Monday, March 18, 2019

Ghosting, Creepy Conversations, and Why I'll Never Be Anastasia Steele

I've been on Bumble for two months now and keep striking out, despite the fact that I've literally matched with dozens of guys (on dating apps like Bumble, you "match" with someone if you and the other person both "swipe right" on each other's profiles).

On Bumble, the woman has to make the first move, and the guy has up to twenty-four hours to respond. As I've stated before, many of the guys I've matched with don't respond, possibly because a) they swiped right on literally every profile in order to increase their chances of getting matches, not because they were actually interested in me; b) they didn't check Bumble before the twenty-four hours were up; or c) their wives/girlfriends found out that they were looking for dates online.

What's even more annoying are the guys who send one brief message because they think they're being polite and then disappear after that. But I have had a few conversations with guys that were actually interested in talking to me. Here are a few of the conversations I've had so far:

Me: So, do you have any kids?
Bumble guy #1: Yes, I have a six-year-old daughter. You?
Me: No, I don't have any kids.
Bumble guy #1: You wanna practice? Lol.
Me: Practice what?
Bumble guy #1: Making a baby. Lol (FYI: adding "lol" at the end of a sexual proposition doesn't make it sexy. It just makes it weird.)

I responded to that guy by "unmatching" him, which is an option on Bumble. I quickly regretted doing that, though, thinking that maybe I overreacted and maybe he was just trying to flirt, in a clumsy way (or maybe he was just looking for a hookup). He was cute and otherwise seemed nice. But I didn't know his last name or have any other way to contact him, and once you unmatch someone on Bumble, you won't come across his profile again in the queue.

Me: So, what are you looking for on this site?
Bumble guy #2: Well, that depends. Are you submissive?
Me: Um, are you talking about S&M?
Bumble guy #2: Yes. I am a dominant and I would really like to tie you up sometime.

My response: UNMATCH. (I'm not a prude, and I will admit that I did watch the Fifty Shades of Grey movie, though I cringed at the bad writing the whole time. But as a woman, I think it'd be extremely risky to let a "dominant" guy that I've never met do anything like THAT when we first meet. What if he turned out to be a serial killer, a human trafficker, or at the very least a thief who will steal my purse while I'm unable to stop him?)

He wasn't the only guy who was into S&M that I came across on Bumble. I found another guy's profile that included pictures of his wife because he stated that they were looking for a "third", and he literally included pictures of his wife tied up and suspended from the ceiling in chains, while he stood over her, dressed head to toe in leather. (Again, I'm not a prude, but I feel like that's not something that you should put on Bumble.)

Other guys are clearly lying about their age, like the ones who claim to be in their early forties but look like they're in their early sixties. Hey, I don't like admitting my real age either, especially because guys my age often prefer women who are fifteen years younger, but I'm not going to lie about it.

Nor do I see the point in including my high school pictures, as so many thirtysomething and fortysomething guys on Bumble have done (and I can tell that they're from high school because they're usually prom pictures and look about twenty years younger than they do in their other pictures in their profiles). FYI to guys and people in general: if you're middle-aged, don't include your high school pictures in your profiles, unless you're a vampire who literally hasn't aged since you got turned into a vampire in high school.

It's not like I haven't tried to meet guys offline either, but a lot of the people in College Town aren't that friendly, especially compared to the Southern hospitality of most of the people in Small Town. For example, at my gym, there are two water fountains right next to each other; one is for people who want to refill their water bottles. The problem is that when you use the one for refilling water bottles, it decreases the water pressure on the other water fountain. I was drinking out of the other water fountain when some guy started refilling his bottle; I looked up and said, "Um, I was still drinking." He went off at me and snapped, "Fine. You don't have to be so rude about it." I called after him, saying, "I wasn't being rude! I was just saying!" But he just walked off without listening to me, probably because he had to report back to Satan or something.

There are young male faculty members close to my age whose offices are near mine on campus. I've said hello to them a few times as I've passed by them in the hall while I walked towards my own office, not in a flirtatious way, just to be polite. But every time, they've ignored me.

I joined a Meetup group that plays board games at a local bar every week. Unlike the trivia team I belonged to in Small Town, who liked to socialize between trivia questions, the members of the mostly male Meetup group I joined are very focused on the games and don't like to talk about much else but the games. (But at least they're nice and polite, unlike the rude guys I've encountered elsewhere in this town.)

