Friday, February 28, 2014

I Love You: The End or the Beginning?

As you may or may not have noticed, I have something of a complicated relationship with relationships. I don't inherently hate them. I hate how some people treat them, I hate the value we place on having someone, anyone, instead of being alone. I hate the way it changes some people. And ok, yeah, I hate watching people make out in front of me at Starbucks. I prefer to say I'm realistic about relationships. 

I've never really liked the idea that love is the only thing you need for a relationship to be successful. You know, this whole romantic comedy notion that if he cares about you he'll make time for you. If she wants to talk to you or be with you, she'll find a way. That's all bullshit. 

I loved Taylor Hanson in middle school...also high school...and know what, you get my point. I loved him and middle school me would have absolutely quit school to go on tour with him. I just needed to meet him and everything would have fallen into place. Right? Of course not. You're sitting there shaking your head and mentally telling me I'm ridiculous because there's no way that everything would be so simple. I wouldn't meet his eyes during a concert and be taken backstage so he could invite me to dinner and fall ridiculously in love with me. (Sorry for letting you down, 14 year old Amanda.) 

And the reason all of that is bullshit is because the reality is so much more complicated. "I love you" doesn't suddenly make everything fall into place. "I love you" is just the thing that motivates you to put things into place yourself. The "I love you" makes you want to confront the hard stuff and deal with it and make everything work. 

And sometimes you want to talk to someone but it's about more than just picking up the phone. Sometimes you want to make time for someone but a million other things get in the way and you have to deal with that first. Sometimes you love someone but it's better for both of you if that's all there is. Because life is so much more complicated than "they'll find a way." 

If you're wondering where all this serious came from, you can blame the Smithies, who always make me feel smarter and more in control of my life than I really am. They are the best mirror to use because they reflect the best version of myself back at me. I had some long chats with them this weekend and we came to some pretty important conclusions, so I thought I'd share. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Talking to Strangers

Given how much I travel, one might think I would get better at scheduling blog posts during my absence. (I do that but not often enough.) Sometimes I just don't have a lot to say, though--and whether that's a good or bad thing depends entirely on your perspective. The biggest factor lately is that I just haven't been concerned with meeting men. Ok, that's only partially true. I've been very concerned with men but only ones who will put their face on mine for a little bit and then not ask for my phone number. So...I guess really I haven't been concerned with dating. If I cared about you all more I would probably try harder so I had stories to tell you. Perhaps in the future. 

This weekend, though...I met a lot of men. I went to DC on Friday, for a meeting that ran through Sunday. I extended my trip through Tuesday evening so I could visit with friends. And let me tell you...I made friends all over DC. 

I'll spare you the details of the guy preaching by the White House and the guy making ambulance noises in front of one of the museums. But all day Monday, I made friends. Guys checking bags inside museums had stories to tell me and wanted to tease me. Guys serving coffee wanted to chat. Fundraisers cornered me to badger me into donating money--one in particular high fived me too many times and was rather offensive after I turned him down. Fortunately, his supervisor caught me and asked me some questions to evaluate the new guy. My fellow Midwesterners sat down next to me to tell me all about their visit to our nation's capital. At the airport on Tuesday, I had a chat with TSA as I waited for my bags to be scanned. (Probably my favorite--we talked about Converse.) 

I'm not new to the idea of talking to strangers--I actually do that pretty regularly. But I think I experienced far more of it than usual during my day wandering around DC. Do you guys talk to strangers? What is it about someone that makes you chat with them? Is it proximity--stuck in line at the grocery store? Or is it something else? Leave a comment or send a message and let me know what you think! 

( that I think about it, it's probably payback for me playing my favorite crowded place game all day... a story for another day.)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Other Side of the Story

A few weeks ago, I wrote about limiting my interaction with some people in my life. And I stand behind what I wrote. I feel good about my decision and for the most part, I feel good about the results. 

But now I'm struggling with that idea in a different way--from the other side. What do you do when someone in your life seems to be pulling back? When I do that, it's for my own mental and emotional well-being. I like to think that the people I care about would understand my reasons. And so of course, I want what's best for them. If they need quiet or space, or just space from me, I respect that. 

