Bud. I almost disqualified Bud based on his name alone. I was 50, but I thought I was still too young to go out with a person named Bud. On the other hand — as a divorced woman — I was flush with a need for fiscal responsibility, so I was determined to make good on my dating service investment. My strategy was to date all candidates who didn’t ask about threesomes or sound psychotic in their introductory email message.
Bud led me to believe he was a football coach by telling me, “I’m a football coach.” Technically, he turned out to be a little less than this. But by this point I was actively telling potential dates I was a writer. The bigger truth was happening 9-5 in a drab cubicle, with me hunched over, straightening out murky paragraphs that someone else (a real writer) had constructed.
He suggested we — who in the cold light of day had become a lowly editor and a defensive coordinator at a high school known only for its mathematics department — meet at a sports bar. It’s noisy in those places, yes. But you can lose yourself in a bank of televisions on the wall, everything from NASCAR to a tennis tournament in France if there’s a lull in the conversation. We settled in and ordered a pitcher of beer to share.
It turned out he loved the idea of what I did for a living. This hardly ever happened to me. Most men thought something like brain surgeon or sex therapist would have been livelier, so I was surprised when Bud wanted to delve into my occupation.
We moved quickly beyond the difference between semicolon and comma. Then he started quizzing me on the definitions of homonyms that had always confused him, like “except” and “accept.” I found I was even boring myself, which was hard to do. But whatever answer I’d come up with, Bud did a little hitting himself on the side of the head in wonderment as if I’d written the Oxford English Dictionary.
You can’t underestimate the power of someone mistaking you for a member of the Algonquin Round Table just as you take that first sip of cold Yuengling. As you may have figured out by now, it’s usually all about me.
I liked the place, too. I could tell that pleased him. He confided that he came here often, that it was the usual meeting place for him and his friends. And then . . . what do you know? They started streaming through the door, one or two at a time.
“Ask her a question about words. Ask her anything,” he said to the group that had now slid into our booth. I felt like the guy at the sideshow who could guess your weight within two pounds. There was nothing to it, but these men thought I was a genius. I did what I imagine Dorothy Parker would have done. I went with it. Between quick tutorials on stuff most people remembered from 6th grade, I took long, deep, delicious sips. And against my better judgment, I ate loaded potato skins and Buffalo wings for dinner.
At home, I got on my computer and — with an immediacy born of three unfortunate dates in a row — I started going through profiles. I stopped at one of a writer who lived in Maine. He was a long way from home, in every sense of the word. But I felt my fingers on the keys. And then I hit send.