Sunday, April 28, 2013

Dear Internet

I don't think I've every actually written a "dear John" letter to break up with someone. I usually do that in person. But when I decided to stop writing this blog, who should I have sent the letter to? The whole Internet? Awkward.

In any case, Internet, I'm sure you've figured out that I haven't been posting. It isn't you, though. It's me. I love you for your blogs, your news articles based on twitter feeds, your catchphrases ("Clean ALL THE THINGS!"), and your videos about sloths. But eventually I decided I didn't want to spend 20 hours per week writing blog entries. [Yes, that is actually how much time it took.]

So, since I could, I just stopped. I didn't even feel bad about it. It was the easiest break up ever, at least for me. I do appreciate that some of my dedicated readers felt that I had let them down, and I felt bad about that. My readers were awesome and encouraging, and I really loved it when my friends would quote me to me in the middle of conversations. The most often quoted:
  • "It's either a good date or a good story."
  • "A tip for the gentlemen out there: self-loathing is actually not as attractive a characteristic in a date as you might think."
  • "Did you just make a joke about shooting my dog in the head?"
Sadly, no one has ever used the phrase "gnocchi pimp" to me, which I think is a gross oversight.

Occasionally, I meet someone at a party and they ask about what I do for fun. When I say that I write, they ask to read something of mine. For those people, here is a list of a few of my favorite entries. I hope you enjoy them. For dedicated readers, if you have a favorite line, please add it to the comments. Thanks for being so supportive while I was writing this. I'll let you know if I start a new project.

The glass is half full. Of men.

Something fishy

Seeing the signs

The perils of dating and ravioli

What are the odds?

Out on a limb

The value of life experience

Princesses and unicorns

Mysteries of the universe (part 1)

Oh, my lord (part 2)

Truth in advertising

Liar, liar, pants on fire

Picky, picky, picky

The meaning of life, love, and salad

And for the folks who ask for advice on dating profiles, look at:
  • Princesses and unicorns
  • Truth in advertising
  • Liar, liar, pants on fire
  • Out on a limb
Thanks again,

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Wishful thinking

Stereotypes are bad, Internet. They encourage you to make assumptions about people, and you should really appreciate them each as the wonderful individuals that they are. And stereotypes are frequently wrong! For example, based on stereotypes, you might assume that everyone in Seattle works in software or airplane assembly. You'd think that they'd all be wearing fleece and Gore-Tex, and that everyone would spend their spare time in coffee shops, hiding out from the rain.

This is so not true! In fact, I'm sitting in a coffee shop right this minute, and only 75% of the people in here are wearing fleece or Gore-Tex!

Of course I am wearing both fleece and Gore-Tex, because it is pouring out and I didn't want to soaked on the way to my daily coffee, Kindle-reading, and subtle eavesdropping session. Oh, the joys of eavesdropping in coffee shops. It is just like having a life without actually having to talk to people.

On some days, I am not so good at the talking to people part. I'm better and the "listen and snicker quietly to myself" part.

Like this morning, at the table to the right of me, the Universe has given me the heart-warming drama of mother and child. You know the one. You have seen it for yourself, I'm sure.

Girl: I want a hot chocolate.
Mom: You have a hot chocolate.
Girl: Too hot!
Mom: Blow on it a little to cool it off.
Girl: No!
Mom: Sophia, you are not acting like the little lady I would expect a three year-old to act like.
Girl: I have boots.
Mom: Yes. You have kitten boots.
Girl: Boots. Boots. Boots. Boots. (kicks her chair leg, repeatedly)
Mom: Yes, they are lovely boots. Please stop kicking the chair.
Girl: Boots. Boots. Boots. Boots. (continues kicking)
Mom: Sophia, I would like to enjoy my coffee before we go to playgroup...
Mom: …because I really need my caffeine today. And I would like you to behave properly.
Girl: I want a hot chocolate.

They continue in this loop for a while. Man, I am so glad this isn't me. I don't have the patience to be a mom. The boots are adorable though. I wonder if they make those in adult sizes?