In theory. Putting that into practice is another creature entirely--and that's the step I'm having a hard time reconciling. It's very strange, to feel like someone is pulling away from you. It makes you self-conscious about contacting them. When did I email her last? Did she write back that time? What if he feels like I'm smothering him? Maybe work is just crazy right now and she doesn't have time to chat. Or maybe he really doesn't want to talk. It doesn't matter who it is--a friend, your family, the guy across from you at work--you rethink simple interactions until you're annoyed with yourself. Then you start to think, am I doing this same thing to someone else? And do they feel shitty about it? 

Ultimately, I think you can't worry too much. You have to take care of yourself and when you're on the other side, you owe it to your loved ones to allow them the same.** Does it suck? Yeah, kind of. But people have to take care of themselves. 

So what do you do? Do you step back and give them space and hope they'll come to you when they are ready? Do you face the issue head on and ask if everything is ok? Do you blog about it on the internet and hope that one of your readers has an idea? (LIKE A WELL ADJUSTED ADULT.) 

Logically, I know this is about trusting in my relationships and the people in my life and having faith that they'll return to me when they can. But that is so hard. 

What do you think, readers? 

**Unless you're distancing yourself from the person you're IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH. In that case you owe them some kind of explanation. It really sucks for them if you just peace out and give yourself space. Not that I have any idea what that feels like. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Birthday Countdown...

Four months. 

In just over four months, I'll be turning 30. And I'm definitely comfortable with that. I'm getting really tired of the idea that 30 is considered old. It doesn't seem old to me. My 20s have been pretty amazing...or at least, most of them were. I'm ending them on a bit of a low note, but that's not important! The important part is that my 20s have been outstanding, and I'm excited to see what my 30s will bring. (Besides wedding invitations and baby showers. EVERYONE IS GETTING MARRIED AND HAVING BABIES, in case you hadn't picked up on that in previous blog posts.) 

And while I view 30 as exciting, I'm not quite ready to say goodbye to my 20s. During the next four months, I'm hoping to get at least some parts of my life back on track. (A desperately needed change.) However, I also think I owe it to my 20s to throw them a great farewell party. Make sure they know how important they are to me, and appreciate all the adventures they afforded me. 

So I'm brainstorming--and I need your help. What are the things that people should do/see/try/learn in their 20s? Leave me a suggestion in the comments below or on facebook, twitter, or email. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

From me to you...

Come on now, of course I got you a valentine. 

Also seen here:


A Valentine's Day Truce

A Public Service Announcement, on the eve of Valentine's Day: 

You're happy. You're in a relationship. Fine. I won't stand in your way. (Unless you're trying to make out in front of me in the line at Starbucks. I will probably do my best to make that uncomfortable for you. But I would do that on any day--that behavior is not exclusive to Valentine's Day.) I know you'll instagram the bouquet of flowers that are delivered to your office and you'll make a disgusting status update on facebook to make sure the world knows you're in love. I know. And that's fine. You do you. Yolo or whatever. (But really, please don't make out in front of me. Or anyone. Take that home.) 

But please, please, please--when you encounter someone single tomorrow, don't tell them you're sure they'll find The One. I don't know how many times I've heard that from a couple who was wrapped around each other, about to go have thanks for the generic diamond necklace sex, making me wish for a dragon attack or anything, anything to get me out of the conversation. It's so patronizing. Here's the secret about single people, that maybe you've forgotten since you aren't single anymore: 

We know. We know that we're single. It's not a secret. We've done the bouquet/garter toss at weddings when you pushed us onto the dance floor. We've answered the questions from our relatives. We've dutifully nodded through your suggestions of internet dating, speed dating, and that nice young woman in your apartment building. WE KNOW WE'RE SINGLE. And some of us don't care. Some of us don't want The One. Some of us don't necessarily believe in that, and don't care about it. Some of us just want to hang out with our friends and we're happy that way. Some of us want more than one. Some of us don't want to get any more serious than exchanging snapchat names. But some of us want that.* Some of us are actively out there looking for The One and it hasn't worked. Because it's hard. So when you tell us that our turn is coming, it's really shitty. It is in no way reassuring. 

