Friday, November 30, 2012

Can we talk?

A friend posted this article from CNN on facebook the other day. It's part of a larger series they're doing on Our Mobile Society.

I'm pretty mobile. OK - if the truth be told, I'm probably one (very short) step away from needing a twelve-step program to treat Nomophobia.
You do not want to talk to me on the phone. How do I know? Because I don't want to talk to you on the phone. Nothing personal, I just can't stand the thing.
I find it intrusive and somehow presumptuous. It sounds off insolently whenever it chooses and expects me to drop whatever I'm doing and, well, engage. With others! When I absolutely must, I take the call, but I don't do a very good job of concealing my displeasure.
So it was with profound relief that I embraced the arrival of e-mail and, later, texting. They meant a conversation I could control — utterly. I get to say exactly what I want exactly when I want to say it. It consumes no more time than I want it to and, to a much greater degree than is possible with a phone call, I get to decide if it takes place at all. That might make me misanthropic. It surely makes me a crank. But it doesn't make me unusual.
This describes me perfectly. I'm from a generation that, at one time, only had phones that were attached to the wall by a cord. I actually liked talking on the phone with my friends - but when it came to communicating with guys, I was at a loss.

You can imagine how relieved I was that email and texting had sky-rocketed in popularity by the time I re-entered the dating scene. Honestly, if they hadn't, I'd probably already have my crazy-cat-lady laminated ID card.

Online dating sites, texting, and email are great for meeting someone not already in your circle, and for casual conversation while you get to know each other. But I'm starting to think that what this article says is very true for me; it all has a profoundly negative effect on my ability to communicate with guys once we're in any sort of relationship.

I've mentioned before that in my family, we only discuss feelings or emotions when we're fighting. I also mentioned that I believe my following in these foot-steps was at least one way in which I contributed to my failed marriage.

But since I'm a grown-up (technically) who wants a grown-up relationship - I suppose at some point I need to stop blaming societal trends and my family's own dysfunction, and pick up the damn ball and run with it myself.

I know I have a lot of work to do. I may even need to put the phone down and actually talk to someone - like, face to face.

I suppose talking to my cats doesn't count?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

In the cards

So, I went for a tarot card reading a couple of weeks ago. For those who have never been, you sit down with a reader and while shuffling the deck, you concentrate on a question. When you feel comfortable, you lay the cards down and cut the deck. The reader then turns over multiple cards and lays them out in front of you.

This is the fourth time I've had my cards read. It's been about two years since my last reading, and I don't remember exactly how those readers placed the cards on the table. I do remember it was different than this most recent reading - so I'm thinking there are different ways to arrange the cards once the deck is cut.

This most recent reader layed out nine cards; three columns, with three cards each. The first column represented my past, the second my present and the third, my future.

My past showed a Strength card, along with a Two of Wands and a Four of Swords. The Two of Wands indicates that in my recent past, I have been looking at new horizons. The Four of Swords shows that I was in a time of reflection, or that perhaps I was stagnant somehow (either literally or figuratively), and being "stuck" is what led me to make some changes. The Strength card paired with these two suggests I'm being challenged - and by not pushing or resisting, I will get stronger.

My present showed an Ace of Cups, Death, and Fool cards. The Ace of Cups is particularly good news with respect to relationships. It suggests I'm in a season of positive opportunity. In this case (as in most readings) the Death card is not a literal, physical death, but a sign of transition; one thing is ending, while another begins. In my case, a recent loss of identity is forcing the transition that is bringing the opportunity - which is good, but frustrating to me because the way things are happening is not within my control.

My future showed a Ten of Rods, Wheel of Fortune and an Ace of Pentacles. The Ace of Pentacles is good news for career. The Wheel of Fortune suggests that positve changes are in my near future, but they are not within my control. In order to reap the rewards, I need to be open and let the opportunities happen, regardless of how they look. The Ten of Rods suggests that my plans are in their final stages.

In a nutshell - I am in a good place, having made some positive changes. Though neither the changes nor the opportunities look like I might have planned or expected, by remaining open, I will get to an even better place. Overall, I'm in a season of major change and growth in a lot of ways. It's all positive, but intimidating to me because it is out of my control, and not like I planned.

Which all sounds a little familiar to me.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Take it from me

A lot of people ask me for advice on dating - what to say, how to write a profile, how to read a guy. I suppose this is because I've been dating for almost four years.

I'm also asked for advice on singlehood - again, I suppose because in between my brief relationships over the last few years, I've become somewhat of an expert at being single.

I'm rarely (if ever) asked for advice about marriage. I suppose that makes sense. I mean - I'm divorced. By default, I'm not really qualified to give advice on how to have a "successful" marriage.

It's a little funny to me that people think of me as an "expert" in something at which I'm relatively new, and a complete failure at something I did for most of my adult life. After all, I was cohabitating/married a lot longer than I've been divorced and living on my own.

I think maybe it's less about how long you did what, and more about what you've done most recently.

Things change as you go through life. When you're in your twenties, never married, and no kids - "single" looks much different than it does when you're divorced in your thirties and raising kids on your own. In your twenties, it's new and exciting. In your thirties, it's a failure, and something you never thought you'd have to figure out.

So the thirty-year-old single woman can't really offer a lot of guidance to the twenty-year-old. After all - she's not dealing with the same things. It's possible she never did; but even if she's been where her friend is, things are different and the rules have changed.

Longevity means very little, too. There are a ton of couples out there who have been married for a long time. Does that automatically qualify them to give advice on how to have a good marriage? I don't think so. Many of them are married only  because they don't believe in divorce.

No one really needs advice on how to not get divorced - just don't. By the same token, no one really needs advice on how to find a date and/or a mate. Find someone devoted to you, and stick with him.

When people want advice, what they're looking for is advice on how to do something right. How do I make my marriage good and satisfying and healthy so that neither of us wants a divorce? How do I go about finding the person who best fits my life, and what I want and need from a relationship?

