b relationships columnist Zahara Johnson.
b relationships columnist Zahara Johnson. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun)

I've had my share of ghastly first dates. I can still recall two experiences rather vividly.

The first was a dinner date at a popular chain restaurant where my companion watched the NBA Finals the entire time. He asked where I wanted to sit and as luck would have it, I chose to perch right in front of the 80-inch flat-screen TV. For over an hour, I was only allowed to speak during 30-second commercial breaks.


The second was an impromptu lunch date. My escort spoke so loudly that I just knew people coming in from the parking lot could hear him. Even better, my face and food were attacked by the cheeseburger particles ejected from his mouth.

These occurrences depressed me. Was I that bad of a catch that I couldn't even secure a date with a man who talked to me longer than five minutes? Was I that lame that I only attracted men who didn't chew with their mouths closed and referred to arugula as "green s---"? Why, oh why, was God making an example out of me?

It soothed my mind to know that I wasn't the only one who had been on a date I'd pay to forget.

"I went on a date with a guy named Smoke," a 24-year-old friend of mine said. She chose to keep her identity private to avoid being the subject of uncontrollable laughter.

"He was very nice and respectful, but when we got to the restaurant, he didn't even know what an entree was. I was shocked."

Her ordeal made me feel a little less of a hermit.

Sekinah Brodie, 23, had an entire day mapped out with a special friend. Her date had always spoke about his love for New York City and decided to take her there for an all-day romantic conquest.

"It was his idea, so I figured he [knew] what we would do," she said. "Nope! When we got there he looked at me and said, 'So ... what do you want to do?' Not to mention, he almost got beat up by three guys dressed in superhero costumes."

I refused to believe that women were the only victims of dates gone completely wrong. So I asked several men, even stopping a few as they walked outside, just to ask if they'd ever taken a girl out and regretted it. Most looked at me like they had no idea what this thing called a "date" even was.

Aaron Feggins, 25, surprised me with his response.

"Women are great actresses," he said. "They can go out with a man who they have no interest in, and the man would never know." I was interested. I thought of a few heated rebuttals as I urged him to continue. "If a woman wants to get out of the house [or wants] a free meal, she will contact a guy she's not even attracted to."

I'm always up for a good ol' man vs. woman debate. It's what I do in my spare time. Yet, my assertiveness was at a standstill because he was right.

I've gone out with plenty of guys who will never get the pleasure of knowing me on a personal level. With dates, it all boiled down to one of life's greatest sacrifices: Either stay home on a Friday night and watch Guy Fieri on the Food Network, or go out for drinks with the loudest-talking, sloppiest-eating guy I've ever witnessed.

In times of dire need, I've almost always picked the latter.


Now, I reminisce on those hellish encounters and chuckle.

I'm now stepping back onto the dating scene and I've learned quite a bit. Sometimes, horrid dates are inevitable. But I just look at it this way: My terrible outings helped me sort through the unacceptable and understandable idiosyncrasies of men. Yes, I do want a guy who speaks very well but not too loudly. I like a guy who watches sports but not to the point where he forgets I'm even there. Please, enjoy your food, but could you make sure that none of it finds its way onto my eyelid?

I think I'm ready and all I can do is pray that I won't be another contestant on "When Bad Dates Happen to Good People."

Zahara Johnson's relationships column appears regularly in b.