Sunday, April 17, 2005

Shifting to Dating

What exactly is that madness and what are we thinking and expecting when we enter into that black hole of an abyss called "dating"? Who in the world created this social pressure cooker that can either enlighten or deteriorate the kindred souls and spirits of mankind? From blind dates to personal ads to flirting with a guy in a bar, the process of dating has become a fine art form. Certainly not everyone can do it, nor is everyone capable of successfully pulling a date off. It takes oodles of planning . . . strategy . . . patience . . . not to mention an incredibly extensive wardrobe (I mean, you never know if the guy you met at the gym who is attired in sweat clothes is into country or leather or preppie or what).

You go out to a club with friends or to a party and you try to look your absolute best -- actually better than you really are. You realize that out of a closet full of clothes, you have nothing to wear (without warning, the little Fashion Fairy came in and took away every stitch of clothing that looked at least halfway decent on you). When you finally settle on an outfit that "will do" (and your bedroom looks like a bomb exploded), you check yourself out in the mirror from every angle noticing every minute detail. If you're at least satisfied, you meet your friends and constantly hassle them with the terms, "Do I look okay? Are you sure? You're not just saying that are you?" When you finally arrive at your destination, it starts - you can practically smell it in the air: the hunt has begun. Everyone has "that look". Eyes dart, heads turn, stomachs are sucked in. It's truly a jungle. You act happy and friendly and try to at least look "approachable". And then you spot him! He's looking at you, you’re looking at him, it's happened.

Now what?

Your friends egg you on, you bashfully decline -- you suddenly become demure (you, the one who ran naked through the Lincoln Memorial only because your friend said he'd pay you a dollar to do it, but I digress). You tell your friends that you wouldn't know what to say. Let's face it, this is it, the most crucial event of the evening: the opening line! What you say and how you say it makes all the difference in the world. You have 3.7 seconds to completely charm this man. What do you say? Do you say something like:

"Your place or mine" (No, he'll think you're a slut and besides, that is soooo forward!); how about,

"The music's great, huh?" (No, I picture some guy in tight polyester pants and a leisure suit saying that);
how about,

"Since you're going to be the father of my children, I thought it would be a good idea if we introduced ourselves" (Too much, you think?); here's one,

"I have worshipped you from afar for two years" (Don't laugh, that's what someone actually said to me. I bought it and we were together for two years.).

Okay, let's just say that you do finally meet someone that you really think you like and who you think really likes you. The two of you are eventually going to have sex. But how are you in the sack? Are you any good? Sure no one's complained to you, but have you honestly ever complained to anyone you thought lacked all the sexual drive and passion (we feel sorry for those people, we don't try to help them. Come on.).

So now you have to take every good thing you've ever learned about how to please your partner and put it all to the test for this one guy. Even kissing is a challenge -- how much tongue is too much? Do you even use your tongue? What if he hates to kiss on the mouth? What if you are doing things to him that he hates to have done, but he's too polite to tell you about them and it just ends up ruining the whole thing for him ... or vice versa. I don't want to constantly have to stop every new partner to cordially request that he not ingest those two little spheres kept tucked in their own little pouch and stored under my favorite appendage (in other words, ask him not to suck my balls. Lick them all you want but don't draw on the things. I'm sorry, but it hurts!).

Even worse, what if you're both bottoms or both tops. This can be extremely gauche. Two bottoms would both just end up laying there on their backs staring at the ceiling all the while patiently waiting for the other to make the move, while two tops would be clumsily rolling all over each other, each trying to gain the upper hand. (Actually, it's kind of hysterical when you think about it.)

All of this so far is assuming you sleep with guys on the first date. Frankly, I have always found first dates to be a piece of cake. I enter into them thinking that I am at least going to make a friend out of this if nothing else, or at the very least someone to say hello to when I am out and all my REAL friends are nowhere in sight. As far as I am concerned, it’s the SECOND date that is gut-wrenching. If it gets to that point, a second date means that there was interest. So now you have to be careful not to screw everything up. He apparently saw something in you and the last thing you need to do now is abandon whatever it was and leave him wondering what it was he saw in the first place. I always call the second date the “salad date” – you know how guys will date a girl, take her to dinner and all she eats is a salad to impress him with how little she eats. Then he drops her off at home and she orders 3 pizzas from Papa John’s. Usually, if you make it past the second date, you’re in.

All right, just for the sake of argument, let's just say that you both find that you're getting along extremely well: you like the same music, the same foods, the same movies, the sex ain't so bad ... it's kismet. And then he says those words that strike fear into your heart, those words that make you purge lunch just thinking about them. One day he looks at you and says, "I want you to meet my friends!" Your brain suddenly flashes a red neon sign that warns, "DANGER! TURN BACK! ROAD CLOSED! SALE ENDED YESTERDAY!" All the similarities and likenesses you two may have don't amount to diddly squat when it comes down to meeting his friends. You two could have been born identical twins, and it still won't make a difference. It was hard enough to impress just one man, but now you have to impress the four or five people that mean more to him than God (razor blades are the suggested fashion accessory for these meetings). You know things are being said behind your back, because he's done nothing but talk about you for weeks, and that every move you make is being scrutinized and analyzed like a strategic missile attack all the while smiles are tossed around like confetti. The easiest escape is to excuse yourself and retire to the bathroom so that they can at least speak above a whisper and are warned by an appropriately timed flush of the facilities. If you pass the "friends" test, the relationship will then pursue.

