A pattern develops. You are the type to find patterns anyway. It's what makes you so good at math. You try to explain this to the children. Math, you say, it's not memorizing formulas and multiplying big numbers in your head. It's finding the pattern, the way things fit. When you know the patterns the formulas practically memorize themselves. Actually, come to think of it, you don't say it nearly enough. What you find yourself saying instead is, "Yes, you have to memorize it. Suck it up." Oh, well. No body's perfect.
Anyway, rambling aside. The pattern.
You go on a first date. You've reached an age of skepticism. You don't like it, but you can't change it. You're not inclined to like people right away. You are even less likely to like dates. Perhaps it's wisdom. More likely, it's bigotry.
So, the fact that he's charming on the first date creeps up on you. It takes twenty - maybe thirty minutes - before you begin to realize that your cheeks hurt from smiling so hard. It takes longer before you remember to hope that he feels charmed by you. You forget sometimes that you are as much on trial as he is. You have a big head, after all, so you usually figure that you are the more attractive, intelligent, and witty of the two of you at the table in the coffee shop.
Let's face it. Usually you are.
Your conversation meanders in a pleasant way. You are interesting. He is, too. You both leave stuff out, but put enough stuff in, that the conversational stew you create together tastes lively and rich. It's an appetizer for later conversations that you start to realize you are getting excited to have.
You part ways after spending more time together than you expected to spend. You might hug. You might even kiss, chastely, because it's a first date. You might mention later meetings. You might leave them hanging silently in the air between you.
And then. It's over. That's it. There's a call or an email, sometimes prompted by you, sometimes by him. He's not ready to date. He's met someone else. He's not sure what happened, why his last girlfriend dumped him. He's not over it. You are smart and funny and interesting, he says, and he wishes you all the best.
All the best.
Blah blah blah.
Blah blah blah.
You've wasted all of your best ingredients on a conversational stew that you'll never get to taste again. If it happened just once, you'd sigh, and curse your luck. But it happens more than once, and so you feel that it must be a pattern. If only you could figure it out. It seemed easy and fun. And then it was not.