What Men Want (To Say)

On a typical coffee date, because we’re meeting for the first time, awkward conversation comes with the territory. Neither of us completely reveals what we’re thinking or feeling. We’re shy, holding back, concealing, putting on a good face, feeling the other person out.

How much more interesting the first date would be if we both were to communicate our true emotions. Still, those actual thoughts and feelings are definitely present, whether uttered or not. They’re simply bubbling under the conversation’s surface; biding their time until we feel more comfortable and trusting with one another.

For instance, take this (nearly) verbatim transcript from one of my coffee dates. All un-uttered thoughts have been italicized for the protection of the emotionally fragile.

Me: Lauri?

Here I go again. Date No. 163, but who’s counting? At this rate, by next May I’ll have dated every unattached woman in the city. At which time I’ll have to start importing them from other countries and taking Berlitz classes.

Lauri: Hi, Mark. Nice to meet you.

Dear Lord, please don’t let this one be a stalker, a jerk or have serious psychological issues like the last six. I believe I’ve reached my annual quota for restraining orders.

Me: Should we get some coffee and sit down?

And then decide within 10 minutes whether there’s a chance we might eventually see each other naked or, and most likely, never see each other again?

Lauri: Sounds good.

Looks like I’m gonna have to train this one how to dress, make eye contact, speak, stand up straight and do something with that hair. Yep, this one’s a definite fixer-upper. Again. Dear Lord, just shoot me now.

Me: So, have you been doing this Internet dating thing long?

Exactly how many guys have you rejected, and how many have rejected you? Be specific. You have five minutes to answer. Show all work. Begin.

Lauri: You’re actually only the first coffee date I’ve been on.

Today. The sum total of all my coffee dates could fill Dodger Stadium. And it’s always I who do the rejecting, because I am perfect and they are flawed. Capiche? So unless your own perfection level approaches mine, you might as well start heading over to the stadium right now.

Me: What are you looking for in a relationship?

Are you a) High maintenance? b) Emotionally needy? c) Nuts?

Lauri: Oh, I don’t know. I guess the usual — chemistry, shared goals, friendship.

A man with Brad Pitt’s looks and Bill Gates’ bank account who can make me yodel in bed. That specific enough for you, Sparky?

Me: What kinds of things do you like to do for fun?

And please know that the red flag goes up immediately with any hint of chick flicks, shopping or eating at restaurants whose names begin with a “Le.”

Lauri: I’m pretty down-to-earth. Just the usual.

That is, if you define “usual” as a) Frequent, “where is this heading?” talks about our relationship; b) Having my mother visit us as often as possible; c) Making it my lifelong mission to interest you in ballet and opera.

Me: Is it just me, or am I sensing some chemistry here?

I’m picturing you without your clothing right now, but I’m gonna have to do some up-close and personal research in order to get the full effect.

Lauri: You might be right.

It’s just you.

Me: May I walk you to your car?

And check out your rear view as I, the perfect gentleman, allow you to walk in front of me?

Lauri: Sure. Can I contribute something to the bill?

And need I remind you that a “yes” answer on your part will forever brand you as a cheapskate of the highest caliber?

Me: Oh, no, I’ve got it. Thanks.

I accepted one of those invitations to contribute once before and ended up as the featured newcomer on www.cheapdatestoavoid.com for two months.

Me: Well, here we are. It was really good to meet you.

Because I enjoy taking two-hour chunks out of my day to spend time with people I’ll never see again.

Lauri: You, too. You seem like a really nice guy.

And we’ll have our next date when Paris Hilton becomes a nun.

On second thought, perhaps those dates are better off with the actual thoughts and feelings remaining bubbling under the conversation’s surface. After all, if you start off a romantic relationship with absolute honesty, no telling what madness and chaos would result.

Mark Miller has written for TV, movies and celebrities, been a professional
stand-up comedian and a humor columnist for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate. He
can be reached at markmiller2000@comcast.net.

Walking the Land

Every week I go on two walks that I absolutely treasure. Each Sunday, my husband and I walk through a different section of Los Angeles. We have no destination, but our purpose is to exercise. We could choose other forms of exercise. We could be on a treadmill, moving in place without moving in space. Yet this is not as gratifying as walking outside. The walks along the beach or in the hills around the city create another dimension of being.

The other walk is on Shabbat as I go to synagogue, walking the same streets that I drive during the week. Walking, I am much more present in the moment, existing in the place. Weekday mornings I pull out of my driveway, listening to the news on the radio and swerve around the two potholes in front of my home. Then I turn onto Pico Boulevard, knowing exactly how the stoplights are timed as I hurry through rush-hour traffic to get to work. Yet the details fly by.

When I walk those same blocks on Shabbat I notice subtle changes. I notice the tree that overhangs the sidewalk has grown an inch since last week. The pink of the gardenias is fading slightly, the white azalea bushes that are all around our neighborhood are drooping and turning brown on the edges. As I walk I am able to see the natural evolution, not just the end result. This happens even though the purpose of this walk is to arrive at a destination.

On both walks I am aware of more than my surroundings. I am aware that my breath is quieter as we begin our downhill trek and is much more labored on the uphill trip home.

As I walk I am also aware of my thoughts. Something happens as we walk. Rebecca Solnit writes in her book "Wanderlust: A History of Walking" (Penguin USA, 2001), "Walking, ideally, is a state in which the mind, the body and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord. Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without being made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without being wholly lost in our thoughts…. Moving on foot seems to make it easier to move in time, the mind wanders from plans to recollections to observations."

Abraham’s extensive trek from his home to the land of Canaan begins as we read this week’s Torah portion when God tells Abraham, "Lech lecha." These two Hebrew words are typically translated as "Go forth." The phrase could more loosely be read as "Walk." God commands, "Walk from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you." Why does God use the Hebrew word that means "walk"? Why not "come" to a place? Why not "go out" or "leave"?

The word "walk" invites a journey. It implies separating from and going toward. It is neither the arrival nor the exiting, but is the continuum across time and space.

God implores Abraham to be on — and in — the journey as a way of knowing reality. Two levels of knowledge can be attained by walking the land. The first is physical: one gets to know the land by walking it. The second level is spiritual: walking allows wisdom to enter our consciousness.

The physical aspect of learning occurs as we slow down. When we are walking we see things we would not otherwise experience. In his book, "Walking the Bible" (William Morrow & Co, 2001), Bruce Feiler writes about the details of the land of our ancestors. He learns in-depth about the landscape, the topography, the climate, the foliage and the history that took place on those spots. Beyond the worldly knowledge he acquires, he discovers his connectedness to his roots, his people, his traditions.

The book of Proverbs says, "Your journey should direct you," and a Chasidic master teaches that it means, "Go to yourself." So, your wanderings should lead you to your true self. How do you get there? By creating the time and milieu to foster the insights that help us recognize who we are and who we can strive to be.

As we walk through the physical, we can also find the divine. We can find God on a walk in the tranquil woods as the wind rustles the leaves and the birds call back and forth in a song of response. We become aware of God’s presence when we stroll along the pounding shore, smelling the ocean, hearing the roar of the waves and feeling the breeze caressing our skin.

Slow down to rise higher. Step by step you can come to know the world, to understand your true self, and to recognize God’s presence in your life. As God told Abraham, "Lech lecha." Go forth, walking along the way, noticing, thinking, seeking, attaining wisdom. Ultimately, you may be able to walk with God.