#9 Spend All Your Time Waiting

I recently got an internship, and then the holidays came, and I let this blog fall on the wayside.

My bad.

Also, I know this is TMI, but one of my tonsils swelled up and every time I swallow it’s like someone’s stabbing me in the neck with a fork. That just sucks when you’re home for a holiday where the main event is eating. I just wanted someone to feel bad for me, that’s all.

But today, today, I have a bone to pick [do people say that anymore? I’m young, but I’m not really hip]. I’m about to smack down a throw down. It’s time to call a bitch out.

I’ve got serious issues with Fate.

Fate, Destiny, God’s Will, whatever you want to call it. It doesn’t fly with me. The combination of Sofia’s reluctance to put any effort into finding a boy and the advice of all my friends about how, when I have peace with being single, a boy will suddenly appear, has created a perfect storm of outrage. And I’m about to take Destiny to task.

There’s a myth that people believe. I’m going to give you the Christian version of the myth because it’s what I’ve been hearing lately, but if you don’t share the faith, this works equally well interchanged with the amorphous Fate, True Love, whatever, and I’ll show that if you promise to hang through.

This is the conversation that frequently pops up–

Me: I’m ok with being single, but on the other hand, I’d like to not be alone anymore.

Well-meaning Friends: Don’t make a relationship an idol. God has perfect timing. Once you are at peace with not having a boyfriend, one has a funny way of turning up. God’s so funny like that!

Ok. One, this is a way convoluted view of God’s grace and goodness, turning it into some rewards-based system. That ain’t going to fly with me, honey. But two, and most importantly, this is not Biblical. People in the Bible didn’t sit around in the desert dust, going, well, I’m ok with being single, I’m 267 and never been kissed, but it’s ok. I’ve reached a state of enlightenment, and now I will be blessed with a spouse.

When Abraham was getting old, he decided it was time for his son Isaac to be a man and get a woman. So he sent his servant to his family’s family to find his son a wife. He didn’t sit Issac down, give him a man-talk about being content with being single, and then watch from the sidelines as his daughter-in-law suddenly sashayed into their lives. Dude, he even knew which TOWN that girl was coming from.

And let’s not forget the first boy and girl ever, celebrity couple Evam. [Adam and Eve need better publicists.] When God saw that Adam was moping under the apple tree, he didn’t say, “It’s ok. Just wait until you’re satisfied with being the ONLY PERSON IN THE WORLD. Then we’ll talk. I’ve got funny timing.” No way. He said, “That man needs a WOMAN,” and He made it happen. He didn’t wait for Adam to have any inner peace.

I'm not gonna lie. I'm pretty sure Adam and Eve were WAY hotter.

Look, this myth permeates our lives, whatever you believe in, God, Fate, True Love. Some people think that once you’re happy with loving yourself you’ll find someone special to love you too. Some people believe that you have a Soul Mate who will make you feel complete like a brand new puzzle. And while I don’t disagree with some underlying truths in these myths, that you should be happy with yourself, that you shouldn’t look for completion in a relationship, that you can’t let the gloominess of being alone swallow you whole, once you learn these lessons, there is no master switch to flip. It’s not like an eligible man is alerted to your new found zen via Bat Single and comes running down the street to you.

This is not an if-then truth. It’s hardly a truth at all. And it has a lot of women sitting on their hands, trying to figure out what’s wrong with THEM that they don’t have a boyfriend, what part of their personal development have the neglected, what how-to empowerment have they not discovered, what part of their faith are they failing. And that’s not ok with me. We don’t EARN boyfriends through self improvement. Love is not an ethereal myth. It’s hard work, getting out there, meeting people, getting to know them, and that’s all BEFORE the relationship starts.

I love the mystery of love, but I’m grounded. And I would much rather have a date from my new full fledged eHarmony membership than to sit around waiting for Destiny to give me a call.

Advertisements

#8 Limit Your Options

The other day the girls from my church and I were discussing boys–or our lack of [this actual causes a near crisis of faith for young Christian women. A loving God allows poverty, war, crimes against humanity, and singleness? Yeah, it seems petty of us. It is. We’re far from perfect.]

At this point my friend Rachel raises her hand.

“I have a confession,” she says. “I joined eHarmony.”

Rachel and I might soon be having eHarmony coffee dates together, complete with our laptops.

