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Thursday, Jan. 22, 2004 03:21 pm

Grace about town 1-22-04

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Irresistible, even then

I wasn't going to write about dating. I feel that there are more interesting things to talk about other than relationships. And besides, people don't want to hear about them, do they?

Yeah, I realized they do. So here goes:

I had my first date when I was 16. I had to drive, because he had a bad back and couldn't drive. We went to a movie at the Esquire theater, then to Top's Big Boy, where I had a root beer and we split a piece of pie. He was my first boyfriend, Christopher, and we finally broke up the spring of my freshman year of college. By then I'd planned on marrying Chris and living happily ever after, and when he decided he wanted to sow quite a few oats, I was crushed.

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if we'd gotten married. Surely we'd have gotten divorced; what did I know about myself all those years ago, what did I know about men and marriage and all of that?

Not that I know that much more now. But at least I know myself a lot better, mostly because I've had to live with myself all this time.

But I've never been so good at dating. I've either been in a long-term relationship, or haven't dated at all. That's not completely true; I have had many random dates interspersed throughout my life, but I try to put them out of my mind.

If you read my New Year's resolutions, you might recall I said I want just one non-horrible date this year. Because I wrote it down, people are encouraging me to jump back into the dating pool. The very day that column came out, my sister Amy called to tell me about the perfect guy for me, who she claimed will surely be my future husband. Did I say I want to get married? I used to want that, but could I really put up with somebody day after day, year after year? It's been my experience that things can be OK for a while, but then after a few dates, after a few months, a few years, things get bad somehow. Could I ever take the huge leap of faith necessary to commit to one man?

That very same day, my friend Randy called -- he also found me a great guy. Hmm. Maybe putting stuff in print is forcing some cosmic shift in my life. I've resisted it so far; I haven't met either of my two future husbands yet.

Instead, I'm going to try something completely different. Speed Dating. I've heard about it all over the country, but suddenly here in Springfield I can have 20 dates in one evening! And surely, out of 20 different guys, there'll be at least one who I'd like to have one more date with, a date lasting longer than four minutes, which is the amount of time each of these Speed Dates last.

Here's something I find funny: some people have started comparing me to Carrie Bradshaw, the character Sarah Jessica Parker plays on "Sex and the City." She's based on Candace Bushnell, the real-life New York Observer columnist who wrote about her escapades in the Big Apple.

I don't find many similarities between Sarah and me. Escapades in the Land of Lincoln aren't quite the same. Sarah Jessica P. has a thing about outrageously expensive shoes, mostly Manolo Blahniks, which are anywhere from $400 to $1,800 a pair. A pair! She teeters all over NYC in her stiletto heels, strutting down the street, moseying through Central Park. Me, I wear either tennis shoes or clogs. I splurged on some fancy shoes for New Year's Eve; I got them on sale for 40 bucks.

Sarah J.P. dresses in a sexy and sort of wacky manner. Bohemian-arty-funky-kooky. My normal attire is sweats and a T-shirt. When I dress up for work (I have a couple of gratifying and interesting part-time jobs; can't afford to exclusively write just yet), I wear comfortable pants and nicer T-shirts.

Most importantly, the biggest difference between Sarah and me is that on the show Sarah has dated a whole bunch of very attractive men. Currently it's Mikhail Baryshnikov.

She has no need for Speed Dating.

But then again, S.J.P is always attending all kinds of glittery events where she's meeting droves of interesting single men. I've gone to some events, but it so far appears the vast majority of the Springfield male population is married. Or if they're not, there are very good reasons why they shouldn't be.

I'm assuming this won't be true at the Speed Dating Bonanza Festival of Fun.

We shall see. Tune in next week to hear how it went. And wish me luck.

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