Monday, June 18, 2018

A Different Version of Myself

Last week, I decided to rejoin Bumble, the online dating app, and signed up for a one-month membership. The very next day, the Model texted me.

I was surprised and baffled to hear from him, to say the least. He ghosted me more than six months ago, and when he texted me, he didn't apologize for what he did or explain why he did it. Instead, he said that he had been thinking about me and wanted to see me.

There were several ways I could have responded:

1. I could have taken a picture of my hand and texted it to him, saying, "Talk to the hand!" (What? I grew up in the nineties.)

2. I could have said, "I can't. I'm dating someone who's much nicer and richer than you are."

3. I could have said, "Why the HELL did you ghost me? Unless you went into hiding from the mob, there is NO EXCUSE for what you did!"

4. I could have said, "Who is that Ann Coulter lookalike you hung out with in Chicago? I saw her Instagram page, and everyone knows that when you show up in someone else's pictures on Instagram, that means you're in a relationship." (God, I sound like one of my students. I spend so much time with them that sometimes I end up talking like them, even though I don't understand half of what they say. They keep saying things like, "She's so extra," and I'm just like, "Extra WHAT?")

5. I could have texted him a picture of a pint of ice cream and said, "Do you even realize how much ice cream I've eaten since you left?"

But I didn't say any of that. Instead, I agreed to meet him for drinks. The truth is, I never got over him. I've thought about him a lot, and even though I knew it was unlikely to happen, I always hoped I would hear from him again.

When I saw him in those pictures with Little Miss Push Up Bra, I thought all hope was lost. That's why I signed up for the Bumble membership. When the Model texted me the next day, I thought at first that someone had hacked his phone and was pretending to be him. But it really was him.

When I saw him again, he looked even more handsome than I remembered. I didn't ask him about that other woman. I should have, but I didn't. I was just really happy to see him. He told me about how he'd moved to Chicago, but since he was originally from College Town, he still came back occasionally to visit his friends and family. He told me about his new job and asked me what was going on in my life.

Later, when he took me into his arms, I didn't pull away. When he kissed me, I kissed him back. And when he asked me to spend the night with him, I didn't say no. Maybe I should have, but I didn't because I knew that I definitely would have regretted turning down the chance to be with him again. I don't want to go into too much detail about what happened, but let's just say there were fireworks. It was more passionate than all the other times I've been with him.

He went back to Chicago a few days later, but he said he wants to see me again when he comes back to College Town later this summer.

"Don't answer his texts next time," one of my friends advised me when I told her about it. "He just wants to hook up. Move on with your life, and find someone else."

The rational part of my brain knows that she's right. I want more than what he's given me. Last fall, we only dated for a few weeks and weren't in a serious relationship, but it still hurt like hell when he made it clear that he wasn't interested anymore. I've been rejected by guys before, but this was different. I've never felt this way about anyone before.

Last year, when I had a crush on Small Town Guy, it all made sense, even though he didn't feel the same way about me. Small Town Guy and I had a lot in common, and it felt like he was the type of guy I should be with. We liked the same books, had similar interests, and I felt comfortable with him. (Incidentally, he's still with his girlfriend, and they often gush about how they have the best significant other in the world on Facebook. That's right. They're one of THOSE couples.) I was attracted to him, but it wasn't close to being the same kind of overwhelming physical attraction that I felt for the Model. Once I realized that Small Town Guy didn't feel the same way, I accepted it, and I moved on with my life.

But the Model is different from all the guys I've dated or had crushes on. And when I'm with him, it's like I become this different version of myself: someone who's impulsive, bold, and sexy. But he also makes me feel more neurotic and anxious than any other guy I've met, and I don't like that. I also don't like the fact that that other woman lives in Chicago, which means that if he really is dating her (or is still seeing her), she'll get to spend more time with him this summer than I can.

It's easier when I can just focus on my workaholic life, rather than dating, because it's safe there. The Model is like the guy that is often described in romance novels: the kind of guy that you know you should stay from, but you can't help yourself because there's something about him that draws you back every time.

