Archive for February 21, 2010

Mr & Mrs Fix-It

It seems to be the plight of anyone single to grin and bear it.  We suffer through awkward blind dates, uncomfortable online encounters and ginormous zits that somehow manifest the morning of the first date with the boy/girl of our dreams.  Ask any coupled up person, and much as they sometimes yearn for the green grass on our side of the fence, they’ll eventually admit that they would never trade it in to have to re-enter the dating pool.

In fact, if you are a single person, ask any coupled up person and they’ll be “more than happy” to offer you any advice you are seeking.  And sometimes, even if you don’t ask them, they’ll be more than happy to offer their generous insight to the delicate intricacies of relationships and the deepest recesses of your mind.  My personal favorite offenders of this are the friends less than 3 months into a relationship who have somehow become Dr. Phil or your distant related sixty-five year old fourth cousin twice removed who knows you would be able to find someone because “you have such a pretty face (oh, and you should work on finding someone soon, cause honey let’s face it…you aren’t getting any younger!)

Yep, coupled up people are like your own personal HGTV channel…they can fix you in a matter of seconds.

Mr & Mrs Fix-It

Ok, now that I’m done that rant I’ll go on record saying that I actually have a few coupled up friends who aren’t on the payroll of this consulting firm.  Couples who drink wine and sit down for dinner with me once a week, couples who take me out to Binga’s Stadium for beer and wings when I get stood up, and couples that helped me name my dating column.  In fact I have some pretty great coupled up friends who never impose their “help.”  Even when asked.

Still, those smug married/coupled people are lurking about out there.  Doling out advice like a food sampler at Sam’s Club (ever notice how militant those people are?!)  And let me tell you single folks, you think you got it bad, try writing a singles column.  EVERYONE wants to “help” you then!

I’ve heard the “don’t be so picky”/”have you tried online dating”/”maybe if you’d just wear more dresses” (this one tends to work better for more girls than guys…)  But my personal favorite, the one that get’s whipped out at least weekly by someone is the ever popular “It’ll happen when you stop looking/least expect it.”

Dear readers, the cat would have been out of this bag sooner or later so might as well spit it out.  I have been single for over ten years.  I mean, I’ve dated and gone out and seen boys, but the closest thing I’ve had to a serious relationship ended circa 1998.

And let me tell you…during that time I’ve been putting a pretty half-assed effort into looking or expecting a boyfriend.  Maybe even quarter-assed.  So I would like to go on record saying that is one of the lamest pieces of advice I’ve come upon in the grand scope of relationship advice that is given.

Yet in the past month, a weird thing has begun happening.  Hosting a series on my personal website about love, starting this column, discussing warm fuzzy feelings daily.  And in the past month I’ve done more flirting, set up more coffee dates and conversations (hey, I’m ten years rusty at this…let me take baby steps!) and somehow seen more interest than I have in years.

It’s like I learned in my high school physics class (with Survivor winner Bob Crowley no less!)  A body in motion (or at rest) will remain as such unless acted on by an outside force.  So floating through life “hoping” that someone will magically fall into your lap while you sip chair at Bard Coffee or be entranced by your newest profile pic on Facebook is a passive and frankly far to idealistic way of dating.  We all know the story of someone that worked for, but there’s gotta be a reason that matchmakers and cupid.com and 8 minute dating still exist and are popular.

Sometimes you gotta put in at least a little effort if you expect something to come out of a first date.  Or more importantly, you have to let yourself be open to the possibility that something is going to happen.  It isn’t about “not expecting it” or “stopping looking.”  It’s about convincing yourself to look without staring and expect without clinging.

Oh, and kicking back to enjoy the ride, wherever it might take you.

How about you? What’s the worst dating advice you’ve gotten?  The best?

Photo Credit: Getty Images – Stockbyte

Stoming the Shores…Part Deux

It is the god-given right to every single person on Valentine’s Day (PS – This year we were lucky enough to actually have a Valentine’s Weekend) to get gussied up in the cutest outfits, spend far too long making sure every hair is in just the right place, meet up with packs of other single friends and storm out into the world looking for a Valentine.

Well, at least that is what I assumed was supposed to happen.

