This story is by Sharon Mortz and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
“I am worthy.”
I stare into the mirror and repeat. “I am worthy.” Eye contact with your reflection is important. I’m not obsessive but affirmations only work when done right.
I am a pioneer. Internet dating is as daunting as any endeavor, and preparation is key. I compose my on-line bio with miniscule magnification. When perusing bios, remember men add inches to their height and women subtract pounds from their weight. Do not fret! Feel free to deduct as many pounds in your bio as you deem necessary because men have no idea what real women weigh. “Trim” is sufficient. Actually, avoid the weight issue and when you meet your date, suggest that he guess your weight and if he offers a satisfactory number say, “You are so good at this!” (Actually, that phrase will work in almost any situation.)
Every woman knows that the initial impression is paramount so the preparation for a first date is stressful. Even if your makeup actually takes hours, the goal should be to look natural as though little effort was required. You know — a pinch-of-the-cheeks-a-bit-of-gloss-and-a-toss-of-my-head-to-ruffle-the-hair effect. If a little nervous perspiration erupts, a tiny sip of brandy may be necessary. I console myself with the knowledge that this is a temporary inconvenience and I visualize the “comfortable period” of dating to come when I can wear sweats and indulge in a pizza without pretending I’m full after one slim slice.
One of my first dates was Carl. According to his bio, he was “non-materialistic” which, I was to learn, meant unemployed. Unemployment is something to avoid unless dating an astronaut between moon landings. Carl was younger than I and against my better judgment, I accepted a lunch date.
“Can we go to McDonald’s for lunch?” he asked. McDonald’s in San Francisco? Do they have a wine list? I considered forgoing the date to keep my canceled appointment with my OB-GYN but my innate magnanimity prevailed. Give him a chance I thought. Maybe he is paying alimony to all those ex-wives and these are tough economic times.
In spite of my apprehension, I began my beauty routine with the challenge of trying to appear younger. But, I was up for a challenge and luckily, I had help. Sometimes, timing is everything. I had watched Oprah the previous day and she had an eyebrow makeover that made her look like she had a facelift. I was amazed! I got out my magnifying mirror and identified the straggly eyebrow hairs then realized what few hairs remained in my eyebrows were all straggly.
Like an engineer, I made all the measurements on my face following Oprah’s “eyebrow expert” instruction. I lined up the inside edge of my eyebrows with my nose and precisely drew the arch that would rival McDonald’s.
I met Carl and, not only was he younger, he was shorter. He had a sad face that looked like his last three wives had two-timed him. If it didn’t work, at least I would be comforted by the fact that I had done a good deed and offered him hope. He, too, might benefit from mind-expanding visualizations and positive affirmations. If the first-date conversation lulls, I’ll introduce that topic. We chatted and between French Fries he shyly asked, “Can we have dinner together?” I’d gone this far. Why not? My acquiescence provided him momentum. “Can we go Dutch?” he asked. Who’s Dutch?
I’m not that altruistic.
Phil was a construction worker. I’ve always been partial to blue-collar men. He wore a hard hat throughout our first meeting. He thought it made him sexier and he coupled that with a rehearsed bodybuilder’s swagger. We met for a drink at the Sheraton that was being renovated under his guidance. We sat down and he leaned over toward me. Would he divulge shoddy, cost-cutting construction practices?
He whispered, “This is very dangerous work.” Was he going to offer me a hard hat?
“I’m sure you can handle it,” I smiled encouragingly.
“Coke, please,” he ordered. I’m not one to show off but I considered a short lecture on the evils of sugary soft drinks and the salubrious benefits of wine but held back.
“I’m in AA,” he said.
Aha! To be supportive, I pondered ordering a Coke too but if the building was going to cave, one of us had to keep our cool and a glass of wine could help me keep mine. After all, I was bareheaded and vulnerable.
He pulled out his day planner and I surreptitiously peered at the entries. He had meetings scheduled every day. “How about dinner later in the week?” he suggested. “I have an Overeater’s Anonymous meeting on Thursday but I could meet you after that.” I admire people who work on their issues but wine and food? Those were my favorite issues. I politely mumbled an excuse.
Then I met the Satin Latin. His name was Doug but I called him Satin. He owned a bar and was as smooth and urbane as 007. He had a small scar through the upper portion of his lip, which added to his significant sex appeal. He was perfect: tall, slender and he glided when he walked. I knew a long list of broken hearts preceded me but I didn’t care.
I felt important when I went out with Satin so I jeopardized my health and looks by frequenting after-hours smoky bars with him. When exposed to smoke, my sinuses swell and my eyes turn into slits. Additionally, he had the enviable quality of being a late sleeper while I never could sleep past 6:00 a.m. To combat the double whammy of smoke and fatigue, I had to resort to daily applications of Lipton tea bags to reduce the swelling. In the evening’s candlelight and smoke, I hoped Satin only saw the gossamer outline of my carefully made-up face.
We went to my favorite restaurants – Yabbies, Holy Grail, Antiqua or Tadich’s. One memorable evening, Satin whispered, “You look radiant tonight.” The Lipton was working. We order the wine which was followed by salad and cauliflower soup.
“How’s the soup,” he asked. He was always polite and considerate. I smiled and said, “Fabulous.” I watched him correctly spoon his soup away from his body but noticed his fidgeting tongue. Apparently, a food particle was lodged in his teeth. In a split second move, my eyes bulged and jaw dropped – as he stealthily raised his lower dentures. I willed my eyes back into my head and silently commiserated with his discomfort. I stole furtive glances at him and prayed his sparkling teeth would not lose traction and tumble out into the soup. I pretended to study the art in the restaurant to give him the privacy he needed. He apparently dislodged whatever seed or particle had made its way under his dental plate because he stopped fidgeting.
Actually, I didn’t care about his teeth but eventually Satin lost interest in me, as I knew he would, and moved on. It was almost a relief to abandon the daily application of Lipton tea bags.
Larry was an imposing, handsome man with ocean-blue eyes, the gift of gab and a few extra pounds. I mentally groaned when he told me he rode a motorcycle. God Help me another boomer on a bike.
“I’ve become interested in nutrition,” he told me.
Finally! We had something in common!
“I’ve been studying nutrition for years,” I said. But it took a couple of dates before I realized that he was suffering from malnutrition from eating daily at Burger King. He corrected this deficiency by taking Algae capsules. It was a start. We had a bond and potential for a connection based on Blue Klamath Algae.
One afternoon, I invited him over to watch a movie and managed to burn the popcorn. I picked out the offending brown kernels and added Smart Balance for flavor eschewing butter. Now, there is a big difference between butter and Smart Balance. Smart Balance is mostly water and instead of coating the popcorn with buttery richness, the popcorn absorbed the Smart Balance and each kernel shriveled like wet cotton balls into tiny, wrinkled masses. I have learned to endure these little annoyances for health. Larry did not appreciate my efforts to curb his fat intake and in a rather annoyed tone, snipped, “These days, people use microwave popcorn. Your popcorn popper is from the last century.”
I did not retort with the fact that microwave popcorn is filled with carcinogenic chemicals and a little watery popcorn might do him some good.
Luckily, I possess razor sharp evaluation skills and am comforted by the fact that all dates are learning experiences: even unsuccessful dates enable me to identify the characteristics that I find desirable and formulate my composite mate similar to a police sketch for the FBI’s “most wanted.” For added success, continue the affirmations and believe in your infinite possibilities.