Experimenting With Ms. Wrong

Janey and I meet making eyes at each other on the subway. Using my book as a decoy, I steal glances. She's got olive skin and a long sleek nose. When she gets off at my stop, I think it's fate and follow her out onto the sidewalk.

Three months later, we're still dating. I really want to like her, so I overlook her whiny voice, her condescension toward waiters, the fact that my friends think she sucks. And then there is the sex issue, which is that we haven't had it.

Lying in bed one day, Janey tells me she had sex in a cab with a guy from work, right before we met. She adds unnecessary detail—how they talked dirty at the bar first, how the cabbie watched them in the rearview mirror. I'm pissed. "So why haven't we had sex yet?" She's offended by the question: "I barely knew the guy. It's different. That's all." I don't get this logic, and can no longer overlook her flaws.

Tamara is a teller at my bank. While discussing my bounced checks, we flirt. She thinks I'm gay because I'm "so nice." She's got flavor and J.Lo proportions. On our first date, we go to her favorite place, a blues-and-barbecue joint. Afterward, while we kiss on a bench in a downtown park, she unzips me, lifts up her skirt, climbs on top, and lets me in.

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Next date, Tamara wants me to call her "Tanzania," for reasons left unclear. I take her to a Cuban restaurant, my favorite. After dinner, while we kiss in my bedroom, Tanzania pulls away. "Bring me your phone." "Why?" "I have to check voice mail." "Why now?" "Just get it for me, baby." "Why don't you?" "Just get it for me baby, pleeeeease." It goes back and forth like this, a playground fight, until finally she stomps over to the phone. But I'm so chafed by this bizarre power play that I know I'll never see her again. Sensing my withdrawal, Tanzania wears my sweater out and says she'll give it back next time.

Isabel is an actress. At a party, we chat. She has a svelte dancer's body and is funny with a tinge of psycho, so I pursue. I see her in an Off-Off-Broadway play, and I think she's overacting. After a month, we arrive at an unspoken stalemate: I want her more than she wants me. But she won't push me away, because I'm good for her ego.

One evening, while we watch a movie on Isabel's couch, her male roommate charges in and sits on her lap. I'm stunned. They tickle each other, giggle at the movie, flirt and hug. What does this mean? Is it an egregious fuck-you? Am I supposed to be Liberal Modern Guy and not notice? Tolerating this would be like castration. I excuse myself to go to the bathroom and never return.

Rose is a friend of a friend who I meet while dancing at a bar on the Lower East Side. She has curly black hair, ripe lips, and an hourglass figure. She is all confidence and rhythm. I stare at her over my drink. We hardly talk, but her name echoes in my head on the walk home.

The next morning, I call my friend. I get Rose's number and suggest a propaganda campaign. "Tell her I'm super-cute and witty, with good prospects." I wait the standard three days, then call and get her answering machine. Leaving a message would put the ball in her court, so I hang up.

I finally reach her and we go out dancing. She waits two weeks to tell me she has a long-distance boyfriend of two years. Hoping she has withheld this info to not scare me away, I don’t stress her. We wait two months—long enough for them to break up—to have sex. It's sensual verging on religious, with Mary J. Blige in the background, eyes locked. This feels right. We fight well, which is always a good sign. It's time to throw out my anchor.

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