Archive for July 28, 2010

Playing House

There are times when a single person is forgotten and left by the curb.

There’s the dinners out with all the couples that they eventually forget to invite you to.  There’s the Sunday brunches around the kitchen table while you are scraping the remnants of last nights mascara out from under your eyes under the harsh flourescents of your bathroom mirror lights.  Then it’s the camping trip away for the weekend in their two-by-two pup tents while you shiver in a sleeping bag without someone’s warm body to suck heat out of snuggle with.

You know you are done when everyone in your group is sharing jokes and canoodling at concerts and being like the animals on the Ark and pairing up and setting off and leaving you on the dock.

Alone.

But possibly one of the worst abandonments of a single person is when a couple becomes a triple.  Yep, the moment that a third little person enters their lives, a single friends friendship is tested, and rarely does it make it through.

When two become three...what does that mean for me?
Photo Credit: Getty Images – Purestock

Now the important thing to realize is now that your friends have this huge adjustment to their lives and are completely pre-occupied in the world of the new baby, they have infinitely more important stuff on their minds.  You’ve gotta realize that they have far surpassed single shenanigans and even cute coupley crap.

But the most important thing is that you’ve got to remember that even though you might feel like you are six steps behind the learning curve on this whole “growing up thing” you are still worthy of their friendship and attention and inclusion.

I’ve gone down both paths with friends who had kids.  The path where all we do is hang out at their house watching bad TV dramas.  The path where you listen ad infinitum to their stories of poop diapers while you silently go to your happy place that somehow involves everything BUT bodily function.  The path where you relish in the time with your old friend, but not only is it not the same but it’s like you’ve become a dead branch on the tree that used to be their friendships.

Don’t get me wrong.  Being 30 and single I’ve gone through this transition more times than I can count on all my fingers and toes a few times over.  And I completely understand COMPLETELY UNDERSTAND that life has changed and you’ve gotta change with it.  But I’m still not sure how it came to be that the single population has to “give” 100% and the parenting world just wait for them to come.  They aren’t building a Field of Dreams, they’re just having kids, right?

Last I checked, somewhere deep inside, there still is that person that USED to be your friend.

But fortunately I’m also blessed to have friends who have lives that turned COMPLETELY UPSIDE DOWN when they had kids, and still managed to find time to fit me in somewhere amongst the rubble.  Like the couple that piled their baby into their Jeep stroller (PS – Best thing EVER to carry around all your junk!) and spent the day wandering around a town fair eating fried dough and french friends and watching firehose competitions.  It probably helps that their kid is so frickin’ cute I *might* just steal him away to Canada one of these days.

And then there’s my friend who is five years younger than me and still light years ahead.  She told me the night of her 24th birthday “I feel like this is going to be a big year for me.”  Sure enough, over the course of the next 12 months she met a boy, fell in love, moved in, got married, got pregnant, had a baby, moved to Washington D.C. and got a VISA to follow her military husband overseas with their new family.  When she came up for a week to visit earlier this month she adamently wanted to do something that would involve her son but still give us time to catch up, since we only see each other once (maybe twice) a year.

Insert Greenlight Studio, the coolest place for parents to meet up with other parents (or even their single kid-tolerant friends!)  An indoor playplace with approximately 1 bajillion things for kids to do (it’s true, I counted) and more importantly a full coffee/smoothie/gelato/organic yummies bar with tables and couches and adult space to chat and catch up while your kids play house or color or dress-up or drive a Pirate ship.

I figure karma will probably catch up to me, and eventually when I have kids I’ll be eighty times worse than my worst of parent friend offenders.  Also, please be prepared for the fact that my kids will probably kick strangers in stores.  I don’t think I have a corner market on parenting, I’m fully aware of the terrors and challenges and complete unknowns in store.

But I also implore you coupling and tripling up folks to just remember us little single people.  Once upon a time you liked hanging out with us.  And we thought you were pretty swell, too.

Let’s not forget that?  Ok?  And I promise, I’ll try to restrain myself from stealing your kid away to Canada.

Do you have friends who’ve made the leap and now are bringing up baby?  How do you cope?  Any good activities or compromises you’ve found?

Dreams In Color and Dreams In Red

Sometimes not even mainlining Tootsie Rolls into the Universe’s arm will not get you what you want.

