Jane's First Date

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Jane was feeling despondent about her date with Todd. She planned on deleting the Tinder app from her phone but, at the encouragement of her best friend Ann, Jane decided to swipe right on someone who sent her a Super Like. This wasn’t her ideal way to find her relationship but times had changed. After all, she’d been with John since freshman year of high school—for fourteen years, to be exact. Though they both had a thriving career, they’d fallen prey to a stale routine that involved going to work, taking their beagle Howie for evening walks and binge-watching crime documentaries on Netflix.

Jane knew things were really starting to unravel when they started working on jigsaw puzzles during the weekend, which was just a way for them to do something together without talking as they'd run out of the fodder necessary to feed a conversation. Midway through their second puzzle project (a 1,000-piece one featuring deep sea creatures), John simply said “I can’t do this anymore.” He moved out to his brother’s apartment that week and took only his clothing and personal belongings. There was nothing left to discuss–he even gave Jane full custody of Howie. Although she herself was neither sad nor angry, his unemotional approach stunned her.  It was as though John had evaporated into thin air.

One day, as she was swiping through profiles on Tinder, she came across someone who looked vaguely familiar. With Ann’s help, they were able to determine that his name was Thomas and he was the older brother of one of John’s co-workers. She recalled seeing him at one of John's after-work events a year or two ago. Thomas had chiseled good looks and worked as a management consultant for a top firm. He posted photos of himself at a London pub with work buddies, hiking through Swiss Alps, and on vacation in Tulum. Ann playfully nicknamed him "Captain America." Thomas was the upgrade that Jane needed from John. She swiped right, but there was no match to be had.

That night, she dreamt that she was on a beach in Tulum and ran straight into Thomas' arms. He whirled her around on the shore as waves lapped at their feet. The best part was that, when he looked at her, he looked so deeply into her eyes that it stirred her soul. Jane couldn't stop thinking about Thomas. He was on her mind constantly, so when she saw him on the same subway car later that week, she was uncertain whether it was just a figment of her imagination.

But there he was, standing by the door, tall and handsome in a crisp shirt and jeans, looking down at his phone. Her breath was caught in her chest. She had just come from a hot yoga class and looked sweaty and plain. She secretly wished that he would look up and see that there was an empty seat on the bench in front of her, but he got off at the next stop. Still, she thought of this chance meeting as a sign. They were destined to be together. When she got home, she decided to play into the momentum and send him a message on Facebook. She felt bolder and braver than ever before: Hi, We have some friends in common and you look like a nice person. Would you like to meet for a cup of coffee sometime? Jane  

After a week with no response from Thomas, Jane started to miss John. She spent her nights reorganizing all the drawers in their apartment and found his old high school yearbook and a troll doll from his childhood. She texted him about it as she would were he an acquaintance–casually and with an upbeat tone.  But when she didn't hear from him within the hour, she wrote: If you don't come and pick them up by Sunday, I'm throwing them into the garbage.

John never told her she was beautiful or that she looked nice. He was never really affectionate either, now that she thought about it. People used to think that they were brother and sister. She looked in the mirror and examined her face from every angle. The bump on the bridge of her nose bothered her more than ever before, a trait she inherited from her father. She had to get a nose job or else she'd be lonely for the rest of her life. She was absolutely sure of it. 

It was at this particularly low point when Ann suggested she consider the guys who sent her a Super Like on Tinder. They weren't exactly the cream of the crop but they had already shown an interest in her which eliminated any of the work from her end. From what she could tell, Todd looked like a nice enough guy. They were the same age and he worked in digital marketing. His profile picture featured a black-and-white photo of him at a wedding. He was caught in profile, holding up a flute of champagne and laughing. He appeared to be making a toast. She swiped right. 

They chatted a little bit here and there throughout the week. Their conversations weren't wildly interesting but she felt comfortable with the pace. They discovered that they grew up two towns away from each other in New Jersey. He had been sharing an apartment with his best friend in Williamsburg for the past two years and was now looking for his own place. One night, when they chatted, he told her he was at a local dive bar for trivia night. Then, at some point, he said that if she wasn't doing anything on Wednesday after work, they could meet at this little Italian restaurant that he liked. It was halfway between her place and his. 

