There’s something about the onset of summer that makes me want a man more than any other time of year. Official Summer is later than my clock. June 1st marks the day on my calendar. I know most people feel the yearning to be part of a couple around the holidays. For some there’s nothing nicer than waking up on Christmas morning with the person they love. There are the holiday parties and the comfort in knowing you have a date and it’s with someone you want by your side. There’s also the joy of shopping for the perfect gift and the anticipation of seeing their face as they open the present.
Not for me.
It’s summertime and being solo that makes me melancholy.
I love warm weather: the smell of sunscreen, my feet in the sand on a beach, the water footsteps away, and libations with fresh fruit. It’s summer that has me longing for Him.
NYC has been hot and humid lately. The feeling is in the air—vacation is just around the corner. Four summers in a row I’ve rented a beach house in Virginia, right on the ocean. My daughters and their pals (as many as they want) are welcome to come. I also invite my closest friends. It is a relaxed time with absolutely no agenda. I don’t need lots of organized activities. I’m very happy to sit under the EZ-Up (my days of bronzing are over) with a stack of books, a beer or cocktail. I’ll occasionally grab a boogie board, head to the water to cool off, maybe ride a few waves and let the ocean knock me around a bit, but that’s the extent of my daily game plan.
Um, that’s not exactly the size of the waves
There’s a Ping-Pong table and I have a ruthless serve and a nasty spin on my backhand (don’t smirk, I do) so a competitive tournament in the evening is possible. After a few days my younger daughter will finally beat me so badly I put down the paddle for another year.
There’s a game table next to the large windows overlooking the sea. My friend Lisa always has a ridiculously difficult puzzle in the works and won’t stop until she’s got it all finished. Love her tenacity.
My oldest daughter makes the meanest piña colada I’ve ever had and the blender is regularly in use. The living room has large overstuffed sofas and when I come out in the morning (I’m always up first) there are usually the sleeping forms of those too tired (or perhaps too intoxicated) to make it to the bedrooms the night before. I love the quiet of the morning and head to the deck with coffee to watch the dolphins that come close to shore at sunrise to feed.
Morning view from the deck
The dogs love it too. Kate and Lola (firstborn’s rotten Pug) are beach bitches.
Kate goes feral
We start our morning with a lengthy leash-free walk. Nigel joined us last summer but he was too heavy to enjoy the exercise.
Chunky Nigel Summer 2011
This year he’s lean and mean and I can’t wait to see him keep up with the girls. We take flashlights once it is dark and shine them on the hordes of sand crabs that begin feeding at dusk. The dogs chase the creatures and I wait for the requisite pinch they’ll receive from the claws of their prey.
Watch it, Lola
I cook a big meal every night and dinner is served at whatever time it gets done. There are always plenty of volunteers to cut, chop and dice so preparation is as much fun as consumption.
I love to cook. Having a big group enjoying the food is my bliss. Dinners are filled with wine, highly inappropriate conversation and large doses of raucous laughter. It’s fun to watch my friends and my daughters’ having fun together.
It’s at those instants I feel the pang.
I want to glance across the table and smile at the man I’m with. Share the “this is a brilliant moment” look. I’ve not had that experience and this year will be no exception—even if I were to meet the perfect guy today.
There’s a feeling of camaraderie at the beach. An intimacy. It would be much too soon to introduce a new man into that mix. I would have to be sure that he’s one I could end up with. I don’t want to taint future summers with memories of a guy I didn’t know well enough to realize was, well, a jerk. I also don’t want to be surprised by things I might learn under vacation conditions. I need experiences, perhaps a catastrophe or two before I can be sure he will add to the party.
For instance, I could tell a lot about a man by his reaction to the Kate boondoggle. If he were with me when it happened—even better. If he either added to the stress, or in any way made light of it, a warning shot would be fired. If he said something marvelous like, “It’s a dog not a child,” or went into high alert, barking orders, blaming me or the doorman, freaking out–he’s not my guy.
If our first date included my pratfall and he was embarrassed or ashamed by my tumble, if he couldn’t laugh with me once I got over the humiliation or tell me it wasn’t that noticeable–he’s not my guy.
I would also want to see him interact with my daughters more than once or twice. Although they are adults, independent women in their own right, it is important that they get along. If he’s condescending or dismissive—he’s not my guy.
Lastly, there is the most important reason that the beach is not a spot to bring Dude du Jour.
It is the place where Neal’s ashes were scattered.
It isn’t a sad memory—he didn’t want it to be. I intentionally chose that location because he said any beach would be fine. That one was special. It was there I spent two summers of my childhood and those remembrances are some of the happiest I have. I wanted him to meld with those memories and have intentionally made each summer at the beach one big party. A way to recognize that although another year has passed, he’s still on our minds. To acknowledge him in a way that briefly pays homage to his life. There’s nobody who loved a good party more than he.
The man in my life would have to accept that on one night, with many who knew him best, we open a bottle of champagne and drink to Neal.
It will take time to be sure he can handle it. He will have to know there is no competition—Neal is gone. He has to feel loved by me with the same fierceness I once loved another. He will have to be as sure of himself as of me. Comfortable with the annual, short but significant, tradition of recognizing Neal was here. The stories will be the same and most of them funny. There are never tears. Just an hour or so of joyful appreciation of the larger than life person he was and how fortunate we all were to have known him.
The right guy will not ask that this be modified. He’ll get it. Perhaps even grow to enjoy the experience or toast Neal himself. He will instinctively know there’s no need to feel he is less and will accept that this ritual will continue for as long as our glorious summers in Virginia Beach remain.
“In Summer, the song sings itself.” William Carlos Williams