In which I cast into the past and snag a barracuda

So last weekend and early this week was a whirlwind of online dating drama, but things have since mellowed, which is cool only it doesn’t provide much in the way of fodder for this here blog.

To remedy that allow me to turn back the clock, to when I first started online dating, signing up pretty much on a whim and plopping down a whole year’s subscription on eHarmony — why not just a six months, or only three even, just to test the waters? Why? Ah, well. Matters not now. Nothing to be done about it.

This particular cast into the past lands us firmly at the end of October, just before Halloween, the most Generation X of all the holidays in my humble but masterfully astute opinion — do not question my author-a-tie! In fact, it was exactly the 30th of the month, when I was first matched with the first woman I would ever date via any online service — I was on yahoo singles (or whatever it is) briefly during my separation but had no luck with it, unlike my ex but that’s a whole other gripe. Anyhoo… back to my online first, the woman who popped my online dating cherry. Let’s call her, oh, say ….Lydia.

Lydia was anything but a tatooed lady — trust me I had ample access and time to investigate — but she was very cool all the same. Or so I thought. What snagged me was how much we had in common in terms of movies and a penchant for reading and TV. Also, she was quite witty, at least at first. Plenty of witty banter  via eHarmony email, which Lydia suggested we abandoned for regular email since being eHarmony wasn’t very, in her words, “work friendly,” by which I now understand her to mean that she was at least slightly embarrassed to be utilizing. I wonder, is she still? Meh. Hardly matters now, does it.

What followed was a barrage of emails, at first, and then chatting via gmail chat. The more we communicated the more we seemed to click. Finally, Lydia suggested we meet. I was all for that. I suggested either Royal Oak or Ferndale as there is much to do  in both places. She put the kibosh on both. “No Royal Oak. No Ferndale,” she insisted. Fine by me although I was more than a bit curious as to why. What was wrong with these places? I supposed I would find out in time. Instead, we met at a bar in Troy, little neighborhood place. We had  drink and talked, and were comfortable enough to order some food. We talked some more. And it seemed to me that the more we talked the more we seemed to click. I was excited to hit it off with someone so quickly. I had been more than tad skeptical of the whole process, and not willing to get my hopes up. But I was wrong. This chick was cool.

And then… Well, apparently for our second date I was not nearly Johnny-on-the-spot enough for her likingI was chastized via chat for not asking her out in the right way, in the right time. Would we have ever gone out had she not suggested it? Fuck if I knew. I was instructed that I needed to ask her out early in the week so that she could properly plan her week and weekends. And fuck me if I didn’t agree. Anyone I told this too insisted it was a red flag. And I did not deny it but for some reason I ignored the warnings.

So we went out on a few more dates through November, leading up to her birthday, for which I decided to get her something. Nothing serious, something fun. I got her days of the week underpants because we both liked the movie “When Harry Met Sally”. I did not expect her to ever even wear them. Also, I got her Reese’s Peanutbutter Cups because chocolate and peanutbutter are her favorite. And a little convertible Hot Wheels car because we’d had a joke — she’d asked me what I was getting her for her bday, and I said, nothing big, just a car. She requested a convertible. There was also a card and a collection of short stories that I hoped she might like, “Bad Behavior”, by Mary Gaitskill. She seemed to like the gifts all around.

Things progressed into December and we actually spent part of Christmas Day together. I introduced her to my brother and his partner. They seemed to like her. My birthday came up and she got me two seasons of SCRUBS on DVD. And we made plans to spend New Year’s Eve together, which we did. I made her dinner, homemade pasta and meatballs, a salad, some wine, a dessert. By New Year’s Day she was done with me. It was clear. She just wouldn’t or couldn’t say it. And for some reason I hung around. Still not sure why.

There were plenty of other red flags and drama and gipes I’d love to expound upon. But I’ll get into those next time. I’m tired.

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Mary Gaitskill has a new story….

…in the Summer Fiction Issue of The New Yorker, entitled, Don’t Cry. Unfortunately, the online version of The New Yorker only has the abstract of the story, but trust me it is worth the price of the mag for this story alone.

Mary Gaitskill is one of those writers that when I first discovered her I couldn’t believe my luck. It actually troubled me that I might have missed her somehow and never read her stuff. Although that hardly seems possible now, especially since her last novel, Veronica, was a finalist for the National Book Award, and her short story, Secretary, was made into a movie staring James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal, a descent adaptation but not as good as the story.

Gaitskill is on a short list of authors who, when they publish something new, gives me something of a chubby I’m so giddy about it. This list includes, but is not necessarily limited, to the following: Cormac McCarthy, Tobias Wolff, Stuart Dybek, Jay McInerney, Brett Easton Ellis, Charles D’Ambrosio, Junot Diaz, Dan Chaon, Pinckney Benedict, Thom Jones, David Foster Wallace, Douglas Coupland.

I discovered Mary Gaitskill when I was in grad school, getting my MFA in creative writing at Western Michigan. The program brought her in to read and give an informal talk with students. I got her first collection of short stories, Bad Behavoir, which is one of my favorite titles of all time for a collection, and read it over and over. In fact, I still go back to it and reread the stories from time to time. I approached her, to try and engage her somehow in discussion, but it didn’t go over very well. Oh, she talked to me, but you could tell she wasn’t entirely comfortable doing so. I got her to sign her copy of Bad Behavoir, which I also found in first edition hardcover.

I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to call Gaitskill a Gen X author. Many of her stories definitely possess an Xer ethos, delving into that youth culture world that exists between adolescence and adulthood.

One of the things that I really dug about Gaitskill’s early work was that some of her stories were set in Michigan. She attended The University of Michigan where she won a Hopwood Award. That, and she wrote about sex in a very interesting way, about women who worked as prostitutes, and people who were into a kind of S&M or role playing, but without being salacious or pornographic, you know. She took these characters seriously and treated them honestly thus giving them dimension and depth.

According to the author profile for Gaitskill in The New Yorker, she has a new collection coming out early next year. I am psyched, of course, and will now be obsessively checking amazon.com for its release.