What, you didn’t know that?  I learned about it from my brilliant writing colleague in Pennsylvania, Susan Pogorzelski.  Yeah, the Universe is TOTALLY a weak link that will take bribes in the form of Tootsie Rolls to do your bidding.

Well, you’ll somehow think you are going to get what you want.  The Universe is a crafty bastard that way.  And generally, it knows better.  Much as I hate to admit it.

I’ve never been one of those “everything happens for reason” or “it all works out the way it’s supposed to in the end.”  Those are all silly things we tell ourselves when things go horribly awry and we try to wrap our feeble simple minds around it.  It saves us from the pain that will follow when we finally have to admit what we have lost or given up.

And it’s another piece of advice that people offer because they have no idea what else to say.

I am, however, a believer in signs.  More appropriately those things we think are signs, but are actually just our minds’ way of telling us exactly what we already know to be true.  Like horoscopes, the signs are vague and apply to many because each sign has something to tell us.

One sign, for me, has let me know whether or not I’m making a good decision ending what could be a great relationship.

It's about hearing the signs even when you don't want to
Photo Credit: Getty Images – John Howard

It started in college for me, after a boy told me we couldn’t hang out anymore by playing 98 Degrees song “The Hardest Thing.”  To this day I hate that song.  I mean, really?!  I got dumped via 1990’s boy band?!  But I sure got even with him by drinking copious amounts of some syrupy berry-flavored brandy and wandering around the quad unaccompanied at 2 AM.

Songs just started holding onto memories for me.

I’ve loved Pearl Jam from the moment I first heard them.  Truly, how can anyone not love Eddie Vedder’s raspy yet somehow silken voice belting out lyrics over guitar riffs that would make Hendrix gush?!  So while I was sitting in my dorm room telling Lee over First Class chat that I no longer thought we should be dating, it didn’t really really have any effect to hear Better Man lilting from my WinAmp player.

Years later it has never failed me.  Mostly in my car, listening to the radio, contemplating whether I want to call/text/email/visit.  Off of varied radio stations.  Which is amazing since the song came out in 1994.

After a date to Gritty’s last summer.  This April driving to a meeting in Connecticut.  After my Bluegrass boy and on my way home from the Audobon trails dating the first boy I dated after moving back to Portland.

And last night, driving home from Hannaford’s.  And before that coming home from a business mixer at The Porthole.  And before that returning over the Veteran’s Bridge of I295 after a night of playing games and laughing and happiness in Old Orchard Beach.

No matter how many Tootsie Rolls I’ve thrown at the Universe, it’s been throwing it’s own bribes at me.  Drilling me with the answer to what I’ve secretly known all along.

That sometimes, we lie and tell ourselves that we need to be with them.  That we can’t find a Better Man.  Which is sometimes true.

But more often than not, we probably already knew that.

What signs tend to show up in your dating life?  Do you listen or mainline your own Tootsie Rolls out to the Universe?

Survey Says…

Have Him At Hello – Confessions from 1,000 guys about what makes them fall in love…or never call back.

Yeah, how could I NOT go see a dating expert who wrote a research-based “relationship / dating advice” book with that title?  When Shannon emailed and asked if I would like to join her, I gleefully replied that I had already bought a ticket.

After pre-event drinks (hey, we girls gotta build up our courage!) at an old haunt, we headed over with my adorable bubbly blonde friend (who is available, if anyone is interested…) to see what the hype was about.  Rachel Greenwald absolutely did not disappoint, from our first meeting in her vibrant green sheath and sassy glasses through her presentation of tips and tricks and 7 Steps learned from her time at Harvard Business School to our brief discussion afterwards.

Sure, some of her advice is stuff I won’t be implementing.  Such as, during Step #1 (The Singles Cleanse) she has been known to shatter women’s coffee pots because we should be going out for coffee and to meet people, not sitting at home watching TV and sipping coffee while petting the first of our 26 spinster cats.  Besides my bleeding heart dirty hippie tendencies which cling to reusing cups (I know, I can bring them to the shop) there’s my financial brain that says “Seriously?! $2.10 for a cup of coffee?!  Daily?!”  That and the fact that, while I do respect and adore your ideas Rachel, I might seriously cut a b*&ch if she were to deprive me of quick access to coffee.  🙂

Don’t worry my dear readers, over the next few months I will be dilligently trying out the advice Rachel bestowed on us at One Longfellow Square last Thursday night. And writing how it turns out.  So that we can all learn together as one big confused singles family.

