August 14, 2014

The Trouble with Beautiful Women

I often send emails to women who are out of my league. They are beautiful, much younger, full of hope, and they yearn to love the right man. The right man might be a

David admits that sometimes beautiful women can be too beautiful

brave carpenter. Or a successful go-getter who cries at the sight of a just-opened flower. I write these beautiful young women even while knowing they’ll likely never write back. And therein lies my liberation, Grasshopper. I can write them whatever I want. I can write them uninhibited emails that expose my panicked desires. But then last week, one of these beautiful, young women I find on online dating sites answered me. Even among those unobtainables she stood out. Ringleted, brassy hair tumbling down the clearest of skin; almond eyes; heart-shaped lips. Textbook beauty. She even had a flaw: a gap between her front teeth.


So had she made a mistake? Not notice my age? Was this a prank? Was she even a real person? Online dating is a minefield, Grasshopper. Pay attention to a woman’s profile. Look for the unexplainable diction drops. If she claims Boston as a hometown but writes: “I look for man to have time funny,” a scam is afoot. This is the perilous path one goes down when seeking women twenty years younger.

But her reply sounded genuine. She told me her name in that first email: Eva Seminova. That’s how she wrote it: fully out, a formality that was bracing, grave, and because it was so grave, exciting. Eastern European. Eastern European women for one, and the sisters (and by sisters, I mean African-American women) for another have always liked me. The Slavs because I remind them of their boys from home, and the sisters because I got big homeboy lips.

Eva Seminova’s message threw me into a tailspin of anxiety and lust, because now I had to write her back. And would the second message sound as heartfelt as the first one? No, it would not sound as heartfelt as the first one. That’s my nature, you see, Grasshopper: the self-administered cockblock. It’s the same story with poker: I play bravely until I win money; then I play like an old grandmother, trying to preserve my winnings as though they should go straight to the cookie jar. Then I begin to lose money.

So I pushed back the Great Pussy that had begun its crawl up my throat, and I manned up and wrote Eva Seminova back, dashing off a response meant to convey in shorthand that I often communicated with beautiful women. We made a plan to meet for cocktails. I searched my bathroom cabinet for the nose hair clipper.

Why this relentless pursuit of youth and beauty? As you know, I was a late bloomer, my sexuality thwarted in a tiny high school. Our graduating class totaled 21, most exiting as virgins. I left without the tools, without knowledge or experience. My parents, from the Old World, were useless. My dad had no advice in this area. But then I think his greatest aspiration for me was to become the best shoeshiner on Madison Avenue. American parents are brilliant at aspiring for their children; post-war Europeans not as much. Don’t make waves was the big takeaway I got from childhood. So I’ve spent the rest of my life trying to overcome the boring monolith of an unexplored youth. Essentially I’ve never grown up; instead, I am still licking the wounds of some unfulfilled fantasy of what growing was supposed to be, and I’m now pursuing a raft of unavailable women, one of whom might, among those vast numbers, validate me.

“Hello, I am Eva Seminova.”

“Hello, I am David.”

Now, the Slavs don’t like silly men, Grasshopper. This is a fact. One can’t simply walk into a bar with the usual jaunt and make time funny. No, this encounter required strategy. Mine was mirroring. I’d simply mirror Eva’s demeanor. If flirty, I’d be flirty. If serious, so I’d be too. Well, the strategy that actually emerged was not this at all, but something self-defeating instead.

We sat at the bar. Eva wasn’t a drinker. She asked for a wine, but it sounded obligatory, her choice random. So I was already in trouble. I’m better off when a woman drinks. I immediately went for the gin. An up martini, Hendricks, some olives, a touch of dirt. Also, I’m usually I’m a big talker. I’ll say anything, something, to get things started. I don’t mind drawing my own blood first. But this time, well, this time.

