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New Year's Resolutions:
* Find Tracey a great boyfriend.
* Make a choice about my hair: straight or curly, because wavy just isn't working.
* Cure cereal addiction (possibly through hypnotherapy—see Yellow Pages).
* Write more blogs for the Oracle of Dating Web site, give lots of dating advice, make stacks of $$$ and quit job at Hellhole.
* Take the Oracle of Dating to the next level!!!
You might think that September is a weird time to be making New Year's resolutions. Well, Mom never accused me of doing anything on time, especially tidying my room, loading the dishwasher or Swiffering the kitchen.
"I don't see how you ended up with an eighty average last year, Kayla," Mom says. "You're always chatting online or on the phone."
Which implies that I am not being productive.
The truth is, she has no idea what I'm really up to.
I clear my throat and answer, "The Oracle of Dating."
"It's client number zero-two-four."
"You remember me!"
"I do. What can the Oracle do for you?" I scoot over to my computer and open up my PayPal account to see that her five-dollar payment has been received.
"It's about this guy, Shawn, I'm dating. I hate going out in public with him."
A case of total butt ugly, perhaps?
"Why's that, Sabrina?"
"He always embarrasses me somehow. Like when we went to the school dance Friday night, he was dancing like a maniac. Everybody was staring at him."
"He's a really bad dancer?"
"The worst. It's not just that. Wherever we go, he says
or does something dumb. But when we're alone, he's really sweet!"
"Mmm-hmm." Listening noises are very important.
"What do you think I should do?"
"Have you talked to him about this?"
"Yeah, but he doesn't get it."
"I have another question for you, Sabrina. Do you love him?"
"I wouldn't go that far. We've only been dating for a couple of months."
"Why not find a guy who wouldn't embarrass you in public?"
"It's not so easy getting a boyfriend. He's only the second one I've ever had."
As I well know. Sabrina's been calling me to discuss every crush and flirtation in the past six months.
"Ask yourself this. Are you with him because you really like him, or because you like having a boyfriend?"
"Er, maybe the second thing."
"How would you feel if he answered the question the same way?"
"I wouldn't like it." She sighs. "I guess I have to break up with him?"
I lift the phone away from my ear and pound a tune into my little xylophone.
"The Oracle has spoken."
"Thank you, Oracle. I know it's the right thing to do."
"Good night, Sabrina."
I know what you're thinking. What makes me such an expert on dating? Have I had lots of boyfriends?
There have only been two, and both were disasters. But I've learned from each one, and now I think of them, with total detachment, as Case Study No. 1 and Case Study No. 2. I even made retrospective notes.
Case Study No. 1: 9th Grade, November.
Lead-up to relationship: weeks of note-writing and flirting, a subtle ass-grab at a school dance and a kiss behind the portables.
Relationship length: one month.
Activities: playing video games, kissing in his basement, playing more video games.
Conflict: He often wouldn't answer the phone because he didn't want to interrupt his video game. His gaming addiction resulted in a thumb injury for which medical care was required, and he was unable to hold my hand due to a thumb splint.
Outcome: He didn't see me as a girlfriend, he saw me as a gaming partner, make-out buddy and occasional history tutor. So I gave him an ultimatum: "What do you care about more, me or your video games?" He answered: "They're my thing. I'm a gamer, babe." Babe?
Case Study No. 2: 10th Grade, March.
Lead-up to relationship: I met him at a party. He remembered my name and added me on Facebook. We chatted online for a couple of weeks before he finally asked me out.
Conflict: None. He was totally sweet. Or so I thought.
Outcome: After three weeks of going out and making out, he changed his Facebook picture to one of him kissing another girl. ALL of our friends saw this. I called him immediately: "Are you trying to tell me something?" He answered: "Sorry, I didn't know how else to say it."
My two boyfriend disasters only confirmed what I already knew: teenage guys are less mature than teenage girls. Therefore, if I want to date my equal, I should date a guy who is at least twenty, which I would never do, because what sort of twenty-year-old would want to date someone still in high school?
It would've helped a lot to have someone to talk to during those relationships; someone nonjudgmental and anonymous like the Oracle of Dating would have been perfect. I never laugh at a client's concerns or get too preachy. I wish I could've given myself better advice at the time, but it's hard to see clearly when you're emotionally involved.
I decided there was only one solution—to put off dating until college, when the scales of maturity will start to balance. I simply don't have the emotional resilience to deal with immature high school guys. Which isn't to say I wouldn't change my mind if my ideal guy came along, but statistically, it's highly unlikely.
For those teenage girls who are brave enough to deal with teenage guys, and for anyone else who needs me, the Oracle of Dating is there. I do a lot of research so that I can give sensible advice. When I'm not sure of the answers, I tell my clients the Oracle will have to get back to them so that she can "meditate" on their dilemma. My advice is serious, though I've put "for entertainment purposes only" on my Web site so I don't get sued if something I suggest backfires. With all of this responsibility, I don't have time for a love life, anyway.