I will admit that I "ghosted" a guy I was talking to on Bumble recently, which I guess wasn't so nice either. There wasn't anything wrong with him per se, other than the fact that he went on and on about himself and asked me exactly two questions about myself. It was just that I realized that I was actively hoping that he would not message me so that I wouldn't have to deal with the hassle of dating him. And I've found myself hoping that with the vast majority of the guys I've matched with and sent messages to. It's weird in that it bothers me when they don't write back, and yet there's a part of me that still doesn't want to date anyone.

A friend of mine said that maybe I was afraid of getting hurt again. But I think that it might be less about fear and more about being tired of all the bad first dates, awkward small talk, and weird online dating profiles. I wish I could skip the awkward early dating phase and skip ahead to the relationship phase. At the very least, rather than ask questions I don't really have as much interest in, like "So where are you from?" or "What do you and your friends do for fun?" I'd rather ask questions like, "If I ever got sick, would you be there for me and bring me cough drops and Kleenex? I'd do that for you, by the way." or "If I'm having a bad day, will you sit there and listen to me vent, or are you the type to tell me to get over it and then turn up the volume on the TV?" or "Um, you're not into chains or anything like that, are you?"

I still can't help thinking that maybe my multiple online dating fails are the universe's way of telling me that true love is not in the cards for me, or maybe my true love just isn't online. Or maybe it's just the universe's way of telling me that there are a lot of weird/rude/Christian Grey wannabe guys in College Town.

What about you? If you're in a relationship or single, did you ever get tired of the dating scene and the awkward first conversations?

Sunday, March 3, 2019

What I Learned from Ice-T, Or, Why My Ex Threatened Me

The Model moved out West. He wrote a book. And he threatened me.

He's written a book that he's self-publishing on lulu.com (have any of you heard of that site?), and he most likely will sell thousands of copies due to his large following on Instagram.

I made it through several months without looking at either his Instagram page or his girlfriend's page. But one night, I was thinking about him and curious to see what he was up to, so I checked out his page. It showed that he'd taken off on a road trip without her, leaving her to take care of his cat no less, and decided on a whim to make a permanent move out West...without her. He once told me that  several companies and apps pay him to promote their products on Instagram, due to his large following. Therefore, his "job" does not keep him in the Midwest because he can technically do it anywhere. And yet, even though he left her, she did not break up with him. I checked out her page, and although she hasn't posted any new pictures of them together since September, she did post several pictures of the western state he'd moved to during Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I knew that she must have gone to visit him during the holidays.

During Christmas, I had a rough time while I was visiting my parents for my biannual week-long visit. My mother went off on one of her rampages, screaming and crying at me while one of her acquaintances was in the next room. My father and sibling blamed me, as usual, even though I literally did not say or do anything to provoke her; she was just in one of her moods, and I am her favorite emotional dumping ground. Sibling was unsympathetic, as usual, and said that it was my bad personality that provoked her. While I was getting into the car to run an errand, my father came out to the driveway and screamed at me in front of the neighbors, shaking his finger at me and saying that it was all my fault that she was like that and that I needed to change the way I acted.

Therefore, I wasn't in a good mood either. At that moment, it infuriated me that I was working two jobs, seven days a week, with no days off for months at a time, while the Model earned more money in one day than I did in a week just from his Instagram posts. I still felt angry that he got away with using me to cheat on his girlfriend, and she was more than happy to keep her head stuck in the sand.

One night while I was still visiting my parents, I was in the drive-thru at Chick-Fil-A. I drafted a text to the Model where I finally wrote out everything I'd been wanting to say to him for months. I wrote  how the way he betrayed both her and me was cruel and wrong, and that it wasn't okay for him to treat people like this, especially because his Instagram followers constantly sent him adoring messages, which he often posts online to show how much people adore him. They think that he's this "nice guy" and thank him for "inspiring" them because he posts inspirational quotes from self-help books and talks about his own "struggles". I think they're inspired not by what he quotes/writes but by the way his butt looks in his pictures (he likes to pose for selfies in his underwear), but I digress. I also think they send him those messages thanking him for inspiring them not because they're actually inspired by what he wrote but because they want an excuse to talk to him.

I didn't mean to send it to him. I was just venting to myself. But I was holding my phone when a restaurant employee approached my car to take my order, and I accidentally hit send on the text I'd drafted.

