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The Dating Project | ‘The Captain’

Sarah Rose

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 got a call from The Captain the other day. He was in New York on business, could he come by? He is an ex, a dad to twins. We hadn’t seen each other in the last few years, but we kept in warm if intermittent touch.

We had dated around my 30th birthday when I discovered the thing my mother always said but I never believed: I was pretty. The Big Love of My 20s and I had just parted ways for all the right reasons and shortly thereafter I was dating Captain Everything. He was an athlete. He traveled the world to compete in club games and was the team captain of every sport he played ever.

Nothing much happened between us. The night my first book was canceled he stayed the night so it wasn’t just the last day of my career, it was the first day I got to see the Captain naked. I smiled the whole time, he says. If there were team captains at my high school, I did not know them. I went to a college whose mascot was an extremely large drum. We stayed friends.

Captain: This is so nice. I never do this anymore, just sit and talk with a bottle of wine.
Me: Gosh, I do this all the time. I call it Tuesday. Also, Thursday. Saturday lunch, too.

He told me cute stories about the kids, I told him sad stories about dating.

Captain: I haven’t had sex in eighteen months.
Me: Your wife owns a Michelangelo. She has to look at it. Those are the rules.

He got explicit: This was a proposition.

He and his wife were my favorite happy ending. The Captain wouldn’t settle down and then couldn’t wait to be married when he found her. It was six months to the altar. I wanted that story to be true.

Then again, he was a talented athlete in bed too.

Captain: Marriage isn’t what you think it is, Sarah. You think you meet the right person and everything works out. Instead, you meet the right person and spend every morning at 3a.m. worrying if it will work out.
Me: I’m pretty sure that your 3a.m.s are still better than getting hit on by married guys who didn’t want me the first time around.
Captain: Why didn’t I want you? You love sex.
Me: You liked being single with a six-pack too much.
Captain: My wife seemed to really like sex when we were dating. You’re lucky to be single.

The Captain remembers life before marriage as one in which the distance between sex acts could be measured in minutes, not years. It is nothing like that, of course. This has been a long, slow season in Sarahworld, with not nearly enough action. I retired my speed-dial steadies; they were junk food. I figured if I’m hungry, I’ll seek nourishment.

I am starving.

At a certain point in the dating project, most men flirting with me were other women’s husbands. Everyone had gotten married and I hadn’t. Many had married poorly. Some were just jerks. Global opinion suggests this makes me a strumpet, as if tomcats and cuckolds play no part in this drama. The institution of marriage needs monogamy. The Captain really needed to get laid.

Would I help a friend out? Would you?

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