Dinner and a Movie – the time tested and perhaps hallowed activities in which a pair of individuals most often engage in on a first date. Who am I to mess with tradition?
It was the summer of 2008. It seems like a lifetime ago. My recollection of time is most clearly defined by the movies that are released on a yearly basis, so here is what I recall of that year: worldwide audiences were thrilling to the exploits of a sober Robert Downey, Jr. in a robotic suit of armor. A creaky, weathered Harrison Ford decided to crack his whip and don his famous fedora once more. Heath Ledger wore make-up and licked his lips a lot while Christian Bale growled at him. And a lonely, hopelessly romantic robot cleaned up the earth while kicking out the jams of “Hello Dolly.”
I’m sure a million things rush through the mind of the average female when she agrees to go out on a date with a guy. I present, for your consideration, the thoughts of the female (Specimen 1), and the male (Specimen 2):
Specimen 1: “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe he asked me out! What am I going to wear? How should I do my hair? How much make-up should I wear? I wonder if he’ll try to kiss me. Should I let him kiss me? I’m going on a diet for the next three days. “ … and so forth.
Specimen 2: “Well, I guess we’ll go eat some food and go see a movie.”
Now this breakdown of the male thought processes doesn’t mean we don’t care. It just means we are very, very simple creatures. In fact, I cared very much about this first date, considering I had known this girl for years and this was my attempt to move out of the nebulous “friend zone” with her and perhaps on to something more. My real point of deliberation came when I had to decide, “Which movie are we going to watch?”
There is never any shortage of date movie film fodder to engage in at your local theater. It is a safe bet that on any given Friday night you can religiously turn to J. Lo, Jennifer Aniston and many other titans of the “romantic comedy” genre to provide you with a way to kill 90 minutes with a companion. But I wanted to take my date to something special. Something with heart. So I decided to forego any chick flick or superhero movie (I’d already seen The Dark Knight five times anyway.) I chose to take her to see Wall-E.
I had already seen Disney/Pixar’s latest animated film once that summer, but something about it resonated with me. Maybe it was the robots. Maybe it was the spaceships. Or maybe it was the very simple love story at the center of it all. It made me think about that special girl who had agreed to go out with me. She was still going out with me, right? Check my phone. Ok, no messages telling me it was all a prank, or that she spontaneously feels extreme repulsion when she thinks of me. It was still on.
So the Friday night finally came. I picked her up at her apartment and we set out for some dinner. I casually noted the shoes she was wearing. Brief digression – perhaps the best advice my sister ever gave me was to check out a girl’s shoes when going on a first date. According to my sister, the nicer a girls shoes, the higher the probability that she is really into you. And my date was at this moment wearing red high heels. I deposited this bit of information into my sister’s “foot apparel to flirtatiousness” mathematical equation and after mild deliberation determined that this girl really did like me. Wow. Suddenly I didn’t feel like eating my chinese food. My stomach was feeling funny again.
After our meal we headed to the movie theater. We got our tickets, went inside, and were soon seated in the intimidatingly permissive semi-darkness within. In an act of sheer, unbridled audacity, I lifted up the armrest so that there was nothing separating us.
“These things are for strangers,” I joked. She laughed. My armpits were getting wet.
I knew I wanted to hold her hand at some point during the movie. But when? I couldn’t try for it too early. What if she got uncomfortable and my hand got sweaty and we had to awkwardly let go? No, not too early. But it couldn’t be too late either. I couldn’t just grab at her palm in the last five minutes during the movie’s climax. No. It had to be just right. I had thought about this; it had to be the perfect amount of hand-holding time, preferably in the early third act of the film. If my thought process seems a little neurotic, it was. Maybe I had thought about more than just dinner and a movie after all.
The time finally came. In a touching moment of the movie, Wall-E is literally crushed and Eve, the object of his affections, begins to realize how much he means to her. This was it. The moment was right. Shaking in abject terror, I lightly reached over, tapped my date’s arm, and I extended my open hand to her.
She smiled, and grasped my hand tightly.
It was a good thing I had already seen the movie, because the rest of it was a blur to me. As we left the theater, I grabbed a Wall-E and Eve sticker from a coin machine and presented it to my date. We walked out into the parking lot together. She came up from behind me and took my hand. If pure elation was a drug, then I O.D.’ed ten times over in that moment.
Now it is four years later, and that girl is my wife. We both have very strong affection for the movie Wall-E and the memories it brings of our first date.
I guess the moral of the story is don’t go see something like Fast and the Furious 8 or Generic Kate Hudson Rom-Com on your first date. It’s hard to get nostalgic about mess like that.