I didn't think the Model would answer, especially since he ignored my messages last summer when I texted to say that I'd found out he'd used me to cheat on his live-in girlfriend two weeks before he took her to Mexico for her birthday. But he did text back this time. Instead of responding with an apology, he responded by threatening me. He said that he would send my messages to the department heads at my job. He said he would also post them on his Instagram story; my guess is that he would have started an online hate campaign against me and encourage his followers to cyber bully me. I know he would have done it because he's done it before to a couple other people he's had a beef with, and his deluded followers who literally beg him for his attention on all of his posts are more than happy to do whatever he wants. He wrote, "Don't start a war you can't finish."

At that moment, any lingering romantic feelings I had for him were replaced with hate. His nasty threats made me see him for the vicious, vindictive sociopath he really is. I thought he really would send my messages to my bosses, although to be honest, I don't think that would have gotten me in trouble with them. After all, I only confronted him over how much he hurt me, and although it would have been embarrassing for my bosses to know about what happened, it's not the kind of thing that would have cost me my job. I spoke to a few other professors that I'm friendly with in the department, and they assured me that my bosses wouldn't even care. But he knows how important my work is to me. I gave up almost everything else in my life that mattered for my work, and I'll be damned if I let him take away the one thing I have left. If he ever did try to destroy my career and reputation like he threatened to do, I'd fight back in full force because I'm stronger than he ever gave me credit for.

I felt tempted to send a DM to his girlfriend on Instagram and tell her what he did, but he blocked me from both her page and his own before I could. I used to feel guilty that I never told her the truth. But now I think it wouldn't have made a difference. If she's foolish enough to stay with him even after he moved out of her apartment and into a new one thousands of miles away from her just because he felt like it, then she most likely would not leave him even after finding out that he cheated on her. I think that one reason he chose her over me is that she lets him walk all over her. I stood up to him, and she never will. I don't understand why any woman would do that, but then again I did let him treat me badly during the time that I was with him.

I think that the Model is selfish. That's why he cheated on his girlfriend with me, and that's why he doesn't care that he hurt me. That's why he took off on a road trip without her and moved thousands of miles away from her. By living that far away, he's able to do whatever (and possibly whomever) he wants more easily, without her finding out. He often writes on his page about the importance of "putting yourself first", and I think it shows that he doesn't care how his actions affect anyone else.

I read something that the actor and musician Ice-T wrote on Twitter (and pardon the language, but I think it really relates to what I've gone through), and it made me feel better: "Sometimes, it doesn't work out with someone because they're a piece of shit, who deserves a piece of shit, and you're not a piece of shit."

What about you? Have you ever confronted an ex?

P.S. You might say that I should cut ties with my parents and sibling. But it's complicated. For one thing, look at Meghan Markle. She does not talk to her half-brother, half-sister, or father, and they have responded by selling hateful stories and lies about her to every sleazy tabloid that will pay them while claiming that THEY are the victims (insert puking sounds here). She wants to move on with her life and enjoy it with her husband, and they are all determined to spoil her happiness. But at the very least, I only make brief visits to my parents twice a year, and I do not talk to Sibling unless I have to, which is rare.

P.P.S. Don't worry. I won't contact the Model again, and it's not just because he blocked me. It really is time for me to move on with my life. I don't want to be like his girlfriend, who lets him get away with everything, nor do I want to be like his adoring followers, who only see what they want to see when it comes to him. I want to be better than that. I want to be better than all of them. And I'm sorry for the dark nature of this post. I've written a more lighthearted one on online dating for next week, and it'll be back to regularly scheduled programming.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Weird Bumble Profiles

I haven't blogged in months because I've been very busy. I had a bad encounter with the Model, which I'll write about in my next post. I'm trying online dating again. And I've been writing a lot more.

I had writer's block for almost two months this past fall, which is another reason why I haven't been blogging. But my New Year's resolution was to finish a draft of my memoir, Obsessions of a Workaholic, this year, and I've been working steadily on that. I always bring my Moleskine notebook (I love Moleskine notebooks and have a whole stack of them filled with my writing at home) to work, and I write more pages for my memoir in between classes and appointments with my students. There is a coffee shop right across the street from my office on campus, so I often go there to write after I'm done with teaching and office hours. On weekends, I like to go to a bagel shop in town, order an iced coffee and an everything bagel with cream cheese, and write.

