Thursday, December 30, 2010

Little Red Hiding Hood

So, I know we've talked about it before, but I have to revisit a particular topic that is basically reeking havoc on this Singleton's stress levels.  In short, I'd imagine I'd be off the charts if I took one of those treadmill tests where you get hooked up to all those funky, beeping machines and run until you pass out (or in my case, trip on your own feet and yank out the treadmill cord).  I'm having angel versus demon conflicts yet again!  If you could see my right now, I just threw my head back and let out a giant "Urrrrgh!" of frustration and grabbed hair on either side of my head and pulled it in conjunction.

Here's a little tidbit about myself that I have yet to share with you, my faithful followers:  I'm a big talker.  And by big talker, I mean that I have a big mouth and it tends to get me in hot water.  My mouth has a tendency to create a character who is quite the experienced woman of the world, when in reality, I'm very much otherwise.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not the perpetual wallflower who has never gotten to dance, but if we're talking music/dancing analogies, I'm not Madonna either.  However, I do have a very vivid imagination and can (eh-hem) talk myself up, so to speak.  Danger zone.


Occasionally, I'm met with a critical dilemma as a result of this (uh) tendency of mine.  Very rarely, I come across someone who inspires some kind of strange challenge within me to see just how far into the forest my mouth/words can take me.  At some point, I realize that I've trod entirely too far into the woods without a map to get back to the safety of civilization and begin to totally freak out.  With no escape route, it's rather difficult to turn back and get to the original path without retaining some of the dirt, brambles and thorns collected while venturing down "The Wrong Path."

Okay, so I know I'm not the only one in the world who has ventured down a path that can only result in the generation of a bad reputation. (I can hear my mother's voice reminding me of how easy it is to lose a good reputation and hard it is to lose a bad one...I know, I know, I hear you!!!)  That's not the problem.  The problem is that I (can't believe I'm actually going to say this...out loud in writing) kind of....like it.   (Insert another aggravated "urrrgh" here.)

Before you add my impure soul to your prayer list, let me explain.  The reason that I get so freaked out by going too far into the woods without dropping breadcrumbs to find my way out (too many fairy tale references?  Okay... I'll keep them at a limit.)  is because I would never act on most of the words that come out of my mouth (or my fingertips, depending on the situation).  Unless of course, I was in a long-term committed relationship... hell, some of it would require nuptials and a legally binding document.  And I will say, as a personal advertisement, I usually impress myself with my creative abilities, so there's a lucky boy out there that will...  nevermind.  That's beside the point.  Back to the subject at hand. 

Part of me likes the excitement of walking on the wild side... the adrenaline rush of flirting with the Big Bad Wolf and potentially being a different person for a few minutes.  At first, the Big Bad Wolf seems charming and flattering, so much so that I forget for a little while that he is actually, in fact, a wolf.  And so far, he's always been a wolf.  But, soon I catch a glimpse of those nasty, snarled teeth and understand their intention, and I run for the nearest hiding place.   Then, I kick myself.  Here I am, touting myself as this new, independent woman who is going to enjoy life to the fullest and live as the best Singleton I can (if I'm going to be single, I might as well have fun doing it!  Right?!...right?) and I run like a scared little prom queen at the first sign of adult interaction.  Obviously the other part of me is uncomfortable by the wild side walking and flirting with a four-legged predator.  This discomfort makes me feel like a major, uptight, old maid who will be flirting with no one but her brood of cats long into old age.  Can Little Red Riding Hood survive a jaunt through the woods with the wolf and still be able to look her grandmother in the eye when she gets to her house?  As much as I'd like to think that this crimson cloaked chickadee could handle it, I'm almost positive that I'm not destined for romps in the forest with canines.  Although the temptation isn't going away, I think I'm going to hold out for a conversation partner who doesn't fall within the same genus and species as dogs.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

On the Eve of my 30th Birthday...

I've been a terrible blogger these last few months... I've been an excellent Singleton, but a horrible blogger.  So, I apologize and thank you for sticking by me when I dropped the ball.  I intend to make it up to you.  Thanks to an amazing friend, I will now have the ability to post, comment, share, expound, rant and rave all hours of the day and night.  I am no longer confined to the mere thirty-minute lunch break blog squeeze-in.

Speaking of thirty... As I realized this afternoon that it was high time I contributed to the blogosphere again, I thought there was no better time to publish my Singleton manifesto than on the eve of my thirtieth birthday.  (Deep breath, deep breath...keep repeating "thirty does not equal death," "thirty does not equal death.")

I'll wholeheartedly (and moderately embarrassingly) admit that I have very little to update you on as far as any changes in my Singleton status.  So far, still single.  I have shied away from all things online dating, with the rare exception of viewing an email/poke/pathetic attempt at communication from someone on a free site.  I realized that my decision was a good one when I was recently sent a message entitled "FastWhiteBoy  would like to meet you."  Although I eventually gave him the benefit of the doubt and assumed that he was "fast" because maybe he liked cars (probably optimistic for Plentyoffish.com), I didn't intend to find out for sure.  But don't start feeling bad for me yet... I have not been bored.  I've somehow managed to catch some borderline inappropriate attention in unexpected places that, although unrealistic and not at all potentially fruitful, has certainly kept me on my toes and has helped me (eh-hem) hone my skills in male/female communication.  I'm getting better... All these lessons are going to make me an excellent girlfriend for someone...someday...hopefully soon...any takers?

Speaking of lessons... You haven't had to know me long to know that I have a certain affection for lists.  So, because I don't have any new men of Singledom to introduce you to right now (hopefully that will change in the near future, maybe he'll even bypass the Wall of Shame over there) I'd like to stick to form and present What I've Learned About Myself in My First 30 Years.

  1. I have learned who I am at my core.  I've weeded through the false pretenses, the facade of social acceptance and the fear of being the woman that God made me to be.  I want you to like me, but if you don't, I'll find someone else who will and that's okay! 
  2. I will never be one of those patient, quiet, elegant women, but I think I have a graceful style all of my own.
  3. I'm attracted to men who look good with facial hair, have great, masculine hands, who are passionate about something but nothing in particular and who push me outside of my usual comfort zone (this could be heavily influenced by the fact that I've got "Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe" on in the background.  But, I'm going with it anyway.).
  4. I'm a good sister and friend, but I have a breaking point.  I can only take so much.  I'm good at doling out a healthy helping of tough love and will eventually give it to you whether you want it or not.  But, I'll still be there loving you when you stop being mad at me for it.
  5. I'm good at what I do for a living.  I'm not an expert by any means, but I'm improving year after year.  And I truly enjoy and get excited about it.  I never thought I'd say that about any profession that didn't involve writing or editing books.
  6. I have realized that I am not good at everything I attempt.  I know most of my strengths and a whole ton more weaknesses.  I think it's just as important to know what things aren't your strong suits.
  7. I've learned that I'm horrible at accepting compliments.  My thirteen-year-old, pimply face, overweight, awkward inner-girl almost always doubts their sincerity.  But the thirty-year-old woman is learning to admit that I deserve them and to truly appreciate them.  And sometimes revel in them.
  8. I can sit in a room by myself and totally enjoy my own company.
  9. I've learned to love the fact that my birthday is three days before Christmas.  Although it's usually very difficult to plan and coordinate a group gathering, it's wonderful that I get a few minutes of celebration in the midst of the most festive time of the year.
  10. I'm the one in the middle of chaos who stays relatively calm.  I can talk most people down from the ledge, and although I may be bursting apart on the inside, I'm very good at hiding it.
  11. I love flannel pajamas all year round and cute shoes no matter how impractical or uncomfortable they are; I will probably never stop twirling my hair when I get bored, and I still have that feeling that I'm going to be famous one day.  (<- these were all too silly for their own line.)
  12. Sometimes I may feel alone, but that's never truly the case.
  13. I've come to realize that I give my priorities my time and ignore those things that are not priorities.  I may need to reprioritize, but this is what I do.
  14. I'm starting to be okay with just being Melanie.  If I don't find the other side of the ampersand, I think I'll be okay.  I'm independent, financially stable, and comfortable where I am in life.  I'm not going to wait to do things anymore until I "have someone to do them with."  I'm not going to use my Singleton status as a crutch to stay at home and miss out on life.
  15. I love tradition and stability, but need some zest and spontaneity every now and then.
  16. I'm a perpetual learner.  I never get tired of being a nerd.
  17. Although other people may say the opposite about their own experience, high school was the worst time of my life.  But, I'm thankful for the friendships that still exist because I was in a certain place at a certain time, no matter how difficult it may have been to live through it.
  18. I always worried that if A&E ever did a "Biography" episode on my life, it would take about three minutes and everyone would be asleep within thirty seconds.  I'm no longer worried.
  19. It really is better to give than to receive.
  20. I truly want to see the world.  I don't want to see it in movies or pictures or magazines.  I want to see it with my own two eyes.  I don't want to get to the end of my time here on this earth without seeing the most of it I can.
  21. I need to work on patience.  Lately, I have none.  I wonder if I could borrow it from someone.
  22. I have high expectations when it comes to my future partner.  And that's okay.  I think...  I hope...
  23. I'm learning to be comfortable in my own skin.  Although there may be some things I'd like to change and several that I actually can (without surgery!), I'm diligently trying to see past the imperfections in the mirror and notice the things that I like about the external version of who I am.
  24. I get attached to material goods.  I attach memories to things and although I'm not anything like "Hoarders," I do hang on to things longer than I should.   And silly things too, like papers or coasters from random restaurants or Happy Meal toys.  Don't ask.
  25. I truly want to be a good person, but I want it to come naturally like it does for so many of my friends who continually astound me with their generosity and compassion.
  26. I've learned to worry less and trust more.  There's still a lot of room for improvement here, though.
  27. I know myself well enough to know that my feelings are still pretty sensitive about certain issues.  I can bounce back and move on, but I probably won't forget it any time soon.  That's not the best way to live, but that's where I am today.
  28. I am excruciatingly loyal.  If you hurt my friends, you've hurt me.
  29. I love old fashioned things and am a hopeless romantic.
  30. (And one of the hardest lessons I've learned) Not all people think the same way I do.  Even people who were raised in the same house as I was, or people I thought were on the same page as me look at life the same way I do.  They don't think the same things are funny or sad or heartwarming.  That doesn't make them better or worse, just different.  It's hard to grasp that someone might not look at a situation with the same level of compassion or disgust or sympathy or joy, but I'm training myself that this is life.
So, with a little over an hour of my twenties left, I tip my hat to you for sticking it out with me through this year and helping me learn these lessons, which are just a few of the many.  Here's to many more years of becoming the best woman, friend, sister, coworker, daughter and future wife I can be.  After years of thinking that I would bemoan this moment, I seriously can't wait to get started.  Bring it, thirties, bring it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Risky Revamp

