When Plan A Means Yes

I recently submitted this to the Modern Love section of the New York Times, and I have yet to hear back. However, a new and inspiring connection encouraged me to post it on my blog, so here it goes ~ I hope that it perhaps strikes a chord, or at least entertains. Life is too short to not put it out there...

On a Thursday afternoon in February, you find yourself in a diner on the Upper East Side with one of Manhattan’s premier matchmakers, looking at Bumble profiles over the tuna salad special.  

“So, how is Bumble?” she asks.

You cringe just enough so that she won’t notice, sliding into a more socially acceptable shrug. “I…didn’t really have any luck.”

You don’t tell her that you lasted a total of one day. Because that just sounds lazy.

You don’t tell her that, a mere ten minutes in, that oh-so-familiar Molly-high wave-ride had already passed, leaving you washed up on shore and flopping aimlessly. Because that sounds pitiful.

You don’t tell her that, though an avid swimmer, it’s officially time to crawl to shore for good. Because that sounds downright clichéd.  

She reaches across the table and says, “Give me your phone--Let me see your profile pics.” Then she takes control, swiping frantically. “He’s cute!...Oh, look at him! So cute, right?...See? The more you swipe right, the more the app works in your favor.” Wink.

Like some warped, 2.0 version of the Dating Game.

You try to wrap your brain around the entire situation unfolding, erratically sifting through the disjointed elements: Upper East Side. Premier matchmaker. Bumble. Tuna salad. Forty matches in five minutes. Thursday.

The only cohesive strand: “What in God’s name is happening right now?!”

Match. OKCupid. Plenty of Fish. Even a hot-second fling with Tinder.

You always dove in with a bold-yet-devil-may-care attitude, grooming or not grooming-- depending on your level of moral laxity, keeping conversation interesting with provocative wit, remaining as natural as possible to avoid “first date” exposure, and trying not to commit the ultimate faux pas of calling someone by the wrong name--because once was enough to scar you for life.

And, in the end, you inevitably dropped anchor into the same pathetic, mangled mess of it all: Basking in the gloriously warped world of online dating, trying not to judge yourself for participating in it, and waiting for apathy to set in after spending weeks of precious free evenings with random dudes you met on a phone app.

In the Dating Olympics, you would crush the 100-meter sprint: A blindingly brief, yet impressive, run. 

Yet here you sit, two nights after Tuna Salad, cursing the matchmaker’s kick-in-the-pants persuasion to haul yourself back into the fight. You feel like Sisyphus in WWE: Trapped in an endless cycle of pumping up for one more round in the ring.

So, after a few glasses of wine and far too much reflection, you pick up your phone, tap on the Bumble icon and swipe a few times, just for good measure. You are a bleeding romantic after all. And, though the passionate poet in you loves the whole “candle-burning-at-both-ends-gives-a-lovely-light” metaphor, you still long for that simple-yet-profound, not overly rose-colored, not overly pragmatic, one-word, intuitive “Yes.”

Luckily, one of your “chosen ones” also swiped right. He is cute, his glasses portray at least a modicum of intellect, and you know absolutely nothing about him other than his age: 44. Twelve years older. Perfect.

After a brief text exchange the following morning, you suggest meeting that very afternoon. You justify the spontaneity as a sign that you are excited to meet him, and part of you is. But part of you just wants to get it out of the way. You appreciate his courageous use of exclamation points, but his second text includes the word “we”. Woah there, sailor.

No, you’re not jaded. Not quite yet.

If you have learned one thing in this whole dating scene jungle, it’s this: Heed the popular advice of a little brand called Nike, and just do it. After all, chemistry remains a VIP on that sacred internal checklist—and best to experience that apathetic “Meh” in person sooner, before attachment complicates a smooth exit.

No, you’re not jaded. Not quite yet.

As it turns out, Current Bumble Guy is on-board with your left-field suggestion of meeting at Paper Source, so you meet him outside the store and awkwardly stumble on his foot as you go in for a hug. You chuckle over witty birthday cards, chat over craft beer, and text throughout the evening.