So far, I've written more than 250 pages of my memoir by hand. All of my first drafts are handwritten because if I type it out on my laptop first I will inevitably end up watching pandas sneeze and Ariana Grande sing on YouTube for at least an hour instead of writing. And I still have lots more to write; I've been going over the wealth of material that I have from my blog and journals, so obviously, when I revise, I'll have to do a LOT of editing. But it makes me happy to be writing my own story.

Despite my ambivalence over the idea of dating and being in a relationship, I've also decided to give online dating another shot, and that's why I signed up for Bumble again. Since I live in a Midwestern college town, it's not unusual to see profiles with pictures of guys posing on top of horses, tractors, or in their pickup trucks that are literally filled with dead ducks or deer that they hunted (I don't know about you, but a pickup truck full of dead ducks does not make me think, "All those dead animals totally make me want to make out with him."). Also, for some reason, beards (the bushier and longer, the better), flannel shirts, and overalls are the preferred look for Midwestern guys (at least the ones on Bumble in my area, anyway).

They typically have blue-collar jobs or work as farmers. They describe themselves as "country guys" in their profiles. Most of the ones my age are divorced with children. I don't have a problem with any of that (although I really don't like the pictures of all the dead animals with the hunters standing proudly over them). What I do have a problem with is the kind of stuff that guys write in their profiles, like this:

I'm really looking for a girl who looks and/or thinks like Tomi Lahren, so if that's you, swipe right!

I'll take you out to dinner at a chain restaurant and when the waiter tells me that the coupon I'm trying to pay with is expired, I'll make a whole great big ordeal out of it. (This is literally what some guy wrote in his profile. Is he joking, or does he think that rudeness to servers is sexy? I think it's not so much as "sexy" as stupid and also increases the risk of the servers spitting in his food.)

My job is to look sexy naked. (Again, this is literally what a guy wrote in his profile, although the occupation he listed did not include modeling. I WISH I was making this stuff up.)

I'm one of those guys that goes on a dinner date with you and hopes you don't finish so I can eat your leftovers.

FYI: If a guy tried eating MY leftovers, I'd be like this:



via GIPHY

Either that or I'd just bite his hand before letting him eat my food because if anyone's taking home those leftovers, it'll be ME.

Here's another example from a guy's profile: If you love football, Jesus, and our President Trump, swipe right!

But I guess none of those are as weird as the one I saw on okcupid years ago where the guy stated that he was a virgin and was looking for "a physically fit" woman to do it with.

Speaking of swiping right, there's this guy I've come across on both Tinder and my previous stints on Bumble. Every time, he's swiped right on my profile; he's swiped right on me four times now. I sent him messages to say hi each time; he would always respond once or twice, and the fourth time, he admitted that the app wasn't working for us in terms of talking. That's why I gave him my phone number, but he never called. Why keep swiping right on me if he's not actually interested in meeting me?

But then again, that's the question I could ask several other guys I "matched" with; if you "match" with someone on Bumble, it means you both swiped right on each other's profile. What keeps happening is that I'll message them after being matched with them, and they either won't answer or will send a brief reply (and nothing else afterwards) to be "polite". It's frustrating.

It's also made me think that after almost ten years of online dating, on and off, that if there is someone out there for me, I'm not going to find him online. There's that famous quote: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results." So maybe it was insane to keep trying online dating again and again, but it's hard to meet guys otherwise, although believe me, I have tried several other methods.

What about you? If you've ever tried online dating, what's the weirdest thing you've seen in someone's profile? What've you been up to these last few months?

Monday, November 12, 2018

Spoiler Alert

I've written more than a hundred pages of my book, Obsessions of a Workaholic, and since it is a memoir, I obviously know how it's going to end. The novel I've been writing, on the other hand, is  different because I've been trying to figure out the right way to end it.

One of my favorite movies is Alex and Emma, which is about a writer (Luke Wilson) struggling to write his second novel and the stenographer (Kate Hudson) transcribes the story for him after his laptop is broken. At the beginning of the movie, the stenographer, Emma, says that she decides whether or not to buy a book by reading the ending first because if she doesn't like the ending, she knows the book won't be worth reading.

I have to admit that I sometimes do the same thing when I'm browsing in a bookstore, especially when it's the book of an author I've never heard of. For example, I picked up a chick lit novel and skipped ahead to the ending, which was melodramatic and sad. There are some love stories, like Romeo and Juliet, where it's okay if the ending is tragic; if you think about it, Romeo and Juliet had to die, in order to show how destructive the feud between their families was. But the ending of that chick lit novel irritated me, especially because in most chick lit novels, the main guy and girl usually do end up together, and I knew I didn't want to read more than three hundred pages only to see both of them end up alone. I checked the Amazon reviews for that book, and judging by the angry reviews that dozens of readers posted, I could tell that I wasn't alone in this opinion.

