December 30, 2004
A Numbers Game
A few months ago, I scribbled out a Web site, bought a camera, hired a director, raised $42,000 and embarked on a journey across
the United States.
"I'm looking for true love," I told my father, "even if she's husking corn in Iowa."
In three weeks on the road, I dated a radio station DJ in New Hampshire, a beauty queen in Maine, seven feminists in Rhode Island, a yeshiva attendee in New York, a 42-year-old mother in Washington, D.C., and some eccentric others. I was often asked by the critics and by the media (who were never that critical) to justify the camera's intrusion on dates.
"Won't it get in the way of true love?" they'd ask.
"Well maybe," I'd reply. "But" -- like all great artists who excuse their art by calling it a social critique -- "this is a social critique."
"But how?" they'd ask.
"Well, everyone knows reality shows are a misnomer. They don't accurately portray reality. In the real world, I think, most women aren't as superficial or slutty as the ones on television. They actually care about stuff like honesty, sense of humor, and sensitivity in a man. To show this, I'm asking any and all of them to give me a try."
The idea was that I am not a typical bachelor type or anything close. I am short, silly, sensitive, love-struck, yada yada yada. And, if a nice, sensitive, albeit not-so-all-American guy like me can find true love and be a figurehead for not-so-perfect men around the world, then I'd be doing a service to myself and millions of others.
Of course, things didn't exactly go as planned. I was producing a mainstream film without film experience, without enough money, without trustworthy contacts and without much of a brain. As a result, I returned home penniless and humbled after just 12 dates.
"You've got to deal with the facts," my father said. "You're $35,000 in debt, you don't have a job, you have a huge inventory of 'Sensitive Guy' T-shirts that nobody wants and you can't seem to get serious about anything."
I swallowed hard.
"But I was on the front cover of the Style Section in The Washington Post," I said. "They called me a Beau on the Go."
"You were wearing a propeller hat," he said. "That's nothing to be proud of."
"Well," I said. "There are still 5,274 women who asked me out on dates."
His jaw dropped: "5,274?"
"There's more every day," I said. "They've seen me in the newspapers or on television, or they've heard about me from their grandmothers, and they just ask for dates."
He repeated the number as if it held some sort of significance: "5,274. That's a lot."
"Yeah," I said. "It gets better -- 263 mothers asked me out for their daughters. All but three of the mothers were Jewish."
"I'm not surprised," he said. "I mean, I'm not surprised the mothers were Jewish." He scratched his head. "Have you dated any of them, you know, since you failed with this whole endeavor?"
"I haven't been able to," I said. "There are too many. I wouldn't know where to start. Sixty-two called me a 'soul mate' and 14 called me their 'partner in crime.' That's a lot of pressure. They don't even know me!"
"That might be a good thing," my father said. "No offense, but you weren't doing too hot with girls that actually did know you."
"You're missing it," I said. "If I date any of these women, it'll be under false pretenses. They asked a different guy out, an imaginary one. They saw me on a 90-second telecast, or read about me in an 850-word article, or browsed a few silly childhood stories on my Web site, and they think they know me well enough to assert that I was the missing piece of their puzzle."
"So?" my father said.
"It's scary," I said.
"I think you should start with a Jewish one," he said.
"Which?" I asked, showing him the thousands of e-mails. "That's my biggest demographic. I've got 2,768 Jewish women to choose from."
"Get a short one," he said. "And make her smart and funny, too."
"But I'd have nowhere to take her," I said. "I don't have money or a future."
"That's true," he said. "But this is the new millennium. Ask her to pay. She'll probably like you better for it. And that reminds me; make sure she's rich, too."
"That's a lot to ask," I said.
"Well, 5,274 is a big number," he said. "Use it!"