Single In The Suburbs, Installment 12

In this installment, our writer is courted by her new online suitor—a mathematician—but is he too good to be true?

By Sara Susannah Katz

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

ur writer — a Midwestern single mom — finds herself lavished with attention by a new online beau named Leo… is it too much, too soon? Read on.

Wednesday, 12:55 p.m.
I’m glad Leo thinks I’m delightful but why? So I ask him. “Don’t think I’m fishing for compliments,” I write. “But what, exactly, do you find delightful about me? Just curious.” I backspace and replace the period with an exclamation mark. I want to sound cheery, as opposed to what I’m really feeling: circumspect. Then I add, “Don’t forget to send more photos.”

Leo writes back within moments. This time there are pictures. I don’t see anything objectionable in them, just a nice-looking guy, apparently fit and fairly youthful. I’m relieved. “What do I find delightful?” he writes. “You’re straightforward and funny. You seem confident but not full of yourself. And you love This Is Spinal Tap, which happens to be my all-time favorite movie. Especially the Stonehenge scene.”

Now I am laughing. I’ve seen Spinal Tap at least ten times, and the Stonehenge scene is so hilarious that once, when I was struggling with postpartum blues, Craig rented the
I’m glad Leo thinks I’m delightful but why?
video just for that one scene. It didn’t quite lift me out of my depression but it came pretty close. I want to email Leo back but I’ve got a meeting in fifteen minutes and need to prepare.

Wednesday, 8:10 p.m.
After dinner I drop my daughter off at her father’s house. Oh, God. That’s a phrase I never thought I would have to use: my daughter’s father’s house. I sit in Craig’s driveway and watch my kid punch in the garage code and think how weird it is that she knows the code and I don’t; that there is, in fact, an entire domestic geography that she is privy to and I am not. I don’t know where Craig keeps his good dishes (or whether he even has good dishes). I don’t know, offhand, whether my son’s bedroom is on the east side of the house or the west. I don’t know how they arrange themselves around the dinner table, only that I am not sitting around that table with them. My daughter blows me a kiss and the garage door closes behind her. I sit in Craig’s driveway and blink back the tears.

Here is my question: When does it stop hurting? When will I be able to drop my kid off at her dad’s house without ruminating on my failed marriage and fragmented family?

Wednesday, 11:25 p.m.
I decide on impulse to clean out my closet tonight. Anything that could be even remotely described as dumpy is now in a pile for the Goodwill store. That includes a plaid dress that makes me look like a walking rectangle and a long, puke-colored organic cotton dress that makes me look pregnant. New life, new wardrobe.

Thursday, 9:20 p.m.
I finally cave and shared my IM screen name with Leo. Now it seems like he’s always popping in to say hello. “I love your avatar!” he says, referring to my cartoon alter ego, a kind of Mini Me that appears whenever I log on. “She’s cute. Just like you!” (I only wish I was as cute as my avatar, I’m thinking.)

“Thanks,” I write back.

“Whatcha doing?” he writes.

“Working,” I type. “You?”

“Oh, just thinking about you! You’re divine!”

My heart sinks. Divine? I don’t mean to stereotype, but that’s not exactly a straight-guy word. And if he’s not gay, then there is something just a little too cutesy about this guy. I should have
I’ve decided that he’s probably not gay, just effusive.
trusted my original inclination to avoid IM-ing. It already feels like too much, too soon.

“Thanks,” I write. “Gotta run. Have a great day!” I immediately sign out. Time for our Thursday staff meeting. We have some big projects in the pipeline, and for once I welcome the possibility that I may be overworked for the next week or so. I need something to take my mind off dating.

Thursday, 4:50 p.m.
I change my IM settings so that I’m invisible when I log on. I don’t want any more contact with Leo, not today. I’ve decided that he’s probably not gay, just effusive.

Thursday, 6:10 p.m.
On the drive home I’m struck by all the young couples walking about with their babies, enjoying the gorgeous weather. I feel wistful by the time I arrive home, knowing those days are over for me. I try to look at it this way: Life is like a baseball game. Everyone gets a turn at bat. I made the best of my turn. I struck out but I also hit my share of home runs. Now it is someone else’s turn at bat. Another young woman will get married, have babies, feel secure in her husband’s arms, dream of a happy future. Maybe, like half the population, she’ll stay married. Or maybe, like the other half, she won’t. But it’s her turn now, not mine. I’m crying as I write this. Damn it. I promised myself I wouldn’t cry today. And I almost made it.

Friday, 8:49 p.m.
Leo emails me to say that a) he’s presenting a paper at a conference in London and will be gone for two weeks and b) he wants to meet me before he leaves. In his favor, his pictures are nice and he loved This is Spinal Tap. And, frankly, I like the fact that he’s a mathematician. I admit it: I’m attracted to brainy guys.

I write to say that I’m free for coffee tomorrow morning if he’s willing to meet me at 7:30 a.m. I also suggest that he call so we can actually have a real conversation (in truth, I’m hoping to get more clues from his voice). I give him my phone number.

And now, just seconds later, my phone is ringing...

Sara Susannah Katz is a writer in the Midwest.

Read Single In The Suburbs, Part 13

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