Friday, October 3, 2003

For Single Use Only

Here's the good news. Well, good for me; bad for any of you married people. After ingesting my healthy Jack in the Box breakfast this morning, I looked at the cup that my Diet Coke came in. "For Single Use Only," it read. I don't know what the Jack in the Box corporation has against you married people, but I just thought you should know. Set the soda down gently and no one will get hurt.

More for me, that way.

The problem with starting an entry off with a statement of good news implies that there is some bad news coming. There's not; don't worry. Unless you getting to laugh at my state of singleness and some of my recent forays into the world of internet dating [shudder] is bad news, that is. Hopefully you'll laugh. Maybe even sympathize a bit. If you have any advice, that'd be nice too. I can't guarantee I'll take it, but I'm definitely open to hearing what you think.

Here goes.

As a 36 year old straight woman who's never been married, I am a bit of a statistical oddball. (Take "statistical" out of that sentence, and that works too.) Before you ask, no, there's nothing wrong with me. I do tend to be a bit choosy, but that's not necessarily a character flaw. I have had my fair share of dates and boyfriends. The older I get, though, and the more I develop my life around me and my goals, the less important marriage has become in my life. No, that's not exactly true. The pursuit of marriage has become less of a priority, is probably better stated. Also, the chances of me finding a straight, normal (e.g. not a homicidal maniac. Obviously, my standards and expectations have dropped somewhat in the past decade) unattached (divorced, single, widowed), willing male who, preferably is a member of my church are about as good as me winning the lottery. Which is to say, nil. (I don't buy lottery tickets.) Parenthetical standards aside, some would say that even hoping for that much is a bit, well, much.

Still others look at me aghast, in disbelief that I can be happy as a single person. Don't even get me started on that annoying opinion. Needless to say, there is a certain social, cultural and personal pressure to regard life as not fully complete, regardless of my personal state of happiness and fulfillment, until I have entered into vows of holy matrimony.

Thus begins the pursuit. Not chase, just. . . pursuit. Experience has taught me that Prince Charming, or even Mr. Almost will not come to my front door. I'm not listed, for one thing, so how can he even know where the girl of his dreams lives? This means that I must make a concerted effort to get out of my comfort zone. I am of the general opinion that I should go to places that I like or that interest me to meet people with similar interests. Sadly, I have yet to be approached by any potential bachelors in the libraries of book stores I frequent. Movie theaters -- too dark, not really the correct venue to meet new people, and are the playgrounds for those who already have significant others.

This leaves very few options. The two obvious ones are internet dating services or church-sponsored dances (I'm not a bar fly either).

Don't get me wrong -- I don't mind dancing; in fact, I quite enjoy it. What I don't enjoy is the meat market aspect of going to a dance obstensibly to meet single men in my age range, but is really no more than putting oneself on parade to be dismissed immediately on the grounds that I am not a fashion model. Neither is 98% of the rest of the population, but this doesn't seem to stop men (fickle creatures) from making those unfair comparisons.

No matter how much fun I have dancing, I generally do not come away having enjoyed myself, because expectations are never met. It's a complex mental game, made even more difficult by the mental gymnastics before even leaving the house. I must first pick a hip outfit that will somehow convey the message, "I'm cool and have a great wardrobe and am sexy but not so sexy that I'm easy." Right. Try this. Go to your closet and pick an outfit that sends those conflicting messages.

Can't do it, right? Yet the female mind intuits that this is the correct way to begin. I'm not even up to bat yet, and I have one strike against me.

Once at the dance, the mindset must be one of "I'm only here to have a good time. I will dance, enjoy the music and not have any expectations of meeting that perfect someone. This is about just meeting new people." Meanwhile, the REAL internal dialogue is more along these lines: "I didn't get all gussied up for nuttin', so there better be someone there worth my time and effort. Oh, who am I kidding? There's only going to be a bunch of mindless guys who think that if I'm not Christina Aguilera than I'm not good enough. Who do I think I am even coming here? The wall and I will be best friends, the music will suck, and only losers will ask me to dance."

Again with the conflicting messages. I don't know how we as a gender function under constant co-existing opposite trains of thoughts. You men think we are wily and mysterious, when really our thoughts are trains hurtling towards each other on the same track. A wreck waiting to happen.

The stage is set. A dramedy waiting to happen. But wait! In true reality tv show style, let's add the additional layer of conflicted girl going to the dance who has signed up for an internet dating service. The same internet dating service that many of these people who will be at the dance also use. Nothing has come of it, other than reconnecting with an old friend from high school who now lives in Idaho and is engaged, so this is not in the forefront of the girl's mind.

Ready? Action!

The last dance I went to, a guy asked Linda to dance. As they were going through the painful initial introductions all while trying to make a good first impression while sizing the other person up, Linda got the distinct impression that there was something a bit off about this one. It was hard to tell if he had a really dry sense of humor or if he was serious. Her woman's intuition is telling her something's wrong, but her female ego is flattered that she's dancing with someone who's not ugly. I won't go into all the details about why alarms were going off in her head -- you'll just have to trust me. And maybe later you'll see why.

Branden, for that is the man's name, eventually asks her if the friend she's with (me) belongs to the [datingservice].com, and if so, is her name EllJayPea? Linda answers in the affirmative to both questions. Then he wants to know why I never wrote him back.

They weave their way through the dance floor to come talk to me. Linda's bemused because he wants to talk to me after asking HER to dance, and he just looks bugged. He gets in my face and wants to know why I never wrote him back. I give him the blank look of non-comprehension, because I've never seen this guy before tonight. Come to find out, he had written me through one of the services that I hadn't paid the pirate fees for, so I hadn't ever been able to retrieve any emails. I am finally able to communicate to him through all of his bluster that I didn't actually belong to THAT dating service, but another one, and I'm deeply sorry, but seriously. Dude? Don't you think you're being a little too intense and taking this all a little bit personally? This is not a personal affront, and you're kind of beginning to scare me.

But I am woman, hear me roar. Rather, here my ego say, "Pick me! Pick me! Shut UP, instinct." I go with it. I promise to write him back on the service that have actually subscribed to. That very night. Oy. Am I pathetic, or what?

So begins the saga of Branden the psycho. Wait -- I shouldn't label him yet -- I should let you decide for yourselves. Don't let that skew your opinion of him.


---To be continued ...

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