Sometimes I eavesdrop on people.
I could rationalize it—oh, this is good anthropological research for characters I’m writing—but it’s basically just nosiness. It also helps me gauge where I’m at: Am I normal? Am I doing the correct trendy cardio exercises? Am I reading the right books? Is gluten still lame? It was through eavesdropping that I learned that you could buy fresh peanut butter at Whole Foods from a machine that grinds it in front of you. I had wasted so much of my life eating stupid old already-ground peanut butter. So, yeah, I highly recommend a little nosiness once in a while.
Recently I listened in on two attractive thirtyish women talking over brunch. I heard the following:
Girl #1 (pretty girl, Lululemon yoga pants, great body):Jeremy just finished his creative writing program at Columbia. But now he wants to maybe apply to law school.
Girl #2 (tiny girl, sheet of black hair, strangely huge breasts): Oh, God.
32D: How many grad schools is he going to go to?
Lululemon: I know. But it’s not his fault. No publishers are buying short stories from unfamous people. Basically, you have to be Paris Hilton to sell books these days.
32D: For the 10 years that Jeremy has been out of college doing entry-level job after entry-level job and grad school, you’ve had a job that has turned into a career.Lululemon: Yeah, so?
32D: Jeremy’s a boy. You need a man.
Lululemon did not take this well, as I’d anticipated. I felt bad for Lulu because I’ve been Lulu. It’s really hard when you realize the guy you’ve been dating is basically a high schooler at heart. It makes you feel like Mary Kay Letourneau. It’s the worst.
Until I was 30, I dated only boys. I’ll tell you why: Men scared the sh*t out of me. Men know what they want. Men own alarm clocks. Men sleep on a mattress that isn’t on the floor. Men buy new shampoo instead of adding water to a nearly empty bottle of shampoo. Men make reservations. Men go in for a kiss without giving you some long preamble about how they’re thinking of kissing you. Men wear clothes that have never been worn by anyone else before.
OK, maybe men aren’t exactly like this. But this is what I’ve cobbled together from the handful of men I know or know of, ranging from Heathcliff Huxtable to Theodore Roosevelt to my dad. The point: Men know what they want, and that is scary.
What I was used to was boys.
Boys are adorable. Boys trail off their sentences in an appealing way. Boys get haircuts from their roommate, who “totally knows how to cut hair.” Boys can pack up their whole life and move to Brooklyn for a gig if they need to. Boys have “gigs.” Boys are broke. And when they do have money, they spend it on a trip to Colorado to see a music festival.
Boys can talk for hours with you in a diner at three in the morning because they don’t have regular work hours. But they suck to date when you turn 30.
When I was 25, I went on exactly four dates with a much older guy whom I’ll call Peter Parker. I’m calling him Peter Parker because, well, it’s my story, and I’ll name a guy I dated after Spider-Man’s alter ego if I want to.
Peter Parker was a comedy writer who was a smidgen more accomplished than I but who talked about everything with the tone of “you’ve got a lot to learn, kid.” He gave me lots of unsolicited advice about how to get a job “if The Office got canceled.” After a while, it became clear that he thought The Office would get canceled, and by our fourth and last date, that he clearly thought it should get canceled.
Why am I bringing up Peter Parker? Because he was the first real man I dated. An insufferable yet legit man.
Peter owned a house. It wasn’t ritzy or anything, but he’d really made it a home. The walls were painted; there was art in frames. He had installed a flat-screen TV and speakers. There was just so much screwed into the walls, so much that would make you lose your deposit. I marveled at the brazenness of it. Peter’s house reminded me more of my house growing up than of a college dorm room. I’d never seen that before.
Owning a house obviously wasn’t enough to make me want to keep dating Peter. Like I said, he was kind of a condescending dick. But I observed in Peter a quality that I knew I wanted in the next guy I dated seriously: He wasn’t afraid of commitment.
At this point you might want to smack me and say: “Are you seriously just another grown woman talking about how she wants a man who isn’t afraid of commitment?” Let me explain! I’m not talking about commitment to romantic relationships. I’m talking about commitment to things—houses, jobs, neighborhoods. Paying a mortgage. When men hear women want a commitment, they think it means commitment to a romantic relationship, but that’s not it. It’s a commitment to not floating around anymore. I want a guy who is entrenched in his own life. Entrenched is awesome.
So I’m into men now, even though they can be frightening. I want a schedule-keeping, waking-up-early, wallet-carrying, picture-hanging man. I don’t care if he takes prescription drugs for cholesterol or hair loss. (I don’t want that, but I can handle it. I’m a grown-up too.)
I know I’m only marginally qualified to be giving advice. I’m not married, I frequently use my debit card to buy things that cost less than three dollars, and my bedroom is so untidy it looks like vandals ransacked the Anthropologie sale section. I’m kind of a mess. I did, however, fulfill a childhood dream of writing, producing and acting in television and movies. Armed with that confidence, alongside a lifelong love of the sound of my own voice, I’m giving you this bit of wisdom: When you turn 30—maybe even before—a fun thing to try is dating men. It’ll be like freshly ground peanut butter, times a million.
Oh Mindy. You get it.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
By Mindy Kaling