The Hot Date
What is love anyway? Evidently for me, it’s a synonym for bad judgment. Take my marriage to Andrew; a low pressure system, unpredictable as April, that transformed into the dirty snow of February. After too many dizzy spins on the black ice of his alcoholic rages or thirsty treks across deserts of his long silences, what I thought was love just melted away. So now, one divorce later, I’m wary. Very wary. I could never have imagined that I’d still be hacking my way through a middle-aged dating jungle, but I’m in there with my compass, doing my best to avoid the snakes. I imagine that there are terrific men out there, but I just seem to meet the bizarre ones like I’m a jerk magnet. It appears that the good ones are home mowing the lawn or dutifully accompanying women on shopping trips. I should know, since I am a shopper of some note.
I see these guys placed in chairs outside of the women’s dressing rooms, where they have been instructed to 'stay,' their hound-dog faces bored since they’re probably wishing that they were home watching the game. But they’re good guys, giving up something for their wives. They usually pay for the purchases and then carry the bags. So far, I have never even had a man accompany me to a store where he wasn’t pacing outside, looking at his watch.
Once, there was a story on the morning news about some New Yorkers who took their dogs to a canine dance class where the dogs swing danced! One little terrier had terrific rhythm and kicked to the music as he ducked under his owner’s arm. I love to dance and when I saw that, it occurred to me that perhaps I should just get a dog and forget men. I’ve always thought that men resemble certain breeds anyway. Once I had a guy, as handsome and affable as a golden retriever. Unfortunately, he also enjoyed crotch sniffing strangers. He went go off with anyone who would scratch his ears and it probably explains why I own a cat.
Truth is, I’m exhausted from the endless parade of men who are wrong for me. Forget the shopping. What I want is a trust-worthy man of character and humor and wish there was a pre-qualifying relationship certification, that ranks that would save me a lot of trouble.
I flop on my couch and grin, envisioning a card that men should carry in their wallets to show their relationship rankings by other women, or better yet, wear a small, discreet stud on their collars (or T-shirts), a color-coded warning label like cigarettes: This man may be hazardous to your health.
My grin grows to a laugh as I imagine the colors to identify men by type: green for commitment-phobe, red for anger management problems, yellow for excessive drinking, gray for depression, and so on. Some men might have to wear more than one; others might have a military look, with the studs spanning the entire collar. But of course, men would never agree to this, so I invent my own rating system. Since I’m a columnist at local paper, I think that a Zagat’s Men article could be amusing and hope that Ethan, the editor, might print it, although I anticipate his informing me that in fairness, he’ll also have a man write a column on the reverse. I sit down at my computer and type.
by Nicole Singer
If you’re single and looking, there’s a lot you want to learn about a man when you meet him, but this takes time, so I suggest a rating system as a solution to the problem of getting to know someone quickly. Like Zagats, which can help us find the best places to dine, I’ve devised a rating system to help middle-aged women in their quest to find a suitable, single man.
Let’s start at the top with a four star man. In my opinion, he’s arrived at middle-age no longer whining about his divorce. In fact, he takes responsibility for his part in the debacle. Through prior training, he knows that if I cook, he cleans up. He knows when to arrive with flowers and even better, when to make reservations. He loves Bach and can nail a New York Times crossword. More importantly, he has a generous and open heart and the only thing he would ever hit is a golf ball, or maybe the jackpot in Las Vegas.
The three-star man is similar to the four-star, but he is subject to lapses of belching and gas. The two star man has not found himself yet: He is fifty years old, never married, goes to strip clubs, and seeks the lucky young woman who will rear his children while he watches wrestling. It’s easy to spot the one-star man. He’s about forty-five, lives with his mother, has an Internet porn addiction, and can’t afford to take you to coffee.
How are you supposed to judge a man’s rating when you first meet him? Unfortunately, it can be confusing. On the first date or two, many men will attempt to appear as if they have a higher rating. For instance, the dapper fifty-two year old guy who picks you up in his shiny BMW might appear to be a four-star, but you then learn that he waxes his back, snores so loudly that the walls shake, and although he has major commitment issues, he is leaving on Monday to find a twenty-five year old wife in Columbia. Or he is about to go bankrupt.
A man who appears as a solid three-star will get demerits for complaining about his villainous ex-wife through your entire dinner, and the one you thought was a fixer-upper two-star, has a car held together with duct tape and is proud that he just bought a port-a-potty for his living room for guests. But he is in a category by himself.
As you can see, this is all complex and the defining lines are ambiguous. The best ones may not have BMW’s or all the answers. Like restaurants, maybe he’s an undiscovered place with “good food” and “good service,” so bon appetite!
I tweak the article and email Ethan. Who knows, maybe the guy I’m looking for (a latter-day Atticus Finch who can dance) will read it and contact me.
Ethan emails me that afternoon, accepting my story, suggesting perhaps I could write a series about my dating frustrations. I’m delighted since I’ve got plenty of material. Two days later, the Zagats article appears in the paper next to a small photo of me, my chestnut hair swept to the side of my smiling face. I receive four emails the next morning. Three of them are from women saying, right on, sister, and one is from a man, accusing me of being a bitch and a man-hater. Atticus hasn’t written, and I outline my next article about the guys who pay for dinner on the second date and then disappear if there’s no payback. This is going to be a much longer article, and while I’m working on it the next afternoon, an email pops into my inbox with “Four Star Man” in the subject line. I hold my breath and read: