A short story about the next innovation in dating

Photo by Bill Adler

“How did it go? Was she an obtrusive third wheel? You know, like when your best buddy, Tony, insists on coming along on your date because he’s seen all the Friends’ reruns at least four times and is bored.” Tony elbowed Charles in the ribs. “And…afterward, when you brought your date home, did the editor transform into a bedside coach, giving you step-by-step instructions?”

Charles took a long swig and carefully set his glass on the Rogue IPA coaster. He used the time to consider his reply. He didn’t want Tony to think that he had gotten under his skin.

It was Friday, with every seat taken, the overflow crowd standing, juggling beers and phones in their hands. Patrick’s Pub buzzed with a hundred different conversations. Even though the summer’s light still lingered outside, perpetual dusk cloaked the pub, the backlit bottles behind the bar glowing like Saturn’s rings.

“It was our first date, so nothing happened in the bedroom.” Charles recognized his mistake the moment Tony cocked his elbow for another jab. “Not that I’d tell you if it did.” He shot Tony an awkward wink, grabbed his glass, and finished his beer. “The date went great, thanks to the Dating Editor. My tongue gets tied sometimes, especially when I’m around pretty women, and it was worth every penny.”

“Advika is gorgeous, isn’t she?”

“How would you know that?” A series of lines like sand drifts on a windswept beach materialized on Charles’ forehead.

“Don’t worry.” Tony shot him a Cheshire Cat grin. “I haven’t slept with her. I Facebooked her.”

The lines on Charles’ forehead dematerialized. “I always say stupid things, use the wrong word, start sentences that meander in a dozen directions, and basically babble in an unintelligible English dialect when I’m on a date. It’s like Pig Latin meets Gibberish, with bits of Klingon thrown in. Job interview, no problem. Guy friends, fine. Talking to the boss, I rock. It’s just with women that I’m a mess,” Charles said.

“I gather you’re not alone, given that such a service exists.” Tony blew on his knuckles and rubbed them against his shirt. “As for me, I was gifted with a silver tongue, so I always say the right thing. But enough about me. Tell me about your date.”

“The editor, Jennifer, was fast and did her job without consulting a dictionary. It was like working with a simultaneous translator, that’s how smooth she was. I booked a table for three at Pasta Paradise. By the time I arrived, Jennifer was already there, waiting at the maitre d’s station. We were seated at a booth, Advika and I facing each other and Jennifer to my right. I offered Jennifer breadsticks, but she said they’re not allowed to eat while with a client.

“I read on the Dating Editor’s website that it’s recommended to use the editor for the entire date, rather than choosing which sentences she should edit, which is what I did. I turned toward Jennifer and whispered what I intended to say to Advika. Jennifer either nodded if the sentence was grammatically correct, or whispered an edited sentence in my ear.”

Tony scooped up a fistful of nuts, leaned back, and deposited them in his mouth.

“Oddly, having an editor at my side made my sentences sloppier than usual. I mixed tenses and every other sentence was run-on.”

“Maybe you were just more nervous than usual because you like Advika.”

“Yeah, maybe.” Charles spoke in a low tone, his words muffled by the bar’s hubbub. “I think I was using my editor as a crutch, figuring that she’d correct any and all mistakes before I uttered them. So I didn’t think as crisply as I would have without an editor present.”

“First dates are work, aren’t they?”

“I’d rather be back in algebra class.”

“You would?” Tony ran his fingers through his blond hair.

“No, not really.” Charles smiled. “Several times my editor stopped me from mixing up you and your. When I was telling Advika about my favorite movies during drinks before dinner, Jennifer suggested I pause between the second to last and last items. A metronome-like beat.”

Tony raised an eyebrow.

“To simulate an Oxford comma.”

Tony nodded. “Makes sense.”

“I don’t usually mess up noun-verb agreement, but without my editor I would have said, ‘My two brothers is both doctors.’”

“Yikes!” Tony’s hands shook, transforming the beer into a tumultuous ocean. Foam spilled over the glass. Charles offered him his napkin and reached across the bar to retrieve more.

“Several times Jennifer suggested I say something like “It is good to meet you,” instead of “It’s good to meet you,’ lest Advika think I didn’t know the difference between ‘its’ with and without an apostrophe. I almost said, ‘Irregardless of whether we have a second date, I’ve enjoyed tonight,’ but Jennifer saved me from that embarrassment.

“The only time I didn’t take her advice was when I started a sentence with, “however.” But Jennifer understood that as the author of these sentences, I was the final decider. She wore a poker face when I didn’t follow her suggestion. She’s a pro.”

“At least you didn’t claim to be well hanged.”

It was Charles’ turn to slug Tony. He took the hit in stride.

“Are you going to hire Jennifer for your second date with Advika? Or use another editor?”

“I probably should. Sometimes I feel like I can do without an editor, but I know I can’t. I admire people who speak with perfect grammar.”

“They’re usually the ones who have perfect teeth.” Tony beamed at Charles. “You didn’t feel awkward having an editor with you?”

Charles bit his lip. He caught the bartender’s attention, waved his empty glass, mouthed “another,” and waited for a refill before answering. “It wasn’t awkward, but here’s the weird thing. I felt closer to Jennifer, my editor, than I did to Advika. I even checked her out online afterward.”

“I see.”

“Jennifer’s on Match.com, which means she’s available.”

“And?”

“I’m going to ask her out. We connected grammatically. Plus, she already knows my flaws.”

An American writer in Japan, editor of The Binge-Watching Cure books, author of the bestselling book, Outwitting Squirrels. Occasional pilot, 24/7 cat owner.

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