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I’ve had my air- conditioner stolen, inherited an Eames chair, expanded my music library a hundredfold, and made a dear friend, who, now that our fledging romance has failed, will be with me for life.I have learned about spearfishing and Oceanic art, about life in the merchant marines and urbanism in late antiquity.Later we decamped to his apartment, a flimsy, spartan place that nevertheless held the most exquisite furniture, tables he had inlaid with ash and birch and varnished till they gleamed.The heat failed in the middle of the night, and we clung to each other for warmth as his dog, Bruce, a German Shepherd, curled and recurled at our feet.Now, over three years and seven dating apps later, I’ve gone out with 86 men and counting; I know because I keep a list that reads like free verse (“David the orphan … Yes, online dating can be deeply demoralizing, a parade of indignities that throws into relief not just our self-absorption and banality, but our nihilism too.If I stumble upon one more man who seeks a “partner in crime,” one more “sapiosexual” or “entrepreneur,” I fear I will stomp on my phone.How narrow was my own existence, I thought then, and how it continued to narrow by the day.But to go on dates with 86 different men is to gain as many windows on the world; it is to see one’s vast city and one’s vast self, if only for a few hours, through the eyes of a stranger one would never otherwise have met. 10, which found me at a Rhode Island pub on a February evening so brutally cold the authorities had advised us all to stay indoors. We drank the espresso martinis he had ordered and argued about welfare; we talked of fathers.
I kissed him goodbye on the doorstep, fairly certain I would not be seeing him again.The conventional wisdom is that marriage makes us whole, that it completes us (as if alone we were unfinished).But as much as I loved being married, I see now that dilution might provide a better metaphor.I’ve met United Nations diplomats and my favorite movie star’s ex-husband.I have spent a summer dog-sitting in Los Angeles and flown to Jamaica for a third date; licked cocaine off car keys and undressed at midnight in a Barcelona square.
And as for those ghosters, they have their purpose too.