A Thank You Note To The Guy Who Told Me To Stop Putting Myself Down

Dear Sir,

Hey there, long time no see. Kidding, I saw you like a week ago, but you’re a continent away from me now, off in a country I’ll probably never visit, so it doesn’t really matter that we just hung out. Sad face.

Jon Hamm in ‘Bridesmaids’

Three weeks ago, I told my lovely, magical, patient best friend Anna that I wanted to pen a long-winded TTF article about a terrible guy who nearly destroyed me two and a half years ago. All right, I need to take some responsibility here: a guy whom I let nearly destroy me. The moral of the story, which I won’t be writing about in TTF, is that I poisoned myself by basing my value on the treatment I received from an unworthy individual. I started writing the post soon after chatting with Anna, and while I’m (kind of?) proud to say I’ve produced 3,000 words so far, it was an exhausting post to put together and I’m not even done. I walked away from the first half of draft one feeling drained, sick, ashamed, disgusted, livid, the works. In other words, it wasn’t cathartic to vent about the downright evil connection I had with a young man who loved throwing me out of his bed like a used condom and at times made me believe he didn’t care whether I lived or died. It brought me back to one of the lowest and most vulnerable points of my life, which you got a sense of during our brief but substantial interactions.

While I plan on writing about this rotten, appalling  experience someday (ideally Taylor Swift style, because look how well that always works for her), I must say that I don’t really want to be in fight or revenge mode right now, and publishing that would just resurrect the toxic energy I worked so hard to push out of my life. I’m ready to finally give my friends and TTF readers something happy to read. During darker days, Anna would say to me, “Tell me something good, Laura.”  Well, Anna is finally getting her wish (a year and a half late, but she’ll forgive me because that’s what friends and TTFers do).

Whether you like it or not, I want to talk about you — the guy who (temporarily) restored my faith in the male species, not that I’m getting carried away or putting a ton of pressure on you or anything…

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’

Last Friday night (thanks for the heads up, Katy Perry), my friend convinced me to stay out later than I’d planned. We’d just finished eating comfort food at Doc Watson’s Irish pub and I intended to head home, but she insisted we stop at Swig, an uptown bar where her friend worked. Though tired from the week, I accompanied her to the venue, where I ended up meeting you. I remember staring at you from across the room after I got my drink. I thought you were well dressed and had probably already found someone to spend the evening with. That’s what I assume of every guy I meet, no thanks to past experiences.

Your friend approached me before you did, but you swooped in before I could get a sense of what he was about. All I knew was that I was surrounded by five fun Australians who only had a few days left in New York. I liked your cologne, but more than anything, I was drawn to your fiery attitude. You seemed very grown up, so I wasn’t surprised to hear that your friends call you “Dad” and expected you to put together the entire itinerary for the trip (I’ve so been there). You enjoy making them happy though, and I admired that because I’m the same way with my buddies. But there weren’t just warm fuzzies between us. We started the night on a playfully combative note: you made fun of me for forgetting the name of the Sydney Opera House.

That weird thing in Syndey

“‘That weird thing in Sydney?’” you said in your accent, mimicking my admittedly horrendous description of one of your country’s major landmarks. “That would be like if I called the Statue of Liberty the Green Bitch.”

“The Statue of Liberty used to be copper,” I said, whipping out my iPhone to show you a snapshot of the monument long before it developed a different shade entirely. “The color changed overtime.”

“Interesting. We’re seeing that tomorrow. If it doesn’t rain,” you replied.

Thank you, Hunters!

It had poured nonstop all day, so I was sporting my one and only pair of rain boots. You were in awe that someone over the age of four was wearing them, as people don’t really do that in Australia (or so you told me), so you had me place my legs on your lap to study the perplexing walking instruments. You traced the red Hunter logo and rubber material, seemingly amused. I was too. I knew then that you were sold.

We continued taking swipes at each other for another hour before migrating to another bar and delving into serious topics. I laughed after you bought my drink, as the last dude I’d gone out with had failed to do the same after being an hour late to meet me on an outing he’d suggested. Such gentlemen I hang out with.

I told you about this fellow with a hint of embarrassment and you warned me never to trust French guys named Jean-Paul anyway. After I whispered that we were a few feet away from the friends of a guy who had harassed me before, you seemed angry, not at me, but for me. I didn’t want that for you, though. To lighten the mood and quit coming across as a perpetually vulnerable, inherently unlovable sad sack, I asked you to talk about your life, and thank God you did.

You’re very close with and protective of your sister, who is a year older than you are (even though you call her your little sister). You’ve watched your mom and dad remarry other people a handful of times and seem pretty unfazed by it, even though I know firsthand it’s not easy to have parental figures come and go. You’re more resilient than I am in that way. I said I’m a serious person because I’m extremely career-driven, which led you to ask whether there’s a difference between “serious” and “motivated.” We laughed and you admitted to arguing for the sake of arguing (I’m guilty of this as well), but for once, I was OK with it. I liked talking to a someone who was willing to challenge and debate me. It was a nice change from empty bar conversations I have to deal with on a regular basis. You also got mad when I said I looked like a slob, and while I definitely felt grimy and haggard from running around the wet streets of NYC all day and night, I appreciated that you forced me to quit saying that I was an awful sight. Because I’m not.

