In the play "2 Across," a man and a woman -- who have nothing in common but their crossword puzzles -- are on a 4:15 a.m. train leaving San Francisco International Airport for the East Bay. She takes crosswords (and life) very seriously; he treats everything like a game. By the time they reach East Bay 80 minutes later, their lives have changed. And it all starts with the man taking the first step: making a light comment to her.
It got me thinking about the times in my life when I failed, for various reasons, to take that first step of reaching out to someone I wanted to meet. Coming back from college one day, I struck up a conversation with an attractive woman my age at the bus station. We had a nice rapport but when it came time to part, I couldn't bring myself to ask for her number. So our brief relationship ended there -- and, of course, I've never seen her again.
This was back when I was still shy. I've since gotten over my shyness. These days, I'm perfectly comfortable crossing the room to ask for a supermodel's phone number while she's chatting with Hugh Grant. After all, she can meet wealthy and famous movie stars any day. How refreshing would it be for her to hang out with a struggling Jewish writer. I'd even let her use my apartment's parking space and access to the building's washer and dryer. I'm a giver.
But say I had reached out to that woman at the bus station that day, asked for her number and called her. There might have been one of many responses. She could have said, "Thanks but I'm already in a relationship." She might have said, "Thanks but I'm not interested." She might have offered her phone number but when I called it, I find I'm connected to her local police department.
Of course, something positive might have resulted, as well. We could have gone out, hit it off, entered into a long-term relationship, gotten married, had kids, lived happily every after.
The point is, I'll never know what might have happened with that woman who could have turned out to be the love of my life -- simply because I was too chicken to ask for her number. And when you think about it, my cowardice doesn't make sense, because in a situation like that you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. It's all about taking that leap of faith and reaching out.
OK, so if you're rejected, perhaps your self-esteem takes a little hit. If you're rejected a lot, perhaps it gets bruised. And if you experience nothing but rejection, maybe your self-esteem ends up in the trauma ward of Love General Hospital. But enough about my pain.
Eventually someone is going to open her arms and her heart.
Let's get back to that supermodel. How many times have we read interviews with supermodels, gorgeous actresses and other high-profile beauties, in which they complain that they sit home alone, because for whatever reasons -- fear, intimidation, assuming women that lovely must already have boyfriends -- they're just not asked out on dates?
Well, I say to my fellow male daters -- let's end that fear here and now. Whether she's an average woman doing a crossword puzzle on a commuter train, or Gisele Bundchen doing a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue shoot on a Jamaican beach -- reach out. Put those insecurities on hold.
The Talmud states: "To facilitate a union between man and woman is as difficult a task as parting the Red Sea." Granted. But if you don't take that first step, the union is downright impossible.
"2 Across" is on stage at the Santa Monica Playhouse through Dec. 19. $25. 8 p.m. (Fridays), 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. (Saturdays), 6 p.m. (Sundays). $25. 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica. For tickets, call (800) 863-7785.
Mark Miller has written for TV, movies and celebrities, been a professional stand-up comedian and a humor columnist for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.