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I asked my dad about this experience, and here’s how he described it: he told his parents he was ready to get married, so his family arranged meetings with three neighboring families. That’s how my dad decided on the person with whom he was going to spend the rest of his life.
I am perpetually indecisive about even the most mundane things, and I couldn’t imagine navigating such a huge life decision so quickly. Happily so—and probably more so than most people I know who had nonarranged marriages.
They still look at each other with the unembarrassed adoration of a first crush. Rather than attempt to describe the men I’ve dated, allow me to list just a few of the reasons we broke up: another woman; his strong sense of thrift; a reverence for the Virgin Mary that took precedence over me; probably gay; a drink called the Zombie that must have contained an unusually blunt strain of truth serum; chronically misused vocabulary words (his); he simply “forgot” to pick me up for dinner one night; my impatience; my nagging; my general dislike of the Great Outdoors.
The rest of us — who spent any amount of time “out there” — got a bit damaged over the years. Our hearts were broken, and we had to learn to protect them. Dating at Notre Dame, of course, was absolutely no preparation for the real thing.
As a young newspaper reporter, I didn’t realize you separate your work and social life.
Desperate for a byline, I once accepted an assignment to sample five dating services for a month.
Flirting over snickerdoodles in the dining hall, swapping blind dates at SYRs—it just didn’t translate to the single life in Chicago.
Once I graduated, I was never again formally asked to Sunday night dorm Mass.As far as men were concerned, I had the good fortune to be restricted by neither type nor taste.I fell in love (truly, madly, deeply) more times than is strictly advised.If two people do manage to come together, for mutual awkward conversation and cocktails, the overwhelming odds are that at least one of them will be rejected. He’s not one of the brash young Ferragamo heirs, for one thing. (A girlfriend just today e-mailed me: “A guy I once went on a blind date with is now calling me several times a day from his mental institution, asking if I understand that every time President Bush says the word ‘challenge,’ he’s actually sending him a secret message, since his name is Charlie and it sounds an awful lot like challenge.”) The hardest part of the single life is the uncertainty: How is it all going to turn out?The all-purpose line we reserve for difficult situations—"It’s nothing personal"—just doesn’t apply. I never complained that there are “no good ones out there.” The problem is that we aren’t always in the mood for a good one. And yet the night he asked me out, it took me just one bottle of chardonnay to fall in love. We’d enjoy it a lot more if we were assured of a happy ending.It’s a numbers game, and an almost unimaginably cruel one at that. Dating is about possibility and potential; marriage is about “making it work.” Most of my friends are still single, and I love hearing about the glamorous weekend trips they take and the gorgeous rocket scientists who ask them out.