complete with bow ties, suspenders (but in a really hot way) and glasses? Oh, and he was the proud holder of two PhD’s and had a job that revolved around improving conditions for the poor in Third World nations. All of this made him even better than “The Bachelor.” With each email that rolled into my inbox, I was starting to like Charles more and more.
Needless to say, when he returned to New York after his time abroad, I couldn’t wait to see him. Over Italian food, we caught up on each other’s lives. By the third glass of Chianti, we were holding hands. By tiramisu, I was sure it was on. Being the gentleman that he was, he walked me to the subway and pecked me goodbye on the lips. We made plans to meet up again that weekend.
The next day, he emailed to say he’d gotten us Broadway tickets and would I mind if his Bubbe joined us since she’d been dying to see a show. Although I thought it was odd to bring a family member on a second (or was it our third?) date, I knew that his grandfather had recently passed away, and I was willing to give this seemingly perfect man (and his Bubbe) the benefit of the doubt.
When I arrived at the theater, Charles waved. Near his waist, I saw another hand waving. It was his four-foot six-inch Bubbe, Sylvia. I shook her tiny hand, and repeated my name twice. She was hard of hearing.
Charles hugged me and whispered in my ear, “Don’t worry, we’ll have time alone after the show.”
The three of us squeezed into our seats. I sat in between the granny/ grandson duo. We were seeing a play called “Wit,” starring Cynthia Nixon.” Why did I recognize the title? Wasn’t it a film on HBO or something? Was it the one starring Emma Thompson? The one where she is a poetry professor dying alone of ovarian cancer? My stomach sank.
Please let this show be a different version of “Wit,” I thought. One that’s funny.
When Cynthia Nixon strode onstage bald and in a hospital gown, my worst fears were confirmed. Sandwiched between Charles and Bubbe, thoughts of dying alone of cancer sent my libido into a deep slumber. But it was the sight of Cynthia Nixon’s bald, naked vagina (yes, there was a full-frontal nude scene and yes, her vagina was hairless) that killed any desire I had for Charles. The romance died along with Cynthia Nixon’s character. I’m sorry if I spoiled the play for you. It was spoiled for me when Charles giggled, embarrassed that he had seen a vagina in front of Bubbe.
With a heavy heart, I shuffled out of the theater, hoping a glass of wine alone with Charles might bring my desire for him back from the dead.
That’s when Sylvia turned to me and asked, “Where to next?”
I waited for Charles to jump in and break the news to her, that we would be continuing on as a twosome. He said nothing of the sort.
“Yeah, where to?” he asked, with a cheerful intonation that annoyed me as I was still in deep contemplation about such things as Metaphysical poetry, cancer, death and Cynthia Nixon’s bald vagina.
I suggested a nearby wine bar to which Charles replied, “Cool beans.” He had said it before, but at this moment, it grated on my nerves.
The wine bar was packed with rowdy 20-somethings. Most of whom were on dates … with just two people. There was a live jazz band playing. All of this made the already uncomfortable conversation between the three of us more uncomfortable considering Sylvia’s hearing deficiencies.
We all took on our roles: Charles as the question asker/annoying catchphrase repeater, me as the pained question answerer, and Sylvia as the nodder, although it was unclear how much she actually heard.
The dialogue went something like this:
Charles (screaming over jazz music): Bubbe, was the play hard to watch because of Zayde [Yiddish for grandfather]?
Sylvia: (wistfully shakes head ‘no’)
Charles (screaming over jazz music to me): Has anyone in your family ever had cancer?
Me: My grandpa did, but he’s still alive.
Sylvia: (shakes head yes)
Charles (in an overly cheerful tone and very loud): Cool beans!
Charles: Tell Bubbe about that essay you wrote for Psychology Today.
Sylvia: (shakes head yes)
Me: (inconspicuously checking my cell phone to see what time it is before mustering up the energy to scream my answer)
Charles: Cool beans!
We went on this way through dinner and a bottle of wine. Not only was my libido dead and gone without hope of revival, but my patience for this man was on life support. It was then that Charles shouted over a lively version of “Route 66″ that I would probably be joining him for a cocktail somewhere else after this.
Drained mentally, emotionally and physically and losing my voice from shouting answers for the last two hours, I was the one who shook my head this time. No.
Charles’ face drained. He seemed thoroughly shocked that I wouldn’t want to continue on with the evening. I hugged Sylvia goodbye. And then I hugged Charles. I thought I was as turned off as I could ever possibly be. But I should know when it comes to dating, things can get worse. Charles turned and stuck his tongue out at me.
It was the most loaded tongue-sticking-out I’ve ever received. It was hard to interpret. Maybe it was a “You’re rude for cutting the evening short” tongue or a “You are a crappy person for not being more excited about my grandmother being with us” tongue or a “I thought we were going to f**k tonight?” tongue. Or maybe he was trying to be playful. Maybe he reverts back to childhood in Bubbe’s presence. I suppose Charles thought he was highlighting his tender, family-oriented side by taking me to see a play about cancer with his grandmother. I’ll never know for sure. All I know is that, in real life, bringing your Bubbe on a second date will not get you a rose. Or to put it in Charles’ words, it’s not cool beans.
* Name has been changed.