Michelle picked the restaurant. It was a place that she always wanted to try. It was our third date.
My stomach was churning. It was easily the most nervous I’d been for a third date. Michelle was everything you want in a girl. She was everything I wanted in a girl. Unfortunately, a restaurant was the last place I wanted to be with her. I’d rather be doing anything else.
Michelle had a habit of biting down and scraping her teeth across her fork when she ate. I couldn’t stand it. The sound gave me chills and it made my teeth hurt. It made dinner conversation nearly impossible.
“Are you cold,” she asked.
“No. I just… I’m…”
“Is everything okay,” she asked as she took another bite of her salmon and sent shivers down my spine.
“Yeah. I’m just not very hungry.”
“Can I ask you a personal question?”
“Do you have an eating disorder?”
“What? No. What are you talking about?”
“Well, you’ve been weird at dinner every time we go out, but you’re fine once we leave.”
“Oh. That,” I said sheepishly. “This is going to sound really stupid and I don’t want to offend you, but I’m really bothered by the way you eat.”
“I’m trying really hard to not be offended,” she said as she mercifully put her fork down.
“No, listen. I have this thing with teeth on silverware. I can’t stand the sound. It gives me the chills and I can’t concentrate on anything else.”
“Oh. Do I scrape my teeth on the sliverware,” she asked adorably.
“Yeah. Every time you take a bite. I’ve been hoping that I would just get used to it, but I haven’t.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know I did that. I didn’t know it bothered you so much.”
“Not your fault. I’m weird,” I said as she picked up her fork again.
“Maybe I can eat without using my teeth.”
I thought, “She is the perfect girl. She’s going to change the way she eats because of my strange pet-peeve.”
She raised the fork to her mouth. I held my breath. If she could do this, all would be well. I’d be able to have dinner with this wonderful girl and be my regular, slightly charming self. She took a bite. No teeth, the budding relationship was saved.
“There. Was that better,” she asked.
“Yes. That was perfect. I’m sorry about all this.”
“No, don’t be. It’s not a big deal. I’m glad you told me,” she said and I could hear the Perfect Girl Meter straining to measure her perfectness.
“Okay, let’s eat and have engaging conversation.” She laughed and I melted. Then she took another bite, this time with teeth. I shivered.
“Oh, sorry. Did I do it again?”
“Yeah. It’s fine, I’m sure it will take some getting used to,” I said.
We sat quietly for a while and ate. It was clear that she needed to concentrate on eating without scraping her teeth on the fork. I let her concentrate and enjoyed my first full meal in three dates.
“Listen, Jeff. I don’t know if I can do this. I have to work really hard to not scrape my teeth, I’ve done it all my life,” she said, suddenly sad.
“Well, this is the first time you’ve ever tried.”
“Yes, but we’re not talking. We’re just sitting here eating in silence. I like you because you’re funny and fun to talk to but we can’t do that if I have to eat this way.”
“Are you saying you can’t change the way you eat?”
“Then I guess this isn’t going to work is it?”
She looked shocked, “We can do other things.”
I smiled sadly and said, “Yes, but at some point we’re going to need to eat together. Would you want me to be weird through a whole dinner with your parents?”
“No,” she looked down.
“I’m very sorry. I can’t tell you how much I want this to work. You’re great, but I’ve got this stupid involuntary reaction to that sound.”
“I can’t believe that this is why we’re not going to keep going out,” I could see her starting to get angry.
“Blame me. Tell everyone what a dick I am. It’s my fault.”
“I know. I will blame you,” now she was clearly angry.
“At least you’ll have a good story to tell your friends,” I said. She glared at me. She didn’t need to speak for me to know what she was thinking. I had gone from exciting new potential boyfriend to complete jackass in just a few strange seconds. I knew there was nothing I could say to put out the fire burning in her eyes. She grabbed her purse and walked out. I watched her go. I hadn’t even had a chance to compliment her on her dress.