…Are you still single?
It’s 9:30am. On a Monday…
…and I’m at work.
Jen, this is Malissa, are you still single?
Her raspy voice beating against the other end of the phone sounds distant; unfamiliar as it is unflattering.
You must be friends with my mom; I’m guessing part of her Tuesday Mahjong group?
This isn’t the first time I’ve received a bizarre call like this. Last time, it was a friend of a friend of my moms who desperately wanted to set me up with her NJS–Nice Jewish Son–who lives on the Upper West Side and works in finance—how original.
Listen, tell my mom thanks for trying, really—bless her heart. And I’m sure your son is a real Mensch, and everything, but I’m not interested.
By now, it’s my fault that I’m still surprised by these solicitation calls about my marital status. When I first moved to the city, I signed up for a speed dating event and minutes later, my credit card company called to say they shut down my account due to suspicious activity—which was just me…trying to…date.
What? She blurts out suddenly, unpleasantly surprised by my allegations and fumbling over my lengthy early-morning monologue. I’m calling from The Bachelor. We received your application and would like to meet you in person.
I wish I didn’t know what she was talking about. Or that this was just one of my unemployed friends coming home from a late night, Lower East Side bender, prank calling me as they hunted refuge from a giant cup of coffee.
But then I remember it being winter. Being so wickedly lonely; watching cotton balls of frozen water fall from the sky and becoming sick of only pressing my lips against ceramic cups filled with hot water and lemon.
I’m just doing this to help assess my dating strengths and weaknesses. I try to justify to my darling roommate as I fill out the 14 page application to be on the next season of "The Bachelor." She doesn’t seem fazed, as if living with me for a year has made her immune to these radically chaotic adventures that I insistently sign myself up for.
One of my coworkers is beginning to watch me watch the phone in sheer panic. I remember that I’m at work. I remember that Malissa is still on the other line.
Can you email me the information? I try to say unflappably, acting like this is a crazed call from my landlord about a crowd of mice roaming freely, again, in my ceiling. Something as dramatic, shocking, and absurd as the conversation Malissa and I are in the very middle of having.
6pm, Thursday, ABC Studios. She blurts out quickly, only giving me the pleasure of one breath. Wear what you’d wear on a date.
She says, as if we are longtime friends. As if we often browse the clearance racks of Bloomingdales together or regularly go halves on a Mandarin salad at the Cheesecake Factory.
…Bring some charm with you, would ya?
My chances of getting on the show look slimmer than I am. Plus, I’m so stuck in my ways that it just wouldn’t work. What I mean is that I enjoy eating carbs—which isn’t to say that the girls that get on the show don’t enjoy it, but they certainly don’t look like they do. And the only shots I take these days are of wheatgrass, at Jamba Juice. Imagine this: Me. In a Forever 21 dress. Shoving down two slices of pizza and then, chasing it down with some grass right before a rose ceremony. I’d make the kind of TV that people can’t take their eyes away from—but not in a good way—in a look at that break dancing dog in the subway kind of way.
I call my manager—my mom, and tell her what’s up. She’s the one constantly telling me that when love knocks on your door, you have to give it a chance. And then, give it another chance. And then, well maybe just go out with him one more time.
So, here’s love, ringing my cell phone, at 9am like I’m some kind of dial-a-date service. Good enough, mom?
So, love called. I tell her before I really tell her.
I just don’t know about this. Which in itself is disturbing because in the 25 years that I’ve known my mother she has never not had an opinion about something. You really would quit your job? You would want to deal with all that drama? You’d kiss all those guys?
We’re doing the tango with a game of 20 preposterous questions, until finally she ends it. She ends everything, most of the time, with: Jennifer, remember to be classy not trashy!
My mom inspires me to make a list of things I refuse to do at the audition. It begins to read like a modern day version of the 10 commandments:
- Thou shall not lie
- Thou shall not smooch anyone
- Thou shall not take my clothes off
- Thou shall not cry—which seems like all anyone is ever doing on that show
- Thou shall let more than 5 girls give me a dirty look before I tell them something brilliantly ludicrous like, Honey, if you keep making expressions like that; your face will get stuck.
The morning of the audition I throw a dress in a plastic grocery bag and toss in a stick of lipstick. I slip the little folded list in my back pocket, I’m ready.
Everyone here is perfect in such a stunningly creepy way. In a way that after spending a few seconds scanning the room, makes you believe you’re seeing the same person over and over again. Their white stained teeth, stiffly small grown up doll-like bodies, and adorably manicured hair, make them all look the same.
And then, there’s me.
Fresh off the 1 train that I caught in Times Square during post-work rush hour. I can feel the remnants of someone else’s sweat dangle down the front of my arm as coherently as I can feel my own sweat drip from the inner core of my armpit on the other side.
Most of your time spent at an audition is spent just waiting. Waiting for someone to call your name. Waiting for them to snap four photos of you and film you for four minutes.
So I’m spending time chipping away at my silver nail polish, making small talk with the most beautiful women alive.
Why are you here? I ask them in a non-accusatory way.
Dating is hard. One of them says while teasing the back half of her burgundy hair. And we all nod feverishly in agreement. Maybe I’ll find love on this show.
And we all laugh uncontrollably at her. Until I notice, everyone is just me. I’m the only one laughing.
You don’t seriously believe that, do you?
Everyone’s silent. One girl gives me the eye roll-hand flip-whatever sigh and gets up to leave.
Note to self: I should have added at the top of my Bachelor commandments thou shall try really, really, hard to not say exactly what I’m thinking out loud.
I can tell I’m no longer wanted, here. I excuse myself in search of comfort in which I quickly find, alone, at a table stacked sky high of free donuts.
The guy behind a pair of thick rimmed glasses behind a flip camera asks me a couple of questions and I find myself rambling. In no particular order I mention: alligators, J.D Salinger, Croatia, Nicki Minaj, how fruity pebbles are amazing on top of mango ice cream. I stop. Only when he gives me the hand gesture of wrap it up, which is just a few steps above giving someone who is in the middle of speaking, the finger.
We’re finished. Before he starts to disrobe me of the microphone attached to my pleather dress he pauses to say,
As if we’ve done this before.
…you have lipstick on your teeth.
I leave the audition and barely make it three blocks east before my phone rings.
It’s 9:30pm. On a Tuesday.
So, are you still single?
This time, the voice is familiar. Lined with a tone of warmth and worry; a tone only someone who loves you down to your stubborn core could string throughout a question like that.
Yes, mom. I am.