If you read any of my Item of the Day posts, you’ll notice I’ve had a thing for shoes lately. This is less because of my ongoing secret desire to be Carrie Bradshaw, and more like that episode of Sex and the City where Miranda goes on a sex strike and turns to chocolate. I have quit dating and replaced it with shoe shopping. So far it’s been pretty satisfying, and since my preferred shoe maker is Nine West rather than Manolo Blahnik, it hasn’t been too hard on my bank account.
It’s possible that I haven’t quit dating, and that dating quit me. Or more likely, it’s that dating, as I wish to define it, never really existed.
My belief in dating, like my beliefs in most things, comes from a TV show, but it’s not the one you’d expect. Seinfeld was the first sitcom I was allowed to watch that wasn’t a part of the TGIF lineup, and as such, it was my blueprint for how single adults conducted their lives. Every week, George or Jerry was dating an attractive new woman he’d met in some totally mundane situation. They made adulthood looked like a fun, easy smorgasbord of interesting people.
In addition to how dating worked, Seinfeld also taught me the importance of having funny nicknames for the people you date. In my time, my friends and I have been asked out by such gems as:
Rotary Dial Cell Phone Guy (because his desire to invent one was the only thing he would talk about, ever)
iPod Jeremy (self explanatory, but because he was never seen without one)
Cinnabuns (worked at a Cinnabon)
The Doctor (his initials were MD)
Scorpion Toast (I wish there were a better story here; this just rhymes with his name)
Bagel Boy (This guy was so passionate in his belief that there were no good bagels to be found on the west coast that he learned how to make them himself. He would take flavor requests and bring them in for my officemate that he had a crush on. I got the leftovers and they were so good that they ruined me for regular bagels forever.)
The problem is that once you’ve come up with a hilarious nickname for a guy, it’s very, very unlikely that he’s someone you’d consider a second date, let alone an actual relationship with. You’ll note that none of the relationships on Seinfeld ever really worked out, either.
While Seinfeld introduced me to the idea of dating, Sex and the City certainly reinforced the idea that any given city might contain a large number of attractive, interesting, employed men that meet women in bars or in the grocery store or in yoga class, and then ask these women to dinner. Based on this show, I assumed that once I got to my 20s, this sort of thing would happen to me all the time. With half of that decade officially behind me, I can reassure you that this is not the case. I can count on one hand, nay, one finger, the number of times since college that I’ve met a random guy in public and he has subsequently asked me out. The dating world that television told me of does not exist.
I don’t want to go into the death of dating and “hookup culture”, because that’s been written about to death. My concern isn’t hookup culture, my concern is relationship culture. In my experience, and from watching my friends, no one dates anymore. You are either entirely single, or you are in a serious relationship. There is no middle ground. I’ve tried to create one, tried to be the girl who can go to a few dinners with a few guys and assess who I like best and decide who I want things to move forward with, but pretty much the only place to meet guys to do that with is the Internet, which is its own kind of scary. I would kill for a guy to actually walk up to me in a bar, ask for my number and call me maybe. So I’ve sort of given up.
Which brings me to another Sex and the City episode. The one where Charlotte presents the “Two Great Loves” theory, and then promptly points out that Carrie has had Aidan and Big, and so she’s done. Everyone tries to reassure Carrie that it’s a stupid theory and she’ll find someone else, but if you think about how the rest of the show plays out…she doesn’t. Even though I quite liked Petrovsky until he took her to Paris and started being a workaholic jerk, no relationship Carrie ever had was quite at the level of Aidan or Big. Carrie really did have two loves and lots o’ shoes.
I’m starting to worry it might be the same for me, and not just because of my growing shoe collection. The only reason I’m so interested in dating is because I’ve already been in two serious, multi-year relationships. I wanted to change it up and see what was out there, but maybe there isn’t anything. When I look around at my friends who are married, every single one of them is married to either their first or second serious relationship. According to this logic, there’s no point in me dating; I’ve used up all my chances.
Fortunately, the point of the first half of this column was that TV relationships are not gospel. Just because every SATC character got a maximum of two multi-season relationships (Charlotte had Trey and Harry, Samantha had Richard and Smith, Miranda just had Steve) doesn’t mean I’m limited to that number. And my friends that are married to #1 or #2 are only in their mid 20’s; they didn’t have time to be in that many relationships before they lucked out and found The One. Just because right now I’d rather shoe shop (the Nordstrom half-yearly sale is happening right now!) doesn’t mean there isn’t someone out there for me eventually. But for the moment, my only relationship is going to be with Steve Madden.
Image via Savvynista