Tag Archives: dating

The Existentialist Considerations Inspired by the Movie HER

I watched the movie Her tonight, and there is so much going on inside my head post-viewing – and there was while I viewed too – that I don’t know where to start or even if what I say will be cohesive, but I’m going to try to articulate at least a couple of thoughts that won’t go away.

First and foremost, love. This movie – naturally – made me think about love, and how it is both timeless and evolutionary. Love evolves because society evolves, and society will never leave love behind, so love must evolve too. But love is timeless because love simply is. The mechanisms and social constructs we force upon it to make it work for ourselves may help us make sense of it, at least in a small way, but it will always be, and it will always be bigger than we can ever understand or imagine.

Secondly, technology. Her is set in the future, kinda. It is futuristic, but it’s also very present. No, we don’t really have artificially intelligent operating systems to the level that Scarlett Johansson represents in the movie, nor are we quite at the stage of using voice commands for everything, although I do use voice commands a lot more now than I used to. I compose entire tweets, texts, and emails using my voice, if I want to do it while I’m driving. It’s not as foolproof as Joaquin Phoenix’s system appears to be, but it’s pretty dang good. I’m often surprised at the words my phone seems to know, and it still amazes me that I can say “comma,” “period,” or “question mark,” and get the punctuation I need.

Third, the confluence of love and technology. As I mentioned before, love evolves to fit our societal constructs, and right now, in 2014, one of our societal constructs is online relationships, online dating, and the like. Online dating in and of itself isn’t a new thing by any means. Chat rooms have been around almost since the internet was invented. Their societal acceptability has changed a lot, though. People no longer bat an eye when they are told that two people met online, but fifteen years ago it was cause for social leprosy and high skepticism. That’s  because, fifteen years ago, the internet was not as integral a part of society as it is now. Fifteen years ago, a few middle-aged perverts used the internet to prey on unsuspecting people, and something I like to call Internet Stranger Paranoia was born.

Internet Stranger Paranoia (ISP) is the idea that a person “from the internet” is not a normal, functional person, and even though it’s 2014 and the internet has changed a billion times since its advent, there are still some people who cling to the idea of ISP. The funny thing about ISP is that it isolates everybody except oneself. It asserts that everyone using the internet and contacting people on the internet is a weirdo, and not to be trusted, except for oneself. Self is the exception. The only one. The interesting thing, though, is that the weirdos and psychopaths and internet predators have become outnumbered by all the normal people using the internet, and that’s because now everyone uses the internet, and statistically, there are more functional and normal people in society than there are deviants, weirdos, psychopaths, and predators. Therefore, Internet Stranger Paranoia just doesn’t make sense anymore, and I wrote about this once before, when I discussed Twitter specifically.

And Twitter is a great example, in fact. Yes, there are dysfunctional human beings on Twitter. But so are there also functional ones, real people who have no reason or cause or motivation to assume alternate identities and trick you. I know this because I’ve met plenty of them. I also know this because I am one of them (one of the functional, real people, that is). The detractors of internet dating still champion the outdated idea that you don’t know a person you haven’t met in person, and this is what I particularly like about the movie Her. It validates an opinion I’ve had for quite some time now, which is that two people can get to know each other without physically spending time together in the same space on the earth. Two people can get to know each other without making eye contact, without touching each other on the cheek or the knee, without hugging. And not only get to know but simply, eventually, know.

There are two reasons I’ve suspected this for a long time now: 1) I’m a writer; 2) I’m a naturally open and vulnerable person. In person or online, in written communication or verbal, I am the type of person who doesn’t hide much, if anything at all. I don’t find it difficult to open up to people, I’m not afraid of my own emotions, and I’m not afraid of being judged. On the other hand, what I do find is that writing my thoughts is so much easier and more natural for me than speaking them. I’m not an introvert – or, at least, not a full one – but neither am I a spotlight, life-of-the-party type of person. I am comfortable in social situations, and with other people, but if you want to dig into my psyche and consume my most articulate, my most intelligent, and my most well-thought-out, well-stated ideas? Well, you can do that by consuming or experiencing my writing, not my in-person conversation. So I myself am the reason I believe that someone can be known through a computer. I know it because I can be.

On the other hand, the movie brings up another point that has been circling my brain for at least five years now, which is: Can we ever fully know someone? Perhaps, for a short time. But people grow and learn and change all the time, and if we don’t let them, then we lose them. Sometimes we lose them even if we do let them, which is what happens in Her. Some of my romantic relationships have ended because I needed to grow and change, and my partner couldn’t handle that. Every time I think about how different I am as a person now than I was in 2002-2003, or from 2004-2007, or in 2010, or 2011, I realize it’s good that I’ve never married. Those time periods represent the years I’ve spent in serious relationships, and with men who knew and understood the core of who I was at one point in time, maybe. But the Audra I am now might be unrecognizable to them because I’ve changed a lot. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop learning and growing and changing. So far, that’s been the core of who I am, and it’s possible that I’ll always be this way. I don’t know.

As this has to do with Her, what is this movie really about, anyway? I don’t know if I’m even sure, but I certainly don’t think it’s about one particular thing. I don’t think it’s about technology any more than I think Brokeback Mountain is about homosexuality. I’m not even sure I would say it’s about human connection. I don’t know if I’d say it’s about love either. Considering the concepts it’s made me ponder, maybe it’s about consciousness and identity. Maybe it’s about freedom. Maybe it’s about being open-minded. Maybe it’s about evolution and progress and change, or maybe it’s about connection and love after all. I don’t really know.

One line that keeps ringing in my head – mainly because Joaquin Phoenix said it a couple of times, or maybe because I can’t figure out what it means – is what he said about his job: “They’re just letters.”

Are they? I don’t know. In some sense, I guess they are. And we’re just people. And this is just life. And there’s something bigger than all of it out there that we cannot grasp.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under bloggy, movies, reviews

I Was Raped

Yes, you read that right. I was raped.

Don’t worry. It wasn’t last night, or last week, or last month, or last year. But it happened, and this is the first time I’ve said that without qualifying it in some way. I rarely use the R-word when I discuss it.

Shortly after graduating from college, while I was still living in a state I hadn’t been born in, hundreds of miles and a five-hour drive away from my family and any actually reliable support system of friends, I experimented with alcohol and excess and drunkenness. Why? Because I’d been raised in a Christian bubble, right up through four and a half years of undergrad at a private Christian school. I wanted to know what the World was like.

My boyfriend of three years (who was three years younger than me) had broken up with me because he no longer believed in God, and I still did. There were other reasons (another girl, opposite goals and dreams, stages of life that were too different – I was a burgeoning adult in the real world; he was still in early undergrad). But the main issue between us was our difference of belief about faith and religion, and it drove us apart, and that’s okay.

But there were other things that had occurred in that relationship – things that caused me to question whether I was valuable as a person, and desirable as a woman. That boyfriend and I never had sex, but I was not a virgin when we met. I (willingly) gave up that title and became a statistic at the age of 17. For the next six years I allowed guilt and shame over my deflowered, marred, damaged status to conquer and rule me because the church mandates that it should. Premarital sex is wrong, the church says. Period. And, because the church says that it’s such a black and white issue, the implications that accompany the wrongness of the act heap a load of guilt and shame – mostly the shame – upon the person who engages in premarital sex but still wants to be part of the church – and especially so when that person is a young woman.

A lot of people know this fact about me – that I’m not a virgin. A lot of people probably also have suspected it over the years. I have been a flirtatious girl since the time I was four and obtained my first boyfriend, so it would be an easy speculation or conclusion to draw for the speculating and concluding types. But a lot of people also don’t know it. Or, at least, didn’t know it, until just now.

Near the end of my college career, and just after, I ran with a group of friends I’d gone to school with, and in retrospect I can admit that it was a fairly shallow group, catty and petty at times. It was also a very inclusive group, though. Anyone who wanted to hang out with us could, and we had a good old time when we went out drinking and carousing. We got drunk often, and woke up on one or another’s floors on many occasions.

It was through that group of friends that I met a guy we can call Camden. Camden was what many might call a “good ol’ boy.” Big, football linebacker type of guy, sorta square headed, and honestly not all that attractive when it came down to it. But I was getting over my boyfriend of three years, who – even though he discarded his faith – refused to have sex with me, which I took personally, as a rejection of my womanhood, even though he gave lots of other, perfectly acceptable reasons (we were too young; he was a virgin, it was important to him that his first time be…special; there was a pregnancy risk, and we weren’t ready either to get married or deal with the responsibility of a child).

So, back to Camden. Who wasn’t hot by any means, or even mildly attractive, but who found me sexually desirable, especially after we’d been drinking. My natural tendency to be flirtatious encouraged him, which is of course not surprising. Plus, and this is something else the church likes to shame women for, I have a sex drive. My body physically responds to sexual stimulation, to sexual attention, and to sexual hints and flirtatious comments. Sadly, it isn’t just the church that condemns sexuality and libido in women. It’s most of the world at large. But the church is the  context I know.

Camden made lots of advances that I rebuffed. I enjoyed the flirting but wasn’t interested in dating him (either casually or seriously), so in my mind that meant no sexual interaction needed to occur. But he kept joining our group on bar outings, and he kept seating himself next to me, and he kept touching me – first my hair (which was quite long back then), then my arm, my hand, my hip, my lower back, my knee, my upper thigh.

I don’t remember all the details of how things progressed (alcohol was invited to all of our get-togethers too, remember), but things did progress. Light kissing, making out, grinding, and all of the other things that good and creative Christians do when they feel the need to draw the line at actual intercourse. We never went on a date. I never asked for a date, and he never offered.

Though many will start to judge me at this point in the story, I did not feel cheapened by our interactions at the time. Everything we had done, I had agreed to do. And there were plenty of things he asked to do that I did not agree to do, and we didn’t do them. He was pushy, and asked for various acts multiple times in a given hangout session, but I was always firm with the lines I had drawn, and I always “won,” even if only because I could say no for longer than his drunk body could keep his mind awake or his erection stiff. And yet, the church and much of the world would want to label me at this point. Tease is a common word, and slut usually follows soon after.

He certainly thought I was a tease. Why would I flirt with him, text him provocative messages, invite him over at midnight, if not to allow him to penetrate me? How cruel I was. I couldn’t tease him like that. Once his penis was erect, it needed to be satiated, relieved. It was a physiological, biological fact. It’s why men have to masturbate. But not women, right? We don’t have a bulging, throbbing flagship of physical proof. Well, there is physical proof of a woman’s sexual desire, as any educated person knows. But for a woman to seek masturbation for sexual satisfaction, as a relief of sexual tension, as a physiological necessity: That is Wrong with a bolded, capitalized, underlined, italicized W. Women can turn it on and shut it off like a pressure valve, and society says we should. Men can’t, though. Men must expunge their tension, and any woman who raises the tension (literally) but then refuses to relieve it is a tease, a bitch, a slut, a cunt for doing so. But men are not to be blamed for their needs. It is primal, instinctive, and natural. Wet dreams prove that, right? (Hint: Women can have orgasms while they sleep too.)

I eventually broke off my dalliance with Camden, realizing that I wanted better for myself than a midnight booty call. I wanted better than a non-relationship that was only sexual (if not intercoursal). And I wanted better than a man who repeatedly ignored my protests and my NO, treated me as if “no” were a game. As if I were a plantation maiden being proposed to in 1861, and saying ‘no’ was the proper, decorous thing to do but that, if pressed enough, I would give the answer I really meant, and wanted to give, which was ‘yes.’

How many times have we heard that bullshit from some frat guy on TV, in a movie, or in real life? “Her lips said no, but her eyes said yes.” Unfortunately, there’s a wildly popular song here and now, in 2014, that uses that exact same logic, with lyrics such as, “I know you want it,” and “the way you grab me” and “must wanna get nasty” and “you’re an animal, baby, it’s in your nature” and “you wanna hug me, what rhymes with hug me?”

