Melinda and Carly are bloggers and the founders of Solo in the Second City, a reading series which debuted tonight at the Cobra Lounge. When they asked if I’d read something, I was flattered and confused. What could I possibly have to say about being single?
Quite a bit, as it turns out. My piece (as written, though not exactly as delivered) is below. Happy reading, and happy Valentine’s Day.
When Four Weddings and a Funeral came out in 1994, I saw it three times.
Unlike other 18 year olds in New York City in 1994 who were doing more exciting things like sneaking into the Tunnel and smoking pot behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I spent my time and my allowance watching that flopping, stuttering hairdo of a man, Hugh Grant, make a fool of himself over the lovely (if somewhat leaden) Andie MacDowell.
I thought Hugh was adorable (that hair!), funny (that timing!), and a total nerd (who still managed to bang Andie MacDowell). To me, he was my ideal man. In fact, he was the only man.
You see, I attended an all-girls school from grades seven through twelve, and I didn’t see many boys on a daily basis.
Okay, that’s not exactly true. I’d see boys from Regis High School on the subway on the way to school. Or peer at Collegiate boys at dances where they talked to my more sophisticated classmates, my classmates who looked good in black Lycra mini-skirts and smoked Marlboro Lights and who had previously made these boys’ acquaintance at a far away, magical place for rich people called “tennis camp”.
And it didn’t help that at this time my older sister was something of a party girl, something that brought my parents no end of worry.
While I was sitting in the dark, making this gesture [MAKE “NOW KISS” GESTURE] while Hugh and Andie got to know each other [MAKE SEX GESTURE WITH FINGER AND PALM] all over the English countryside, she was bouncing through some of the city’s more notorious clubs, sometimes wearing nothing more than a corduroy mini skirt, rainbow platform Converse sneakers, and two star shaped stickers over her nipples in lieu of a top.
So, um, yeah, she wasn’t hanging out with me (which is fine because my nipples don’t quite look right with stars – more of a hearts girl).
And my classmates with the boys whose names all seemed to end in a number like “the third” weren’t willing to cede any social ground to a chubby girl from Queens who did this [MAKE “NOW KISS” GESTURE] and this [MAKE SEX GESTURE WITH FINGER AND PALM] every time she saw a Hugh Grant movie. New York was no place for Jasmine, which was good — me and New York, we were through.
When I came to Chicago for college, I thought “Oh boy. OH! BOYS!”
There would be parties and mixers and study breaks and sock hops and furtive necking in library stacks! Boys and girls and boys and girls together! After six years of single sex education, I was fully prepared to spend college putting the “ho ed” in “co ed”.
To prepare for college I watched “Revenge of The Nerds” and “Dead Poets Society”. I bought a hot pot, and packed my rice cooker, because, you know, [GESTURES AT FACE], I’m Asian.
I packed only my most sophisticated “This bitch is from NYC” clothes, which in the fall of 1994 included:
- red rubber gardening clogs
- a green silk pajama top
- black platform sandals I bought off a homeless man’s blanket in Chinatown
- green canvas overalls
- purple canvas overalls
The male population of the University of Chicago was never going to know what hit ‘em!
I never had a chance.
I couldn’t compete with Nobel laureate professors who promised hours of unpaid lab work. I couldn’t compete with the girl physics concentrators (because we don’t major at the U of C we CONCENTRATE) with frizzy hair and thick glasses who didn’t wear bras under their shapeless turtlenecks. I listened to too much Madonna for the dudes who played in bands, and gossiped too much for the serious guys who wrote for the school paper. I wasn’t brave enough or even smart enough to try to date any professors.
The dudes I thought I maybe had half a shot with were gay.
(Or if they weren’t gay when they met me, they certainly were after.)
I had no role models for dating, I didn’t think. It felt like my friends hooked up in secret (if they hooked up at all) because they didn’t admit they were not total studying machines. Or they ended up with the first person whose genitals they got to touch during O-Week and stayed with that person through college, grad school, and then married them.
Where was the romance (or at least just the sex?) I’d been expecting? Whenever I saw people huddled together on campus I’d get excited because I thought they were necking but then I realized they were just standing together to keep warm.
I started writing a fake advice column where I’d give romantic advice to letters I’d written to myself. Nobody knew the column was fake except me and my editor, a tall man with shaggy hair and matching beard that caused everybody to call him “The Wookiee” behind his back.
In this column, I like to think I counseled lovelorn University of Chicago students that were not me. Even if they didn’t write the letters, who wouldn’t be able to relate to these imaginary letter writers who were endlessly wondering how to get a date, how to find love, how to give love, and how to recognize it.
I wrote a lot of columns over those years, asking and answering questions both serious and silly. I have those old columns saved on a Zip disk (hey, 1997, what’s up?!), and I’d like to see what they say exactly, and whether any any of the wisdom I dispelled from the wise old ages of 19 to 22 still holds true.
I’m at that age where a lot of my friends are married or hooked up, with babies and mortgages and proper jobs.
I like to think that the ones from college are where they are because they read those dumb columns I wrote all those years ago, and maybe somewhere between the bad jokes about sex and cafeteria food, there was something there, something they learned from my mistakes and my inaction, that drove them to make risks, to take chances, to fall in love and get married and have all these goddamn adorable babies that I’m going broke buying presents for.
I mean, I don’t know that for sure. I mean, I’m self-centered, but I’m not a complete asshole.