A Double Standard

Wednesday, March 31, 2010
When I react negatively to an email I get from some guy I’ve started seeing everyone around me - men and women - encourages me not to judge so harshly. Its suggested that I give him the benefit of the doubt, that I read between the lines to come to an alternative, more preferable version of what his email means. I’m reminded that men don’t think about what they write (and apparently don’t spell check), and how they don’t want to come on too strong or are afraid of rejection.

Now when I write emails, or respond to the aforementioned undesired email, I typically ask someone to proof it first because I want to make sure it has the right tone. The feedback that I receive usually includes the phrases “that sounds harsh” or “you don’t want to crush his ego”, encouraging me to soften the language and make the email more upbeat… never mind what I’m actually feeling.

Uh, double standard much? I’m supposed to run through several iterations of what some guy really “meant” to say with his email because I might be misinterpreting it but I’m also expected to create multiple iterations of my own emails to make sure that they can’t be misinterpreted by that same guy? That’s bullshit.

If I have to think about word choice and tone and worry about how my interest level might be construed, then so should the men I am writing to. They can’t have it both ways - if they aren’t going to pay attention to what they’re writing, then neither am I.

! Note to men I’m going to date in the future: If you want me to think that you’re an intelligent individual, use correct grammar in your written communications. If you’re trying to express feelings or say “no” to something I suggest, maybe take a few minutes to read your email to see if it could be read differently than how you meant it. Adjust said email accordingly.

! Secondary note to those same men: If you get an email from me that sounds like I think you’re lame, I do. If it sounds like you’ve totally jacked things up with me and I’m not really sure I want to see you again, it’s because you have. I would see you again, though, if you could you show me that you aren’t lame, or that you’re sorry you jacked things up.

There are plenty of traditional male/female roles that I think have value, but the ability to communicate effectively isn’t one of them. I'll say it to my friend's toddlers and I'll say it to you. Use your words.

I (Don’t) Hate It When That Happens

Saturday, March 27, 2010
I’m back from vacation, which means I should be excited about getting my 2nd date on the books with The Gentleman. Monday I saw him online, and sent an IM hello, but he dropped back offline before responding. And that night I sent him a text message, that I was back – with key chain – and would try to call him later as I had after work plans. And then I just didn’t. Didn’t call, didn’t email, didn’t text.

I find in early dating if I don’t talk to my new interest regularly I lose interest. This seems to happen no matter how into a guy I seemed initially, the longer the gap between talking the harder it seems to get over that hump of starting up conversation again.

I hate it when that happens, especially because there are a plenty of valid reasons why you wouldn’t be able to communicate with someone frequently when you meet him. Like because you are on vacation.

But it isn’t just the lack of talking, sometimes it’s difficulty in scheduling that pushes you and your maybe new boyfriend apart. You want to get together, you just can’t seem to successfully do so. This happened before my vacation with The Gentleman, I threw out day and evening options but none of them seemed to align with his non-standard (and seemingly impossible to decipher) schedule.

I hate it when that happens, and not just because “bad timing” has been a theme in my dating since I graduated college. It is beyond frustrating to find someone you want to spend time with only to be unable to spend time with them for reasons like work, a volleyball league or children's bed times.

Then again, sometimes in early dating you find you just aren’t interested. You bump someone to 2nd date status only to clarify for yourself on that date that they won’t be making it to #3. The Gentleman didn’t reach out to me either, which probably means he isn’t that interested in me. Things have sort of petered out on their own, so I don’t have to (a) try to explain why I’m not interested and (b) feel rejected (see a).

I don’t hate it what that happens; it's the cleanest possible ending when you don't find a connection with someone. No awkward conversations, no trying to spare feelings (or wishing yours had been spared). It's ideal.

There is one loose end - figuring out what to do with that key chain. I knew I shouldn’t have bought it.

Fishing Hole Review: Social Mixers

Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Can you really meet men anywhere? People are always telling me to volunteer or join a club to meet men since I have such consistently poor luck with online dating and have sworn off dating co-workers. People who did not meet their signifanct others at such places, mind you, are making these suggestions.

I’m nothing if not open minded, so rather than join a team for a sport I don’t play, I started by attending a social mixer. While the term may bring to mind visions of dance partners and spiked fruit punch it turns out the format has been modernized. A friend of a friend regularly hosts Minglers, right here in Chicago.