When I so recently decried the difficulty of meeting available boys, when is it time to bite the bullet? Time to succumb to the tear-jerking commercials of people finding their true love and giggling on the beach? Is there a magical age where you give up on meeting any potential man as they all appear to be already married or they disqualify themselves for some reason? A time when finding a boy who’s age appropriate and dateable becomes like a treasure hunt. After I bemoaned the difficulties of even meeting a single Dateable male, the next logical step is moving on to online dating. Welcome to the virtual meat market. I’m sorry, I meant to say village market square.

Listen, maybe the matchmakers of old didn’t have it so wrong. What’s the point in getting yourself all primped up, handshaking and flirting with a half dozen men, giving and taking phone numbers, going on risky dates, JUST to see if someone’s compatible? Especially when someone else can do all the dirty work for you.

When I turned 23 and was still single, I signed up on eHaromny–the free version, just so I could see my free matches. I just wanted to see what it was like. A little experimentation never hurt a girl. But what starts as innocent interest soon spirals into something bigger. Don’t be deceived–they, just like any old matchmaker, are a business selling a product–and it’s a big one. Love. It’s an easy web to get caught in.

So I scan some matches, see some that are intriguing, and then, there are the free communication weekends. Sometimes I get in touch with these guys. Maybe I’ve gone on a date once or twice.

But there is something that makes me hesitate about online dating. Rachel articulated it perfectly. She is also a literature lover, captivated by life stories, and she confessed that she doesn’t want to look at her future children and say, “Well, honey, Daddy saw Mommy’s profile picture, and he thought she was really cute so he sent her an Icebreaker! So she sent him some multiple choice questions back, and before we knew it we were emailing!”

Blech.

And then there’s my friend Sofia, who we tried to cheerlead into signing up on eHarmony, but sat to the side texting the entire time my friend and I tried to engage her on the process. But Sofia has never had a boyfriend and wants one, so it stumps me as to why she’s so cynical a road as of yet untraveled.

Is that person you're texting going to date you? Let's get flexible, Sofia. Life is not a romantic comedy.

And honestly, how is an online website meet-cute story any worse than many other stories? Anne and Tim recently told me excitedly about a guy they had recently met–“He’s tall, a law student, and his name is… Graham? Graham!” I know less about Graham than I do after reading anyone’s profile on eHarmony, and yet I’m just as excited to meet him. Will that be a better story? “Mommy’s best friend knew she was desperate, so she kept thrusting her at any single man she met along the way.” Or how about the guy I stalk at my completely platonic guy friend’s office? “Mommy asked her friend Harvey if he knew any single guys, then she dropped by their office every week for six months until Daddy asked her out.”

Then again, I’m still on the free version of eHarmony. See, for those of us who can’t commit to ordering a subscription to an online dating website, maybe we’re just not ready for a real committed relationship either.

#7 Never Meet Anyone

Meeting a Dateable Boy is half the challenge.

Even though I think there are three major challenges to starting a relationship, these three problems don’t have equal weight. The first obstacle, actually meeting a boy, is the most difficult one to overcome. Especially after college, meeting a single, age appropriate boy is like getting to swim with Shamoo. Exciting *and* a little risky.

In a post collegiate stage of life, in our emerging adulthood (aka prolonged adolescent) stage, what is the best way to mingle and mix? When we’re no longer quarantined in classrooms with co-eds of similar age and interests, how do we go forth and conquer? Once we’ve graduated and left all our clubs and societies and drunk dial make out buddies in the rearview mirror, where can we turn?

The most obvious answer is to Pam and Jim it, meeting, falling in love, pretending you aren’t in love, and eventually marrying someone from your work place. Of course, depending on what field you’ve chosen to work in, there may not be a whole lot of Dateables where you work. I was smart enough to pick an industry that’s powered by young men [this backfires when it comes to employment equality and general sexism. Hey, nothing’s ever free]. However, once you meet someone where you work, the question of work place ethics may [or may not] come into play. Earlier this month I was talking with a film industry friend about his stagnated relationship with a girl from a film set we had all worked on in July. AKA, they were still just friends, despite interest from both parties.

“I just like to keep things professional,” he said.

I reminded him that the project we all worked on together ended over three months ago and then continued to expound in my world weary wisdom that the workplace is our prime potential-boyfriend/girflriend meeting place now that we are “professionals.”

He discarded my advice as cynicism. He is still single.

Adorable? Yes. But The Office has an improbably high number of office romances, I think.

Then we have my friend Oliver, who, with his own girlfriend currently out of the country for a year teaching impoverished kids in Honduras, has a lot of time on his hands that he’s decided to convert into a matchmaking service. Having met his own girlfriend through a friend, his business model relies on him being the catalyst to hook up his friends with more of his friends. Last weekend we were out with a bunch of friends when he cornered me.

