Darling, you were wrong about me being too interesting for you.

I have discovered that I am actually a very boring person.

Or at least, I must be.

We have previously discussed the types of men to whom I find myself attracted.  It was not the nicest thing I have ever written, but it was not untrue.

Please know that I do not hate men.  I have had; do have really wonderful relationships with them.  I have been in love with three men, all three of whom (I think) view me as a complete person — physically, mentally, emotionally — and as much as I (may have) occasionally dislike(d) them, I truly believe they (still) love me for who I am.

So it’s not that I don’t like dudes.  Or that I don’t respect them.  I just haven’t quite sorted out what I’m doing here.

Darling, it has been ten years since I met you.  Ten years since we drove around Georgetown in my old car singing songs; since we played tennis on the Hilltop.

Ten years can be a lifetime.

The thing I have discovered about men is that many of them have idealised views on women, and thus they are perpetually disappointed.  Spoiler alert: Women are not always interesting, or delicate, or feminine.  Sometimes, we are boring and gross.

I, for one, have a horrible habit of accidentally burying workout clothes in the hamper and allowing them to fester.  I leave wet towels on the floor and the bed.  Sometimes, if no one is coming over, I don’t bother keeping up with the battle against dog hair.

And I’m locked in a fight with a silent, ugly disease, which is sometimes…disgusting.

In sum, I am a woman who is going to get old; I am a person who has some pairs of shoes that smell absolutely awful.  I am occasionally clever and smart, but often gross, and definitely human.

I am boring.  Sometimes even…forgettable.

Darling, I sat at dinner on New Year’s Eve, thousands of miles away, and the band’s first song was that silly pop song — the one the photographer set our wedding slide-show to because I never gave her a song for the album. Did you ever listen to it?  Do you remember?

Tell me you haven’t forgotten.

But what I realised in trying to justify my own boringness to a series of guys who want their women to be Just So was that I had been trying to put men into certain buckets as well; dress them up as knights on white horses.

I recalled a line from a song I love — a song sung in a scene from White Christmas — where Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby share their first kiss.  She says something about knights on white horses, and he says something about being careful about putting men up there, because knights in white horses are likely to slip off.

Being conscious of that now, I look at the “successful” relationships I’ve had; that I have, and it occurs to me that I view(ed) those men as fallible humans — not knights on white horses.

Darling, I want; I want; I want.  I want a Jaguar; I want to go to China; I want; I want; I want…

Relationships of any kind, I am discovering, are about respect.  Respecting oneself in whatever form that takes — how it morphs and moves and helps one find happiness.  Respecting one’s partner; one’s friends.

It is easy to admire a white knight.  But you can’t see his face.  You can’t get through the chain mail, and the breastplate.  And when challenged, he’s either victorious, or likely to slip off his noble steed.  Respecting him is much harder.

Darling, I’m boring and ordinary.  You don’t have to fight that demon; you don’t have to be perfect.  I just want you to be you.

That’s the thing.  You just have to be you.  The rest — in its messy, ugly, smelly, gut-wrenching, not-aways respectable, happy-making, ever-loving time — will come.

It is no secret that I have terrible, terrible taste in men — this is why I say I “don’t date.”  I am good at a lot of things.  Love is not one.  I have tried “dating.”  I have gone out on “dates.”  In fact, in the Autumn, I had relaxed my attitude towards actively Not Dating — mostly with laughable results, and only one bone-chillingly terrifying incident.

(PG had witnessed it in real-time, and D had laughed hysterically over the live-feed.  The whole thing had been funny — until it turned grim).

Towards the end of Autumn, I had managed to go out on more than one date with someone. He was American-from-Texas and we met watching baseball.  Er, my friend was watching baseball.  I was watching the door of the bar.  It was all so absolutely improbable as to be ridiculous; so much like a New York City rom-com that I went along with it for a while.

(Three dates.)

But the fact of the matter was, he lived on the Upper West Side, and I live (mostly) on the Upper East Side.  I knew that, for the time being, he was willing to come to the UES, but there would come a day when he would roll his eyes and say: How come you never come to the West Side?

There’s no good reason for me not to leave the East Side.  Except, everything that’s on the West Side is also on the East Side, with a few exceptions of the uptowning and downtowning of things.  For instance, I love Josie’s — a wonderful, organic restaurant — and the one on the East Side is in Murray Hill.

Murray Hill is Purgatory.  It’s like finishing school for when you’re done at Preppy University, and you can still drink like you mean it.  A lot of poor life choices are made in Murray Hill.

But Murray Hill is a transient condition.  Most people pass through and eventually become fully formed adults.  There are, however, some fortysomething bros trapped in the East Thirties, trolling OKCupid for girls who work in marketing and PR, drinking Natty Lite, and reminiscing about how awesome that one football game was that one time.

I digress.  This is about my taste; this isn’t a street-level tour of the Men of Manhattan.