On the other hand, sometimes knowing the ending of a story ahead of time ruins it for me. When I was in college, I read Anna Karenina for fun (I should also add that I liked reading the dictionary and thesaurus for fun because I really was and still am a big nerd). The book is almost nine hundred pages long, which is why it took me a long time to get through it. I had only read about seven hundred pages when a fellow English major, who saw that I was reading the book, spoiled the ending for me by telling me what happened to Anna Karenina (despite the fact that I was a well-read English major, I really didn't know). Of course, my reaction to that English major was basically this:



via GIPHY

Of course, I would have rephrased it like this: Hello. My name is Neurotic Workaholic. You spoiled the ending of a book that has taken me weeks to finish. Prepare to die.

But either way, the ending of a book is the most important of the story, in my opinion, because an ending can make or break a story. The story does not need to have a happy ending in order to be a good story, but it does need to be a satisfying one.

I read a novel recently that was written by someone I follow on Instagram. It had a very interesting, original premise, and there were parts of it that were very well-written. There was a love triangle in the book, where the female protagonist was torn between two men. But then all of a sudden a new guy popped up, and she inexplicably transferred the love she claimed to feel for one of the other guys for the new guy. Despite the narrator's insistence that the new guy was the "right" guy for her, it made no sense to me, considering that more than half the novel was about her love for one of the guys in the original triangle and all the risks she took to be with him. The story also ended in a very disappointing way, so that I responded by exclaiming, "That's IT? Are you KIDDING me?" I wanted to track down the author and say, "Hello. My name is Neurotic Workaholic. You wrote an unsatisfying and unrealistic ending to your novel. Prepare to be whapped in the face with your own book."

Of course, writers can end their stories however they want; they don't have to write endings that don't feel right to them just so it'll satisfy their readers. But when I read a story with an unsatisfying ending, it leaves me feeling frustrated and like I wasted time getting invested in characters who didn't get the ending they deserved.

It's also the reason why I struggle with writing the ending to my own stories because I want to make sure that they ring true. One way I do that is by writing several alternate endings; that way, I can figure out which one sounds best and which one makes the most sense for the characters. Of course, I can't do the same thing for the ending of my memoir because if I had the ending I really wanted, the book would conclude with me driving off into the sunset with a giant bag of money, a dog (I've always wanted to adopt my own dog), and my mortal enemies (yes, I have more than one) being dragged away to prison and/or hell.

What about you? Do you ever skip ahead to the ending of books? Do you struggle to write the ending of your own stories?

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Not the Marrying Kind

Recently, a cute guy my age sent me a friend request on Facebook. His profile stated that he was from the same town that I grew up in, but I didn't remember him. We had several mutual friends on Facebook, however, and he looked vaguely familiar; I thought he might have been one of the neighborhood kids that I used to play with when I was younger.

I accepted the friend request, but then he sent me a message with the waving hand emoji (side note: really? He can't just say hi? What is it with emojis anyway? It's like, we're 37, not twentysomething Millennials who eat avocado toast every day.). But the emoji wasn't why I didn't write back.

His profile stated that he was interested in meeting women, so he was probably hoping to flirt with me and see if it led to anything more. I was tempted at first to respond. He was attractive, and although he no longer lived in the same town that we grew up in, he now lived in a town that was close to College Town. But he was also clearly impatient because when I didn't respond to his emoji right away, he unfriended me just a few hours later.

He wasn't the only guy who's tried to flirt with me. Ever since I joined Instagram, I've gotten many DMs (direct messages) from random guys who clearly view the site as a way to meet women. These guys typically only have 1-6 posts on Instagram, keep their pages private, and are following hundreds or thousands of other people on Instagram, most of them women.

Here are some of their messages:

Instagram guy #1: Hey.

Instagram guy #2: Hello beautiful. You are so gorgeous. Has anyone told you how beautiful you are? Please DM me.

Instagram guy #3: Hello sexy lady I would like to get to know you better. Send me some private pics please. (I had to resist the urge to send him pictures of an inflatable doll with the caption, "Meet your new girlfriend.")

