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You Should Have Sold Tickets

This is one of those moments I wish I could erase from my memory like math class.

A friend and I were recently talking about dating in our 30's. "I know what exactly what I want now," she said. "And I'm not willing to settle for anything less." We both agreed that our 20's were filled with 'less.' Men who gave us less love, less support, less communication, less confindence than we needed. My friend had reached a powerful place in this new decade of life. She had, she said, learned a lot.

I suppose I learned a lot in my 20's, too. I learned that a diet of ramen noodles leads to expensive medical bills down the road. That a college degree is almost good enough to earn you a job at Starbucks. That punk rock shows do actually cause tinnitus.

Now that I'm 33, I take vitamins and turn the volume down on my i-pod. Valuable lessons learned. About men, however, I can't say that I've arrived in a stronger place. The heartbreak and absolute confusion of those earlier experiences didn't teach me to fight for what I want. It made me fight to not want anything at all.

I could say that this detatchment from desire is a result of years of meditation and self-examination. That would be a lie, but it's a lie I like to tell myself. It didn't take years. It took one night.

I was twenty-nine, and had just learned to text. This was a new element of the dating world, one I was uncomfortable with. The man I was dating said he wasn't much of a "phone talker." He said texting was the best way to get in touch with him.

We had planned to meet that night, and I patiently waited for him to text me. I watched a movie and talked to friends on the phone. I told myself to keep waiting, to not initiate contact. Then I told myself it was ridiculous to pretend I wasn't waiting for him when I was. I went back and forth on this until I decided to just send him a message. Being new at it, it took me ten minutes to write out "what's up?"

No response. Nothing. The technological deadspace of modern dating is a sinkhole without a ladder. Before cellphones we could always believe that the other person wasn't home to take our call. Now, however, we know that they hear us loud and clear. There are no more excuses or outs. It's a real mind-fuck.

After waiting for an hour, I decided to clean myself up and take myself out for a drink. I was good at being alone and even better at drinking a man right out my hair. Lip gloss, shoes, a little perfume behind my ears, and out the door.

I turned off the cellphone and put it in my purse. It was an act of defiance that nobody cared about but me.

I walked downtown, miming confidence with a little shimmy in my strut. I was solvent, sexy, alone but not lonely. When I reached the bar I paused outside and looked through the window. And through that window was "the moment." There he was with another girl, his hand on her back. He was turned toward her, smiling. His knee was touching hers. As he leaned in to kiss this girl, he saw me through the window, smiled, and closed his eyes.

I should've kept walking but I couldn't help myself. I watched that kiss, then another. I watched him turn his cellphone off and place it on the bar counter. I guess I wasn't the only one being defiant.

This is one of those moments that I wish I could erase from my memory like math class. He had never claimed to be committed to me. We made no promises or declarations to each other, but I hadn't prepared myself to actually see him screwing me over.

I felt more detatched from men, love, and desire than I ever have. Maybe it was the movie-like quality of watching two people through a store-front window. As a viewer I felt seperate from the event. I didn't have to respond. And like watching a movie I could process what was happening intellectually. I was glad to be outside of it. My only role was to walk away.

I've embraced my role as the viewer. I know how to walk, run, fucking skip out of pain and rejection. In my 30's I want to learn how to get to the other side of the window.


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