There's so much relationship advice out there. If you're not careful, it will chase you around every corner. Books, blogs, magazines...movies, name it, someone is looking to share her "expert" advice.

Around these parts, I'm the expert (Ha - you're all screwed!). Want to know what I think?

No one can give you the perfect advice. At best, she can offer an objective, constructive opinion based on what she's learned about herself, and what she knows about you. She can share her own experiences, and tell you what worked for her and what didn't.

In the end, it's up to you to sift through the information and figure out what will work best for you. In order to do that - you need to really know yourself.

That is the best advice I have to offer to anyone.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I'm positive

I think we're all born with a positive self-image. The problem starts on day two - when the world and the people around us first begin to challenge our self-esteem.

It never stops.

We all have our confidence challenged every day. If you don't think of yourself as pretty, you probably think your beautiful friend has it all together. What you don't realize is that she feels like a failure at work. If you don't like your body, you may assume that woman at the gym knows that her physique is awesome. You may never realize that she feels like she's failing as a parent.

I used to believe that a person could see herself as a failure in one area, but be totally confident in the others. I don't think that way anymore. I have known too many people who lost confidence in one area, and watched as it spilled over into every other part of their lives. If you think you're failing your kids or you have failed in your career, you won't make that relationship work. Somewhere, deep down, you're telling yourself you can't.

If you're like me, you don't attract a ton of guys. You're probably cute - but only marginally. People like you - but not in a head-over-heels sort of way.

You've probably also spent the better part of your single life figuring that if only you could be one of the "pretty girls," with guys flocking around you at the bar and blowing up your phone, you'd feel better about yourself.

I have bad news: This is not the case.

Yes, there is a definite ego-boost from knowing people like you. That's actually a big reason you find so many women on dating sites. Many don't want to find a relationship - they want to find guys who will pay them some attention, and give their confidence a little lift.

But is that really confidence? Confidence is defined as:
Belief in oneself and one's powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance
By its very definition, confidence comes from you believing in you. I would submit that means it can not be something that comes from anyone else.

Most of us enter the dating world after a breakup (for some of us, this happens more often than others...whatever). Your confidence will never be lower than just after that kind of rejection. Even if the breakup was your idea - somewhere in your mind, you still failed. Your confidence is still shaken.

The absolute worst thing you can do is start dating, figuring that you'll find someone to boost your self-esteem.

It can't be done. He can boost your ego - "that part of the psychic apparatus that experiences and reacts to the outside world" - but that's not the same. If you get all your confidence by reacting to what others think, then guess what? It will only work when others treat you positively. The minute anyone treats you negatively - your confidence will be shattered.

Shields Up
The only way to truly build your own self-confidence is to figure out what tore it down in the first place. What chips away at it every day? How can you - on your own - rebuild your self-esteem? What can you do to wake each day knowing that no matter what anyone else says or does, you will have a good, positive day, and see yourself in the best way possible?

I suppose the best way to do all that is different for each one of us. No matter how we do it, we all have to acknowledge that confidence isn't something that can be built once, and expected to last. It will be challenged every day of your life.

You need to be prepared to defend it as often.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Choose positive

I joke a lot, and sarcastically say, "If it could happen to anyone...." Whenever Trooper would hear me talk like that, he would always say, "Don't speak that into existence."

Trooper taught me a lot about the power of positive thinking. When I spent time with him, I started expecting good things to happen. They did - until that boat sank. It hurt so much, it was easy to fall back into the habit of waiting for the other shoe to drop any time things were looking good. I convinced myself that the only way to avoid hurt like that was to not to let myself be positive.

I know I can still see good, because I'm always speaking positive things for others. A friend wanted a new job...I encouraged him until it happened. Another friend wanted things to go well with a new guy...and I kept saying, "It will, it will." And it is.

But when it comes to my own life, I always feel like I have to prepare for the worst. I expect the bad, and tell myself it's just to protect my feelings when the the potential let-down hits.

But recently, I've started to wonder - is that what I'm doing? Or am I just speaking bad things into existence?

I realize if I hope for something specific, it might not happen. If I look back at all the things I have really wanted that never panned out, I can see how it turned out better. So I know things in my life are happening as they should.

Why can't I focus on that? Hope for the good things. Think on the positive; speak about it. Hope for the best. If it doesn't happen - sure, I'll be disappointed. I just need to remind myself that if one thing doesn't work out as I hoped, it's probably just because something better is coming along.

History proves that.

In the meantime, I get to be happy because I'm hopeful. When I'm happy, I embrace the good I already have. When I see the good - I care less when the bad actually happens.

So if I choose to be positive - I can actually change the way my life looks, even if I can't always control my own circumstances.

And to think....this idea hit me while I was at the gym.

Friday, November 23, 2012

I have....

I'm trying to think more positively, and focus on what I do have, instead of the one little thing that I'm missing.

I believe it's coming. I feel like I'm ready for true, honest, healthy love to come into my life, and I'm open to letting it in when it arrives. In the meantime, I don't want to focus on what I don't have. I'd rather concentrate on all the things that I do have.

So, in the spirit of the holiday - I'm thankful I have:
  • A good job
  • Side work that I love
  • Volunteer opportunities
  • Wonderful friends
  • Kids who love me
  • As much unconditional love as cats can give
  • Nice house that's my own.
  • (Mostly) paid bills
  • A great family
  • Chocolate
  • Sushi
  • Shemar Moore
  • Derek Jeter
  • (OK, so I don't actually have them - but they make me smile)
  • Presents
  • Jewelry
  • Shoes
  • Purses
  • Cozy sweaters
  • Comfy jeans
  • A car that's good in snow
  • Humor
  • Laughter
  • Warmth
  • Sarcasm
....and Shine.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How to go black hole

"If he's trying to blow you off, he's doing a lousy job."

When we first started talking, we texted everyday. In my mind, that set an expectation.

