A friend of mine at work yesterday told me that she and her husband are divorcing after 26 years of holy-shit matrimony. She told me she’s going to enter the dating world.
(Play music from “Psycho” shower scene here.)
Whoa. Memories. Bad, bad memories.
Is it safe? … Is it safe? … Is it safe?
No! It’s never safe! Being over 25 and dating is very, very dangerous. Hunting rattle snakes naked is safer. Lying to the mob is safer. Running through the house with an ice pick, pointed upward, blindfolded, naked, as the house burns down around you, after you bet the house with the mob, with rattlesnakes on your ass is safer than dating.
Be afraid, I told her. Be very afraid.
In the spring of 1999, at the age of 30, I was a recently divorced man living in Montgomery, Ala. The first problem was, of course, that I lived in Montgomery, Ala. Not a hotbed of social options. But, being the complete and total moron that, on occasion, I am, I compounded my problems immensely and transitioned into singledom by dating my boss. I was a complete and total moron. Just plain dumb. TO THIS DAY I don’t know what I was thinking. It was completely unsatisfactory, in every way. That should have been obvious.
When I came to my senses I had a rebound relationship. She drove a mini-van and had three kids.
I called my friend Michelle, “I’m dating someone who drives a mini-van.”
“You’re a complete and total moron,” she said.
“No,” I said, “I’m not dating my boss anymore, I’m dating a mother of three who drives a mini-van.”
“I know. You are a complete and total moron,” she said.
After that I swore not to enter into a relationship. I decided to date. Here’s what I got: two completely unsolicited requests to be a “friend with benefits,” once by a younger married woman (at work! — I didn’t say “no” I said, “hell no!”) and once by a woman about 25 years older, a psychologist, who just ask that I be seen with her in public once or twice a week (I said, “no thank you, Mrs. Robinson,” and ran away).
Then I moved to Nashville were there was an almost 2:1 ratio of single women to men, all those girls aspiring to be the next Faith Hill.
The woman who cut my hair set me up with her friend, Shazam, or something equally funky. On our first date we went back to the hair cutter’s, where the haircutter’s boyfriend promptly pulled out a bag of blow. I peeked into a bedroom — it was full of weapons. Nice. I was in a new town, in a new job, in a house owned by drug runners. I couldn’t escape. We had driven there in the dark and I didn’t know the way home, but I knew it was a long way from my place. I excused myself, hid in a closet until it was light outside then followed the commuter traffic until I knew where I was. I didn’t call Shazam and I found someone else to cut my hair.
One woman scammed my name and phone number off of a frequent buyer card at a bookstore where she worked. My co-workers dubbed one woman the “short bus girl” because at lunch she leaned over to drink out of her straw and impaled her forehead on my straw, and pretended it didn’t happen.
I took a Junior Leaguer to one of my favorite places, a dive bar that served the best hamburgers in town. We were supposed to be on a casual date. I wanted to see how she reacted in such an environment. She bombed. She asked our waitress, Daphne, who was awesome, if they had swiss cheese. “Nah, honey, we got the orange cheese.” Then she asked for Grey Poupon. Daphne said, “Whuut?” “Grey Poupon? You know, fancy mustard?” “Honey, all we got is the yella kind.”
Soon after, this woman said, “You know, I’m a Christian, …” Since I hadn’t asked about her religion, or mentioned a god of any kind, I translated that as “you ain’t gettin any so don’t even think about it.” So, I didn’t.
One invited me over for dinner and spent 20 minutes on the phone with her ex, and thought it was OK because she mentioned me, and wondered why I left so early.
The smartest of the bunch, or so I thought, told me after three weeks that she had picked out the names of our children.
Let’s see … two women, both of whom had known me only a couple of weeks, each told me they thought of me when they … you know.
Some single guys would take that as a “steal home” sign. I took it as a sign to run away as fast as I possibly could. I mean, why share that detail? Even if it were true, so what? What good does that do me? Seriously? If they thought all I wanted was sex then telling me they didn’t need my physical presence to enjoy themselves defeated my purpose; and if all they wanted was sex, then they obviously didn’t need me. I don’t see the point.
Many of these women looked normal, talked normally, had normal professional jobs. I’m under no delusion that these women really were attracted to me. They were attracted to an idea. Under their surfaces there percolated a desperation, a “please, for the love of God, get me out of this dating pool!” existence, and I just happened to be passing by.
I’m sure if I were 10 years younger I would have sown a few more wild oats. But these women weren’t kidding around. They were playing for keeps, and I didn’t want to be kept. And I didn’t want any little oats showing up at my door 20 years later saying, “are you my daddy?”
Trish, of course, was different. She was cool. She wasn’t pushy, she didn’t prod. She certainly didn’t tell me she thought of me to get happy (if she had I would have known she was lying, because I knew she had a crush on her priest). She had a full life of her own, she didn’t need me. I didn’t even know if she liked me. We hung out a few times, went hiking together, our dogs frolicked in the same dog park. But when it got hot and heavy, it got hot and heavy fast, but comfortably. We had a little history.
Looking back, its as if I’d miraculously navigated a mine field of meat markets and marriage traps, not to mention a few public health crises. Boy, am I glad to be married! And to be a dad (to only one, whose mother, I’m fairly certain, is the woman I’m married to)!
I’m sure the landscape can be just as daunting — and more dangerous — for single women. So I cautioned my friend about the transitional and rebound relationships (she told me I was a complete and total moron for dating my boss), congratulated her on a new lease on life and wished her a lot of luck.
She’s going to need it!