Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Fork in the Singledom Road

The other day I was chatting with a old/new friend (it's amazing how many reconnections I've had thanks to this blog!) about the level of scandal in my recent postings. We both agreed that the shenanigans were an enjoyable part of my past day-to-day rants, but have completely gone to the wayside with my self-imposed break from online dating. In jest, we suggested that maybe I should rekindle my online romance pursuits simply to provide more unbelievable and attention-getting blog material. Hmmm...

Although my brain has shifted gears a bit, tending to lean more towards the pursuit of men in the flesh and less towards a suped-up, photo-shopped online version, I'm cautiously and hesitantly considering it. I know that I've made a lot of mental and emotional progress in the last couple of months and feel a bit more confident in my abilities to find potential partners in the real world. But, what if I dove back into online dating with the single-minded goal of providing not only high quality entertainment to you, my fellow Singletons and Marrieds, but also as continued practice?

Am I overlooking how much I hated the "getting to know you" phase of online dating? Probably. You may need to refresh my memory. It might be like how women who've had the joy of giving birth describe labor pains. The pain is so bad that your brain won't let you keep a memory of it...or so some say. I've heard and seen women in labor, and I know I haven't forgotten the looks of anguish on their faces and that was about all I needed to know that crap hurts! But, I digress. Now that I'm a seasoned online dating professional (just look at that list of Men of Singledom over there...wait, maybe "professional" is the wrong word here...), maybe I could use the experience to try different tactics and dating styles/approaches without putting really any significance into the experience at all. No pressure, no intentions, no expectations whatsoever. Wait...didn't I say that somewhere before? Maybe my break from online dating has provided me with the outside perspective that I needed to realize that it might simply be a way of getting more comfortable in my dating shoes. Making up for lost time in my teens and twenties when I spent more Friday and Saturday nights with my nose stuck in a book than just about anywhere else and eventually making me a better girlfriend when the time does finally come for me to enter Coupledom. Less anxiety, less fear of the unknown, less pressure to be perfect because I've seen so many men who aren't in my online dating experience. Hmmm....might be worth contemplating.

Of course, I'd only jump back into one that didn't require a financial commitment so my choices are narrowed. I think that, by watching the monthly debit fly out of my account at an astronomical rate, I was more likely to get fed up a heck of a lot faster. I could give Plentyoffish.com another spin, which, in all fairness, it didn't really get much of a chance in the first place. I dipped my toes into their ocean full of men right at the end of my frustration with Match, and it got the boot about the same time. I've also heard that a few friends have met reasonable and respectable people on OkCupid, another free option. Urgh, but I SO wanted to meet someone in real life. (<-whiny voice)

Is it worth another shot? Maybe even just for the blog material?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Personal Revelation Via Vodka

The following post completely contradicts everything I said previously about wanting to be courted.  This is simply a story of one night of my life and, after all, I am only human.  Please don't hold that against me.  I still stand by everything I said in Dating vs. Courtship...now that I'm sober again.

For a while there, I thought that I had become that old girl that people talk about whenever parties or gatherings happen where people are reunited after a long time apart.  You know which ones I'm talking about...you sit around a table with your friends, point out this old girl from across the room and talk about how much fun she used to be, wonder what could have happened between the previous interesting version and the new, not so lively, old-maid-type version.  Although unlike most people that would have excuses of marriages, children, divorces or other adult-like activities to have impeded upon their rank in the social hierarchy, I would have no such obvious rationale to my dullness. 

Uh, that old girl went on a long, long journey to somewhere far off in the distance on Saturday night.  I happily welcomed New Melanie to the party. 

After a dear friend of mine from childhood said her nuptial vows to her new husband, all of us chickadees who used to spend countless hours writing notes back and forth, chatting on the phone and other teenager-style activities sat around a reception table and reminisced.  The reminiscing, of course, was made even more jovial by the presence of an open bar and another friend's insistance that I try her favorite drink.  Repeatedly.  Until I was basically convinced that the bartender thought we were wedding crashers.  I kept making a pointed effort to prove that I knew more than just my partner-in-crime fellow drinker. 

Although he'll probably never appear in this blog again, I'd like to introduce you briefly to Mr. Best Man.  Mr. Best Man made friends with the six prettiest girls in the room (besides the bride and Mother of the Bride, of course) very quickly (these six being my group, again, of course, which included my sister...this only got awkward later when Mr. Best Man got a bit, uh, creative about where he wanted to set his drink) and decided to join our post-wedding party at every single functioning bar in downtown Augusta.  Although Mr. Best Man's intentions were anything but innocent and had absolutely nothing to do with getting to know our personalities or interests, I owe him a debt of gratitude (other than the "thanks" I should have said for the possibly ten to twelve drinks he purchased for me during the course of the evening.  Being dragged from a bar and thrown into a truck by a designated driver makes it hard to say proper goodbye's and thank you's.)  And I don't mean that I hold Mr. Best Man's intentions against him; he had an obligation as a man in this situation to try his best, I'm sure.  Surrounded by five rather attractive women, only one of whom was married, at several bars, who had consumed entirely too much to drink and had just left a wedding.  Duh.  We knew what we were in for.  Granted, he did play a good defensive lineman, blocking the losers who attempted to approach us and completely agreeing with us that the guys across the bar who hadn't noticed our hotness must, in fact, be homosexual.

I owe Mr. Best Man a round of applause for his ability to make me feel like I wasn't the lonely wallflower in the corner anymore.  Even though his compliments would have probably been met with resistance without the presence of alcohol, I welcomed them regardless of how shallow or untruthful they may have been.  I appreciated being appreciated on a completely external level and must say that it's been a while.  And he gets major points for creativity, too.  He hit all the usual targets of interest of course, but I was rather shocked by his flattery of the scent of my hair.  Every girl knows that if she wears a low-cut dress or a short-length skirt to a bar what areas are going to receive the most attention.  But, Mr. Best Man's compliment was rather surprising and attention-getting on my part.  It made me feel feminine and not like the trashy drunk woman I'd become in a very short few hours. 

I think this little boost of confidence in my exterior qualities paired with all my hard work on the interior benefits I have to offer is really going to take me to the next level.  For too long I'd thought there was something wrong with me, on the inside and the outside.  The more I work at this, the more I realize that this statement is so far from the truth.  Granted I shouldn't have had to realize this after an evening spent helping Augusta bartenders pay their rent for the month, but it's always surprising to me the things that provide the greatest forms of personal revelation.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dating vs. Courtship

Still on my "Hello, gentlemen...are you out there?" kick which seems to be pretty prevalent as of late, and still attempting to figure out exactly what it is I want before I expect it from any potential prospects, I've been really thinking and contemplating.  I know, recipe for disaster.  My Type A personality tends to take over more often than I like to admit. 

With online shenanigans at a complete standstill and a few glimpses of what real dates should look like (okay, the cat's out the bag...I'm playing a few cards close to the chest), I've been trying to come up with a good way to put my expectations into words.  It literally came down to two:  dating or courtship.

To me, dating is the act of putting on your cutest (or handsomest) outfit and going to spend the evening or afternoon with someone, having a great (or maybe not so great) time with them, thanking them for the experience and heading home.  This act may also include a next-day phone call if things went well.  This is pretty much where the definition stops in my opinion.  Sure, there could be a second or third date with the same person and more than likely, you're willing to do this act with other people too without either of you endangering yourself to heartbreak.  See...easy.  A lot of activity without a whole lot of emotion.

Courtship, on the other hand, is a bit more involved.  I don't think Singletons of my generation really know what courtship means.  At the mere mention of the word, they see visions of boring, period movies starring Colin Firth (not boring to me, but I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority) when fathers and hopeful husbands sat down together to determine whether the daughter was ready to be married off and if Colin Firth (or any other British character actor, for that matter) was a suitable partner.  And by suitable, that usually meant wealthy and healthy.  One might also conjure up thoughts of the Andy Griffith Show, Barney Fife and Thelma Lou.  Neither are really that appetizing.