So, I'm almost positive that someone at Plentyoffish.com is reading my blog.  On a regular basis.  And then generating ripple effects based on what my topic is that day.  Which would also mean that whoever it is reading my blog either has multiple profiles on the website themselves or somehow communicates with random men who are members and encourages them to communicate with me.  This can't be a coincidence.

Within three hours of posting on Friday, I received not one, not two, nope, not even three, but four, yes, four emails from new men on Plentyoffish.  Four.  All with various demographical characteristics and none really worth writing home about.  Or writing back to for that matter.  But, I did.  Because I'm a courteous online dater (Not that I'm back on the online dating market!  I promise!  But, who am I to overlook the general practice of common courtesy?  Especially since it totally urkes me [throwing it back 90's style there] when people don't write me back). 

I won't drone on and on with my usual witty banter about the lack of quality communication in the online dating arena, because you've heard it all before and this time (all four emails) was no exception.  Sidenote:  Plentyoffish now has a new function where the online dater can bypass ALL communication processes and simply send someone a note that says "OnlineDaterX wants to meet you."  That's it.  No message, no note, not even a "Hey, wat up, shorty?"  I didn't think it was possible to reach a level lower than the opening one-liner emails, but I guess that's why I haven't landed a gig as a website designer or program developer for Plentyoffish.com!

A friend of mine and I were recently talking about the woes of online dating and as we bemoaned the crop of potentials out there, an interesting point was made.  It was just kind of mentioned in passing, but paired with the 3,492nd horrible email I've received via an online dating website, I got to thinking.  What if...it's actually kind of scary to think about, and if I put too much thought into it, it might become a train that could easily jump the tracks at dangerously high speeds, but... what if I were to experiment with my profile?  Of course, I could only do it on Plentyoffish.com since it's a free site, because I wouldn't want to take any additional unnecessary risks on a paid site.  What if I was completely honest about the things that I love and the things that I loathe (although, I wouldn't use a word as strong as "loathe," maybe something more subtle like "despise") about online dating.  Experimenting, of course, would imply that the men communicating with me are actually reading my profile, because without that crucial element this experiment is null and void.  But, what if I kept the basic information about myself, some of my conversation-starting elements and just came up with politically correct and non-confrontational ways of saying that I'm not interested in introduction emails that say things like "Ur lips look delicious." (Direct quote). (Ridiculous).

This could be big, friends.  This new approach could totally revolutionize the way I online date.  Why should I hide things that are so important and meaningful in my pursuit of a potential suitor?  Why shouldn't I outright say that I'm not interested in anyone who is talking to me in hopes of one-night-stands (I'm pretty sure Mr. Delicious Lips wasn't looking to take me to dinner and a movie)?  Why shouldn't I say that I like to email back and forth for a little bit, possibly text, then talk on the phone and then meet and if you're not interested in the meeting part of that equation, we won't work? Most men describe their ideal woman as "honest."  Would they be completely turned off by actual honesty? Why can't I say that I want someone who will truly engage me in conversation, that I'm not a shallow person who only cares about the exterior and I don't want someone like that to pursue me?  That I want someone I will be able to hold a conversation with if the exterior shine ever wears off.  A conversation that is more than one sentence.  Again, I'd put these things in as positive a way as I could (that's where these writing skills come in handy, big time), but maybe they'd attract someone equally as frustrated as I am who will in turn appreciate my honesty.  I can't do any worse than I'm doing now.

Over the course of the next week or so, I intend to focus on my online dating profile on Plentyoffish.com.  I wouldn't submit a report at work without proofing it hundreds of times and probably having someone else check over it for those pesky mistakes that you miss when you're half brain-dead from working so hard.  So, why not do the same for my online dating profile?  Once I get a good draft under wraps, I am going to share it with you.  That's right.  I'm going to post it right here for the world to see.  I want intense scrutiny.  Some of you may not know me personally, but I'm hoping that your readership of this blog means that you like my writing style.  I'll need you to help me translate what works on this blog into something that may work on my online dating profile.

Start pondering.  And stay tuned...

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Down-Side to Dating Freedom

So, I knew this was going to happen.  Urgh.  And I don't know what to do about it.

My new commitment to living online-dating-free until 2011 has been...well...a bit of a struggle.  Constantly being attacked by "free communication" emails and television advertisements, I kind of feel like you do when you promise to stick to your diet at Christmas time, you know?  There are plates and plates of frosted, sprinkled, sugared goodness in front of you at every turn, and you stand there glaring at them half in contempt for their mere existence on the planet and half in sheer awe at the thought of the delight they behold.  Okay, maybe that's a bit over the top (because now I want some gingerbread men and sugar cookies), but you catch my drift.

As I've struggled to stay straight (drug-addict reference, not sexual preference), I realized that something was missing.  I had this creative hunger that wasn't being fed.  Surely I wasn't experiencing this void because of a lack of rapid-fire, useless, meaningless email communications with male counterparts in search of one-night stands love on the internet.  Surely not.  There had to be something else that was causing this yearning for creative and artistic expression... the blog!!  My poor, innocent blog had become the victim of my dead-on-arrival social life.  With no dating drama, my writing material had flat-lined, and, although my real life has been anything but uneventful, blog-worthy shenanigans have ceased to exist.  For me at least.  I've turned several shades of green with envy over some of the insanely blog-appropriate happenings in some of my friends' lives lately, none of which have taken advantage of these gifts from the blogging gods regardless of how adamantly I beg them.  (One friend got a ridiculously inappropriate birthday card from a coworker.  Wouldn't "Top Ten Worst Birthday Card Greetings" be a truly awesome blog post topic and discussion?!  So frustrating.)

