A slightly sadistic relationship ended on my 26th Birthday, at the start of last summer. Blame was catapulted and dodged, house keys returned and tears shed, but I quickly decided that dating like a fiend would be the perfect way to put all that behind me.
I hadn't been single since college. I looked forward to transforming into a self-centered, slightly trashy girl about town. I brainstormed a list of people to pursue and drew up plans how to seduce them. Years of taking other people's feelings into consideration had beaten the spontaneity out of me, but I was determined to get my summer's worth of emotionally detached ass at all costs.
He didn't make it onto the list, but I was still pleasantly surprised when he called out of the blue, ostensibly about collaborating on a project.
I didn't really know him. I'd seen him around.
He was a DJ with some name-brand recognition in his own circles, which were very separate from my own. He was a Main Street scenester.
When I ventured out it was to The Greenwich or The Underground, someplace I could go and pretend I was in a black David Lynch movie.
By the time he got around to asking me out, I'd had a short-lived fling with a cute-but-too-young guy I'd met at a stoplight. Time to step up my game.
I met the DJ at a bar where he was playing. We talked a little between sets. It was easy and substantive, not the usual strained conversation of first dates. We had a lot in common: co-dependent relationships with our parents, a refusal to let this city suck the life and ambition out of us and a healthy appreciation for making catty remarks about people out of earshot.
Equally important: He was fly.
I could put the requisite checkmark next to "small man" on my list of criteria. (Chalk it up to my own butch power issues, but I can't date tall, bulky men.) He had impeccable taste and calm self-confidence that I hadn't been around in a while.
We went out. We stayed in.
We tested the waters. The connection was good.
My big pimpin' summer plans started to go the way of the devastation I'd felt on my birthday. Why juggle the personalities and risk all that potentially unsafe fluid exchange when being with one person is so much easier?
Over the course of a few weeks, I went from spending my Saturday nights having cryptic conversations with 50-year-old Rastafarians to getting on the guest lists at posh downtown clubs. Once inside, I'd watch the hired go-go dancers and observe the DJ in his element.
I was smitten, but I started to notice his props — the shirt untucked just so, the ironic belt buckle, the distressed jeans, the endlessly rotating sneakers. I couldn't tell if they were tools of the trade or style markers he took seriously.
Then our conversations began to hit a brick wall. Topics fell flat; we didn't get each other's humor. Once, to break an awkward silence, I innocuously asked, "What are you thinking about?"
His response was an incredulous "What do you mean?" It was as if I'd asked him whether he was half dragon or if he thought the Democrats would go the way of the Populists.
It was clear we'd run our course.
We couldn't get our personal space issues together. Should he kiss me when we greeted each other? Did he actually expect me to wear lacy panties all the time instead of my usual A-Team Underoos?
It felt like trying to Double Dutch, waiting to see how and when to work into the ropes without bringing the whole thing to a clumsy halt.
We started playing intentional phone tag, dialing at times we were certain we'd get the other's voicemail. As anyone who's played the game knows, this takes a great deal of savvy. In a 10-second monologue you have to convey both interest and enough nonchalance to convince the other person that you're not pressed.
For days, we interacted only through our cell phones.
The truth is, I was a little pressed. Despite his stylized Hip Hop circa 1985 look and his reluctance to open up, I wanted to see where it could go. The consensus among friends infuriated me.
"He's just not that into you," they said, repeating the dating punchline from an episode of Sex and the City. That might be a good enough explanation for followers of Carrie and her merry band of aging yuppies, but it didn't make sense to me.
I've since come clean with myself about why the romance fell flat.
He might not have been that into me, but I shouldn't have gotten so quickly and easily amped about him in the first place. It was all a diversionary tactic to avoid dealing with the preceding and more deeply scarring breakup.
I should have stuck with my original plan and spent my summer as a bona fide Hot Girl. Or maybe I should've stopped with the guy at the stoplight. ©