Cup Half Full – Are You Kidding?
I won a coloring contest in second grade: one free ticket to see Snow White in the theater. I was ecstatic until I learned that all the other second graders had won the same prize. Who can believe in good luck after a thing like that? It was like having to share a lottery ticket when I was only seven!
I sometimes tell my adult friends that story over a few glasses of wine, declaring that I am a “What Cup?” kind of person. You know: Cup Half Full, Cup Half Empty. What friggin’ cup??
That well-honed philosophy of life made it difficult to pick myself up after a midlife divorce. But I’m not a quitter. When my fifth online dating service finally coughed up a candidate who met my stringent requirements, I shared his profile with a friend. “Not a great candidate,” she said, “but when you’re 55 you have to look at each opportunity as a lab experiment.
"Think of your date as a white mouse,” she said. “You get to observe him, notice behaviors that you like or don't like. Then leave!" I asked her if it would be a good idea to bring a notebook so I could record my observations before my short-term memory failed me. She looked at me to see if I was serious or just being a smart aleck.
I thought about her advice as I wandered in and out of my closet the night of the big experiment. I was stymied by what one should wear in this situation. If I'm thinking "lab experiment" and he's thinking about the Viagra he tucked in his pocket for luck, it's hard to imagine any clothing that could bridge such an enormous "goal gap."
By the time I'd tried on 15 outfits, discarding them on my bed as I went, I was almost too exhausted to even think of going out, let alone successfully executing the final flurry of makeup and hair wizardry that still lay ahead of me.
So I took a break. Pouring a glass of icy Chardonnay, I surveyed my nearly empty closet. Jeans were probably out. Capris are nice, but not for those of us with spider veins worthy of Charlotte's Web. Cleavage is a dime a dozen these days - even the 12 year old’s are doing it. Besides, I was married and ran a business for 28 years. My wardrobe is still heavy on business suits, sweats and comfies. A little short on padded bras and scoop necks.
As I sipped my Chardonnay, I congratulated myself on having set aside four hours to get ready (a wise move, I thought). There's no time pressure yet, though I'm getting sweaty from trying on clothing and may need another shower. And I have to watch the wine: two glasses and I'll be asleep. And not just a gentle, quiet dozing. Full-fledged, out cold, narcoleptic sleep, with just a soupçon of snoring.
I couldn't put my makeup on or even select my underwear till I'd made my clothing decision. Blue eye shadow with a turquoise shirt - even a laboratory mouse would wrinkle his cute little nose. Or a black bra under a white sweater. I wouldn't allow my daughter to do it in middle school, so it's clearly not appropriate for me either. Even shoes… I shook my head, refusing to consider using Microsoft Project to handle the dependencies.
I resolved to reduce and simplify my closet as soon as possible. Everything should go with everything! Neutrals would be my solution. Like Diane Keaton, the one celebrity that I admire, I would wear black and white and cream and khaki, and devil take the hindmost. Shoes, makeup, underwear - all problems would disappear in the sheer simplicity of it.
Suddenly I had a thought. Why not "do a Diane" tonight? I didn't have a great white suit like the one she wore in the "First Wives Club," but I certainly had a white "uptown tee" and fresh-from-the-dry-cleaner khaki pants. She wore that in "Something's Gotta Give." (Actually I wouldn't want Jack Nicholson if he were the last mouse - or man - on earth, but she sure looked great in that movie!)
Problem solved. White top means white bra. Neutral colors set my makeup choices free. I have cute shoes and a Tommy hobo bag in shades of tan and ecru. Shazam. This is going to be ok after all.
With that all-important decision out of the way, I could begin dealing with the makeup and hair, meanwhile thinking through all the "tips" I'd read on the Internet dating site: Don't just make small talk about the weather, Don’t talk about your ex, your kids or your pets, Ask questions that require more than a yes or no answer, such as “What's your favorite scene from your favorite book or movie?” I had to think about that a minute and concluded that you probably shouldn’t initiate a conversation with that particular tip. You probably need quite a bit of conversation between "Hello" and "Leave the gun. Take the Canollis."
Or you might ask, "If money were no object, what would you do with your life?" How do you segue from "Hi, how nice to meet you," to a question like that? The givers of tips don’t tell you that, by the way. You're on your own out there.
As I pondered techniques for weaving these open-ended questions into my conversation, it occurred to me that I probably would have to drink something at some point. Wine. Water. Hemlock. Now that's a problem even bigger than the perfect outfit.
Surveying myself in the mirror, I took note of the good things: hazel eyes, pretty smile, great skin. (One rather droopy eyelid, but that's not uncommon.) GREAT perfume, purchased in the duty free shop on my choir's last singing tour in Europe. Hmmm.
Fortunately he's no spring chicken either, so I shouldn't have to explain that the cute little freckle on my hand is probably an age spot. After all, he's bound to have spots and wrinkles of his own.
But how would I explain the tremor that affects my hands? Should I explain it at all? Would I do it right away before any "chemistry points" float off in his mistaken assumptions about DTs?
I can just see it. "Hi! I'm so glad to meet you! I've enjoyed talking to you online and it's great to see you face to face. By the way, I want to mention that I have Benign Essential Tremor, also known as Familial Tremor, because it runs in families. No one knows why, but don't worry, it isn't Parkinson's Disease or the DTs. Whew, glad to have that off my chest! Where would you like to sit?"
Imagining that intro, I thought about mouse poison. For myself. When is it a good time to tell someone about a physical characteristic that's pretty hard to miss but ultimately harmless?
"How nice to meet you! My name is Barbara and I have Benign Essential Tremor but it's not dangerous or contagious or life threatening in any way. I also come from a dysfunctional family which may disqualify me since your profile specifies 'No baggage' and I have a cartload."
What if I wait and don't tell him right away? Maybe I could bring a straw to drink my wine? Otherwise I have to lift the glass with two hands. Maybe he’ll think I’m showing off my manicure? Or I could bring a sippy cup. Just put it on the table and don't say anything about it. See how long it takes before he asks me what the heck the sippy cup is for. Or maybe he'll think I'm nervous. Like a teenager on her first date, and if he's kind, he'll try to put me at ease. Then he'll escape as quickly as possible and I can go home!
Concluding that there's no good answer to the tremor problem, I realize that I could call my ex-husband and ask him how he feels about the tremor. After all, his second wife has something much more distressing (hah! I did not say STD!). I don’t think I could call my ex anyway. Deleted his number from my Contacts list.
I've even tried prayer and asking the good Lord to go on my date with me. He seems to think I can handle it, and I can always give Him a holler if I'm in trouble.
Do you think I could write to Diane and ask her to do a movie in which she has a tremor? Naah. She'd probably just stay home, look amazing, and get a new haircut. That’s it! If this date doesn’t go well, maybe I just need a new haircut!
Spirits lifted, I stop in the kitchen before leaving for my date, just long enough to close my eyes and spin the Great Cup of Good Fortune resting in its place of honor on a Snow White placemat. I won them at a carnival, so you never know.