When I was 26, Tara, a friend from high school, set me up with her boyfriend's best friend, the most beautiful Asian-American graphic designer. He ate tofu, forswore television, sat with INS detainees in prison in his free time. I took this to mean that Tara thought I was attractive, mature, and altruistic. I was pleased, even as I passed on a second yawner date with the teetotaling vegan do-gooder.
As your mid-20s kick in and your friends start pairing off furiously, they want you in the couples club, so the blind-date offers begin. You sign on because there's something deeply flattering about your roommate thinking you're worthy of her cousin's brother-in-law's bandmate. Until you realize the connection between you is tenuous. "Wait, you love badminton? My husband's boss loves badminton!" (No mention up front that the boss is also a Holocaust denier.) You spend a few hours with the guy, and once you've dodged the good-night kiss, you're left wondering if the two of you had anything in common besides the acquaintance who brought you together.
That's when it hits you: If your friends keep setting you up with guys who have the same effect as two glasses of Malbec and an Ambien, they must think you're ... lame.
I gave it one last shot when Cynthia, a friend from college, introduced me to a guy in her research lab. She described him as: supersmart, cute, English, a soccer fan (as am I), and kind of weird — in a good way. "Like you," she told me, and I was flattered. Weird in a good way is the opposite of boring, I figured.
"One thing," she added. "He dyes his hair — kind of a punk thing. Just not sure what color you'll get. That okay?" A punk with a Ph.D.? I was in love.
William and I arranged to meet at a bar near my office. When I arrived, I spotted him instantly. A bit round, with a Black Flag T-shirt, glasses, and a full head of Day-Glo-green hair. He saw me and offered a winning smile. He was not Mr. Universe. He was adorable.
And then he spoke, and I realized he wasn't English, he was English-ish. He'd moved Stateside at 9, which left him with perfect grammar, aggressive enunciation, and an utter lack of humor. Just like Madonna.
As I gulped down my second pint of Stella — Sir William the Earnest said with a patronizing smile that my fondness for it would likely lead to breast cancer, according to his research — it dawned on me. Cynthia didn't just think I was weird, she thought I was a total spaz. I was okay with this — at least I'd outgrown boring. But I didn't see William again. And I didn't see Cynthia again, either. She didn't know me. If she did, she would have realized that for me, green hair is totally hot, but a date without a laugh? Not so much.
Photo by Goldmund