Single In The Suburbs, Installment 4

In this installment, our writer—a Midwestern single mom—goes on one great date…but there’s a catch.

By Sara Susannah Katz

To read the entire series of articles from the beginning, click here.

n her last installment, our writer — a divorced mom of two — went on an incredible date with a wonderful guy named Kevin. But there’s a hitch…

Thursday, 1:04 A.M.
I can’t sleep. I don’t know if I’m excited or nervous but every time I close my eyes I think about Kevin. I find myself remembering bits of conversation and laughing out
I gaze at Craig and still can’t believe we’re not married anymore. Then I notice his new ring.
loud; he’s truly funny. I mean, laugh-to-the-point-of-shaking funny. And smart, kind, passionate about work, and everything else I find attractive.

Darn it. Why did he have to be so wonderful? I have to believe that he felt it too, the chemistry, the clicking between us. I know I didn’t imagine it. And he asked to see me again! On a Saturday night, yet. Surely that means something.

Thursday, 1:31 A.M.
This is ridiculous. I’m too old to be so giddy about a guy. If I don’t get some sleep I’m going to be a zombie tomorrow. I’m going to take an antihistamine. I wonder whether Kevin is having trouble sleeping too. Probably not.

Thursday 9:30 P.M.
I was hoping I’d hear from Kevin, at least by e-mail. Nothing. I decide not to contact him. My mother always told me that smart girls play hard to get, and while I’ve dismissed much of her maternal advice, this one has managed to stick all these years. So I don’t call him or e-mail him. I just wait.

Friday 8:55 A.M.
Kevin called me at work this morning. We decided to see a new comedy movie at 7 tomorrow night, followed by dinner at Chez Harry, a hip French restaurant out by the lake. He offered to pick me up but I told him it would be better for me to meet him at the movies. My mother would be proud of me, but I feel silly playing games.

Friday noon
I’m meeting Craig, my ex, at the sushi place downtown for lunch. We get together for lunch or coffee every few weeks to discuss the kids, make sure we’re on the same page. This week’s topic is Ben and his lousy math grades. We agree to hire a tutor. I’ll find someone, and Craig will cover the cost. My friends say we’re the poster children for the perfect divorce, and I guess we are. We’ve managed to remain friends and partners in parenting our teenagers.

I gaze at Craig across the table and still can’t believe we’re not married anymore. Sometimes I wish we hated each other like every other divorced couple I know. Then maybe I’d be less inclined toward the nostalgia I feel right this minute, remembering the day Craig proposed, on one knee under the maple tree in my parents’ backyard.

He is holding a coffee mug to his lips, and that’s when I notice it: He is wearing a wedding ring. I try not to stare at the braided gold band on his finger. My heart is racing, my throat tightening. I will myself not to cry.

“So, what’s this on your finger?” I say, aiming for a light tone. “Did you get married and forget to tell me?”

“Huh? Oh. This?” He fingers the band and chuckles nervously. “It’s not a wedding ring.”

“What is it, then?”

“Um, I don’t know. Just a ring. We bought each other rings when we were in Costa Rica.” (I don’t need to be reminded that Craig can easily afford the kind of vacation I only dream about now.)

“Nice,” I say. “I’m happy for you.”

“Really?” he says. “You’re happy?”

“I didn’t say I was happy,” I clarify. “I am happy for you. There’s a difference.” I laugh, but I’m only half-kidding.

Craig asks me about my date, and I tell him he’s just a friend. “Take it from me, Sara. There is no such thing as
Maybe Kevin and I won’t be “just friends” for long.
‘just friends’ for men. If he likes you, he’s going to want more than friendship. And who could blame him? You’re an amazing woman.”

I look at Craig and his new not-a-wedding-band and want to tell him to shut up. Instead, I thank him and pick up the check. Sometimes I prefer to pay, even if he makes more money than I do.

As I make my way back to my car, I think of Kevin again and decide that maybe my ex is right. Maybe we won’t be “just friends” for long.

Friday, 9:15 P.M.
There are six—count ‘em, six—responses to my online profile. Three of them are just winks. I’m not inclined to answer them. I figure, if a guy doesn’t have the time to send a real message, he’s probably not all that interested in the first place.

As for the other three, one looks promising. No picture, but the message is impossible to ignore. “I’ve been at this for a while, but your profile is the first one that truly compels me,” he wrote. “I believe I’ve got what it takes to keep up with you intellectually. If my size isn’t a problem for you, perhaps you’ll consider writing back.” I assume this man must be super-short—why else would his size be a problem? I write back and let him know I’m interested. I have to admit, I hope he’s not too much shorter than I am.

Saturday, 2 P.M.
Craig has the kids this weekend, so I’ve got all day to prepare myself and obsess about seeing Kevin tonight. I treat myself to a manicure and a new pair of earrings and already feel fluttering in my stomach as I imagine what it will be like to be with Kevin again. As for clothes, I decide to pull out the big guns, so to speak: a cut velvet camisole and curve-flattering jeans, black high-heeled boots and my black leather jacket.

Saturday, 4 P.M.
Sherry calls to say hi. Since she’s been so judgmental about Internet dating, I don’t want to tell her about Kevin. But I’m too excited to keep my mouth shut and before long I’m gushing about him.

“You just can’t stand being alone, can you?” she clucks, condescendingly. “Would it kill you to stay home on a Saturday night?”

I take a deep breath and muster the courage to say what I’ve wanted to say for weeks. “I am entitled to be happy, Sherry. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be in love. And I’m tired of you criticizing me. I don’t like it.”

Sherry doesn’t say anything for a moment and then finally says, quietly: “I’m really sorry, Sara. Can you forgive me?”

“Of course,” I say. But I know I won’t be talking about my love life with Sherry any time soon.

Saturday, 11:48 P.M.
I have been with Kevin for almost five hours, and I don’t want this night to end. The movie was fun, and dinner was sublime. And yes, my outfit had the intended effect—Kevin’s scoping me out had the intensity of an MRI.

We talk and laugh until the waiters hoist the chairs onto the tabletops and start vacuuming the floor; then we head to Denny’s for coffee and more conversation. We have even more in common than I realize, including a fondness for misheard song lyrics. When I tell him that I always assumed Elton John was singing “Hold me closer, tiny dancer/count the head lice on the highway,” he laughs so hard he snorts, and that makes me laugh even harder. I feel so comfortable with him, and I know he feels the same way. I still refuse to believe that we’re going no further than friendship.

As the evening draws to a close, I realize that my driving separately strategy was probably not such a good idea. Now Kevin won’t have the opportunity to walk me to my door which means I don’t get to invite him inside. What was I thinking?

He does, however, walk me to my car. Under the parking lot lamplight he says, “I really like you, Sara Susannah.”

“I really like you too.”

“I like being your friend.”

I feel deflated but manage to say, “I like being your friend too.”

We agree to stay in touch, and without a kiss, I get in my car and head home. On the way home, I don’t let myself think too much about Kevin or delve into my disappointment. That’s not the way I want the night to end. Instead, I find myself wondering about the mysterious new man who emailed me last night.

Sara Susannah Katz is a writer in the Midwest.

Read Single In The Suburbs, Part 5

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