My taste in men has typically ranged from homosexuals, to men with disproportionately long torsos, to alcoholics, to married alcoholics, to sociopaths, to man-children, to married man-children, to Canadians.  Let us not forget:  Men who are walking DSM IV-r diagnostic criteria for Oedipus Complex (also known as my ex-husband).

Sometimes I wonder how I’m supposed to do this.

I have this Subway Theory of dating.  I might’ve told this story before, but maybe not.  My friend CJ was once taking the Shuttle between Grand Central and Times Square.  And there was trouble on the train, and the cops got on.  As it turned out, there was a man with a gun.  The train car was locked down for a time, and the whole affair was terrifying.

What did you do?! I asked her, after it was over.

I went and I got on the 7 to Times Square, she said, Because I knew that if I didn’t, I’d never get on the train again.

And I think that’s the thing about dating.  After my divorce, I just didn’t do it.  I sort of mucked around in the brackish emotional backwaters of my affair with Frederic.  And I half-heartedly dated Cheating Bill for a longish time, who showed up one day in a snowstorm to hang my shelves, and then he just never left.

Until he was gone.

But really, I just dawdled in Grand Central Terminal, too scared to move.

(Grand Central, incidentally, is just north of Murray Hill.)

The other thing is that people treat you differently after you’re divorced.  Your married friends who were once very empathetic become…weird.  It’s a peculiar transition, but after a while, it begins to feel like everyone’s forgotten that you were ever a wife, and they treat you like you’ve no experience in relationships at all.

And those that DO remember your divorce remember it far too clearly, and they neatly work you out of their social circles like a splinter.  I think it’s because they see the fragility and frailties of their own relationships in what happened to you.  It’s easier to minimise the fact of a divorce in their midst than to accept the event, and subsequently you.

Or, as one of my more honest friends said:  You’re blonde, and fit, and you don’t need my husband, therefore, you could probably have him.  You’re my worst nightmare.

Newsflash:  I don’t want to date your husband.  Unless he’s a silver fox with a British passport.  In which case, I might, and that’s only because I’m sick of being stopped at the border.

But the question now is: How does one change direction?  Supposing that one day, one says, I know I’ve been stuck, and now I’ve decided to cross the Park; get on the train.  Where do I begin?

While my ordinary answer would be, I don’t know, it struck me that that is a cop-out.  I do know.  If there’s a gunman on the Shuttle to Times Square, the 7 Train also goes to the West Side.  And the 72nd St transverse is walkable; the crosstown bus leaves from, like, my front door.

What I am saying is that I think I’ve always known what to do to get unstuck, and maybe now’s the time.

Here in the land of Dating for Dummies, my three-dimensional life has been coming between me and the hordes of men who want to date the digital me.  At least, between me and all three of the members of the aforementioned “horde” — the two dudes with hair, and the one quasi-juicehead who doesn’t quite look like either Hans or Franz.

Part of the reason that the Dating Experiment began was I had a Real Life that was impingeing upon my ability to Go Out And Meet People.  Now, my Real Life is also impeding my ability to take part in the Dating Experiment.

As previously mentioned, this crazy adventure really reminded me that I should go out more.  So in some sense, the “Thirty Days of Dating” project has worked like a charm.  But as to the “actually introducing me to strangers/serial killers with whom to mate”…that portion of the experiment seems to be a bit of a failure.

But the question that keeps coming up in the course of my finally deciding to be open to other people is: When starting over, where does one begin? 

(Relatedly, three years after the end of a marriage, can one still be in the starting over phase?)

First, let’s talk about where one DOES NOT begin.

1) Bars:  Bars are not good places to meet prospective partners, period end of discussion.

For instance, early this year, I met a guy friend for dinner and drinks.  This particular friend had always enjoyed Jewish Mothering me, and was thrilled to take me out and smother me with dating advice.  On the night in question, we wound up staying out later than I had expected, and at the end of the evening, we went for a nightcap at a bar that was clearly not a nightcappy sort of place.  There, we met two guys who first had to be convinced that my friend was not trying to take me home, and then, it was like someone had thrown a bucket of chum into the shark tank.

The two poor fools were each whispering into my ear: Do you want to come uptown tonight?  Since I was a bit dense, it took me a good 20 minutes to understand that this was not an invitation to accompany them to the Upper West Side for a game of Scrabble.

All things considered, it was kind of a shame, because I played a mean game of Scrabble.

But what the hell.  Did people actually behave that way?

I suppose I should’ve taken it as instructive when I encountered that same thing last Fall when Strand, Miss Mal and I accidentally crashed an Eton reunion.  But I thought that was somehow different because everyone there was approximately 22 years old and maybe didn’t know better.

FYI: It’s not different.  If you meet him in a bar and he asks you to go somewhere else, he doesn’t want to play Scrabble.

2) Your Drycleaner:  You probably will not have this problem, but if your tailor or drycleaner ever tries to set you up with anyone, I strongly recommend saying “no.”  See, e.g., my experience with Taylor, the guy who waxed poetic about his cats all night long, whilst committing so many other, greater dating transgressions that I didn’t even I feel comfortable describing them in a recap.

