“She: So then, I’d be the beard?/He: You’d be the beard, the mustache, and the eyebrows . . . anything with follicles. I’ll confess eventually, but for now it’s just easier to throw her a bone so, if you’ve got the guts, let’s give it a try./She: So now I’m a bone, with guts and a beard? A few more body parts and we’ll have a whole new person.”—Ross Konikoff
West Side Stories
By Ross Konikoff
MANHATTAN New York—(Weekly Hubris)—October 2019—I read recently that speed dating has become a thing in Manhattan, supposedly saving time and money when it comes to finding one’s soulmate. It involves sitting with a potential match-up for five minutes, conversing, and then moving on to the next candidate, until one or the other radiates sufficient attraction to follow through with an actual date. The following is how I imagine five such brief encounters might proceed:
Interview 1: “Down to Business”
He: Hi. I’m Alan.
She: I’m Sue.
He: Sue, what would be your idea of a fun afternoon . . . (She interrupts him.)
She: Hold it, hold it. Can we skip the preliminaries and get down to business?
He: Sure. That’s why we’re here. Go!
She: (She pulls out a clipboard and a pen from her purse.) I don’t believe in wasting time. The three things crucial to determining compatibility are good sex, whether or not to have children, and sound finances. If any one of these is in conflict, the relationship is probably doomed, so let’s get started.
He: Wow! I came here for a date on Saturday night, but you’re ready to start nagging me for a new washing machine.
She: Alan, do you find me appealing?
He: Yes, I find you appealing. When you walked over, I said to myself, “Now that girl is appealing.”
She: And sexy?
He: (He looks her over.) I’m having impure thoughts already. If you want X-rated, we could move to a private chat room.
She: That’ll do for now. What’s your occupation?
He: I’m a network security analyst at JP Morgan. I travel once in a while, but I’m based here in New York. And I play the guitar . . . a little.
She: Of course, you do. Planning on getting the band back together?
He: No, it’s just me. I’m hoping to be the next Bob Dylan.
She: I didn’t like the first one.
He: What’s your line of work?
She: I’m finishing the last ten months of my army enlistment, stationed at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn. After I’m out, I start the Clinical Psychology program at Columbia. Do you like sex?
He: Uh . . . sure I do . . . you want specifics?
She: No, I meant sex in general.
He: Are you a General?
She: No, Staff Sergeant.
He: Yes, Sarge, I like sex.
She: Any fetishes or deviations?
He: Not yet, but I’m still browsing.
She: Do you enjoy pleasuring a woman orally? It’s important for me to know.
He: Yes, but only when the situation is right.
She: When is the situation right?
He: Well . . . never on a bus.
She: And what’s your success rate?
He: I usually get the job done.
She: I only ask because most guys think they know the right spot, but then they miss the mark.
HE: It’s that thing between your legs . . . right?
She: That’s the general vicinity, yes.
He: I usually zero in on it but, if it’s not working for you, I’m all ears. After all, there’s no point in beating a dead horse now, is there?
She: Favorite sexual position?
He: Inside anywhere, from any direction . . . look, I’m going to need a cold shower if this goes on for much longer.
She: Ok, moving on . . . how many children do we want?
He: I don’t know. Surprise me.
She: I mean eventually. Do you see yourself with children some day?
He: I’m not averse to raising a moderately sized family when the time comes.
She: (Checks off something on her list.) Does your company offer health coverage and 401 K contributions?
He: Yes, I have both. It’s a good job, with nice people, excellent management, and lots of room for advancement. I’m planning on being there for a long time.
She: Have you got a savings account?
He: I always keep a six-month cash reserve in case of emergencies.
She: Have you ever raised your hand in anger to a woman?
He: I date short women, so I don’t have to.
She: Any bad habits? Smoker?
He: I like a beer now and then, maybe a little wine with dinner, but I’m off crack now and, I swear, this time it’s for good.
She: (She checks off another item.) There, now that wasn’t so bad, was it?
He: Are we done already? I haven’t even met your parents, yet. Are they outside, waiting in the car?
She: All in good time. Let me total your score so far. (She writes something.) You’re doing pretty well. You’re up to 60 already.
He: Out of how many?
She: I’m not sure, yet, but 60 out of anything is good.
He: What about the natural chemistry between two people? How many points does that get me?
She: Do we have natural chemistry?
