I date once a year, whether I want to or not.
Well I try to at least. I don’t always manage to, because it’s getting more and more difficult to find a willing partner.
It would probably help if I were more willing to look, or at least better at it. But I learned long ago that I’m truly effectively clueless when it comes to understanding other people: in high school, actually, when a classmate told me she wanted me, and I earnestly responded, “Why?” She sort of shook her head and walked away, and I never did get an answer.
College was no better. I didn’t date very often for various reasons, even though at least I was making the attempt. (Again, “Why?” comes to mind.) I lost even more reasonality, however, when after the third date with me a girl decided she was far more interested in my room mate. It was probably for the best – she was obviously asking herself the why question by then as well.
Dating as an adult became even more difficult, as well as less appealing. Meeting other people is not as easy as it was in school, and once I do meet someone, those suave pickup lines I used to use have become more difficult to fire off after being out of practice for so long.
(Okay, I have never actually been suave outside of my own head, I’ll admit. So it’s probably not so much a matter that I am out of practice as it is that I was just never very good at it in the first place.)
Once, while eating at a restaurant with a roommate (a different one, albeit one that others would probably still find far more dateable than I) I thought our waiter was attractive, and as I hadn’t dated in … nearly a year, I decided I’d take my chances. When he handed me my credit card slip to sign, I signed it with a flourish, and then added a little something extra underneath. Looking him in the eye, I handed it back.
“Here’s my signature,” I said. Then lowering and deepening my voice slightly while simultaneously raising one eyebrow in an obviously alluring manner, I continued.
“And my phone number, just in case you need it.”
He looked back at me with a blank expression. “Why would we need your phone number?” he asked.
My roommate then also quizzically questioned, “Yeah, why would he need your phone number?”
What a wingman. “Erm, no reason, I guess,” I said, then quickly, dejectedly left the restaurant.
(Being on the receiving end of the why question isn’t a lot of fun, it turns out.)
(And he never called, either.)
As adults, we’re limited in our access to other people that we will see on a regular basis, as well as the free time and opportunity to get-to-know-them before we get to know them, so to speak. Granted, there is the workplace, but that’s generally frowned upon. Which leaves that other vast wasteland of possibility – the internet.
Years ago, when the internet was not yet the ubiquitous household word it is today, I tried internet personals for the first time. I quickly learned that no matter what they looked like or how they presented themselves, there were always reasons why these people were using internet personals instead of meeting others the traditional way. Be it shyness, awkwardness, or an inability to fully recognize the truth about one’s self- there were Reasons. With a capital argh.
(Before you ask, yes, I fully include myself there as well.)
Internet personals are an interesting field. Usually, they fall into one of two categories – either they’re overly truthful (such as the ad from a gentleman that cheerfully stated “So, if you wanna have a good time, let me know. I live close to the hospital.”), or they are overly fabricated. Usually, there’s some sort of exaggeration of measurements, whether it be years, pounds, or inches: some go up; some go down; all in comparison to reality.
(Even if they look like a manatee, they can still say they have a “swimmer’s build”. And will.)
Internet personals are a dangerous lot. Not necessarily because of whom you may meet (regardless of how close they live to a hospital) but because it’s far too easy to tie one’s self-worth too closely to the responses received. There’s really nothing that could have prepare me for the feeling of undesirability I had when week after week, month after month, one of the larger internet dating sites sent me the same one and only profile match.
Granted, as much as I enjoy spending time with myself (frequently, the only source of casual intelligent conversation I have) that’s not why I was trying a dating site. I had better luck with a different one, where one match eagerly exchanged numerous e-mails with me, expressing the excitement he felt at meeting. However, when the time finally came, and I opened my door, he looked at me, coughed slightly, and apologized that he’d suddenly come down with strep throat and needed to cancel.
Apparently, he never needed to reschedule, because I never heard from him again.
I must have exaggerated something in my ad. Like my willingness to date.
Internet dating is a lot like going to the store – just as one should not grocery shop while hungry, neither should you internet date while desperate- you’ll just end up with something you don’t really want and probably isn’t good for you. A moment on the lips and a lifetime on the hips (or regrets, as the case may be.)
Some dating disasters weren’t the fault of my dates, of course – I’ve never claimed to be a prize. Nor can I claim to have harsh feelings towards the date that fled in fear the time I suddenly, violently sneezed during dinner, and began bleeding furiously from my nose, a torrent that simply refused to stop. It’s one thing to ask for extra napkins because I’ve spilled my drink; it’s an entirely different one to ask for them because I’ve created a biological hazard of Jackson Pollock-like dimensions right there at my table. Regrettably, this date wasn’t with someone who lived near a hospital.
Occasionally, things do go better; not all of my dates have ended badly. For instance, as he drove me home in his truck, one date said, “I’m glad the night went so well. Was it everything you expected?”
Considering no one had bailed on me due to ‘sickness’ nor had I suddenly began gushing blood, I replied, “It was much better than I expected.”
And at that moment, a firework shot skyward from the side of the road, trailing red sparks behind before exploding in a shower of light and sparks that we drove underneath. “Ok, that was corny,” I said wryly.
He must have taken that as a sign … because after one more date, I never heard from him again.
As I grew older, and my personal, solitary life became more full, I felt less and less of a need to try and shoehorn some other person into it. The less need I felt to date, the more I felt it was necessary to date at least once a year, if for no other reason than to reaffirm to myself that nothing really had changed.
Counting those dates became briefly confusing, however, when a coworker told me that the dates I had taken couldn’t possibly count because the dates had never been … consummated. (Like I said, casual intelligent conversation tends to be difficult to find.) I quickly rejected her dating definition, however. Considering, for instance, that the act of kissing so titillating to most people has always been a source of mystery to me (during a kiss, I’m usually stuck thinking about how weird it tastes and wondering why anyone would want to do this bizarre thing, and what led to it being developed in the first place, and where the heck does my nose go, and why does it itch suddenly, and if I end up sneezing, I hope it’s not red, and am I supposed to feel anything, and is it wrong that I don’t, and does that mean I’m doing it wrong, and before long I’m lost in thought and wondering if I really shouldn’t be doing something more productive like wrapping up this paragraph and I haven’t even noticed the other person stopped a while ago and is looking at me funny), the more esoteric physical possibilities of a date have even less of an interest to me. Honestly – why put all that effort into an obsolete biological imperative that ends in nothing more than 15 seconds of involuntary muscle twitching? It’s really just a waste of perfectly good clean sheets. Or 20 minutes reading a book.
So why do I keep dating? For the most part, I don’t know. Which is why once a year, I try again.
Because once a year, I remind myself that there’s always the chance that the question of “Why?” will finally have an answer.