I know that if I keep seeing him, I most likely won't get that happy ending in romance novels because I don't think he wants what I want. But letting him go means never seeing him or being with him again. And it's hard to feel excited about meeting guys on Bumble now, especially since I just read a guy's profile where he stated, "Me: the best guy you'll ever meet. You: Don't be a crazy."

What about you? Have you ever fallen for someone (and found it difficult to let them go) that you knew couldn't give you what you wanted?

P.S. I hope that this post doesn't significantly lower your opinion of me. I normally do the right thing, and in every other part of my life, I do what I'm supposed to do. But the Model makes me forget about all my rules.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Sky Is Falling...Or At Least, My Ceiling Did

Last week was a rough week. On Monday, I went to the dentist for the first time in over a year, and to my dismay, I was informed that I have three cavities. The dentist said it was partly because I grind my teeth a lot, which means I also need a new bite guard that I have to wear at night. The fillings and the bite guard are only partly covered by my insurance and will cost me hundreds of dollars. I got the fillings yesterday. I was tempted to start thrashing around in the dentist's office or grab one of the drills and start shrieking at the staff, "Get back! Get back! I'd rather let all my teeth fall out!" As it was, they gave me so much general anesthesia that my mouth literally looked lopsided for hours afterwards (is that normal? I looked like the Joker, and it freaked me out!)

On Tuesday, I was at my desk in my living room, doing work for my website job, when I heard a loud thud in my bedroom. I went in there and saw that a large chunk of the ceiling had literally caved in. There was a huge hole in my ceiling, and insulation was all over the floor. A few weeks ago, I noticed a water stain on the edge of the ceiling (the same area where the ceiling caved in) and told the maintenance crew at my building about it. Their "solution" was to just paint over it.

I didn't react well when the ceiling caved in. I literally started crying in front of the maintenance crew and my landlord. I was freaking out. What if the ceiling had caved in on my head while I was sleeping? What if the ceiling in my living room caved in too? I was angry that this was even an issue in the first place, and I yelled at all of them. I wish I hadn't, but at the same time, I think I had the right to be upset. They were nice about it, though, and my landlord offered me a partial rent credit for next month.

That's why last week, I had drywall guys, roofers, and painters going in and out of my apartment to try and fix my ceiling, while I struggled to do my work, despite the constant noise. They initially told me, "We'll be there late tomorrow morning to start working on it." What they meant was, "We'll show up before 8 AM, while you're still in your pajamas." That meant that I had to take a shower while several men I'd never seen before were in the next room.

They moved my mattress to my living room, and I tried to sleep there the first night. But I think I inhaled some of the drywall dust or something because I kept coughing all night and woke up with a headache. The cough didn't go away, and I battled a cold for the rest of the week. The landlord gave me the key to their fully furnished model apartment that they use to show prospective tenants, and said I could sleep there at night. I did sleep there several nights in a row (and I kept thinking to myself how tastefully decorated it was, that this was what it was like to live in a "grownup apartment" and not one with posters taped to the wall and a collection that included a One Direction DVD and a Backstreet Boys VHS tape). The bed in the model apartment was very uncomfortable, but it was better than nothing.

Just when I thought my week couldn't get any worse, on Friday, I made the mistake of looking at the Model's Instagram page. He often responds to his thousands of followers with flirty emojis, but one of them in particular stood out to me. I checked out her page, and I saw several recent pictures of them together, at her birthday party and at Navy Pier in Chicago. In all of the pictures, their arms were around each other.

It's been months since I even spoke to the Model because he moved to Chicago, which is very far away from College Town. But to see him not only with a new girlfriend (I have nicknamed her Anne Coulter's Evil Twin) but also to see him spend the day with her in Chicago, the city that I love and will always think of as home, made me burst into tears.

