Single In The Suburbs, Installment 29

In our series on dating after divorce, our columnist wonders whether her new online suitor is too good to be true…

By Sara Susannah Katz

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

n our last installment, our writer had a new job prospect that thrilled her—and had met a new guy online who seemed very sweet…and had a sensational photo. Now she needs to find out whether he’s too good to be true.

Tuesday, 5:30 p.m.
A few weeks ago I was only mildly interested in a job with Alan Beeker. Now I’m desperate for it. Not only will it mean a quick escape from the maniacs in this department, the bigger salary should help ease my bag-lady-under-the-highway nightmares (I had another one just last night: I dreamed I lived in a decrepit shack. The ceiling was collapsing, and the floors were full of gaping holes; if I slipped, I’d fall into a terrifying abyss.)
Do I really want all the distraction that comes with new love?

Now I’m determined to get this job.

Tuesday, 9:30 p.m.
My daughter and I are sprawled across the couch reviewing theorems and postulates for her geometry test. At times like this I can see clearly how she has been the big loser in this divorce. Craig is good at math, and I’m horrible so I’m of little help whatsoever; if we were still married she could easily consult with him but now she’s stuck with her mother, who passed my college remedial math class by the skin of my teeth. I come up with crazy games to help her remember definitions (“So the pirate says, if you don’t include my parrot in the party, then me and Polly are gone. Polygon, get it?” It’s really rather pathetic.)

Even with my poor math skills, Molly seems to be enjoying our time together and so am I. We’re sole-to-sole on the couch, giggling over my crazy mnemonic devices with the fake log blazing in the fireplace. She’s 15 and completely friend-centric so I’m grateful for these precious few moments when she actually wants to be with me.

At times like these I have to ask myself, do I really want to be involved in a relationship now? Do I really want all the distraction and fixation that come with new love (or, more accurately, new lust)? Why can’t I be more like my friend Selina, who has postponed dating until the youngest of her three kids is in college? (Even as I write this I think that’s a ridiculous idea.)

Tuesday, 10:20 p.m.
I’m reading an email from Mr. Romantic. He wants to talk by phone. In the world of Internet dating, going from email to an actual real-time phone conversation is sort of a big step. I don’t know if I’m ready. I ask him for his phone number so at least I can have some control over when, or whether, this conversation will take place. I also ask him to send me a few more pictures. The shot of him in the fleece vest is gorgeous, but what if it’s old? My pictures, though carefully chosen for the fortuitous absence of a double chin, are, at least, recent. I hate to sound superficial, but I think I’ve got the right to know what Mr. Romantic looks like right now.

Wednesday, 8:55 a.m.
Bleh. Mr. Romantic has sent some pictures and I have to admit, I’m disappointed. In one,
Going from email to an actual phone conversation is a sort of big step.
he’s standing at the stove, stirring what looks like a big pot of chili. He’s smiling and—what’s this? Is he missing some teeth? Oh, no. He also looks at least fifteen years older than the cute guy in the fleece-vest photo. The tousled hair has clearly disappeared. He’s not totally bald but close. I’m really feeling deflated right now. Does that make me an awful person?

I’m not feeling very motivated to call him.

Thursday, 3:15 p.m.
“What the hell do you want from me?” Clarissa O’Connell has barreled into my suite, has me pushed up against the wall, and is shouting into my face. She’s angry because I’ve emailed her four reminders to get her revisions to me ASAP; we’ll never make our mailing date if we don’t get the report to the printer by the end of the week. With her size-11 stiletto boots and four-inch violet nails, Clarissa looks like a drag queen but not as attractive. She was the only girl on her high-school football team, so I’m not completely surprised that she’d push me up against the wall to make a point. She’s trying to appear playful but I know it’s no joke. In fact, I’m scared of her.

I wriggle away and invite her to talk to me in my office. She says she’s been too busy with “other priorities” to work on the report. I know exactly what Clarissa’s priorities are: She’s on a self-destructive sex streak. I know this because she got drunk at the staff holiday party and admitted that she’s been screwing her way across the country with men she meets online. Because we live in a small town and everyone knows her, her kids and her ex-husband, she refuses to date anyone here. She meets guys in places like Chicago and Detroit just for sex. One guy kicked her out of his hotel room in the middle of the night. Another almost assaulted her in the car. I detest her because she makes my work life miserable, but I also feel sorry for her.

I must get that new job.

Friday, 9:05 p.m.
It’s Friday night, and Molly is sleeping over her friend’s house. Craig and Heather are spending the night at one of those “hotels for lovers” with heart-shaped tubs and vibrating beds. Why Craig felt compelled to share this with me I don’t know, but as a result of this disclosure I feel profoundly lonely right now.

I think I’ll call Mr. Romantic and see whether there’s even the tiniest bit of chemistry between us. Fingers crossed.

Sara Susannah Katz is a writer in the Midwest.

Read Single In The Suburbs, Part 30

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