So, Singletons and Marrieds, I continue to have nothing to update you on.  No knight in shining armor has mysteriously presented himself even though everyone I know has promised me that he'd find me as soon as I stopped looking (okay...stopped a while ago now! Come out, come out, wherever you are!).  Not a single email from any men on any of the random dating sites to which I belong (it's like they know I've jumped ship!) and no Mr. Gunslinger-like real-world meetings.  That element is simply because my weekends have been jam-packed with everything but potential-suitor-meeting activities, or I've just been so tired that dating has been the furthest thing from my mind.  Usually as the temperatures drop outside, the desire for comfort food and comfort clothing sets in, I myself seem to settle in to life and stop actively pursuing love interests.  A bit contradictory, I know, considering the fact that no one wants to be alone during the holidays.  But, I think to actively pursue reminds me that I'm alone and instead, I just put it out of my mind and surround myself with celebratory, festivity-fancying friends and family.  Until January.

Plans continue for the thirtieth birthday extravaganza, a little over a month away now!  I'm very excited and just hope that I don't dramatize it so much in my head beforehand that I'm let down by the actual event.  That's why I'm counting on all of you to help make it epic.  (Again, invitation is open to those in/around/can get to the Atlanta area.  If you've been a part of the last twenty-nine and eleven-twelfths years, I want you in on the celebration!)

Back to the topic at hand.  I won't kid you for a second, I miss male attention.  I do have some amazing friends of the male persuasion and find that when I enter these lulls in love, I contact them much more frequently.  I'll randomly call them on my way home from work to talk sports, chat online or invite them out to grab a beer after work.  Although they aren't usually the same types of conversations or interactions as I'd have with a potential suitor, they are quite different from those I have with my female friends and sometimes I just need that.  I've always gotten along smashingly with men (which is all the more surprising that I'm single! STILL!) so I know that I need that touch of masculinity, the yin to the yang to restore the balance if things get out of whack.  And right now, things are way out of whack.

So, two things I need from you, Singletons and Marrieds.  Tell me.  Do/did you pine away for the attention of the opposite gender or are you completely comfortable being on your own and I'm just weird?  And what on this great, green earth would you like me to write about?  I'm completely open to topic suggestions, no matter how off-the-wall you may think they are (Let's try to keep them PG-13, though.  I can hear my mother in my head saying, "Don't put anything on the internet that you don't want read aloud in court."  And yes, that tone of voice you used in your head was completely accurate.  She uses the same tone when she tells me not to talk on my cell phone when I'm driving.)  Let's take advantage of this downtime and start some good topic trains!  Feel free to post your ideas/suggestions to this page or email me at lostinsingledom@gmail.com

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

More Unlocking the Mystery

I humbly apologize, Singletons and Marrieds.  What a week I've had, and it's only Wednesday!  I know I've given you excuses before (which all probably read much like "blah, blah, blah"), and I promise to update you with some wonderful, witty words of wisdom as soon as I have five minutes to breathe.

But, there was something that I did want to share with you.  As I was reading further chapters in "Men, Women and the Mystery of Love" by Edward Sri, I was thinking more about the differences between society's perception of marriage (most especially the perception that we Singletons/Never Marrieds have) and the realities of marriage.  Mr. Sri even mentioned my favorite pop culture reference to the fantastical, fairytale, Hollywood-ideal of marriage:  Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.  He was telling his readers about the difference between real life marriages and the Hanks/Ryan affairs and other romanticized versions of big-screen love like Jack and Rose in Titanic. That infatuation "love" that we so easily confuse with the real, sustainable emotion.  He put it in real world terms and broke it down by the types of attraction that men and women have for each other.  Right now, I'm about halfway through the sexual attraction (referred to in the book as "sensual love" or an attraction to each other based solely on the senses) section (no, I'm not lingering...intentionally), and I'm fascinated by the explanations of these different types of attraction.  What's weird to me is that, as an adult in the dating scene (for entirely too long now), I've always been aware of these different types, but never really thought about them, you know, beyond "Oh, wow, he's hot, I would marry him."  I'm eager to continue reading (even if that means leaving the sexual attraction section...boo) and really embrace these concepts in pursuit of something a bit more meaningful that sensual love.

So, I'll stop rambling and finally share with you a quote that Mr. Sri included in his text that really spoke to me.  I don't know how many of you Singletons and Marrieds are familiar with C.S. Lewis.  Lewis was the author of "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe" series and was also prolific in writing faith-based, Christian works.  His "Mere Christianity" is in my list of books to read in the next year.  But, I won't get too religious on here (although it's easy for me to get on that tangent, I consider studying religion life's greatest assignment) since this is a blog about dating and relationships (or in my case lately, the lack thereof!), so I'll just share the quote and let you respond:

"We use a most unfortunate idiom when we say of a lustful man prowling the streets, that he 'wants a woman.'  Strictly speaking, a woman is just what he does not want.  He wants a pleasure for which a woman happens to be the necessary piece of apparatus...  Now love makes a man really want, not a woman, but one particular woman.  In some mysterious but quite indisputable fashion the lover desires the Beloved herself, not the pleasure she can give." - C.S. Lewis
We'll talk more about this tomorrow, but what do you think, Singletons and Marrieds?  Do you believe that we rush too often from the "apparatus" state to the commitment state, essentially ruining our chances for things to work?  Do you think it's possible to start out as someone's apparatus and eventually become the "Beloved?"

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dating Fill In the Blank

After a long week of overexerting myself with this silly pastime called "work," I'm almost completely brain-dead.  Sentences are coming out of my mouth, and although they seem to make complete sense in my head, absolutely sound like gibberish to rest of the English-speaking world.  With work, my new exercise regimen, going out of town this weekend and trying to maintain a social life, it's a good thing I don't have a boyfriend right now.  He'd either have to be very patient and understanding or would have felt thoroughly bored and neglected this past week.  That might very well be the first time I've ever said "good thing I don't have a boyfriend."  Oh, no.  Wait.  There was that time at that bar...  Nevermind.  Goldschlager is not your friend.

So, totally admitting that the above paragraph is about 100 words whose sheer existence is to provide you with an excuse for why there has been a lack of quality posts the last few days, please also keep in mind my recent hiatus kick-off.  In short, the drama well has dried up.  Not that I'm complaining!  It's actually quite peaceful.  But, see...then I start thinking.  I'm like a junkie.  Once I get clean from the drama, I am high on the cleanliness for a few weeks and then start saying to myself, "Eh, the drama wasn't really all that bad, was it?  Maybe I just exaggerated a bit."  I start inching my way back until, like an overdose, I'm boggled down with ridiculousness.  I'm counting on you, Singletons and Marrieds, to help me stay on track for enjoying my last two months (from today!) of my twenties.

We've potentially got another guest post in the works, and I'm always open for guest post submissions from any of you who feel inspired by things I've written, life experiences or online or real world dating silliness.  Simply submit your guest posts to lostinsingledom@gmail.com.  Feel free to get creative with pen names (to protect the innocent, of course), and I'm happy to do the editing/proofing.  Just write!

I thought it would be fun during this dating down-time of mine to try to inspire you.  Let's play "Dating Fill In the Blank!"  I want you all to respond with the first thing that comes into your mind.  Don't hold back now!  It can't be anything worse than what I've shared with you all.  Now it's time for you to share back.  Are you ready?  Get set....  Comment!

"I went on a date once and the guy/girl was the worst/had the worst  _______."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Unlocking the Mystery of Love

Click the photo to buy the book!
Since my recent self-hurdle into the dating sphere, I've collected various works of non-fiction about male/female relationships, living life as a Singleton or other self-help style dating improvement prose.  I've had friends who have recommended particular books, even bought copies for me and as I've continued my online dating hiatus, filled the empty space with catching up on this particular reading material.  Although I've had some real-world experience over the last few months (a heck of a lot more than I'd had beforehand!), a little outsider, expert opinion can never hurt.

To kick off this educational period of my life as a Singleton, I've started with "Men, Women and the Mystery of Love" by Edward Sri.  Recommended by a friend who has read it and passed it on several times, it seems like it's going to be an easy read and so far, is quite thought-provoking.  This book is basically an easier-to-read interpretation of the lifelong work of Pope John Paul II, "Love and Responsibility."  I'm only a few chapters in, but in just thirty or so pages, Mr. Sri (care of John Paul II) has made some very interesting, very valid points, all things I knew existed in my life, but hadn't really thought of in words, you know?

