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Winners of “My Last First Date”

June 28, 2007 by in category Last First Date tagged as

OCC member and USA Today Bestselling author Susan Mallery is proud to announce the winners of “My Last First Date” contest.

First Place:

The Zone by Jenny Hansen

Second Place:

Better Late Than Never by Gillian Doyle

Third Place:

Next Time, You Pick the Movie by Tanya Hanson

First place winner, Jenny Hansen, will receive a signed copy of Susan’s June release, HER LAST FIRST DATE, and a Starbucks gift card.

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My Last First Date: The Zone

June 13, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

By Jenny Hansen

My last first date was almost doomed before it ever got to the starting gate. “Almost” is such a stressful little word, isn’t it? I got engaged on May 4th…we’re getting married on July 2nd. And it ALMOST didn’t happen. It all began in this cheesy little bar in Newport Beach called Woody’s Wharf…

It was three years ago when I was 35 years old and fresh from a string of less-than-desirable boyfriends. I’d gotten rid of the latest one the previous June and, after a few months of post-breakup depression, thrown myself into speed dating with great zeal. I’d had first dates in every place imaginable – Starbuck’s, Duffy boats, a Barenaked Ladies concert – but none of these guys were getting anywhere near The Zone.

You know The Zone, right? It’s that really special place that surrounds your heart, without actually being inside it. The Zone is the place you giggled about with your girlfriends in junior high: ”I think he likes me! You’ve likely grown up a bit since then, and you probably don’t laugh like a hyena anymore when you start liking someone. Still, when a new man gets into The Zone, your heart still shimmies in your chest and the world around you shimmers with an extra layer of beauty.

On a great first date, Mr. Hubba zings his arrow (pardon the metaphor) somewhere into The Zone. It might be the way he smiles or the touch of his hand on the small of your back as he guides you through a crowded room. It might be the sound of his laugh, or his ability to tell a great story. I’ll bet you $1000 that every single one of the authors in this contest knows the exact moment when her future husband breached The Zone.

The night I met my husband-to-be was a like a maze of bricks, laid down by a higher power, where every pathway led to a single destination. My mother died in January 2004 and my life was submerged in a syrupy river of grief. By April, my vision was clearing and I was starting to actually see the world around me again.

I attended OCC’s April meeting and an author reception before running home to get gussied up to meet two couples I knew at a place in Newport Beach called The Quiet Woman. Their plan was to eat dinner and then bar-hop. It was my first time out since my mom had died and I changed my mind at least five times about whether or not I was going to go. I got to the restaurant at about 9:30 pm, right as the band was setting up. We danced through the first set before moving on to the next place.

If smoking were allowed indoors in California, all the smokers in Newport Beach would hang out at Woody’s Wharf. I saw several drunken boat pilots careen up to the docks out back to tie up and wander inside. The air was thick with the promise of a Saturday night singles scene. Though I was too old to believe the promise, I could still scent it in the air.

My girlfriend, Mary, and I – two blondes – were out on the dance floor together, shaking our groove thing, when this dark haired man with stunning blue eyes glided up to us.

“Can I join you ladies?” he said while he bopped in time with the music.

Mary gave me a smile soaked around the edges with vodka and said, “Sure. Why not?”

I admired the cohones on this guy – he couldn’t dance, but he had style. When the song ended, Mary bopped off to the bathroom and he and I went back to sit down at the bar where we began whole getting to know you Dance of Singles. This was helped along by Mary who sidled up a while later and joined the conversation.

“Hey! Dance floor guy! I’m Mary, by the way.” She shook his hand. “What’s your name?”

“Steve? Uh-huh. What do you do? Oh, a Computer Guy! Uh-huh. Great! Jen works in computers! Where do you live? Oh, Newport Beach…close by…Great! How old are you? Forty-four? (She gave him a suspicious stare.) Have you ever been married? Really…did you have any kids? No? Well do you want to have kids?”

(I tried to slink off right about this time but Mary trains dogs for a living and she’s got a grip like a pit bull.)

“How do you feel about pets? Oh, you’re afraid of dogs? Well, cause she has a dog, but Hoshi’s a really nice dog. She really likes men – Hoshi, not Jen…well, I mean Jen likes men too. Anyway, you guys will do great! What kind of dog? Oh, Hoshi is an Akita.”

At the end of this conversation, she gave me a thumbs up (right in front of him) and zoomed off. I’m sure she went back to her husband Mike, who loves good gossip, to share the news that “Jen-Pooh was talking to Dance-Floor Guy who stood up to the Inquisition.”

I gave Steve a pained smile and we continued talking. I was thrilled when he asked if we could exchange information. He joined us when Woody’s closed and we all piled into a car and headed over to Villa Nova, a late-night place in Newport Beach. The six of us slid into a booth where I was squished between Steve on my left and Mike on my right.

