One of my favourite stories is about Lawrence of the Five White Evils. Lawrence had a Zen-like aura, a laid-back, totally chill approach to life and to dating. At least that was what I had decided, based on his brief profile and the occasional messages he’d send, messages that would breeze into my inbox weeks apart.
“Hey! Sitting here sipping on some rosehip tea and breathing in the divine spirit of this amazing afternoon. Hope you’re having an equally sacred day.”
I’d get these messages after I’d rushed home from work, after I’d raced my three boys around from one after-school activity to the next, after I’d cooked dinner, cleaned the kitchen and put everyone to bed. It was hard to identify anything particularly sacred or divine in my day. But his messages kept floating in from time to time.
Then one day, he invited me out for coffee. Actually he suggested herbal tea.
“Hey! I’m going to be out in your neck of the woods tomorrow afternoon. Not sure if you’re around, but it would be great to meet you. Is there a quiet coffee shop somewhere out that way where we could grab a pot of tea?”
Normally, I didn’t meet a guy for coffee unless we’d been chatting regularly and I had a pretty good sense of who he was. I hardly knew anything about Lawrence except that he was deeply interested in holistic healing and was heading out soon to attend a month-long spiritual retreat. But there was something so laid back, so flaky, so harmless about Lawrence, that against my better judgment, I agreed to meet him.
He strolled into the coffee shop completely serene and completely oblivious, it seemed, to the fact that he’d already kept me waiting for ten minutes. I was already feeling deeply not serene. “Hey!” he drawled, a beatific smile spreading across his face. He dropped his lanky body down into an armchair across from me and gazed over at my latte. “You’ve got a drink already. I’ll just be a sec while I get some tea.”
I watched him head to the counter to order. He was dressed in all natural, probably organic, and very rumpled clothes, and he was wearing Birkenstocks. Now I love my Birkenstocks. Don’t get me wrong. But I had the distinct impression that he might only own earthy looking sandals. “He’s heading off on a spiritual retreat,” I reminded myself. “You’re just having coffee. Nobody says you have to marry the guy.” (This last part, by the way, was one of my dating mantras: it’s just coffee; nobody says you have to marry the guy. I found that it was a very effective way to talk myself down and avoid bolting half way through a meeting).
As I watched Lawrence return to our corner of the coffee shop, a pot of tea and mug in hand, I took a deep breath, recovering from my pique at his tardiness. I smiled my most charming smile and said, “So tell me about your retreat. It sounds fascinating.”
Yep. I’ve got the bright and shiny coffee-date thing down cold.
So Lawrence told me about his retreat and his commitment to yoga and how he was meditating an hour every morning. I smiled and nodded, adding a brief comment here and there, well aware that retreats and hour-long daily yoga sessions were not ever going to be a part of my single-mother reality and wondering why I had agreed to meet a man who was clearly so unsuitable for me.
Taking my polite nods and comments as encouragement, Lawrence moved on from meditation to whole foods. It took me a while to notice that his serenity was, almost imperceptibly turning to quiet conviction. But as I reached for my latte, I saw his eyes narrow. “Most people do not understand at all about The Five White Evils,” he said, looking at my drink meaningfully. I felt myself sit up a little straighter, my dating hackles activated. I’m not really one for calling anything evil. Especially with those implied capital letters. His voice gained power, at first in a way that was a little embarrassing. “They don’t know how dangerous it is to consume milk,” he declared. As I put my latte back on the table, he continued. “Milk is poison,” he stated, his eyes bulging just a little.
Drawing away from him, I smiled gently and said in my calmest voice, “Everything in moderation, right?”
I don’t think he even heard me. “And white sugar,” he declared, “is even worse.” Now a vein on his neck was bulging and his voice was reaching an alarming volume. At this point, I’d pulled as far away from him as I could and was holding on to the arms of my chair. “People don’t understand the danger of consuming salt!” The quiet conviction was fast approaching hysterical fanaticism.
And I was pushing myself out of my chair, smiling in a way that I hoped would assure him that this whole conversation was really cool with me, but that I’d suddenly remembered a pressing prior engagement.
He didn’t seem to notice. “And white flour!” He was shouting now.
I’ve always regretted that I didn’t have the courage to stick around to find out what the Fifth White Evil was. Rice? Cauliflower? Cocaine? It’s been nagging at me for years.
So that was Lawrence, and if there is any wisdom for you to take away from my crazy coffee date, it’s this: screen your dates carefully, people! Screen your dates and always have a rock-solid excuse for why you can’t possibly see somebody a second time.
About two years after I met Lawrence of the Five White Evils for that ill-fated latte, he tracked me down through my work and sent me another breezy email. I promise you, I am not making any of this up.
“Hey! Sorry not to get back to you sooner, but I really had fun meeting you and wondered if you’d like to get together for another cup of tea?”
Two years later?
When I showed the message to my girlfriend, who had heard the story about Lawrence of the Five White Evils, she laughed, and then gave me some excellent advice: “Tell him you’re married and are expecting twins.”
Sometimes I’m all for a little White lie.