There was a book I bought once simply for the title. It was called “A Girl Becomes a Comma Like That.” I don’t remember the book very well, but I’ll probably never forget the title.

A friend recently sent me a  Modern Love column from 2008. Marguerite Fields’ essay described the litany of men she’d met in such a simple poignant way: “There was the construction worker I ran into on the train twice before saying anything, kissed the third time, kissed the fourth time, got stood up by the fifth time and never saw again. Then there was the guy with tattooed knuckles, the young Republican, the Irishman on vacation and the guy who stole $300 from me to buy drugs. There was the activist, the actor, the librarian, the waiter and the bond trader.”

I was struck by how familiar her list sounded, despite never having dated a redhead with “steak like” hands, or an installer of soy insulation. Here’s mine, focusing only on the online dates of the last five months:

There was an aspiring politician who shook my hand too hard and bopped the table in time with the blues beat.

Over taco salad, a comedian told me all about his mother’s cancer and his father’s absence, adding jokes that weren’t funny and smiles that only made it up half of his face.

There was a high-school teacher from California who coached girls rugby, but wanted to be a doctor. He had sandy red hair, and a “Cook County” tattoo on his shoulder dotted with freckles.

He identified himself as “Blasian.” His black father met his Vietnamese mother while he was stationed overseas. I told him I would be the girl waiting at the table in the back with a book. He thought I was joking about the book, and proceeded to watch the White Sox game over my shoulder.

Another teacher… tall, half Japanese. We had brunch in Greektown and waxed poetic about children’s books.

There was an actor who had finally got his first paid gig, as an understudy in a two-man father-son drama in the suburbs. He was so proud to pay for our beers and sweet potato fries.

Three dates with a vegan consultant on assignment in Denver, working for “the government, I can’t really talk about it.” He was so pleased I had read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, but emailed me from a hotel in Colorado to tell me he was pursuing something with someone else.

He was short, Jewish, and played the guitar at his synagogue. He wrote a movie blog. That’s all I remember.

When I found him at the bar, he showed off a pair of friends who had met online, as if they were a good luck charm. We ate a basket of popcorn and he walked me home through the remains of the Chicago blizzard.

He wore a beanie.

He told me that our conversation was the most fun he’d ever had on a first date. It had been fun. I’m pretty sure he was gay.

Too young, too sweet. Arrived the week before from South Carolina. Confessed apologetically that his parents weren’t married when he was born, as if I would care. We ate frozen yogurt and cackled at a late-night comedy hour.

The soccer player who was also a classical musician was so good on paper…. and unbelievably boring in person.

A third and final teacher with a giant Afro wandered through a bookstore with me for a few hours. He bought a Choose Your Own Adventure book he wanted to use in a lesson plan.

And I think I’m forgetting a few. A guy does become a comma like that.


Related Post: My how-to post for The Good Men Project about online dating.

Related Post: Sadly, these crackpots will forever stay in my memory.



Filed under Really Good Writing by Other People

10 responses to “Litany

  1. Great list, Emily! I’m tempted now to write my own (I have a piece about exes for the good men project coming up).

    Did you see this week’s modern love column about googling your exes, and reading their blogs?

  2. I need this list in my life, drafting first round…

    • Ha. I just realized I forgot one:

      A 6’5″ male nurse who wore a fleece vest and accidentally picked an insanely expensive restaurant that featured a lot of “foam.”

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