The whole thing made me realize that there are just some things I can't control or change. I can't control the fact that my ceiling caved in, or the fact that the Model will never want me again. But I can move on with my life. I can join Bumble or Tinder again (or both) and try to find someone special, at least one more time. I can stop looking at the damn Model's Instagram page. And if dating doesn't work out for me the next time around, I can embrace my life as a single person. After all, single life has its perks, like being able to live and travel wherever I want. And I don't have to have arguments with someone where I say stuff like, "Where is this relationship going?" or "Why did you post that on her Instagram page? You never talk to ME like that anymore," or "I seriously think your mother's trying to poison me" (that last one is from an actual Dear Prudence letter, and the mother-in-law really WAS trying to poison her!).

I can't change my "family", but I can spend less time with them. That's why I'm not going to my parents' house this summer for my biannual trip (I visit them for a week or so during Christmas and summer, which are two trips that I always dread).

I can't look like a Victoria's Secret model (and I don't even want to dress like them, either, seeing as how I dress like a spinster librarian from the 1930s), but I can lose weight by exercising more, cooking healthier meals, and eating less junk food.

I may never become a tenured professor. But I can continue teaching and become a respected scholar as well, by working on my research regularly, sending it out to scholarly journals, and presenting my work at academic conferences.

I can't change the fact that as long as I am a teacher, I will never be rich. But I can continue to work hard at teaching, pick up extra hours at my website job, and pay down my debt. Once I pay off my debts (which admittedly will take years, but even so), I can finally travel around the world, just like I've always wanted to.

What about you? What are things that you wish you could change, and what are things about your life or yourself that you can and want to change?

Sunday, May 27, 2018

A Summer Full of Writing

This summer, I have several things on my to-do list: do academic research and hopefully draft a scholarly article by the end of the summer, continue completing work for my website job, and resist the urge to hang a large banner that says "SHUT UP" off the small balcony outside my apartment as a "subtle" hint to my loud, inconsiderate, and obnoxious neighbors that hang out in the yard below.

I saved money from my tax refund this year, and it was just enough to buy me a round-trip ticket to New York City and make reservations at a small hotel in Chinatown for a few days in July. I went to New York City four years ago, and I loved it so much that I've always wanted to go back. I want to watch another play, visit Central Park, and yell at rude people in public. (No one blinks an eye if you yell at strangers in large cities like New York and Chicago because everyone yells there. In college towns like the one I currently live in, on the other hand, there are plenty of rude people but people think it's weird to yell at them, which is why I often have to scream into my pillow and listen to grunge music from the nineties when I come home.)

Another thing I plan to do throughout the summer is write. During the school year, I didn't get to do half as much writing as I would have liked. Instead, I spent more time writing lesson plans, comments on students' papers, and e-mails that said stuff like, "It's not okay to wear your headphones and listen to music during my lectures, or any other part of class, even if your claim that you can read lips really is true."

I already submitted a story to a short story contest hosted by Creative Nonfiction magazine. The theme of the contest was "Home". Last year, I took a one-day writing workshop at the Porch, a writer's collective in Nashville, and "home" was one of the instructor's writing prompts for us. I jotted down memories of my life in Chicago, and even after the workshop, I kept adding more to the story, until I ended up with dozens of pages. I cut and revised the story to adhere to the contest's 4,000 word limit, and I submitted it.

It felt good to put my writing out there again. Even if I don't win the contest, it's okay. Just putting it out there makes me feel like a real writer. Also, if I don't win the contest, I can send it out to other literary magazines. I bought a copy of Poets and Writers magazine, and I also did some online research; I made a list of a bunch of literary magazines that publish creative nonfiction.

Even though I still want to publish fiction, I am also interested in writing creative nonfiction. Many of the books in my bookcase are memoirs, and I especially admire writers like Jen Lancaster, Dave Barry, and David Sedaris. I like how they often write about ordinary things in totally neurotic, funny, and entertaining ways. Jen Lancaster, for example, can make a trip to Target sound hilarious. And that kind of writing style is something I've tried to follow in my own writing. I wish I had the imagination and ability to write stories about extraordinary things, like Margaret Atwood did in The Handmaid's Tale, but I'd rather write about everyday life in a more realistic (and also neurotic) way instead.

