Monday, June 30, 2014

Most Asked Question: Is this a date?

There's a blog post making the rounds among my facebook friends--I'm sure some of you have seen it. On his blog, Matt Walsh is calling for single men to stop hiding behind the phrase "hanging out" and call a date a date. Admittedly, this is the first I've read on his blog so I don't know how many opinions we share. But on this issue, we have some common thoughts.

He's right: dating is confusing. Because most of us aren't 100% sure when we're actually on a date. I get A LOT of letters and questions from people asking me "was that a date?" I don't understand why this is so unclear, just that it is. It's almost like each of us is so afraid of rejection that we think keeping it vague is better. Or maybe we're so afraid of commitment that we keep everything really casual until, what, someone proposes? I don't know the answer here. I can only join the millennial masses and speculate.

Walsh gets it half right when he calls for men to be clear and make up their minds. He's half right because women need to do it too. Despite the fact that it means talking about feelings, we as a population of single adults need to be honest about the status of things and ask the questions that lead to knowing if you're on a date.

I found myself in a bit of trouble recently when a man told me about an event he and a bunch of friends were attending. As a group. It sounded fun, so when he said I should join them, I told him I would consider it. He asked for my number. Halfway through the digits, I felt the all too familiar Commitment Panic, realizing he might have wanted it for date purposes. But how do you make that clear? Please only use my number for platonic group events, thanks? That's not normal. I can't go around saying things like that and still make friends. Not to mention...what if he didn't want to ask me out? Then I would sound like that girl who assumes every man wants to be her boyfriend. Once I started giving him my number, I couldn't turn back. I just had to wait and see what happened. Because I was totally in the dark.

No, he wanted to ask me out. His message that week was a clear date invitation, so points for that. But if he had been clear from the start, we could have avoided that situation.

In his blog post, Matt Walsh is appointing men with the task of being clear about their intentions. And I'll give you that most of the "is this a date?" questions I get are from women, but my audience skews more female, if stuff like my facebook page is to be believed. (Boys, you need to be more vocal out there!) I'm not sure if guys have this same "are we on a date" anxiety--my guess is yes. And "are we on a date" doesn't even compare to "are we in a relationship" concerns. Can I call him my boyfriend? My friends are calling him my boyfriend but he's never said it, and I've never said it, so maybe he's not my boyfriend? One time I didn't address this issue until my dad started telling everyone I had a boyfriend and then I asked the guy if that was true. And no, I absolutely will not tell you when this happened in my life.

So here's my suggestion, single readers: make it clear. If you initiate hanging out with someone but really you mean it to be a date, call it a date. If you want to keep dating them, make that clear too. Then they can answer you honestly about whether or not they'd like that, because they will KNOW it's a date. They can adequately prepare for a date and stop texting me mid-date from the bathroom listing details of the outing and asking if I think they're on a date. Yeah, that happens. (I'm fine with you messaging me mid-date if you want my help, but it's probably a little weird and maybe our relationship should have some boundaries? I don't know, we'll work on that.)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

In a Relationship? Or is it Complicated?

I overheard someone saying that a sign of a healthy relationship is no sign of it on facebook. This has been bothering me, for a couple reasons. (Yes, I know I went off on keeping your romantic shit off my newsfeed--I stand by that. But NO sign of it? I take issue with that, too. No, you just can't win.)

My first question for anyone keeping their relationship totally off facebook is why? What's your reasoning for keeping his par of your life invisible? Because I'm not gonna lie--that seems shady. My gut reaction would be to assume you're ashamed of being with them.

Now, if both of you mutually and honestly decide to keep your relationship social media-free, then cool. I guess. Still seems weird. Like if you're going to use social media and create lists of your favorite movies and choose a profile picture...why are you actively leaving this part off? (Unless you work together or something else that would necessitate some secrecy because you're not ALLOWED to be together. As long as you're both available consenting adults I'm fine with that.)

But that's all a personal choice, yeah? You do you But if you're maintaining a facebook page and leaving off your relationship status, we need to talk about my second concern.

Everyone else.

I'm talking about creeping on your page. I'm talking about meeting a handsome man and trolling his page to learn about him. (If he's available.) The Facebook Stalk, guys. It's one of my big moves. People look for a relationship status! It's the internet wedding ring, the first thing we look for. We look at that and we scroll recent profile pictures for any reoccurring person who may or may not be your significant other. And if your page has NO mention of a relationship, then we will probably assume that's a green light for our incoming flirting efforts.

Then we learn that you ARE in a relationship. Here come the questions. Why isn't that mentioned? I checked the profile! Why the secrecy? Does this significant other actually exist? Or are we talking about one of those "she lives in Canada, you wouldn't know her, we met this summer" kind of people, which we all know means she doesn't exist. Does this guy not care that he's dating someone? Is this his way of potentially cheating? Wait, does that mean I'm not worth cheating with? Stop that, I would never be the other woman. But still, this guy doesn't know that! What the f-- wait seriously why wouldn't you just click the "in a relationship" box?? I can't be alone in this thought process.

