Monday, February 06, 2012

"Alpha Beta más"


As I have said before, writing is hard. I only have six chapters left to complete in Bianca Reagan: Where the Action Is, but for reasons big and small, they are not yet done.

When talking about my book, one of the chapters I often describe is Ch. 14, "Alpha Beta". The themes discussed by Bianca and Beck reflect issues that I have experienced over the past few years. No, I have never gotten divorced, nor have I dated a married man. Not that I know of, anyway. But I have swum with the sharks in the treacherous waters of the dating pool in Los Angeles, and I escaped metaphorically beaten, bruised and worse for wear.

Since I do not yet have a publication date set for the sequel to Steve the Penguin (available on Amazon!), I don't want to deprive you readers from enjoying what I have already written so far, especially when I am proud of what I would like to share.

Hence, another excerpt from Ch. 14. (It's lengthy, so if you know how to make a click-through page break, please let me know in the comments. Thank you!):


“I liked your story about you and Jean-Luc. It’s inspirational.”

“It’s a fairy tale,” Beck declared with a somber tone. “I got divorced from my first husband, met Jean-Luc, and got remarried. My life tied in a neat bow. I call it my resume gap story. Whenever I tell it, the listeners become beguiled by the meet-cute and the happily-ever-after ending. Their minds skip over the four-year period between nuptials.”

“Why don’t you tell them about those four years?”

Beck lowered her eyes. “I don’t want to sound weak and bitter and depressed.”

“If you ever want to talk about it, I’m a good listener.”

She looked up at me. “You know those sayings about relationships, like love will find you, because it will arrive when you’re not looking? Men are like buses: another one will always come around? There are plenty of fish in the sea?”

“Yeah.”

“It’s nonsense.” She kept her arms folded across her chest. “For certain people, it is that easy. Suitors fall in their laps, again and again and again.”

“Like a crappy romantic comedy playing on a loop.”

“For the rest of us who aren’t that lucky for whatever reason, it’s horrible. I never thought I’d end up divorced by 31. My ex-husband was a not-half-bad-looking newly single rich guy. He had a string of girlfriends lined up before the ink dried on our papers. I, on the other hand, could not get arrested in this town. On the nights I could find a babysitter, I was going out to clubs, chilling at bars, looking foxy, or so I thought. No men younger than 50 were picking up what I was throwing down. I tried speed dating, and I might as well have been invisible. ”

“That’s sounds disappointing.”

“Summer suggested I try online dating. Some of our friends were doing it and having a blast. They were going out every night of the week. I figured, why not? I signed up for a few reputable sites, the ones who overadvertise their success stories. I waited for the magic to happen.”

“How did that work out for you?”

“I fell further down the rabbit hole of dating, or, more accurately, not dating. At first I thought I was doing something wrong, like my matching settings were turned off, or my profile wasn’t posted, or I had mistakenly described my interests as serial killing, because I wasn’t getting any responses. So I had one of my dating expert friends redo my profile. Still nothing. I’d send out like 15, 20 messages a week. Not a single reply, let alone unsolicited interest from anyone who sounded like they had all their marbles.”

“The crazies are out there.”

“Then I realized what was going on. Success in dating, online or in-person, depended not on who you were, but on the perception of who you were. It was just one big great giant competition for the most desirable players, and I, with my formidable baggage, had not been dealt the most attractive hand for dating in LA. Despite the fact that I was well-educated and independently well-off, I was still a single mom, over 30, with two kids and some junk in the trunk. I looked like a walking statistic for my black and Hispanic communities. I was the package that no one wanted to open, even the guys who had the same traits I did. The single dads, the guys over 30, the Hispanic ones, the black ones, the guys who were way fatter than I could ever imagine, all of them wanted not me. They were looking for someone young, thin, ‘not too ethnic and no drama.’ I saw that all the time on guys’ profiles, as if ‘ethnic’ people come pre-programmed with a drama microchip.”

“My microchip must be on the fritz.”

“After a year of this, I thought, maybe I was wrong. Maybe it was just me and my fiery, intimidating, out-of control personality. I couldn’t be the victim of some societal racism/sexism/fat-hating hybrid, could I? It’s the 21st century. Society was different now. Dating was hard for everyone, right?”

I scrunched my face and gave her a shrug.

“To confirm I wasn’t losing my mind, I arranged a get-together at my house with my black woman friends, all two of them, and a couple of their black friends. I asked them what they thought about my dating situation. I discover that it was not just me. Each of them had similar stories of rejection to tell, or worse.” She shuddered. “Much worse. One of my friends showed up to a first date where the guy pulled out a brown paper bag, and it wasn’t for leftovers.”

My body recoiled. “No way.”

“He wanted to make sure she could pass. Which she could, but she was so creeped out, she left before their drinks arrived. The thing that cracked me up in a sad way was when my friend showed me a picture of the dude. His own complexion was more Wesley Snipes than Ice-T.”

“Self-hating.”

“So this dilemma was indeed, at least partially, a color issue. I hadn’t lost my mind. Instead, I lost hope.”

Poor Beck.

“I felt like I was a house for sale, but no one wanted to purchase me. Like every potential homebuyer passed me over, because they thought I was too old or stout, or the wrong color, since they wanted a house painted white. Or Asian.” She clasped her hands. “My depression only grew deeper when I tried to talk about it with some of my friends who weren’t black. They didn’t believe me. They thought I was making a big deal out of nothing. They swore no one ever treated us differently because I was black and they were the right color. Listening to their incomprehension and disbelief and denial of what was happening to me made me physically ill. I felt more alone than ever.”

“If I had known you back then, I would have believed you.”

“Thanks. The whole process was soul-destroying. I stuck it out for another year, during which I was matched for compatibility with literally over 5000 different men, who almost uniformly wanted nothing to do with me. I went on a handful of dates that went nowhere, and came out the other side, emotionally battered, discouraged, questioning my existence. Why had I been chosen to go through this life unloved? I wondered why I was on the planet if no one wanted to be with me. Like I was an alien from another galaxy that had been accidentally left behind by the mothership.”

E.T.! Or Independence Day.” Or the episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? with the brother of that Canadian guy who was in X-Men. I kept that last observation to myself.

“Thank goodness I had Huey, Blossom, and Summer to keep my head on straight.”

I had neither children nor a reliable sibling. What was I supposed to do with my lopsided head?

“Gosh, I am being such a downer.” She shook the long brown curls around her head. “Back on track now. I was going to say before that Mike or no Mike, you will find your match, even though you haven’t found him yet.”

“I’m supposed to believe that after your tales of woe?”

“That’s me, not you. I think he’s not ready for you at the moment. He’s still baking in an oven, like the cupcake you ate. Very soon, the timer will go off, and he will emerge fully formed. He knows he couldn’t step to you half-baked. Bianca don’t play that.”

“I do have high standards.”

“I’m not going to let you settle. Been there, done that, got the divorce papers. When you think you’ve found The One, I want to meet him and make sure he’s good enough for you.


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