Re-entering the dating world after many years of coupledom is, well, odd. When you first meet someone, you can feel the mental tape measures being whipped out. You're always wondering how you are measuring up. Simultaneously, you are measuring up the other person. It's like a garment workers' convention.
When I was married, meeting new people was less complicated. There was no second-guessing about how that person might, say, perform in bed. Well, maybe there was, but those thoughts rested securely in my mind's Fantasy Island along with da plane and Charo.
Now there's the possibility that such fantasies could develop into a reality. A reality that might involve beautiful things, like my date paying for the dinner--but also, perhaps, some unpleasantness, like halitosis or hangnails.
This is all about the body, it seems. A fantasy body is a very different thing than a reality body. When you've been married for a long time, your spouse's body is as comfortable as an old couch. Such coziness is synoymous with complacency, and before you know it it's been months since you've searched for stray coins behind your spouse's cushions. In the queer world, they call it "lesbian bed death."
But I know from experience that straight people get lesbian bed death too. And I don't mean they cease oral sex. They cease other heterosexual maneuvers as well. The man sits in the basement on his metaphorical sagging couch, yanking himself into Fantasy Island oblivion with the help of online porn--while the woman, post-dinner, scours the sink for the twelfth time that night.
And sometimes in a wacky gender reversal, it's vice-versa.
So my question is this: When I meet a possible date, how do I stop from fast-forwarding my mind? The fast-forward works something like this: I start talking to a man I've met at a literary event--okay, a bar--and full-speed-ahead, my mind writes a one-sentence story:
He has a gorgeous jawline and strong-looking hands that four years from now will erotically finger the remote control while he reclines on our complacent couch, watching his third game of the day while I wander around the house dejected in my hapless new lingerie.
Maybe the key is to put away the measuring tape and pick up a good book, or a good shrink. One that can help me, as they say, be in the moment and not worry about the future. See, that's the thing about being married. The future is all figured out. Your spouse's teeth will one day float in a glass next to the bed, and sex will be a figment of your long-ago imagination.
When you're single, the future is a blank page, waiting to be filled up with stories. Stories like:
Ten years later, she is a bag lady digging through recycle bins downtown, teeth lost because she doesn't own a glass.
Ten years later, she is still paying off her attorneys from Divorce #1 and Divorce #2 while simultaneously undergoing Divorce #3.
These stories inevitably involve devolution. Why does my mind act as though I am destined to live out life as a Zola novel?
To mix more metaphors, a divorce tears the fabric. That means you are now just a half piece of cloth, like a rag used for cleaning the bathroom. But if the other half has disappeared, what difference does it make? Everyone will just assume that this piece of cloth, sitting alone at the bar, is whole.
Can we cut from whole cloth a pattern of romance and a long, monogamous sex life? Can we sew together something that looks like evolution, not devolution?
I know what I need! I need a tape measure that can divine a happy ending.