Sexless in the City

Sometimes reading romance novels doesn’t quite prepare you for a love life...

For this 30-year-old urbanite, love is always a misadventure: The Harvard Lickwit, Hippie the Groper, the 5% Man, and the Ad Weasel. These and many other men wander in and out of her life — but never her bed.

Friday, May 27, 2005

It only takes a little

When I was a college undergrad, a friend of mine got roped into helping set up a surprise for another guy’s pull-out-all-the-stops first date. Now maybe this was partly because the typical college student tends to be so poor and limited in his options for taking a lady out, but this guy wanted to do it right. (I think he also knew, by then, he wanted her for his wife). So there were flowers, a special dinner at a swank resort, and other touches requiring friends like mine to sneak up there and set things up.

All that probably was unnecessary to some degree, as the lady in question was already quite smitten with her fellow. But still ... a nice gesture that will, for years to come, make for a nice romantic first-date story.

Myself, I’m fonder of the little things. The little moments. Those breaths that make your heart start to ratchet up its kick-rate a little, restore your faith (if that&rsqsuo;s a good thing) that sometimes a date can be lots of fun. Granted, some of my little moments have probably been a little bit contrived on the gentleman’s part — but they were best when they were not.

I remember with the Lickwit, for instance, we had this moment discussing how much we both liked a Ted Hughes poem that they were then using for the “Poetry in Motion” feature on the Subway. Thought-track: Oh my GOD! We’re discussing POetry! How cute! How very cultured! ... How not-quite normal.

Or then, on my first date with the Funny Man, we left a rooftop party to grab some Mexican. Undecided in our choice, we sampled the chicken, which they served to us in a little paper cup with plastic fork. I guess he must have liked me fairly well by then, for he got all Mr. Gentleman on me and had to feed me some of the chicken.

Ah, but who am I kidding? Men just like the chance to put anything inside a woman’s mouth. That’s all it was. And that’s why, too, it didn’t seem that special. It had all the hallmarks of a little moment, yes — the brief slowing-down of time, the hints of intimacy — but it also felt a little premature.

It was much more the real shebang with Hesitator, however. The pseudo-date before the disastrous dance-a-thon began on a Sunday after church. A Sunday when I’d decided to show off my legs for the Captain’s benefit (he showed up with another girl that Sunday). To that end I was wearing a rather appalling but short pink dress that hit about roughly mid-thigh (though I do have longish legs). But instead of getting the Captain’s attention, I wound up getting Hesitator’s.

I’d shocked-n-awed him a few nights before, but parted without a disclosure of my contact information. God must have decided he rated a second chance with me, so brought us together that Sunday. As we were leaving church to go enjoy the spring weather, I had a small matter with my shoe.

A small matter with my new shoes — stacked, wedge-heel Mary Janes so mod two passersby had to stop and admire them. Stop, you see, because I had stopped — perhaps to get something out of my shoe. But on account of my hemline I was hard put to finish the task without also flashing Lex. Avenue. As I wobbled there, trying to make like a pelican and bring the foot to me so I need not bend down to the shoe, Hesitator stepped in.

I’m tellin’ ya’ll, Hesitator or no, there was somethin’ mighty hot about a man’s hand fastening your shoe strap against bare skin. That was a genuine Little Moment. The sort that gives you hope a more dignified and noble interaction between the sexes is still possible.

Then there are those moments of understanding — where someone briefly seems to read your thoughts. A few months ago, a certain lad and I were running errands in and out of his car. I must have sometimes made him tell me what song we were hearing from the radio — as if he had access to the DJ’s playlist. He certainly knew them all.

At one point I was just about to leave the car when another song briefly delayed my exit. This time I didn’t say anything but the way I cocked my head to the right to listen must have clued him in just fine. “Coldplay,” he said. (Fans self.)

And you see — that’s just the sort of saps we women are. First of all, that we remember such things (long after we should have forgotten them), and then that they make us so prone to thump our chests and wistfully go, “Ahhhhhh.” There’s something about those places when another person seems to “get” us — seems to mind-read what it is that makes us smile.

I’ve quoted it before, but it’s worth repeating:
The longing for a destiny is nowhere stronger than in our romantic life. All too often forced to share our bed with those who cannot fathom our soul, can we not be forgiven if we believe ourselves fated to stumble one day upon the man or woman of our dreams? Can we not be excused a certain superstitious faith in a creature who will prove the solution to our relentless yearnings? And though our prayers may never be answered, though there may be no end to the dismal cycle of mutual incomprehension, if the heavens should come to take pity on us, then can we really be expected to attribute the encounter with this prince or princess to mere coincidence? Or can we not for once escape rational censure and read it as nothing other than an inevitable part of our romantic destiny?
But of course, the little moment easily read as part of Romantic Destiny often proves to be misleading. Some of the greatest conversations I’ve had with men occurred with strangers I never saw again.

So what’s your favorite Little Moment?