So I went on a date Wednesday morning.
But, wait, you’re asking, didn’t you have to get on a plane?
That’s right, I had a date at DCA. A few weeks back I was studying at Midcity Caffe and got to talking to a guy with an extremely cute smile (highly toothy grin!) and crinkly eyes. Turns out he’s a geographer 1 who speaks French and loves to cook. We got to chatting; as it grew dark outside I realized we’d lost ourselves in conversation for easily three hours. Alas, he had a trip to Paris and I had a trip to Pune, so finding time for a date was tricky. He figured out we’d be leaving on our next trips at pretty much the same time, so he bought me coffee at the airport. If that’s not adorable like a Nora Ephron screenplay, I don’t know what is.
This isn’t the first date I’ve had since rejoining the ranks of the single; it’s not even one of the first. Maybe two weeks after I’d moved into my new apartment, I picked up some remainders of mine from the Person I Formerly Objectified (PIFO -- I've struggled with a new name for him as he is no longer the Object of My Affection. Perhaps we can just give him a symbol). He made a specific and inadvertently douchy 2 point of letting me know about the girl he is now dating, complete with details of when, where, and who. It wasn’t information I particularly cared to process, but not having a choice, I needled some restructuring through my psyche. I didn’t want to be with the PIFO, and I didn’t want to confuse grieving with moping. And after a while, I started to get curious about what’s out there.
At first, I’d thought I would abhor dating. I loathe small talk and tend to be somewhat wary of people when I first meet them. The first few dates were meh, chores of the single girl, like setting up the utilities and wondering what the hell to do with all the money I'm not spending on at the grocer and the liquor store now that I'm not feeding a 6'4" lobbyist with an extremely active metabolism.
Time passed. Then one night at a friend's house, I met The Schoolteacher. Hilarious, good dancer, bright blue eyes, good-smelling 3. We bonded over the odd parallels between Cormac McCarthy and E.B. White 4, so he met my esoteric intelligence criteria that I don’t think I realized I’d had until that conversation. When I thought about him later, something inside me went pittapat. When was the last time you had that feeling? It’s sheer, unblemished anticipation, something deeply primal and human, like a remembrance of the first moments of your existence. After having spent the summer raw and vulnerable as though my soul had taken dancing lessons on a steel cheese grater, it’s a feeling I’ve embraced like a Soviet prisoner returning home from the hinterlands. He asked me out and all week I was pretty much in junior high again, gushing to my girlfriends in
notes passed across the aisle in study hall emails dashed off during the workday. This was the first date I was actually psyched to go on, rather than just feeling obliged to go on out of duty to myself.
I’m one of the few people I know who’s single right now – sometimes that’s awkward. Take last week. I stood in a wedding in India. The only other two bridesmaids both got engaged during the week of the wedding events. A tradition at Indian weddings is that the groom’s family sits first, and the bride’s family walks around and tells them to enjoy the meal. “I heard you got engaged yesterday!” guests exclaimed to Bridesmaid 2. “No,” she replied, “that was Bridesmaid 3. I got engaged a few days ago on the beach at sunset.”
“Oh, how romantic! What a wonderful week for love!” the guests responded. Bridesmaid 3 gushed, “I know! Everyone’s getting married!”
Then she looked at me and said, “Oh, wait, sorry.”
Yes, this actually happened, and not just one or two times. Bridesmaid 2 helpfully pointed out that I was the only one around not getting married. You would have thought I would have felt a little less awkward after it kept happening, but no, no it did not. I just kept smiling my brightly dimpled smile, talking through my teeth at how incredibly, extremely fucking happy I was for everyone.
And yet I get perks in singlehood. For one thing, I have a lot of freedom of mind and movement; there’s no one constantly gauging my thoughts and actions. Bridesmaid 2 picked an incredibly stupid fight with me over a pair of shoes. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what the hell was going on or why she was so angry. “What are you doing?” I bemusedly asked her. “What do you think I’m doing?!” she spat out in frustration, fuming, “I’m fighting with you. Fight back!” I felt the detachment of an anthropologist as I thought about her squabbles with her fiancé. In fact, looking back at the week, the couples around me bickered and needled each other constantly. I realized it’s been months since I had a completely stupid and ridiculous fight with someone.
Better than freedom from quibbling, being single makes me feel like an explorer. I’ve got four different guys on my plate right now – The Schoolteacher, The Bikefixer, The Geographer, and The Photographer. They’re all interesting in different ways – one is like hanging out with a guy from a Jude Apatow film, one climbed Kilimanjaro, one speaks four languages, and one plays drums in a 90s cover band. Getting to know them, I’m starting to get a more concrete sense of what I’m looking for in an eventual partner. They give me a reason to bring on my A-game, to think about the qualities I bring to the table and polish them till they’re shinier than the shit I put on my eyelids to make my eyes sparkle. Suddenly I have a reason to impress and be impressed. I like being charmed and feeling like I’m the most interesting person in the room; that I’m reason enough for someone to put his cellphone on silent and tuck it away in his pocket. I have absolutely no obligation to them other than to figure out interesting things to do with them. And I can always blow them off to go have a date with my friends – in the past three months since I’ve split up with the PIFO, I’ve hung out more with friends than I did during the entire course of our relationship.
My friends readily admit to living vicariously through me, admonishing me not to think too hard. “I remember loving being single, and then I remember meeting [my fiancé] and knowing it was time not to be single anymore,” the Yaegerbomb recently told me. I still have moments where I miss the PIFO, especially his friendship . But feelings are temporary and fleeting things, like bees. If you start getting all exercised about them and flinging your hands around, they get pissed off and try to sting you. Leave them alone and soon enough, they’ll make honey. True story: I’ve never been stung by a bee and don’t intend to start now. One day I’ll be ready for a new relationship, but probably not any time soon. I’m fine with the smooching but still balk at the idea of spooning, which is where the PIFO was a Viking. Clearly there’s some healing to come. In the meantime, the sweetness of discovery has turned me into a conquistadora of new relationships. Except without all the pillaging and smallpox, one hopes.
1. I did not even realize that geographer was a career option. Kind of extremely awesome. I almost don't want to go out with him again, because there is no way that the quotidian realities of his job will ever line up with the mental picture I've established.
2. He claims he thought I would be happy and even excited for him.
3. Yes, this sounds a little specific, but a guy has to smell right. Not fancy – it’s not a cologne thing; in fact, I hate almost all cologne because it masks the smell I’m looking for. He has to smell sort of sweet and salty. It’s one of those subtle and mysterious chemistry things that I lost track of while in a relationship, but become acutely aware of as I’ve started dating.
4.They definitely exist, but probably not in the way you’re thinking.