Frankly, Mr. Thicke, that is the biggest load of bullshit I’ve ever heard in my life.

But I digress.

So things with Camden ended, and we each moved on. By that time my main post-college friend group had broken up and gone separate ways, and I had started to meet and make new friends. I didn’t see or hear from Camden for a long time.

Then, months later, one day out of the blue, I heard from his best friend; let’s call him Eddie. Eddie was having a birthday party at one of the clubs downtown, and I was invited. Given how long it’d been since I’d heard from either of these guys – not even a peep on Facebook (and this was back when we actually used Facebook to communicate) – I was surprised. I was reluctant to go. Nobody from the old crowd except these two was going to be at the party, and it didn’t sound like a lot of fun to me. I hemmed and hawed on the phone with Eddie, told him I wasn’t really digging it, etc. He begged and pleaded, said it had been forever since they’d seen me, and they both missed me and would love to hang out again, “like the old days.” I finally relented. “Oh, and by the way, would you mind being DD?”

So that was why they wanted to see me so badly. They wanted to get totally hammered and then get home safely. Well, my conscience kicked in, and I went to the party. I drank water while everyone around me drank everything behind the bar, it seemed like. Then Eddie and Camden and three total strangers somehow piled into my car for the drive home during the wee hours for the afterparty, which was at the house Eddie and Camden rented together. Well, I was game for some house drinking. It would be safe, I wouldn’t be driving until the morning; Eddie had said I could crash on their floor. Wasted Camden made a lewd joke about how I could have as much of his bed as I wanted.

On the drive home, Camden threatened to throw up from the backseat. I threatened his life if he did. I had just bought my car. Alcohol-infused puke was the last thing I wanted to break it in with. I rolled down a window for Camden and sped the rest of the way home. He made it, but just barely. As soon as I pulled into the driveway, he stumbled out of the car, took two steps up toward the house, and spewed the contents of his stomach everywhere. Mmm, sexy.

We all went inside and began the drinking all over again, including Camden, who, freshly emptied, was good as new. It didn’t take me long to get drunk, and I also grew very tired. I wandered into an empty room and slumped on a couch, dazed and hoping to doze off. Camden – drunk again – found me before too long. He touched me in ways that my body found arousing, and I eventually started kissing him. We made out for a while. He tried to take me back to his bedroom, but we only made it as far as his closet. I have no idea what happened after that. I woke up on the floor of the closet, in a pile of clothes, mine included, Camden sprawled on the floor beside me, totally naked. He began to stir when I moved, and he sort of lumped himself on top of me again. I said no, I was tired, I just wanted to sleep or go home. “Here,” he said, “we can sleep. Let’s go to the bed, though.” I started to grab my clothes and was instructed to leave them. I was wearing my underwear and maybe my bra.

We both collapsed on the bed, and I immediately fell asleep again. I’m not sure whether he did, or how much time passed. The next thing I knew, he was on top of me again, groping me again. I tried to push him off, but he was football linebacker big, and far too strong for me, especially as a drunken deadweight. I remember foggily telling him “no, no, no,” and I remember him ignoring me. His hands, his fingers roamed all over. He sloppily sucked at me, he clumsily thrust fingers inside of me, and I wriggled and tried to get far enough away to fall back asleep. I remember saying, “I’m not even wet” as an attempt to deflect his focus from my vagina.

Finally he got up, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I drifted back to sleep.

The next thing that woke me was a stinging, burning sensation inside my vagina. Camden had gone to the bathroom and gotten scented lotion to use as a lubricant. I don’t even know if he had a condom on. I didn’t have time to think; the burn was all I knew in that moment. I shouted, “OUCH THAT HURTS GET OFF OF ME” and shoved him as hard as I could. I didn’t send him flying or anything, but he did pull out, and lazily rolled over.

I didn’t say anything else to him. I calmly sat up, gauged my level of drunkenness, deemed it to be drivable, and went to the closet to retrieve the rest of my clothes. By the time I put them on, Camden was on his back on the bed, snoring loudly. I found the rest of my things, tiptoed through a house scattered with crumpled bodies, went out the door, got in my car, and drove home, where I crawled into my own bed and fell asleep for several more hours.

When I woke up later and recalled the sequence of events, I wondered briefly, Was that rape? But I dismissed the thought because I was a Law and Order: SVU addict, and what had happened to me was nothing like what happens to the girls on that show. Camden wasn’t a stranger grabbing me off the street, after all. He was a regular guy, whom I knew. It was natural for him to think I’d want to have sex with him. I’d teased him (there’s that word again) and encouraged him, and fondled him and let him fondle me plenty of times. Plus, we were both drunk. It’s easy to get the wires crossed. But didn’t I say no? Didn’t I tell him I didn’t want to have sex? I’m sure I said no. But we were drunk. It was my fault for getting him all wired and ready to go. It was my fault for making out with him at all. It was my fault for driving them home and drinking at the afterparty. It was my fault for falling asleep on their couch. It was my fault for agreeing to go that night at all.

It wasn’t long before I had convinced myself that what had happened was not rape at all, or anything close to it. Everything was my fault. I never considered calling any authorities or trusted mentors or even close friends. Nobody would know. I had made a mistake, and I had been punished for it. There was no reason to admit my sin to anyone.

It was more than a year before I told anyone what had happened with Camden, and by the time I did, I had moved back to Kansas City and left behind the drinking, partying, sex life I cultivated after college. By the time I did talk about it, I spoke flippantly and placed all the blame with myself. I never used the R-word; I didn’t even consider using the R-word. The first person to whom I described the scenario used that word, and I cringed and recoiled from it. No, no, it wasn’t that. Not nearly that serious. No way. It was just…drunk sex. It was my fault. I shouldn’t have gotten drunk. I should’ve just gone home after I drove them.

“Audra, did you agree to have sex with this guy?”

Well…no. But-

“No buts. Audra, that is rape. I don’t care how drunk either of you were. Someone having sex with you after you’ve said no is RAPE.”

Well, okay. If you say so.  But..

And so on. Over the last few years I’ve had multiple conversations that went just like that. I describe a downplayed, heavily guilted version of events. My conversation partner clarifies by using the R-word. I deny it, retrace my words, emphasize my own culpability.

The conversations always ended either with agreeing to disagree or – more often – with me pretending to agree that it was rape and then changing the topic quickly. Over time, I began to accept that the situation was far more serious than I ever let myself believe. I began to refer to it in my mind and in later conversations as an instance of non-consensual sex. Even now, writing this today, I don’t like using the word rape. That word implies a victimization of some kind, and I have never seen myself as a victim. I was not attacked, or assaulted. The encounter was not violent in any way. My vagina was not torn, I got no STDs, I did not get pregnant. Hardly anything at all happened, actually.

But something happened. I was advanced upon. I indicated more than once that I was not interested and that the advance was not welcome. I was ignored. And I was physically penetrated against my will. (And, thanks to the fact that he used scented lotion – which is not intended for sexual employment – I was also caused physical discomfort.)

Slowly, after more and more stories like mine surface, I have begun to realize that – alcohol or no alcohol – what happened in that bedroom that night has a label; it has a name; there is a word for it, and it does, unfortunately, start with an R.

And I’m tired of dismissing it as “no big deal.” No, my life didn’t change an especial amount afterward, except for the fact that I cut off all contact with Camden. I stopped taking his calls, did not answer his texts, took his number out of my phone, and blocked him on Facebook. He was persistent for a long time after that. He created new Facebook profiles more than once and tried to friend me as if nothing had ever happened. (It’s actually kind of funny – or maybe a little disturbing – to see how many profiles of the same name appear on my block list.) He messaged me something casual once, asking how I’d been and saying we should catch up, it’d been a long time since we talked. I have not spoken a single word to him since the last time I saw him. The last thing I said to him was OUCH THAT HURTS GET OFF OF ME. I am still in contact with his friend Eddie, who has brought me multiple reports over the years of Camden asking how I’m doing. I know that at least one time I told Eddie he could tell Camden to fuck off.

So, except for that, nothing really changed about my life, externally or internally. Except for my intense guilt and shame in hiding the truth. Except for my belief that I deserved what happened to me. Except for the disservice I’ve done to other young women and men by not being honest about what happened.

I live in a world where it’s not only normal that I blamed myself; it’s accepted. It’s expected. The church is failing women in this regard. Society is failing women in this regard. Men are failing women in this regard.

Having been wronged, violated, doesn’t have to make you a victim. Am I going to fill out a police report? No. But I’m going to stop denying that something horrible happened to me. And I’m going to (try to) stop feeling shameful about it. And I’m going to stop focusing on why it was my fault, or even whether it was my fault.

I’m not sharing my story so people can feel sorry for me. Please do not do that, in fact. I’m telling my story because I know I’m not the only one who’s been holding onto a story like this. I’m telling my story because this story has to stop being written. I’m telling my story because I have young female cousins and a young niece, and I don’t want my story to become theirs.

The simple fact is, no matter what led up to the event, no MEANS no. And nobody, no matter how horny, no matter how intoxicated, no matter how physiologically tense, has the right to ignore that.

2 Comments

Filed under bloggy

Baseball’s Broken Heart: The Real Reason I Love the Game

People have asked me so many times what drew me to baseball. And why I became such a big fan so fast. And how, after spending my entire life totally ignoring it (and even professing, at times, to hate it), I was able to do a 180 and fall so in love with it. I’ve always just shrugged my shoulders and said, “I don’t know. Just happened. Just got lucky, I guess.” But in recent days and weeks, I’ve realized there’s a truer truth about why I fell in love with baseball.

In April 2012, I was 27 years old. I was in a relationship that had lasted eight months up to that point, and it only had three more to go. I was incredibly depressed. If you’ve ever been in a relationship where you were 100% all in and the other person was more like, “Eh? Why not. Not sold, but might as well. Got nothin’ better to do,” then you know how exhausting and draining it can be to choose to continue loving that person. And yet, if you’re the one who’s 100% all in, then you also know that choosing not to love that person feels completely impossible. You get to a place where you totally inflate average traits and small kindnesses and explain away the bigger flaws and settle for the mediocrity. You feel as if you’re constantly justifying the relationship to yourself and others, even though most people aren’t even asking.

So, one of the reasons I first began to learn about baseball – and specifically the Royals – was to try to gain some traction back in my relationship. The bf was super into the Royals and had been for the last three-plus decades (he was a little older than me). So he had an answer for every question I asked, and like many duped Royals fans, going into the 2012 season, he hung a hefty amount of his hopes on Hosmer and Moustakas. (Wow. Take a moment to appreciate the unintentional alliteration that  bloomed in that last sentence. So organic. So lovely.)

The boyfriend’s birthday happened to be in April, so in addition to The Best Birthday Gift Ever #2* I went to Rally House and got us a pair of Royals shirts to kick off the season (no, they weren’t matching shirts). I mainly did it for him, because he didn’t even own a Royals shirt. (No idea what he wore to games before I came along.) But I did it a little for me too. I didn’t really care about owning a shirt, but I thought he might feel prouder to sit next to me at the stadium if I donned the proper attire.

So we spent April and May going to Royals games, when we had a chance and some extra cash. We certainly didn’t go as often as I go these days. But we went maybe three or four times during those first two months of the season.

And then a series of events happened that led to Breakup Day. Breakup Day dawned warm and sunny, as you would expect for a morning in early June. I called the bf around 10 or 11 a.m. and asked The Four Words of Relationship Doom: if we could talk. He said sure, and I drove to his house. He had a housemate getting married that day, and I had no interest in being in the middle of any wedding prep, so I asked if we could take a walk. We ended up walking for a significant amount of time, not saying much of anything. I think I was working up my courage. I have absolutely no idea what he was doing. We ended up at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which has a picturesque lawn for any type of scene you could imagine – yes, even breaking up. There is not a single activity I can think of that, if someone suggested doing it on the lawn of the Nelson, I would say no. It’s just that perfect of a setting.