He: I won’t know for sure until you put down the clipboard and let me buy you dinner.
She: I’m amenable to that. When?
He: Well, after five minutes with you, spending another five minutes with anyone else seems pointless, so here’s what I propose: I say we go out for an early dinner, and then afterwards go back to my place. We’ll have another glass of wine or two, and then get into bed. When we wake up tomorrow morning, you can tally up my score and tell me whether or not we’re compatible. How about that? (She thinks about it for a moment.)
She: Well . . . it would save time.
He: Days, weeks, maybe months…
She: Alright, just this once . . . but only because it saves time. (She puts the clipboard back into her bag as they stand up and walk out together.)
Interview 2: The Masquerade
She: Hi. I’m Louise.
He: I’m Alex.
She: Those are great shoes, Alex. Very colorful!
He: They’re Glauco 48 Oxfords. Aren’t they fun? I love your Cole Haan Slip-Ons, and especially your Louis Vuitton Damier Alma bag! I’m jealous!
She: It’s a fake.
He: I know it is. The real ones cost a fortune, but it shows you have good taste.
She: I’m impressed. You certainly know your accessories!
He: My family’s in the business. My mother’s a designer at Dolce & Gabbana, and she’s got four new jackets on the runway this Saturday night at the Met Museum Gala.
She: That’s fantastic! How lucky you are to have such a talented mother!
He: Yeah, well . . . as a matter of fact, that’s why I’m here. Would you come with me as my date?
She: Well, sure. I’ve never been to a runway show. It sounds very exciting!
He: Before you agree . . . there’s a . . . slight catch.
She: What’s the catch?
He: My mother’s upset because whenever I go out, I never let her meet my dates. She’s terrified that I might be gay.
She: Well . . . . . . . are you?
He: Of course, I am.
She: Then . . . why are we here?
He: I just haven’t found the right moment to be honest with her yet and go through the inevitable histrionics. It wouldn’t kill her, but it would take her a little time to adjust.
She: I didn’t think coming out would be so shocking for someone in the sophisticated world of fashion. Why not just have that special talk some night and get it over with?
He: You’re right, I keep putting it off, but this weekend is definitely not the right time, so for now, it’s just easier this way. Am I a terrible son?
She: So then, I’d be the beard?
He: You’d be the beard, the mustache, and the eyebrows . . . anything with follicles. I’ll confess eventually, but for now it’s just easier to throw her a bone so, if you’ve got the guts, let’s give it a try.
She: So now I’m a bone, with guts and a beard? A few more body parts and we’ll have a whole new person.
He: Will you do it?
She: I don’t know . . . I feel kind of guilty deceiving someone’s mother. Besides, I wouldn’t know what to wear! I don’t have any super-trendy clothes or shoes.
He: Don’t worry about that. I’ll dress you, myself. I have access to a closet you could only dream of, full of Gabbanas and Manolos, in every size.
She: Do I get to pick the shoes and the dress?
He: The choice is yours. You have complete artistic control.
She: . . . .and tell me this: Is there a chance that this grand deception of yours might lead to something else for me?
He: How do you mean?
She: I mean, have you got any straight friends that I might meet on Saturday?
He: I’ve got tons of good-looking men in my circle, and they’ll all be there. I’m pretty sure that at least a few of them are straight.
She: I can never tell if a guy is gay or not.
He: The general rule of thumb is, if you see two guys kissing you can be sure that at least one of them is gay. (She laughs.) I should warn you, though, I’ll probably have to kiss you once in a while to put this over, maybe even on the lips, so I’ll sweeten the pot. You can keep the clothes and the shoes afterwards. Is it a deal?
She: For Manolos and Gabbanas you can kiss me anywhere you want.
He: My mother will be very happy on her big night, seeing me with a girl as pretty as you.
She: Now you can tell your mother you found a nice girl. Just don’t say anything after that.
He: Thanks for doing this. Let’s trade numbers. (They exchange cards.) I’ll call to arrange a time for a fitting. You’re absolutely sure about this?
She: (She takes his hand.) Do you, Alex, take me to be your fake girlfriend, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, ‘til Sunday do us part?
He: I do!
She: I now pronounce us man and beard. You may now kiss the beard. (He leans in and gives her a soft peck on the cheek.)
She: That won’t convince anybody. OK, lesson one. First, gaze into my eyes, brush your fingers lightly over my cheek, and then gently pull my head toward you until our lips meet. Let them linger there for a few seconds with your eyes closed. Go. (He does each of these things until the kiss is finished.) Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?
