First published in the Santa Barbara Sentinel under the pen name, Elizabeth Rose.
As I fumbled for my key to unlock the shop I worked in at the time, an envelope wedged between the door and door frame caught my eye.
I plucked it free, opened the door, and went inside to settle in and read the message.
It was a card with the word INVITATION written in silver letters.
I turned it over and along with sweet words noting our brief encounter, it read:
Date: With me!
Time: You name it!
Place: Your choice!
Hosted by: David Hill
He was a customer who came in the day before and apparently a clever one at that – a party invite to ask me out was first. I dug his creativity.
Then I began to wonder if my work environment resembled some sort of fresh meat locker for hungry older men, as he was the second customer to ask me out in two weeks.
Regardless, I was flattered, and after years of dating the wrong guys and not knowing what my “type” was anymore, I made a vow to be open-minded.
Even if the men happened to be a bit my senior.
I RSVP’d that evening.
On the phone, he sounded energetic and wanted to know more about me.
We agreed to meet at a Mexican restaurant the next evening after I got off work.
The following day, after a long day of retailing, I sat in traffic on my way to the restaurant, parked, then took a moment to myself before heading in.
If the date was awkward, I could always use the “I have a deadline” excuse.
Worked last time.
As I walked into the restaurant, I spotted him immediately.
It was hard not to because he had written my name with a purple crayon in big cursive letters on the paper table cover.
He must have grabbed a crayon next to the children’s menus at the hostess stand.
He stood up and shook my hand.
“Hi, Elizabeth! Great to see you and thank you so much for coming!”
His gray-blue eyes sparkled, and his smile was warm and unthreatening.
I could tell he was one of the “good guys.”
He pulled out a chair for me and I sat.
Seconds later, appetizers arrived, and my rumbling belly and I thanked him for taking initiative.
After putting in an order of spicy margaritas and shrimp fajitas, I learned he divorced years ago, amicably, and was a single parent to two girls, the oldest heading to Yale in the fall.
I listened as he poured his heart out about his daughters and his work with Planned Parenthood and his daughters.
His sentiment was genuine.
He’s a girl’s guy, you could say. A man who put women’s needs before his own.
But I couldn’t help but feel a little “parented” by his supportive and encouraging words, no fault of his own.
His daughters were blessed to have a father like him, but the thought of us being intimate made the relationship feel like I was dating a version of my dad.
Three hours went by before we checked the time.
“Wow, Elizabeth! It really says a lot when two people can talk like this so easily!”
I nodded and smiled in response, feeling the friend vibe and nothing more.
A week later, I flew home to visit my family.
David checked in now and again via text and eventually sent a photo of himself with his family gathered around the dinner table.
But as looked at the picture, I was even more unattracted.
There he was with a huge smile on his face in full “dad mode” next to his two daughters who were closer to my age than he.
Did I mention he was wearing a Santa hat?
I realized it was time to be clear with him so I called a few days later.
I mumbled my way through our conversation, worried I’d hurt his feelings, and said a romantic relationship between us was not in the future but I hoped we could remain friends.
He understood, thanked me for being honest, and told me how proud he was that I had handled this in such a mature way.
The dad in him couldn’t help it.