At the local Starbucks, I was waiting for my tall soy latte in a small crowd of people and couldn’t help overhearing a young woman explain to a young man that a small child nearby was one of her students and she wasn’t used to running into students. This was a new experience for her as she didn’t used to live near where she worked. I grew curious. Were they two strangers standing next to each other and waiting for their drinks? Were they friends? Were they dating? Or most promisingly, were they two people on the beginning of a first date?
Several signs pointed toward yes. Their tone felt familiar, yet unsure. She had to explain the significance of running into a music student to him, so he couldn’t know that much about her life. And she kept looking around, at me, out the door, as if wondering if she was being watched.
They walked toward the tables and I waited for my latte. When my drink was served, I scanned the cafe and saw an empty table right behind them, where I could take out my trusty macbook and write/eavesdrop. I took the table.
What is it about first dates that makes them so tantalizing to eavesdrop on?
1. Awkwardness: Everyone hates going on a first date. And it is hard to resist a chance to see people struggle through social interactions.
2. First Impression Test: You know they will have to talk about their lives, so you get a chance to see if your first impressions based on clothing and mannerisms were correct or way-off base.
3. Presentation Judge: Both people are on a mini-job interview, trying to put their best foot forward. How they shape and present their lives makes for fascinating conversation. How do you talk about getting fired six months ago? How do you talk about taking seven years to graduate college? On the flip side, how well do they humble-brag. How seamlessly can you bring in your vacations, the house you just bought, the car you drive?
4. Personal Sitcom: TV, movies, even books get predicable once you know how the game is played. Everything can’t be peachy after the first chapter or episode. But in real life, anything could happen. They could get along famously, they could be kind of “meh” with each other, or they could actively despise each other and you get to see how long they stick it out.
Back in Starbucks, things were going well. The woman was totally dominating the conversation. She’d gone on for like ten minutes about her recent career change. He’d say one or two sentences about work, and then she’d go right on describing her job. I couldn’t quite tell if she knew she was talking too much, or if she was only talking because he wasn’t. He didn’t seem upset. Did he not like talking or did he really want to hear so much about her?
Sadly, the next conversation topic was her boyfriend. She did go on and on about him, but of course, this meant they were not on a first date. They were merely old friends. Not nearly as much fun.
Still, there is always tomorrow at the cafe.