Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Pink Carnation

I'm worried about me. I think I am in serious danger of never finding the right guy.

I know, it sounds silly. There are plenty of fish in the sea, blah, blah, blah. The problem isn't the selection that's out there.

It's me.

Why is it me, you ask? Here's why: I am too damn picky.

I am the master of finding one flaw and focusing on it until it is all I can see. I'll meet a guy and I'll think he's great, until I notice that the cartilage on his ear is flat, instead of rounded, on the top of his ear. Once I've noticed it, he's a goner. All I can think is look at his ear, look at his ear, look at his ear, and I find myself talking to the minor flaw instead of the great guy I met.

Yesterday, the man who failed to walk me to my car brought a flower to me at work. He strolled through the bank's double doors at five minutes to closing time, carnation in hand, and headed toward me. He was clad in layered winter clothing, complete with a knit cap on his head. Not an unattractive ensemble at all, but as he came closer, I noticed that he looked a little unkempt, as opposed to the more preferable purposely disheveled. I smiled genuinely as he approached me, touched by the sentiment of the flower he presented. I forgave the fact that he didn't call, even though he had my number, and was starting to sort of forgive the Forgetting-To-Walk-Me-To-My-Car debacle of four days prior. Until he spoke.

"Laurie," he said, tilting the single carnation toward me, "would you do me the pleasure of allowing me to take you to dinner tonight?"

It was so proper that it was almost cute. Almost. But, because I am me, I found a way to be disgusted by it.

He swallowed his l's, making "pleasure" come out like "plyeasure," "allowing" became "allyowing." He swallowed all of his consonants, in fact, making his speech sound like that of a small child. And, worse, he asked me out for dinner that night at five minutes till five o'clock.

The picture of me walking to my car alone that night flashed through my head.

"Tonight? I can't," I said, being completely honest. I really couldn't. I had plans with my little brother.

"Why not?" he asked.

"Because I have plans."

"Doing what?" He took a seat on one of the chairs in front of my desk.

I was annoyed that he was pressing, as though he suspected me of lying to him. But I answered him anyway.

"I'll be with my brother."

"Your brother?"

"Yes."

"Why?" He took off his knit cap, to reveal a shocking spray of chestnut hair. Normally I see it styled, but it had taken on the appearance of what would have resulted had he stuck his finger in a light socket. Static electricity and cold, dry weather had ganged up on him and forced his hair to stand at attention. You shouldn't have taken off the hat, I thought. Look at his hair, look at his hair, look at his hair.

"Because he's home this week and I promised to spend time with him."

"Home from where?"

"College."

"Where does he go to college?"

I felt like I was being interrogated. I felt the sweat lamps pointed directly at me. His frizzy hair looked at me accusingly.

"Norwich, Vermont."

"Oh."

"Why don't you call me this week and we can make a date for later."

He stood from my desk and placed the cap on his head. Whew, I thought. Thank God. "Well, I got a new phone...So I hope yours will accept a call from my new number...It should...I mean, it might not come up with my name...But it should accept the call..." He trailed off.

"Okay." I smiled. "Thanks for the flower. That was so sweet of you."

He smiled back and nodded, a silent "you're welcome."

"So I'll talk to you later..." I said, hoping he'd pick up the reigns of the conversation.

"Yeah..." He seemed suddenly unsure, like he'd just told me he loves me and I responded with "listen, you're a really great guy, but..."

"Have a good night," I offered, at a complete loss for what to say.

"You, too." He smiled and walked out of the office, just as my coworker was locking the door.

