Sunday, July 02, 2006

When it comes to dating, Craig’s List is sadder than Schindler’s

I had another taste of dating via Craig’s List, which if my experience is any indication, is more tragic than Schindler’s.

I had posted that I was looking for an Asian woman (my preference -- don't pry), and “Lily” responded yesterday, volunteering the following:

“I am here. from china. was a fashion model there. 5'10" slim very beautiful and sexy,,, just broke up with my and work in Manhattan.”

The subject line of her email was “Hello???... a drink?”

She sounded appealing. I wrote back that I would gladly have a drink with her. She wrote back saying she’d prefer to talk on the phone first, and provided her cell number. I called her two hours later, after first e-mailing her that I would do so at that time.

At first she wasn’t sure who I was. I joked that we had just e-mailed two hours ago. It was immediately clear that she had corresponded with and perhaps spoken with other men, which, after all, is her prerogative. But do you think she might want to pretend otherwise? And was the fact that she didn't a calculated attempt to create an aura of aloof selectivity? Or did she just not give a damn about my reaction? I belive it was the latter, for while women used to care enough about men to spend hours devising ways to confuse them, now they simply broadcast their contemptuous indifference.

We conversed for about twenty minutes, quite pleasantly for the most part, except when she abruptly shifted into a demanding interrogative mood, blurting with a sense of judicial entitlement intrusive questions about my age, marital and relationship history – the third-degree that Manhattan women seem to learn by rote in relationship terror training camp. This, interwoven with repeated demands to know exactly how many women responded to my ad, and downplaying her rudeness by claiming idle curiosity. I made up a number that I thought would sound plausible -- 12 -- and yet incite her nascent sense of competitiveness. Already, I was sinking to her level.

She asked where I lived.
“That’s where all the gay people live. Are you gayyyyy?” she asked, her voice rising on the last syllable. I gave my stock response to such idiocy: “I was here before they were.”
“Oh, so you a pioneer?”

Yeah. I was the first to import open-toed sandals into Chelsea. I gave a pre-op Hedda Lettuce her first break in the back of my latte bar, Muscle Mary’s. You know, back in the day, before it started rainin’ men.

Lily told me that she had modeled in Beijing – she was 5’10” – and studied fashion design at Parsons, but now worked as a mortgage broker.
Then, suddenly, she had to get off the phone – she uttered something about her 8-year-old son’s play date arriving – and asked if we could talk “later.”

This afternoon I left a message on her cell phone, asking if she was free to get a drink. She called me back an hour or so later, and I repeated my invitation. She hedged a bit, saying it was raining, and implying that she didn’t want to travel far. I offered to come to her neighborhood and we agreed to meet for coffee at – where else? – a Starbucks branch on 84th Street and Third Avenue, near her residence.

As per our agreement, I called her when I arrived at the Starbucks. It was a rainy night when most of the Upper East Side was out of town. The shop was small, sparsely populated, and depressing in a Hopperesque way. You know, "Half-Decaf Mocchacino Nights."

Lily showed up five minutes later: older, flabbier, and decidedly un-model like. It was immediately clear there was not even Chemical Ali could bring us together. Nontheless, I determined to make it a pleasant encounter.

She had no such scruples.

From the get-go, she looked away when speaking. I showed her a copy of my book on celebrities (I don’t normally drag copies of my books around, but I thought it might impress her and at the very least establish me – or my claims – as more real and less virtual), but all she did was issue niggling criticisms, such as “Why Anglina Jolie on cover and not first in book?”

Then she took a cell call from a Chinese friend. Now, I think it’s rude to take social calls during a date, but hey, I’m a fossil, homo sensitivus.

“Checkin’ up on you?” I ask.
“No, we talk this afternoon, and so she call me…”
More small talk. Then, abruptly:
“You want to meet my friend?”
“You want to meet my friend? She’s nice.”
She points to the cell phone, as if her friend is some sort of Verizon genie.
“Oh,” I say. “You’re saying that you have no interest in me and are trying to pawn me off on your friend?”
“Yeah,” she says enthusiastically. (This woman is emotionally tone-deaf.)
“She’s very nice, very pretty. Shorter than me. Five-six. What is your age?”
“I told you yesterday.”
“I forget. After I have my son, all I can think of is him. I don’t remember anything. I need to write everything down – dates and things to do. So what’s your age?”
“How old is your friend?”
“She forty-one. She has daughter in China. So, what is your age?”
I tell her. “Why is her daughter in China?”
“She divorce. She has chance to come to America, so she take it.”
“And the husband got custody of the daughter?”
“No. I think her sister take care of it.”
“Oh. What part of China is she from?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Does she also work in the financial field?”
“No, I’m not sure what she does.”
“Good friend of yours, huh?”
“Yes. I know her one year.”

She tries calling the friend, but the phone is busy, apparently, because she doesn’t leave a message.

“She busy. Doing laundry.”

The phone rings. It is her son. “I will be home soon,” she says. Apparently, she has left him home alone to meet with me.

I joke that her restaurant (it is named Lili’s Noodle Shop) is right down the street.

“Yeah, they pay me for rights to name. I don’t like so much.”

I recommend Shanghai Pavilion, which is close by.

“You know Chinese food? ARE YOU JEWISH?”

I shake my head, disconsolately. I fear the conversation quickly drifting into Protocols of the Elders of Zion territory.

“You know, you shouldn’t reduce people to stereotypes.”
“Oh, but that’s why stereotypes! True!” She laughs heartily. I wonder how she’d take it if I cracked wise about her Chinese friend doing the laundry.
“Listen, I wouldn’t say things like that to Jewish people.”
“Why not?”
“Because Jewish people aren’t the only people who love Chinese food.”
“Oh, no, they LOVE it!”
She continues to defend her position, insisting that only Jews are connoisseurs of Chinese food.
“O.K., I’m just giving you some advice that might save you embarrassment,” I say. “You don’t have to take it.”

She says she will ask her friend if I can call her. Then she says, “I have to go. My son waiting” and bolts out the door.

During our initial phone conversation, Lily told me that she had been in Manhattan for ten years. “I’m a real New Yorker,” she had said.

She was not kidding.

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