Insert Groom Here

“Married women don’t get enough credit,” my mother said one afternoon a few weeks back. “Marriage is all about being able to deal with assholes.”

I don’t know what my father had done that day, but clearly, it wasn’t good.

With my great-grandmother's wedding ring in hand, I suddenly felt the weight of the generations.

My mother’s wisdom is always appreciated, but that day’s insight may not have been what I should have heard the night my cousin Julie arrived from Canada with my Great-Grandmother’s wedding ring.

Julie passed the generations-old, Irish-made gold band on to me in an understated ceremony in my kitchen, over a beer. I think the theme from Riverdance was playing from the Bose in the background, then again, my memory could just be over-romanticizing the significance of the scene and the transcendence of my Celtic heritage.

“I don’t doubt you’ll put it to good use,” she said as I slipped the ring out of the silk sack and onto my finger.

Mistake. I was stuck with it as we headed out the door. Cute waiters were no longer fair game – I was, for the night, a taken female.

Starring down at the ring through dinner, watching my finger change colors from peach to blue, I grew strangely sentimental and slightly anxious. Few things have been passed successfully through the generations in my family – a blue vase and a fetish for hats – and to have my great-grandmother’s wedding ring bestowed on me was to have an unexpected amount of pressure on my shoulders.

I guess I was going to have to get married after all.

Another Blue Moon and a bar of soap when I got home made removing the ring somewhat less painful than I had anticipated.

A week later, my friend Julia posted on my Facebook wall: “I had a dream you were engaged!” And then last week a woman stopped me at the cross walk for a chat. She was eager to make a friend and seemed slightly crazed from the hot summer sun. Midway through my story about my hat, she interrupted me: “You’re going to get married. I just know it! You’re going to get married.”

It seems the voices have changed their tune from prescriptions (you need to find a nice rich husband) to premonitions. Luckily, I don’t put much weight in the predictions of raving women on crowded street corners.

Then again, the soothsayer in the crowd advised Julius Caesar to beware the ides of March… and, well, we all know how that turned out.

I don't necessarily put much weight in the perdictions of raving women... but then I remember Julius Caesar

How Complimentary

“I just don’t understand how you could want to be with someone who’s always telling you how beautiful and wonderful you are. Doesn’t that get tiresome?”

I admit, when a guy gives me a compliment, my response is very Miranda Hobbes -- skeptical.

This was my mother’s response when I told her the guy I was dating had a way of stopping mid-conversation to tell me he thought I was “gorgeous” or that “no other woman in the room came close.”

I looked at her in a way that suggested she should be put in a straight jacket and sent to Bedlam. Last I checked, it was nice for a boy to call a girl pretty every once in a while.

But, I’ll confess: when a guy tells me I’m beautiful, my response is very Hobbesian… Miranda Hobbes that is. The “Sex and the City” starlet always took Steve’s outpouring of niceties with a grain of salt — her inner cynic couldn’t help it.

Talking to Annie a few days after another absurdly perfect date, we realized  that modern women have been ruined — we’ve been raised to be Mirandas, distrusting of compliments, skeptical about sincerity. When I hear “you’re beautiful,” an internal eyebrow raises and the compliment is met with a tidal wave of skepticism. Why’s he saying that? What’s his deal? Is there really spinach on my face and he’s trying to tell me there’s spinach on my face without directly saying “there’s spinach on your face?”

It's hard for my inner cynic to shut-up... but slowly, it's learning

It doesn’t help that I matured in the company of men — compliments were frequently followed by a request for my economics homework.

Eventually, Miranda wised up — Steve really did just like her that much…and as it turned out, she really liked him that much.

As for me? Well, I think my inner cynic is starting to shut up and accept this for what it is — something nice. I’m not sure I’ll ever be good at taking compliments, or that the voice in my head will ever totally stop saying “you’re lying” when he says “you look wonderful,” but if there’s one thing I have decided, it’s that hearing “you’re beautiful” and “I like you” will never get tiresome.

My Adopted Extended Family Weighs in on My Love Life

It could have been a scene out of Steel Magnolias.

As they grilled me about the boy who wanted a second date, I thought It could have been a scene out of Steel Magnolias.

My finger nails were wrapped in acetone-soaked cotton balls, one foot splashed in a tub of soapy water, the other foot was being assaulted by a file, and I was surrounded by a team of women in white lab coats all asking the same questions: What’s his name? How’d ya meet him? What does he do? Where are you going? Is he good enough for you?

Marbella, Linda, Suzan, and Margaritte — these are the women that keep my hair neat, my nails manicured, and my bikini-line in check. They’re also my adopted extended family. With relationships forged in my pre-teen years, they’ve followed me as I passed from one phase of  young adulthood into the next. We’ve traded life stories, swapped allergy remedies, rejoiced in each other’s successes, and lamented one another’s losses.

So, if there’s one group that has a right to weigh in on my love life, it’s these women. Not only have they all called dibs on wedding-day preparations, they’ve reserved the right to inspect all potential suitors.

If there's one thing I've learned in dating, it's to never put the cart before the horse

I sat there like a deer in the headlights, trying to keep my composure while Marbella swiped on a second coat of “fruit sangria” as they all grilled me about the guy who sent sweet text messages, made me laugh, and wanted another date. I knew if I started to talk, I’d start to gush, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the great game of dating, it’s to never to put a cart before the horse.

“Just tell us! Do you like him?!?!?”

My lips were sealed, but my cheeks, which had just changed to match my neon-pink toenails, provided answer enough.

