Is there a 12-step program for serial daters? If so, sign me up for DA - Date-aholics Anonymous. Not, mind you, that I'm addicted to dating. I can stop any time I want to. No, really. I'm just using it. Having my way with it. Then, when I find my soulmate, I'll kick dating to the curb, like an expired carton of milk. The thing is, though, I'm spending so much time and energy dating that it sometimes feels like an addiction. Or at least another career. If only it paid. And didn't involve so much time at Starbucks. And didn't require at the end of each meeting having to come up with a polite way to say, "It's perfectly okay with me if we never see each other again for the rest of our lives; in fact, I'd prefer it." Which usually emerges from my careful-to-be-tactful mouth in this fashion: "Very nice meeting you."
In the first three years following my divorce, I went on 150 coffee dates. And by coffee dates I'm using the standard Merriam-Webster dictionary definition: "first-time meetings, usually ending in disappointment." And I'm an optimist, mind you. Now, I realize that 150 coffee dates sounds like a lot, but spread out over three years, it's just one a week. Of course, depending on the person, fifteen minutes with the wrong person for the first time can seem like one week. But I learned something very important from those 150 coffee dates. I learned that if I had saved all the money I spent on them, I could have afforded a Hyundai. Granted, four of the dates resulted in relationships. But 146 of them resulted in "Very nice meeting you." And a thorough knowledge of the differences between lattes, frappucinos, chais, and caramel macchiatos. I may have been dateless, but I was going steady with caffeine.
I do like the variety, though. I've gone out with a judge, masseuse, teacher, network executive, nurse, college student, speech therapist, doctor, actress, psychologist, lawyer, even a forest ranger. I had a first date in an art museum that featured life-sized, nude, anatomically correct male and female manikins. One date, as soon as we sat down to brunch, removed a digital scale from her pocketbook and proceeded to weigh each item of food that was served. Another date took a look around in my apartment and informed me that if we ever moved in together, I'd have to get rid of all of my stuff.
Remember that "Seinfeld" episode where Jerry gets in trouble for being spotted making out with his date during "Shindler's List"? One of my dates suggested, as a first date, that we see "The Pianist," another Holocaust-themed movie. Beautifully done, very powerful and moving, but somehow doesn't quite set the desired mood of romance for kicking off a romantic relationship. Oh, sure, I did what I could to salvage the mood afterwards, commenting lightly, "My apartment's in much better shape than that labor camp," but strangely enough, that didn't make her hot for me.
So why go through all the pain, the aggravation, the expense, the wasted time, the same interview-like questions, over and over again? The singles websites, Speed Dating, singles events, personals ads, blind dates, coffee dates, matchmaking services, friend set-ups. Well, I guess it's because when you do finally meet your special someone, it's... well, you know, it's magic. And I know I'll feel it when I find her. I just hope and pray that at the end of that first date, she doesn't look me in the eyes, smile warmly, and say, "Very nice meeting you."