Monday, March 19, 2018

Hallmark Movies, Fake Pictures, and Small Talk

Reasons to start dating again:

1. When my mother asks me if I've met anyone, I won't have to say stuff like, "Um, yes, I have met someone. His name is Ken, but he's not ready for anything too serious right now. He just broke up with some blonde woman. I think her name starts with a B."

2. I might meet someone who's special and that I really like and want to be with, not someone whose number I end up blocking on my cell phone (which is what I did with the numbers of three of the guys I went out with in the past few months).

3. I won't watch the ending of Hallmark movies (they all pretty much end the same way) by saying bitterly, "I give 'em six months."

4. If I meet someone special, I'll never have to join another online dating site where I make boring small talk with random guys, even though what I really want to say is, "I don't CARE about which town you grew up in! I just want to know if you're the kind of guy who will come in and change the channel when I'm watching TV or who will look up from the TV when I come home from work and immediately ask, 'What's for dinner?'"

Reasons not to start dating again:

1. I might get matched with yet another guy who used fake pictures in his profile, which is what happened to me on Bumble. I figured out the pictures were fake by doing the reverse image Google search. The guy claimed to live an hour away from me and work in finance, but the pictures actually belonged to a twentysomething model with a different name and who lived in Los Angeles.

2. I won't have to look at any more profiles where guys pose proudly with pictures of the deer/fish/geese that they killed. I'm not a vegetarian, but I've been eating a lot less meat lately, partly because I can't afford it and partly because I've grown increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of hunting for sport and with how many animals that are bred for slaughter are abused. The sight of a dead deer with bullet holes in its body just doesn't make me think, "Wow, I bet the guy who killed that deer would make a really great husband someday."

3. I don't like it when a guy I start dating (like the Artist) messages me every single day before we even go on our first date. I don't think it's necessary to talk to the person you're dating every day. That's why I have to resist the urge to text back, "For the love of God, STOP texting me! Clinginess is NOT sexy!"

4. I'd like to focus on my teaching responsibilities, my second job, my academic research, and the memoir I've been writing about my experiences with online dating (I've written more than 10,000 words so far, and it's still pretty rough. But it's been fun to write, and I have plenty of material to mine through.).

5. I hate making small talk, guys who aren't interested but think it's "polite" to exchange messages with me, which gives me false hope, and guys who seem interested at first, send me many messages, and even talk about setting up a date, but then pull disappearing acts. But what I hate even more is that state of uncertainty: Does he like me? Do I like him, or am I only dating him because he's nice and I don't want to spend the rest of my life alone? Should I go out with him again? Will he text me again? Should I text him first? And so on.

6.  I fell hard for the Model, but he took what he wanted and tossed me aside like it was nothing, like I was nothing. The rational part of my brain knew that I deserved more and better than what he gave me, but the emotional part finally understood how you don't choose who you fall for. I can't keep putting myself out there in the hopes of finding someone special and ending up crushed, disappointed, and alone every time. There's only so much one person can take, and I'm at the point where I'm ready to give up. I'm almost thirty-seven years old, and I'm tired of all the b.s. that comes with dating. I don't want to still be going on first dates that go nowhere ten years from now, or even five years from now.

7. Dan Savage, the writer and advice columnist, said that it's not necessarily true that everyone is meant to find true love. He said if it was, no one would ever be alone. And the fact that I've gone out with more than two dozen guys, joined seven online dating sites, had several unrequited crushes, and failed to make a real connection with anyone makes me think that maybe the problem isn't the guys. Maybe it's me. Maybe there's something wrong with me, or maybe I'm just not meant to be with anyone. Maybe I'm meant to do something else with my life. There are a lot of other things I want to do: write, travel, teach, adopt a dog from an animal shelter, etc., and maybe that's what I should focus on instead. Maybe I should just focus on the things that already make me happy, instead of perpetually taking risks on something (or someone) that might make me happy and ending up sad every time.

I will try online dating at least one more time, most likely this summer. But for now, I'm going to focus on the other things in my life that are important to me because I still need a break.

