Hunger Mountain - Vermont College Journal of the arts
SEARCH THE SITE:  

Sideways Review: A Blind Date

Erika Anderson
on How Did You Get This Number
by Sloane Crosley


She told me she’d wear red—as if I hadn’t been lurking on Facebook.

Having decided that fashionably late was uncouth for dates of the blind variety, I stepped through the threshold of the forgettable dive on St. Marks a nerdy thirteen minutes early. While I waited, I wondered whether my whiskey on the rocks would suggest that (a) I, too, was a writer or that (b) I had no idea what to order.

But none of that mattered when she slid into the booth opposite.

“I’m Sloane, you must be Erika,” she said, with a glint in her eye. Oh, the glint.

Now that she’d sat down it was too late for a New Yorker cheek-kiss, and a handshake would have been weird. What would we do? Wave? I just smiled and nodded my head.

Because we felt bigger and better than “Where are you from? What do you do?” we skipped the standard questions, leaving us with silence. Before I could determine whether to classify it as “awkward,” she reminded me of the dedication to her latest essay collection, How Did You Get This Number:

“To my parents. For everything*,

*Everything except the two-week period in 1995 directly following the time you went to Ohio for a wedding and I threw a party in the house, which is the most normal thing a teenage American can do, aside from lie about it, which I also did, and Mom eyed me suspiciously for days, morphing into a one-woman Scotland yard, marching into my bedroom with a fistful of lint from the dryer to demonstrate that I had mysteriously washed all the towels, then waited until we were in a nice restaurant to scream, ‘Someone vomited on my couch, I know it!’ and Dad took away my automotive privileges straight through college so that I spent the subsequent four years likening you both to Stasi foot soldiers, confined as I was to a campus-on-the-hill when I could have been learning how to play poker at the casinos down the road and making bad decision at townie bars. I think we can all agree you overreacted. For everything except that, I am profoundly grateful. I have only the greatest affection for you now. Also: I vomited on the couch.”

This will be one hell of a date, I thought. Knee-slapping, drink-spilling, pig-snortingly good. Asterisks, footnotes à la David Foster Wallace, anything meta, and clever use of second-person are my literary turn-ons. Crosley took the high and mighty dedication and turned it upside down. She acknowledged the multifaceted nature of the parent-child relationship exactly where she wasn’t meant to. By sharing how one terrible house party haunted her for years to come, she took a potentially humiliating scenario and turned it into comic gold.

Yet—and in so many date retellings, we are plagued by the “yet”—the whiskey and dedication-induced buzz waned. Sure, at times I expressed a muted, closed-mouth giggle in response to the stories she told. But I also gave her the eyebrows—a disapproving, one-brow-raised stare.

“I had traveled to Romance-language regions before, sometimes alone, and found that as much as people like you to attempt communication in their language, what they like even more is for you to stop butchering it,” she said of her stay in Lisbon.

“Really?” My question was edged with a you’re-bullshitting-me tone that I couldn’t take back. “Because that hasn’t been my experience. From Peru to Mexico, bring on the scheisty Spanish. And the French were entirely uninterested in my English. True, the Italians were confused by my unique blend of mediocre Spanish and French, but what could I do?”

Others might agree with her. Others might not care. Or… others might not be in the throes of disillusionment. With so much riding on this night—soaring expectations and so forth (it was a date, after all)—Sloane’s fall from the limelight was probably inevitable.

Next she talked about her New York City apartment drama. “Like polar bears in the Arctic, our friends were content to float on blocks of ice no bigger than their butts.”

“I don’t want to sound like an asshole”—again with the tone!—“but I’ve been on polar bears’ ice islands and they were at least the size of Soho.”

I know—bad form. I basically said, “I’m an asshole.”* While I was judging her, she was judging me, and rightly so. Luckily, we didn’t linger over the polar-bear-ass debate. My attention was rapt as she shared an occasional truism spiked with a refreshing twist, such as, “Not all shabby is chic, just like not every porn actor is a star.” Or “City gals don’t trek up glaciers in designer heels any more than country folk walk down dark alleys to ask gangbangers for directions. People tend to be more tofu-like, able to absorb whatever environment they’re dropped into.”

I grinned like a fool and thought, “Totally!”

But then she labeled all Midwesterners “wide-eyed.” I asked for the bill.

Being mostly from Michigan, I was moderately offended by that “wide-eyed” remark. Yet what truly bugged me was the “almost” quality of much of what she said—almost funny, almost interesting. Too often, I simply didn’t relate. The leap I wanted wasn’t made, the discovery I hoped for remained undiscovered.

I’d (ecstatically) agreed to the date because of her hilarious-enough-to-be-shown-to-friends dedication. And I’m not sorry I took a chance on Sloane. She gets right to the meat of the matter, and I’m all about that. In an anecdote about the fallout from a cheating lover, she said this: “Somewhere in the center of all that bargaining and investing and stealing is meaning and truth and the lessons you have always known. You hope so. Because without meaning, it was all just a bunch of somebody else’s stuff.”

There’s so much to like about her—her snazzy name, that chocolatey hair, the way she owns the color red. But in the end I got less meaning and truth than I was after … and a little too much of Sloane Crosley’s stuff.

Though, gentlewoman that I am, when the bill came, I paid for us both and told her how glad I was to meet her—now the cheek-kiss—and we wished each other well.

*I don’t actually think I’m an asshole.

~

Erika Anderson has just finished a memoir about a murder-suicide in college and holds an MFA from VCFA. She goes on primarily nonfictional dates in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Visit Erika and read her craft essay.

More Sideways Reviews

.

How Did You Get This Number
Sloane Crosley
Riverhead Hardcover
2010

.
.
.

Leave a Comment

All comments are moderated.
Yours will show up soon, we promise.