Sure, there are many great reasons that a relationship starts, but the realist in me can't help but point out the one bad reason for a new relationship ... the one before it failed! We, as a society, just love to see failure. Why do we hold contests? Sure there's a winner, but there is also a loser (I mean, which would you rather see -- the face of the immediately crowned Miss America when her name is mentioned, or the face of the first runner up who is trying to look cheerful as the infrared lasers shoot from her eyes engulfing the lady standing beside her?); after the Super Bowl game, is it at all necessary to go into the locker room of the defeated team (unless it is to catch a cheap shot of a naked butt walking from the showers, not that that would upset me)? For that matter, why the hell is Doug Llewelyn even on "People's Court" -- "well, Judge Wapner just ruled against you, how do you feel?" WHAT IS THAT?

One time I was sitting in a teacher's lounge in a school while I was a student teaching and members of the faculty were sitting around amid the fog of cigarette smoke (yeah, it was that long ago) talking about past and present students -- not the students who earned A's and B's, mind you, but the ones who attempted to break into the school on Sundays and the ones who carried switchblades and sat in the back of the classroom and were passed only through shear fear of retaliation. Not one remembered the good students, only the bad ones. It seems when you're good, you're doomed to insignificance, but when you're bad, you're immortal. I believe that no one wants to see anyone succeed in anything. This also holds true in the dating industry.

Let's be honest, what is more nauseating than getting a phone call from a friend who is getting ready to go out for the fifteenth straight dinner date with "Robert" who will take your friend to the best restaurant in town, brandish him with not one but two dozen roses, pick him up in one of the top of the line sports cars, dressed in the finest clothes, giddily romancing your friend with just a sampling of one of the 8 languages he speaks fluently while you're at home on a Saturday night sitting on your sofa with the mute button pushed on the TV remote, wearing fuzzy flippers and your bathrobe, your face immersed in skin creams, patiently waiting for the bell on the microwave popcorn to sound so that you can tell your friend that it was actually the doorbell and you absolutely must go now because your date has arrived. (Not that this has ever happened to me, mind you.)

Just remember that each time someone throws the illuminating glow of a new affair in your face, just do what I do: when a friend comes bouncing to you to tell you about Mr. Wonderful, simply remind him that this was exactly how he felt the last time and as memory would serve you something seemed to go wrong then, so try not to screw up this time like he did with the previous Mr. Wonderful.

I understand that new relationships stand for much more than the physical aspect of having one special person in your life. Aside from guaranteed sex, new relationships are second chances (or third, or fourth, or fifty-seventh depending on your track record) to get right this time what you got wrong last time. Don't we all say, "Well, I learned my lesson on that one and it won't happen the next time." Good Lord, we're even optimistic that there actually will be a next time.

The oddest thing about relationships is that we knock ourselves out trying to get into them and then once we are we're miserable. We cease being ourselves and become one of two people. Your name will instantly have an ampersand (&) immediately prior to or following it: John & Doug, Lee & Mike, Jan & Dean, Josie & the Pussycats. And not only are we attached to some emotionally, we truly become intertwined in other ways. (You've heard the expression "joined at the hip".)

Now I'm not knocking relationships. God knows I've ridden that roller coaster several times myself. And it is truly a roller coaster like the Backwards Rebel Yell at Paramount's King's Dominion: all the excitement is there as you ascend the first big drop. You don't know when you're going to fall because you can't see, but you know you're going to. Then you drop, then you're yanked back up, then you drop, then you're yanked back up ... and you're never sure exactly when the next fall and yank are coming so you brace yourself during the entire ride. And when the ride is finally over, you're just a little bummed out because you didn't see it coming ... and it came faster than you expected. Plus your hair is a mess. Now that's deep.

It would be a big lie to tell you I remember the names of every guy I dated. I can remember my first kiss, my first touch, my first time between the humps of a camel while the man above me is riding me like a magic carpet all the while screaming something in Hindu (but I digress). Most of the people I have dated have remained friends with me one way or another. That was why I "dated" the person, to see if there was any potential for any kind of friendship/relationship. But if it didn't work out or I found no redeeming qualities in this person or he got bored with me or someone better came along (which someone invariably always does, God love him), he ceased being a person and became a time frame in my life: "that was when I was with Tom" or "that was my Jason period" or "that was the Todd Christmas". Perhaps that is how the word "date" originated for this action. We all suddenly become artists naming the eras of our existence. What better way to remember the times of your life than to honor them with the names of the people with whom you were no doubt in unadulterated lust (although I truly would love to know who thought up the word "date" for that particular function).