February 12th, 2011

Dater Unknown: Head in the Clouds

As I write this, I’m sitting tucked into the corner of an empty gate at the Phoenix airport. It’s midnight and I’ve had the same work clothes on for 17 hours and counting. I ate crackers for dinner. I’m about to board a red-eye flight across the country for a meeting that starts in seven hours.

And I couldn’t be happier.

I missed my flight today that was taking me to the east coast for work. By two minutes. The woman with tired eyes and a weathered name tag looked at me from behind the counter and said, “You missed it. The next flight out is…well, we can take you to Phoenix. And then it’s a four hour layover, and then you can take the 12:45 am, arriving at your destination at 5:15 am.”

I smiled and calmly said, “Okay, let’s do it. Thanks for your help. I know I should have arrived earlier, my mistake.” I walked away with my marching orders in the form of two boarding passes over the next 13 hours and floated to the gate.

You may be wondering what the hell this has to do with dating. Let me back-up.

A few weeks ago is when I first noticed it. Then I noticed them ev.er.y.where. I know you’ve seen them – that Kroger Valentine’s Day billboard with the grown-up cowboy and wee cowboy, both standing akimbo style. They both have flowers behind their backs and there’s a tagline that drips with wince-worthy sweetness.

With each viewing, I noticed a physical reaction from myself. First it was a snarl. Then a groan. Then saying aloud, “sweet jeans and stance, dude,” to no one but myself.

I’m not sure what bothered me most, but the word that comes to mind is lazy. I feel like this was a freshman-level advertising class assignment that Kroger found in a recycling bin and decided to give a go. Harsh, I know. I am not a marketing or advertising guru, but…a cowboy, a red background, a kid, and some roses. The only thing missing is a puppy.

And here’s the thing. I don’t hate Valentine’s Day. I love love. I’m a Love Actually-watching, commercial-crying, romance seeker. But I also appreciate a dose of creativity, a helping of authenticity. I expect it from myself, and I seek it out.

On Wednesday of last week, after seeing the Akimbo Cowboy billboards for the 93rd time, I started thinking about Valentine’s Days of yore. I remember the time in college when I had approximately 37 cents and I whipped up some homemade cookies and put them and a half gallon of milk in a cooler in my boyfriend’s car while he was waiting tables on Valentine’s Day.

I remember being in Kenneally’s one Valentine’s Day a few years ago, happily swimming in a sea of vodka sodas with a group of friends. At one point, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was an ex-boyfriend. We exchanged hugs and updates. He told me how he got married and she’d be there soon. I told him about my new job. And my loitering best friend told him how she and I “practically pay the light bill here because we are here alllllll the time.” Good times.

2011 Valentine’s Day was going to be a night in, and I was fine. I had a few dates coming up, and I was looking forward to them, but after Homes Crazytown from a few weeks ago, my expectations were low. With a week plus from Valentine’s Day I was at peace with my lot in love life.

And then my mother called.

Mom: Are you going to watch?
Me: Watch what?
Mom: What do you mean watch what? Idol, of course!
Me: Oh, no. I can’t. I have a date tonight.
Mom: Oh really? With whom?
Me: This dude. Seems nice. We’ll see.
Mom: Well, honey, I just hope he’s not like the last one.
Me: Hopefully there’s only one of that dude around.
Mom: Oh, I wish you would just join a Sunday Symphony Singles group or something.
Me: A what?
Mom: You know, just something nice and normal.
Me: I guarantee a Sunday Symphony Singles group won’t be chock full of normal.
Mom: Oh, you know what I mean. And you never know. These things happen when you least expect it.

That date turned out to be a nice guy, but not right for me. I had another date coming up a couple of days later with a seemingly fun guy, but my expectations were zilch. I went home from work and threw on jeans and a sweater and started to make a grocery list in my head on the way to our date.

Five hours later things had changed. I had just met someone who hit me like a freight train. It was all there, all right, an a-ha-moment in the flesh. And he felt the similarly.

That night I couldn’t sleep. And haven’t really been able to since.

I’m not sure what lies in the future with this guy, but I do feel grateful for finally understanding what it’s supposed to feel like.

Now if only Kroger could capture that.

— Dater Unknown


Emily — Saturday, February 12, 2011 2:56 pm

Hahaha! “Loitering”…I love you.

Erin — Saturday, February 12, 2011 3:24 pm

can’t wait to hear….. love you!

Eileen — Saturday, February 12, 2011 6:52 pm

Wait, wait, wait, I need waaaaaaay more details on this new guy?!? This is a killer cliffhanger! What happened on the date?

Ali — Sunday, February 13, 2011 2:51 am

Aww. Nice.

My fiancée and I were making fun of that tragicly sad billboard ourselves today. Sad thing is he said he remembers it from last year. So it really, truly is recycled.

Ailee — Sunday, February 13, 2011 3:45 pm

What a wonderful post!! I am so happy for you – I hope that the next post is filled with more good news :)

Alicia — Sunday, February 13, 2011 4:46 pm

That billboard has definitely been around a few years and it makes me want to gag every time I see it!

Justin — Sunday, February 13, 2011 9:25 pm

Wow, exciting! Can’t wait to hear how it turns out!

I didn’t know that ad was still around.. I thought it was really sweet when I saw it the first time. but yeah, I think that was in 1998… not sure. Maybe its like the nutcracker at Christmas…

( I can’t hear ‘cowboy akimbo’ without thinking of the arch-villain “Arms Akimbo”!! :
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8whQrgkJtU#t=1m43s )

Gil — Monday, February 14, 2011 9:43 am

While I await with baited breath Part II, I am still caught up in the awesomeness of the homemade cookies and milk-in-the-cooler left-in-the-car valentine past!! The rest of us guys should be so lucky!!! :-)

Suzanne Gilman — Monday, February 14, 2011 7:03 pm

Love reading your articles. Takes me back to sitting in front of you in English, freshman year of hs.

Add Your Comment