He: It was OK.
She: Ok? If your mother saw us kiss like that, she’d be on the phone to Williams Sonoma’s Bridal Registry right after the show.
He: Perish the thought! Oh, and there’s one more thing . . .
She: What is it?
He: Uhh . . . I have this friend . . .and well . . . I told him about all this, and he asked me if I could get someone to front for him in a couple weeks…
She: (Suddenly angry.) What are you, some kind of beard pimp? You think I’m some cheap floozy that you can pass around to all your friends? “Here she comes, good old Louise, always the bride-beard, never the bride!”
He: His mother works for Gucci and there’s probably a handbag or two in the deal . . . .
She: (Sits down again calmly.) Have him contact me first thing in the morning.
He: First let’s see how our little demo goes.
She: Got any friends with moms working at Cartier or Tiffany’s?
He: (He smiles, shaking his head.) Look at this! I’ve created a monster. You seemed so nice and unassuming when we first sat down!
She: A girl’s gotta look out for herself. When I see opportunity, I pounce.
He: Let’s get through Saturday night before we start booking new clients.
She: This could be the start of a beautiful friendship!
He: I’ll call you in the morning. (They stand and shake hands.)
She: Goodbye, fake darling.
He: Goodbye, sweet beard.
Interview 3: “The Wrong Foot”
(He is younger than she is by at least 6 years, a bit overweight and soft, with rings through his nose and both eyebrows, a tattoo of an eagle on his neck, earlobe holes stretched open with wooden rings, wearing a stretched-out Rolling Stones T-shirt, jeans, and heavy work boots. She’s understandably blasé, dressed in expensive business attire, her briefcase beside her.)
She: I’m Anna.
He: I’m Axel. What are you into, Anna?
She: I like running, riding my bike, and eating.
He: So, our first date could be an afternoon at the elementary school playground with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, right?
She: I beg your pardon?
He: That’s the kind of answer a third-grader would give.
She: Is that what you’re into Axel, third graders?
He: No . . . No! I was just being funny. I thought you’d say museums and concerts, you know, culture and shit. I didn’t expect you to say riding your bike.
She: And I didn’t expect a pedophile with a lousy sense of humor.
He: Can we start over? I must of gave you the wrong impression.
She: Must have given . . .
He: Must have given you the wrong impression.
She: Well, now that we’re both out of first impressions, you might want to reconsider your outfit for the next one.
He: What’s wrong with this?
She: Don’t you have mirrors at home?
He: Yeah, I got mirrors. I can see I don’t dress as good as you.
She: As well as you.
He: Yeah, as well as you, and I maybe I’m a little out of shape.
She: Well at least your eyesight is good. And now maybe you’ll complete the picture and tell me you’re unemployed.
He: But I’m not unemployed! I work at Starbucks. Corner of West 52nd Street and Eighth. I was Barista of the week last Friday.
She: Did your mom give you a gold star?
He: My mom died a few years ago.
She: Can you blame her?
He: If I get the Assistant Manager job next year, my salary would double!
She: Great. Then you could buy a shirt.
He: (He pulls out his business card and holds it out to her.) Here.
She: What’s that, your resume?
He: It’s my phone number. Where do you work?
She: I’m a pediatric surgeon.
He: Did you go to college for that?
She: No, self-taught. I was always dissecting the other children in grade school, so it was the natural choice.
He: No, you didn’t! Does that pay good?
She: . . . pay well . . .
He: Yeah, does it pay well?
She: Let’s just say that I’m a very generous tipper when MY barista hands me my Super Venti Flat White every morning.
He: The Flat White? That costs a lot! We sell less of those than any other . . .
She: Fewer of those . . .
He: Yeah, fewer of those. I’m not even trained to make that one, yet.
She: Well, then, that’s two things you should work on: Getting funnier and making the Flat White.
He: You got a killer bod and a pretty good face, so how come you . . .
She: A PRETTY GOOD face?
He: OK, OK, a good face, alright? How come you have to come here for a date?
She: I didn’t come here for a date. I was just curious. I came, expecting nothing and, so far, it’s everything I expected.
He: (Getting discouraged.) This isn’t going so good, is it?
She: Isn’t going so well . . .
He: Yeah, so well. How many minutes did we use up so far?
