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.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Falling not a-tall?

Don’t forget about your contest entries!

iBaby 2.0 is a welcome warmth in my lap this morning, here in central Sexless bloggerdom. Gettin’ cold in this damn town! Methinks the landlords may soon need a gentle reminder they have a work-from-home writer-in-residence on the premises. At least there were the moderate attentions of a boy to warm things up last night ...

Oh yes, dahlings. Oh yes. Slower than snail’s pace, perhaps, but the drama continues with that church-goer, Tall Drink o’ Water.

Since more people come to church in fall than summer, we haven’t wound up sitting in such proximate seats as before, he and I. Which means any contact we do have takes place during the post-sermon cookie hour when people squeeze through the one narrow door to a biggish carpeted room with odd portraits of long-forgotten church patrons or others hanging on the walls. (Our church is young by most standards, so these aren’t even “our” patrons but those of the church whose building we use.)

Last night in the cookie hour I chatted up Guy Friend #1 (still reveling in his pin from the Johnnie Walker taste-testing we attended a couple weeks ago) and his girlfriend. I proposed we should take bets on whether or not Tall Drink came over to say hello — especially since he had not sent his promised email. Normally I at least walk across his sight line if not also giving him eye contact without seeming to make a point of it. But last night I told them I wasn’t even going to make sure he saw me, just see what happened (old-fashioned, passive female shenanigans, I know).

Apparently, he’s better acquainted than I thought with the shape of the back of my head. Next thing I knew, a dark head inserted itself in the space to the left of me with apologies for an email that never appeared. Apology led to face-to-face chat (on my book and the 6 lb. brisket fragrantly bubbling in a vat of fat atop my counter) led to rather odd dinner with a group of assorted characters from church (we sat at opposite ends) ... led to walking to the train together, along with detour to Starbucks.

I really think there’s something to this waiting-and-playing-low-key thing, I do. Indeed, the less effort I put into things, the more it seems to draw Tall Drink to me (too bad I never mastered this with the men I really sweated!). We finally parted inside the horrific 42nd St. subway station, lingering to talk about my exchange with a subway begger who suffered from AIDS. When I turned to go my way at last, he objected.

“What, no hug?” He’s not a shy one, that boy.

And somehow with him, I’m always on my toes (not just in ill-fated bid to make eye contact). The banter always snaps in the way it does when I chat with near-strangers — extended first-encounter good luck whereby mojo and wit are in top form.

This is the stuff breathless crushes once were made of. Once I thrived on the very excitement whose blood is the deep pool of things we don’t yet and may never know about each other. It lives in the thrill of holding out almost endless surprise for the other, not yet prepared for quirks of his I’ve picked up on enough to tease him about, or weird foibles of my own.

When I used to swing dance, some nights I’d meet a man like this. The challenge of learning to follow an unfamiliar lead brought out my skillz and kept me on edge to successful end — much like the decent fake-job I muster when sight-reading music. It’s all about strong, sharp, vivid impressions which by default could not be maintained in the long term nor would prove to have much substance on close inspection.

I love sight-reading, and nights of dancing with men like that were always quite a blast — but maybe now I’m getting older, I’d rather have the sort of partner with whom you don’t always need to mind about the footwork. Too much has passed between you to bother with bullshit but in the absence of flash and pretense there is an ease of the sort I think that marriage is built on. Not that you begin to know each other fully, but you’ve drilled down to something real in the other and that makes all the difference. What ties you together is not about the outcome of this moment or the next, so you can make unremarkable chitchat about his day or even say nothing.

Sometimes of course such partners may whip out the fancy steps just for fun, but when the conversational fun I have with Tall Drink is all there is to your interaction, you can’t go deeper. I used to fall for the flirting and hope that more could be built on that. Now I fall for someone I could trust. That’s the truly expandable base — someone you could not just share the last dance with but eat unspectacular post-dance eggs at Denny’s with and finally go home to the kids and babysitter.

Seven days left ... but really, how hard is rewriting cheesy love songs or rhyming badly?