I stared at the carnation on my desk. Hot pink, and perhaps freshly plucked from a larger bouquet, its stem stretched the entire length of the legal file resting on my desktop. I realized that I was not sorry that I was busy. I recalled our Thursday night conversation, in which he told me that he works as bartender part time, and part time as a ski-lift operator at a local resort. He informed me that the resort takes a dollar an hour out of his paycheck in exchange for room and board: A dormitory style setting, with a cafeteria for meals. He's 31 and he's eating in a cafeteria. When I asked him what he wants to do, he said "I don't know...Go to school? Pick up the guitar? Who knows?" The memory of that snippet socked me in the stomach. Suddenly, I didn't want to go out with him at all. The free-spirited "Let's just try it and see" feeling I'd had late last week had vanished, giving way to a "Does this mean I have to go out with him now?" feeling.

My opinion of him morphed, my eyes turned into those of Terminator, scanning his every move and feature and making commentary: Scruffy facial hair...Stain on the shirt...Weird word pronunciation...Odd laugh...

I branched out in my Dating Terminator scan and started to judge him for everything: His failure to walk me to my car, the invitation to dinner two hours before the date was to take place, the absence of phone calls between getting my number and showing up at the bank, and bringing me a carnation.

I know how horribly judgmental I'm about to sound, but I'm going to say it anyway: I hate carnations. My friend and I joke that a carnation is a poor man's rose. And a single carnation is far worse than a full bouquet of them. It screams "I'm cheap! I didn't want to fork over the $1.00 for a rose, so I bought this instead." People who buy into the school of thought that every flower has a meaning will tell you that a carnation means friendship or I don't want you to think I'm too serious about this yet or I don't know what you think, so I don't want to overstep my boundaries. But I don't buy into that. I think that a white or a pink rose could say all of those things. Or if you just think roses are cliché, why not opt for the less obvious tulip or lily? Maybe a daisy or a sunflower. A snapdragon. I don't care. But a carnation? It stinks of unoriginality.

Even as I think these things, I realize how petty and unimportant they are. And that's why I'm worried about myself. I know there's nothing wrong with wanting the best, but what does it mean when nothing is ever good enough?

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm not married and I haven't found the love of my life yet but I know this to be true. When you meet someone you're really into all of those petty little things won't matter to you in fact they may even be things that you cherish about the person. I'm with a guy right now who I tried in vain to not fall for. I even listed, in my head, all of his annoying, weird and unlikeable qualities. In the end I realized that all that crap didn't matter because I really liked him and that included all of his amazing character traits as well as the not so amazing. You shouldn't be less picky (unless you you judege a guy mostly on his looks) but instead you should trust yourself to know a good or a bad thing when you see it! Alayne

NJ said...

I agree with Alayne, Stay picky, you'll know when it's right.

Anonymous said...

Expectations are the enemy. I know, because I've had a whole heap of them in my own head, and they've never helped me in dating.

I'm not settling, but I've tried to minimize my expectations as much as possible, while holding on to the non-negotiables. The trick is figuring out which is which.

-- Eric

Claire said...

I just started reading your blog recently and I don't know what it is about your writing, but I'm hooked! Your honesty is so engaging and poignant. How do you do it? Anyway, I wish you all the best. And with a boyfriend of almost 5 years that won't commit to marriage, I can empathize with what you've been through.

Anonymous said...

Why arn't you writing for a magazine.....for a living?????

n-t said...

I love your writing and I hope that if you aren't writing for a living RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE you will think about it! But are interested in an intellectual/professional life as well as a love life? I hope so.

I hope you find Mr. Right soon. Follow your heart. We have intuitive reactions to people. The heart has its reasons.

At the same time, why don't you give some consideration to the kind of people you want to meet... and go look for them??? You want to be a wife and mother. You are a smart, no, VERY smart, no, very very very smart person. Go take a class. Find the brightest people with the best income potential you can. I suggest business school! Go look for college guys who can make the type of income necessary to support a stay-at-home mom/wife for a few years. AT THE SAME TIME, make sure that you always have marketable skills. Because one day, you'll want to pitch in economically, and you may HAVE to. (Plus it's always good to have leverage.) (Plus, outside interests and expertise make you more interesting.)

Best of luck, you brilliant brilliant person!