If Old Mr. Webster called me today and asked me to write the definition of what I think courtship is, it'd go a little something like this: 
courtship: [kawrt-ship],(noun or verb): the act of wooing.  A single-minded pursuit of an individual's affection and attention.
Well, what's wooing, you ask?  Ah, to be wooed.  To have no other choice in the world but to become absolutely smitten with someone who is relentless in their pursuit and adoration of you.  Then, my friends, you have been wooed.  If someone is courting or wooing you, they're not interested in playing the field or kissing lots of frogs, or any other idiom associated with dating.  They are solely interested in you.  Usually symptoms of courtship include random flowers, compliments, an old-fashioned approach to dating and the feeling of being swept off your feet.  This, my friends, this is what I want.  I don't want to play any of these crazy, non-sensical dating games; I don't want to have to hide how I feel because it doesn't fall in line with what society expects me to do next in the silly relationship two-step.  I don't want to think 'Well, I can't do this' or 'I can't do that' because it might make me look vulnerable, desperate or in love.  For the first time in my life, I want to step outside of the lines and, at the same time, step back in time...before cell phones, text messages, Facebook statuses, relationship statuses, all made us crazy.  I don't want to trip into something because the time is right or I'm "at the age I should be" or because everybody else is doing it.  I want to fall head over heels into something spectacular and almost impossible to put into words.  This....is what I want.

Have I been watching too many Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals lately?  Probably.  Am I living in a fairy tale land? Probably even more so.  Do I believe it can happen like this?  Absolutely.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Taking Back Our Princess-Status

So, last week I met a few friends for dinner and trivia (one of my favorite evening pastimes...finally an outlet for all this useless knowledge that I've picked up over the last 29 years.  Remember anything from college that I paid $345 a credit hour for?  Eh.  Remember what apartment number Jerry Seinfeld lived in?  Sure...5A.  Doesn't everybody know that? Come on, people.).  One of my friends started to share her terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day experience.  Upon leaving work, she discovered that her car had a dead battery.  I don't remember all of the details, but she ended up with a female friend trying to jump start her car in a gas station parking lot.  As these two women attempted to create power where there was none, several men glanced over and completely dismissed the event.  To my friend's great surprise, the only person who offered her assistance was a woman she said was very obviously a lesbian.  I wasn't there to clarify this statement (you know, with my very talented discerning ability for sexual preference) but she seemed assured of this and although she was completely grateful for the woman's assistance regardless of her personal affiliation, she was highly dissatisfied with the men's responses or lack thereof. 

Recalling my recent post about chivalry, I couldn't help but stick my two cents in.  "You mean to tell me that the only gentlemen left in this world are lesbians?!," I announced in disappointment.  Surely the world was not so bleak for us hetero gals!  After the initial laughter waned (you know, I fancy myself an amateur comic with my one-liners)  I contemplated this statement in my usual overanalyzing style.  Had we reached the point where men no longer stopped to help a damsel in distress?  Why?  Have women pushed men away from being the knight in shining armor with pro-feminine sentiments?  Has the "I can do anything you can do better" saying permeated our culture to this extreme?  I hoped not.

I decided instead of being Debbie Downer and catching all the times that men disappointed me with their lack of chivalry, I would mentally note all the times that they were just the opposite and am happy to announce that I've been pleasantly surprised and impressed.  There ARE still gentlemen out there; men who walk a couple of steps faster to dart ahead and hold doors open for women to enter first; men who offer to hold our stuff (and if you meet me, you'll realize in minutes that I come with a lot of paraphernalia) while in lines at cafeteria counters so we don't have to balance trays, cups, plates, purses, wallets, computer bags, etc.; men who walk you to the door and make sure you get in okay before leaving; men with a cart full of groceries who step back in line to let us go first when we're only satisfying a late night ice cream craving with a pint of Ben & Jerry's.

And in the few short weeks that I've been trying to look on the brighter side of this equation, I've decided that, if not the primary reason, at least a major component of why these gentlemen are in such few supply is our fault.  That's right...I said it.  We, the women, are to blame.  I can't believe that there are that many men in the world who do not want to treat a woman like a princess.  We've been taught for too long that being treated like this is some form of belittling our status in society.  For a man to hold a door open for us must mean that they think we can't do it for ourselves...right?  I don't think so.  I think it means that the man wants to acknowledge that we are the more delicate gender of our species and respect us for our place and role in our society.  Take a look at some other cultures and their views towards women and compare them to ours. Then you can tell me that holding a door open for us is demeaning.  I also know that we've been taught to be on guard with men, but trusting our instincts when they tell us that something is amiss and assuming that all men are out to attack and pillage us are two different things.

Now, don't rush to call me out about men who are in fact and in action belittling to women; I know they exist and I've been in their company.  The only guy I've almost ever slugged in my life sat in a room full of women in my college dorm room and announced that he completely believed in the "barefoot and pregnant" philosophy and fully expected his future wife (I thought "good luck" but amazingly, he's married now) to go along with the idea of simply being the housekeeper and the childbearer.  Before this statement, he was pursuing one of my suitemates.  That ended quickly.  But, I think there are more true gentlemen out there than there are this kind of creep.  We need to relax and be appreciative of these little things that should make us feel special or at least noticed for the wonderful women that we are.  We need to become comfortable with taking back our princess-status and be thankful that there are men who believe that treating a woman with extra care and attention isn't intended to demean her but to promote and flatter her.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Singleton: Exposed!

So, Singletons, I think it's official.  I believe that I have completely run out of things to write about.  As probably the only writer in the blogosphere who hopes that her blog can come to a "Happily Ever After" style ending (the sooner, the better), you'd think that I would be able to fill this (hopefully) brief jaunt through Singledom with all kinds of lovely rants and raves about dating or the lack thereof.  With the complete, self-imposed annihilation of all online dating prospects, the well of shenanigans has seemed to run dry. 

So I'm presenting you with this unique opportunity to suggest a topic.  If you've been reading this far, you obviously either get a huge kick out of my real-life sitcom or you enjoy what I write and what I have to say.  Maybe both.  (If so, we should be friends in the real world if we aren't already!)  What would you like to hear from me?  What haven't I addressed that you'd like to know my ever-wise opinion about?  No topic is off limits.  Or are you interested in more details about other previous posts?  Ask away, my friends, ask away.  Again, you know that I have no problems with you remaining anonymous in your submissions.  Comment below!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Which came first: the friendship or the relationship?

You know those age-old questions that usually spark great debate?  Like "Which came first: the chicken or the egg?" or "If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there, does it make noise?":  questions that inspire pretty convincing arguments from both sides of the spectrum and really get peoples' argumentative juices flowing.  There is one such question in the realm of dating that we have not yet addressed but has recently played a major role, not in my life personally, but in some lives around me.  I thought I was pretty confident in my answer based on my own experience, but am starting to doubt myself or wonder if possibly my own situation is some rare anamoly.

Okay, Singletons, I'm just going to throw it out there.  None of my usual witty banter or beating around the proverbial bush.  Can men and women be just friends?  Is there always going to be one within the friendship that really either deep down or outwardly has feelings for the other one that go way beyond buddy-status?  Think back over your own history here and really assess this for me.  Because I'm at a loss.