3:00 a.m. rolled around and we were still chatting at The Penrose, which was clearing out and closing, so I awkwardly invited you to follow me back to my digs, where we talked for another hour or so before getting a move on things. As we sat side-by-side on my bed and discussed my barely legible to-do list, I regretted that we hadn’t kissed at the bar, because that’s definitely something two strangers should do before retreating back to one of their residences. What if we had no chemistry? Oh well, I thought, if this turns out to be a disaster, at least I’ll have something funny to blog about.

Studying my wall, you asked about my journalism award and I explained that I’d received it as a college junior, back when I viewed myself as the biggest thing in the world for publishing a 700-word column per week. Now I write piece after piece on a daily basis, rarely having a major attachment to my work but always feeling squirmy, inadequate, overwhelmed, stifled, and behind. It’s not that I dislike what I’m doing, I’m just ready to evolve. You get that because you’ve lived your entire life on the edge. You fly military planes and can go a week without food, for God’s sake.

As much as I loved discussing my college writing accolades, I became increasingly frustrated and nervous. I didn’t want to talk about my trophies. I wanted to see whether we were compatible in another way. After all, you hadn’t come over to learn the extent of my epic nerdiness. 

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’

Once we finished our glasses of water, I made a beeline for the light switch, whacked it off, and pulled your face toward my own. Phew, I thought. Zero weirdness. Even so, I could tell by your classy attire, rippled six pack abs, sparkly blue eyes, head of dark hair, and perfectly-sculpted biceps that you probably get a lot more play than I do, and that made me noticeably anxious and even more frantic than usual.

“What now?” I said after we’d made our way into the sheets.

“You tell me. You’re supposed to be the older and more mature one, right?”

I sighed. “Yeah. Right.”

I’d almost forgotten you’re two years (and two months) younger than I am, and for a split second, I believed that was the reason you’d agreed to hang out with me in the first place: you didn’t know any better. There I go again. I’m always getting down on myself, mainly because the only other younger guy I’ve been with was the aforementioned putz in paragraph two. After him, I didn’t do anything — aside from endure a meaningless kiss here and there — for a year and seven months. As Olivia Wilde eloquently described her post-divorce experiences, “my vagina died.” But it was more than just my personal life that went on a hellish vacation. It was my ability to connect with others, my desire to go out and meet guys, my joie de vivre.

I don’t know whether this was obvious or not, but I did confess around 5:30 that I’d been, for the most part, out of the game and reclusive for a while. You assured me everything was fine, and when I kept saying sorry and stating that I was uncertain, you looked at me and commanded, “Stop apologizing and putting yourself down.”

People who apologize a lot reflexively say “sorry” after an order of this nature, but I simply nodded and kept that word out of my vocabulary for the duration of our encounter. Sometime before sunrise, I quit fretting and feeling self-conscious, and we covered a lot of ground. You said you loved that I’m a writer because of the way I phrase things. You like that I walk fast because you move with purpose and urgency as well. You think my past experiences with men are unfortunate, and you regret that I haven’t had any positive stories to share for five years (I promise I’ll be fine, I just have to learn to pick better). I said I envied your outdoor survival skills, which you acquired in the military. We argued about the pronunciation of “climate.” I say it like “climb-it” whereas you’re convinced it’s spoken as “climb-AT.”

I asked whether you’d heard of “The Simpsons,” and that question gave you a good laugh. I went on to say that it was quite possible that the comedy series isn’t as big a deal in your country as it is in mine because it’s based on the modern U.S. family. You assured me families are the same everywhere, which got me thinking about “Anna Karenina.”

“You’re just a trove of knowledge, aren’t you?” you said.

I shrugged. “Something like that.”

At around 6:45, you suggested we get some shut eye. You had a big day ahead and I needed to catch up on sleep after an intense work week. I found myself settling into the crook of your neck, and after five minutes, presumably when you suspected I was out cold, you kissed the top of my forehead.

The following night, you sent me a Facebook message about your Saturday excursions with the guys.

“How was the Green Bitch?” I asked.

“The Green Bitch was good. Took a while to get out there but it was pretty good. I am about to lose my rights to the laptop so text me ;) (310) xxx-xxxx”

And so I did, and we had our last hurrah the following day after several hours of texting and joking around. You fell asleep on your cab ride back from the Giants stadium, and I light-heartedly told you that you’d need your rest prior to our shenanigans.

“You’re not going to try to kill me again, are you?” you said.

Unfortunately not, as I was plagued with foot and leg cramps, prompting me to tell you it was because you were dealing with a senior citizen. We hung out at the Times Square Westin, where I’d stayed during my high school drama trip eight years earlier. I hugged you goodbye but was at a loss for words as I usually am with formalities and farewells, and that was it.

