LOVE & MATING.

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DOWN THE (FROZEN FOODS) AISLE
[posted 07.03.2003]

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THE MARRIAGE JUST WASN’T working for me. She is nice, she’s a good person, but it just wasn’t there anymore. I broke the news to her, crushed her heart, and I live with that guilt every day. I live with the fear, too. What the hell am I going to do? I can’t do this. I can’t start over at 28. I know I’m still young, but starting out at 21 is one thing — I’m going to be freaking 30 in less than two years! Hell, I can’t even afford this. My yearly income has just been cut in half and my monthly expenses are about to double. Maybe I shouldn’t have gotten divorced? Maybe we can work out our differences?

No, my therapist and friends say the problems that caused my unhappiness will still be there. So I’m on my own. All over again.

Weekends are hard. I tell myself to relax, that millions of people are single and OK with it — why can’t I be one of them? I can do this. I can sit home and throw a movie in. Really, what’s the difference? Not having a human body on the couch with me shouldn’t affect my enjoyment of The Blues Brothers. I haven’t seen the movie in eight years, but when I pop in the DVD I start quoting lines (“I have seen the light!” “The band!” “We have to get the band back together.”) as if I just saw it yesterday.

See, this isn’t so bad. If I keep telling myself that, eventually it has to be true.

We used to shop for groceries together every week. We’d wind through the store, selecting fruits and vegetables, milk, then the ingredients needed for the dinners we planned to cook together, and finally ice cream.

Now, however, I head straight for the frozen food aisle. What’s on sale? Five Banquet dinners for $5. I’m sold! I grab 10. That’s a week and a half of dinners right there. Frozen pizzas are priced at three for $9.99. I grab nine, and half the month’s meals are done. I get four cartons of ice cream, pick up a case of MGD and head for the checkout.

Dinner used to be an event to look forward to — we’d cook together while Simpsons and Seinfeld reruns played in the family room. Now my nights work like this: Choose a frozen dinner from the freezer, read the directions, open microwave, insert food, cook, take out, eat. Watch TV for a couple of hours, go to bed.

The key to sleeping alone, I have found, is to focus on the positives. With the bed all to yourself you can stretch out, hog the blanket, do whatever you want and no one is going to complain. You have a nice open space in your own personal bed.

I don’t know how much more of this I can take.

LIVING ALONE

Everyone tells me to wait and “find myself” before moving on, but the thought of being alone is too much. What am I going to do this Saturday? All of my friends are married or dating. Most of them already have plans. I can’t tag along as a third wheel. I can’t sit home alone! For the last four years I’ve had someone there next to me to talk to, to do things with.

But it’s hard to meet good women. I have lots of female friends, but women to DATE, that is a trick. (Was dating this hard before? ‘Cause I don’t remember it that way.)

So I turn to online dating, the savior of socially inept people everywhere. “Post an ad for free! Let the person you are looking for find you!” The words stare at me above a picture of a happy interracial couple.

I browse through some of the ads: “No time for game players!” “Where are all the good men at?” “That is a really bad picture of me, I look much better than that.”

Everyone writes the same thing.

I expect to find nothing but unattractive women with poor communication skills. But then I remind myself that I’m a normal person, for the most part, and I’m joining this. Maybe I will meet “normal” women who have lives of their own; women with jobs, ambition and all of their teeth.

So what eye-catching phrase will get a woman’s attention? How do I get her to read my ad? Whatever I write has to show wit, because I’m a bright guy — no genius, but no dummy either. Hmmm, something witty. “SWM seeking SWF” has been done before, I believe.

Oh, screw it! “Just pretend I wrote something witty…”

I say a little about myself and what I’m looking for in a person, and my ad is done. I click submit and learn that I have to wait 24 to 72 hours before it’s approved and posted. I can’t wait 72 hours! I want to meet the woman of my dreams now. She could be out there right now replying to some other guy, lost forever to me.

When my ad is finally online and searchable, I hurry to read all the responses from the attractive, young females anxious to meet me. I log onto the dating service and find … no new messages.