“You need to meet my friend Jeremy,” he said. “He’s a really great guy. I think you’ll like him.”

Though I was not as convinced of Oliver skills as he himself is, I’m not one to turn down a freebie introduction.

Jeremy was a really nice guy. He also, in the classic blind date movie scene, was crying in his drink by the end of the night about his ex-girlfriend who dumped him two weeks prior [did I mention it was his birthday too?]. There’s not much of a love connection when you’re trying to pat a guy on the back as he bemoans his bitterness about respecting his ex-girlfriend’s wish to save sex for marriage. Yes, I’m sorry that you didn’t get laid when you wanted to. Yes, it all seems very sad. Yes, let’s get him another Long Island.

My friend Calvin thinks it’s a numbers game. Dateables are all around us, we’re just too busy or too shy to make our own luck and introduce ourselves. And we shouldn’t let rejection get us down. He’s started pushing himself to say hi to five or six women a day to 1. open the doorways of communication and 2. get used to rejection.

If anyone's interested in rejecting this face, let me know and I'll see what I can do.

I see the value in this. Who hasn’t been out and about in a bookstore or on a train or skinny dipping and seen someone across the lake who’s quite handsome and heard some snippet of conversation that’s peaked our interest? Characters on TV and in movies never have problems turning this moments of interest into actual encounters, dates, and a little lip-locking. Could it also be that easy in real life?

On the other hand… the numbers game makes me uneasy. What’re the chances that this person who snagged your attention based on looks or uncontextualized conversation alone could be both a Dateable and someone who actually shares your interests, worldview, and taste in music? The numbers game is a tricky one to play, and as someone who took Statistics pass/fail because she knew enough about math to realized that to do otherwise would ruin her GPA, I might sit that one out. It’s like playing the Powerball with your required list of Dateable characteristics. You wait for each numbered ping pong ball to pop up. Singleness–match. Looks–match. Geography–match. You’re getting excited by this point. Sense of humor–match. Desired number of kids–match. You’re standing on your couch, bated breath. Faith–Ahhh, hybrid Mormon-Hindu! Why, Lord, why??

Number one hurdle–meeting a Dateable Boy.

That being said, I met someone this weekend. I crashed a law student bowling night, because I like sneaking in places I’ve been invited but clearly don’t belong, and I met a nice, funny, tall Dateable boy. I could wear my favourite four inch wedge heels and still be shorter than him.

So maybe it’s a numbers game of meeting the people your friends work with. Maybe to jump the hurdle without crashing into them you’ve got to combine all these approaches. Or none. Maybe there’s no best way to meet people. All I know is that now that I’ve met a Dateable, there’re still a lot of hurdles to clear.

Because, of course, meeting the boy is just half the challenge.

#6 Dance on your Pedestal

Boys are not the only ones who can be complete idiots when it comes to the opposite sex. They just have a higher fail percentage.

There are some boys that some girls should just never meet. They especially should never become friends. They most especially need to stay away from the kind of relationship where the boy has created a man-made pond by drooling over the girl with little provocation. This is good for no one.

This is the sort of relationship I had with Mark.

Oh, you know, he used to look like a girl, but he and his brothers clean up ok.

Some men treat us like we deserve. Some men admire us and support us and refrain from always trying to fix our problems with unsoliciated advice. They also recognize our flaws, know which of our buttons they shouldn’t push if they don’t want an irrational outburst, and understand that sometimes we are wrong. Then there are some men who put us on a pedestal and stare at us with big doe-eyes wider than Bambi’s.

These men are enablers.

It’s hard enough to be a girl in today’s culture with its Olympic gold medal standards of beauty. The pressure for image control is everywhere. Why do you think girls are such Facebook addicts? And when someone, some poor nice shmuck, creates his own version of us and then actually shows a little affection–not like the loser who brought a rented movie over to our place, felt us up, and then didn’t even text all weekend–it’s hard not to feel a little soft for that guy. And once we start feeling for this poor guy, we realize–we can’t destroy our own pedestal. It would crush him in the tumble. All the poor dude wants is some untouchable muse [they’re usually artists, this kind of guy]. They adore devotion. Is it so difficult to grant him that simple prayer?

The prolem with Enablers is that keeping up a certain image is just exhausting. In my defense, my level of phoniness with Mark was minimal. It just required a certain degree of control over our relationship; I found out quickly that I don’t want the burden of control. Too much thought, too much at stake. And truly, these sort of relationships never work out. Being on a pedestal always keeps you distant from your adorer and gives you vertigo. If you don’t want true intimacy with a person, to be known and still loved, to be actually able to share your heart and your life, then by all means stay up there on your pedestal.

