I have a true confession.

When I was twelve, I had a pet mouse. No one knew about my mouse but me. He lived in my lizard’s old aquarium, in a bed of hand-ripped paper, in the far reaches of my closet -unless I was playing with him, or petting him, or feeding him. He never complained, never made a peep. One day, he went missing, and I never heard from him again.

Until last week.

I was talking to my mother, or she was talking to me, and she told me that she had once found a dead mouse at the bottom of my closet. I think we were discussing the current state of my apartment, and she used the mouse as an example of how I was, and always have been, what she calls a slob.

I prefer the term “unmade bed.”

I could’ve come clean on that phone call. If I was a better person, I might have. But instead, I listened, slack-jawed, phone to my ear, gobsmacked by my past.

***

The summer’s over.

As if on cue, I’ve been offered and accepted a job in New York that will ground me for the foreseeable future.

It’s almost a year since I started my investigation into dating culture across the U.S. I’ve hit 10 states, with three more possibilities looming, depending on flight times, cost, and my own organizational abilities. .

I’ve been on 50 first dates in these ten states. Aside from ditching the date dress, I’ve stuck to all my rules. Never had a first date at a Starbucks. Never had more than two drinks on a date. And I’ve kissed only one first date, or rather, he kissed me.

I’ve met a rocket scientist and a mad scientist, five filmmakers, a train conductor, a musician I shared a drink with twenty years ago, artists, intellects, writers, lawyers, an outlaw, a hippie, two freaks, three cougars, and five cubs.

So far, New York is the only place I’ve had to pay to get a date.

***

What I’ve learned so far:

1. wearing the same dress for every date is slightly impractical, particularly when dating in different climates at different times of the day. However, a scientific control is key. To that end, I’ve chosen a new scientific control: me.

2. being an interesting person is the best way to get a second date. Being a mysterious person leads others to believe you are an interesting person. My advice: if you’re not one, try on the other.

3. people don’t seem to be offended by gross generalizations. In fact, it appears that they embrace them, so when embarking on a scientific, anthropological study, the greater the leaps of logic, the more believable the study.

4. most men don’t like to learn that you are dating them so that you can blog about them later, so it is best not to mention this before, on, or after a date.

5. dating is easiest when you tell the truth, but half-truths, creative truths, and fiction make for a really wonderful challenge. Sometimes you can even find a beautiful nook between truth and fiction, where you don’t have to lie because you don’t have to talk. And you can float the date, kick back, and listen.

6. when one travels outside one’s usual haunts and homes, one is, by default, interesting to those who have not traveled or dated far beyond their own front doors.

7. a surprising number of men find a woman eating a hamburger sexy.

8. outside of New York, people are very lonely. Inside of New York, people might be lonely, but if they are, they are too busy to notice.

9. the men in Iowa are slightly deranged and not very nice. Perhaps this is from living next to genetically modified cornfields.

10. Denver guys are good, San Francisco men, when they show up, are stunning, Texans are desperate for a good conversation, and the young “cubs” of New York City are possibly the most boring men on the planet.

But god love them for trying.

It must be hard out there.

***

Almost a year later, I am sitting at the exact same desk, writing on the exact same computer. The explosion of clothes packed tightly in my well-traveled valise is finally tamed, and my unruly pile of mail has been recycled. The dog gently snores on her pillow in the same corner of the room as always, and all these men, whose lives I’ve blown through, either as breeze or a storm, are still out there, breathing and dating . Maybe I’ve changed someone’s life. Maybe I made someone want to be a better person, or encouraged someone else to write or paint or travel. Maybe I’ve even offered hope, or clarity, or a little excitement. Maybe. Maybe not.

Maybe being part liar, part lover, a dash of mystery, and a pinch mischievous martini drinker on the lam from responsibility and good judgment has rubbed off on someone. I guess I’ll never know.

But, I do know this: despite all the half-truths about where I live and what I do, where I come from, and what I want, I’ve never, ever lied about who I am.

So, when they look in the little box they’ve placed on a high shelf, or at the bottom of the closet, they won’t find the me that they created. They won’t find anything at all. Their version of me has escaped into the far reaches of their cluttered brains.

And my version of me – despite the laws of gravity and my compulsive desire to pay my rent, is free, hiding out in a bigger, messier closet than the one my mouse lived and died in, in the cluttered house of that unmade bed we call the universe.

As are we all.

Isn’t it grand?

2 thoughts on “

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s