What about you? Do you think that Dan Savage is right that not everyone is meant to find true love?

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

What I Shouldn't Have to Say to My Students...and Yet I Have

1. You can't sleep in my class.

2. Put your cell phone down.

3. Did ANYONE do the reading?

4. I said put it DOWN.

5. If you want me to write a recommendation letter for you, don't wait until the last minute to ask me to write it for you. You do not want me to be in a bad mood when I'm writing that letter.

6. Make sure that you take notes in class, so that you won't end up e-mailing me the night before the essay is due to ask, "So, what's this essay supposed to be about?"

7. Don't tell me that I made a mistake with your grade. YOU made a mistake when you skipped class nine times/sat in the back and tuned me out/turned in every assignment late or not at all.

8. No, you don't have the right to text or answer your phone during class. Seriously, what is UP with your generation and cell phones? When I was your age, we didn't have cell phones! We talked to each other in person, while trudging for miles uphill in the snow!

9. If you want to see smoke come out of my ears, then don't come to class for three weeks and then ask me to e-mail you what you missed. 

10. If you want to see me transform the way Bruce Banner does when he becomes the Incredible Hulk, then do all of the things listed above and then say, "If I get a bad grade, it's your fault because you're a bad teacher."

11. I don't care how many Pokemon are in this classroom right now. Turn your cell phone OFF.

I always used to wonder why they portrayed teachers as being cranky disciplinarians in TVs and movies. After more than a decade of teaching, I understand.

What about you? What are some of the most frustrating things about your job?

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Girl Most Likely To...

Recently, one of my former high school classmates started a thread on Facebook about our twenty year class reunion. Technically, we graduated nineteen years ago, but they want to start planning now. (The fact that it's been almost twenty years since high school made me immediately check my reflection in the mirror for white hair, which is why I have a small bald spot now.)

I'd be willing to go to the reunion. That is, if clones were real, then I'd send my clone, as long as my clone was twenty pounds thinner, a tenured professor at an Ivy League university, and married to George Clooney's clone. I'd also be willing to go if I could arrive in a helicopter, like the class nerd did in Romy and Michele's High School Reunion.

My other classmates were excited about it, suggesting ideas like going on a hay ride and roasting hot dogs over a fire (God, they're so Midwestern, but then again, I used to like those things) together, having a picnic at a park or someone else's house, or going out for drinks (I don't normally drink alcohol, but I think I would need gallons of it to tolerate an evening with the people who voted me "Most Likely to Become a Nun.").

There were parts of high school that I enjoyed. I liked my English teachers; they were partly why I majored in English in college. I liked performing in school plays, even though I usually had small roles.

But I didn't like how people made fun of me for being different. I didn't like how I stayed home from prom both junior and senior year, as well as most of the school dances, because no one asked me, and the ones I asked to go with me said no. I didn't like how one of the bullies who regularly taunted me once bullied me so badly that I cried, and then she pointed out my tears to everyone else and laughed about it. My mother, father, and sibling already made me feel bad about myself on a regular basis at home. I didn't want to have to deal with that from people at school too, but I did.

On the other hand, all of that was almost twenty years ago, and maybe they've changed for the better. But when I moved to College Town, which is only a few hours away from the small Midwestern town where I grew up, one of my former classmates contacted me on Facebook and suggested we go out for dinner. I couldn't go on the day she wanted to go, but I suggested alternate days and also said I could rearrange my schedule in the future. She said she'd let me know. That was three months ago, and I haven't heard from her since then.

My best friend in high school suggested we meet for coffee because she lives near College Town. We did, and she kept saying that she couldn't understand why we lost touch. I didn't tell her that I tried to keep in touch with her in college, but she was busy with her new boyfriend, new friends, and other college activities, and she stopped returning my phone calls and e-mails. I sent her a message suggesting that we meet for coffee again. She never answered. That was two months ago.

