How many dates does it take to meet your husband?

“Have you read this book yet?” I asked the clerk behind the counter at the used book store.  I held up “Around the World in 80 Dates.”  “No,” she said, “but it looks interesting.”  I thought so, and for three bucks it was mine.  It combined two interests of mine: travel and meeting men.  I’m great at the former, and not so great lately at the latter.

The author had decided her husband was no where to be found in England.  So she e-mailed all her friends around the world (she was a travel writer) and asked them to set her up on dates.  And off she went.  She met him on date #55.  Fifty-five?!  I have to date that many men?  I had a friend who said it was twenty-five.  “Twenty-five from right now, or can I go back and count all the ones I’ve dated up to this point?” I asked.  “Oh – you can definitely count all the ones you’ve had so far.”

So yesterday I finally started my list.  I’m at twenty-three.  Well, twenty-three that I can remember at least.  And by “remember” I don’t mean their names necessarily.  There was the guy who lived on a golf course whose mission was just to impress me with his money.  I can’t for the life of me remember his name.  Nor do I care.  There was the bad kisser guy.  I do remember his name, but he first popped into my head as “bad kisser guy” so that’s what I wrote.  There was the guy with a very Irish name – but I can’t remember what name that was.  Daniel?  Patrick? Michael? Flannery? O’Malley?  Some combination of something like that.

Twenty-three.  So that’s just two dates to go.  Or thirty-two, depending on if I believe my friend or the book.  Two seems much more optimistic.  I’ll start there, and if I don’t find him by date #25, I’ll plan for #55.

The Two Thousand Dollar Question

On explaining to a friend that one of my girlfriends just spent two thousand dollars to hire a matchmaker, he said, “If she’s wants to invest two thousand dollars in order to find a guy to marry, that’s not how she should spend it.”  He continued, explaining what he thought she should use that money for instead.

“And what about me?” I asked.  “If I was going to invest two thousand dollars in order to find myself a guy to marry, how should I spend it?”  He put his face in his hands, covering his eyes and said slowly, “This is a very dangerous question to answer.”  We both laughed.  “I know.  But I want your answer.  I promise not to hold it against you,” I assured him.

I could see the wheels turning.  He couldn’t look me in the eye.  “Massage?” he offered.  I smiled.  I appear stressed to many people, so his answer wasn’t out of the blue.  “Ok.  I’ll take it.  But there’s something else you’re not telling me.”  “No,” he assured me.  “I’m just trying to think of an answer.”

It is an interesting question though.  Specifically for us single, thirty-something women.  Our generation has probably spent more money on meeting people than any other before us.  But there’s still no guarantee.  My friend who hired the matchmaker?  She found the perfect guy.  It was her first match.  I have three other close friends who met their husbands on-line.  I’ve tried that and (obviously) wasn’t as successful.  Would I be so lucky with a matchmaker?  And is it really just luck?  Or is there some science to finding the perfect “match”?

I’ve decided I would definitely spend $2000 on a matchmaker.  For a full year, you get a guaranteed date at least once a month with someone who matches your wants and interests.  That’s twelve dates.  I don’t think I’ve had three so far this year and it’s already August.

So why haven’t I hired a matchmaker yet?  There isn’t one in my area.  The closest matchmakers are in NYC.  So the next question is: do I want to spend that money to meet a man who lives two hours away in a city I’ve never really liked?  But would I like the city much more if I saw it through the eyes of someone who lived there?  Someone who loved living there?  Might I meet someone who’s ready to move back to suburbia?  There’s only one way to find out.  But I’m just not sure I’m ready for that yet…

Serendipity and Collages

I got an e-mail that the local library was doing a class on collages.  Yes, collages.  Remember those?  Tearing images out of magazines, arranging them somehow, gluing it all together?  Well, adults do it too…and sell them for quite a bit of money.  (Well, our teacher does at least!)  Realizing I hadn’t been on an Artist Date in a while, I decided to attend the class.

The only problem was that we were told to bring images with us.  I don’t subscribe to any magazines.  And I wasn’t about to go spend a bunch of money buying new ones just to tear them apart.  The whole idea is to use old ones – reuse, recycle.  So, as usual when I need something I don’t have, I figured I’d just go to Mom and Dad’s for it.  I swear they must get twenty magazines a month – at least.

I was in Rhode Island when I got the info about the class, so figured I’d take care of getting my images when I got home.  But God had other plans.

As it turns out, I was in Rhode Island helping a couple of friends declutter – and was actually getting paid for it!  Guess what one of my clients was getting rid of?  Yup.  Old magazines.  She was thrilled to give them to me to use for my upcoming craft project.  I took about ten of them, and put the other hundred in her recycling bin.

