Living Bridget Jones:
The Rise and Fall of the Ten-Point Plan
When a glowing and expectant mother turns to Bridget Jones at a dinner party and asks, "Why is it, Bridget, that there are so many single women in their thirties now? Why is that?!" the plight of the thirty-something single, professional woman is perfectly epitomized. Perhaps we don't look like Renee Zellweger or work with the likes of Hugh Grant, but the popularity of Bridget Jones' Diary is a testament to the essential Truths that the book and movie profess -- the absurdities of the dating world and of our own warped self-images. Of love and marriage, our friends tell us encouragingly, "It will happen when you're not even looking," but when aren't we looking? Our mothers step in with suggestions, "Myra's daughter met her husband on a Jewish singles cruise..." And even our male colleagues at work put in their two-cents worth, turning us toward "The internet."
It's not that we aren't willing to try new things. We have trudged through the blind dates, posed on our stools at singles bars, feigned interest through wine and cheese socials at the Audubon Society, and pumped iron in the gym (with lipstick, of course). And indeed, we do meet a number of highly intelligent and interesting people in this manner -- it just so happens that they are all women.
Is it that the longer we are alone, the higher our expectations become? Perhaps, but when my date thinks that The Scarlet Letter is a pub, I have to draw the line. Granted, I am not the perfect date either -- I have inadvertently sat on the take-out order, staining his new BMW interior with the Bolonaise, and, at times, I have been known to burst fervently into the middle of a crowded bar and announce, "I just want to talk to one man in this room who has actually read a book!!! Has anyone in this bar ever read a book??!!!" (I did end up having a pleasant enough conversation with a man who'd just read that riveting classic How to Install a Sink -- at least he reads. I love a man who knows how to read).
What is most puzzling is how difficult it is for women who are extremely competent, respected, and successful in their careers to find the same sort of success when they step outside of their professional lives. We seem to become different people; we lose the confidence and competence that propels us at work each day.
In my role as an English teacher, I can lead intense intellectual debates on John Donne, T. S. Eliot, or Shakespeare, but put me in a room with a good-looking guy and I'm stumped. In fact, the proportion of intelligent things I have to say seems to fluctuate greatly depending on my level of attraction to the man. The greater the attraction, the more my IQ plummets, but if he's got a harelip, by God, I can hold a forum on Einstein's Theory of Quantum Physics.
The difference seems to lie in the fact that at work, we are in complete control; our role is well defined, we know our field thoroughly, the expectations are clear, and we are evaluated on our level of competency and professionalism. However, in the dating world, one retains no real control over how things will play out -- will he call, does he like me, am I reading this situation correctly, what does he think of me? Moreover, there is that constant awareness in a dating situation that you are being evaluated not as a professional or a person but as a woman, and those of us who are aware that Elizabeth Hurley exists are also aware that we are not she.
Disturbed by this discrepancy between our professional success and dating failure, my friend Joanne and I decided to take a closer look at the situation. It was not enough to let fate decide whether we would meet Mr. Right on any given night at the local bar, or whether John from last week would indeed call. No, we would leave nothing to chance; we needed to take matters into our own hands and approach our dating lives with those same methods that made us successful at work.
With this no-nonsense approach, Joanne and I held our first Executive "Bored" Meeting where we began pondering the critical question: What is it that makes us so successful in our jobs, and how can we transfer those elements of success into our dating lives? The answer became quite clear; to do a good job at work, one must plan, organize, develop strategies, and gain experience. We would take the same approach to our dating lives. We would begin by planning and developing research strategies, undertake the actual research process, and, of course, hone our approach based on the knowledge we gained through each experience. In the course of one evening, we developed our own highly scientific and strategic Ten-Point Plan to meet new and interesting men. And like soldiers freshly out of boot camp, we undertook a plan of attack that we followed for two years.
THE TEN-POINT PLAN
Strategic Point One: The Party, Take One
Plan of Attack: Throw a dinner party with a 2:1 ratio of men to women to optimize meeting potential (O.M.P). Hand pick the single men from the Saturday personals; round out the crowd with couples from work in order to mask true intent.
Result: Didn't anticipate inevitable and painful inquisition between work colleagues and personal ad candidates: "So how do YOU know Joanne and Judy???" UGH!
Strategic Point Two: The Party, Take Two
Plan of Attack: Party idea is a good one, but needs more structure. Add a Murder Mystery Theme. Create serious potential by having men dress up as race car drivers, policemen, and butlers. Cast ourselves as the Swedish Au Pairs.
Result: Speeding tickets and arrests. Bail posted.
Strategic Point Three: The Party, Take Three
Plan of Attack: Party idea is still a good one, but let's put it in the hands of a professional, Hillie Marshall, dating guru and founder of Dinner Dates. Fancy hotel ballroom, 18 men, 18 women who rotate dinner partners after each course; meet on the dance floor for grand finale.
Result: Some drunken groping and a damn good meal, but we're still waiting by the phone.
Strategic Point Four: Join a gym
Plan of Attack: Actually go
Result: Gained 12 pounds
Strategic Point Five: Supermarket Singles Night
Plan of Attack: Shop for fresh meat
Result: Much too intimate too soon. His basket of Ketchup and Fish Fingers is more information than we need to know. Our basket of tampons and Slim Fast is more information than we want to give. Express Check-out of this one.
Strategic Point Six: Attend profound literary lecture at the local university
Plan of Attack: Go for the intellectual connection.
Result: Found out that Jane Austen never got married either.
Strategic Point Seven: Buy Mountain Gear
Plan of Attack: Browse whimsically through the Arctic Guidebooks in the local Outdoor Adventure store; strike up an intense conversation about crampons and thermal water bottles; clinch it with a significant purchase to impress.
Result: Double Bonus Points on my Platinum credit card.
Strategic Point Eight: Line Dancing
Plan of Attack: The Electric Slide in black leather pants
Result: A yeast infection
Strategic Point Nine: Sign up for a wine tasting seminar
Plan of Attack: Lots of swishing, sniffing, and spitting (and some wine-tasting as well)
Result: Room spins, chills, sweats, and a day off work.
Strategic Point Ten: Museum Visit
Plan of Attack: Explore the dark, artistic temperament
Result: The Madonna and Child offer a comforting reminder that Immaculate Conception could put a quick end to our need for men or the Ten Point Plan!
Two years and fifty-six points later, the Ten-Point Plan was exhausted and so were we. Our weekly outings and creative planning had been tremendously entertaining and had produced ample fodder for our Monday lunch conversations at work; in fact, our colleagues became so engrossed in our undertakings and adventures that there was a real sense of mourning when it all came to an end.
I suppose our decision to bring the plan to a close stemmed from the realization that, in our quest, we were getting further and further away from ourselves. We had lost sight of those things that we genuinely loved to do, those things that brought us joy.
When the ten point plan fell, Joanne and I began a different kind of planning; instead of spending our Saturday nights at Singles Bargain Night at the Local Beer Fest, we began to hike, write, form book clubs, travel, and have Ladies Night Out, and, in these things, we found a relaxation and satisfaction that was more fulfilling than our frenetic search. That is not to say that we have resigned ourselves to a life of spinsterhood; on the contrary, we continue to stumble through the world of dating and relationships, but the beauty about doing it in your thirties is that you know who you are, and that makes all the difference. From the inception of the plan itself, we strove to carry some of the strengths from our professional lives into our personal lives; and in gaining the confidence to pursue our own paths, we did, in a sense, accomplish an important part of what we set out to do.
"So, Bridget, why is it that there are so many single women in their thirties now? Why is that?!" Jewish singles cruise anyone?
© Judy Lebowitz
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