I have to admit that I wasn’t very excited about dating someone in Alabama. My friend Alicia built up the southern gentleman possibility, but I pictured a . . . ummm . . . less sophisticated sort. This wasn’t helped by the first “applicant” from the state. I got an email from someone who had seen my website, asking if I had sex after each date. If so, he was interested. Quoting Julia Roberts in Notting Hill, one of my favorite movies, “Tempting, but . . . no.” I deleted his email.
The second email I got from an Alabaman sounded great. He was an Iowan, like me, and had been in a Bible study group with one of my friends when he lived in Colorado. Unfortunately, he started dating someone before I got to Alabama and decided it would be best not to go out with someone else while trying to woo her.
Luckily Jana, who had hosted me for a night in Little Rock, had a friend who was married to a guy from Mobile. She knew of four single friends of his and got an interested response from the man who would become Mr. Alabama.
If you’re looking for a way to get someone excited for your date, take a tip from this guy: intriguing text messages. I got a couple the day before asking things like, “Do you get queasy on carnival rides?” and “Ever had motion sickness?” I spent the entire day thinking about what we might be doing. Riding a Ferris wheel at a street fair? That would be fun. I guessed everything that could make me sick. A swampboat tour? I puked on a ferry once, so that could be bad. A helicopter ride? That would cost a ridiculous amount of money. Whatever it was going to be, I was curious and looking forward to it.
He also sent some texts saying we’d be changing locations four times and it would be easier to pick me up. I had to consult with Jana, who consulted with her friend Amelia. The all-clear was given, but I was still a little nervous about not having control of the situation. I’d seen a lot of swamps, driving from New Orleans to Mobile, and I knew it would be easy for some crazy man to dump my body into one of them and let an alligator eat the evidence.
Mr. Alabama didn’t look like a serial killer when he picked me up, but I texted his license plate number to my Chief Safety Officer just in case. He said he had planned a memorable evening so that someday when Oprah asked me which date was the best, I would instantly say Alabama! I reminded him that Oprah was retiring in 2010, so that would never happen. He told me about how his entire office had gotten involved in this date, advising him on where to take me, what to wear, and what I was into, since he was representing the entire state. They’d done some internet investigating (read: stalking) and knew everything about me, right down to where I went to college. He had a Dave Matthews Band CD playing on his car stereo. I didn’t know whether to be flattered or freaked out.
As we exited the highway, I saw a building marked “aerospace” and thought, oh my gosh, we’re actually going up in the air. The field was full of little planes and helicopters, too, so I asked which we were doing. He said we’d be taking a Cessna. I asked if he was going to be flying it, and he said he could but he’d asked one of his friends to take us up. As we sat on the runway, it seemed like the pilot had to do a million things before we took off. I sat there getting more and more nervous, thinking, don’t throw up, don’t throw up, don’t throw up. I’ve flown a lot, but never in a little plane. And when I went para-sailing in Peru, what should have been the experience of a lifetime turned into desperation to get out of the sky when I started puking. I was praying I wouldn’t now -- how horrible of a date would I be then?
The take-off was easy. Then I started thinking not about puking, but about dying. I remembered two little planes crashing into each other in Colorado. I tried not to freak out. It’s my mom’s birthday, I reasoned. God wouldn’t let me die on my mom’s birthday. That would be tragic, to be reminded of that every year on her birthday.
It was a beautiful flight. We saw the sun set over Mobile Bay and looked at the twinkling lights below as it got dark. We flew over Dauphin Island, and landed safely on the other side of the water. I was happy I hadn’t puked or died, but I was confused as to how we were going to get home. Then I saw a driver step out of a sleek black car and hold up a sign with Mr. Alabama’s last name on it. He had hired a freaking driver. Unbelievable.
I slid into the car and tried not to think about how much he’d spent on this date. I tried joking about it to ease my guilt. He said he’d sold a kidney to finance it, but hopefully it would be worth it. The driver dropped us off on the main street of a sweet little town called Fairhope. They were having an art fair that night, and we meandered the streets, popping in here and there to look at art. As we were looking at one lovely work of art, he said he’d sell his other kidney and buy it for me, but he was pretty sure he needed at least one to live. He’d look into selling a lung. He was cute.
As we turned down one street, my ears perked up. Was that Neil Diamond I heard? I love Neil! Some old guy was singing on a street corner, karaoke style. A crowd had gathered around him as he sung his heart out to “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show.” As entertaining as he was, even better were the women in their forties and fifties dancing wildly as he sang. I laughed at first, but then thought, oh geez, that’ll be me in ten years, shakin’ it on a street corner while my husband stands a few feet away, sheepishly holding my purse.
We got back in the car and drove along the shoreline to a nice restaurant that Mr. Alabama’s office had decided was the place he had to take me. We both ordered the sea bass, and I couldn’t help but think of Napoleon Dynamite, impressing girls by cooking them a delicious bass. It was delicious, and we talked and laughed for a long time.
On the way home, we stopped and walked out onto a pier. It was one of those moments that’s perfectly romantic, and part of me thought maybe I should kiss him, since he’d spent a lot of money of me, but that seemed rather prostitute-ish. And it seemed that by kissing someone I didn’t have feelings for, despite the really great, memorable date, it would be cheapening my kisses down the road with someone I’m really crazy about. The moment passed, and we walked back to the car for the ride home.
Mr. Alabama planned an amazing date, and it was definitely memorable. I wonder how many guys do wild things like this for women in regular, everyday life. My guess is not nearly enough. No one wants to get too elaborate, scaring off people we’re crazy about with an over-the-top date like this. But let me tell you, if I was on date number three or four with some guy I wasn’t really sure I was into or not, and he planned a date like this, I would definitely feel wooed. Maybe even loved. And that only comes along once in a while.