So we settled on a bench and proceeded to have our breakup conversation with the pretty backdrop behind us. And, just down the hill and across the street, that housemate of his and his fiancee were saying their vows to each other in the park. Right at the same time. Ah, the cycles of life, huh? Something ends, something else begins. Whether represented in death and birth, or breakups and marriages, or career transitions, it’s always going on, all around us, and it’s both endlessly beautiful and endlessly painful.

To put it as bluntly and succintly as possible, that breakup was a very difficult one. In fact, I almost didn’t even go through with it. I almost tried to ask for a redo in the middle of the conversation. And, in that conversation, or in a few of the months immediately following, if he had ever indicated any feeling of having made a mistake, of wanting to take another stab at things, of wanting me back at all, I would’ve jumped at the chance. But he didn’t. And I know now that’s best. I don’t think things would’ve turned out any better in the end, but if we had attempted a redo, I’m sure the emotional condition of my heart would have only been all the worse for the wear when it was all over.

So how does baseball factor into all this? Well, I’m not really sure when or how it happened. The only thing I know for sure is why. Because of my broken heart, because I needed a distraction, because I needed a hobby, and because baseball provides all of these things every single day for six months out of the year, I turned my full attention to baseball. For the rest of that season, from June through October, I orchestrated my entire life around the Royals’ playing schedule, and then around the (non-Royals) post-season games.

And let me tell you, if you have a broken heart, it’s pretty masochistic to try to patch it up with a perennially losing baseball team. On days that were emotionally harder than most, I quickly learned that I had to lower my expectations for the Royals to lift my spirits. Instead of hoping for a win, I started focusing on deliverables I knew I could get: on-air tangents from Denny Matthews and Bob Davis; tidbits of cheesy catch phrases from Rex Hudler; summer evenings at the ballpark with anyone who wasn’t my ex; as many tickets to as many games as I could possibly get my hands on; HRs from Billy Butler; smiles from Jeff Francoeur; and consistent production from Alex Gordon.

It’s a good thing baseball has a long season because it took the rest of the 2012 season as well as the entire off-season and all of 2013 spring training for me to finally feel like my heart wasn’t hemorrhaging anymore. I came in to the 2013 season with high hopes for the Royals. Key moves were made in the off-season; moves that indicated that the club expects to contend this year. April was really, really fun, even though a lot of people made fun of me for acting like what the Royals did in April mattered.

But it did matter. To a girl with a newly mended heart, a winning April meant more than the whole world. But now we’re almost done with May, and even if we win every single game we have left this month, we won’t emerge with a winning record on the month. Fans are disappointed, angry, and just plain apathetic. They’re calling for front-office jobs, they’re advocating game avoidance, they’re threatening to pack up and move on, to become fans of entirely new teams.

I guess if I’d been around for the last (almost) thirty years of losing, I’d probably be in their camp. But I’ve only been around for one (and a half) years of losing, and I can’t give up on the one thing that put my heart back together. Win or lose, baseball still gets played every day. Win or lose, Alex Gordon still produces. Win or lose, Kauffman still puts on fireworks shows, hosts Buck Night, and changes the colors of the outfield fountains. Win or lose, I’ve used those little red stitches to put my heart back together, and that’s why I’m a fan for life, and I’m not giving up on the Kansas City Royals.

*The Best Birthday Gift Ever #2 was a creative present I put together for the boyfriend that year that was, in essence, really cool and pretty perfect. I’m not going to tell you what it was, but just know that it centered around and involved his interests, his love language, his hobbies, and about fifty of his closest friends. It was genius, and I’ll never have another idea quite like that one again. Oh, and the reason it’s “#2” is that The Best Birthday Gift Ever #1 was a present to my ex before this ex. It was also extremely creative and centered on his biggest hobby. Dang, I have good ideas. Hopefully I haven’t wasted them all on exes.

3 Comments

Filed under baseball, bloggy, sentimental

Online Dating Is Not a Pit of Despair (Part 2 of 2)

I didn’t intend for my last post to get as abstractly philosophical as it did, but hey. I wouldn’t be being true to myself as a writer if I curtailed my crazy tangents. I mean, sure, aforementioned crazy tangents are probably the main obstacle to my readership amassing itself to more than approximately three faithful readers. But that’s probably good, actually. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if a fourth reader entered the scene.

I’d probably scare them off with mean replies to their introductory comments, especially if those comments said anything other than, “OMG, you are so totes, like, the best writer evs. The main reading I do is txt msging, LOL. Cray-cray!” Weird, right? You’d think I’d want to chew them out for bringing their supreme idiocy and ridic abbrevs to my intellectually elite blog. The content here is obviously targeted toward a more high-brow crowd. The word literary is IN the title, for crying out loud. But I think it’s obvious why I wouldn’t chew out anyone who says nice things about my writing. To sum up, I think that, for now, I’ll stick with my digressions.

So, where were we? Right. Online dating. So here’s the deal. I keep hearing stories about all the horror that women experience in the world of online dating. In the comment section of a blog post I read a few days ago, I made the pretty bold claim that anyone who has more complaints than not about online dating is, quite simply, doing it wrong.

Here’s the thing. I’m not saying that I have never had an awkward date from online.* I’m not saying that I’ve never been inappropriately propositioned in an online message.** I’m not saying I haven’t had interactions online with people who just do not seem like quality human beings. But that’s life. Before the advent of online dating, I suffered through my fair share of awkward conversations with strangers in bars or other public places. I have also, in public venues, been sexually propositioned or inappropriately spoken to by people who don’t seem to have ever had the word boundary introduced into their vocabularies. It is unfortunate that this is the world we live in. But it is. And it’s only fair to remind ourselves that it is not confined to online dating.

With that in mind, detailed below are five steps for making online dating less painful, less discouraging, and perhaps even enjoyable, as opposed to something that could be mistaken for an Edgar Allan Poe short story called “The Torturous and Hellish and Bottomless Abyss of Lust and Liars and Nightmares.”

#1) Do not respond to everyone.
I think a lot of discouraged online daters are merely tired of keeping up with their inboxes. And why shouldn’t they be? Here are actual examples of messages that have appeared in my inbox over the course of the last couple of weeks:

Hey girl whats up?

Hey how u doin tonight?

Youve got a gorgeous smile. Just wanted to let u no that. ;)

You seem like a positive person. Msg me. Because, you know, we’re both here for the same thing. So write me back. K?

Your profile is really good.

Hi…just wonderin if you are into bi guys?

There are two ways to react to these types of messages.

Reaction Option #1: Stress out and feel the need to make tedious small talk with everyone, ignoring the clear lack of profile perusal on their part and, in some cases, the poor grammar. This reaction would mean responding in a comparable manner to the initial messages. Observe:

Hey, not much. What’s up with you?

Hey, not bad, and you?

Thank you.

Well, it appears we aren’t on here for the same reason because it is not my objective to send stupid messages to people.

Okay, thanks. What specifically about my profile did you like?

Uhh…no?

Okay, women. I’ll give you this one; if I wasted all my time responding to messages of that caliber, then yeah. I’d have a lot of complaints too.

However, I found a wicked little feature one day, it’s sort of hidden, and I wasn’t sure what would happen if I clicked it, but it was near the bottom of my inbox screen, and it said, DELETE. So I tried it once, and guess what? The message disappeared as poofily as the bully bunny in that one obnoxious song about the field mice.

And thus, we arrive at Reaction Option #2: Ignore the message. Amazing! Liberating! Sort of magical, even.

#2) Exchange written messages for longer than you want to.
A lot of people disagree with me on this one, but I urge you to give it a chance, even if it’s only once. I know not everybody loves writing as much as I do, and almost nobody is as good at it as I am (I’m kidding; sort of). Even so, this rule is important for everyone. I read some blog posts recently by a girl who has chosen to quit online dating because of how awful her experience was.

She explained that one of her intentional methods of approach was to exchange as few messages as possible with her dates before meeting. I can’t remember exactly what she said her reasoning was, something about not wanting to build up the wrong idea of someone in her head, or some such nonsense. However, then she ended up going on three horribly awkward dates that she forced herself to suffer through. All because she didn’t take any time to get to know these guys before the dates, so she had no idea what to expect. How she could not see that was a bad idea from the get-go is beyond me.

One of her chief complaints was how much lamer the guys ended up being than how they made themselves sound in their profiles. Umm, seriously? If that’s not a duh factor, then I don’t know what is. We all talk ourselves up in our profiles, but over time, through message and conversation, people begin to reveal who they really are, even without meaning to. 

If you exchange at least five messages with someone before agreeing to meet, you’re going to have a much better idea by that time of whether you truly do want to meet up. Think about it this way: If you have trouble keeping up a steady stream of conversation via written word, chances are low that either of you will do any better in person.

#3) Transition to phone, texting, or real-life email before meeting in person.
For me, this is just a way to connect in the real world (the definition of real world here merely being not your online dating site) before actually meeting. Especially if you talk on the phone, you get a couple of steps closer to getting an idea of how this person will interact face to face, and how capable this person is of carrying on a decent conversation, and how good he or she is at telling a story or a joke.

This one is the least mandatory of all the rules, and I actually hate talking on the phone myself. In fact, I avoid it at all costs, with almost everyone, so I wash my hands of any adverse outcomes that may result from following this particular rule. (I do like to text, though.)

#4) Only agree to dates you actually want to go on.
These rules are ordered in a linear fashion, not by order of importance. Otherwise this one would be #2, right after learning how to use the delete button.

Meeting a complete stranger can be terrifying, and not just because the complete stranger might weigh 400 pounds, or be 63 years old, or try to stuff you in his trunk. It can be terrifying simply because coming up with things to say to complete strangers can sometimes be difficult. Add the pressure of trying to figure out whether this complete stranger could eventually be an intimate spouse someday, and you have a situation that I usually have a visceral reaction to.

The first couple times I tried online dating (if you’ll remember, I mentioned in Part 1 that I’m currently on attempt #3), I enjoyed messaging back and forth with people but panicked every time they asked to meet in person because I just never wanted to. But I felt like I shouldn’t say no; after all, wasn’t meeting in person the whole goal of online dating? Wasn’t I wasting everyone’s time if i said no? Why was I even on an online dating site if I didn’t want to go on dates?

This time around, however, I have given myself permission to say no, without feeling guilty, even if we’ve exchanged 20 messages. Simply put, if I’m not into it, I’m not into it, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

#5) Be honest and straightforward.
Here’s where I have probably made the most mistakes because this one is just plain easier said than done. If you think a date hasn’t gone well but the other person has a different idea and asks to meet up again, invoke the D.A.R.E. tagline and Just Say No! There is a rule with IRL dating about not leading people on, and that applies to online dating too. Stop being a sissy and be honest.

Note: Being honest doesn’t have to equal being rude. There are plenty of polite ways to decline further outings, and if you aren’t confident about your ability to come up with a polite refusal when put on the spot, practice some in the mirror before you go out. You can even borrow from me if you want. Here are some sample responses to whatever variation of Can I see you again? you wish to decline:

Thank you for tonight, but I don’t think so.

It was nice meeting you, but I do not feel that our [connection/chemistry/choose your own word] is at the level I had hoped it would  be.

No, thank you.

I actually have a terminal illness…

Okay, so don’t use that last one. Seriously, don’t.

