On Second Thought(15)

By: Kristan Higgins

And last, there was Louis. We met at a gallery opening, just as cheesy as it sounds, when I was thirty-two. We enjoyed each other’s company. Moved in together after a year, laughed a lot, felt comfortable enough that he knew that my eating popcorn drizzled with Nutella meant my period was nigh, and I knew that if he ate cabbage, he’d be in the bathroom six hours later. It felt real, and happy. Louis was smart, a psych nurse with a lot of compassion for his patients and great stories from work.

Then he got a tattoo. And another. And a third and fourth. And then, just after he got a Chinese character depicting commitment, he dumped me for his tattoo artist.

Then came the online dating years. Sure, sure, we all know the happy couple who met online, who exchanged fun, flirty emails and then finally met, and voilà! They were in love. Oh, the fun stories of the losers they’d endured before they found each other! Daniel the Hot Firefighter and Calista, who lived on the same Park Slope street I did, had met online, though they divorced after a few years so Calista could devote more time to her yoga. But there were others who’d met online, married, and were still very happy together. I was game. I gave it a shot.

It was a fail. Same for my closest friend, Paige. Like me, Paige was abruptly and completely unable to find a guy. Like me, she was a successful professional—a lawyer—attractive and interesting. Like me, she’d had a slew of nice and not-bad dates, never to hear from the guy again. We both bought a few dating books and followed the rules assiduously. We both wasted our money.

Dating in your thirties becomes a second job. Some of the books remind you to Have fun! If you’re not having fun, what’s the point? The point was to find a mate. There was no fun involved, thank you very much. The fun would come after, when we could wear Birkenstocks and give up Spanx.

Honestly, it was more work than my actual career. I knew what I was doing with photography. This, though... The writing of profiles, the witty exchange of emails, the blocking of perverts. The careful mental list of what to reveal, how to make yourself sound interesting without sounding dysfunctional—should I mention my terror of earthworms? Do I admit that my parents have married each other twice? What about the fact that I binge-watched five seasons of Game of Thrones in one weekend without showering or eating a single vegetable?

Sometimes, the men who seemed nice at first would reveal themselves to be not quite so balanced. After a really fun online exchange with Finn and a perfect first date that involved a tiny Colombian restaurant, much laughter and great chemistry, I got a text that was one giant paragraph without a single capital letter or punctuation mark.

kate you are really great i hate dating dont you we should definitely be exclusive because tonight showed me youre a good person i had a girlfriend who was such a slut she blew my brother in the gas station bathroom btw we were on the way to my grandmothers funeral then they wondered why i was mad seriously people can be such assholes but tonight your eyes told me you have compassion and are fun and wont judge me for things i maybe shouldnt have done

You get the idea. I printed it out for posterity. It was five pages long.

Even when I’d mastered the art of conversing politely yet genuinely and humorously yet seriously while making sure I listened carefully and attentively...well. All those adverbs were exhausting.

And even then, even if I liked a guy and the date went well, nothing came of it. In five years of online dating, I had two second dates. Zero third dates.

Paige and I would cheerfully obsess—Why hadn’t he called again? He said he would! We had a good time! We laughed! Hard! Two times!—and complain—His hair smelled like pot. A noodle got stuck in his beard, and then he got angry when I told him about it. He stormed out of the restaurant because they didn’t have local sheep cheese. We’d laugh and order another round, trying to protect ourselves from too much discouragement or hope.

The single guys we knew, like Daniel, the now-divorced and still-hot firefighter, dated twentysomethings—the False Alarms, Paige and I called them, since nothing serious ever developed after Daniel’s divorce. The False Alarms were all pretty much the same—shockingly beautiful, thigh-gapped, vapid. There was a new one every month or two.

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