I have some married girlfriends (and guy friends) who have romantic misconceptions about what it is like to “Date in New York.” Allow me to set you straight: dating in New York is nothing like Sex and the City. I’ve seen maybe three episodes of that show, but I think it ruined New York for lot of people, and is wholly responsible for a generation of credit card debtors.
It is much more like…Seinfeld.
I think there are two kinds of people in this world: People Who Like Seinfeld, and People Who Don’t. Of the People Who Don’t, I think there are two distinct subtypes: People Who Don’t Like Seinfeld Because They Don’t Get It, and People Who Don’t Like Seinfeld Because They Find It Irritating.
For what it’s worth, I fall into the category of: People Who Don’t Like Seinfeld, Subtype B. It’s not that I don’t get it. I just find it irritating. If my life were a sitcom, it would be the product of a horrible writers’ round table wherein a bunch of chimpanzees cut up old Nora Ephron screenplays, toss in the ashes of the syllabus from the Postmodernism Lit collegium I took at UCLA, and have the members of a British comedy troupe spit in the pile.
In other words, it is a rom-com from Hell, with a dash of unrequited, nonsensical longing, and a bunch of people with unintelligible accents straight-facedly finding themselves in improbable situations. Incidentally, that’s also what I imagine a high-brow episode of Seinfeld might’ve looked like.
This is also to say that the whole “dating in New York” thing is very unlike the Carrie/Samantha/Charlotte/Miranda thing, where there’s lots of adorably awkward sex, and expensive clothes, and everyone dishes about it over brunches where people don’t actually eat anything. In Seinfeld New York, Subtype B, we eat a lot of cheese and I wear a lot of blazers.
I was talking about this unglamourous dating with a friend on Friday night as we walked from my apartment to a party. She was also a divorcee.
It seems like we should have this experience, she said, I didn’t get divorced in order to date; I didn’t want it. But if I’m going to be here, I should have this experience of, like, kissing in the rain on streetcorners.
I nodded. But I’d already had that, and I wasn’t looking to recreate it. Mine was a snapshot in time and my version of the kissing-in-the-rain New York seemed faraway. That romance with Frederic had been consigned to memory and stashed in a drawer, like the container where I keep the collar of my dead dog. A box of nostalgia I sometimes consider, but mostly, love from a distance.
At some point, recently, Frederic became just another man who was roses and kisses and pretty lies — a manila envelope of “Letters Better Never Sent,” in my filing cabinet beside the papers stamped by the New York State Supreme Court granting me my freedom and giving me back my name. Just more memories that I occasionally take out, dust off, and write about.
Dating is weird, I said simply.
You haven’t had anyone send you a picture of his genitalia yet, my friend said. She spoke the truth. Apparently, a week or so after a date memorable only because of how unmemorable it was, someone had texted her a full-length (pun intended) photo of himself in the nude.
We got to the party, and sat on different sides of the table so the conversation about Naked Guy came to an end. But the chat about prospective relationships continued.
What I hadn’t said to anyone was that the party had been on the anniversary of my separation with Andrew. And I was…remarkably Okay. At the end of the night, Strand and I sat in a diner over snacks, then I walked home alone down Second Avenue in the rain — my long, blonde hair going curly in the drizzle, and the cowboy boots Das gave me the day I decided to leave my husband keeping my feet dry.
On Monday night, I was out to dinner with another friend. We were sitting a few seats down from Salman Rushdie. I was impressed, but unfazed, because a woman who wakes up in the night to tell friends about her dreams, and who once flew from Spain next to Mike Tyson’s former manager would obviously dine close to someone living under a threat of death.
I began talking about how weird I’ve become since I began living alone, and how I can’t ever be bothered to put on clothes. And also how I never before found it scary, until I fell asleep hard the other night after a long run last weekend, and left the hall light on. I woke up with a nightmare, and the hall light was on, which I didn’t remember leaving on. I was convinced someone had broken in, and it terrified me.
(The latter story is much more of a Sex and the City episode than a Seinfeld one.)
But my companion seized upon the naked bit and said, That’s a Seinfeld episode. Good naked, and bad naked. Men can never be good naked. You’re very lucky, living alone. You can be Good Naked all you want.
I had never considered that. Here I’ve been, all this time, a raw, nonsequitur-writing lunatic, raiding my own kitching in the middle of the night wearing next-to-nothing, occasionally sobbing for no reason, and I had been Good Naked all along.