Instagram guy #2 (again): Hey I saw you liked one of my posts, so why didn't you write back to my DM? Why are you teasing me like this?

Instagram guy #4: I've been very lonely since my wife left me for some guy who makes more money than me. I think it would be fun for us to get to know each other better. Send me a DM beautiful. (These guys never address me by name, which makes me think they send the exact same message to all the women on Instagram that they're interested in.)

Some of them are clearly catfish, meaning they're using fake pictures of good-looking male models in order to entice women to respond to them. How do I know they're catfish? For one thing, my "type" has always been the good-looking, muscular jock, which is why I follow several male fitness models on Instagram (and some of them have followed me back, but they're not the ones who are DMing me, unfortunately). So, some of the catfish who have sent me DMs are the ones who've stolen a couple pictures from the real fitness models and posted them on their own pages. Even the Model told me that several guys had stolen his pictures from Instagram and created fake dating profiles on multiple dating sites to entice unwitting women.

Whether they're catfish or just guys who are stupid enough to think that if they call me "beautiful" enough times I'll send them pictures of my chest (I WON'T), I haven't responded to any of their messages and block them from contacting me again, especially if they get too aggressive. I also haven't rejoined any of the dating sites. After what happened with the Model, I'm still not ready to date anyone. I thought maybe it was partly because I still had feelings for him, although some of those feelings include the desire to push him into a shark-infested ocean.

But I think it's more than that. I don't have cable anymore, but the one current show that I do keep up with (I usually watch it at the gym) is Elementary. One thing I like about the show is how it depicts Sherlock Holmes as someone who fell in love with someone who deceived and betrayed him in the worst way; that's something that I can relate to. One way he deals with his heartbreak is by immersing himself in his work as a brilliant detective.

In one of the episodes from the second season, his female partner, Joan Watson, is struggling with her ambivalence towards her boyfriend. Sherlock tells her that she shouldn't force herself to be in a conventional relationship that she doesn't want to be in when she is unconventional. What he said struck a chord with me.

Whenever a guy liked me in the past, I usually felt annoyance or indifference. I thought maybe it was just because the guy and I weren't compatible. But I think it might have been something deeper than that, something I've suspected about myself for a long time: I don't want to be in a relationship with anyone.

On the one hand, I like the idea of falling in love. I DON'T like the idea of being alone for the rest of my life. But I also like that being single comes with certain freedoms : the freedom to live and work wherever I want (within reason), to travel wherever I want, and to spend my money and my weekends the way I want to.

I also wonder how some people are able to maintain long-term, monogamous relationships, especially because so many people fall out of love with their spouses or boyfriends/girlfriends. I think that the Model reached out to me that last time because he was bored being with the same woman every night, so he selfishly fulfilled his desires and ended up betraying both his girlfriend and me at the same time. Also, although I must admit that it makes me sad that he chose her to be his girlfriend instead of me, at the same time I'm willing to bet that she's not as oblivious to his selfishness and infidelity as he thinks she is. I think in order to be with a guy like him, she keeps her head stuck in the sand and pretends that he's as committed to her as she is to him.

There are people out there who don't have to be willfully oblivious like the Model's girlfriend and who stay faithful to each other because they love each other and don't want to be with anyone else.

When I was younger, I used to think that I'd meet the right guy someday and find happiness with him. After what happened with the Model, I have a much more cynical view of dating and men in general. I know that not all guys are like him, but I'm tired of dating and all the b.s. that comes with it. I don't want to take the risk of falling head over heels for someone else, only to have my heart pulverized all over again. It nearly destroyed me the last time, and I just can't go through that again. I just can't.

Several guys I met online last year, including the Artist, texted me every day and wanted to talk for hours every time. That did not charm or flatter me; it irritated me and made me feel like they were either smothering me or checking to see if I was out with other guys. It felt possessive and too much too soon, especially since even before I went out on my first date with the Artist he insisted on talking every day and got upset when I said I couldn't.

"When you like the guy, it'll be different," my hairstylist said, when I talked to her about some of the dates I'd gone on. "Then you'll want to talk to him every day." Maybe. But another reason it irritated me was that I have a full-time job and a part-time job, and I usually don't have the time or patience for long conversations.

I've always been an introvert who preferred my own company over almost everyone else's. I thought that meant that something was wrong with me, as my mother often says it is. But maybe I'm not meant to be with anyone. Maybe the reason I couldn't make it work with any of the guys I dated isn't just because they weren't right for me but because I'm not the marrying kind, and I'm just not good at relationships.

