Where to begin this story. It may not be important where this story takes place. It could be anywhere in America. It is overcast and it’s been trying to snow, but at this point it is cold with light rain. I think maybe I should wear an overcoat tonight, but I’ve decided to try it without one.
Tonight I’m going out, again. You see, I find myself single. Not married. Divorced. How many names can one man be called at this age? Tonight is another one of those single dances. How many times have I said to myself, “I’m not doing this again!” And how many times do you look in the mirror and think, “Okay, just one more time, let’s see what can happen.”
So, I prepare to dress. What should I wear tonight? At my age, a dark suit and tie against a white button down oxford cloth dress shirt seems appropriate. And of course, shiny black dress shoes. Dress to impress is the mantra running through my head. Dress to impress is considered the standard success formula for my demographic. What works in business, surely will work on the dating scene. Right? But, who really knows what will turn an eye. It’s a crap shoot. What will stimulate a woman to take a second look? And that’s the game tonight, isn’t it? Make no mistake about it, it’s a game.
All of these singles dances are nothing more than a money-making proposition for the people running the show. They rent the building, hire a DJ, advertise the event and collect my admission fee as I walk in the front door and hopefully the promoter pockets more money than they spend. This dance is on the far south side tonight. I haven’t been to this building before. Maybe a few new faces will pop up out of the shadows.
I’m fashionably late. I paid my dues at the front table and now it’s time to walk into the hall. The building is clean, not all that fancy, just a large room with a dance floor in the middle. The DJ has his party lights bouncing of the walls and ceiling. The music is loud, but, not as loud as it could be. Large round tables surround the dance floor and people (mostly women) are already sitting at tables. I normally stroll around the outside of the room slowly, seeing if there are any new faces in the crowd. I’m sure I send a negative message to anyone who might be watching me. “Who does he think he is?” So, it isn’t wise to cast myself as a buyer in an open air fish market.
I cozy up to the small bar set up in the corner of the room and buy myself a drink. I turn and move to an area where a line of men are leaning up against the wall. I try very hard not to emulate them. I take a deep breath and sip my drink. Here I am again, standing on some cheap hotel carpet, looking around the room like an eagle searching the forest for its next meal. Why do I continue to do this?
I do this because I haven’t had one woman standing on my front porch, knocking on the door saying, “Gee, I would like to meet you.” I assume success is nothing more than being in the right place at the right time. Or, so I have been told.
I have been asked many times, “Why are you here? What is it you are looking for? What do you hope to accomplish before the evening is over? And the truth is … this is hard to say, I have no clear idea.
So, here I stand on the side of the dance floor, in soft ballroom light, wearing a dark business suit, my hair combed, drink in my hand. Pretending like I’m looking. When in reality, the truth is on the other side of the coin. I’m being evaluated by the birds sitting at the tables, like a piece of meat wrapped in cellophane at the local grocery, ready for a female shopper to pick me up, turn me over, inspect me and toss me back in the meat cooler.
“Nothing but a bunch of losers, all of them.”
I had to look to see who was talking. A blond almost as tall as myself was standing next to me. I looked her way, no one was close to either one of us. She looked straight ahead, she didn’t look my way. She repeated herself.
“Losers, just look at them, all lined up against the wall. Too afraid to make a move. Losers all of them.”
Again I had to look to my left and then behind me and back to my right. She apparently was talking to me, or at me.
“I’m sorry, were you speaking to me?”
“Sorry? I’ll say, losers, losers, losers, just look at all the sheep, standing against the wall, wishing they were some kind of Casanova.”
It was now painfully obvious she was talking to me. “Are you including me in that broad assessment of humanity?”
“If the shoe fits! Does it?” She asked, still not looking my way.
“So, is this the normally way you start a pleasant conversation?” I asked?
“This is a waste of my valuable time.” She doubled down.
“If it’s a waste of your time and you hate these singles functions, why are YOU here? Do you consider yourself a loser too?” I asked with a little edge on my voice.
She laughed out loud, a real laugh, a deep from the gut kind of laugh. This verbal fencing between the two of us continued. She wasn’t going to give an inch. She was comfortable with hostile or even what could be considered destructive behavior. She is obviously a take-no-prisoners kind of woman. She wouldn’t make steady eye contact with me. So, I played her game. I talked only when the she wasn’t speaking and talked to the space in front of me. Loud enough so she could hear me. We separated after a few back and forth verbal “lunges and parry.” She would attack, lunge and I would parry by defending and pushing aside her sharp blade like tongue.
I finished my drink and decided to move around the room again, checking out the faces sitting at their tables. I didn’t know anyone in the room and I didn’t see anyone tripping my trigger. I wasn’t in the mood for another drink and I didn’t feel like dancing. I started looking toward the exit. Evaluating how much longer I wanted to endure this charade masked as an enjoyable evening out.
All of a sudden she was standing on my left shoulder … again.
“Well, I see you haven’t found the love of your life.” I said sarcastically.
“I see you eyeing the exit. My name is Bobbi.” She looked straight into my eyes this time.
“You have a very unusual way of introducing yourself, Bobbi. Why so much aggression?”
We began to talk, like normal people. She was a little short on the details of her life. So, I mirrored her resume. Only coming forth with enough information to keep the conversation interesting. She said she was a professional photographer. I photograph about a dozen wedding a year myself. I could have told her my experience, but I decided to play dumb.
“Really, a professional photographer, what kind of photography do you do?” I asked.
“Magazine covers, special assignments and I’ve won awards at the Indiana State Fair Photo Contest.”
She finally found a subject she was interested in … HER. She went on for quite a while and then, she decided it was time for her to leave the building.
“Give me your card, so we can keep in touch. Here is my card.” She demanded.
Yes, I gave her my card. Yes, she had a photographer style business card and it was laid out like a woman’s business card might be. The card was way too busy for my taste. Hey, I’m old school. I try and use the KISS method when it comes to business cards. “Keep It Simple Stupid.” In my opinion a business card does three things. Who are you? What do you do? How do I get a hold of you? She looked at my business card and said.
“Are you a photographer too? Wow, we have a lot in common. We will have to get together and talk shop!” She looked me straight in the eye, with no expression, she turned and walked to the exit.
Somehow, I felt she wasn’t talking the same “shop” I was thinking about. Then again, maybe she was. I lingered for a few more minutes. I looked around the room one last time and decided I was finished with the night too. I walked into the cold night air, heading for my car, saying to myself,
“That’s it, I’m not doing these singles dances again. I wish I had worn an overcoat.”