TEMPESTUOUS SWAIN OR REALLY NICE GUY: CAN’T WE HAVE BOTH?

Am I asking too much, hoping to find a balance between lust and friendship? I don’t think so.

Call me optimistic, call me stupid, call me someone who tapes “Christie Brinkley Gives Birth at 42'’ stories on her refrigerator. I’m just not ready to give up. Not quite yet. I studied Venn diagrams in third grade, and I’m still aiming to find a man in the shaded oval where A and B intersect.

I went out with one man last month — a friend set us up — who seemed perfect in most every way. But when I opened my front door and shook his hand, the turntable in my gut came to a stop: “Nope, not attracted.’’

Of course, being a mature adult, I wisely counseled myself, “Give it some time, maybe it will develop.’’ So what if you don’t find his face appealing. It could grow on you.

In the car at the end of our third date, he leaned across the stick shift and kissed me. I shut my eyes, determined to give it a shot. “Well, yes,’’ I thought. “This is kind of nice.’’ And then, “I wonder if I still have enough time to mow the lawn before the sun goes down.’’ Not a good sign.

Sometimes it feels like God has sent me into Barnes & Noble with a $100 gift certificate. But there’s a catch. It’s all I get to spend on books for the rest of my life, and only two aisles are stocked: Romance and Reference. My options? Twenty paperback Harlequins or one hardback dictionary. Do I opt for several short, intense, throw-away reads? Or do I invest in one solid reference book I’ll keep on the shelf for years?

So I poll my happily married friends. What was it like when you first met? Did you know he was “the one’’? Did your stomach rocket to the penthouse?

My sister Lisa tells me, “I thought he was nice, but I swore I’d never bear his children.’’ This she casually mentions while strapping Katy and Sara into their car seats in the back of the Explorer before kissing Mr. Nice goodbye and dashing off to Gymboree.

“I felt like I’d known him forever when we first met,’’ reports my friend Teri. “But after our first date when a friend asked me if I’d slept with him, I shrieked ‘Are you kidding? He’s so short!’’ Now she suffers separation anxiety when her 5-foot-4 husband goes out for the Sunday newspaper.

And Jenny, my best friend, just laughs and shakes her head. “We were housemates for a year and I couldn’t imagine why any woman would want to share so much as a pepperoni pizza with him.’’ They’re expecting their first child in March.

I wish I’d never asked. I want to wail, “Wait! Tell me about the 50-alarm fires, the 200-mph tornadoes, the 9.0s on the Richter scale.’’

But that wouldn’t be realistic, would it? I mean, I’ve had a few long-term relationships, and have yet to be blown away by an act of God. I suppose I have to consider that a solar eclipse of the moon might take some time to line up.

Take my last boyfriend. I can assure you I didn’t lose a wink of sleep after our first date. But like the Dave Matthews Band CD that grew on me each time I listened to it, soon my heart was racing when he called. We stayed together four years.

Now, I can’t say the chemistry between us was the fiercest I’ve ever felt. Instead, it was when I knew exactly how he was going to answer a question before he actually did that I felt a zing. Or when he saved up all the hotel chocolates on a business trip because he knew how much I loved them. A quieter flame, perhaps, but one that burned deeper and longer.

Then again, he and I didn’t work out. So maybe that’s a bad example.

In any case, I know I have to be careful whom I choose. When the triplets wake up at 2 a.m. screaming for their bottles, I don’t want to be wondering why my husband hasn’t made it home from the office yet. But neither do I want to be sitting around in flannel pajamas playing Yahtzee with a man whose face I don’t want to look at, wondering if I could have done better.

Maybe I’m being too picky?

But in the end, all I can do is try to remember that when you cross Albert Einstein with Tom Cruise, you don’t get to display both Nobel Prize and Academy Award on the mantel.

published monday, october 23, 1995, in the san jose mercury news
edited version published february 1997, cosmopolitan magazine
copyright 1997 jessa vartanian . all rights reserved
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