If by “date” you mean a social appointment with an individual with whom there is a shared interest in potentially pursuing an amorous relationship, I’ve not had one in over a year. In the interest of full disclosure, I have seen my X, Donny, a fistful of times, and while those times could fall under the heading of “social appointment,” they didn’t quite meet the rest of the criteria. They were more like social appointments of two individuals between whom there is a shared interest in disengagement.
I have also had quasi-hook-ups with two men. One happened last April with a man who is both in a committed, if elastic, marriage and lives many, many thousand miles away from me. The other took place last August with a man far too young to be taken seriously. While I’ve written about the first hook-up, I’ve chosen not to write about the second because it was a fiasco of such depressing dimensions that I’d prefer not to relive it. I suppose that I did date-like things with both of these men, but though adult beverages and food were consumed, and though walks were taken, I don’t consider them dates. No future, no date, not to my thinking anyway.
A year and a couple months after becoming single, I suppose I’m ready to start thinking about dating.
It is what single people do, or so I dimly recall. They date, or they think about dating, or they do both and think about dating while on dates, especially if the date in question is going horribly awry, like a Seth Brundle teleportation experiment. I do vaguely recall the flush of excitement preceding a date, the purchasing of garments specifically intended for the dating process, an unusual devotion of time to the body in preparation for the date (one that sometimes included the shaving of toes and other depilatory procedures), an increase in anxiety levels leading up to the date, and then a spectrum of emotions that registered after the date, many of which were recounted in agonizing detail with members of the same sex after the date had come to completion.
I remember there was sometimes kissing, the pressing of lips against other lips or various body parts, often with an introduction of tongues and an exchange of saliva. I also recall that often there was more, sometimes followed by breakfast and other times followed by unintelligible excusatory phrases and the mad search for errant undergarments.
I don’t remember many of my dates, and I have had many. My first date with Eff, the man for whom I moved to Gotham, centered on going to a movie theatre to see Purple Rain. My first date with the first of the Twin Peaks was a visit to the Central Park Zoo (an excellent date venue, by the way). I went to Tea and Sympathy, a Brit restaurant on Greenwich Avenue, with C. Donny and I walked along the Hudson and then went to the worst, most fratty bar in the Village. In Boston, I went on a first date with this guy to the beach. We got wet and cold and left early. I went to a coffee bar with a loud talker who nearly screamed his family’s inculcation into a cult for all to hear. There was the one date with the Pulitzer Prize-winning author that derailed when he showed me his bullet hole tattoo located over his heart. There was the very bad date with that horrible little lawyer with the itsy-bitsy penis. And that would be just about all the dates I remember clearly. Not so many.
And yet, a quick systems analysis seems to announce that the date light is a go. I’m over Donny in that I don’t miss him and feel really quite resolved about our relationship. I am relatively sane and moderately content. I’m fairly confident and rather frisky. According to all internal checks, I am ready to date. My therapist has waved the green flag, and we should be off into the wild dating yonder.
The thing is that I don’t remember how. I recollect that dating used to be relatively easy, even when I complained that it wasn’t. I used to float through the dating pool and feel that every backstroke took me closer to the buoy, or the boy, as it were. Now, however, I feel like I’ve forgotten it all. It’s like I was once fluent in French and could discuss Derrida but now I bungle an order for a spinach salad. The waiter, I sense, looks down on me and sneers.
I have lost that dating feeling, in short. I feel odd and out of place, like I’m suddenly twelve again, because everyone I could play with is either far too old or far too young. I can’t seem to recalibrate my desires to reflect the age I am, and when I do meet men my age, either I don’t find them attractive or they’re married, or both. But even were I to overcome the empirical obstacle and find that a social Lotto dropped an exceedingly appropriate man in my lap, I’d most likely walk away single. I can’t recall how to flirt. I’ve lost the language of nudges and half-turns and partially open mouths and suggestive self-caresses. I am aphasiac and overly blunt. I may have late onset dating Asperger’s.
It’s not so much that I’m talking myself out of the dating pool. It’s more that I realize that if there is a dominant culture, I’m not part of it. I don’t conform well. I’m one of those things that is not like the other, one of those things that just isn’t the same. The oddities don’t seem to do well in the dating game. I’m sharp of tongue and quick of wit and though I may try to hold back my sarcasm, it always busts through the dam. I can only plug my finger in the dyke for so long. Plus, I don’t have many measures of culturally defined success. I have a rag-tag history that makes for some pretty entertaining evenings, but for men who want a solid woman with a straight trajectory, it ain’t me, babe. I am one salty, tortuous, tasty bitch.
But the strange thing is that as much as abstractedly I think I might again enjoy dating, I don’t much mind being alone. I am once more discovering that the inside of my head is a pretty fun place to be. It’s fancifully decorated, for one thing, and it’s furnished with many flowered absurdities and a finely functioning parallel universe. I’ve a busy, busy brain, and it keeps me fairly well entertained. It would be lovely if I could meet someone who enjoys it almost as much as I do (though he will never have the full lay of my Dadaist land), but if I don’t, I think I’ll be fine. Which is as weird a thought as I’ve ever had, if not also one as delightful.