Dates are the stuff single life is made of. And, like it or not, if you're looking for love, you must play the dating game--which often consists of struggling through yet another stilted conversation with yet another virtual stranger over yet another Caesar salad.
Unless you married your first high school crush, you've had at least one really rotten date. On the bright side, you've had an extraordinarily wonderful time or two, as well.
We asked a sampling of singles: What was your worst date ever, and what was your best date?
What follows is a sampling of the answers.
Julie, 26, account executive, Los Alamitos: "Boy, where do I start? After 10 years of dating, I've had a lot of bad dates. For some reason, they come to mind a lot quicker than the good dates, but I must have had a few of those, too.
"I think that perhaps my worst date was actually a non-existent date. When I was in college, my two roommates and I were all supposed to go out together with some fraternity brothers on a joint blind date. It was the fraternity's big party of the year--black tie, formal gowns, the whole works.
"The guy who was supposed to be a roommate's date came to the door, and all of us went to the car. When I got in the car I realized that there were only two guys, not three, but I assumed we were on the way to pick up my date. Instead we just drove straight to the party. There had been a communication mix-up; my roommates' dates didn't know who I was or what I was doing there, but they were too embarrassed to ask.
"So I ended up at a ball, all dressed up and no one to talk to! I was humiliated, to say the least.
"As far as my best date is concerned . . . one Saturday morning I was supposed to go to breakfast with a guy I'd gone out with a few times. When he picked me up he asked, 'Are you doing anything important this afternoon?' I said, no, just my laundry. So he drove to San Pedro, without telling me why. We took the boat to Catalina and had breakfast there. We rode bikes all day, drank beer, then came home that night. It was a blast."
Rick, 33, engineer, Costa Mesa: "It's so hard to pick just one. This, however, has to be among my top 10 worst dates, if not the worst date. . . .
"I'd had a mad crush on a woman at work for a long time, but she had a boyfriend. She was one of those women who always confides in you, makes you feel special. She'd told me over lunches about what a jerk her boyfriend was, but basically (that) she was hopelessly obsessed with him.
"Anyway, one day she announced to me that she'd finally broken up with him. I was thrilled. After a few days I got up the nerve to ask her out, and she said, 'How about such-and-such restaurant Saturday night? I've been dying to try it.'
"I was on Cloud Nine, until we got to the restaurant. What a coincidence: there at a corner table sat her ex-boyfriend and his date. She somehow knew he was going to be there and wanted to make him jealous, at my expense--although, of course, she denied this. A big scene followed--she and her boyfriend yelling accusations at one another, she bursting into tears, the restaurant manager escorting us out. It was just a wonderful evening. Then to add insult to injury, she got back together with her boyfriend the next week.
"One of my best dates took place just last weekend--but I say that because she and I haven't had time to lose interest in one another yet. We didn't do anything special, but those are my favorite kind of dates, when you just sit around getting to know someone. We barbecued fish at my house, then stayed up late talking, drinking wine, listening to music. I think I'm in love!"
Barbara, 31, teacher, Anaheim: "My least favorite date happened last summer. I'd gone out with this guy a few times. He seemed nice enough, although he wasn't the man of my dreams by any means.
"One afternoon we had a picnic on the beach, and wore our bathing suits. This creep had the nerve to tell me I should lose a few pounds, and dare I point out that he was not exactly Adonis. I'd brought along some cookies, and when I started to eat one he said, 'You don't need that.' So I ate half a dozen just to defy him. He kept asking me out after that and didn't understand why I turned him down.
"My best date happened for two weeks straight in Europe, which is probably three-fourths the reason it was my best date. I was on one of those package tour deals a couple of years ago, and the tour guide took a liking to me. He was an absolutely charming man--looked like Paul McCartney. I'm sure he designated a woman in each new tour group to pursue, but I didn't care. I was on a fantasy vacation, after all.
"We were secretive about our little romance during the day, because--he said--he didn't want to show favoritism. Then at night we'd sneak off, and he'd take me to the best restaurants in London and Paris while all the other American tourists were eating hotel food."