Single In The Suburbs, Installment 11

After a creepy date with the doctor, our columnist is happy to find that a new guy is interested in her…

By Sara Susannah Katz

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

n our last installment, our writer had an awkward sleepover date (no, nothing happened) with the doctor—and left as soon as possible. Now, there’s a new guy of interest appearing in her inbox: Leo.

Sunday, 11:45 a.m.
Leo teaches mathematics, my worst subject in school. It gave me stomachaches. I find myself hoping that he finds this fact about me charming. Why do I care whether he finds me charming? I should be worrying about whether I find him charming. But I was raised to be a people pleaser, which is probably why I wound up in bed with Tony despite my lack of desire. Note to self: Quit it.

Anyway, here’s what I know about Leo. He lives in my town, is about my age, was raised on the East Coast in a big,
I don’t want to give him my screen name. I don’t want him to IM me.
tight-knit family. He has never been married but he has been in “several committed relationships.”

Is it wrong of me to worry when a guy has never been married? I read somewhere that there are two kinds of never-been-married men. The first has dedicated himself to establishing a successful career. The other kind lives in his mother’s basement and watches Star Trek reruns. I wonder which category Leo would fall into.

I email him back, tell him I’m flattered that he would renew his subscription just to contact me (though I wonder whether he tells that to everybody). I try to figure out a diplomatic way to ask if he’d send a picture of his whole body, not just his face. “You have a nice face,” I type. “Do you have any photos that show the rest of you?”

That sounds awful. I hit the delete key and start again. “I like your smile. I’d love to see more pictures,” I write, hoping that he can read between the lines.

Sunday, 11:49 a.m.
Already, a response from Leo. “I was so happy to hear from you!!!!!” he writes back. Five exclamation marks. I counted them. This worries me. He says that more pictures are on the way. He also asks if I do instant messaging and asks for my screen name. I don’t want to give him my screen name. I don’t want him to IM me. That’s almost like giving him my phone number, and I’m not ready for that.

Monday, 10:20 a.m.
Though I am fairly certain that I’ll never see Tony again, I feel compelled to send him something—a thank-you note or gift. I think that he really tried, in his own way, to be a good host. What’s the proper etiquette for this situation? I have no idea. I slept in the guy’s bed and practically had sex with him; I don’t want to date him, but shouldn’t I at least thank him? I remember him mentioning that he had a complicated relationship with his father which reminds me of a good novel I read a few years ago so I go online and order the book on tape so he can listen in his car (because I also remember him saying that he has no time to read). I have the audio book sent directly to his house with the note: “Thank you for a nice weekend. The best of luck to you.” I am hoping that Tony will infer that this is the end, not the beginning, of our relationship.

Wednesday, 12:40 p.m.
I’m sitting in Paneras with my laptop, browsing profiles and thinking about how strange it is to be dating again.
It doesn’t matter whether my boyfriend and I share the same religion.
The things that mattered to me when I met Craig don’t matter to me now. I was in college when I met Craig and just a kid, really, living in my mother’s house with rules and expectations. It was assumed that the man I would marry would share my religion, come from a respectable family, have professional aspirations, and come from “good stock.” These expectations were non-negotiable, and I — compliant and approval-seeking — never questioned them.

Twenty years later and single again, all the rules have changed. Or, more accurately, there are no rules. It doesn’t matter whether my boyfriend and I share the same religion, what his parents do for a living, whether he has any rotten apples on his family tree. It doesn’t matter what my parents think: My father is dead, and my mother has dementia; she couldn’t approve of a boyfriend even if I wanted her to. I don’t have to worry about genetics; I’m not having any more children so it doesn’t matter if he’s the carrier of some bizarre genetic condition.

The only holdover — the one area where my parents and I were on the same page — is that I don’t want to be with a bum, a freeloader, a slacker. I don’t necessarily expect my next husband to support me, but I don’t want to support him either. But those other issues — religion especially — really don’t matter to me now. It’s liberating but also a little disorienting to realize that in matters of love and marriage, I am truly the boss of me.

Wednesday, 12:46 p.m.
My email dings. It’s a message from Leo. I realize I never received more photos from him and wonder why not. This email says he wants to meet me. “You sound like a delightful woman!!!!!!” he writes. More exclamation marks. Is he a grown man or a thirteen-year-old girl? Is it wrong of me to judge a man by his excessive punctuation? At first, I’m not sure how to reply… but then it comes to me.

Sara Susannah Katz is a writer in the Midwest.

Read Single In The Suburbs, Part 12

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