Husband Hunting

Growing up you always hear that the most important thing is to try. I’m 31, verging on 32 and still single and I think, maybe I’m not trying hard enough.
And how does a Millenial try harder at dating? They pick up their phones and start swiping like it’s their job.
Bumble is for strong, independent women. Sometimes that’s me, and sometimes I want a guy to be so incredibly moved by my doe-y brown eyes and my razor-sharp jaw bones in my immaculately lit selfie that he’s moved to start the conversation. Tinder has the entire male, single population of Portland, but that means you’ve got to rifle through way more pictures of guys with face tattoos and pet ferrets. Hinge is decent, better prospects, but 94.3% of the guys are toting a rifle or a dead fish. Is that the worst thing in the world? No. Are these uber masculine activities compensating for something aka the reason they are on a dating app? Probably. Am I being irrational? Yes. Coffee Meets Bagel helps with the addictive nature of the swiping since you only get 1-4 guys a day. It makes the app situation less of a game and more of a real life decision. But you will also only go on one date every six months and usually he’s boring and no wonder he was on Coffee Meets Bagel.
At a certain point the apps are more work than they’re worth so you give them up and start attending art shows and concerts with local artists, hoping that doing things you love will lead to finding someone you love. I saw that once in a rom-com and thought it was incredibly sage advice. But then you don’t meet anyone. Or you do and he’s a sexy bassist but he’s married to the world’s hottest woman so fuck her. And then you’re back to square one. Wondering if you’re trying hard enough. And the phone comes back out.
And I would like to believe I am not the most pathetic woman in the world. I have plenty of days when I feel like I can live an explorative and full life all on my own. I think, hey, maybe I’ll go to Paris next month. Oh wait, I can’t afford that. Maybe Seattle then. I couldn’t be so bold with my last-minute travel plans if I had a husband and 2.5 kids. And since I don’t have to cook for people and ensure their survival, that means I can order greasy take out every damn day. Nothing tastes better than food that was made by someone else!
I want to feel energized in my career too. But sadly, building websites for dentists doesn’t quite fulfill me. But I do have my side projects: writing plays, novels, pilot episodes of procedural dramas. Agent Allie finds the perpetrator has a fetish for flushing stranger’s toilets causing floods all over the quiet, North Carolina suburb.
But most days, I feel like all of my deep seeded fantasies of love and romance and a dedicated partnership are impossible. And without a partner, life, even one with endless travel and the joys of a full stomach, loses its luster. Growing up, I was the kind of girl who would only be able to fall asleep by imagining grand romances with handsome vagrants across the imagined worlds of Hogwarts and Middle Earth and Narnia (I was a nerdy kid). I would imagine falling for tortured artists in Spain, rugged farmhands in Texas and sk8tr bois in SoCal.
The desire that a man will love me unconditionally and want me until the day I die has become so deeply engrained in my psyche that I now believe it to be part of my physiology. And you might be thinking, “obviously, physical attraction is the reason we procreate ya dumb bitch.” But it’s more than just a simple, physical attraction. When I flirt with a man, I give him a little pat in the chest with the back of my hand and I feel tiny firecrackers explode in my chest and travel up to my brain which is already trying to decide if I should take his last name when we get married. I am already letting the little love-sick gnomes in the back of my head start yelling at each other, “SOUND THE ALARM, THIS COULD BE THE ONE.” The electricity becomes undeniable, the fire irresistible. And then he says some dumb shit about how he didn’t get into Yale because of affirmative action and the sizzle dissipates into thin air with a disappointed sigh.
Only four short months ago I thought I was finally done. I thought I had found the man who would settle on living with me for the rest of his life. Kevin O’Donnell: a good name for a kind and lanky Irishman.
I finally allowed myself to scope out the stunning BHLDN wedding dresses in the Anthropologie windows outside my office. I would look amazing in that. My boobs are way to big for that one. Are capes a wedding thing now? God, I hope so. We had only been dating for 7 months but that was three months longer than any of my relationships post-high school. If you aren’t sick of each other after four months I thought that meant you could handle being together forever.
And then it all came crashing down with one swing of the wrecking ball. You see, Kevin had always had this “close friend from college” named Alexa. I always had a bad feeling about her. This is not because I’m an un-evolved, anti-feminist who doesn’t believe men and women can be friends. But when your man’s friend is a 5’6”, thin but fit, nose-ringed, cool-without-trying chick with over 5,000 Instagram followers, I believe concern is warranted.
