It’s a Rainy, Grimly, Miserable Day when I find myself homebound on the Brown Line El after work. Having been out of commission all day, my night was dedicated to sporadically waking up in between dreaming fits of beloveds past, almost like my subconscious didn’t want me to forget about them.
Screw you, subconscious.
I take my seat on the train and select the Shuffle option on my iPod. Citizen Cope’s Sideways plays. He starts singing, “You know it ain’t easy for these thoughts here to leave me. There’s no words to describe it, in French or in English.”
It gets heavier from there. More sentiments about feelings, he shares his painful recollections of former lovers, and frankly, this guy’s just doing an amazing job of describing these, well, these sad feelings that … you know? What I mean? Jesus, try not to look anyone in the face on the train and keep it together. But, I mean, damn, this guy sounds so … so honest. He’s not scared to sing about what has hurt him, to acknowledge that he’s dealt with heartache. Alright, calm down. You’re taking this way too seriously and putting too much emphasis on last night’s dreams.
And that’s when he continues, “These feelings won’t go away, they’ve been knockin’ me sideways, they’ve been knockin’ me out lately, whenever you come around me.”
I start to look around the train. I can almost see everyone for what they are. They all look like … like … innocent … children. I’m trying to keep myself composed, but at some point you have to start being a human being about it, you know? I can’t sit here and say that this song isn’t moving, that I haven’t felt exactly what this guy is singing about. Man, how do things get so messed up between two people? What happens to love? Why does it blow up so fast and without warning? Or worse. Why does it blow up after so long, after you’ve thought that it would last forever, after you’ve thought yourself to be at the very beginning of what should’ve been a lifelong relationship only to find yourself abruptly standing alone at the end of it?
By this point, I’m digging through my cell phone, trying to find texts from estranged flings, to establish some sort of balance. Have you ever found an old cell phone and thought to yourself, “Man, I used to text so much ass with this thing?” I unearth old conversations whose emotions revolve solely around tapping that. I find a few exchanges and banters, regaining a bit of stability. But then Citizen Cope starts singing a little more, about how he thinks these feelings will go away, how time will take them away, but how they still won’t go away. I look up from my phone and see a couple, relatively young, embraced in a passionate kiss. These kids are … I mean, it’s just so hard to … to open your heart to somebody. I wonder if I’ll ever be a dad. I’m so scared of marriage, of all of that. It freaks me out. Will I be a good husband? I start to wonder if I’ve ever screwed anything up in my life because of fear. I just feel so lucky to have ever been in love, to have ever experienced even a scrap of love, to … to …
The song ends. Simultaneously, I’ve arrived at my stop. The next tune has nothing to do with love, but still, the feelings linger. What does happen to love? Why is the beginning so beautiful, but the ending so tragic? Maybe it doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe this thing called love, these things called dating and relationships, don’t have to be one big game. Maybe we can all cut the process out and just be real with one another. Maybe we can all start to follow my simple, yet not-often-enough followed logic.
By the time you’re ready to start dating, hopefully you’ve become honest enough with yourself to distinguish your horniness from your loneliness, bringing us to our first piece of advice.
Take a good look at yourself and see what you legitimately have to offer to someone.
Me, for example. I’m a real catch and shame on any woman who’s ever thought otherwise. I’m tall, but not too. I work out and can probably run marathons and scale mountains if I tried. My family sees me as a wise-ass, but I see myself as more creative. A good time I’ll show you, too. Are you into great restaurants? Well guess what, sister, I’ve got an Excel spreadsheet of all of these great grub spots throughout Chicago and the surrounding neighborhoods. You want travel and escapades? I’ve been all over the world. London, Rome, Florence, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Dominican Republic and France (twice!) upon other places that were surely glad to have me as an international guest. And on top of it all, I’m funny. Done deal.
In all seriousness, be honest about yourself. Don’t imitate something you’ll never be or offer what you’re in no place to offer.
Next, you have to figure out where you’re going to find someone.
Logically, you should avoid bars on nights with unreal specials (Joe’s Bar on Tuesdays comes to mind; all that cheap booze will leave you with beer goggles), key parties, lines at Allende’s at 2am while you’re, drunkenly, waiting for your burrito, Craigslist, etc.
So where should you go? Anywhere that even slightly interests you. Put yourself in the best possible position to meet as many people as you can. Go to social and networking events, pumpkin patches, concerts and performances, book signings, parks and gyms, marathons, art shows, film festivals, etc. Ideally, you want to go somewhere that will enable you to meet those with similar interests.
I would have once suggested to stay away from dating sites, as I thought them to be pointless, dismal, lame and, well, any other synonym of the words already mentioned.
That is, until I joined one.
3.) Dating Sites
When I started writing this post, I wanted to bash dating sites but quickly refrained because I had never joined one and felt compelled to first explore the option before outright condemning it. After searching through sites that were totally satisfied with billing my credit cards so that I could start a search for true love, I found a neat site, totally free, that allowed me to join relatively easily.
So I signed up. Expecting to find nothing but charlatans, I began filling every “About Me” section that OKcupid.com would allow me to with the most ridiculous answers I could think of, starting with, of course, my username: BigDaddyC_taco.
If you want to visit my profile and see my ridiculous answers, click here.
Within an hour of setting up my page, I had received messages (the pink icon at the top middle) and match suggestions (the green arrow icon at the top center). Curious to see what the women on dating sites were all about, I’d respond as coyly as possible. A few had suggested that they might be able to show me a thing or two, to which I responded, “I don’t know that there’s something you’re willing to teach that I haven’t already done. Twice.”
Which brings me to point #4.
No, I will not be advising you on how to talk to women or how to garner the attention of a man; both are things you should have figured out already, depending on what gender you are.
Have you ever messaged someone only to find yourself waiting for what essentially becomes a witty, one-liner response? I’ll tell you right now, that person has probably spent a good amount of time thinking about something clever to write. They see that message as soon as you send it. They come off as charming over text messages, facebook chat and e-mails because they have all the time in the world to think of something great. Hang out with them and you’ll quickly learn that they’re not as sharp in person, when they’ve got to respond within seconds.
The solution? Go out and talk to the opposite sex. Just like you sucked for your first interviews, you’re going to struggle at first when flirting with that gorgeous woman behind the counter or that handsome devil holding the door open for you. The more you go out and socialize, the more adept you are and aware you become of openings and opportunities to make that solid impression in person as opposed to over social media/online tools.
It’s Not Incredibly Easy pretending that these factors, songs like Sideways, rainy days that remind you of lovers past, are moving. It’s not the slightest bit simple to talk about love when you have yet to experience anything even remotely similar to it. But you’re ready. You’re ready to go all in, to shove all of your chips onto the red, heart-shaped, felt-covered patch at the Roulette Table of Life. The heart’s a fragile thing and, no matter the extent of your denial, you will never make sense of this little wonder of a thing called love, risking heartbreak, turmoil and getting crushed along the way.
It will, however, always be worth the try.
Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.
~ E.E. Cummings