After we met, the texting dwindled. I asked what was up, and he said all was OK with us, that he'd just had a lot going on. I knew what had been happening, and it wasn't something he could lie about or invent. But then I didn't hear from him. For nearly a week.

I assumed he'd been sucked into the black hole, and I would not be hearing from him again. Then, out of nowhere, I get a text asking if I could get together the following week.

Confused, I asked - again. I hate to do that, because I was even annoying myself at that point. But the whole thing made no sense - who jumps in the black hole, and then jumps back out with a date? That's new.

He insisted he wasn't blowing me off, and that he wouldn't - "If I wasn't interested, I'd say so." I let it go, but was still convinced the black hole was trying to suck him back. That's when my friend said he's doing a lousy job at blowing me off.

Which makes me wonder - maybe he's new at this, and needs some tips? We all know I'm here to help, so if you're going black hole....

- Stop texting; for the love of all that's good - don't call.
- If she texts you, don't reply right away. In fact, only reply after she's sent about five texts.
- When you do reply, be as vague and short as possible.
- Under no circumstances should you set a date, or agree to one if asked.
- Never, ever tell her that you really are interested; she might actually believe you, and then you're stuck.

You may be thinking...wouldn't it be easier to just tell her I'm not interested? Duh. If you know you're not interested, you could take that sincere, honest, mature, respectful approach. I mean - extreme circumstances and all.

But going black hole isn't always about knowing what you want. Sometimes, you go black hole because you think there might be something better - but you're not entirely sure you want to give up on this person quite yet. In a case like that, avoiding her might not work. Most women will take just so much of that, before they're gone for good.

If you need to keep her hanging on just a little bit longer, try a nicely worded, properly-vague excuse like,

- I've got too much going on right now to focus on this relationship.
- I really need to work on myself.

This should put her off enough that she leaves you alone, while still leaving you an opening to sneak back in, should whatever else you've got going not work out.


You should establish your reason for going black hole first - is it because you're not interested, or you're not sure? This is important because confusing reasons and methods will not work.

Excuses, reasons, and explanations should be kept as vague as possible. Should you try to sneak back into the opening, you will have to remember what you said, and be prepared to explain what changed. The fewer the details, the better.

These methods should only be used on naive, immature women with a slighly lower self-esteem. Those women tend to fall for the half-truths more than others.

Trying these methods with a woman who knows how the game is played will backfire. She will see right through you, and probably use your own words and games against you at some point. Because, let's face it, women are just as good at the games as men - but we're also much meaner..

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The worst thing to say in a dating profile

I've already listed, and explained, the first nine of my Top Ten worst things to say on an online dating profile. Now it's time to talk about number one.

1 - I'm not looking to rush into anything.

Why is this number one? Probably because it appears harmless - until it circles back and bites you in the jeans.

By far the biggest complaint I hear about online dating is that people on dating sites are not serious. They're either not ready for a real relationship, or just looking for a hook-up.

I think it's true that there are a lot of these people on dating sites. But I think that's true of any large population of single adults, particularly those who are divorced and in their thirties or forties. Let's face it - you aren't going to find a higher concentration of these people anywhere than on a dating site. Statistically speaking, you are going to find more people who are not serious than who are.

That same basic math also tells us that the proverbial needle in the haystack is there, if you keep looking. That man (or woman) who knows what he wants, and really wants to find an actual, honest relationship.

Every site is different in how they present profiles, but they all follow a similar formula. You answer a series of "fill in the box" type questions, and then provide some narrative to expand on who you are, and what you want.

One of those boxes always asks what you're looking for. It's usually answered with a drop-down menu, with possible answers along the lines of: Long-term relationship, marriage, casual sex, friends, pen-pals, casual dating. Some sites let you pick more than one; other sites want you to more closely zero-in on your intent.

There are a lot - a lot - of people on dating sites who think they want a relationship. Or worse yet, they want to want a relationship. When they find one, they either get scared and run away, leaving the other person hurt and confused, or they fake the relationship. That can't last forever, and will eventually leave that other person even more hurt and confused.

But they still answer that they are "looking for a relationship" because ultimately, they believe that is what they want. 

In general - I believe them. Even the immature scaredy-cats who probably really aren't ready to date seriously. I believe they sincerely want a relationship, have come to the site looking to meet the right person, and I believe they eventually will.

I also believe they will leave a lot of collateral damage in their wake - and if you're not careful, you can easily become part of the wreckage.

So whenever I see a guy who says he is "looking for a relationship," I always take that with a grain of salt. I like to read a profile, and look for little phrases that hint at what he actually wants.

Nobody wants to feel pressured, or uncomfortable. It would be anybody's inclination to run from a situation that made them feel that way. So naturally, no one wants to feel "rushed" into anything.

The thing is - that goes without saying. If it needed clarification, there would be a drop-down menu item that said "I'm looking for a high-stress relationship that makes me feel suffocated and on the verge of a panic attack." There isn't - because no one would choose that option.

If I'm reading your profile, I'm already assuming that what you want is the right situation with the right person. I'm also assuming that, if you're an adult ready for that relationship you say you want, then you're ready to take things at the right pace. With the right person, it won't feel "rushed."

But if you're saying right up front you don't want to feel "rushed," that tells me that any and every sign of a relationship feels like a "rush" to you. After all, if you were really open to finding a relationship, then the first words you say or type wouldn't be negative, placing a limit on a relationship that doesn't even exist yet.

So no matter your drop-down answer, that phrase tells me the truth: I should proceed with extreme caution (if at all) because you may not really be ready for a relationship.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Top ten worst things to say in an online dating profile

I took a break from my dating nap to troll review some online dating profiles for friends. No, seriously, this all did start because I went looking for a friend.

We know the major problems with online dating profiles: Spelling and grammatical errors, swearing, racist or sexist comments (or really, any sort of "ists"), insults, etc.

But I think sometimes genuinely nice guys who truly mean well choose their words poorly, and come across in a way that isn't what they intend. So I put together a list of ten phrases that send me running, and why. You're welcome.

