On Sunday at noon, I was dressed up, with a flower in my hair, standing in front of a Rousseau painting at the Museum of Modern Art, looking for a well-dressed stranger. I'd been set up on a blind date.
I was to meet the stranger, Mr. X, in front of The Dream. A winky, fitting beginning for a mysterious rendez-vous.
I spotted him before he spotted me, and walked slowly past him, giving him the chance to speak first. "Hello," he said, "were you checking out the Rousseau?" I said that I was. We shook hands and introduced ourselves. He was handsome, impeccably dressed, and polite.
After strolling past some priceless works of art, we headed out to a bar nearby. On the way, he suggested we take a picture together in front of the Robert Indiana LOVE sculpture; I obliged. As we walked on, I learned that he was in his early 40s, worked for a prestigious company, spoke several languages and had attended a well-respected Ivy League university. Over gin and tonics, he was flattering: "You're stunning," he insisted. I laughed and said I was terrible at taking compliments. He asked me what I thought of him; I said, "Your picture ought to be in the dictionary under the phrase 'a catch.'" He picked up his phone and asked me for my number, so that he could forward the sculpture photo. And then he said, "I'll send you something else, too." And then he said he was going to the restroom, but I should take a look at my phone and see what he'd sent. "Oh, no," I said, with something like dread curling in my guts.
He left the table.
I picked up my phone.
He'd sent a picture of his penis.
It was 1:42 on a Sunday, a mere hour and forty minutes after we'd met, and I was in possession of a dick pic. An unsolicited dick pic.
I texted a (male) friend, who knew I was on a date that had begun at noon: "How soon is too soon for a dude to send you a picture of his dick?" The reply: "Are you serious?" I assured him that I was; he wrote, "SMH DO NOT FORWARD."
When X returned, he asked me what I thought. I said I thought it was inappropriate. "It's the middle of the day on a Sunday, the Lord's day!" I offered, jokingly, as an explanation. I said something else about being not into it, and basically tried to remain calm and cool and collected, despite feeling conflicted: Here was what would be, by any account, an excellent suitor: Smart, attractive, complimentary. Perhaps the dick pic was a mere blip, a momentary lapse in judgment in an otherwise estimable character. Maybe I was being uptight, prudish, missish, unrealistic. I swept past the incident, redirected, changed the subject, moved on.
We went to lunch, and it was nice, although the dick pic lingered in my mind, nagged at my psyche, irritated me like a piece of food stuck between my molars. I turned down the prospect of another drink and said goodbye.
At home, I told a couple of friends — male and female — about the afternoon's strange developments. They agreed that what had happened was Not Okay. I started feeling more and more upset: I'm not a prude, I follow porn stars on Instagram, I've indulged in one night stands — but a dick pic less than two hours into a date? Unprecedented. When I say I'm into pursuits both highbrow and lowbrow, I mean de Sica films champagne and and dive bars and Three's Company reruns. This low was too low.
Innuendo? Sure? Foreplay in the form of banter? Absolutely. Send me poetry, send me flowers, send me a silly/moody selfie if you must, but a dick? Keep it in your pants, unless requested to do otherwise. I'd much prefer Starbucks Drake Hands to genitalia.
X texted me a few times last night ("I had fun, let's meet up soon"), but I couldn't formulate a response until this morning; it read, in part, "It's not a turn on for me at all" and "I'm of the mind that it's something to be sent only if a lady should ask for it, otherwise it's got a subway flasher vibe." He was apologetic and expressed an interest in being friends, but the incident has left me feeling disappointed in the current dating atmosphere. I worry about what's going on out there, considering I recently got a three-word Tinder message ("hang and bang?") and also this OKC message I received a couple of months ago:
To quote a wise, wise woman — Cher from Clueless — we're expected to swoon? I don't think so. AS IF.
Is it me, or is Modern Woo in a state of crisis? Has the centuries-old art and craft of flirting finally given up, sputtered and died? Are we witnessing the End of Gallantry? Please advise.
Image by Jim Cooke