Another classmate tagged me in a post on Facebook, which normally wouldn't be a problem, except she also tagged another classmate that I'm not friends with on Facebook (or in real life, either). I sent her a message on FB asking her to remove my name from the tag because the problem is that other guy is Facebook friends with my mother, who still doesn't know that I'm on the site. Not only that, but my mother is convinced that I should date this guy, and I know that he is the type of person who would tell her all about my Facebook account. I didn't like him then, and I don't want to date him now. (He basically had the personality of Lurch from the Addams Family, although not as nice.) Despite my request, the classmate who tagged me ignored my message and left the post up.

That's why I'm not exactly thrilled at the prospect of going to this reunion. I'd rather go to a Trump rally and yell, "Lock HIM up!"

I didn't go to the other reunions they organized in the past. I know that at some point one or more of them will bring up some embarrassing thing I did back then, and then they'll all laugh. And then they'll say what they always said: "It's just a joke. Can't you take a joke?" as if I wasn't allowed to be offended and I was the one with the problem.

I also know that they'll ask me why I'm unmarried and childless. In the small Midwestern town that we all grew up in, people, including the majority of my classmates, married the first or second person they ever dated (i.e., their high school or college sweetheart) before they turned twenty-five and had several kids before they turned thirty. I'm one of the only people in the class who didn't do that. There's nothing wrong with that kind of life. It seems like it's a good life, and my classmates seem happy with it (at least, they seem they do, in the Facebook version of their lives). But I left my hometown because I wanted a different life.

And I do have a different life. I'm a college professor with a master's degree and a Ph.D. that I worked hard to get and that I'm proud of. I went from teaching in Chicago to a small town in Tennessee to a college town in the Midwest. That may not be the same as having a family of my own, but it's something.

If I do go, I won't tolerate any "jokes" like I did back when I was in high school. All those years in Chicago made me tougher and much less tolerant of jerks. Therefore, if any of them start up again, I'll say, "Back in high school, I never stood up to you. But now I can tell you to go to hell, and walk away. So go to hell." And then I'll walk away, and I'll never go back.

P.S. Let me know if you hear anything new about clones.

What about you? Did you go to any of your high school reunions?

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Moving On

There's this guy at my gym who tries to talk to me every time I go in there. The first time I saw him, he smiled and said hello, and I said hi to be polite. The second time, he called me "little lady" (apparently, he got his pickup lines from Western movies that were made in the 1950s) and said, "Hi, I've seen you around here a lot." I merely said, "Yeah," and walked away.

It was rude of me to do that, but I just wasn't interested. I must admit that one reason is because he looks like he's about three hundred pounds. I wish I could say that looks don't matter, but physical attraction is important, though of course, it's not the most important thing. I think it's good that he's working out and trying to lose weight, though.

You'd think that would have ended it, but he still tries to talk to me a lot. The last time, he literally stepped in front of the stationary bike I was on and waved at me, even though I had my headphones on. I didn't smile or say anything, and he walked off.

That's why I no longer work out at night and started getting up earlier to work out at the gym in the morning instead. And that's where, one morning a couple weeks ago, I saw the Model.

I didn't know he worked out there, but I recognized him from far away. I'd had fantasies of seeing him again, though preferably when I was fashionably dressed, at least twenty pounds thinner and hand in hand with Ryan Gosling's long-lost twin, not when I was in sweaty gym clothes and with my hair pulled back in a ponytail.

I debated going up to him. I knew I would regret it if I didn't, so I finally mustered up the courage to do so at the end of my workout. We talked for a few minutes. I told him that I had cancelled my Tinder membership, and I asked if he was still on it. I must admit that I was curious to find out if he was dating someone else. "Not really," he said. "I've been working all the time, so I've been really busy."

I wanted to say that I still wanted to be with him and that I still thought about him a lot. I wanted to ask why he'd ghosted me ("ghosting" is apparently a way that a lot of Millennials break up with each other, where they don't even have "the talk" but just stop responding to messages). I wanted to say that I'd felt nothing but numb for so long and that he was the first man I'd felt anything real for in a long time, and it broke my heart that he no longer wanted to be with me.

But I didn't. I remembered how a couple months ago, I'd texted him on two separate days about seeing him again, and how he didn't answer either time. It was painful enough to be rejected like that over the phone, and it would be even worse to be rejected in person.