10 - No bipolar/crazy women
Also seen as: Drama queens need not apply, or any derivative thereof.
This suggests that you meet a lot of "crazy" women. Which tells me you are probably a little crazy yourself - "birds of a feather" and all. It also suggests that you may be the sort of guy who takes perfectly normal women and makes them crazy, which explains why all the women you meet are crazy.

9   - I love to laugh
No kidding - who doesn't? Tell me something that's not obvious.

8   - I'm lonely
Bad news. This suggest you're clingy and/or just looking for a warm body to fill a void. That means that as soon as you figure out what you really want, whatever poor soul is with you at the time will probably be dropped like yesterday's garbage. Who would sign up for that?

7   - I like to go out, but I also like to stay in
This suggests either a) you don't know what you like or b) you are that guy who just says whatever he thinks the other person wants to hear. If you like to go out - say so! Any reasonable person will assume that you are also willing to stay home now and then.

6   - I'm looking for a "good" woman
What, exactly, does this mean? The only thing slightly worse would be saying you're looking for a "good girl." Seriously? I would not respond to that - because I am a woman. If you're looking for a girl, I'm probably not for you.

5   - I hate liars
Again - who doesn't? Don't state the obvious, and don't let on that you assume all women are liars. Also, for the love of all that's good - it's liars, not liers.

4   - I know what a woman wants
This assumes that you think all women want the same thing - which proves that you have absolutely no idea what women want. Also, let's face it - if you had nothing to learn, you would probably not be single.

3   - I'm just checking this out
Why not just write, "I'm looking for an easy out, because I don't really want to commit" and get it over with?

2   - I'm not after your money
Seen also as: I can take care of myself; I have a life, a car, all my teeth,etc.
This tells me you've been rejected a lot - and that you think it's because women assume you're a loser. Thing is - there are plenty of women willing to date losers. If there is something so wrong with you that not even they will talk to you - why should I?

1   - .....Look for tomorrow's post....

Friday, November 16, 2012

Just so we're clear

Big broke up with me...and I dated a few guys right away. Too soon, it turned out, and I did a love cleanse to get some perspective. Then I took nearly a year to focus on myself - took care of some personal goals, got a new career started, reconnected with friends, and nurtured some new relationships. Sometimes I casually dated, but there was nothing serious.

Then I met Trooper...and I really believed that was a good thing. My mistake.

I did another thirty day cleanse. I started some new volunteer opportunities, which I love, and have become a big part of my life. Then met someone. We dated. I could have stuck with it, but I ultimately decided that being alone for the right reasons was better than being with someone for the wrong reasons. So I walked away from what was, in many ways, a good relationship, because I decided I wanted more for myself. 

I met a couple of other guys. Decided if it didn't work, I was going to take another break. I took a short break, then I went on a few dates. Now, I'm on a pseudo-break.

I'm by no means perfect. I know I make a lot of mistakes, and my choices are sometimes questionable at best. 

But I am not a complete failure, either. I have grown, and changed, and learned an awful lot since that first heart break 2+ years ago. I am a better person - and I know myself a lot better. 

Sure, I've gone on dates because I was bored. I have gone on dates simply to find fodder for this blog. But occasionally, I go on dates because somehow, I've come across a man who seems interesting, and I want to give him a chance. 

At a party not too long ago, a friend said his advice to a single friend was that maybe she needed to accept that she may never find anyone. He hypothesized that coming to terms with that reality, and being genuinely OK with her single life, would be the catalyst to finding true love.

Which makes sense, if you think about it. I mean, leave it to a guy to show up just as you've accepted that you don't really need him, and screw up everything. 

Just so we're clear - I like being single. I enjoy my life. I am not willing to settle just so I can say I'm in a relationship. I know my life is good just the way it is. 

I waiver between accepting that I won't find a relationship, and hoping that I just might. It's a tough balance, and from the outside looking in, it might not seem I have it under control.

But I do.

I used to hope for a relationship - when I went out with anyone who asked, and my only criteria was that he be willing to stick around. Then I hoped for that relationship - when I had a specific list of criteria, and rejected anyone who wasn't exactly perfect.

Now I hope for the relationship - the one that will show me why it never worked out with the rest.

It's a tough balance between hoping for something special, and being content with what I already have. It's like self-esteem - a tough balance between being proud of who you are, while still striving to improve. 

Just so we're clear...I'll never be perfect. I'll just always be me. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Breaks are not for dating

"Just take a break. It'll happen when you least expect."
A friend of mine, recently divorced, told me that this seems to be the number one piece of advice she gets on dating (and, she noted, it usually comes from people already in a relationship).

Her feeling is that she knows exactly what she wants, but it isn't going to fall in her lap. If she doesn't put herself out there, she'll never find the relationship she wants.

I tend to agree with her.

That's not to say that I don't believe in taking a break now and then - and I told her as much. Whether it's a minor break or a full-on, four-alarm love cleanse, I feel like we all need to step back now and then.

But I think it's worth noting that taking a break should be for you. A break is for your life - for your sanity, and peace of mind. A break is not about dating.

I have said over and over that I believe dating is as much learning about yourself as it is meeting new people. The more people you date, the more you learn about what you like, and don't, and what you really need and want in a relationship. You might find that things you thought were deal-breakers really aren't; and that you really care about things you never thought were important.

You learn all of this by spending time with other people. So it makes sense to me that if you're going to learn about yourself, you're going to need to spend some time with you.

What I don't agree with is that this is "dating advice." Spending time alone or persuing interests not involved with relationships is excellent advice for any single person - or anyone, for that matter. It builds confidence, helps you grow as a person, learn new things, meet new people, and generally be a better you.

If you're single, that will certainly help with dating. But if you're truly taking a break, dating won't be the focus of how you spend that time.

