Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Dating Myself

I've decided to start dating myself. I came to this conclusion on Saturday mid-morning after dragging my tired ass out of bed to take a walk in my neighborhood. I ended up outside a house that used to belong to Anais Nin, the renowned French writer of erotica. I couldn't see much of the house, but it was comforting to know she had once lived in my hood. I kept walking, working up a sweat on the steep hills. I started to feel better.

The night before, I'd felt like I was coming down with this mysterious multi-week cold/flu that all my friends seem to be getting. I huddled in bed with my iPad binge-watching Jessica Jones on Netflix when the front doorbell rang. I wasn't expecting anyone, and I couldn’t hear either of my roommates making noises about answering it. In my PJs and not in the mood for company at 9pm on a Friday night, I texted them. "Expecting someone?" One responded back right away that she wasn't home, the other didn't answer. The doorbell rang again and now someone was fumbling with the handle. My heart started beating fast. I put my iPad aside and crept out of bed with my cell phone gripped in my hand. I padded into the living room and could hear what sounded like a group of guys talking outside. I thought I saw one of them trying to peak into the window on the side of the house and then a dark shadow ran past the other window towards the backyard. I was shaking now, suddenly and viscerally scared out of my rational mind. I crept upstairs and shone my iPhone’s light towards my roommate's bedroom—the one I thought was home. The light was off, her door open. Not home. Now I was terrified. I crept towards the front door and instead of opening it, slid into the dark garage where I stood on a chair peering out the garage windows into the street. My roommate’s car was in the driveway and there was no sign of anyone outside. I couldn't hear voices anymore. I stood on that chair and shook for a good five minutes, my phone clutched to my chest. I imagined this group of guys casing the house, surrounding it, deciding the best way to break in.

I gingerly stepped off the chair and pressed my ear to the door in the pitch-black garage, listening hard for the sound of breaking glass or jimmying locks. My phone was now sweaty in my palm. Should I call someone? The police? And say what, “someone rang my doorbell”?? Why the fuck was I so scared? It suddenly occurred to me that I didn't know any of my neighbors and that I didn't have anyone to call at a time like this. No nearby friend who would drop everything to come be with me until I calmed down. This made me feel sorry for myself and I almost texted the guy I’d gone on three dates with to see if he was back in town, to let him know I was a damsel in distress and needed his manliness to protect me from whatever perceived danger I was apparently in. Men love that shit! I imagined winning him back with the scenario of the helpless female. Then I imagined the opposite, him feeling put-upon and thinking doesn’t she have anyone else to call? I decided instead to wait it out. I stood in the dark as my breathing gradually returned to normal and I felt the fear slowly dissipate. I decided I was safe and had invented the sense of danger. I returned to my room and finished the episode of Jessica Jones I had been watching (probably the reason I was scared in the first place—the show is terrifying).

The next morning, I had trouble getting out of bed. I watched more Jessica Jones and finished a bag of potato chips before 11am. I started having a general sense of FOMO, so I decided I should probably leave the house. At least take a walk. Exercise usually helps the feeling of ennui that often settles over me these (unemployed) days. Maybe it was Anais Nin's house or maybe it was the fresh air and endorphins, but I began to feel better and I made a sudden, inspired decision to start dating myself. That's right, ladies and gentleman, I decided to stop waiting for that mysterious man to come along and take me on cool dates, and instead to take my own damn self out on some cool dates. If I were dating me, where would I take me? I decided first I would take myself to see City of Gold, the new documentary about LA Times food critic Jonathan Gold. I know my fondness for food and how much I love Jonathan Gold, so I knew this date was sure to please me. Who knew, afterwards if things were going well and I still seemed interested, perhaps I could take myself to one of the restaurants featured in the film? That would be the perfect date for me! I felt better already. Why hadn't I thought of this before? Fuck these men. Who needs em? I'm an only child, I know how to play by myself.

