I tried my best to hide my disdain behind wide-eyes and red lipstick, smiling as he spoke, trying my best not to look around the restaurant for something far more interesting than this date. I knew going in that I probably wouldn’t like him: he already asked a question that rubbed me the wrong way via text, his first dinner suggestion for our date was three blocks from his apartment (no thank you) and he came across a little full of himself.
I do like confidence, sure, I reassured myself on the subway ride down. I do think he’ll be interesting to talk to. Maybe I’m being too hard on him.
But my instincts were right – there was something off and I was pretty much finished with the evening by the time I took my last sip of red wine. But he suggested one more glass of vino at a bar nearby, and I obliged, deciding that I had two choices: I could either sulk that I met another someone I wasn’t interested in or I could get to know this person and possibly, learn something instead of being annoyed we didn’t click romantically.
And so, sitting on a couch in a 20s-themed speakeasy type of joint on the west side, I listened.
I listened as he complained about his job in investment banking – that pays an outrageous amount of money, I’m sure. I listened as he expressed his real joy was found in a more creative, but not quite lucrative pastime that he simply doesn’t have enough time to pursue. I listened as he complained about the guilt he feels over having a dog that’s left at home the majority of the time (okay, I can relate to that). I listened as he complained about turning 30 this year and how he wasn’t where he thought he would be and he regretted not pursuing his passions. I listened as he talked about his on-and-off relationship with a girl he didn’t think was The One, but he wanted to figure out if it was really her or if maybe, it was him. (I think it’s him.)
I listened. And then I declined his presumptuous invitation on our first date to go back to his place – because really, is there anything sexier than a depressed man? Yes. Lots and lots of things.
In the cab ride back to my own apartment — by myself — I tried my best to not get disappointed by another date that wasn’t great, but what I was really thinking in between my pep talks was:
Why are there so many cranky young men?
When the New York Post interviewed me for the most eligible single article, they asked me what I was looking for in a guy, and I surprised myself when the first thing I said was: I just want a normal, happy boyfriend that’s well-adjusted and lives a full life. It sounds so incredibly simple as I type it out – but it couldn’t be a more accurate description of what I value most in a partner. And yet, it seems to be the most difficult quality to find in a man in New York City because frankly, most guys I meet are, just plain cranky.
They’re fearful that their time is up and that they’ll never be this super-successful, powerful lawyer/FBI Agent/Basketball Player/Banker/World-Class Musician/Awesome Porn Star/Politician/Actor/blah, blah, blah and now they’re just going to be old and withered, trapped in a marriage, and growing a beer belly. They’re hung up on some girl at some point in their life that they had some relationship with, and they worry they’ll never be able to love like that again. Or they’re burned by it. Or they just can’t f***ing get over it. They’re distressed that life has just dealt them a bad hand and they are stuck in some sort of rut that has them feeling not important, not sexy, not anything. They can’t handle a woman who knows what she wants, they don’t want to be settled down into anything because they’re crippled by the fear of taking the wrong route, they just can’t figure anything out or commit to anything.
The only thing they can honestly commit to is getting laid – because, well, isn’t there always a girl somewhere that will sleep with a cranky young man? Yes, there is. Because I was that girl just a few years ago.
I put up with all of the bull and I wore my frustration like a smile, never demanding too much attention toward myself. I played the part of the do-good, be-sweet girlfriend with hopes that a cranky young man’s downtime would turn into his upswing, where he’d love with everything he had. And he’d especially love the girl who stuck with him through the detriment. I was careful with my words and my expectations, accepting whatever was thrown at me, even if I felt starved for a real relationship with strings and roots and hopes. I developed my own cheerleading squad of one – performing a song and (lap) dance to cheer up my cranky young man every single day, day-after-day, for a year.
And in the process, I forgot about my needs. I put what I wanted aside. I believed so deeply in something imaginary that I couldn’t see realistically what was actually happening. I let friendships fade. I lost all of those magical pieces that make me, me by giving all of my magic to a man who never deserved it or earned it.
Not anymore, not ever again, I reminded myself, crawling into bed, alone, again, with Lucy cuddled by my side. There are far worse things than being single or a little lonely. And dating a cranky young man is one of them. Because all it does is turn you into a cranky young woman.
Instead – I want to meet a man whose outlook matches mine. A guy who has his shit together. A happy man. A man that, like me, is pretty normal, rather positive… and only cranky until he gets his first cup of coffee.
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