"What happened this time?" I asked.
"I should have known better," Lisa said. "He sounded so normal on the phone, but the e-mails were a giant red flag, and I ignored them."
Lisa's e-mails from "Lou" had indeed revealed a darker side. The first e-mail wasn't, as Lisa had hoped, a note to say that he looked forward to their date, but a list of alarming questions about her feet, her toes and her high-heel collection.
I shrugged. "Guys like women in high heels."
"Yes, but what about guys who want to come over and wear your high heels?"
I saw her point. "Why did you agree to meet him after that?"
Lisa rolled her eyes and harrumphed at the same time. "You married women have no idea how hard it is for single women my age to meet men," she explained in self-defense. "I need to be open-minded."
And so Lisa kept the date. Lou's remarkable phone impersonation of a normal man finished imploding in person. At every opportunity, she said he wriggled in questions about Lisa's shoe collection and her range of undergarments. When he began talking about his favorite nail polish colors, Lisa bolted from her seat, told Lou that she just remembered an emergency collagen appointment, and ran out.
Unfortunately, Lou was just another in a long line of loser lotharios who had marred Lisa's date book for the past year.
There was bait-and-switch Bruce, whose picture on the Internet dating site bore an uncanny resemblance to Pierce Brosnan. In person, he was a dead ringer for Danny DeVito.
There was cheapskate Chris, who boasted to Lisa of his stunning entrepreneurial successes. On their first and only date, he said, "Order whatever you like. I've got a coupon."
There was nervous Neal, who kept telling Lisa about his ex-wife, a Brazilian with anger-management problems, while looking around furtively, as if expecting the ex to materialize and scream at him.
Lisa was dazed and confused. After a dating sabbatical during which she dipped down to Costa Rica for some discount cosmetic surgery, she sprang back into action at a singles event for men and women between the ages of 35 and 50. While sipping a glass of chardonnay, Lisa was told by a man who regaled her with stories of the landing at Normandy that she was too old for him, as he wanted more children. As the geezer turned and walked away, Lisa noticed that he had neglected to tuck in his shirt.
Yet none of these men created as much heartbreak havoc as Ward. Lisa and Ward had "met cute," as they say in the movies, on a flight from Los Angeles to Chicago. Mutual interest was registered while the captain turned on the seat belt sign; by Salt Lake City they had laughingly traded their best dating war stories; by Omaha they were smitten.
When they parted in Chicago, Lisa was sure that he was "the one." They spoke on the phone daily, Lisa's infatuation becoming more feverish with each call. When Ward flew out to see her, she was so excited she maxed out her credit card on a color consultant and a new wardrobe.
Lisa was a glamorous vision when she picked him up from the airport, her newly paved face smoother than single-malt Scotch. But over dinner, Ward decided to come clean. He had been meaning to tell Lisa something for a while, he explained, but the timing just never seemed right.
Lisa had the sudden feeling that $10,000 of cosmetic surgery had just been thrown out the window. Between hearty bites of his rib-eye steak, Ward fessed up to his past as an ex-felon.
From time to time, some good business opportunities still arose with some old cronies from the mob. He hoped that Lisa wouldn't be as unreasonable as some women and find that problematic.
"Why can't I meet just one normal guy who doesn't have a fetish, a criminal record, or a condition named after him in the Annals of American Psychiatry?" Lisa asked plaintively.
"There are good men out there," I tried to assure her.
"Sure there are. They're all married to my friends."
However, Lisa remains undaunted in her campaign to find lasting love. On a tip from another single that men from India appeared fairly neurosis-free, Lisa decided to borrow a page from corporate America and outsource her romance needs as well. She's signed on to an Internet dating service specializing in Indian men, and so far the only big disappointment was a man who turned out to be a Navajo. "I didn't think you meant that kind of Indian," he said sadly.
Lisa is now dating a guy named Raj, reading the "Bhagavad Gita," and learning to make tandoori rice. "Think about this," Lisa said. "If this works out I'll never have to call Microsoft tech support ever again."
I'm glad that things are finally looking up for Lisa. And the other day, when I was on the verge of chastising my husband for missing the laundry basket, I decided to keep my mouth shut.
There are a lot worse fates than that. Specifically, Lou, and Chris, and Neal and Bruce, and Ward, and Mike, and Mitch....
Judy Gruen's popular "Off My Noodle" column and her new book, "The Women's Daily Irony Supplement" (Creative Minds Press, 2007), are available at judygruen.com.
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