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My Year of Missed Connections

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 PERSONAL ESSAYS

Goodbye Metrosexual, Hello Himbo

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I’ve always been obsessed with the “Missed Connections” ads in newspapers. Not every paper has them, but the alternative weeklies usually do, squished in the personals somewhere between Discreet Activity Partners and the rather thrilling Anything Goes. You can also find them on websites like craigslist.org, and others that offer free posting space to the single, tech-savvy, and bi-curious. There are thousands of new MC posts every day, and if I could read them all, I would. Each one encapsulates a little saga of fate, hope, and the romantic desire for a second chance at love:

MC at the anarchist bookstore on East Seventh, last Monday.

You: short haired, in a Tori Amos T-shirt. Me: wearing glasses and a Steal This T-shirt T-shirt. You had some amazing insights about Chomsky. Sadly, the ring of the cash register ended our conversation (damn capitalism!). To continue our dialectic, answer this ad at Box 354.

Will the short-haired girl ever get in touch with the meta-T-shirt guy? What if she doesn’t see the ad? What if she spills coffee on it? What if her mean boyfriend sees it and then hides the paper? What if someone else answers by mistake? What if she thinks it’s utterly bourgeois? Will these little anarchists ever find true love?
   Of course, I do not scan the Missed Connections solely because I take an interest in the romantic lives of my fellow citizens. Truth be told, I mostly scan them hoping to see an ad that I will come to realize, slowly and humbly, is about moi. I haven’t yet come across one describing a girl with green eyes, wearing a sweater covered with cat hair, glaring at people on the subway, but it could happen. When I remember, I force myself to stop glaring and sometimes even chat up total strangers in the hopes that they will place an ad seeking me, but it still hasn’t happened. Once or twice I have gone so far as to chat someone up, and then casually introduce the subject of the Missed Connections section, thereby — subtly — planting the seed of how to get in touch with me.
   I did this even when I was with my last boyfriend, although I loved him and would never have answered an ad that was looking for me. Well, unless it was from him. I dropped a lot of hints, hoping he’d have the bright idea to place one and set up some sexy rendezvous, but he broke up with me instead. Fucker.
   The first thing I did after the breakup was call up all my girlfriends for an emergency meeting. They brought over chocolate and Kleenex, listened to me cry, talked me out of getting more cats, and did all the things you are supposed to do when caring for the brokenhearted. I was content to let this phase of the recovery go on indefinitely; I love chocolate and was fairly sure that if I only left my house to go to the movies, I would never have to accept the breakup, thereby eliminating the need to ever begin dating again. Besides, being alone had its advantages. I didn’t miss shaving my legs or listening to Leonard Cohen. My friends had other ideas. No, that’s not true. They had one other idea: that I had to “get back out there.” The thought of asking someone on a date terrified me. The thought of getting set up on a date was even worse. There was only one thing to do: connect with a missed connection of my own. So I placed my first ad:

MC New Year’s Eve Day 2002, at the 2:20 p.m. showing of Die Another Day.
You: dark haired, with two friends who seemed to be a couple. Me: freshly single, in a yellow wool coat. You looked at my popcorn and fries and moved over, thinking I must have a date because of all that food, but I didn’t! I just couldn’t decide! I figured, I’m single now, why not treat myself. Then I thought, Maybe he feels the same way. E-mail me and we could meet for a matinee and carbs. No pressure.

P.S. I hope you agree with me that Halle Berry is totally not a Bond girl. I mean, she’s hot, but she’s so good and pure and nice. She doesn’t have that nasty edge that Bond girls should have. Her name in the movie was “Jinx!” I was expecting it to be “Caramel Buns” or something. Feh.

Perhaps out of some misplaced loyalty to Halle Berry, he didn’t answer. But that didn’t stop me. I began leaving the house more and more — not really to meet people, but to give myself reasons to place more ads:

MC at Ethan’s birthday party, January 24, Niagara bar, 11 p.m.
You: tall, blond Ivy League-educated hipster. Me: satin dress (not desperate-for-attention satin, nice satin), tattoos. Last night we had about twenty drinks each and a long discussion about obscure eighties bands (BTW, you are totally wrong about Hetch Hetchy). I haven’t had sex in months and boy, I thought you were going to get lucky!!! Imagine my surprise and disappointment when you looked at your watch and told me you had to go pick up your girlfriend after her shift at Scores. But hey, maybe you’ve gotten tired of her. And you know what? I’m not ready for anything serious anyway! I just got out of a relationship, remember? I’m only looking for some fun, dude. You know the number.

MC at Ruth’s opening, mid-March, Andrew Kreps Gallery in Chelsea, 8-ish.

Me: in a Balenciaga knockoff. You: an orange windbreaker and cords. We seemed to have about a zillion friends in common, and I loved making fun of that preppy guy with you. You’re the only guy who has ever made me laugh as much as my ex, and you have better hair. I loved how you got me drinks at all the openings we hit afterward and how you want to have kids. (I don’t, actually, but maybe I would for you.) I’ve already figured out how my cat and your dogs will get along. I don’t even mind that you are gay! My friends keep telling me I should be open to new types of guys (let’s just say there’s been a dry spell). Let’s do it! My profile is on Friendster and there is a secret encoded message to you within it.

