I recently experienced one of those rare days when everything was going right for me; my job, my hair. A day I just knew that something good could happen, was supposed to happen. And I would be ready to embrace it. "But he's twenty-six," I said to my girlfriend the next day, when I was back to analyzing anything remotely good. "I'm only supposed to date guys my age."
"You did say that," she said. We looked around the empty bar.
A cute, socially acceptable guy asked for my phone number -- which never happens, all at the same time -- and although I knew I wasn't ancient, I felt like I was; and not in the glamorous slightly delusional Norma Desmond kind of way. I'd never been faced with the issue of dating someone younger than me. I didn't even know what that meant.
But I guessed I should. I'd left my twenties I realized, where I was the perennial young one in every situation. Innocent. Wide-eyed. Curious. Now in my thirties, innocence is an insult -- I'm not stupid, ok?, curiosity is weakness -- I think I've always known that -- and in its place is Age. A wildcard. Because in your thirties, age starts to matter. You can be too old for someone, or look too young for someone else, possibly an ex-wife. You're the middle child of dating. Prepared for everyone's issues. That's the only way to survive.
I'd ignore his phone call, I decided. Cut my losses. Someone 'figuring it all out' was not attractive to me, I told my girlfriend; a process too horrific to experience let alone witness. I was going to be responsible.
"Yeah." We looked around at the empty bar.
Maybe I was making a mistake. I needed a sign. Someone who understood the value of time but had no interest in my well-being whatsoever. "But he's twenty-six," I told my sister who is a banker. "He gets a pass, he is getting his Phd at Princeton," she said knowingly. Maybe she was right. She was a banker.
But then two weeks passed. And I didn't hear from him. Nothing. After all of that.
After more obscene amounts of time passed, I received a text message asking if I wanted to go for a coffee. At Starbucks. I didn't know what offenses to react to first. There was just so much.
"A text message?" my mother exclaimed. "What an insult!" No one asks out woman of immense value via text. Texting, we decided, has made the lazy guys even lazier.
"But I suppose that's better than email," I said.
God dating is so confusing.
I assumed my offense coupled with defense was due to my age since I remember a time when romance wasn't robbed by technology. He's twenty-six, I told myself.
That's the way they do it. And if I wanted to get out there, I had to do it that way too. So I decided to meet him for coffee.
Yet when he appeared in a sweatshirt, my offense only grew. When he talked on and on, and on, about Descartes and Flaubert, it got worse. When I complained of lightheadness and hunger and he suggested a Starbucks prepackaged sandwich, it was beyond. And when we walked outside into the rain and he didn't offer me a ride home, my blood boiled.
"This was fun. Do you want to go out this weekend?"
"Sure," I said quickly. He's twenty-six. At least he knows how to do that.
As I ran home and out of the rain, I couldn't help but think about chances--always take them, never waste them, no matter what. Just say yes! Always, people say. Because as you get older, your chances for just about anything remotely good gets slimmer and slimmer, and before you know it, you will die having done nothing of consequence and completely alone.
But aren't chances supposed to make you feel good and not appalled? The problem was, I couldn't tell if I was taking a chance or faking a chance; living in the moment, or killing the time in between.
I promptly received a text message requesting a dinner date -- good, prompt is good! And then another message popped up. The message that would be the culmination of all I thought was soulless and wrong with the dating world. "Do you want me to pick you up?(It's supposed to rain)"
I lost my mind.
I realize many women wouldn't understand my anger, in fact, none of the women I unloaded to that night did. But all I could think of when I hit 'create message' was who shows up for coffee in a sweatshirt weeks after taking a girl's number? And all of these text messages? Who does that? Better yet, what girl says yes?
I threw on my reading glasses did what I should have done in the first place, now times one hundred, given all of the unnoticed offense. "You would only pick me up if it were raining? Ha. Well. I can't make it tomorrow night. I'm busy." My answer to his last bout of ambiguous chivalry.
I sat back, satiated. Even more so when I ignored his phone call. Because I realized that even the smallest lack of effort is a lack of effort regardless. The little things are everything. And that's enough to say no. No matter what age he is. Because you really can never tell. Until you can.
"Good for you!" my friend said. "Guys can be such idiots, I swear."
"I know right." We sipped our specialty cocktails. We looked around the empty bar. "He definitely thinks I'm crazy."
"Yep. Without a doubt."