A few weeks ago, on the heels of a break up, I vowed to immediately “get out there.” No, not in that way. I didn’t want a new boyfriend, or even a casual hook up. I wanted to try and connect with more than just the fabric of my couch. A friend had invited me to a book reading for a friend of hers, one day after my break up, and without bothering to actually ask what said reading was for, I eagerly agreed to attend. A book reading! Isn’t that something a writer is supposed to do? Isn’t that the kind of event where I can not only learn something about my own writing pursuits, but also meet other writers? PS. When I told my mother I was going to start going to these things, she exclaimed, “Good! Maybe you can meet some men who have sold books!” (the operative word being “sold,” of course. As in, for money).
I pride myself on being punctual. And I got to the Borders on 57th St. and Columbus Circle right on time, to see Melissa Rivers behind a podium, speaking to a group of women who all looked like her. This was not the kind of reading I had in mind. Luckily, I was at the wrong Borders. The one I was meeting my friend at was on Park Avenue and 57th. I was going to miss most of it. When I finally arrived, I wandered into a similarly crowded and disorienting pocket of the bookstore. Women, all over thirty five, who looked like Melissa Rivers but Jewish (the hair, not the voice…ok maybe the voice too), were beaming with adoration at a skinny blonde woman on the podium, Lori Gottlieb. She was fielding questions with messianic zeal for her new book “Marry Him. The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough,” as if she was Dr. Ruth, Carrie Bradshaw, or Jesus Christ. She was saying something like: “If a hypereducated, ambitious woman is still single after age 35, it’s because she’s too picky.”
You know that tingling sensation, the indescribable kind whose symptoms resemble a panic attack? The kind experienced when you’re trapped in the back row of an airplane on a seat that doesn’t recline, for a night flight, and a family with three kids parks it in front of you? The kind of fright or flight feeling that courses through you when you’ve agreed to be set up on a blind date, and the moment you sit down across from the guy, you immediately wish you were blind?
One glance at this Cougarish pack of disciples (I don’t care that they were mostly Jewesses; they appeared too desperate, and not cute enough, to qualify as Cougelish) looking to this embittered women for answers was enough to trigger the equivalent of that anxiety. Not to mention that right on cue, my ex-boyfriend of barely 48 hours, texted me just then to say that he missed me. I should add here, that my ex-boyfriend is a decade younger than me. Yes, I fell for a Young Cub. But I’d argue that it was a mutual fall, with no hunting on either side (persistence is not the same thing). Pangs of regret hit me then – did I just lose my Mr. Good Enough? Was I too picky? Did the Cougel scare away the Cub by mentioning that big topic called “The Future” (and no, not in the cool sci-fi way).
I had to get out of there. I swiftly found my girlfriend and said, “Sorry, but this whole thing? It’s not for me.” She completely understood. “Why don’t you go upstairs to the café? I’ll meet you when it’s over.” My response: “Café? I’ll be at the bar at the Four Seasons.”
Little did I know, because I rarely frequent bars north of 27th street (that includes Hurray Hill, let alone the Upper Easy Side) what awaited me there. Men. Old men. We’re talking Papa Bears who’ve raised young cubs. Salesman. Semi-retired tech guys with homes in Miami and West Hampton. Dentists. All divorced at least once, and on the prowl for young Cougels – dressed in second-hand fake fur coats and ripped jeans – like myself.
The drinks these men bought me managed to do two things: take the reading’s edge off, and influence me to give out my phone number to one or two of them (not the dentist). It also reminded me that there is a whole world out there, not just outside the den, but above 27th Street.
But still, I had no desire to go out with any of them. Not then, anyway.
When Mom called the next day to ask me how my night of “getting out there” went, I told her that I had a good time.
She said, “Really? So you met guys at the reading?”
I told her that actually no, I met them “at a place called a bar,” but that none of them were for me.
“Why not?” I could tell in her voice she was already accusing me of being too picky.
“They were too old for me, Mom. Like over 50. And divorced.”
“So what?! They’re good enough.”