Personally, I have always believed that men and women can be just friends.  Even if one or both of them had feelings of a romantic nature at some point, I feel that if it's real, it can withstand that little strip of rockiness and move to another level, but still maintain the friendship.  Essentially, if you really love someone, you want them to be happy at the root of your feelings for them, or at least you should.  If that person isn't happy in a romantic sense with you, you should accept that and still appreciate them for the friend that they were before and during your time of adoration.  Say I'm naive all you want, but that's the way I see it.  I know it's hard, believe me (personal experience speaking through here loud and clear), but I like to think that I'm a living example that friendship between men and women is possible.  I've spent most of my life getting along much better with the boys than I have with the girls, so being okay with just being friends comes with the territory and has been forced upon me more than once.  But, I know that I may be a minority.
Recently, I've watched some things unfold that started with a base ingredient of male/female friendship and ended in a recipe for disaster.  Although the problem has to do the oh-so-willingness to just chalk it up to the inability to control oneself in the midst of such naughtiness, let's take it to another level.  If men and women can possibly muster up the maturity to be friends without any kind of dating mumbo-jumbo messing things up, is it feasible to continue that friendship or even to start a new one once one or both are married?  I know that this question ultimately should generate a discussion on trust, but is it just as naive to blindly trust as it is to distrust? 

I recently heard a local Atlanta radio celebrity discussing this topic on-air when he knew his wife was out of town and could not listen. (And she'll know now if she reads my blog, but that's probably a stretch.)  He shared that his wife had recently rekindled an old friendship, and they were spending an exorbitant amount of time together, much like they had crushes on each other.  You know how you are when there's a new person around, you can't seem to get enough of them.  He told his wife that he was uncomfortable with the level of their friendship, and she immediately balked at the statement, assuming that he didn't trust her and thought that she would cheat on him.  I see her point.  But, reversely, his point was that he could trust his wife, but not her friend.  He loves his wife and because of that thinks she's the greatest thing since the invention of air-conditioning.  Therefore, it makes sense to him that all men are just waiting for the right second to pounce.  At one point, he ended up alone with the male friend and addressed the topic.  The friend reassured the husband that nothing had ever or would ever happen, but the husband continued to have doubts.

Is a friendship worth jeopardizing your relationship for?  Would you leave someone because they were uncomfortable with a friendship you had with a member of the opposite sex?  I don't know what my answers are to these questions, but I do know that they make me nervous. 

Friday, August 20, 2010

Shallow or Survival of the Fittest?

Ever see the "Man Hands" episode of Seinfeld?  I love that show because even more than ten years after it went off the air, we're still quoting it and using words that can trace their origin back to its script.  Again, if you don't own a television, in the "Man Hands" episode, Jerry is dating a completely acceptable and wonderful woman, but can't get over the fact that she has hands like a man.  In the shot, they are actually a man's hands poking out of the cuffs of a woman's blouse.  She wipes some food off his face with her giant, sausage-like fingers, she cracks open a lobster claw with her bare hands, and even pops the top off Jerry's beer with no hesitation.  In the end, he can't stand it anymore and breaks up with her.  This opens a plethora of other physical reasons that he and his pals won't date certain people.

Because I've been like a wolf on the hunt here lately, I've been doing a lot of pondering of what I find attractive.  You know, so I can better weed through the masses of men standing outside my door waiting to take me out.  (<-sarcasm) Over the years, I've come up with a pretty good list and most people around me know the main points.  I like guys with shaved heads, but only in the Bruce Willis kind of way, definitely not in the Kenny Chesney kind of way.  You have to have the right shaped head.  The qualifications and disqualifications for this are entirely too long for this post.  Ask if you want clarification.  I like guys with nice, broad shoulders.  I like guys with sturdy, manly hands and usually tend to gravitate towards those with well-defined chins.  Not that this list is meant to suggest that I'm only interested in men with these characteristics, because Lord knows those Bruce Willis types are few and far between.  I just tend to notice these physical traits in a crowd of men. 

I read once that we are attracted to the kind of physical qualities that would pair well with our own genetic makeup to create the optimal offspring.  That whole "survival of the fittest" thing.  Very scientific and not very romantic, but it makes sense.  And justifies what I'm about to say.  So, at the extreme risk of sounding completely shallow while using science to protect me, I have to point out that during my personal inquiry into what I am attracted to, I have noticed some physical traits that create quite the opposite reaction.  And again, shallowly, would probably make me pull a Jerry Seinfeld and not look twice.  Can I be honest with you, my fellow Singletons and Marrieds or will you judge me?  Heck, if you haven't already judged me and are still reading this daily dose of silliness, then I'm probably in the clear.  And don't even try to tell me that you haven't made a list yourself throughout your dating tenure, because I don't believe it. 

Because I'm attracted to manly, sturdy hands, I'm alternately not attracted to wimpy, girly hands.  I think most women would tell you that hands play a pretty significant role in men's attractive category, probably stemming from some internal desire for protection.  I've noticed a few men around me lately with very stumpy, squat fingers or tiny hands and as ridiculous and shallow as it sounds, it turns me off every single time.  Actually, odd hands in general kind of weird me out, male or female.  I can't watch that Burger King commercial with the guy with the small hands or whichever Scary  Movie it is with the guy with his "strong hand."  Blah.  Next, (and I'm pretty sure this is a protection thing as well...you'd think I had some traumatic event in my childhood or something) I don't like a guy I feel like I'm going to break if I wrap my arms around him.  Or if I can wrap my arms around him twice.  This could also be because of my own personal plus-sexy status, but a guy dramatically smaller than me makes me feel very self-conscious.

So, besides basic hygiene, that's it, really.  I don't have a height or weight complex, I don't have particular hair colors that I seek out or avoid, or men with particular names (some women do that, I know.  I've heard several say they'll never date another blonde guy or any more "Michaels" or something). I don't think these things make me a horrible person (I wonder if all this questioning of my level of horribleness is actually some deep-rooted insecurity about it?....Nah.).  What are some physical characteristics that just make you realize that your offspring with that person would be a bit less than optimal?  Please share...it will make me feel less, well...you know.  Feel free to utilize the anonymity button. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Thanks Elizabeth Gilbert

Is it lunchtime yet?
Right now, I'm struggling through the last section of the highly acclaimed-book-that-preceded-the-movie, "Eat, Pray, Love."  And by struggling, I mean, forcing myself to finish it.  It's not a bad book, it's just not a great book, in my opinion.  Being a travel memoir in all actuality, it doesn't lend itself to those of us longing for plot, dynamic characters, intrigue or mystery.  For those of you who have been living under a rock, "Eat, Pray, Love" is the true story of the yearlong journey of writer, Elizabeth Gilbert.  After a painful divorce, she decides to live in Italy, India and Indonesia, each for four months, to learn about life, love, pleasure, religion and all things personal. The section on her travels in Italy was amazing (I might be biased based on my heritage, I'll admit); she described in full detail every reason why I want to spend a significant chunk of my life in my genealogical "home."  Half home.  The other "homes" are basically all of white, anglo-saxon Europe.  Anyway.  Elizabeth Gilbert, also the author, elaborately describes the buildings, the churches, the art, the museums and good God Almighty, the food.  I was sitting on an airplane with only that little teaser bag of pretzels in my stomach waiting to land in Atlanta while reading about mozzarella, salmon, pizza, lasagna, gelato and wondering how fast I could get to a bakery or Italian restaurant after deboarding.

I will say that "Eat, Pray, Love" has definitely been an eye-opening read, regardless of the slow parts.  I found myself paralleling her experiences with my own:  her "awakening" to realize that she was headed down a path she no longer wanted any part of, her religious transformation and her search for true love.  "True" is emphasized because it doesn't necessarily mean romantic love, although Elizabeth does want that eventually, as do I, but I think she's trying to learn what it really means to love another human being in general and to love yourself for how you were created.  But, when she addresses her personal battles with romantic love, Elizabeth really struck a chord with me while I was mulling over her escapades in Indonesia over my turkey sandwich at lunch yesterday.  She says:
"I have a history of making decisions very quickly about men. I have always fallen in love fast and without measuring risks. I have a tendency not only to see the best in everyone, but to assume that everyone is emotionally capable of reaching his highest potential. I have fallen in love more times than I care to count with the highest potential of a man, rather than with the man himself, and then I have hung on to the relationship for a long time (sometimes far too long) waiting for the man to ascend to his own greatness. Many times in romance I have been the victim of my own optimism."
Holy cow.  The "victim of my own optimism."  She might as well have started this paragraph with "Hey, Melanie, this is for you! Read and learn, my friend!"  This...is the story of my romantic life.  Looking back, I know that I have "fallen in love" (the quotations denote something probably more in line with infatuation) with men too quickly and too often as well, and although I saw that there were major red flags that would most certainly hinder us from being successful together, I was willing to overlook those because I thought I saw something in them that made them special  or something that could be manipulated in the future so that they would be my perfect match.  I fell "in love" with the idea of who I thought they could be, if I just waited long enough and prayed hard enough.  And I think to find someone that you love exactly how they are with their faults and all and not with any desire for them to change is the definition of true love.

