I guess this year was a big bunch of something for me, since it took so long, but I don't know if I got any one measurable thing done. I, to quote Cornelius this afternoon at the Dude & Catastrophe, "turned the tiller a few spokes here and there toward breaks of horizon light, toward promise dark or light, and strode the deck while the water lapped quietly at the keel, the sails never taut but never slack." I would have just said I fucked off and tried most of the new Taco Bell stuff, but when he talks the narrative of life seems to have a coherence and purpose. Or to be a narrative at all, instead of the confused sneezing fit that is my journey.
I went out on some OKCupid dates that I didn't tell anyone about. I'll give some details later here, I guess. Maybe mainly so I don't forget them entirely.
I lifted weights for a bit and then stopped lifting weights to see if it had mattered. It had — I gained fatness where once I had a little muscle. At times hear the wicked Southern men in my imagination call me a "titty-boy."
Lookit him there. Jus' a god-damned titty-boy. Look away now, son. Stop lookin' at that titty-boy. We hate his kind.
I went on an extreme diet, but that diet made me fatter and crazy and dizzy, and I stopped that diet one day down at that dirty-ish Hidden Hills Burger King, where the THANK YOU swinging panel on the trash can always has ketchup smears on it. I stopped that diet with a finality and focus and genuine happiness that I will not apologize for. Medium-size Whopper with cheese meal. Strain-streaked faces in oversized dirty parkas, wearing backpacks, sat without food at some of the tables, waiting for god knows what, and the fries were just warm, and the Whopper itself leaked brown-edged shredded lettuce from atop a gray patty, but it was the greatest meal I have ever eaten in my life, and I am still happy about it.
Now, at the end of the year, I look more or less like a person who is not famous for his outer self, but at the same time generally bearable if seen from above and with light that flatters my chin/neck situation.
I guess the part of my year anyone would actually want to hear about was my Internet dating stuff. Everyone already knows that guys my age aren't typically thrilled with their bodies, so we can leave that at that.
First in the experiment of hope was Beth, whose username was GiraffeKisses. She was an ER nurse. I liked that she was a nurse. I think if you want to be a nurse, and can actually handle being a nurse, with the fluids, and the life-nadirs, and the unforgettable indignity of the septic and marginalized deliriously yammering their way into corpsehood, I'd be excited to know you. That shows some respectable grounding. You're actually about something, and see bigger truths.
We met at a short-lived local pub called SPARKY HARMER'S. [Ok, I admit, I changed the name while I was editing this. I don't want people to know where I go on first dates. And maybe a part of me thinks about dating as a stand-in for the electric chair—will the governor call with reprieve? Will he not?] We'd chatted online for a few hours the night before, and had the kind of rapport that seizes your chest with electricity. I'd been thrilled to meet her. She brought out a part of me that dared its way through every line of our chat, toeing the line of confidence with resounding success, a cocaine Lothario who was his best self.
God, now I don't want to say anything about our date. I was just not feeling it from the moment I saw her, even though I'd walked up to the place with real zip in my step. The kind of zip where you're in the autumnal New York of your own love movie, indulging in the thought that this could be the explosion at the beginning of your real life. But her haircut was three degrees to the left, and I didn't like her wrists, and her earlobes seemed ungenerous.
It was the trap where you have just a single thin thread of a person's words and a couple photos and then back-fill 99.9% of them with an overheated imagination that longs for love, dreams of New Year's in Marrakesh, and fills a script that Nora Ephron reads with a tissue.
For all of OKCupid's algorithms, I thought, in reflection as I walked away that night, I'd rather just let my million years of animal instincts tell me if someone really piqued me. Over the citrus bin at the grocery store. Across the used derailleur crate at the community-supported bike shop. Not from some favorably-contrived essays and carefully-curated photos. (I've set up the same vanity trap for anyone who sees my account, don't think I'm not aware of my own guilt.)
There was another one, Leah, and I met her at Yagi, a Japanese fusion place that closed down last month. After a couple emails she'd surprised me by texting a very sexy selfie, which prompted me to suggest we meet, so we met about a half hour later. She was a poet, and that made me kind of nervous, because with a poet there's this whole reckoning coming where you will have to manage your relationship with what very well might not be compelling poetry that matters a great deal to them. We hit it off really well, and I asked her if I could kiss her when we were parting, and she said "You'd damn well better," and our lips met in a kiss that came as much from her as me, and when I realized that the strength we put into it was mutual, I sparked a little. More than a little. I was ignited and felt that lift. But then a couple nights later I was at the mall looking for headphones and she emailed me and said she was moving away because of some kind of lawsuit at work and needed a fresh start somewhere else, and goodbye. So that was that, and that is what happened. I've looked her up on Facebook a few times but she has her privacy settings locked down pretty hard. I guess I would too if I got in a lawsuit at work every time I didn't actually wind up liking a guy I'd kissed.
I wrote to more women, but I started to develop a rule where if they never asked me anything about me after a few exchanges, I let things taper off. I just think it's polite to express any sort of interest in the person who you might spend the rest of your life with. I've seen marriages go bad where this never happened. If the clerk ringing up my jerky at 7-11 is nicer to me than BeTheOne4Jen, I move on.
I try to walk into the grocery store (or coffee shop, or diner or what have you) with a positive mindset and smile these days. So my positive energy can create in kind. I've looked at my "resting" face in the mirror and I look like a freshly-hurt judgmental jerk too much of the time. Ray has a twinkle in his eye when he's out and about, and people add him to their lives like a corsage. I try to mimic that. An old-school sparkle, a caricature of a fine and content fellow. It's slow learning stuff like this, and it's not a hundred percent successful, and I don't remember to do it all the time, but here and there I get the reward of a returned smile, the surprise of a warm reply, a latch into conversation.
Happy new year. Try to say something nice once a day. To someone else.