Mom: Sophia--
Girl: NO.
Mom: Young lady, I--
Girl: NO.
Mom: Why are you saying no? You don't even know what I am going to say? Wouldn't it be more effective to find out if you agree with me before you answer?
Girl: NO.
Mom: For example, since you aren't listening to me, how would you know if I were about to say--
Girl:  (kicks chair more loudly, and with malice)
Mom: If you want something, you'd be more likely to get it if you used your words.
Girl: I want a hot chocolate.
Mom: You have a hot chocolate. With extra whipped cream.
Girl: Too hot.
Mom: Well, wait it out. (turns out her cell phone and starts reading Facebook while sipping her coffee)
Girl: I want it now.
Mom: Hmm. Uh-huh.
Girl: I want to go to Disneyland. (accusingly)
Mom: Hmm. I see. (slurps)
Girl: I want a pony. (defiantly)
Mom: Ohhh. (types in status that may say something like "shoot me now")
Girl: I want a sparkly dress. (plaintively)
Mom: Mmm.
Girl: I want ice cream. (authoritatively)
Mom: Uh-huh. (clicks "like" on some meme-photo)
Girl: I want a puppy. (steely-eyed glare)
Mom: Huh.
Girl: I want ice cream. (flaring her nostrils)
Mom: You don't say. (slurp)
Girl: (screeches her chair back, puts both hands on the table, leans forward and screams towards the top of her mother's head) I WANT A ICE CREAM PUPPY!

Everyone in the coffee shop turns to stare. No sound is heard other than the steaming of milk.

Mom: (very quietly) You do? I do too! But ice cream puppies are so hard to find. Oh, wait! I know! I know how to get an ice cream puppy!
Girl: (skeptically) How?
Mom: We can wish to the Very-Quiet-Wish Fairy! She's totally going to bring us an ice cream puppy!
Girl: Is that a real fairy?
Mom: Yes! She is! And she is an extremely powerful fairy, in the hierarchy of fairies.
Girl: She is?
Mom: Oh, yeah, totally. She totally outranks both the Tooth Fairy and Santa. But she is very, very picky about which wishes she grants.
Girl: (thinking)
Mom: There really is only one way to get her to give you want you want.
Girl: What?
Mom: You have to make a very quiet wish.
Girl: Like this? I want--
Mom: Oh, no. That is MUCH too loud.
Girl: (quieter) I want a--
Mom: Nope. Uh-uh. Waaaaay too loud. I can still hear you, and we are in a coffee shop full of posturing hipsters.
Girl: (quieter still) I want a ice--
Mom: Ehhh. That's closer. Try again.
Girl: (her lips barely moving) I want a ice cream puppy.
Mom: That's great! Good job, Sophia. She'll really like that. Now you just have to say your wish-- very quietly-- 300 times.
Girl: How many is 300?
Mom: Shhh! Just keep saying it, and I'll let you know when you can stop.
Girl: (nearly miming) I want a ice cream puppy. I want a ice cream puppy. I want--
Mom: (turns back to her phone)

Nicely played,  lady. Nicely played.

It's rare I get to eavesdrop on such a master. Most of the time I listen to people complain about their coworkers or their exes, and as far as I can tell, no one knows how to handle either.

I sipped my coffee and started reading my Kindle again. Thank you, Universe, for that kind gift of entertainment. And, oh what's this?  A pair of twenty-something college types, a guy and an girl, sit down at the table to my left. They are exuding an energy best described as "giddy first date".

Oh, Coffee Shop Eavesdropping Fairy, you are too kind to me.

Tall Thin Blond: I know, and she was like, "Get that thing away from me!"
Chubby Guy in a Fedora: Ha! That's hilarious!
Tall Thin Blond: She was sooooo drunk.
Chubby Guy in a Fedora: Drunk people are hilarious.

You know how in romantic comedies there is always some funny but normal looking  guy dating the ridiculously attractive blond super model type? I have always thought that was a figment of Hollywood. Until now, since it is like I'm sitting next to Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen.

These two are behaving exactly as you'd expect people to be on a first date.  She is hanging on his every word. He is gazing longingly at her boobs only when she looks away. Ah, new love.

Please don't think I'm judging. I admire them. Dating is like a role playing game: danger lurks around every corner, and just when you think you've gotten the hang of it, the malicious Game Master declares that you have been eaten by a Grue.

