Archive for the ‘Dating While Poet’ Category

Dating While Poet #4: First Day of Spring

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Much like myself, this post isn’t really going anywhere but contains valuable information. You will likely find it of more usefulness than my other posts in the “Dating While Poet” series, because this one isn’t about me actually going on a date and therefore offers something beyond examples of what not to do that, although amusing, fail to be instructive because, unless you’re me, you already knew not to do those things anyway. (And if you are me, Chris, stop reading your own blog and do something constructive with your day.) As I’ve said, this post isn’t about me going on a date. It does, however, involve a beautiful woman asking for my number. Unfortunately, this was only so she could enter it into the computer at the bookstore and call me when the book I’d ordered arrived. In all fairness, I would like quickly to clarify that this was a book I’d already planned on buying when I walked into the bookstore, and that I wasn’t just ordering it because the girl at the Information desk was pretty. Although, in further fairness, I was just ordering it because the author of the book is pretty. I’m going to change the subject now.

It’s the first day of Spring and I woke up in a good mood, knowing perfectly well that you’re only supposed to capitalize the name of a season if it’s a poem and you’re addressing it, but not caring at all. That was how good I felt. Like with most people, when I find myself in a good mood I want to make it even better by doing something crazy that I don’t normally do. Unlike with most people, going outside in the daytime for a reason besides work counts for me as one of those things. I decided to walk to a bookstore and purchase comedienne Kristen Schaal’s The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex, which I’ve been meaning to buy because it has funny stuff on the inside and a picture of Kristen Schaal in her underwear on the cover. It’s been out for a year and a half, and I would have bought it sooner, but I had to wait until I was having a really good day so the funniness of the book wouldn’t be negated by my depression over the fact that I’m never going to marry Kristen Schaal, despite the fact that I’m an adventurous yet soulful lover and spell her name right more than half of the time.

      My idea of an unattainable Love Goddess

I felt so unstoppable that instead of walking all the way up to the Barnes & Noble in Union Square, I decided to throw caution to Zephyrus and go to the bookstore three blocks from my apartment that I usually avoid because everyone who hangs out there is so much cooler than me. Yes, I walked right into that cool bookstore with my head held high, and I kept it that way. There was a woman drinking coffee while wearing the biggest pair of sunglasses I’ve ever seen, and I didn’t start crying even a little. It was like there was some kind of cool forcefield around me, which I attributed to the fact that I was wearing my pants with the dried paint on them. I got them at Salvation Army, so there was already paint on them when I bought them, rather than the paint being on them because I was actually painting something myself, but I had spent the walk to the bookstore mentally preparing to lie about that if anyone asked.

The logical guess was that the book would be in the Humor section, except for the fact that it’s probably actually funny and no books in the Humor section of a bookstore are ever actually even a little bit funny. It wasn’t in the Sexuality section either, so I went over to the Information desk to ask. I did notice on my way over that the woman sitting behind the Information desk was gorgeous, but I made up my mind that this was definitely not going to ruin my day and force me to go home and write something about it. If you’re wondering why a professional writer would consider a day ruined if it results in him doing his job, don’t worry, I’m seeing my therapist tomorrow and I’m going to open with that.

When I say that the woman behind the information desk was gorgeous, I’m not exaggerating for effect. She was probably a model. Normally that’s just an expression, but when you’re talking about a startlingly tall and skinny woman who’s dressed uncommonly stylishly while working a part-time job at a trendy store in SoHo, it’s not. I mean she was literally almost certainly a model. And if that usage of literally made sense to you despite the fact that there’s no way for someone to figuratively almost certainly be a model, shame on you, you’re what’s wrong with America.

I’m not going to describe the woman beyond stating the fact that she was gorgeous, because if somehow she ends up reading this, the odds that she would be flattered are infinitesimal compared to the odds that I would get banned from that bookstore. So if you’re her, and you are reading this, don’t worry, I’m talking about a different woman in a different bookstore in the same neighborhood that I ordered the same book from on the first day of Spr—  fuck.

The problem with being in a good mood is, it doesn’t take much to screw it up. That’s why in general I advise strongly against it. The literal model explained that they were out of The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex but that she could order it for me and it would arrive tomorrow, and I managed to get through the conversation and give her my information to enter into her special model computer that probably does weird secret model stuff that normal computers don’t do without looking at the floor and mumbling so quietly that she had to ask me everything twice. I did somehow manage to forget what I normally do with my arms when I’m standing still, but that’s to be expected. It won’t ever happen again, though, because this time I made a mental note to notice what I do with my arms the next time I’m talking to an ugly girl and remember. So look out, pretty girls, because the next time you have a 30-second conversation with this guy, you’re not even going to believe how natural his arm movements seem.