The advice I often get is to go out and join a group (community, church, volunteer, sports, etc.) to meet people. Same thing - this is great advice if you're looking to find something new you like to do. It's good advice if you're looking to meet friends with similar interests.

It's not good dating advice.

Yes, you may meet new people, either immediately or by expanding your social circle. But you can not design your hobbies and interests around activities that are likely to attract single men in your age-group who are looking to date.

Love, and life, just don't work that way.

It's probably time that we singles (and you married folk who feel so bad for us) just accept that life happens in its own time. We each have to do what feels right for our life, and do the best with what we've got and what we know. If you feel it's time to take a break - you should. If you feel like you want to date like it's your job - go for it. I know people who have found true love both ways.

The point is to do whatever is best for you - so that you're ready for whatever life, or love, brings your way.

Because like it or not - love shows up in its own time, not yours.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A lesson in hope

I spent a day at the gym, distracting myself with pain and sweat, trying to think through all the different lessons that I've learned over the last few years. I came up with quite a few before my legs screamed, "Go home!"

I've talked before about communication and self-esteem. Those are big ones for me. The good news is, those things are within my control. I can decide to improve communication, and I can choose to see myself in a different light.

But this is love I'm talking about here - it's not all in my control. A lot of it is luck and timing and just what fate and God and the universe and Cupid have planned.

So where does hope fall in all of this?

It's a funny thing, hope. Too much, and you set yourself up with unrealistic expectations - and huge let-downs. Not enough, and you don't look forward to anything. Where's the balance? What's the right amount?

Part of me doesn't want to hope. Ever. I feel like every time I let myself be even the tiniest bit positive, I have the rug pulled out from underneath me. But another part of me thinks that life is just better with hope. You never know if the next day might be the best day of your life - but without hope, you'll never get there.

Maybe the trick is to hope for the best. Hope for things to turn out the way they're meant to. Speak positive thoughts. Smile more than not. Laugh whenever possible. Be prepared for a little disappointment, but realize that even when that happens, something good could still be on its way.

I think the trick is have just enough hope that you know there's something good in your future, but not so much that you miss out on your present because you're always looking ahead.

I guess I'll start by hoping I can do all of that.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Patience is not one of my virtues

I've never been patient. I have always been the sort of person who wants what she wants - along with when and how. Even as a kid, I never liked to wait. I hate not knowing the answers or what's coming next.

I spend a lot of time trying to figure out why dating gets me down so easily. I want to understand why I react the way I do, so that I can change my outlook and help myself manage better. After all - I don't control when/if I find a relationship. I need to be able to wait, not know, and not control.

Baking Suit suggested maybe my most recent "lesson" is, at least partly, a lesson in patience.
"You live a life of instant gratification. You go where you want, when you want, with whom you want. You buy what you want and do what you want. You're not used to waiting. Maybe that's what you're supposed to be learning." 
I considered the same thing, but hearing her say it convinced me even more that this is a lesson I really need to learn. Even my counselor suggested that maybe waiting, being patient, and accepting I can't control everything is something at which I need to improve.

The truth is, whether things work out with this guy, or the next guy, or no guy ever... I need to work on being OK with not being in control. It's OK to not always be in charge.

I need to learn patience.

I hope it doesn't take too long.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Lesson learned already

"I believe God has a plan. Just wish He'd stop with all the false alarms." 
"They're considered lessons. God doesn't test us, but He does allow us to learn lessons. We keep making the same mistakes until the lesson has been learned."
I was talking with a friend about how I'm tired of meeting all the wrong guys, and while I trust that there is a plan for me that includes the right guy - I'd just like to get on with it already.

I thought about what my friend said, and I think she's right. There have been lessons that I needed to learn. But like I said to her...

I've got the lesson down about not staying with the wrong guy just to be in a relationship. I've absolutely mastered the guy who says he's interested, only to disappear. I'm a black-belt in guys who get into a relationship, only to drop me like a hot potato just when things seem to be going along nicely.

So what the heck is left?!

I have been over and over and over this in my head. It's probably irrational, but I have myself convinced that if I can figure out what the lesson is, I can learn it, and then true love will just fall out of the sky and land at my doorstep. Preferably on a good hair-day.

I know it probably won't happen exactly that way...but if there's a lesson to be learned, I'd still like to figure it out, if only for myself.

I've been talking about it a lot...but I think for me, communication is one of the biggest lessons. I'm just not good at it - at least not when it comes to a significant other. When I was married, the only time we "communicated" was when we fought. The rest of the time, we kind of just hummed through life as though everything was fine. That was probably largely my fault, because that's the way my family operates, and it's the way I was raised.

Since I've learned to associate communication with fighting, I'm constantly afraid that if I attempt to communicate with a guy, he'll perceive it as me picking a fight. Since I don't want to fight - I avoid communication.

Which isn't really working out so well for me.

I was absolutely horrible with Big. I improved a little with Trooper. I got incredibly good at it with Sparrow. I'd really like it if the universe could send me the guy who can help me pass that final exam. I think I'm ready. I finally realize that saying what's on my mind isn't the same as fighting - now I just need someone to help me practice.

Connected to all of this is a lesson in my own self-esteem. I need to remember that my feelings and desires and worries are just as important as the other person's. I learned to not feel that way from a previous relationship (Pre-X) that I never talk about, because it was quite painful. He was simply awful to me - abusive in every way. It's amazing how long we carry some things in life. I didn't even realize how big this guy's impact on me was until after X and I separated.

He convinced me that what I want in a relationship is far less important than what the other person wants. He also convinced me that if I don't give the other person everything he wants - I'm not good enough. He sealed the deal by making sure I always knew how fat, ugly, and stupid I am.

Great guy. Found him at the mall. Probably why I look for guys on the internet now. 

So how do I get over that? There are a million techniques, and I know them all. My self-esteem is a fight - but it's one that I'm winning. I think the big thing when it comes to relationships is not to let the other person affect how I see myself.