Secretly I'm rooting for the guy. Normally I'd be on the girl's side, but in this case my allegiance is with the smart, funny one on a date with someone way out of his league. Gotta love an underdog, even if he appears to have been dressed collaboratively by every guy in his frat.  Awww, it's so cute when they try.

Against all odds, it seems to be working out for him.
Blond: I know, right?
Fedora: True story!
Blond: (laughs)
Fedora: And then  Pepper Spray Cop turns to Hilary on a Cell Phone..
Blond: (laughs)
Fedora: …and says, "I don't remember leaving THAT there."
Blond:   You are so funny!
Fedora: Oh, pshaw.
Blond: (slurps from her blended iced coffee drink, and smiles with her eyes over the edge of her cup)
Fedora: (smiles back, looks a little smug at how well this date is going)

Beware the smugness, dude. The universe does not appreciate the smugness.

Fedora: Hold on a sec. Let me grab a Stranger.
Blond: Who?
Fedora: (gets up, goes to front of shop, gets a free newspaper, holds it up triumphantly)
Blond: What's that?
Fedora: The Stranger. It's like the best paper ever. You really aren't from around here are you?
Blond: I told you! I grew up on a farm!

Oh, playing the Innocent angle. Nice choice, Blondie.

Fedora: Let's see what we have today. Arty photo. Movie reviews. Political rant. Sex advice column.
Blond: You read a sex advice column?
Fedora: No, of course not. I don't need a sex advice column.
Blond: (raises eyebrow)
Fedora: Here it is. The personal ads.
Blond: You need personal ads?
Fedora: These things are the best. Just listen.

Where are you going with this, Fedora?

Fedora: "In search of someone to beat me and make me weed their garden. Organic pesticides only."
Blond: What?
Fedora: That's what it says! Someone's looking for that.
Blond: No way.
Fedora: Way. Here's another one. "Long range trucker. Ex body builder. Looking for a relationship with someone who isn't afraid of a man in a lacy, pink thong."
Blond: What does that mean?
Fedora: Look at this one. "I'll be your young lycanthrope. You be my sparkling vampire. Jell-O pudding optional."
Blond: This is kind of weird. Are people in Seattle all like this?

Uh-oh, Fedora. Pay attention. Your lovely blond is looking decidedly uncomfortable, and you are not noticing because you are too busy scanning the "Other seeking" category.

Fedora: How about this? "Young, hot stud. Looking for two women for a three way."
Blond: Is everyone in Seattle like that?
Fedora: What? That one's not so weird.
Blond: Weird enough.
Fedora: Come on, that one is perfectly normal. See, here's another one, "Married couple looking for bisexual woman to complete our threesome. Pictures of us on request."
Blond: Whatever.

Oh, I see where you are going with this, Fedora, and this path is fraught with danger.

Fedora: Come on. Everyone does that.
Blond: (drinks icily)
Fedora: Would you, like, be into that?
Blond: (steely-eyed glare)
Fedora: Because there could be a dinner fairly nice in it for you.

My head whipped around to stare. I'm sorry, Internet, I couldn't help it. No more Kindle fa├žade for me.

Should I:
  1. Interrupt him and give him advice.
  2. Interrupt her and give her advice.
  3. Stay quiet. One doesn't interrupt other people's dates.

Vote for one of these three choices by using the poll at the top of the page. Voting closes on 4/30.

While you are at it, add a comment to suggest a phrase that I can include in the next chapter. Go on. Challenge me.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

While we are on the subject of irony

In one corner: Alanis Morissette.

In the other corner: Ed Byrne, an Irish comedian who is wearing his clever trousers tonight.

Hopefully that will keep you busy while I'm writing the next post. Thanks for the comments with inventive phrases; keep them coming!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Recalculating route

Yes, I haven't posted in a while. Let me tell you about that.

On Saturday night, I was standing in a crowded room, wearing a t-shirt that could best be described as "trashy", eating sushi, and talking about Zorg. And--

Actually, let me back up.

