The second I saw him, I knew this night was a waste of a brand new dress from Urban.
I really did know better. I really had been here before. This, actually was precisely the reason I stopped going on online dates. It was why I deleted all of those accounts. I had met too many people who seemed like Mr. Everything on paper, er, on screen, only to spend five minutes before searching for the closest exit. But after a few months of duds met in real life, not the digital romantic playground, I decided to give it another go, let myself give clicking yet another chance to help me find someone I just might click with.
But again, I knew better. I knew how this likely would play out. And I was right.
We had spent the last few days texting up a storm. He seemed interesting enough– educated, tall, from the Midwest, new to the city, likes running and has a dog. He remembered to follow up and was somewhat funny, at least iPhone to iPhone. He suggested margaritas on Friday night near our respective apartments, and I didn’t need much convincing. It was raining when I arrived, appropriately five minutes late, and I saw him standing with an umbrella.
He wasn’t six foot. My shoulders were wider than his. He couldn’t make eye contact and didn’t hold the door open for me. He isn’t actually living in the city, but interning. He couldn’t hold a conversation longer than I could exhale out of nothing more than utter frustration. He didn’t ask about what I did or what I like to do, or anything at all, frankly. He kept talking about how he likes to get drunk, whipped through his drink in a hot second, and I quickly came up with an excuse to leave. As I walked back to the restroom, I stopped the waitress to ask for our check and something in my step, or maybe my tightly-sealed pursed lips, made her sense something wasn’t quite right. With a thick Queens accent she asked if everything was okay and I jokingly whispered that yes, except that I was on the worst date in a very long time.
She laughed as she offered, “I’ve been there. I’ll bring you a shot, on the house.” When I returned to my seat, there was a tequila and lime waiting. Without explaining to the terrible date, I took it down in one swift swoop, and I left that heaven-sent waitress a 35 percent tip in return.
After awkwardly leaving my date (without physically running away), I stopped at a place on my block for a drink. It wasn’t even 10:30 at night, and feeling ten years older than what I really was, I decided having an extra pint would satisfy my FOMO. Or at least, drown it. Plus this particular bar attracts a younger crowd that’s not common to the Upper West, and I wasn’t about to waste flawless makeup and a sexy dress on that pitiful example of a date. Maybe at the very least, I thought, I’d flirt with a stranger and feel like the night meant something after all. The only place at the busy bar was smack dab in front of the tab, smushed between two couples and looking over the discarded plates of naked chicken wings and leftovers of spinach and artichoke dip that someone didn’t finish. I took a deep breath and said my P’s and Q’s to sandwich myself in between, and as if I was a regular, I asked for their signature pilsner.
I really did try my best to salvage whatever night I had by looking interested in the game that was on. Or smiling at the very few men that were without women — and without wedding rings — at the establishment. I tried to look away from my phone, even as it lit up with words of encouragement and frowny faces from my friends about my no-good, terrible date. But with a little more than a gulp to go, I grew tired of the woman to my right throwing her hair in my face as she laughed at jokes that weren’t amusing, and the duo to my left who seriously couldn’t keep their eyes or tongues off of one another. I gave the scantily dressed bartender a dollar and headed — okay, hurried — to the sanctuary of my apartment.
And though I write about relationships and I’m generally level-headed and somewhat realistic about the dating scene in this city, the flood of disappointment, of frustration, of total annoyance came over me the second I was finally alone in that elevator, heading up to the 7th floor. I melted onto my bedroom floor, not even taking off my high-wedged heels, not even turning the air conditioner up in a scorching tiny space that’s only bearable because of the low setting I maintain for Lucy while I’m away. She jumped into my lap and cuddled herself around my arms, as she usually does, and with that first warm embrace all night, I let myself cry.
Just a little.
I let myself spiral around the tornado of what if’s and the waves of jealousy over my friends, who spent their Fridays at concerts and beaches and double- dates and dinners with men that they not only love but men who undeniably love them back. I let myself curse that stupid bus where I met the last stupid guy I cared for, and somehow, I’m stupidly still affected by the aftermath of our breakup. I let myself mull over the fact that it’s been two years since I broke up with that guy, and two years since I’ve given a second-thought to or had butterflies with anyone else. I let myself consider what my life would look like or how it would feel if I was in fact, single and never married, never had children. I let myself believe that I could muster up the courage to find a way to be happy flying solo, forever.
And then I let myself dream about that gentle, safe harbor that I often imagine when I’m feeling desperate, it’s my happy place where that handsome man, whoever he is, lives with our blue-eyed children in a brick estate with a thick, green lawn, where plastic-y toys, tiny shoes and love are spread about the house. I let myself shed that black cloak of professionalism and realism that I wear in the city that doesn’t value romance or blush-colored ideas about love — because focusing on bigger, worldly issues is respected much higher than matters of the heart. Or of emotion. I let myself think about the things that a girl my age is far too young to think about when I have so much living, so much life ahead of me. I let myself let go of those fears that being happy in a relationship isn’t possible or that relationship is so far away that I shouldn’t waste time worrying about it now. I let myself believe that my next great love — possibly even the love — is actually much closer than what I predict. I let myself let it all go as I let myself fall apart…
Just a little.
And then I picked myself up off the floor and washed my face. I buried myself in my new white down comforter that I’m brave to buy with a dog. I settled into the stillness of the night, the quiet that’s so rare in Manhattan. I looked outside at the building tops that I’ve grown accustomed to, and I spread myself out in my Queen oasis that I’ve become comfortable sleeping alone in, often in the dead-center of the bed. And though I know better, I decided that tomorrow was another day. And the day after it, another chance. Perhaps the one that follows, another man. And even if I know better than to believe in love after so many signs pointing to never-happily-ever, I’d rather have faith in what I don’t know than in the thoughts that bring me to the harshness of a hardwood floor on a Friday night.
I do know better, but I don’t know enough to give up.