Wednesday, May 11, 2016


Recently I responded to an online profile of a guy who wanted someone who, among other things, loved to laugh. That amused me. Reminded me of old cliché personal ads that invariably sought a person who liked long walks by the beach. Shouldn’t a profile narrow things down a bit? You know,…be personal. Who doesn’t love to laugh? (The guy never replied to my message. I’ll have to laugh it off.)

I’ve heard it stated many times that everybody thinks he’s funny when few are. But, if it’s not all-out, bust-your-gut-and-snort guffaws, can’t we all reach some sort of light-heartedness at-will?

I ask this because it’s rare that I feel funny on any of my innumerable first coffee dates. And the other guy isn’t humorous either. These meet-and-greets have become too serious. Not gloomy like a funeral, but smile-free. I’m not sure if the last three guys I met even had teeth. (It’s coffee, remember? I just assumed that skipping scones was about watching one’s weight.)

We sit and talk politely. He’s nice, I’m nice. Everything is perfectly pleasant. I think back to the city planner I went out with a few times in December. We dug into some heady issues and found ourselves agreeing on most but the conversation was an exercise in academia. We’d both had far too many years of schooling. We’d excelled in that realm. He’d even been a professor. I recall his talking points feeling like they’d been extracted from a lecture. I was supposed to admire them as sage nuggets from a smartypants. I should not have been surprised when, after the third date, he said he felt no spark. I didn’t either. The difference was that I hadn’t ruled it out. I didn’t think we’d let down our guard yet.

And last month I got another “no spark” assessment. We’d been so chatty. But, again, the conversation had all been in a safe zone. So much talk about topics related to work and workouts. Comfortable. Pleasant. Nothing more.

In both situations, I am certain that neither of us laughed even once. After forty (and, yes, even more so after fifty), people who’ve found themselves single once more have experienced a fair share of rejections. (Maybe even an excess of it!) We’re seasoned enough to no longer have first date jitters. For example, I no longer worry about a layer of sweat oozing its way down my forehead and spreading from my armpits. I don’t even think of slipping a towel in my backpack.

But these dates have become routine. Not rehearsed, but the topics rarely stray from the familiar. How do sparks arise when we play it safe? We’re reserved. Too guarded. No wild swings and misses, but no home runs either. So we come off as swell. That’s not what anyone is looking for.

Ooh, I met this guy and he’s swell! He could be The One.

No wonder someone would put “likes to laugh” in a dating profile. We may all like it, but humor is risky. I’m not talking about unpacking an offensive joke. Witticisms, sarcasm and bemusements can miss the mark when we’re unfamiliar with the teller’s tone and nature. The humor can fall flat. So we don’t go there.

I’m not sure how to break what has become a bad habit. Yes, being pleasant is a bad habit when dating. I should save that for the lady at the bakery who has the power to give me the corner cinnamon bun, the one that is stickier and slightly bigger than all the others. That’s when pleasantness pays! I’ve got to figure out how to infuse some light-heartedness, maybe even some playfulness on that next first coffee. It could fail. It could repel. But there is no gaining ground staying in The Safe Zone. If I fail, I can laugh at myself the whole way home. Laughter for one is better than reservations from two.

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