Friday, September 21, 2007

Goodbye to All That

I just decided to stop dating. Period. To stop meeting up at restaurants, bars, and cafes with men I've never seen in person before, to stop sitting across from them or next to them with a drink or meal that I don't want while struggling to make small talk and simultaneously doing internal battle with my various judgments, critical thoughts, and neuroses. To stop forcing myself to spend hours with someone when it's clear within the first ten minutes that we have no spark. To stop hoping, as I get ready to go out, that this stranger will be someone I can love, while expecting that he won't be. To stop telling the same stories, answering the same - and hearing myself ask the same - boring questions about work, family, music, movies, travel.

No more reading personals ads, perusing photos of strange men and reading between the lines trying to figure out if we'll click, no more writing my own ad in my head and taking photos of myself with the automatic timer on the camera, striving to look beautiful, no more going to dating events of various stripes - speed, quiz, you name it. No more wondering who should pay the check at dinner and arguing over it, no more awkward hugs at the end of the night when he thinks I'm moving in for a kiss, no more hopeful e-mails and phone calls saying he had a wonderful time but that make my heart sink because now I'm going to have to be a grownup and tell him I'm not interested.

I've finally gotten tired of the excruciating blind dates with perfectly nice men who look like good matches on paper, but who don't excite me in person. I noticed that after these dates, I always get really depressed, and during them I often have to stifle yawns. It's not that these guys are necessarily dull, it's just that we don't have that spark, that energy, that makes it interesting and exciting for us to be together.

Not that I'm giving up on finding someone, but I finally realized that I'm spending way too much time looking. I think I've developed a scarcity complex around relationships. I spend a lot of time worrying that I'll never find anyone. This obsession drains my energy that I could be spending doing the things I want to do: learning Spanish or ballroom dancing, traveling, being with friends I know love me, creating the garden haven I've always wanted, giving back to my community and to the Earth. I still do those things, but it's hard for me to get up the energy to really devote myself to them, because I spend so much time being anxious and worried - often subconsciously - about my lack of a relationship.

I made a list of all the men I've gone on dates with. In the blind date section, I'm up to 30, and I think I missed a few. There are a few under "set ups" and 6 or 7 I first met in person and then went out with once or twice. All in all, I think I'm closing in on 50, and it's finally dawning on me that this dating thing, at least for me, just doesn't work.

For a long time, I've thought it was a flaw in me, this inability to find anyone I want to be with. These guys have been perfectly nice, kind, sweet, hardworking, intelligent, funny, and responsible people, for the most part. I used to come home from dates thinking "What is wrong with me that I never want to see that person again?" But when I reflect on the handful of times I've met a man and felt an instant interest and attraction to him, I know that's what I want, and that I'm not going to settle for less.

I think of this one man, whose name I can't even remember. I had just had another dull date, and my date had abruptly left with half his beer still in his glass. I dejectedly sat down at the bar and ordered another drink, when a guy sat down next to me. He was dressed all in beige, something that doesn't exactly scream "date me!" But for some reason, I was feeling brave or it was just that I no longer cared what people thought of me, and I threw out some non sequitor about Lent. This guy immediately picked it up and responded as if was the most normal thing in the world to start having a conversation about Lent in a bar, and we were on a roll. We talked for two hours, about everything from our names (trying to guess each others') to corn farming (his parents used to grow corn for Orville Redenbacher) and we were in stitches the whole time. He was from Atlanta and was flying back the next morning. But even though I knew I'd never see him again, I went home that night feeling higher than I'd ever felt with drugs. I didn't even drink that much that night. I didn't have to. That's the feeling I want. That brain and heart connection that can never be severed. A meeting of the souls.

When I think of that night, it gives me hope that it can happen again, with someone who actually shares the same zip code (give or take a digit) as me. But I don't think it will happen through dating. I think it will happen through living life. It will happen when I'm going along in my normal life, doing the things that interest me, and I'll meet someone. Probably, it will be someone who I see more than once at some regular gathering, at first not speaking past the occasional hello or small talk, and then talking more and more until we finally begin to notice that spark of interest. By then, we'll know about each other, that we share some of the same interests, we'll already be attracted, and we'll have things to talk about besides the standard "What do you do?" The indefinable energy, the spark, will be there already, and though just because that spark is there doesn't mean a relationship will work out, at least it will be a journey with a spark in it.

Here's an interesting take on the whole dating thing, on

Monday, September 10, 2007

Subtle Seasons

These days the Canada geese
who’ve been making the bay area their home for the last several months are starting to fly. You hear them coming before you see them, from the cacophonous racket they make that sounds, strangely, like autumn. Then they fly past, usually small groups of 7 or 8 geese, making that familiar ‘V’ formation as well as they can, some doing it better than others. The other day, from my office window at work, I saw a small group of geese flying north in a formless jumble “You’re going the wrong way!” I told them, as they honked past. About ten minutes later, forming a more recognizable flight pattern, they returned, flying south. “That’s more like it,” I thought.

In this place, the geese are really the only sign that the season is changing. There are no jewel-like colors of leaves, no sparkling frosty nights. This is California. It’s September, and nobody except, perhaps, in the most northern part of the state, are putting up storm windows, winterizing their motorcycles or power boats, digging in closets for the heavy winter coats and gloves, packing the outdoor plants with straw, getting out the tire chains, anticipating snowfall and black ice. Most of us are going about our normal business, enjoying (or complaining about) the typical late-summer heat, really the only time during the summer that it is consistently hot in the bay area.

In California, we are in, for all intents and purposes (and in spite of the water-guzzling, ever-expanding tumor known as L.A.) a gigantic desert, and I like the subtlety of the season changes for the same reason I love the desert. At a casual glance, the desert seems dead, but the closer you look, the more life you see. In fact, the desert is teeming with life and its tiny dramas, the same way the signs of fall are all around us here, if we take the time to notice them. September; in a month or so, we hope, it might rain (“might” being the operative word) and that’s how we know it’s fall.

East coast transplants love to guffaw about how there are no seasons here, but that’s not true, ours just aren’t as obvious. You have to be alert to notice the first signs of yellow and orange creeping across the leaves of maple, the way the bird songs in the morning seem…different…somehow. Deeper, or more hoarse. The way the summer light has thinned and become watery and the nights smell smokier, like old leaves. The darkness falling earlier, but only slightly at first: ten minutes, then fifteen, then an hour, and finally the way the sky starts to purple at 5:30 and you know winter has finally arrived.

In the summer, around this time, I always anticipate the cold and the dark the way I’d anticipate a warm down comforter and a cup of spicy tea. It feels like comfort, like after an active summer playing outside, it’s time to come inside, curl up, and rest. I think of warm fires, the taste of cinnamon and cloves, the sound of rain against the window. I love the summer, but the fall is welcomed. It’s time to harvest all the lessons of summer, bake them into a pie, and invite family and friends over. Time for the tan to fade, and the sandals to eventually wend their way into the depths of the closet, taken over by boots. Time to watch the dramatic tumble of stormclouds and wait eagerly for that first splash of rain. Time to say goodbye to the loud, honking geese for awhile, and wish them well on their journey.