Fri, Nov 28, 2014 ●
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No Sugar Added: Zero degrees of separation

Opinion

No Sugar Added: Zero degrees of separation

Most of us are familiar with the concept known as “six degrees of separation.” It’s the idea that all humans are within six steps of connectivity. That whole friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend thing.

If you live in the great (sparsely populated) state of Maine, you know that it is not six degrees that separates the humans living here, but something more along the lines of one degree. Lately, I suspect there are actually zero degrees that separate any of us residing here. Especially those of us who are in the dating pool.

Having grown up in the metropolitan New York/tri-state area, attended college in downtown Philadelphia and spent most of my twenties and thirties in and around Boston, I am not used to living under the microscope that is the great state of Maine.

Particularly, Portland and its surrounds.

Living, working, socializing and dating here is not unlike navigating your way through the web of a spider. A web that seems to stretch from Canada to the New Hampshire State Liquor Store on Interstate 95. And from the Atlantic Ocean to the outlets in North Conway.

It’s treacherous territory, to say the least.

In most places I’ve lived, you have a falling out with a business acquaintance, and there is a good chance that you will never see that person again. A deal goes bad, a freelancer does disappointing work, and you can say, “Ciao.” Bye-bye. Have a nice life.

Here in Portland, you have a falling out with a business acquaintance, and two weeks later, you find out that they are having lunch with the guy who mows your lawn. A freelancer falls short of your expectations and leaves a bad taste in your mouth? You can be sure that person will be sitting next to you when you are invited to the party for your accountant’s daughter’s high school graduation.

Your neighbor is annoying and you’ve shared your complaints with a friend? That same neighbor is undoubtedly dating that friend’s sister’s auto mechanic, and now they are lying in bed, concocting a plan to bring you down.

If you are dating here, the lack of a healthy level of separation becomes even more disturbing. It’s incestuous.

For example, I made a new friend last spring. On our second get-together, she read some of my short stories and, within minutes, realized the central character of one particular story was the same man with whom she was currently “hanging out.” Neither of us had slept with the guy, but we had probably both kissed him. And he was no great kisser. It was enough to make us shriek a collective “Eeeeewwwwww!”

Now when I make new “Maine” women friends who are single, I suggest up front that we avoid discussing our dating lives. Because, really, who wants to find out that the man who was fabulous and romantic on that date three days ago is the same guy your friend dumped three months ago, because she thought he was terrible in bed?

This is just too much information.

I mean, it’s disturbing to know that there is a 78 percent chance that the man you are on a date with has probably slept with the ex-wife of at least one of your old boyfriends. Because, let’s face it, there aren’t that many cute fish in the dating pool.

I’ve had a friend fix me up with her ex-husband. Let me just say this to that: No.

I’ve kissed a man, and later realized he had once dated the woman I had a business meeting with only days before.

Again, let me say this clearly: No, no, no.

A native Mainer once told me that he knows people who have moved to the Portland area, only to leave again because they just couldn’t deal with the brutal intimacy. Intimacy being a nice descriptor.

At first I laughed, but not so much anymore.

I love it here, but really, must my gynecologist be having an affair with the sister of the guy I buy my bagels from?

A few more degrees of separation would do us all some good. Except for the local therapists, who would undoubtedly lose a good number of clients.