You’re out of my life and we’re not going to remember much about each other ten years from now. You’ll reflect on your month-long vacation to the states and gush about the hilarious times you had with your friends. I won’t be able to identify you by name, but I will remember the strong-willed, humorous, opinionated Australian who convinced me I deserved much more than I’d ever gotten, so thank you. I hope I gave you more than just a funny travel story about a neurotic redheaded Californian who kept you up all night.

I May Actually Have A Crush Again — But I Choose Not To Act On It

A few weeks ago, I echoed John Mayer’s “Love Song for No One” and lamented having no romantic interests. I wasn’t upset that I’d been single for almost five years, but that I hadn’t seriously liked anyone in almost a year and a half. I missed the feelings associated with crushes and dreamed of the possibility of spending time with someone of value in New York. A few commenters voiced assent with my piece, stating that they too wished they could meet a guy about whom they could get excited. Others, such as the ever sagacious voice of reason Heather Price-Wright, noted the importance of stability and consistency in relationships. While having a crush is thrilling in the beginning stages, it can also leave you feeling awful about yourself, and the fire burns out faster than you expect it to. She may no longer experience butterflies when her boyfriend steps through the front door of their home (or maybe she still does! All I know is that she certainly perked up in his presence when they first started dating at our school newspaper. It was adorable), but she’s also not suffering the torturous ups and downs of infatuation. And believe me, they’ll tear you to shreds.

I'm Lake Bell in "No Strings Attached"

After the article went live, a friend told me that I’d like someone when I stopped looking. I laughed, as I ended my passive search more than a year ago, but humored her. She ended up being right, however, and now that I’m experiencing all the side effects of Crushdom again (giddiness, being visibly embarrassed and flushed all the time, talking out of nervousness like that spazzy uptight side character in “No Strings Attached,” incessant laughter, etc), I’m both thrilled and concerned, and I thank Heather for explaining why reverting back to one’s teenage tendencies can end badly.

Though I’m not invested in this individual, as I honestly don’t know all that much about him, this whole thing still leaves me with a bad feeling in my stomach. My track record isn’t great, so rather than risk getting shot down or belittled, I keep my mouth shut and don’t go after what I might want. I refuse to even let myself see whether it could work out because I don’t want other problems to unfold. Worst of all, I don’t want to be made a fool, and don’t think I haven’t fretted about the backlash I could receive for this post. I’m exhausted from several college and post-college blow-offs, so I choose not to move forward with this, as many things could go wrong if I do.

For a while, I was proud of myself for acquiring an aloof, shut off approach, which I would have eschewed during youth. Whether it’s

Senior prom

obvious or not, I have an exceptionally aggressive side, and it often comes out at work and in my relationships. The only reason I had a boyfriend in high school was because I confronted the guy I liked and told him that I was hooked. Okay, I wasn’t that brave or ballsy. What really happened was that I hung around him during club meetings every week and eventually wrote him a letter revealing my feelings. I gave him the note before sprinting to the girls’ bathroom with my friend Brittany out of cowardice. He said he already knew how I felt about him, but the gesture made him reevaluate his opinion of me, and before long, we were dating. But I also had to ask him to prom. He said he wouldn’t have considered going to the big event had I not brought it up. The following year, I invited another boy to the prom and he was my date. I’m not chattering about the big dance to bore you with stories of my awkward teen days or as a nod to prom season, but because these are perfect examples of me going after what I want. Even through the tidal wave of disappointments, I’ve always been confident about pursuing and being pursued, so it’s both empowering and depressing to adopt a passive, almost apathetic way of doing things. Though my friends and family would be proud to hear that I don’t believe in wearing my heart on my sleeve, I kind of hate how fearful and guarded I’ve become in this department. I’m aware that disillusionment is part of adulthood, but I shouldn’t be bewildered and scared this early on.

Rachel McAdams in "Morning Glory": "I want to like you, but don't want to get hurt!"

Believe it or not, though, there’s a reason for my hesitation and newly built wall. Like Rachel McAdams’s character in “Morning Glory,” I worry I’ll hurt my career by getting sucked into a relationship. More than that, I’m also afraid to say this person is out of my league, at least in one very obvious way. This has happened to me twice, and on both occasions, the classy guys hid me from their friends. One of these young men would even make fun of me in front of my friends. No, this wasn’t in elementary school. It was the summer before my junior year of college. I was 19 years old and staying at American University for an internship program, and against my better judgement, I found myself hooking up with an older guy down the hall. He hung out with the “cool clique” of the dorm whereas I established lifelong bonds with a group of fellow cheesy nerds, all of whom he made fun of behind their backs. As the others went bar hopping in the nation’s capital, my new friends and I watched “How I Met Your Mother,” cooked chocolate chip pancakes for dinner, and went to late night movies. They were all incredible and inspiring, so I’m not sure why I sometimes left my awesome buddies to go mess around with a 23-year-old guy who took me further than I wanted to go, told me he was only with me because he “couldn’t bang real hotties such as Amanda Bynes,” and kept me from his friends. Worst of all, he pulled pranks on me in public. During dinner one night in the cafeteria, he dropped four ice cubes down my back. My friends and I looked at him with disgust and said he needed to quit acting like a preschooler, yet the order went right over his head. He hid me from his friends and bullied me in front of everyone to veil what was going on between us, yet would ask me to come to his room every other night and express irritation when I spent time with my male friends. He got away with it because he was movie star quality gorgeous. The second guy didn’t have ladykiller looks, but was outgoing enough to make you think he was Ryan Gosling. He pulled a lot of nonsense on me as well, and I hated myself for months after all of this went down. In the end, though, I was at fault for allowing myself to be someone’s secret shame. And I don’t want to fall into that downward spiral — or anything even remotely close to it — again.