OK, no problem. It takes time for people to see these new ads.

So I proceed to check the page no less than 35 times throughout the course of the day. Still nothing.

But the next morning I find two responses.

Rollergayle’s imaginative message: “Hey you sound pretty cool. Write me back. Gayle” She doesn’t have a picture posted on her ad, which to me is a big red flag. If you look good, why hide it?

Trixie69’s message is three paragraphs long, and she sounds interesting. There’s no ad attached but she provides a link to her home page on the Internet.

OK, I bite. I go to the site — and find three pictures of a scantily clad young lady who could easily work for any modeling agency out there. At the bottom of the page I learn that if I enter my credit card number, I can see the “really good” pictures of her. Call it a hunch, but I’m thinking this isn’t a local girl trying to meet a local guy to date. I delete Trixie69’s response.

I look at Rollergayle again, and not only am I not impressed with her response, but I’m also a little paranoid about the authenticity of any response I receive. I write Gayle and tell her about my experience with Trixie69. Gayle writes back that she isn’t after my credit card number and she’d like to meet this Thursday. What the hell — I have nothing to lose but my kidneys. I suggest meeting at the self-proclaimed “world famous” Brat Stop in Kenosha, Wis., for a drink. Why should I buy dinner for a girl that may be three times my size?

After work on Thursday I put on what will eventually become my “first date outfit” and drive to the Brat Stop nervous and anxious about what I will see. I arrive first, order an MGD and quickly suck it down in anticipation. My emotions are running high: What exactly is going to walk through those doors? It’s like living in a horror movie — you know something is going to pop out at you but you have no idea what.

Then a tall, beautiful brunette walks in, notices me almost instantly and waves. My first thought is, Why didn’t she post her picture? She is gorgeous!

My next thought: Someone who looks this good will never be interested in a guy like me.

We exchange hellos. She orders a drink. I suddenly become extremely nervous and blurt out, “I’m sorry but I’m nervous because I haven’t been on a date in over four years.”

Certainly not the smoothest thing to say, but it actually helps the situation. She tells me she’s divorced also and knows where I’m coming from. We proceed to have a great night of drinking and talking — so great that a second date is automatic.

Next we meet for lunch at a nice Japanese restaurant where they cook the food right in front of you. I drop $60! Now let’s remember, this is LUNCH. We have another great time talking and getting to know each other. But $60? I have to rethink the restaurants I pick.

Third date: Dinner and a movie. More drinks and good conversation. Movie is $20 and dinner is only $40 (that’s more like it). We end the night with our first kiss.

Fourth date: Mini golf. We play 18 holes through waterfalls, rocks and PVC tubing, jokingly hurling insults back and forth at each hole. We go to Wendy’s across the street to finish off another great night, but I’m starting to notice that not only has Gayle not spent a cent on any of our dates, but she also hasn’t offered to spend a cent on any of our dates.

Fifth date: Lunch again, but this time at a much cheaper restaurant. We have a good time talking, the food is good and the check is just $30. I wait for an offer from her for payment but it’s clear no such offer is coming. So I ask if we can split the bill. She smiles and agrees, and we each pay half. I say we need a rematch in mini golf since we tied last time. She agrees, but I can tell something is different. I walk her to her car and she says bye and gets in her car. The absence of a kiss is clearly noticed by me. I send her an email saying I had a good time, no response. I call and leave a voicemail three days later, no response.

So what have I learned from my re-entry into the world of dating? Don’t go to nice restaurants early on and don’t drop a lot of money until you’re sure the person you’re dating wants you and not your wallet.

Live and learn my friends, live and learn.

So I’m still alone so far. But I am developing some non-frozen food skills: I started making grilled cheese sandwiches, then progressed to egg, cheese and bacon sandwiches (at least I’m getting some protein along with the cholesterol). Now I’m on to chicken quesadillas.

They’re surprisingly easy to make.

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erik solita lives in kenosha, wisconsin, pursuing his lifelong goals of love, happiness and a well-cooked meal.