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Dating By Committee

February 24, 2006 by in category 25 Days of Romance, Contests, From Our Archives tagged as , , ,

25 Days of Romance | Marianne Donley | A Slice of OrangeJ
By Jen Crooks

I’ve always had a good track record among my friends for dating losers. I spent all of my teens and 20’s perfecting this gift. Every guy I dated was potentially Mr. Right and I would try the idea of “forever” on to see how it fit, which it never did.

Finally, the day came when I turned 35. I’d broken up with the last Mr. Right and was moaning about the years that I’d wasted. Was I going to ever get married, ever have children, ever belong in a partnership with someone? The prospects were looking dim.

Obviously, with a Romance Record like mine, I have very patient girlfriends. When I bemoaned the wasteland of my love life and the biological clock that was hurtling me with G-force toward menopause, my three best and most patient girlfriends listened to my tale of woe.

Every one of them said the same thing to me: I needed a better system in my quest for Mr. Right. I needed to let someone who knew better (they all three mentioned that they were happily married) be pivotal in the decision making process. In short, I needed to date by committee.

My current plan was Speed Dating. Each agreed that I needed to continue with that plan. I got to meet maximum numbers of men (10-15 in an evening) with minimum effort (I just had to sit and talk to them each for 3-5 minutes).

The Dating Committee encouraged me to date as many of these prospects as possible with one single caveat: at least one person on the Committee had to meet them before 1) any significant physical contact, defined as anything past a good-night kiss outside the vehicle I was driving home or 2) by the third date—whichever came first.

I threw myself into Speed Dating, often having as many as four “first dates” in one week (completely exhausting, I don’t recommend it). I was excited that these men shared so many desirable characteristics in a first date, most had jobs, their real hair and wanted to meet women. However, not a single one of them tempted me to either get to the significant physical contact or go on the third date.

My friends began to suspect that Secret Dating was occurring. I assured them this wasn’t the case, just hadn’t found anyone worthy of putting before the Committee yet from Speed Dating. I began to look around at Rapid Dating and Pre-Dating, to beef up my pool of prospects.

Then my mother died suddenly and my 35 year-old world got a reality check. I did all the tasks that accompany death, and I grieved. I stopped dating completely, I’d decided that life was too short to spend on losers. My patient girlfriends dragged me back into life, ignoring my bitter protests, and one night one of them coerced me out on the town.

We went to a place in Newport Beach. I danced and danced with my girlfriend and her husband and had a lovely time. In the middle of this evening, I met a man. We danced. He bought me a drink. We were beginning to engage in the usual inconsequential dating chatter.  I had forgotten completely about the pact to date only by Committee when my girlfriend, who’d downed enough Vodka Tonics to be entertaining, zoomed up to exercise her Committee Rights.

She stopped in front of the guy who came to be known as Newport Steve and held out her hand in introduction. “Hi, I’m her girlfriend Mary. How are you?” And she proceeded to pepper the man with questions.

What do you do? Oh, a Computer Guy! Uh-huh. Great! Jen works in computers!

Where do you live? Oh, Newport Beach, close by! Great!

How old are you? Forty-four? (She gave him a suspicious stare.)

Have you ever been married?

Really, did you have any kids? No? Well do you want to have kids?

(I tried to slink off right about this time but my girlfriend trains dogs for a living and she’s got a grip like a pit bull.)

How do you feel about pets? Oh, you’re afraid of dogs? Well, cause she has a dog, but Hoshi’s a really nice dog. She really likes men, Hoshi, not Jen.  Well, I mean Jen likes men too. Anyway, you guys will do great!

What kind of dog? An Akita.

And on it went. Newport Steve stood up to the Inquisition, answering her questions without stammering or stuttering. He joined us and at the end of the evening we traded information on cocktail napkins. Less than a week later we went out.

Bit by bit we fell in love, though I kept struggling against the feeling, thinking about my other Mr. Rights. Steve was always relaxed and so certain that we were meant to be together and I couldn’t figure out how he “just knew.”

A few months after we met, I had my 36th birthday and he took me out to a wonderful dinner. He gave me beautiful jewelry and watched me blow out my candle. I made the wish to keep him always while he smiled at me from across the table.

“What did you wish for on your birthday?” I asked, referring to the birthday he had right before we met.

He looked in my eyes for a moment before he answered. “I wished for you,” he said. “I’m pretty sure your mom heard me from Heaven and pulled a few strings.”

I started crying, right there in the middle of the restaurant, and I felt my mother’s spirit. I could hear her voice in my head, telling me to quit worrying and relax. I realized in one of those stunning moments of clarity that my former boyfriends were all Mr. Maybe, practice trials to help me truly appreciate the man that my mom “picked out.” Evidently, she’d been on the Committee the whole time.

Newport Steve is now My Steve, and I can’t imagine my life without him.

Thanks, Mom!

Jen Crooks writes women’s fiction, chick lit and short stories as Jenny Hansen. She has been a member of OCC since 2001 and has served on OCC’s Board of Directors as Newsletter Editor, Membership Director and Program Director. She is currently the Contest Coordinator for the 2006 Orange Rose Contest for Unpublished Writers.

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Fairy Tales Do Come True

February 9, 2006 by in category 25 Days of Romance tagged as

By Gillian Doyle
Rubye Freeman looked more like Cinderella’s fairy godmother than the mailroom lady at a factory. Sweet-faced, gray-haired, rolly-polly Rubye may not have worn a long blue gown or waved a magical wand, but the mischievous twinkle in her eyes should have given me a clue.