So this year, again finding myself single on the largest commercialized love-day of the year, I set out with a group of girlfriends onto that hopping area of Portland known as “The Old Port.”  Nearing the next birthday where both digits of your age chance after you can actually drink legally in the Old Port, and it being 30 degree winter weather, chances for cute “pick up boys” outfits were elusive.  Still, a Valentine’s colored wine tank top, black half-cardigan and dark wash straight cut jeans and I was ready for whatever action the night had in store for me.

We started the night at Foreplay, but quickly realized how old we might be not only by the average puppy dogged age of the patrons but also our growing irk at the overcrowdedness and “loud music.”  Oh, what has life become?!  So we wandered down to Old Port Tavern to get our dance on (passing by the Cactus Club *shudder*) but it was no better there.  In fact, it was freakishly dead.  I’ve seen it busier on a Tuesday night.  And the only folks dancing or sitting at tables were couples who had also packed up to go out.  Not a single Valentine for me to snatch up appeared in sight.

I asked a few single guy AND girl friends what they usually did on Valentine’s Day, and wished I had gotten some of the responses BEFORE my endeavor into the Old Port.  Most single girls were out with friends, looking for love (or at least a kinda sorta maybe like!) and “partying it up to forget their singleness.”  Really making big concerted magnus opus types efforts to push way down deep the fact that they were single.

But my guy friends?

The difference between guys and girls on Valentine's Day

They talked about spending the day at a conference that was dear to their heart, going on like it was any other day and snowboarding with a big group of people (both single AND coupled.)

Suddenly their enjoyment of this confectioned holiday seemed MUCH better than sipping a tonic and lime watching couples grope themselves under dim lighting.

There was one highlight to my otherwise abysmal effort at a rollicking “night on the town.”  After we threw in the towel on living the high life, we met up with some friends after a Pirates game down at $3 Deweys.  I had barely made my way around the table to sit down before my friend shoved her hand in my face.  Grinning and beaming she proudly announced that my other friend had proposed to her during the game and she said yes.

And they are so adorably happy.

And you’d think on a night where everything else seemed to lead me to hate love and anything that went along with it, I’d be choking down the urge to either puke or punch her in the face.

But I wasn’t.

Because what I experienced AFTER trying to make a single girls’ V-Day is what it SHOULD be all about.  Celebrating love with friends and family.

Oh, and Deweys, I know it wasn’t your fault, but my heart broke to learn that the popcorn machine was broken.  Seriously, tiny little alligator tears.  Ok…not really…

Storming The Shores of V-Day (Part 1)

Few days can strike fear in the heart of single people across the land more than February 14th.

Valentine’s Day.  V-Day.  The expectations will coming storming the shores of your free-wheeling life and suddenly the entire world is obsessed with love and relationships and dates and the lot.  Or at least manufactured cards, usually stale supermarket bouquets and heart shaped boxes of assorted candies that involve weird centers that no one actually eats so why do they even include them?!

Well, actually as Grace Adler once said, “It’s just the whole day, it’s like an evil conspiracy.  Created by the greeting card people and the flower people and the candy people.  Well, not the candy people…they do God’s work.”

 

I know, I know…there’s just as much pressure and stress for you people in adorably committed relationships.  Heck, those of you just dating even have someone to spend the time with.  But if Hallmark has taught us nothing, it is that you are pathetic if you are alone on the holiday.

So what do you do if you can’t find a date for the “big day?”  I mean, there’s a lot of pressure surrounding a V-Day date.  Girls might want to wax not just shave, and guys should spring for the extra special aftershave, not the 2 for1 special at Target.

I’ve gone back and forth on different experiences.  Some years I’ve wanted to just be by myself with the sexiest men I know, Ben & Jerry.  Heck, sometimes it was a full on group date with Jim, Jack or Jose to wash it all down.  Other years I’ve made plans with other friends to celebrate the best relationship we’ve got.

The relationship with ourselves.

This year I’m going for time with friends.  To this end I’m “experiencing” two different takes on that.  The first was tonight (a little early, but heck I’m going rogue so I can start the V-Day festivities if I want gosh darn it!) and it was a total night of zen, giggling and celebration of happy stuff.

Spending the night with a few of my closest friends*, we started with 45 minutes of yoga and relaxation, getting our ohm on and completely de-stressing.  Then it was a delicious healthy stir fry of veggies, chicken and brown rice.  Some sparkling wines to compliment the meal, and seltzer water to keep our systems cleansed.  We try to be very good on yoga night.