So thanks to this book that I've labored over now for over a month and a half and should have finished a week ago for my book club meeting, I think I've become a better Singleton, adding to those marketable characteristics I talked about before.  I want to keep this thought in mind as I attempt to continue my quest out of Singledom.  I won't eventually fall in love with someone for what they could be, but for who they are today, realizing and understanding that changes will happen, but not pinning my hopes of happiness to a certain outcome. 

To get a copy of "Eat, Pray, Love," click here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Voicemail: Dating Torture Device

The gallows.  The firing squad.  Chinese water torture.  Mauled in the lion's pit.  The guillotine.  All horrible, torturous ways to die, usually a slow and painful death.  What's my personal most-hated flavor of extinction? Voicemail.

I absolutely loath and despise leaving voicemails, really in general, but most especially to people that I haven't known for at least five years.  Throw the life of a potential dating situation in the mix and I cannot muster up the words to do justice to how I feel about the whole voicemail experience:  despicable and evil are just two words that come to mind.

I know this is probably hard to believe considering my usual mastery of our language and my ability to think on my feet.  This whole thing sounds ridiculous coming from a Communications major who learned for four years how to express herself and communicate effectively in all forms of media.  But, voicemail is like some sick private version of public speaking.  No matter how much I think I'm prepared, I always end up wishing I could rewind, delete and start over. I can imagine the recipient on the other end playing it back for friends, at dinner parties full of adults who can speak properly in any situation, laughing over my sentence slop. I have four whole rings and at least twenty seconds to prepare for the dreaded beep.  By ring three, I can feel the ball of nerves growing like a Venus fly-trap in my gut, ready to ruthlessly devour any sensible or adult-type sentences that I intended to come out of my mouth.  But, in all fairness to my educated and usually expressive mind, through most of the ringing, I'm preparing for the Pick-Up.  If the person I'm attempting to reach actually answers the phone, I can't go with a brief, "Hey! Thought I'd try to catch you!" style conversation.  You know, because I caught them.  I have to have more going for me than a clever way to say that I'm not (admitting to) sitting by the phone tonight  but would really appreciate it if they called me back. 

After I leave the voicemail and quickly hang up, I start second guessing myself.  Did I say my name?  Did I say their name?  Did I say the right name?  Did I sound too eager?  Did I sound too nonchalant?  Wait...did I repeat myself? Does "Call me tomorrow at this specified time" sound too demanding? Am I neurotic? Should I call back and leave another one? If I had stayed on the line, would it have let me review and resend? What phone carrier offers that service? Should I just calm down? YES! The answer is very obviously yes.

Don't get me wrong, I'm never this overly critical of voicemails that I receive.  You could literally be a blumbering idiot on my voicemail, and I'd probably chuckle, think it was cute and call you back immediately.  I love getting voicemails, although I check them pretty infrequently (so bare that in mind), to no one's discredit, I think it's a remnant from my days as a prepaid wireless customer (yeah, voicemail minutes counted too!). 

"My name is Chris Hanson..."
My voicemail go-to space-filler is "uh, yeah, soooo..."  Like I'm a 15 year old blonde from the Valley who only talks between chews of my Bubble Yum.  Sitting in my car in my cheerleading uniform.  Painting my nails.  It's that bad, people.  And I get horrible boy-voice.  You all know what boy-voice is, right?  My sisters have always told me that they can immediately tell when I'm on the phone with a member of the opposite gender who I either like or am just not completely informal with yet because my voice gets this spirited upswing.   You've heard it before...those annoying, giggly, hair-twirling, gum-smacking women.  Urgh.  I hate it.  Why?  Why if I know I'm doing it do I continue to do it?  It's amazing that anyone ever calls me back.  Especially men.  I'd fear I had been lured into some kind of strange "To Catch a Predator" style documentary. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

To Those Who Wait

Last night, I received some wonderful news that a dear friend of mine who I have reconnected with (we knew each other before, but just actually started to be real friends here recently...back to story) got engaged this weekend.  Although I had spent most of Sunday morning with her at church, I had no idea that I was sitting next to a soon-to-be-engaged future Married.  Neither did she know that this momentous occasion was in her plans for the day.  Neither did her fiance for that matter, but that's what made it sweet.

I know I've come a long way.  Although Old Melanie would have been thrilled for my friend, a little part of me would have been envious.  Not jealous, there's a distinct difference.  To me, to be jealous would mean that I would want her man, in particular.  I've never had that situation arise in my life and hopefully never will.  Her man is her man and is lovely, but still, her man.  I would envy that she had "done everything right" to get to this place in her life.  That somehow she'd found the magic words or the keys to the gate of Coupledom.  That because she was prettier than me or smarter than me or more faithful than me, she had scored the ultimate prize.  Again, that didn't happen to New Melanie.

New Melanie was truly and down to her core ecstatic for her friend.  I knew deep-down that this friend has had the same doubts, the same second-guessing, the same thoughts of a potential lifetime of Singleton status at various points in her life.  We've shared these feelings and thoughts and she's encouraged me to hold out, that there IS someone out there whose path will eventually cross mine and all that waiting will pay off. Heck, the waiting will probably even make it so much better when it does come around.  Her willingness and openness to share such personal thoughts with me has been super encouraging because half (heck, who am I trying to kid?) about 90% of my aggravation has been that I have always thought that there was something wrong with me or that my Singleton status was somehow a result of shortcomings or imperfections or actions I did or didn't take.  Once I started talking about it out loud to the people around me, I realized that I am so far from alone.  I'm literally surrounded by people who have thought this same way and thought they were alone.  And many of them have ended up as Marrieds.  And that just because the men of my past haven't rushed to wed and bed me doesn't mean that there is something wrong with me.  (I have a lot of friends who will tell you that there is actually something wrong with the men, but that's another post for another day.)

So, I've come a long way, baby.  And it's a nice place to finally be.  I'm okay with all this silliness.  I may still get frustrated every now and then, but I have to have faith that it will happen when it's right and let go of the control (and if you know me, you realize how hard just saying that sentence is!).  I may still have a few more frogs in the line waiting for their kisses, but I'm pretty sure if I squint hard enough, I can see my prince down there...and he's waiting too.  Maybe we can meet in the middle...

P.S.  Congratulations, S!

Monday, August 16, 2010

On the Market

After much thought and pondering about my new revelation to dismiss all online dating options, I spent hours contemplating just how I was going to make this endeavor successful.  I've spent much of my life in pursuit of a partner, but very (obviously) unsuccessfully.  So, going back to my old ways isn't going to get me any further towards Coupledom than I was when I started this whole thing.  I know that I need to make conscious and very blatant changes in my habits and put myself in the places that I know will generate some type of change.  But, how? Where?  When?  Who?  Urgh.

My brain is a funny thing.  Once the initial frustration of ignorance wore off, I ran through a list of everything I'd done in my life that was successful:  job hunting being the one that primarily stuck out in my mind.  I haven't gone after many jobs that I truly wanted without reservation that I didn't land almost immediately.  (If I didn't land them, it's their loss, not mine...of course.)  I can honestly say that the ones that I didn't get all had a bit of doubt to them, whether or not I could actually do the work, wanted to make the drive, liked the people  interviewing me, etc.  But, when I put my mind to it and studied and practiced, I got it...with flying colors.  So, why not pursue a relationship the same way?

