I almost gave up on dating when a sandwich rejected me. I got a message on OkCupid that said, “What’s shaking bacon?” and the only profile pictures were of actual sandwiches. Delicious-looking sandwiches, but sandwiches nonetheless.
Since I was feeling hungry and lonely, I decided to reply. A lot of bready puns ensued — the bacon, egg and cheese sandwich told me he “kneaded” me, and I told him I hoped I could rise to the occasion. He told me I was on a roll and assured me that my jokes weren’t stale.
He then said I was bacon him crazy and asked me to be his bay-gal.
I wrote, “I’d loaf to be your bagel!!”
Then I never heard from him again. Maybe I was too eager and shouldn’t have used two exclamation points. The sad thing (yes, sadder than corresponding with a sandwich) is that I was actually disappointed. Was I too witty, or not witty enough? Perhaps I shouldn’t have used the word love, even though it was disguised as loaf. But then I reminded myself that I was rejected by a sandwich.
I ended an eight-year relationship in 2012. The last time I spoke with my former boyfriend (a year after we broke up), I inadvertently quoted Taylor Swift. When he asked how long our break was going to last, I said, “We are never ever getting back together!”
Feeling empowered from channeling Ms. Swift, I created an online dating profile. That was three years ago. Since then, I’ve been out with countless guys, had more than one date with some, but no more than five dates with any.
Granted, I’m not a great flirt. My idea of flirty banter is sending someone the clue to a crossword I can’t solve. I have tried to play it cool, but that may come across as cold. I’ve tried being honest. The last guy I went out with asked me on a fourth date and then disappeared.
Reason dictated that he did not die in a horrific crash but rather changed his mind about me. Even so, I texted him a couple of weeks later to clarify. The essence of my message was: I liked you, and you hurt my feelings. What gives? (Which makes me question if I am 40 years old, or 14.)
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His response was vague — something about being in Canada, getting distracted and dropping the ball. I should have known better than to ask. The reality is that if someone unexpectedly goes out of town, has to work late, gets sick, you probably will never hear from him again, despite the fact that he says he’ll get in touch when he’s back in the country, out of jail, emerged from his coma.
Everyone says you have to be happy with yourself before you can find happiness with someone else. I find that notion extremely frustrating. I am happy enough: I have a good job, great friends and live in New York City. But I am not going to say the loneliness isn’t palpable, that I don’t wake up in the middle of the night in a state of panic, wondering if I am going to be alone for the rest of my life.
This does not inspire the happiness that I am supposed to embody before I find a partner. Between panic attacks, I have continued to put myself out there, taking the advice that I often dole out to my single friends: “All it takes is one.”
This is not to be confused with “the one,” because I don’t believe in soul mates, which is pretty remarkable considering the number of romantic comedies I’ve seen (approximately all of them). By “all it takes is one,” I mean you only need to find one person.
I met Jim at Bar Reis in Park Slope. It was early fall and warm enough to sit outside. I found him at a picnic table in the backyard, where it was fairly dark. We chatted about work, then we talked about where we grew up. I mentioned that I’m from Los Angeles, and he asked about my ethnicity. I told him that everyone in Los Angeles thought I was Persian, but in New York everyone assumes I’m Jewish (my dad is, but my mom is not).
Jim cocked his head and stared at my nose. “Well, it’s a little bit of a hook.”
“Your nose. It’s a little bit of a hook, but not too beaky.”
“Uh? It was broken when I was little? But I declined the nose job that a lot of girls in L.A. were probably offered?” When I’m uncomfortable, the Valley Girl in me comes out, and I end every sentence in a question. It’s like totally awesome.
Jim didn’t seem to notice. He said that it was cool I’m comfortable with my nose and that it suited me (I think this was supposed to be a compliment.) He then went on to say: “My teeth aren’t great. I go to the dentist, but they’re rotting from the outside in, and there’s nothing they can do about it.”
The words “rotting from the outside in” hung in the air. I was struck that he was so matter-of-fact about it. He said that his teeth are really thin, that everyone in his family has thin teeth.
I sat there nodding and smiling and trying to get a decent look at his teeth, but it was too dark. When we went inside to pay the bill, he smiled in the mirror behind the bar, and in the light I could see that his teeth did look, well, grayish.
He turned to me and said, “I’m a pretty good-looking guy, right?”
I told him I admired his confidence. When I tell people this story, they are typically offended on my behalf. One friend said she would have walked out after the nose comment. I was more surprised than offended, and I don’t think he meant to be hurtful.
First dates can be awkward; they’re basically job interviews with alcohol. In fact, one date seemed exactly like a job interview. I was out with a guy who works in advertising, as I do, and all he wanted to talk about was the cost of full-page ads in magazines.
People say and do weird stuff on first dates. Another guy didn’t take off his clip-in bike shoes; between his gait and the clicking of his shoes, it sounded as if a horse were approaching every time he walked across the hardwood floor from the bar.
We were at the Bell House in Brooklyn, and after his second beer, he lay down across the couch where he was sitting and stayed like that for a while, with his bike shoes propped up on the arm of the couch. Then he put drops in his eyes. When he sat back up, the drops made it look as if there were tears rolling down his face.
I asked if everything was O.K., and he looked at me as if I were the crazy one.
A short time later, I was out with a lawyer, and after a couple of drinks, I had my hand on his knee and the words “I always get what I want” came out of my mouth. It’s as if I were acting in a play, or trying on a new version of myself, since my usual version didn’t seem to be having much luck. I’m fortunate the lawyer didn’t sue me for ridiculousness.
Some say the definition of insanity is repeating the same behavior over and over and expecting a different outcome. While dating does make me feel crazy at times (when messaging with a sandwich, for instance), I keep at it in hopes that one day the outcome will be different.
At the same time, I also try hard to accept that it may never happen for me. I tell myself that I don’t need a partner to lead a happy and fulfilling life. Then one morning, I’m on the Q train, across from a cute couple who look hipsterish in a nonannoying, unironic way.
I imagine that he is in a band and that she does something cool and creative. He says something funny to her, and she laughs, then puts her head on his shoulder. When they get up to leave, he holds her hand and they just look so stinking happy.
I want to cry, feeling creepy for staring at these strangers and also envious that they seem to have what I want. I get off the train at Union Square and give myself a little pep talk on the walk to my office. I won’t give up on dating, at least not now. And I’ll just have to hope that Mr. Bacon, Egg and Cheese wasn’t the sandwich that got away.