She was as her photos predicted: the hickory ringlets, the slightest gap between her two front teeth. The translucent skin, the almond eyes singing with kaleidoscopic reflections. Yes, she was all I’d hoped for. She looked at me looking at her, and I knew that whatever my eyes did — gawk, feign indifference, look askance over her shoulder — it all came down to her appearance. And her gaze back said everything that needed saying about what’s wrong with the world.

The nagging curiosity that began the second I had read Eva Seminova’s first message continued in the bar. A better man, ignoring this impulse, would have instead plunged into the realities of the moment. A stupider man indulges the impulse. “I’m curious,” I asked. “Why did you email me back?”

“Why? I liked your smile.”

“Really?

“Yes, I thought it was very natural-looking.”

Vanities satisfied, I ordered another drink. It was still hard to look at Eva Seminova: there’s nothing more terrifying than beauty combined with gravity. We talked about what she did: aspiring clothing designer; and what I did: aspiring to find something to aspire to. Then I made a mistake. I blame it on my second drink, which hadn’t even arrived yet. My nervous hands needed something to fumble with, so I found the menu on which an item immediately caught my eye. Nachos. Without thinking, I hailed the bartender and ordered a plate of them. Nachos, Grasshopper. We all have our weak links, and for me they fall to nachos and chicken wings. In the food category. I note that a woman once threatened to break up with me after I told her that I’d eaten nachos and ice cream for dinner. At the end of the day, though, no matter how high-end the nachos, they don’t infer class, reliability, stalwartness, or any kind of ambition beyond buying a bigger television. Only after I ordered did I ask Eva Seminova if it was okay her. A more worldly man, Grasshopper, would have understood that Eva only acquiesced because she was used to deferring to the smaller wants of men. A more worldly man would have ordered the salmon tartar. So the nachos came, a tower of chips on a square plate, dripping with cheese and beans. You expect her to eat that? You expect her porcelain fingers to reach for that plate? I encouraged her, Grasshopper. I encouraged her to eat from the chip tower, to pull a chip, dragging with it a string of melted cheese. And Eva, a woman brought up in Russia, brought up to please the idiotic men of her country, the old country, Eva, brought up to not make waves, stretched a slender, pale hand to the pile of softening tortilla chips. She brought a corner of one to her mouth, and nibbled it like a squirrel eating a Froot Loop. Of course she didn’t go farther than that; it was a miracle she even tried one. Of course it was me who ate the whole thing because you can’t resist it. Because you’re American at the end of the day, and can’t resist anything that has in its name wings, pico de gallo, or pizza.

I’d made a rookie mistake, but consider that maybe I wanted to. Sometimes it’s hard to face up to reality; you resort to indirect methods to trick you into failing. And I wanted to fail. The problem, Grasshopper, was me. The problem was that I couldn’t keep looking at her. You can’t look at the sun forever, either. It was distracting, Eva Seminova’s beauty. Actually, I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I had no idea how to proceed with the seduction. It seemed too complicated. Of course, she knew I wanted her, so of course, I wanted to pretend that I didn’t want her, otherwise I’d be like everyone else. I wanted to stand out from the crowd of every single man who, when they saw her, wanted to fuck her. I wanted to be the one who didn’t want to fuck her–at first, so she would see how wonderful I was. Idiotically, I wanted Eva Seminova to make the first move, because it would be too obvious if I made the first move. It’s madness, Grasshopper. Instead, I would leave Eva Seminova to men who had the experience. This is who I am, Grasshopper: a petty man, obsessed with finding the perfect woman, and, once found, a man who can’t even look at her.

We left the bar together soon after I’d finished all the nachos, soon after I had scooped up the last stray puddle of cheese with the sharp edges of a broken chip. Now, my ridiculous strategy took another turn. I would wait for Eva Seminova to call me. Because me calling her would be too obvious. Grasshopper, don’t listen to anything I have to say about dating. You have attained the height of what I can offer you, which is absolutely nothing.

I’m still waiting for Eva Seminova’s call.