Jumping the Shark

That clever thing? How's that workin' out for ya? -Fight Club

I've decided my love life is like a bad sitcom, where everybody has to marry somebody that's already on the show, because the "audience" won't readily accept a "new character."

As has recently been brought to my attention (as recently as this past weekend), my friends are not exactly easy on newcomers. They still refer to all incoming men in my life as "Johnny NewGuy." And they openly refuse to learn real names until, to quote one of them, "a prenup has been successfully completed."

And based on my last engagement, they all know that the negotiations at Yalta were finished (with far fewer attorneys and heads of state) faster than my last prenuptial agreement.

The thing is, I know they're only hard on these guys because they love me and also, because they're seeking revenge for the contemptuous disdain I've reserved for every single one of their would-be girlfriends.

For example, my friend T (also known as Satish, also not his name) introduced a new girl last spring.

Everybody tried to like her. For about three to five minutes. But sometimes, you just know. You get that bad feeling. That Yoko feeling.

Ultimately, I was the only one who stepped up and told him what we really thought, which was that she was "a little hickish." (We actually thought she seemed "trashy," but in case he married her, we didn't want to go on the record.)

Did he listen?

Noooooo. Instead, he took her to a wedding... out of town... where she spent the entire weekend hitting on his best friend.

(When last seen, I think she was somewhere in the vicinity of the Upper Sandusky construction route, trying to hitch a ride back.)

So yeah I think it's safe to say we're all a little hard on "outsiders."

Maybe in recognition of that (I have no better explanation), I actually did attempt a relationship within the group, last spring.

Then again, that didn't go any better.

I was remembering this one night last week, as I stood in my bathroom with this guy, blow-drying my hair and applying makeup (which is, believe me, not a great view), yammering idly while I got ready for dinner.

Could it really be just a few short months ago that I was crying my eyes out over this guy?

OK... That's an exaggeration... I never cry... Well not unless I've sustained an injury... But I did do a lot of melodramatic flouncing around.

You'd have thought my world had come to an end - that the last decent, attractive, (arguably) straight, funny, fascinating guy in the world had just joined a monastery.

Now here it is, a scant few months later: I'm standing here, dripping wet and half- dressed - and the only thing on my mind was trying, in utter futility, to get him to pick out something for me to wear.

(This was in marked contrast to the entire month of April, which I devoted [largely unsuccessfully] to trying to take my clothes OFF, in front of him.)

So, the other night, I started with shoes.

In fairness (to me), I'd narrowed it down to three pairs. In fairness (to him), all three were black. (After that, it was all nuance. For example, I didn't really think the tone of the Kate Spade version of Mary Janes matched the restaurant we were going to.)

I picked out my own skirt, then I needed help with the top. (Again, all three were black. But one was a tank; another had only one shoulder; and the third had kind of an odd faux turtleneck, but with half the chest cut out, for maximum cleavage. Three completely different looks.)

His choice?

"The one you're wearing. That one. It's fine. Let's go, let's go, let's goooooo."

I had no problem picking out three very different pairs of blue boxers for him at the Gap; I didn't see why he was so helpless when it came to my wardrobe.

I then came to work the next day and got an email from another friend. He knew - via the grapevine - that I'd changed boyfriends several times over the summer, and was inquiring as to who was or wasn't still in "the race."

He wrote, "I feel I've fallen out of the info circle. It's like getting hooked on the soaps or something. Then you have to work a few days and your VCR is broken. You rejoin a week later and nothing's the same. All the characters have changed."

Obviously, he hadn't checked The Big Board. See, my coworkers drew this betting pool up on the dry-erase board in our conference room, handicapping (so to speak) any relevant contenders for my "affections." Then they gave them all names and racing colors.

But now Now most of them are limping, or flagging badly. Two pulled up lame and had to be shot.

Hop Sing is despondent. Inconsolable. Constantly moping around because he doesn't have a "new daddy" to take him shopping for school clothes this year.

I am getting better at this though. I wise up faster. I waste less time - and I bang my head against far fewer brick walls. I also recuperate far more quickly. If romance was a flu, I think I've finally mastered the 24-hour-variety.

As I was telling Steed last night on the phone (in between thoughtfully quoting pornographic lines to him from Taxicab Confessions, because he doesn't have HBO), "I'm 35, not 25. I don't find apathy, indifference or detachment riveting."

"People don't change," was my basic thesis. And if they do, the odds that you'll be alive and around to see it are slim to none. In my 20s, it seems like I extended an infinite number of "second" chances. I'm glad I outgrew that.

Or as my grandmother would say, "Now I'm handin' out ass kickin's and lollipops and I'm fresh outta lollipops."