Most girls would scoff at the thought of staying home on a Friday night to watch a baseball game in lieu of meeting a witty, model-good-looking, 6-foot, D-1 ball player turned Ivy-League Law student turned successful litigator for drinks.
But then again, I’m not like most girls. I’ve got my priorities straight.
The first app I downloaded was MLB Lite. I travel around the world with a Yankee garden gnome, tenderly christened Jorge. There are 3 pictures on the pushpin board of my office at work – one of a Japanese maple, one of the old Yankee Stadium, and one of Alex Rodriguez at the plate, from behind.
Is it really a surprise that when faced with a choice between the first game of the American League Division Series, the NY Yankees vs. the Detroit Tigers, and a first date with Mr. Perfect on Paper that I would chose Game 1?
My diehard allegiance to the Bronx Bombers has been both the impetus and executioner’s axe of many a potential relationship. I once dated a boy who worked for the YES Network with the principal aim of securing season tickets. “What team do you root for?” is one of my 10 essential “get to know a person questions.” I can accept Phillies fans. Mets fans I have little tolerance for. Blue Jays fans I forgive because they’re probably Canadian and have no alternative home teams to root, root, root for. Red Sox fans?
Well, see exhibit 1:
Me: “I’m tired of dating smart boys. Enough with Rhodes Scholars. I want someone stupid.”
Friend: “Well then, I’ve got the guy for you. He’s a Red Sox Fan!”
To some men, a girl who rain-checks dinner because she wants to watch “the game” at home with her friends (and garden gnome) is the holy grail. To others, it’s confusing — who wears the pants in this romance?
As the grounds keepers pulled the tarp over the Yankee Stadium infield Friday night and news filtered in that the game would be postponed, a friend turned to ask if rescheduling drinks with Mr. Perfect-on-Paper was worth it?
“Did you see C.C.’s last inning?” I cried.
To this she could offer no retort. A first drink with Mr. Perfect-on-Paper wasn’t going to be the only date rescheduled in October. It’s the Post Season, after all, and my team has a 28th World Series to win.
In my teen years, every crush was measured against the horoscope. I believed that the alignment of the planets dictated my soulmate and was quick to consult the stars. But when every so-called perfectly-paired Virgo, Taurus, and Scorpio I fell for in high school proved duds, I retired my astrology chart.
Then this past April I met Zev, a sensual Scorpio with a scorpion tattooed on his neck and his zodiac symbol stamped on his forearm, and I became 13 again.
“You know, Cancers and Scorpios are a perfect match,” he said as he took a long sip from his scotch and soda.
I rolled my eyes. He persisted and pulled out his smartphone to show off a website that proved his point.
“The Cancer-Scorpio match is a match made in heaven” it read. “The the two of you could literally see fireworks.”
He leaned over and pointed to the screen with a wink: “the two of you will make love like it’s an Olympic sport.”
I admit, I was intrigued and agreed to dinner a week later.
Dinner was where things with Zev ended.
So much for “this passionate connection can develop into the perfect marriage.” As I adjusted my skirt and stomped off into the pouring rain, I promised I would never trust the Zodiac again.
When the next boy came around and our connection was as deep as it was instantaneous, I couldn’t help but wonder: is this written in the stars?
Enter the “daily horoscope” app for my smartphone.
Apparently, two crabby Cancers make a terrible match. Water-sign + water-sign = deluge. Forget bad romance. Think a Chernobyl romance, overwrought with “I feel…” and moon-phase-induced emotional mood-swing nuclear spills.
“You run the risk of mirroring each others weaknesses…A marriage would be work for this pair” — that’s the way the astrology site phrased it — a euphemistic way to say, you’ll need more than a pre-nup going into this, you’ll need an excellent lawyer, or hell, an army of lawyers…and a box of tissues…and a therapist.
I shrugged and considered the unfavorable forecast. True, we had quickly committed to sharing our feelings about, not only each other, but everything — from the challenges of our respective workplaces to our inner-deepest reflections on love.
This type of display was totally out of character for me. I refused to believe that our instant connection wasn’t endorsed by the celestial bodies.
I googled “astrological compatibility,” and read until I found a glimmer of hope to cling to. 4 result pages in, I found it: “On the whole, this is quite a good match…and the sexual chemistry with be high!”
I bookmarked that astrology page and decided it would be the only one I’d consult…at least, until the deluge.
April showers reportedly bring May flowers. April, 2011’s spring rains were absolutely ones of renewal, bringing with them a new blossoming job and a budding new outlook on romance, the sum of which equated to countless new possibilities for awkward social encounters.