I went to a coffee shop last week and wrote out a rough draft of a new nonfiction piece about what it was like when my so-called best friend cut me out of their life several years ago. It was something I'd written about before in my journal because the loss had affected me deeply, so when I sat down to write it out in the form of a story, the words came easily to me and I was able to draft the entire story in one sitting. I plan on revising the story and sending it out to another literary magazine; I might try a new one called True Story. I also have ideas for other stories, including ones about teaching.

One thing that sucks is that most literary magazines refuse to publish anything that's already been posted on a blog like this one because they consider it "previously published", even though I'm lucky if more than a few dozen people actually read my blog every week. It's too bad because there's a lot of stuff that I could have used as material for stories. But that's why I've also continued working on my memoir (which will be a full-length book rather than a short story) about online dating because I don't think there are any rules about using revised versions of blog posts for a book. After all, the writers Julie Powell and Jen Lancaster started out as bloggers, and they turned their blogs into books.

It's been a long, challenging year, and after everything I've been through this year, it will be good to devote my summer to writing things that I want to write, not things that I get paid to write.

What about you? What are your plans for the summer?

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Teachers Who No One Dared to Disrespect

When I was in high school, I had a teacher that everyone was afraid of. We had to wear school uniforms, and we had to tuck our shirts in as part of the dress code. The other teachers joked that when this particular teacher walked down the hall, all of the students frantically tucked in their shirts so that she wouldn't yell at them.

When we were in her class, all the students sat up straight and were quiet unless she called on us. No one ever talked back to her, no one challenged any of the grades she gave out, and no one disrespected her. They didn't dare.

When I was in college, I took an American literature class taught by a professor who was very kind and intelligent but didn't always call out students on their bad behavior. Once, he offered to host a study session for the class in preparation for the final. A student said that the session time was inconvenient to her and said something like, "I'm not going to drag my ass to campus for something like that." He was trying to help us, and she was a rude jerk to him. Although I respected him, I wish that he had stood up to her, and I wish I had stood up for him.

I always wanted to be a teacher like the one I had in high school. When I first started teaching, I was still in my twenties and knew very little about how to interact with students. College teachers don't get the same training that grade school and high school teachers do, partly because search committees at colleges care more about job candidates' scholarly accomplishments than their abilities as a teacher (which is sad and unfair, but it's true). I only ever took one class, "How to Teach Freshman Composition", and that was it. I had to figure out everything else for myself.

And that was why I ended up letting far too many students walk all over me during my first year, like the one who threatened to get me fired because I called her out on her bad behavior, or the one who screamed at me for almost twenty minutes for giving him a B (male instructors who were concerned by his aggressive hostility had to intervene on my behalf), or the one who falsely accused me of racism in an e-mail  that she circulated to multiple people in my department, including faculty who had no authority over my job, but she wanted to smear my professional reputation to as many people as possible.

I did not call out these students on their nastiness and blatant disrespect towards me (although I will say that I didn't change the grade of that student who screamed at me, even though it was clear that he was trying to bully me into giving him an A). I should have, but I was too scared of losing my job and did not yet realize that I was the one in charge of my classes, and therefore these students did not have the right to treat me like crap.

Every year, there are always at least one or two disrespectful students, like the one who claimed that he knew more about teaching literature than I did, even though he'd never taught anyone, or the one who literally reprimanded me for not responding to his e-mail in less than two hours. There are also the ones who ignore the fact that I have a Ph.D. and have earned the title of "Doctor", and insist on calling me "Ms." or by my first name instead. (I can't help wondering if that's partly because I'm a woman; the male professors don't face this problem nearly as often.) But each year, I grew stronger, and I pushed back against them, refusing to back down to them.

Recently, a student in one of my classes demanded a grade that they didn't earn, for work that they didn't do. This student was extremely disrespectful towards me and harassed me throughout the semester about their grades. Although the college administrators and my boss agreed with me that this student's behavior was unacceptable and that the student really didn't earn the grade that they were demanding for themselves, they still gave in to their tantrum and let them have their way.