Anyway, remember that useful information I promised you at the beginning? Here it is. Obviously, I wanted to keep talking to this woman. Also obviously, I couldn’t think of a plausible reason to do so and just left. And because of this, I finally figured out the correct answer to the age-old question of whether beautiful women like jerks. The answer is that technically they don’t, but it comes to the same thing. And here’s why.

Now, the reason you always hear people say that beautiful women like jerks is because beautiful women keep ending up with jerks, so you can’t really blame people for concluding this. But in reality, concluding that beautiful women are especially attracted to jerks is like concluding that lightning is especially attracted to golfers. It’s true that golfers are the ones who always end up getting hit by lightning, but there’s no inherent quality golfers possess that causes this. Lightning is equally attracted to all human beings, because our bodies are all mostly water and lightning is attracted to water. And even though, all things considered, it’s unlikely that you’re going to be struck by lightning no matter where you are, being on a golf course makes it considerably more likely than being anywhere else. And golfers are exponentially more likely than non-golfers to be on a golf course.

In other words, in order for me to end up dating this woman, I would have had to keep talking to her. It’s unlikely that I would have ended up dating her even if I had kept talking to her, of course—but it’s impossible that I would have ended up dating her if I didn’t, and unlikely outranks impossible. Since I had no valid reason to keep talking to her other than that I found her attractive, I would have had to make up some phony bullshit reason to keep talking to her on the spot. And in order to be capable of doing that, I would have had to believe at least one of the following two things:

A) She is so stupid she’s not going to figure out that my reason for continuing to talk to her is a phony bullshit one, or
B) I am so awesome she’s not going to care that my reason for continuing to talk to her is a phony bullshit one.

And in order to believe either of those things, I would have to be a jerk. Remember, I’m not saying I would have to be a jerk to believe that anyone would be interested in me. I would have no trouble believing that a woman who’s read my poetry book or sat through one of my brilliant lectures on Frankenstein would want to date me. To be perfectly honest, I would think she was crazy if she didn’t. But here, we’re talking about a woman I talked to for half a minute and who knew absolutely nothing about me. And for that matter, I knew absolutely nothing about her. So in order for either of criteria A and B to be met, I would have to be walking around in a constant state of thinking either that all women are stupid or that all women find me awesome based on absolutely nothing. And walking around in a constant state of believing either of those things is the definition of a jerk.

So, in conclusion, this is why all jerks play golf. No wait, that’s not it. But hey, isn’t it weird how that’s also true?

Dating While Poet #3: The Meatpacking District

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

I met a girl at a product-testing study for a hangover remedy. They rented the top floor of a bar, got us all really drunk, then gave some of us the product and some of us a placebo and told us to fill out a questionnaire about how we felt the next day. They also gave us free cans of the product on our way out, which obviously everyone drank as soon as they left, including the people who’d been given the placebo. I kind of suspect the officiators did not know how to conduct a study properly. Anyway, I got her number and asked her to meet me for a drink the next night at a place I like in the East Village. She texted back and asked me to pick a place in the Meatpacking District instead. I called Danny and asked him for the name of a bar in the Meatpacking District that wouldn’t give me a panic attack. He said there was only one of those. I texted the girl the name of that bar and met her there. I was five minutes early and she was half an hour late. Actually, she was only ten minutes late, but then stood outside the bar talking on her phone for twenty minutes before she came in, which I know because I could plainly see her through the window. I spent that time pretending to do things with my phone, which was difficult because my phone can’t really do anything. I just held it up in the air and pressed the screen over and over with my thumb while trying to look engrossed. It wasn’t even unlocked. Luckily, no-one was sitting behind me. Then she came in and this happened.

