Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Check, Please!

I have spent a lot of time listening to friends and family grumble about their commitments of time and family. I have heard enough to know that even the best of spouses will say or do something to make their beloved want to snap their neck like a chicken. I've dried tears, helped compile lists of positives and negatives, and made the snacks for many a pity-party. I've also listened to every gross and disturbing detail of child-rearing. I know more about bowel movements than I care to admit, supported a friend through a cry-it-out night while her husband worked the night shift, and sent flowers because I knew the first day back to work after the baby was going to be traumatic. Friends have told me that they prefer to hang out with other couples who have kids because they have more in common, which is totally understandable. The thing that is the most confounding is that people think they know what my life is like because they were single once too. And yes, most people have experience out there in the world as a single person, but most people haven't experienced being the only single person in every room they walk into. And there is a point in the program when it feels like you are completely alone when you are occupying the odd-numbered seat at the table.

Over the years people have said some amazingly obnoxious things to me in the attempt to be sympathetic. I once had a colleague tell me that my cooking skills were going to waste without a husband and children to cook for. Yes, those brownies I baked from scratch are so delicious because they are filled with my tears. Or that it's refreshing to see a woman who doesn't feel the need to be constrained by the conventions of our society. Right. Like I wouldn't have sold my right arm to have had my fairytale wedding. I'm not someone who deludes myself into thinking that I don't want or need things I don't have. Maybe it's because I'm the baby of the family. Or an Aries. It's a toss-up. The point is, don't try to make someone feel better about what you or they perceive they've missed out on in life. If they want to talk about it with you, they will. If you bring it up, you will say something that they will end up laughing about with their therapist.

This palpable loneliness wears down my defenses and I often end up making excuses to find just about anyone appealing. I think this is why  I accepted a date with a tech support guy who admitted to being a little socially awkward. We made a date to have dinner at a local chain restaurant. I picked out my own outfit, slipped on a pair of heels, and spritzed on some perfume. I knew something was a little strange when I checked-in with the hostess. She looked me up-and-down, smirked, and pointed to an empty bench where she said he had been sitting. I decided to have a seat and wait. Then I saw him approaching. Now I'm not proud of this, but I felt like bolting. We hadn't exchanged pictures, and he never would have known that it was me who stood him up. But I couldn't do it. I immediately thought about how I would have felt waiting and waiting for someone who never shows up, so I plastered a smile on my face and introduced myself. After a few minutes, we were given a table. This is when the miracle occurred. I knew our waitress. She was a former student of mine, and a really sweet kid. She took our order, and brought our drinks. I excused myself to go to the bathroom, which was located near the waitress station. She saw me and said incredulously, "Are you on a DATE with that guy?" I informed her it was an online set-up and that I hadn't had it in me to stand him up. She told me she would take care of it. And bless her, she sure did. The cooks were told to rush the food out. It was at our table when I got back from the bathroom. The check appeared like magic just as I was working on the last half of my sandwich. We must have set some kind of land-speed-dating record. We left and I made some lame excuse about needing to get home. Poor guy. I then went back inside and slipped the waitress a $20 bill. She earned it.

The best tip I ever got was from a friend's mother. She told me on my 30th birthday that it does no good to get bogged-down in how your life is going to unfold, and as you get older you feel the need to plan less and less. So far, she has been right on every count.

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