I had a roommate once who swore the key to everlasting happiness was to feng shui the love and marriage sections of our rooms.
She put up photographs of Paris and has been with her husband for three years now.
Iâ€™ve spent that time periodically rearranging the colors and elements in my section and have so far ended up with bubkes. Or, more specifically, Iâ€™ve been the recipient of advances from eligible bachelors like the playwright who tried to woo with a CD of a musical he had written about Cain and Abel and the lovelorn Texan who appreciated my concern and promptly showed me a photo of his penis on his cell phone.
After one particularly disappointing encounter, I left an exasperated voicemail for one of my perpetually single friends. And like countless fictional counterparts before us, we agreed to meet up for drinks to bemoan the New York male.
The male-female ratio in New York is the exact opposite of Alaska — where my parents used to live and my dad is fond of saying, â€œThe odds are good, but the goods are odd.â€
But I canâ€™t say that Iâ€™ve been all that impressed by what New York has to offer either. From time to time, I feel like Iâ€™m on the verge of something good, but Iâ€™m never able to actually close the deal. And itâ€™s these lukewarm men I find most frustrating. (I believe Drew Barrymore, Ginnifer Goodwin and Justin Long would say theyâ€™re just not that into me.) And yet I still periodically get my hopes up, thinking perhaps I will finally meet one who will be.
These are the themes my friend Karen and I discussed as we sketched out ideas about where we could meet viable mates. (Both of our mothers had started sending us self-help books. Time was of the essence.)
And as I complained about the injustice of it all and we tried to determine whether it made more sense to hit up bookstores or gyms, I thought out loud, â€œI wonder what would happen if I changed my relationship status on Facebook.â€
And thatâ€™s how the experiment started.
I wanted to know what would happen if I — who always seem to be available for those who canâ€™t make up their minds to never actually have to make up their minds — was suddenly taken.
Whatâ€™s more, I was about to face my family in Wisconsin for my auntâ€™s sixtieth birthday and was not looking forward to answering questions about my relationship status. This would solve everything! I could have a career *and* a man!
Karen and I were suddenly optimistic. Perhaps I would be inundated with offers. Maybe someone would kick himself for not saying something sooner and would finally bare his soul. Or, worse case scenario, nothing would happen at all and I could change my status right back to â€œsingle.â€
I was pretty nervous about officially amending my profile and someone calling my bluff. I had a couple of false starts before I actually made myself do itâ€¦and then an announcement went out to my 221 friends and there was no turning back.
â€œI wonder if anyone will even notice,â€ I thought.
I neednâ€™t have worried. Within 12 minutes, my college roommate wrote, â€œAwww, saw your update and got a warm fuzzy. I think there should be an app so you can put a heart around the sig other. ;p.â€
I began to worry that this experiment would backfire and I would instead give false hope to single women everywhere. (If I can get a boyfriend, anyone can!)
Her response was typical of women. While my female friends opted for hyperbole — â€œFinally, a guy who knows a diamond when he sees one!â€ — my male pals tended to be more cautious and inquisitive. Two asked, â€œWho is the lucky lad?” Only to follow up with, “Or should i say lass? ;)â€
I hadnâ€™t quite worked out all of the details in my head — I just knew that I wanted to have a good story about how I met my pretend boyfriend. I had, after all, been single for a long time and would have to have a pretty good story about why I finally took the plunge.
My friend Charlie jumped right into it. “Oh really? â€˜Lisa Lacy is now in a relationshipâ€™?â€ he asked. â€œWho is it? Whatâ€™s his name??â€
I had to think fast. My friend Carla has a childhood friend, Rafael. I met him at a New Yearâ€™s party. We went bowling a few times and I was always the victor (confession: I am actually a really good bowler), but I thought we were getting along wellâ€¦until he disappeared. (The next time I saw him, I was a little tipsy and yelled at him for not letting me bake him a birthday cake. Which Iâ€™m sure filled him with remorse.)
But, back when Rafael was still a romantic possibility, Carla knew how excited I was to hear from him. When he texted her for my phone number, she immediately called to tell me about it. But she was really difficult to understand.
â€œAre you eating something?â€ I asked.
â€œNo,â€ she said, spitting. â€œI was brushing my teeth! I thought youâ€™d want to know right away!â€
This was the story I told. I based most details on Rafael himself â€“ he graduated from Columbia a few years before I did; heâ€™s a reporter at a large financial news organization; heâ€™s working on a book in his spare time â€“ but I was mad at the actual Rafael for disappearing unceremoniously, so I instead called him â€œJulioâ€ after my favorite bartender at a tapas place on the Lower East Side.