She: I don’t know. I’ve been counting the seconds, but I haven’t divided by 60 yet.
He: You know, this isn’t fair because five minutes isn’t enough time to get to know me. I hafta grow on people.
She: Yeah. So does bacteria. Still holding onto that card, I see.
He: Yeah, I made a bunch of ’em, just in case.
She: Aren’t you the dreamer. I can take a few off your hands. I need something to jam under the wobbly leg on my kitchen table.
He: You got your own apartment?
She: Yes, and I can get dressed all by myself now, too. I suppose you’re still living at home, sleeping on your Star Wars sheets.
He: No, I’m not! My sheets are white . . . well . . . mostly white.
She: So, then, I guess the force is NOT with you. (She stands up.) I’m going now, but I’ll think of you the next time I see a burlap sack full of Arabica beans.
He: Thanks. And I’ll think of you when I grind ‘em .
She: (She smiles.) Hey, that was pretty good!
He: Really? Thanks!
She: Bye, Axel. (She turns to leave.)
He: Wait! (He points at the timing clock.) We still got a minute left.
She: (She stops.) . . . still HAVE a minute left.
He: (Getting irritated.) Yeah, still HAVE, STILL HAVE. (She sits back down.) Look, I bought two tickets for a reincarnation lecture on Saturday night, but I don’t want to go alone and waste a fifty-dollar ticket. Would you come with me?
She: Fifty dollars for a lecture on reincarnation?
He: Yeah, it’s expensive, but I figured hey, you only live once.
She: (She laughs, but he looks puzzled because he doesn’t get his own joke until a few seconds later.)
He: Ha! You only live once! That was good, too, right?
He: So, you’ll come?
He: Aw come on . . . why not?
She: A telemarketer might call, and I’d hate to miss an opportunity like that. Thirty seconds left. Any more questions?
He: Ummm . . . what religion are you?
She: I don’t hold to any particular belief system.
He: Do you believe in Heaven and Hell?
She: Not until four and a half minutes ago.
He: . . . so . . . you wanna go out or what?
She: Frankly, I’d rather be a witch in Salem, Massachusetts 300 years ago.
He: Is that a yes or no?
She: (She laughs.) All right, I’ll think it over. Give me a card.
He: Really? OK, hold on. (He shuffles them, and then fans them out.) Pick a card, but don’t show it to me. I’ll read your mind and tell you what it says.
She: (She smiles and takes a card.) Keep practicing. (She drops the card into her purse, and then pauses.) I may be in Midtown for a meeting on Wednesday afternoon, and I may want coffee afterwards, so get your Super Venti Flat White chops together.
He: I’ll make you the best Flat White you ever drunk!
She: Ever drank.
He: Yeah, ever drank.
She: Bye, Axel.
He: Bye, Anna. (They stand and shake hands. As she walks away as he yells, so that everyone hears.) SEE YOU ON WEDNESDAY, BABE! (She waves goodbye without turning around as she walks out the door.)
He: (He fist-pumps in victory) YES!
Interview 4: “Accounting for Porn”
He: Hi, I’m Derek.
She: I’m Lucy.
He: What do you do, Lucy?
She: I’m an accountant. And you?
He: I’m an actor.
She: Have you been in anything I might have seen?
He: I don’t think so. I do small films and videos that you wouldn’t necessarily . . .
She: No! I go to the movies a lot, and I have Netflix. Name some things that you’ve been in!
He: Well . . . last week I did one called “Sophie’s Second Choice.”
She: (Excitedly.) Is that a sequel? With Meryl Streep?
He: Uhh . . . no, it’s . . . not exactly. It’s more of a parody.
She: Like a comedy?
He: No, not a comedy either. Then on Monday, I did another one called “The Loin King.”
She: You were in “The Lion King?”
He: No, “The Loin King” . . . as in pork loin.
She: On Monday? You did your part in one day?
He: Yes. We shot the whole movie in one day.
She: Oh . . . but I thought . . .
He: . . . and on Wednesday we wrapped on “Anal Avengers: Back End Game.”
She: Hey . . . wait a minute. You’re a porn actor?
He: I prefer adult film star, but please don’t jump to conclusions. I’m not a sex maniac. I just play one on TV.
She: But you have sex with multiple women, on camera, every day, for money?
He: Not every day. I’m off Tuesdays and Thursdays.