Here’s how she describes it:
30 to 60 diverse strangers
+ all ages, all sexualities, any relationship status
+ snacks and drinks
+ music
+ games
+ a comfy Roscoe Village home
Mac ‘n Cheese Minglers

Since it’s not specifically a single’s event I thought the vibe would be more relaxed, and I might even be able to meet some new gals pals in addition to a new romantic interest. After missing a few dates due to scheduling conflicts I finally made the guest list.

+ The event is casual and low cost ($15 + an assigned snack: appetizer, wine/beer or dessert)
+ You can attend as many Minglers as you want with a low likelihood of seeing the same folks as the hostess tries to stick to strangers on the guest list
- You only get the one shot to make a connection with someone specific, because you will likely not see them at future Minglers but
+ You can request contact information through the hostess after the event if you don’t get the opportunity at the event. There is also a Facebook page where you can hunt on your own.

+ The attendees are definitely diverse in terms of age, race, gender, careers, etc.
- You aren't guaranteed that anyone is there looking for love, and if there is, you aren't able to distinguish them from those who are attached romantically

+ There are aptly termed “mixer” games that allow you to easily start talking to anyone there
- One of the games we played had us grouped, which was great for getting to know the folks in your group better, but didn’t give you as much freedom to spend time with whoever you wanted

Final Recommendation: I had a really good time at the Mingler, but if I were to attend again I‘d keep my eye on the prize. In my attempt to “mingle” I ended up having short conversations with basically everyone there, instead of looking to meet people who I enjoyed and spending more time getting to know them. There were definitely some men I thought had potential, but I never really focused in on them. I acted more the like the host of a party than a guest with purpose.

I was contacted after the Mingler, but only for my cupcake recipe. I may attend again when the weather is nice - our real hostess has a gorgeous outdoor deck - but I’ll aim to make more of an impression this time around.

March Madness

Saturday, March 20, 2010
March Madness, a 2 ½ week period when 64 teams via for the NCAA basketball championship, is my favorite holiday. For years I’ve taken off work to watch the second day of the first round, spending the day with friends drinking beer, eating wings and watching basketball. This year was no exception, true to tradition I spent the day with B, a girlfriend, and she invited a new guy she’d been seeing to join us around lunch time. They’d only been on two dates, and she wasn’t really sure whether she was into him or not. She didn’t tell me much about him - she wanted to wait until after he’d left so I could form my own impressions.

I formed several, most notably that he was definitely into B. Although not a basketball fan, he doggedly attempted to follow along with our bracket analysis and participate in the upsets and overtimes, which I thought was admirable. He was very different from her, though. She’s outgoing, social, animated. He seemed more reserved, almost a little socially awkward. I thought he could be more interesting with practice.

During the break in the action between the afternoon and early evening games B communicated to me via looks across the table that she was ready for her date to leave. He had only planned to stay for lunch but had made no indication that he was getting ready to head out, even telling her he was thinking he’d skip his evening theatre plans. I silently communicated back that there was no good exit strategy when you’re sitting in a bar indefinitely.

B got up to use the ladies, and about a minute later her date got up and walked over to the bar to talk to our waitress. He then headed into the crowd and appeared to be leaving the bar entirely. When our waitress headed back to our table I asked her what he had talked to her about. She said he had paid our entire tab, our several hundred dollar beer and snacks tab we’d been accruing for around seven hours. He had indeed left the bar.

I relayed this to B when she came back from the ladies. She was dumbfounded, and left a voice mail for her date thanking him for his very generous (and very unnecessary) financial contribution but wondering why he left without saying anything. He responded via text that he was sorry he had left suddenly, that he’d paid the bill, and thanked her for having invited him out.

We were at a loss to explain his behavior. B shared her additional insights into this man to try and help, including that he’s very wealthy. We don’t know whether this man felt like the appropriate thing to do was to pay our entire bill (which it wasn’t) or whether he felt like he was invited so we didn’t have to pay (which is insulting), but I hope not. We are also left to wonder if this man thought that paying the bill made up for leaving without saying goodbye, which it most certainly did not. Under no circumstances is that behavior acceptable.

