If You Buy it, He Will Come:Or My Mother’s Alternative to eharmony

“Forget about a puppy!” Ivy teased when I told her what I hoped to get  for Valentine’s Day. “How about a hubby! I bet your father wouldn’t say no to a hubby!”

What do you want for Valentine's Day? A puppy or a hubby? I'm leaning towards the puppy...

Ivy was probably right — my father sees no reason to bring another dog into the family, but I don’t think he’d object to the addition of an able-bodied human male to watch football with. Well, bad news daddy, it looks like you’re going to be paper-training a terrier long before you’ll be welcoming a son-in-law.

Then again…maybe not.

Thanks to a weekend in Dallas, my mother has written a new marriage mantra which she is convinced will produce my prodigal rich husband in no time:

If you buy it, he will come.

Buy what, exactly? The wedding dress, of course. Surely, there’s a superstition about that, Mom.

The trip to Dallas was for business rather than pleasure, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s never let a little business get in the way of a good shoe sale. Neiman Marcus was broadcasting a designer footwear clearance that weekend, and Dallas just so happens to be the Neiman Marcus mothership. It was a good thing I brought my big suitcase.

The Kevan Hall wedding dress conjured in a dream found in Dallas, Texas

Inside the famed department store, the sea of shoppers parted allowing me a clear line to survey the couture ahead. There, radiant under a single spotlight, stood the wedding dress I had seen only in a dream. Equal parts Victorian and modern, it was perfectly me in beige-pink lace.

“So are you planning a wedding?” the sales associate asked as I gently fingered the beading on my way to a price tag.

The real answer was “no,” but because I didn’t want the woman to think I was some crazy, desperate single girl who spent her weekends trying on wedding dresses for no one, I lied.

No matter where I went in the store, I couldn’t shake the dress from my mind. Not even Diane Von Furstenburg could hold my gaze. I had eyes for nothing else.

“I think you should just buy the dress,” my mother whispered when 20 minutes later she found me back in the bridal salon, dazed and drooling.

“But, I’m single.”

“Doesn’t matter. If you buy it, he will come.”

“My life isn’t a Kevin Costner movie.”

“Well, it’s not like anything else has been working for you. Let’s see if they have it in your size.” Sometimes, my mother is a bad influence.

So at the end of the trip, there were no size 8 1/2 Manolos or Louboutins, Jimmy Choos or Diors packed into my over-sized Delsey roller bag. Instead, just a receipt for a fairytale-sized confection of silk and satin and the promise of my mother’s voice saying “if you buy it, he will come.”

How Blogging About Dating Suddenly Made Me a Desirable Date

Successful Relationship blogger? What do I tell him? Deny thy blog or confess its fame?

“You may not want to lead with the fact you have a blog about dating,” my friend Jake kindly advised me as we sipped lattes and commiserated over our recent dating droughts.

He had just brought to light an interesting dilemma: When you’ve made something of a name for yourself writing about love and its aftermath, do you deny thy blog, or confess its fame? Will guys think you’re clever or dub you as trouble?

“On the other hand,” he continued, “this whole blogging thing might just be the making of your love life. I’m worried that with your recent success, you won’t stay on the market long enough to keep They Told Me to Find a Rich Husband going. Seems now it’s a sooner, rather than a later, that you’ll land your Mr. Big.”

A recent slew of “Can I take you out for a drink?” messages from They Told Me to Find a Rich Husband’s male readership helped me make up my mind and lent a modicum of credibility to Jake’s alternative forecast.

Who would have thought that blogging about dating would make me a hot date ticket?

“What do you do?” — It’s a question we’re always asked when we meet someone and a question I always answer with caution.

“I consider myself a writer on the verge of landing a paying day job.”

“What do you write about?” The inevitable follow up question.

“Dating and relationships… I have a blog.”

Their eyes open wide, an eyebrow rises, a half-smirk curls upon their lips and they lean in a little closer.

“What’s it called? Maybe I’ve read it,” they coo.

“They Told Me to Find a Rich Husband.”

Usually, the next thing the guy will do is take a sip of his drink and pause. “So, do you want to be that Millionaire Matchmaker lady?”

“No…no, I don’t really care about other people finding rich husbands. ‘Find a rich husband‘ — that’s what people tell me to do. I’m the only person I’m really interested in. Blogging is a selfish business”

Pause.

“So does that make you a real-life Carrie Bradshaw?”

We ladies all think we're Carries chasing our Mr. Bigs. Turns out, guys are out there chasing their Carries.

Carrie Bradshaw — she’s the shadow-casting pop-culture icon we who write about dating in New York can never escape. As I chuckle and shrug, part in acceptance, part in denial, his next move is typically to put a hand on the small of my back to pull me in closer. The look in his eyes is telling. He sees his pseudonym in print.

“Carrie wrote a column called ‘Sex and the City,'” I’ve been known to reply. “I moved north of the city a few months ago. If I turned my blog into a column, eventually I’d have to call it ‘Celibacy and the Suburbs.'”