Truthfully? Yes, it is always awkward to decline. Always. But we are adults, and so are our dates (or at least, they should be; if you’re finding that they aren’t, please take yourself to the nearest police station ASAP). And, if we’re talking first dates here, things just haven’t gone far enough yet for someone’s feelings to be reasonably hurt, so it’s better to be honest early on.

***

In conclusion, if you’re having a bitch of a time with your online dating experience, try modifying your methods. If you’re thinking about trying online dating for the first time, don’t listen to the naysayers. I promise you, it doesn’t have to be as excruciating as people make it sound. It will be whatever you make it.

*Due to Tip #4, I have only been on four first dates with guys from online, and believe it or not, only one was awkward and unenjoyable. However, that was a complete surprise, and nothing in his prior correspondence would have clued me in to the things I ended up disliking about him on the date. They were all things like mannerisms, the way he carried himself, and his lack of response to social cues. You honestly can’t learn those things about someone in emails, text messages, or on the phone. My three other dates were normal, fine, even fun.

**I have received messages from usernames that make obscene references to the size of their genitals; usernames that are unimaginative (like FirstNameLastName); usernames that are so imaginative they’re ridiculous (like Unicorns&FairiesButI’mNotGayJustIronic); and usernames that hearken back to the first days of the internet (like Sk8terBoi1983). However, when they are paired with stupid messages, I just repeat Tip #1 until my inbox is purged of the insipid.

1 Comment

Filed under bloggy, irreverent

Online Dating Is Not a Pit of Despair (Part 1 of 2)*

A few things have happened lately that have compelled the writing of this two-part post. The common denominator of those few things, however, is that I keep hearing horror stories centered around online dating, and my own experience does not quite match up with the stories I’ve heard, so I want to share a few things.

To begin, let me first shoo the hypocritical elephant out of the room (no, not Republicans; Republicans can stay, if they won’t get feisty). I’m talking about my own perceived hypocrisy about online dating. A lot of people have heard me verbally abuse the notion of online dating, spouting it as a venue for people who are insecure, lonely, and not good at social interaction. I’ve also talked about the superficiality of a connection made online and the impracticality of transitioning a relationship from online to in person. I’ve always ended my speeches with the concession that perhaps online dating works for some people but that, when I look into the future and see my own great love story playing out, online dating just does not have a role.

In some of these ways, I was wrong. In some ways, I was not. For instance, there are plenty of insecure, lonely, and socially handicapped people on online dating sites. But I can attest that there are plenty of normal, well-adjusted, even cool, people on there too. Hello, of course there are. I’m on there! I am currently taking my third stab at online dating, after being pretty secretive about the fact that I was doing it at all the first couple of times. I was always embarrassed to admit to people that I had an online dating profile. And I was pretty terrified by the idea of actually meeting in person a random stranger from a website. Furthermore, I always tell people that I crave a good how-we-met story, and “we met online” just doesn’t fit that bill for me.

So I never maintained my profiles for very long, maybe one or two months at a time, max, and I’ve only been on four dates total (this is over a span of three years since I created my first online profile, with long breaks in between while I pursued a year-long relationship in 2010 and another year-long relationship from 2011-2012; both were with people I met offline). I have never been willing to pay for online dating. As one girl put it when introducing me to her online boyfriend after telling me they met on Match.com, “I learned my lesson with the free sites. You get what you pay for.” I don’t know that I agree, but good for her. I’m glad she’s found someone.

But I’m no longer embarrassed about the fact that I participate in online dating. I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily loud and proud, but it’s at least not a secret anymore. I realized, after getting “matched” with a couple of people I know in real life, that you can’t hide much of anything that’s on the internet. Besides that, it’s 2013. If people can shop for houses, groceries, pets, and cars online, why not life partners? Though I must say, I continue to perform all transactions related to the aforementioned examples IRL (that’s in real life, for those debating whether to check Urban Dictionary).

A lot of married people who found their mates before online dating became the norm like to express their pity for those who choose to participate in online dating. While that is annoying, it’s actually not all that different from all the married people who have – since the beginning of time, it seems – expressed pity for those who have not paired up yet. They disguise their pity as empathy, pretending to remember how terrible the dating scene was, and then they moon excessively about how wonderful having the right partner is, before moving on to the patronizing assurances that we’ll find “that special person” and that it will be “worth the wait.”

Ironically, most people who use the phrase worth the wait have no earthly idea what waiting really is, since they got married between the ages of 18 and 25 and likely began popping out babies shortly after that. For anyone reading who is married, just so you know, from now on, the only people I will take the worth the wait platitude from are people who got married at an age older than whatever age I happen to be at the time, or people who are divorced.

What is with this universal assumption that single people need pity? A lot of people like being single. Most of the time, the lifestyle does actually suit me better. Maybe there exist single people who wish desperately not to be single, but that’s not me, nor is it true of any of the single people I know who have earned my respect. Besides, one thing that’s guaranteed in life is change. I have been in love. And, even if I never get married, I believe that I will be in love again at some point in my life, whether that’s six months from now or thirty years (but God, if you’re reading, please don’t let it be thirty years).

The truth is, though, every time I get contemplative and consider how my life would have turned out if I’d gotten married at a certain age or to certain people I thought I couldn’t live without, I end up feeling grateful that I haven’t yet gotten married. The older I get, the more I learn about how difficult a journey marriage is, and I have not yet been mature enough, selfless enough, or wise enough to make taking those vows worth it – putting aside entirely the question of the “right” man; because I believe that my individual health is just as important as my partner being the right one for me. If I’m not a healthy person to begin with, then there’s no such thing as a “right” partner.

As for the feigned empathy and reminiscences from married men and women about how awful the dating scene was or is, here’s the thing: Dating is what you make it. I have always enjoyed dating, for my part, although my ideas about how it should go have certainly changed and evolved over time, along with my personality and worldviews in general.

A lot of people who are no longer in the dating scene talk about the exhaustion of all the game-playing, the mind tricks, and trying to present one’s best possible self at all times. Well, thinking about dating in that context is exhausting, I agree. However, the last time I played games with someone or wasn’t my authentic self was back in college, seven years ago. And honestly, it wasn’t exhausting back then. It was stupid, yes, and completely immature. But that’s what college students are. They don’t know any other way to be, and that’s fine. Dating in that way, in that context, might have been stupid – or maybe unsustainable is a better word – but it was also a lot of fun. There was definitely a point when it stopped being fun to be coy, or to wait for days on end for a boy to call, or to pretend that, of course, I always went to bed (and got back out of it) looking like a beauty queen. So I stopped doing it that way and moved on to different methods.

The other infuriating thing about being pitied by married people for the stage of life I’m in (that is, partnerless) is the implication that I don’t have a choice in the matter. But don’t I have a choice? Haven’t I chosen not to continue certain relationships with certain people? Haven’t I initiated breakup conversations, and haven’t I told men that I’m just not interested in pursuing something deeper? Of course I have! Not getting married is a choice I have made, just as it’s a choice others have made to get married. And my worldview has evolved so much as to be able to believe that there is something very holy and pure and committed about my choice. I don’t mean holy and pure and committed in a convent or abbey sense. Because I’m not a nun, and I’m not committed to lifelong celibacy, though I deeply respect those who are. There is a discipline and purpose there that God did not instill in me.

But I am committed to respecting myself and the identity God continues to shape in me, and part of that respect is reflected in my decision not to get married to someone who isn’t a good fit. I am committed to loving and respecting myself to such an extent that I am not willing to get married based on a fluttery feeling or a fantasy involving a future mortgage and a baseball-themed nursery. Although, I admit, a baseball-themed nursery does sound amazing. It may surprise many, but I can’t even agree to marry someone who wants to don a superhero costume and travel the world with me, fighting crimes committed against grammar, in both French and English; yet, again, that does sound enticing.

But no. My dreams about marriage are different. They have changed. And I certainly hope they are more mature than they once were. When I dream about marriage now, a mortgage, a puppy, a career, offspring, growing old together – these are not the things I dream about anymore. I already have a mortgage, and I love my house – my home. I got a puppy 7 years ago, and he’s turned into my best companion. I am honing my career; I’m entering my fifth year as an editor and am continually mapping mental strategies for advancement and professional growth. I have not given birth or raised a child, but I am an honorary aunt to two wonderful young boys who make my heart burst with love, and I’m newly a biological aunt to the most beautiful baby girl I’ve ever laid eyes on; I’m learning about and getting to practice parenting vicariously through my friends, and seeing the Marvin family line carried on through my brother. As for growing old, I’m doing that too, albeit slowly, and I’m doing it surrounded by people I love. Besides, the longer it takes me to find a life partner, the more opportunity I have to gather stories for him so we’ll never run out of things to talk about! I am a walking, breathing testimony to the possibility of experiencing some of life’s greatest milestones without a shadow.

What I do dream about for a future partner has become more complex. Do you know the saying about marriage? Men marry women because they expect they’ll never change. Women marry men because they expect to be able to change them. Both end up disappointed. Or something like that. Remember that saying? Well, I dream about finding someone I can accept at the stage of life he’s at when I meet him, and can still imagine loving and accepting him two years (and many more) later, when all his cute habits are suddenly annoying, and even though he remains in the stage of life he was in when we met. I dream about finding someone who falls in love with me for my values and worldviews but understands after two years that the person I have become, though changed, is still a person worth loving and striving to understand.

I dream about finding someone who has ambitions and goals and motivations of his own, separate and distinct from mine. I dream about finding someone who understands the idea of sacrifice in terms of both/and rather than either/or. I dream about finding a man who is happy, self-sufficient, and productive without me…and yet greets me as if the only thing he’s been doing with his life since the last time he saw me was waiting to see me again.

I dream about finding someone who can control his tongue, thereby teaching me by example how to control mine (I’m talking about words here, not sex…in case there was any confusion about that). Although, while we’re on the subject of sex, I dream of passion too; raw, uncontained, unconditional, unapologetic, unashamed passion.

I dream of egalitarianism, mutual respect, mutual sacrifice – but a score that nobody keeps track of. (Side story: Once, I got a boyfriend tickets to see one of his favorite bands live. About three months later, he did the same for me, and I asked him flat out if he was doing it to keep things “even” between us. He said no, and I believed him [and still do]. But I dream of a relationship where a question such as that doesn’t even cross my mind.)

I don’t know. Maybe my list isn’t as mature as I’d like to think. Maybe those desires aren’t as complex and evolved as I tell myself they are. But those are, for all intents and purposes, the things I have learned I am looking for in a life partnership. And I have learned that I want them by being in relationships that had them, and by being in relationships that explicitly lacked them. I have convinced myself at various times that certain of those could be ignored, forgotten, left off the list. And yet, when it came down to it – pull the trigger and make the best of what’s there, or break up and move on – I’ve always moved on.

Perhaps that is the part that married people pity – the moving on part. But the way I see it, cutting ties and moving on is no harder on the heart than choosing to persevere through a sh*t marital situation. Pardon my language, but that’s the only appropriate word for the kind of situation I’m talking about. Because marriage breaks hearts too, just in different ways.

Is having to break up with someone worse or more painful than suspecting and confirming a cheating spouse? Is being broken up with worse or more painful than an emotionally distant spouse who refuses to have a meaningful conversation? Is ending a dating relationship worse or more painful than trying to reason with, accept, or even merely tolerate a mentally ill spouse? Is being alone worse or more painful than the constant effort of trying to love, be patient with, speak kindly to a depressed and unmotivated spouse?

I know these aren’t the only stories written in marriage. But neither are they the only stories written in dating. My point is that marriage is what people make it, and so is dating. Both can be terrible, horrible, no good, very bad experiences. Or, they can be fun, passionate, uplifting, and exciting experiences. The choice is ours, and I’ve made my choices, and they’ve been intentional.

