January 22, 2004
The First Step
First let's do the numbers: It's been about four days that I've been single. I was married at 23 and stayed that way for 17 years. I've just met a charming and articulate woman at a party and stumbled through an uncharming and inarticulate request for her phone number.
And wonder of wonders, she gave it to me.
Now all I had to do was call her for a date.
The only thing is, I haven't been on a date in 18 years. And back then I was still in college. What job experience did I have for this? At 20 I was able to get away with pouring Campbell's Mushroom Soup over a chicken and serving it in low light as a gourmet offering. On the upper end of things, all-night meanderings, spinning dreams and visions of unfolding lives in the drizzle of the haunted streets of Jerusalem. But nothing like a proper, well, you know, date. Like with another woman.
The first thing I did was buy a car. This seemed reasonable. I wasn't going to cruise into Singleland in the family minivan, after all, and the tiny Civic I settled for when I didn't have to think about appearances just didn't seem to cut it. So I bought the Campbell's Mushroom Soup of cars -- used and passable if I drove it in low light.
Then I had to come up with somewhere to drive it. Now, here's where fatherhood came in handy. One job skill I did pick up during 10 years of kid weekends was a mastery of events calendars. The secret to happy children is get 'em up and get 'em out. When my older son was a toddler in San Francisco, we'd go to an ethnic fair or outdoor jazzfest practically every weekend. They were always colorful, jampacked and bubbling with the self-congratulatory virtuousness of multiculturalism.
Moving to Los Angeles, I would ferret out things like celebrations of fuzzily defined neighborhoods only to discover barren industrial streets sporting one empty bouncy room and a bad clown/magician (are there good ones?). I learned that people here had pools. And big screens. Street fests scared them so, they stayed home.
I scoured my trusty sources and found an outdoor concert -- Handel's Water Music downtown. Ooh, classy. And um, free. That was a good start, but it seemed bare. I got working. Handel was born in Halle, which is in a quirky and sparse northern German wine-growing area, so I found a Halle-grown varietal, bought a Trader Joe's backpack with plastic wine glasses and plates, some pâté and crackers. Not just crackers, mind you, but "water crackers," intending to maintain the Water Music theme. I knew we'd be hungry and realized we'd be in walking distance of the thematically consistent Water Grill, so I made reservations there, too.
I was thrilled. I had Aristotelian consistencies of place and time. I had motifs and leitmotifs. I had a soundtrack. This was just like writing a movie treatment. Not only as a father, but as a writer, I did have relevant skills after all.
The date itself? It went off on schedule, if overbudget. She was astonished, and maybe a little frightened by all the preproduction I had put in. And when we made it back to her place and she presented me with a reasonably seductive front-porch line, I gave her a dutiful kiss on the cheek and headed back for the Campbell's Soupmobile.
She was very nice, and smelled good, too, but it wasn't going to lead to marriage, so I figured I'd better just go (I know, I still had a lot to learn about dating -- stay tuned).
Driving home, I realized something (do I sound like Carrie Bradshaw yet?). In some ways, I had taken myself out for a date. I had to prove, not to someone else, but to myself, that I was dateworthy. I was considerate, we talked easily, laughed, shared our stories. Counting the car, I had only spent a few thousand dollars on the evening and so all in all, I felt it was a success.
I could date. It may not sound like a lot to you veterans, but to me it was as soothing as, well, cool water on a hot L.A. night.
Adam Gilad is a writer, producer and is CEO of Rogue Direct, LLP. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.