Scene: 9:45AM, Day 2 at my New Job. I walk into the staff kitchen with my spill-proof, porcelain coffee mug with an intent to fill it. There’s a petite blond woman kneeling on the counter top, straddling the sink, blocking the coffee pot while she rummages through the cupboards.
“Have you seen my mug? It has my name on it.”
“I ordered that mug especially with my name on it so no one would take it. You’d think that if someone saw someone else’s name on a mug they would think ‘this mug belongs to Kate, so I won’t take it.’ But no! Not here. People just take your mugs. Do you have your own mug?”
“Let this be a lesson to you. Keep it with you always, otherwise someone will take it. Sometimes they even break it. The coffee is fresh, by the way.”
Scene: 8:30AM on the first real springy day in April. I’ve decided I want to leave work early, so I wake up extra early to get to the gym extra early so I can get to work extra early. Post workout, I’m standing in a Diane von Frustenberg skirt and Cole Haan loafers in the parking lot of the gym. The car doors are locked and my keys are staring at me from the front seat, laughing.
Thanks to the keys locked in the car incident, I arrive at work late, only to discover the artwork hanging in the window (the piece that was the lead for a NYTimes review of the exhibit) has come unhung. To rehang it, I have to mount an 100-year old radiator, in a skirt. The burn on the inside of my knee was, luckily, hardly noticeable.
Scene: Late night Saturday, there’s a monsoon raging outside and I’m inside a cozy restaurant on a date with a guy nearly 10 years my senior who might, arguably, be classified as a “player.” Being rather forward, he kissed me. A metallic object suddenly bashes against my front tooth with an audible clunk. Concerned about the integrity of my incisor, I pause.
“Do you have a tongue ring?”
“A warning would have been nice. These teeth aren’t straight but they were expensive…”
Scene: It’s the Tuesday after the monsoon-bathroom-tongue-ring debacle, and I’m wearing a white collared blouse and have a magenta silk scarf tied around my neck in a bow. There’s cake in the staff kitchen. My co-worker and I are stuffing our face. She turns and asks:
“Are you trying to hide a love bite? WhoisheWhat’shisNameWhatdoesHedoforworkIsHegoodenoughforyou?”
“Umm… No? It’s a rainy Tuesday in April. I’m just trying to cultivate my inner Parisian.”
Every year, I I try not to blame Hallmark for the excessive quantities of pink hearts floating around retail stores come February. I try not to label St. Valentine’s Day a holiday institutionalized by older married women in order to make younger single women feel inadequate. I try not to reduce February 14th to an excuse to eat excessive quantities of dark chocolate and caramel.
Most years I fail — I eat thousands of calories worth of heart-shaped truffles, I shoot bitter stares at older couples, and I “accidentally” knock bags of Sweethearts off the drug store shelf and “accidentally” step on them.
I blame Katie and a boy named Tony for my general animosity towards the holiday.
In the 6th grade, a single carnation-gram arrived on my homeroom desk with a note “Love, your secret admirer.” I was appropriately tickled pink. I moved from social studies to earth science on a cloud — what joy! At dismissal, Katie confessed she had bough carnation-grams for all our girl friends. My little 11 year old balloon was burst.
Many, many, many years later, Tony would burst yet another heart-shaped bubble.
Of all our friends, we were the only two still single, and I confess that I was somewhat “in love” with him. When he suggested that we spend Valentine’s Day together, I took it as a sign he wanted to be more than friends. We agreed on casual, but when we ended up in a sports bar on “All You Can Eat Wing Night,” I wished I had worn my sports bra instead of the lacy push-up restricting the blood supply to my extremities. Midway through the evening, my toes were numb and a chunk of some frat-boy’s wayward vomit landed on my pink satin motorcycle jacket.
As Tony walked me home, we conversed by screaming, our ears still not adjusted to normal noise levels. We stopped on the stoop of my building and moved close together, our eyes full of intention and confusion. I don’t know how much time passed, but I’m sure we reached a world record for longest awkward pause. I eventually broke the stand-off with a kiss on the cheek and a g’night.
My bra had broken a rib, my jacket reeked of regurgitated chicken wings, and my “date” and I had loss our sense of hearing — it was the most romantic Valentine’s Day I had ever had.
I’m sure one day I’ll be over my February the 14th phobia and once again become lover of Valentine’s Day. But I doubt carnations and men named Tony will have anything to do with my recovery.
“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!”
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.
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.
“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.”
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):
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)
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)
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.