The time has come for this series using only Spider-Man comics to explore the variety of romantic archetypes we find in literature (illustrating the variety of romantic experiences we find in life) to hit LUCKY NUMBER THIRTEEN!!! What lays ahead to consider in ol’ Peter Parker’s romantic misadventures? Only one of the most vexing (and potentially awkward) of all romantic quandaries – how do you know if you’re actually on a date with someone or not? Warning: Reading this piece may yield spontaneous full-body shame cringes which involuntarily rise when we remember awkward memories so proceed with caution. If there’s one thing looking at all Peter Parker’s romantic exploits teaches us, it’s we’re never alone when it comes to awkwardly pursuing love. When the web-head meets Danielle, the woman working at a jewelry store he returns stolen diamonds to in the all love stories-oriented Amazing Spider-Man #605, sparks fly. Emotions run high. She actually talks to him. It’s a tractor beam – vzzzzzzzt – and it sucks Peter right in. But, regardless of sparks and emotions we feel when we meet someone new, how do you know when your hanging out has become a real date?
In the midst of a bit of a romantic dry spell, Peter’s best friend since college – Harry Osborn – does his best to try and snap Peter out of it. He tells Peter he needs a new woman in his life. It doesn’t have to be some long term, emotionally complex relationship. But Peter needs to get out there and enjoy a little human connection! Harry tries playing the wingman with Peter out in public, chatting up girls in the park. He also stands by for emotional support as he and Peter spend over twelve straight hours looking at dating profiles on different online dating sites. But, try as they might, their diligent efforts yield no promising results.
Then, a few days later, Peter is out doing his web-slingin’ thing when he finds a random criminal with a lazer-gun-hand running down the street with a bag of jewels clutched tightly in his non-gun hand. With little effort, Spider-Man catches him, cracks a few jokes, and leaves him webbed to a lamppost for the police to pull down and lockup at their leisure.
Spider-Man takes the bag of stolen jewelry and returns it to the swanky Park Avenue store it was taken from. If Debra Whitman is the best meet-cute of Peter Parker’s 60+ years of comic history, Danielle is his most embarrassing and awkward would-be romantic meeting by far. But maybe it’s also the most relatable?! I’ve never opened my door to a gorgeous woman I’ve never met before saying, “Face it Tiger, you just hit the jackpot!” But feeling like I made a fool of myself as I stumble over my words in front of someone I think is cute? I wouldn’t say it happens all the time…but I’ve checked that box once or twice. We all have and, whether he’s beaten the Sinister Six dozens of times by himself or not, Peter’s right there with us.
After Danielle introduces herself, Peter says, “Hi, Danielle. I Pida-Man. Spida-Mun. Spider-Man.” As he stumbles his way through the conversation, each sentence he utters making things more awkward, he even forgets he’s there to return the jewels and she has to remind him. Gah! The sympathy cringes!
Despite not being able to string two coherent sentences together, Danielle pieces together what Spidey’s trying to say and things start to look promising.
Danielle – “Are you ok?”
Spider-Man – “I’m trying really hard to figure something out…”
Danielle – “What is it? I owe you big time for getting this stuff back. Maybe I can help?”
Spider-Man – “No. It would be silly…”
Danielle – “You want to know how to ask me to hang out and not reveal your secret identity?”
Spider-Man – “I…yeah, actually.”
Danielle – “Well, maybe we could meet somewhere tonight?”
Then police sirens cut in and Spider-Man is off but not before making plans to meet Danielle on the roof of the building that night at 9:00. Wooo hooo! Way to go Spidey!
Isn’t that a magical moment? You feel like you just made an absolute and total fool out of yourself in front of someone you think is cute but they’re still up for hanging out! You don’t know how they overlook all that painfully embarrassing awkwardness but you don’t need to! It’s as sweet of them as it is appreciated. You feel a magical spark grow in your chest as once – just this once – everything’s coming out in your favor no matter how many times life’s knocked you down in the arena of the heart. All those failed relationships, all those “Um, I like you…but as a friend” talks, all the unrequited pining for would-be lovers that never materialized, all the quick goodbye hugs instead of lingering goodbye kisses, alllllllllllll those romantic fails are burned away in the brilliant flash of romantic potential now laid before you. It feels so good!
