I was recently invited to participate in a very popular spoken word event here in Los Angeles. It was a blast to share the stage with so many funny and accomplished writers. Just for a change of pace, I thought I'd publish the essay I wrote for the evening. Enjoy! - DB
"Go, Speed Dater, Go!"
"Go, Speed Dater, Go!"
For our purposes tonight, let’s call him “Ivan.”
I met “Ivan” at a Gay Speed Dating event held in a large barn-like structure in West Hollywood. Having just exited a ten-year relationship with a spirited Irish alcoholic, I was, at the time, seriously out of practice when it came to dating. To me, any evening that didn’t end in a fist fight or a 911 call could be considered a success. Speed dating (for those of you who’ve never done it) is basically musical chairs for desperate people. And when the music stopped, I found a cute, presentable guy sitting in the chair opposite me. He had bright eyes and a nice smile. Plus he was quick and funny. We traded phone numbers and a week later, went out on our first date.
The evening mostly consisted of me listening to Ivan talk about his newfound enthusiasm for the Landmark Forum. For those of you unfamiliar with Landmark, it’s an off-shoot of a self-help movement called EST which was quite big back in the 70’s and 80’s. To be fair, I’ve never attended any of their classes or seminars, but in the mid 1990’s, I went to a couple of meetings of a show business networking group called “The Creative Coalition” which was founded by a group of Landmark graduates. In these meetings, a couple of enthusiastic well-scrubbed “team leaders” would stand in front of the group and propose to us a series of largely preposterous ideas. Then, they would open the floor for more preposterous ideas from the audience -- all of which would be written down on a giant dry erase board. Sensing that it wouldn’t be long before the Kool-Aid was served, I didn’t stick around.
I tried to clear my head of that experience while seated opposite my potential new boyfriend, who (in case I forgot to mention this earlier) was really cute. Despite my subtle attempts to change the subject, Ivan continued to rattle on about the various levels of “Life Mastery” he aspired to. He was particularly excited about an upcoming weekend seminar that promised some major breakthroughs for everyone in attendance. Finally, we wound up back at my place and after a little more chat and a glass of wine, I politely asked if I could kiss him. He seemed sort of surprised, but gave me the go-ahead, so we made out passionately for about 15 minutes. He wasn’t exactly the greatest kisser, but he was really cute, so I didn’t want to jump to any conclusions just yet.
About a week later, it occurred to me that I still didn’t have a date for my upcoming movie premiere. Although I didn’t really think Ivan was the next “Mr. Bottrell”, he did strike me as fun, chatty and photogenic (three things I like in a movie premiere date). I decided to give him a call. I felt confident. After all, even though the movie was a piece of shit, I had written it. I knew we’d be surrounded by big stars and Hollywood power brokers, so I secretly thought that Ivan might be a little impressed. As I dialed his number, the possibility of getting laid danced on the horizon. Sure, he was a rotten kisser, but there was still lots of territory we had yet to explore.
Ivan seemed genuinely happy to hear from me. Being the polite sort, I asked him about his weekend seminar at Landmark. Apparently, to hear him tell it, he had experienced (in that brief 48 hours), a mind-blowing, soul-expanding epiphany guaranteed to alter the course of his life forever. He recounted how, in a blinding flash of self-realization, it had occurred to him that what he needed to do, from this point on, was to be completely honest at all times with everybody, about everything. I wondered if I knew Ivan well enough to point out the implications of such a ridiculous game plan, but before I could say anything, he piped up. “Which brings me to our relationship!” he said. “What do you mean?” I asked.
“Remember last week, when were sitting on your sofa and you asked if you could kiss me? And I said ‘yes? Well, I didn’t mean that. Truthfully, I didn’t really want to kiss you at all, but I sensed it was what you wanted, so I just went along with it. Isn’t that crazy? I didn’t feel the least bit attracted to you. Plus it was really hard to kiss you because of the size of your tongue. It’s so big!” “Really?” I answered. “Yeah,” he replied, chuckling a little at the memory of it. “I felt like I was going to gag a couple of times. Plus, you had garlic on your breath, you know from dinner, and I just felt intruded upon and a little violated. But the weird thing is, despite all that, I really like you. And I think it would be great if we could be friends.”
I paused. I’m a grown man. I’ve been a grown man for a long time now. That’s an important fact to remember when dealing with someone who is not -- Someone who every 18 months purchases a new self-help book because it has a catchy title. Someone who is full of “The Power of Now,” knows “The Secret” and spends half their salary on “Mastery” classes -- with the idea that something as unpredictable and baffling as human life can be tamed, bent to our will and turned into some kind of cosmic Disneyland -- where a positive attitude is the equivalent of a free pass – allowing you to ride all the rides, all day long, every day for the rest of your life -- without ever paying a dime.
I took a deep breath. “Thank you for your offer,” I said, “But I don’t really want to be your friend.” “But why?” he demanded, sounding shocked and hurt. “I don’t understand. I was just being honest with you.” “Yes,” I replied. “And in keeping with that honesty theme, I’d like to point out that you just embarrassed me, hurt my feelings and insulted the size of my tongue. Now, why on earth would I want to be friends with someone who would do that to me?” I also pointed out that dispensing unfiltered honesty was a quality frequently associated with assholes and that I doubted that Landmark (or anybody else) had a class to cover that. He told me I was being defensive, negative and was clearly jealous of his superior ability to express his emotions in an unfettered way.
As I rolled my gigantic tongue around inside my mouth, I flashed back on how I’d met Ivan. Somehow, he didn’t seem as cute now as he had sitting in that folding chair in West Hollywood. I considered trying to counsel him in a meaningful way -- To perhaps convince him that life is about building your dreams on what fate and luck have provided you, and not about embracing petty dissatisfaction as if it were your birthright. But Speed Dating is a process marked by practicality and economy. So instead, I just said “Fuck You!” and hung up the phone.
Copyright 2008 Quitcher-Bitchyn Entertainment, Inc.
David Dean Bottrell is an actor (“Boston Legal”) and screenwriter (“Kingdom Come”) who writes a weekly blog about being strangely middle-class in Hollywood at www.partsandlabor.tv