“This will be
an everlasting love,
This will be
the one I’ve waited for.
This will be
the first time anyone
has loved me…
I’m so glad
you found me in time
And I’m so glad that
you’ve rectified my mind,
This will be
an everlasting love for me”
— Natalie Cole
I used to love that song.
No, seriously: As far back as my car seat, before my two- or three-year-old self was even able to comprehend all the words, I loved that song. In fact, I just flat-out loved Natalie Cole; so much so that my miniature café-au-lait self used to cry out from the backseat for my mother to play “Brown Natalie” on repeat.
As a college student, home for the summer, I’d cruise through the south suburbs of Chicago in my mother’s car, a cassette of Natalie Cole’s greatest hits (which I’d gleefully copped from a rack at some Midwestern gas station) blasting—along with my voice, at top volume—through the sunroof. I could never quite decide if my favorite was “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)”, “Our Love”, or the lesser-known “La Costa”; they were all so damned fun to sing. But mostly, I loved the pure, unadulterated joy and utter conviction that that type of love was indeed possible—especially at the tender age of 19, when everything still seemed ahead of me…
“You’ve brought a lot of sunshine
into my life.
You’ve filled me with happiness
I never knew.
You gave me more joy
than I ever dreamed of,
And no one, no one
can take the place of you…”
I mean, who wouldn’t want to feel like that, forever and ever, Amen?
This is no doubt what the marketing geniuses at eHarmony were betting on…and boy, have they cashed in. After all, what better dream to sell than the idea of complete and perfect compatibility, matched on a thousand points of light (or something like that)?
Anyway, I used to love to that song. Now, I can’t hear it without hearing Dr. Neil Warren speaking over it.
But I’m skipping ahead. More on that later…
Right now, I want to return to the third quarter of my mega-date weekend. I believe we left off with the departure of the forever-young South African/Aussie I call “Rocket Man,” who is by now somewhere on the other side of the world, likely frolicking with another Tinkerbell…
I woke on Sunday in need of a good sweat and about three more hours’ sleep. I only got one of the two (I’ll let you guess which). Besides, I had a full day—two dates scheduled—so I thought it best to get my energy up.
Truthfully, I wasn’t really sure what the day would bring. I’d met my two dates on Tinder and eHarmony respectively, and was therefore prepared for a potential pendulum swing of intensity. But they were oddly already playing against type, which is to say that while my Tinder date had been very attentive—texting, calling, making plans, etc.—my eHarmony match was…enigmatic, to put it mildly. A little odd, for someone I’d answered over 300 questions just to communicate with, no?
In fact, as the day began, I wasn’t even sure Bachelor #4 would be keeping our date at all, since my texts generally went unanswered for hours. Lucky for me, we’d planned to meet in the evening, which meant my day was free to spend with his more communicative (if more casual) counterpart, Bachelor #3. And this, thankfully, was a man with a definite plan—a few, actually, so I was excited to meet…
Bachelor #3: I knew he was off to a good start when he confirmed our date the night before. When he called again the next morning with several potential options—only one of which was brunch—I was impressed. Excited to do something other than attempt to make small talk with each other across yet another table, I opted for the most adventurous—and distant—of the three options he presented: a brief day trip to the Bronx Museum of Art.
Of course, as it occurred to me that in lieu of a table, I’d chosen his car (and therefore, no means to escape, should things go awry), I began to panic—especially when I realized I was also giving a stranger my home address. Had his preamble really instilled that much trust in me? Had twenty years as a single woman in New York taught me nothing?
Resigned to my fate (whatever that would be), I brushed up on my self-defense and forwarded his dossier to my girl Cali, in case of emergency.
Instincts, don’t fail me now…I prayed.
When he pulled up—on time—I was relieved to find him the same person I’d seen on Tinder, and as affable as he’d sounded on the phone. Of course, he was still a relative stranger, but we’d have a crash course in “getting to know you” over the next hour, as we navigated both weekend traffic and parking on the Grand Concourse. By the time we arrived, the ice was broken, and he’d put me entirely at ease. We were fast friends.
But it was the museum itself that made it a date.
Neither of us having visited before, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Greeted by the sounds of classic hip-hop and a small, yet very diverse crowd, it wasn’t the typical museum experience. Then again, I love just about any museum experience, so I was game.
With a quick shrug and a glance at each other, we stepped into one of the galleries, and were instantly transported. On every wall were huge landscapes of a New York City long since passed on—a New York that preceded even my two decades here. All around us hung multiple perspectives of a once burnt-out Lower East Side, and lovingly painted portraits of its Black and Brown residents—including the legendary Nuyorican Piñero, whose poems inspired and adorned much of the work.