I decided to start where Rachel started in writing her book.  And that’s with research.  Rachel conducted her research via exit interviews with men who stopped seeing her clients.  Since I could only think of one guy in my recent dating past who stopped dating me (well, I think we stopped dating…he stopped talking and emailing and texting and seeing me and that seemed to send a pretty strong message) I decided to conduct my own dating research.

Using Rachel’s suggested script and questions, I asked 100 friends and acquaintances to fill out an anonymous online survey about my dating behaviors, personality and “dateableness.”

As soon as that survey was out I was living in a sort of quiet terror waiting to see what they would say.  With questions like “What qualities could Elisa most improve upon” and “What do you think is the main reason guys do not pursue relationships with her” and knowing the loving bluntness of my friends, I was anticipating the worst.  Sure there were a few questions about my good qualities, and what people like about me.  Those answers seem to give a heart hope for the harsh realities to come:

Accentuate the positive

This, along with average score of 8.21 on a scale of 1 to 10 of “dateableness” set me up for the down and dirty.  The stuff I could “improve on”

Eliminate the negative

and speculation on the main reason for my chronic singleness (other than, you know, my commitment-phobic terror of relationships for the past 10 years)

  • Too Smart
  • Too Intimidating
  • Not open/relaxed enough around guys she likes
  • Too Independent/Doesn’t “Need” Someone
  • Lack of available guys
  • One of the guys/always the friend
  • Comes on too strong
  • Too single
  • Thinks she’s not worthy

 

Now I know.  You are looking at all this thinking “What the hell is this girl doing, justifying her personality and behavior and worthiness based on the opinions of her friends.”  In fact many of the pieces of advice I received in the question “If you were her straight-talking best friend having a heart-to-heart, what one piece of advice would you give her for future dates” had shades of being myself and not changing based on what others think.

While I’ll admit, I had grand visions and ideas of somehow getting a cheat sheet to Elisa from this survey, I learned something much different.  The first being I’m not going to change the foundation “qualities” that make me “me.”   On the flip side, I really never had any intention of doing that.  Haven’t for 30 years, probably shouldn’t start now.  The second being that though I don’t want to change myself, there are probably some behaviors/mannerisms/quirks that I should look at cause I’m giving off some vibes that I don’t really like.  Seeing people write that I’m sometimes “kinda frumpy” or can seem “bitchy and a bit snobbish” gave me pause to wonder what I’m doing that gives off that impression.

Most importantly, in evaluating my survey, I’m learning about myself (the good and the bad) and that I probably need to be more aware.  Definitely not so that I can “change me” so that “some boy” will “just like me” but instead putting enough effort into it that I bring myself to finally meet someone at least halfway.

Maybe that’s why Rachel smashes the coffee pot.  Not because she never wants you snuggled up in your jammies sipping a delicious homemade latte while pouring over the Maine Sunday Telegram –  but because dating is a process that, for most, is much more mind over matter.

And sometimes you’ve just got to think about putting yourself out there instead of hiding where it’s safe.

What would your friends/acquaintances say if you surveyed them about your dating behaviors?  Or (even scarier but more truthful) what would your exes say?

Two Lost Souls

1 out of 8 couples that got married last year met online.

That’s not to say that they went out on a few dates and then added them on Facebook, eventually taking the all important step of updating their status to let the world know they are legit.

And these are just the people who got MARRIED from dating online.  How many others had healthy long-term relationships that just didn’t work out?  Or maybe are still dating at the time of the data gathering.  Still, there are those folks who met online but continue carrying on the story of how their eyes met over lattes at the local coffee shop where in reality that’s where they chose to meet for the first time cause public places are safer that way.

This isn’t about online dating so much, especially since I’ve written a fair amount on it already.  My jury is still out on the whole process, I think it works wonderfully for some and is the equivalent of a loud night of bachelorette parties and 21st celebrations in the Old Port for others.

This is a careful look at one of the top 3 pieces of advice single people hear far too often that has truly begun to perplex me.  And that piece of advice is the popular “You’ll find it when you are least expecting it” for which it’s close derivitive is “Maybe you’re trying too hard.”