I also thought of the guy at the gym whose persistent advances made me change my exercise routine; I didn't want to be like him. He reminded me of this woman who comments on almost every single one of the Model's posts on Instagram (I know I shouldn't look at his posts, but I still do, sometimes). She leaves long, personal comments that reveal details about her life, her admiration for his muscular physique, and pleas for him to DM (direct message) her. She must have begged him to chat with her online at least half a dozen times, and he obviously never has or she wouldn't keep asking. He usually doesn't respond to her at all or merely says "thank you" to her compliments. I didn't want to be like her either. I didn't want to become the person who can't or won't take a hint..

Finally, he smiled and said, "It's good to see you," and he hugged me. I hugged him back and walked away, even though I would have been happy to keep talking to him that day, and every day.

In my previous fantasy of seeing him again, I'd harbored the hope that it would rekindle his feelings for me. It didn't. I haven't talked to him much since then, except to say hi in passing at the gym.

I don't know why it's been so hard to get over him, especially since we didn't date for that long. There's also the fact that I knew in my heart that I wanted more than what he was willing to give. I've had unrequited crushes before and I was able to come to terms with them and move on, but this is different. I suspect that this will take longer. I think it's partly because I slept with the Model, whereas I wasn't intimate with my other unrequited crushes.

I tried dating other guys, and at least half of the guys I've dated in the last three months wanted to keep dating me. Several other guys I talked to on Bumble and Tinder were interested in meeting me too. But I rejected all of them for various reasons, and one major reason was that I wasn't over the Model. I didn't feel that it was fair to form a relationship with someone while I was still thinking about someone else.

That's also one of the reasons why I've decided to take a break from dating, so that I can focus on work and so that I won't keep watching videos like this one (though I do like the song):

I know I need to move on with my life, but it's hard to do that when the person you're trying to forget is all over the Internet (he's become even more popular on Instagram, accumulating thousands of followers in just the past month), who also lives in the same town as you, and who goes to your gym. But on the other hand, I know that if and when he leaves town someday, it would make me feel even worse because then I would never see him again.

Side note: I can't afford to switch to a new gym. I can't change my workout routine again because the only other time is the afternoon, which is when I'm teaching or have office hours. And I don't want to go back to exercising at night and run the risk of running into the Guy Who Won't Take a Hint again, at least not until I've learned karate.

What about you? Has it ever taken you a long time to get over someone? What kinds of things did you do to get over that person?

Monday, January 22, 2018

Fifty Shades of Awkward

Recently, I went out with another guy I met on Bumble, who I'll refer to as the Nice Guy. I was on the fence about messaging him because although he was attractive, I wasn't really attracted to him. But unlike most of the other guys I've seen on Bumble, he doesn't live an hour (or two) away; he lives in College Town. In fact, he works at the same college where I teach, though he is not a member of the faculty. He was my age, and he seemed nice enough.

He suggested we meet for lunch at the school cafeteria. I'm not saying that the guy has to bring me to a fancy restaurant, but eating cafeteria food in the company of undergraduates, including some of my own students, is not my ideal first date. But I didn't want to be a diva about it, so I said yes.

We had the usual first date conversation: where did you grow up, how do you like your job, and yes, I would rather move in next door to the Kardashians and Dog the Bounty Hunter than live next door to undergrads again. But to be honest, I didn't feel any chemistry with him.

Nice Guy apparently felt differently because just a few hours later, he texted me to ask if I wanted to watch some stand up comedians perform the following night at a bar in town. I thought that although I didn't feel a spark with him on the first date, maybe I would feel something on the second date. First dates are often awkward, after all, because both people are nervous and still getting to know each other. Maybe I should give this guy a second chance.

When I arrived at the bar, I couldn't find parking, so I had to keep circling the area to find a spot, until I found one that was several blocks away. It irritated me that not only did I have to spend money that I couldn't afford on a ticket to watch comedians I'd never heard of, I also had to spend money on parking and trudge through the snow and ice (I got lost on the way back to the bar) to get there.

