Through the Grinder
reeling from the news that two of my customers, attractive and intelligent young women, had killed themselves within weeks of each other. And my only child was sitting on the other side of the room, ready to offer herself to one of these potential heartbreakers.
    I looked at each with a mother’s critical eye and the underlying question, “Okay, which of you jokers actually thinks in your wildest dreams that you’re good enough to play with my daughter’s affections?”
    Scorecard at the ready, I showed no mercy.
    Currently at bat was an attractive, well-groomed, well-dressed blond in his early twenties with the nametag “Percy.” Graphic designer. Well educated. Good potential for my Joy.
    “Okay, Percy, are you on any drugs or medication?” I asked him.
    His gray green eyes widened. “No…well, just an anti-histamine for my allergies.”
    “Have you ever been arrested?”
    “Uh.” He blinked. “No.”
    “Are you sure? I saw that blink.”
    “Well,” he admitted, “when I was seventeen, I was swept up in a police raid of a club that allowed underage drinking. But that was it. Really.”
    I nodded. It sounded innocent enough. Next question: “What made you come here tonight?”
    The young man crossed and uncrossed his legs, then nervously tapped one foot. “Well, I’ve been dating around on-line, you know? LoungeLife.com and SinglesNYC mostly, but nothing serious came out of those encounters, so I decided to try this. My last long-term relationship lasted for a little over two years though.”
    “What was the reason for the breakup?”
    “Oh, we just weren’t communicating. But mostly, he was insanely jealous, and I couldn’t take it anymore. One of those high I.Q., high-strung types. Know what I mean?”
    “Where do you see yourself in five years—” I stopped and looked up from the pink notepad. “Wait. You mean she, don’t you? She was insanely jealous?”
    “No.”
    “You’re telling me you were dating a man?”
    “Yes.”
    I frowned. “But tonight you’re looking for a woman?”
    “Yes.”
    Mr. Switch-hitter, I wrote.
    “Aren’t you familiar with the term bisexual? ” he asked.
    “Aren’t you familiar with the movie Far From Heaven ?” I responded.
    “Okay, now your sounding like my ex, forever telling me to pick a team.”
    “Well, maybe you should.”
    “It’s my life.”
    “Not exactly,” I said. “Not if you involve another person in it and then change your mind.”
    “That’s harsh.”
    “No, honey, that’s a mother’s point of view—the truth is, I’m screening you guys for my daughter, not myself.”
    “Oh,” said the young man. His gaze shifted, first to my ringless left hand and then to my outfit.
    I’d wanted to fit in tonight, so I dressed in what I felt was appropriate—high-heeled black boots, black stockings, and a form-fitting dark green burnt-velvet dress with a sweetheart neckline. Nothing too upscale or down.
    “But you’re not married, right?” Percy said, gesturing to my left hand. “And you’re pretty much a hottie, if you don’t mind my saying so. Why not look for yourself while you’re at it?” He gave me a flirty little smile.
    “Thanks. Really. But I’m too old for this. And for you,” I added gently.
    “Nonsense. Haven’t you heard of ‘tadpoling’?”
    Bing! went the kitchen timer. “TIME!” cried Nan. “Wrap up your meetings and shake, everyone!”
    I stuck out my hand. “You should introduce yourself to my assistant manager, Tucker. He’s right downstairs. Something tells me you two would hit it off.”
    Mr. Switch-hitter shook my hand and shrugged. “Whatever.”
    “All right, gentlemen,” Nan called, clapping her hands. “Let’s move to your next potential Ms. Right!”
    I flipped the Hello Kitty notepad to a fresh pink page.
    Next at bat: a muscular guy in his mid-twenties with a strong chin, short black hair, and a trimmed black goatee. He wore trendy, black-framed glasses, black jeans, and a distressed

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