One summer break from college, I took a job at a temp agency, filling in for a sick clerk in that same mailroom. My first day, I looked up from sorting mail to see a man filling the doorway with his broad shoulders. As he entered the room, his russet-blond hair brushed the top of the door despite his slight bow to clear it. My hands stilled. My mouth went dry. His thick wavy hair curled over the white collar of his oxford shirt. Unlike the other executives in traditional dark business suits, he wore a buckskin suede jacket with the required necktie and dark slacks. No brown wingtips for him, though. Only cowboy boots make that distinctive heel strike on the hardwood floor in the slow stride of Gary Cooper in High Noon.

But did he notice me? Hardly. This young executive was out of my league.

Little did I realize that Rubye thought otherwise. She had a soft spot for Donald, as she called him even though he was Don to everyone else. He had started as her assistant a few years earlier, and he still liked to stop by the mailroom to see if there was anything she needed. When he came around, he charmed her with the quiet impeccable manners of a real gentleman. With that slow half-smile, he was her soft-spoken knight-in-shining-armor, running errands for her on his lunch hour, lifting boxes too heavy for her to manage, stocking the higher shelves in the supply room, dropping by after he’d clocked out so he could help her finish her own work.

I struggled between mute gawking (when he wasn’t looking) and joking with him as if he was just another friend of my brothers. Growing up a tomboy, I was more comfortable as the gal-pal to all the guys. I was far from being a statuesque brunette capable of winning the affections of Mr. Marlboro Man in the Mailroom.

After a few days, the regular clerk was ready to return to work and I moved on to another temp job. A month later, I was called back, specifically requested by Rubye. I was not only flattered– I truly enjoyed working for her– but I was also looking forward to another opportunity to secretly fantasize about that tall urban cowboy.

But that seemed to be as far as it would ever go….pure fantasy. Oh, I had a few hopeful moments, like when he stuck his head into the mailroom at lunch time and asked if I wanted a bite to eat. Was he asking me out? No, he and another guy were going to pick up burgers and would bring one back for me if I was hungry. Oh geez…he was only offering to feed the hired help. Or, as he liked to refer to me “Rent-a-Girl”.

One afternoon Rubye asked me to retrieve a five-gallon jug of Sparkletts from the warehouse. I was in a dress and high heels and had no idea where to find the warehouse. No problem, she assured me. She had asked Donald to drive me. Minutes later, I followed him out of the air-conditioned building and into blistering July heat where the bright Southern California sun bubbled the black asphalt parking lot. I stopped dead in my tracks when he escorted me to a brand-spanking-new blue fastback Mustang Mach I. Oh, Lordy…(Should I mention that I was a sucker for guys with hot cars? Shameless, I know. But to be fair, I had fallen hard before I knew about his car, okay?)

Still, the feeling did not appear to be mutual. Oh, he did take me out to lunch eventually…at Jack In The Box. I joked about being a cheap date, even though I knew it wasn’t a real date. Feeding the Rent-A-Girl, remember? I must’ve bruised his gentlemanly ego because he invited me to lunch again. This time it was a local bar that served lunch for the workers at the surrounding industries. (Hey, what did you expect, a five-star restaurant nestled among the factories?) Unfortunately, when he ordered a drink, I had to admit I was not yet twenty-one. I was sure that my admission of being underage had slammed the door on any potential romance with this older guy.

My last day on the job was Friday the Thirteenth. As (bad) luck would have it, there was no invitation to lunch. So I spent my free hour driving to the bank to deposit my paycheck. On the way back, a car ran a red light. I don’t know how he missed me by mere inches. Back in the mailroom, I was shaky but lucky to be alive. If only I could have a bit of that same luck in regard to a certain cowboy, I thought to myself.

With only an hour left till the whistle blew, Rubye came out of her office to say goodbye. Patting my hand, she said, “I left my appointment calendar open on my desk. I want you to write your name and phone number on today’s date.”

I assumed she wanted my number for future temp jobs. She’d already said as much. But she added, “If Donald doesn’t ask you out by the end of work today, I’m going to tell him on Monday to check my calendar for his mileage. I keep track of his errands so he is compensated for the gas. And it’s about time for him to do that again.”

I felt my face burn with embarrassment. “He doesn’t even like me.”

She only smiled with that mischievous twinkle in her eyes. “Let me take care of that.”

But Rubye didn’t have to send Donald to her calendar on Monday. As I gathered my things and prepared to leave, I heard the distinctive sound of his boot heels. I turned and found myself staring at the center of his broad chest. I craned my neck to look up at him. Lord almighty he was a tall drink of water.

With that sexy half-smile lifting one corner of his mouth, he gave a casual shrug. I honestly thought he was about to give me one of those Hollywood lines like, “It was nice knowin’ ya, kid.”

Instead, he said, “There’s a John Denver concert this Sunday….”

Many years later, a package arrived in the mail with a postmark from Washington state where Rubye had moved to live next door to her only daughter and family. Inside was a bundle of letters tied with a blue ribbon, accompanied by a note. Rubye had passed away in her sleep, her daughter wrote. Among her things were my cards and letters sent over the years. Her daughter told me that Rubye had cherished them. As my tears fell unchecked, I reverently untied the ribbon and went through each and every card, the invitation to our wedding that Rubye had attended, the birth announcements of our baby girl, then our baby boy, their photos from each year of school, the graduation announcements.

Near or far, Rubye had watched over Don and me and our little family throughout the years, our real-life fairy godmother…Always and forever.

Sue Phillips | A Slice of Orange



Gillian Doyle
Author of Paranormal Suspense

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