I'm ashamed to admit that I was irritable when I talked with him, partly because I was frustrated about the parking situation, and partly because I didn't really want to be there.

I was also irritable when I said that I didn't like the seats the host put us in (there was assigned seating); we were seated at a table right in front of the stage. Nice Guy said it was fine and that he liked sitting up front. But I knew, based on my experiences watching comedy in Chicago, that if you sit near the front, you will definitely get made fun of by the performer at some point during the evening.

I apologized for being irritable with him and said that I was stressed out over an academic piece that I'm writing and revising that is going to be published soon, which is true. He was nice about it, but I could tell that my mood put a damper on the evening. So I stopped being moody and we went back to talking about random things until the comedians started performing. Our conversation improved after that.

I'd like to say that the comedians were hilarious and put me in a better mood. I'd also like to say that I didn't eat M&Ms for breakfast. But then I'd just be lying.

Although Nice Guy and many of the other people in the audience enjoyed the show, I didn't laugh once. I felt bad about sitting there stone-faced right in front of the comedians because I know it isn't easy getting up there on stage and trying to make a room full of people laugh. But I don't see how a joke like "I don't want to have kids. That's crazy!" or "I hate marathon runners. They piss me off!" is funny.

I was right about sitting near the front, too. One of the comedians asked Nice Guy and me if we were on a first or second date. When we admitted we were, the Unfunny Comic (listening to him speak made visions of sheep jumping over fences dance through my head because I was this close to falling asleep during his act) made fun of me and started joking about sex acts I should perform on Nice Guy later.

I wanted to jump up on stage and slap him in the face with his microphone. I wanted to yell, "And when's the last time YOU got laid, LOSER? What's the matter, did your inflatable doll break up with you?" But I didn't. I said nothing and didn't even smile, while Nice Guy and the others laughed and laughed at Unfunny Comic's sex jokes about me. I felt humiliated and angry, and to this day I wish I had made it clear that although that jerk was a "comedian", he had no right to degrade a woman like that.

It made me think of that episode from Sex and the City where Miranda has an awkward date with a guy at a comedy club because the stand up comic makes fun of them, too. I remember thinking, "Oh my God, my life has become an episode of Sex and the City, minus the sex." When I first watched the show, I was in my early twenties and couldn't understand why the women on that show were so cynical about men, dating, and marriage. But now that I'm in my mid-thirties, I understand.

After the show, Nice Guy suggested we go out again. I was noncommittal and said that I was going to be really busy.

The next day, I felt guilty about how I acted and texted him to apologize. I shouldn't have acted like that, and I was (and still am) ashamed of myself. He was a nice guy who just wanted to get to know me and have fun, and I shouldn't have treated him like that. I told him it wasn't his fault and that I was going through a lot right now, and that I planned to take a break from dating. He was kind about it, and he told me to let him know if I ever changed my mind.

I've gone out with three guys from Tinder and three guys from Bumble in the past three months, and I think it is time to take a break from dating. No more conversations with guys who disappear in the middle of our conversations or who swipe right on my profile but don't respond to my messages. No more profiles that say stuff like, "I'm married but bored" or "I'm a better-looking Christian Grey looking for my Anastasia" (I should add that the guy didn't look so much like Christian Grey but more like the dad on Family Guy). No more profile pictures of guys posing proudly with animals that they hunted and killed, with the bloody bullet holes still in the animals' bodies (insert sad Sarah McLachlan song here). No more awkward first dates, boring small talk, or unrequited crushes. No more. At least for now.

I'd like to take a break from dating and focus on teaching, writing, research, working out, and learning new recipes.

What about you? Have you ever been publicly humiliated on a date, or have you ever behaved badly on a date?

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Polyamorous Guy, or Why I Got Dumped for Being Too Neurotic

Recently, I went on a date with a polyamorous guy, who I'll refer to as the Bearded Hipster. I knew that he wasn't monogamous because he mentioned that he and his girlfriend were in an open relationship in his profile. I'd never dated a polyamorous guy before, and I had my reservations. What if I ended up really liking him? I might end up getting hurt, especially because he already had a girlfriend, and I definitely did not want to become his "other" girlfriend.

