Balloon Hats and a First Date at the Central Park Zoo

So this happened:

central park zoo balloon hat

On a first date.

Oh I am not kidding. I wore the most ridiculous balloon hat you’ve ever seen on a first date in New York City.

No, I wasn’t on a date with a clown.

Nor a balloon…sculpturist?

No, I wasn’t breaking up Jeff Koons‘ marriage #highbrowjoke.

It wasn’t an exercise dictated by my therapist, “Face your fear of looking like an idiot on first dates! Face it in the most attention seeking, inflatable way possible!”

I know what you’re thinking- NO, I didn’t do it just to blog about the experience! I swear I didn’t! It was his idea! Actually, maybe it was my idea, but I said it as a joke! He’s the one who took the joke WAY to seriously!

It all started at the Central Park Zoo.

“I was so late for this date.” I said to my date. Of course I was, tardiness is textbook Mary Lane,”I should by you a souvenir or something. You want a t-shirt? How about a hat? Ooo! A balloon hat! We’re at a zoo, there’s a guy making balloon animals! Do you want a balloon hat?”

“Only if you wear one too,” my date replied.

“Haha. Yeah, sure, haha. Let’s go see the red pandas!”

Central Park Zoo red pandas

The red pandas were way cuter than my date. Nothing is cuter than a red panda. I was pleased he’d gone off script of Every First Date In NYC These Days, suggesting meeting at the zoo rather than grabbing drinks. We were outside, surrounded by nature, strolling pathways packed with strollers. Sure, most attendees of this small zoo on Central Park’s east side are under the age of 8. But hey, we learned real fast that we both like kids.

I quickly realized one great thing about first dates at the zoo. No lulls in conversation. Any awkward pause can be obliterated by the integration, “Hey, look at that!”

central park zoo birds

“Wow! These birds a beautiful! What are they called? Did you see any thing like them when you lived in Rome for 6 months?”

Oops, I got him back on Rome. Again. He’d been talking about Rome a lot. Yes, it’s so cool he lived there. Of course it was a life changing experience. But… I really don’t need to listen to another 20 minute monologue about exactly how cool it was…

Best way to change a subject ever? “Hey, look, SEA LIONS!”

central park zoo date

The sea lions are everyone’s favorite part of the Central Park Zoo. You never have to squint your eyes and search the area for these athletic swimmers. They’ll pop out of the water right in front of you!


Great thing to learn on a first date: will he be okay with me snapping my camera for 15 minutes to get the perfect shot?

It’s easy to get through the entire zoo in an hour. By the time we left the zoo, I knew a lot more about Victoria Crowned Pigeons (that gorgeous blue and purple bird is a pigeon!!), Rome, and my date. He was unabashedly nerdy and very sweet. He liked puffins and wasn’t afraid of snakes.

I’d had fun at the zoo with him but he hadn’t really won me over.

Until we walked out the gate, came face to face with this sight, and my date remembered my earlier joke and insisted we go get hats!


This is Lucas. He hangs out in front of the Central Park Zoo and makes balloon creations for whiney kids all weekend. Lucas is accustomed to very specific instructions, “I want a pony! It hast to be pink!” “SPIDERMAN! SPIDERMANNNN!!!” Most people don’t know this, but Lucas truly thrives in the rare moments of creativity.

I only know this because my date gave him our request, “Make us balloon hats. Anything is fine, we only have $5 between us- what ever that’ll get us. We’re on a first date. ”

Lucas responded to this in the best way possible. He spent WAYYYYY more time making these hats than I ever would have expected, he even made a kid and his dad wait while he added some finishing touches. Dude knows what he’s doing, we were good for his business. We all joked and laughed the whole time and everyone got to see his finished creations on out heads as we walked away.

Mine was inspired by a “love bug” or, as they’re more commonly called in NYC, according to Lucas, a “cockroach”. See the antenna?


I realized something important that day: the right guy for me won’t be afraid to wear a ridiculous balloon hat. Out in public in the largest city in the American north-east. He’ll accept the challenge with grace and a laugh that makes me want to kiss him on the mouth. What’s my type? Men who can rock balloon hats.

You should try it. I dare you. Wear a ridiculous balloon hat on a date. Why?

7 Reasons to Wear a Ridiculous Balloon Hat on a Date

  1. IT’S FUN. Stupid, ridiculous, and fun.
  2. It shows you don’t take like to seriously.
  3. No better way to prove you’re comfortable laughing at yourself
  4. It will make you both laugh. A lot.
  5. Why the fuck not?
  6. It will unite the two of you: the only Bizarre Headwear People in a sea of Normal Heads
  7. It’s a great story!


About New York Cliche

NYC lifestyle blog by Mary Lane. Events, adventures, epic mistakes, dating, life, humor. A 20-something trying to make it (and make out) in the city of dreams.

4 thoughts on “Balloon Hats and a First Date at the Central Park Zoo

  1. Omg this is an amazing date!!! We don’t get balloon guys on the street in the UK so much – I can’t remember even seeing them in London.

    I often think that I talk about living abroad (Japan, Germany) way too much. That’s why I tend to only date either non-British people, or people who have lived abroad themselves.
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