Pope John Paul II categorized human relationships (even beyond romantic) into three distinct versions:  utility friendships, pleasant friendships and virtuous friendships.  (Substitute "relationship" for friendship if that makes you feel more comfortable considering this is a blog about dating.)  His characteristics for each category really got me thinking and analyzing all of the relationships in my life.  Hopefully they'll make you think, too...(and inspire comments!). 

A utility friendship is the kind based on what you as an individual can get out of the relationship.  Mr. Sri used a very G-rated explanation for this, but rest assured, I'll dirty it up for you.  Mr. Sri asked his readers to consider a work-related friendship as a "utility friendship."  If Bob sells paper for a living and Sam works for a printing house, they can establish a friendship based on this common need of one another.  But, then let's say that Bob quits his paper business and opens a rental car company.  Bob and Sam will probably lose touch, at no fault of either of them, just that their connection to (or need for) one another is gone. 

If you think about this, it translates perfectly for modern day "romantic" relationships.  How many times do people get married because they need something from the other person, whether consciously or unconsciously?  People who are with someone simply because of their financial status, looks/sexual appeal, or social connections are in need of that particular element and create a relationship with that person based sometimes solely on that characteristic, potentially overlooking any huge red flags.  When you look at it like that, it makes sense that these relationships fall apart.  Mr. Sri's point is that you're objectifying the person, you're no longer appreciating them as a human being but as a trait, characteristic or function they can perform for you.

The second type of friendship is a pleasant friendship, which means your relationship is based on something that you both enjoy.  Remember when you were in college or high school and you connected with people who were also interested in your obscure hobby?  You wouldn't necessarily invite those people out to dinner, but you sure thought of them as friends when you were discussing Japanese Anime in the Student Center every Wednesday night.  Once those interests or hobbies change, your friendship changes and usually eventually fades away.  This type is easy to translate into a romantic setting.  It's that "we have to have something in common" syndrome.  I'm starting to learn that it's the things I have uncommon with men that attract me to them.  Maybe I'm finally approaching maturity!  Who wants a cookie-cutter version of yourself in the other gender anyway?  Snooze fest.

The third type of friendship, and the most true and honest in Pope John Paul II's opinion, is a virtuous friendship.  This type of relationship is rooted not in self-interest, but in a common goal of creating a good life together.  This one, I think, is harder to grasp in the non-romantic sense.  But, I thought of it in terms of giving and receiving Christmas gifts.  It's the difference between wanting to get something that makes you happy and wanting to buy gifts for other people that will make them happy, in turn making you happy.  When you reach that point where you are truly happy if the other person is happy, then you have a virtuous friendship. (That's a lot of "happy.")  Now, Mr. Sri is careful to point out that the goal of this level of friendship is not to be subservient or self-denying in order to please the other person.  It's a mutual exchange of happiness.  It's a respect and love for the other person as a human being as you work towards having the best life possible in each other's presence. 

Mr. Sri and Pope John Paul II conclude that although utility and pleasant friendships can be harmful (for example, you know, whenever you throw sex in there, it might get a bit dangerous), all in all they are normal and commonplace.  But, we should all be striving to have a virtuous friendship with our spouses, currently or in the future.  Utility and pleasant friendships don't have the strong foundation that virtuous ones do and because they're sort of set up and expected to fail, attempting to establish a committed relationship of marriage based on these principles is difficult and oftentimes impossible.  When you need something from someone all the time, once that element is gone, the relationship is over.  When all you have together is a common entertainment or pleasure, once that need or desire changes, the relationship is over.  Makes a lot of sense... 

I don't know that I've hit the highest level of virtuous friendship yet, but I can definitely recognize that several of my relationships don't fall into the other two categories, so hopefully I'm close.  I do realize that I've had some friendships along the way that were utility or pleasant and actually, no longer exist.  Sure, we catch up on Facebook every year or so, but we aren't what you'd call friends.  Really more like people who know each other exist on the planet and who used to have something in common or some need for each other.  The more I think about it, the more attractive a virtuous friendship/relationship becomes.  Wouldn't it be ideal to be in a relationship where both people were mutually happy?  It's almost hard to comprehend! With society telling me that I'm loved if I feel needed or that I need to "complete" someone or things like "Match".com pairing me with people who have also listed the same hit/search words that I have...it's hard to change that mindset.

Mr. Sri promises to elaborate in more detail about each of these types of friendship in subsequent chapters, so I'll keep you posted.  But, tell me Singletons and Marrieds, what to you think about these analyses?  Do you recognize times when you may not have seen that a relationship was utility or pleasant, but can see it looking back now?  Do you think there can be a combination of these three types?  Like a utility and pleasant friendship?  I've also been invited to hear Mr. Sri speak about this book mid-November and will be happy to ask whatever wonderful and thought-provoking questions I'm sure you will come up with!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Singleton's Epiphany

As you are all well aware, I'm within a stone's throw of my thirtieth birthday.  I'm not quite sure how it happened or really, more honestly, how it happened so fast.  We've talked about this before, so I won't drone on and on, lamenting the woes of a close-to-thirty-something Singleton.  But, I do want to make a statement loud and clear for you all to hear: I intend to enjoy the last two months (and two days) of my twenties.  Let me explain...

Over the last few days, I have had some great discussions with some wonderful friends who are truly blessings in my life.  If you've known me for five minutes, you know that I am working to put more and more of my trust in God and steer away from "going it alone."  Often, I ask God to send me signs, to let me know that I am on the right path or that I am following His will.  I think He's been talking to me through some friends over the last few days.  Or my friends are just particularly wise.

Upon announcing that I intended to take a self-imposed break from online dating for the remainder of 2010 (perfectly coordinated since my birthday is 8 days before New Year's), I decided that I'm going to ease off in general.  I have thought through my actions over the past few months and seriously think that I'm putting too much pressure on myself.  I have that impending doom complex, as if I'm never going to find someone if I don't do it before December 22.  The giant stop watch on the wall is ticking out of control, and I've got that feeling that I'm going to be the last car to cross the finish line, losing the Race of Life.  None of this is true, of course, but I've had that mentality the last few months, complaining if I'd gone a certain amount of time without a date or that not one of my dates turned into anything beyond company for dinner.  I have enough pressure from the outside world and don't need to add any more to the pile myself.  I'm going to enjoy these last couple of months and do whatever it is that I want to do from now until 2011.

I was sharing this new epiphany with a friend last night who was also feeling the strains of perpetual Singleton-status until a few months ago when she figuratively tripped over a guy that she's very much into these days, and the feelings are mutual.  She's happier than I've ever seen her, but learning to balance a relationship with a life that has been accustomed to being a party of one is a bit more challenging that she had initially thought.  As she was giving me insights and advice on how to maintain this balance successfully, she must have glanced over and noticed my face full of doubt.  I hadn't intended to have such an expression, but apparently I wasn't doing a good job of hiding it while focused on my new exercise routine.  I knew immediately where the conversation was headed:  "You'll find it as soon as you stop looking."  Heard it a million times, but what exactly does it mean?  Make sense of that for me and I'm happy to follow suit!  If I stop looking, then I won't seem available.  If I don't seem available, I'm unapproachable.  If I'm unapproachable, then I'm still single.  And how long exactly do I "stop looking?"  What's the cut-off?  Do I say "Well, I'll stop looking for six months and if he hasn't found me yet, then I'll pick up where I left off?"  What if I "stop looking" myself right into another decade of Singledom?  Does "stop looking" mean to still go out to all the places that Singletons gather in hopes that the special someone you desire hasn't also "stopped looking?"  Urgh.

But, I had rushed to judgment of my friend and her conversation skills.  She did tell me that she had "kind of" stopped looking at the time that she met her current stud-muffin, but had really taken more of an "I don't care" attitude.  She'd come to terms with life as a Singleton and was enjoying it, whether she had someone or not.  She was keeping her options open, but wasn't actively seeking constantly.  Probably goes along with that notion that men can smell desperation.  Once the desperation is gone, they notice you again, not your ravenous need to be in a committed relationship.