We do know that we were left with the cash that our other friends had left on our table for their portion of the bill. We gave our waitress a generous tip for our last few beers and split the rest between us.

I also know that I’ve finally gotten something back for having to live through the bizarreness that is dating (albeit indirectly through B). I spent 11 hours in a bar yesterday, eating and drinking, and walked away with enough cash to pay for my taxi ride home. March Madness… It really is the most wonderful time of the year.

A Small Token of My Affection

Tuesday, March 16, 2010
I unfortunately wasn’t able to make date #2 with the gentleman work before my vacation (I tried, dear readers, I really tried) but I did get a very sweet text message around the time he thought I was flying out. In the last email we exchanged after deciding we’d have to wait until I got back to see each other he told me to bring him back a key chain.

I’m sure he was kidding, but I’m thinking about buying him one. I mean, I wouldn’t necessarily have to give it to him if I didn’t want to. And having it might come in adorably handy .

Then again, what if I bought the keychain and never had the occasion to give it to The Gentleman? I’d have this stupid keychain to remind me I’d allowed my sappy side to think it was cute to buy a gift for a man I barely knew. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Years ago, when I was in the midst of on-and-off dating someone (the man who inspired the first haiku, as it happens) I happened upon some personalized panties in a boutique. They were thongs, with men’s names labeled on them. The kind of labels you’d see on a mechanic’s or trucker’s shirt. The kind of labels this man would have on his clothing. I couldn’t help it, I bought those panties, with his name and a little rhinestone, for $28.00 + tax.

Those panties are still wrapped in the tissue paper with the boutique sticker affixed, in the back of my lingerie drawer. I haven’t seen that man since before I bought them. Our together status was influenced mostly be whether or not he was in town; he almost always wasn’t due to his work. By the time he got back, I had learned the travel made him pretty selfish when it came to being a part of his family and friend’s lives. I was in better touch with him than some of his life long friends. It changed how I felt about him, I just gave up on trying to make it work.

Part of me keeps hoping I’ll date a man with the same name and can make use of them. They’re really great, sexy in a not cheesy way, they should not go to waste! And they were expensive! More expensive than the regular panties I wear. Most of me knows eventually I’ll have to throw them away, though, a foolish purchase by a foolish girl.

Still, I like the idea that I wanted to buy those panties for that man. Maybe I should start looking for a keychain for The Gentleman. At least it wouldn't be personalized.

“Safety First.”

Wednesday, March 10, 2010
My dad must have said this a thousand times throughout my childhood, and even now he still pulls it out when I’m describing some new adventure I’m going on. They’re good words to pass on to your kids – simple and to the point. I try to apply them to my life, including my dating life, and mostly I think I’m safe. My email doesn’t have my real name associated to it, I meet dates on location, I tell others where I’ll be and when possible I make friends with the bartender/bouncer/etc. in case things get way out of hand.

It’s a fine line, though. Dating requires you to share things about yourself, personal things, basically while interacting online, on the phone and in person with a complete and total stranger. You have to be careful without being paranoid. You have to maintain a safe distance without pushing your new interest away.

Take my first date with The Gentleman. We planned to meet for a drink but the details were decided on the fly, on the phone, while he was driving.

“Where do you want to meet?” he asks.
“Depends on where you are.” I respond.
“I’m just getting off at 123 Street.”
“Oh! That’s basically three blocks from my place,” I say, thinking Crap! I’ve still got jammy pants on.
“I could swing by and pick you up.”
“Uh, sure” I say, as alarm bells start sounding in my head. “Or I could just meet you…” I trail off. We haven’t decided where we’re going but we also don’t get into cars with men we don’t know.

I agree to be picked up, giving directions to my place (which I normally withhold until date #2, excluding make out dates, obviously) while hastily slapping on lip gloss and better pants. I figure if he or the car looks shady I can find a way to decline.

He isn’t; shady that is, and neither is his very expensive and European vehicle. Not only that, he gets out into the Chicago winter to greet me and put me into my seat. I feel like a kidnapping is very unlikely so I allow him to drive me literally 2 blocks to a corner cantina (which he chose, not me). The date itself is good; we have just one drink as planned as he has somewhere to be later, and the conversation flows. He’s very attractive, engaging, and seems to find me similarly so. I bump him to 2nd date status.

