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The Dating Project | ‘The Praetorian Guard’

He was an attorney and an MBA with sporty online photos: in scuba gear, on a mountaintop, smiling on the sea and clinging to the sky. He was tall and Jewish. I’d been dating him for years.

We live in the same neighborhood and met at a wine bar where the men are dressed in navy and the women all have shiny hair and wear jewelry on their shoes. Professionally, he keeps CEOs out of jail, negotiating settlements so Wall Street can remain too badass to fail. His hours were long, his pay incredible.

Praetorian: Your profile says you’re a scuba diver, too?
Me: I’m a Divemaster, even. It’s my only professional qualification.
Praetorian: I was just in Tubbataha for two weeks on a live-aboard. It was amazing.

Translation: I take $15,000 holidays.

I once made a career taking vacations for men like him. I specialized in writing about the rare, wonderful places to defy death–or die–for a price. I asked him about his work but he only wanted to talk travel.

Praetorian: I summited Chimborazo.
Me: I don’t love climbing. I hate being cold. And altitude.
Praetorian: I know, right? I get two weeks off and I spend it out of breath, unable to sleep.
Me: With a migraine and a bunch of white dudes.
Praetorian: All my evenings and weekends are spent running up and down my back stairs with weights in my backpack. It’s crazy, right?

New York has an endless supply of Praetorian Guardsmen. They are competitive collectors of wine or girlfriends or art. This one was a champion traveler, racking up trips like scout badges. If a destination has bragging rights, he goes.

Praetorian: I’m running the Antarctica Marathon this year. Do you run?
Me: When I’m being chased.
Praetorian: There’s this book you have to read that will make you want to run, I promise. It will change your life.
Me: Was it written by Jane Austen?
Praetorian: It’s called Born To Run, and it’s going to make you realize you were actually born to run.
Me: I’ve read it. I like walking.

I could play the travel game, but I hate it. I’m trying to settle down long enough to live happily ever after. I’ve hung up my luggage and surrendered my elite status. I’m parked.

Also, the game is boring.

He found my professional itinerancy enchanting. The Praetorian was not-so-accidentally touching me, fingering the fringe of my skirt, not-so-far from my thigh. Couldn’t I swoon at the stamps in his passport for him?

It is tedious being the person a date wants me to be when I am not actually her.

Praetorian: Your job sounds amazing.
Me: It can be. It’s in transition.
Praetorian: I hate my work.
Me: I know.

For his sake, I faked the part of the vagabond blond in the vineyard of boredom until the end of my pinotage. He needed to have a nice night and I needed to be kind. But I wouldn’t do it twice.

I’ve come to a point where being on the road is a way to get nowhere at all. I want to move forward, to enjoy where I am and someone I’m with.

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