Anna David is the executive editor of The Fix, as well as being the author of Party Girl and Bought. Her newest book, Falling For Me, wherein she tries to follow the advice in Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex and the Single Girl, is due out October 11th. She tells us about some of her adventures in this column, Sex and the Sixties Girl
Date Night at Chelsea Piers looks promising when I walk in and spy two 30-something tall men lumbering toward the entrance, golf bags slung over their shoulders, summer tans poking through their sporty – but not gay-looking – outfits. My friend Nicole, who really knows how to play golf and told me about this event, has left me standing near the entrance next to her golf bag while she uses the bathroom. I’m trying to pretend that I don’t feel desperate and sad to be spending a Friday night at an event that’s advertising my single status to the world.
I smile at the cuter of the two men. He nods, then glances at the enormous “Date Night at Chelsea Piers” sign to my left. “Looks like there’s some weird event going on here tonight,” he says to his friend with a small shake of his head while I contemplate diving into Nicole’s golf bag. I curse Helen for writing in Sex and the Single Girl that I owe it to myself “to go to everything from company picnics to embassy balls on the chance that he’ll be there,” and curse myself for reasoning that since things like company picnics and embassy balls didn’t enter my orbit, I should go to a singles night at the local golf club.
Once we’re checked in and directed upstairs, things seem more promising – which is to say that we’re now at least surrounded by other people who can’t be judging us as pathetic without being wholly hypocritical. We’re on the fourth level above a slew of golf lanes that are facing the Hudson River; a net surrounds the enormous range below, preventing errant balls from entering said river, and the setting sun is creating an idyllic and, it must be said, romantic glow. In stark contrast to the ambiance, a woman in a polo short, shorts and a visor barks at us that we better find a lane before they’re all gone. Since there’s only one that isn’t filled with people – the last one in the row — we park Nicole’s golf clubs there and look at each other.
“Are we just supposed to start hitting balls?” I ask. She shrugs. I realize then that in the days since we’d bought tickets for this, I hadn’t spent any time thinking about what I was actually going to be doing here. Golf has long been on my list of activities I wish I did, but sort of assumed I never would. It was lodged somewhere between playing pool and playing poker. Aside from a few putt-putt course evenings and one unfortunate attempt on an actual course, I hadn’t been in a golf setting in my life.
Since everyone has completely ignored us save the female golf pro, Nicole and I decide that we probably have to be more proactive in order to really be a part of things. So we abandon her golf bag and venture inside and up a few flights of stairs where we discover a room filled with people. That’s great, but it has the unfortunate aroma of cheese that’s been left in a car in the Sahara desert overnight. A man pouring drinks into small plastic cups stands in the corner and a long table filled with snacks – chocolate chip cookies, chips, carrots, broccoli, celery, dip and. the source of the room’s odor, slices of cheese – lines the opposite end of the room. Small groups of people are gathered around talking, their body energy indicating that they have no interest in being interrupted, their unenthused voices suggesting that only a person entirely desperate for conversation would want to. No one glances in our direction except the bartender, who gives us each a strange look when we ask for juice and not alcohol. When we spy an internal flight of stairs that leads to another part of this area, we notice two simulated golf games on each side of the room surrounded by people either playing or waiting to play them. To me – a novice when it comes to any sort of computer game – the fact that men and women are gathered together, on a Friday night or really any night, to pretend they’re playing golf on a computer is incredibly bizarre and I say as much to Nicole.
“It helps your game,” she says as we make our way into the area. “It tells you what you’re doing wrong.”
I nod but assume that the people playing and waiting to play couldn’t possibly be using this time to try to improve their game. They’re at a Singles Night for Christ’s sake! They must, I assume, just be pretending to care about all of this so as not to appear desperate. Since everyone is continuing to ignore us, we decide it’s time to insert ourselves into the action so I smile at a blonde man sitting in a nearby chair.
“How are you?” I ask, holding my hand out. “I’m Anna and this is Nicole.”
