Unbelievable. I actually took time out yesterday morning to do the math, just in case. But it is actually true – in the years since I catapulted out of college into the big, bad world, I have had more appointments with my dentist than successful first dates. I counted twice to make sure, rifling through my old diaries with my steaming latte in hand, reading each *D- for- date entry in mild dismay. Even though there were more than one or two *D days, leafing over the next two or three pages there would be the inevitable fading away of excitement, notably less writing, then yet another name would fall off the cliff. You know that cliff, the one which the nearly-men in your life disappear off before they get the chance to materialise into anything resembling princes.
I was just on the verge of thinking ‘Why does it have to be so hard? Why don’t I have a good man in my life?’ for the third time in five minutes, this time as I was just about to flounce out of my apartment to get the loser’s consolation of a breakfast bagel, when something amazing happened. The phone rang. Not an earth-shattering event in itself, but it was my friend Amy who, whilst I love her dearly, always forces me to stifle an internal pang of envy thanks to her on-going luck in the men stakes. Don’t get me wrong, she would happily share around the luck that, following one or two uneventful-but-constructive dates, seems to have found her the kind, modest, Colin Firth-alike who seems to have the temperament of the Dalai Lama. None of her close friends would have to ask twice for a sprinkling of romantic stardust if she had it in her gift, but still, it hardly seemed fair.
However, this time, as I wrote off the bagel and grabbed the receiver, I decided not to indulge myself with those unhelpful stirrings of jealousy but to change my behaviour instead and listen, really listen. She was genuinely interested in what I had been up to, but could not help trailing off into a detailed account of the romantic wonderland that was now her day-to-day life and how she is just so pleased that she went to that salsa class that day, where she met her man. The amazing thing was this – I realised that whilst Amy and I were not dissimilar in the looks stakes, with the same educational backgrounds and good jobs, her success with men might, just might, be connected to our main difference this past year. She simply wasn’t lying down, rolling over or even sitting still. Since Amy had moved to another part of the city she had tried new things out, refused to settle into a staid routine and generally shaken things up – and it had worked beautifully.
I on the other hand was going in circles, with my thoughts, with the same old feelings of helplessness and romantic failure, even with the places I went for the same old coffee and same old bagels. I was playing the victim in love, and an unimaginative one at that.
They say the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and again and expecting a different result. Was it any wonder that I had not met anyone new and interesting?
I spent the rest of the morning to see if my fledging theory would hold up. It seemed that I was not the only one – academic research from a US university showed that of 100,000 subjects tracked by their mobile devices, almost half kept their daily movements to an area of just over 6 miles wide, and 83% mostly stayed within a 37-mile radius, with most time spent in five or fewer places. This bore out what I knew to be true about myself – that I was pretty much totally predictable and as a result, so was my life.
In fact, if we are being completely honest, when I feel truly sorry for myself, I am almost guaranteed to be found spending quality time with Ben & Jerry’s on the couch rather than in a glamorous nightspot or gallery event. When I do go out, I tend to stick to places where I already feel, safe, welcome and confident.
No bad thing in itself, but what are the chances of meeting an interesting new guy somewhere that I have already been to 99 times, or where I know everything on the menu, or every inch of the barman’s bad dye-job? Perhaps I could feel safe, welcome and confident in some brand new places. I knew I just had to try, after all even if it didn’t work, I would have given it my best shot.
If I could spend time in, let’s just say, five brand new places every week, that would shake up my life no end. I once went on date with a sweet guy who tried to explain chaos theory in too much detail in a noisy bar. That particular date led up a blind alley, but I would happily add a healthy dose of chaos theory to my life right now to secure some more interesting dates. My Chaos Bore date could just turn out to be one of those briefly difficult bits of life that seem like a smidgeon of manure but so often end up fertilising blooming great swathes of roses. I like to think of it as dating karma.
Five new place a week. But where would I find the right kind of new? Going to a new supermarket, a different shoe shop or a fresh hairdresser was unlikely to reap huge rewards. What is if, right now, I were to devise a list of five fantastic places that offered leisure, pleasure and adult-flavoured fun. My latte cold, no longer hungry, I was seized with the best kind of nourishment – pure hope.
I would no longer blame cruel fate, or wallow in self-pity, or envy my friends over the lack of a man. No one ever got what they deserved without deserving it first. Just like Amy, I would no longer lie down, rollover or sit still, I would fight for my own future. I would be captain of my own ship and head for deeper, warmer waters.
So I did.
Twenty minutes later and having thanked Heaven for the internet several times over as usual, I have my first five, sparkling new places to visit for the week ahead. They are:
1) Jazz Interlude event at the Museum of Fine Arts – Great music, interesting people, not just couples and all for charity.
2) A rugby or football home game – OK, maybe even I can get lucky amongst 50,000 mostly men…thing is where? At the hamburger stand?
3) The new bookstore two streets away – They have weekday evening get-togethers with wine, canapés and readings by an author, for a small entrance fee which goes to literacy charities.
4) Dining at a great restaurant, somewhere like the latest Gordon Ramsay or Daniel Boulud venture – I may bring Amy and Jessica to that one.
5) The menswear department at a high-end department store– Hmm, brings a whole new meaning to ‘just browsing.’ I could try the old ‘ I’m buying for my brother’ line…
My pen hovers over the last one. It’s a new to me and probably swarming with males, but is not as if I want to spend hours prowling through rails of designer suits. I cross it out and replace it with:
5) A late-night gig at the comedy club – That way at least I am guaranteed a good laugh.
When I survey my handiwork I feel a great wave of positivity. This could be… no, IS a new start . I am taking actual, tangible steps towards a brighter romantic future. I scribble ‘WEEK ONE’ in capitals at the top of the page. A new beginning. I can’t second-guess the right place to be near the right man at the right time, but I have just considerably upped my chances. If fact, in the coming weeks I plan to up my entire game – thinking about mastering the rules of attractiveness, the secrets of body language, the art of conversation. Even though I can’t simply conjure up the One in reality, I can picture him my mind as if….
And that, ladies, is when another wave of inspiration struck… a short while later I had invented the Shadow Man.
Yours in hope,