Me: Everything okay?
Date: Yeah, why wouldn’t it be?
Me: No reason.
Date: Oh my God, I was so drunk last night.
Me: Me too. I guess that was kind of the point.
Date: That was weird. Wasn’t that weird? We were like rats in a cage.
Me: I don’t know. If someone’s going to get me drunk for free all night and all I have to do is send them an e-mail the next day about whether I have a headache—
Date: RATS IN A CAGE. So what do you do again?
Me: I’m an English teacher. You?
Date: I’m the [I can’t write this part accurately because her job made no sense. I think she’s someone’s assistant or something]. And I love it! But really, I can’t even drink tonight. I’m just going to stick with white wine.
Waitress: What can I get you?
Date: Vodka tonic.
Me: Citrus martini. What were you up to today?
Date: I’ve been running around like crazy trying to find a dress for New Year’s Eve. I finally found this one, it has ruching, and [edited for length, but it took about twenty minutes, so this may well be the same story she was telling someone on the phone outside the bar]. So yeah, it has ruching. Sorry, do you know what that is?
Me: Yeah, I know what ruching is.
Date: Oh my God, really? Are you bi?
Me: I think in theory everyone is, but no, not actively.
Date: Then why do you know what ruching means?
Me: Well, I’m an English teacher, so I guess I know what it means because it’s a word.
Date: That’s funny. You’re funny!
Me: Thank you.
Date: So you’ve never made out with another guy?
Me: Well, yes, I have, but just in those situations where two girls say they’re going to make out, but only if two guys make out first.
Date: Uh-oh. You’re not poly, are you?
Me: No, not really. But I’ve had girlfriends who were, so I guess I was at those times.
Date: Because that is a dealbreaker for me.
Me: It’s not what I’m looking for either, at this point. But when you’re in your twenties, if you’re dating some girl who’s like “We’re going to have a bunch of threesomes!”, you’re going to be like “Okay, sure.”
Date: (blank stare)
Me: Uh… right?
Date: So you’ve had threesomes?
Me: Well, yeah, I have.
Date: Oh. What was that like?
Me: Not a big deal, actually. I mean, when you’re growing up, you think if you ever had a threesome you’d be happy every day for the rest of your life, but then it happens and your life doesn’t really change at all. It’s like how before I published a book, I thought—
Date: No way! You wrote a book? What’s it about?
Me: Well, it’s poetry, so I guess it’s not about anything.
Date: I write poems! (rustles around in purse; produces phone; shows me poem she posted on Facebook)
Me: Well, that certainly… rhymes.
Date: Can I hear one of your poems?
Me: Uh… sure. (recites poem)
Date: You’re really intense. You remind me of Vince Vaughn in Wedding Crashers.
Me: I knew I shouldn’t have gotten a short haircut.
Date: Well, there’s no way I’d be on a date with you if you had long hair.
Me: Uh-huh.
Date: So what are the five questions you would need to ask someone to determine whether you could ever be serious with them?
Me: You mean like, if I was going to marry someone?
Date: Yeah. You can ask me your five, and then I’ll ask you my five.
Me: Okay. Let’s see… Do you believe in God?*
*(Okay, I was the one who brought this up, so technically everything that happens afterwards is my fault, but she tricked me.)
Date: Yes! Absolutely. I unequivocally believe in God.
Me: Okay… So, what does that mean to you? I mean, do you believe literally in one of the Gods from the major religions, or just…?
Date: No! Religion, no way. I’m just spiritual.
Me: Oh, good, okay. So that means believing that…?
Date: That everything happens for a reason.
Me: Well, sure, in the sense that effects have causes, but where does God come into it?
Date: I believe that everything is destined to happen, and God is what’s doing that.
Me: Doesn’t belief in a constant state of all-encompassing divine intervention go considerably beyond what is generally meant by “spirituality?” That sounds like a fairly hardline religious doctrine.
Date: Okay, how about you? Do you believe in God?
Me: I’m a theological noncognitivist.
Date: What’s that?
Me: It means I don’t think the term “God” has a definition, so I can’t answer the question.
Date: So you’re an atheist.
Me: Not exactly. An atheist’s answer to the question “Do you believe in God?” is “no,” an agnostic’s answer is either “we don’t know” or “we can’t know,” depending on whether they’re an agnostic-temporary or an agnostic-in-principle, and a theological noncognitivist’s answer is “what do you mean by ‘God’?”
Date: So does that make you an atheist or an agnostic?
Me: Neither. It’s its own thing. I guess it’s similar to the position of the agnostic-in-principle, except theological noncognitivism doesn’t mandate the impossibility of reaching a definition of God, as far as I know. On the other hand, I guess I would call myself an atheist if I were talking to a fundamentalist who is asking me specifically about their definition of God, since I am an atheist with respect to that definition.
Waitress: Another?
Date: Yes.
Me: Yes.
Date: Okay, have you ever almost died?
Me: Yeah, actually. One summer during junior high, me and my friends built a zipline in the woods, and when I went on it, the pulley broke. I fell pretty far, but I landed on my back in some bushes and was fine. Then I looked to my right and saw there was this jagged stump from where we’d cut down this one tree. I was almost impaled. I missed it by like six inches.
Date: Aha! So what do you call that?
Me: What do you mean, what do I call it?
Date: I mean you could have been impaled, but you weren’t. You landed in some bushes. What do you attribute that to?
Me: Well, the bushes were directly below me, so… gravity, I guess?
Date: Really? Gravity, that’s it? You don’t think that was God saving you?
Me: If God wanted to save me, why did I fall in the first place? He could have just made the pulley not break. Plus if it was “destined” to happen that way, then he didn’t technically “save” me.

