“Yes! Just me! Party of One! One lady! One independent, nearsighted feminist lady!”
Clad in my Jackie O-inspired cream coat and for once, red lipstick, I was taking myself out to celebrate my one year anniversary of moving to New York City. A quick dinner of mac and cheese, an Oreo whoopie pie, and I was off to see a play in the West Village. It felt so New York, and not the realistic New York I experienced in my everyday life, but the version six seasons of “Sex and the City” had promised me. Tonight, I was trading in the subway harassment and ever-present smell of rotting garbage for the chance to meet the love of my life on the corner of 7th and 13th. In the rain. With my glasses somehow not being fogged or smudged.
And then I saw him.
Before you get attached, this is not the story of how boy meets girl. This is the story of how boy met girl, girl and boy had lunch, girl asked boy to get coffee a couple times until he finally told her he was busy trying to plan a date. For someone else.
The rejection wouldn’t have been so bad had I not met Laurent in the hallway of my workplace. At the time, I’d been taken by his awkward attempts at small talk and later, after a couple of glasses of wine, his Instagram. Scrutinizing his social media footprint, I was convinced we’d make the perfect couple. In hindsight, I was forcing a crush because it felt easier than looking into a future with no romantic prospects in sight. So I channeled my embarrassment into a self deprecating article, published it and never looked back.
That is until I was looking right at him, nestled into a table for two.
A blush began traveling North as I cursed my genetic code for choosing my mother’s fair Irish skin over my dad’s year round tan. With sweat slowly adhering to the back of my sweater, I was almost to the door when the hostess’ voice caught my attention.
“Party of one! Yes, you! CARLY! Party of one, you can sit here at the bar! One open seat for you at the bar!”
It was like they’d given her a megaphone. I squinted to see where she was yelling from, finally discovering her pilates-sculpted silhouette at the far end of the Westville.
If she had found that seat five seconds later, I would have been gone, but in that moment, I had a choice: I could look this situation right in the face and own it or I could leave.
Throwing my Nancy Drew book bag over my shoulder, I took a deep breath and moved forward with the confidence of a woman who was going to fake it till she made it. I decided that no man, despite how embarrassing I’d been in front of them, was going to keep me from enjoying mac and cheese with bacon crumbles. For the next hour, I sandwiched myself next to two gay couples and savored my dinner in between chapters of “Americanah.” It wasn’t the picture perfect New York moment I’d envisioned, but it turned out to be the greatest anniversary gift New York could have ever given me.
By allowing me the chance to sit at that bar stool and look my failed crush in the face, I realized if I had the choice to go back and not make a fool of myself, I wouldn’t take it. I would rather be the girl who got rejected than the one who always wondered what would have happened if she’d told a boy she fancied him. What if that one coffee date lead to a lifetime of coffee dates? I’d never know unless I tried.
While someday, I hope to walk into the Westville and ask for a table for two, I see no rush. Because the thing is, from my bar stool, the wait is only four minutes and a beer is within an arm’s reach. Party of one? Yes, that’s me.
feature image by Leeroy c/o Pexels
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When not photographing her cats for Instagram or subjecting her family to yet another James Bondmarathon, Carly Lanning can be found searching NYC for pie or contemplating life with Alfred, her red yoga mat. She is a Curation Coordinator at YouTube, an advocate for sexual assault and dating violence prevention, and freelance writer living in Brooklyn. You can follow her at her blog thecuriouscaseofcarly.