Jane had nothing to wear. She had been a homebody with John for so long that she either had clothes for the office or a bunch of random t-shirts and sweatpants. Ann let her borrow a floral dress which she ended up wearing with sneakers. 

Todd was already there when she arrived. He was a lot shorter and rounder than she imagined. His t-shirt and hoodie made her feel slightly overdressed. They gave each other a hug before making their way to the table. He ordered a sausage pizza and a beer while she chose spaghetti pomodoro with a glass of red. It was a cute and casual place. He asked her how work was. She told him that she was a junior producer at an agency that did video content creation. They were working on some projects for the U.S. soccer team. He said that his agency did an online campaign for them once. It occurred to them that their work might intersect somewhere down the line, so that helped further along the flow of conversation. 

When the food arrived, she noticed that Todd was eating rather fast. In fact, he was eating so fast that his cheeks were flushed and his breathing slowed. She found this off-putting and deliberately twirled the strands of spaghetti slowly around her fork before bringing it to her mouth, as though this subtle cue would help him to recalibrate. He'd already scarfed down three slices by the time the server came around to ask how everything was. Meanwhile, she was barely halfway through her pasta. Then, to her horror, he took his fork, reached across the table, and began eating from her plate as he continued to talk. 

At the end of dinner, he suggested that they order the trio of gelato. She told him she was full but he insisted and ordered one anyway–"to share."  He ate all of the chocolate one before she could get her spoon in. As they sat there, Todd delivered a soliloquy on why he believed that splitting the check was the mark of true equality in a relationship. She hid her annoyance and silently counted down the minutes until she could leave. When the server brought the check, she handed her credit card over, along with Todd's. She managed to feel more distant from this stranger after having dinner with him than before.

Jane walked home briskly afterwards, dodging passersby, wrapped up in her own thoughts. She had no expectations for that evening, and yet it still disappointed her. Howie greeted her at the door with his tail wagging. She kicked off her sneakers, took out her phone and deleted her Tinder account. Then, she threw herself onto the bed and stared at the ceiling. That night, for the first time ever, she let Howie sleep on the bed.

 

 

 

The Telltale Lines

A friend of mine broke up with her boyfriend last month and is now back in the dating pool again with relative success, thanks to apps like Bumble and The League. From what I've been hearing, the only way to meet anyone these days is through joining an app. The gamut runs from your average FedEx driver with tattoos and a goatee to the typical "slick entrepreneur" posing in front of a sports car in a business suit. Scary, I know. Anyway, she told me about two promising dates that she's been on the past couple of weeks: One was with a 47-year old divorced billionaire with a child; the other was with a handsome 36-year old who lives in Venice.

"I ended up cancelling my second date with the 47-year old. I didn't like his look–and the fact that he has an ex-wife!" she sighed. 

"You know how to tell when a guy is in his late forties and older, right?" I asked, raising a brow.

"By those little lines around his ears!" we cried in unison. 

I recounted a story from my single days in New York when my friend Ashley and I were having drinks at Soho House. The lighting was significantly dimmed as late afternoon turned into evening. With the piano tinkling and fireplace roaring, the mood was sexy and cosmopolitan. A tall handsome guy, wearing jeans, sneakers and a t-shirt, approached us and struck up a conversation. He was charming and ordered another round of drinks for us. We engaged in witty banter and mild flirtations throughout the night. Before we left, he asked for my number and gave me his. 

Later that week, he invited me to dinner with his best friends, another couple, at a fashionable Italian restaurant in the West Village. His friends were bonafide grown-ups. In other words, they looked like completely matured human beings, if you know what I mean.  When I looked over at my date, I noticed a series of vertical lines on the side of his face where his ear joined the rest of his face, something I'd never encountered before. It was then that I realized that the guy I thought was 38 years old at Soho House was probably more like 48. (It's amazing how dim lighting, jeans, sneakers and a t-shirt can shave ten years off a man.) Having just turned 30 at the time, this age group was a little out of my comfort zone. 

