Bob was a guy I connected with on JDate. He was smart, engaging, funny, successful. We enjoyed a number of email exchanges and then several phone conversations. We were really connecting. Until I mentioned that I don't cook.
There was a pause. "What do you mean, you don't cook?" he asked.
"I mean that I don't cook."
"You don't cook at all?"
"Nope. I don't like to cook."
"How can you not cook?" he asked. "What do you eat?"
"I eat takeout. I throw together a salad. I eat out."
"But you don't cook?" he asked plaintively. "Ever?"
I could feel the energy draining out of the conversation. And it wouldn't be the first time.
Men, in my experience, expect women not only to be able to cook but to enjoy cooking. Specifically, men want women to want to prepare them a wonderful, home-cooked meal.
It wasn't that Bob loved spending time in the kitchen. When I asked, he told me that he was an adequate but indifferent cook himself and that he didn't particularly enjoy cooking. But, clearly, he expected me to.
"You'll never get a home-cooked meal from me," I told him. "If you need a woman who will cook for you, you're going to have to find someone else."
After giving it some thought, he told me that my inability to cook for him was indeed a deal-breaker. Never mind that I'm smart and loving and loyal and accomplished. I'm a good friend. And a good kisser. I can make you laugh. (I'm a successful humorist. I've even been on the Today Show!) Apparently, that wasn't worth a thing, because I couldn't whip up a delicious chicken parm or fabulous beef stroganoff.
I find this exasperating, if only because it's so gendered. Can you imagine a woman turning down an otherwise wonderful man upon learning that he would never prepare her a delicious dinner? Of course you can't.
Saul was introduced to me by a mutual friend. We had a lot in common and we really enjoyed each other's company. Getting to know each other, we took long walks, exchanging life stories. Early on, when I mentioned that I didn't cook, he made no comment. I took that as a good sign.
Then, one night, he suggested that he'd like to come over for dinner. Which, naturally, he expected me to prepare for him.
"But I don't cook," I said. "I told you that."
"I thought you meant that you weren't a GOURMET cook," he said. "You really don't cook? At all? Ever?"
I'm not saying that the relationship ended solely because of that, but it certainly didn't help.
My mother was a wonderful cook. Growing up, I couldn't help but notice how much time she spent cooking. And shopping. And cleaning up. Everyone loved Mom's cooking, and she longed to teach me all of her culinary tricks and skills, but I didn't want to learn them.
I suspected that once I knew how to cook a fabulous meal, people would expect me to. And cooking a fabulous meal just wasn't how I wanted to spend my time.
I married a man who was a terrific cook. He did the shopping and cooking and I did the cleaning up, which worked for both of us. Although I did try to cook dinner for Rick a few times, the results were, unfortunately, a disaster. Still, when we eventually divorced, it had nothing to do with dinner.
I don't miss that marriage but I do miss Rick's amazing chicken with artichoke hearts in wine sauce, and his delicious homemade bread.
After the divorce, I once confided to my ex that our son was complaining that he'd never gotten a home-cooked meal from me.
"Cook him one. He'll never ask for another," Rick joked.
I have a good life. I'm happy and healthy. I have friends and family who love me, even though I have never cooked for them and never will.
All I'm looking for is a good man who doesn't yearn to come home to a home-cooked meal. There apparently aren't many of them, but all I need is one.
Wish me luck.