So let's make a deal, couples. When you're celebrating this weekend, do your thing. But I'm going to do my thing too--and my thing is being alone, disliking this holiday, and waiting for the price of chocolate to be reduced drastically. I'll refrain from making fart noises and loudly discussing STIs** if you keep your PDA at a respectable distance from other people. Think you can manage that? 

*Don't worry, I'm not including myself in that group. Gross.
**Again, unless you're being gross in front of me, or in my way. Then you can expect me to be on the phone asking if someone else has a mysterious rash, too. You've been warned. 

PS--Keep an eye on my facebook and twitter, for a little Valentine treat later today.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Olympics are Better Than Going Out

I bailed on social invitations on Friday night. I told people I was busy, and when they pressed for more information (or, you know, made conversation like human beings) I told them I was watching the Olympics Opening Ceremonies. I didn't want to watch it at a bar or record it and watch it later. I wanted to watch it at home so I could hear everything and tweet the whole time and fangirl over Shaun White** and also wear my sweatpants. 

It was a perfectly acceptable reason to stay home. However, sometimes you don't have a reasonable excuse. I received a request for excuses to skip social functions, and I'm perfectly happy to encourage that kind of behavior, so I've come up with some examples. First, however, a few guidelines...

Please remember that not every excuse works for everyone. You need something that is a boring, inflexible obligation. The key here is to be believable. If you're a teacher, then you probably don't find yourself with a lot of unexpected weekend work emergencies. If you live five states away from your parents, then you probably can't get away with Dad needing help painting the garage. If your grandparents are dead I shouldn't have to tell you NOT TO USE THEM AS AN EXCUSE. On the other hand, grandparents can be invoked occasionally but never in an emergency scenario--I mean, it's not worth tempting fate. If it's going to be a health-related excuse, it has to be something that is keeping you in but not something that concerns friends enough to stop by and check on you. And don't worry anyone! If you have a serious peanut allergy, do not, I repeat DO NOT tell your friends your throat is swelling up and you're going to pop on over to the emergency room. Dial it back. 

Try to stick to excuses that are boring. Things that you wouldn't tweet about or instagram. You can't half-ass a lie. Be the lie. Don't let foursquare rat you out! If you can't resist snapchatting people, you're better off telling the truth. 

Separate your worlds. If you're skipping a work function, use your family. If you're skipping a family function, use a volunteer meeting. If you're skipping something with friends, use work. If you work with friends and the lines are blurred, use your health. "Oh, can't make that meeting--I have book club." Don't overlap. 

Ask yourself, who will be angry about this? If you're skipping your cousin's wedding because you'd rather catch the Harry Potter marathon on ABC Family, you might want to reconsider. If you have to spend the next ten Christmas dinners listening to your mom and her sister lament how sad it is that they couldn't get a picture of all the cousins, that's your own problem. If you try to blame me, I will deny it and say I tried to convince you otherwise. However, if you're passing on trivia night for Harry Potter, you have my blessing. 

Get it? Let's go. 

Legitimate Excuses for Turning Down Invitations When Your Real Reason Won't Fly
Better for daytime...
  • Your grandparent or parent has an appointment and you offered to drive them. (A check-up works, or something like bloodwork. The dentist works well because that's far less life-threatening. And you always need someone to drive you after your eyes have been dilated by your optometrist.) 
  • YOU have an appointment. It takes weeks to get a gyno appointment, you can't possibly reschedule!
  • Baby or wedding shower. Believable anytime between 11am and 6pm on weekends, since they're usually during brunch or lunch. Often a family obligation, and people seldom ask to see pictures. (Sorry guys, but you pretty much never get invited to these. Steer clear of this excuse.) 
  • The cable guy/plumber/dishwasher delivery guy is coming sometime between 10 and 4, so you have to stay put. 
  • Jury duty. (Pro tip: I don't know about everywhere, but cell phones aren't allowed in the court house around here. If you "have jury duty" to avoid a friend, and that friend texts you...don't answer yet.) 

