The Ghost Writer
I’ve been thinking lately about a recent conversation I had with a writer, a guy who’s ghosting a relationship advice book for a famous comedian. At the time he was working on a chapter about how you know you’re ready to get back into the fray.
I was curious, thinking this might be useful. Eventually. So I asked. How?
“You don’t want to be the woman in the movie being chased down the dark alley by the villain,” he said.
“You don’t want somebody to catch you at your weakest moment,” he added, seeing my look of incomprehension.
So, how will I know when I’m ready to pitch myself back out into the world of men? And by which I mean relationships. Like dinners, and dates and grownup stuff?
As usual, I have absolutely no idea. A man has not asked me on a date since before the fall of the Berlin Wall. And yes, that sentence is as horrifying to write as the concept is to grasp.
So I decided to consult some male friends about how I come across, social-wise.
“You’re very sarcastic,” the first one said.
I asked another, younger, friend. “You’re not quite as bitter as you used to be,” he offered, although his tone indicated that I did have some way to go.
“You swear too much,” said a third, bluntly. “Every second word that comes out of your mouth is fuck.”
Bitter. Sarcastic. Profane. And consider this; these are close friends I’m talking about—men who are actually, demonstrably fond of me.
Clearly these are not qualities designed to recommend me to strangers.
In this light, I’ve been tossing around the idea of what an honest Internet dating profile would say. Oh, let me see, it would surely run something like this …
“I am puzzled, jaded and cynical. My expectations are hilariously debased. If you have cheekbones and hair (head, not back) and are not morbidly obese and can make me laugh, you’re in with a shot. But there’s this one thing; I have a very low tolerance for boredom. If you bore me it doesn’t matter how handsome you are, because boring cancels out handsome. Don’t ask me why, it just does. Also, did I mention that I’m 52? That’s the best part. I look in the mirror and see a face that I really wish I didn’t. Every part of my body is crashing southward, faster than science can measure. I know what menopause actually means. It’s a subject so horrifying that even I, whose sense of humor is so perverse, so defiled, that several friends who when I told them my husband had left thought I was joking, cannot bring myself to joke about it.”
Nope. Those talking points are not going to fly. Not in New York. In London, maybe, where sarcasm is the water that most people swim in, (check the personal ads in Private Eye for the purring Rolls Royces of snark if you don’t believe me). Not here.
Do I really have the energy to misrepresent myself for the purposes of getting laid? I could write a perky little profile, I suppose. Making shit up is, after all, what I do best. But it wouldn’t be true. And the effort of pretending to be somebody that I’m not would exhaust me.
At this moment, I can’t not be sarcastic, profane, and bitter. I don’t feel quite like me without my claws.
And it’s so much easier to sequester myself with a bottle of Cotes du Rhone and order in a boatload of Homeland DVDs. Because if there’s one female character on television who makes me feel like I’ve got a grip on things it’s Carrie Mathison. Man, do I imbibe solace from her predicament. Every lonely, disappointed, dive-bar-patronizing, this-close-to-losing-it, screw-up-a-relationship-in less-than-a-weekend-after-sex-in-a-parking-lot woman can see herself in Carrie.
Although there’s another option to Internet dating. A while ago when I was more dedicated to getting my Spanish up to speed, I started going to Spanish conversation Meetup where many of the guys I met were fluent in Spanish, for the excellent reason that they were born and raised in Latin America.
Now, I can’t imagine if I lived in, say, Caracas, that attending English conversation Meetup would be high on my to-do list. I’m fairly happy with my proficiency in English. I’ve been slogging away at it for the last 50-odd years.
But the reason the guys from Argentina, Venezuela and Chile go to Spanish Meetup is to get laid, and they are quite delighted to spend an evening buying women over-priced margaritas and speaking infant-level Spanish in order to achieve that aim.
I know just enough Spanish to get into trouble. This is literally true. Once, in a hotel in Managua, I said two words to a Cuban. Those words were buenas noches. He took those two words to mean I had given him license to follow me back to my room and try to force his way in.
I don’t understand Cuban Spanish—the accent is too hard—but I got the general drift. The third word I said to him that night was no. I had to say it a few times—I had to say it a lot of times—but he got it eventually. It frightens me still to think about how that could have ended.
So clearly, my Spanish needs some work. And, despite the pushy Cuban, I like Latin men. I like the way they look. I like the color of their skin and their seal black hair. And I’d be working so hard with my inferior Spanish I wouldn’t be worrying about whether they were clever enough to keep me from being bored.
The Meetup plan has many facets to recommend it. But I’m not going to do it. Not yet. Because the other thing the ghostwriter said to me was this: that I would know when I was ready.
I know I’m not. I need more of a spine. I need more of a shell. In my present state it would be like sending a squidgy pink fetus out to navigate the minefield of social and sexual politics that is the New York dating scene.
Might as well just throw me under a taxi on Third Avenue.
Besides, season two of Homeland has begun. My friend has it on DVR for me. Carrie and I have some catching up to do.