That doesn’t mean I don’t still dream about the more superficial aspects of life partnership, though. Of course I do. I dream of someone who speaks French to me, someone who wants to go SCUBA diving with me, someone who loves public transportation as much as I do, someone who is as devoted to grammar as I am, someone who wants to travel to different baseball stadiums around the country, someone who wants puppies, puppies, and more puppies, someone who does my dishes and lets me mow the lawn, and, of course – the supreme nonnegotiable – someone who doesn’t have to be begged, cajoled, or persuaded to grow a freaking beard!

Until I find someone, I’m happy to wait, and to date – online or otherwise – in the meantime.

*I will write Part 2 about the actual mechanics of online dating.

5 Comments

Filed under bloggy, irreverent, sentimental

2012: Baseball, Home Decor, Solitude

These year-in-review posts might just be the most consistent thing I’ve ever done on this blog, or any of my blogs, for that matter. This will be my third one!

There are certain parts of my life that are starting to seem a little broken recordy, especially when it comes to the impressive number of ex-boyfriends I’m collecting, as if they’re vintage vinyls (cue wah-wah sound). However, it’s less fun to focus on my hardships, and since I beat myself up about those all the time in private anyway, I’d rather use public settings to focus on the positive parts of my life and personal achievements. Oh, and guess what? This edition – for the first time ever – has pictures!

So, even though 2012 included some pretty icky stuff, these are, in chronological order, the ten things I want to remember about last year:

1) Brad Paisley Concert
In January last year, I went with a friend to my first Brad Paisley concert. Brad Paisley is probably in my top five favorite country music artists. His songs are either really touching or really hilarious. He’s a fantastic songwriter, and his guitar skills are legendary, and I’ve heard he’s an even more quality guy. So Toni and I went down to Kansas City’s Sprint Center (which I always accidentally call the Ford Center first, which is Oklahoma City’s event hall) and saw him perform live. The show was everything I would’ve expected and more from BP. It was truly incredible watching him play guitar, and I don’t even know the half of it, I’m sure, not being a guitarist myself. The other reason this makes the list is that live music isn’t really my thing, unless I’m very familiar with the artist. So the mere fact that I express interest in going to live shows is memorable in and of itself, even if I never actually make it to the show. But I did make it to this show, and it was great.

2) Lady Antebellum Concert
So, of course it follows that my next fond memory is another country music show. Lady Antebellum is not just in my top five favorite country artists. They are the favorite. They came to Kansas City in the summer of 2010, and I hinted strongly to the boyfriend I had at the time that I’d love to be surprised with tickets to their show, but he didn’t pick up on that. (Never mind that I went all the way to Nebraska with him to see Dave Matthews – whom I hate. I guess that just proves who was the better partner in that relationship! Okay, kidding. Kinda.) Anyway, this time I decided that I would just go see Lady A myself, boyfriend or no boyfriend. And that’s what I did. Another of my favorites, Thompson Square, opened for them, although they are still pretty new to stage performing, and they didn’t do that great a job. But Lady Antebellum did not disappoint in the least. I opened 2012 with a whirlwind of live shows (yes, all two of them) and then didn’t go to any others all year long!

3) Individual Counseling
In May last year, I started going to some individual counseling sessions at the recommendation of a trusted friend. The whole endeavor made things tighter-than-tight for my budget, but I managed to fund it all the way into October, and when I told my counselor I needed to quit, she said I had achieved all the goals I set at the beginning anyway, so she felt comfortable releasing me. This was the first time I had ever gone to counseling as an individual (I have had some limited experience with couples’ counseling), and I was not prepared for how helpful and insightful it would turn out to be. I learned quite a lot about myself in those sessions with Vanessa, and if I could afford to keep up the weekly meetings, I definitely would still be going. I hope that sometime in the future my finances will allow me to start going again.

For the last 2+ years now, I’ve been a huge proponent of couples’ counseling for everyone, whether married, engaged, or seriously dating, but especially for married couples. I think it’s a mistake for couples to go to premarital counseling for eight weeks before the wedding and then quit, like that fixes everything. I think couples who find their first year of marriage difficult would discover it to be much, much easier if they went to counseling together. However, let me trade that soapbox for a different one: individual counseling. I am now a huge advocate of individual counseling in addition to couples’ counseling. I’m so glad the stigma around therapy and counseling has dissolved. There is absolutely nothing wrong with making every effort you possibly can to grow and become the best person you can be. You will discover things about yourself, your emotions, and your worldview that you had no idea were in there, and it will be so worth it. I promise.

4) Road Trip to Mississippi
Over Memorial Day weekend, I drove down to Oxford, Mississippi, famed literary town, to visit a friend and see all the literary sights. This was the longest I had ever been in a car by myself, and I thought I was going to be so bored on the drives to and from. But what I discovered was that I quite like my own company! I also discovered I quite like Oxford, and it was fun seeing my old college friend Amy again after several years. There were a couple of things that put a damper on the trip itself, the main one being my severe lack of knowledge about the copious number of authors who make or have made their homes there, William Faulkner, of course, being the most notable. I did listen to a collection of John Grisham stories on the drive down to prepare myself for the mood and southern culture. Amy was sure to take me to all the good places, including the Square (which holds the famed Square Books), Rowan Oak (Faulkner’s home), The University of Mississippi, and Faulkner’s grave, where we paid midnight homage to the author via the reading of a pericope from Absalom, Absalom! and the pouring of some Jack Daniels on his grave (to pacify the known alcoholic for intruding upon his peace at such a late hour, I guess; who knows). If only the moon had been full. It would’ve been so gothic and creepy.

See the liquor? That wasn't what we brought; they were there already.

See the liquor? That wasn’t what we brought; those were there already.

5) ROYALS BASEBALL
The only reason this one is all the way down at number 5 is that I made myself order the list chronologically. Otherwise it would be #1. It would also be #2-10 if I weren’t constrained by my other rule, which is: List different things. Seriously, though. Most of you know I got super into baseball last year for the first time ever, and since I live in Kansas City, the team I became a super fan of was the Royals. My transition to baseball obsession happened almost overnight and surprised pretty much everyone I know, including myself. But I went with it and spent the months from April to October attending somewhere between 20 and 22 games (I can’t seem to get an accurate count from my calendar) and learning more about the sport itself than I’ve ever learned from six months of consecutive study of grammar. But of course, that’s because I was born knowing everything I know about grammar. But, sudden or not, everyone I know accepts me as a baseball fan now, and I’m counting down the days until the season starts again (literally: 4 days until Royals FanFest; 27 days until pitchers and catchers report to spring training; 30 days until the full squad reports to spring training; 76 days until the first game of the season; 83 days until the home opener at Kauffman Stadium). How excited am I? THIS excited:

That's right. I'm Jeff-Francoeur's-crazy-eyes amounts of excited.

That’s right. I’m Jeff-Francoeur’s-crazy-eyes level of excited.

6) Custom Fireplace Bookcase
The number of DIY home projects I did when I bought and moved into my house in 2010 was exactly: 1. I painted my white fireplace a very bright orange. And I was quite proud of it too, and content for it to be the only thing I did to improve – or at least personalize – my living space. But, if I weren’t already calling 2012 The Year of Baseball Infatuation, I would probably call it The Year of Homeowner’s Projects – starting with the custom bookcase I made in July. I don’t really remember how or why the idea came to me to craft these shelves, but I had some wood scraps lying around, and I enlisted my friend Adrianne’s power tools along with my friend Kevin’s carpentry expertise, and what followed was approximately six hours’ worth of man (and woman) hours constructing these two shelves that now fit inside my fireplace. (Don’t worry, the fireplace itself is nonfunctional, so there will be no accidental Fahrenheit 451 reenactments occurring in there.)

The only problem with having such a bookcase was that I didn’t own enough books to fill it. Given that my 28th birthday was coming up a couple of weeks after I finished the project, I decided to throw a party and request that the guests bring books to help fill the shelves. The only stipulation was that the books had to have something to do with fire. The result turned out to be more successful than I anticipated, and the two shelves are now occupied by no fewer than 18 books that feature fire either in their contents, cover designs, or titles (and only three are copies of F451!). There is such a variety too: memoir, fiction, self-help, children’s, trashy romance, religious, family, classic. I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to reading them all (so far I’ve only read one: Stephen King’s Firestarter, though I have previously read Fahrenheit 451 twice, even if not from one of those copies), but I love how the project turned out nonetheless. Below are a few pictures of the construction process, finished product, and final display.

001 014 015 021 026

7) #SoloVacation
In October, I took five days off work – the first vacation I had taken all year from my job – and spent six days on a mini-vacation, visiting a series of small towns just north and west of Kansas City. I went all by myself and Tweeted about some of my experiences using the above hashtag. I was sure I took my camera, but either I didn’t actually take any pictures, or the ghosts erased them all. It’s anybody’s guess.

I spent two days in Atchison, Kansas, which touts itself as the most haunted town in Kansas (and it’s totally true, thus the ghost reference). I took a haunted bus tour, bought and read a book about all the haunted buildings and stories associated with them, visited a couple of haunted houses/museums, and scared the living daylights out of myself spending an hour in a pitch-black park said to be haunted by the ghost of Molly, a girl who committed suicide there. I was there after the moon came out (because that’s the only time Molly screams), and there were no streetlamps or anything. I never did hear Molly scream, but a couple of feral cats walked up behind me and meowed in the dark, causing me to jump nearly out of my skin. (Oh yeah, did I mention I was there alone?) Other noted stops in Atchison included an afternoon visit to the lovely International Forest of Friendship, where I sat on a bench and read for two hours; a tour of the monks’ abbey at Benedictine College; a lunch at the locally famous Jerry’s cafe; a tour of Amelia Earhart’s childhood home; and a riverwalk stroll along the Lewis & Clark Trail that featured historical markers and placards about the explorers.

I left Atchison after two days (which was more than enough time to see everything, trust me) and went east a short way to Weston, Missouri, which was one of Missouri’s first settled towns along the river, and has a quaint little downtown area that has been restored to look pretty much like it did when the town first sprang up. I only spent a few hours in Weston, touring the downtown, eating lunch in their locally famous brewery, and perusing a small graveyard. Then it was off to a remote Catholic retreat center outside Leavenworth, Kansas, to spend four days in wooded Thoreauian fashion.

I stayed in a cabin the entire size of which was smaller than my bedroom at home and which had no air conditioning, no plumbing, no cell service, and no internet access. Since it was October, the weather was actually perfect, and there was no need for AC or heat. The lack of plumbing and running water was an interesting complication. I had a bucket for a bathroom and a gallon-size jug to fill twice a day with water I got from a pump a quarter-mile’s walk away. If ever you want to simplify, unplug, and retreat from the whole world, this is the place to do it. I spent four whole days doing nothing but sleeping, taking walks in the woods, sitting by a pond, and reading, reading, reading. This ended up being the perfect way to spend the week leading up to my half marathon, and as it happened, it also served to remind me (because I’d forgotten since my Mississippi trip) that I genuinely enjoy spending time by myself. (One of my favorite memories from the driving on this trip was making a joke out loud – to myself, of course – that made me laugh really hard.)

8) Running My Fourth Half Marathon
I know I say this every time, but: I can’t believe it myself, but it’s true. I have now earned four medals from running and finishing half marathons. This 13.1 stuff is getting to be no big deal. (Okay, not really. It’s a big deal every time!) Finding a place to put all my medals became part of another of my home-decor projects, and I ended up getting some adhesive hooks from Home Depot and hanging them from my fireplace mantel (much in the manner of Christmas stockings). (As long as we’re discussing home maintenance, this decor decision happened on the same night that I self-caulked my tub and replaced my furnace filter, which was a much bigger deal than it sounds…only because the filter I replaced was going on 2 1/2 years in the furnace, and apparently that’s a no-no.) Anyway, back to the half marathon. I convinced my good friend J.R. to run this one with me, and it was his first ever, so that was a fun achievement of his to be a part of. I also broke a PR for myself, finishing a minute or two ahead of my previous best time, so that was exciting too.

