photograph © 2008 Caryn Leschen


Caryn Leschen

Suddenly I found myself in the dating pond at fortysomething without prescription goggles. What's a girl to do?

It's amazing the number of things that can go wrong with a computer date: bad facial hair arrangements, bad breath, bad posture. Rose-tinted aviator glasses, the inability to talk about anything but themselves, an unusually large and suspicious-looking bottom. There's also, of course: no sense of humor, no sex drive, works at McD's at 53-well, at least he has a job. One poor guy couldn't walk and talk at the same time-honest! The guy had to stop walking to talk. And when he did talk, he said frighteningly obvious things, like, "I think Bob Dylan is a really good songwriter." What on earth could I say?

The list is endless, and unexpectedly peculiar. One guy, who wasn't doing too well to begin with due to an unfortunate hair management choice, had an obsession with text messaging and anything Finnish, especially Finnish text-messaging. For two weeks, my Nokia 5190 would screech like Tippi Hedren when I pulled it out of my bag, would urge me silently, in Helvetica: "What are you doing Saturday night? In Finland we go ice-skating."

"How about a cool glass of Finlandia?" it would whisper later, after a movie.

One guy I met wore only sweatpants with Birkenstocks. "Even to the opera," he said. Even to a wedding!? Why didn't he say so in his ad? He was charming on the phone. Another guy was obsessed with wanting to wear his tux for our first meeting. Does this reveal a subconscious desire to get married again, or is he just trying to get his money's worth out of this getup? Is it the only thing that's clean? "No, really, you don't have to wear your tux to Starbuck's," I pleaded over the phone.

A 42-year-old hypochondriac, not bad-looking, living in his parents' garage, wouldn't kiss me because I had had a chest cold within the last decade, but he was perfectly willing to catch must nastier things that fester a bit lower down. In the front seat of my car, I found myself breathing this unlikely sentence into his neck, at the risk of him catching bronchitis: "So, what made you decide not to become a rabbi?" That did it. I started giggling uncontrollably, and drove right home to phone my Jewish mother in Queens to tell her I actually said this to a guy I was dating. We may be The Chosen People, but I rarely Choose to date them. I like guys to be a little exotic--Irish, for instance.

One sincere, mature gentleman was on a political crusade against "hoardable currency," i.e. money. Leave it to me to find the one guy whose crusade is to obliterate money. I thought that was my ex-husband's job. Ba-da-bing. This fellow was trying to change the world's monetary system into one that involved extra points for recycling. I think he is the guy who actually invented the Carbon Footprint! Al Gore is a charletan next to this guy. He was truly ahead of his time, but his means to this end was a 300-page screenplay that I agreed to edit, because I'm a writer. For free. Because I'm a stupid writer. I truly wanted to help the planet, and I had a little free time, but I had no idea the screenplay began with The Big Bang. By page 146 Manhattan wasn't even a twinkle in peter Stuyvesant's eye. I had a feeling we weren't going to get into dollars until the sequel. I started thinking about how great for the planet it would be to compost his 300-page screenplay. The guy had clearly spent too much time in Vermont.

Later, I found myself weighing the inevitability of having to edit Non-Hoardable Currency Strikes Back: The Euro against the companionship of another "writer" who, while rather sweet, had the attention span of a pygmy hamster. He was cute, and bright, and Southern Californian--but had been unable to write anything for the past twenty years, which tuned out to be a good thing. But he wouldn't read anything, either. He was living on his investments when suddenly, you know, the economy went, like, south and stuff? He had a desperate, rodential air about him, with huge blue eyes darting hither and yon, seeking a way out of his dilemma. I wanted to provide him with a treadmill. I bought him The Artist's Way instead, to get him motivated. He plucked the book from my hand and tossed it casually over his shoulder onto a mountain of self-help books in the corner, temporarily displacing Venus and Mars in the Bedroom and You Just Don't Understand. Apparently I wasn't the only girl who'd sized him up as a fixer-upper. "Can I borrow this?" I asked, picking up a mint condition copy ofThe Four Agreements.

"You'll have to kiss a lot of frogs" said my psychic friend Judy, "before you find Prince Charming." I didn't need to be psychic to know that.

One afternoon I drove to a suburban mall to meet a Silicon Valley geek with a croaky voice, who intrigued me because we always managed to talk on the phone 'til 3 am. I decided that CompUSA was a good choice for meeting a programmer; besides, I could always use free tech help.

He was so cute that we decided to move to a more romantic venue, like Fry's. I was a little shaky. As he leapt into his ancient Datsun to follow my Mazda across to the other side of the mall, I literally drove right into the center divider of El Camino Real. I had to circle into four lanes of oncoming traffic to return to the parking lot where he was sitting in his car, laughing at me. I got out and went over to his window. Gosh, he was awful cute. "I never, ever did that before, you know?" I said, slapping myself in the head like someone that slaps themself in the head regularly. "How about you drive?"

He reached over and unlocked the door for me like a gentleman, and rummaged around the back seat for something. I thought, "Great, he's a rapist and a geek." Then he presented me with an ergonomic trackball.

"I know most guys would have brought flowers," he croaked softly, "but you said you'd been getting achy, Photoshopping all day." It was so sweet, I vowed to see him at least a couple more times. This was almost a year ago, and I'm just now breaking up with him.

Maybe he wasn't Prince Charming, but he was no ordinary frog.

Caryn Leschen is a graphic designer, cartoonist and copywriter who occasionally writes a column for the alternative press. Currently she is writing a graphic novel about her wacky family. She lives in San Francisco with her skinny, adorable teenagr, Liam, and is most known for her cartoon advice column, Ask Aunt Violet.