Friday, July 3, 2020

What I've Been Doing During My Summer Vacation, Or, Why I Named Squirrels and Argued with a Goose

Before the pandemic gripped the world, I was already counting the weeks to summer.  Since I have a full-time college teaching job and a part-time job for a website, I work seven days a week with no time off for months at a time during the school year. One of the perks of being a teacher is that you get summers off, although I still technically work at my website job and do scholarly research during the summer.

Chicago, which will always be home to me, is very far away from College Town. I usually take a train there and stay at a relative's apartment for a few days during the summer so that I can attend neighborhood festivals, go to museums, eat Chicago-style hot dogs, and yell, "If you try to touch me again, you're going to LOSE that hand, freak show!" at creeps on the El.

However, due to the pandemic, all the Chicago festivals have been cancelled, and the museums have been closed for months. Since it's a big city where the majority of people rely on public transportation, and the streets are typically crowded, I'd basically have to wear a face mask all day. And even though I'd never be one of those people who throw food and scream at workers in grocery stores because they don't want to wear masks, I dislike wearing the masks too. (I still wear a face mask when I'm out in public though because literally every business in College Town prevents people from entering unless their faces are covered.) Also, the relative whose Chicago apartment I stay in while I'm there is a medical professional who treats coronavirus patients on a regular basis, so I don't feel safe going there right now.

I planned to at least get some scholarly research done so that I could finish an article that I've been working on and then try to get it published in a scholarly journal. Academia operates on the "publish or perish" motto, meaning if you don't publish scholarly articles and books, you won't be able to advance in your career. But the library at the college where I teach is still closed for the foreseeable future.

I feel like I've been cheated out of fully enjoying my summer break, but I try not to let it get to me too much. Therefore, I've had to come up with some other ways to fill up my time in College Town. Other than my website job, here is what I've been doing:

1. My gym has been closed for months, so I've been taking long walks outside for exercise almost every day. I usually walk around and around a park near my apartment, keeping track of the number of steps I take on my pedometer, until I get to at least 10,000 steps. I like to listen to music, podcasts, and audiobooks (I'm currently listening to Great Expectations by Charles Dickens) on my iPod as I walk. If no one's around, I like to sing along to the music on my headphones. I've been listening to a lot of rap and hip hop lately, so if you see a thirtysomething college professor rapping  "Bad and Boujee" by Migos during an early morning walk in the park, that's probably me.


Whenever someone jogs, bikes, or walks by, I quickly step six feet away from them or put my face mask on. I'm not the only one who does this; most of the people in College Town have been careful about social distancing, and some of them will even cross the street to avoid walking on the same sidewalk as others.

But one guy in the park got mad and screamed insults at me when I stepped away from him as he approached in the opposite direction; he must have taken it as a personal rejection. I responded, "I'm social distancing, B--H!" And then I walked backwards for a while so that I could glare at him while holding up a certain finger because you can take the girl out of Chicago, but you can't take the Chicago out of the girl. He didn't bother me again after that.

2. I belong to three different Meetup groups, but they haven't organized any events this summer because of social distancing. Anyway, there are few places we would have been able to go; most of the restaurants and coffee shops in College Town still won't allow indoor dining, even though it's technically allowed now in my state.

Other than using Zoom and texts to communicate with friends, I haven't had any social interaction in months, which is why I've started talking to the animals I see during my walks. I even named the squirrels I saw climbing trees; I gave them names like Lucy, Jimmy, and Thor. There are also geese swimming in a small pond in the park, and I named them too. One of them hissed at me when I got too close, and I responded, "Oh yeah? Well, I don't like you either, Maleficent!" I also now fully understand why Tom Hanks had conversations with the volleyball that he named Wilson when he played that guy who was stranded on a deserted island in the movie Cast Away. 

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3. I make up stories about the people I see at the park. I often see the same small group of elderly women sitting together at the park, although they sit far away from each other and wear masks while they're talking. I think to myself that maybe they're old friends who've known each other since childhood, a book club, a group of semiretired bank robbers planning one last heist, or a coven of elderly witches who've been inspired by the movie Hocus Pocus to steal the youth of the children at the park.