She also shared that she could tell that something great was about to happen for me.  Although she's not my prophetic friend, it's rare that this friend gives empty encouragements.  Since both of us are communications majors with focuses in jouralism and media, we like to have sources in every aspect of life, so I knew that her words were not unfounded.  She said she feels like I'm being prepared for something wonderful, that all of these trials and tribulations with online dating and men in the real world are simply prep work for the real prize.  I'm learning quickly what I want and don't want without having to waste time on full-blown relationships that would end up going nowhere.  I'll give her credit; I hadn't looked at it like that.  I was simply looking at it from the "Why can't I get a second date?!" mentality, when her more positive spin makes the whole situation look a little different...and a little brighter.  She continued that she thinks all these various men (I mean, good grief, just look at that list ->) are simply helping me branch out from my limited view of the male species, enlightening me to their various facets.  I'm kind of test-driving different versions and will get to choose between all of the available options for my custom model in the future.  I'm not going far, it's really just around the block, but I'm old and wise enough to make quick decisions for myself at this point.  "I'll take the funny, cute, somewhat sensitive in a good way, passionate, intelligent, quirky guy (with basic hygiene and conversation skills, don't forget) who is a cross between Mr. Darcy from Pride & Prejudice and John McClane from Die Hard, please...with a big, red bow.  Where do I sign?"

Although she had good evidence for these previous points, she didn't, in fact, have them for her last statement, however nice it was to hear.  She just "knows," she said, that it's going to happen for me very soon.  She can "feel it."  I almost asked her if she'd rigged my fortune from the other night, but thought that my sarcasm might tempt fate.  We've known each other for almost ten years and she's never so assuredly said something along these lines to me in all that time.  I kind of feel like she wanted me to bet her.  That's how confident she was.


"There's a jungle cat in the bathroom."
 So, I'm going to trust my friend, do a lot of praying (for specifics this time!), and just go with the flow.  Plans are underway for a fabulous birthday extravaganza (in the Atlanta area? Come celebrate with us!) and I've told everyone that I want to wake up the first morning of my thirties delirious with delight.  I want to have had a spectacular celebration of "The Hangover"-style proportions.  You know, minus the teeth-pulling and tiger scenes. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fortune's Fool

Last night, I was feeling a bit under the weather.  I had a horrible headache probably brought on by the flu shot I'd received earlier in the day (a Singleton girl on the hunt can never be too careful and judging from the looks of the latest crop of men to grace my path, I should be getting shots for things a lot more serious than influenza!).  So, I decided to take it easy and the best cure that I could find for what ailed me was a heaping helping of local Chinese take-out.  Always a good idea in the moment, never a good idea the next morning.  But I digress.

I've always been a fan of fortune cookies and have probably put too much stock in a lot of them that I've received over the years.  I'm pretty sure I've still got one in my wallet that says something about my finances turning around in the near future.  It was months before I realized that statement could imply good things or bad things for me, depending on the financial viewpoint of the person who wrote the fortune.  And for some reason, I thought keeping it in my wallet would insure that Papa Dollar and Mama Dollar would reproduce on their own.  So far, they're still barren.

But, last night I seriously think that the dating gods were trying to communicate with me.  As my roommate and I divied up the take-out bag, arranged mounds of rice and lomein on our plates and settled in, I realized that we'd forgotten to get our fortune cookies.  I ran back out to the kitchen and searched the bag, only finding one little package of Chinese dessert delight.  I was disappointed and immediately started contemplating how we could divide the cookie two ways, and who would get the fortune?!  Thinking that it probably meant way more to me than it meant to my roommate, I was sure I would be the clear winner, but luckily glanced back down in the bag before tossing it into the trash.  Another cookie!  Figuring that my discovery meant that this cookie in the bag was meant for me, but not wanting to tempt fate, I told my roommate to pick which one he wanted.  He grabbed the original one that had almost become the centerpiece of the Two People/One Cookie showdown.  Whew!

I opened the almost-thrown-away cookie and rolled open the tiny little piece of paper inside.  I looked down and read the following:


(Sorry about the quality.  Blackberry's are obviously phones first, cameras second.)
A wish?! Granted?!  Yes!  Of course, my roommate rolled his eyes at my delight, even ridiculing me when I thought I'd lost the fortune when the breeze from the open window blew it across the room.  It didn't take me long to mentally go straight to my recent dating plight and immediately assume that said wish was somehow tied to my desire to become a citizen of Coupledom.  Oh, thank you dating gods for this wonderful sign of a happier future!  A long delay is right!  I'm just about ready to call the nearest convent, so the timing couldn't be better!

Uhh...but wait.  I started considering the same angle I'd realized with the finance fortune.  What if the wish the fortune was referring to had absolutely nothing to do with finding my other half?  What if it was referring to something silly I wished for randomly in conversation with someone?  With a pretty significant birthday looming on the horizon, I'm sure I've "wished" for several things over the last few weeks.  Did I say "I wish someone would buy me a Kindle for my birthday?" or did I just say I wanted one?  And does wanting one still count as a wish?  Do things like "I wish I could find a better route home to avoid traffic" count?!?!  Oh NO! Have I completely messed with fate by wishing for random nothingness?!  OR!  Was fate smart enough to realize what my tip-top wish was (Personal wish, people.  Don't judge me because "world peace" isn't the thing which I wish for most.) and only consider that when forecasting my future?  Would fate be so cruel to literally consider my desire to avoid traffic over my wish to find Mr. Right?  Probably.  I've always said that my social life is God's favorite comedy routine.

For the rest of the night, I totally focused all of my wishing efforts on the prize:  Mr. Right.  I went to sleep knowing that the dating gods had patted me on the shoulder with this fortune cookie, grinned and said "Hang in there, sport."  We'll see, I guess!  If any "wishes" come true, you'll be the first to know, of course!

How about you, Singletons and Marrieds?  Ever had a fortune cookie come true?  Anybody ever visit a psychic and later realize that they were dead-accurate or completely off base?  Share your strange paranormal, soothsaying experiences!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Just Say/Hear "No"

Even though I've decided to take a self-induced online dating hiatus over the course of the next two months (at least...please God I find someone who wants to hold my hand in the real world between now and then), I like to keep myself abreast of the latest dating trends, philosophies and theories.   Usually my go-to victim for criticisms, eHarmony pleasantly surprised me today with a thoughtful e-newsletter that in no way, shape or form offended me, made me feel as though I should put on my pearls, vacuum the house and have dinner and slippers ready for my man at 5:00 pm sharp, or that everything I'm doing in regards to electronic pursuits of romance are wrong.  I'm impressed...  and lately that's been quite a task for anything involving online dating.

Well, to clarify I technically wasn't impressed with eHarmony's articles, but the fact that they actually posted a relevant and engaging topic for discussion and allowed people to comment.  In today's installment, a female eHarmony member lamented on the frequency of which she is asked out by men she's not interested in (poor baby) and her difficulty in rejecting them.  She told of how she'd meet men at parties who interested her at the time, but didn't necessarily inspire date-worthy feelings.  She'd spend time engaged in conversation with them and they'd inevitably ruin it by asking her out, so she said.  Because they'd usually ask non-specifically with generic "can I see you again?" requests, she would "try to be polite" and say "sure," completely knowing that she intended to put them off and give them excuses until they eventually gave up.  She said she tried to be subtle and would tell them how busy she was that day, week or month and they'd always continue suggesting other times and dates.  She said she felt like saying "no" outright was rude and insensitive, so would often lie to end the torment and tell them that she was seeing someone or that she had plans the night in question with her "boyfriend" or other date. 

I was talking to a male friend about this same topic just a few weeks ago and honestly was looking for a way to incorporate it into a post.  He asked me why some women have a hard time hearing and comprehending the word "no" or "I'm not interested."  I didn't really have an answer for him at the time, but after reading eHarmony's recent contribution to the dating written-word, I've come up with a theory. 

I think the majority of people in the world fall into one of two categories:  those who can't say the word, "no" and those who don't hear the word, "no."  I know where I fall without hesitation.  I'm the girl that can't say the word, "no."  Although everything in me wants to run away from the situation, screaming "NOOOOO!!!!!" at the top of my lungs, arms and legs flailing about, and eyes bugged, I stand sheepishly in front of my predator and coyly say "Okay, sure," handing him whatever form of communication means he so desires.  Case in point:  Mr. Gunslinger.  My mother has obviously instilled in me the highest level of social courtesies and oftentimes I can hear her in my head during these torturous moments of awkwardness, reminding me to be polite and consider the other person's feelings before my own.  Another problem of mine is solely based on years of poor self-esteem.  As someone who hasn't had a lot of men interested in doing anything other than watching the game and drinking beers with her, it's hard for me to reject the ones who do show a glimmer of romantic interest because I get that silly, desperate, "this might be my only chance!" type inner monologue.  Today, after years of self-improvement, I know this is ridiculous, but things like Dr. Phil's "Mr. 80%" argument don't help me realize that I don't have to settle for someone so far from the mark that I am immediately repulsed by the idea of doing anything with him other than high-tailing it out of there, heading straight for the nearest running vehicle.

