Per Wikipedia, “Every 17 years, mature cicada nymphs emerge… After such a prolonged developmental phase, the adults are active for about 4 to 6 weeks.”
Like the cicada, I rise up every few seasons to go on a bunch of blind date dates, and then− after the series of social tragedies that are truly beyond imagination− I return underground to recuperate.
I looked that cicada shit up on Wikipedia. God Bless, Wikipedia and the World Wide Web. My niece recently asked me what people did before the internet. I replied that we went to the library on Saturdays and researched things by flipping through volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica. She was horrified. She was equally horrified to learn that there was a time before cellphones. I explained that I used to carry a pair of boots and her mother’s old softball bat in my car in case it broke down because there was no way to call for help. And that if you made plans with someone, you had to show up. On time. And we wrote letters to each other. With stamps. Oh, the Horror.
And now back to our story…
I don’t date often because I don’t date well. On a variety of levels.
- I pick poorly. Unwittingly selecting psychos or choosing emotionally unavailable men (Oh, based on that statement you think I need therapy? How insightful.)
- I like people to feel comfortable because it makes me feel comfortable. It’s unclear to the other party that I’m not having a good time. They think it’s all fine and dandy even when, inside my head, I’m willing the restaurant to catch on fire so I can escape during the kerfuffle.
- I detest the confrontation of telling someone I’m not digging their chili. I feel bad. So bad, I’d rather not date at all to avoid these incidents.
- I like things to be organic and natural. All blind dates feel like pretend bullshit to me. And men seem to try to get close too quickly, and it all just feels false to me.
But, following a period of regeneration, I rise out of my nest ready to date again. Ever hopeful. Because I’ve seen far too many romantic comedies. It’s supposed to end like happily ever after, right?!? So, I hike up my ball gown, trudge out into the dating world, kiss a few more frogs, get disgusted, and retreat back underground. The cycle continues over and over until here I am. Almost 40 and single. And a social failure at finding a match. Boo.
I blame Walt Disney. Every woman is a little bit ruined by those blazing Happily-Ever-After endings. Before you arrive, every blind date feels like a possibility. A Spring. A little voice inside you says, Maybe he’ll be The One. Every blind date is the potential of a Prince coming to place a glass slipper onto your dainty little paw and whisk you away to the castle. To a perfect life.
Hope floats. And it is despicable.
My series of dating misadventures has taught me one thing… a Prince is not promised you. It is not an absolute. So, instead of sitting around combing your Rapunzel hair or napping in a glass casket in the woods, waiting for The Big Rescue, you better saddle up, sister, and create your own Happily Ever After. You might just have to save yourself.
Does that sound jaded? Maybe it is. Maybe I am. But, there’s something very positive in there too. I don’t need rescuing. And there’s powerful mojo in that thinking. I am capable of a Happy Ending without a man (shut up, you filth pots, you know what I mean). However, there are days where I just want to come home from The Salt Mines, lay my head on my soul mate’s shoulder, and say, “Be sweet to me,” and have it come true. Fucking Disney.
This next story is yet another arrow in my quiver of Crazy Dates. If Walt Disney were still alive, I would shoot one directly into his chest.
Circa 1996. I was living in New Jersey. My first professional job, my first apartment, and abject poverty. But, all in all, I was feeling like Marlo Thomas in That Girl. Real Life was beginning. I had broken up with my college boyfriend after my friends told me they would not come to my wedding if I married him (I needed that A&E intervention. Thanks, Girls). The job was going well, I took two trains to work, and I had an apartment of my own… I felt like an adult for the first time.
One of my college roommates was living nearby- just a train ride away- so I decided to visit her one Friday night after work. It just so happened that there was a massive snow storm on that day. Every train that stopped at the station was packed with commuters trying to get home before it became impossible. I waited on the platform for two hours in the freezing cold. But, there was a cute Indian boy standing beside me. Dot Indian, not Feather Indian. And we started chatting. His name was Jake. He was so cute− tall and thin with big, brown eyes and long, luscious eyelashes. Mmmm mmmm. And he was charming and witty. Just before we finally got on a train, he asked for my phone number (my home phone number since this was the pre-historic pre-cellphone era). I gave it to him, and we parted ways. I spent that train ride to Malvern smiling to myself about the whole exchange and our impending lunch date.