It was raining when she showed up at my door. I hadn’t put on any makeup that day and was already wearing a seven-year-old, pilly, flannel shirt and soccer sweatpants. When I heard the aggressive knocking I was halfway through a pint of Half-Baked. First, I tried ignoring it. I paused Criminal Minds and didn’t move a muscle, hardly took a breath, as I was a firm believer in Jurassic Park logic. They can’t see you if you don’t move. But this fucker wouldn’t go away. And then my phone started ringing relentlessly. I wondered why Kevin was calling me. We hardly ever called each other. I mean God, what was this, 1987? What is urgent enough that couldn’t be sent via text? I figured it was him at the door so I ignored the phone. I grabbed my mustard-yellow beanie to cover the grease nest that was my messy lob. I flung the door open and there was Alexa, dripping wet but somehow still looking like she had just stepped off the set of America’s Next Top Model. Under her green zip-up, she had a black belly shirt on, exposing two inches of her chiseled figure. I felt the weight of the ice cream grow heavy in the innards of my pooch.
“We need to talk.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Kevin and I are in love. And he’s too much of a wimp to end things with you, so I’m doing it myself.”
“Are you high?”
“What? No.”
I threw the door back in her face. My heart was pounding out of my chest and I had enough adrenaline to Hulk out and toss a school bus. But instead I fell to the ground and tried to hold back the urge to vomit all over my welcome mat. It was the most humiliated I had ever felt.
A couple of hours later came part two. Kevin wouldn’t leave until I acknowledged him.
“What do you want?” I asked through the door. I couldn’t get myself to open it. The only thing I wanted in the world was for him to hold me and tell me it was all a lie. But I knew that wasn’t going to happen. So I kept the barrier between us clasped shut. He wouldn’t have the victory of seeing my face, red and huge like a puffer fish.
“Wil, I’m so sorry. I didn’t want it to go like this. I was trying to figure out how to tell you.”
The blood was running hot through my veins. I thought I’d cough up Tabasco when I opened my mouth.
“Hold on, what were you going to say that was going to make ‘hey babe, I cheated on you’ sound any better? I’m really curious, Kevin. I’m dying to know.”
“I don’t know Wilson. I just, I didn’t want it to be so dramatic. Alexa shouldn’t have come here. I asked her specifically not to do that.”
“Well since you asked her specifically I guess it’s fine.”
“Can you open the door?”
“Absolutely not. You are not welcome in this house.”
“It’s an apartment.”
“You know what I mean!”
“Okay, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’ll go. But if you want to talk, I’m here.”
“Naw, I think I’m good. And Kevin, thank you, really, for the mediocre relationship!”
I slid to the ground in and laid in a pool of my own salty tears for three hours.
After Kevin came the usual breakup routine. I had honed it over the last seven or so years. I’d take about three to five days off from work claiming I had contracted the bird flu. I would spend hours upon hours watching food television while also consuming meals I spent way too much money for on Postmates. I stopped cleaning my dishes, stopped shaving, stopped taking out the trash. I became a disgusting lady Jabba for about two weeks. If it weren’t for Jen I probably would have been absorbed by my mattress.
Jen and I had known each other since college. Even though she was Asian and I was white we were confused for each other all the time. A lot of people assumed it was cause we were both short and racially ambiguous but I think it was more than that. We were both a little alternative for the Deep South college we attended. We both existed together on the outer fringes of Alabama hipster culture and as such we both stuck together like weirdos in a very exclusive cult.
She knew me well enough to know I needed to be alone on week one of the breakup cycle. But week two she would visit with soup and vegan versions of the garbage I loved to put in my body. When she wasn’t there she’d follow up with texts.
“Eat vegetables.”
“Put the vegetables between some carbs. It’s called a sandwich.”
“Uggghghghgh fine.”
But the best part of having Jen around was that she had finally helped me get rid of my nasty texting habit. In my earlier twenties, when I’d get dumped, I would send the cringiest texts imaginable. “You were wrong, we were made for each other, you will never meet anyone as well read and with as much knowledge of the Portland restaurant scene as me…I will light your shit on fire.” and so on and so forth. It was because I had this rage in me, a wild animal shaking the bars it’s cage. And it felt like the only way to calm it down was to press the send button on those lengthy, emotional texts. I felt like I needed to be heard or I’d die. It wasn’t until I realized I was already being heard that I was able to stop. Jen would confiscate my phone and listen to me rant for hours. God bless that woman and her patience. She was already married to her college sweetheart but she still knew what it was like to have her heart broken.