Then, you have the other side of this ugly coin with people who can't hear the word, "no."  They refuse to accept the fact that someone could really be rejecting them.  Honestly, I think this also stems from poor self-esteem.  I know that sounds contradictory so let me explain.  My male friend that I was pondering this issue with had recently told a girl outright and unequivocally that he was not interested in dating her.  Her reaction was total shock and awe.  He eluded that it was even a bit over-the-top.  I've heard girls react like this, that obviously there is something wrong with him if he doesn't automatically love her and want to throw himself at her feet upon her admission of feelings for him.  As if it is somehow a privilege and an honor to be pursued by her (or him, but in the cases I've experienced, it's almost always been a female) and to reject that honor is a reflection of the man's shortcomings.  Well, funny he didn't seem to have that many faults when you were head over heels for him moments before!  My thoughts are that this stems from an over-inflated ego, brought about by poor self-esteem.  To combat their own low self-esteem, these people have tooted their own horn to themselves so many times that they view themselves as impenetrable to rejection.  Because they "know" they're so great, everyone else must be dying to date them.  Therefore, the word "no" does not exist as a response to their advances. 

I will say that I was highly impressed with not only my friend's ability to say "no," but his willingness to stand firmly and not give in to the temptations of "politeness."  Not that saying "no" is impolite (Would you say "Well, sure" if your neighbor asked you to paint their house for them without paying you?  Probably not.), but we're not taught to say it.  We're taught that we should never say or do anything that might make someone else feel uncomfortable and unfortunately, in the dating world, that throws the awkwardness and discomfort into our own laps.  Why?  Nobody benefits.  In the long run, both people end up aggravated and potentially hurt, when one two-letter word could have prevented the whole thing.  And by saying "no," my friend not only put value into his own feelings, but respected those of the girl in the long run as well.  Commendable.  And rare.

eHarmony's advice follows along the same lines.  They, as well as other members who commented on the post, make no bones about saying "no," and most of the men who contributed said that guys need to actually hear the word, "no."  Don't beat around the bush or be subtle, actually say "I had a good time talking to you tonight, but no, thank you, I think I'd like to just stay friends" or "No, I don't think a date is a good idea, but it was nice to meet you."  Easier said than done, I know, when faced with someone who is referring to you as the "love of my life" three times in your first conversation (see Mr. Gunslinger again).  But just think of how much easier the dating world would be if we were all honest with each other?

How about you, Singletons and Marrieds?  What's the worst way you've ever been rejected?  Has someone been overly obstinate when you actually said "no" to their pursuits?  Have you ever regretted not saying "no" at the very beginning of the dating dance?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It's a Small Dating Pool After All

It's always funny to me when two worlds collide.  It's actually happened pretty often in my life.  Considering that I went to college over two-hundred miles away from the city where I grew up, it's always shocked me when I literally run into people I went to high school with, people who have some kind of affiliation to my high school or know someone I know from years ago.  I guess it's that whole six degrees of separation thing (not just for Kevin Bacon anymore) and since I am still in the same state, it probably happens a lot more than I've actually been aware of.

Facebook is a giant beacon for how small the world actually is.  It's sometimes shocking to discover that a old friend or a new friend has a mutual connection that you would have never guessed.  An old friend's new boyfriend knows a girl you went to college with, or a cousin who lives ten states away knows a high school friend's brother.  The web of connections is amazing and borderline scary if you think about it.  Imagine all the people we'd never know we had in common if not for the internet!  And that can definitely be a good thing or a bad thing!

As you're well aware, I've had a love/hate relationship with online dating for years, going back to my college days.  Part of the reason I think I've never had success with eHarmony is that I filled out the 4,356 question survey about myself while slightly inebriated, asking random people in the den of debachery apartment where I used to hang out and enjoy extracurricular activities to help me answer the questions from an outsider perspective.  If you're just getting started in online dating, I don't suggest this route, especially since eHarmony won't let you retake the questionnaire.  Ever.  But, I digress.  Over the years, I've come across face after face in online dating profiles, some of which resonated with me, others of which simply floated away into cyberspace oblivion.

The ones that seemed to stick with me all have pretty significant stories behind them.  I have literally tripped over faces that I went to high school or college with in profile hunts or in emails from the dating sites themselves suggesting these men as potential suitors.  I always laugh and think that such blunders are an indicator of just how fallible online dating sites are.  Although I'm sure some people may reconsider past acquaintances when they show up as matches, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that none of these gentlemen were my Mr. Right.  Another face I was matched with pops up on my Facebook News Feed almost daily, as he's currently married to one of my best friends in the world.  He didn't seem like a match for me and totally sparked her interest.  As a Match.com-er herself, they got in touch with each other, met for lunch and the rest is romantic history.  A few faces made an impression because of where I happened to be on the path through Singledom at the time that we met or corresponded or because of dealbreakers they possessed that I hadn't been aware were an issue for me before meeting them.  For example, I corresponded with one guy for weeks, thinking that he had tons of potential until he mentioned in his email asking me to dinner that he was an atheist and hoped that didn't bother me since I seemed fairly religious.  I went into a mad panic, immediately scouring his profile and realized that I had completely overlooked this particular characteristic that had been listed all along.  Judge me as you will, but remember my list of dealbreakers.  I'm sure he was a wonderful person and probably would have made a great boyfriend from what I learned about him, but I know he's not marriage material for me personally.  Since then, I have placed the burden on myself and made a pointed effort to check such date-worthy critical components of any profile.

The reason for this long, drawn out narrative of my online dating history is rather comical.  A friend of mine who I recently met has been struggling with relationship issues of her own of late.  Upon seeing her Facebook status this morning and her mention of a new boyfriend, I was happy for her and wanted to check out the lucky guy.  I clicked through the various levels of Facebook stalking and opened the profile of the name linked in her relationship status to find a very familiar face.  I chuckled to myself as I realized where I knew this gentleman from:  Match.com.  This friend had told me about a guy she'd met online just a few weeks and had actually asked for some advice based on my experiences in my blog.  I was happy to help her and realized this morning upon viewing his Facebook profile, that I had coincedentally been helping her communicate and build a relationship with the very first guy in Atlanta that I had ever exchanged emails with through any online dating site.  Small world, huh?

I mostly recognized him because his current Facebook picture is the same photo that he used years ago in his online dating profile shot.  And also because I have a weird brain.  I think sometimes I border on photographic memory (in school, when I'd study, I'd recall things for tests based on where the words were on the page I'd study.  I could see the page in my head...  freakish, I know, but it worked for me.  Straight A student, baby.), so visuals are usually my strongest recall tools.  I remember our email exchanges and being very nervous about them.  I recollect almost nothing in particular about him (so he must have been a good guy!), and we never progressed to the meeting stage, which was completely my fault.  I seem to recall that he wanted to meet, and I did what I hate:  I flaked out.  I got really nervous about it and was completely unprepared.  I wasn't online dating for the right reasons and had hoped that external male interest would generate a response from a guy who was already a daily part of my life.  It didn't work.  And hasn't ever worked.  But, I wouldn't have made a good girlfriend or probably even a good date at the time. 