Who wouldn't want a Chuck and Blair dynamic? xoxo, Gossip Girl

So, yeah. From what I’ve seen, the person I like has far more class, decency, and character than those two, so I doubt he’s even capable of that level of douchebaggery. Therefore, he wouldn’t treat me like a kitchen sink rag, but who is to say he would give me the time of day? The point is, I don’t know. I question whether I even have the authority to say that I have a crush on this person, as my knowledge of him is so minimal at this point. How could it be anything substantial, though, if I refuse to put myself out there? Maybe that’s another part of growing up: Realizing that there’s a difference between having feelings for a person and fixating on something because you like the rush. I’ve taken a leap of faith in the past, and while I’ve gained more knowledge and insight from each letdown, I don’t think I’m ready to repeat the “this is what I’ve learned” crap just yet. The good news is that I go out with friends a lot and have constant exposure to new young men, but most of the time, I’m underwhelmed. All the gems are taken, so I put my energy into rooting for Chuck and Blair on “Gossip Girl.” I’m too old to be living through television shows and watching this one in particular, but it’s a lot easier than dealing with rejection. I hope to break away from this mindset in time, but for now, I’m too petrified and lazy to put myself in that kind of vulnerable state.

What Goes Through My Mind When I See A Guy Across A Bar

Isn't this FUN?

God, what am I doing here? Is it really Friday? What it is about Fridays that makes the crowd so much less cool than Thursdays? Where did all these old people come from? Why do guys I like always talk to old ladies? Why are these drinks so expensive? Do bartenders think that when I say “whiskey sour” I’m only doing it for the cherry? What if I am only doing it for the cherry?

Does it denote some kind of perma-girlishness that even when I choose an adult beverage, it has ingredients in common with Shirley Temples? God, whatever happened to Shirley Temples? Weren’t those things delicious? Wasn’t there supposedly a version of those that had alcohol in it, what kind of alcohol was that? Can I order one of those? Remember that one time my cousins and I thought they served us high-octane Shirley Temples when we were like ten, and then we acted drunk, and then it turned out it was just a whole lot of grenadine?

Hey, is that guy cute? Why is he wearing that weird shirt? Why do guys think a plaid shirt is the appropriate attire for every event from a first date to a summer funeral? How come guys have it so easy, and women have to spend millions of dollars and millions of minutes on hair, makeup, clothes, shoes, accessories, and scent? Why do they even have menswear sections? Why do they keep printing a million more tacky geometric patterns on ties, is it just so guys can feel like they have some entitlement to complaining about clothes, too?

Wait, is that guy cute? His half-smile and that casual way he leans on the bar is hot, right? Or does he know I’m looking at him, thinking he looks like a taller Diego Luna, but with muscles? God, did I just use the word hot? Isn’t that word the worst? How can it simultaneously degrade and build up a girl? It kind of implies the person is dumb, right? What’s a better word? Would that guy, the one who just ran his hand from his neck to his scalp through that windy barley field of hair, rather I called him handsome, or is that too old-fashioned?

Is he handsome? What if the way I perceive beauty is based on something totally horrible, like what advertisers in magazines tell me I should find attractive? I mean, who really wants to date a guy who spends enough time at the gym and only eats kale so he has a six pack? Wouldn’t he be really boring to talk to? So why do women all hold guys to that insane standard? Isn’t that just like the insane standard women are held to, that they have to have a waist the width of the ball in whatever sport their boyfriend prefers to pretend to play on his Xbox? What have you done to us, Posh Spice?!

Why doesn’t he want to talk to me? I’ve been staring at him through my eyelashes for half an hour, why hasn’t he come over here? Should I go over there? Should I buy him a drink? Should I ask him to buy me a drink? Why is it so much better if a guy buys a girl a drink than the other way around? Why are women in an active role always more pathetic than men doing exactly the same thing? Why do I have to wait around for him to ask me out?

Should I ask him out? What if I don’t want to ask him out, what if I want him to ask me out? What does that say about me as a woman? Am I so shaped by culture that I can’t be an active participant in my own history? Why hasn’t he come over here and talked to me? Am I not pretty enough? Can he tell from there that I’m not a fun girl, that I’m kind of a mess right now, that I’d really like an actual boyfriend who is nice to me for more than one day in a row? Is that what’s keeping him over there? Does he look at me and think, “Why would I talk to the broad with the crazy eyes when I can lean in close to this hot chick who was resourceful enough to take the bandage dress trend literally”?