It all feels pretty darn good, but you have learned to not count your chickens.

Well, this Current Bumble Guy, unlike his predecessors, proceeds to goes all in. He meets you at a wine event the following evening, because, as he puts it, with a twinkle in his eye, he “just happened to be in the area”. He takes you to hear his friend play at Rockwood Music Hall later that week, he cooks for you the night after that, and you spend the next day walking around the city, popping into the Met and reciting The Giving Tree at Barnes & Noble before talking candidly over more craft beers. You love and hate the fact that you are living a rom com. 

It all feels pretty darn good, and you start to consider the possibility of counting a few chickens.

Three weeks in, he tells you he loves you--and adds, “You can’t say it until you mean it. And it’s okay if you’re not ready.”

He wants honesty, right from the beginning. And you honestly aren’t ready. So, in the spirit of honesty, you just say, “I’ve been burned before.”

Yet, somehow, over the next few weeks, you let yourself love him. Somehow, you reach that simple-yet-profound, not overly rose-colored, not overly pragmatic, one-word, intuitive “Yes.”

Over happy hour drinks five weeks in, you tell him that it’s perfectly okay if he sees other women while you’re in Italy. You tell him the truth: That you feel kind of guilty going into this whole thing knowing that you are leaving the country for two months.

You don’t tell him that, unlike him, you did not delete your Bumble profile the day after your first date. You also leave out the part about deciding to let what happens in Italy stay in Italy.

His response jars you: “Why are you telling me that?! Is it because you want to see other men? I don’t want to see other women. I love you.”

You sit, dumbstruck, as you digest. Your tongue trips over itself as you fumble delicately for the most honest-yet-reassuring words. 

Your mind flashes to a scene from a fantasy film (okay, be honest, Frozen), where, in one pressurized blast, the debilitating spell breaks and all of the blue sadness crumbles to make way for the blinding, sparkling, rainbow of hope on the horizon.

And, though you just want to dance in the sunshine of it all, you don’t quite know what to do with it. It can’t be real. You’re just having fun, aren’t you? You don’t trust it.

You’re also afraid to move, because you understand the enormity of this moment, and the fact that suddenly, right here in this bar, his commitment literally exploded full-force.

Maybe you kind of want to nix the whole “staying open” idea after all.

For the first time, you care whether or not one of you f*#&s this up.

One week later, you leave for Italy and dive into the Wonderland of your experience there, drinking wine and living in a quaint mountain town of 98 people. 

One month later, he visits you, and two days into the visit, in the picturesque town of Corniglia, in Cinque Terre, he proposes, just nine weeks after your first date.

And, somehow, as crazy as it all is, your first thought is a simple-yet-profound, not overly rose-colored, not overly pragmatic, one-word, intuitive “Yes.”

Now, exactly five months after your first date--including your two months in Italy--here you sit in the tiny fourth floor walk-up in Hell’s Kitchen that he painted blue just for you, buying things like fruit baskets and shower curtains and getting to really know each other.

Leave it to the romantic to choose the antiquated timeline: The way people used to live romance, before the modern mish-mash of dating for months and months and months without really having a clue as to where it’s headed; before “taking a step back”, or being “not ready for commitment”; before changing your mind about the whole exclusivity situation; before believing that the person is wrong, or the timing is wrong, or both; before falling off the face of the earth because you suddenly just can’t deal with it.

Yes, you have been burned.

So, this time around, you didn’t count your chickens until you heard every single life-affirming chirp. 

But some people don’t play games, and their feelings don’t amount to a disjointed and amorphous bottom line. Some people love you so much, and that’s it. That’s the bottom line: They love you so much, they want you, and they want only you.

So, you decide, in a split out-of-body second in a tiny Ligurian oceanside village, to count your chickens and just do it.

As Will Smith put it, “There’s no reason to have a Plan B because it distracts from Plan A.”

And, sometimes, Plan A is a simple-yet-profound, not overly rose-colored, not overly pragmatic, one-word, intuitive “Yes.”