Date: Okay, well, you can choose to believe that, but why wouldn’t you choose to believe it was God?
Me: Wouldn’t that be kind of obnoxious of me? I mean, people die all the time. Someone probably just died in a car accident within a few miles of here while we were having this conversation. Six million Jews died in the Holocaust. I’m supposed to believe that God let all those people die, but I’m so great that he intervened to save me?
Date: Okay, well, you know, fine, whatever, we can just call this whatever and go dutch and keep talking as friends, but seriously, like, when it comes to dating, if I’m going to say that I’m on a date with someone, then it’s really important to me that that person be an optimist.
Me: Does someone really need to believe that the world revolves around them in order to count as an optimist?
Date: What’s your second question?
Me: Okay, um… What’s your favorite song?
Date: It’s [some song I’ve never heard of and don’t remember]. What’s yours?
Me: It changes a lot, but right now I’d have to say that my official favorite song is “Don’t Worry Baby” by the Beach Boys.
Date: Really? Wow, I wouldn’t have expected you to have such an upbeat favorite song!
Me: (defensively) That song’s not upbeat! It’s a bittersweet ballad.
Date: Okay, but why do you consider it an insult to be called upbeat?
Me: I guess you’ve got me there.
Date: It’s because you’re an atheist.
Me: Theological noncognitivist.
Date: So what does that mean again? Is that like an atheist or an agnostic?
Me: I told you, it’s a distinct third thing. An atheist’s answer to the question “Do you believe in God?” is “no,” an agnostic’s is—
Date: So then do you believe in Jesus?
Me: In what sense? I mean, I believe that there was such a person as Jesus, and if the records of what he said and taught are basically accurate, then I think he was a really good person and I respect him highly as a philosopher. I don’t think he rose from the dead or walked on water, but I don’t think Gandhi or Martin Luther King did those things either and I still respect them. I think of Jesus basically the same way I think of those people.
Date: Oh, good! So you believe Jesus existed?
Me: Yeah, I would say so. We don’t know for certain that he did, but we don’t know for certain that Socrates or Homer existed either, and I’m still perfectly happy to make reference to such-and-such a thing having been said or written by Socrates or Homer.
Date: But you said you were like an atheist?
Me: Well, I said I was a theological noncognitivist, but then you asked me to dumb it down. In any case, most atheists believe in a historical Jesus anyway. A few don’t, and have gotten into the whole “Jesus didn’t exist” thing, but I see that as a bad strategy and just an arbitrary selective application of the general level of doubt that we could be said to have about any number of figures from that long ago.
Date: Oh, okay. I just wanted to make sure, because some people believe in, you know, the Big Bang or whatever.
Me: (in confusion/terror) Uh… What? I believe in the Big Bang, but the Big Bang is about how the universe came into being. It has nothing to do with the existence of Jesus. I guess it could sort of conflict with the existence of God, but it doesn’t necessarily have to. You could just say God caused the Big Bang.
Date: But wasn’t the person who came up with the Big Bang trying to say there was no Jesus?
Me: Probably not, because the person who came up with the Big Bang was actually a Catholic priest. His name was Georges Lemaître, and he was a Jesuit who—
Date: I’m going to run to the bathroom real quick.
Me: You do that.
Other Girl: Are you on a first date with a girl in a spangly top?
Me: Yeah.
Other Girl: I just saw her in the bathroom. She said she was on a weird first date. Good Luck.
Me: I have no idea whether that was a good sign or a bad sign.
Date: So like I said, I’m not religious, I’m spiritual.
Me: How is belief in the divinity of Jesus “spirituality” rather than specifically Christianity?
Date: You believe in spirituality, right?
Me: Sure I believe in spirituality. Spirituality is an emotion people feel, so therefore it exists. Freud called it “the oceanic feeling.” (aside, to myself) Fuck! That’s why it was the name of the airline! Those assholes! God, fuck that show!
Date: What?
Me: Nothing.
Date: So you really think that’s all it is, an emotion?
Me: Well, sure. I guess I’m using the term “emotion” loosely, but it goes on inside people as opposed to being an external force. If people didn’t exist, spirituality wouldn’t exist.
Date: But your heart beating and your blood pumping go on inside you too. Are those emotions?
Me: No, those are autonomic processes governed by the medulla. Spirituality is something we consciously experience and think and talk about, an idea we’ve created to describe how we feel, so that would be happening in the cerebrum. I guess we can’t say there’s a specific part of the brain that—
Date: (sarcastic voice) Oh, yeah, okay!
Me: I don’t… So does that mean you agree with me, or you don’t, or…?
Date: Like I said, we could let this turn into an argument, or—
Me: Well, technically it’s already an argument. An argument is anytime someone says what they believe and gives reasons for it. It doesn’t mean the person has to be angry.
Date: I kind of want nachos.
Me: Yeah, we can get some nachos.
Waitress: More drinks with your nachos?
Me: Yes.
Date: Yes.
Bro at Next Table: Did you say you were an atheist? I’m an atheist.
Me: Um… Okay.
Date: I’m going to go smoke a cigarette. (leaves; bro follows her outside)
Me: Okay.
Me: (to wall) Wall, do you find it odd that she scolded me about being an atheist for over an hour but then immediately went outside to smoke a cigarette with a bro who interrupted our conversation to announce that he was an atheist?
Wall:
Me: Yeah, me too. And what’s really weird is that she didn’t even have any cigarettes, but somehow magically knew that the bro would follow her and that she could bum one off him.
Wall:
Me: I should probably leave.
Wall: What about the nachos?
Me: Oh, right, there’s nachos coming. Thanks, Wall.
Wall: You’re going to pick up the whole check, aren’t you?
Me: Yeah, probably.
Wall: There’s really no reason to punish yourself like that.
Me: Why stop now?