I am that girl who lets guys affect her self-esteem. Don't get me wrong - I absolutely have my own identity, and for the most part, I feel absolutely wonderful about myself.

But when I like someone, and he doesn't like me back - the wheels fall off. Before I know it, I'm right back in my 19-year-old self's shoes, sick to my stomach because I'm not good enough. Then I start trying to fix whatever I did wrong - making promises and changes, practically begging for another chance.

I notice it a lot when guys go AWOL. I get bummed, and down on myself. It's frustrating because I know better; I know not to expect more from someone than what he's promised, and I know that if someone disappears, it says more about him than it does me. Yet, I can easily get really bummed over one guy.

If that were any of my friends, I'd tell her to get her head on straight. That she's beautiful and smart, and if this guy was too stupid to see how lucky he was to have a chance with her, then he's not worth a second of worry. I'd be right, too.

So why can't I just take my own advice?

I get it. I know the right person will see me for the fabulous person I am. I also know the people who don't see it are obviously not right for me - and so their opinions don't even really matter. Knowing isn't the problem; I struggle with remembering in the moment.

Still, I know I'm getting the hang of this lesson. Know how? Any other time I feel rejected, the first thing I do is look for validation from another guy. I text a guy I already know; or more likely, I jump online and find someone new.

Not this time. This time, I'd already decided that if recovery was necessary, I would do it on my own. That I don't need anyone else to remind me how wonderful I am. I decided it's time to learn to remind myself.

So I may not have mastered this lesson yet - but I'm just about there.

Time to sweep off the doorstep and grab my hair dryer.

Friday, November 9, 2012

A dating nap

As I write this post, it remains to be seen whether or not I will have a second date with Mr. Ding-a-Ling. Whether I do or not, I am quite single right now, and free to search online dating sites, or troll bars and bookstores, or whatever, to my heart's content.

But I'm tired.

This is how I feel.
I'm tired of making the first move, and all the effort involved. I'm tired of trying to put my best foot forward, and being "on" all the time. I'm tired of starting something, only to spin my wheels a few times, and end up in the same place.

Even before my first date with Mr. Ding-a-Ling, I had decided that if it didn't work out with him, I was going to take a slight break from dating. I'm not calling it a full-on break; it's not a love cleanse. I'd still flirt if I met someone; I'd still go on a blind date (so if you know any good single guys - call me); I'll still talk to guys I already know (which, at the moment, includes Mr. Ding-a-Ling; he's not gone yet).

I'm just tired of searching, and have decided to take a break from that part of my dating life.

As part of that break, I've hidden (but not deleted) my online dating profiles (I currently have profiles on three different sites). I realize there's no real effort in keeping them searchable, and honestly, hiding them means I probably won't meet anyone. I'm also tired of the emails from people who I know are not serious, or who are totally wrong for me. Deciding whether to respond, then doing so nicely, and then getting those guys to completely go away is still effort - and I'm tired of all that, too.

I'm also tired of the emails from guys who I've talked with before. "Hey, you're back. Want to go out?" I didn't want to go out with you before - what on Earth would make you think I do now? I'm tired of forcing myself to be firm, but polite. 

Honestly, I feel a little like a loser for taking this break. If I want a relationship, I also have to do my part - and I feel like this is me not doing my part.

The thing is - dating is supposed to be fun. At the moment, I don't consider searching fun; it feels more like work. That means I'm probably not putting my best-self out there - which is also not doing my part.

So maybe right now, my part needs to be working on myself, staying open to possibilities, and trusting that what's meant to be is going to figure out a way to happen.

The bottom line is - I'm exhausted. Dating will always be there, and I can start it back up whenever.

Right now - I need a nap.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Date offender registry

My local newspaper has recently started its own Pinterest account. Its most recent boards are devoted to pins of all the sex offenders in each surrounding county. Not only do the pins show the offender's mug shot, it gives their name, full address, and a summary of their level and offense.

Freaking genius.*

I posted about this elsewhere, pointing out that no matter how foolish and reckless some may think me to be, I have never actually met a sex offender on a dating site. I have met a lot of jerks - but they don't have their own registry.

Which begs the question - why the hell not?!

There are registries (or sites that resemble registries) for everything - sex offenders, people in tax default, bad business owners, restaurant health violations. You name it, it's being tracked somewhere. So why not track guys who lie, cheat, use, or just generally have qualities that make them a less-than-desirable date?

I'm not talking anything mean, and definitely nothing libelous. But why not track the guy who says he wants a relationship, when really all he wants is a hook-up? Or the guy who won't ever stop comparing you to his mother? Or how about that guy who still lives with his mother?

I could go on and on with examples, but you get my point. I'm (obvioulsy) not knocking online dating, but having a profile to hide behind does tend to make some people less than upfront about some things. I've met men who say they have a job in a particular field - only to find out on the first date that they're actually unemployed. Or guys who lie about where exactly they live, or whether or not they have a license (or a vehicle), or something simple like how tall they really are or just how old is that picture on their profile?

What would be absolutely fabulous is if dating sites would add this rating feature. Think about it; the major data is already compiled - the guy, his stats, and a picture. Just attach a rating section to existing profiles, and let users rate the guys on various dating criteria. Commentary could be optional.

I think the dating sites could expand their membership to include people who are really only interested in those ratings. Just because someone doesn't meet her dates online doesn't mean she wouldn't visit a site to see what others say about that guy she met at that party last weekend. The dating sites could probably even charge a little extra for access to member ratings. It might help weed out the flat-out jerks, and also encourage people to be more upfront and honest in their profiles, and on dates in general.

Of course, I realize that women would eventually be subject to ratings as well...but I think we should start with the guys, this being my idea and all.

Besides - there's no shame in my game. Bring it.

*I know some people don't like this idea for Pinterest boards. They think it's unfair to the sex-offenders, or they think it's against the spirit of Pinterest. I disagree. That information is found elsewhere on the internet, so it's public already. It is helpful to some, but is often not organized or easy to navigate. Pinterest is a place to curate ideas and information, and this is information that some think deserves curating. Those who don't can certainly unfollow the boards.