You're just making it difficult for everyone else by hiding your relationship from social media. And that kind of behavior gets you blogged about around here.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Dangers of Picking Up a Stray (Person)

If you were to ask my twin about my bad habits, I'm sure she would produce a long list with sources and proper references. I can't even guess what a lot of them are, since so many of our own bad habits do not seem bad in our own perspective--just to everyone else. However, one bad habit I am confident she would name is my tendency to, as she calls it, pick up strays.

I'm not talking about pets, although that would be awesome and maybe I should look into a new habit...

Anyway, before I find myself with a pack of dogs...back to my point. When Twin tells me not to pick up any strays, she's referring to the person equivalent. Just like cats and dogs wandering around the neighborhood often return back to the houses where people pet them or leave out food and water, some people return to the places they find friendship or attention--or even what just appears that way.

I'm a social person. I like to talk and I like to listen to people and if some of those people are new to me, then that's great. I regularly find myself having conversations with the people next to me in line at the grocery store, the people at the next table in the bar, my airplane seatmate...anybody. Unfortunately, this habit also makes you susceptible to strays. Strays are the people who return again and again, hoping you'll eventually just adopt them and bring them into your house--or your social circle. Sometimes they end up thinking you're really close friends but really you just talk to them because they're nice enough, they go to the gym when you do, and you run into each other regularly. It's fine until they start to ask you if you want to see a movie or something. When that happens, you know you've picked up a stray and you have to decide what to do. And maybe you're going to go ahead and be real friends, not just waiting in line at Starbucks every morning friends. Maybe you won't. It's a personal choice. But just know that strays are really, really hard to get rid of.

I'm not bothered by essentially being a cat lady for people. It's led me some interesting places. I've lost track of the number of times people have told me about losing someone they love or fighting with their siblings or quitting their job or other really personal things. I've talked to people on their way to weddings, funerals, and hospital waiting rooms. And sometimes they want to talk a lot after that or sometimes they go their own way and I never see them again. But no matter the outcome, I've come to realize that sometimes you just have to share the burden of your story. That might mean turning to someone you trust. Other times, you tell a stranger--someone next to them on an airplane or behind them in line at the grocery store. If I can give that to someone...I'm definitely ok with that. 

It should be noted that my attitude towards strays DOES NOT extend to men trying to date me. Those kind of strays aren't confiding in you or trying to be friends. They're the ones who sprinkle a sort of awkward conversation with very awkward questions designed to find out your age, marital status, the kind of men you go for, and sometimes--fingers crossed!--your sexual preferences. (Yes that has really happened to me. With strangers. Awesome.) These men are not very smooth about getting to know you and don't read your cues very well, so they don't seem to care whether or not you're actually interested. Which is why you ask if the book in their hand is worth reading and they ask if your boyfriend likes books too. ...What? They say they were at work and you ask what they do and the reply is something about pleasuring women. (YES THOSE PEOPLE EXIST.) These men are pretty much going to ask for your phone number at the first opening, despite your bewildered expressions and uncomfortable attempts to change the topic. But you were nice to this stray and they were encouraged. So the longer that conversation lasts, the greater the chance of that guy asking for your number. Decide right now--do you want this guy calling you? If yes, proceed. If you're like me and no no no don't call me I don't believe in phones, then you need an escape plan. Now. You have to get out before he can ask and really it's better to avoid him for the immediate future. (Until one of you leaves the bar or the flight lands, for example.) From personal experience, it is less awkward to get out before he can ask than to tell him no, you can't call me sometime. I mean, if he's a douche then don't worry. But if he's just kind of clueless and you think he's really not picking up on your disinterest and you want to be kind to him...just get out. (STRAYS LOOK SO SAD WHEN THEY CAN'T COME INSIDE YOUR HOUSE, OK?)

Ok, I can hear complaints coming. 

I recognize that it's hard to put yourself out there when you're attracted to someone. And I applaud honesty. But I have a big problem with continuing to try when the other person rejects you or does not return your sentiments. If you're talking to someone and keep trying to ask what he's doing on the weekend, and he keeps changing the subject--he does not want you in his weekend plans. He doesn't even want to tell you that. I'm just saying you should respect the unspoken boundaries that are being set by your conversational partner, you know? But that's getting into a huge topic, so we'll save that for another day...

The thing about strays is that I have a really hard time identifying them until surprise! they keep coming back. And by then...

What I'm saying is you need someone like Twin who has your back, because she pretty much hates strangers and also sees the strays coming and tries to warn me. (You can guess how often I listen, but she tries.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Countdown to 30

I'm turning 30. 

As in, my birthday is this month and I'm turning 30. I think it'll be great. I've been thinking about it a lot, and as long as the grey hairs cool it for the next few weeks, I'm optimistic. (Yeah, I find them every once in a while and have a mild panic. Did I ever tell you guys that I found my first grey hair on the morning that The Astronaut told me he needed space? It was quite a morning. And then the next weekend I went to my ex-boyfriend's wedding. Really I guess what I'm saying is how could turning 30 be WORSE than all that?)

