--Reality Truck, the column, 2007
Despite all my Rainman-tendencies and my meticulous count of toothpicks, one of the things that doesn't make me nervous is First Dates. It's like Public Speaking and Job Interviews in that I think it ranks high on other people's lists, but barely registers on mine. Don't get me wrong, I embarrass as easily as the next person. I try to dress appropriately and not get spinach in my teeth, but I don't make any herculean efforts beyond that. Sure I guess I want to be liked, but I think it's more important to spend my time deciding whether I like them. I am busy. I have limited time and resources to devote. They better show me somethin' special. (No. Not that.)
Lately, I've been at Home Depot every morning when the doors open so I have time to let the Plumber in at the new house and get him started, where I usually keep him company, working like a slave, schlepping and spackling. This past weekend, I didn't even remember til I got a voicemail reminding me which restaurant I was supposed to be at that A. I had (probably unwisely) scheduled a first date on top of a day spent as a pack mule, or B. that I had scheduled a date at all (I must've said Yes when he called post-Ambien). I just wanted to stay home and eat hot dogs and watch HBO. But no, this is my third job right now-- the new house is my second job-- and I'm not one to call in sick. The impending dog is my fourth job.)
I have a lot of first dates these days -- more than average -- because the instant I got dumped, I put out a press release letting all my friends know that they will each be assessed ONE boyfriend for me this year. I think what I said was, "Have him washed and brought to my tent!"
They have twelve months. They can pace themselves. (It's worked for me before, and it's also how I've found houses and jobs in the past.) I prefer boyfriends to dating. Guys ask me out everyday. Big deal. I have no shortage of men to go places with. This isn't a typical commitment-starved hysterical female stereotype. I'm deliriously happy alone, but if I'm gonna cede time and space to someone else, what I want is someone I can stay home with -- but he can't want to marry me; live with me; or have children with me -- he just has to stay home with me. Sometimes. Not like a hostage, just once in a while, after we get done drinking-for-charity. (Plus I do like the prospect in a committed relationship of really being able to let myself go someday ...Just kidding, I am happy to maintain the landscape. It's the least I can do. Along with all the cooking, cleaning, and twice-a-day Ring-Toss. Yeah. They've really got a rough gig here.)
One of my married girlfriends was in the process of being filled in on the Lottery at lunch the other day when I walked in, and she looked up without batting an eye and asked, "so how tall does he need to be?" And then she took a few notes. By the time I got home, I had a facebook dossier of "new friend suggestions," along with introductions. (Sometimes it gets confusing: a lawyer asked me to lunch via Facebook, and I initially couldn't tell if he wanted to sue me, or ask for my business for his Firm -- but it turned out, one of my lawyer-girlfriends had just "referred" him to me for a little... amicus briefing.)
Size is a tricky question now, because while I have always liked 'em strapping, the upstairs at the new place has so many eaves and odd-angles that two Ex-es (my usual types) nearly decapitated themselves on the ceiling fans when they dropped by to survey it and help paint. So I either have to go back to a delicate petite flower type, or I guess I can just stick with the big boys and hold em down on the new sofa in the new "home theatre" (one of 'em already brought over a little wine fridge housewarming gift, so I assume everybody already agrees that room will be the destination of choice.)
Anyway, I've gotten some cool souvenirs out of all my skulduggery -- a plant cutting (which was my excuse for insisting we drop by for it), a couple heirloom bulbs, a really nice signed black and white photo print, and in one case, half of a leftover homemade lasagne (score). I don't require lovely parting gifts of course, but hey, this is a trend I might begin to encourage. It's like Danny DeVito says at the end of War of the Roses, "So what do we take from this.... other than that Dog People shouldn't marry Cat People?" -- better to get that all on the table up front.
Every time I go into one of these houses I am thinking A. Please don't kill me, and B. thank God I always stuff a lot of cash in my purse before every date. (Because if I see a cat? 231-TAXI. Tampons in the medicine cabinet? That's ok: I wore running shoes!)
By anyone's standards, I have gotten lucky in this process (not that kinda lucky; just so you know, I don't even believe in kissing till at least the third date, so I think I've been unwittingly creating a lot of disappointment in that perhaps these prospects had been led to believe my style was a little more "aggressive." It is....with people I've known, roughly, forever. Naked Time is NOT a casual process for me, much less Ring Toss. It may be spirited, but, it is not casual. Serial monogamy is my preference and it takes me a long time to reach the romantic, sentimental, well-considered decision that I can not better-deal this guy... that he is the best I'm gonna do).
To a man, every one of them has even been Catholic, for chrissake, which is really just "icing," not a requirement. And to a man, they have all also been better looking than I am. And I don't say that as a self-deprecating fishing expedition ("hey everybody, tell me how great I look!"). No, no. I'm fine. And for 40-something, I might even be a little above average (especially once you factor in the ...Tight Ship... I run, having never had children). But most of these guys are 30-somethings, and that's just an edge. I don't want anybody thinking I'm their mother. And laughing.
One of these children sat down at dinner and the first thing out of his mouth was, "by the way, your hair is beautiful." (It turns out, the guy who introduced us on Facebook had told him I might not leave the house for six months because of an unfortunate haircut.) Well, I thought he was being sarcastic, so I snapped back, "Thanks. But it usually looks a LOT. Better." Then I told him (somewhat defiantly) I couldn't read the menu because I hadn't picked up my new bifocals yet ('yeah, you wanna make something of it buddy?'), and he just laughed and held it out for me at varying adjustments across the table until I could make out what I wanted. Sure, it's fine if these whippersnappers want to date someone of my advancing years, but I make sure they know right up front what they might be getting themselves into. ("You asked for it, Sonny!" is what I'm thinking. They better know right now I might be sending them downstairs someday to "fetch my walker!") I think one of the sweetest date offers ever was him volunteering to take me to pick up my new glasses, since we were driving right past. Any guy who'll willingly spend a date night at LensCrafters with you either has massive game, or is at heart, a pretty sweet person.
Now, I will acknowledge that this whole process has been complicated by the fact that my Prostatitis has chosen this very season to act up again (the docs say Kidney Stones, but I swear, my symptoms fit prostatitis much more accurately on WebMD). And while we all know that's not appropriate date, or dinner conversation, and would make anyone's list of TooMuchInformation, it's a bit of a dilemma. Because I end up excusing myself to go to the bathroom at least six times over an average meal, and if I don't explain it, at some point, they're going to conclude I have a coke habit, or that I'm in there shooting up. It's so embarrassing, but sooner or later, they're all gonna call me CUTI (chronic-urinary-tract-infection). As terms of endearments go, it could be worse.
Although the need for frequent bathroom breaks IS an excellent -- if shameless -- excuse for impromptu detours by their house while we're out. Any straight man who keeps a spotless bathroom even if he isn't expecting guests is above-average civilized. (Or, he just might not be straight. Either way, it's good to know.)