I remember taking stock of my life when I turned 35. I had been divorced about five years earlier and had done the things that divorced guys generally do. I went through a time when my love life consisted of mostly meaningless sexual encounters with random women looking for the same. It was fun for a while, meaningless sex is actually pretty great, but after a while, you figure out that it's also kind of, you know, meaningless. So I came to a point in my life where I decided to make an effort to find a real connection with someone. This was before dating apps or even online dating, so you found a woman where you worked, or you were introduced by friends.
I was never particularly good at dating. I'm somewhat of an introvert and not at all adept at small talk. A way that I describe myself to people is that I can have a conversation about something with almost anyone but can't talk about nothing with anyone. I get self-conscious very quickly, and conversations can grind to a halt. Sometimes I'll go the other way and start rambling on about some bizarre thing that I found funny, but most people would just consider a little weird. Needless to say, some of my dates did not turn out well. Those were the one and dones of dating.
Sometimes, though, I'd find myself hitting it off with someone a little. Maybe the conversation wasn't scintillating, but it went well enough, and with a bit of mutual physical attraction, I would find myself in a multi-date relationship. Sometimes I would date someone for a couple of months before things fizzled out. It's not hard to find someone you can tolerate and can tolerate you for a time, but it's tough to make a real connection with someone, even if you're better at the small talk and basic mechanics of dating than I was.
Anyway, I remember right after I turned 35, the girl I had been dating for a couple of months broke up with me. She told me I was kind of weird, which didn't bother me all that much since I already was aware of that. What really did kind of bother me was that it didn't really bother me. She was nice enough, and we had some laughs, but I realized I was kind of bored throughout our time together. With her and the last couple of relationships that had preceded her, I had fallen into a pattern of trying to act "normal" instead of just being myself. The thing was, I think I was as bored with the role that I was playing as the women I was dating, maybe even more so. It seemed kind of pathetic, so I decided that I would sink or swim in my next stab at a relationship with my own awkward, quirky personality.
My friend was a DJ, and I used to go with him on some of his gigs. The equipment was analog and very heavy back in those days, so having a helper was important. It got me some free drinks, food, and a night out. At one of these gigs, I met a pretty, dark-haired lady who worked for the organization hosting the event and was friends with my DJ buddy. She seemed nice, but I didn't think much about it until a couple of days later when my friend gave me her phone number and told me she wanted me to call her. Years later, I found out that wasn't true. My friend tricked us into going out by telling each of us that the other was interested.
I remember before our first date, I just decided to be 100% myself which, trust me, was a pretty bold move on my part. And I was. I talked about whatever came into my mind, made some jokes, and told her some weird stories I made up on the spot. She laughed at all of them. I even admitted to her that the last woman I dated broke up with me because she thought I was kind of weird and mentioned that I had no desire to be whatever normal was.
She told me that the last guy she dated told her that she was the most normal girl he had ever met and how much that pissed her off. She considered it an insult. I was impressed. Everything that evening felt right. I felt more like myself instead of someone trying too hard to be someone he wasn't. I knew instinctively I was with the right person. 26 years later, I still know it. Get well soon, honey.
By the way, the picture above is my favorite picture of the two of us. It was from a good friend's wedding a few months after we started dating. I was one of the ushers, although, by this point, I had lost the tuxedo jacket and tie. The wedding was a couple of hours from where we lived, so we had a hotel room and didn't have to worry about driving home. You might be able to tell that we had both enjoyed a cocktail or several before this picture was taken.
Fast forward to the present. I'm listening to the press conference today and all of the things Steve Cohen was talking about. For the second time in my life, and in an obviously quite different way, I realized that the person I had been waiting for had just come into my life. Where the Wilpons always seemed like a bad fit to be tolerated only because they owned the club I rooted for, Steve Cohen was, in an honest and unselfconscious manner, saying all of the things that I ever wanted to hear from the owner of my team.
From not being concerned about being in the same town as the Yankees to not wanting to be mediocre, it was all sweet music to my ears. Cohen wants his team to be great and, unlike the Wilpons, is willing to do what it takes to get there. His new team president, Sandy Alderson, wants to turn the Mets into an iconic franchise. I'm sitting in front of my computer, listening to this all take place, and feeling an echo of that sense of awe and wonder that I felt on that first evening with Lisa. No, I'm not equating the new Mets regime with finding the love of my life, but it's a delightful parallel, even if on a lesser scale. Once again, something I never thought would happen has come unexpectedly and somewhat miraculously into my life, and for that, I am, once again, quite grateful.
Today is a day to be savored. Please stay safe, be well and take care. Let's go, Mets!
Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos.