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Returning to Low Maintenance
by Andy Cowan
TheSyndicatedNews columnist

Andy Cowan, an award-winning writer, whose credits include Cheers and Seinfeld, regularly contributes humor pieces to the Los Angeles Times and the CBS Jack FM Radio Network.

When I was a kid, I used to feel sorry for adults. I had something they didn’t: Toys. The joy of anticipating them. The joy of receiving them. The joy of breaking them to figure out how they actually worked, before sweeping them aside for shiny new unbroken replacements. (Might this have been my first sign of a commitment issue?)

How could adults not only endure dreary lives devoid of colorful plastics? How could they seem perfectly content about it? Now that I’m a seasoned adult, I’ve begun to feel just as sanguine about weaning myself from something else I once couldn’t imagine doing without... dating. For the first time since puberty struck with a vengeance (and toys started looking a lot less colorful) the search to connect is beginning to feel like more trouble than it’s worth.

In this multi-tasking era of instant gratification and preoccupation with the plethora of other possibilities dangling out there, I’m finding daters’ attention spans aren’t what they used to be. If there isn’t an immediate bond based on multiple levels of interest at the outset, a first date is often relegated to last date. I didn’t so much as pass the pre-first date hurdle when a woman’s internet profile demanded that her guy enjoy an occasional steak now and then. My arteries, unfortunately, weren’t clogged enough for her.

Can I keep up with a strong woman? Do I hike? Ski? Enjoy weekend getaways? Fine dining? Yoga? Spirituality? Cats? Books about cats? The theater? (Hated “Cats”) Do I lead, not only on the dance floor? Can I change more than a light bulb? (Does my underwear count?) Am I a bad boy who knows how to be good? Am I not afraid to embrace life? Have I skydived? (No, because I embrace life.) Am I taller than you in heels? (Are those your heels, or my heels?)

Maybe it’s time to commit to the only person I fully connect with… the one individual I’ve lived with all my life... Me.

Sorry, girls, I’m taken. Off the market. I’m done cheating on myself. It’s me... and me... for all of eternity. Look for me in the engagement section. With me. I’m very happy. And so am I. Forget same sex marriage. This is same person marriage. Maybe I’ll sign a pre-nup, just in case I want to rip me off.

How did not dating become so enticing? Forget the obvious lures. The gas money I save. The TiVo that beckons me with my own network programmed by yours truly. The couch whose back remains mercifully un-kicked by daters, who are out at the movies, kicking the backs of the seats of the daters in front of them.

Ironically, during my dating salad days, watching TV or just “hanging” would have been enough. It really didn’t matter what the two of us did; just being together was the fun part. The rest was gravy. (Minus the steak. Sorry, lady.) But somewhere along the way, dating turned into a job interview. Now when a woman inquires, “What do you like to do for fun?” it sounds like a loaded question. What she’s really asking: “What do you think I like to do for fun that you’re willing to subject yourself to? ... What’s the entertainment package you’ll be offering me for the abundant chunks of our time together when you, alone, just won’t cut it?” Let’s see. I used to hurl water balloons at cars for fun, but I’m not sure that would score brownie points now.

But wait. Before we completely throw out the idea of returning to my carefree youth, maybe we should at least revisit my earlier notion of just “hanging.” If adult dating has become a lot less fun than when we were hot and bothered (and not just bothered) maybe it’s time our teenage selves taught us how the low maintenance good ol’ days could help sustain the present ones.

Back when our hormones were all the rage, my date and I “dined” in restaurants where the menus featured pictures of food. We didn’t care. Because we were the main courses. We used the car to get to more important destinations than a movie, play, or lecture. We used it to get to the backseat. We didn’t question our differences; we celebrated them. She was a girl. I was a boy. Vive la différence!

Now my dates have reintroduced me to “adventures” like taking a long walk, riding a Ferris Wheel, and even playing Scrabble. Hot date? You bet.

In the intervening years, unlike our planet, we boomers may have done some serious cooling down. But we’re still looking for warmth. Let’s not underestimate the importance of just hanging together. If we’re lucky enough to latch onto a loving lifelong partner, it’s what the two of us will wind up doing in the end anyway – which just might make for a bond less plastic and breakable than your average toy.

ANDY COWAN is an L.A.-based writer, producer and performer. His credits include Cheers, Seinfeld and 3rd Rock From the Sun. He can be reached at:

Published: Jul 11,2008 18:14
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