The Online Dating Match Approval Matrix: Or, a Road Map to Choosing Mr. (Almost) Right Online

Online dating is a challenge. As websites bombard you with supposedly viable matches and your inbox fills with messages and winks from men who think you’re “a cutie” or “reeeeeally cool,”  you think: it would be nice if there was a road map to help me weed out the guys I could walk arm in arm with from the ones I may need a restraining order against.

After months of scanning, surveying, replying, blocking, and first-dating, here it is, to your rescue:

The Online Dating Match Approval Matrix.

(in the style of New York Magazine’s Approval Matrix)

The Online Dating Approval Matrix -- Your Guide to Finding Mr. (Almost) Right Online


Unexpected Ironies of Online Dating

Sure there are some risks (you never know if he’s an axe murder), sure there are some stigmas (don’t only desperate people go on match.com?), but I confess, there are many things I find appealing about online dating.

In hiding behind our usernames, online dating grants us a certain amount of anonymity... or so I thought

I can curate my photos, highlight my humor, hide my flaws, and change my story to target my preferred flavor du jour: sugar daddy or kindred spirit, caretaker or one night stand, lover or soulmate. Besides the fact that I get  to handpick potential matches from an already narrowed pool of viable candidates, I broaden my search beyond my favorite haunts, my best friends, and my friends’ friends, all while keeping a certain degree of anonymity. After all, online daters hide behind usernames that in most cases, rarely reference any part of our real names.

I quickly learned, so much for anonymity… and so much for widening my dating horizons.

My profile had only been up for a few hours when an IM popped up in the corner of my screen: “I won’t tell if you won’t tell.”

It was an old friend who once , but who I had since lost touch with. We both agreed the 92% Match prediction was ridiculous — remember that one time we sorta went on a date? — and bid each other good luck. A week later, he was “in a relationship” with a girl he’d met on the site. I thought this boded well for my future in online dating. If he could find someone, surely, I could.

And then my stand partner in All-County orchestra, 3 guys I went to high school with, a former college floormate, a former college teammate, my best friend’s ex-boyfriend, and best of all, a former college TA had all appeared as high-rated matches and subsequently, all either checked in on my profile or messaged me.

In some cases, we recognized each other and lived to laugh about it, but then there’s my poor TA. We had been through more than a class together and one-on-one discussion sessions over coffee were probably more frequent than they should have been. It had been 2 years since I’d last seen him — we’d both had haircuts — and he didn’t realize it was me when he sent his “hey there.” When I replied with an “is this [insert name] here? How’s the dissertation going?” I could see him blush across the wi-fi.

I recently had my first internet-matched date with someone I’ve never previously met (a rare find, it seems, for me). On the screen, he read and looked good, though he used far too many exclamation points for a 30-something male. I had no proof he wasn’t an axe-murder besides his claim to be Canadian, but I was willing to take my chances. I survived, I’m still here and he wants a second date. Great! Now, if only I knew his real name.

So, What’s Your Type

For as long as I can remember, people have always had strong opinions about what type of guy is my Mr. Right.

The summer I graduated from high school, my South African godfather came to visit. At the same time, a boy I knew from out of town was staying in our guest room. It was a house full of foreigners.

“He’s a nice young fellow,” Hilton said of my 17-year old guest, “but he’s far too young for you. You need to be seeing someone who is at least 21, maybe even 22.”

I assured him that the young fellow sleeping in the room next to mine was in no way a romantic interest. I was flattered that my worldly godfather should think I deserved a boyfriend who wasn’t a boy, but a grown-up man. It felt good to be a teenager who seemed mature beyond her years.

Dan decided I need a "No Reservations" style Aaron Eckhart to my Catherine Zeta Jones

My godfather was typical of those in my life — everyone I met had ardent beliefs about what type man was my match. They may not have all agreed on age difference, profession, and nationality, but all were quick to offer an opinion.

My roommate in college decided the only person I could have children with was Charley. “You’re sporty and strict. He’s awkward and friendly. You’d be the disciplinarian. He’d be the one that takes them for ice cream. Together, you’d read them The Odyssey at bedtime.”

I didn’t necessarily mind her pick, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about her assessment of my potential parenting persona. I do like ice cream, after all.

“You can’t marry a guy who makes you cook for him,” Dan said as he watched me drop homemade butternut squash ravioli into a pot of boiling water. “He has to be someone who will cook with you.”

I’d gotten so accustomed to people telling me who I should be looking for that I never designed my own version of  Mr. Right. Then one day, I was blindsided by a question no one had ever asked…

Could I say Gerard Butler is my "type?" Or is Gerard Butler just a look?

“So, what’s the deal — what type of guy are you looking for?”

I was at a loss. Smart, funny, athletic, and good-looking is non-specific– it’s the standard-issue type for the indecisive. When I thought about it, every guy I ever knew or dated was, in some form or another, smart, funny, athletic, and good-looking.

I racked my brain. Could I name an actor? Would Gerard Butler suffice, or is Gerard Butler a look (and an apartment)? Someone interesting enough that our wedding will win the “Vows” column in the Sunday Times? Likewise, non-specific.

Finally, it hit me:

“I want a guy who makes me smile the way my puppy does. He should be the kind of guy who would propose while we’re hiking up a mountain but want to hold the reception in the atrium at MoMA.”

“I don’t know anyone like that,” the person replied. “But I can set you up with a guy who has season tickets at Yankee stadium.”

I shrugged and wondered why he bothered asking. It looked like for now, a man with Yankees season tickets was just my type.