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Jessica #23 - 120 Seconds of Lip-Reading

May 8, 2009 | by Jessica

Jessica's parents met at summer camp. Where on earth are people supposed to meet these days?

"Do you realize that you've spent more time with a five-year-old in the last few weeks than you have with me?" Alison said when I met her for lunch. "You've become anti-social."

I tried in vain to defend myself, but she was on a roll. "You should have made an appearance at the YLC barbecue on Sunday," she said, eyebrows arched. "Instead, you spent the weekend taking care of two kids."

I knew my mouth was hanging open. "You've got to get back up on that horse, Jess!" she said. "There were dozens of eligible guys there -- and you're available!"

Keep your profile up or your stock will go down.

She scowled at me like a school marm. "You have to keep your profile up or people will think that Harris dumped you, and your stock will go down."

"Well, maybe I'll consult a market analyst and hire a consultant to do some damage control," I said dryly. "Would you please lighten up?"

"All I am saying is that you should make an effort to hang out with grown-ups. Is that asking too much?"

Seemed reasonable enough.

"I'm meeting Ellen and some other women for dinner tonight. Why don't you join us?"

I agreed. It might calm Alison down. Plus, I liked Ellen and welcomed the chance to meet the others.

We met them at a trendy Asian-fusion restaurant in northeast Phoenix. By the time our entrees arrived, I felt a good connection with the group -- smart, funny women with an easy, supportive rapport. Mostly because I'd spent so much of my time with Harris over the past several months, I'd neglected making good female friends.

After we ordered, Ellen hysterically described her attempts to manage a workgroup of eight people, four of whom were dating each other. "The company's lawyer can't decide if we should permit it or discourage it," she said ruefully. "I'm hoping they make it easy on us and all get married."

I laughed, enjoying the foursome's earthy wit and unaffected manners.

After the check was paid, I found myself squeezed in the back of Alison's convertible -- en route to Bandit, a place in North Scottsdale that all agreed was the new 'Place to Be.' A friend of Ellen's was throwing a social gathering to celebrate a promotion. Alison had glared at me when I tried to beg off going.

As we walked in, Jason Ehrlich, a guy I knew from the J-YUP milieu came over and screamed something at me over the music.

His lips moved again, with no discernable sound reaching my ears.

"WHAT???" I screamed back.

His lips moved again, with no discernable sound reaching my ears.

"WHAAAAAT??!?!" I screamed again.

She shrugged. "You know, Jessica," she said wearily, "I really hate bars."

I was confused. My impression was that Ellen and her friends frequented the bar scene.

"No one is real," she said.

We headed outside for a breather.

"The music -- and the scene -- are so loud you can't hear anyone talk," she said, sitting down on a concrete pylon. "Half the time it's just reading lips."

I nodded sympathetically, thinking about the great women I'd had dinner with -- and how no guy could ever see that in this sort of interaction.

You have about 120 seconds to do something to catch the guy's attention.

"Jessica, do you ever feel like dating is just a hopeless sport? You know, like somewhere out there, people are buying tickets to watch us flailing helplessly?"

Uh, no. I'd never thought of it that way.

"I just feel so desperate sometimes... I just want someone nice to be with, and I feel like I have no way to meet him. And then, even if I do encounter him, I end up acting like such an idiot."

"What do you mean?" I asked, feeling somehow consoled that a person as poised, polished and successful as Ellen suffers from the same insecurities and angst that afflict pretty much every woman I know.

"You have the same conversation with every guy -- what you do, where you live, where you're from, blah blah blah," she groaned, "but somehow you never get past totally surface revelation. It's like I'm trying to make sure he's interested, rather than really getting to know him or divulging who I am, you know?"

"I don't think anyone can really be themselves in a situation like this," I said. "At least, I know I can't. I either clam up or start acting like a twit."

"No wonder everyone in my office is dating each other," Ellen laughed. "Our poor generation. There's no other way to meet people under normal circumstances, so everyone just ignores the fact that it's often unethical."

"My parents met at summer camp when they were nine," I said with a laugh. "No ethics code there."

I try to make sure he's interested, rather than divulging who I am.

She looked back to the restaurant. "I don't think anyone's going to meet in there," she said. "Why do I even come here? No one ever meets anyone nice at a restaurant."

I thought for a second. "Ellen, you know, I think I met someone nice at a restaurant."


"No, a few weeks ago, in one of Alison's other successful attempts to drag me out."

"Really? So? What happened?"

I was rude -- and then ran into him 10 days later.

"He changed your tire?"

I nodded.

"And didn't even ask you out?"

"I think I made a sufficiently bad impression to remove me from his list of prospects."

"And he still changed your tire? Late at night? When you had a cellphone and car service membership?"

I nodded.

"Wow. Jessica, he sounds like a keeper. You'd better find a way to make a new impression."

"The high holidays are coming up," I said. "I could walk into his office and tell him I am atoning for Yom Kippur."

"Well, that would be... subtle," Ellen said. "Just do something."

--Something, I thought sardonically. Now that's a helpful suggestion. Time to think of something.

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