I once went on a date with a guy who thought fish were not animals.
Okay, that’s not the whole truth. I went on a date with him, and then continued to date him for about 6 months after that. So, a more honest statement would be: I once dated a guy who thought fish were not animals.
We met at the gym. I could make this a cautionary tale about the importance of not shitting where you eat, because after the demise with, let’s call him, Rich, the gym got awkward. But deep down, everyone knows they shouldn’t bang their neighbor or date their workout partner. It’s a recipe for disaster. But we do. Because we’re idiots.
It was my first date with Rich, although we’d become workout partners during the previous couple of months. Until that point, our conversations mostly centered on the topics of protein, cardio, and getting lean. I had gone balls out on my training, determined to compete in a figure competition (which, I didn’t, because I’m a big fat loser), so these were topics I enjoyed. But let’s be real. There’s only so much you can discuss about fat-burning supplements and fasted cardio, so I was looking forward to a real date with Rich. I wanted to see if there was a potential connection beyond the gym.
Rich was good looking, ripped… and a solid 20 years older than me (I was 32, at the time). I’ve never viewed age differences as a big deal. Admittedly, I tend to go after men with one foot in the grave versus those who are still rocking in the cradle (the pendulum will soon swing in the other direction though, as I prepare myself for Courgarville). So when Rich asked me to dinner, I was excited.
We got dressed up and went to an upscale seafood restaurant. It was a little awkward… maybe because this was the first time we had seen each other outside of the gym. Maybe because he was secretly scared we’d run into the not-so-estranged wife he was allegedly in the process of divorcing. Or maybe it was just awkward because we didn’t have an effing thing in common beyond an interest in fitness. After looking over the menu for a few minutes (in awkward silence), I asked him what he was going to have.
“I’m going to have a salmon,” he said, smiling. A salmon. Like the whole fish? Let it go, Grammar Nazi. Then he asked what I was going to order.
“I’ll probably have the tuna,” I said, emphasizing the word, the. “I don’t eat red meat or pork. No mammals.”
He cocked his head with a look of confusion. “Mammals?” he asked.
I was pretty sure I’d learned the distinction between mammals, amphibians, birds, and fish when I was in elementary school.
“Yeah, no mammals. I don’t eat anything that’s warm-blooded, has hair, and gives birth to live young. So I’ll eat poultry and seafood.”
“Ok,” he said. “So you’ll eat fish, right? Since that’s not an animal.” I started to correct him, to explain that mammals were a class of animals, but was stumbling over the whole fish aren’t animals thing.
I thought he was joking, but looked up from the menu to find him staring at me with the excited smile of a schoolboy who had just given his teacher the right answer.
“Yes, I’ll eat fish — they aren’t mammals. But they are animals.”
Rich erupted in laughter. I mean, erupted. I glanced at the tables around us and people were staring. “Are you kidding me, Jessica?” he asked. “Fish are not animals!” He was smiling, but I couldn’t tell if he was joking. Surely he was joking.
“Rich, yes they are…”
“No they aren’t!”
“Actually… they are.”
“Come on Jessica. A fish is NOT an animal!” he proclaimed. He definitely was not joking.
Before I could retort, the waiter walked up to take our order. Rich looked up at the young, fresh-faced kid. “Let’s settle this.” He glanced over at me and continued, “She thinks that a fish is an animal.” And then he waited, expecting the waiter to erupt into laughter at my stupidity. The poor kid looked at him, kind of helplessly, trying to to decide how to best respond without endangering his potential tip. He glanced toward me for some help, but I had nothing.
“Apparently, he’s serious,” I said. “He believes fish aren’t animals.” I turned to Rich and asked, “If a fish isn’t an animal, what is it?”
“It’s a fish!” he cried. “A fish is a fish! It is not an animal!” I realized Rich had never learned about inside voices. And then, I was transported back to Ms. Leslie’s high school biology class. I imagined a new category of living things being added to the curriculum. “Good morning class,” she would say. “Today we’re going to learn about the three types of living things: plants, animals, and fish.”
I shook my head and snapped back to the present, where the poor waiter was standing, frozen. “I… I believe fish are animals, sir,” he said.
“Oh whatever!” Rich quipped. He then proceeded to request “a salmon,” after I placed my order for a Grey Goose martini. Straight up with a twist. Light on the twist. To my delight, the waiter hurried back with, quite possibly, the biggest martini I’d ever seen. I quickly glanced around the room to see if anyone else had a glass that large, but all the folks in my vicinity were sipping on wine. I imagined there were different levels of martini glasses lined up behind the bar to help people on bad dates. “Jenny, I need a goose martini for the blonde in the back over there. Her date doesn’t think fish are animals,” my waiter would say.
“What?!” the bartender would exclaim. “Okay, that’s definitely a category four crisis.” And with that, she’d heave a ginormous martini glass up from under the counter.
I sucked that baby down with no mercy and quickly ordered a second. From what I can recall, the rest of the date went fine. I was too drunk to care that I was on a date with a dude who believed fish weren’t animals.
That’s why you should never drink on the first date. But… kind of like not shitting where you eat, that’s a lesson I’ve yet to really learn.
Rich and I continued to date for several months after that. Because… standards.