All right, my lovelies:
This is a long, rambling post that I am going to break into two parts: First, a more personal section about my weekend with my old college friends; and second, my thoughts--and questions for you--about the geography of dating. (If you want to zip right down to the bottom first, I will understand.)
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Once I made it to Madison, after my near-miss with the flight (and after my sweet platonic flirtation), the rest of my weekend was pretty wonderful. As I said yesterday, it's a gorgeous little town, overlooking beautiful Lakes Mendota and Monona; my visit was full of blue skies, green water, white wave-crests and even whiter clouds, not to mention streets lined with gingerbread cottages and smiling people.
Far better than the scenery, however, was the group of people I was surrounded by--my old college friends.
During my time as an undergrad, I had a few different groups that I hung with ... and one was a huge bunch of dudes, who happened to be in a fraternity together--united by their tendency to party more wildly than anyone else (which enthralled me during my misspent youth); their penchant for indie rock, Brit pop and American music of the late 60's and 70; and their natural ability to simply be the coolest people I could've ever imagined.
Now, before you go thinking MAURA! How the hell could you have hung out with frat boys!! please let me say that I'd probably have the same reaction if I were you. At least, if you'd told me before I went off to college that I would even SPEAK To frat dudes there, I'm not sure I would have believed you; even now, it sometimes shocks me to think that some of my dearest old friends in the world are former frat boys! But we went to a small liberal arts college in The-Middle-of-Nowhere, New England at a time when the Greek system was dominant on campus; and just about every student ended up joining some kind of "house" eventually; and at the time, it didn't seem that strange.
Also, please let me defend these guys by saying they are not loud, crass, obnoxious, misogynistic, homophobic or idiotic, as the frat boy stereotype would have it. They are smart, considerate, sexy, interesting, socially conscious people who really do contribute something to society! (One of them is a newly minted doctor, after all, who spent as much time as possible in poor countries while doing medical school, so he could provide free health care to impoverished people. Another is a professor! A third is an astrophysicist! And so on. You get the point.)
I guess this is a long way of saying I love these guys. Somehow they've always made me feel like one of them--protected and even loved, not despite my natural quirkiness but, in part, because of it--without ever making me feel like "one of the boys." Which is to say I've never had to feign an interest in watching televised sports around them. I've also never acted like a tomboy. (Unless you count that time I owned a motorcycle for three months, until I left the headlight on and the battery died and Zander had to jump it, and then I gave it to him for the parts. Or the time tried to outdrink Jesse--which was just a really bad idea.)
Yet I've always felt included and valued by them. Plus, they never fail to crack me up. (If my sense of humor comes from anyone, I'd say it's about 40% my dad, 20% my friend Pat from high school, and 40% those college guys.)
Anyway, about ten dudes from the larger circle had been invited to the wedding, along with myself. All the ones who came are now married, and most have small children; so all of their wives stayed home with the babies ... which meant none of us had any good reason to go to bed at a human hour. So Friday night, we were out fairly late, talking and catching up and telling stories from the good ol' days. And Saturday, after the actual wedding, it was more of the same. Which didn't leave me very much time for flirting. What's more, it didn't make much sense to me to flirt in a place that was so far away from home; no one who lives in WISCONSIN could ever be a serious boyfriend candidate, right? So why bother? I guess I also just didn't want to waste my time with strangers when I so rarely see my buddies, all of whom live in California.
It made me really sad to say good-bye to all of them. But I guess it was a good reminder (not that I really needed one) that there are plenty of top-notch men out there, who are good partners, good fathers, good people.
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THOUGHTS ON THE GEOGRAPHY OF DATING
My general impression is that it might be easier to flirt in small college towns than in big cities. On both Friday and Saturday nights, aftrer all, when my pals and I were hanging out in Madison's most popular bar, Genna's, I generally felt that more men were eyeballing me than they do here in New York City on an average night.
Can any of you out there comment on this? What's dating like in the college towns versus the cities? In the Midwest as compared to the West or East Coast? And my darlings in far-flung places like Malta, Oslo, Chile, etc: do you have any thoughts about how dating in your countries might be different from dating here in the U.S.?
Also, I did miss a huge flirting opportunity: some really cute dude with shaggy dirty-blonde hair and dark glasses tried to talk to me late Friday night at Genna's as we were on our way out. "You--yes you!" he said to me. "But I'm just leaving!" I said, suddenly shy, particularly in front of all my guy friends. So I waved at the cutie, linked my arm around my friend Chris's elbow, and dragged him out with me.
So if you are the Madison heart-throb who made overtures at me--I was wearing a white-green-and-blue paisley halter-top dress and green headband with a big blue glass ring--please contact me immediately!
Also, readers, do you think it would be kooky to contact Genna's and ask them to post some kind of "missed connections" print-out, authored by myself, in the bar?
also, dear maureen: thank you so much for writing, and for your vote of confidence! maureen was my mom's name, so you're automatically (even more) awesome, in my book. ... and dear Amber: i'm more or less with you on the chivalry thing. i think the paying issue deserves its own post soon!