Dating with a view to marriage is no other thing than work. I am a writer in New York, but Sex & the City this ain’t. Carrie had friends who weren’t repopulating the planet. She had fancy shoes. I have fuzzy Crocs. I get commuter rail and Brooklyn birthday parties. She got limos and glam soirees. I actually exist.
This is a project and it is a schlep. I used to believe in surgical strikes, now I’m carpet bombing. I’m on three different dating websites. I ask total strangers if they know anyone single because I have dated the pool of my friends’ friends’ friends dry. Somewhere, someone is going to make me laugh and swoon. I haven’t met him yet. I’m trying.
I hope it will end. Happily.
I went to an alumni party though I don’t respect my alma mater. I need to open to new worlds so I went. Networking is for people under 30 and over 50; everyone remotely my age is home raising a family. The one other person born in the 1970s was forgettable, but didn’t think I was. He researched my email address on the alumni database. Could we meet for dinner, he asked?
As much as I disliked college, I have faith in the admissions committee. A blind alumni date at least won’t be stupid, right? We met at a fish restaurant in TriBeCa where there were murals on the wall of undersea fantasia and octopus’ gardens.
Fishman: I’m writing a book.
Me: No one ever tells me that.
Fishman: It’s a diet book.
Me: I love fad diets! How is your fad diet different than all other diets?
Fishman: It’s not a fad. I’m an MD PhD. This will be a bestseller.
His radical new idea was what those of us who have been dieting since our Bat Mitzvah call common sense: Eat a large volume of things that aren’t calorically dense, like salad, and trick your body into thinking it’s full, like that ever happens. It would never sell, not like the abs-eat-this-not-that-skinny-bitch-paleo-blood-type-French-chick-carb-addict books. A gallon of lettuce is not a fistful of fries.
A filet of fish is not a filet mignon either. His fad diet explained his restaurant choice. Looking at him, I realized he, too, was vaguely piscine; his bulbous eyes were offset like a flounder and his skin was sallow, as if his tank hadn’t been cleaned. We are what we eat.
The night took all night long. I know better than to have a meal on a first date, but his pedigree blinded my blind date sense. Henry Kissinger and Ted Kaczynski were distinguished alumni too. I would gladly have dated them instead. We could talk politics.
Our plates empty, our meal but a memory, my date kept trying to catch my eye while I tried to catch the waitresses’. I excused myself to go to the powder room and walked to the server’s station.
Me: This is embarrassing, but I’m on an awful date. Would you mind, please, bringing us our bill so I can go home?
Our check arrived. My date put his hand down on the plastic folder and did not open it.
Fishman: My family has a house in the Hamptons.
Me: I own a tent.
The bill sat there, under his wrist, taunting me. I excused myself again and returned to the waitress. She looked at me with gentle pity. I gave her $20. It works in the movies, ok?
Waitress: May I take the check sir?
Fishman: No, we’re not ready yet.
I felt like the cast of Gilligan’s Island.
Fishman: I just hate it when they rush you like that. So much for her tip, you know?
I reached for my wallet. I never reach for my wallet. My date slid the bill closer to his side of the table.
I stood up and put on my coat. He hurriedly paid.
Me: You’ll have to excuse me, I have an early start tomorrow.
He followed me out to the corner where I was hailing a cab. As if he were a gentleman, he opened the car door. Like a jackass, he followed me in.
Me: Dinner was lovely, that was very kind. Thank you.
He grabbed my hand and held it.
I moved my hand into my coat pocket.
He inched closer to me.
I slid closer to the door.
He put a hand on my knee.
I prayed for an early death.
He put his arm around my shoulder.
I took his hand off my knee.
Me: I’m very flattered, but you really must stop.
Fishman: When can I see you again?
He began to knead my shoulder.
Me: Look, I’ve been very patient. And you’re trying mine. Stop.
He put his hand back on my knee.
I rammed my elbow into his side.
Me: How much no does it take?
Fishman: Your loss.
He slid back to the other side of the cab and pouted.
Five minutes later, he tried to hold my hand again.
This is apparently what it takes to get into Harvard. My standards are higher.