It took me several months to fully recover from the Kevin catastrophe. But finally, I felt like I was ready to shop around, maybe find something that mattered. But once again, I had no idea where to start. So I whipped out the phone. But this time, something was different. I swiped right on a photo of a cute guy named David with ashy brown hair and a ginger beard. He had horn-rimmed glasses and his interests included “the Extended version of Lord of the Rings and Kristen Wiig in all her forms.” He had a cute tag line about being “rated 5 stars among grandmas everywhere.” When we matched my heart did a backflip and I immediately sent him my generic, “Hey David, how’s your week been?” He responded within minutes and we were discussing the best adornments for a high class mac and cheese. That night I went to bed thinking about all the of the couples I knew that had met via Tinder. Beth is getting married to her Tinder beau. Cheryl just moved in with hers. Carolyn’s been dating hers for almost a year now. This could work.
We met at a coffee shop the following Saturday morning at 10am. I was hesitant at the suggestion. I hate coffee dates. I prefer to drink alcohol which lessens the nerves, not coffee which makes you shaky and amplifies your awkward and gives you the shits. But alas, I took my chances cause I really thought I’d like this guy.
When he saw me he stood up and shook my hand. I know that shouldn’t seem strange, but it was. Even stranger was that before he took a sip of his already half-empty mug of coffee, he took out a tiny hand sanitizer and he used it. Did my hand gross him out that much? He didn’t have to shake it in the first place. I ordered my drink and returned.
“How was your Friday?” I asked, thinking it was a safe way to start the conversation.
“It was rough, actually,” he responded. I was not expecting that.
“Why was it rough?”
“My cat passed away.”
“Oh wow, that is terrible, I’m so sorry. How long did you have him?” I did not want to know.
“Well, I should clarify, it wasn’t my cat. It was my friend’s cat. But I accidentally let him out and he ran into the street.”
“That is, wow, so upsetting,” I started to brainstorm how I could gracefully exit this conversation.
“I think I lost my best friend over it. Anyways, how was yours?”
“Oh it was good. Not eventful. Just watched some SNL and some YouTube videos.”
“YouTube videos of what?”
“Um, DIY mostly.”
“Oh you DIY?”
“No,” I took a large gulp of coffee. I was already trembling.
“Sorry, I probably weirded you out with the cat stuff. I didn’t mean to you just asked what happened and I didn’t want to make stuff up you know? I like to be honest.”
“Yeah, no, it’s fine. I get it.” I did not get it.
We continued to make conversation for an hour before I was able to escape. The rest of the hour wasn’t so bad. We talked a lot about the decision to make Doctor Who female (finally) and whether or not we’d ever have a female president. He seemed progressive and interesting. But afterwards I felt nothing. The same had always happened after every first app date. It was the reason I had never had a second app date. I felt absolutely nothing.
The only time I ever actually dated someone from Tinder or the rest of the gambit of apps was because I ran into them later on in real life. That’s how it was with Kevin. We had talked and talked on Bumble but then I lost interest. A few weeks later I ran into him at local showing of ‘The Room’. We bonded over our shared affection for Tommy Wiseau’s unidentifiable accent and his use of multiple, oddly arranged studded belts. I guess at that point we had a story. A story.
It hit me like a soccer ball to the gut.
That night I pounded on Jen’s door until she opened up.
“I have an idea.”
“I feel like every guy I’ve ever liked has had some sort of history with me.”
“What do you mean?”
“Like Ben worked with me. We had the office romance thing going on. Same for John. Lenny was from my theatre troupe. We had to kiss onstage which led to kissing offstage and you know the rest. Kevin was the ‘could-have-been Tinder fling’ that became the actual thing.”
“Okay where is this going?”
“I need to go back and find all the guys, the could have beens. The ones with the stories and see if any stick.”
“Sorry I still don’t understand what you’re saying. How many espressos have you had today?”
“Three, but that’s not important. I’m going to travel for a while. I’m going to reconnect with old flames or not flames that could have been flames and maybe, just maybe, I’ll make something happen.”
“That sounds insane.”
“But Jen, you don’t understand. I have to try.”

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