The last several years, my life has literally been a story. This has been a fascinating experiment. It isn't often that the new-age-hippie-woo-woo claim that "you create your own reality" is so true. I've really valued the chance to view my life with some perspective, to look for the humor in bad dates, and to get such wonderful encouragement about my writing from my friends. (Since I have never advertised this blog, my readership is comprised of people I know in real life. And some web-crawling search bot from Estonia; that checks in regularly too.)

In addition to the perspective and encouragement, I had something to look forward to. At some point, I'd meet a great guy, and then I could smoothly end the blog and get on with the next phase in my life. Ah, a happy ending to my tragicomic dating dramas.

But no guy showed up, and my real life adventures were significantly more tragic than comic. I didn't want to write about that.

A little pathos makes for a compelling narrative; a lot of pathos is just a wicked downer. And I was pretty tired of bumming myself out by thinking of bad dates; I wanted to do other things with my time.

Right, so. What to do instead? I came up with a lot of options.

  • I could change the format, making the story into a play, free verse, or a novel.
  • I could post every day, even when I had nothing to say, which would likely result in a lot of discussion of what I had for lunch. (A burrito.)
  • I could open it up for everyone to talk about their bad dates, instead of just mine.
  • I could delete it and move on with my life. I have plenty of other things to keep me entertained.
  • I even considered making it into a choose-your-own-adventure game. (Ha ha. I crack myself up.)

The status quo, ignoring the blog and letting it languish, was a pretty lame option. I just wasn't sure what to choose. Decisions have a way of influencing everything you do after. The only do-overs you get are changes in what you do next, not what you already did.

It's like with  my mother's GPS, who huffily announces "RECALCULATING ROUTE, RECALCULATING ROUTE" whenever my mom defies instructions and goes left instead of right. (For the record, my mom then  shouts back at her phone, "THERE WAS A DETOUR, BITCH! DEAL WITH IT.")

I'd spent a lot of time thinking about this lately, so on Saturday night I decided to go to a friend's birthday party and let the question stew in the back of my mind. Maybe the stars would look kindly on me and point to a solution. And as a worst case scenario, I could at least enjoy myself while dressed ironically in a t-shirt that was perplexingly demeaning to both women and electrical tape.

To clarify, this is ironic because I am pro-woman and am very classy. Also, I have nothing against electrical tape.

In any case: It's Saturday, I'm dressed in a ridiculous costume to please the birthday girl, and I'm headed to a party where my friends will appreciate my ironic shirt and help distract me from my writing-induced angst.

The party is already hopping by the time I arrive. There's a guy in a trench coat on the deck, setting up a giant telescope to watch the moon. Stepping inside, I see a crowd of people who have all interpreted the costume theme creatively. There's  an air-brushed t-shirt, some big hair, several programming t-shirts, some jorts, a sparkly disco shirt, a plaid hunting outfit, a ball gown, and a pair of garbage bags.  Though to be fair, some of those people might not have been in costumes. One can never quite tell with this crowd.

"Hey, Jen!" said Air-brushed T-shirt.
"Hey! Good to see you. How's work?"
"It's fine. But your outfit is fantastic! You are rockin' that look. You should dress that way all the time!"
"Uh, thanks, I guess. How's the new house?"
"It's great," he says, but he's too busy doing head-to-toe body scans on me to really answer. I excuse myself, grab a soda, and head up to another friend.

"Hey, Jen!"
"Hey, Plaid Hunting Outfit. How are you feeling?"
"Ehhhh. OK. Not quite better yet."
"What did you have?"
"Ohhh, that sucks. Bronchitis is horrible. How long have you had it?"
"Two months."
"Ugh. I'm sorry. It sounds like it is really sticking with you."
"Yes, like the image of your shirt will stick with me forever," he said.
"Ah, yes. It really dances along the line between good taste and bad taste, and then makes a decisive leap towards utter tackiness, doesn't it?"
"The electrical tape really--"
"Oh, say no more," I said.
"-- goes beyond--"
"No, really. Please say no more."

I work my way over to the food, and run into someone else I know.
"Hey, Jen."
"Hey, Programming T-shirt. How are you doing?"
"I'm doing very well. What are you up to?"
I sigh. "Well, apparently I'm wearing this shirt." I back up a bit in the crowd so he can see.
"Yes," he said. "Yes, you are."
"It's ironic, because I'm so classy," I said, but he didn't hear me because he was staring too loudly. Sigh.

