I think we’re always in the fitting room.

Recently, I stepped outside of my comfort zone and posted on CL that I was only looking for a friend with benefits. I posted that I really didn’t have the time or energy to invest in a real relationship, and I really just wanted someone to hang out with me occasionally, and on some of those occasions, sleep with me. I added an incredibly recent picture to the post (seriously, I think the picture was less than a week old) and I let the magic happen.

400 responses later, my ad was flagged and taken down. Yes, 400 responses – as in more than 40 (which is what M asked me). Of course you had about 100 of the “Hey yo cutie holla” emails – those were quickly disposed of. Then you had the men who were easily age peers of my dad, including one man who IS the father of a girl I was friends with in high school. I really wanted to ask him how P was, but I refrained, and just deleted his email. There were about 125 of the too old/too young. Maybe 30 is the age for cougardom to start, but seriously? I remember sex when I was 18, with other 18-year-olds; it wasn’t good. I really don’t want to repeat that now that I know how good sex with grown-ups can be. There were about 75 that had no pictures, and I cut those out of principle. If I posted a picture of myself on f’ing Craigslist, you can send me a picture through an email. The remaining 100 were pretty evenly split between guys I was attracted to, and guys who I would not touch with a ten-foot pole.

Of the 50 possibles, I started narrowing them down. How much did they say about themselves? Had they truly read my post, or were they just throwing their responses at anything which looked legitimate? Did they look like serial killers? If they passed these tests, I conversed with them a bit. All in all, I ended up setting 15 different dates over a ten day period.

Now, when I was telling one of my co-workers this, she was incensed that I would go out with so many different guys. “Can’t you just pick one or two??” I explained to her that I was in the fitting room – when you go shopping for clothes, you may grab 25 different items and place them in your basket. Then you go to try them on. Some are too tight, some are too big, some don’t flatter you, some are just too much. You hone your selection down, and then you exit the fitting room with your choices. But wait! These are not even necessarily what you will purchase. I like to do a final editing before I head to the register. “Where would I ever wear this?” “Haven’t I owned five pairs of pants like this before, and they never quite work out?” “I really like this skirt, but it’s just not right for who I am these days.” You may have exited the fitting room with 10 items, but you may only purchase three or four things. Even then, none of them may end up becoming your favorite item. How many times have you purchased a new pair of jeans, worn them every day for two weeks, and then forgotten about them? Relationships work in similar ways.

So I began my series of dates, and on the very first one, I wondered if I had struck gold. For as I was explaining the fitting room theory (honesty is the best policy), he totally got it. “I think we’re always in the fitting room. Just because you bought a new pair of shoes, it doesn’t mean that you never look at any other shoes. You may see a great pair and wonder how they would look on you. Or maybe you see one pair go by, and you think ‘No, I have had a pair like that, and I will never wear those again.’ You’re always aware of what’s around you.”

Wait a second. A cute guy who paid for everything, walked me to my car, called me the next day and got my theory without any judgment? I might be ready to go to the checkout now.

– Finch

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