But he never suggests we meet.
Granted, Jared lives in San Diego. But I wonder why he doesn’t try to take things to the next level, or clearly signal that I’m his friend and nothing more, which he could easily do by, say, mentioning he’s dating someone. (Judging from Facebook, he’s seeing a brunette named Svetlana. In the seated photos, she’s got her hand in his lap).
But the man keeps calling. He’ll sigh and say, “You’re so lucky to be a writer. Surrounded by all those books.” The other night, we discussed everything from Reza and MJ on Bravo’s “Shahs of Sunset” to the standoff between David Ben-Gurion and Menachem Begin aboard the Altalena.
Right after we met on a trip for Jewish professionals, I asked Jared if he and Svetlana were dating, and he changed the subject. I’m a little bit guilty of encouraging him because I haven’t forced the issue. But he hasn’t pursued me romantically, and we don’t meet in person. We just talk.
As a 30-something man who used to work in investment banking, Jared’s probably seen more G-strings than a lingerie salesman. So what could possibly be a guilty pleasure to a man who has traveled extensively and been single, successful, and over 21 for the past 15 years?
Good conversation, perhaps?
Sometimes I imagine him carefully extricating himself from a sleeping Svetlana, tiptoeing past the computer, and sneaking instead to that charming, old-fashioned contraption: the telephone. He lifts it, then sighs and carefully settles back on his plush leather couch, unable to suppress a tiny smile as he prepares to indulge in the sweet “retro” rapture of a secret, private .... intellectual conversation.
It’s not the first time this has happened to me.
That is, it’s not the first time an intellectually-inclined Jewish man has pursued me for my conversation — and nothing more. Not long ago I crossed paths with a charming, goateed psychologist with a taste for indie rock and red wine.
After enjoying live music one night on the Lower East Side, we spent the rest of the evening discussing the psychology of serial killers and then, after cuddling a bit, we said goodnight, but not before he commented, “This was one of the most passionate evenings of my life.”
We enjoyed several weeks of dating and even took a cooking class together. In a city where many men expect to “hook up” after a couple dates, I appreciated that he didn’t pressure me sexually. But it seemed like he had gone to the other extreme. All he wanted to do was talk.
One day “Andrew” announced that he planned to go on a meditation retreat in the Poconos where he would enjoy complete solitude — and silence.
“That’s great,” I said. “Will you be reachable by cell?”
“No, Sweetie, I don’t want any phones, no devices, no external stimulation,” he said.
I’m thinking, OK, we’ve spent the past three weeks doing nothing but talking. Now he doesn’t want to talk for a week, even to say hello to the woman he’s seeing. It’s not like we’re having hot (or any) sex, so what does our relationship consist of?
But I set aside my doubts, telling myself, “Andrew is a sensitive soul.”
After Andrew returned, he called me and reported he’d had a unique dream.
“Tell me,” I said, eager to analyze it together.
“I dreamed I was with Liberace,” he said.
“What do you mean, Andrew?”
“Well,” he chuckled. “I dreamed I was with him.”
“You mean, like, playing the piano?”
“Not exactly,” he chuckled. “I dreamed I was with him, with him.”
“Andrew, are you trying to tell me something?”
“Oh, come on, I’m not gay,” he said, adding, “I love you, Heather.”
Shortly afterward I broke up with Andrew. I felt terrible about it, but I just couldn’t make sense of him.
A few months later I heard he’d gotten married and he’s now the father of a beautiful baby girl.
Then there’s my ex-boyfriend Alan, a political reporter who called me almost every weekend for four years after we broke up. We would talk politics for hours. I assumed he was in love with me the whole time. But one day he announced he had met the love of his life on JDdate and could no longer talk to me. (I hear that shortly thereafter he broke up with her because she wouldn’t watch old movies with him).
I’m starting to feel like a character from Woody Allen’s “The Whore of Mensa,” a classic satirical short story about men and who seek out women for illicit intellectual stimulation.
Apparently I’m not the only woman in the city being pursued for her conversation by men who are vague about their intentions and confused about their feelings. Recently my cousin Amy, a single, 30-something Manhattan marketing executive, had dinner with an old friend from high school.
“He kept ordering drinks and started talking about dating and relationships and what it’s like to be single in his 40s,” she said. “He went on and on about how difficult it is to find someone he can relate to, and how he missed me. Finally at the end of the evening I told him I couldn’t have another drink because I needed to get home. He leaned in and hugged me but didn’t make a romantic move, just said goodnight.
“It was just an ambiguous evening,” Amy told me. "I couldn’t tell if it was a date or what.”
Not long afterward, he called Amy and they reminisced about high school. He asked whether she was still a Steelers fan. He didn’t ask her out, but told her, “It’s just so good to hear your voice.”
I have a certain sympathy for these men who hunger for intimate, emotionally and intellectually rich conversation and friendship with women. In a world where it’s easier than ever to communicate with a dizzying array of people via online dating, Facebook, Twitter, instant messaging, and texting, it seems that communication is more shallow than ever.
It’s also a world in which every erotic image imaginable is available at a click, and many women are willing to participate in casual hookups.
But if you are a woman with brains and values, can you be a holdout? And if you are, do you risk being pigeonholed as the “go to” woman for gratifying conversation — and that’s it?
Maybe the next time a man calls me just to hear the sound of my voice, I’ll quote Nora Ephron: “In my sex fantasy, nobody ever loves me for my mind.”
If nothing else, it should make for good conversation.
Heather Robinson is editor of NY Blueprint.