But who knows. The writer Emily Gould wrote at the end of her memoir, And the Heart Says Whatever, that she didn't want to be anyone's girlfriend and expressed doubts about the institution of marriage. But now, almost ten years later, she's happily married to another writer and has two kids with him. So maybe I'll end up like her. Or maybe I'll still be alone. In the meantime, it's been a relief not to worry about dating someone new and to focus instead on the other things that matter to me, like teaching and my writing.

What about you? Do you think it's true that some people just aren't the marrying kind?

Sunday, October 7, 2018

How I Became a Neurotic Workaholic

Two years before I left Chicago, I suffered a nervous breakdown and went into therapy. There were several reasons why I sought counseling, but the catalyst was that my best friend of more than fifteen years had ghosted me a year before. The last time we hung out, Former Friend told me that "it's not very attractive" to complain about work so much, even though they had vented about their job many times. After that, every time I suggested getting together to have coffee or lunch, Former Friend had an excuse for why they were too busy. It took me months to realize that they no longer wanted me in their life, which crushed me, because they were one of the only friends I had left.

In high school, I used to hide in my bedroom and shovel handfuls of peanut M&Ms into my mouth when dealing with my parents and sibling was too much for me. I gained thirty pounds in one year and struggled to lose the weight for years after that. I eventually lost weight by working out regularly and cooking healthier meals.

But after Former Friend ghosted me, I started binge eating and gaining weight again. I knew I needed help when I opened my refrigerator one day and realized that I'd filled all the shelves with large bags of peanut M&Ms. I was still in grad school at the time, so I went to the counseling center at my university, and they gave me a list of referrals to therapists who offered low-cost counseling.

At first, I felt ashamed and sad that I felt so alone that I had to pay a stranger to listen to me. But over the course of the next two years in therapy, I learned that there is no shame in seeking help when you need it, and I learned a lot of valuable things.

My therapist said that I suffered from depression and anxiety, including social anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. My anxiety was connected to my workaholism, she said, because I always felt like I couldn't relax unless I got all my work done. But due to my graduate studies and multiple jobs, I always had a lot of work to do. My social anxiety was shown through my hyper-awareness of things most people took for granted. When I interacted with my students or with other people, afterwards I would berate myself for something I said or did wrong, and I thought that was all those other people remembered about me. I'd always known that I was neurotic and had low self-esteem, but it wasn't until I was in therapy that I realized how and why I became that way.

My therapist said something that struck a chord with me: "You are an amazing young woman. You're attractive, highly intelligent, and kind and compassionate to others. You've earned a bachelor's degree and a master's degree; you're a Ph.D. candidate; you balance multiple jobs, and you're a good teacher. But you can't see anything good about yourself or recognize any of your accomplishments. All you see is what you think is bad about yourself because your family, especially your mother, has conditioned you to think that way."

When students approached me at the end of each term to tell me how much they enjoyed my class and that I was their favorite teacher, I used to think that they were just being polite. I thought the same thing when people complimented me on my writing. My therapist was right: I had internalized the verbal abuse that my parents and sibling had inflicted on me to the point that I couldn't recognize any compliments directed at me as being genuine. Although I hadn't lived with my parents and sibling for years, their voices were still in my head every day, pointing out everything I did wrong so that I was constantly obsessing about it.

I thought of the times my sibling and I fought and how they claimed that their screaming insults were justified because they were merely "responding" to my bad behavior. Sibling did not escape our parents' house unscathed, but is now in denial about the way they've treated us. Also, I always received the worst of it, like the time my father and sibling went out for ice cream, while I had to stay behind because my mother was angry at me; they knew that she would scream at me for hours while they were gone, which she did, but they left anyway. Both my father and Sibling are more willing than I am to tiptoe around my mother. Sibling says that stuff like that is my fault for "provoking" our parents because I talk back to them (my father and mother say the same thing). Sibling also says that I'm being too melodramatic about how they treat me.

I thought of my father, who is not usually as bad-tempered as my mother but who never protected me from her either. He has also made his share of cutting remarks, such as the time I was hired to teach at the college in Small Town and he said that it was good that I was "finally going to start working." I pointed out that I had been working multiple jobs for years, but he said they didn't count because none of those jobs were full-time and didn't come with health insurance or benefits.

