I have started Internet dating again (back by popular demand). It continues to be a misadventure, mainly because the women I like spend the whole date planning their exit and the ones I don’t care about come back for more.
When it comes to first dates, it has reached the point where as soon as I start to like a woman, I have to repress grim chuckles, because I know in a few weeks I’m going to be walking down the street, my head tilted slightly, wondering how I bungled it…
Right now I am nursing one of those glum bits of reflection.
Recently I arranged a date I had a good feeling about, and by good I actually mean bad, because I kept thinking if I like this woman and it goes poorly…how am I going to pick myself up for the 10 millionth time?
Day-to-day I’m a sour, saggy guy, so perking up for first dates is a full cardio workout. First dates demand even more pizzazz than job interviews. You can't be a grouchy vegetable and expect another shot. This puts overwhelming pressure on a killjoy like me. Normally, if I smile more than five times in an evening, I have to go home and ice my cheeks.
When my date entered the bar, I couldn't keep from blurt laughing. I knew I was going to like her. I think I even muttered, “Not gonna go well.”
But it did go well, and I wound up liking her even more than I expected to. I could have spoken to her all night. And for my part, I was absolutely on fire. No crabbiness, no ill-timed sighs. Somehow I kept matching her crackling energy. I was fighting above my weight class, but I never clinched. I was like Billy Conn in his first 12 rounds against Joe Louis.
When we said goodnight, my first thought was, "That is as well as I will ever be able to sell myself. If that wasn’t enough, it just ain't gonna happen.”
Of course it wasn’t enough. She didn’t buy what I was selling. Not even the unusually upbeat and spicy version of me she was treated to was sufficiently intoxicating.
If I were younger, I could reassure myself by saying: "At least I know I gave it my best." Too bad I'm old enough to know better. It is far more comforting to fail when you didn't rise to the occasion, because then you have this trusty excuse: "If only I'd given it my best...it would have worked out."
When you deliver the goods and still flop, you are forced to endure the cruel fact that your best still wasn't good enough.
Another youthful rationalization is the classic line: "Hey, it's a learning experience!" Sorry, but after a while your failures stop bringing you new wisdom. No one ever erred their way into Mensa. “You mean I made exactly the wrong decision yet again? Cool, now I can take that job teaching particle physics.”
At some point you need some victories to round out your knowledge base.
Just as nothing succeeds like success, nothing fails like failure. Eventually compound interest takes over and every little misfire wounds you down to your marrow.
I have no further need for “learning experiences.” I have learned quite enough from failure. I have fallen on my face more times than a drunken kangaroo. I need some wins, because I am all out of rationalization juice.
I'm still here though, so I must have rationalized it somehow, right? Would you like to read that rationalization? You just did.
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