She: Why are you here? You must know hundreds of girls!
He: Sure, I do. I’m usually surrounded by them, but they’re always naked, they’re always named Tiffany, and they’re always facing in the other direction. Once in a while, it would be nice to meet someone wearing pants and a shirt.
She: I’m wearing pants and a shirt!
He: It’s nice to meet you!
She: Look, Derek, I’m sure you’re a nice guy, but I’d be afraid that getting involved with you would mean having wild sex every night, in strange positions, being tied down, with my arms and legs spread out, you demanding all sorts of unnatural acts, threesomes, and foursomes, maybe even full-out orgies.
He: Yeah, so what’s your point?
She: I can’t remember now. I lost my train of thought.
He: You’ve got quite an imagination, haven’t you?
She: Sorry. It’s been a while for me, so you’ll have to be patient.
He: I’m not looking for someone to join me in some athletic, twisted acts of debauchery. I get enough of that at the office. I just want a girlfriend.
She: But doesn’t being on an erotic roller coaster all day keep you thinking about sex all the time?
He: Believe me, sex is the last thing on my mind after a long, hard day of being long and hard.
She: How did you ever get into that business?
He: I tried being a legit actor for years but nothing much happened until I did a production of “Oh Calcutta,” where I had to dance, nude, on stage every night. A producer from LA saw my large potential and told me how I could put it to much better use. He gave me a phone number, I called it, and now, three years later, here we are.
She: What do you mean, large potential? He liked your acting?
He: I don’t think it was my acting. I’m no Laurence Olivier. I just happen to be gifted . . . physically speaking.
She: What do you . . . OH . . . that! Down there?
He: Yeah, it’s huge.
She: But that’s good, isn’t it?
He: Yes and no.
She: How big?
He: You want to see it?
She: Here? Now?
He: No, later on. For some girls, it’s a deal breaker, so if we get that part out of the way, it won’t present a problem later.
She: I’ll take your word for it. It wouldn’t be a deal breaker for me. But doing that sort of work must be terribly frustrating, having to turn it on and off like a light switch every time someone yells “cut” or “ OK, let’s try it again.”
He: At first it was, but once you learn how to pace yourself, it gets easier. In the words of Ethel Merman, I’m just doin’ what comes naturally. Now, tell me about yourself, Lucy. What is it like being an accountant?
She: I work at my home office, all alone in my two-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side. I have no social life, no sex life, and no friends. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have sex while people watched!
He: But you should imagine it! It’s a pretty common fantasy. If you ever wanted to give it a try, I could get you an audition!
She: Me? I could never go through with it!
He: You’d be surprised. I’ve seen wallflowers suddenly come to life when the camera rolls, surprising even themselves! You never know.
She: What happens at an audition?
He: You get naked, have sex with a stranger, and pretend to like it.
She: Oh, you mean like a frat party in college?
He: Exactly, but with better lighting. Then if they like what they see, they’ll hire you. It’s what you make of it. Some people get turned on by performing but, for others, it’s just an act. Anyway, I was wondering if you would consider going out on a date with me.
She: I don’t know. What if we were to hit it off, and then it got serious? I don’t know that I could deal with having a boyfriend who runs off every other morning to have sex with another woman.
He: I can understand that.
She: Besides, I have to think of my future. You can’t go on doing this forever. When it’s all over, how would you support yourself?
He: You’re right. Someday, I’ll get so old that I’ll have to give it up, and you’d have to change your image of me.
She: As long as that’s the only thing I’d have to change . . .
He: I don’t mean THAT old!
She: I suppose we could give it a try.
He: Great! How about tonight? Dinner and a movie?
She: Could we watch one of your movies? I’m curious now!
He: If you’d like, sure. I know this nice little Italian place in The Village. Then we could go back to my place and watch “Cocket Man,” where I played Elton John, only straight.
She: I love Elton John! But you promise to take me straight home afterwards if I ask you to, no strings?
He: No strings, no straps, no blindfolds, no dungeons . . . straight home.
She: OK, it’s a date. Even if it doesn’t work out, I’m sure there’s a lot we could learn from each other.
He: You could calculate the appreciation of my assets.
She: And you could show me exactly what the “best boy” has to do to earn that credit at the end of a movie.
He: I’ll pick you up at 7:30. Who knows? If things go well, we may both have a happy ending tonight!
She: Hooray for Hollywood!