It leaves you sauntering through life with all those classic symptoms Rod Stewart sings about on “When A Man’s In Love,” “His feet don’t touch the ground / he can hardly wait to see her tonight / Now every new song on the radio reminds him about her / He says hello to total strangers and he’s singing in the shower / The sign in his eyes says this guy’s got a problem so nice / She don’t know what she’s doing to him / Every day’s like Christmas / it sure ain’t a dream.” While the song may be gender-specific, the feelings certainly aren’t :). Awwwwwwwww, it’s THE BEST. Everything in the world feels new and you can’t wait to see where this potential romance takes you.
Peter, with all that romance-adjacent energy, is excited to tell Harry. He did it! He met someone! The dating site didn’t pay off nor did Harry’s wingman efforts but Peter did it anyway! He’s got a date lined up for that very night!
Now, to be fair, no one said the word date. But they flirted. They bantered. They made plans to “hang out” and they’re meeting that night at 9:00. Nine o’clock at night falls completely inside the CLASSIC Date Zone. I mean, it’s not like they’re going out to dinner but it’s just the first time they’re hanging out anyway so dinner could be a little heavy/forward. He’s good to go. Right? Peter’s fine. It’s all fine. Everything’s fine. There’s nothing to worry about at all. He met a cute girl as Spider-Man and she was cool with dating him as Spider-Man and she’s cool if he doesn’t take his mask off so everything’s fine. Right? Right.
But when 9:00 rolls around and Peter swings back to Park Avenue to find Danielle waiting for him on the store’s rooftop, he’s filled with ALL SORTS of anxiety :8.
How does he date a civilian as Spider-Man?!? She’s not the Black Cat! How can he do this? But heroically he presses on and doesn’t let those anxieties get in his head and ruin his night! Nope, he lands on the rooftop next to Danielle and…well, it’s all pretty awkward to be honest.
But then it gets even worse. I’m sorry for exposing you all to this but I did warn you this may trigger awkward memories at the top so I feel ok in sharing what’s about to transpire. Are you ready? Really? Ok, let’s go.
Just when you think awkward, halting conversation and an inability to figure out what to do is the worst possible outcome of the night, it gets worse.
Spider-Man – “Chris?”
Danielle – “Yeah, my boyfriend.”
Spider-Man – “You – you have a boyfriend?”
Danielle – “Yeah.”
Spider-Man – “Does he know you were meeting me tonight?”
Danielle – “Yeah!”
Spider-Man – “Really?!”
Danielle – “Yeah! He’s working late at the Coffee Bean across town.”
Spider-Man – “And he’s okay with us hanging out?”
Danielle – “Of course! I mean, it’s not like this is a date or anything.”
My boyfriend. It’s not like this is a date or anything.
My boyfriend. It’s not like this is a date or anything.
My boyfriend. It’s not like this is a date or anything.
GAH. Oh no! Oh no. What?? What?!!? WHAT?!!?!!? It’s so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo UNCOMFORTABLE.
Danielle had to know it was a date, right?!? How couldn’t she know it was a date?!? Who is awkward about just asking someone to hang out?!!!? There’s nothing awkward about that!!! Danielle had to know. But maybe she didn’t? Or maybe she didn’t care? Or maybe she thought it could be but then logically figured there was no way it could be a date because of X, Y, and/or Z. Regardless, Spider-Man swung to that rooftop certain they were going on a date. Danielle walked up to that same roof certain they weren’t. And so many of us have been on either side of this painfully awkward equation as well – maybe more than once. Maybe more often than we’d like :/. Am I projecting?
And while we all know, Peter Parker included, that far worse things happen in the world…in that moment, it’s sure as hell hard to think of anything that could possibly be worse or more shame-inducing than that.
Oh, oh Spidey. I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry. I’ve never been punched by the Hulk but I’d have to imagine that’s easier to shake off than this. You tried! You put yourself out there! And ok, yes, you didn’t clearly communicate the “date” part of the whole, well, date at the beginning and yes, that would have helped avoid all this, but you were so sure! She had to be, too, right? You flirted! Remember that whole tractor beam thing?!? UGH. UGH. How, oh how, could this have happened?
Ouch. Hello epic fail. Goodbye magical, hopeful potential. What were you even doing here in the first place?