City of Gold was wonderful, a love letter to Los Angeles with its vast mosaic of various cultures and cuisines. I decided Jonathan Gold is my personal hero, for he found the one activity he enjoys above all else—eating all the foods—and made a career out of it. Jonathan Gold eats everything. He picks restaurants the way I like to pick restaurants—democratically. He loves equally the highest-end fine dining meal at Providence (LA Times #1 Best Restaurant in Los Angeles three years in a row) as he does the street tacos from the Guerilla Tacos truck. Jonathan Gold is living the dream. He gets paid to eat and write about it! Sitting in the back of the movie theatre on a Saturday afternoon, watching this film—that was a really lovely date with myself. Afterwards, I thought about going to Jonathan’s favorite Thai place, Jitlada, which was not too far from the theatre, but I was due to meet Best Guy Friend and his girlfriend for dinner and another movie, Zootopia. I’m not in the habit of crashing Best Guy Friend’s dates with his girlfriend, but seeing as I’m now dating myself, this was actually more like a double date. And Zootopia, while not a movie I would have gone to see without them, I found absolutely delightful. I was so enthralled that I leaned over to Best Guy Friend in the middle of it and exclaimed in his ear: “This is a feminist parable!” To which he laughed at me.

The next day, Sunday, I went on a three-hour hike with my friend Paula in Topanga Canyon. As we often do on our hikes, we got to talking about the feminist injustices in the film industry and how we sought to remedy them, and soon we were huffing and puffing up the steep hills, red in the face with both exertion and conviction. After we had worked up an appetite with the exercising of both our calves and jaw muscles, we went to Milo and Olive for brunch.
“I’ve decided to date myself,” I declared happily, sweaty and red-faced.
“I think that’s great,” beamed Paula. Paula would also like to meet a man. She is a hot and sexy woman in her 40s who is incredibly talented, fun, smart, and amusing; she has a gorgeous house and an amazing ass. The fact that Paula can’t seem to find someone to date I find equally hard to believe as the fact that I can’t find someone to date. By all accounts, and I say this with the utmost humbleness and objectivity, we are both catches.

I think about the guy I went on three dates with several weeks ago. The last time I saw him he said, “I really like you and want to get to know you.” Then he cancelled our next two dates (because he was understandably very busy) and left town for two weeks without trying to see me before he went. I asked if he was doing the fade away to which he LOL-ed and replied, “No! But to be clear as day, I’m seeking a slow burn. I’m not rushing into anything. But I’m enjoying our time together.” To me it didn’t feel like what we had going was a slow burn. It felt like what so many of these flings feel like: hot and heavy in the beginning and then the flame gradually goes out. I had texted with him on and off since he’d been gone, but now I hadn’t heard from him for a whole week, and I feel like if you really like someone and want to keep the burn going, you don’t just forget about them for a week. Especially since in the beginning his attention had felt constant and intense, texting me the day after our first date that he was “still smiling” and when we had a date coming up on Saturday, rhetorically exclaiming, “Is it Saturday yet?!” I missed those days, I missed the attention and the sense of consistency, the lack of games. Now I was feeling the age-old pressure to not seem too eager, to not text first for fear of seeming more interested than him. How did this happen, I wondered. I wasn’t even sure I was attracted to him in the beginning. I felt like he had worked really hard to fish me out of the ocean and then, once I was caught and in his hands, decided to throw me back. Had I no say in the matter?

It didn’t help that I hadn’t been able to talk to him in person since that third and final date. My ex-boyfriend encouraged me to be honest with him and express what I want, what I need—but how was I supposed to do that on text when I didn’t even know if he was back in town or not? I had preemptively invited Best Guy Friend to come to Dan Savage’s amateur porn festival Hump! with me in case this guy bailed, but it was depressing to think I had to prepare for that. Preparing for disappointment. Why can’t I date someone who is true to his word, who doesn’t feel like a slippery fish who could slink away at any moment? And furthermore, what had I said to turn him off? Sure, I had tested out some feminist rants about abortion rights on him, but he seemed to be able to handle this aspect of my personality—he even seemed charmed by it. Was I really so deluded and unable to read the situation that when I thought he was watching me fondly, he was actually thinking, get me the fuck away from this woman?