“Well, we’ll have to fix that, won’t we?” Before I have a chance to process or respond, his hand is up the back of my shirt and his tongue is searching for my tonsils. Hold your horses there, Cowboy!

“When you write about me tomorrow, make sure to call me ‘Mr. Hottie,'” more than one guy has said. If they only knew…

Apparently, the prospect of being the subject of next week’s post can be something of a turn on. Thank you, Carrie Bradshaw for making dating columnists sexy. Before you, we might have been considered raging feminists, and a dating no-go. It would just be nice if the men in this city didn’t conflate you with your side-kick, nymphomaniac Samantha Jones… because, as their roaming hands and steaming eyes make evident, it seems they always do.

The Progress of Love? The Stages Stay the Same, It’s the Content that Gets the Update

45 minutes after meeting each other, they were off in the corner of the lounge lip-locked. A few days later, text messages inquires attempted to arrange a proper date — neither had the time and the exchanges ceased. A week passed and she awoke to a Facebook friend request, a miracle considering she never game him her last name. As she clicked “accept,” it occurred to her that they might have done things totally out of order…

Back when I was a bright-eyed student enrolled in Art History 101, I was given an assignment to write a short paper on a painting housed in New York’s Frick Collection. I settled on a series of 18th century baroque panels by the French artist Jean-Honore Fragonard entitled “The Progress of Love.” Floral-ridden and chocolate-box-esque, the 4 tableaux track love from its uncertain beginnings to a happy ending. Beginning with “The Pursuit”  the artist takes us through “The Meeting,” “The Lover Crowned,” and “Love Letters.”

It’s been a long time since I thought about these paintings, but as I compared dating notes with a few girl friends who recently acquired/deactivated boyfriends, I decided the scenes set among the frilly, baroque gardens of earthly delights needed a 21st century make over…

The Pursuit (the attempt at seduction):

She's out with her girl friends, but that doesn't stop him from making his approach.

In Fragonard’s day, when masquerade balls were probably the 18th century’s closest approximation of OkCupid, The Pursuit really only happened in the flesh. Today, technology grants us endless ways to approach (stalk?) our future lovers, but at the end of the day, we still prefer a good chase in the real world…

Much Like Fragonard’s leading lady, today’s heroine is out with her girl friends when He makes his approach. He catches her off guard — the last thing she had on her mind tonight was getting lucky. He nonchalantly slips in next to her at the bar and leads with a corny pickup line because he figures  it’ll make her laugh.  It does. The usual questions are asked and answered. He offers to buy her a refill. She accepts. There’s an occasional arm touch or shoulder tap. Her friends drag her away – they have places to go! She won’t give out her number. But shouts back her name, spelling it out for him. If you want to find me, you’ll find me, she tells him. Lucky for him, he has a good memory. He tracks her down on Facebook. A friend request. Accepted.

She’s out again with her friends, a drink down the hatch when they convince her to message him and find out what he’s doing that night. The doors are wide open. Messages fly back and forth for the next few days. He’s busy. She’s busy. He’s busy. She’s busy. Radio silence. A week passes, then finally he tries again. They agree to a proper date…

The Meeting (the moonlit assignation)

The Moonlit assignation, or the First Date

First dates don’t happen on weekends anymore. Weekends are reserved for real friends. Weekends allow you to behave out of character. Weekends have consequences.

They agree to meet on Tuesday night, after work, for drinks and dinner. She has a 9AM meeting Wednesday morning with a big client — the perfect built-in out for when things start to go rough. He’s decided she’s worth impressing and takes her some place upscale but understated. By now, they’ve both forgotten what the other person actually looks like in real life, and are surprised to find they’re attracted to each other.

He’s nervous and spills her drink. The ice is broken, literally and figuratively, and the subsequent conversation is lively. Before they know it, the maitre d’hotel is kicking them out — it’s closing time. He wants to kiss her. She’s sorry it’s a Tuesday, hugs him instead (what restraint!) and they agree to meet again.

Love Letters (the continuation of a happy union)

after the meeting comes the love letters... or love texts

In Fragonard’s series, this actually comes last — the happy couple send letters to reinforce their eternal love for one another. Today, I’m not sure how many people exchange handwritten love letters any more. However, the exchange of love notes in 2010/11 take on many forms, thanks to BBM and text messages. Fingers shoot across miniature keyboards in rapid-fire, concise exchanges. “Wanna come over?” “what r u wearing”  “;)” NC-17 camera phone images strengthen the lust, while the occasional “i miss u” or “dinner 2nite?” tug at the heart strings.

The Lover Crowned (they finally get it on)

When she was 18, her mother gave her a copy of “The Rules.” Recently, she’d been watching “Millionaire Matchmaker.” Both advocate waiting until a relationship turns monogamous before sleeping with the guy. She always felt this approach got her into more trouble than it was worth, but she’s been trying to stick with it. They’re a few weeks into things and out to dinner when he asks her if she’d like to join him at his sister’s wedding next week. Gulp!