As for me, I’d rather just be eye level.

I have to credit Mark. Even though he was shy, he was brave enough to take his shot with me. The day I left my first university for good, and after Ex-Boyfriend and I were done, Mark kissed me. [Granted, I cried for the next half hour, which is never the response you hope for post-kiss, a combination of emotions, one hour of sleep the night before, a morning of packing everything I owned into a van, and my destroyed hope that Ex-Boyfriend and I would get back together and he’s be the only boy I’d ever kiss.] And over a year later Mark would take a chance again. It would never work out with us. And Mark’s now happily with someone much better for him.

I’ll always be grateful to Mark, not only for the friendship we did have or for the liberation his kiss gave me (oh, the boys I could now kiss that Ex-Boyfriend wouldn’t be the only one!), but also because Mark always seemed to see the best in me. Sometimes when it’s difficult to look at yourself fairly, it’s nice to have someone whose perception is skewed happily in your favor.

#5 Plan the End

This one time I went to a divorce party.

I know. It’s kinda difficult to keep going–I mean, what else could I possibly say to follow that up? I feel like anything next will be a let down, but I’ll press on.

It was my first semester after I transfered to Michigan. I was noncommittally dating this really nice guy Ethan. Really nice. Deserved better than my certifiably crazy self that semester, but that’s another story.

Ethan was a really nice guy. In the military. But not a prince.

Ethan had a friend a few years older than us who was a grad student. This guy got married right out of college and was getting his first divorce at 26. Ethan and I were standing in the middle of the student union, checking our email, when he goes, “Hey, do you want to go to a divorce party?”

Ethan had received an e-vite. It was trying to be very light-herated about the situation. At the bottom it read, “Yes, we’re being serious! [Because I’m sure many people thought they weren’t. This is a no-joking matter, people–it’s a party matter!] Feel free to come with a friend, significant other, or get in the spirit of things and bring an ex!”

“Do you want to go?” Ethan asked me.

Someone was electronically inviting people to a celebration of the demise of their marriage–if guests really brought their ex’s it could be a whole showcase of failed relationships! Heck yes I wanted to go!

Sadly, I could not bring my own ex because he and Ethan were friends [oops, my bad, I know] but Ethan and I went. When we got there, there weren’t a whole lot of other guests. I don’t remember if it was because we were just not cool enough to be fashionably late or if the rest of this couple’s friends just weren’t as comfortable with the idea of a divorce party as I was [not that I was at ease with this couple’s break up. More like I had a writerly morbid fascination with it.]

If I didn’t feel awkward at the beginning of the party, I quickly fell into it. Despite the couple’s assertions that this was going to be a fun, light-hearted event, it was definitely no such thing. The couple had split into their two separate camps, the girl on the couch with her friends, the guy with his buddies by the makeshift bar.

I found it, as someone who didn’t know the happy couple very well, pretty difficult to make small talk.

“So…how long were the two of you married? What was that final nail in the coffin? Do you have plans to date again soon?”

None of these question would work. But then again, it didn’t seem appropriate to ask about his grad work or where they were originally from, all the while staring at the cake topped by bride and groom figures with their backs to each other. And as delicious as the cake looked, I wasn’t about to suggest that anyone should get a knife. I was worried one of the ex’s would decide to cute the tension by cutting the other’s face.

Ethan and I did not stay long.

Look, I’ve [clearly] never been lucky enough to be married. I’m not even going to get into marriage here, let alone divorce. I have zero judgement on the lives of these two people. But I know that no one goes into any relationship hoping for a break up. I’m not saying people don’t get married knowing they’re going to get divorced. I think some people do. But people don’t take a deep breath on their wedding day and say, Well, if this doesn’t work out, there’s always divorce. And you know what? That’s kinda scary to me.

Please believe me–I’m not judging this couple. Relationships dissolve for a myriad of reasons. Ethan and I eventually fell apart because I could not commit. I accepted the end from the beginning. I think this couple was  brave, trying to be upbeat about their divorce. You shouldn’t go into marriage anticipating its end, and I don’t think they did. In the end, I just feel bad for them. It hurts.

Maybe Ethan and I should have brought a gift.

#4 Marry for Convenience

Yesterday I was hanging out with a couple of my guy friends. One of them was bemoaning the fact that he doesn’t have the time or motivation to cook for himself and eat healthy. He looked at me and said, “Don’t be offended–but what I really need is to get married so someone will help take care of me.”

