Sunday, June 09, 2013

The Power of an Icebreaker

In the years since my debacle of a first date at Viewmont High School's annual Christmas Dance, I have been on hundreds of dates with hundreds of girls, but every time I feel like I have something figured out (always open your date's door, never use the word "groin" in mixed company), my next excursion nullifies it. Sometimes dating feels like flunking the same college class year after year, only your professor never actually tells you why you haven't passed.

And yet, there are a few dating tips I feel assured of. One is that you should always cheat when you play pool.

Years ago, before he was married, The Cheetahman and I went on a double date. My date was a Hungarian girl named Alex, who I'd met at my singles ward. Cheetahman's date was a girl named Wanda*, also from our singles ward, who was an avid beach volleyball player. Wanda** also liked ribs. She demonstrated this early in the evening at Tony Roma's by finishing an entire rack of baby backs less than five minutes after they hit our table.

I'm sure there are hordes of men who'd go weak at the knees when confronted by such an awesome display of rib-conquering appetite, but The Cheetahman wasn't one of them...especially when he was footing the bill. Truth is, his presence that evening was more an exercise in accommodation than romantic courtship.

At any rate, by the time the rest of us finished our meal and drove up to the University of Utah campus to shoot a few games of pool at the student union, an odd tone had been established.

Vulgar Display of Rib-Consuming Power + First Date Awkwardness = Odd Tone.

I think that's why about halfway through our second game of two-on-two, I got bored and started cheating. Whenever the girls weren't paying attention, I started pulling out the balls they'd already knocked in and placing them back on the table. Since Cheetahman and I were shooting like crap anyway, our new advantage didn't become immediately obvious. In fact, once he caught on to my plan, we both carried on the exercise for a full ten minutes before our dates realized what we were doing.

When they did finally catch us, something incredible happened. We laughed, our dates pretended to be offended, then they laughed too. The awkward date tension was broken. Everyone relaxed, and the rest of the evening was a lot of fun. On the way home, Wanda*** confessed her love to Cheetahman, and he rejected it and married Alex instead. (About six months later...not that same night).

Vulgar Display of Rib-Consuming Power + First Date Awkwardness + Cheating at Pool = Marriage.

As easy as it is to apply the value of a tension-breaker to dating, I'm going to suggest that the lesson applies elsewhere in life. And I'm not just thinking about board meetings or sports teams, either.

(prepare for profound philosophical/spiritual transition...)

One of the toughest challenges in life, particularly as a Mormon, is understanding the balance of responsibility between yourself and the Lord. We're all required to take initiative, whether it has to do with dating, career, buying leather pants, or most any major life decision, but all the initiative in the world still takes a backseat to the Lord's Timing. This frequently results in an uncomfortable tension and anxiety that leaves a person wondering whether their failure to find a job/spouse/etc. is the result of them doing something wrong, or merely The Lord's Will.

At times like those, I really appreciate those little icebreakers.


*Not her real name.
**Again, not her real name. But a name you could associate with a woman who was really into ribs.
***Jamie Lee Curtis once played a woman named Wanda.****
****Jamie Lee Curtis was not Cheetahman's date.