Saturday, February 14, 2009

This Love Boat Don't Dock Here

In honor of Valentine's Day, I thought I'd share one from my past. A couple of years ago, I was "treated" to a Valentine's Day surprise: a three-hour tour around the Boston Harbor, complete with dinner, dancing, and loving couples gazing into each other's eyes as they rocked and swayed to "My Girl" while the only thing This Girl wanted to do was grab a life preserver and hurl herself off the boat.

I tried my best to look excited and even forced a smile when the crew took our picture before boarding. It reminded me of the snapshots amusement parks take of roller coaster riders right before they take the plunge. We didn't end up purchasing our photo at the end of the night, but I can only imagine the look of fear the camera caught in my eyes as the strains of "Mandy" wafted from the cabin.

We sat down at our table and helped ourselves to the cold, damp bread awaiting us, for what was probably a good day or so judging from its springing action as I chewed until my jaw ached. Our server came over to take our drink order. My date ordered the water.

"I'll have whatever's in a martini glass!" This was an emergency situation.

My date fiddled with his napkin, "So I wanted to get tickets for this other cruise, but it was too expensive. I hope this is OK?"
Huh? Was he really telling me I was getting the second-rate version of his dream Valentine's Day gift? I was on the Ponderosa of cruises, was sitting behind Door Number 3, smelly donkey braying into my ear, "Swim! Swim for your life! Please take me with you."

"Uh, yeah, this is great!"

The DJ told all us "crazy kids" to get out onto the dance floor and surprisingly his choice of "Venus," which I'm pretty sure Adam and Eve danced to on their first Valentine's Day, did not deter anyone from taking him up on his request. The dance floor was instantly flooded with giddy couples. I looked around for the ballot box to put in my vote for Prom Queen.

"Do you want to dance?"

I cringed. I just couldn't force myself to do it. I could not! It was not in my being. Oh why couldn't I at least pretend to be having a good time? Dear Lord, is this Michael Bolton?

"I'll take that as a 'No.' "

I felt like a complete jerk. And perhaps I am. When my date got up to use the restroom, I grabbed my cell phone and text messaged, "Shoot me now" to my best girl friend.

All around us, couples were holding hands and making lovey dovey faces at each other. They ate up the limp spinach and over-cooked salmon, drank up the cheap, bitter champagne (free with the package!), and closed their eyes as they danced to painfully bad music (I will grant that the pain was due mostly to my shoving a pencil up my ear when a Backstreet Boys ballad blasted from the speakers).

The server approached us again with the dessert list: cheesecake or chocolate cake. I ordered the cheesecake.

"Does this come with the package?"

I groaned audibly.

"Yes, sir, this is included."

"OK, then, I'll have the chocolate cake."

It was becoming obvious to me that my date was El Capitain Cheapo of this Love Boat Lite. I wanted off. Badly. So badly I asked a crew member exactly how cold the water would be this time of year.

My date I know had put a lot of thought into the idea and just wanted to make me happy. He figured I like boats, I like dancing, and by Golly, I like food, so what could be better than a combination of the three all condensed into one cookie-cutter romantic night?

It broke my heart when he asked me what would've made me happy, and I thought, anything, anything but this! If you didn't have much money to spend, then why did you take me out? A home-cooked dinner and a bottle of wine would've been much preferred, and cheaper for that matter. I was conscious of every cash bar drink I ordered. I was tempted to write a check for my portion of the package, but instead wound up writing him off.

It wasn't just because of this one night, but rather a culmination of things that unfortunately came to a head on what was supposed to be the most romantic of days. I didn't have it in me to break things off that night; I figured the day after Valentine's would be much better. It's possible though that the feeling iwas mutual. I sincerely hope this was the case, that we both sailed off into the sunset with no regrets, me with a very strong cocktail in hand.