The class was yesterday.  I still had the magazines in my trunk.  So I grabbed some scissors, got in my car a half hour before I was due to leave and started cutting.  There’s something meditative to me about cutting out things.  I was responsible for the coupons growing up – dad had no patience for going through the sale papers and cutting them, but he had no problem using the ones I diligently found and presented as we entered the baking aisle for brownie mix.  I was into scherenschnitte for a while – using very tiny scissors to cut beautiful designs.  And now here I was cutting images from magazines.  In my car.  At 10 AM on a Saturday.  And really wishing I had another hour to do it.

Turns out I did: we spent most of the class looking through more magazines and getting more images – the library had plenty to recycle.  With only 20 minutes left of the class, I had yet to find a suitable theme or arrangement.  As a student who always wanted to get the assignment “right” I was tempted to call the teacher over for some advice.  But instead decided to just keep plugging along.  And of course, it came to me.  I had been attracted not to images of “things” in particular, but colors.  Lots of blues, in fact.  I had four different size rectangles of shades of blue which I layered on top of each other biggest to smallest, then made it “pop” with an image in the middle of a white vase with a red design on it.  I loved it.

The lady next to me said, “It looks very geometric and orderly.  Are you like that otherwise?”  I looked at the rectangles, at the splash of color in the middle.  “Well, I am a math tutor, so maybe that’s where the geometric thing comes in.  But I do a bunch of other random creative things, so that’s maybe what the color in the middle is all about.”  And it all made sense.  Our teacher had said collage was very reflective and how it was interesting to see what patterns emerged.  Here, with just five images from the forty I cut out, I had made an abstract image of me.


“I was thinking that I’d take this year to plan, and then take off next July,” I explained to a friend over the phone as I sat in my room in Rhode Island, waves crashing just outside my window.  Traveling makes me not exactly long for home, but long for more travel.  “First, I’ll go on my Writing Retreat mid-July.  Then I start my four month stint at the Folk School July 30.  I’ll finish that around Thanksgiving, and then just keep going,” I said.  “Keep going?” he asked.  “Yeah, I’m not sure where yet, but I figure I’ll give up my apartment next July.  Spend some time WWOOFing or live in Asheville or something. ”

He listened attentively.  I went on.  “Sometimes, though, I wonder why I don’t just do it now.”  “Why don’t you?” he asked.  Such a simple question.  This guy is good.  “Well, I committed to teaching at the college on Fridays already.”

That’s the only thing holding you back?” he asked.  Having had countless conversations with this guy about going with my heart versus my head, he said, “That sounds like a very rational reason to me….What does your emotional side say?”  Yes, I know a guy who is not only in touch with his emotional side, but can actually talk about it.  They’re a rare breed.

“My heart says to just jump ship now,” I said.  Then quickly added, “Well, in a month or so.  I have some furniture I need to get rid of.”  He stops me right there.  “You hardly own any furniture.”  He’s right of course.  My apartment doesn’t really look like me at all.  It’s furnished with my mother’s antiques.  All of which can easily be returned to her.  “Ok…well, that’s me being rational again,” I said.

Honestly, my heart says to sell some furniture on craigslist, loan my piano to a friend, get rid of most everything else and go.

Yes, my application for a doctoral program gets mailed out today.  But I could do it from Italy.  It’s on-line.  (No, it’s not a scam.  It’s my alma mater – a very reputable institution.)  How cool would that be?  Even if I end up hating the course, I could tell people years from now, “But I was taking it in Italy, so it wasn’t so bad.  I just went out for gelato every night.  And every morning if I thought it was going to be a tough day.”  Sometimes I don’t wonder if that’s the secret of life: gelato.  Maybe it’s time I found out?

Myths of the Sisterhood (Part 2)

I described the house where I was saying to my sister Liz.  “It’s right on the ocean – on a bluff.  There’s stairs down to the beach.  Actually, it used to be an old inn and the brochure aid ‘seven steps to the sea.'” I had been to this house many times in the last ten years, but this was my first time I was here for an entire week in the summer.  I was volunteering as the sous-chef.  My taste-testers?  The vacationing Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame.

Liz still had the image of Sisters from our childhood days in Catholic School: their heads covered in habits, living in a convent the inside of which we never got to see but could only speculate about.  We’d wonder if they had long hair or short hair under their habits or if they had to make their own beds.  And it was alarming to us when one day, in the school parking lot, we saw Sr. Marie driving a brown station wagon.  “They drive?” we asked Mom.  “Well, how else do you think they get anywhere?” she responded.  Honestly, I’d never thought about it.  Nor had Liz ever thought about Sisters vacationing in an oceanfront house.

