I’ve long thought that Sacramento residents aren’t separated by the common “six degree” rule. It’s more like three degrees here.
In a city of nearly a half million people (not counting outlying areas such as Elk Grove and Roseville), it is possible to make a morning run to Starbucks and see a friend (or two) that you’ve been meaning to call. An hour later, latte in hand and strolling through Trader Joe’s, you’ll run into a mom from your son’s preschool days, someone you haven’t seen in two years. After you’ve picked your child up from school, you’ll decide that you and he both need a treat and you’ll head to the neighborhood McDonald’s where three people from the gym are enjoying their treats and letting their kids run off energy in the gigantic play structure. See what I mean?
This is a great way to live, in most aspects. Who doesn’t love a strong sense of community? But when you’re trying to date, Sacramento can sometimes feel, well, a little incestuous. Case in point:
A couple of weeks ago, I agreed to meet “M” for a drink at a popular, new downtown restaurant. M and I had only dialogued on email. I knew that he was within a couple of years of my age, that he had a child around B’s age, and that he had a solid career. I had also seen several pictures - he was definitely attractive and athletic. So far, so good.
“The pictures represented him well, “I thought as we sat down at the bar together. Then he opened his mouth.
He began by complaining about his ex-wife. A lot of details which I can’t remember and didn’t much care about. I inquired as to what he liked to do with his daughter for fun, hoping to move the conversation in another direction. He then proceeded to tell me about his circle of divorced dad friends and the outings that they all enjoyed with their 6-year-old daughters. Then he mentioned the names of the children.
I made a quick connection to one of the kids.
“Wait a minute,” I interjected. “Isn’t that child’s mom ‘so and so?’”
“Yes,” he answered. “ “How did you know?”
“Ummmm.” I stalled. “She’s actually one of my good friends.” “Oh!” he says. “Well, I don’t have anything against HER.”
“That’s good,” I reply. “I was just at her house for a book club last night.”
We sit in silence for a moment. Then my brain finally turns on and it’s making connections faster than B can finish a preschool dot-to-dot game (and that’s pretty darn fast!).
“Wait a minute. If your daughter is L, then your ex-wife must be ‘so and so.’”
He looks at me in surprise. “You know her?”
“Yes, I do,” I reply.
And then my stomach starts to clench and the noise in the bar gets a little loud, and my face is starting to turn red as it does when I’m embarrassed and I don’t know what to do.
In this instant, I’m remembering his really lovely ex-wife. I met her at a birthday party for another child over a year ago and have since seen her at a couple of social gatherings, nothing recent, but I recall distinctly how sweet she is and how awful her ex-husband sounded.
“Will you excuse me for a moment?”
I get up and go to the restroom. Is there a window I can crawl out of? No such luck. Splash cold water on my face, regroup, go back out and say, “Gosh, it’s getting late. I really need to get home.”
M says, “I’d love to see you again.”
I think I stammer something like, “Um, OK. But I can get to my car myself. Really.”
Ironically enough, I hadn’t seen the lovely ex-wife since last Christmas, at a party. Then, just three days after my date with M, I ran into her at a yoga class. I had forgotten how stunning she is. She gave me a hug and told me that she’d heard the story of my encounter with M. Word (and good gossip) travels fast in Sac-Town. I had an overwhelming urge to apologize profusely for being out on a date with her ex.
Thankfully, she lightened up the situation by saying, “He looks great on paper. I would have gone on a date with him myself. Oh, well I guess I did!”
We had a good laugh over her comment and when M sent me a text to inquire whether or not he’d survived the rumor mill, I told him no. Nothing personal, but no. No way.
My new fear is that I’m going to end up on a date with someone from my ex-husband’s work place. Now that’s an incestuous lot. So I think I better stick to the out-of-towners for now.
To that end, I’m meeting up with K from San Francisco on Saturday. No ties to Sacramento. No ex-wife. No kids. Perfect.