I didn’t think so. But I honestly didn’t know what had happened. And the not knowing was making me nuts. I didn’t understand a guy’s impulse to work so hard to woo a girl only to lose interest in her after three dates. Why would he have treated me like this could develop into something if he knew he didn’t really want it go anywhere, or he wasn’t sure? Why not play it a little cooler and not say things like, “I really like you” and “let’s sail to Hawaii”? Or was this all in my head? Would I receive a text from him any day now stating, “I’m back in town and I want to see you!” Somehow I doubted it. It felt like it was over. And I felt once again disappointed, and tired of feeling disappointed by men. Was this what he meant when he said sex was a contract and women got hurt—was he warning me that I might get hurt? Is that what had happened?

“I just don’t want to start over with someone new,” I told Paula. “This guy already knows everything about me.” She laughed, but it was true. I was tired of small talk, of the whole getting to know you rigmarole. We had cut through so much of that, and that’s what I ultimately liked most about him. We got to the real shit. By the third date, I felt he knew all my secrets—such as they are. Was that too soon? Did I say too much? Did I show too much of myself? Was I just really bad at dating? I guess this was possible; I didn’t have a lot of experience. Or rather, I had a lot of experience with first dates and sex, but not so much with second and third dates. Was it possible I had actually become something I had been called once by a man: undateable? And what did that even mean?

I brought in girlfriend reinforcement to analyze our text chain. I showed my friend Cheryl how we’d had a flurry of flirtatious banter back and forth on Monday, and then I hadn’t heard from him for a week. On Sunday night, I was watching a great documentary called The Mask You Live In about the culture of masculinity boys are raised with in this country, and I thought it might interest him based on some of the conversations we’d had. I texted him the recommendation and didn’t hear back. Now it was Monday night and we still had plans to see the amateur porn fest on Saturday.

Cheryl expressed feeling lucky that she never had to date in the age of texting. She’s been with her boyfriend since back when people used cell phones to call each other, when people used to communicate, and if you stopped liking someone you couldn't just ignore their texts. I could tell by her text suggestions that she had never done this before, never played these games, and that she’d been in a LTR for a very long time. She encouraged me to ask him if he was still coming with me on Saturday night, seeing as we were now within a week of the date. I texted him and he responded: “Fuck I’ll be in New York! For work.” Although I knew in my gut that this was coming, it still blew my mind. I invited him to this event, he said unequivocally yes, I asked him when he wanted to go, he picked the date, then he not only made other plans, but also neglected to tell me about them? Would he have ever told me? I flashed back on something I had said on our second date.
“We shouldn’t make too many plans.” I said this out loud, as though channeling, as though warning myself from the future. I didn’t know at the time where this piece of advice was coming from, but clearly I’m more intuitive than I’ve been paying attention to.

Inexplicably, I found myself relieved by the confirmation that he wasn’t coming. At least I wasn’t waiting anymore. I had my answer. That was it. The end of the road. I thought about what to write back, I consulted my girlfriends. A sampling of my favorite suggestions:
“Third time. Not so charming.”
“Put a fork in you. You’re done.”
“You owe me $25.”

I decided to give it a beat. I didn’t want to respond in the moment from a reactive place. I wanted to be honest. But I also didn’t feel like writing him a novel via text with all my thoughts and feelings, about how I felt disrespected by his lack of consideration for my time, for my schedule. I also didn’t feel like calling. Somehow his lack of remorse made me feel like he really didn’t care to hear from me, and this made the thought of calling him absolutely sickening. Part of me wanted to never write back and to never talk to him again, but as we all know, I’m bad at letting things lie. I got into bed and tossed around. I couldn’t get comfortable. I wanted to express myself, but I didn’t know how. I opened my phone and deleted our text chain. Then I considered blocking his number, so I wouldn’t know if he ever wrote me again and therefore wouldn’t feel compelled to respond. Instead, I deleted his number. I lay back down. Still couldn’t sleep. I sat up in bed. Searched his name, he came right up—of course, the iCloud makes deleting numbers absolutely impossible. I wanted to keep it simple and sweet. Express myself eloquently and succinctly. Really get the point across but in a relaxed way that read: I will be over you in five minutes. “Wow. That’s disappointing,” was what I came up with. I felt okay about it. I haven’t heard from him since.