“Who’s that lady?
Real fine lady,
Hear me callin’ out to you,
‘Cause it’s all that I can do.
Your eyes tell me
But you say ‘Look, yeah,
but don’t touch, Baby…”
— The Isley Brothers
“You must get approached a lot,” he said.
Actually, I don’t. Catcalled, of course (like every other woman I know, living in a major urban area), but respectfully approached? Not as often as one might think, or as I might sometimes hope.
I’ve repeatedly proclaimed that my ideal man wouldn’t let me pass by him in the street without at least attempting to approach; but since the last man who approached me in the street was revealed to be a registered sex offender (true story), my guard has understandably been up ever since.
So, how did I end up spending this unseasonably warm and sunny Sunday afternoon on a date with yet another stranger I’d met in passing?
“Well, when I saw you standing there—across the street—I smiled at you,” he said. “And you smiled back.”
He was right; I did. It’s something new I’ve been trying: giving my resting b**chface a rest. I said as much—which was ill-advised, since it was merely tangential to the truth, which was…
I smiled because he was cute. Very cute.
He still was, sitting across from me, enjoying gluten-free pasta topped with more of the frankness and confidence he’d displayed on that street corner, along with that winning smile. At the time, I’d nicknamed him “Carpe Diem”. The moniker still fit, though due to his directness, I could just as easily call him “Frank”.
In fact, after months of missed connections, anticlimactic fadeaways, and the inevitable unrequited attractions that occur when reality fails to live up to its online promise, it was quite relaxing to be in the presence of a man whose interest in me was already a given; he’d made that abundantly clear at first sight.
Since my interest was now also piqued, I suppose the feeling was mutual.
With that out of the way, we were free to discuss far more important matters, like our chosen careers as creative freelancers and professional storytellers, the contradictory and often played-out politics of traditional gender roles, and whether either of us consider parenting essential to our future happiness (a conversation I’ve been having on a lot of first dates recently, but more on that later).
As a self-described “science geek in a jock’s body” (with the biceps to prove it), Carpe Diem seemed especially intrigued—enthused, even—by the fact that I’m chronicling my dating experiences in this blog; or as he called it, my “social experiment”. Of course, I tend to think of it less clinically. This experiment is my life, after all. But I was impressed by his receptivity, since admittedly, it has given a few men pause.
I wondered if he’d appreciate it as much in practice as in theory.
But he was well-versed on the challenges of online dating, particularly as they present themselves for a single, Black female over 35 (let alone over a size 6). Having read “Dataclysm” (written by a co-founder of OkCupid), he was well aware of our statistical status as the least desirable demographic—though thankfully, didn’t seem eager to use it to his advantage. He even cited psychologist Barry Schwartz’s “paradox of choice”: that restlessness and addictive searching that plagues much of the online dating sphere, making it such a transient and unfulfilling place to search for companionship (more on that here: http://mic.com/articles/107210/is-too-much-choice-ruining-dating-science-might-have-the-answer).
Yes, I also knew about that paradox, all too well.
Agreeing to “chase the sun” (his phrase) on this quickly dimming day, we bypassed the subway in favor of walking the long way home from one Brooklyn nabe to another. Along the way, we debated the actual influence of astrological signs—Carpe Diem is (predictably) a Leo. I have an equally fiery streak. Next, it was the appropriate semantics for discussing “curvy” women—for which he has an apparent weakness—as he should; thick thighs save lives.
He was an unabashed optimist—far more than I, these days. But as we marveled at the unexpected but undeniable beauty of a prismatic oil slick shimmering on the surface of the an otherwise disgusting Gowanus Canal, I found myself considering the possibilities inherent in chance encounters.
Because life is full of disappointment and discovery, isn’t it? Things are very rarely what they seem, let alone what we’d wish them to be. Try as we might, we have little to no control over how and when things spark, and with whom. And in this little experiment of mine, I’m sometimes not convinced we even know what we want, in the face of so many options.
So, maybe it has to stop us in our tracks. Maybe we have to stop to consider the beauty in the banal. Maybe all we can do is show up, keep an open mind, dust off the disappointments, and try to be brave enough to smile at the attractive strangers…
“There is no try. There is only do,” Carpe Diem said, quoting Yoda.
Yeah. I’ll try to do that.