on fixer-uppers and fix-ups

this post isn't about construction and renovation. It's about what might or might not happen when some algorhythm or some person introduces you to someone they think might be perfect for you, with maybe a little help. Or not.

An example. At a wedding, the best man - one of those guys who's not a relative but a version of that guy who seems to turn up at every family gathering - introduced me to the dashing older brother of one of the groomsmen. We talked, we danced, we nibbled, I watched in awe as he smoothly traded place cards so he could sit with me. He was witty and charming and didn't enumerate his early decision college acceptances - this last having been the lengthy and only topic of a match someone had made for my friend Bernadette a week earlier.

Time came to stand around a decorated car and shriek and throw confetti, and my father started muttering about beating the traffic. When Pop was thinking about beating traffic, you could pick up the vibes from across a crowded room. Or stadium. Or arena. Or a mid-sized state or country. I got up to leave and my new crush walked with me to my parents, where he shook hands with them and otherwise demonstrated manners. Pop did not believe in asking personal questions at casual meetings - "it gives them false hopes." Of what? "That they might think someone finds them interesting."  So as the young man helped me on with my coat (yes, that long ago) he asked for my phone number, then oh so romantically scribbled it on his palm, and asked where we lived. I told him. He frowned at me as if he was thinking hard, and then shrugged. "That's too far," he murmured. I froze and while I blinked he disappeared.

Of course I reported this peculiar event to my parents, and Pop surveyed the field and was soon seen holding a frightened and no-longer-quite-so smooth young guy by the upper arm. As we headed for our car, Pop announced that there was only one reason that anyone couldn't travel miles to see his daughter, and therefore Pop had told him that if he showed up anywhere near me he would regret it. I steadied my voice. "What reason would that be?" "He's on parole," said Pop. "And now point out the jerk who introduced you."

Fix-up stories, misbegotten introductions - everybody's got 'em. Jess got a call from a woman she had never met, who said she was a second cousin of Jess' mother's and had a cousin on the other side of the family who was perfect for Jess. Whom she had never met, people!. - the urge to fix-up has no boundaries. The guy was a doctor, a widower, a doctor, tall, a doctor, not yet bald, kids but they were over 21 and lived kind and productive lives out of town,  enjoyed sports and travel... of course there's always a "but--" most people wouldn't consider this a problem, BUT I thought I'd mention it -- both his first two wives were institutionalized ..." Jess thanked the cousin and kept her distance.

Linda is a realtor. She made a date with a guy she met on line, and at the last minute decided that no matter how good the guy sounded, she just couldn't do this. Just not ready. Before she canceled, she asked her colleague Amanda if Amanda wanted to go. Amanda - same height, hair & eye color, works in same office - thought, well, why not? If things click, it'll be a funny story. If things don't, well, still a funny story. Well, the girls are still laughing. The guy was the janitor in the building the girls worked in. So everything he said about his job ("real estate"), his interests ("collecting antiques"), his personality ("clean-cut") .... was sorta true, only not true enough.

And Rosie. Graduated with highest honors, came to the big city, good job, good prospects. Her mother warned her that the nephew of one of their neighbors was going to call her, and she should feel free to ignore the fix-up attempt because mom's instincts told her that if this guy was as wonderful as his aunt said, at age 30 he wouldn't need his aunt's help. Rosie found that she actually liked chatting with him, enjoyed meeting him after work, liked going places with him. One evening she actually went to his apartment with him. The apartment was a small studio on the second floor front of a large building on a major crosstown street - this is NYese for you can't open the windows, noise, dust, car & bus pollution. The apartment was furnished with a futon, milk crates, motel towels, frat house beer mugs.

Rosie wondered, "Am I that shallow that I'm contemplating dropping this guy because I hate his apartment and if I spend one more minute here, I'll scream?" While she was thinking this, he explained without having been asked that he was aggressively saving for a down payment on a condo, which would only appreciate in value and then bla bla bla  cornerstone of fortune in real estate. Rosie never heard the rest of the great financial plan, she was on her way out the front door. She decided that if she couldn't experiment with shallow at age 23, when would there be a good time?

So ultimately Rosie got married and had a lovely family and a darling husband who adored her as much as she adored him, and a house that they fixed up the way they liked it, and she worked part-time as a well-paid consultant for her old firm and the kids actually got college scholarships, one an academic fellowship, one for soccer.

And then her darling husband got a terrible disease and died. Oh, let's skip the details, of course they're awful. You've probably guessed that her phone started ringing - as she said - before the ink was dry on the check to the undertaker - this was an old-fashioned expression of Rosie's mom's, Rosie had of course charged the whole funeral and related expenses to get the miles. Rosie hung up on the fix-up calls, deleted the fix-up emails.

A year or so later, she ran into the guy she'd fled when she was 23. They had a nice lunch, splitting the bill. They agreed they'd both grown up and wouldn't even mention that last evening. Etc., etc., etc., and one night he asked her to dinner at his place. Of course, you guessed it - he was still in the same grim studio, with the same grim "home accessories."

"Oh, my," says Rosie, "love what you've done with the place..." and heads for the staircase because the elevator's out of order. After all, being shallow had led her to a wonderful life with a wonderful guy, for a while at least, and obviously this evening was a sign that she could now have a wonderful life on her own. For a while, at least.


  1. Love this post. I sometimes miss the single life but I couldn't bear hearing why i was single and people trying to set me up constantly. In the end, I married one of my best friend's guy friends she was meant to marry out of convenience if they were both not married by 40. She didn't speak to me for months when we first got together bc somehow this was some sort of "shotgun" on him and she wanted to keep her options open. But we are fine and all is well that ends well!

    1. how people find each other .... love this!

  2. Loved all these stories- so funny, and they made me so glad I met my husband when we were both 19.
    My younger sister, on the other hand, has her fair share of single stories. She will occasionally re-try internet dating. But finds it depressing. She is honest in her online profile, and puts up a recent photo. She happens to be tall, slim, blonde and pretty, and is a Vet. She tends to find when she walks into a restaurant/ bar/ cafe for a date that the guys faces light up with relief when they realise that she is in fact real, and that she does in fact look like her photo. On the other hand, she tends to find the guys have exaggerated their height, lost a fair bit of hair and gained a bit of weight since they took their photos and are a little like the janitor who works in real estate career wise. She then usually removes her profile until friends badger her to try again, and the cycle repeats. As I type this, I'm watching the Australian version of The Bachelor. I'm not sure if the American version is the same, but I always think to myself they've polished up a t*rd in a suit for the girls to throw themselves at to Win. Eligible they are not.

    1. yes, the male tendency to blur the edges of truth has lead to coffee with Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones for more friends than I can count.

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  4. You should write a book. I loved the "parole" story. I don't know how I missed your B of P post, but I think the print is gorgeous. Just not suitable with my coloring. I think the shirt would look nice over a belted tank dress, worn almost as a jacket. Happy birthday. My favorite firstborn is an August baby- his 21st was last week.
    Ha-ve a great labor day weekend!

    1. Oh, happy 21st to Prince Charming! I've been trying to hold down the crazy relatives stories, because some of them have become family legends and you never know when someone might recognize himself, or another relative...

      Hope you'll get to relax over the long weekend!


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