Then we ended with a complete smorgasbord of chocolate and candy decadence, courtesy of a visit to my FAVORITE candy shop in Portland, the Old Port Candy Co.  I worked with the ladies there to help me put together a bag of delicious single girl amazement, and they provided.  There were caramel filled chocolate pretzels, chocolate covered potato chips, a bacon chocolate bar (weird, yes, but actually pretty delish), bon bons, Chocolate Fit For a Queen candy bar and gummy hearts.  Oh, the sparkling wine may have continued as well (I swear, it was only 2 glasses worth for each of us, and regular filled glasses not like solo keg cup size glasses!)

The best part of the whole night was the conversation, laughter and genuine friendship that was shared around the table.  We all have found ourselves bought in to the commercialization and romanticism that is the holiday.  But that isn’t what Valentine’s is about.  It’s a time to celebrate love and happiness in our lives.  What better way to do that if you don’t have a “special someone” to do it with than with your friends.

And if you can throw in delicious decadence from the candy people doing God’s work, well than that’s just as close to zen as you get in downward-facing dog!

What are your plans for Valentine’s Day weekend?  Any special things you single folks are doing to make it through to February 15th relatively unscathed?

* Additionally, a celebration doesn’t have to be with a bunch of disgruntled single friends.  Nor all the same gender.  Cross-gender bashing gets you no where fast around V-Day, except staring bleary eyed into a mirror wondering why people “don’t get you.”  Yep, my first V-Day celebration involved my sister, one of my best friend’s and her husband.  Smug married stereotype be shunned, this grouping was awesome!

Once Upon A Time

Ever since Carrie Bradshaw typed “Once upon a time…” in 1998 Microsoft Word-esque file format, women everywhere dreamed of living the life of a love and relationship columnist. As if all those years of practice in junior high scrawling our study hall romance and Stairway to Heaven heartbreak into our Lisa Frank diaries would parlay themselves into a life of big city dwelling and made-for-the-movies love. The woman single-handedly launched the Cosmo craze (the drink, not the magazine) and gazed longingly through a store window at the newest style of Manolo Blahnik’s and breathily stated “Hello Lover.” And let’s not forget the flower pins larger than our actual heads that we wore on dresses, sweaters and any other clothing item available.

If you are looking for a column from someone like that, you are unfortunately in the wrong place.

Where Carrie had sushi and Cosmo’s, I’m the girl who meets up with her friends for a slice of pizza and beer. Where Carrie abhorred a cabin in the country I could spend a day hiking through the woods and sitting on a mountaintop looking out over the beauty. Where Carrie spends Thursday through Sunday clubbing and partying I’m at a Pirates/Seadogs game or dinner partying with friends. Where Carrie has hangover brunches at posh stark white establishments, I prefer the breakfast sandwich at Uncle Andy’s just over the bridge.

Elisa at the Shipyard Brewery tour
(At the Shipyard Brewery Tour)

Most importantly while Carrie dated (or hooked up) with a new guy every week for all the viewing audience to see, I am so not good at dating.

I mean, we do have some similarities. Carrie was dumped on a Post-It, I was dumped over AOL Instant Messenger. Carrie dated a man in a mental hospital, I had to end abruptly a beautiful night on the Eastern Prom sitting on a bench chatting about anything and everything because my date became convinced the mosquitoes were going to give him West Nile Virus.

And most importantly in a city full of people bumbling through their young adult lives and slowly (well, at my age it’s a bit more quickly) pairing off like there’s an ark parked beside Dimillo’s, I figure it’s time to get serious about this dating thing. There are over 10,000 single people in Portland ALONE, and that’s not counting any of the suburbs. Which leads me to believe I am not alone in trying to figure this dating thing out.

The folks here at MaineToday.com heard about me and my crazy quest for love and relationship anthropology and agreed that we the people of Greater Portland need a voice. And that voice is coming in the form of a girl once referenced as a “not-so-average girl next door.” I’m not the girl who settled down and married the boy next door like typical girl next door. I’m the girl who’s always a friend but never a girlfriend. I’m the girl in pigtails who plays pickup football and yet continues to strive and push for success and a career all her own.

I can’t guarantee the stories will be glamorous, or trendy, or worthy of 26 minutes on HBO. But they’ll be real and they’ll be the same things that you experience cause while Carrie led an amazing life it was nothing like reality.

Who’s with me?