Vicki Serna managed to set me up on my first ever date with a guy.
Sure, the date went as abysmally as anyone who knows me would have expected: I treated it like an interview and asked a lot of questions — A LOT of questions — without ever actually expressing personal interest. That’s not her fault — in fact, it’s borderline amazing that she managed to get me to agree to meet a co-worker socially in the first place.
When I moved to Arizona in 1997, I was pretty much starting life anew. I knew exactly one person—a former Colorado co-worker who’d recommended me for the job in Phoenix—but we worked different hours on different teams, and so I hardly saw him. But I met with Vicki freakishly early every Saturday morning as part of my job, to put together a layout for every issue of the entertainment magazine I worked on.
Man, she was amazing to be around: as outgoing as I was introverted, as boisterous as I was reserved. And somehow she learned that one of the sales guys had noticed “the new guy,” and took it upon herself to engineer a date. How Vicki persuaded a newly out, overly skittish me to such a thing is testament to her rapport with people (and her ability to imbue them with the same DGAF attitude that seemed to course through her veins).
Vicki died in July after a stroke. It’s depressing that my friends are passing away now; I’d give anything to revert to the age when they were getting married, or having their first babies. Hell, I’d even settle for them getting divorced, as long as they’re not being put in caskets and urns. It’s inevitable, though.
After that disastrous first date, I recounted to Vicki how badly I’d bungled the whole thing, and she just laughed. “You don’t know yet how amazing you are,” she said. “It’ll take a few years. But in the meantime, just remember: He’s the one who screwed up.” We’d known each other for like four months, maximum, and saw each other for an hour, once a week, but she called things like she saw them so I had no choice but to take her word for it.
I’m still fucking up dates more often than not when I dare to venture out on them, but Vicki’s words stick with me almost 20 years later. She was savvy, she was delightfully crass sometimes, and she was the person who started me on the path to being (more) comfortable in my own skin. Vicki was an incredible person, and I immensely regret the fact that I missed the chance to tell her that in person. Here’s hoping they have Internet access in the afterlife, because she deserves to know how many people are posting great stories about her on Facebook and other social media.