I scan the room for a better option, and see my blessedly female friend Olivata Luna, the cheerful master gardener, who is wearing a fetching sparkly disco top and a stellar pair of earrings. She won't feel the need to cast me in the porn film running in her head. Plus maybe I could get some advice on getting a rat out of my compost bin.

"Hey, Olivata!" I shouted as I wove through the crowd.
"Hey, Jen!"
"How's the garden?"
"Great!" she said, then said a bunch of Latin that was probably plant names but sounded like "epithelial sarcophagus pachyderm".
"Excellent!" I said, and nodded as if I understood. She's a much better gardener than I am. I mostly plant pretty flowers and hope they live.
"How have you been?" she asked, still smiling. Ah, so nice to see a friendly face.
"Good. Tired. Working hard. You?"
Her face fell instantly. "Eh. I'm shutting down my online dating profile." She curled her lip in disgust.
"Oh. No suitable suitors?"
"No. Not even. No." She shook her head vigorously.
"I'm sorry. A wonderful guy should find you and treat you--"
"Not like a total jerk?" she said.
"Yes. Not like a total jerk."
"Could I also get one that bathes regularly? Because my luck so far has been poor."
" My luck hasn't been much better. And it takes so much timeto date. I just needed a break. My profile is on hold, but not deleted," I said.
"So, if you aren't dating as much," she smiled devilishly, "then you have more time for writing."
"You haven't posted in a while…"
"…and I always enjoy reading it." She looks hopeful again, her star earrings dancing in orbit.

I sigh. My dilemma spills from my mouth in one incoherent and whiny whole.   "I want to write, but I don't know what to do. I'm thinking I should change the blog somehow, but I have a lot of choices and I'm not sure which one is best. And what if I choose wrong? Or what if I do something different and then give up? I might give up! And then the whole Internet would mock me."
"They aren't going to mock you."
"Easy for you to say. Your dating life isn't published for all the world to see. Maybe I should switch to writing fiction. Then I could control what happens."
"Yes!" she said as she grabbed both my arms for emphasis." You make your own reality, you know."
"Oh! You should make it a choose-your-own-adventure game!"
"You know, I've actually thought of that," I said.
"Do it!"
"Did someone say 'choose-your-own-adventure game'?" said Plaid Hunting Outfit. "Because just the other day I was reading about a Zorg generator."

Which, as I said earlier, was not the weird part of my evening. I stayed at the party a bit longer, meeting new people, catching up with old ones. After a while I got tired of being jostled, of being pushed to and fro by the crowd. So I found a quiet bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed, listening to the party through the wall. How does that poem go? Something about "only the gods know the path of the stars"? No, I'm pretty sure I'm misquoting it.

But perhaps I am philosophically  correct nonetheless. There isn't any way to know what is going to happen. I'm trying to make the right choice, and there really isn't a "right" choice, just a next choice.

I got my coat, looked at the moon through the telescope for a while, and drove home. I have to choose something. What should I choose? I have to choose something. What should I choose?

Once home, I greeted the dog, let her outside for some fresh air, and checked my phone one last time for the night.

Which is when the weird thing happened.

There was an e-mail message from Blogger, where I host, telling me that someone had left a comment. That's odd. Only one person has ever left a comment before. And--No, wait. Really?

The comment was from someone I don't know, who found the blog by searching on Google.

Does that mean that people are reading this?

Oh! Hello, Internet! When I addressed you as my readership before, I thought I was just being ironic. I didn't think that anyone was actually paying attention.

Geez, I should really post more often.

Okay, fine, Internet. I'll make you a deal. If you are actually reading, then I'll actually write.

  1. Add a comment to any post. Flattery is good.
  2. Suggest a phrase ("rental goats", "fluffernutter and pumpernickel", "space ninjas") or a situation ("hanging from the balcony", "at the coffee shop", "while ogling Olympic swimmers") and I'll pick one to incorporate into a future post.

I have no control over what you suggest, and you have no control over what I do with that suggestion.

Ha! You don't know the paths of the stars either, do you? No, you don't, because from now on, I'm writing fiction.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The meaning of life, love, and salad

Ah, the age old philosophical questions.

