1. A car walks into a bar. You stare, snapping to attention at the curves, the angles, the glint of its exterior sheen. You want to get closer, see if this attraction might lead to something, but you hesitate. You probably can’t afford it. It’s probably high maintenance. It might not even be available. You turn back to the bartender and order another Cosmopolitan.

2. The computer screen glows lightly on your face. Sure enough, bar walker, who one of your friends actually knows, is First in Its Class and the price is just too high. So you start to surf. It must be safer to search online, going through profiles, prequalifying the options. Then you know you’re in your league. You go through item after item, reading, comparing, you narrow it down to The One. (Or Two.)

3. Test drive. You walk up at the pre-arranged meeting place. You’re holding Car and Driver in your left hand, just as you’d been told to do. You sidle up, peer in close, and still think–hmm, not like the picture but it’s okay. You settle in, start things up, and instantly you know–it’s not going to happen. All that research, the checkmarks matching you two up, mean nothing when you sit there and wish you were simply somewhere else.

4. Next try. Your second choice seems to be working. You drive around town, and all goes smoothly. You part and you feel pretty good. You meet up with your friends and tell them you’re thinking of hooking up.

5. “No way!” they say. “Not that one!” They all punch each other, laughing, unbelieving. They tell unflattering stories. The negative peer pressure is oppressive. Your optimism plummets. Suddenly you think, no, maybe it’s the wrong time. Then you rally–no! I don’t care what they think! But later, alone, you wonder. If they feel so strongly, maybe they are right.

6. Christmas approaches. You had boasted to your family that you’d be bringing something new home for them to see! You feel pressure. You remember the first option–maybe it wasn’t so bad? Should you go see it again? Maybe it will have improved somehow? You tentatively call a couple of friends–what about this one? They, understanding now how they crushed your enthusiasm before, are all support. Even the other one, they now say, would be okay.

7. Somehow you wish it could all be different. That the perfect compliment to your need would just arrive, all the right options, an easy fit. But no, you start all over, watching the world around you for new models, more educated now, spotting the ones out of your range right away, and hope that maybe, with a little self improvement, you can trade up.

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