Hanging in the Dutch display area of the National Gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland is the wedding portrait of Susanna Bailly. It was completed in 1645 by Frans Hals. The hope and anticipation are evident in Susanna’s slightly vacant eyes.
About six feet away hangs another painting by Hals. It is the wedding portrait of Francois Wouters, Susanna’s fiancé. He looks like he is about to face the firing squad.
The onlooker can only imagine this couple’s future together: the tears, anger and disappointment in lost dreams and compromised futures.
In a world of spinsters not allowed to own property, being required to stay in convents, and enduring horrible injustices, there is one thing I know. I would never marry a guy who looks like he is awaiting a public execution in his wedding portrait. A bad marriage is NEVER better than being single…even in 1645.
When we last left our nerdy heroine, she was sitting in a Scottish hostel, drinking coffee and trying to determine if she should “hit on” a guy a couple tables away.
Unfortunately, the internal battle continued: So what do I say to this guy? He looks pretty busy to me. What if he treats me like a total annoyance? I would hate that. But what if it goes well? Geez…this is making me a little nuts.
“Do you mind if I sit here?” interrupts a young girl, carrying a food tray.
“Of course not,” I respond slowly.
The two of us proceed to talk about traveling in the Highlands and similar childhoods. After about 15 minutes, I look up and notice the “guy of my dreams” is long gone. A lost opportunity with him and a gained opportunity with her. Still pretty great.
My biggest regret: I wish I’d been more brave. I lost my opportunity because I was looking for the perfect thing to say and was worried about the outcome. Maybe I didn’t need to worry about being all perfect. Maybe it was more important to just do it. The young girl did and got a great conversation and a new Instagram follower. Maybe it’s more important to grab opportunities no matter what.
Have a good life European male version of me! I guess our universes weren’t meant to collide. And maybe that’s okay.
Come to find out, youth hostels aren’t just for kids!
Sipping coffee in the restaurant at the Youth Hostel Edinburgh Central, I’m seeing characters of every age. There is the group of north-of-40 travelers (my people!) who haven’t seen each other in years and keep kissing. At the next table, a sulky grandson and his gray-haired grandfather (in the O.C. this would be his father) sit. Two really cute guys (younger than my daughter) are eating breakfast and I’m trying to work up the nerve to ask them to pose with my book. And then there’s the class of boisterous junior high girls who are a microcosm of the rest of us: The hipsters with their cute little outfits who couldn’t be bothered to put their shoes on. The one with her statement fluorescent pink Crocs who just wants a little attention. And, of course, you have your standard issue ‘tween girl who’s a little too young to look that bitter.
What really catches my eye is the guy who looks like the European male version of me sitting a couple tables away. He’s got nerdy glasses, a sweater, a stack of papers, and a laptop. Wow!
So the big question…how does a gal with crappy flirting skills get this guy’s attention?!
After a lost wallet, a cellphone data snafu, an over-sized luggage fiasco, and not being able to sit together, we were off on the first leg of our Scottish boyfriend odyssey! Unfortunately, our string of bad luck had not quite ended. During a layover in Toronto, I battled an overly aggressive vending machine after it sent mixed messages about my credit card. A kind Canadian onlooker nodded sympathetically as I explained concerns regarding my information being used to buy Fritos for the whole airport.
Note to self: If Scotland does not work out, try Canada! It’s closer and the American dollar is really strong right now! Plus, providing chips IS always a nice icebreaker. ;-)
Note to Reader: After much thought, I have decided to change my blog entries to a journal format. I hope you enjoy them!
Tomorrow, Beth and I are crossing the pond to check out the Scottish single's scene! We're doing a sort of OCexit without the whole European outrage, stock market drop, and money devaluation. We're thinking Southern California may not be the best place for women north-of-50 to find their soulmates so we're turning to the Land of Haggis and Kilts! Stay tuned!
Over 120 years ago, Jules Verne wrote of a phenomena called the Green Ray or Green Flash. As the sun sets, just before it dips below the horizon, the last
burning sliver appears to explode into green fire. It is a rare occurrence and according to Mount Wilson Observatory, only happens when visibility is good, several miles from the curvature of the planet, usually over the ocean and when your “line of sight is parallel to the horizon.” Many have sailed the Seven Seas, toasted the end of a day in Key West, and stared at ocean sunsets hoping to observe this rarity. Few do.
Finding compatibility with a man is a lot like the conditions for the elusive Green Flash. A whole lot needs to happen and it just doesn’t come together very often.
Take eating together: Do the two of you eat in or out? What kind of food? If you go out, where do you both want to go? Do you both drink? Who’s the designated driver? Is one of you on the wagon and the other want to leave because there is no alcohol served? Do you share a meal? Do you eat off each other’s plates? Who pays? Do you share the bill? Is he appropriate with the server? Are you appropriate with the server!? What kind of tip do you leave? If you stay in, whose kitchen? Do you cook together or does one of you sit and watch the other do culinary magic? What do you cook? Healthy or not healthy? Is one of you watching the salt or sugar or fat or whatever intake? Do you have the right equipment? Who gets the groceries? Is one of you telling the other what to do? Who cleans up? Do you need to re-clean? Was it fun? Would you rather be eating cold pizza watching a rerun of The Bachelor???
And that is only one meal…
Try planning for a vacation: Where do you go? Domestic or International? Sail, rail, drive, or fly? City or country? Camping or luxury spa? Is he a big golfer? Are you a big golfer? Are you cool with golf taking over the vacation? Is he a sailor? Is he a pirate at heart with a rope in his teeth challenging the elements and do you get seasick? Are you a peak bagging hiker anxious for the next death march and is he whining due to an old football injury? Perhaps he’s hitting Vegas and getting everything comped. Or is he sitting on the beach with an umbrella drink giving you his take on the big game? On road trips, who does the driving? Is he that guy who stops and gives you 5 minutes to go to the bathroom? Or is he a long rider trying to break records? Does he have road rage? Or is he making sure everyone behind him is doing the speed limit?
And that’s only eating and planning a vacation. You haven’t even touched open windows at night, exercising, bedtime, money, toilet paper rolls, family, friends, house temperature, holiday traditions, religion, arrest records, or politics.
In comparison to finding a partner, seeing the Green Flash seems downright common.
Excerpt from The Spinster's Guide to Dating