"What is the meaning of life?"
"What is truth?"
"Is there a God?"
"Am I single because of bad timing, or do I just suck?"

That last one is frequently phrased as "destiny or free will?" but we all know what they meant.

And I don't have an answer for you. I studied computer science, not philosophy. I think it is possible that all philosophical questions basically boil down to questions about love, and I can't answer any of them. My algorithms are useless here.

When in doubt, fall back on math. In a philosophy of love I'm just playing the odds: if it is all a matter of time then I don't need to do anything; if it is all up to me then I better get to work. Making my self somehow more awesome wouldn't stop fate, so just in case I could find something that I'm not entirely awesome at and improve.

For example, flirting. The other day, at the bus stop, there was this cute guy I really wanted to talk to.

Bus stop guy: Good morning!
Jen: Glkjflfflpp!
Bus stop guy: Pardon?
Jen: (laughs awkwardly)
Bus stop guy: Lovely weather we are having, isn't it?
Jen: Oh, yeah. Mbmmmblppkinhg?

No, really. That's exactly what I sounded like.

I was trying to be all witty and articulate, but while I was talking there was this whole tape running in the back of my head with a second-by-second critique, plus at the same time the thirteen-year-old girl inside of me was squealing, "OMG he's so cuuuuuuute!" The end results was me saying everything simultaneously.

Mmm, yeah. A possible area for improvement.

So just in case my eventual marriage hinges on me actually exhibiting some social skills, I headed to the nearest bookstore chain and made a beeline to the Love and Relationships aisle. I was ready to solve this problem like the foxy-hot geek I am. By throwing books at it.

There were more than enough options, including three about "rules", a series involving increments of time ("Get married in 90 seconds or less"), several titles including the word "secret", and one requiring that I exhibit "radiant purity". I have no proof it won't work. And I'm committed to the idea of being the best me possible, especially if that me gets a date.

It's an opportunity for science!

I picked a dozen books, read them in a weekend, highlighted the important parts, used color-coded sticky notes to flag the themes across the collection, and wrote up a summary for myself. I considered laminating it, but decided that would be overkill.

The upshot of my research was this: there were lots of logical, simple things I could do to be better at talking to guys. So many things, in fact, that if I tried to do all of them at once my head would surely explode. But no problem: I can handle this.

I chose one behavior that all of the books mentioned: people like you more when you smile at them when you greet them. Makes perfect sense. Well within my current capabilities. It was just a matter of demonstrating the behavior with greater consistency.

I decided on a plan: while walking my dog after dinner that night, every time I walked past someone, it didn't matter who, I'd smile at them. If they responded in kind, I might follow up with some socially appropriate vague comment about the weather, an item of their clothing, or a local sports team. At the end of the walk, which would take approximately 20 minutes, I'd analyze whether I thought smiling had influenced how the subjects had reacted to me. Perfectly reasonable. If it did work, I might extend it to other, more demanding situations like parties, or even dates.

With scientific inquiry on my side, off the dog and I went, and frankly I was a little nervous. I normally consider myself a confident person, so naturally when I am having a non-confident moment I berate myself until I'm hiding under the table.

Oh, crap. First subject. A woman walking a Chihuahua. I decide as a warm-up, I'll smile at the dog instead of her. The dog seems unperturbed, so I count this as a success.

Second subject. Deep breath. An older man walking slowly. As we approach, I watch him, make eye contact, and…smile. He looks a little surprised, but smiles back. Hey, that wasn't so bad! Plus I probably made a lonely old man's day, since he looked so surprised to be treated with kindness by a stranger.

Third subject. A woman about my age, listening to her iPod. I adopt a casual manner, as if I'm just walking down the street with my dog, then as she comes in range…eye contact…smile…success! She smiles back as well, with a gleam of delight in her eyes, if I do say so myself. This is going great! I'm a natural!

Fourth subject. A man in a Mariner's jersey proclaiming him to be Ichiro. (I'm fairly sure he isn't actually Ichiro.) I'll up the ante here and actually speak. Coming in range…eye contact…smile…"Ichiro!" I say, giving a thumbs up. He laughs and gives me a thumbs up as well, "Yeah!"