"You know how else you can tell?" said my friend. "The hairy ears."

I don't remember seeing hairy ears, but there were definitely gray eyebrows when he leaned down to kiss me goodnight. That was the end of that.

 

 

On Lovers, (Girl) Friends, and "Just Friends"

I had a collection of lovers to keep me warm and my friendships with women, who always fascinated me by their wit, bravery, and resourcefulness, and who never told you the same story twice. Now, women I didn’t mind. I mean you can go places with a woman and come back just fine (or as my agent, Erica, plowed right in and said: ‘You know that when you have dinner with a girlfriend, you’re going to come home a whole human being”). I had a third collection of associates who were men but not lovers. ‘Just friends,’ they’re called. An American distinction if ever there was one. Only we would say ‘just’ about a friend. My ‘just friends’ were more reliable than most of my ‘just lovers,’ since ‘just lovers’ were always capable of saying, ‘Gee, you’re puttin’ on weight,’ or ‘Are those the shoes you’re wearing?’
— from "Slow Days, Fast Company: The World, The Flesh, and L.A." by Eve Babitz

A Dish For Every Man's Cooking Repertoire

GQ: Is there a dish you think every guy should know how to cook for a woman?

Elizabeth Gilbert: I think that if you can roast a chicken, you can get whatever you want out of a woman. Maybe it's just me but I would suspect that a man trying to impress a woman would be more likely to bring out the steak–"I killed this for you, now I'm grilling it for you." Which is just going to remind her of her dad in a bad way. Or he's going to try and go full Food Network, which just makes you think that if you have sex, he's going to be performing other stuff that he saw on TV, as well. [Laughs] A man that can cook you a proper meal that is like a weekday meal–which I think cannot be better than in the form of a roast chicken–that's the greatest.


It's quite simple, really. All you have to do is pat a whole chicken completely dry, inside and out. Rub with dry seasonings of choice–and freshly chopped garlic, if you please. Truss the chicken with twine. Set it on a baking pan and bake at 450F for an hour or until the juices run clear.

The Evolution of Man

Man. Steak. Wine.

Guys usually have their first serious relationship between the ages of 19 and 21. Despite experiencing their first taste of love, they break up with their girlfriends around the age of 23 out of fear of being trapped.

They are out to "sow their wild oats", so to speak, between the ages of 24 and 29. This is just something that they have to do. Therefore, if you're looking for a serious relationship, I wouldn't touch any guys in this age range with a ten-foot pole unless you've found a diamond in the rough or your soul mate. This is when they are ripe for relationship training because, after all, good boyfriends are not born, they're made... By great girlfriends. 

By the time they're in their 30's, they're hormones are a little bit more under control and they're ready to explore having a real relationship. They probably have the basics of a relationship down by now. This is their era of confidence. If they find the right girl, they'll date her for about three years and then propose. (Single men between 32 and 38 are especially hard to find because this is when they're in relationships that could potentially evolve into an engagement and then marriage.) Alternatively, if they haven't found a relationship they will continue to "sow their wild oats." As my friend Lulu says, "Mid-thirties are the new late twenties." This is why women in their late 20's-early 30's are either hit on by guys who are 26 or 42.

For the men who have been unhappily married, their passion usually wanes after 6 to 12 years, around their late thirties/early forties. This could result in a love affair or divorce. In their mid-40's, they mostly want to know that they've "still got it", especially with women in their early twenties. It's all very meaningless and experimental and they're fine with it. They will pretty much date anyone. That is, until they hit their late 40's, when their mortality is flashing before their eyes. And then they realize that they want someone to connect to, someone who gets them, someone who will love them. (If you're not sure how old a man is, check for wrinkles around his ears.)

By the time they're 50, if they're lucky, they will finally know what they want. They evaluate all of their past mistakes and learn from them. They want to wipe the slate clean and find true love, except now they're letting their heart guide them rather than their eyes. 

Well, more or less.