Dating While Poet #2: on Having Short Hair

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

Last summer I got into a bar fight. As bar fights go, it was unimpressive—I didn’t break a chair over anyone’s back, and I didn’t grab a guy’s collar and slide him down the bar and out the window—but it was enough for me to get tossed. Since I like to pretend my life is important enough that I have to “atone” for things, I stopped drinking for 30 days afterwards, plus when I got home that night I took an electric trimmer and buzzed off my hair. It just seemed like the thing to do—kind of a visual reminder that I was rethinking my life, or at least pretending to. It certainly wasn’t supposed to look good—if anything, it was supposed to look bad—but my roommate at the time, an attractive woman who goes to clubs I’ve never heard of and couldn’t get into even if I had, told me it did. That struck me as odd, but I figured she just liked a very different type of guy (obviously, since she wouldn’t have been my roommate if she were even processing me as a sexual being).

But then another girl told me my hair looked good short. And then another, and another. In fact, pretty much 100% of girls said that my hair looked better short than it did when it was long. I wasn’t keeping score or anything (okay, yes I was), but I don’t recall even one woman ever saying that my hair was better long and that I should grow it back. I realize that people pretty much always tell you it looks good when you get a haircut just out of politeness, but this was a fairly radical change on my part. I’d had long hair every second of my life since about the fourth grade (except for that time in 1997 when I got a buzzcut because Bono did, but I’ve put that out of my mind, and I’d appreciate it if you would too). When someone makes a change that big, people don’t just reflexively compliment it. I looked different enough that some people didn’t even recognize me—a lot of my coworkers thought I was new. But the approval was so ubiquitous that when my hair started growing back out, I cut it short again, and then again. At this point, it’s been nearly five months, so I guess I just officially have short hair now.

And it’s really starting to freak me out.

For a while, when I met new people, I would find a way to work the fact that I had long hair until very recently into the conversation—like how you do right after you change jobs or move to a different neighborhood. But at this point, the social statute of limitations on mentioning that is pretty much expired. I am no longer in the state of having “just gotten” a short haircut—I just have a short haircut. I realize everyone thinks I look better this way, but to be honest, that’s what’s bothering me. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that I would work better as—or even be able to “pass” for—a short-haired man. Long hair was much more accurately indicative of everything about my personality: I’m a poet, I play the guitar, I hate sports, I’m sad all the time. Sporting “the Kurt Cobain” wasn’t just something I did all those years because I thought it framed my face well—it was the uniform of the team I played for. For a lot of guys, hair length is like what hair color is for a lot of women. If a brunette dyes her hair blonde for a Halloween costume or a role in a play, and then everyone tells her she works better as a blonde, she’d probably wonder why. And she might not want or feel prepared for all the changes that would come with being a blonde permanently.

