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.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

E-dating week 4: ‘Girl brain’ at its worst

I was talking with a housemate and her guests recently when some faux-superstitious remark on my part (probably joking that some “sign” surely portended her romantic fate) prompted Housemate #1 to dismiss my quip with a snort and the charge of having “girl brain.”

It’s probably been called lots of things, but my favorite depiction of these histrionic, melodramatic flights of analytical fancy is the montage late in Amelie when she imagines all the things her mystery man has run off to do — the only one of which I remember was to join the mujahidin.

I liked that scene. It had the right deftness and briskness to suggest Amelie herself constructing the pastiche of internal mania with a coy self deprecation, as if to say sweetly, “Yes, it’s loony, but haven’t you done it too?”

Loony or not, girl brain almost always manifests in the absence or maddening silence of a man. Any situation where uncertain possibilities present themselves is an instant opportunity for our ever-active brains to fill in the gaps (naturally as colorfully as possible) until the man acts or speaks, providing us further data to mull over.

I had been mercifully spared of this affliction until recently, as nary a possible prospect was on the horizon (except with liberal stretches of the imagination). It was great. I walked the streets of San Francisco home from work to BART each night, my head busy with the latest baby garment to knit or who I needed to email next for some ongoing task with the book. Although I’ve decided to let myself actually look at the rotating line-up of four wedding dresses I always pass in a shop along Columbus, I’ve generally had a nice long stretch of calm deep breaths and peacefully savored foggy evenings.

Enter my recently married cousin, whom I saw at the end of a business trip last month. Barely one day into our visit, and she declared me in romantic hiding, which she suggested might be tackled by exploring internet dating.

I’ll admit I haven’t exactly been trying to crash every possible party that fills my housemates’ busy social lives, but neither have I been cultivating a shrewish tone with men, pretending to own several litters of cats, or finding other ways to become a SuperSpinster.

Still, I decided she might have a point.

Since this region isn’t exactly known for its seminaries and Jesus freaks, I decided to take her up on it, short of actually putting down money for said services. While this has so far yielded plenty of writing fodder, it’s also — alas — renewed the risk of girl brain (gulp).

Take the guy whom I’ll call e-Prospect #1. If it weren’t bad enough that we started contact shortly before a trip he took (a chance for wild speculation based on his email address), we subsequently resumed contact, briefly but promisingly, which Christmas and New Year’s then interrupted further.

And since he’d apparently rather IM than email, I’m now in the girl-brain hell of logging into a chat program to try figure out when he goes online (at work, in the evenings, or when he’s waiting for laundry to dry?), and then pondering whether or not to IM him or maintain a diffident distance so he can be the one to say hi.

You’d think that after the last romantic ______ (for which I still can’t find words appropriate), I’d be warier of wading back into IM ambiguity. And I am, but with a few hundred miles between us, I’m unlikely to break through that unless my forthcoming trip to see relatives (who just happen to live in e-Prospect #1’s town) leads to a coffee date or something. Assuming of course, that we actually “talk” again and I have a chance to casually mention said trip.

Until then, I guess I’ll just have to assume that laptops aren’t allowed in the mujahidin.