Mostly Mensch: Tales We Tell


One of the interesting aspects of being single into one’s thirties and forties is that a single person gets to be entertainment at some level for his or her engaged and married friends. One game I see is called “Why isn’t he married?” But I find the most popular form of amusement to be the stories that we single folks can tell from the world of dating. Some of my friends have been out of the dating game for as many as 20 years now, and my stories serve as a reminder of exactly what they’re missing in no longer living among the single folks. Mostly, I think it serves their need to be reminded about how good they have it and how lucky they are to not be single. Many like to tell me how relieved they are to not be dating anymore. Repeatedly. (Thanks, guys.)

Although I’d love to be in a position to not have to do it anymore, I don’t necessarily mind providing that kind of therapy for my friends. Twenty-plus years of dating can lead to some strange, horrible, and funny dates. (They’re usually not funny until a bit of time has passed, but if I can’t have a sense of humor about my dating life, I’m in trouble) It can be fun to share those experiences. In that sense, it’s understandable for the negative stories to stick with me. They’re easy to tell, they get an enjoyable reaction, and I get to look like the good guy. Every long-time dater has those stories. I think in many ways those stories can serve a personal purpose as well. While putting all those negative or ridiculously frustrating dating stories out there allows my friends to relive some of their past without having to be in it, it allows me to remind myself of some of the reasons it’s best that I’m no longer with some of those women. Such as:

The woman who told me on our first date that our babies should have my eyes but not my last name. (On the first date? Really?!?)

The woman who lectured me loudly in a crowded restaurant because I held the door open for her. (I know she was capable of holding the door open, but I hold the door open for everyone.)

The woman who informed me that if I planned to continue eating meat that we could end the date right there. (We were in the middle of dinner, so we finished eating before going our separate ways.)

I have a small mental catalog of those types of dates to flip through at my leisure and bring out at appropriate moments. Recently, though, I’ve started wondering what would happen if I started seeking out the positive stories from past relationships. Would I be a little less cynical? Would I be a little more willing to open myself up knowing that some memorable things can happen when I do?

The woman who sent me a care package of a slinky, a children’s book and a shot glass when I was going through a rough stretch (reminders of different ways to not take myself quite so seriously).

The nights spent singing 80s pop and showtunes together at her house. (I know…it sounds really, really cheesy…and probably is…but making music holds a very special place in my heart.)

The woman who made sure that at least once a week we would spend time cooking dinner and trying new recipes together. (It was such a great way to build teamwork and communication, not to mention trying some delicious foods.)

The danger in spending too much time with these memories, of course, is that I could find myself pining for those women rather than those types of situations. But making a concerted effort to mix the positive and the negative stories will keep any highly experienced dater (such as myself) balanced. We daters should let the negatives keep us entertained and remind us of some things to avoid, and the positives to remind us of what kinds of enjoyment can come from a good, caring, loving relationship.