Clearly, I'm awesome at this. The rest of the walk continues to be one stellar encounter after another. Kid on a skateboard. Smile. Woman with twins. Smile. Couple taking their lattes for a walk. Smile and smile.

Then I see, headed toward me on the sidewalk, a truly demanding test-case: a guy, my age, who is totally my type. I can do it. I can do it. I will make eye contact. I will smile at him. I will speak to him about the fact that we are wearing the same t-shirt. It's fate! I can do it. I can do it. "Heyyyyy," I say, "Nice shirt!"

The universe holds its breath, then…the guy smiles. Ear to ear no less, with a bit of a chuckle.


I am a rock star of social interaction! I could write these silly books! I'll have a boyfriend by the end of the week with these skills!

I practically skip the rest of the way home. The dog can hardly keep up with me. By the time we unlock the door, I am nearly glowing with pride at my heretofore unknown prowess in winning over the masses. This dating thing will be easier this time. With a little practice, I'll get better and better. My own little self-improvement project. I'm in such a good mood that I leave the dog at home and head off to the grocery store, where I decide I'll continue to Smile For Science. Smile at the guy who plays harmonica for spare change. Smile at the girl restocking the flowers. Smile at the deli clerk.

"Hey, Jen," I hear behind me.

"Hey! How are you?!" I say. It's an ex-coworker of mine that I haven't seen in a few years. I'd always thought he maybe didn't like me much, but there he was: talking to me in front of the deli cold case for twenty minutes. About his job, his new bike, my garden, my dog. Perhaps we'd always been friends and his standoffishness was just my imagination, born of a lack of self-confidence. Perhaps I'd always been good at this, but had only been doubting myself.

Self-improvement, indeed. Here I was, thinking that I needed to read a dozen books on how to talk to guys, and my only problem was self-doubt. No secret here; this is a problem which, since it is all in my head, can be solved the instant I wish.

When I returned home from the grocery store, I had self-confidence like a philosophy major with straight As.

To give myself the benefit that everyone else was enjoying, I flip on the bathroom light and turn to the mirror to give myself a stunning smile. "Hey, there gorgeou--"

What. The. #%$*.

I lean in to the mirror, to make sure my eyes aren't deceiving me. Nope, no trick of the light.

One of my two front teeth is completely and entirely covered by a piece of spinach. I look like when Marcia and Carol Brady dressed up like hobos for the school talent show and blacked out strategic teeth to look picturesque. An entire tooth! In the middle of my smile!

Instantly, my brain runs a high-speed montage of every person who had smiled at me since dinner. Every shocked, amused, puzzled smile. I thought they were friendly, but they were really just surprised to see me look like a crack whore.

Oh, god! That cute guy in the t-shirt!

And, hey! Wait a minute! I talked to that coworker in front of the deli case for 20 minutes and he didn't say anything! Grrrr.

Well, let's review the experiment. I smiled at a dozen people. They all smiled back. It is unclear whether my smiling at them made them like me more, due to the influence of a leafy confounding variable. Experiment would need to be repeated at a later date.

And one thing I'm sure of: that guy in front of the deli case? Not a friend, no matter how friendly he'd seemed. Because forget dating-- I'll tell you my philosophy on how to be a friend. A friend would have shoved his pointy finger right in my face and shouted, "HOBO TOOTH! HOBO TOOTH!"

As for the question of love being controlled by fate or awesomeness, I'm not sure. But I suspect that brushing my teeth would help either way.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Why procrastination is bad

I've learned my lesson, Internet.

My last post was about my ambivalence about online dating and my non-ambivalent feelings about Kim Kardashian's declaration on the cover of People that she hadn't expected to be 30 and still unmarried. It was possibly not my most charitable post.

In truth, I bear no ill will to Miss Kardashian. She was just on my mind because I'd read about her while waiting for my dentist appointment. And before you accuse me of jealousy, I want to clarify that I am not jealous of her money (more trouble than it is worth, I've heard), her reality t.v. show (I am a total dork in front of cameras), or of her magazine cover shoot art directors that bizarrely think she needs to be Photoshopped (crazy people are annoying).

