Kiss and Tell: “My date realized I’d forgotten his name”
Mackenzie, a 21-year-old student, couldn’t tell who was more embarrassed: her, her date or their server
Welcome to Kiss and Tell, a series about the steamy, surprising and frequently absurd world of Toronto dating. Send your most memorable stories from the pursuit of love and lust in the city to [email protected].
—As told to Anthony Milton
I was 19 when I met a French exchange student on Bumble. He was handsome—dark hair, square-framed glasses and a bit of stubble. His profile said he was in Toronto studying science at U of T. As an arts student, I thought that was cool. Doesn’t everyone like a smart guy? Plus, we both loved to travel, and our conversation quickly turned into swapping vacation stories.
At the time, I was looking to put myself out there. I’d recently made it my pet project to go on a couple of dates a month. I was half looking for a relationship, half looking for something to do on a Wednesday night. So, when he asked me out to the AGO after a week of messaging, I was a little nervous but game.
The day of the date, I donned black leather pants and biked over to meet him. Word to the wise: do not bike in leather pants. It’s super uncomfortable. By the time I arrived, early, I was flustered and pacing back and forth to shake it off. He was only five minutes late, but it felt like an eternity. We greeted each other with a hug and went to grab coffee before heading into the museum.
It quickly became clear that we were very different people. I ordered a smoothie; he ordered a London fog. When they prepared it wrong, he sent it back—and had the audacity to tip poorly on top of that. Still, he paid for my drink and a shared snack that I ate most of.
After that, we went into the museum. I’m someone who likes to joke around a bit in classy settings, but this guy was really examining the art. The conversation died down as I tried to match his serious mood. There was still a bit of a spark, though. Even though we barely talked, we did sneak in a romantic kiss. That was definitely the high point.
Walking back to our respective bikes, he told me I smelled nice. “Thanks,” I said. “It’s Degree deodorant.” There was a long pause before he finally said, “Cool.” Oh my god, I thought. Why did I say that? Any possible flirty vibe died immediately, and we cycled our separate ways.
Miraculously, he kept messaging me. He suggested a second date at Vesta Lunch, a little diner on Dupont, and I agreed. It’s a tiny restaurant—basically a counter with stools on one side and staff on the other. On the day of the second date, it was just us and the server. It felt pretty intimate.
Flirting has never been my strong suit. I consider myself an awkward person. The best I can do is say out-of-pocket things and hope they land. I’d tried to improve this part of my personality. When I was 16, I worked in a seafood store and decided to hone my conversational skills by laughing hysterically at anything the 25-year-old chef said and then immediately insulting him. Needless to say, it gave the workplace a weird vibe.
But I wanted to give it another go. I’d been taking a sign language class at school and had recently mastered the ASL alphabet. It was a bit of an unconventional come on, but I figured, What better way to impress this guy than to spell his name out in sign language? So, touching my hair and trying to seem as worldly as I could, I brought up my newfound skill and told him I could sign his name.
“Oh yeah?” he said, feigning disbelief. I matched his playful tone with my own take on overblown confidence. “Oh yeah, I totally can,” I said. “Watch.” So I put up my hands and started signing out the letters one-by-one, saying each out loud to match: “T-H-O-M-A-S.” I knew my signing was perfect, but he wasn’t reacting right. Every letter made him look more confused.
Poor baby, I thought. He’s so bad at sign language! I started over, hoping to achieve the intended effect through repetition. “T-H-O-M-” But, halfway through the second run, he cut me off. “No, no, no,” he said, in his strong French accent. “My name is Oscar!”
I was horrified. The server was horrified. It was a terrible triangle of awkwardness. I sat there aghast, looking like I had just been doused in cold water, while the server put on the classic face of judgment: chin back, eyebrows up, lips pursed. My mind started racing. I didn’t know anyone named Thomas. The only Thomas I’d ever met was a guy my friend’s sister had dated in high school. Where on earth did I get that name from? He started asking me if I was still on dating apps talking to other guys. Well, yes, I thought. But none named Thomas.
Sputtering, I told him, “It’s because you remind me of that character in Grey’s Anatomy!” It’s a good thing he didn’t Google it. Thomas is an 80-year-old surgeon who dies of a heart attack. Not exactly a flattering comparison. Thankfully, he accepted that excuse. He probably just wanted the conversation to end.
My face had turned beet red. As I kept sputtering out frantic apologies, he started feeling bad for me and began awkwardly tapping my knee, as if to say, There, there—I’m sorry you got my name wrong. At this point, the server, thoroughly entertained, came over to refill our waters out of what I can only assume was sympathy.
Not-Thomas got up to go to the washroom and was gone for a long while, which only made me panic more. Just as I figured he’d climbed out a window and run far, far away, he came back. I pulled myself together and committed to salvaging the date. My face resumed its normal colour, and we got back into regular conversation.
Incredibly, he stuck around for the whole thing and started being quite forward. When he asked me what I was doing after this, I realized that he was aiming to take me home. I made some excuse—I didn’t want to go home with a guy I had only met twice. Besides, I had a funny story I couldn’t wait to tell my roommates.
When things wrapped up, he walked me to my bike and surprised me with a kiss goodbye. I was relieved that I’d somehow repaired things. Oscar and I continued texting. Despite my unclear dating goals, I’m someone who likes the possibility that things could become long-term. So I tried to suss out his situation. “I can remember your name now,” I wrote in one of our exchanges, trying to turn my former humiliation into an inside joke. “So what are you looking for?” He told me that, since he was going back to France at the end of the school year, he wanted something casual. The lack of a possible future between us killed my interest. We never saw each other again.
That was the last time I ever tried that sign language trick. Ever since, I’ve been less keen to date just for the sake of dating. After all, if you’re going to date someone, you should at least care enough to remember their name.