Date #2: The Museum Date

Dinner is the worst possible first date.  You have to wear something that looks good both sitting down and standing up.  You have to avoid disaster items like spaghetti and French onion soup (and while I rarely order either of these, it’s the principle that matters). 
You also have to spend the entire evening looking at your date.  And worst of all, you have to spend the entire evening talking to your date.  And if you run out of things to talk about half way through the appetizers, you’re out of luck. 
Hence the reason I prefer dates that revolve around acts of silent contemplation, such as concerts or art museums.  This way, if you find yourself in the midst of an awkward pause you can just pretend you’re having a “moment.”  And such moments (“Don’t talk to me!  Can’t you see I’m contemplating Vivaldi here!”) garner instant sophistication. 


But the dinner date has no such distractions.  In fact, the dinner date is, depending on the restaurant, a recipe for disaster.  Thus, when Date #2 suggests we meet at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I have a minor conniption.  I love the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and I know from previous experience that Art After Five (the weekly Friday night soiree) is a great date.  Being that it’s an art museum, there’s plenty of opportunity for silent reflection.  Also, there’s wine and live jazz—what could be better?
The only problem with the Philadelphia Museum of Art is that there are a lot of steps involved—and not just any steps but the 72 steps of Rocky fame— and steps complicate the art of arriving fashionably late.  To arrive fashionably late at the Philadelphia Museum of Art is to arrive out of breath, completely flustered and quite possibly with a twisted ankle.  Unless you’re training for a boxing match and running around the city in a pair of sneakers, it’s not a terribly good idea to run up the steps (and someday I hope the hoards of overweight tourists who attempt their own Sylvester Stallone-inspired sprint will realize this).
Given that I’m wearing heels (what else?) and attempting impress Date #2, I don’t mind that he’s running a few minutes late.  This gives me the chance to make my ascent, catch my breath and strike an artful pose on the base of an obliging column.  Unfortunately, Date #2 comes marching past a few minutes later without so much as a glance in my direction.  Maybe I wasn’t looking so artful after all.
“Date #2!” I call out (excpet I use his real name of course).  He turns, smiles and greets me with a single kiss (I’m getting used to the single kiss now, but I have a feeling that Date #4 might be the hand kissing type so for the sake of anthropology, I’m going to have to continue my research in this area).
We make our way through the front doors and head towards the ticket counter.  “Are you a member of the museum?” I ask.
“No,” he confesses.


“Neither am I,” I reply, “but my parents are so, if you’d like to pretend to be Mr. and Mrs. S. Richter, we can get in for free.”
Date #2 is a good sport.  He agrees, and even though I feel a bit guilty about pulling a fast one on the art museum, I’m a writer and Date #2 is a student and $16 for three hours in the art museum seems a bit extreme.  (Note: I’m resisting the urge to lapse into another I-miss-London rant but can we just pause for a moment to consider the beauty of the fact that the V & A, the National Gallery, the Tate and the British Museum are all free?)

I get a bit twitchy as the woman behind the counter inspects “our” membership cards.  She pauses, looks at me and hands me back my card.  Oh no.  Has she realized that neither “Mr.” nor “Mrs. Richter” is wearing a wedding band?  Is she going to ask to see my ID?  I’ve pulled this stunt once before but I haven’t been to the art museum since.  Maybe they have my photograph on some sort of Non-Profits Most Wanted list? 
Finally the woman smiles, “I only need one card for the dual membership.  Do you need tickets to the Renoir exhibit?”
With a sigh of relief, I say “No thanks, just the galleries.”  She hands my dad’s membership card back to Date #2, who very smoothly waits until we’ve passed the ticket counter to return it to me.  And so it begins.
I prepare myself to make intelligent comments about Impressionist art.  I spent an entire semester studying Impressionist art during my year Junior Year Abroad so I figured I’m pretty well prepared.  I can wax poetic about Degas.&
nbsp; I can contrast the careers of Manet and Monet and I can find something reasonably sophisticated to say about almost everyone from Delacroix to Toulouse-Lautrec, but here’s the thing about Date #2: we start talking at 5:00pm and we don’t stop until three glasses of wine (me), three bottles of beer (him) and five and a half hours later.
I don’t get to say anything intelligent about Degas but we do broach, in addition to other things, the forbidden first date subject of pets (in my defense, its pretty hard not to talk about pets when you sit down in the middle of the atrium behind a man with a service dog). 
In honor of Renoir, the folks in charge of Art After Five have decided to forego jazz in favor of Victorian parlor music this week.  Victorian parlor music is not particularly rockin’ (not even slightly rockin’ actually) but there’s an entire flock of corseted models strolling through the galleries and the curators have set out dozens of clipboards with drawing paper and pencils so I challenge Date #2 to a duel.
Suffice it to say, it’s a good thing that neither Date #2 nor are I have our hearts set on a career in the fine arts.  We try all the possible genres (still life, architectural renderings and 20-second sketches of the couples seated around us on the steps) but when Date #2 suggests we retire to a bar around the corner, I couldn’t agree more.         
It’s one of those gorgeous summer nights—warm enough to sit outside but not too warm to risk the act of perspiration.  We talk and talk and talk, and either I’m getting the hang of the dinner date or Date #2 is a charming conversationalist (I suspect it’s the latter of the two). 
Tonight will be a true test of my skills.  I’m meeting Date #4 for dinner and I’m already panicking because we’re going to dinner at one of the swankiest restaurants in all of Philadelphia.  I like to think I can do swanky—I got into China White in London once, and the VIP lounge at Carbon!— but when push comes to shove, I’m not so sure.  

—– Kat

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