This is familiar. This fits. Nothing compliments shattered expectations quite like a shimmering shroud of shame.
But it happens to the best of us. Even superheroes can find themselves on dates that were never really dates at all. So the next time we find ourselves out with someone who tells us they have a significant other we can find solace in…no. Sorry, but no. There’s NOTHING that makes this sort of painful, cringe-filled moment of shame and disappointment any easier. I’m sorry. It will haunt us as it replays over and over again in our minds for a long, long time. But misery does love company! And we have the Amazing Spider-Man right beside us whenever we have the grave misfortune to find ourselves here, mired in the most epic of dating fails. It doesn’t get much worse nor much more embarrassing than this. But Peter’s survived it and we can, too!
Let’s, uh, let’s just not talk about it too much? Is that ok? Can we do that? Can we maybe pretend it never happened? Some “lucky” moments are worth never speaking of again. Please? Ok, cool. Thanks.
Want more of my li’l series exploring romantic archetypes using Spider-Man comics? Well you’re in luck! Check out:
Spider-Man and the Black Cat: Flirting with Perfection to see how the Black Cat represents those people we know may be wrong for us and/or we know it won’t work out with in the long run…but we’re drawn to them all the same and we seemingly can’t stop flirting with or the pursuing them no matter how hard we try :).
Spider-Man and Mary Jane: Soul Mates? (Y/N/Maybe) for an examination of Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship, with a focus on the question of Soul Mates as well as the classic romantic tropes of the will-they-won’t-they and best-friends-first relationships.
Spider-Man and the Spider Family: A Look At What Might Have Been… to contemplate the “What if…?” people we think of when we consider our romantic “what might have been”s care of the alternate reality series The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows.
Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy: All the Beautiful Angst of First Love to consider how Gwen Stacy has far more significance than just “the girl who died” and how her relationship with Peter perfectly presents all the awkward, cringy, and still oh-so-magical moments of the first time we fall in love.
Spider-Man and Silk: You Gotta Love A Physical Attraction to look at Peter and Cindy Moon’s relationship as an example of those people who inexplicably turn us on. The attraction, the draw to these people, is like a force of nature, completely beyond our control. It’s fun buuuut complicated without romantic feelings, too.
Spider-Man and Captain Marvel: The Super Friend Zone which uses the one date Peter and Carol Danvers went on as the frame to examine the friends we’re attracted to, the nature of “the Friend Zone,” and what we do when we start to feel a li’l romantic and/or sexual chemistry percolating in a platonic pairing.
Spider-Man and Betty Brant: Complicated Affairs of the Heart uses one of the oldest characters in Spider-Man’s character history to explore everything from first crushes and first dates to the confusing pull of falling in love with someone who’s married.
Spider-Man and Michele Gonzales: Hook-Ups, Hang Ups, and Bad Habits and explore how all the personal problems and issues and baggage we have that we refuse to acknowledge/own/see can hurt our ability to make it work with a really fantastic partner, as well as what happens when we meet someone who calls us on all our shit.
Spider-Man and Mockingbird: The Allure of the Workplace Romance looks at Peter’s relationship with Bobbi Morse during his time as CEO of Parker Industries to consider why we are so drawn to the workplace romance…and what awkwardness may be waiting for us if it doesn’t work out.
Spider-Man and Jessica Jones: The High School Crush opens the door to reminisce about allllllllllll those awkward, anxiety-filled high school crushes we had and could never find the courage to act on while also inviting us to think about the influence we may have on all the people we hardly know who come in and out of our lives.
Spider-Man and Jean DeWolff: The Lonely Echo of Unrequited Love is a sort of mirror to the cute-anxious experience of the crushes we don’t voice in high school, as it examines the very real pain we can carry in our hearts when we love someone who has no idea how we feel nor loves us back in the way we love them.
Spider-Man and Debra Whitman: Substitute People and Surrogate Relationships explores the toxic relationships we find ourselves in when we don’t articulate our boundaries and advocate for our own needs within our relationships, why we may struggle to do so, and briefly considers the nature of abusive relationships as well.
Spider-Man and Lily Hollister: She’s My Best Friend’s Girl dives right into the uncomfortably taboo waters we find ourselves in when that inexplicably magnetic attraction ignites within us and we realize we are freely flirting and passionately infatuated with our best friend’s significant other.