Liz: Do they go swimming?

Me: Yes.

Liz: Do they wear bathing suits?

Me: Yes (thinking “What else would they wear?”)

Liz (whispering – even though we’re on the phone): Do they wear bikinis?

Me: Liz – most people their age don’t wear bikinis.

Liz: Oh.  How old are they?

Me: Sixties, seventies.  I don’t usually ask.

Liz: Well what kind of bathing suits do they wear?  Twenties-style ones where they’re all covered up?

Me (laughing): No – regular bathing suits.  Most of them where those ones with the skirts attached on the bottom.

Liz: Oh.

I think this was before the point where Sr. Anne showed me how to use a boogie board and ride in on the waves….

So here I am to banish myth number two: that Sisters don’t enjoy a swim in the ocean once in a while – in a bathing suit.  Just like you and me.  Who knew?

The beach near Villa Marguerita

Myths of the Sisterhood (Part 1)

It was two years ago that I did my first stint as sous-chef at Villa Marguerita – the vacation home on the Rhode Island coast belonging to the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame.  They work hard in their various ministries – at schools, hospitals, and other non-profits – and then come here for some R&R.

Many people have a view of “women religious” as stern women in habits.  That was my image from Catholic elementary school, and when I talk to others about my week here cooking for these sisters I find that a lot of people still have that image.  Most people have never thought of Sisters not dressed in habits, let alone sunning on a beach.

When I was here two years ago, I had a funny conversation with my sister Liz that brings home this point.  Liz has no bones about speaking her mind nor about verbalizing the questions others only think of but are too scared to ask.  The conversation went like this:

Liz (in a whisper – even though we’re on the phone): Do they drink?

Me (with a slight giggle): Yes.

Liz: Do they get drunk?

Me: Noooo.

Liz: Well, how much do they drink?

Me (matter-of-factly): A beer or two with dinner.

Liz (incredulously): They drink beer?!

Me (laughing): Some of them.  Some have wine, or a mixed drink.

Liz: Like what kinds of alcohol do they have?

I named off some of things that had graced the drinks cart at dinner.  And with that, banished the myth that Sisters are stern, mean women who never relax with a drink:)

Villa Marguerita

On Invitations and Planning

On Friday, a woman was described to me this way: “She was the kind of person who never turned down an invitation.  She said if she did, they might stop asking.”  I’ve seen that from both sides.  I’ve stopped asking people that continually turn me down.  I’ve also been the one to repeatedly turn down invitations and eventually stop getting asked.

It was in this spirit that I accepted an invitation yesterday.  I am currently on the Rhode Island shore about to start my stint being the sous-chef for vacationing sisters (women religious) and their friends.  Some of my best trips have been planned while I’m on a current trip.  So yesterday, when a friend left a voicemail proposing another trip, I immediately called her back and accepted.  “I’ve booked a hotel outside of Boston for next Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.  I know you love Boston, so thought I’d see if you wanted to join me,” she said in her voicemail.  This works out quite well as I’m here in RI (only two hours from Boston) until Saturday.  I’ll couchsurf on Saturday night, then meet her  on Sunday.

Here’s another thing about invitations: I love that someone else already did all the planning and just wants me to join them.  People have the idea in their heads that I love to plan things.  This isn’t entirely true.  I plan because I have to:  I’m single.  I like traveling.  I like changing jobs.  I like moving.  If I want to do something, there’s only one person to do the planning: me.  In fact, when people ask what I want in a guy my answer is “Someone who can take the initiative and plan dates!”  It’s sad how rare this is.

In fact, one of the things I liked most about the last guy I dated was his ability to plan.  When we went out to dinner, there was none of that “Where do you want to go?” “I don’t know – where do you want to go?”  Nope.  This guy had it all figured out.  “I was thinking we’d go to Hidden Cellar tonight,” he’d say.  I could accept or deny, at which point he would have a back up plan.  He knew me well enough that when I said, “I’m in the mood for a good salad” he knew the restaurant that had my favorite salad, and he’d propose that.  I can’t tell you what joy this whole scenario brought me.  A man who plans.  Oh, what I wouldn’t give for another one of those.  But in the meantime, the girlfriend who spontaneously books a trip to Boston will do just fine:)

A Memoir of Moving

I was reading a  book called When Wanderers Cease to Roam.  As a wanderer, I wondered if I’d find some secret to staying put.  But it wasn’t that kind of book.  It was a woman’s month-by-month collection of watercolors and drawings and written memories of her life abroad and her life in the town where she finally chose to settle.