I've decided to make myself more marketable...just as I would if I were in the job market.  I intend to do things that will make me more attractive, on the inside and out, to catch the attention of those I'm interested in.  I will do things that give me interesting conversation-starters, participate in activities that make me a more well-rounded and fascinating individual.  I will focus on improving my looks and health by eating better and exercising more.  I'll read books about relationships and my own personality so that I can learn about this crazy world of Singledom and how to navigate myself into Coupledom.  I won't dress like I'm just rolled out of bed when I go to the grocery store anymore just in case I run into another Singleton who wants to know the best side dish for his dinner-for-one. You know the old saying...dress for the relationship you want.  I'm going to tell everybody I know that I'm on the market and looking.  'Cause you know that other saying, it's not what you know, it's who you know. 

But, although this is all well and good, it's like looking for a job with no destination in mind.  Other than bars, I have no idea where to go out and seek Singleton men.  I know Dr. Phil's "target-rich environment" philosophy, but are men really in hot pursuit of women while they're deciding which drill bit to buy at a Home Depot?  Where, Singletons and Marrieds, can I go to "run into" Singleton men?

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Technical Foul for Dr. Neil Clark Warren

So, as usual, correct me if I'm wrong and/or simply responding to something from my very limited, very feminine view of the world, but I think that online dating websites are sexist.  Yup, I said it...you read correctly.  I'm calling them out and here's why:

Let's recall my eHarmony newsletter "advice" article from a few days ago.  As I continue to get these (they're pulling really hard for me to renew my membership right now...all these summer romances must put a kink in their usual steady stream of business), I've noticed that so many of the articles are telling women what they need to do to "snag" a man, essentially.  So, before I wrote this post and basically tore into one of the highest grossing internet businesses of all time, I decided to check out their main page and see if this fact continued to be true.  I very uncharacteristically gave them the benefit of the doubt and thought that maybe, just maybe, their online newsletter database knew that I was a female and catered their articles to fit my pursuits.  Upon further review, I'm pretty sure that's not the case.

I'm surprised at you, Dr. Neil Clark Warren.  Your website seems to be teeming with links to sexist articles insinuating that our Singleton-status is somehow related to something that we have or haven't done.  "Five Photos that Make You Look Undateable," "Top 5 Male Turnoffs," "5 Types of Women Men Avoid" are all actual, real titles of articles on the main Dating Advice Eharmony page.  At first glance, these articles seem helpful.  "Wow," you think, "I sure hope I don't fall into one of those five categories."  And unless you're a certified, card-carrying psychopath who has never been in the company of the opposite sex, you probably won't.  They're so far-fetched and so ridiculously obvious that they are anything but helpful.  You open the link thinking that you may find the answer to the reason why you haven't been on a date in two months or why you can't get men to move past the text messaging stage of communication only to learn that none of these things apply to you, leaving you still wondering, still frustrated and even less excited about dating.  It's not that easy, but Dr. Warren wants you to think it is...and if you buy into this article, realize what you shouldn't do anymore to be successful, sign up for the automated draft of $60 a month from your checking account, you too can connect with someone on 29 levels of compatibility. (<- have you guys picked up on my sarcasm yet?  Sometimes I write it and wonder if it comes through as I intended!)

So many of these articles seem to both point the finger at the female and put the burden of responsibility on her.  I think the whole online dating business model is meant to attract females.  It's like Ladies Night at a bar.  Bring in the women and eventually the men will realize that the objects of their affection are hanging out there and they'll join in too.  How did this role get reversed?  Maybe that's why I have had absolutely zero success with online dating.  I believe in tradition and as a female, I am looking forward to meeting someone interested in pursuing me, not the other way around.  I don't want a passive guy who is sitting on his laurels waiting for me to make every move.  I'm a fan of the romance of courtship, not the female pursuer.  I know some women enjoy that position...but this one isn't on that bandwagon. 

The more people I talk to who have had any success with online dating the more I hear that it had almost nothing to do with online compatibility and almost all to do with luck.  Most of the time I hear things like "Well, he was actually my friend's match" or "He messaged me right before my membership ran out and I figured I'd give it one last shot."  So, I've decided that I don't want to leave it up to luck anymore and I'm tired of the exhausting searching, email exchanges, phone number exchanges, limiting text message conversations, only to end in aggravation and prayers that this stranger out in cyberland will just go away and leave me alone.  I'm officially taking a break from online dating altogether and going to try my hand at the old fashioned way.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Goodbye, Caterpillar

I love a grammatically correct insect.
While I've been running low on actual dates here the last few weeks (okay, who I am kidding, I've been running on empty), I have not run out of things to do.  My calendar has literally been overflowing with activities, events, and other fun pastimes keeping me awake and alive.  But, it wasn't always like this...

For a very long time, entirely too long now that I look back, I spent my weekdays shuttling back and forth to work with the occasional extracurricular activity planned for after-work hours.  Maybe I'd meet a friend for dinner after work...that was about the extent.  My weekends were full of spontaneous retail jaunts and semi-occasional road trips.   At the time, this was just my life.  Don't get me wrong, I have always been exceptionally blessed with a multitude of friends, but I kind of figured that they'd all gone on to different things in their lives and they'd see me when they got the chance.  In the meantime, I'd just live the life that was handed to me.

About three months ago (about the time that I really started filling you in with blog posts, rants and raves), I decided that I was tired of sitting by, idly waiting for people to contact me and ask me to do things.  I started looking for things to do (remember my attempt at a painting class?  That was just the beginning.).  I started contacting people that I'd kind of put on the back burner for years, at the time using the excuse that they were just too busy to be bothered with me.  I tested that theory and started writing to old friends asking if they wanted to do a certain fun activity I'd stumbled across. I rekindled old friendships and (thank God) most of them picked up exactly where they'd left off.  Just goes to show that I have some phenomenal people as friends.  I stopped saying "maybe" to requests and started saying "yes."  And started having fun.  I started doing things that I wanted to do regardless of who joined me.  If someone couldn't go, I'd ask someone else or even (shockingly!) go by myself. 

And then something wonderful happened.  People that I hadn't even contacted myself came out of the woodwork.  New people, old people...tons of people.  All of them wanting to hang out or reconnect or chat or instant message.  So many that I seem to have misplaced my time management skills and often times overbook myself.  I get to the end of the week and think "Wow, I didn't sit still for five minutes!"

I hope that's an amaretto sour.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not expressing this change for any type of self-promotion or pat on the back for being able to attract people to my life.  I'm saying it because I am completely blown away at how one little step can turn into a giant leap in a completely opposite direction.  The path of my life took a major u-turn a couple of months ago, and I'm enjoying the new route.  Instead of sitting at home waiting for life to fall in my lap, I decided to go out and get it myself.  I've never been one to wait patiently, but had gotten comfortable.  I decided to put myself outside of my comfort zone.  The climb up the hill was a bit steep at first and believe me, I was a little uneasy.  But once I got to the top, there was a pretty nice view and eventually life did start falling into my lap.  It requires less and less work from me now because I think people realize that Melanie is back on the scene.  The word is out, she's here and ready to play, bring it! The caterpillar finally emerged from its cocoon and out popped a smiling Social Butterfly. 

Call it "discovering your own mortality" or "quarter-life crisis" or whatever, but I think the old saying that life is too short hit home.  So, everything isn't exactly the way I planned or thought it would be as I continue to spiral closer and closer to 30.  Who cares?  I won't expire on my birthday, so why not have fun until things do work out the way I want them to?  And maybe they won't ever really be exactly the storybook that I have had in my mind all these years, but I'm sure as hell going to enjoy the journey to wherever I end up.  And the more I think about it, the more I realize that I want people to be attracted to this new, fun Melanie anyway, not the boring chick who spent a Friday evening contemplating which movie to rent from Redbox (although I do love Redbox) and what time was too early to go to bed on a weekend.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

And the "Experts" Agree - Response #1

Last week, I asked you, my loyal Singletons and Marrieds, to submit your question for Ask the "Experts."  The original intention for this idea was to have your questions answered from a male and female perspective, with Nice Guy providing not only his highly entertaining commentary, but the highly sought after male insight into dating, relationships, and the rest of the nine yards, and me providing my usual witty banter of confusion. 