In order to show you that I was a perfectly nice and non-bitter person, I wrote a whole post about how I wished Kim Kardashian and That Tall Basketball Guy well on their engagement. The post talked about how lucky she was to meet someone she loved so much. I said all kinds of nice things about love.

But her engagement was really short, and I was kind of slow about putting the post up. And then suddenly she was married, her wedding was broadcast on E, and the guests were rumored to have gotten flip-flops with the bride and groom's names. Oops.

So I revised the post. I talked instead about weddings and wished the happy couple well on their marriage. I was going to post that a few days ago, but then I went to a party and figured that there was no harm in posting the next morning.

The next morning I woke up and my favorite DJs informed me that Mrs. Kardashian is getting divorced. (Don't believe me? 29,300,000 Bing search results are unlikely to all be wrong.)

I admit it: my first thought was "CRAP. I have to write that post AGAIN?!" This is because I am a terrible person.

My second thought was, "Poor people. That's horrible."

Seriously, getting divorced under any circumstance must be terrible. Getting divorced after a few months is embarrassing. Getting divorced in front of media scrutiny would be... hell on earth.

Now I have a new hobby: I'm writing in my gratitude journal 29,300,000 times how glad I am that my breakups are of no interest to TMZ, with the hopes that I can ward off the bad karma that I surely deserve from using Miss Kardashian as blog fodder. As soon as I finish that, I'll rewrite my old blog post again. Really, I'll get right on that.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Keeping up

I remember when I learned the meaning of the word ambivalent. I was happy that I'd learned such a useful word, but simultaneously sad that I'd spent so long thinking it meant "dizzy".

It's easy to be ambivalent about dating, especially online dating.
  • On one hand: a bazillion guys. On the other hand: too many creeps and weirdoes.
  • On one hand: in the long run, you only hit what you aim at. On the other: other people are out of your control. You may need to wait this out.
  • On one hand: Society would really like to convince you that you will only be happy if you are dating someone. On the other hand: Society can suck it. I'm awesome regardless of whether or not I'm dating someone.
  • On the hand that generally wins: I'd really like to date someone who likes me and treats me well. I'm not doing that now. I should probably try something else.

Oh, the dilemma! Be exactly who you are, but since you are trying so hard and it isn't working, be different.

I do try both. I try to be the best version of me, to be grateful for what I have, to trust that things are working out as they should. I also try to get better at things. Better at being happily single and better at being dateable.

Sigh. And then there is Kim Kardashian.

Kim Kardashian is fond of smiling at me from the cover of People magazine, proclaiming things like "I thought I'd be married by now".
"Oh, Kim," I said outloud to the cover of People, "my heart weeps for you! Yours is a tragedy for the ages! To be 30 years old and unmarried, that is a fate worse than death!" I rolled my eyes and groaned in frustration at society's relentless marketing campaign for coupledom. Perhaps what Kim needs is a little time to be her own person, with no man and no magazine cover.

On the other hand, Kim's complaints aren't that very far from what I think about myself sometimes. And you know the old adage: People in glass houses shouldn't throw People magazine across the room in a huff.

According to Facebook, I know people who know a clever woman who got sick of Facebook telling her via targeted ads that (since she was single) she must be fat, lonely, and unloveable. She made her own Facebook ads, advertising ideas of her own. Subvert the sad-making paradigm, technologically savvy sister!

I watch her Ignite talk and think, "I should totally rage against the pressures of society! Who cares what anyone thinks?!"
Except me, and I think I'd like a date for Friday night.

My ambivalence was definitely affecting my online dating personality. There were lots of evenings where I would avoid the room with my laptop, knowing that if I didn't sign in, I wouldn't have to deal with my suitors. I was drowning in online dating e-mail queries, and I couldn't even keep up with them. All perfectly fine guys, but not guys I wanted to date. But I really should, so I'd send them mail, but then I wouldn't want to reply to their mail, but that would be rude, so I'd reply, and they'd ask me for coffee, and I'd say yes, and tell myself that I should get out of the house. It would be good for me.

And then I forgot. Internet, I admit it. I stood someone up because I didn't remember that I had a date with them. Which makes me (say it together now...) a terrible person. Really!

That was the point when I decided that I needed a break from online dating. I canceled my membership and decided I'd try something else.