Lots of frogs
I decided to date as many men as I possibly could. Would it lead me to my prince?
“Where are the men?” was a constant refrain at my girls’ nights out. Get together a group of unattached women and soon the talk is of the dearth of single men and Stephen King-like first-date horrors. One night a friend announced a new strategy: volume dating, meaning we should each casually date as many single men as we could find.
“Line them up like airplanes preparing for takeoff,” my friend instructed. Imagine that you have to get through a hundred nos to get to one yes, she continued. Each crash-and-burn date just moved you closer. You’d never be by the phone waiting for Mr. A because you could distract yourself with Mr. B. You could keep things light because if this one didn’t work, there was always the next one. “Put out the word, girls. All you need is one. The rest are practice.”
Despite some this-is-so-crass resistance, a group of us, all in our mid to late 30s, decided to try. We organized a dessert and champagne party. Each woman was to bring a man she was not interested in -- a cousin, a friend, an ex-boyfriend -- who might hit it off with someone else. Twelve men, 12 women. We joked that it was our “recycle and reuse” party, although we politely referred to it as the “six degrees of separation” party in mixed company. Everyone showed up at 8 p.m. sharp: men in jackets and ties, surprisingly eager to make that significant connection, as we were. At the end of two hours, I had agreed to four future dates.
Dating is challenging enough when there are two of you, even harder when there are five. As the weeks wore on, the problem became air-traffic control: I couldn’t remember whether I had already told Mr. A how many siblings I had. Was it Mr. C who worked in the law firm or the nonprofit, or was he the freelance writer or the one starting an online pharmaceutical business? Was I meeting Mr. F for brunch, or was that Mr. G?
After about six weeks of volume dating (and halfway through the alphabet), a friend left a voice mail that he had given my number to a former work colleague (a Mr. M) who was, as he so eloquently put it, “recently single.” I was preparing to meet Mr. J (or was it Mr. K?) and was running late, hopping about my kitchen wriggling into a pair of stockings, when Mr. M called. He was personable and affable, and we knew a few of the same people. We agreed to meet for a quick drink later that week. The quick drink turned into four and a half hours. I experienced an instant “Wow.” I liked Mr. M’s outlook, his steadiness, his curiosity, his humor, his sense of family. When he walked me to my car, I felt completely at ease.
Volume dating proved to have other advantages. It was on our fourth meeting when I turned to Mr. M and said, “You know, there are three other men who are calling me.”
“Really?” he said, poker faced.
“I’d like to tell them they can’t call anymore,” I continued. “But that sort of depends on you.”
“Well, in that case,” he said, “tell them they can’t call.”
And that, as they say, was that.
Volume dating would take another turn, as seeing Mr. M would soon involve five of us, again. His children were 5, 7, and 14. Dating morphed into just hanging out. We flew kites, played chess, read stories, had Slinky races on the stairs. We cooked a lot of mac and cheese. I got to know the aisles of Toys “R” Us intimately. The kids pushed me in the best way, broadening my sense of who I was and who I could be. During one golf outing at the driving range, after a couple of my haphazard whacks, the 7-year-old sighed and turned to me ever so patiently: “Oh, Miranda, you just have to clear your mind.” I was getting four for the price of one, and I was hooked.
Mr. M and I have been married for seven years. At our wedding, I raised a glass to toast these three children who continue to be compassionate and smart and interesting. And we’ve since added one more little guy to the brood. My girlfriend was right. Volume dating works. I’m glad, though, that I never made it to “Z.”