The elusive perfect date

I had the pleasure of spending the vast majority of my 20s in a mostly codependent marriage. So much so, that when she left and I was cast adrift on the single's scene at age 28, I had a lot to learn.

The thing about dating is that it ties into just about every other arena of your life. Forget about your budget, your schedule and your friends' input. We're talking about self-image here.

Being the socio-romantic creatures we are - hammered from all sides with media hype about love, romance, sex and partnership - it's a little difficult to say, "Sure, I'm single by choice. I like hanging out by myself, and masturbation is just as fulfilling as sex" and actually believe yourself.

Then, too, I have found that I generally learn something on just about every date - whether it is about myself or the world in general.

They say that recovery time at the end of a partnership takes two years or the half life of the relationship. And, while my initial inclination was to scorn such banality, alas, in my case, it is proving true.

Nonetheless, in an effort to buck the system, I have spent the last two years devoting a tremendous amount of time to socio-romantic encounters of a wide variety. I've had a lot of fun, developed a skill or two and done some things I am not overwhelmingly proud of.

The imperfect date

If you've ever filled in an on-line profile, you know eventually they are going to ask you to talk about your perfect date. As I eased into my singleness I started dwelling on this idea. I came up with what I thought was the perfect indicator.

It was a trick date, see, because just by virtue of appreciating the list of activities, my potential paramour would betray an already significant overlap in taste and personality. My perfect date involved a fast motorcycle, a ferry boat, a farmers market and a picnic somewhere beautiful.

Once it was actually warm enough to get someone to do it, I decided to make it happen. Enter Craigslist, an e-mail flirtation and a beach-side meeting at Carkeek Park. On our second date, I pitched it, she bought it and we were off.

Well, not quite what I was envisioning. The farmers market had no good comestibles. We had to stop at a store to get the right picnic supplies. We got lost on a long road that didn't lead to a cool place to swim after all, and wound up on a cold, public beach eating sandy, second-rate produce and having an awkward conversation about my ex-wife.

By the end of it, it was clear we had a significant dearth of communication. She started grinding wet sand into my clothes. I wasn't sure why, but felt it was not a good sign.

Lying on the beach shivering, I had the growing sense that it was going to be a long trip home.

Meeting expectations

Two years into my dating experience, I had, what strikes me, as what really was the perfect date. It was also a second date, and we knew the evening would end in her rooftop hottub. But before that, there was no plan.

We walked down Broadway until we passed a restaurant that appealed to both of us. The atmosphere was nice, the food mediocre, but the most memorable part was the conversation. When you are really curious about your date's reactions and enjoy how they shed light on her personality, the actual date is really mostly irrelevant.

There was no pressure for the date to be some big, exciting event. We just walked around and talked until we found a place we felt like sitting and enjoyed each other's company.

One of the first and greatest things you learn from being single is that expectations don't mix well with reality and should be used with the greatest restraint.

Joshua Rosenstein, a Northgate resident, can be reached at needitor@

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