*“My d*ck is going out on an extensive farewell tour. After that, we’re calling it quits.”
Daniel followed what he said over chicken quesadillas one Saturday evening at El Cholo with a hardy laugh, perhaps to dilute its boorishness. He wasn’t really serious about a season of male whoring. Well, maybe a little.
He seemed very serious, though, about retirement from the pursuit of romance. The nature of some of Daniel’s tales about women reflect his frustration in meeting “the one.” And now he saying he’s done.
“It’s not that the possibilities aren’t worth the trouble,” he said, lifting a pale green margarita to his full, 48 year-old lips. “I’m saying I no longer have the patience for it all. I’m happier just leaving it alone.”
A divorced father of two twenty-something boys, Daniel said he reached this decision after his last date, about a month before our dinner. He met her where he said he encountered most of the women he’s dated in the last decade or so, through a dating site.
“We talked on the phone and through email for a week and then met for drinks. We had a good time. I liked her. There was some kissin.’ But I could tell by her conversation during the evening that she was scared of being involved again. She said she hadn’t made great choices in the past and now doesn’t trust her decisions on men. My thought was, ‘Then, lady, why are you even out here?’”
I told him I’ve noticed that even if people know they aren’t emotionally ready to date, they don’t want to be alone. Who does? So they go online to test the waters. Usually, if they are physically attracted, they throw their hat into the ring. And that, I said, is where I believe the problem begins. They know they’re not ready, but they physically like who they see before them.
“Oh, so you’re saying she just didn’t like my looks?”
“I’m not saying that,” I said. “Maybe she was among that percentage of people who are able to resist their physical desires and decided to spare you her baggage.”
“Well, that’s cool,” said Daniel. “I don’t mind admitting that I was attracted to her. But I’m tired of meeting women I’m interested in who sit there and clean their plate and THEN say some shit like, ‘I don’t think we’re a match.’
“I’m tired of flakes that don’t show up. I’m tired of 40, 50 year-old chicks posting photographs from high school. I’m tired of women lying about their age. And I’m tired of women who make a great presentation but who turn out to be fucking crazy. It’s frustrating to the point that my life would be easier if I wasn’t looking.”
What Daniel has seriously proposed to do—retire from the dating scene–is not uncommon for women. I am acquainted with women who have thrown in the proverbial towel. And I come from a family of women who simply gave up on men. After my mother and Daddy divorced, Mama didn’t get involved with another man. She made no official declarations to remain single; I just noticed that she chose to spend the rest of her life raising her kids and working with the Head Start organization. Later, she went back to school in pursuit of a degree.
Her mother–my grandmother–did the same thing: after years with my ever philandering grandfather, she chose to devote her life to rearing her three daughters. When I was growing up, in my neighborhood there seemed to be many women, most but not all of them mothers, with no man around. It never occurred to me that these women had given up finding a healthy, fulfilling relationship. I don’t know that they did; I was a kid. But what else could it have been?
In any case, what women don’t know is that men can feel the same way: in searching for a mate, they can be become so distressed with the process that they just shut down.
Daniel is tall and handsome in a rugged kind of way. He’s intelligent, funny. Successful in the aerospace business, he’s on track to retire early. His kids turned out to be kind, responsible young men. Danny seems like he’d be considered by many women to be a “catch,” but then, that’s just me…and, well, Danny. “I’m not perfect,” he said, pushing his nearly empty plate away. “But I know I’ve got something to offer. You can’t tell me that who I am is so difficult for the right lady to see.”
It’s been said that the ritual of finding a partner is toughest on at least two kinds of people—the dater who, in their choices, keeps making the same mistakes over and again, and the person who has done the emotional “work” on him or herself to the point that they are no longer compatible with or attracted to the lost, dysfunctional souls they’d have gladly dated before, thus substantially dwindling their choices.
Regardless, blow out the candles, cancel those restaurant reservations and un-chill that unopened bottle of wine. Daniel is done.
Steven Ivory, veteran journalist, essayist and author, writes about popular culture for magazines, newspapers, radio, TV and the Internet. Respond to him via [email protected]