“So..um…what’s up with us?” she asks, knowing that she’s about the meet his whole extended family. Is she “a friend” or “the girlfriend?”

The verdict? She’s the girlfriend…

They go back to his place. Clothes fly off — in the morning, there’s shirts in the kitchen, pants in the living rooms and trails of random garments hanging off the furniture. Thank goodness it’s a Sunday morning.

Finally, she gets to close the book on The Rules.

Next stop? The Swing?

Fragonard's "The Swing"... I don't think this one needs an update 😉

Getting to Know My Family: Meet Stewart, My Favorite Brother

“Don’t you lift those bag of wood chips,” my mother screamed at my father from the bedroom window. “They’re 50 pounds each! Kathleen will do it.” I stood up from the log pile, put down the axe, and looked at my father.

Just righting a fallen tree... Can't Stewart do it?

“You can put them in the wheelbarrow,” he said to me. “This way you can take them all to the top of the yard at once.”

“Them all” equated to 6 bags.  “The top of the yard” meant an acre uphill trek.

“Can’t you get Stewart to do it?” I whined with a grunt as I threw the first bag over my shoulder.

I grew up in the suburbs of Manhattan. At an early age, I was introduced to art and music and exposed to the cosmopolitan life.  I took ballet, rode horses, played the violin at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, and fenced. One might argue that I was raised to marry into royalty, but I’d swear my parents raised me to be the wife of an Iowa farmer… in 1860.

I don’t know whether it was the Thanksgiving Day vacuuming accident that landed my mother in the ER or the conversation my father overheard my girl friends and me having about our bench-press goals, but something convinced my parents that their little girl was good at physical labor. Once they discovered they were right, I was done for.

The fridge has to be moved. No problem, Kathleen will do it. The fence needs to be power-washed. No problem, Kathleen will do it. We’re having 10 people over for a 3-course dinner. No problem, Kathleen will take care of it.

I say, why can’t Stewart do it?

Stewart is my dreamy, 6’2, rugged, utilitarian imaginary brother. That’s right. I’m 25 and I have an imaginary brother.

Stew has a knack for making me laugh, particularly in the kitchen

Stewart is the type of brother who tied the feet of my pajamas together when I was a toddler, called me “Tubs” during my awkward tween years, and glued the shampoo bottles shut  on the night of my first date.  Now at the age of 29, he has out grown his prankster days and settled into a well-groomed, gently-teasing, over-protective big brother. He played rugby for Columbia and earned a masters in architecture from MIT. He’s the kind of brother who’s good at lifting and fixing stuff. He’s the kind of brother my parents would have adored but failed to provide.

“Why can’t Stewart do it!” My parents laugh. They know what I’m trying to tell them — it was very inconsiderate to leave me as an only child. “Why can’t Stewart do it?” It’s a family joke now, but as I wheel the 300 lbs of wood-chips up the hill, I’m the only one not laughing.

“You know,” my friend Laurie said as I whined about my post-wood-chip-hauling back-ache and my MIA imaginary brother,  “you could just find yourself a boyfriend… a lumberjack boyfriend.”

She might be on to something.

Et Tu, Daddy?

It's true there are more male names in my address book than female ones. But it's not a "little black book" list of names. I'm a PJ and they're "My Boys"

I was standing at the laundry sink in our basement, vigorously scrubbing at the oversize blueberry stain on my favorite knock-around sundress (that’s never coming out!) when my father decided it was a good time to get the lowdown on my social life. Though I was armed with spray n’ wash and totally focused on rescuing the pink of my seersucker dress from a purple fate, I gave him an appropriate summary of my outings and updated him on the lives of the friends I knew interested him most.

He was glad I was still in touch with “Tennis” Mike and “Granola” Dan. He encouraged me to visit “DC” Sarah and “New Zealand” Sarah soon (“sure, Dad, if you foot the bill!). He was happy “Cupcake” Cassidy was still fencing and that “Fencing” Mike was still my CityChase partner. Yet, while I thought I had covered all his favorites, it was clear he was unsatisfied with my narrative…

“How come you know and hang out with all these guys and none of them ask you out to dinner?”

I put down the scrub brush, placed my hand on my hip, screwed-up my eyebrows in quizzical disbelief. Had my father,  just asked me why I didn’t have a boyfriend? Et tu, Daddy?!  I thought you thought weddings were “grotesque.”

Without skipping a beat he moved on.

“The next day that isn’t too hot, I’m going to make sure you can change the tires on your car. Clearly, you’ll need to know how to do that on your own.”

“Well then,” I replied, “why don’t you also teach me how to change my oil and rewire a lamp, because clearly there isn’t going to be a guy to do these things for me.”

“No,” he said. “I’d better teach you how to load a dishwasher. You can always get a mechanic to change your oil…you’ll have a much harder time finding someone willing to tackle the kitchen when you’re done with it.”

I'm a talent in the kitchen... particularly at making a mess in one.