That's my two-cents, even if it's not the real focus of this post.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Facebook breakup

A friend send me a link to this article over at Huffington Post, written by a woman who "broke up" with an ex on Facebook.

If you know me, you know that Trooper and I are still friends - and that includes on Facebook  After he broke up with me, I never unfriended him. I did hide him from my feed, so I wouldn't see his face pop up when I wasn't prepared. At first I worried I might be tempted to visit his page, but I can honestly say I never was. I knew it would hurt, and I had no trouble avoiding that pain.
But the truth of that status update blackout was that I had done it to save myself from the inevitable 21st-century post-breakup tradition of weepily clicking through exes' photo albums, mining their feeds for hints of hookups or shiny new suitors and in the process, sparking all of those unanswered questions, desires to be near them again and general self-flagellation at the sorry state of things.
I agree. You need a break after a breakup. I got mine by hiding Facebook feeds, changing Foursquare settings, and muting Twitter.

I will be honest - I've never unfriended anyone on Facebook (except this one guy who annoyed me by arguing with everything). X is my Facebook is Big...along with Big's new girlfriend. Engineer is my Facebook friend - was even when things between us weren't that great. 28-Year-Old is my Facebook friend. Sparrow isn't, because he does not have a Facebook page - but both his sisters are in my friends list. I'm also still friends with a few random guys with whom I just went on a couple dates.

They're a part of my life, even the ones who remain in my past. I can't un-date, or un-know them. Why would I un-friend them?

Like it or not, social media is a part of our lives. It's bigger for some of us than others, but it's there for everyone. Even people who are not on a social network still have to deal with what others see and hear and talk about online, when it eventually spills over in to their offline world.

The first time I lost a boyfriend who was also a Facebook friend, I wondered if I should un-friend him. In the end, I decided that managing Facebook relationships is just part of a 21st century breakup. Like it or not, these guys are a part of my larger network.

If you broke up with someone you worked with, would you stop going to work? What if you dated someone who lived in your apartment building. Would you move? Of course not. You adapt. You figure out a way to deal with them, and their changing role in that part of your life.

I view facebook relationships the same way.

The article goes on to say...
...keeping in touch on Facebook nevertheless related to stagnant personal growth. The breakup sting had eased for the Facebook-friendly folks in the study, perhaps, but the moving onward and upward part hadn't happened.
So, staying Facebook friends might help mitigate the breakup sadness - but it keeps you from moving on. I definitely think there might be times when this is the case. I am sure I'll eventually meet a guy who I will have to block on Facebook; I just don't happen to think that's every breakup.

Trooper and I have started forming a friendship in "real life.". It started with texting, then hanging out. It's nice to spend time with him. We always had fun together, and I've always liked talking with him. There is the occasional awkward moment - like when a server assumes we are a couple. Is it sad for me sometimes? Yes - but mostly, it's a happy part of my life, and one for which I'm very grateful.

Sometimes, friendship happens where you least expect. Facebook is as good a place as any.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Games we play

"Your best bet is to move on. Who wants a guy who plays games?"
A friend said that to me about Mr. Ding-a-Ling. He was away immediately following our first date. That plus a, you know, small natural disaster, has left our second date in the to be determined category. I truly didn't want to bother him while he was on vacation, figuring I wouldn't want to be bothered, so why would I do that to him? Not only that, but if I didn't hear back from him, I'd be left wondering if he was ignoring me, or just too involved in his trip to respond.

Best to wait - and we all know how I'm so good at waiting...

The conversation got me thinking about the phrase "playing games." We throw it around a lot when it comes to dating and relationships - usually to describe actions we don't like. He didn't text her back? He's playing games. She let his call go to voice mail? That's her game. He waited three days before calling? Classic dating game.

But when we do something....somehow it's not a game. Case in point...I wasn't texting him while he was on vacation, even though I was hoping to hear from him. Some might call that a game. But I had a reason, which I just explained. The truth is, I didn't want to be left hanging, and I knew there was a pretty good chance I would be. But, I also sincerely didn't want to bother the guy while he was away. That's not a game - it's courtesy.

A perfect example of having a legitimate reason for doing something that could be considered a game.

I know someone who has dated a guy who says he truly, honestly loves her...and then disappears for several days. When he reappears, there's always a "reason" for his absence. Does she like what he's doing? I don't think so. Does it mean he's playing games? I don't think that's the case, either. I think the guy truly has too much stuff going on, and he's the type who can only manage what's right in front of him. His priorities are different than hers, and he doesn't handle communication the same way.

That doesn't mean he's not sincere, or a player. It means they don't agree. That might make them incompatible as a couple...but it doesn't make him a jerk, and it doesn't mean he's playing games.

I'm not saying my friend is wrong about Mr. Ding-a-Ling. In fact, I even said to her, "You're probably right."

I'm also not suggesting he isn't playing games. Truthfully, I don't know the guy well enough to be sure.

What I am saying is that if I want to be successful at this whole communication, better, stronger, healthier relationships thing - I should probably not label every action I don't like as a "game." I should stop leaping to conclusions and assuming the worst. If I want to know something - I should probably just ask. I should continue treating people the way I think they want to be treated, and letting them know (within reason) what I am thinking.

Behaving any other way is just a game.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Dating is like spinach

"All you can do right now is live your life, and see what happens next."
That's what my counselor reminded me about my post-first-date situation with Mr. Ding-a-Ling. We couldn't schedule a second date right away, and until I get to the second date, I don't really know what's next.

Which I suppose is always true - but under most circumstances, the second date is planned pretty quickly and you know where you stand. In this case, I don't, and it was not sitting well with me.


"I suck at that."
"Well maybe it's something you need to get better at."
"You mean like eating spinach; I hate it, but I have to do it because it's good for me."
Life, I suppose, is full of situations where you have to learn to do something not because you want to - but because you should.

