How Many Coffee Dates Does it Take to Find The One?
My friends are married people and stunned. "Why are you doing this?" "I could never do it." We say this same thing about tragedy, as though we have a choice. About wheelchairs and Down syndrome babies and cancer and missing limbs. Looking for love isn't a tragedy or a defect. It's a situation.
I'm doing this because I've been divorced three years and I haven't had a single date. No one has asked me out. I called the single father on my street before Christmas and asked him to go out for a drink. He said he didn't have any money right now.
My friends think I am trying too hard. "Stop trying and then it will happen!" "When you give up, that is when it will happen." They think I am so happy alone and I will not admit it. They have also suggested my standards are too low (the mechanic/hunter/libertarian who cursed in every single sentence he uttered) and too high (the baker who was thrilled to talk about gluten-free, who compared my body to that of a supermodel's. Whom I didn't want to see again—he had so many kids, a long commute, and byzantine ice hockey commitments).
My friends claim they can't imagine dating. If their husbands die, they say, they will make it alone. They pat their mates when they say this. They seem not madly in love but madly in small vague terror. I am helping them remember the good parts of marriage after a long, crabby day.
It's funny to me how many of the divorced men from Match say to me in conversation, "my wife." How much they talk about the lives from which they have been fired. As though I am a babysitter, guy, shrink, or nice wall.
Fed up with men's ads "seeking women age 18–[one year younger than whatever age they are]," I change my profile. I say I am looking for a man age range 18–41; I'm 42 years old. But my friend who met the furnituremaker says it isn't funny. You can't sound bitter, she says. You can't make a commentary; this isn't the time to make a point.
My friend Ellen met three gorgeous millionaires on Match. All wanted to study Buddhism with her and ride bikes with her; she picked the cyclist from Italy, who is ten years younger and crazy in love with her. "It's not like dating in your 20s," she told me. She says I need to be in my 50s to really do this right. "You're at just the wrong age," she said.
I do not know if dating in my 20s was like dating in my 20s. I was pretending to be a person similar to myself. The pretend person was much better and much worse than my true self. I had no real beliefs.
Almost a year later, I've made it to a couple of dozen.
Number 31 has, he says, simplified his life. "So tell me your life story in 20 words or less," he says, and I do, and he talks for the next 25 minutes, leaning forward, elbows on the table: his financial statement, his business plan, his recovery program, four children, his "wife." A man pushing an empty wheelchair can't get past our table. My coffee date doesn't see this, because it is taking place behind him and he is talking to me about the $3 million house in Aspen and how it's good he doesn't have it anymore. I stand up, pull the table a bit. The coffee date sees how, moves chairs. The man pushing the wheelchair still struggles. The chair is like a prop—something he has never seen before, much less used. Finally, he gets past us.