We head back to my place and while idling in front of my building he asks if he can use my restroom. He’s about 20 minutes from where he’s heading and hates to ask, but the bathroom at the bar left something to be desired. He would know, he had used it approx 1 hour earlier (he WAS gone awhile). I said sure, hesitating first to think of the state my bathroom was in. He confirms it’s okay with me. Yes, I say, as long as he promises to ignore the state of things in my place. Then as we’re walking down my hallway I suddenly start thinking DANGER! My condo is a long rectangle with only one exit. What if all this politeness was an act and once he gets into my place… my thoughts trail off and I decide to stay near the door in case he tries anything. And then once he’s in the bathroom I text a friend to call me in five minutes. Not sure how this will help, but I figure it can’t hurt. As it happens, she calls as I’m walking The Gentleman to the door, after he’s asked to see me again and is kissing my cheek.

I was safe this time, The Gentleman is deserving of his nickname, but I didn’t put my safety first. Not having something bad happen after making a potentially bad decision is just lucky. I think of all the times I’ve been even less safe – plan out irresponsible – and I’m thankful that my good will, or naiveté, hasn’t been taken advantage of. I should trust the men I’m dating, but only to the extent that they’ve validate they are trustworthy. And for their part, these men should respect my boundaries, whatever they are, until we are both comfortable.

Sometimes in my rush to respond, in my desire to be liked, I forget to give myself time to think. I blow by the warning flags I see popping up. Not anymore, though. I won’t tempt the fates and push my luck. I’ll go out with The Gentleman again, but I don’t think he’ll be visiting my bathroom anytime soon.

Safety First. Love Second.

Lost in Translation

Tuesday, March 2, 2010
I never finished my Hobbes tale, mostly because I was really saddened about what had happened the week leading up to when we were going to meet up. It was something entirely different than I had thought. And it was worse. So here goes.

Hobbes had gotten a terribly mismatched impression of who I am. He’d been reading the blog as if it was me, talking to him, which of course is not what this blog is. This blog is a journal of my dating (mis)adventures, but it’s an edited journal. I write about things that I think are funny or interesting or insightful, and a lot of the time I write about the feelings I have as I’m having them. These feelings are not to be mistaken with my true feelings, which usually take some time to figure out, and which would have been explained to him directly if and when it made sense to in our relationship.

What I felt first was a tremendous sense of loss. Hobbes no longer thinks we are relationship compatible. And perhaps we aren’t, but I know that his sense of that isn’t based on a true understanding of who I am. I feel responsible for his confusion, though, and his sentiments are very difficult for me to absorb. Did I do this to myself? Did my desire to weave an engaging tale on my blog undermine the budding of a real relationship and hurt someone I care about?

I often have doubts about whether I should continue writing a blog about something that is so personal to me. I am concerned that I over analyze situations that I want to write about in order to tell a good story. I am worried that I misrepresent my true self by capturing all my fleeting and fluctuating emotions. I think it’s entirely possible that writing a dating blog is detrimental to my success at dating.

Underneath the sadness, though, was a lot of “grow up Hobbes”. True, when he told me he was no longer interested in me romantically I told him the good news was that he could keep on reading the blog. I am flattered that he did so. And yes, I probably should have thought more about how awkward it would be if he was reading it while we were actively talking about meeting up. He’s a big boy, though, and I assumed that if he chose to read the blog that he would have done so with eyes wide open. He doesn’t have to like what I think about his actions but I didn’t misrepresent them. I wasn’t passive aggressively trying to tell him things through the blog. And how could he not have expected to see something negative about himself?

Most importantly, I was disappointed that when he thought he was seeing a different version of me on the blog than in our emails that he didn’t say something to me about it, instead of coming to all these conclusions about what I expected and what I thought.

I tried to explain it to him over email. About the blog; that it’s not all true, but it’s not all false, either. About how he was taking it way too literally and should know better. And I apologized. I never meant to hurt him and I was truly sorry that he was feeling the way he was.

He wasn’t interested in me explaining in person when I was in his hood… I told him I really wanted to see him, to apologize and clear things up. He responded that it wasn’t that big of a deal.

Message received, loud and clear.