3) Your Ex-Husband’s Law Firm: If you ever find yourself at an event at your ex-husband’s law firm, and one of the lawyers, and/or some random Irish securitisation guy asks you out, decline.  Run away.  Even if it seems romantic that he’ll fly to New York for you — multiple times — it’s like letting a vampire into your house.  He’ll never go away.

And that’s how I shouldn’t have met people.  The internet is proving to be a marginally less intimidating than a bar; less ridiculous than my ex-tailor; less absurd than my former husband’s law firm.  But the internet still seems oddly suspicious to me — I don’t think I like picking a suitor out of a digital lineup, and/or having one search for my details and order me up like a sandwich.

Is waiting better than dating?  My Real Life is strange, and fulfilling, and worth being lived to its fullest.  And many of the things I want, I can have on my own if I don’t ever find a partner.  While there are no substitutes for some of the other benefits of companionship, I think, in this waiting-space looking back on my experiment thus far, three-dimensional me is doing a bit better than I thought.

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.

Meanwhile, back in the land of my waning fertility…

Recently, I was sitting home alone (again) one Saturday night, and I decided that I had been feeling sorry for myself for too long.  Perhaps, more accurately, the feeling would be placed somewhere between self-pity and self-loathing.

I was in both A State and A Fix.  I was in A State because wahhhh nobody ever invites me to do anything!  I was also in A Fix, because I often had to decline the few invitations I received as a result of work, travel, training, or because I was sometimes so exhausted.

I try to make this look easy.  I think people forget that I burn the candle at both ends and also live with a degenerative disease that I manage with fifteen pills a day.  Bi-weekly injections.  My hair has just stopped falling out after a course of toxic medication and an allergic reaction to another.

Both my career and my health are No Joke.

So there I was: No Joke, in A State and A Fix, on a Saturday night, home alone AGAIN, and talking to the dog.  With a glass of wine in my hand.

In other words, armed and dangerous.

I called a friend in a far-flung timezone, and she graciously absorbed my bitching for a half-hour or so before she demanded I take matters into my own hands.  At her not-so-gentle urging, when we got off the phone, I created an internet dating profile.

This clip is completely unfunny if you don’t know the film, but that was all I could think about: Harold’s mother.

There were likely only a handful of other people who had that same thought when they filled out their online dating questionnaires, and they were all about 60 years old.  (Which, by the way, was fine with me.)  However, my father would keel over if I showed up for Thanksgiving with a silver fox old enough to be his contemporary, not his kid — or at least, a nephew.

Having now completed a profile, uploaded photo(s), answered questions, and fielded inquiries from potential suitors, I feel confident in addressing the topic of internet dating, generally.

If you have never forayed into the world of online dating, that’s okay.  Neither had I.  The last time I was single for any appreciable period of time was in 1995.  I’ve been in serious, long term relationships since then, up until last year.  The last time I was single, there was no such thing as Google, or Facebook.  We did not leave the walled garden of AOL.  Our internet made hissing noises.

Life has changed.  I can no longer just ring up my friends Jessie or Janae and say: This boy likes me, what do you think, is he OK?  I mean, I suppose I could, but it would probably be met with a good chuckle and a hefty dose of: What the heck..?

Dating websites, I have discovered, are like a futuristic human sushi bar — one of those establishments where the sushi comes out on a little conveyor belt, and you take the plates off the belt like you’re collecting your luggage at Heathrow.  Except the plates are all labelled in Japanese, so you have no idea what you’re having for dinner.  To continue mixing my conveyor belt metaphors, it’s like you’ve got no idea which suitcase is which, so you’re just picking luggage that looks nice, and hoping that the contents of the case suit you.

That’s a bit unfair of me to say.  These websites do have proprietary algorithms that try to narrow the field.  They supposedly return matches that line up with answers you’ve put in your profile.  This is obviously why the system keeps matching me with every juicehead between here and Piscataway, and a bunch of bald dudes.

(I have just committed dating suicide.)

You must understand: I have two major quirks.  (That’s a lie.  I have a lot of quirks, but I have two extreme quirks when it comes to physical attraction.)  First, I love left-handed men.  I’m willing to overlook a lot for lefties.  No idea why this is.  It’s one of the first things I notice about people, and I will freely admit that it is part of the reason I stayed with Bill for such a long time.

(That was the dumbest, truest thing I have ever said.)

As to the second-dumbest, truest thing I will ever say, and as to my second quirk of physical attraction: I’m not attracted to hairless men.  Bald men.  Men who shave their chests.  I can see how a man with a shaved head can be objectively handsome, but that look doesn’t do it for me. Those Stanley Tucci types with the bald head and the goatee?  Not my thing.  To me, it would be sort-of like dating a Chinese Crested.

Hair in some spots, bald in others…*shudder*

So back to this alleged algorithm.  How does one convince the system that it can narrow the field to “fit” and “athletic” without providing me with Ronnie and The Situation?  What keywords does one use to return matches that are “left-handed” without me seeming like a total and complete freak?

I’m still working on that.

To be continued…