After we ordered and everyone began talking, Steve leaned in toward me and said, “I’m extremely attracted to you. Are you attracted to me?” I swear, he practically sniffed at me. I blessed the dim lighting that hid my instantaneous blush and stammered a response. Meanwhile, I felt Mike pressing closer to catch every word being said and gave him a swift elbow to the ribs.

Is there anybody more annoying than nosy married friends when you’re single?

We drove Steve home – I was again sandwiched between him and Mike – and he directed us up to the gates of a glitzy Newport apartment complex. My heart sank. I’d been to several parties here and had seen nothing but pretentious men at every single gathering.

“Why do you live here?,” I blurted out, then moaned silently. Did I actually say that out loud?

Steve didn’t even pause. “My parents are getting older and I like to live close to them.”

“Ohhhhh!” Mary and our other girlfriend sighed in unison in the front seat.

Steve got out of the car and shut the door. I turned back from watching him walk away and found Mike staring at me like something he’d stepped in at the dog park. “Why do you live HERE? You had it in the bag, and you say ‘why do you live here?’” He threw up his hands. “He is never going to call you!”

Well, it took him almost a week, but he did call and we did arrange our first date. I opened my door to him and saw him go pale when he caught sight of my 90 pound Akita. When he walked through the door to meet my dog and I took his sweaty hand, I felt my heart wobble.

I started to give my usual spiel about how my dog is shy and if he just ignored her, she’d be his best friend in about 10 minutes. Then I gave him a quick hug and turned around to find Hoshi splayed out on her back with love-at-first-sight in her eye.

Steve kneeled down to pet her belly. Just like that, he breached The Zone.

Jenny Hansen (aka Jen Crooks) is a longtime OCC member who writes the Writer’s Word column for A Slice of Orange. By day, Jen manages the sales and marketing for a national training firm. After 12 years as a corporate software trainer, it’s nice for her to be able to sit down while she works. By night, she writes women’s fiction, chick lit and short stories.

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My Last First Date: Love at first sight

June 12, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as
By Jo Graeber

I was 24 and engaged to be married on June 15 to a guy nobody … but nobody … liked. I had intestinal by-pass (a great deal like lap-band) surgery a couple of years before, having been fat all my life and no dates.

Now, all of a sudden, after losing over 100 lbs., men were coming out of the woodwork and I didn’t know what to do with them all. Frankly, it scared me. I wasn’t even used to flirting, must less a whole date. So, when I picked out this “loser,” it was apparently a bad choice that everyone could see but me. He had been my first date, ever, and we had been seeing each other for about a year.

I had one really close friend, an older woman, who said, “I’m going to find you somebody before you marry that loser!” True to her word, she set up a dinner for my “blind date” and me, but at the last minute, I chickened out. She tried again, I backed out again. I could see she was determined, and it was only a grill-out, not even a date .. just a simple dinner to meet someone new. Finally, I accepted and went to her house.
I was early, mostly because I was so nervous. I was not one to make an “entrance.” She put steaks on the grill, and I sat in her comfortable padded glider and talked to her husband while we waited on my “blind date” to arrive.
The yard was fenced and covered with greenery, so the drive-way was not very visible, but I could see the top of his head when he got out of the car and headed for the yard. All I could see was white hair from his little over six-foot stature. He was a big guy, and having been a big girl all my life (although not any more), I was very comfortable with a big guy.
He entered the yard wearing jeans, a nice shirt, and a great smile. I was very glad I was there.
Neither of us ate much dinner, but he asked me if I would like to take a ride out to the beach and maybe get a Coke. I said that would be fine. The date had started. We drove to the beach, parked and walked along the wet sand, holding hands, not saying a whole lot. Finally, he took a deep breath, and he said, “I know this is kinda early, but I just have to ask you — will you go steady?”
Wow! He was right. It WAS kinda quick, but I also heard myself saying, “Yes, I will.” And we both laughed and he kissed me lightly on the lips, and we walked back to the car.
From there, we rode around awhile and talked. I told him my current engagement status that was about to be broken; he told me of his past divorce and his two kids. He found a place to park overlooking the beach and we sat and talked until about 3 a.m. Yes, all we did was talk, and then he fumbled a little for words, but he managed to get out, “Will you marry me?”
Marry him! This was our first date, our first meeting. What’s wrong with this picture? I said, “Yes.”
Maybe it was the beach, the moon, the electricity between us, I have no clue. When I said yes, he cranked up the car, and we went back to our friends’ house. We woke them up and told them the news. They were excited and flabbergasted to say the least. They had known us for a long time, just not together. She asked us when, and we had already decided on June 2 — that was the following week! He proposed on our first date, and we were married in that yard the following week.
Did it last? Oh, yes! Two years later we had our first daughter, then four years later, twins – a girl and a boy, plus we had custody of his two boys. Our wonderful marriage lasted 13 years, until he passed away unexpectedly.
Was it love at first sight? I think it had to be. My First Last Date was 35 years ago. I’ve never remarried.

