Post-Grad Dating for Awkward People

Fresh out of college and new to Maryland, I had been at living at an acquaintance’s house for maybe 2 weeks when she suggested I date her coworker. I was laying in bed staring at my phone when Mariah* came in and said:

“Hey… I think you should date my friend Austin* because you’re both socially awkward and like to be alone.”

Ouch, I thought, pegged that hard that quickly? Not necessarily inaccurate, though.

Not interested, though. Nope. 

She continued to list his admirable qualities, outed a couple of flaws, and narrated the outcome of his last major relationship, to which I replied, “I’ll consider.”

My 7-year relationship had crumbled during my last and most trying semester of college, and I was burnt out on love. I had come to kick ass and take names at my dream internship, having recently resigned from my position as Emotional Trainwreck Specialist. I didn’t want to deal with the anxiety of dating, the pain that might come from any kind of attachment, or the thoughts that would inevitably distract me from doing me. Besides, what were the chances me and this guy were actually a good match? She’s probably just trying to be a good friend by setting him up on a date, I concluded.

The next Saturday, I decided I would take a very long metro commute to explore Rock Creek Park by myself.

“Ooooh, you should ask Austin to go with you!” Mariah exclaimed. “He could drive you! I’ll text him!”

“NO!” I responded probably too loudly. “No, don’t do that. I don’t want to.” (I’m not sure my response got any more detailed than that. Can’t a girl enjoy a day in the woods in peace?!)

I went to the bathroom and took a shower. And as happens during all showers, I undertook a deep spiritual journey into the self. When I had dressed, I popped my head out of the bathroom.

“You can ask him.”

“YAYYYYYYY!”

“I”ve gotta stop being scared,” I admitted, even though no one asked me to.

“I’ll text him now,”she said as I closed the door to finish getting ready.

He showed up at our door a couple of hours later with a huge friendly grin.

Hmmm…weird that he’s wearing a button up and new Converse to go hiking, I thought.

I learned he was from the Philippines, a U.S. transplant for 10 years and also 10 years older than me. The small talk was easy enough, save the cringe-worthy part where he started to say something about “Manila.”

“Who is Manila?” I asked.

“It’s the capital.”

“…Oh.”

It was a gorgeous day for a hike — sunny and not overly hot. And to my surprise, the walk through the woods was completely relaxed. We talked about all kinds of things that weren’t dull, and sometimes it was peacefully silent other than his occasional coughs. (I later learned that not only had Mariah not told him we would be going on a hike…he had pneumonia that day.) We got lost, even more lost, and then finally found the car.

What was supposed to–presumably–be a short and awkward date at the park extended past hiking most of the day to dinner at a Japanese restaurant.

Forced to sit face-t0-face, I suddenly became very anxious as he ate his meal in 2 seconds and then watched me struggle to use chopsticks for over an hour. He didn’t force anything–he actually seemed interested.

You can imagine how squeaky-happy Mariah was when I came back that evening, having spent the entire day with Austin, and said, “It actually went really well.”

Turns out that sometimes kind, near-strangers can make better decisions for you than you can for yourself. And as anticipated, there is indeed a second date…

Read my next post to continue cringing at my dating skills and learn how life near the capital got a whole lot messier. 

*Name changed.

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