But, honestly, after reading Nice Guy's response to just one of the questions we received, I highly doubt that anyone is interested in what I have to say, most especially since most of the questions are outright directed towards a guy.  So, we're going to skip my two cents and jump right in to his response.  And honestly, I couldn't have said it better.

On August 8th, "Anonymous" asked:
"Why do guys stop being so thoughtful after a while? Like, why do they stop regularly calling or texting just to see how your day is going?"
(Drum roll, please...)  And Nice Guy says:
"This is a complicated question, and one that deserves a proper reply. Melanie sent this question to me and I decided that I was going to think about it, sleep on it, and think some more. I went so far as to email it to my work account and re-read it a few times throughout the day when I was on a break.
The most straight forward response would start off with references to guys enjoying the “chase.” Yeah, I know, how cliché. Guys do enjoy the girl getting interested in them. I like to look back to how I’ve watched my fair share of Animal Planet and Discovery Channel. Think about courtship rituals with animals and remember the great lengths that the male goes through to capture a female’s attention. There is a lot of hard work involved. It’s a display about what the male CAN be for the female. Not all men are created equal – a male has to showcase his abilities in order to attract a woman. Sometimes it’s about strength and the ability to provide protection. Sometimes the female is attracted to social status that comes from being with a certain male in a pack.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we should all accept that we are simply animals. The initial attraction and subsequent courtship between a man and a woman is infinitely more complicated. We have evolved with the ability to think and reason. But, men do feel that we must put our best foot forward to get the girl. We have to show the woman what we are capable of. (I believe that I called it “tactical maneuvering” in a comment that I left on one of Melanie’s previous posts). If she accepts that, we are “in.”

Unfortunately, this is where things get more complicated.

Once a relationship has gone on for a while, men (as well as women) get more comfortable. We slack off a bit with all the grand overtures. And we can even slack off on some of the little ones too. And, honestly, for a guy it's sometimes just damn hard to keep it up. But that doesn’t have to mean that we no longer care about how your day went. We proved that we cared about you when were wooing you in the first place. I can speak for myself, along with most guys, when I say that just because we don’t always express how we feel, that doesn’t mean that we do not feel at all.

Contrary to some people’s belief, most men do care about a woman’s happiness. However, men also are not always great at expressing themselves. It can be difficult to understand how a woman wants (or needs) a man to interact with her. Give a guy a problem, and he will want to fix it. It can be frustrating to not do so. While that sounds so obviously simple, sometimes the best course of action for him is to just absorb it and share it with the woman. It’s a lesson that I unfortunately had to learn the hard way.

I don’t think that two people should constantly expect 100% from one another. I believe that it is a little unrealistic. But do not take this as an excuse as to why a guy never reciprocates feelings and actions. If you are not getting what you need, tell him. There has to be a conscious effort from both the man and the woman when it comes to the relationship. However, if two people are in a healthy relationship, there should be a degree of flexibly and understanding between them."
So, what do you think, Singletons and Marrieds, helpful?  Do you agree or disagree?  Have any helpful pointers of your own? Want to submit your question to either me or Nice Guy?  Email your questions (anonymous is always an option!) to lostinsingledom@gmail.com or post them to Ask the "Experts."  Stay tuned for more insights...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Take It or Leave It

Yesterday I had a wonderful conversation with a very dear friend of mine.  During college, we were constant companions for a long time, but drifted apart as life took us in different directions.  Over the last few months (and several thousand miles including a rather large ocean), we've reconnected and it was like we never missed a beat, joking and laughing almost about the same things we joked and laughed about years ago.  Yesterday, he was asking me about life in general (and getting pointers on starting a blog of his own, check it out!) and I shared with him what I think to be a rather pivotal step in the right direction for me.  After years and years of unconsciously doing this, I told him that I've figured out that I'm finished with changing who I am to fit the needs and/or wants of the particular guy that I'm in pursuit of at the moment.  There was a pause and, in his usual witty way, he typed (we were online chatting...international long distance is a...well, female dog) "Standing and clapping for you right now."  I reread my own words on the screen and thought "Yeah...and I mean it this time."

So, as I contemplated this major step in the right direction last night, I was thinking about what this really means.  I made a mental list of the things that come along with loving/liking/interested in pursuing this Singleton and thought it would be extra therapeutic to share it with you.  Plus, you can continue to hold me accountable if, per say, you notice me all of a sudden no longer showing interest in say, baseball, just because the guy I'm with loves football.   You therefore have permission to slap me silly, point me in the direction of Chipper Jones (who hopefully will be wearing knee socks at the time so that it fully captures my attention....hmmmm....sorry, okay, I'm back) and remind me of my lifelong passion for America's Pastime.  And I just love hearing what you have to say. 

Top Ten Things You've Got To Be Okay With To Be With Me:

  1. Attending sporting events, mostly baseball, regardless of the temperature outside.  Although I do have my limits, I'm not going to pass up the opportunity to see my favorite team just because I might sweat a little. 
  2. Me absolutely adoring my niece and talking about her just a little less than Kathie Lee talked about her kids pre-Frank Gifford's affair.  Just because I love my niece tremendously doesn't mean that I can't love anybody else or that I don't hold you in as high a favor.  Everything she does is new to her and because she's the first child for me or any of my sisters, it's new to us too.  So, I get excited being around her and do my auntly duty of showering her with attention and gifts.  I can still love/like you, but you can't be jealous or intimidated by my very different love for her.
  3. My very dorky obsession with crafting.  Crayons, colored pencils, paints, canvas, knitting, crocheting, hand-painted birdhouses, color-by-number, coloring books...all things that get me excited.  I can literally spend hours in a Hobby Lobby or Michael's.  I won't necessarily expect or even consider that the man of my dreams will be the slightest bit interested in participating in any of these Martha Stewart-like activities with me, but you can only moderately make fun of me for it...with a grin and a wink.  Imagine the homemade Christmas gift possibilities!
  4. That I like to talk...and I like to talk often.  I'm not asking you about the details of your day to keep tabs on you; I'm asking because I'm truly interested.  It's when I stop asking that you should be concerned.  If you haven't noticed, I like to tell stories and most of my plotlines that would take other people about two sentences to wrap up, take me a few more because I like to tell them in an entertaining way. 
  5. That my best friend is a guy.  And honestly, I have a lot of guy friends.  Most of my life I've had a tendency to connect better with the guys.  I'm sure it has something to do with being a Daddy's Girl growing up...big time.  I have a lot of female friends too, but probably have more men in my social network than most females.  I'm living proof that it is possible to be friends with the opposite sex.  But, I don't think my best friend is going anywhere and since he's been around for about ten years now, we're pretty attached.  But, that doesn't mean that you should be intimidated by him or any of the guys I consider my buds.  If I'm committed to you, that's it and you'll never question that by my actions, words, gestures, etc....hopefully.  So, just consider that, with my guy friends, you not only get a girlfriend but a larger circle of friends yourself. 
  6. That I'm good when it comes to debate and arguments, but if you don't fight fair, I will lose respect for you.  I don't tolerate bullying, name-calling or dirty fighting.  I'll argue with you all day long until we both feel better about it, but as soon as you leave me standing there or hit me below the belt, my wall goes up and we're done.   I'm a good listener and will respect your view until you don't respect mine.  Then I'm out.
  7. That, although it's truly rare, I'm going to have a down-day every now and then.  Again, this doesn't mean I don't love/like you, but sometimes I can't be peppy-Melanie all the time.  Cut me some slack and don't take it personally.  I'll bounce back in the morning!
  8. I do love cards, I won't lie.
  9. That I don't want to be treated like all of the rest of your friends.  I need a clear distinction that I'm different.  Nothing specific; I won't demand flowers on a weekly basis or expect you to send me Hallmark cards until the post office gets sick of delivering them.  But, I do need to know that I'm not just one of the guys or my brain starts doing weird things and my feelings get hurt. 
  10. That I'm going to get restless sometimes and just want to go do something without knowing what it is I want to do.  Self-explanatory.  Best way to combat this is to put me in a car and either drive around until I start saying that I want to go home or until we stumble across something to do.  You know, if you're just as un-particular as I am!
  11. That I drink, swear and talk about things (occasionally) that might not cut the muster in the ladylike department.  I don't drink like a fish, cuss like a sailor or not know when to turn the 13-year-old boy topics off.  I can be refined, respectful and tasteful whenever the situation calls for it.  But around the right people, my filter gets turned to the off position and I can keep up with the best of 'em.  Remember when Mr. Too Many Words basically said I was uptight?  Yeah, he was way off.  Had he met me in person, he would have come to know that, but I digress.
So, that's me!  Just skimming the surface really, but this is a good list to get started with.  There aren't any skeletons in my closet or things that I might spring on you a few months in that will make your head spin.  I never nor do I intend to ever change genders, I don't have any convicted felons in my family or weird quirks like the need to touch my food to my chin before I eat it.  If you're okay with all ten of these not-such-a-big-deal characteristics, then bring it!