The unfairness of it all angered me. The student doesn't get a grade that they think they deserve, throws a tantrum about it, and I'm the one that has to let them get away with it? I spoke to a professor once who said that disrespectful students like that kid can ruin a class that's full of other students who are hard-working, well-behaved, and respectful. And it's true. It's students like this person that make me question whether teaching really is my vocation.

Sometimes I think that if I had been more like that teacher that everyone was scared of back in high school, this disrespectful and hostile kid would never have dared to lash out at me. Other times, I think that it just reflects what many colleges have become: "safe spaces" that let kids with a strong sense of entitlement and the unwillingness to respect authority have their way, again and again, even if it's to the detriment of their own education.

It reminded me of an incident that happened when I was teaching in Small Town. A student in one of my classes stopped showing up for more than a month, stopped turning in his assignments, and ignored my e-mails. When I refused to give him a passing grade, he sent the nastiest e-mail I've ever received from a student, where he said I was the worst professor he'd ever had and THAT was why he stopped showing up. Although my bosses agreed that this student was immature, they wouldn't let me defend myself and told me to APOLOGIZE to the student for the fact that he was going to be penalized.

I know that as the professor, I have to be the adult in this situation. I can't tell the students exactly what I think of them because then I would get in trouble and lose my job. But it's hard to keep my cool when yet another student disrespects me, and on the inside I'm basically feeling this:


What about you? Do you ever have to deal with disrespectful people at your job? Did you ever have an intimidating teacher back when you were in school?

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Now That I'm 37...

1. I think it might be time to stop dating guys in their twenties (the Model was in his twenties, and after things ended with him, all I was left with were a broken heart, empty pints of ice cream, and lingerie that I had to hide when my parents came to visit). When I did online dating the last time, some of the worst guys I was "matched" with were in their twenties, like all the guys who wanted me to invite them over to my apartment after we'd only been talking for five minutes, or the guy who specified in his profile that his girlfriend could only wear her hair in a ponytail once or twice a week (That would just make me show up for the date with my hair in a ponytail).

2. I need to learn how to say "no" more often. That is, "No, you can't have a two-day extension on your paper just because you have a lot of other homework to do," or "No, it's not okay for you to be rude to me, Retail Salesperson, just because you hate your job and are married to Satan," or "No, I will NOT send you nudes, Creepy Guy on Tinder!"

3. I think it might be time to start dating more guys in their thirties, except the problem is that while a lot of the guys in their twenties, at least the ones that I was matched with on Tinder and Bumble, are mainly just interested in sex (although to be fair, Tinder is a well-known hookup site), most of the guys in their thirties (at least the ones around here) either want significantly younger women (which would make me "too old" for them, even if I'm the same age as them), or they want to "settle down" and find stepmothers for their multiple children. I've never really been the maternal type. I don't even know what to say to children. I think the last time I talked to a friend's five year old, I said something like, "You're so lucky that you get to take naps at school."

4. It's time for me to manage my time more effectively so that I can have more time to do the things I want to do, like write, travel, and spend time with friends. I never thought I'd say that I should spend less time at work, but when I look back on my twenties and thirties, I regret how much time I spent working and all the things that I sacrificed or missed out on.

5. I need to choose my friends more carefully. I spent too many years with "friends" who blew me off at the last minute, expected me to spend hours listening to their problems but criticized me for talking about mine, or claimed they "weren't hungry" and then asked if they could "share" my dessert (do you want to lose a hand? Then NO!).

I turned thirty-seven a few weeks ago. In addition to stocking up on anti-aging cream and Googling "How much is Botox?", it made me think of how I want my life to be different from now on, and so I have to make it different. I think that doing the things above will make my life easier, and maybe I'll even be a little happier, too.

What about you? As you get older, what kinds of things have you started doing differently?

Side note: I haven't blogged in several weeks because of blogger's block, too many papers to grade, and e-mails from students who think that homework is for quitters.

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?