Lately I’ve been reminded of what someone told me years ago. The only thing worse than being single is dating. Sure that seems way too cynical, especially for good old grateful-to-be-alive me. And while I’m hoping that a New Year and some new dates will inspire optimism, in the meantime I’ve got a new appreciation for that famous line in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall touting the benefits of self-pleasure. ”Don't knock masturbation! It's sex with someone I love.”
Of course since I live in San Francisco my complaints about dating deserve some scrutiny, if not disdain. Could it be I’m like a rich guy whining about how the lousy gas mileage on his yacht is costing him a fortune? Yet while our proverbial Richie Rich’s bank account is packed, my little black book is empty, maybe overdrawn, especially for someone living on the North Left Coast of America.
So what’s getting in my way? Laziness? Medical marijuana? My new sofa? Smoking medical marijuana on my new sofa? A bad attitude? All of the above?
Attitude adjustment. Certainly that’s one area that as they used to say in elementary school report cards Needs Improvement. As does the motley assortment of poorly lit pictures I have on a few personal ad sites.
Of course life’s roller coaster too might be at cause. After all life has its way of creating reduced expectations. That is if you’re lucky to live long enough and be part of an economic class where expectations and aspiration is allowed.
When I left a great office job in 2006 to work freelance I never expected that I would once again be passing appetizers in 2012. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like working as a cater waiter and am grateful for the work. But I thought that I was supposed to be sipping the champagne not passing it.
After all wasn’t freelancing at the heart of that so-called new economy? Yet that myth lived only as long as the economy did.
An End to Taking Things for Granted
Even without the collapse freelancing had its risks, especially as the labor force in Bangalore got more expert. But so what? Sure I’m desperately hoping I can get three gigs out of my black slacks and white shirt before I need to take them to the cleaners, but passing the canapés isn’t that painful especially when compared to what others run down by the recession are dealing with.
Economic hard times has had its way of making me grateful for things I used to take for granted. Take health insurance. Not counting the pending improvements from ObamaCare in 2007 I lost 30 pounds over four months while suffering from severe stomach distress. I went to the emergency room but was told I needed to see a specialist, something I couldn’t afford. Six months later and with help from some friends I was diagnosed with a mild form of colitis that a prescriptions steroid cured in just over one week.
In most of America I’d be uninsurable but being lucky enough to live in San Francisco I am part of the city’s health plan (it’s not insurance because if I get hit by a bus out of town I have no medical coverage) that makes life drastically different than others I know who pay upwards of $1,500 a month for coverage, if they are lucky enough to be able to get it.
And there is nothing more humbling then when calling your home clinic to make an appointment when the phone menu option includes “Press 3 if you’ve just been released from prison.”
So I can deal with life’s up and downs. I’m no diva except when it comes to coffee. I’m high maintenance and travel with my own French Press.
Yet scarcity in my dating world is vastly different. In other areas hardship makes me appreciate things more. Yet an empty horizon on the dating game leaves me unsettled, unhappy and unable to muster any energy to kiss all those proverbial frogs before I might find a prince.
Dating reminds me of a recent wrestling match I had with some pistachios. The ones you kept putting back into the bag, the ones that never opened up and seem to taunt “Screw you buddy, you’ll never have me.”
But when it comes to food, I’m persistent in getting my way. The promise seems worth the struggle so I pried and I pried. Finally I succeeded and opened the first of many unopened shells only to accidentally launch the nut halfway across the room. I feared I’d lost it forever, wasted all that time and effort for nothing in return.
But all was not lost. By good grace, good luck or good eyesight, I found it under the radiator. I laughed giddily while popping it into my mouth, but victory was sour. That pistachio was no nut. It was merely an imposter, a cruel poser, merely a dust bunny the size of a nut. Ppphhssspphhh ugggh. Yuck, double, triple, quadruple yuck times four.
Yet when eating’s involved, I keep up the fight. After rinsing my mouth I steadied my nerve and wrestled the remaining pistachios to submission. Those nuts were mine. Rich with salty goodness, they were exquisite – the harder the work, the sweeter the reward.
But substitute the chase of culinary delights for carnal ones, and I’m a quitter, tapping out early in the first round. Call me Eeyore not Ishmael. I’m as dour as that donkey in Winnie the Pooh. Eeyore, I understand your pessimisim and gloom, Eeyore you are me and I am you.
So what gives?
Recently, with the help of two friends – absinthe and weed – things came into focus. Of course I won’t bet a meager cater waiter paycheck on their exact role in this revelation but I do believe that the outer-body/outer-mind experience made seeing the daylight much more possible.
The morning after my excess I consumed two large glasses of water, three ibuprofen and a large French press of extra strong coffee - and my focus was clear. And suddenly the mystery of why dating, even here in San Francisco, seemed as hard as finding sunken treasure in the Pacific was revealed.
Rejection. Wanting to look good. Not wanting to look bad. It’s as simple as the first time I went to a school dance and stood on one side of the gym with all the other boys staring at those girls by the bleachers.
Yet the New Year calls for a new attitude. After all do I really want to end up doing the Sunday NY Times Crossword puzzle all by myself for the rest of my life?
But what about those scariest of folks, those drug and disease free ones who are seeking the same? Give them a break. Don’t disdain them and don’t take it personally. Dating is scary. People are especially clumsy when expressing their needs on the internet. Their fears, like mine are mostly irrational and inherently human.
And one more thing, there are plenty of fish in the ocean. Some might look like me, others like you or your mother or father or that guy who got away. Whoever they are, whatever they do, we’re all in the same game. One with no guarantees.
So I’d rather play than watch. Doesn’t matter if I can’t always tell the dust bunnies from the pistachios, it’s better to play than watch, no matter how cozy the new sofa is or how much I love Double Purple Gorilla from the cannabis club.