“Indoor camping” provides fun date alternative

By ASTHA BERRY | March 8, 2018

B2_Blanket Fort
COURTESY OF ASTHA BERRY Make the mess in your living room seem purposeful: Build a blanket fort.

“He’s the smartest person I’ve ever met.” “He’s very snarky and sarcastic.” “He’s got a dark sense of humor, pretty pessimistic with his jokes — just a warning. But great guy!” 

With the above slew of messages blowing up my phone, I nervously texted the aforementioned boy a couple of “creative” first date ideas.

Making plans for the weekend isn’t always easy, especially when you’re trying to make a good first impression. Luckily, as I found out, there are plenty of ways that you can have a fun time on your next weekend date, even if things don’t exactly go to plan.

As busy Hopkins students, my date and I struggled to solidify plans until the day of (okay, it was an hour before we were supposed to get together.) I called him to figure things out because let’s face it, texting is so inefficient. Naturally, I was full of joy when he picked up with the Peter Pan voice.

(I had a thing for Peter, okay? You’re lying if you say you didn’t.)

He picked me up from McCoy (classy, I know) and we went to Daniela in Hampden, an adorable little family-owned Italian restaurant. Everything was made in-house, including the unexpected surprise we ended up taking home with us.

We had the standard first-date conversations: hometown, pets, favorite serial killers, admittance of vices and crippling insecurities. Things were going well. We both liked memes, so there’s that.

Was Daniela’s a good option for a first date? It certainly seemed like it at the time.

Afterward, we popped by Charm City Comedy Project, where we had expected stand-up comedy but were met with something that seemed like a cross between improv and a weird sketch comedy routine that was impossible to follow. There were only two rows of chairs, so we sat on the steps for all of five minutes before we decided to leave.

So a poor option for a first date. Could we salvage the night?

With our previously made plans more or less undone, we brainstormed places to go in Baltimore on a Saturday night that didn’t involve drinking.

It was pretty difficult.

Eventually, I suggested we try indoor camping. This basically meant doing camping-like activities from the comfort of a blanket fort inside a house, with heating and no bugs.

Contrary to what his friends’ texts had implied, my date was receptive to the idea and even drove down to CVS so we could pick up essential ingredients (mostly various kinds of chocolate).

We went back to his house, which was messy because he hadn’t expected anyone over. Of course, we then found our inner children and made it even messier for the sake of building our blanket fort. A great thing about this date option is that you don’t have to worry about clutter, though you may want to vacuum your floors first.

We made use of all of the blankets and pillows we could find, using chairs to prop up the makeshift tent. We worked together, and I couldn’t help but think that a lot of my dates end up feeling like team-building activities, but it was cute anyway.

Once the fort was up, we turned off all the lights and lit a Yankee candle to serve as our “fake fire.” Indoor camping would not be complete without s’mores, so we roasted marshmallows over the candle (yes, candles really do get that hot). We used our CVS chocolate and graham crackers to complete the s’mores, as Oh Wonder played softly in the background.

It was all very Pinterest-y in the best possible way. If I were reading it as a scene in a YA novel, I would think it seemed fake, too cute, gross. I was aware that I could be doing this with literally anyone and it would still be the epitome of adorable.

(That means, dear reader, that you can do it too and be just as cute.)

There’s something incredibly cozy about sitting in a pile of blankets, with the taste of melty chocolate in your mouth and the warm glow of candles while raindrops hit a large window. If you can get it to rain on your date, I would definitely recommend.

Plus, blanket forts naturally lend themselves to cuddling and talking, which makes them great for dates and also most interactions.

Of course, nothing good can last. He said he felt nauseous and excused himself to go to the bathroom. After a while, I went to check on him and heard him throwing up. I told him I wanted to help and used my bobby pin to unlock the door (yeah, it’s kinda badass, I know). 

While throwing up, he informed me it was Staph Aureus, because the incubation period was two to six hours and he matched all the symptoms. His friends were not lying, he was a nerd: He accurately identified the bacteria that had caused his food poisoning.

Maybe I just like taking care of people or maybe I liked him a tiny bit, but I wasn’t grossed out by the vomit. In fact, I told him I still thought he was cute, and if you still find someone cute while they puke, that’s saying something.

So our cute first date to an Italian restaurant and a comedy show stretched into 22 hours of indoor camping and making sure he didn’t die from dehydration or get too cold on the bathroom tiles. But honestly, it was still the best first date I’ve ever been on.

There are a lot of fun things to do over the weekend in the city. But if you’re really trying to get to know someone, sometimes there’s nothing wrong with staying in. 

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