A Night Before Christmas

Photos by Janelle Maas

(Published in the December 2010 issue)

It's a freezing late-Autumn night in Hillcrest . It's so cold, in fact, that folks throughout the neighborhood have closed their windows.

You can even see your breath. Good night for a sweater.

Despite the wintry conditions, tonight's got a chance to sizzle. And hopefully there will be some heat, or at least a spark, between this evening's blind daters, who are about to meet for the first time at Wine Steals on University Avenue.

Eric and Lauren, the couple maybe-to-be, have been asked to bring $20 gifts for each other. Before they meet or get a chance to take their bows off, let's review the pre-date interviews.

Where are you from and where do you live now?

Lauren: Born and raised here in San Diego. I live in Little Italy now.
Eric: I am originally from a tiny little town in the middle of nowhere, in Pennsylvania. I got in my car one day and ended up in San Diego. I currently live in the Clairemont area.

What do you do for a living?

Lauren: I'm a personal trainer.
Eric: Not much. Just kidding, it's just a really boring explanation. Let's just say I'm an account manager and work at a hotel.

Describe your personality in seven words.
Lauren: Outgoing, spontaneous, giving, little bit of a rebel, sharp, athletic, positive.
Eric: Talkative, reliable, goofy, independent, happy, confi dent and talkative (that does need to be said twice; I really don't know how to shut the hell up).

What do you do for fun?
Lauren: Anything with friends. I like to cycle, hike, camp, travel, learn, explore.
Eric: I love riding my motorcycle, camping, backpacking, fishing, rock climbing. Anything that gets me outside. I really enjoy playing sports and going to the gym. I like to challenge myself.

What are you looking for in a date?

Lauren: Someone who challenges me on all levels. If you can't make me laugh or hold a conversation, you're out.
Eric: Someone that can keep up with me in conversation and isn't all nervous and weird. If we like each other, cool. If not, no big deal-we're right back where we started, just with one less person to have to worry about dating in the future.

Rate yourself physically on a scale from one to 10.

Lauren: I don't do numbers.
Eric: Right now I'd say an eight. Without this goofy beard and when I'm in a little better shape, I'm a solid nine.

What do you hope your date will look like?

Lauren: I like guys on the taller side, with nice eyes and a good smile. And if he has a great body, I guess I will just have to accept him for who he is.
Eric: I hope she's hot. I hope she's hot.

What's the best gift you've given?

Lauren: It was a long-board skate board. I had a waterfall painted on the deck.
Eric: Last Christmas, I bought my grandma this stupid little snow globe/Christmas tree ornament. Inside, it said, "I Love My Grandma." That was the last time I saw her-she passed away a few months later. Guess it wasn't so stupid after all.

What's the best gift you've received?

Lauren: A Garmin GPS. Father knows best-he said, "This is so you don't get lost."
Eric: My mom calls it "the gift to gab."

What's the best present you could receive?

Lauren: A ticket to see my dad in Florida. Someone lured him in to retiring on the other side of the country. It was his boat.
Eric: Someone to spend the holiday with. I spend Christmas alone most of the time. My family is all back east, and most of my friends go away for the holidays.

Eric arrives at Wine Steals carrying a large gift bag and takes a seat at a wine-barrel table. He orders a glass of wine and waits for his date. Then he waits some more.

Thirty minutes after the scheduled meeting time, Lauren appears with a smile and flowers. The two hug, then sit and talk awhile before getting up to browse the wine selection. A few minutes later, they return to the table to enjoy their bottle of choice.

The place is abuzz with clinking glasses and chatting patrons, but Lauren's laughter can be heard above the fray. Things appear to be going well-at least for the magazine crew; we got a bottle, too.

After about half-an-hour, the daters move to a nearby couch to exchange gifts. Lauren gives Eric flowers and a box of chocolates, and Eric presents Lauren with the gift bag, from which she pulls a luxurious pink Snuggie.

The gift is a hit. As the daters laugh and take turns modeling the exquisite $20 blanket with arm holes, their body language reveals blossoming levels of comfort and affection.

At just before 8 p.m., Lauren leaves Wine Steals with Eric, and the two drive to North Park to have dinner at West Coast Tavern.

When they arrive at the all-new small-plates joint (which used to be Hawthorne's), they're split for mid-date debriefings.

How's it going so far?

Lauren: Fantastic. It's easy conversation. He's super jovial.
Eric: It's going well. We're having a very good time.

What did you think of Wine Steals?
Lauren: Great atmosphere, a place where you could bring the girls or the fam. Killer wine selection and fancy cheese plates.
Eric: Relaxed and casual. We had a Cru Pinot Noir and a really good artisan cheese plate.

What do you think of your date?

Lauren: He's cute; he has a great personality. We have similar traits, and he kinda likes the same things as me.
Eric: I think she's a little more straight-edge than I'm used to, but I think she seems like a fun person to be around. She's cute; she makes me laugh.