Friday, August 6, 2010

"Ah, dessert! Chilled monkey brains!"

Last week, I made a proclamation.  I decided to have a sort of cleansing and wipe the slate clean of all web-based dating connections.  I didn't outright tell any of the gentlemen in question, just kind of let things fade off into the sunset.  I thought I'd done a good job of that until the night before last.

Once the carpal tunnel had subsided a bit, I had actually kind of forgotten the sound of the text message tone on my new phone.  I was sitting in the living room and thought "Hmm...wonder who that could be."  I looked down and noticed that it was Mr. Morals.  He was writing to check on the status of my hand and to find out if I'd had a good previous weekend.  I replied that my hand was better (with the insane desire to stipulate that it was better for now, keep up the texting and we'll be right back where we started!  But, I resisted.) and that I'd had a good weekend, with the usual pleasantries of the return of the same question.  We had a completely G-rated (which is good!  And a relief!) conversation for a few texts and then the conversation naturally, as so often happens when two people have never met and don't really know anything about each other because they've only ever texted, died.  I figure, eh, this will be the end of the road for me and Mr. Morals.  Don't get me wrong, I wasn't miserable chatting with him, but there was nothing really that ever sparked my curiosity or interest enough to think "Man, I wish this guy would call me/ask me out/etc."  He likes baseball and he loves his mama.  That's about all I know about him because our conversations were always so general and so broad.

Well, then it finally dawned on me that something weird had been happening whenever our text conversations went into a lull.  Mr. Morals attempts to breathe life back into our flat-lining conversations by asking me "What's for dinner?"  Regardless of the time of day and even changing the tense if it seems that the normal person would have already eaten at the point of which he is sending the text.  When he first did it, I thought that this was a creative way for him to find out foods I liked and maybe, eventually, if I was a good girl and behaved myself in line with his morals, he'd ask me out to a restaurant that fell within the consensus of my responses.  Clever.  But, after the tenth, eleventh, twelth time of asking, it's just a little bit...well, odd.  It really only extends the conversation about four more texts, with my response and question back to him, his menu description for the evening, my "Mmm, that sounds good" (I know it's not clever, but I mean, what do you say to this?!?) and his usual reply that he'd rather have what I'm having.  Maybe that means I eat things I shouldn't be on a nightly basis...or that I should write for a culinary magazine, but whatever.

Then, as if granted by the dating gods, I got another one of those lovely eHarmony advice emails this morning.  It contained a list of great, jumpstarting things to ask during a first date or first conversation.  There were honestly some really good questions on there, but I'm not sure how well they'd flow in a normal conversation.  Things like "What's your favorite way to spend a Saturday?," "Favorite movie of all time," "Have you figured out your calling in life? What is it?"  All conversation-starting suggestions at their finest.  Although obviously not acquired from this list, I'm pretty sure that this inquiry into my eating habits is Mr. Moral's Go-To Question for conversation lulls. 

I should probably add some of these to my repertoire because questions like "Where do you work?" and "What does an average day look like for you?" tend to steer any romance straight towards job interview nervousness.  However, I'm pretty sure I'll stay away from a daily inquiry into sustenance consumption.  Maybe next time, if there is a next time and I'm kind of hoping there isn't, I'll tell him that I just had a giant plate of steaming pig's feet or a bowl full of yummy monkey brains (still tramatized from Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom).  That will probably seal the deal on this never-ending cycle of texting.

What's the weirdest thing anyone has ever asked you while on a date or by a potential match?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Ask the "Experts"

After reading eHarmony's contribution to the betterment of the dating world in their e-newsletter yesterday and encouragement from some of you, my favorite Singletons and Marrieds, I think it's time for the first ever Lost in Singledom Ask the "Experts."

First, let me clarify.  Simply by having a blog about dating and relationships and all the nonsense fun that comes along with them does not in any way, shape or form make me an expert.  But, several of you have complimented my ability to discern the garbage from reality.  So, I will, for the purposes of this post, consider myself an "expert."  Big difference.  The quotation marks imply that, although not formally schooled in the ways of male/female communication, I've had enough experience, maintain enough common sense and hold a reasonable skill in writing to express my viewpoints, wisdom and advice.  But, only from the female perspective.

To create a balance and harmony and all that other stuff that makes us feel good, I've recruited the assistance of one of my most prolific and thought-provoking readers/commenters, Nice Guy.  Knowing Nice Guy outside of the blogosphere, I can easily and honestly say that he is, in fact, a nice guy.  His commentary on posts has  been both highly anticipated and wildy received, generating several follow-up comments from the rest of you, my lovely readers.  I'm sure Nice Guy would not be offended if I said that he is also what I will refer to as an "expert."  He has graciously volunteered to provide us with that constantly sought after male perspective.

So, ask away Singletons and even you Marrieds that may have some ever-pressing question that you'd like anwered by "experts."  Nice Guy and I will each provide you with our take on your situation, question, or just anything you'd like us to express our opinions on, from our respective perspectives.  Feel free to remain anonymous and you can post your question here, post it to the Lost in Singledom Facebook page or send it in an email to lostinsingledom@gmail.com.  If you'd like to remain anonymous, please note that in your email, but provide us with a clever pen name or at least your city and state of residence.  No topic is off limits, but remember that my mother might read this someday, so let's keep it PG-13 or at least just subtle hints at anything above that.   Submit your questions anytime, then stay tuned for our "expert" analysis!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Cure to Writer's Block

So, I woke up this morning and thought 'Wow, I have absolutely nothing to write about today.' Opened my email and was proven wrong. 

As a former paying member and now one who only utilizes their service during free communication weekends (happens more frequently now that the economy has continued its downward spiral, so keep a look-out!), I receive regular communication from eHarmony.  I've asked them to stop sending me matches because it either aggravates me with their frequency or depresses me with their infrequency.  I know...I'm not easy to please!  So instead of a parade of potential matches, I now receive their e-newsletter, chock full of useless useful advice about dating, relationships and from the tone of this particular article, "how to score a man."

Although this will probably make for the longest post in the history of "Lost in Singledom," I'd like to copy the article and, uh, basically tear it to shreds.  But, I'd like to ask for your opinion of it as well.  I'm sure I'll do my usual snippy questions in response to some of the author's insights, so please feel free to help me answer them!  My witty dialogue will be in red (how appropriate!).

The Surprising Way to Make A Loving Connection

By Rori Raye, Author of best-selling eBook 'Have The Relationship You Want' and free newsletter (Sounds promising...)

