There was loneliness.
I was painfully shy growing up and had major body image issues that made me feel like Quasimodo. These insecurities led me to being nearly mute around people I considered close friends. My friendship circle consisted of people I barely spoke to, people that made me feel like I was on a rollercoaster and my sister. Even though I felt close to those I was nearly mute around, we didn’t hang out beyond school walls. Through it all and despite typical sibling disagreements, my sister was my closest friend. It was hard enough for me to make friends, the idea of making myself vulnerable to date was incomprehensible.
When I was in high school, the contemporary version of Sabrina was released. I immediately connected. I wanted that beauty, class, and for men to see my full potential. (I subsequently saw Billy Wilder’s version and fell in love with the food.) When I was younger I desperately hoped by traveling away from my hometown I would magically transform into a sophisticated woman men would fight over.
I first moved to Boston (where I have the esteem of being the subject of a drunken bar fight…), then I moved to Los Angeles (no bar fights yet). The internal me still sees myself as squatty (I’m 5 feet tall) and painfully shy. Genetics doomed me to being short, but, like Sabrina, life experiences changed and matured me (like a fine wine).
Nonetheless, dating has still been a challenge.
I almost went to culinary school, but didn’t want a career cooking for strangers. I realized my inadequate dating skills could benefit from my love of cooking. I’ll be the first to admit that my favorite part of dating is cooking, and I’ve probably overlooked some early incompatibility signs all for the excuse to get into the kitchen. Going on dates with the goal of it leading to the kitchen gives the experience a unique shape. I like learning about people and using food preferences to steer the conversation. “You like Mexican. You don’t like bell peppers. Oh, you have a peanut allergy…” These are important points to know when you’re preparing your first meal for the object of your affection. While many practice the “traditional 3 date standard” before they give up the goods, it’s usually 3 dates before I cook.
I had one long-term relationship in college, followed by another in my mid-twenties with a third in my early thirties. Sprinkled around these three questionably long relationships are men. Some got to my kitchen (and only my kitchen), and some stories are included because the early dates were such a fantastic disaster it’d be criminal not to include them.
When you first like someone, you look for the smallest thing to connect to: “You breathe air, oh my God, me too! We’re meant to be together.” It has been a work in progress, but I’ve figured out what I need (and it’s more than the similarity of breathing air).