Still not sure if you want to read my new book The Science of Single yet? Let me help ya! An excerpt from the intro with a painting by Dana Ellyn, which illustrates this passage. You’ll be able to see all of her paintings inspired by my book in January at Tryst in Adams Morgan (that’s DC). Her opening event is Jan. 6. I’ll be there for a book event on Jan. 20. Both 7-9pm.
"Afloat" By Dana Ellyn
Intro: The Science of Single
I can trace the origins of this book back to one night—the night I went on a date with Mark, a man I’d met online. There were omens that could have predicted that the evening, with a razor-sharp breeze in the dead of January, would end the way it did.
Omen #1: Mark was shirtless in one of his proﬁle pictures. He had a hunky chest, but the fact that he needed to show it to the world right off the bat smacked of overcompensation.
Omen #2: On the way to our rendezvous point, I ran into a guy I’d broken up with in a heated email exchange a few months before. Actually, I saw the ex-whatever-he-was (what’s the name for the emotionally unavailable guy you date for a few months but can never quite call your boyfriend?) coming toward me, pulled my wool cap low over my eyes, nipped my chin with the zipper on my puffer jacket, and feigned preoccupation with my cell phone so I wouldn’t have to face him as he walked by not ﬁve feet away.
Omen #3: I was damaged goods. I forged into the bitter unknown and away from the harmony of my life, which includes a persistent orange cat called Bart and a studio apartment where I can survey my entire domain from every single corner and there are never any surprises. I was getting myself back out there after having my hopes of love and commitment shredded a few weeks before by yet another Ex-Whatever. He lived thousands of miles away, but had still managed to sequester a large percentage of my heart in the years we’d been friends. After four years of intermittent phone calls, somehow, I got the idea that maybe it would work out between us. I was almost relying on it, perhaps because even though there were just phone calls, he was the most consistent man in my life.
My ﬁrst and last visit, which included a wretched night spent in hostel bunk beds, solidiﬁed the fact that that it actually wasn’t going to work out. You have to wonder about someone who’s willing to haphazardly toss her love and commitment eggs into one basket 3,000 miles away, like I did. I was a clueless romantic, and after this experience, I toughened up and decided I would only date men in my area code.
That’s where Mark came in. Despite the omens, it should have been a perfect date. We met at L’Enfant, a small and dark café at the far end of Adams Morgan, the Washington, D.C., neighborhood where I live. It has exposed brick and the type of lighting that makes everyone’s complexion glow, and it’s a safe haven away from the short nightlife strip that’s an odd conglomeration of hookah lounges, sports bars, and coffee shops.
Maybe it was ﬁrst-date jitters, but Mark was a tough customer. Like a circus lackey, I jumped through hoops trying to get him to show a little teeth, or even curl up the corners of his mouth into a mere hint of a smile. And for two hours, I watched Mark’s face vacillate between a sour-grapes grimace and a deer-in-headlights freeze. I worked through two drinks, a salad, and a bowl of soup, and by the end of it, he made it painfully clear that he did not like me or my sideshow. He expressed this without uttering a single word. Instead, he ceremoniously opened the bill and set it between us so we both could see—and pay. I’ve found that not picking up the tab is a universal sign men use to express that there won’t be a second date, though I was pretty sure Mark’s email said, “Can I buy you a drink?” So I let him struggle over the math of who owed what, we each paid for exactly what we consumed, and left.
That bit at the café was the cakewalk, and it was the next ten minutes trudging home together that tested the boundaries of excruciating pain. Trying to get Mark to pull his conversational weight was like yanking wisdom teeth without an ounce of Novocain. By the time we reached my street corner, I’d expended all of my energy and felt as deﬂated as a four-day-old Mylar balloon. I’d tried with this man, and I’d failed. But people are people, and we’re all trying to get by in this cold, harsh world, so I stopped to shake hands, hug, and offer a proper good-bye. Mark didn’t stop. He picked up his pace into a trot, barely turning his head as his “Nice to meet you” was diced apart by the shards of ice blowing in the winter wind. I’d been dealing with mostly passive rejection up until then, so this was a sharp, stinging slap across my already frostbitten cheek.
Men were now, quite literally, running away from me. I walked myself to my own door, plopped down on my ﬂoor model Ikea couch, and downed half a bottle of three-dollar merlot while Bart head butted my cheek with his wet nose. Frustration, confusion, and anger that needed avenging coursed through my veins. They funneled up to my heart, and by the time the emotions reached my brain, they had mixed themselves into a productive email to an editor pitching a story about dating that turned into an article reviewing dating self-help books that turned into an idea to write a book about dating. Not a dating-advice book, though. An investigation—an experiment—to see what happens when you use all the resources you possibly can to meet and date the opposite sex.