He smiles, revealing white, probably brace-straightened teeth. He’s actually cute. “I’m Milton,” he responds. He snatches his hand back nervously as Nicole and I sit down on the couch next to his chair.
“Are you a big golf fan?” I ask Milton, after weighing other possible questions.
He nods enthusiastically: this was clearly the right question. Too much of the right question, as it turns out. “I love golf,” he enthuses. “The reason I live in New Jersey is that I get to play golf more than I would if I lived in New York.” He goes on for a little while about how golf is the most important thing in his life.
Nicole and I both nod at this while she asks him if he drove in from Jersey tonight. He says that he did and then mumbles awkwardly about how he’d thought there would be traffic but then there wasn’t and how that was surprising but really it wasn’t because more people would surely be driving from the city to Jersey than the other way around. This is followed by a long silence. I try to think of a follow-up question but Milton moves first. “Do you guys have cars?” he asks.
We both shake our heads, explain something about how convenient the subway can be and whatever else is relevant. Milton considers this and then asks, “Have you ever had cars?”
As Nicole and I take turns answering the question, I wonder if this is simply the sort of painful interaction one is destined to have at a singles event. Milton seems like he wishes the couch would swallow him whole or a bomb might go off – anything to avoid having to continue this conversation – and I’m beginning to suspect that I might look the same way. Suddenly the girls who had been playing the golf game finish and Milton jumps out of his chair and all but lunges at the console. “Do you guys mind?” he asks. “I know you were waiting, too.”
We assure him that he should just go ahead and then glance around the room. People are still engaged in their conversations and we still seem to be as invisible as the untouched wedges of cheese. The atmosphere is what I’d imagine it would be at an obligatory work birthday gathering at a temp job. We return to our lane.
By this time a boisterous young black man who introduces himself as Jamal and explains that the guy with him is his half-brother Doug is wandering the area. “Can we join you guys?” he asks and, thrilled to be acknowledged, we practically throw our arms around him. Nicole teaches the four of us a few things – how to swing, where to look, which way to bend our knees – and I shock myself by hitting the ball almost every time. And Jamal and Doug are undeniably fun to be with. Jamal does something he calls a Captain Morgan’s dance before every shot and keeps telling the rest of us that we should put our booty into what we’re doing more. A golf pro comes over and momentarily dulls our camaraderie by giving us instructions that only seem to make us hit worse but once he’s gone, Nicole, Jamal, Doug and I joke around and chat. Jamal is something of a regular at Chelsea Piers Singles Nights and he explains that most people here are pretty serious about hitting balls at first but then, when they start feeling the effects of the open bar, they begin socializing more. Jamal also explains – before and after returning from said bar, where he and Doug are preparing for its eventual closing by bringing down several Corona’s at a time – that a lot of people aren’t actually here because it’s a singles night but because it’s a damn good deal.
“It costs $25 just to hit 90 balls,” he says. “Add in the golf pro, the balls and the open bar and $30 for two hours is the steal of the century.” I look around at the people gathered – one girl is in a green-and-white dress that would be perfect for a daytime wedding, another in leggings and heels – and decide that they don’t look much like people who are after the best golf deal. Maybe the women are here for the men but the men are here for the golf? As the night starts winding down, Jamal says that he thinks we should all go out for pizza now and while he’s hilarious and appears to be roughly 10,000 times more fun to be with than everyone else currently gathered on the fourth level of the Chelsea Piers driving range, neither Nicole nor I are interested in dating him so we tell him that we have other plans. Email addresses that will probably never be used are exchanged and as Nicole and I make our way toward the exit, we notice that the other men do, indeed, appear to be friendlier now that they’re more socially lubricated. A group of guys who look like they’re in their late twenties proudly show us how they managed to hold onto their balls from earlier in the night so that they can continue to play even though the event is technically over. They’ve also stashed beverages from the open bar nearby, another feat that seems to bring them a lot of pride. They announce they’re from Tennessee. One mentions that his parents are divorced. We bid them goodbye and call it a night.