Oh, the Fools I’ve Suffered! Still, I Love Men

Shortly after I separated from my husband six years ago, I was inducted into the Unofficial Man Hater’s Club. A group of several divorced women I knew got together once a month to have dinner, drink wine and bash men. “Men suck,” they would tell me. “They all think with their”-well, you know. “I love men,” I would protest repeatedly. They soon banished me from their club, but assured me that I would be back. “You’ll see,” they said. Six years and zero boyfriends later, I have yet to return.

At first, I relied on my friends to fix me up. I trusted their judgment and believed they would find the perfect man for me. It didn’t take long for me to realize that my friends had no standards. If a guy had two legs and a pulse, they seemed to think he was an ideal mate for me.

Peter, I was told, was a member of several exclusive clubs. I agreed to a date with him anyway. We met at Café Luxembourg, and my heart sank when I arrived at the bar and noticed a lascivious-looking man on crutches, with waxy skin and dark, slicked-back hair.

“Jan?” he said, as he tried to peek down my dress. “I’m Peter.” He explained that he had suffered an accident while rollerblading, but I suspect now that it was from pursuing one of his dates.

While I discussed my children, travel and literature over dinner, Peter interjected lewd comments and occasionally licked his lips.

After he paid the check, he looked at me and said, “What would you say if I told you I wanted to run my tongue up your p—-?”

“Goodbye,” I responded, realizing that Peter was crippled in other ways as well. “I would say ‘Goodbye,’ because guess what? I’m leaving.” And I did.

Peter gave chase. Even on crutches, he was surprisingly fast. “But wait!” he called as he lurched toward me. “I have something else to say!”

Fearing the worst, I hailed a passing taxi. “I guess you’ve figured out that we’re taking separate cabs,” I shouted back. “And this one’s for me!”

Nick* was a party animal, and a 50-year-old party animal at that. We met at the café at the Stanhope on a clear summer night in June. I couldn’t help but notice that his complexion was slightly green and his hair was plastered to his head.

“I vomited in the trash can in my lobby on the way out the door to meet you,” he boasted within minutes of introducing himself. The combination of cosmopolitans, scotch, red wine and champagne that he had imbibed the previous night had proven toxic to his delicate system.

The evening only got worse. I’m from Texas and grew up cursing, but Nick used the F-word approximately 12,000 times during the course of the evening, primarily as a verb. When he called the next day to ask me for a second date, I refused to pick up. I didn’t know what the fuck to say.

I was told by the friend who set me up with Howard* that he was the inspiration for Sherman McCoy in Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities . I chose to overlook this and decide for myself. We met at the Metropolitan Club so he could use up his minimum.

Howard was a sharply dressed man of medium build, with translucent blue eyes like a husky’s. “Do you like it,” he asked in a low voice, “when men undress you with their eyes?”

“No,” I replied, “I do not.”

Howard’s mood turned dark. “What are your travel plans for the summer?” I asked, changing the subject.

“What are your assets?” he snapped.

“What do you mean?” I answered. “Honesty, compassion, integrity?”

“You don’t have any, do you?” he shot back. “You don’t have any, other than what your ex-husband gives you.”

I sat in stunned silence. Howard made Sherman McCoy look like a stand-up guy.

Not all of my dates have been disastrous; some have just been dull. Roger was the quintessential “really nice guy” that everybody wants to set you up with. He was boyishly handsome, but so boring that I wanted to slap him, just to see if he would respond. I abstained from the urge and did what any red-blooded American girl would do instead: I made out with him like a bandit on our third date and dumped him the following morning. I didn’t want our time together to be a total loss.

After I exhausted my friends’ supply of eligible men, I branched out on my own. I’d known Jack for years when we were both married. After our respective divorces, we attempted the rocky transition from friends to dating, with abysmal results. As a friend, Jack was the life of the party, but as a date, he was a pouter. And when he didn’t get his way on our third night out, he decided not to speak to me.

“Do you want to talk about that shit you did last night?” I asked him the following morning.

Jack stuttered, and then said, “What you remember and what really happened are two different things.”

Really bad answer. Jack got the double ax, for being both passive-aggressive and not assuming responsibility for his behavior. Everyone’s entitled to an off evening. No one’s entitled to blame it on somebody else.

I recently declined a second date with a guy who told me I just wasn’t ready to find the right man. He was referring, of course, to himself. What I’m not ready for is someone arrogant enough to presume they know me better than I know myself, particularly after spending all of three hours with me. Mr. Right plans on keeping in touch, though, for when I have my epiphany.

Not so long ago, my life was a nonstop, five-year-long crisis. While I was duking it out with my ex, my grandparents died. My brother died. My therapist fell off her roof and died on Madison Avenue. My cat died. The day after my divorce became final, my lawyer dropped dead. Two years later, my mother died after a prolonged illness.

Having lost so much so quickly, I learned to focus on what I have rather than on what I don’t. One thing I don’t have is any more time for a bad time-not with dates, not with friends, not with anybody. Pessimism simply isn’t an option for me. Life’s too short to live any differently.

I can’t really say what I’m looking for in a guy. It’s like shopping for that perfect little black dress-you don’t know what it looks like until you see it, but as soon as you do, you know it was meant for you.

I have since tried (with extremely amusing results) computer dating, and I’m even considering entering a magazine contest to “Meet Your Mate,” but I staunchly refuse to join the Man Haters. I have to believe that out there somewhere is the guy for me. He’s going on as many bad dates as I am. Sooner or later, I’m sure we’ll meet. When will that happen? It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that I believe it will.

* The name has been changed.