Are you compatible?

Lauren: I would say so. We have the same personality and sense of humor.
Eric: She's super cool, I just wonder if she can keep up with my lifestyle in general. She seems to be straight-up fitness oriented and she hardly parties at all.

Rate your date's physical appearance on a scale from 1 to 10.

Lauren: Seven to eight. Get rid of the facial hair and he'd be good.
Eric: She's a solid seven.

Is he/she the kind of person you'd normally date?

Lauren: Yes. He has good looks and personality. We only know each other on a surface level, but we behave the same way.
Eric: No. She doesn't challenge me. I don't feel like it'd be super difficult to get to know her really well and I'm usually into girls that are a pain in the ass.

Is the vibe friendly or romantic?

Lauren: It's still pretty friendly.
Eric: We're borderline right now. We're working our way towards romantic and I honestly think that, given enough time, it could get to that. At first reaction, it's not what I'm used to, but nothing I'm used to has worked out yet.

What's the best way the date could end?

Lauren: With a second date, maybe in a more relaxed setting.
Eric: It'd be nice to go somewhere and kick it. I don't think we necessarily have to hook up, but as long as we could hang out, it'd be cool.

Worst way?

Lauren: He lives with his parents.
Eric: I end up sleeping in the back seat of my car.

What gift did you receive?
Lauren: I got a frickin' Snuggie. That's awesome.
Eric: I got flowers and chocolate. Fairly unoriginal.

Do you want to kiss your date right now?
Lauren: I'd give him a warm, friendly kiss at this point, but I'm kind of a prude.
Eric: Oh, absolutely. I'd make out with her right now.

Does your date want to kiss you?
Lauren: For sure.
Eric: I don't know, I think so.

When their dinner arrives, the daters are finally left alone for the rest of the evening. PacificSD calls the next day to see what we missed.

Overall, how was the date?

Lauren: It was a good time. Plenty of conversation.
Eric: It went really well. We had a lot of fun.

How was West Coast Tavern?

Lauren: Super-hip vibe. They have small plates, so we picked several things. Super-yum.
Eric: It was cool. It's an old movie theatre that they turned into a restaurant. They serve small portions so you can try lots of different things. The wings were really good.

What happened after the magazine crew left you two alone?
Lauren: We stayed and chatted for awhile.
Eric: We both got kind of drunk. Then we made out at the table, in front of everyone. Oops.

What was the best part of the date?
Lauren: The Snuggie.
Eric: I made her sneak into another part of the building, and we made out on the stage.

Worst part?

Lauren: The restaurants were cool, but where was our skydiving or go-kart riding action? (Activities from previous PacificSD blind dates.)
Eric: My hangover this morning.

What's the sexiest thing your date did last night?

Lauren: He definitely has this look he casts that kinda makes you want to melt.
Eric: Umm...sorry, but my lips are sealed on that one.

What's the most unattractive thing your date did last night?

Lauren: Okay, the Jameson Whiskey and Miller combo was funny the first time, but I don't think you need to drink that much to hang with me.
Eric: She must have said "that's hilarious" 10 times, even when it wasn't appropriate. I think she was nervous.

What dating advice would you give your date?

Lauren: Don't drink so much on the first date.
Eric: Show up on time.

What, if anything, do you wish you had done or said differently during the date?

Lauren: I could have been on time; I am Queen Lagger. And I wish I could have learned a little more about his aspirations and goals.
Eric: Nothing, I think I was pretty on point all night. Well, the waitress at West Coast was smokin' hot and I'd have loved to ask her out, but that might have been weird. I guess I'll have to go back there sometime.

Will there be a second date?

Lauren: Could be. Have to see if he had the first-date jitters or if he is a little too hyper for me.
Eric: Maybe, we got along great, but I just didn't feel that spark. Things just wouldn't work out between us, and I refuse to lead girls on. Then again, she was a lot of fun and she did have an amazing little body, so I guess there could be another date-if she's cool with knowing that nothing would ever really come of it.

What's one thing your date doesn't know that he/she really should?

Lauren: I am smarter than I look.
Eric: The flowers she gave me are dead already.

Aftermatch

Like a true gentleman, Eric refused to kiss and tell (not counting, of course, when he mentioned that he made out with Lauren at the table and on the stage), but what are his lips sealed about? And when Lauren said the worst possible ending to the evening would be learning that Eric lived with his parents, was the fear that she might meet Mom and Dad that same night? And did she?

This time of year, mistletoe gets hung over the door, whereas Eric just got hungover. And while it's tough to say whether Lauren will try to exchange her Snuggie for one that fits better than a "seven or eight," the real question is whether Eric has the jingle bells to return to the scene of the make-out to regift Lauren's chocolates to the sexy server at West Coast.

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