God, isn’t this place the worst? Can we please get out of here?

(Lowbrow allusion to this.)

Don’t Buy Me a Drink: Girls and the Guys Who Buy Them Stuff

I'm good. Thanks though, T Pain!

We all know I’m kind of a feminist, even though I’m as reluctant to admit that as I am to admit that I kind of love ABC’s latest well-produced skim-latte froth of rhinestone twangin’ television, GCB. So it’s hardly a surprise that Kat and I have had an ongoing discussion about a classic topic of feminist whinging for about a month now: the eternal conundrum of men buying you stuff.

The discussion pivots on two particular conversations. The first occurred when I mentioned that I’d met a guy I was, in the parlance of our times, hollerin’ at. “Make sure you get him to buy you dinner first!” Kat warned. The second occurred when I mentioned I was looking forward to getting drunk that night, because it was a day ending in y. “What you need to do is get guys to buy you drinks,” Kat said. I know Kat means well, and she was only trying to help me have fun and drink cheap. But in the pursuit of making girls and guys treat each other with a little less awfulness, I’m curious about the effect of these default assumptions.

Our first conversation negotiated the assumption that a guy should buy a girl dinner before trying to get her out of her sparkly tissue of a dress. Kat probably meant that a girl should get to know a guy better — by eating a meal with him, perhaps — before taking him home with her.  The idea that a dude should plonk down some cash before leaning in and puckering up is hardly uncommon. It’s present in the second situation that triggered our debate: implying that I should use a man’s generosity to chase a buzz when I can very well buy my own drinks reinforces the assumption that guys should buy pretty girls things, basically for no reason.

By implying a guy should buy you dinner before going in for a kiss frames a really backward kind of transaction in regards to women and their ability to want sex and choose it rationally. You are never obligated to sleep with anyone in any situation you don’t clearly, distinctly want. And okay, maybe a guy is trying to get you to like him by being nice and buying you a drink. But by subscribing to the idea that he is obligated to buy you something before you can be expected to kiss him back is kind of like him thinking he shouldn’t have to marry you unless you have a dowry of silver spoons and blanket chests to bring with you into the marriage.

That's nice of you, but I can buy my own drinks.

The problem here is not magnanimous guys who buy a round for the table, or non-sexual or non-romantic relationships. Buying drinks for each other is awesome! But a woman should be able to want sex, say it, and get it without the man buying her anything — or her friends telling her she’s easy because she didn’t get a $12 salad in addition to the main course (if you know what I mean). If you are interested in the guy, you shouldn’t manipulate him into buying you things just because it’s in your arsenal of feminine whiles. If you aren’t interested in a guy and you let him buy you a drink, you are reinforcing the idea that women are conniving, unkind, and only want sex if it’s about something else.

The assumption goes that girls can only want sex if it will make a guy date them, or if it will make a guy tell them they are pretty, or if it will make a guy buy them shit. One of the most important tasks of feminism is to challenge the idea that sex for women is always about something other than sex. It’s a pervasive assumption — one that is, stated frankly, demeaning and backward and wrong. A man does not need to buy you a drink before you can want him. In addition to making sex a capitalist transaction, it also robs a woman of her ability to want sex without everyone thinking she really wants love/validation/a free salad.

Boy Coy: For the Love of the Deal

Editor’s note: This column was written by (*gasp*) a boy. No matter your scientific, expressed, or preferred gender, you too can write for us! Direct interest to servingteatofriends [at] gmail [dot] com.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a type. The list of 5’7”+ fair-skinned brunettes I’ve courted (or attempted to court)  easily provides sufficient data points to identify a trend. Data analysis would also reveal that the most genuine romantic experiences in my history were spent in the company of stark outliers. It is likely this very pattern that draws my attention (and this post) to the talk of types.

Anna’s Ron Swanson-referencing investigation of the deal breaker phenomenon sent my synapses in the direction of another equally hilarious NBC sitcom. In fact, the 3rd season finale of “30 Rock” features long-suffering protagonist Liz Lemon garnering media adoration for a conveniently relevant catchphrase: “…That’s a deal breaker, ladies!”

A cursory Google of the phrase turned up this delightful webpage, complete with an informative collection of Daily Deal Breakers. I was particularly amused by the accompanying image of a disheveled male 20-something: Deal breaker incarnate, it seems. While initially put off by his application of cadet grey slacks and navy pinstripes, my mood relented to sympathy under the influence of his pitiable “give-a-guy-a-chance” anti-swag. I began clicking through countless disqualifiers, determined to determine if Mr. DB was being held up to the draconian standards his expression implied. Many deal breakers (“If your man owns a mint-condition Hellboy figurine”) came off as a bit unfair. I quake in fear when I consider my girlfriend may put the axe on our relationship in response to the unrelenting torrent of Dragon Ball Z and Pokémon analysis that comprises my Facebook profile.

Gotta' deconstruct 'em all!

