On Disgruntlement

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Who in the world cares for you? or who will be injured by what you do?”

Still indomitable was the reply—“I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself. …”

(Jane Eyre, Ch.27)

You shut your mouth
How can you say
I go about things the wrong way
I am human and I need to be loved
Just like everybody else does

The Smiths, “How Soon Is Now”

So this is how it’s been:

It’s February, the world keeps turning, I keep aging, the snow keeps falling, I continue to have a challenging career and wonderful people in my life—and I’m quite sure I will never have another romantic relationship as long as I live.

Oh, P2, don’t become bitter and defeated, you say. Me? Bitter?? Defeated?? I don’t know the meaning of the words (in fact, if you know me in real life, you know that I’m often stubbornly, perversely, dogged). I do, however, know how to think critically and weigh evidence, and this is what I’m working with:

  • In the realm of online dating (see: oxymoron), I’ve been viewed by hundreds, over 1600 by last count!! –and contacted by almost none. I’ve noticed a new trend, that men really, really don’t want to risk rejection, so they order us to message them first—before we’ve even established a relationship, they’re trying to have everything their own way. My inclination (perverse stubbornness, remember?) is to dig in my heels–I will not be manipulated or controlled! It occurs to me that this is the basis of Dr. Seuss’s story about the Northgoing and Southgoing Zax. Reminding myself that’s it’s the 21st century (as though that’s some indicator of progress in gender relations…?), and that you can’t win if you don’t play, I email a few likely-looking fellows. By “likely,” I mean men who have photos taken by other humans, rather than the creepy selfies taken from dash-cams; admit to liking books and music; can use punctuation at least as well as a first-year college student; aren’t asserting their need to avoid “drama” (always a red flag: it takes two, sunshine); and have the attainments and interests of a cultured, reasonably normal person. None reply. I see one guy who looks appealingly like Vigo Mortensen. He claims to read—actual books and everything. But in his profile, he says “I like the theater, but I promise I’m not gay!” Recklessly, he goes on, “I even like opera, but again, I promise I’m not gay!” Huh?? Or the one whose opening line is, “I see you live in West Roxbury and yet you say your white! LOL.” Again: ?? Do I really have to have a warning in my profile, “don’t bother if you’re racist, homophobic, otherwise offensive and/or neither know nor care about the difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’”? I get matched with another promising type; but OKC warns me that there might be some incompatibility (where were you with the warnings, OKC, with Homophobic Theatrophile?) I check the data. Sure enough, all of his “sexual compatibility” questions indicate that he’s looking for someone to keep in a dungeon and occasionally flog. No judgement, of course. Just: Nope.
  • And—what’s more nothing than nothing? Because, if the results nline are nil, the ones Offline, IRL, out in the world are absolutely null (in french, “nul” means not just “nothing” but “stupid, useless, boring nothing” as in, “les resultats sont nuls. Comme ce bordel d’OKC me gêne!”). I’ve concluded that I’m one of the few straight, single, childfree, women in my entire hip-but-gentrified neighborhood. No straight man who is 1) unmarried and 2) not sporting some ambitiously “expressive” facial hair dares to say anything to me in any social or cultural context. One of most meaningful exchanges I’ve had lately was with the guy handing out cider samples at the bar 2 months ago. I suppose a bolder, less-backward P2 might have made some kind of move. Being timid and exceedingly backward, not to mention somewhat perplexed by his—much younger—age (what am I allowed?), I thanked him for the cider and crept back to my bar stool.

Recently A. and I went to one of the museums’ First Fridays. These are billed as a classy way to view the art, have cocktails, and–surely?–meet a better class of person than at a regular bar. In fact, these events have become a bizarre, frantic, singles’ scene, with two bars doing a raging business as everyone clamors for the social lubrication necessary to keep them circulating through the room, somewhat like a cross between an eighth-grade dance and the giant fish tank at the aquarium. There’s even a DJ—and respect to the older men in their 60s who haven’t danced in decades who are gamely giving it a try to perform fitness and virility for their younger quarry.

On this last, demoralizing attempt, I got to watch the Guy Who Infamously Stood Me Up chatting up his next project. I had my eye on another man—he was wearing Chuck Taylors and corduroy pants, surely signs of relative interestingness and compatibility. Turns out he was actually in disguise, a real estate developer playing hipster dress-up to appeal to women like me who might be more wary in the presence of a suit. His opening line: “so what kind of music do you like?” Idle chit chat ensues. The DJ plays a salsa number. It emerges that we both do social dance, so we venture out for a safely sedate attempt. Afterwards, he offers to refresh my wine. He seems to be gone a long time—I see that he’s out on the dance floor with someone else. He eventually materializes at my side with the wine, but pretty much drops it off and leaves.  Meanwhile, A has been cornered by Single Santa Claus. Sadly misreading the situation, he starts mansplaining some geopolitical conflict, in the very mistaken belief that 1) this is a charming opening gambit for anyone and 2) A is NOT an actual world-renowned expert on geopolitical conflict. She responds with a devastatingly-incisive remark that sets him straight, and leaves him sputtering in confusion.

That’s as good as it gets. We surrender the field and withdraw.

  • It’s important to note that I’ve actually had a couple of dates with very nice, interesting, seemingly-well-adjusted men—with whom I just didn’t feel comfortable, no chemistry at all. Maybe if we had a chance to meet in some very different context, some social situation that brought us together regularly over a period of time it would be different, but meeting cold? Can’t do it. This is where we get accused with being too fussy.
  • I’ve also had the date where the man comes into the restaurant, looks at me helplessly, and then stares desperately down at his plate. I recognize this look from class very well—not prepared, has no idea where to start, won’t say a word until teacher calls on him and asks him open-ended questions to draw him out. I don’t get paid enough to endure this at work; there’s not a braised pork shank in the world that can convince me this is fun on my off hours. Looking heavenward for support (a move that looks like rolling one’s eyes; doesn’t matter–man’s still staring at his plate, so he doesn’t see it anyway)–I go into super-professor/Barbara Walters mode, and he feels like a brilliant conversationalist. He asks me pretty much nothing about myself in return. I’m bored. He’s keen to see me again. I’m puzzled; he can’t be interested in me, because he didn’t actually learn much about me. I theorize that he’s mistaking his gratification at my theatrical performance of “interest” in him, for interest in me. Again, nope.
  • Meanwhile, A is declaring a moratorium on online dating, after going out on one-too- many dates with men who a) won’t stop talking; b) won’t talk without extensive help; c) are way too intense, too soon; d) remind her of Hobbits.
  • Another friend went out on one excruciating date, which culminated in the man patting her on the head. She posted this on Facebook, and I had to corner her at a meeting to demand that she act this out for me: “Was he trying to, for instance, tenderly stroke your cheek and just missed??” “No, he actually stood there, awkwardly, and reached out, and patted me right on the head. Like a dog.”

Really, we can’t say this emphatically enough: Nope. Nein. Nyet. Non, non, et non.

So we did what we were supposed to do. We have put ourselves Out There—and have ended up annoyed and put upon for our trouble. This is really just too much work.

I was looking for a pithy, witty title for this piece, but all I could come up with was “on being fed up.” I had to resort to the thesaurus; turns out “fed up, as in dissatisfied” has a LOT of really useful synonyms, including bothered, disaffected, vexed (that’s a good one), displeased, fretting, offended, ennuied (ennui, also very good), and unappeased. Indeed, while the world disappoints, words never do.

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