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December 11, 2008

First Date: Must Love Job

Career Fashion

"A few all-nighters now, retire at 40? Where do I sign?"

Coat, $2295, Alexander McQueen; top, $230, Vena Cava; skirt, $895, Kaufman Franco; bag, $12,000, Ralph Lauren Collection; belt, $240, Yves Saint Laurent.

Photo Credit: Steen Sundland

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Twenty minutes into dinner at a funky L.A. restaurant, my date, whom I'd met online, was looking very promising. She had a wry sense of humor, wavy auburn hair, college-educated brown eyes, and cleavage deeper than a Godard film.

When she assertively ordered the mac-and-cheese appetizer — always a good sign in Los Angeles, land of the bulimic twig women — I was mildly turned on. That's when I asked what I assumed was a simple question for any 28-year-old woman: "What do you do?"
"I work in the legal profession."
"You're a lawyer?" I asked.
"No," she said. "I'm a temp secretary at a law firm."

A temp secretary? OK, I wasn't exactly impressed, but who was I to judge? Maybe the job was just a short stint on a longer journey. Maybe she was doing it to pay the bills as she pursued her passion: painting, sculpting....

Nope. Turned out, all she had ever done were temp jobs. One of her proudest moments? Her bosses once gave her a big bag of gummy worms.

Now, I am a man, and everyone knows that men are intimidated by strong, successful women and turned on by the ones who giggle at our jokes. Studies have been done, polls have been conducted, Maureen Dowd has talked to at least four different people, written dozens of columns and a book on the subject — it's science, damn it! Right?

Not really. Which is why I kept prodding my date for some iota of ambition.

"So is there anything you want to do — besides being a temp?" I asked.
"Well, to be honest, my dream is to own a hotel," she said.
Aha! "That's great!" I said. "Where?"
"I don't know."
Sigh. Maybe things really were easier in my father's day, when men went off to work while the women tended the home, like something out of Mad Men.

"So you're temping to save up money to buy a hotel?" I asked.
"That's the plan," she said.
"How much have you saved up?"
"Nothing, really."

OK, I could see where this date was going: nowhere. The truth is, I'm not simply looking for a woman to cook me dinner. I'm looking for someone who understands what I'm going through, and inspires me with what she's going through. Someone who challenges me. What can I say? Alphas turn me on.

The only way my date challenged me was by ordering as much expensive food as possible, without offering to chip in on the bill. Hmm. Maybe once she buys that hotel.

Christopher Farah is a screenwriter in L.A. He has written for the New York Times and Salon.com.

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