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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Sunday, April 2

Gapers Block

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Ah yes, it's almost here. The big day. And you haven't planned a thing yet. You've been putting it off. After all, you're in a weird place in your relationship. It's too new, maybe only a month or two, to do something serious. Still, it's matured enough that you have to do something and it can't be the run-of-the-day date. D'oh! How frustrating. Fear not gallant knight, help is here with some ideas to make it all come together.

First, relax and remove all the material crap from the equation. A birthday isn't about big gifts, flowers, and shiny things that kids can use to gather sun and burn ants. It's about reminding your special someone you're thinking about her by showing a little extra effort.

The Card

You'll need a card. A small folded piece of heavy paper immediately establishes that you are on no ordinary date. Why? I have no freaking idea. Probably simply because it's out of the ordinary. And that's what you want to do with the day, make it out of the ordinary. But keep it simple! Don't give her some long romantic poem about how the last month or two of your life is the first time you've ever really breathed fresh air, tasted food, understood every love song you ever heard... blah blah blah. Women say they want that stuff. They say that. But it's not true. You're likely to overdue it and scare her away. Or worse, she'll cling to you like a tick to a dog's butt. You don't want to be a dog's butt.

It's best to keep it funny. This keeps things light and somewhat mysterious. Women like mystery. What mysterious really means is uncertain. Does he really like me a lot? Is that what he's trying to say? Or is he insulting me? Perhaps beginning the start of the breakup process? Now, many women will read this and scream, "That's just mean! That makes us analyze everything!" News flash: Women analyze everything any way; at least this way you know what she's analyzing and that's key. It helps you communicate better and keeps you on the same page. Get a card that reads something like this:

FRONT: For Your Birthday I wanted to take out the prettiest girl ever...
INSIDE: I'll call you when I get back home.

Then write inside some witty banter like, "Of course this isn't true; it's just the cheapest card I could find... so that I could save and spend more money on the date."

Good. She doesn't know if she's coming and going. It's all so mysterious (uncertain).

Where to Go

In Chicago you have plenty of options. A lot will depend on her, what she likes, and where you've been on dates leading up to her birthday. Here are some top-six options (because top-five lists have become too cliché), a few of which should fit. (As a rule of thumb, strip clubs are a bad place to take her.) I'll leave it to you to search the Internet for the locations.

1. Guthrie's has added a neat twist to the bar scene. It's stock full of board games. That's right, board games. It's a great date place where you can find plenty of games to play, a lot of which will spark memories, which in turn lead to more knowledge about each other, as well as laughs and engaging conversation. You can also grab the bar's extensive cauldron of delivery menus, which you can use to order food from anywhere you like. A little careful planning, a small heart candle hidden in your pocket, perhaps some chocolates for dessert, and you can turn your corner of the bar into a romantic scene, without the worry of accidentally triggering a "Where is this relationship going?" conversation.

2. Chicago Indoor Racing is located in a Buffalo Grove, instantly giving the date that needed special feel. You're heading 40 minutes out of the city, an hour or more with traffic! Woo hoo! It's a change, that's good. You'll need a car to get there. Steal one. The thrill of a high-speed chase will turn her on, at least until that Buffalo Grove cop with the chiseled chin who won the what-if-Brad-Pitt-and-George-Clooney-had-a-baby contest rescues her from you. Maybe it's better to rent, borrow, or use your own car. You can rent cars just for a few hours these days. So, you have no excuses. If you do steal a car without getting caught, leave it in Buffalo Grove and return driving their go-carts. That's right, go-carts.

Chicago Indoor Racing allows you to race around a track in go-carts that reach speeds of 35mph. Plan to arrive an hour before your race time, so they can go over the safety precautions. No drinking ahead of time, but plenty after the races. They have pool, arcade games, and a variety of other games to bring your adrenaline down slowly after your heart-pounding speeding. There's good dining, as well. Best of all, they take reservations, so you can guarantee your race times. It's a little pricy if you enter a lot of races, but hey, you did buy the cheap card, right? One note of caution: if you go too early, you may see cute children, prompting her to say things like, "Oh, he's so cute! Look at him with his racing helmet and gloves on. Couldn't you just have ten just like him?" I am not responsible for such declarations or the conversations to which they may lead.

3. The Melting Pot. OK, maybe your gal isn't Mario Andretti or Susie Chutes 'n' Ladders. If you want something leaning toward a romantic dinner with a twist, hit the Melting Pot. It's downtown and a laid-back version of the popular Geja's. Both specialize in fondue, which is fun to share with a date, but Geja's is for far more serious couples. People get engaged there all the time. Yeah, stay away!

4. Minnie's. This fun restaurant has a bit of a Fifties diner feel. It's a popular place for couples and first dates that has a neat twist — everything is mini. Instead of getting one sandwich, you choose three smaller sandwiches from an extensive list of tasteful ones. You can order all of the same or mix and match. Instead of one beer, you get three smaller ones in a bucket full of ice. It's different (in women's talk this translates as "charming") and that makes it memorable. Remember, that's what you're going for, something more memorable than your other dates.

5. Massage. Take you and your lady for a massage. There are a bunch of good massage places in Chi-Town. Lincoln Park Massage Spa seems to be especially popular. If you're unsure where things are heading, be a little tricky. Give her a certificate on her birthday for a massage with you. Now, you've guaranteed another date. That buys you more time to fix whatever it is you might have fucked up. I suggest you make sure the Buffalo Grove's cop's twin brother doesn't work on her, though.

6. Leaving Iowa. Laughs are always good for dates. Have trouble getting her to giggle yourself? Is she always complaining that you guys never go to the theater? Leave it to the pros. Check out the play Leaving Iowa at the Royal George Theater. It's received rave reviews, it's funny, and I can vouch for Tim Clue, one of the comedians who wrote it. I met him once. (We both headline, so there's not much chance of us ever meeting again.) This comedy has a few deep moments, but mostly it's funny and very well-acted. It's light and anyone who has parents will relate, not to mention anyone with kids, from what I could tell. There's also a bunch of restaurants in the same area which will coordinate your meal with the show. All the info is on the Royal George Theater's site, which you'll find when you google it.

That's all I got; the rest is up to you. Don't forget to give her a birthday kiss for me!


About the Author(s)

Comedian and author Ian Coburn's book, God is a Woman: Dating Disasters, has been garnering big kudos and sales on Amazon, surpassing most other books in the genre in Amazon rank. Readers have been emailing Ian their dating questions and he writes a monthly advice column, "Lunch is Not a Date," for WASSUP! Local, as well as a Q&A version under the same title for Real Chicago. Learn more at and on the book's Amazon page.

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