Besides, I'm not the one who needs a man, my sister does. Tracey is ten years older than I am, and has been coming to me for advice since I was twelve, often trusting my guy radar more than her own. She's even been afraid to introduce certain guys to me because she knows I'll see what she prefers not to see.
Tracey lives on the Upper East Side—it's about forty minutes from Brooklyn by subway. I usually meet her in Manhattan on weekends for lattes, which she insists on paying for. (She says it's fair, considering I don't charge her for advice.) I've also given lots of free advice to her friends. It was actually her best friend, Corinne, who called me the Oracle in the first place. After that, the name stuck.
Nothing would make me happier than to find a great match for Tracey. She's an amazing sister, and never makes me feel like a pain when I call her. She's kind, hardworking and selfless—sometimes to a fault—and I won't let her settle for anything less than she deserves. In any other city, she'd have been snatched up by some wonderful guy already, but New York is tricky, since there are far more single women than men, and the dating culture is downright strange. Since she's twenty-six now, I figure she has another few years of trying to find a good man before I'll suggest more extreme measures.
By extreme measures I mean going to Alaska. I see nothing wrong with that. People move for their careers—why not to find a man? In some parts of Alaska, single men outnumber women ten to one. Tracey would have absolutely no trouble finding a guy there. And I think an Alaskan man—big, strong, not afraid of bugs or heavy lifting—would complement Tracey's personality. The only problem is that she'd be so far away! I guess she'd have to convince her Alaskan man to move to, say, rural Vermont. Because Alaska is just the wrong time zone.
True, there's still a great woman-to-man ratio in the Silicon Valley in California, but I'd prefer she didn't marry a high-tech guy. Dad is in tech, and I don't want Tracey to end up with a guy like him. He and Mom divorced ten years ago, and since then, he's reverted back to the lifestyle he was meant for: the lifestyle of a bachelor. He's traveled the world with his company, living in Singapore, Johannesburg, Berlin and now in Ottawa, Canada. We only see him a couple of times a year, Christmas and summer vacation. And that's fine with me.
I remember the day he left. Mom and Dad sat down with Tracey and me, explaining that he was going to move out. Tracey didn't argue. I think she was sick to death of the fighting. But not me. I thought they should make it work. I used any rationale available to my six-year-old brain to stop them from breaking up. And when none of my arguments worked, I started to cry.
The truth is, Mom and Dad were a disaster from the start. I'm surprised Mom didn't see through his hollow charm right away, but I guess she was young and innocent, and trusted love. Too bad no one had the guts to stand up at the speak now or forever hold your peace part of their wedding, since the only things they had in common—good looks and ridiculous eighties hair—were not enough for a happily ever after.
It's a windy Sunday and I get off the 6 train at Seventy-seventh Street and Lexington to meet Tracey at Starbucks. I see all of the Sunday couples walking around holding hands. Sunday couples are young couples who stay over Saturday night (if you know what I mean) and have carefully assembled designer sweats, sneakers and baseball caps to wear on Sundays. They always look freshly showered and slightly hungover and you find them ordering greasy breakfasts at Second Avenue diners before spending their afternoons browsing shops, buying artwork for their tiny apartments and crowding neighborhood cafés so that I can hardly ever get a seat.
Tracey is looking beautiful today, though she has puffiness under her eyes, indicating that she either slept too little or too much. She has rich dark hair the color of a flourless chocolate cake and shining brown eyes to match. Her cheeks are slightly pink from the windy day, and her complexion is flawless. At five-nine, she's four inches taller than me, giving a sleek elegance to her figure that many girls would kill for.
As for me, I've inherited my dad's Shredded Wheat–colored hair and my mom's hazel eyes, which are mistaken for green or brown depending on the day, light conditions and my mood.
Today Tracey is wearing fresh unscuffed New Balance sneakers. Sunday is the only day of the week you won't find her in heels of at least two inches—an error in judgment, IMO, since it tends to narrow her pool of possible guys to those five-eleven and above. But I guess that's her choice, her preference being men over six feet—not always easy to find unless you're in Denmark or Norway.
She gives me a big hug and two European cheek kisses, and I know I'll have to take my compact out to see what lipstick smudges she left.
At the counter, we're served by a skinny guy we privately nicknamed Pip. He's there every weekend and talks like Mickey Mouse.
"Tall soy iced Tazo chai latte," he says to the huge guy behind the espresso machine.
"Tall soy iced Tazo chai latte," the huge guy repeats in a booming voice.
"Uh, no foam, please," Tracey adds.
Pip turns to me. "Miss?"
"I'll have a tall soy latte." (Lactose intolerance runs in the family, if you haven't guessed.)
We find a little table on the upper level in the midst of several twentysomethings on laptops.