I always loved the idea of dating a lawyer.
She would have all the skills I don’t and teach me how to think more logically about the world. She would be able to read and focus and focus on reading. In my imagined life together, we would debate policy and pause the Bill Maher show to shout at him, his guests and/or each other. I can figure out who the bad guys are and she can put them in jail. She would actually finish the book I gave up on and make me feel silly for missing the ending. She calls me out on my conjecture and ratifies inklings I am too timid to act upon. It’s a nice dream to escape to, especially when you’re surrounded by 30-year olds who seem to have something similar already.
I matched with a lawyer on a dating app a few months ago. We had both lived in Israel, so I used that as an opening line. The conversation was bland. She did not really ask questions, which shouldn’t surprise me anymore but always does. I think she did corporate litigation in the financial sector—there was a dispute between an insurance company and its asset manager, if I remember correctly. Really riveting stuff. This is surely what people go to law school for. The long hours and the $300,000 in student debt and the charcoal-grey pant-suits are worth it for that triumphant moment when you help a multinational financial conglomerate save that extra dollar. Of course she didn’t have time to ask me questions about my boring life. She was important.
Dating apps—and the awkward texting that follows the 1-in-10 matches that actually illicit responses—make you question your communication style. Am I being too clingy? If I don’t ask questions, will she think I'm self-interested? It takes so much effort to get someone to actually show up for a date. Remember, they’re important people with busy, hectic lives and often two phones (with which to ignore you). I have realized now that how someone texts is a good reflection of what kind of communicator they are. Remember: people in America are scared of phone calls because calls too intimate and require you to be genuine and in the moment and this is terrifying for people who are used to having a carefully curated digital presence. If they’re a good communicator and they like texting, it’s a joy because you can take time to measure your words and send each other podcasts/articles. If they are a good communicator and don’t like texting, they’ll tell you that and I think that’s fine too. But most won’t. Most will not make the effort to accommodate, even slightly, someone who communicates differently.
After a week of Ms. Litigation being busy and me second-guessing my communication style at every turn, I decided to give her a yes or no choice. Monday night, take it or leave it. She said yes and I swear I even sensed a hint of enthusiasm. There was an emoji and I believe and exclamation mark—she may have felt a feeling. I realized that with these important, busy types you have to give them easy decisions so I suggested a place and a time and she said yes. We fixed on Monday 7:30 in Brooklyn, near both our apartments. I had a date.
I went straight home from work instead of going to the gym. I was surprised she could get off work so “early”. I told her about the bar that played live music and the epic Cuban sandwich nearby.
That exchange happened at 7. "No problem", I thought to myself genuinely. Then at 7:30 I got the following:
I’m not going to be one of those clingy guys, I kept saying to myself. “It’s totally fine. People have busy jobs and plans change – don’t take it personally. You’re always weird about people showing up late to stuff or canceling at the last minute, just learn to go with the flow. Be cool.”
I used my new-found time to vacuum the house, do the dishes and even passive aggressively clean up after my housemate. 8:30 comes around:
“9 is perfect” I lied, as if I hadn’t just sat around for 2 hours like a total loser. If only I was important and busy, I wouldn’t have these problems. Are all lawyers like this? This was hardly my first time embarking on damned intimacy with an attorney. The two I had briefly dated prior to this were exactly the same: cold, driven and constantly seeking laughter and love from me. They never asked questions. They shortened “very” to “v” and “morning” to “am” and I wonder what they did with all the time this saved them. I remember with one, I decided to do an experiment and curb my enthusiasm for just one day. I didn’t text her, let alone share memes or articles or music. I suspended my personality one evening and waited. I had only seen her 3-4 times but we had had good dates. Finally at 4pm the next day I get a text that simply exclaims“Shravan!”. I think she expected me to have sent her a joke or asked her about her boring client in D.C. It was nice to feel “wanted” I guess – it would have been nicer if she’d asked a question or shared a thought. But she was working on the Acela back from D.C. and I guess I was her monkey.
The lawyers I have dated have largely been the corporate types, not the non-profit warriors of grad-school folklore, so I’m sure I’m being unfair. Besides, do people’s personalities become a reflection of their jobs? I would argue, in many professions: yes. I think in highly specialized professions, you make choices to get to certain positions and those choices are largely dictated by how you think. I find journalists generally to straddle the continuum between skepticism and cynicism. Artists are hot, cool and weird—hot because they’re cool and cool because they’re weird. Engineers are logical, inquisitive and charmingly void of style. Those in medicine, I find, are able better than anyone else to compartmentalize—to separate their lives at home from the pain they see in the hospital, even if this means ignoring the pain they see in the world. Lawyers, as we’ve discussed, are the fucking worst.
9pm rolls around.
Put yourself in her shoes: She has been at the office all day answering emails and trying to please her boss as best she can. She has been working and traveling non-stop. All those law school tomes and that draining legalese. It’s a stressful job. Any client service job, I now realize—especially investment banking, law and consulting—is a 24/7, 355-day/year job. You get 10 days paid leave where you craft a joyful Out-of-Office mailer and go to Thailand to take elephant selfies. These firms charge their clients so much that their customers feel entitled to squeezing every last drop of effort from the team sent to solve their problem. I have so many friends in this city who earn 3x what I do and they work weekends and holidays. Would I trade with them? They are people who will always put their job first. Their job comes before friends and certainly before 1st dates with over-eager reporters.
It was now 10. I was more bored then tired. But I would not be the clingy, lame, rigid guy that gets annoyed when someone is held up at work. Work is so important – especially corporate litigation. I psyched myself up: I would put aside any sense of entitlement to her time (or my own time) and reframe this as a great chance to meet a smart, hard-working person who at least on some level, at some point, wanted to meet me too. I put on my shoes and texted her just to make sure this was still happening.
I can’t tell you how many times I drafted and redrafted a response to her “I’m sorry”. I thought about being honest and telling her what a waste of time this had been; I thought about being overly nice and telling her it’s totally fine. I can’t believe people are like this – that they’ve been raised be this inconsiderate. Even the “Raincheck?” came about 20 mins later. An afterthought to make her feel better. Obviously, she never responded to my final proposal. Important people will always expect you to make the first move, to keep the conversation flowing. Once you show a propensity for endeavor, a desire to be liked and a space in your life carved out for them, you’ve lost the battle. They take you for granted because they think they are better than you. Their time is more valuable and the fact that you’re able to give yours away means its probably not worth very much.
The lesson from this episode is obviously not “don’t take lawyers”. That much should be obvious to all of you anyway. The lesson is that ascribing hope to strangers is foolish and we should not expect the best from those who aren’t invested in our lives. This is my flaw. I am a romantic and an optimist and I spend too much time focusing on the potential upside. How does one temper hope and is that a good thing in the long term? Never mind forfeiting hope in strangers’ best: do we want to get to a stage where we’re always expecting the worst? This is a sad pulpit from which to view the world, I think. “No one is looking out for me, so I won’t look out for anyone else” is a Jenga-tower of an emotional irrationality—a scowling face you wear as you race to the bottom.
Every time I think back to the impish emptiness of her final offer, I laugh. And I wonder if somewhere there is sat a woman blogging away furiously about the pitfalls of dating journalists or Indians or Arsenal fans or men in general. I hope she feels better when she’s done writing this. I hope she’s a lawyer.