Case in point: I met this girl I ended up dating for a while at the end of the summer when she came up and started talking to me in a bar. Already this was weird, because that never happens to me, or at least it never happened to me when I had long hair. On top of it, she tried to have a conversation with me about sports. When I said I didn’t care about sports, she was shocked, and I was shocked that she was shocked. Another night a few weeks later in the same bar, some girl I didn’t know just straight-up walked over and started feeling me and said she liked my muscles. Granted she was drunk, but it’s not like I’d never been in the same room as a drunk girl before. I was in the same rooms as drunk girls for fifteen years and they never did that, and I still had muscles. I just also had “the Kurt Cobain.”

Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised? After all, the first thing a male acquaintance said to me the day after I first cut my hair was that the new look would open me up to “a whole new range of pussy.” But at the time, the only thing I took away from that comment was that I must apparently now look like the type of guy around whom other guys are comfortable using expressions like “a whole new range of pussy.” And frankly, I don’t want to look like that type of guy. This was another virtue of “the Kurt Cobain”—it wasn’t just a signal to girls that you’re sensitive, but also a signal to other guys that you’re probably not the type of guy it’s safe to say douchey things around. Short hair still feels like I’m in disguise as someone from another world, like when I used to work construction and occasionally another worker would see me from behind and start talking to me in Spanish, and then when I turned around we’d both be embarrassed.

Sure, there are other ways to mark yourself as a sensitive guy besides having long hair. Academics grow beards. Hipsters are really skinny. But long hair was the only way that worked on me. I wouldn’t look right with a beard, and have never tried (except for that time in 1998 when I had a goatee, because everyone was required to have one, because it was 1998). And my body doesn’t do the David Bowie “really skinny guy” thing. I have a wrestler build—I can either work out and have muscles, or not work out and be totally physically unremarkable, so I choose to work out. This was always fine in the past, because I also had long hair to offset the muscles. But now I have both muscles and short hair—in other words, I now look like the type of guy that other guys think won’t bat an eyelash if they casually use “pussy” as a collective noun for all women. But I’m not. Yes, I opened this article by mentioning that I got into a bar fight, but it was because someone was yelling out the answers at trivia night, so I’m pretty sure I still don’t count as a badass.

The other day I told a girl I’m currently dating that I wished I still had long hair. She asked why, and (of course) told me she thought I looked better with short hair. I really had to think about my answer. Long hair just feels like who I am for so many reasons, but I was having trouble putting it into words. The first thing that came out of my mouth was that short hair keeps making people think I like sports—which, I have to admit, sounded ridiculous even to me when I heard myself saying it. She asked why it bothered me if people thought I liked sports, and said that the type of person I am is still obvious once someone starts talking to me.

But the thing is, only a small fraction of the people who see you ever actually talk to you. I told her that I had a bad time of it in high school, and that even though I’m not there anymore, I don’t like the idea of looking like the people who made it a bad time. I don’t like knowing that other people who had a bad time of it in high school and pass me on the street now perceive me as someone who would have been mean to them. They’d know I wasn’t if I talked to them, but I can’t talk to everybody—and the people I’m talking about are precisely the least likely to talk to someone they don’t know who has big muscles and short hair. Sure, I may be more attractive this way, but I suspect I’m the wrong kind of attractive. A friend once told me that muscles “disqualify” me socially in the types of bars where intellectuals hang out, the same way that having giant fake boobs might disqualify a woman—and short hair is just sealing the deal. Yes, in other types of bars it’s making women who wouldn’t have talked to me before come up and talk to me—or even start randomly groping me—but I have to wonder, how many people whom I would have liked better is it causing to not come talk to me?

It’s easy to say “Who cares what strangers think?”, but deep down we all know that’s a cop-out. If I asked you to walk down the street wearing a Nazi armband, or a KKK hood, or a t-shirt that said “John Grisham is better than Shakespeare,” you wouldn’t do it. There are some things that are so offensive, we couldn’t stand to have anyone associate them with us, even strangers we’ll never see again. I know it shouldn’t, but short hair feels that way to me. Everyone likes it, so I guess I’m wrong, but still.

