What could be more romantic than sharing a handgun with a potential suitor? Just about anything, I discovered only moments into Singles Night at the Firing Range.
Maybe it was how our retired-cop-turned-gun-safety-instructor led off with an anecdote about a single girl blowing away the knife-wielding guy who broke into her house, or the way he described women as hyenas and men as lions, or just the frequent references to "your assailant." Something, anyway, was making me feel more queasy than sexy.
When I signed up for the event, my friends had all assured me that I’d meet a bunch of hipsters, there for the irony or even, like me, for the literary potential of the event. After all, we live in Philadelphia, where boys wear skinny jeans and flaunt their masculinity by brewing their own beer. It must have slipped our minds that Philly is also the city that averaged about one gunshot death per day for the past few years. My fellow attendees apparently wanted to get their share of the action-on the dispensing end, of course.
Growing up in central Pennsylvania, I knew plenty of men who belonged to the NRA and had gun racks on their trucks. But it never occurred to me that there were people would only allow Obama to pry their guns out of their cold, dead hands (to paraphrase a poster in the firing range bathroom) because they wanted to shoot each other .
My misapprehensions were clear before any of the attendees said a word. I had known, at least, that this was a social event different from most in my experience, so I met with my best friend for a pre-date wardrobe consultation. A skirt would be too dressy, we agreed. But jeans might be too hot. I settled on khakis, and at first, I thought my outfit fit in relatively well. That was, until a woman arrived in five-inch stripper-style heels. She had decided on jeans, but must have realized that they were too hot, because she had the top button undone.
I thought that was pretty casual until a very large woman entered the building. Her tank top was not quite as oversized as her bosom, so she had a full 10 inches of visible cleavage. But the highlight of her outfit had to be the fuzzy pink bedroom slippers. Sadly, she wasn't coming to date; that was just her gun-buying outfit. I was vaguely worrying about the guy back in her bedroom when the program got underway. We'd be shooting nine millimeters, our instructor explained.
"Damn!" interjected the guy next to me.
"What, you wanted something bigger?" asked the instructor.
"No, I just woulda brought my own," the dater said.
After the completion of our brief safety instruction (which boiled down to "Don't point a loaded gun at anyone you don't mean to shoot"), I was introduced to my shooting partner. He broke the ice by asking, "Who do you want to shoot?" I laughed but HE WASN’T KIDDING!
We headed upstairs to the firing range where we could mingle with the regular (non-dating-event) customers. In addition to the angry-looking middle-aged guys one would expect, there was also a cute young couple, sharing a massive weapon that Rambo may have carried. After actually shooting a gun (which was pretty anticlimatic compared to the dating), I had a quick chat with the organizer, who was my last hope for nonviolent fellowship. But no, my initial impression of her as a nice suburban type was wrong.
She asked me, "So do you think you could shoot someone?"
"No way!" I said.
"Yeah, it is a little tough to get the hang of it," she said.
"No, I mean, like morally, I couldn’t shoot someone," I explained.
"Hunh," she said.
It will come as no surprise that I did not form a lasting relationship with anyone at the event or win the shooting prize. I did come home from the night with one souvenir-a burn above my eyebrow from being hit with an ejecting shell casing. I'm hoping it leaves a sexy scar that I can use to impress the guys at my next dating event-fencing lessons.
Photograph of woman shooting gun by David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images.