Kansas City Half 4 Kansas City Half 5

9) Becoming an Aunt
As with baseball, the only reason this one isn’t higher on the list is that it didn’t happen until December. But on the 11th of that now sacred month, my brother and his wife welcomed the family’s first grandchild into the world. Her name is Avery, and she was a delicate 4(!!) pounds, 10 ounces, at first weigh-in. I can’t even begin to describe how I felt the first time I met and held her, when she was a mere four hours new. It was a pretty magical day for our whole family, and she totally changed the dynamic of our Christmas celebration this year. Talk about bringing new meaning to the words anticipation and arrival on earth. Avery is nearly perfect, and I can’t wait to watch her grow up. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of her on my computer, since none have been taken with my own camera, but she’s plastered all over Facebook if you care to go digging into tagged pictures of me (she’s also featured prominently in my profile picture).

10) Painting My House
This was definitely the magnum opus of the homeowner’s projects for the year (although it bears mentioning that this was a week-long job that alternated with my final homeowner’s task of the year, which was winterizing 21 of my 27 or so windows; see what I mean about it being the year of projects?). I call it the magnum opus because it’s the only project (except for hanging the medals, which is pretty weak) that I did entirely by myself, with no help from anyone. For Christmas, I got some money to buy paint and supplies, and then my remaining vacation days combined with the way our holiday schedule was set up allowed me two full weeks off from Christmas until the end of the year, so I vigorously attacked the vision I had for my paint. In the end, I added three new colors to various rooms of my house, and I’m extremely pleased with how it turned out. The colors are called Cranberry Whip, Garden Glow, and Amazon Stone, and they appear respectively in the bedroom, the living room, and the room I have started calling the library, although it doubles as the front room.

025 043 061

That’s it for me on 2012. I haven’t made any specific resolutions for 2013, but I’m gonna follow in Ross’s footsteps, go out on a limb, and say, “No breakups in 2013!” So far I’ve made it 15 days. I’m off to a good start.

Oh, and bonus picture showing the orange fireplace, the new gray paint, and the half-marathon medals on the mantel. (Just ignore the dog kennel, if you can; Soren and I had an extended-stay house guest during that time):

063

Leave a comment

Filed under bloggy, goals, sentimental

1,001 [Bad] Dates

If you will recall, I wrote a marvelously lighthearted post around three months ago that poked fun at the fact that my heart had just shattered (again). (How wonderful; my dating life is becoming one of those.) In the three months since I’ve been back in the game, I’ve had a few opportunities to dust off my skills, oil up my rusty joints, and put myself out there, so to speak. (My goodness, could that sentence have been laden with any more trite phrases?)

I tried my hand at online dating and was in and out of there about as quickly as a guy sent into a store to buy tampons. I went on an actual date with an actual guy from the site, but the evening proceeded in situational-comedy style, including me being kicked underneath the table at least twice, without either acknowledgment or apology. And I found more interest in the Royals game on the TV than I did in my companion, which should’ve sent him a strong message because this was about four days before the All-Star Break, and the Royals were in a losing spiral leading up to the break. My date, however, was so bad at reading social cues that he actually asked me to take a walk and get ice cream after dinner, apparently thinking the night was going wellIt would be my luck that my attempt to pay more attention to a baseball game than to my date would be interpreted as me being an into-sports type of girl rather than a not-into-him type of girl. I guess I should’ve fixed my rapt interest on something clearly less engaging, like counting the number of hipsters who passed on the street, walking alongside their fixed-gear bikes. (Can’t make it up that hill, huh? Serves you right, trend-chasing suckers.)

I also tried the traditional blind-date route. My grandpa had a guy in mind for me, sort of. That phone call actually started like this: “Audra, I have a date for you. [My friend’s] grandson is a very nice man, and he’s married.” Yes, that’s really what Grandpa said, but as it turned out, the only involvement the married grandson had in the situation was offering up the name of his single friend. Grandpa quickly surrendered my phone number to the grandson for delivery to the friend, and several days later, I ignored a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize and listened to a garbled and static-filled message from a guy whose name I couldn’t make out. This must be Grandpa’s guy. I shot him a text by way of response. He immediately asked if he could see me the next night. I said I preferred to get to know him a bit before we jumped into the going-on-a-date part. He said okay and then asked to meet the following weekend. Not exactly what I had in mind, but of course, I was fresh off the online-dating scene, in which you exchange about a hundred messages and then about a thousand texts before you graduate to actually meeting. He seemed nice, and his hadn’t-been-updated-for-three-years Facebook picture was flattering enough, but he was chomping at the bit, whereas I was meandering through the meadow and munching dandelions, so we never ended up meeting.

There was one more short-lived, fairly ridiculous, and awfully humorous evening during which I got hit on somewhat aggressively by a pretty intoxicated out-of-towner one night when I was out with my married friends and was clearly the single wolf in the pack.

When I realized how little fun I was having trying to wrangle dates and meet new guys, I shut down the online profile and took myself off the market, telling myself I was (am) perfectly capable of meeting a guy in real life, in a normal scenario, where we introduce ourselves to each other on our own impetus rather than someone else’s. And then I spent most of the summer going to Royals games and forgetting about real boys because I had an attractive first baseman (and third baseman, and left fielder, and right fielder, and a coupla pitchers) to set my sights on and fantasize about meeting in various places around town, including (but in no way limited to) the stadium itself.

Because the Royals suck (and have sucked for so many years), Kauffman has perfected the art of gimmicky fan promotions in an attempt to boost attendance. Therefore, I have been at the park this year for various events and attractions such as Buck Night (which is also Fireworks Friday), Mizzou Night, K-State Night, KU Day, Family FunDay (every Sunday), Oktoberfest, and more. In August, I found out via the Royals Twitter feed that Singles’ Night at the K was coming up. I abhor singles’ events, just to throw that out there. The desire I had to be at the stadium on Singles’ Night was driven by only one overriding ambition: my goal of going to 20 games this year. Perhaps luckily and unluckily, I already had a conflict written on my calendar for that night: I had to lead community group. Darn.

Several days before the event, a (single, female) friend texted and asked if I knew about Singles’ Night and whether I wanted to go. This got me thinking about whether there was a way I actually could go. The church my community group is rooted in (even though most of us don’t actually attend that church, including me, the group’s leader) just had a community group revival kickoff party in August to attempt to drum up new business or renew old interest in this particular aspect of the church’s ministry efforts. Then the thought occurred to me, What better way to invite new people to experience our community group than a relaxed outing in a nonthreatening environment, say, at a baseball game?

I was, of course, fully aware of my ulterior motives in trying to kill two birds with one stone by upping my baseball game attendance count and also conducting my previously-committed-to community group meeting. But I wasn’t so attached to the idea of the baseball game that I would’ve abandoned community group altogether, so I emailed the core regulars and asked them what they thought about going to the game that night. Everybody except one emailed back and said they were down, so that became the plan. When the actual night rolled around, however, I gathered the carpool group on my porch, simply to find that only one from my community group had shown up. Everyone else had flaked. Luckily, I’d invited another friend, who invited another friend, who invited another friend, so we ended up with a group of five, and coincidentally, we were all female. I had asked my friend Toni to curl my hair all fancy-like, and she did (and did a fantastic job), and then we headed out to the park, peppering the drive with a few jokes about the fact that it was Singles’ Night and the grand plans we had for snagging cute guys.

Then we got to the park, got our five-dollar tickets (?!) – thanks, guy in line behind us, for the BOGO coupons – and headed up to our seats, at which point I promptly forgot all about meeting a guy. How could I focus on that when 1) the baseball game was about to start, and 2) the Royals were trying that night to complete a three-game sweep of our division leaders? (We are rapidly snowballing toward the postseason, after all.) Exactly. I couldn’t.

Right after we trekked and climbed to our very-high-up, very-far-out seats and were about to sit down, the section usher came down and suggested we move infield a few sections. He made it seem like he was doing us a favor, but really I think he was supposed to patrol multiple sections, and, since we were the only ones out that far, he didn’t want to have to traipse all the way over there all night just to check that we weren’t… I dunno, spitting sunflower seeds or peanut shells onto unsuspecting fans in the lower deck or something. So we humored him and moved a few sections over.

We were down at the bottom of the upper level, right in front of the railing. It was my friend Toni’s first MLB game ever, and things hadn’t gotten underway just yet. She was very excited to be there and to see all the pre-game festivities. She took quite a few pictures and then spent the rest of her time standing up and leaning over the railing to see as much as she could. All of this was fine, until the game started. At which point, when Toni was still standing up at the railing (and I next to her, to explain the game and answer her questions), the usher came down again and asked us to take our seats so the people behind us could see. We apologized and obeyed. The game got started and moved along at a swell pace.

A few innings in, one of the girls in our group, Kimberly, pulled out some snacks to share. In the spirit of making them accessible to the entire row, she set them on the concrete part of the wall/railing in front of her, which, when noticed, brought the usher to our section once again. I felt embarrassed at this point, and probably blushed, because I’m not really used to calling so much disciplinary attention to myself. I also felt that I, as the resident stadium-etiquette expert (for 2012, anyway), should’ve recognized these peccadilloes for what they were and extinguished them before an authority figure had to. But, lo and behold, I cared more about the baseball game than what rules my compatriots might be flouting.

On the usher’s fourth descent to our seats, I began to feel like a child in a dunce cap. However, this time, he said, he wasn’t coming to say anything to us; he merely had to stand in the aisle for a bit to give the appearance of good patrolling. I sighed with relief and said to him, “Sorry we’ve been such troublemakers tonight” and flashed a shy smile.

He smiled back and said, “Trust me, you haven’t. I’ve had much, much worse.”

It was only when he smiled that I realized he was actually quite attractive. After he left his post and went to stand guard elsewhere, I turned to Toni and told her I thought he was cute and had already surreptitiously checked his hand and found no ring. Toni immediately went into wingwoman mode and started offering up the various options I had for execution of continued flirtation. I laughed her off but kept a peripheral eye on him for the next couple of innings. After all, I had nothing to lose, it was Singles’ Night, and my hair was all done up! (Kimberly had made a jesting comment earlier in the night about how I could be “one of the super-pretty girls who gets on the big screen,” since they only seem to show dancing children, extremely old people, or really pretty women. Alas, despite my lustrous, flowing curls, the cameras did not make their way to our section that night, not even when we all stood up and swayed back and forth while we sang the Garth Brooks song.)

Pretty soon, the game was nearing the 7th inning, which meant I was nearing the end of my chances to get something started with the Attractive Baseball Stadium Usher (ABSU). Some of the girls had gotten some food earlier, and the trash was under our seats. Lame and transparent an excuse as it was, I decided to get up and throw it away myself. Unfortunately, this task only took about forty-five seconds, and ABSU was nowhere in or around our section during the time I ascended the steps and stepped out to the trashcan. (Since when do they put them right outside the concourse entrances? I remember times of having to hunt for them, walking around aimlessly with a pile of trash just because I can’t find a fricking bin!) So I returned to my seat without talking to him.

In the top of the 8th inning, I decided to try again. Toni suggested I visit the restroom. I nodded and said, “I could pee.” Again, as I exited, ABSU was nowhere to be seen, but I figured I could waste enough time in the restroom that he’d appear again before I got back to my seat.

Sure enough, when I came out of the restroom and headed back to my seat, I had to pass right by him, so close that it would’ve been absurd not to stop and flirt. So I stopped. I stuttered for half a second then opened with, “So… What are some of the worst fan experiences you’ve had?” He turned toward me, smiled, and immediately regaled me with no fewer than three horror stories of drunk fans who had either thrown up (on themselves and on strangers) or peed right in the seats.