As the year went on, I learned a lot about what dating experts like to call “mixed messages.” I even sent some of my own:

MC with hot young cartoonist, June 27, loft party in Chelsea.
Me: burned-out older woman on the verge of bitter. You: fresh out of college in the Midwest, unaware of what a hot commodity you are in NY. You showed me your comics, and called me every night for months. I couldn’t deal. For all my Mrs. Robinson fantasies, for the love of Ashton and Demi, I just couldn’t do it. Let’s face it, I still really love that same guy I was dating when I met you. But I could get over him at any time! And not to lead you on, but the phone calls were nice. Could you start them up again? Thanks. No promises.

That guy never saw the ad, but he did start calling me again, and I immediately blew him off again because I was too busy obsessing over my ex. This made my friends angry. They accused me of always wanting what I couldn’t have, ignoring a total hottie, and possibly harboring secret plans for more cats. They were right. Especially about the first thing.

MC August 9, at the Siren Festival, Coney Island.
Me: covered in sunscreen and really cranky about the heat. You: charming as usual, and I’m going to overlook the Wilco T-shirt. It was nice to see a familiar face in the crowd, even if it was you, O elusive boy. I wonder if by now you’re over that whole fake boob stripper thing and you are ready to date someone like me — less showy but actually with quite big boobs that I came by naturally! I did see you getting on the subway with an Alyssa Milano look-alike, but I think she was just a friend. I guess I’ll know for sure if you reply.

I never found out if his heart was with me or Alyssa Milano, but it was probably better that way. Reality isn’t really the point in the world of Missed Connections: Why do you think I liked it there so much? It was a world where romantic optimism wasn’t a death sentence.

MC every morning at 8:30, the L Café, Williamsburg.
The first time I came in, you looked kind of pissed off as you asked me if I wanted my iced Americano in a large or a medium cup. But I couldn’t help noticing how cute you look when you are annoyed. Plus, I am sure your job is stressful. I’m currently in the process of exploring things with younger guys, so if the age thing doesn’t bother you, it’s cool with me! I see us as partnering through bohemia, making zines and agitprop art, starting a band, and having lots of stoop sales to make rent. We’ll get all hopped up on free coffee from your job and repaint our living room to match the sunset, then split a can of beans and go to sleep holding hands. Give me an extra shot in my next drink, and I’ll get the message.

MC with a pedicab driver, corner of Fortieth and Broadway, Oct 10.
Me: desperately trying to get to some stupid party at the Friar’s Club. You: muscley, sweaty, able to see through all that. I’m sorry I wouldn’t get into your cab. I felt that doing so would start our relationship off on a note of inequality. I loved how you wouldn’t take no for an answer, though! Persistence is sexy. And I’m guessing a pedicab driver is pretty good with his hands. I need some shelves put up, and I’ve never had a boyfriend who could do anything like that. I could also use some help fixing my door. I have a tendency to live inside my head, so this relationship will be great for me — lots of fresh air and just good, practical views on life. God, I hope you have a computer, or you’ll never see this! You aren’t totally living an anti-techno lifestyle are you? I guess I’ll know when you answer this ad.

MC at the Friar’s Club, October 10.
Me: in an evening poncho and jeans, soaking wet (I had to walk there) and trying to figure out which of the party guests were New Yorker writers. You: tall, witty, reading from your sure-to-be-a-bestseller book. You’re cute! And self-deprecating, I love that. The last guy I liked worked in transportation, so your braininess is a total attraction. Together we can take the literary world by storm. We could be the Stiller and Meara of words! (Because I’m Irish and you’re Jewish!) I suspect you are married, but if not, have your agent call my agent.

But after almost a year of imagining happy endings for myself, I felt a change. I began to wonder why I was wasting my time with Missed Connections when I was still feeling one particular connection very strongly. This is the last ad I ever placed:

MC with my ex, December 20, 2002, exactly 345 days after we broke up.
I know, I know, it was just a one-night encounter. We aren’t back together. Yeah, you love me and I love you but we aren’t back together. We miss each other, but we aren’t back together. The sex is still good, but we aren’t back together. We laugh a lot, but we aren’t back together. Please don’t call me. If you want to reach me, you know where I’ll be looking. I’ll be looking every day.  

Compilations copyright © 2005 by Genevieve Field. From the book Sex and Sensibility, edited by Genevieve Field, published by Washington Square Press, an Imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Printed by permission. (Available at your local bookstore and at www.simonsays.com. ISBN: 0-7434-8303-0, $14.00)



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Sex and Sensibility,
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©2005 Mikki Halpin and Nerve.com

ABOUT
THE AUTHOR:
Mikki Halpin is a writer who lives in Brooklyn, New York. Her most recent book is It’s Your World: If You Don’t Like It, Change It. It’s about activism for teenagers. She is way, way over every guy mentioned in this story.