4. I still can't write in my favorite coffee shops, but I can at least buy coffee and doughnuts to go and bring them home to enjoy as I write at my desk. I've been steadily plugging away at my manuscript, Obsessions of a Workaholic. I'm in the editing stage right now, and I also outlined the structure of my book on note cards that I hung up on the wall next to my desk.

5. My writing space is set up in front of my windows, which face the courtyard down below. My neighbors work out down there sometimes, but two of them like to blast death metal for hours as they work out. The music sounds like howler monkeys screeching at each other while playing the guitar. I opened my windows, put my speakers on the windowsill, and then started blasting "Oops! I Did It Again" by Britney Spears on repeat. The death metal lovers looked up and cringed, and I looked down at them defiantly as if to say, "I've got a lot more Britney where THAT came from!" And then I started doing the "Oops! I Did It Again" dance that Britney did in her video in front of my windows.


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For some unknown reason, they no longer work out down there, and I've been able to go back to working in peace (I only listen to Britney on my headphones now. But I WILL blast all of my Britney playlists - yes, I have more than one - if the death metal lovers come back).

6. Although the college library is closed, the public library in College Town is now providing curbside pickup, which has been a godsend because I spent too much time reading toxic b.s. on social media that made me want to throw away my phone and move into the cave that Tom Hanks' Cast Away character lived in so that I don't have to read all the reasons that people hate each other on the Internet. I've read many books since the library reopened for curbside pickup, and it feels good to read something that isn't for work for once.

So, other than reading library books, working at my website job, writing, and walking  in the park, it's been a pretty uneventful summer. What about you? What have you been up to this summer?

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Throwaway Teacher

A couple months ago, Small Town Guy proposed a Zoom meetup for everyone in our social circle since we were all still living under the shelter in place order. I'd kept in touch with Small Town Guy and my other friends in Small Town through Facebook and texting, but I hadn't actually seen any of them since I moved to College Town three years ago.

The first time we all talked on Zoom, we ended up talking for more than three hours. It was wonderful to see all of them again and hear about their lives, as well as tell them about my life here in College Town. Small Town Guy is now living with his girlfriend. When I saw him on screen, I thought of how just a few years ago I thought I was head over heels for him, but whatever I felt for him paled in comparison to what I felt for the Model. Nevertheless, I couldn't help feeling a small pang when I saw him with his girlfriend in the house they share. I thought that if he had felt the same way about me back then, I might have suffered a lot less heartache than what I went through with the Model, especially because even though Small Town Guy has his flaws, he's not a narcissistic sociopath like the Model is. On paper, Small Town Guy was almost perfect for me (whereas the Model was wrong for me in pretty much every way), but he just wasn't that into me.

We all had such a good time talking to each other on Zoom that we arranged more Zoom meetups. But the most recent one ended badly, at least for me. I want to preface this by saying that I actually liked Small Town Guy's girlfriend because she was a nice person and I'd never had a conflict with her before. The Girlfriend, who is a tenured professor at the college where I used to teach in Small Town (though unlike me, she does not teach English classes because she works for a different department), kept talking about an award she'd won for her research.

Then we started talking about the classes we were teaching. I mentioned how a few of my students were not doing their assignments in the freshman composition classes I was teaching, and the Girlfriend said, "Well, that's because it's a throwaway class that no one cares about."

And that's was the moment that I wished that I was with her in person, so that I could do THIS:



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I didn't say anything right away, but through the webcam I could see my facial expression change from a cheerful smile to something more like this:



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I didn't say anything for a long time, until someone else commented that I was being really quiet. Finally, I spoke up: "You know, I don't think that the General Education classes that I teach are 'throwaway classes'. I think that they're important too."

The Girlfriend quickly said, "Oh, I wasn't talking about your classes." But she knows that as an untenured faculty member, the only classes that I am literally allowed to teach are General Education classes, like freshman composition and lower-level literature classes, whereas as a tenured professor, she gets to teach advanced classes and graduate seminars.

Small Town Guy did not say much either. He stayed out of the conversation and got down on the floor to play with their dog, maybe so he wouldn't have to look me in the eye or witness the smoke coming out of my ears.

