Monday, February 05, 2007

search party

I held out for a while, but you knew at least one "Now that I'm dating again..." post was headed your way:

One month into my social reawakening I've met a few nice boys with the help of my dot-com daters' clearinghouse of choice. It's a capricious little exercise; a flurry of e-flirtations from one man, a resumé delivered line by line from another. Neither the flashes in the pan nor the long, slow fizzles have ignited any sort of flame -- perhaps because I'm not ready to risk another burn.

R appeared in my inbox early last month. Each time I'd answer one of his vaguely interested queries he would wait a few days and volley back a brief, almost laconic response. Just as the fly fishing was getting stale he finally asked me to dinner. I had a fine time. The conversation was better than the pizza. At one point R asked, “What did you think of me while I was e-mailing you, before we actually met?”

“To tell you the truth,” I said, “I felt like you were sizing me up. Y'know, to determine if I’d be worth your time.”

He nodded thoughtfully, like a professor impressed by an astute protégé. “And what did you think about that?” Benign condescension amuses me so I continued to play.

“Well I figured it was one of two things: Either you were a stuck-up asshole who couldn’t be bothered to flesh out a paragraph, or you were a busy man who knows himself and what he wants. The latter I could respect, plus I thought you were kinda cute, so I followed you down the rabbit hole.”

At this he chuckled, a little surprised by my moxie I guess, and we nodded in silent understanding that this was the start of nothing more than a beautiful friendship.

Conversation danced around dating for the next while; R and I talked about those criteria by which we all screen potential mates, and the exhaustive checklist -- ranging from height to multilingualism (Tagalog and Urdu? Go figure.) to a melange of religious minutiae -- put forth by the website that linked us.

"What about you?" R asked. "Deal-breakers? Must-haves?" In a heartbeat I cited honesty as a non-negotiable -- a point on which I'd suspected, since our perfectly level eye-to-eye greeting, he might fall a little bit… short. (Sure, he's 5'8" like I'm a natural redhead.) R then submitted, somewhat sourly, that many women place great emphasis on a man’s net worth. The honest angel on my right shoulder couldn't disagree, though the feisty feminist on my left almost advised him that writing "highly successful business" and "exotic vacations" in his dating profile would not help shake the gold diggers out of his sheets.

Anyway, I enjoyed the evening, and R and I will probably never see each other again, which is fine with me. He left me with some satisfying food for thought: Romantic search procedures, and how they evolve throughout our lives.

In grade school a Y chromosome was enough to precipitate a crush. By the time puberty was frothing our milk we'd refined the search to non-nerds, but experience had yet to impart any useful wisdom. (Smarter girls learned to discern before all the good dorks were taken.) Now, as adults, we approach with trepidation... and if enough aesthetic checkpoints pass muster, the silent questions fire:

Are you smart?
Are you kind?
Can you make me laugh?
Can you make me come?
Are you a Democrat?
Are you gay? (Are you sure?)

The point of all this... I'm not really sure. As a wise and sensitive person recently pointed out, I am "spending time alone and getting to know myself by bouncing off a variety of different people." Writing it out helps me process the new personalities popping and flowing and stomping in and out of my life. It's terribly exciting. And maybe that's the point -- to cease the searching and let it come. And let it go. And watch what happens, instead of looking for something to arrive. Not that I'd approach it any other way.


Oberon said...

.......yeah....stop the searching and let it go.

East-West Girl said...

Whether it's been searching for a job, an apartment, a good book, a great day, a close friend, or the right mate, the best results have always come when I've let go and stopped searching.

You're right on with this one. Enjoy the ebb and flow and eventually you'll find that there's something or someone great in your life that you weren't expecting. And life will be that much sweeter.

Reya Mellicker said...

In a certain way it must have been easier when women could openly work with the last two items on your list, understanding that other hopes for happiness and perfect rapport, perfect politics, perfect sex, etc. were impossible dreams.

One great friend of mine said she had an extensive list of deal breakers and must haves that she worked so carefully to develop. She knew exactly what she wanted, and she stayed home every weekend because no one could live up to her ideals.

Finally she ripped her list into small pieces and threw it in the toilet. Within a month she was dating a cigarrette smoking Republican. They've been married seven years, have two beautiful daughters and are as in love today as they were when they first met.

There's some kind of magic and chemistry that supercedes all lists. Never having found that magic myself, I'm curious about how others figure it out. Maybe you'll be the one to articulate this magic. Please?

Barbara said...

Every time I read something insightful like this about the realities of dating today I realize how scared I would be to be in the thick of it. I would always be convincing myself that I was going to come up empty handed. When I was your age my list of must haves was so exhaustive that I seldom went out with the same person twice for a while and that gets very tiresome. I can't say that my ultimate choice was perfect, but it's a lot closer than I would ever get if I had to start over. I wish you success and fun in your search. Someone is going to be lucky to connect with you. I hope you are equally lucky.