That was my big mistake. It wasnâ€™t until I had already said that his name was Julio and revealed his employer that I realized Google could easily prove me wrong.
I confessed to Carla.
â€œWhatâ€™s wrong with you?â€ she asked. â€œHavenâ€™t you ever made up a boyfriend before?â€
She went to work. â€œItâ€™s okay. We can fix this.â€
First of all, she said he immediately had to quit his job to work on his book full-time.
â€œTell them he got a grant,â€ she said. â€œAnd that he has a deadline coming up. And thatâ€™s why people donâ€™t see him out in public with you. See? You canâ€™t trace that.â€
Carla also made me promise that I would pull the plug after a month or it would get juicier and juicier until I really got myself into trouble.
Karenâ€™s advice? â€œYou be the dumper, not the dumpee.â€
On my second day with a pretend boyfriend, messages poured in from my female friends. I found, however, that I couldnâ€™t lie to them.
â€œCan you keep a secret?â€ Iâ€™d ask before explaining my experiment.
â€œOh, I was hoping it would be something like that!â€ Kathy said. â€œDonâ€™t leave me alone as the only single person!â€
Daphne wrote, â€œDude, that’s TOTALLY exciting! I think there is this balance between singleness and dating that optimizes men’s interest in a woman. Like, when someone is dating and about to be â€˜back on the market,â€™ guys seem to suddenly be more interested.â€
She went on to say that maybe breaking up with my Facebook boyfriend wouldnâ€™t be so lonely after all. â€œIt’s right out of rom com land!â€ she added.
Nancy agreed. â€œIt is very How-to-Lose-a-Guy-in-10-Days.â€
I would like to say that when I went to Wisconsin my family had a newfound respect for my ability to nurture both a career and a relationship. But they barely asked about it and I felt weird flaunting a pretend man, so I didnâ€™t.
Instead, I was oversensitive when my aunt told me I couldnâ€™t possibly understand what she was talking about at a hardware store because Iâ€™m not a home ownerâ€¦and later asked, â€œWhen you eventually have kids, do you want girls or boys?â€
I donâ€™t care as long as theyâ€™re healthy? Isnâ€™t that the answer youâ€™re supposed to give?
I was scheduled to interview the actual Julio shortly after my return. When I arrived at the restaurant, however, he had forgotten and wasnâ€™t working that night.
I figured this was my big chance. I changed myself back to single on Facebook. (Or, rather, I took myself out of a relationship, therefore implying I was back on the market.)
Charlie — in PR — immediately asked what happened. I gave him the official breakup story: Julio and I had plans for dinner. He forgot because he was so wrapped up in his draft. We got in a big fightâ€¦and we finally agreed that it wasnâ€™t working out because he was too busy to spend enough time and attention on me.
â€œI was sad when I read that you broke up with Julio,â€ Karen wrote.
Kaitlin asked, â€œHas it been a month already?â€
Men, however, were quieter. There was one lukewarm gentleman in particular I was hoping would notice my relationship status. But, sadly, he never said anything if he did.
In fact, there was not one single bout of jealous rage.
But just as I was bemoaning this experimental failure, the most stunning development of all took place. The closest thing I had to a high school boyfriend, but who was never actually mine because 1) he was monumentally unattractive — my friend Sandra called him the â€œbig, fat, hairy, ugly Greekâ€; and 2) he had a predilection for horse tranquilizers — wrote, â€œthis â€˜no longer in a relationshipâ€™ business struck me as nonsense even before i looked at your new picture! someone lost big.â€
It almost made me wonder if Iâ€™d judged him too quickly on the ketamine. It had, after all, been ten years since we graduated and he still called me â€œbreathtaking.â€
When I mentioned I might be in town in a few weeks for a wedding, he finally confessed that he loved me. I was stunned by his sudden effusivenessâ€¦and yet at the same time, I guess part of me has always known.
Tranquilizers are still a deal breaker for me. And I donâ€™t know if I can face him after everything he said.
Yet Iâ€™d like to think the pronouncement was more than just a cap on my social experiment. Since it was a decade in the making, perhaps his actions finally broke my curse and this spring (the season of rebirth!) will be different. Maybe like with feng shui, there was some sort of movement in the cosmos and other men in my life will now be more upfront.
Maybe Iâ€™ll even be able to close the deal for real this time.
Or maybe I should just start writing a screenplay.