I smiled and laughed and OMG’ed in all the right places, acting appropriately scandalized and sympathetic in turn. When that topic died down, I checked the game, saw that the White Sox were still up to bat in the top of the same inning, and started him on another track of conversation. We talked baseball and the Royals mostly, as well as the particulars of the stadium itself and some of the other requirements of his job. Then the Royals recorded the third out and were coming up to bat, which I didn’t want to miss, so I ended the conversation by giving him my name and asking his then returned to my seat, where Toni was all aflutter with accolades for my successful execution of her Faux-Restroom Flirtation Mission.

The game got so exciting after that, I almost forgot about ABSU. Until Eric Hosmer’s walkoff RBI single to score Dyson in the 9th and complete the White Sox sweep, that is. Then I looked around for ABSU so I could 1) chat with him on my way out about the great win, 2) tell him goodbye, and 3) try to work up the courage to ask him for his phone number.

Toni had a slew of wingwoman suggestions for this scenario too, one of which involved me writing my phone number on my game ticket and slipping it to him as we left the stands. I refused this idea, though, because I like saving my game tickets. They make great bookmarks. Besides that, nobody had a pen. I resolved to just be brave and ask him straight out.

I walked toward him across a row of seats as my girlfriends ascended the opposite set of stairs to the exit. He saw me coming and flashed that smile once again (boy, I’m a sucker for a good smile). I thought for a millisecond that I might not make it all the way over there. Then I remembered that I’ve never fainted in my whole life and reminded myself that, to faint, you actually have to be feeling weak and lightheaded, neither of which I was; just excited and nervous. (Sorry; no southern-belle hysterics for me.)

ABSU spoke first. “Wasn’t that a great win? How ’bout that Hosmer, huh?” I nodded enthusiastically and immediately launched into a diatribe about the horrendous season Hosmer has had and how much it warms my heart when he does something clutch like that to redeem himself (he’s had more than a few of those shining moments over the course of his mostly disappointing season). ABSU agreed heartily with everything I said, and then the conversation flatlined. It was very clearly time to make my move and/or say goodbye.

I completely lost my nerve and blurted out, “Well, it was really nice to meet you. Have a great night.” He echoed the sentiment, and then I walked up the stairs with the feeling that he was watching me go.

When I got to the top and was near the exit, I asked myself once again, What have you got to lose? I took a deep breath and turned around. He was about halfway up the steps behind me, and he saw me turn around and come back down. I began to stutter again when I reached him (what’s with the sudden speech impediment?) and did my best Carly Rae Jepsen: “Uh, this might be dumb, but… Could I maybe…have your phone number?”

He smiled immediately (again), appeared flattered but not totally surprised, and said, “Sure.” Then he rattled it off while I punched it into my phone. Then I thanked him, said goodbye (again), and left.

I spent the rest of the night on an adrenaline high, full of many emotions. Relief that I wasn’t rejected. Pride about my ability to be brave. Confidence about the fact that I was, as I texted a friend, “back” [in the game]. Vanity about the boundless power my curled hair might contain. Excitement about a new dating prospect. Hope that there do exist other guys in the world (other than The Ex, that is) who love baseball. (After the breakup, I kind of let myself sink into the depressing mire of the idea that I had unearthed [and subsequently released] the world’s only unmarried baseball – and not just baseball, but Royals! – fan. Do not mock me. We have all painted ourselves into corners filled with absurdly untrue messages.)

The next day I agonized over when to contact ABSU, and how. I polled the Facebook masses, who mostly said to call but who also mostly seemed to misunderstand the context, either thinking it was *I* who was expecting to be called or texted (or had possibly already been called or texted), or that this was a much more advanced acquaintance than it really was. So I mostly disregarded everyone’s advice because I’ve found that the oldest piece of writing wisdom in the proverbial book – Write what you know – usually works best in any life situation. Modify it to fit your context, but basically, be yourself. And calling isn’t me.

Also on that day, the Day After, I got a piece of mail from the library announcing October library events. One such event is a public-speaking engagement by Frank White, former Royals player and true club legend. Being the advance planner (and also the look-too-far-ahead and hope-for-too-much) girl that I am, I penciled in my imaginary first date with ABSU for this specific event. It would be perfect. It would be a public setting, and it would be something that featured the one thing we already knew we had in common. Could this be any more perfect? Obviously God was telling me to marry this guy.

I waited one more day and then texted him Saturday afternoon, the two-days-later mark. I was clever and light and friendly. I mentioned the game the night before, which I’d been at again, and which we’d won again. I also left things wide open for continued communication. Approximately fifteen minutes passed before my phone buzzed with his response. I laughed before I read it because, knowing only his first name when I added his number to my phone, the text showed up as being from “[First Name] From the K.” Oh yeah. Totally marriage bound.

He started off really amicably. “Hey! It’s good to hear from you!” (Notice: Two exclamation points.) Then he responded to my quips about the previous night’s game with a couple of light and sarcastic jokes of his own. (So far, so good. I’m already planning how to answer next – I’ll ask him to meet for coffee next week.) Then the Weird bomb dropped: “I should probably go ahead and tell you this up front. I have a girlfriend. I think you seem really awesome, and it was great meeting you, but she probably wouldn’t like it if I continued to talk to you. :(”

[Insert record-skid sound here.]

Holy mixed messages. On one hand, my eye seems to be able to focus only on certain words, like “you…really awesome” and “great meeting you,” and yeah, he said we shouldn’t keep talking, but he added a sadface. And what about the two exclamation points at the beginning?! But on the other hand, I also can’t ignore the words “girlfriend” and “but” and “can’t keep talking [sadface].”

Now I feel another onslaught of emotions. Rejection, first and foremost. Deflated balloon. Wounded ego. Hurt pride. Disappointed hopes. Anger. Annoyance. Self-righteousness.

So what do I do? I delete his number and the texts and then get on Facebook to publicly decry men.

All’s well that ends weird…or something like that. Bring on the next round.

7 Comments

Filed under baseball, bloggy, experimental, irreverent, sentimental, writing exercises

The Thing About Adult Breakups

I have good news and bad news. Which do you want first? Bad? Wise choice. Like a Band-Aid.

The bad news is, you’re not allowed to look at the post just before this one anymore and think, Aw, what a cute couple! That’s because LF and I are no longer a couple.

The good news is, I’ve written a new blog post! Okay, so I guess you already knew the good news, or you wouldn’t be here. Pretty lame good news, huh? Should I try again? How about, I’m back on the market! (Is it good news that I’m back on the market? Yes? No? Too soon? Oh, how would you know, I haven’t even told you when we broke up!)

Speaking of that term, back on the market, why do we refer to ourselves as if we are pieces of real estate, to be fixed up and sold to the person who makes the highest offer? I feel less like a renovated, freshly painted house that is ready for a new buyer and more like a college frat house the day after an end-of-semester party: crushed beer cans and red plastic cups all over my floor, Mardi Gras beads hanging from my chandeliers, ripped bras slung over banisters, and porn DVDs still playing, even though no one’s around to watch them. (How do I know these are the normal characteristics of a post-party frat house? Duh. I watched all four seasons of Greek on Netflix last year.)

The thing is, though, when you’re an adult, no matter how it makes you feel inside, breaking up is not allowed to be the drama festival it once was (unless maybe you get cheated on – I wouldn’t know, thank goodness). My point is, it usually happens quietly, without fanfare, and without being too drawn out. And then life goes on. Your friends are supportive for a few days, and then, whether you’re prepared, things pretty much return to normal. You’re not expected to be the melancholy, morose, angst-filled, never-leaving-the-house personality you were when this happened at 16 years of age. I know my friends are tired of hearing me wax on about everything that went wrong or everything I could have done differently. In fact, they’re already talking about “fixing me up” with someone else. There’s that real estate language again. “Hey, wanna date my friend Audra? She’s what you’d call a fixer-upper, but I think if you’re just willing to invest enough time and energy, you’ll see she can really shine.” Yeah. Encouraging. But maybe it’s not actually that far from the truth. After all, who doesn’t feel a little (and often a lot) beat up after a breakup?

So, for better or worse, whether I feel 100% marketable again, here I am, thrust back into the single world as forcibly as babies are thrust into the world when they are first born. (During a conversation with friends recently, one asked what babies can possibly have nightmares about. Another quipped without missing a beat, “Birth.”) Birth and breakups, man. It’s rough stuff. And it’s no wonder nobody wants to keep doing it.

So why, therefore, I do keep doing it is a mystery to everyone, except perhaps my therapist. Although, if it’s not a mystery to her, she has yet to enlighten me. Probably because she needs me to keep paying her.

In order to trick myself into fully embracing my new status, I’ve compiled an exhaustive pros and cons list about the single life. (I realize that including cons isn’t exactly uplifting, but who ever writes only a pros list? It’s all about balance, people.)

Pro: Get to meet new and interesting people again.
Con: Have to start doing my hair again.

Pro: Get to smile encouragingly at cute guys who look at my left hand to see if there’s a ring (where before, of course, I tried to avoid eye contact with anyone who looked in the general direction of the left side of my body).
Con: Have to dig through my old jewelry to find the decoy ring I use in emergency eye-contact situations.

Pro: Get to be close friends with guys again.
Con: Have to watch out for their wives and girlfriends again.

Pro: Can choose for myself the amount of sports I want to watch/listen to.
Con: Have to go back to using Google for sports trivia answers.

Pro: Don’t have to worry about what is going on this weekend.
Con: That’s because nothing is going on this weekend.

Pro: Don’t have to try to explain feelings I don’t understand.
Con: Don’t have anyone to tell me things will work out okay in the end.

Pro: Don’t have to worry about my dog and his lack of personal-space boundaries offending someone.
Con: May have to send my dog to therapy for separation-anxiety issues and lack of closure (he didn’t get to say goodbye).

Pro: Get to be spontaneous again and say yes to everything or no to anything.
Con: Have to start counting wheels again and try to avoid being a third or fifth or seventh.

Pro: Don’t have to offer to split the bill anymore.
Con: Can’t eat out as often because nobody’s picking up my tab.

Pro: I’ve now gone to couples’ counseling with two different boyfriends and have learned a lot about myself and relationships.
Con: I have become the girl who drags her boyfriends to couples’ counseling before they’ve even talked about marriage.

Pro: Get to have leftovers again after cooking.
Con: Eat the same thing for three days straight because I have leftovers again after cooking.

In all seriousness, we really did break up, and breakups really are sad, and ours is no exception. But we are on good terms, and there’s nothing more you can hope for in a situation like that, is there? LF, if you’re reading this, I hope that bit I just said (about us being on friendly terms and all that) is still true now that you’ve gotten to the end of this post! I started this paragraph with “in all seriousness,” but I’m going to end it with a kind admonition: Don’t take yourself too seriously. Otherwise you’ll never survive any breakups, or even any of life’s true joys. Peace.

12 Comments

Filed under bloggy, experimental, irreverent, sentimental, writing exercises

Tales of the Photographically Impaired

To fully appreciate this post, I recommend a visit to my friend Reese’s blog to read her delightfully humorous post on taking pictures with boys. If you are a Cliff’s Notes (or, for the younger generation, Wikipedia) type of person, you’re in luck. I’m going to quote the relevant parts here. I also want to note before we begin, for no other reason than that it seems noteworthy, that this will be the very first time I have ever posted a picture on my blog. I hope you’re as excited as I am.