Jo has been a feature writer/puzzle creator for newspapers, puzzle publications, and online services for over 40 years. She can be reached at jograeber@aol.com.
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My Last First Date: How to land a husband on the first date

June 8, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

By Leslie Kay Ashe

  1. Don’t call it a date. I mean, if you’re “just friends,” then it’s not really a date, even though after nearly a year of this whole going-out-after-work-with-the-crew thing, you didn’t feel like inviting anyone else to come along this time, and even though you’re seated in a dark, secluded corner of an upscale restaurant. But that’s definitely NOT a date.
  2. Choose the garlic-chicken-alfredo pizza. Because it’s not date, so who cares if you have garlic cheese breath.
  3. Cross your legs in the middle of dinner and whack him with the heel of your shoe right in the shins, which causes him to spill his beer all over his food and his lap (and leaves him with a bruise that will last for more than two weeks).
  4. When dinner ends, decide that you’ll both swing by the bar to see if anyone else is around. But since this isn’t a date or anything, decide to drive there in separate cars. (But since it’s snowing out, he suggests that just to be safe, you should follow him pretty closely.)
  5. Pretend not to pay any attention to each other at the bar and instead laugh it up with your girlfriends while sneaking nonchalant glances out of the corner of your eye.
  6. Make an unintentionally loud announcement that it’s getting late and you should really be heading home, but purposely avoid saying “good-bye” to him on the way out, and then pretend you’re not disappointed when he doesn’t follow.
  7. Get a flat tire half-way home. Sit in your car for ten minutes with your cell phone in your lap wondering if it would be just too obvious to call him.
  8. When he shows up to help and he admits that he doesn’t know how to change a tire, laugh and say, “That’s OK. I do.” And when he says, “Then why did you call me to help?” Just shrug and say, “Why not?”
  9. Have him keep track of the lug nuts as you put on the spare and try not to notice how good he smells sitting so close to you. And when you turn to say something to him and suddenly he kisses you, say to yourself, “So, yeah, OK. Maybe not just friends.”
  10. On the way home, finally admit to yourself that you’re madly in love and you’re going to marry this man.

Leslie Kay Ashe is the pen name of an unpublished Orange County author who would rather die than put something so personal in her own name.

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My Last First Date: Puppy Love

June 8, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

Imet my husband at the dog pound. I was working there in dog licensing, and he came in to do an audit. Since I was eighteen years old, and he was twenty six, professional and handsome, I really didn’t think he’d be interested.

But consider my competition—they were all dogs!

Finally, Dan asked me to lunch one day. My excitement may have dimmed a bit when we ended up at Burger King (don’t think I’ve let him forget that), but I didn’t eat much anyway (and don’t think he’s let me forget that). All these years later, I don’t remember what we talked about, except that he asked me out on another date.

Eventually those dates turned into two decades of marriage. On our twentieth anniversary, we were sitting around the dinner table with our three sons. We had finished dinner and were just chatting. My husband asked me to get out the Halloween candy.

“Stay out of the kids’ candy,” I told him.

The boys laughed, and said, “Dad can have some candy.”

I sighed. This is the last of the Halloween candy dumped all into one bowl. I got up, pulled the bowl of candy out of the cupboard and handed it to my husband.

Dan handed the bowl back to me. “Pick what you want first.”

Okay, so yeah, I might have a little problem with chocolate. I had been avoiding looking in the candy bowl to resist temptation. Dan and the boys know this, and of course, they are Chocolate Enablers. I gave in, looked in the bowl and blinked in surprise. A small square wrapped box sat on top of the candy. Suspicious, I looked up at Dan. “We said no gifts! We went to dinner and the comedy club to celebrate our anniversary! No gifts!”

By this time, the boys are squirming all over. “Open it Mom!”

I pulled out the box and opened it. My husband got me a beautiful anniversary ring inlaid with diamonds. I was shocked, overwhelmed and I loved the ring. I put it on and it fit perfectly.

When we married, we were buying a house at the same time and so we skipped the diamond engagement ring to get matching gold bands. I tried to tell Dan how much I loved him and the ring.

“I wanted you to have a diamond ring,” Dan said simply.

The boys were so excited. They had been in on this all along. They knew their dad was buying me the diamond ring that we hadn’t been able get when we got married. We sat there at the table that evening and told the kids the story of the dog pound and our first date at Burger King. They’d heard it before, but it still cracked them up. As for me…

I may have met my husband at the dog pound, but I got a real gem of a man.

Jennifer Apodaca is the author of The Sex on the Beach Book Club and the Samanta Shaw mystery series. You can find her at www.jenniferapodaca.com.

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