I told them that I had to go and I logged out of the conversation. But here's what I wanted to say to the Girlfriend and to the others, many of whom were also tenured professors: "I'm not like you. I'm not on the tenure track. I most likely never will be. I admit that I envy you. But I don't resent your success because you earned it. But I work hard too, and I'm a good teacher. Yet no one will ever recognize the value of my work like they do yours just because I'm not a tenured professor. I'm not even eligible for more than half the awards that you've won because I'm untenured. Untenured faculty like me teach bigger classes and have heavier courseloads so that tenured professors like you can teach fewer, smaller classes that are related to your pet projects.

"Yes, it's true that most of the students don't want to take GenEd classes. But there's a reason that the classes I teach, unlike the classes YOU teach, are required for almost every college student in the country. The skills and knowledge I teach, like writing, are essential in college AND the workplace. I'm not saying that your classes aren't important too, but I AM saying that my classes are not 'throwaways' either.

"The reason some students ask for extensions isn't always because they view my classes as throwaways that they don't care about, as you so thoughtlessly put it. It's because they spend at least 6-7 hours a day on their phones and 1-2 hours a day on their homework. Then the deadlines start piling up and they panic and ask me for extensions. But not all of my students are like that. Some of them show me several pages of notes and outlines they wrote for a five-page paper. They want to do well and are willing to work hard.

"I know you didn't mean to insult me. But you did. And I need you to understand where I'm coming from, so that you'll understand why it's not okay to say crap like that."

But I didn't say that. I wish I had. It made me think of the pandemic and how although millions of people were furloughed or lost their jobs, others were classified as "essential" workers and were able to keep working. It made me wonder about the value people place on certain jobs and how it must have affected the people who weren't classified as "essential", even though their work was important too.

It also made me think of how that conversation, as well as the Girlfriend's attitude, was indicative of the hierarchical nature of academia. It's a world where there are way too many people with PhDs and not enough jobs, so we all have to do whatever we can to succeed. It's so competitive that it's cutthroat. And there's definitely a wide gap between the tenured faculty and untenured faculty because of the disparity in how we're treated and paid. But it's also a world that I chose to work and live in, so it's just something that I have to deal with.

But the next time they organize a Zoom meetup, I'm going to say that I can't join in. I'll just say something like, "Oh, I can't. I have to replenish my voodoo doll collection so that I can cast a curse on someone tonight, one that will hopefully cause them to have nightmares that make them wake up screaming or one that will cause their hair to turn into the snakes that adorned Medusa's head. But have fun on Zoom!"

I'm not saying I'll never talk to them again because I will. But I think it's best if I not participate in the next Zoom meetup because what the Girlfriend said still bothers me, and I don't want to lash out at her or any of the others.

What about you? Do you deal with competitive or condescending people in your line of work? Are you an essential worker, and if so, what has it been like for you?

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The New Normal

Three months ago, this is what a normal workday for me looked like: I drove to the college where I teach, walked past coeds throwing Frisbees or hanging out on the quad, and I smiled and waved at undergrads who called out, "Hi, Professor!" I taught my students how to write, do research, and analyze difficult texts, and I said things like, "You're not supposed to be on Snapchat right now. Put your phone away...No, I know you're not looking up something for class because I can literally see the animal filters on your phone."

Then, I either ate lunch in one of the dining halls or ate the lunch I brought in the office I shared with other untenured faculty (only tenured professors get their own offices), where we chatted about the classes we were teaching. After that, I held office hours with students to discuss their papers.

And then all of a sudden, everything changed. One day, I was teaching my students in the classroom. The next day, they were all forced to move out of their dorms and move back home. The faculty, most of whom had never taught online before, were given a one-hour workshop on how to use Zoom. We were told to be "creative" and "try to make the most of it" in our online classes.

Instead of driving to campus, I went to my living room, where I set up my desk, chair, computer, and filing cabinet in front of the window and prepared to do my work each day. I liked watching people walk their dogs, who were obviously happy at getting more time with their humans, and other people teach their kids how to ride their bikes. The Amazon Prime van and the FedEx truck showed up on a daily basis.