Others (“Your man wants to plan your honeymoon around Comic-Con”) registered as perfectly viable scenarios to alter the deal. In fact, the most common theme among Deal Breakers revolved around the stereotypically masculine lack of consideration or respect for a partner. My favesies on this end of the spectrum included “Your man disappears and then shows up after seven months of no contact” and “If your man has seven cell phones, but won’t give you any of their numbers.” Though thoroughly entertained, the page nearly failed to appear in this post because of its inconsistencies with the initial deal breaker conversation. Previous posts had debated the merits of a physical criterion, not  selfish habits that might delegitimize the validity of a long-term partnership. Furthermore, commenter Katey pointed out how the reliance on visual analysis is an unavoidable component of modern dating:

 “Most of the guys I date have similar attributes. I am attracted to a certain type of man, and I don’t see anything wrong with that. I also expect that if I guy asks me out, that I already meet his basic appearance requirements. I don’t want to find out later that he is not attracted to my brunette locks. Shallowness is part of attraction. Do not tell me that any of you are going to walk into a bar and, purely based on looks, let everyone be an option to you. That’s not how it works. We all have a type and we all have deal breakers.”

She’s right.  It would be unrealistic to consider any human being as acting in error for evaluating potential suitors with a “basic appearance requirement.” Likewise, it would be unfair to call someone out for establishing a preference for certain physical qualities.

Things become counterproductive, however, when these aesthetic sorting algorithms rationalize a continued relationship despite the appearance of Lizlemonian-mode Deal Breakers. This practice is grossly common among my heteromale peers. I have watched many XY’s willingly succumb to the allure of the trophy-girlfriend, only to be bemused as they continuously gripe over a litany of incompatibilities. Then again, this pattern is often the dominant motivation for relationships in the first place. If affirmation minimums and convenient orgasms are the signs of functioning companionship, our physical markers seem perfectly adequate for selecting a status-changer.

Reprogramming our brain’s inclinations for attraction is impossible.  Still, a more challenging approach to why we agree to go on dates in the first place may bear more fruitful results. At the very least, an adjustment may help to retool a system that Anna accurately describes as rewarding, “a consideration that happens in two seconds over one that is more generous and more time-consuming.”

Granted, it’s reasonable to assume commenter Geoffrey speaks for most of us when he notes that he would, “go mad if I had to go on five dates with every person I met.” On the other hand, should we accept dates as the sole medium for getting to know someone we happen to find attractive?

Sorry I’m Not Sorry That “Friends” Saved My Life (or: Why This Smart Girl Loves Sitcoms)

No one told me life was gonna be this way.

I know, I know — the late ’90s called, and they want their sitcom mania back.

But hear me out. My freshman year of college, I went through a really nasty breakup with my high school boyfriend. And I mean drunken-fights-in-front-of-a-haunted-house, being-called-a-Nazi-via-AOL-instant-messenger nasty. The breakup period lasted for about two months, from mid-October until the first day of finals in December (I know!), and for a long, long time after that, I was a black hole of dispair. I looked, felt and walked around like the dead girl from The Ring who pops out of televisions and drowns people.

In addition to writing a lot of incredibly pathetic fragments of poetry during those dreary post-breakup days, I also relied heavily on the three seasons of “Friends” on DVD.

I only own seasons four, six, and seven, plus a weird DVD my mom got for me, probably at one of those Blockbuster sales (remember when video stores were still a thing?), which contains just five episodes from season one. But let me tell you. I have watched every single episode on every single one of those DVDs way more times than I can count. I could probably recite Monica and Chandler’s tag-teamed proposal word for word, complete with Chandler’s super-smooth opening line of “Oh my God.” I know all the answers to the game Chandler, Joey, Rachel, and Monica play in the episode where the girls lose the big apartment (and Phoebe gets artificially inseminated by her brother). In fact, I know these episodes so well that I often find myself about to quote lines from the show, only to realize that would be the actual lamest thing a young adult could do in 2012. Besides maybe gush about “Whitney.”

In part, I watched “Friends” because I needed something, anything, in my own head besides my thoughts, which, at the time, felt like they were trying to jailbreak out of my head with homemade shivs. Being inside my brain was so painful that I needed something loud, brash, and totally banal to drown everything else out.

But I think that explanation is too easy, and too desperate in its attempts to find a reason that a smart girl would like less-than-smart entertainment. After all, there were lots of ways to drown out my own sad thoughts. I could have read “Anna Karenina,” and inhabited a lot of other people’s sad thoughts, instead. I could have volunteered to help people with real problems, or concentrated on turning my pain into art, or all the other things that would have been considered more productive than memorizing sitcom lines. But I didn’t. And I didn’t want to, more to the point. I wanted to watch “Friends.”

There’s something truly comforting — not in a bland, mask-the-pain way, but genuinely palliative — about the relationships on shows like “Friends,” or even its slightly edgier counterparts, from “Seinfeld” through “Community,” “Parks and Recreation,” and “30 Rock” (what can I say — I’m an NBC gal). On those shows, so vastly unlike in real life, bonds between people bend, but do not break. The continuity and audience maintenance of the sitcom genre depend on the characters’ ability to forgive and, very quickly, to forget past wrongs and embark on a new adventure every week. Ross thought he and Rachel were on a break? No problem; aside from some snide remarks, the two managed to repair their friendship within a few episodes. And the same goes for all these shows — by and large, no one holds grudges, or hurts one another irreparably, or breaks up and never speaks again. Exes can be friends, because they’re both signed for at least the rest of the season, and anyway, fights that go on too long are boring and uncomfortable for audiences.