I am personally very bad at doing things just because I should. I like things to make sense. I like them to fall in line. I don't care how long I have to wait for something - but I like to know it's coming, and I'm not just waiting around for something that might never happen.

My counselor suggested that part of my issue might be that I'm so sure of what I want, I keep looking around the corner to see if it's there. Since chances are true love isn't going to announce itself, all that looking just creates a lot of disappointment and anxiety - which is why I'm not so good at this part.

I suppose the lesson is to stop looking ahead. Accept that I know what I want - and remember that no matter what, in something like love and relationships, there are never guarantees. Even if I know something's coming, there's no way to know when/if it will actually show up, or that it will look like I expect when it does.

Even if I take a proactive approach, I don't ever really control the situation. At the end of the day, I'm at the mercy of what the other person wants, and ultimately, what the universe (cupid, God, the Easter Bunny, whoever) has planned.

That leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Also, kind of like spinach.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Black hole of cooties

If you're a single woman who dates, you have probably encountered this phenomena:

You meet. You like each other. He starts texting and/or calling every day. Maybe more than once a day. Maybe all day. He says the sweet little flirty things, that lead you to believe he likes you.

You go on a date. Maybe you go out a couple of times. Things seem to be going well. Conversation is good - easy, comfortable. There's a lot of laughing. A lot of nodding because you agree. Chemistry is definitely there.

He keeps up with the communication. Then, just as you start to feel at ease...


My best friend and I are convinced that there is a black hole somewhere in the universe where men go when they hit this exact point. It sucks them in like a vacuum, and they're never heard from again. Occasionally one falls out, lands with a thud, and texts you - and then he gets sucked back in, usually just as quickly.

A guy once told me that men do this because they're afraid if they don't come on strong, women will think they're not interested and move on. So, a guy has to keep her "on the line" (so to speak) until he figures out what he really wants.

That same guy later told me that when a guy realizes he is interested, a lot of times he will pull back a little, to see if the woman will pursue him. Or, if he decides he's not interested, he might just start avoiding her, which resembles the pulling away, but is actually different. In this case, if she chases him, he can just say she's crazy or too clingy and use that as an excuse to officially end it - but only if he's pressed. Really, he'd just prefer she let him fall into the black hole.

Just so I'm clear... When a guy behaves like he is interested, it's because he's either really not, or he's not sure. When he behaves like he's not interested, it means that he might be - unless he's not, in which case he's just avoiding you because he doesn't want to actually say what he really thinks.

But women are the crazy, complicated ones...

Listen guys - I can't speak for all women, but I will tell you that the majority of us would be perfectly happy if you just told us what you're thinking. Not interested? That's cool. I'm not going to get all weird because one guy says he doesn't want to date me. You are interested? That's also cool - and no, I don't equate you saying so with a marriage proposal.

I'm not usually "that woman" - but if you want to see how quickly I can turn into her, go ahead and mess around with my head. The uncertainty, and the insecurity it causes, will be enough to send me over the edge. It'll make me obsess and wonder, and try one thing, and then another, and keep going until I get some sort of response because all I really want is a definite answer.

If you really want to to avoid the clingy, possessive, crazy woman, here's some advice:

Stop retreating into the black hole of cooties. That's what drives us nuts.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Asked and answered

I've been thinking a lot about how to improve my communication that seems to be a running theme over here this week.

Several people leaped to a conclusion about how this date ended, based on the fact that I drove all that way to meet a guy who was staying in a hotel. Seems it never occurred to them that a lot of questions had been answered prior to me agreeing to that date.

Like I said - I'm not an expert at this kind of communication. But I am improving.
  • Yes, it was our first date - but we'd been talking and texting for nearly three weeks prior to meeting.
  • Those three weeks included two full days of a little question and answer session via text; when I say a full day, I mean about a 10 hour train ride. You'd be surprised what you can learn if you talk for 20 solid hours.
  • We specifically talked more than once about whether we were both looking for a hook-up, or something with long-term potential; our answer was the same.
  • There were no expectations when I met him, even though he was staying in a hotel that night. The man lives out of hotel rooms. No matter where/when I met him, that was going to be the case.
Yes, I realize the whole, "I'm looking for someone to date," could have just been a line to convince me to meet. That's true any time any guy says any thing. If I travel through life assuming that every good thing a guy says to me is just a line, I'm going to miss when someone finally tells me the truth. I'm not willing to take that chance.

Truthfully, it does not make sense to me that this guy would work so hard to get to know someone he saw as nothing more than a (potential) hook-up. Seems to me if that's all he wanted, it would be easier to find someone closer, or just go to a bar and pick up some random person. If he's working that hard for a (potential) hook-up, he should consult his Being a Player for Dummies handbook, because he's doing it wrong.

Yes, I realize it shouldn't be necessary to have the "Where is this going?" conversation after just one date. That makes it seem like there was no discussion before hand. Thing is, the guy has a tough schedule. It was even tougher the week following our date, because he had plans to travel - like, far. I asked if he wanted to see me again. That was all that seemed reasonable after a first date. It's all I want to commit to after a first date. He said yes, he does want to see me again, but he was not in a position to say when that might happen.

It may sound stupid, but not getting that next date on the calendar makes me anxious. All I can do is sit, and wait, and live my life, and see what happens. I can't know what's next until it happens. I suck at that.

I may be bad at communication - but there's one thing I do know: It is really annoying to be asked the same question over and over.
  • He said he's looking for something with long-term potential. (He actually answered this question more than once.)
  • He said he wanted to meet me; and we did.
  • It went well.
  • He said he wanted to see me again.
The questions are asked and answered. I may not like exactly where things sit right now, but he's not really to blame for my hang-ups. He has never not answered a question I've asked, and so far, he's been on my page.

Regardless if that changes, what his true intentions turn out to be, or where anything goes - this uncertainty is a part of dating. If I can't handle it - I shouldn't be dating in the first place.