Wednesday, August 13, 2008

WHY DO FOOLS FALL IN LOVE?

My favorite Sex and the City moment (I'm talking about the series, not the movie, which I hated) came at the end of an episode in which a middle-aged friend of the girls got hitched to an obviously gay man played by Nathan Lane (above, with Sarah Jessica Parker). To be honest, I don't recall much about the episode. I watched it in a drowsy fog halfway through a trans-Atlantic flight from London to New York. I think the pal was pregnant, although I can't say for sure. But during the voiceover at the end, Carrie Bradshaw woke me up with something she said about her friends and their search for Mr. Right:

"Some people are settling down. Some people are settling. And some people refuse to settle for anything less than butterflies."

A-ha! I thought. That's it. The secret of love. That's exactly what I should be doing.

But holding out for butterflies is hard work. Butterflies are free, and they aren't particularly easy to catch. I've never settled down (at 39, I've yet to even live with a guy), but despite repeating the last part of Carrie's observation over and over in my head through the years, I've continued to settle.

Big time. Especially in Buenos Aires. Here I've tangled with guys I wouldn't have given a first thought to in New York. Guys nearly half my age. Guys with no discernible means of income. Guys with a lack of upper education. Guys who wore tennis shoes on first dates. Guys who lived with their mothers! My God, the last guy I went out with was 33 years old, wore tennis shoes without socks and was still living at home! What was I thinking?

Then a few weeks ago, I figured it out. I was reading an article about one of those MTV reality shows, I think The Hills, and one of the female stars dropped this little pearl of ungrammatical wisdom: "I would never date a guy who I wouldn't want to break up with."

A-ha! I thought. That's it. The secret of love. That's exactly what I should be thinking.

But let's face it: That's settling with a capital S. Sure your heart will stay safe and sound, but as my mom used to say, "If you lie down with dogs, you get fleas." Ok, that might be a little harsh, but date below your standards and months after the fact you may have to sit through a PDA featuring your ex and some random ugly guy (see 14 posts below). Yikes! A good friend of mine in BA recently was dating a guy for whom she obviously had no strong feelings. He was a nice guy, she insisted (too much), but when she talked about him, there was absolutely no spark in her voice. I mentioned Carrie's comment about "holding out for butterflies" and cautioned her against settling. But in my mind, I thought about that girl from the reality show and wondered if perhaps my friend was doing the right thing.

It wasn't an issue for long. She recently broke up with Mr. Not Quite Right but kept him on the side as a friend with benefits. Then at the party we went to on Friday night (see four posts below), lightning struck. She met a cool guy. When I left the party, they were immersed in conversation. He invited her back to his place, just "to sleep," but she declined. ("Yeah, I've heard that one before," I told her, glad that she had played the right cards.) They had their first date on Monday night. Her synopsis: Not only did he pick her up in his car although the restaurant was right across the street from his house, he presented her with a book that she'd talked about on the night they had met, and he, in her words, "quickly and quietly" paid for dinner.

"I think I'm falling for him," were the first words she said to me after the date, before the synopsis. Being a very level-headed person, she objectively laid out his good and not-so-good points. But still, he had her at hello--or maybe it was when he gave her the book.

Yesterday, they went to the zoo. I can't think of a more perfect second date. In January, I had a great first date at the zoo with a guy who was pretty cool except for a few irritating things--one of which was that he, you know, lived with his mom. Anyway, between my pangs of jealousy, I came up with a few words of advice for my friend, who is still hanging out with her ex-turned-friend-with-benefits as well as another guy she recently met who has a blond mohawk. "Don't put all your eggs in one basket," I told her when she worried about the karmic implications of seeing three guys at once.

Yes, yes, I know. The cliché police will be banging on my door any second now. Still, those words seemed so sage six years ago when my friend Lori uttered them to a mutual friend of ours. Lori and I had met Simon, her husband-to-be, over Memorial Day weekend, a week or two earlier, in London. At the time, she was at the tail end of a casual relationship with another guy. As she told me the story a few days later, she and our mutual friend were having lunch at a Chinese restaurant, and moments later, the friend opened her fortune cookie. The message inside: "Don't put all your eggs in one basket."

A-ha! I thought. That's it. The secret of love. That's exactly what I shouldn't be doing.

The truth: I've done--and not done--all of the above. And it's gotten me...absolutely nowhere. In the end, when it comes to love, the best advice is this: There are no rules. So break every one of them--and hope for the best.
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