Anyway, this got me to thinking of all the times I’ve moved.  So here’s my life of the last ten or so years broken down by moves:

1 – College to Home.  May 1999.  There was really no other place to go and a million other places to go.  But home was easiest at that point.  I was one of only a few graduates of my program to have a job.  I had, at my mother’s suggestion, called a physical therapy practice where I had worked one summer as an aide, said I’d graduated, and asked if they needed help.  They were thrilled.  I didn’t move back into the room I’d vacated when I left for college.  As the oldest of five kids, that room was quickly taken.  By the time I moved back, two other siblings were off at school and so I got one of their rooms.  I quit the job after two months.  And eventually quit living there after a year.

2 – Home to Boston, MA.  July 2000. I moved to Boston to do a year of Americorps.  Or, more accurately, I wanted to do a year of volunteer work and wanted to move to Boston, so I found something that satisfied both of those wants.  This was one of the happiest years of my life.  I loved going to work each morning, came to like the tiny apartment I was given, loved that I could walk to JP Licks for ice cream in fifteen minutes, and learned that dating two men at the same time is entirely too much stress.  But that’s another story.

3 – Boston to Cambridge.  July 2001.  Americorps was over.  They offered to hire me, but I had done the job for a year, liked it, but saw no need to do it all over again.  So I moved to Cambridge with a childhood friend I reconnected with.  We lived in a round building with a spiral staircase up the center – at the top of which was the laundry machines.  Yes, our apartment was pie-shaped.  And if you stood just inside the front door, you could see the whole place: two bedrooms, bathroom, great room.  This was my favorite apartment.  I loved our kitchen island, around which we hosted Girls Night every Monday for quite some time.  That was also the island on which,  in April, I would find a note from my roommate saying that a guy I’d met on the subway had called.  I would date this guy for nearly three years.  And when I bought my piano, this was the first place it got moved to. Keep in mind that from this point forward, every move involved moving that piano.

4 – Cambridge to Somerville.  July 2003.  My roommate and I found another person we wanted to live with, so we moved to a three bedroom outside of Porter Square.  The third roommate got a cat, with whom I didn’t get along.  She and the cat moved out, a new roommate moved in (ah, the wonders of craigslist) but a year after I got to this place, I too moved out.

5 – Somerville to Bethesda, MD.  July 2004.  Yes, I left Boston the year the Red Sox won the World Series.  Oh was it hard to watch it from our basement TV in Maryland.  Don’t get me wrong – I was thrilled for them, but sad I wasn’t there.  Broken-hearted actually.  My heard would get broken again a few months later….I’d moved to Maryland because aforementioned subway guy got into grad school in DC.  My mother thought I’d be miserable if he was there and I was in MA, so I moved.  But did not move in with him.  Six months later, when we broke up, I would note that said guy had never actually asked me to move down there with him.  In fact, he wanted me to stay in Boston.  Something about how much I liked it there and how he didn’t want me to give up my life there for him.  Hindsight.  Hmph.  This was the only time I ever moved somewhere for a guy.

6 – Bethesda, MD to Somerville, MA.  July, 2005.  I convinced a dear college friend to leave the same apartment she’d lived in Brooklyn since we graduated to move back to Boston with me.  Exactly ten years earlier we wisely opted not to live together in college as our living styles and lifestyles were too different.  But as 28 year old “adults” we figured we could handle it.  We were right.  But as they say, you can’t go home.   Boston, as much as I’d loved it the first time around, just wasn’t the same the second time.

7 – Somerville, MA to Home.  July 2006.  Somehow I got it in my head that it was time to buy a house.  As a girl who doesn’t live by anyone’s timeline but my own, I only later realized what a silly idea this was.  I moved back in with mom and dad to save up for my down payment.  We started looking at houses and I did a fabulous job of finding a reason not to like any of them.  Mom would circle ads in the paper and want to go out house-hunting on Sunday afternoons.  I eventually took a job that had me working Sundays.  Then I decided that a girl who moved every year was probably not the best candidate for owning a home.  So I moved out.

8 – Home to Milton, NY.  Sept 2007.  I found the only other Red Sox fan in NY and moved in with her.  Gotta love craigslist.  But eventually she decided she wanted to move closer to her job and her family, so we parted ways.  And that job she moved for?  Well, she got laid off.  And now works closer to where we used to live.  Ironic.

9 – Milton to Staatsburg.  March 2009.  For the first time since move #2, I live by myself.  Overall, I like it.  I can’t really see living with a roommate again.  Husband, boyfriend, yes.  Roommate, no.  But never say never.