So, I wish my friend well and hope that things work out for her and the new online dating prospect with whom she's currently found success.  And I'm totally picking up the message that the dating gods are sending me:  sometimes matches that I might not take the chance on could, in fact, be Mr. Right, and if I don't go after that, someone else might just benefit...  But, also that just because these men aren't right for me at the time, doesn't mean they aren't right for someone else I know.  Maybe I'm destined to be Atlanta's Matchmaker... hmmm...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Trusting my Instincts

This weekend, something happened in my head (or maybe my heart, but that might be a bit too philosophical...although it goes well with my recent sentiments...moving on from the melodrama).  Mr. One Liner, who we spoke of last week, continued to bare-bones communicate with me, expressing his interest in meeting.  At this point, I noticed my own reluctance to respond.  I asked him what he had in mind (attempting to prolong the conversation and avoid a next-day meeting), and he wrote back with the most words he'd ever used before:  dinner, coffee and a corn maze.  This was all well and good, but considering that I only knew three facts about him (his name, his city of residence and his place of employment) over the course of more than a month of communication, saying that I was hesitant to commit to an actual date of this level would be an understatement.  For some reason, this bipolar-like change sent up some internal red flags for me.  I can't explain it even now, but I got the feeling that I shouldn't go on this date.  I suggested that we meet just for dinner, and it was arranged for Saturday night.  As Saturday afternoon wore on, I felt like a kid being dragged into the dentist's office.  I wanted nothing less in the world than to meet for this dinner, even if it was "just a free meal," as several friends put it.  I texted Mr. One Liner and asked if we could reschedule for Sunday night, thinking that I might be more inclined to go after another day of prep.  Still, I had this ball of dread growing ever larger in my stomach, and it was only by divine intervention that he texted to postpone our arrangement for Sunday.

Now, I've been on several blind/online dating dates in the last few months, most of which have been able to conjure up astronomical levels of nervousness.  But, once I'm actually there on the "date," I calm down and most of these feelings are settled. This weekend wasn't nerves.  It was something else, but I can't really put my finger on it.  Maybe I subconsciously knew that this guy wasn't for me, and my instincts are helping me not waste anymore of my time (this damn biological clock!).  Something was physically stopping me from even going on this "date."  It wasn't the normal nerves making me rehearse my conversation in my head a thousand times, or plan out what I was going to wear down to the tiniest detail.  This was a complete aversion to anything involving this guy.  It was weird and new.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I don't think I'm in a good place to be online dating anyone right now.  I'm so bitter towards any communication I receive from any of these sites because it seems so childish/petty/sexual/inappropriate/mindless/uninspired/unintellectual/uninteresting that even the little chirp email alert on my phone literally pisses me off.  I wonder what level of stupid each new email is going to reach and am usually not disappointed.  I'm tired of being the one to make multiple attempts at actual conversation when all I'm given to work with is "nothing, u?"  I want to ask these guys if they think these lack luster approaches would work for them in a bar.  If they came up to me and just repeated "Hey, cutie" after everything I said (I'm not kidding, I had one of these this weekend.  Every two-word response I got was prefaced with "Hey, cutie."), would they think that would capture my attention and spark an interest?  (<- See, told you I was bitter.) 

So, I started contemplating a total online dating hiatus through the remainder of 2010.  A two-month respite to work on Melanie and to seriously pursue all opportunities to meet people in person.  I will put myself in every single possible place singles hang out.  I will make my first attempts at speed dating and finally go to a Meetup.com event.  No more profiles, no more emails, no more text relationships.  At least until 2011. 

I hadn't officially decided to take this route until this morning when I opened yet another Plentyoffish.com email.  This guy falls completely out of my realm of interest on multiple levels, but I do owe him a debt of gratitude.  He put the final nail in Online Dating's coffin this morning, and all I have to do now is lower that bad boy into the ground.  This was his opening email:
Hey gorgeous how are you doing? I am doing just fine. Basically woke up for you to tell you that you're lips look so delicious. ;)
Again, overlooking my usual contempt for poor grammar (who says that my standards are too high?! I've been overlooking blatant misuse of your/you're for months now! Basic English, people.  Basic.), what does this even mean?!?

I've honestly lost a lot of confidence in the online date-seeking male species in general.  Don't get me wrong, I know there are men out there [most of whom are my readers! ;) ] who can put together a complete, grammatically correct, intelligent, conversational email without initially referencing my "delicious" lips.  But, online, in general (and I'm sure women are equal culprits, but again, I've never ventured into the same-sex arena), you're missing the mark with me.  I'm not lowering my standards just to have a man or a date, because I don't think they're set too high:  basic hygiene, love Jesus, and can engage me in a conversation.  In no particular order.

I can't do it anymore.  This engine is out of gas. Chalk it up.  Hang it up.  Stick a fork in me.  I'm done.  Tootle-loo, Online Dating.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Tenth Circle of Hell: Online Dating Emails

Over the last few weeks, I've maintained a pretty steady presence on Plentyoffish.com.  Because it's free, my profile just stays out there and occasionally, I'll check out the "Who's Viewed You" section.  In the last few days, something has happened to promote me to some unknown status, causing me to receive an influx of random introduction emails.  I haven't changed my profile or my picture, which are usually actions to increase your viewership because they catapult you to the top of the list of those maintaining active profiles on the site.  I haven't been overly ambitious with my own introduction emails, so I'm not really sure what has caused this recent flooding of my inbox. 

Why are you complaining, you ask?  Because they're all ridiculous.  Just a few days ago, I went very sincerely to a friend and appealed to her to please, for the love of God, tell me if I was being pranked.  Tell me, I begged her, just the fact that all of this was a joke, I didn't need to know the culprit, just the confirmation that none of these online dating shenanigans were real.  Although I'm sure she was quite entertained by my lamentations, she could not in fact confirm that the absurdity was a cruel joke.  As they continued to pour in, I was tempted to write back to all of them and ask if they'd read a book on all the ways to be unsuccessful at online dating, but felt that such communication would probably only encourage them to continue pursuing me because it's highly doubtful they've ever received a response for any woman.

I'll start with the lesser offenders and work my way up to the true criminals.  I've actually been attempting communication with two guys on this particular website lately and have been exchanging emails.  The first one is a moderately attractive guy who I've mentioned in previous posts who only responds to my few questions with one-liners, never asking me anything about myself or even making the slightest effort towards conversation.  He never provides details of anything, and I know almost nothing about him other than where he works.  I got fed up a while ago and stopped trying to force conversation on him.  Three days passed between his one-liners when I received a note asking what I was looking for out of Plentyoffish.com.  Finally!  A question!  I replied and gave him a second chance at conversation, asking him the same question.  He replied "A woman to date."  Dead serious.  Then three days later, I received another one liner:  "We should meet."  Really?  Should we?  Because I'm not sure.  I have no reason to want to meet him other than a photograph that I have learned may or may not actually be him.  We've communicated for weeks at this point and he's never asked for my phone number or even made an effort to ask me anything about myself.  I mustered up the energy to write him back and told him that I was a rather traditional girl who liked to be asked out.  Two days later he said, "What are you doing on Saturday?"  That was this morning.  Although I'm a firm believer in rejecting last minute requests from complete strangers and this isn't even really a request to go out, I haven't been on a date now in going on a month.  My track record is diminishing quickly.  But, in the back of my mind I am also tired of being the one that has to put forth the effort single-handedly.  Instead of committing one way or another, I wrote back just now asking him what he had in mind.  I'm cringing each time my inbox alerts me to a new message.  Maybe I should just say no...

My future.

Then, we have Mr. Disney.  He sent me a rather lengthy introduction email sharing his good qualities and expressing that he hoped he'd hear back from me because "you never know, I might be the one."  Why?  Why did I fall for this cheesy overly familiar line in an introduction email?  He had several red flags right off the bat.  Four of his five profile pictures are him in various locations at Disney World, three of which he is wearing Mickey Mouse ears.  His second email to me told me at ridiculous length full descriptions of his favorite Disney movies and how he prefers to spend his evenings watching them and his other favorite movies, the Twilight series.  Falling into my "benefit of the doubt" pitfall yet again, I continued to correspond with him until I got very busy and missed one day of communicating.  (Honestly, I wasn't avoiding him...yet.)  You can slap me if I'm lying; he sent me three messages throughout that day (literally lunch time to 5:00) all of which simply said "I hope you're having a good day."  Three.  In rapid fire succession.  I think we've talked about the "I hope you're having a good day" texts and emails before on here, so I won't continue to bore you with my rants of such over-familiarity.  I've officially decided and let this serve as a formal announcement that I don't think I even want my husband to ever send me "I hope you're having a good day" texts or emails.  And if he does, I want him to come up with different words to use.  Because at this point, these just make me mad.  Three different sendings makes me think this is his way of rubbing in my face that I haven't written him back in a time span that he feels appropriate and makes me want to block him with no explanation.  Or write him back with a very graphic and detailed list of all the reasons I was not, in fact, having a good day that day.  I mean, if we're at that level of comfort, he should be prepared for such rants, should he not?  Urgh.  I love Disney and all and was the first one to think Disney cruises could be a lot of fun for adults, too, but I'm not spending my Friday nights curled up with my  Mickey Mouse ears and a worn out copy of The Fox & The Hound.  Just saying.
Next, we have...well, hell, I don't even have a name for him.  Today's culprit.  I don't even think I'm going to comment on him, I'll just let you read his actual letter to me:

 Hi Am William Michael by Name i was glancing through your profile and i discover that i am interested in meeting you.please kindly reply me so know each other.thanks.Williams.

