Spicing up conversation and (potentially) love lives
Perhaps strangely, one of the things I have never worried about as a single mother is any deterrent effect that my daughter’s existence might have on establishing a new relationship. On the contrary, I’ve always reasoned that Elsa works as a sort of two-way screening device, preventing me from going for some of the more unsuitable types I was too susceptible to in the past, and preventing said unsuitables from getting overly interested in the first place.
That said, I am aware that one shouldn’t parade one’s life history about too zealously. Better to get to know each other a little first before bringing up baby; I usually try to wait at least 30 whole minutes. But I find Elsa is so embedded in my thoughts that this is nearly impossible. I have joined the ranks of mothers and fathers everywhere who find their children endlessly – and to outsiders, mystifyingly – fascinating. The poor guy I’m talking to is lucky if the conversational volley makes it past the return serve without me brightly chirping: “That reminds me. Today Elsa said ‘WET HAIR.’ Isn’t that amazing?” or something equally stimulating.
It’s entirely possible that this drivelling verbiage might be partially to blame for my resounding lack of success on the man front this past year. With at least a couple of prospects, I noticed the giveaway eyelid flicker as they mentally ticked the “mother” box, and then kicked myself for being so up front. When I noticed that even my closest friend, another single mom, couldn’t be counted on for continuously rapt attention, I realized that we were recycling our chatter on a well-worn loop (fortunately, due to child induced sleep deprivation, we sometimes didn’t notice). I needed some fresh conversation matter and some fresh conversation partners, preferably of the male variety. I decided to get proactive.
I resolved to flush out Beijing’s single thirty-somethings with a Valentines evening. It would be a low-key affair – just meeting up for pizza at The Tree. At the very least, I figured, it would be a way to broaden my social circle and meet some new, unwitting victims upon whom I could inflict my Elsa talk. At the very best, I’d come across a potential date.
I set an arbitrary target of a dozen of “each” and started spreading the word. To my surprise, I was soon getting e-mail after interested e-mail from friends of friends. The only problem: they were all girls. Desperate measures were called for. I took to dragging my long-suffering friend to Centro on Friday evenings. Together, we would take up pole positions at the bar and proposition strange men (pun unfortunately intended). As a recruitment device it was not a stunning success. However, by fair means and foul, and a liberal interpretation of “thirty-something,” I eventually met my target of two dozen.
The evening arrived. To my relief nearly everyone turned up. And to my even greater relief, I somehow managed to refrain from subjecting my new acquaintances to a list of Elsa’s latest achievements. Maybe it was the exclusive company of (presumably) singles. Or maybe it was the new skirt – by no means short, it cleared my knees, which hadn’t had an outing since 2004. Either way, I felt a bit more like my old, pre-motherhood self.
Most likely, however, the pressing logistics of the evening were the most effective antidote to this proud parent’s verbal incontinence. I had to oversee the placement of pink paper pigs under random pizzas so that lucky pig winners could claim a free drink. Explaining this to the bar staff was trickier than anticipated, and after some stressful negotiations and an hour or two of mingling, I weakly took refuge in the company of friends at a corner table. From this vantage point, we analyzed the goings-on. Conversations were animated and everyone appeared to be getting along – everything seemed to have gone off well. I breathed a sigh of relief and allowed myself to wonder how Elsa was sleeping.
In the end, I didn’t meet my Prince Charming. But, I was still satisfied with the evening’s results. I had talked to some interesting people, and actually appeared to have been interesting back. My fellow singles seemed to have felt the same; some of them had gratifyingly asked if the evening would be repeated. I’m not sure I am up for a permanent role as Beijing’s Cupid-for-the-over-thirties, but I thoroughly enjoyed the experiment.