After the tone of the last article, at least one reader was concerned that I was abandoning the blog. Don’t worry, just because I may have found some sense of “Zen” regarding my own lack of a love life doesn’t mean that I planned to abandon this blog. While I have made a lot of hay and made many a post about my own past dating misadventures or bemoaning my own state regarding it, I feel this blog has a place even if I’m not feeling miserable currently. There are other things to examine from my past, or I could encounter something where I feel a need to type about where this is the best venue for me. After all, when I started this blog in July 2014 I never expected to write an entry about Steve Harvey, but here we are.
At any rate, earlier this month I had to perform what is called a “civic duty” but is in reality a big headache in a messed up system. That is jury duty, where once every 7 or so years all citizens are called up to their local courthouse to serve in jury pools for criminal, civil, or grand jury cases. Each state offers different compensation; in New York it is $40 a day, or $5 an hour. The current minimum wage is $11 an hour, meaning that the only place in the city where it is legal to pay someone half the minimum wage for a day’s work is in the hallowed halls of justice. Few jobs pay you for this “service” since you’re not working with them that day. Beyond other things like school or life, it’s often a big inconvenience. I often wonder what our courts would be like if verdicts were decided not by unwilling hostages, but people who genuinely wanted to be there. Professional jurors would invite possible corruption; the current system causes direct apathy. Besides, the idea of one element of the system actively combating corruption when the entire system itself could be said is corrupt from top to bottom is laughable. It’s like worrying that the patio is going to get smoke damage after the house has burnt to ashes.
I digress. Part of where it tilts towards the topic of this blog was during the voir dire process. That is where both sides of the case offer brief details about it and try to weed out as fair and unbiased a jury pool as they can get. In our case, it meant picking 8 out roughly 25 or so people. It took hours for them to explain a fraction of the case (which turned out to be the sort of lawsuit that could only happen in NY; drug addict vs. slumlord) and even longer to weed out people in batches of 6 at a time. By the end of the day some of us who had been there a while were over-familiar with the particulars. Between my own experience with the process and my frustration with it, I was in a snarky mood. And in jury duty, this is rarely a scarce thing.
I realized that I happened to be seated fairly close to a young lady. I noticed two things about her. The first being that she was my type; the other being that she was likely way too young for me. She had dark hair and like many people in my neighborhood, was of Slavic descent. After a while I made a wisecrack to break the ice. The attorneys had made a habit of wanting to discuss their jury selections outside of the room in private. Unfortunately, they chose to do so merely a few yards away in a fairly large, empty hallway, with the door wide open, so everyone could hear due to the echo. “They passed the bar, but they can’t even close a door,” eventually uttered from my lips, and most of the room chuckled.
That wasn’t the only joke I made, but the young lady and I exchanged a few words of conversation. She, like most of the room, had never done jury duty before so I offered my experience. Once it came our turn to speak before the lawyers, my suspicion about her age was confirmed; at best she was 20, and was likely 19. Far, far too young for me to consider dating. But that wasn’t what caused me to notice the entire situation.
I remembered when I was about her age, in college. I blogged extensively on it. Back then, I couldn’t start a conversation with a total stranger to save my life. Especially with women who were my type, it was something which was a massive struggle for me. I would have to work myself up, or feel my heart in my throat. Now, I was casually using one-liners as icebreakers. It reminded me of some other times interacting with other workers as I make my way through life where I wonder exactly how shy I still am. Once the social context is established I don’t have a problem. So long as it isn’t a loud bar or club I usually don’t have a problem with one on one conversations. Some sort of joke or wisecrack about our shared environment or experience remains my best ice breaker. It was further proof that once romance is removed entirely from the equation, maybe I am not so closed off after all. In fact I can be quite a chatterbox once I get going if I don’t take care. There was a reason why I related to Spider-Man as a child, after all.
I don’t know how I did it, but somehow I am no longer awkward around talking to college aged women. The big downside is that it took me until I was in my 30’s and out of their dating pool to do so. If I’d somehow gotten to this stage when I was still in college, maybe I could have capitalized on the surroundings. It is easy to take for granted the sheer amount of people who share space with you in a socially contracted area until you actually get out of school. Then it’s much harder to make friends or even lovers based on sheer proximity or shared habitat. Now of course were I a predator or a sleazeball who was after women that much younger than me, this would be a cause for celebration. Were I in a depressed mood, it would be cause for lamentation. For the moment it just is.
It reminded me of an incident a couple of years ago. I happened to share an experience with a woman in my travels. It was another typical New York affair, ducking a rat after a snowstorm. I was able to make contact and even get through the icebreaker phase with some jokes or lines about our shared situation. But once it came time to formerly introduce myself, maybe ask her name, maybe further still ask her number if I was especially bold, I had nothing. It was like hitting an invisible wall in a video game, or trying to access a memory file which did not exist. Because it did not. I have no positive experience in that regard. I was trying to dig for psychological energy where none existed. Now that it has been 2 years later, would I have reacted the same?
At this rate, I’ll be comfortable talking to women in their mid to late 20’s by the time I am in my 40’s, and by the time I am middle aged I should be fine to chat up women in their 30’s. And by jove, when I’m in my 80’s I’ll be gung ho to chat up anyone. Maybe this wouldn’t be a problem if I was someone who saw the legal age of consent as my only limitation, but I am not. I feel like Dorian Gray if I am interacting with a woman (or a man) below a certain age. They don’t feel like a peer, but as a kid. At the last speed dating event I went to at the New York Comic Con, half the participants were maybe a day over 21 and it felt awkward as hell. Maybe it is the removal of any sort of romantic possibility due to the age limit which makes it easier; without that one awkward void of mental energy I’m quite sociable.
Other times I wonder how things would have been had I reached this level of Zen years ago. I like not feeling so angst ridden as often about my non existent love life. I like this feeling of not giving a damn anymore. I said many times I wished to have that “urge” for companionship to be removed from me, and I think for the moment it has. It’s nice. But at the same time, not giving as much of a damn anymore in theory makes it easier to get out of my own way, and might have made it easier to date. I might care less about messing up and more about making a connection, or at least enjoying my time regardless of outcome. I mean, what’s the worst she’s going to do? Nothing she says about me is any worse than what I tell myself when I wake up every day. I already expect her to reject me; the fun is in seeing how far I get before that happens. Maybe this time I can get past the first date before she vomits in my presence. Maybe it takes two dates for her to realize she’s won the Loser Sundae. Maybe someone else takes three. What do I care? At least it gets me out of the house. The only problem is this entire process takes time I do not have, and time I cannot get back. Sort of like just missing a bus but getting to watch it leave. I am far too along in my 30’s for this to have any success. I feel ready for dating 101 when I am already expected to be at dating 401. There’s no way to make up the lost semesters. There’s no chance of having more than one lover, and if I do, then all that first lover does is train me for her successor, which is a lousy deal for her.
They often say youth is wasted on the young, and I am inclined to agree. To think that out of jury duty of all things I was reminded of something. I think I have figured out how to thrive within my life stage; the problem is that it’s a life stage in the past, where I benefit from hindsight. I could totally handle high school or college now; I’m just too old. It’s like going back to master kindergarten again. Sure, I could totally nail those finger paintings this time around, but you can’t really do that.