For real.  For.  Real.  Just for continued giggles, I checked out his actual profile.  Besides the fact that one of his profile pictures actually has a watermark in the center and the words "Stock Photo" along the bottom, he included this lovely little communication-inspiring line.  I'm sure girls all over Singledom are throwing themselves at him.
The woman of my dream should be tolerant and also submissive to me and also Hard working.
Moving on...

to the highest offender of late.  The worst, most unattractive thing to do in the online dating game.  Three days ago, I received an email from a man twice my age who decided that he would appeal to me by composing an email that bashed everything in my profile that I said I was interested in.  The most heinous of these bashings was his opening line telling me that my beloved Atlanta Braves did not stand a chance in this season's playoffs.  He continued to provide me with elaborate details of why he was sure that they would go down in three games and how futile it was for me to even consider them a contender.  He used correct baseball terminology so he obviously knows the game, but he referred to several players as "freaks" and then asked me to help him out with the name of "that short outfielder guy."  But, don't worry, he wrapped up his email by telling me how beautiful he thinks I am and that he's pretty sure we should meet as soon as physically possible.  Score.  I want him now.

eHarmony is starting to look more and more attractive, especially as they continue attempts to reel me in with ridiculously low rates.  I might be willing to pay them if just for the Guided Communication, eliminating such pathetic excuses for email exchanges.   I miss real, honest, genuine conversation with men.



Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Year of the Red Flag

I don't even know how to tell this story without laughing hysterically before I even get through the first paragraph.  You know, as we've taken this journey together through my own personal hell Singledom, I've oftentimes thought that there was nothing new out there to surprise me.  No man would be able to come up with any feat amazing enough to catch me off guard, or even odd enough to generate the slightest chuckle.  No matter how many times I think I have hit the tip top of shocking triumphs, I have been proven wrong many times over the course of the last year, one of which came last evening.

As I sat quietly reading in my room waiting for a friend to call for dinner plans, my phone rang.  In its usual place about six inches from my grasp, I glanced down at it to see an unknown Atlanta phone number.  Most people wouldn't find that out of place, but having a cell phone number with an area code from the city that I grew up in, it is rare that I get numbers from Atlanta that aren't specifically looking for me.  Being the call screener that I am, I sent it to voice mail.  Once the little chime rang, I checked it and wish that I had had a video camera on my face as I listened to the entire message.  I'm sure my facial expressions went from inquisitiveness, to confusion, to shock, to laughter, all in about thirty seconds.

The voice on the other end of the receiver immediately identified himself as Tony, the friend/neighbor of Mr. Gunslinger from the bar Saturday night.  Rushing through his message, he told me politely that he was sorry to bother me, but that Mr. Gunslinger had asked him to get in touch with me (if I cared, I would have noted the 72-hour gap here, but I don't, so...moving on...).  Apparently, or so Tony claimed, Mr. Gunslinger recently "left the country" and isn't able to get in touch with me himself.  "So, he said for you to email him," Tony told me, and then provided me with Mr. Gunslinger's email address.

Never in all my life have I ever gotten such a voicemail:  the Wing Man calling the target over three days after the meeting.  I was shocked.  I sat there cackling to myself at not only Mr. Gunslinger's feeble attempt to communicate with me without communicating with me, but also his obvious influence over this friend/neighbor to convince him to call someone on his behalf to establish a "romantic" connection.  Thirdly, I realized at that moment I had reached an all-time new low.  Although I am not interested in pursuing or being pursued by Mr. Gunslinger, I was impressed with my ability to move quickly to the point of phone number exchanging when presented with a real-world dating situation, unlike the recent monotonous drag of online and email communication.  But, I've honestly never heard of someone exchanging phone numbers simply to then communicate via email!  I quickly surmised that this process would indeed be taking a step backwards and, as I said, I would have been disappointed had I had the slightest glimmer of interest in Mr. Gunslinger.

As I shared this story with the friend I was meeting for dinner, I started making a list of all the red flags that occurred over the course of the actual evening with Mr. Gunslinger and the follow-up voicemail I received.  She told me that she thinks that I'm a bit blind to these things when I'm actually in the moment and need to get better at recognizing some of the (eh-hem) "tricks of the trade."

Red Flags During Evening with Mr. Gunslinger (and follow-up voicemail): 
  1. He repeatedly shared his history as a member of law enforcement and reminded me several times that he was an Executive Bodyguard (or something along those lines).  Although this could have been true (I'm doubting his anecdote about escorting Keanu Reeves to a local Atlanta club, though.  I don't think Keanu frequents the ATL.), it immediately felt as though he was trying to establish a common sense of ease and allow us to let our guard down.  Plus, I can't imagine Executive Protection is especially lucrative unless you're in New York or Los Angeles.  Really wished I'd asked him why he wasn't a police officer anymore...  A girl can never be too cautious.
  2. He told me several times that he had a truck in the parking lot, but was going to walk home so his friends/neighbors with him could drive it.  What?  This doesn't even make sense.  If you live in the same apartment complex and rode there together, why can't you all ride back together?  The screeching tires of "his" truck as his friend/neighbor sped away from the parking lot with him still standing there were probably an indicator that he was lying and in fact, does not have a vehicle.
  3. His repeated use of the phrase "love of my life."  Oh, please.  We just met five minutes ago.  At least laugh about it or imply that you aren't a lunatic are kidding.
  4. My body's physical reaction when he touched me.  Whenever his hand happened to graze my knee or be purposefully placed on my arm or elbow, my entire body would tense up.  I'm no good at covering up things like that and should listen more carefully to my own instincts.  And I'm pretty positive he noticed it too, but judging from how he read me throughout the course of the night, I'm sure he thought it was fate jolting me full of romantic currents.  Blah.
  5. His eagerness and willingness to volunteer his friend to drive me home.  First, men, please don't do this.  Respectable women that you just met are not going to want you to make the offer because it immediately puts us in protection mode.  And we will not accept.  At least this respectable girl will not, no matter how gentlemanly you make it sound.  Second, because he said this before we got in the parking lot and did not offer to drive me home himself, this just proves Red Flag #2.
  6. His recent "trip" abroad.  First of all, let's say you meet a wonderful girl/guy at a bar.  You're really interested.  You want his/her phone number.  Oh, yes! You get it!  OH, but wait!  You're leaving to go out of the country within the next two days.  Damn.  Oh, you can give him/her your email address right now!  Come on...you can't tell me that this guy who basically said he works when work is available and who told us every other tiny detail about his life forgot to tell us that he was leaving the country in the next two days?!
  7. His Wing-Man approach.  I get the need and benefit of a wing-person, believe me.  Remember, I had the fullest intentions of using both of my non-Singleton friends as Wing Women throughout the course of the same evening.  But, wing-status stops when you leave the bar/restaurant/person-meeting-establishment.  Am I supposed to be impressed that he's so interested in me that he had his friend call me?  How did he get in touch with the friend to tell him to call me if his phone is off the market when he's gone international?  Can he not cough up the $.85 for an international text message? How long is he going to be gone that he thinks he can't just wait to call me himself?  All this does is establish to me that he's yet another man who can't take the initiative to call me; I would have to be the one to do the initial communicating.  You know, if I cared.
So, there we have it.  Seven major red flags that I didn't see until I took a closer look and realized that I am sort of setting myself up for disaster.  I need to be more aware of the possibility of attacks from outside of the Realm of Normalcy (where red flags are strictly forbidden and if caught with one in your possession, you could face punishment up to death).  You'd think that after all this time and exposure to abnormal with online men, I would be more apt to recognize it when it sat down at the table with me.  I'm thinking that, for Christmas, I'd like someone to get me a little red flag on a stick.  I can carry it with  me, say in my purse, and have it at the ready.  When things are laid out that the flag obviously would apply to, I can shoot it straight into the air and allow the person talking to me the opportunity to explain away the necessity of the red flag alert.  Hmm... I bet I could market that...

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