But on the other hand, after communicating with (and dating) too many guys who wanted to rush into a relationship before I was ready, this guy seemed like a good option for me, at least for now, because there was the possibility of romance and companionship with this guy without a commitment.

We went out for drinks, and we spent a long time talking at the bar. Then we went for a walk in a nearby park. I felt nervous because there was no one else at the park, and it was getting late. This guy didn't scare me, but after all those years in Chicago, I still had that sense of hyper-awareness, which is why I kept a tight grip on my pepper spray in my pocket.

We were standing there, talking in the park, when all of a sudden Bearded Hipster looked down at me, put his arm around my waist, pulled me towards him, and started kissing me. The kiss was basically 50% tongue and 50% his beard. He thought I kept pulling away because I didn't like him, but I was partly pulling away because his facial hair kept getting in my mouth. There's no discreet way to spit out someone else's facial hair, you know? I seriously don't know how those women who are married to those Duck Dynasty Guys kiss their husbands, though at least the Bearded Hipster's beard wasn't as long as theirs was.

While he was kissing me, I thought, I hope he can't smell the onion dip on my breath that I had at lunch today, though I did brush my teeth, floss, and gargle with Listerine afterwards. Wait, why am I thinking about onion dip right now? FOCUS!

The other reason I kept pulling away was because I felt uncomfortable. On most of the other first dates I've had, the guys usually either hugged me goodbye or gave me a good night kiss. Those dates didn't end with a full-on make out session like this one did.

I really was attracted to him, and I wanted to kiss him. I liked kissing him and being in his arms. But I felt overwhelmed, like it was too much too soon.

I'm not naive. I knew he wasn't looking for a long-term relationship, especially since he already had a girlfriend. I knew that he was basically just looking for someone to hook up with, and I must admit that I wanted a casual hookup too (it was my misguided attempt to get over the Model, who I still have feelings for). But I couldn't get myself to relax, and he could tell. He even said that I seemed tense while we were having drinks, which surprised me, because I'd actually been pretty relaxed when we were just talking.

As he walked me to my car, I tried to explain to him that it wasn't his fault, and that I really did like him. But I made the mistake of mentioning the Model (rule number one: NEVER mention someone you used to date while on a first date with someone else) and how I had anxiety about being intimate with someone else. I said I wanted to be with him but that I wanted to slow things down a little. He kissed me good night and said to let him know if I wanted to go out again.

The next day, I texted him, but he didn't answer. Several hours later, I texted him again, and this time he responded. He said that my anxiety was too much for him to deal with, especially since he just wanted to have fun. I've never been rejected by a guy for being too neurotic before, but I guess there's a first time for everything. It did not feel good. It made me feel like there was something wrong with me, like I was a freak. I wished I had let myself just relax and enjoy kissing him, especially because I really did want to kiss him.

It also made me think of the Model and how different he had been from Bearded Hipster. He was well aware of my anxiety, and unlike Bearded Hipster, he didn't judge me for it. He specifically asked me what I was and wasn't comfortable with, and he didn't try to rush me into anything that I didn't want to do.

I know that I am overly sensitive, too uptight, and too neurotic. It's something that I've been trying to work on because I know that if and when another guy tries to kiss me, I don't want to pull away or turn him off, especially if I really do like him and want to kiss him back. But I also know that I'll never be able to completely shed the neurotic part of my personality because it's part of who I am. I need to find someone who accepts me for who I am and doesn't judge me or make me feel bad about it, but after too many dates with the wrong guys, I'm doubtful that there is someone like that out there for me.

It's dates like that one that make me want to swear off dating altogether, or at least cancel my Bumble membership. It doesn't help that just recently some guy sent me a message on Bumble that merely said: "Three-way." It also included a picture of himself and his male friend with their shirts off. Guys like him are the reason the "block" button was invented.

What about you? Has anyone ever judged you for something that was central to your personality or your life?