Most of all, I thought of my mother, who has always criticized everything about me: my weight, my hair, my clothes, the way I walk, etc. Years ago, when she was visiting and I was out on an errand, she read through some of my course evaluations that my former students had filled out. Although most of the evaluations were highly positive, my mother honed in on the few that weren't. To this day, she reminds me of the bad things that my students said about me, to show that I made the wrong choice when I pursued a career in education, rather than the more lucrative career she and my father pressured me to pursue. Sibling caved in to my parents' demands and chose that career, which is partly why they favor Sibling over me.

I think that's one reason why I've spent all these years working so hard: I wanted to prove that my mother was wrong when she said that I wouldn't last five years as a teacher. But my therapist helped me realize that I shouldn't work so hard to get my parents' approval because they were toxic and nothing would ever be good enough for them.

Therapy also helped me realize how isolated I had become and that I needed something in my life outside of work. When I moved to Small Town, I accepted the invitation of Small Town Guy, who also worked at the college that hired me, to join his trivia team that met at a local bar every week. He introduced me to his other friends. They were kind to me and welcomed me into their group, and for the first time in years, I had an active social life.

I've been thinking about all of this as I've continued writing my book, Obsessions of a Workaholic. I also wondered why I let the Model push me around and why I blamed myself for everything that happened. My therapist might have said that I'd been conditioned to believe that the problem was solely within me, not in the people who treated me badly. But I don't put all the blame on my relatives for why I fell for the Model.

When he first messaged me on Tinder, I had just recently moved to College Town. I was lonely for the friends I left behind in Small Town. I wasn't attracted to the other guys I'd met on Tinder or Bumble. I'd been rejected by most of the guys I'd had crushes on in the past. The Model was exactly the kind of guy I've always been attracted to but who never even noticed me before. The fact that he not only noticed me but wanted to be with me was flattering and thrilling, like a fantasy come true. And despite the awful way he treated me, he did have a few good qualities.

For one brief, desperate moment after I found out that he had used me to cheat on his girlfriend, I actually considered pretending that I didn't know about her, because the thought of never being with him again hurt even more. But in the end, I couldn't do it. I knew in my heart that he saw her as girlfriend material, and me as a friend with benefits. There was no way that I could keep being with him, not only because it was wrong to hook up with someone else's boyfriend but also because I'd be cheating myself out of everything else I wanted with him.

Whatever I had with him was a fantasy. It wasn't real, even though I wanted it to be, especially after years of bad first dates and failed relationships. I had fallen back into the pattern of allowing myself to be treated like crap in the vain hope of one day having my efforts be validated with love. As my therapist told me, I needed to recognize the good in myself again, instead of only focusing on what was bad, and to remember that I deserved better.

Some days, it's still hard to do that, especially because my parents and sibling have no remorse for the way they've treated me and still make me feel bad about myself. I haven't completely cut them out of my life for complicated reasons that would make this post even longer, but my therapist taught me strategies for dealing with them. She said that I should severely limit the time I talk to them on the phone and spend less time with them, and I've followed her advice. She told me that I needed to put my foot down with all of them more often, and I have, much to their displeasure, though I still have a long way to go.

I had to put my foot down with the Model too. I never again want to let anyone, whether it be the Model or my relatives, make me feel like I'm someone whose feelings don't matter and who is worthless. Now, I take pride in my academic and professional accomplishments, even though my mother doesn't and my father says I still need to do more. Now, I know that I'm not a loser just because I'm still single at 37, even though my sibling tells me otherwise. I've also lost twenty-five pounds since May, and that makes me feel good too.

"You're stronger than you think," my therapist once told me. "You could have continued obeying your parents and done everything they wanted, but you stayed the course and focused on making your own dream come true instead."

I'm not sharing all of this to make you feel sorry for me. But I wanted to explain why I obsess over things that some people think are not a big deal, and why I regressed into a depressive spiral after I found out what kind of person the Model really was. If it hadn't been for what I learned from those two years in therapy, I might have spiraled even further. I thought maybe this post was TMI, which is why I almost didn't post it. But writing my book-length memoir, Obsessions of a Workaholic, has made me contemplate how and why I became a neurotic workaholic and also includes TMI about my parents and sibling (I do not refer to them as my family and never will). That's why I will have to edit some of it once I finish the rough draft.

What about you? Have you ever been ghosted by a friend? Do you ever worry about including too much information in your own blog posts or manuscripts?