Journal: Window Shopping

She leafed through her book as if she might have missed something a few pages back. When she came to a rest on the passage of interest she stopped to take a long draw from her coffee, needing the energy to fully absorb whatever might lie upon the page. Her face narrowed as she read, her shoulders tensed, and after a moment one eyebrow shot up. She seemed to find herself with more questions than when she started. Putting the book down, she began a staring contest with her cup.

I watched this from the darkened street outside, which you might find a little creepy, and that would be the first of my problems. I mean, I hadn’t just been standing there watching the girl, but I happened to catch those few seconds of literary befuddlement, and for this and several other, probably more shallow reasons, I found her quite appealing. The problem was not that I was creepy—I may have been, but this wasn’t necessarily a problem yet—The problem was that she might know I was creepy if I told her that I had been watching.

This is a strange effect when it comes to dating in the wild. I have learned that in a great many scenarios there is reason to start out with a lie, and in this case I would plainly be better off to find a nearby table and hope to catch her looking at me, to excuse introducing myself. It would be a total sham and manipulation, and yet the right way to go about things by almost anyone’s standards. Write to the advice columnist of your choice and see for yourself: Half of dating is sleight of hand.

People date for different reasons, and very few of us are completely sure of what those reasons are. The guys who are just looking to get laid have it easy, because that’s simple enough, while the rest of us are on complicated journeys to find things which may not even exist. The search for love, for deep and intimate communication, for relationships, and myriad other intangibles, which on any given night can seem abundant or totally extinct. In my case I am looking for all of these things to one degree or another, and really, I’m dating specifically to find out what I want. Would it be crass to think of that as a social experiment? Probably.

For the time being, at any rate, my best course of action is to play the field, and I’ve been having a lot of fun doing that. Enough fun to think that maybe this is exactly the life I desire—but what man doesn’t find himself thinking that way at some point? I may find what I really want entirely by accident, and that’s a part of the excitement. That’s the promise of dating.

As for the girl in the coffee shop, I couldn’t even be sure that she was single, and in fact the odds were not in my favor. Another thing I’ve learned since I started dating in place of a full-time job is that most girls are not alone, and this is especially true of the ones who crinkle their noses adorably into books. With that in mind, coupled with the probability that being approached by a guy like me was probably not what she wanted that night, I knew I had almost no opportunity at all. However, I also knew that I’d try my hand. The most important dating lesson you can ever learn is that being rejected doesn’t matter, at all.

I have been meeting people in a great many different ways, and I plan to experiment with that even further. I’ve tried the bar scene, coffee shops and online dating sites, but also old friends, bitter exes, and maybe even a stranger I met at a bus stop. That last one sounds a little sketchy, and it totally was, but there are nights when something sketchy is exactly what I’m looking for. It isn’t clear to me yet what I want in a woman, and for the moment I might prefer to have them all.

But not the girl in the coffee shop. A male companion returned to the chair opposite her before I could work out where best to position myself to catch her gaze. I briefly scanned the room for a consolation prize, but my eyes fell back to her and I knew I was done for the night. On nights like that cute couples are a dagger to the heart. Better luck next time, right? I’ll report back with my findings.

Irreversible Mistakes