Do you know the right way to truly connect with a man in such a way that he feels compelled to devote himself to you? (Obviously not, I'm getting eHarmony e-newsletters.) If you find that most of your relationships never quite get off the ground, then it's possible you may have been taking the wrong road to the path of love. (Just "possible?" I'd imagine that's a definite.  Unless you like serial dating, so who I am to judge?)
It's so easy to get lost on the way to the relationship you desire, so please be gentle with yourself if you can relate to the descriptions below. (Probably about to viciously attack myself for being such a dating idiot, then, is that what you're telling me?) All of us women have taken the wrong road in our attempts to get close to a man - including myself. (So, got a lot of one-night-stand speedbumps on that path to love, Rori?) I took the wrong road many times before finally discovering how to create the kind of loving relationship I wanted. When I started taking the right road, that's when I found my husband. (And what exactly was the name of that road? Is it on a GPS?)

Wrong Road #1: The Logical Road (MIND) (Oh, Lord, I'm already thinking this woman is some kind of "Legally Blonde" type and I'm not even into her first recommendation.)

As a smart, independent woman (How did she know?!?), you're probably very good at shining during a discussion and engaging a man on an intellectual level. (I pride myself on it, thank you.) You'll impress a man and make him enjoy your company, but you may feel disappointed to learn that he feels no chemistry - even if you have a great deal in common.

That's because when you try to connect with a man through his mind, he doesn't feel a thing! (Wait, what?!)

For a man to fall in love with you, he needs to feel touched by you in a deep, connected, emotional sense.

(Okay, as far as I'm concerned, Ms. Raye glossed over this one entirely too quickly.  So, what she's telling me is that men aren't attracted to intelligence?  That basically they can't connect with a woman who shines intellectually?  Aren't there men out there that would like to find a woman who can talk about more than the local gossip or the best place in town to get an acrylic fill-in?  What happens when the physical attraction loses its lustre [please, God, I know I'm behind the curve, but please give me a few more years of physical attraction]?  Without an intellectual connection what the heck are you going to talk about?  Please, men, please contradict this very broad, very generalizing comment of Ms. Raye's.  I have my fingers crossed...)

Wrong Road #2: The Physical Road (BODY) (laughing already)

Despite what a lot of women think, men do not become attached through sex - even if it's fabulous. (Okay, I can believe this.  I know that men and women view sex very differently.  Women usually view it as a means to a connection, while men, in general, view it as the bonus to the connection. In general.  And in usual, normal circumstances.  So, excluding Ms. Raye's admission to one-night stands above.) While every man appreciates a woman who enjoys being with him physically, this is not the reason men fall in love. Sex is only a small part of the whole picture for him. ("Sex," "small part," and "him" in one sentence.  Just saying.  It was my comedic duty to point that out.)

Relying on a physical connection with him will only get you a broken heart - not a committed partner. (See, I don't completely believe this either.  I think the sentence should be rewritten to say "Relying ONLY on a physical connection with him will only get you a broken heart."  I'm not condoning rushing into a physical relationship with anyone by any means, but I think essentially and eventually, if you don't have a physical connection, someone isn't going to be happy in that "committed" relationship.

Wrong Road #3: The Spiritual Road (SPIRIT) (Perfect! Just started a spiritual journey of my own...hit me!)

If you're like many women who are committed to spiritual growth (why, yes, I am), then you also enjoy being with a man who shares your values. (It's on my list of Must Have's.) This is a wonderful thing to look for in a partner, and if it's important to you then spirituality will be an especially rewarding component of your relationships.

But it's so easy to mistake the friendship that can grow between two people who worship in the same way, who care about the same things, and who are devoted to their families or community. (Uh, I can't tell you how many times I've been told to get to a church and I'll find a man, or how many of my friends met their mate at some religious-related event/activity.)

It may seem like a passionate, emotional bond when what has actually developed is just a deep friendship. He'll tell everyone what a great woman you are, but he won't be dreaming about you night after night or longing to hold you in his arms.

(Sorry, I was dazed and confused by this.  I'll address why below...)

So if we can't win his heart by connecting with his mind, body or spirit... what do we do?

The Right Road: The Emotional Road (HEART) (This Rori Raye is a genious.) <- sarcasm.

Contrary to popular opinion, men are not averse to emotions. What puts them off is drama. There's a big difference. (No way? I didn't realize that eHarmony was marketing to high schoolers...)

A man actually yearns for a woman who can help him feel his own feelings and therefore allow him to be himself. If you're not in touch with your feelings, he won't feel safe expressing his. (Do you think this is true?  Do you think men "yearn" for an emotionally outgoing woman? Do you follow this logic?  It took me a second, but I think I get it.  If I express my feelings, he'll express his.  But, this flies in the face of everything I've ever learned.  Men don't want to constantly hear about a woman's feelings.  And is that emission of emotion necessarily going to end up in a profession of love?...We'll get back to this.)

So here's your action plan: The next time you start to feel something around a man, don't second guess yourself. (Actually, I am trying to live by this mantra.  If I like a guy, I'm going to tell him.  He can do with that information whatever he wants.  I intend to do the same with the reverse.  If I think something's cute or attractive or whatever, I'm going to say it.  Keep talking, Rori...) Don't talk yourself out of your feelings or stop yourself from expressing how you really feel. (Okay, I can do that...)

Let's say he acted moody and distant on a special date. Instead of letting it go or suppressing the emotion, you can tell him exactly what you're feeling(you mean, saying "Why the hell do you have to ruin everything nice we ever do?" is appropriate?). You can try something like this:

"I feel confused and worried about what's happening here. Is there something I should know?" (Oh yeah, no, so, not appropriate.  This statement would do one of two things with any of the men I've ever met:  I'd either get the "No, nothing's wrong" response or a grocery list of things that HE'S been bottling up for months. 

Speak the truth without anger or drama. Just say what happened, what you felt, and what you feel. (I have practiced this.  I've learned the value of "I/Me" statements.  Instead of "You did this and that," I use "I felt like x,y,z."  It works, friends.)  Don't blame him or make him wrong. Remember, you don't know why he's doing what he's doing. All you know is you. (Uh, kind of makes men sound like uninterpretable robots, doesn't it? Prove her wrong, men, I'm counting on you!)

Once you start making subtle shifts like this in your communication with a man - and speaking truly from the heart - I know you'll be pleasantly surprised at the closeness it creates between the two of you.

This whole article bugs me and I'll tell you why.  First, it's reinforcing the fact that attempts to bond with a man on a physical, spiritual or intellectual basis are all fruitless, but to bond on an emotional level will take your relationship to the next level.  Well, isn't bonding on all those first-mentioned things in turn creating an emotional connection?  I feel as though she's saying "Well, you can bond with a man spiritually and share that wonderful connection of faith, but if you don't let him express his emotions, he'll never see you as anything more than a wonderful, caring, compassionate, loving woman."  But, then we're not supposed to appeal to him on a physical level, because that's a dead-end street, too, according to Ms. Raye.  It also rubs me the wrong way that she seems to write as if the ball is completely in the man's court.  It is our responsibility as the woman to establish this connection.  What responsibility does the man have?  To idly stand by and wait until we can figure out how to bond with him?  Kind of sounds like a scientist discovering a cave man in the woods or something.  In the meantime, he is not having intelligent conversations with us, not going to church with us and not having sex with us.  Sounds like a blast and I bet that relationship will last a total of forty-eight hours, max. 

I think Ms. Raye missed the boat in her synopsis and recommendation.  I think she should have had her end result suggestion be a culmination of all of the above points.  It's obvious to see that none of these things alone are going to make a long-lasting, quality relationship. We didn't need Ms. Raye to point that out for us. But, together...well, I'd imagine it's what everyone is looking for, deep down.  To connect with someone on all those levels would be the ultimate prize. 

I wonder if eHarmony is looking for freelance writers...

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