In Australia still; here is something I wrote when I was a lifestyle columnist at the Ottawa Sun.
June 18, 2003
He's funny, and smart, and successful, and thoughtful, and he doesn't take himself too seriously.
And tall, dark and handsome, and travelled, and curious. He has nice eyes. He came from far away, leaping out of a past I hadn't given much thought to, grabbing my attention and piquing my curiosity.
He bought me dinner, he made me sushi, he listened and remembered stuff about me. He dropped off coffee while I was working and paid compliments.
He wants a relationship, and kids.
And as I started to suspect, though he ostensibly came here on business, his ulterior motive was to tell me something.
He thinks I'm pretty cool too. And has for a long time.
I listened; touched, flattered, confused.
And then later, he left. And we're both still alone.
For any person who has wanted to settle down, who has stumbled across a person who is perfect on paper, fitting all criteria real or imagined, tangible or not, but it just doesn't feel right, this little scenario seems like one of life's cruelest jokes.
Some people call it the "X" factor; a long time ago Calista Flockhart's Ally McBeal missed "the tingle" she didn't feel after kissing a female co-worker. It's the spark. You know, the thing.
I tried to explain it to a married friend, as I told her about my bizarre, week-long "maybe we will, then probably we won't" experience. She didn't understand what the problem was right away. After all, he seemed perfect for me.
Then I reminded her of that feeling. The one you get when you kiss someone you just know is going to be important in your life.
The moment you melt and then think, "I'm in trouble now."
This undefinable, almost inexplicable quality that has us dating wildly inappropriate people and sending the perfect "catch" on their merry way. It's why a matchmaker can set up two of the best, most compatible single people on a date and they won't hit it off.
The girls on Sex and the City dubbed it "zsa zsa zsu" in the last season's finale, which, for obvious reasons, is now my all-time favourite. The main character wondered if maybe it wouldn't just be easier to give up the tumultuous, uncertain search for Something Right and settle for Something So-So. If butterflies and the spark and the tingle and all that aren't just an elusive dream some people manage to find and others don't.
It's a subject which single and married people can debate for hours, with those lucky enough to be hooked up interjecting to remind us butterflies, sex and passion all fade. Friendship, dedication, communication, loyalty, family.
Those things, they'll say, remain.
But I can't help but think when that moment in a marriage comes, when one half looks at their partner and wonders how they got there and how they'll stay, the memory of those butterflies might come in pretty handy.
And I'm fully aware, having taken the stance that nothing less will do, I could face a mid-50s Gloria Steinham-like discovery women aren't like fish and men aren't like bicycles. Or end up alone, gray-haired, rocking back and forth while bellowing at a television game show: "I didn't settle, I didn't settle."
In the closing moments of the Sex and the City episode I referred to earlier, the camera closed in on a gauzy shot of a flickering butterfly in a scene swathed with beautiful summer colour. The main character's bittersweet voiceover summed up this conundrum in a better way than any I'd heard:
"Some people are settling down, some people are settling, and some people refuse to settle for anything less than butterflies."
I'll admit I get a little scared and pretty sad every time a perfectly good guy walks away, whether it was his doing or mine. No matter how much I pretend otherwise, the clock is ticking. And though I know it's unlikely, I can't help but wonder whether he was my last chance.
But I won't budge on the butterflies. They are not negotiable.
Update: This guy was furious about this column. So angry. He's married now, so I am betting he's over it.