Gives a whole new meaning to "being clingy"
Photo Credit: Getty Images – Joos Mind

The funny thing with this advice is that it’s frequently coming from someone who either met their significant other at the age of 20 in Econ 301 or in one of thosefreak Hollywood movie-type moments that a tiny piece of the population actually experiences.  People who rolled the dice and somehow came out with Yahtzee.

But if the secret for “older singles” (oh god, am I an “older single” at the age of 30?!) is to not look or try to find someone, then how is it that all these people are having success finding love online?  That process is a life lesson in trying and looking and clicking and emailing and one thing after another to weed out your next potential date from a saturated fishbowl that everyone is just swimming around in.  Year after year.

Don’t get me wrong.  There does come a point in time that, like the photo above, desperation just gets a little too clingy.  And potential mates can smell that pressing need “to be with someone” from miles away.  There’s a lot to be said for being comfortable and confident and happy on your own, and looking for someone to share that with rather than finding someone to complete it.

It’s like the job hunt.  I’ve never once heard someone tell a job seeker “Maybe you’re trying too hard to find a job.  Have you ever thought of not looking and just seeing what happens?”  Of course not!  Cause we all know that people NEED jobs.  On top of finding something to occupy a good 20-75 hours of your week (depending) that job is the thing that pays you.  And people need paychecks to exist in the world.

But I get the impression everyone needs love to exist too.  So what is so wrong with wanting to find that?

am, however, taking this piece of dating advice under careful advisement, cause I know how much guys REALLY like bacon.

Where do you draw the line?  At what point is being open and looking for the right dating opportunity just an act of desperation?

Love Detox

Falling in love? You might as well take a good haul off a crack pipe or down a fifth of vodka.

According to a recent WebMD article romantic love seems to be linked with the same parts of the brain that also facilitate addiction.  And more importantly, the loss of that feeling causes a reaction similar to that of detox.

“You crave the person who dumped you,” states Helen E. Fisher, PhD from Rutger University (where the study was conducted.)  “You go through withdrawal, you can relapse, and cravings can be sparked months after you think you’ve gotten over it.”

And for anyone who has been through a dicey break-up of any sort, this theory probably rings more than true.  You have that can’t eat, can’t sleep (or constantly sleep,) melancholy aching void that you can’t seem to fill no matter how much Pinot you down.  You spend an inordinate amount of time on their Facebook page, desperately searching for a clue or hint, wondering what ever happened.  You find yourself going to your old “couple haunts” on the impossible chance that the Universe will somehow decide to send them there the same night.

The study further provides that the longer the addiction to your love drug, the harder and more painful the detoxing is.

Can't Eat, Can't Sleep, Can't Breathe
Photo Credit: Getty Images – Julian Hibbard

Sure, it’s “easier” if the break if mutual, but re-learning your life pre-relationship/cigarette/crack pipe is a challenge no matter how you cut it.

Much like Jenna Elfman in the movie Keeping The Faith, I quit smoking and “when I see someone smoking I want to french kiss them just to suck the nicotine our of their lungs.”  I feel that is probably not a healthy reaction.  And would cause many awkward conversations on the lower (smoking) deck at Brian Boru.

The withdrawal is much worse when you never saw the loss coming.  There’s a reason that doctors have concluded that yes, a person CAN in fact die “from a broken heart.”  When you are going along in a happy blissful state, completely unaware of what is happening and suddenly someone rips that drugs out of your veins.  They stop calling, they meet you in public and yelling ensues, they tell you they’re just not that into you which sucks because you are VERY much into them.

I’ll admit, I’ve never detoxed off of anything like a crack pipe or 5th of vodka a day addiction.  They say you have to have a predispsition to addiction, and my personality is far too non-committal to allow for such things.  And maybe thiscomparison is trite and ridiculous in that respect.

Still, I don’t know that the abrupt end of a relationship is something that anyone can “handle well.”

At least it maybe helps to explain why I have close to twenty empty wines bottles in my kitchen, a DVR full of Made-For-TV Chick Flicks, a freezer full of ice cream sandwiches and pints of Ben & Jerry’s, and an irregular sleeping patten (at best) lately.

What do you think of the Rutgers/WebMD study?  Have you experienced the “love detox” before?  What was it like?