I said, “Don’t be offended–but what I really need is to get married so my husband can go make me money and I won’t have to work anymore.”

Maybe this could be mutually beneficial.

#3 Keep Your Mouth Shut

Earlier this fall I had to do that thing that all grown up girls have to do – go to a party alone. Moving back to my Midwest town after a year, no longer being an undergrad, trying to transition into a grown up life meant that I needed to try to make some new grown up friends. So I went to a church picnic–that’s right, they exist still; I didn’t know these things made it out of the 50s–where all up post-grads, faking authentic personhood, were meeting up.

One of the guys called it the second middle school of life. It’s true. We’re all that awkward.

I vaguely knew a few people at the picnic. Church is often a place I like to think of as somewhere I can meet a nice single boy that could possibly be a boyfriend. I have met a lot of nice single Christian boys who have turned out to be lovely loyal boy [big space] friends.

This new group of recent adults seemed a lot of the same. A lot of sweet boys. A lot of potential friends. But then there was… one boy. He had sort of a funny earring and scruffy facial hair and he drove a ZAMBONI! How cool is he? He didn’t drive it, like around town, even though we are in Michigan and he could feasibly do that for 9 months out of the year; he worked at an ice rink. When I found that out, I made a mental note. Not to stalk the boy… but to at least meet him and see if he was really as interesting as he sounded.

 

For those of you unaware, this is a Zamboni. I hope that because it's Heineken sponsored, it somehow accomplishes its re-icing job using beer.

Zamboni Guy also came to the church picnic. The problem is, I tend to NOT talk to boys I think are cute or interesting or maybe special because they might actually like me or not like me or I might not like him and that’s just disappointing. I keep a strict no talking policy. I avoided my ex-boyfriend all of our junior year of high school. We had 40 people in our entire class.

So we’re at the church picnic, and I end up standing next to Zamboni Guy. Normally when I’m nervous I say too much and am too mean to boys. It’s my scathing sense of humor. It’s all fun and play, but for some reasons most guys just can’t take being insulted very well.

Girls like boys with hot cars.

Zamboni Guy is right night to me, and he takes the last hot dog bun. The empty bag almost flies away, and my great opening line is —

“Hey, be carefully you don’t litter!”

That’s right, the first thing I say to this boy is to accuse him of littering.

LITTERING.

Nothing screams “please get to know me more” like accusing someone of destroying the earth. I should lug a cardboard cut out of Al Gore around with me.

Lucky for me, he plays along. Good, because if he had started monologuing on the ozone layer and baby whales, I would have walked away–even if he had offered me a RIDE on the Zamboni! [False, I probably would have stayed for that.]

Anyway, all my neurosis is moot because he plays along.

“Oh man,” he says, “I wouldn’t want to litter.”

“I mean,” I keep going, “You could if you wanted to leave your imprint on the earth for a million years.”

Ok, you’re doing… passable. Stop talking about the hot dog bag.

“Though,” Zambonie Guy replies, “maybe some day some guy will say to himself, ‘Man, if only I had a plastic bag right now.'”

“And there the bag would be!” I say, so excited about this fake future we’re creating together.

I think he’s smiling. Time to transition. Stop talking about the stupid bag.

“Exactly!” the boy I’m scared of talking to says to me. “He’ll need a bag, and there it’ll be.”

“A hot dog bag in particular!” I exclaim, getting overexcited in my failure to transition.

Stop talking about the stupid hot dog bag! Idiot!

Lucky for me he laughs, so at least he’s playing along with the joke that I’m funny. We go on to discuss maple-flavored bacon and which breakfast foods it’s acceptable for your syrup to touch. We don’t introduce ourselves. We don’t talk about the Zamboni. He gets ketchup on his chocolate peanut butter no bake cookie. I give my condolences. We part ways.

In the give and take between men and women, one of the things a man’s supposed to bring to the table is being freakin’ hilarious. Let’s be honest, he doesn’t have much else that’ll hold her attention for very long, so he’d better make her laugh. And look, we’re pretty generous too. As long as you’re not a tool, we will probably think you’re funny.

But I love it when I can pull off funny. One of my favorite things, one thing that really attracts me to a boy is when he laughs at my jokes. I know my role. I know that he’s the entertainment and that when I giggle it makes him feel good about himself. He wins points. But he also wins points when he laughs. It’s hot. And I think that it makes me feel treated as an equal. I can pitch and swing. He things that my sense of humor is worth listening too.

And sometimes I just like making the boy that makes me smile happy.