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 have no set policy on friendships with my exes. Some I never hear from again, others send birthday cards to my mother. Mostly we don’t seek each other out; our lives move on. They get married, I don’t.
Or haven’t. Yet.
The Improper Assignation wanted to have dinner and I thought nothing of it. We’re old friends. He made reservations at the kind of place where everyone is on an expense account. We ordered oysters and braised short ribs. The ribs tasted like a memory, some Platonic iteration of cow. He spoke of his bourgeoning love for bourbons.
Improper Assignation: The Bs are the best–Blantons, Booker’s, Baker’s, Basil Hayden, Black Maple, Buffalo Trace, Balcones–and I’m branching out into the Ws.
Me: You’re a wild man.
Improper Assignation: You have no idea.
It was everything like a date.
Improper Assignation: I know you don’t want to hear it, but I’m jealous of your writing.
Me: It’s all the prestige I can eat. Freelance is an endless buffet of integrity.
Improper Assignation: You’re like Tina Fey, only without the success.
It was, in fact, the best date I’d had in years.
The Assignation and I were thoroughly past tense. I had been a fervent fling in a trial separation, once upon a long time ago. I will forever be the girl who got away, sweet and forbidden.
He had married his college sweetie and 15 years later they ritually disappoint each other. They hitched their futures to a potential, not a person. And they don’t like what they wake up next to.
I have waited–undoubtedly too long–figuring I’d avoid my first terrible marriage. I wanted someone fully cooked and seasoned. It never occurred to me that by now the island of Manhattan would have emptied out, that tumbleweeds would be blowing through. It surprises me New York still leaves its lights on anymore.
Improper Assignation: God, I miss you.
Me: You miss the sex.
Improper Assignation: I miss the applause.
To be clear, my apartment is on the ground floor and my bedroom faces the street. We developed a pedestrian fan club once upon a time.
Me: I remember sex.
Improper Assignation: Take me home.
Me: I won’t.
Married people cheat. It’s a symptom, not a disease. Affairs aren’t a feature of most happy marriages, from all I can tell. Yet, what do I know? I’m going to be someone’s second wife. Playing mistress is not how I’m planning to get there. Those are the basic rules. Yet with alarming frequency the majority of men applying for the position are already someone else’s husband. They just want me to wreck their homes for them.
The very nicest thing that can be said about adulthood: I’m over adultery. There’s nothing lonelier than dating a married man. It’s tiring to tryst. They mostly call when their knuckles get thirsty.
Our meal was perfect. I went home with a very handsome bottle of bourbon to keep me warm, a gift from the Assignation, a selection from the finest Ws.
It tasted like a migraine.