The couple sitting at table 22 is very young and attractive. I’ve seen the guy in here before. He’s been serially dating for a while, playing the field, bringing in a different girl every week. Very poised for his age, not a hair out of place, well dressed and polite, he says all the right things at the right time. He’s a great customer. I wish more people were like him.

His date’s twenty three and gorgeous. I know her age because I checked her ID. Damn, I was in high school when this girl was born. I chuckle to myself. Nothing’s more dangerous than a girl under the age of twenty five. That’s not a misogynistic statement mind you. It’s just a fact. Ask any guy over thirty. For that matter, ask any girl.

I watch the couple interact. The young man’s projecting an air of invincibility, casually sitting back in his chair, as if disinterested in the outcome of the evening. I’m a guy. I know he’s interested in the outcome of the evening. The girl, picking up on his artifice, sits primly in her chair, ankles crossed, hands folded in her lap. She makes all the polite noises and nods at all the right times. Ugh. Not a good sign.

I want to tap the young man on the shoulder and tell him what he’s doing wrong. Don’t be too poised kid. Don’t be too cool. If you look like you need nothing or anyone, if you look like you have it all together, you’ll drive women away. What woman wants a man who needs nothing?

But it’s too late. I can tell the girl’s already made a decision. She’s as lovely as she thinks she’s ever gonna be. Why should she waste her time? And time is what this guy needs. He needs to get comfortable in his own skin. Maybe, after a while, he won’t be so afraid. But the girl’s already thinking about her next date and the next guy. That’s the dangerous part I was talking about.

They finish dinner. I make a mental wager they’ll skip dessert. I’m right. The man asks for the check. He pays the bill, leaves a nice tip, and gallantly offers to walk the girl to her apartment. She declines. She’s meeting friends for drinks.

They get their coats. The young man thanks me for my service. He’s a classy guy. Young, about twenty-five, but I think his foundations are secure.

The couple goes outside. I watch them through the window. They exchange a perfunctory kiss and talk a bit. The young man smiles broadly. Nothing’s touching him. The girl pulls out a cell phone and answers it. She puts her hand over the receiver, says something, waves, and walks away. The young man watches her walk away. He’s still smiling. After a moment he turns around. I look at his face.

He’s no longer smiling. He looks like he’s been sucker punched in the gut.

I feel for the guy. Dating’s tough at any age. But when you’re young and not sure who you are, it’s even tougher. I remember being like this guy. Suddenly I’m grateful I’m thirty-eight.

“Better luck next time kid,” I whisper as the young man walks away, “Better luck next time.”

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