So in a way, I think watching ungodly amounts of “Friends” actually did help heal my broken heart. After all, as I watched, all the friends had hearts broken and put back together again, and they managed to do so with a laugh track. And just like I’ve learned lessons from great novels and great films, I have learned a whole lot from crappy television. Most importantly: Joey, Chandler, Ross, Rachel, Monica, and Phoebe taught me that everything hard will eventually be less hard – you just have to wait a couple of episodes.

What’s My Dealbreaker? Having Dealbreakers

Dealbreaker.

What’s your type? Whether you want every man you date to look like Han Solo or are a Chewbacca fetishist, we all have ideals of what we’d like in a person we date. Everyone from Carrie Bradshaw to Ron Swanson makes preliminary romantic decisions based on surface-level, often unchangeable factors about a potential partner. “I’m a simple man,” Swanson gravels in his maple baritone. “I like pretty, dark-haired women and breakfast food.”

As we were discussing in the comments of Laura’s post about being a tall lady, almost everyone has cursory aesthetic demands on one’s imaginary perfect man (or woman). In the same way that Ron Swanson likes brunettes, Laura wants to meet a guy who’s taller than her. Heather made a good point about this:

I guess I think “preferring” a type of guy in general is problematic, although I know that everyone is attracted to certain characteristics in spite of themselves (give me a beard or give me singlehood). Seeking a man out expressly because he’s short or tall seems, as you said, either Victorian or deliberately contrarian, so to me it makes more sense to find someone you’re otherwise attracted to and compatible with and maybe worry a little less whether you’re taller than he is.

Heather’s right that it would be kinder to our potential mates to not have a pre-composed set of attributes we impose on them. Yet countless conversations over cocktails, in magazines, and between texts with your girlfriends allow us to dismiss a guy (in this case) because he’s “not my type.” Why is it socially accepted to ignore someone because of a previous outline into which he doesn’t precisely fit?

Ron Swanson says to a guitar teacher in whom he’s interested, “For what it’s worth, you’d make an incredible brunette.” This isn’t exactly a compliment – he’s telling this woman he merely spots across a room that she is only worthy of his affections if she changes her appearance to suit his personal preference. She’s blonde, so she can’t expect him to be interested—he’s a brunette man.

Of course, women do this just as casually: It’s a “dealbreaker” if a guy isn’t tall enough/doesn’t have an accent/doesn’t have green eyes/carries a Velcro wallet. Why is it an accepted cultural phenomenon to dismiss based on a surface-level attribute?

We don’t really ignore people we’re attracted to because of these cursory judgments. Types, dealbreakers, and stated requirements are all excuses to explain why we’re not attracted to someone. Sexual attraction is hardly that simplistic, and in making dating a less brutal game than it already is, we might benefit from not legitimizing the idea that a guy can’t like you because of your hair color. As Heather also notes:

I think for many men, masculinity is as fraught as femininity is for us (the thinking ones, anyway) so imposing these standards of tallness-as-attractiveness and worse, tallness-as-virility-and-suitable-matehood, seems like something worth attempting to avoid.

If we continue to consider “dealbreakers” as a valid explanation for not going out with someone, we continue a shallow, often unfair consideration of the people we might end up really liking. More fair than listing voice, cologne, or hair length in explaining why we do or don’t like someone, perhaps we should accept that people aren’t the sum of their dealbreakers, having a type is wildly limiting, and sometimes you just don’t want to go out with someone.

It’s not because she’s blonde, and you shouldn’t expect her to become brunette before she expects you to give her a chance.

Okay, Cupid, Find Me a Match: Adventures in Online Dating

How do gay people manage to meet other gay people? My answer is usually, “I have NO idea how to meet gay people. That’s why I’m perpetually single.” My one answer is online dating.

I’ve been a member of many dating sites, and only one really caters to the needs of the gay and straight singles community equally: OKCupid. My experiences with OKCupid have produced mixed results, and, until recently, I had basically given up on the site completely. Those experiences have taught me how to make the site work for me, rather than getting worked over by it. Here they are so you can learn from them too:

The mediocre OKCupid date:
In my experience, telling someone in your first message that you are interested in romance has usually resulted in being completely ignored or attracting the needy and desperate. I always go with the “I’m looking for friends” approach. The only issue with having to be subtle about your intentions is that the first meeting exists in the ambiguous space between “I want romance” and “I want friends.”

On one OKCupid date, I met up with a girl at a pizza parlor that she requested because she couldn’t eat cheese and they made soy cheese pizza. I was already sure this wouldn’t work when she said that not only could she not eat cheese, but didn’t even like cheese. She was funny and we had a lot to talk about, but inviting her back to my place only resulted in getting high, doing yard work and playing Super Mario on my Super Nintendo. We mostly laughed about how ridiculous our OKCupid date ended up being and didn’t connect after that night. We ran into each other again at a local gay bar a month or two later, but neither of us really tried to make a lasting connection. We’re still Facebook friends, and we share the occasional comment or “like.” The majority of my OKCupid dates go a little something like this. Our match rating was 97%.