I've been running across a lot of lists of things you should do in your 20s or stuff you should know or things you can only do in your 20s. I'm happy to call this bullshit, but then on those occasions that I find a grey hair and see my youth slipping away from me, I take a look--just to make sure I've got my bases covered. And you know what I've learned? 

It IS total bullshit. All the stuff on these lists covers one of three areas: 
1. Stuff I've already done. Hooray! Crossing items off the 20s bucket list as ordained by Cosmo and Thought Catalog! And that's good because at 29, I'm already too old for a lot of this stuff.
2. Stuff I wouldn't want to do ever. "Wear neon crop tops to music festivals." That's rather specific. I'm hoping this is more about "Now is the time in your life to wear crazy things!" and not just neon crop tops, because even in my early 20s, and really at all points in my life, no one wants to see this girl in a neon crop top. Including this girl. 
3. Stuff I have no intention of cutting out of my life once I turn 30. Take a lot of instagram photos? Keep a journal? Go on a roadtrip with your friends? Why exactly would I stop doing those things? There's nothing wrong with those things. I LIKE those things. I mean, Cosmo says I should date or hook up with someone "ridiculously hot" in my 20s. Not to brag, but I HAVE, and also would totally do it again if given the opportunity. I'm not sure why I can't do that later in life, Cosmo. Are you suggesting that I can't have a string of ridiculously hot boyfriends once I turn 30? Or that I can't marry someone ridiculously hot? Are you saying attractive people aren't the marrying kind? And that SURELY I'll be getting married by my 30s so I'll have to give up hooking up with crazy hot guys? What are you really saying, Cosmo?

You know what? It's probably better that I continue to ignore these lists. They may or may not be causing early onset Old Lady Rants. Bring it on, 30. 

Monday, June 02, 2014

Time Travel and Relationships

I think about time travel the same way I think about relationships. They sound great in theory but we can't really agree on a way to go about it and there is so much potential for disaster. And I've been thinking about time travel a lot lately. My book club read Stephen King's 11/22/63 most recently, and we met last week to discuss it. (Not spoiling anything, don't worry! It's about time travel but that's on the inside cover so I'm not telling you anything Stephen King didn't want you to know in advance.)

One aspect of time travel that comes up a lot in the book (and most other books/movies/TV shows that explore time travel) is the ramifications of screwing with the order of things. I'm a big believer in not screwing with history. (This is, of course, operating on the imagined reality where we could change history through time travel.) No matter what you change, it sets off a domino effect of other changes. Sure, maybe some of that would be good--we've all heard the why not just kill Hitler before he comes into power? Or admit the guy to art school or something? But you have no way of knowing how things would shape after that.

Why are we talking about time travel, nerd? Great question. I've been thinking about these changes in history as related to regrets.(And more specifically, relationship regrets.) As in, "I wish I hadn't done that" kind of regrets. As far as I'm concerned, there's no point in all that. First of all, because time travel doesn't exist.* We can't wish stuff away because a DeLorean driven by a young Michael J. Fox has yet to park outside my house.**

But second of all, I wouldn't go undo stuff even if given the opportunity. I've thought about this a lot because one of my college admission essays posed the question. It stuck with me. Yeah, there's stuff in my past that I hated. Things that hurt and made life a lot harder. But I still wouldn't change it, because it's all part of the journey and part of who you are. I don't think everything is fate, but I will say I think we find ourselves in certain places at certain times because it's important. And if you change your path, you can't know that you'd still find yourself in those places at those times. And to be honest? Despite all the pieces that aren't perfect, I have a pretty awesome life. I'm not sure I would want to be in a different place. Because that place might suck.

That was my long-winded way of saying I don't do regrets, particularly in relationships. Sure, I learned that The Astronaut was a dick, but there was value in that relationship. I learned a lot from it, which is how I try to look back at mistakes. You can't beat yourself up over them, but you can make them useful experiences. For example, I learned that I still suck at relationships and that I'm really much better off sticking with short term. See, useful!

(None of this is not to say that you're wrong for wanting to wish away parts of your past. I don't know what you're carrying and I'm sure there are things in life that are so heavy it would be easier to go on if you could drop them off in the past and leave them there. I can only use my experiences as an example, and of course that's limited. If there's stuff so hurtful in your past that changing your path wouldn't matter, I hope Marty McFly shows up. You can have my turn.)

When it comes to time travel...I'm sticking with the answer 17 year old me provided. Whether we're talking the Kennedy assassination (Also not a spoiler, unless you were unaware of the historical significance of the date 11/22/63, in which case...well, spoiler alert but that was the date President Kennedy was assassinated.) or a terrible ex-boyfriend, I would still choose to not change the past. I'm all about learning from it. 

You can take the girl out of the classroom, but you can't take the classroom out of the girl. 

*At least, not commonly. If it's happening, no one is letting me in on the secret. Rude.
**Also rude.