Reese has blogged previously about her trouble with getting the men in her life to take decent pictures, and if she is able to secretly snap a picture at a moment when they are unintentionally looking completely normal and (dare we hope?) even mildly attractive, it’s usually on her twenty-seventh try that said acceptable-looking picture gets taken. I have to say, I empathize with her completely because I have made similar such attempts, which is why I have pictures of my boyfriend that look like this:

I realize I look crazy in this picture too. Trust me, this was attempt #8, and nobody can keep their good face on that long.

This is what I have to work with.

Reese’s chief complaint is that, as a twosome, she and her husband, in their newlywed state, have no easy way to photograph themselves doing all the newlywed things they do. To quote her:

Option #1: Ask a stranger to take your picture.
Am I the only one who is secretly afraid the stranger is going to take off with my camera? I’m not even kidding. It crosses my mind every single time, and now that I have a “fancy” camera, I’m even more concerned. The other problem is that 90% of strangers don’t know how to take a decent picture. Why is this?

Dear strangers, All I want is a centered photo that isn’t chopping off our heads and doesn’t have your finger in the corner from accidentally covering the lens. I don’t feel like this is too much to ask. Oh, and yes, you can zoom in sometimes. I don’t want a photo that’s mostly sidewalk from half a mile away. Thank you.

To this, I say Reese, you are not alone. I too get nervous about strangers taking off with my camera. But if you think about it, I mean, really, where are they going to go? They’re standing just a few feet away. There’s no possible way they can take off and get far enough in a space of two seconds that I can’t catch them. I mean, what are these, track and field Olympians plotting to steal my camera? I figure, in the event that a stranger tries to steal my camera and happens not to be an Olympian, I’ll have enough angry adrenaline and indignation to catch the guy.

See? Adrenaline.

However, on the other hand, I have been that stranger asked to take someone else’s picture. Do you people realize how much pressure this can be? Everyone has different photography goals and hopes as well as different photographing implements. I have no idea what is expected of me when strangers place into my hands a camera – the specific model of which I have never held before that precise moment – and ask me to take their picture. So my thought process, as I struggle to meet the strangers’ demands, usually goes somewhat like this:

What kind of background do they want? Do they want a landscape photo or portrait? How much zoom is too much? Do they want any skyline? If so, how much? Where is the lens, so I can be sure my finger isn’t covering it? There is some pretty cool stuff in the background around here. Will they get mad if I put them on the side of the shot for the sake of capturing some of this cool stuff, or do they want to be the complete, absolute center of the photo? Do they appreciate artsy, or are they traditional? Where the heck is the “take picture” button anyway? Is the flash on? Should the flash be on? Uh-oh, now my hands are shaking. Crap, the picture’s going to be blurry. Cripes, I’m taking way too long to take this stinking picture! They probably think I’m contemplating how to run off with this stupid camera. Ahhhhh! Just snap the dang picture and be done with it!

And that is why 90% of the strangers’ photos I take come out looking…however they look.

Reese also complains about the idea of using the timer.

Option #3: Use your camera timer.
List of concerns: Let’s be honest. This usually either fails completely or takes no less than five tries, during which time Jordan gets sick of posing and starts complaining. There’s also the issue of finding a good spot to place the camera so a) everything is centered and b) your camera won’t fall and break into a million tiny pieces.

I have to say, I have no rebuttal to this one. Reese is right on. Personally, I’ve completely given up on using the timer. In fact, I get even more concerned about my camera being stolen while I’m using the timer than I do when it’s actually in a stranger’s hands. I mean, someone could just get a running start and swipe the thing while the ol’ bf and I are busy trying to time our blinks before the flashing red light gets going too fast and we get stuck with our mouths open and our eyes closed. I am fairly confident I would not be able to catch up with a camera thief who got a running start, no matter how much angry adrenaline fueled my pursuit speed.

As if these inherent struggles weren’t enough to make us want to quit, LF and I have our own pathetic issues to add to the mix – like, for instance, the fact that neither of us owned a camera in the beginning of our relationship. Even though that issue was remedied somewhat early on (LF bought himself one, and I got one for Christmas), LF gained two new problems:

1) His batteries don’t hold charge, and he’s unwilling to buy new batteries that would hold charge because he got “such a good deal” on these batteries that don’t hold charge.

2) In the event that we do get some working batteries, the camera invariably gets left at home.

And, even though I was given a camera for Christmas, I have yet to snap a single picture with it, also for two reasons:

1) The memory card I found in the bottom of a drawer was full of all the Australia pictures I thought I’d lost forever when my last computer was stolen the day my house was broken into a couple years ago. It wasn’t until last week that I finally transferred all the pictures from the memory card to the computer I have now and wiped the memory card clean.

2) It wasn’t until last week, after transferring the pictures from the memory card to my computer and giving the new camera a whirl for the first time, that I discovered I can’t figure out how to actually work my camera. I gave up in frustration after several failed attempts and haven’t tried again since.

And so, these obstacles (plus the aforementioned frustrations that accompany two reasonably intelligent and competent camera-wielding people [i.e., not LF and me]) are the main reason we go to great lengths to get other people to take pictures of us with their cameras…

…which is why we I consider any and all pictures we are both tagged in on Facebook to be pictures of us as a couple, even if said pictures were taken six months before we actually were a couple (or even friends)…

Photo Credit: J.R. Caines

Photo Credit: J.R. Caines

…and how we ended up entering (and winning!) a contest for a free engagement shoot, even though we are not engaged.


But, even though we are complete camera losers and are to be pitied (and perhaps ashamed of ourselves), and even though we go to this much trouble just to get a cute picture, don’t you think those last two prove that it’s worth it?

14 Comments

Filed under bloggy, experimental, irreverent, sentimental, writing exercises

A Christmas Tale

One of the presents LF gave me this past Christmas was a brand-new, down-feather pillow. At first I was confused. Then LF said, “A few weeks ago you said you wanted a new pillow. Remember?”

“Vaguely.”

“You actually said you wanted a memory-foam pillow, but…”

I was trained from a young age to appear grateful for any gift, regardless of how I actually felt. After trying to instill the idea in me that thank-you notes are always appropriate, my mother was appalled one year to read one I wrote to her boss that said, “Thank you for the doll, but what I really wanted was a Barbie.”

So now I was faced with a new pillow I didn’t remember claiming to want, and then I was told it wasn’t even the kind of pillow I couldn’t remember wanting. And yet, in this still fairly new relationship – this was only the second time he’d ever had to give me a gift, after all – I wanted to encourage the effort. He even mentioned that if I didn’t like it, we could take it back and exchange it, but exchanging gifts isn’t something I grew up doing. So I said thank you and took the pillow upstairs to my room.

Two days later, I joined LF and his family for their Christmas celebration, where, of all the gifts given that afternoon, I counted at least four that the receivers indicated they would take to the store and exchange for something else. Not something else entirely, mind you; just something in a different color or make or size or style. I walked away from that gathering with a whole new perspective on gift exchange. To the LF family, exchanging wasn’t cause for hurt feelings; it was assurance that a gift was given that would be liked and used.

So, a few days later, when LF asked me whether I’d tried my pillow yet and if I’d made a decision about whether I wanted to exchange it, I admitted that I hadn’t yet taken it out of the plastic wrapping. I did so that night and immediately remembered why I don’t like down-feather pillows. The feathers sometimes poke you sharply in the face, and your head sinks in the middle, all the way down to the mattress, as if there is no pillow at all. And God forbid you try to turn your head to the side (if you’re on your back) because the sinking in the middle leads to the uprising of the ends so that you either get stabbed in the eye or completely suffocated.

The next day I told LF penitently, “I don’t really like the pillow. I’m sorry, but down is just not my thing.”

He took it in stride and promised to get me a memory-foam pillow instead. I gave the pillow back to him and let the matter drop. Then in early January, my mom wanted to get me a late Christmas gift and asked what I would like. I told her I wanted a memory-foam pillow so I could eventually have a matching set. We found a great sale at Kohl’s and spent about seven minutes assessing the selection before I chose one.

A few more weeks went by, and I enjoyed the memory-foam pillow and began to get excited about the second one coming. Sometime in February, LF and I perused memory-foam pillows together. I had a tough time deciding between a contoured pillow and a hybrid pillow that appeared to have the semi-firmness of memory foam but was actually filled with down. Why I was again considering a down pillow, I don’t know. I chose the contoured memory foam.

We took it home, and I pillowcased it and slept on it that night and then a couple more nights, until LF asked me how I liked it. This time I was more ready to reject it because he kept saying, “I want you to have a nice pillow that you love.” I told him it was too stiff and that it felt like my head was on an elevated rock.

I suggested maybe the hybrid pillow. LF dutifully took the second pillow back. A few weeks passed, and then one day in March I came home and found the hybrid pillow on my bed, with a note.

GF, If your life is anything like Goldilocks’s, then this pillow will be just right. -LF

I smiled and went through the pillowcasing routine with the new recruit. I also made a mental promise to myself that, no matter what, this pillow would be the One. I was beginning to feel guilty for all the rigamarole and suspected that I had crossed a line in gift-exchanging etiquette. So I would not be exchanging this pillow.

Later, when I got in bed, I lay back in slow motion, intentionally drawing out my anticipation. I put my head on the pillow, nestled down into it, and sat right back up. “This is all wrong,” I said out loud. The dog lifted his head from the foot of the bed and looked at me. Then he put his head back down and sighed. I sighed too and lay back down, hoping I’d feel different in the morning.

Morning came, and I felt icky. You know how you feel when you wake up and realize you’ve been drooling? Or if you had a really messy, outdoorsy day and went to bed without taking a shower? That’s how I felt. And my heart sank because I knew I was stuck with this pillow.

A couple of days went by, and I ended up finally switching the pillow out for the memory-foam pillow on the other side of the bed so I could get some decent sleep. But I was laden with guilt over the fact that I was keeping my dissatisfaction secret from LF. I also despaired whenever I looked down the road at a long, depressing future with a pillow I had too hastily committed to.

One night, I said, “LF, I have something to tell you.”

“Okay…”

“I don’t want to tell you. I feel terrible about it. I am the worst girlfriend ever, and I am so sorry.”

“Ummm…”

“I hate the pillow. It’s the worst one yet, and I can’t sleep with it, and I don’t know what I want, and I’m so sorry, I’m the worst gift receiver EVER.”

LF stared at me for a moment and then burst out laughing.

“Why are you laughing at me?”

“Because you’re being ridiculous.”

We were on his couch, and I leaned back to lie down. My head met with a pillow he keeps on his couch, and I was instantly transported somewhere ethereal, where angels sing and harps strum themselves. “THIS IS IT,” I shouted.

“What are you talking about?”

“This pillow! It’s the one!”

LF laughed again and said, “Really?”

“Yes. I need this pillow. Can I have this pillow?”

“No. I want you to have a new one.”

“But LF, this is the pillow. I need this pillow.” By this time I am pretty sure I had a crazed look in my eyes, not unlike a pregnant woman demanding food.

“Okay, okay. You can have that pillow. But it’s just temporary, until I can buy you a new one just like it.”

I took the pillow home that night and slept blissfully. The next day LF asked me how things had gone, and I told him. He said, “Let’s give it some time just to be sure.”

Weeks passed, and my feelings didn’t change. So a few nights ago, LF brought me the fourth pillow. After he left, I was stationed on the couch, getting my Netflix on, the pillow beside me, still in the plastic wrap. At some point, the dog settled himself right on top of the pillow, which catalyzed this text conversation:

Me: Dog loves the new pillow.

LF: How do YOU feel about it?

Me: I dunno yet. He’s been hogging it.

I was not in the least disappointed when I finally laid my head down that night. I have no idea what is inside that pillow, what it’s made of, or how to describe how wonderful and perfect it is. But it just is.

I may not be Goldilocks, but at least I have a happy ending. (Now if only I could get my hands on that overdue Valentine’s Day gift…)

10 Comments

Filed under bloggy, sentimental