I set up online discussion forums with writing prompts. I posted notes online. I held office hours on Zoom. Many of my students did not read the notes I posted. They kept emailing to ask questions that they would already know the answer to if they had read the notes. (I responded, "The answer to that question is in the notes.") I tried to be understanding about missed assignments because I knew a lot of people had issues with WiFi, but it became frustrating when days or weeks passed by where they ignored my emails and the incomplete assignments started piling up. I finally had to impose penalties on the ones who weren't doing their work, even though I felt bad about doing so. I ended up with severe carpal tunnel syndrome from spending so much time in front of my computer.

I attended faculty meetings on Zoom. I received several emails from my department head, who said that most of the faculty in the English Department will have to continue teaching online in the fall. She said that we can opt out of that and teach on campus, but then our fall schedule will change so that we will get classes scheduled in the early morning, the evening, or on Saturdays (basically, the classes that no one wants to teach). So in other words, it's not really a "choice".

When the shelter in place order was first imposed, I received several worried emails from my students, who were upset about the loss of half of their spring semester. When I talked to them on Zoom, I felt sad too; I felt angry that they were cheated out of a significant part of the college experience. For them, going to college isn't just about going to class. It's about living in a dorm away from their parents, where they can experience independence for the first time in their lives. It's about staying up with their roommates or friends until 2 A.M. It's about going to college parties, meeting new people, and trying all these new things. And they were denied all of that.

Not to mention, they are paying thousands of dollars in tuition for resources that they can't use, such as the science labs or the library (they can use the library's online resources, but they can't check out print copies of the books). One of my students is a theater major who had gotten a leading role in a school play, which was cancelled due to the lockdown. I thought of other students who were suffering from depression or other mental health problems and couldn't take advantage of the school's counseling services. And it just made me feel even angrier.

I understand why the shelter in place order was imposed. But it also made me feel sad for the college seniors, who were cheated of the graduation they had spent four years working for and the opportunity to walk across the stage and be honored for their accomplishments. It made me feel sorry for the high school seniors, who didn't get to go to their senior prom, their senior trip, or their graduations. They'll never get that back.

It also makes me angry when I see people ignoring rules about social distancing, like the college kids on spring break and the one who said, "If I get corona, I get corona," and of course, several of them did get infected with the virus. This is the same generation who says, "OK Boomer," which basically means that they dismiss everyone whose opinion differs from theirs and act like because we're older than them, that means that we're ignorant/politically incorrect/dumb, but then turned around and claimed that it wasn't their fault because the adults didn't tell them about how serious the virus was. My response to that is, "What-EVER, Gen Z."



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The only place I went to on a regular basis was the grocery store because that was one of the only places that was open. I went to the grocery store sometimes just so I could talk to people since I live alone and didn't have anyone else to talk to, except my students. Everyone was wearing masks, which was helpful on days like when one of the grocery store employees screamed at me because I reached for a cart that had not been sanitized yet, and she couldn't see me mouthing the words, "Not today, Satan," through my mask.

It did, however, make me appreciate the things that I could do. I felt grateful that I did not get sick from the virus. I felt grateful that at least I still had my jobs (I also have a second job for a website, which I was already doing remotely), unlike many other people who lost theirs. My former dance teacher in Chicago, who performs in many plays in the city and also teaches dance classes at gyms, like the one that I was a member of, started posting videos of his workouts online. He also posted his Venmo screenname in case anyone wanted to send donations in exchange for his online workouts. I felt bad for him because unlike me, he could not do his job from home. I sent him several donations, which added up to about a hundred dollars (I used some of the money that I got from my stimulus check.) We weren't really friends when I lived in Chicago, but we lived in the same neighborhood and he was always kind to me when I ran into him or when I took his classes. I wanted to help him.

I felt grateful that I could still do things like write, read, and listen to music. When College Town's public library finally reopened (curbside pickup only), I immediately requested a stack of books and felt happier than the time I drove past the Starbucks that had recently reopened for drive-thru (when I saw it, I yelled out my car window as I drove past, "I've missed you! Never leave me again!" because I may or may not have a minor addiction to caffeine.)

This whole situation has made me value the things I took for granted before, like teaching in a classroom, walking around without a mask, writing in a coffee shop, etc. It makes me hope that things will get better, and that the people who got sick will make a full recovery.

