Thursday, August 19, 2004

It's blurry, but I kinda like the turquoise colors in this picture from the coral reefs of St. Croix. It has nothing to do with today's post, though.

Dating stories aren’t usually in my writing repertoire. But I’ll break from the norm to show why. Make an exception to prove the rule:

“Have I got the perfect girl for you!”

If you’re a single, 30s man in L.A., it seems that every single, 30s woman in L.A. is the perfect one for you. Or so your friends and family think, especially if you’re both Jewish. They’ll call you up out of the blue (or turquoise) to tell about their discovery of your future spouse. I try to avoid these set-ups for the same reason I pass on eating Aunt Minnie’s hamentashen – both take a surprisingly large amount of work, are extremely dissatisfying and leave an awful taste in your mouth.

But the recommendation came from a reliable source, the credentials sounded first-rate -- a qualified candidate for the open position of a girlfriend; maybe I should rely on this reference, go from temp to perm.

So I called her, learned that she had gotten the scoop on me and was equally interested (but probably just as hesitant, too). We had a nice conversation, exchanged some e-mails, and eventually met for dinner.

I’ll spare you the details, especially because they weren’t particularly juicy. She was nice, kinda cute, kinda interesting... didn’t blow me away.

But it was a first date. Very casual. Polite get-to-know-you conversation. I thought she was a little nervous and awkward, but we hadn’t built a rapport yet. We didn’t know each others’ sense of humor, so we couldn’t kid around too much, just made innocuous jokes. (Of course I wouldn’t dare tell her the story about the horny teenager violating supermarket pumpkins. But for all I knew, she could have raunchier stories than that -- she wrote for soap operas.) I figured I’d try to go out with her again, see how it would go when we felt a little more comfortable.

We played phone tag for a few days, and then here’s the e-mail she sent me:

Hey Michael. Hope you are doing well.

Sorry we keep missing each other. Since we have been playing phone tag, I thought it would be better if I dropped you a line so you know where I stand on things. I really enjoyed meeting you last week, but I have to be honest...This might come across as crazy, but you mentioned that night that you are not a big fan of cats. This is a dealbreaker for me because my cats (and cat rescue) are a huge part of my life. I can't see myself dating someone who doesn't at least like them!

Anyway, if you are interested in catching a movie or hanging out some time as friends, I'd be cool with that but I don't think anything more than that is going to work for me.

Sorry to drop this over email but I felt disingenuous playing phone tag just so I could say this...

Take care,

The events of this story took place about a month ago. This incident, individually, doesn’t bother me a bit. I wasn’t that excited about her in the first place.

And let me make it clear: I didn’t go off on cats. If she was familiar with my ranting sense of humor, I might’ve kidded around and playfully called her pets a pair of claw-packin’, fickly-attackin’, furniture-trackin’, expression-lackin’, on-your-face-sackin’, hairball-hackin’ monsters. Instead, I just said I was more of a dog person, told her about the golden retriever I had as a kid, and mentioned that there was a friendly stray cat at my building who was winning me over. When she told me she did cat rescues, I remarked how I truly admired her for that, volunteering for a good cause.

See, I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a “dealbreaker”. Okay, maybe if the date says, “...and after my third incarceration...”, or if she removes her dentures before the dessert arrives. (I mean, talk about faux pas -- everyone knows you’re supposed to wait for the after-dinner drinks to take out your teeth.) So if all else is okay, I won’t let little things get in the way, not early on. I didn’t hold it against her that she seemed a little too doting on her two feline furballs.

Yet my experience is that minor differences are enough to make some girls nix the entire thing. This date alone didn’t bother me, but start adding up a few similar disappointments, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s me. Many of these dates already knew what I looked like, so it couldn’t be my appearance, could it? I’m a good-looking guy. At least my mom says so... Are my tastes really that off-putting? Or are they just not interested in me at all, right off the bat, but need to find a particular aspect to hinge it on?

You see what happens? I start to feel self-doubting and insecure.

That’s one reason why I don’t usually like to talk about it. But I did this time, and I had related the incident to some friends. They all thought my date was nuts. One friend said that a girl like that -- before she knows it -- will turn into an old spinster cat-lady.

I appreciate the reassurance, them cheering me up, making me laugh, but I don’t like where this is headed either -- getting bitter and insulting. In dates-from-hell stories, I sometimes think the author is the one who comes off poorly, bad-mouthing the other person, and maybe even the whole gender. (Feelin’ a little guilty even posting her e-mail.) Had a rough rendezvous? I can relate to your reaction. But be careful; try not to overreact. I don’t think it’s healthy to be so unforgiving or mean-spirited. Harbor those kinds of feelings, and you won’t be open to new possibilities. Listen to Mikey, your spiritual guide to happiness. (Actually, I think I read that on a fortune cookie once.)

It all goes back to comfort and the time it takes to build a relationship. I have lots of friends who’ll find any excuse to avoid a first or even a second date. They’d rather hang out with me and other people they already know, so they can just relax. I make ‘em go out, ‘cause I don’t wanna listen to them bitch about how they can’t find a boyfriend/girlfriend. And I’ve been on the receiving end of that fear of the unfamiliar. It rarely snows in L.A., but you’ll see flakes everywhere.

Speaking of lovesick friends, so many people I know feel inadequate unless they’re in a relationship. It gets tedious hearing things like, “I won the Nobel Prize, the state lottery and a spot on the 2006 Winter Olympics team. But I don’t have a boyfriend, so I’m gonna go kill myself.” And this is another reason I don’t like to discuss dating -- too many people obsess over it. I’m not judging others on what’s important to them, but I pride myself on being fiercely independent. The best girlfriends I’ve had are the ones who don’t define who I am, but enhance it (and vice versa).

I remain optimistic that I’ll find that special woman, the love of my life. But it’ll take time. She probably won’t say, “You had me at ‘hello’” (especially if she’s one of these L.A. golddiggers who’d also say “Show me the money!”). And I don’t think we’d need to tell each other, “You complete me.” No, we would want -- more than we need -- each other. Now, a cutie who’d want to grow old with me, sharing heartfelt gems like, “The human head weighs eight pounds!”... that’s the girl for me.


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