When I first told my family about my decision to boycott men, they didn't believe me. I couldn't blame them as I'd been a dating machine -- so it was quite the turnabout.
"Sheila, be patient," said my mother.
"I can't do it anymore, Mom." I could feel my father and sister staring at me. I turned to them and cried, "Sarah, you can't relate to me this time. You met Tommy in college. And Dad? You met Mom in high school! I'm thirty-five. I'm tired. I'm okay with being single. Being married isn't in the cards for me."
"I have an idea," Sarah said. "We'll each set you up with one guy. If you don't like any of the three, you can stop dating."
I sat there for a moment and rolled the idea around in my head. It wasn't a bad idea -- as far as my sister's ideas go. It would give them a chance to help me out, and if it didn't work, then I'd be free. I looked at my mom and dad for a signal, and they both nodded in agreement.
"Okay," I said. "Let's do it."
We agreed I would meet the men for lunch over the next three Saturdays.
Alex was my father's pick. He was a successful lawyer -- about forty -- tall, dark and handsome. His cologne was seductive. What's wrong with him? I wondered. I found out soon enough. The poor guy had Tourette's Syndrome, and his particular version of the affliction caused him to yell "guttersnipe" about every thirty minutes. Dad, I thought, this is the best you could do? I mean, yes he's attractive and wealthy and nice, but ... I can't deal with these outbursts! We wouldn't be able to go to the theatre or a movie. It was hard enough sitting in this restaurant and watching people smirk and stare.
"Would that appeal to you?" asked Alex.
Damn -- what did he say? "I'm sorry, I don't think I can see you again. It just ... doesn't feel right."
"What does that have to do with crème brulee?" he asked. "Oh, well, I'll get the check."
Back home in my empty apartment, I felt like a first-rate heel. I knew I should have stopped dating. I snuggled under my down comforter and tried to sleep. The thought of two more lunches gave me insomnia.
Sarah scheduled the second date. She had chosen a friend of her husband's that I'd never met who had recently moved to Portland. I wouldn't admit it, but I was excited. I would love to find someone like Tommy, and if this guy was friends with him they must have something in common. Boy was I wrong!
"Sarah told me you enjoy opera?" I mentioned as I sipped my latte. There was a nice breeze coming in from the water, and the scent of oranges from my mixed fruit salad wafted through the air.
"I do, but not here," he replied. "As far as I'm concerned, New York is the only place to attend a performance."
Theo was behaving so highbrow I became determined to bring him down a notch. I resisted rolling my eyes and instead offered a small lie, "You have a smudge on the end of your nose."
"I do?" Theo asked? "Where?"
I stifled a laugh as he looked cross-eyed down his naked nose. "It's just a bit on the tip -- probably from your organic, vanilla, decaf, nonfat, cappuccino."
"Excuse me a moment," he mumbled as he made his way to the men's room.
I quickly made my way to the exit.
The following week, I didn't hold out much hope for my mother's selection but bravely made my way to the diner that Brad had selected. He had said he'd be easy to spot.
When I walked in, there were two guys at the counter. One was about sixty, and the other was wearing a denim shirt and jeans, cowboy boots and a black cowboy hat. Ugh. I thought about approaching the old guy but then "boots" turned around. Wow! What a great smile!
"Sheila?" he said in a slow, deep voice.
"Hi, Brad!" I said as I slid onto the stool next to him. My cell rang, but I ignored it.
"Hey, my ex-fiancée called this morning and wants to chat. I still love her," he said, "but I can buy you lunch -- you never know."
I declined and left the diner -- done with dating. Done! I checked the message on my cell from ... Theo? "Hi, Sheila. I was a pretentious jerk. Give me another chance?" I did.
He arrived at my apartment Saturday morning and walked me out to his car. He had told me to dress casually, so I'd donned a floral summer dress and sandals.
"Hi, Sheila. You look great," he said.
"Thanks! So do -- " I stopped as he opened the door to a red, convertible Mustang with a Great Dane in the back seat. "You have a dog? I didn't think you were the type. I mean, they can be so messy." But then, come to think of it, he didn't seem the type for a convertible that would ruffle his perfect hair either.
Theo laughed. "This is Siegfried -- my sidekick."
"Hi there, Siegfried." I slid into the car and yanked my dress down to mid-thigh. "So, Theo, I take it you are a Wagner fan?"
He gazed at my legs, then maneuvered the car into traffic and onto the freeway. "Absolutely. I'm a fan of nice legs, too," he grinned. Puccini floated from his speakers. "We won't be in the wind long. I'm taking you to a park."
I relaxed into the black leather seat and basked in the glow of his compliments. He had worn khaki shorts, a navy shirt and Teva's. I was caught doing my own admiring of legs. I blushed. "Do you run?"
"A few times a week," he nodded and went on to tell me how much he enjoyed running through the parks in the area. "Here we are."
We'd arrived at Cathedral Park -- an oasis of stone arches and lush lawns. With a view of the Willamette River in our sights, we snacked on brie, green apples, bread and wine while lounging on a red, plaid blanket. A cinnamon candle added some spice. Siegfried plopped down by his master and fell asleep with his head in Theo's lap. I watched, bemused that the man could inspire such loyalty.
Our conversation flowed seamlessly. I glanced at my watch, surprised that hours had passed. Theo noticed. He seemed to notice everything. How nice.
"Time to go?" he asked.
"I suppose," I said. "Theo, you're so different from our first date. Who are you, really?"
"That first time, I thought you were so wonderful. I wanted to set myself apart from any other guy you'd dated and tried to impress you. It came out all wrong. But this is me, and I'd like to see you again. Next Saturday night?"
I didn't even hesitate. "Yes, I'm free then."
He packed up the remains of our lunch and drove me home. I gave Siegfried a pat as I left the car. Theo walked me to the door, and his tender kiss made my heart beat faster.
In the following months, the pretentious Theo never appeared again. As for the real Theo, he continued to keep me engaged in the dating game.
And that's how I ended up married to Theo.
-- Karla Lammers
Karla is a contributing blogger at www.worldswellwritten.com where links to her other publications can be found, and she lives in the Midwest with her husband, daughter, labrador and beta fish.