It’s also easy to say “Well, what do you like better?”, but that’s a cop-out too. Everyone says we should dress for ourselves instead of others, but if anybody really believed that, then we would all wear sweatpants every day. What does it matter what I like better? I’m not trying to have sex with myself. I can do that no matter what haircut I have.

I knew it would be crazy to go back to long hair if everyone likes the short hair better. But I still needed to find a way to deal with it. And eventually, I found one: I started wearing my glasses all the time, even though I never thought I’d do that either. As important as it was to me to look sensitive, for some reason I was always terrified to wear my glasses in public. I now think this was because the long hair plus the glasses was overkill, like wearing a pin with the name of a band you like pinned onto a t-shirt for the same band. But the glasses with the short hair kind of works. People are sometimes a little surprised when I say I don’t like sports, but not too surprised. Plus, feeling like I can’t project my personality visually anymore has caused me to start talking to people more often. When I went to the same bar I got tossed from for yet another trivia night—wearing my glasses into a bar for the first time—I walked up and joined a team of people I didn’t know. When I asked if they were any good, they joked that they weren’t as good as that buff guy who was there last week and knew everything. When I said that was me, they were surprised.

Apparently, the glasses are just as good a disguise as the long hair was. So maybe Lois Lane isn’t as stupid as everyone says. I mean, how could she be? She’s a brunette.

Dating While Poet

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

About six weeks ago, I had a first date that I was really excited about, with a cute young actress. Unlike most things I get really excited about, it went great. I picked the perfect spot, I didn’t get too drunk and, being something of an animation buff herself, she seemed to understand my lifelong desire to get married at the foot of a firefly-infested waterfall so as to perfectly recreate the love scene from Disney’s Robin Hood, if not necessarily to be totally on board with it right away. As I walked her to the train afterwards, we passed a little theater that she’d always loved, and I said I’d buy it for her if I won on Jeopardy!, conveniently forgetting that even if I won as many games as Ken Jennings, this would still take more than half the money. I kissed her, but didn’t try for more than that, and headed home feeling for once like I had spectacularly aced a first date.

When I got home, I sent her a goodnight text. No response. That’s cool, I thought. She’s probably still on the train. Or furiously masturbating. Or furiously masturbating on the train. Or she lost or broke her phone somehow, probably while furiously masturbating. I thought nothing of it, furiously masturbated, and went to sleep.

The next morning I texted again to wish her good luck at an audition she had in the morning—an audition, I might add, that was definitely totally real and that she had in no way made up as an excuse not to go home with me. Would a girl give an excuse like that to a man who had started crying eight minutes into the date while telling a story about the time he put out a mousetrap to catch a mouse but instead of being killed the mouse was only paralyzed and when he came into the kitchen after hearing the mousetrap noise the paralyzed mouse was being tearfully comforted by a little mouse friend (or possibly spouse) and saying in mouse language “No, go on, leave me, and don’t look back, I don’t want you to remember me this way?” Of course not.

This time, there was a response. She texted back “Thank you.” I’d have preferred to see “Thank you from the bottom of my sodden pink panties,” but at least it was a response. I texted back something that I’m sure was too long, too soon, and not badass enough, because that’s how I roll.

Then I heard nothing back for a week. The pattern of “three texts from me equals nothing for three days and then one short, noncommittal text back” continued for a while. Eventually, I asked her point blank if she wanted to go out again. She said yes, but then reverted right back to the “I don’t text you back until you’re halfway home from the noose store, and even then it is three words if you’re lucky” M.O., so I naturally figured that the “yes” was just politeness and I was supposed to “take the hint” here, so as not to become that guy who keeps texting a girl who doesn’t want to see him again that you occasionally hear about every single time you talk to a girl, ever.

So, all things considered, I emerged with dignity intact. I never did anything dishonorable, and I knew when it was time to cut my losses and give up before making a fool of myself. Well played.

Then five weeks later, she texts to tell me I’m a fucking asshole for “disappearing.”

This confused me. I mean, I did pick up the valuable piece of information that when a woman ends a text message with “That’s all I wanted to say,” it means there are seven more texts coming in the next five minutes, but other than that I was confused. I mean, I was supposed to stop contacting this girl because she clearly didn’t like me.

…Right?

