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 hadn’t been on JDate in years, but after a few discouraging months in the online trenches, I went back to my people. Just for a peek. On a Saturday, to weed out those who would be praying. It was exactly all the same men I had left. The first guy to email me had actually dated me once five years ago. I am that memorable. Then a chat window opened. A lawyer. He wanted to meet for drinks that night.
There are rules. I don’t follow them. I said yes.
He was late. He was driving in from Long Island. It was raining. Rather than sit in a bar alone, I went to the drugstore across the street and read a magazine with my story in it, the cheap thrill of a freelance writer. He was almost 45 minutes late; my article wasn’t that long.
Mr. Blue: Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry I’m late.
Me: Don’t sweat it. You’re here now.
Mr. Blue: I’m having a George Costanza moment.
Me: I don’t know what that means, I don’t have a TV.
Mr. Blue: You don’t have a TV and you’re a journalist?
Me: I’m pretty good at reading. What’s a George Costanza moment?
Mr. Blue: I’m living with my parents.
He had lived in Manhattan but he lost his job, downsized in the downturn.
He ordered a whiskey, rocks. I asked for a glass of champagne.
I tried to make talk, but he was sensitive about not having a job, and when you don’t have work to talk about in Manhattan, you don’t have much. His interests? Sports. Passions? He was too depressed.
He ordered another round. I would have liked to excuse myself, but I had accepted a Saturday night date on a Saturday day. I obviously didn’t have anything else to do. There could be no fictional early meetings to spring me from a dud.
All his friends were married and they had all met online, and he had a girlfriend once but no one loves him now. It was like looking in a mirror, a sadhouse mirror. He was saying the things out loud that I say to myself.
I sat on the banquette, facing the room. He sat across, the position of choice allegedly so the restaurant can see what a beautiful woman he squires. I believe men like it because women are trapped. I couldn’t get out of the banquette unless he let me go.
It’s my job on dates to make sure no one goes home with lower self-esteem than when we started, but Mr. Blue could hardly fall off the floor. He ordered a third whiskey. I declined another and offered to pay. He was out of work and I wanted to go.
Mr. Blue: No, no, no. I can still buy a girl a drink.
He downed another glass. The waitress came, but instead of asking for the check, Blue ordered a fourth round for himself. Everyone in the room was on a date. They all looked like they were having fun.
Mr. Blue: I’ll give you a ride. Let me drive you home.
Me: I’m only a few blocks away.
Mr. Blue: It’s raining.
Me: I’ll walk.
I felt bad for him, but not so bad I would get in a car on an icy night after four whiskeys. No one should leave a date with lowered self-esteem or vital signs.