January 3, 2008
I am not a fixer-upper!
But every so often I get a phone call from a friend or relative, or my mom's friend or co-worker, and even from people I meet on the street: "Orit, I want to fix you up with someone."
Hello? Did I ask to be fixed up? Did I shout on a loud speakerphone that I'm looking to date or get married right now?
For them, it's enough to know that I'm 30 and single, and that the potential match is in his 30s (sometimes 40s) and single. Most of the time these amateur matchmakers hardly know anything about me, at least anything that really matters for a successful relationship, such as my interests, values, preferences -- and the creative work that expresses those: the novel I'm writing.
At first I used to indulge these fixer-uppers -- I don't know if it was for their sake, my sake or the guy's sake.
Like that time my mother's co-worker wanted to set me up with her cousin. He's smart, good-looking, put together, she assured me. So I agreed to meet him for coffee. I should have taken the first phone call as a sign that he wasn't right for me. He was sweet yet clumsy, clearly lacking a confidence and suaveness that would have accompanied a guy who was smart (at least socially smart), good looking and put together.
We met, and the date ended, at least in my mind, after the first sip of coffee I didn't really care to drink. He was exactly what I had imagined he would be: socially awkward around women, balding, two inches shorter than me -- and the schnoz was huge. Don't get me wrong, I have gone out with balding men who have imaginative noses, but they had other balancing intellectual and physical merits. This guy had a desk job at a cellphone company -- not one to understand the life of an adventurous writer and artist.
Note to matchmakers: I don't do charity dates.
After a few more close encounters of the dull kind, I decided to conduct rigorous advanced screening, asking very specific questions about the person and requesting a picture over e-mail. Does "smart" mean he is book smart? Socially aware? Emotionally intelligent? Does "good looking" mean that his mother thinks he's good looking? Would a girl who sees him walk down the street say: "That is an above-average looking man"?
But there was only so much interrogating I could do without sounding overly picky. So I went out with a few more dates after at least getting the basics down, but the dates generally didn't lead anywhere. Usually we did not have enough in common, and when we did, the guy wasn't interested. Go figure.
Finally, I decided to tell these hopeful matchmakers I'm not interested in meeting anyone. And maybe, when it comes down to it, that's the real reason behind the dating failures. At this, they were shocked.
"I'm dating the novel I'm writing," I told one newly married fixer-upper. She replied: "It doesn't matter. You should still be open to meeting people, because you never know."
I wondered why she cared so much. Does she need me to marry someone to validate her own decision?
"I like being independent, exploring the world on my own. Once I get married, I won't have this opportunity," I told a single potential fixer-upper who was actually taking a course on "how to date."
She replied by psychoanalyzing me: "You're just saying that to comfort yourself in your loneliness."
Then, with self-pity, I racked my brain wondering if I am rationalizing my singlehood.
"I'm not ready for marriage right now," I recently told a married acquaintance.
She replied by lecturing me: "You're too picky. You should consider guys you wouldn't normally consider. You know how many people get married from the Internet?"
Huh? Did she even listen to me, and did I ask for advice? Just because she's married with two kids at 31 doesn't mean I should be too.
People can't seem to fathom that a single, 30-year-old woman doesn't necessarily define success in life by her mate. They think by definition a 30-year-old woman must be hungry for a boyfriend or husband, and if not, there is something wrong with her.
I'm enjoying every minute of my single life and all its advantages: getting to know myself deeply, being free to travel on my own, having significant mental and physical space to finish my novel. Sometimes I think I'll only meet the "one" once I have actualized myself in a way that implicitly broadcasts the kind of guy who would suit my needs.
Women are living longer these days; technology has improved fertility. We can wait until the mid-30s before our biological alarm clock starts ringing. In the meantime, thank God for "snooze"!
Yes, there are the moments when I think, "God, how great would it be to have a boyfriend." Like a few weeks ago when I enjoyed, as a travel writer, an all-expense paid vacation in a romantic bungalow in northern Israel. It would have been wonderful to have a traveling -- and sleeping -- companion.
I recognize the phenomenal values of relationships, which unfortunately I don't see in enough couples. I would enjoy a trusted, intimate support system; sex on a regular basis; a social companion; sperm (for when I'm ready); hopefully someone handy around the house, and, most of all, people will stop bugging me!
But I'm holding out for the best for me. I'm going to work on myself -- happily -- finish my novel and continue to become the woman worthy of the man I seek.
I know people have good intentions, and I don't oppose fixer-uppers altogether, but they should at least be mindful and set me up with men whom I would consider for friendship regardless of my single status -- not just another man they assume to be desperate as well. And why not introduce us at a party or social gathering? I'm sick of coffee.
Otherwise, stop bugging me. I'm busy being single right now.
Orit Arfa is a writer living in Tel Aviv. She can be reached via her Web site: www.oritarfa.net.