We met for lunch the following week in the city. It was lovely. We chatted and laughed. We had a lot in common, and it felt easy to talk to him. At the end of lunch, I tried to pay my way, but he insisted on taking care of the bill. A molecule of suspicion formed over my head, but I brushed it away. No worries. I would pick up the next meal. We made plans for a movie date that upcoming weekend. I said we could meet in the city. He said that he would take the train to near my house, so I wouldn’t have to travel. The molecule of suspicion skidded back into position and rooted itself firmly over my head, but I ignored it. I was excited. It was hard to concentrate on work the rest of that day, and I was smiling to myself.
The following day I had lunch with my co-workers. There was one girl my age at the time- Irish Eileen. Outside of Irish Eileen, the rest of the lunch crew were elderly women… a clutch of clucking old hens.
Quick intermission… E.R., I hope you are reading this. You made my first real adult experiences so much fun. Even though you had a local circle of long-time friends, you took me in and were a gem to me. And no one else has ever taken me to secret doors with secret knocks in Manayunk for drunken 2 AM egg & bacon sandwiches. I thought you were so worldly! And now back to our story…
The Hens lived vicariously through the adventures of Irish Eileen and me. So, over sandwiches, I announced that I had a date and that he was planning on coming to my house. They were immediately a-twitter. They collectively agreed that I could NOT let him into my house− it was too early, he was still a stranger, meet him in a public place, call him ahead of time to make sure he understands the boundaries, no kissing. Their nervousness fed that molecule and turned it into a tiny, dark cloud.
This was not the (mostly) safe haven of college anymore. This was the Real World. And my parents told me my whole life that all strangers were most likely kidnapping murderers. DO NOT TALK TO STRANGERS was permanently imprinted on my brain by my grandmother. What if this guy was a khaki pants-clad sociopath? Ted Bundy had a nice smile too. Hmmmm. So, I followed the orders of the Hen House and left a message on his machine that I was not comfortable having him to the house just yet and that I would meet him at the train station.
On Saturday, I got all dolled up and met Jake at the train station a few blocks from my apartment. He was carrying a medium-sized bag. Curious. But I ignored it.
I’m an adult! And I’m going on a Saturday afternoon date!
We went to the movies. I tried to pay, but he insisted, so I said I would get dinner. He held my hand all through the movie. I wasn’t too keen on that. I told you I’m a slow burn. After the movie, we went to get dinner… Chinese food in my neighborhood. His idea. We went inside, and the waitress tried to seat us. He told her no, that we were getting it To Go. I looked at him quizzically. He said, I figured we could have a picnic on your living room floor. I brought champagne and a house-warming gift. He gestured to the bag. The once-tiny cirrus cloud of suspicion was now a medium-sized cumulonimbus. I raised an eyebrow at him. He looked at my arched eyebrow and laughed casually. “It will be fun!” The waitress handed us take-out menus, and we ordered. I tried to pay for the food, but he insisted on paying again. (Insert sound of Thunder here). We walked the few blocks to my house. But, when we got to the door, I asked him to wait outside for a few minutes.
Me: Um, I wasn’t prepared for company, so give me just a minute or two to straighten up.
I ran up the stairs, kicked all of my dirty clothes and whatnot into my bedroom and closed the door. The thunder cloud followed behind me through the quick chores, rumbling.
What if he was a serial killer?
Were my parents right?
Was he going to come upstairs, subdue me, and chop me into tiny pieces after the egg roll appetizers?
As I straightened up, I tried to talk myself off the ledge. He was so polite! There is no way he was a murderer! And this is what adults do. They have other adults over to their apartments for dinner. It has to be appropriate− I’ve seen it on TV! I briefly considered going back downstairs and telling him I wasn’t comfortable, that it was too soon, but I didn’t want him to think I thought he was a murdering fiend. I didn’t want to be impolite.
And this, my friends, is exactly how pedophiles take advantage of children and bad men take advantage of women. We’re too fucking polite.