We wandered through, exclaiming over the work and the words, marveling at the colors, details and technique of the artist, Martin Wong (also known as the “Human Instamatic”). My date, a nice Jewish boy from Queens with a head for music, art and culture—all of which were in full effect—had many stories and memories of his own. The overall effect was strangely…comforting.
In fact, as the afternoon quickly faded into evening, I found myself delaying my date with Bachelor #4 in favor of spending more time with Bachelor #3. After all, the conversation was easy and the anecdotes flowing as we drove back to Brooklyn, exclaiming over the changing—but always intoxicating Manhattan skyline.
There was something about him that was so familiar; at first, I couldn’t place it. But as we laughed over margaritas, tacos and his admittedly corny jokes, it became clear: He reminded me of New York.
Not the New York I now try to survive in daily, but the New York I fell in love with over twenty years ago, first as a visiting adolescent, and later as a college student and young artist.
“I remember what it felt like getting ready to make something exciting happen, to feel a sense of the city and time radiating out in all directions, like the spokes of a wheel, with me and that night at the center…” – Ada Calhoun
God, I’d missed that feeling…as if it were a precious piece of jewelry I lost on one of those many nights out in the city. I can’t say that Bachelor #3—who I’m nicknaming “The Native”—gave it back to me, but perhaps he reminded me that I hadn’t lost it in the first place.
I wasn’t yet sure if the Native and I were destined for romance or were simply kindred spirits, but there was an undeniable connection; enough that I admittedly felt a twinge when Cali informed me a few days later that he’d sent her a “Charm” on our new favorite app, Happn (in true “Girl Code” form, she not only informed me, but informed him). But hey, how could he know that we’re homegirls?
Plus, considering the fact that at the end of our time together, he graciously dropped me off—with the gift of a Martin Wong exhibition book—at the location of my meet-up with Bachelor #4, I suppose I have no cause for complaint.
Because a connection doesn’t a couple make, so perhaps all is fair in love and the interwebs. By that time, I’d been postponing a date with destiny (or so eHarmony would have me believe) for several hours, and it was finally time to meet…
Bachelor #4: As I mentioned before, eHarmony is great on selling the dream of an ideal match, but I’ve been skeptical of their ability to actually deliver. My daily matches have left me…unenthused, to say the least. So, when I saw a beautiful brown, bearded man with a penetrating gaze staring out from my screen, I was intrigued. As I always say, it only needs to work out once, right?
Not only was he handsome, but we also seemed to have some things in common: both former schoolteachers (betcha didn’t know that about me) and current artists (he’s an actor), based in Brooklyn…so far, so good. It took awhile for our communication to take off—I presumed because we were both lukewarm on the format—but we muddled through the requisite phases of prefab questions and answers, before moving to direct communication, which is supposed to be where the magic happens.
Not quite. Instead, things got rather…terse. In fact, once we got to the direct message phase, all he wrote was “We should meet,” and his number.
I’ve had more banter with dudes on Tinder, but umm…okay. Maybe the magic would happen in person.
Have you ever just disliked someone on sight? Like, literally felt your entire being tense up before they even opened their mouth? I don’t know how else to explain it, but the moment this beautiful, brown, bearded man walked into the bar where we’d chosen to meet, I was viscerally repelled.
I don’t know if it was his cologne, his cadence, or the fact that I’d just ended such a great date with the Native, but I instantly wanted to escape. Everything about him reeked of entitlement—the type of entitlement that unfortunately often accompanies many of the beautiful, educated, talented men I meet these days (though race and facial hair may vary).
It’s the type of entitlement that infers that no effort should be required to gain my love and acceptance; their beauty and accomplishment should be enough—though ironically, mine clearly isn’t. Men like this are so accustomed to women swooning at first sight that their wooing muscles have entirely atrophied.
I swear I could smell it on him. The drawl of his speech, the way he spoke about his career as a struggling actor, even the casually draped scarf around his neck. As we chatted over the next hour or so, my guard was so high that I had to constantly remind myself to drop my shoulders and breathe.
Even as I write about it now, my skin is crawling.
Because this guy was familiar to me, too. I’ve dated so many iterations of him. I’ve been madly in love with him. And I have been broken by him, at least once. This is the guy who feels he is owed everything, while giving little in return.
How could I gather all this in a mere 90 minutes? I don’t know, but I knew. And just as surely, I knew that I was no longer the girl who could fall for that guy. I’m pretty sure he knew it, too, because our goodbye was clearly that.
For me, it was also a goodbye to all of that; to every offer of imbalanced love I’d ever received. Clearly, my mind wouldn’t even allow me to be attracted to it anymore.
Maybe that’s the muscle I built out of being broken.