I asked a couple of my female friends about it. They told me she was crazy, and unanimously voted down my plan to write back to her and offer to ritually scar myself in some way. This made me feel 100% better right away. Or it would have, if “she’s crazy” were not the only answer anyone ever gets when they ask a woman about another woman. So it actually didn’t help at all, but hey, my fault for asking. If you don’t want to get told that the answer is in the Bible, don’t ask the Pope, and if you don’t want to just get told “she’s crazy,” then don’t ask a woman about another woman (who is thin).

Speaking of the Pope, although I am a nonbeliever, I have nonetheless had a longstanding agreement with the Catholic Church that absolutely everything is my fault, so I decided that this was too. Since girls tend not to text guys they weren’t the slightest bit interested in after half the summer has passed to curse them out for breaking contact, it must have been the case that this girl actually did like me at least a little bit. And that’s when I got really worried, on account of the fact that “dropping out of contact because the girl obviously didn’t like me” is something I’ve ended up doing approximately… always.

I quickly fired off a message to a girl I’d been out with a few times since I gave up on the other girl, but hadn’t contacted in over a week because… well, you know. But I was sure that this girl didn’t like me, and so I phrased my message accordingly: “It’s obvious you’re not interested in seeing me again, and that’s cool, but just for the sake of self-improvement, I was wondering what I did wrong,” etc.

Imagine my chagrin when she wrote back befuddledly wondering what I was talking about, asking whether she’d missed a message from me or something, and clarifying that she would love to see me again.

It probably sounds at this point like I just give up all the time because I don’t know anything about women. But that isn’t it. I mean, it can’t be it. Somehow, I’d always had a girlfriend—and a hot one, at that—virtually every second from late college until my early 30s. So how could it be the case that I suddenly didn’t know anything about women?

And that’s when it hit me. The problem isn’t that the women I’ve been seeing recently are crazy. On the contrary—the problem is that they aren’t crazy enough.

Until recently, virtually every girlfriend I’ve ever had, I met in school, be it in college, in grad school, or as a teacher. A few of them were other poets that I met through, you know, poetry stuff, but like everything to do with poetry, that still basically counts as school. So even though I’ve always had girlfriends, I’ve also met them all in a bubble that ensured all of them would be other writers. It’s only in the last year that I’ve tried dating women I met in normal grown-up ways—bars, dating websites—that have nothing to do with studying or teaching writing.

In other words, I’ve never dated a normal person before.

Sure, like anyone else, while growing up I’d heard references made to things like “playing hard to get,” “occasionally not being drunk,” and “having a first date where neither person proposes stealing a car and driving all night to get married in Vegas,” but I just figured those customs were relics of a bygone era. After all, they never came up in my undergraduate poetry concentration, or my graduate school for poets, or my subsequent jobs where I only met other poets.

If you’ve ever known any poets, then you already know we’re bad at two things: quitting smoking, and not randomly marrying each other. I went to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, for Christ’s sake—every time I snuck out of the bar to go home and take a dump, when I came back someone was married. Then by the time someone inevitably punched the bartender for refusing to sell us a take-home after closing, they were divorced. More of us got married than got fired from teaching positions for sleeping with students or showing up drunk, and that happened to all of us, so the first thing shouldn’t even be mathematically possible. Once a week we all got together to praise Ross from Friends for how infrequently he got married.

So by the time I entered my last relationship of any duration, with a girl who said “I love you” on our first date and then sang me Regina Spektor songs at the top of her voice in a crowded sushi restaurant, the problem wasn’t so much that this seemed normal to me—it was that anything less than this made it seem like the girl would be happy to see me step in front of a bus.

And you know who does less than that on a first date, even if she really likes you? Every woman who is not ovaries-to-the-wall out of her skull, that’s who.

But I’ve never dated any of those women. And at this rate, I never will, not as long as I keep expecting every encounter with a woman who feels the slightest bit of human emotion for me to end with the two of us strewn with garlands of psychoactive mushrooms, rutting in an abandoned field by the light of a church we just set on fire, while seventeen of our closest friends sing Anglo-Saxon translations of Gilbert & Sullivan songs, spattered with uncooperative bartender blood.

It’s not just that I’ve never been around women who pretend not to like you. I’ve never even been around people who are remotely psychologically capable of pretending not to like anything that they like, regardless of the consequences. When a poet likes you, you know it. How? Because you’re either not also a poet, in which case you’ve already called the police, or you are, in which case you’re already married.

But that’s just not what normal women do. Normal women pretend not to like you, and then flip out on you when you believe them. Apparently.

Fuck that. I’m reapplying in fiction. Who wants to get married?