So, I determined that I, indeed, would bring him upstairs, and we would have a Chinese food-picnic in the living room. But, before I let him up, the rumbling thundercloud pushed me to put one measure of safety in place. I walked over to my butcher block of knives, took them all out, and hid them all over the house. Under every magazine, every couch cushion, under the mouse pad on my computer desk was a big-ass knife. I figured that if he did try to chop me into shark bait, I wasn’t going down without a fight.
Buddy, you might win in the end, but, by God, you are going to bleed beforehand.
So, he came upstairs. I settled him in the living room, took the Chinese food into the kitchen and started to put it into dishes. I heard him get up- from the couch. And then he started switching off lights.
A lightning bolt hit me square between the eyes. I was about to be murdered. Holy Fuck. However, I did not run out of the house… because I didn’t want to seem like some psychotic. So, I casually walked into the dimly-lit living room, handed him his dish, and sat across the room at the computer desk. And here’s the conversation that took place to the best of my recollection…
Him: Why don’t you come sit near me?
Me: (Like hell). Oh, no, I’m fine here.
Him: I’d like you to sit near me.
Me: (People in hell want ice water too). Nope, I’m good.
Him: You know… we are going to do this.
Me: Excuse me?
Him: We are going to do this.
Me: (What the friggin’ hell is this kid talking about?) Do what?
Him: Have sex.
Me: (Did he just say SEX?) Excuse me?
Him: That’s what adults do on dates. They have sex.
And now, despite my rising panic and the thunderstorm that was now going on between my ears, my dander was up. Nobody tells Baby what to do.
Me: I don’t know who you think you are or who you think I am, but that’s not how this is going to go down, so you better re-tool your thinking. (And I will cut your bitch ass- just try me).
Him: Don’t be so naïve and old-fashioned. And don’t forget that I paid for your lunch last week, I paid for the movie this afternoon, and I paid for this dinner in front of us. And I brought you a cactus.
He gestured toward the coffee table where a tiny cactus sat. Worst gift in the history of gifts. Then, he set his plate down on the coffee table and stood up.
White lighting was all I could see for a few seconds. My first thought was, I’ll give you a cactus, you jerk. My second thought was, Well, my parents were right, and I’m an idiot. A very mannerly idiot, but still an idiot. My next thought was, Damn. I am going to get blood on this carpet. And so, I stood up too. I took $20 out of my jeans pocket and threw it across the room.
Me: I don’t care what you paid for I’m not having sex with you. So, here’s $20 to settle the bill. I’ll mail you the rest. Then, I leaned back on the computer desk (trying desperately to look casual) and put my hand underneath my mouse pad and on the hilt of a decent size bread knife. He didn’t move, and neither did I. We just looked at each other. He had no idea that I was planning where to plant this bread knife. And then…
I bolted out of the room like a panther after a gazelle. I flew down the stairs and out onto the sidewalk in front of my house, grabbing my keys off the hook by the door on my way out. And then I stood there in the middle of the street. He’s in my apartment. I’m outside. Now what the hell?
He emerged from the apartment, looking angry. We looked at each other but did not speak. I walked over to my car, opened my door and got in. Then, I opened the passenger door, and let him in (what the fuck, you ask? I have no good answer). I drove him 6 blocks to the train station in silence (why didn’t I make that mother-scratcher walk the 6 blocks? Why didn’t I stab him in the head with my keys? I have no good answer). We arrived at the train station, he got out of the car, took the door with both hands, and slammed it as hard as he could. I made it two blocks away from the station then pulled over, dry-heaving and hyperventilating.
After 15 minutes of minor hysteria, I drove the rest of the way home, went inside, locked the door, and tucked a chair under the doorknob. I grabbed that cactus, took it into the kitchen and shoved it down the disposal. I felt a great deal of joy at chopping up that innocent little plan, I must say. Then, I popped the cork on that bottle of champagne. Mischief managed.
That sociopath left me a message about two weeks later.
Hey, Pumpkin, it’s Jake. I haven’t heard from you in a little while. Just wondered if you wanted to have lunch this week…
I never returned the call. I learned my lesson.
I still fight with trying to preserve other people’s feeling without compromising my needs… or my safety. And, ultimately, my rape and murder was averted by my panther-like speed. Sure as hell, not by my dolphin-like wits. Idiot.
What I learned from that mess: When the dark cloud of suspicion shows up… pay attention. And… happily ever after, my hind end.