Better in the evening...
  • A guy in your office is retiring/having a birthday/getting a big promotion and you're all going for a drink to celebrate. 
  • Your turn to host book club. (The hosting is key here. You HAVE to be there.) 
  • Meeting of the church group/housing association/PTA/volunteer opportunity of your choosing.

  • Work called with a last minute deadline/emergency. OR: Someone called and asked you to take their shift.
  • You offered to babysit for a cousin or friend. 
  • A friend is arriving home and you offered to pick her up at the airport.
  • Car trouble! (This is risky, since there is the possibility that someone will offer to pick you up. Best used when you're meeting people out of your area.)
  • Food poisoning or some kind of temporary, minor, yet annoying health issue. A migraine works well. Throwing up deters guests. 
  • Shaun White called you. Nothing is more important than this. 

Enjoy your Harry Potter marathon! 

**Yes, you heard me. Every four years my crush on him comes out of hibernation for two weeks. 

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Turn to page 45.

There's been a string of emails in the last 12 hours among some college friends, which began with one of the girls catching up on The Bloggess. (This is a fantastic life choice.) One recent post is about this image, making the rounds on facebook and tumblr. 

This is the kind of thing that we all think is very silly, until we allow ourselves a half second teenage regression and think what the hell? And suddenly you have to know. It's the same reason all your facebook friends are taking quizzes to find out which Mean Girls character they are. (If you're curious, I got Ms. Norbury, which shouldn't come as a surprise.) It was this moment of weakness that led to all of us searching for the closest book. M found that the closest book to her was The Princess Bride. Her results were respectable--page 45 includes a bit about bare chests, so there's a lot of potential. L finds herself between two books--Mary Poppins and some sort of "adult" fiction. Although her results will be wildly different, I think either one will yield something interesting. Poor S, however, finds her studious self sitting near a book about the application of research methods. The title is not sexy, but we'll hold out hope that page 45 produces something we can twist into a "that's what she said." 

It's been very entertaining, and I feel certain that at least some of you are glancing around casually for a book. Because you have to know, right? 

Oh, me? Well, I'm next to my copy of I Am Malala. Because if there's anything that will accurately sum up my love life, it's a book about a young woman getting shot in the face.**

"Student organizations which had been banned under Zia became very active." I will leave that here without commentary. 

So, what did you find? 

**Real talk: I think Malala is incredible and I'm really enjoying her book. 

Monday, February 03, 2014

It's a metaphor, ok?

A couple years ago, I noticed that my stomach was bothering me pretty frequently. I started to look for patterns and messed around with my diet a bit. Eventually I figured out that dairy was behind the issues. After some experimenting and testing the waters, I had it basically under control. Skim milk in my cereal is fine. Don't ever forget the word nonfat at Starbucks unless you want to be crying five minutes later. A small piece of lasagna is ok but a second helping means pain. Ice cream hasn't turned on me yet, bolstering my faith in the universe. I still enjoy certain foods but I recognize that my interaction with them had to change. Cheese isn't out to get me--we just have to limit our time together. When I'm feeling great, it's tempting to think that things have changed again but part of me knows it isn't worth going through more trial and error. Just enjoy a bite and then eat something else. Sure, it can be difficult at parties, but I manage. 

Longtime readers of my blog are probably trying to figure out what is going on here, as I don't tend to discuss my dietary restrictions. (But maybe someday I'll tell you about my crystal meth allergy.) But you also might have guessed that we're not talking entirely about food here. 

I've been struggling with the idea that some people, despite good intentions, are not good for you. I'm talking about people you care about, people who love you, but for whatever reason they make your stomach hurt. It's perfectly acceptable to cut people out of your life. You have to take care of yourself. But what if zero contact isn't an option? What if you don't want zero contact? I'm learning to treat this issue in the same way I treat dairy--I'm limiting my interaction. I'm going for small doses of exposure on my own terms. I'm not pleased that I have to do it, but I'm so happy with the results. I know I'll probably get stuck at a party with those people at some point, but I'll manage. 

This isn't advice...I'm not suggesting that this is right for everyone or every relationship. But it's definitely something I had to do for myself.