The “I’m embarrassed for myself” OKCupid date:
Although this particular date started off well enough, I ended up scaring her off by adding her on Facebook too soon. This act can be the life or death of a good date, I’ve found. We had a lot in common, which, at first, I thought was a good thing, but it turned out that we had nothing to disagree on. We had so much in common that we even almost had the same birthday.

I can admittedly get really excited when I feel something on a first date. In my excitement, I searched for her on Facebook. Because, who am I kidding? I wanted to Facebook stalk her. I sent her a text warning her that I had added her as a friend and she got pretty defensive: “How did you know my last name?!” She accepted my friend request, but never responded to my invite to lunch a few days later. I unfriended her pretty quickly after that, to save my own dignity. Our match rating was 95%.

The awesome OKCupid date:
Although this is a recent development, I’ve somehow managed to not only meet someone on OKCupid, but really enjoy her too. I can’t go into the details of this just yet because I don’t want to jinx it, but needless to say, it was a perfect first date. My awesome OKCupid date and I have a match rating of 92%.

I’ve learned to mostly ignore the match percentage in my pursuits in online dating because, as you can see, they really make no difference. My concern with dating sites is that there can be something dangerous about dating someone who is JUST like you. With OKCupid, matches are selected based on questions you answer and how important their responses are to you. You can decide whether you’d like someone to agree or disagree with your answer, but how often do we want someone to disagree with us? This often results in your matches having almost identical opinions. If you’re going to pick anyone, shoot for someone in the lower 90 percentile. This has proven to be the most successful because you are just similar enough that your differences are intriguing.

Single and Awesome on Valentine’s Day

This was my Valentine’s Day 2011:

It is my third date with Ben, a fourth-year pharmacy student. Ben is interesting. Ben is cute. And yet, I’m totally not into him.    

He called me on Sunday – just to talk – and I missed thirty epic minutes of The Grammys. I just wanted to watch the show with my roommates. Instead, I was stuck on the phone talking to him. He asked me out for a Valentine’s Day date. I think it’s a little weird – isn’t a big deal to go on a Valentine’s Day date? We’re going to Coldstone, so that’ll be delicious, at least. I told him I couldn’t stay out too long because I have homework…which is true, but I could have skipped it, probably.

I’m wearing a black tank top with an off-pink cardigan and jeans, because I don’t want to seem too into the holiday. I had cake batter ice cream with pound cake and strawberries, and it was delicious. I laughed at all the right places, and then told him about my latest creative writing project. He drove me home in his jeep and kissed me in the car. Then the date was over.

Was that really what I have been missing all these years?

I had one more date with Ben and then I broke it off. For Ben and I, the chemistry just wasn’t there. I knew that after the first date, but wanted to try to give him a chance. I felt like if I broke up with him, it would seem like my standards were too high. Why be single when I could be with someone? Ben was a stable, decent, interesting guy. He was smart and funny. He was a gentleman, but in my mind, we just weren’t compatible.I was not excited to have a Valentine’s Day date. It was my first one ever, but other than that, it wasn’t too special. It was actually kind of awkward.

For Valentine’s Day 2012, I will be single. I am completely okay with that, and you should be too. I have chosen not to be in a relationship right now, and that has made all the difference. Facing my situation with Ben and being completely aware of the fact that I was going to be the one to break it off taught me something: I had power. I have the power to choose whether or not I want to be single.

A lot of people my age think that singleness is a curse or some sort of disease. If you are single at 21, there must be a problem. Lots of people are married with children by now. What’s your deal? I felt like I was a terrible person because I wanted to break it off with Ben. I had a legitimate reason, and yet I spent more time than I should have in the three weeks that we were dating wishing more than anything that he would break if off with me. I just want to be single, I remember thinking. What is wrong with me?

Absolutely nothing. Girls make the choice to be single every day. That’s a good thing! One day, you will make the choice to be in a relationship and it will be awesome.

Being the roommate chilling alone in your apartment Valentine’s Day night is not ideal. But I would rather be unhappy that one night than be in a miserable, no-chemistry relationship again. It’s fun knowing that the next guy you meet could be your one and only. Also, just because you don’t have a date does not mean you are alone. Make Valentine’s Day about love – love for your parents, family and friends. Letting someone know you care in a nonromantic way is a great way to spend the holiday, and you’ll get love back in return.

You might have heard it before: “If you really want a boyfriend, go out and get one.” This Valentine’s Day, remember that you are in control of your singleness, and that is a good thing. You are fabulous and amazing and one day is going to be the right day. The relationship you fall into will be the one you are meant to be in, because you chose it and the guy fell for you, and not the made up- vixen-sexpot version of you. Until then, enjoy being you and enjoy being single. It’s better than you’d think – really.