All Dressed Up with No One to Love

It's colder than it should be. It's colder than it should be, my bedroom looks like a nuclear test site, and our kitchen smells like a tuna fish sandwich died behind the stove.

But mostly it's just cold.

I'm feeling a bit down today. Night falls earlier every day and today I don't think the sun bothered rising at all. From dawn 'til dusk, the horizon was a lazy golden pink, caught in the space between sunrise and sunset with no motivation to complete the thought.

I know the feeling.

I went to a party last night. Wood beam floors and smudged wine glasses; shiny black kitten heels and introductions to people you aren't sure you need to know.

Parties are a funny thing when you're single. If there are other singles of your preferred gender and orientation, a certain anxious desperation takes over, destroying your otherwise Zen-like balance*. I like to call this the Desert Island Effect.**

The effect is thus: You, as a single person, go to a party. If you are very lucky, other single people are present. And despite your rational knowledge that a world exists beyond those tiki torches and fondue fountains, you suddenly view all other singles in the room as though they are truly the Last Single People on Earth.

Standards? Out the window. Deal-breakers? Obsolete. The party is a desert island and propagation of the species relies on your partnering with someone in that room. The fate of humanity is in your clammy hands.

So, you-- instantly and subconsciously-- rank your options. You have a top choice, a second choice, a last resort. It's cold and it's harsh, but this is about survival of the species; there's no time for sentimentality.

Your rankings shift as the night goes on, as you catch your top choice puking in the coat closet, as your second choice unveils a disconcertingly nuanced analysis of the past six seasons of America's Next Top Model. Your last resort charms you by converting oxygen to CO2 and continuing to display a pulse.

Alliances form. Bonds are broken.

Untold numbers of ill-advised make-out sessions have resulted from this phenomenon. And sometimes these ill-advised make-out sessions spiral into ill-advised relationships. And last night, in a room full of single men, I found myself falling prey once again.

The one I liked best was the quietest. The one who smiled the most. He was funny, but not pushy; loose, but not sloppy. He seemed interested, and when the party moved to a nearby bar, I could have gone too. I could have had one too many vodka gimlets, could have put my hand on his knee and laughed at his jokes and maybe we'd end the night kissing in a parking lot and spend the next three weeks trying to like each other. It almost sounded OK.

But then I thought... Why?

I wasn't head over heels; he just seemed like he might be interested in me. And that's not a reason for me to stay out past my bedtime. I've given my heart to too many dead-end affairs and I'm growing too old for the delusion.

And so I went home.

The walk home was a cold one. More than I have in a long time, I longed for a hand to hold, arms to wrap around me. I was all dressed up with nowhere to go.

But the walk's a short one when you're lost in thought and before I knew it, I was nearly home. The street lamps on my block were dark, and when I looked up, I was surprised to see a Jackson Pollock smattering of stars blanketing the night sky, reflecting in the lake like a shattered Coke bottle on the pavement.

I stood for a moment in the darkened street, the rush of vodka in my bloodstream warming me against the winter chill. The leaves above me shuddered in the wind as I counted every star in that endless, empty winter sky.

In that moment, all I wanted was to share that feeling with someone else. I was alone and apart and his arms were the closest thing to familiar for the next thousand miles. I took out my phone and held it in my hand, telling myself all the reasons that it made sense to call.

And then I put my phone away.

And then I walked my dressed-up self down to the water's edge and I pulled my coat tight around me and I drank in the stars all by myself. I would have been calling for all the wrong reasons, and I'm old enough to know that isn't reason enough.

But I wish it could have been.

* Zen-like balance not included.
** Please note that I have never actually called it this.