For a genre all about love, it’s funny how few romance novels feature actual dates. Hero and heroine might run into each other at the hardware store, sparks flying for all the town to see, or they may be thrown together by a marriage of convenience only to discover true emotion. But rarely do you see the hero and heroine meet up at a mid-priced “French bistro” or a Korean-Mexican fusion restaurant to get to know each other over drinks and shared plates.

Not so serendipitous, real life. Or at least, not in my experience. I’ve been on legions of dates and quasi-dates, and hook-ups, and meet-ups, and hang-outs: movies, restaurants, dive bars, cocktail bars, sports bars, gimmick bars, (bars are a common theme here, in case that wasn’t clear). As a woman of the world, one must acquaint herself with places that serve alcohol. Especially if she’s expected to deal with all the various types of dudes out there. So after a particularly rough break up, I just couldn’t face a first date: the awkward exchange of information masquerading as conversation, the unending calculus of whether or not you’re attracted to each other. No, thank you. I was looking for something a little…easier.

So I rang up an old flame, we’ll call him The Fireman. And from his name, you can guess why I chose him. Hint: he’s hot. The Fireman wasn’t a good person, per se. But he was amusing, whip-smart, and a little man-slutty: perfect for my rebound purposes.

He was receptive to first-time-in-a-year texts (see: man-slutty), so we agreed to meet in Brooklyn. Normally, I don’t travel beyond my borough, but it was his birthday, and I thought demanding he come to me was a little much, considering I’d initiated the contact.

We had a lovely dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant—it was very Brooklyn; the waitresses looked like extras from Girls, the tables were communal, the Sriracha flowed like the copious rosé I was drinking. Conversation was solid, attraction still intact: I can do this, I thought. I can date!

Because I’m a lady, I treated to dinner. After all, it was his birthday. Now, onward to the dive bar, where we were going to meet up with his friends to celebrate. Then, presumably, back to his place (see: woman of the world).

A few rather engaging hours later, we’re all having a grand old time and The Fireman heads up to the bar to get another drink. After politely asking me if I’d like anything else, he gives me a wink and goes in search of more booze, while I continue my lovely conversation with a friend of his. Time passes, more time passes, and the seat beside me remains empty. Hmm. Without being rude to my conversation-partner, I surreptitiously cast my eyes up toward the bar in search of The Fireman. Oh, there he is. And…oh, that’s curious.

I lean toward the person I’m speaking with, gesturing subtly toward The Fireman. “Is it the angle,” I ask. “Or is The Fireman making out with that girl?” My new friend takes a long look, then turns back to me with a look of shock. “Yes. They’re making out.”

Welp, that’s a swift kick in the pants, a fall to the ground after the hearty self-congratulating I had been doing. After interrupting his activity to say a gracious goodbye, I exited the bar, vowing that the next time I was on the rebound, I’d just hang out in small-town hardware stores instead.