I had a few friends over for dinner last night. All of them are in long-term relationships-10, 20, 30 years. So, just to stir up trouble, I asked them all to tell me stories about their dating adventures before they met their current partners.
As soon as I mentioned the word 'dating,' they immediately stopped nagging their girlfriends about mowing the lawn or arguing about whose fault it was that TiVo hadn't recorded Law and Order: Special Whatever Unit. Their faces took on the beatific and slightly ravenous expression of a small child remembering her first ice cream sundae.
Cynthia, who possesses numerous marriage, holy union and civil partner certificates with Darlene, her partner of 30 years, gaily dominated the discussion, regaling us with tales of the many, many women she slept with before she met Darlene.
'Cynthia!' I exclaimed after she told of yet another episode in which she seduced a hapless suburban matron. 'I had no idea you were such a slut.'
Cynthia, a well-respected member of the gay/lesbian charity circuit elite who has a penchant for wearing corsages to college football games and refers to Darlene in public as 'the Mrs,' giggled with delight and accepted my accusation as a compliment.
'Oh, honey, you have no idea,' she said, staring off into mid-distance as she got lost in the parade of ghostly female bodies she caressed over the years. She was slammed back to reality when Darlene slapped her across the back of her head.
Cynthia's scandalous yarns set off a competitive match of dating exploits, with each guest tying to outdo the others with alarming stories of unfulfilling sex, terrible breakups, unrequited passions, and every other nightmare dating scenario you can conjure in your darkest moments.
The funny thing was that they remembered these events so fondly. We all laughed as Darlene told us about the emotionally brutal artist who strung her along for seven years. And I actually did a spit take when another guest told a rollicking account of coming home early from work and finding her lover in bed with a 300-pound lesbian legend, who graciously offered to make breakfast for my cuckolded friend after she finished pleasuring her lover.
If you didn't know any better, you'd think that dating was actually fun. And you'd wonder why anyone would ever give it up to be in a long-term relationship, where the most interesting part of your day is having a two-hour debate over whether to buy a new brand of dog food.
After dinner, I told my Lady Friend that remembering past dating glories reminds me of our current vacation plans. Friends have asked us to spend a week with them on a small sailboat, cruising the Caribbean. It sounds like an absolute nightmare and neither my Lady Friend nor I want to go. We will whine and complain about it throughout the planning stages and we'll continue whining and complaining about it throughout the trip. The only reason we're even considering going is because we know that we'll romanticize it after we return. We'll forget about the fights that are bound to break out in such close quarters, the uncomfortable living conditions, the pirates. And we'll remember only the great fun we had with our friends and the mad adventure of it all.
It's the same thing about dating. I don't know too many women who actually enjoy it. It's often soul crushing and degrading. In the best of times you feel insecure; and at worst you feel homicidal. And, yet, looking back at it from the comfort of a stable, emotionally secure—if sometimes boring—relationship, it's tempting to think of dating as a lark.
Hey! I wrote a book. It's a novel called Dateland. In the words of the great showman Mike Todd, 'It ain't Shakespeare, but it's Laffs.' You can buy it at Unabridged Books and on Amazon.