What about you? How did the pandemic affect you or your life?

Thursday, May 28, 2020

A Different Happy Ending

One of my favorite movies is 500 Days of Summer, which is about a young man (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who falls in love with the wrong woman (played by Zooey Deschanel). After she breaks up with him, he is heartbroken and goes into a downward spiral, staying in bed all day, eating junk food, walking around outside in his bathrobe, and quitting his job. But in my favorite scene in the movie, he finally gets out of bed and starts taking steps to make his life better. He pursues his dream of becoming an architect by doing research on architecture, sketching buildings, and going on job interviews. Here is the scene below:



Another scene I really like is from the movie Legally Blonde, where Elle Woods (played by Reese Witherspoon) is also in love with the wrong person. When she finally realizes that nothing she does will ever be enough to win his love, she sets out to prove that he's wrong about her. She dedicates herself to her studies as a Harvard law student and ends up excelling in her classes. Here is the scene below:



What I like about both movies is that the "happy ending" for both protagonists is not really about finding true love (although they do both meet new people). It's about their work and their passion for it. Their work gives them a new purpose; it gives them something to focus on other than their heartbreak. They find meaning in their lives by dedicating themselves to their work, and they end up redefining themselves as a result.

After what happened with the Model, I spent a lot of time in bed, listening to angry breakup songs from the 90s (You rock, Fiona Apple. You too, Alanis Morissette.) I ate too much junk food and gained weight.

I thought about dating again, but the idea of poring over profiles of guys who stole pictures from fitness models (thank you, Reverse Image Search), lied about their age, or posed with pictures of dead animals they hunted just made me want to climb back into bed, turn on the angry breakup songs, and reach for the ice cream again.

I thought about the happiest moment in my life. It wasn't when I was in the Model's arms. It wasn't when I stood in front of my students in the classroom. It was the time I read a short story I wrote to a bar full of strangers at an open mic night in Tennessee three years ago, and my story made them laugh. Other writers at the open mic came up to me afterwards and complimented me on my writing. I was so scared to read my work in front of other people, but their positive reactions to my writing made me happy.

For the last two years, I've been working on two books, including a memoir, Obsessions of a Workaholic. It's basically a book-length version of this blog. I went through old blog posts and realized that I could turn them into a linear narrative by rewriting them and fleshing them out. I also realized that the posts I wrote about online dating could be turned into a separate memoir about dating.

I wrote in my office at the school where I teach, between classes and appointments with students. I wrote in the coffee shops on campus. I wrote at my desk in my apartment. I filled up several notebooks with my writing, and then I typed out the first draft of Obsessions of a Workaholic into my computer. When I printed it out, it ended up being about 193 single-spaced pages (more than 156,000 words). So obviously, I have a lot of editing to do.


I'm going to spend the summer revising my draft. Then, I'll learn how to write query letters and do research on literary agents. If I can't get an agent, I'll pitch my book to indie publishers who don't require agents. If that doesn't work, I'll self-publish it. I really believe in this book, and I want to put it out there, especially after years of letting my writing pile up in notebooks. (There are literally stacks of notebooks all over my apartment.) I've also written a draft of my online dating memoir, so once I finish the first book, I'll get back to revising the second one.

Despite all the other crap in my life (and in the world in general), writing is the one thing that always makes me feel happy when I do it. I might never become anyone's girlfriend or wife, and even if I do, it won't happen with him. But I think I could make my dream of becoming a published author come true. And that is my own happy ending.

What about you? What does your happy ending look like?

Friday, May 22, 2020

The Relapse, Or, Why I Stopped Blogging

My dogs died. My father had a stroke. And the Model came back.

Last summer, my parents' dogs were put to sleep. I loved those dogs very much. They were old and had several health problems, and my mother constantly complained about caring for them. I flew to my parents' house to say goodbye to the dogs, and I think about them and miss them every day.

Last fall, my father had a stroke. I was unable to fly out to the state where my parents live because of my teaching responsibilities, but my sibling went there. My mother sat by my father's hospital bed and criticized him, blaming him for what happened to him, and then she complained to me on the phone about how he did not want to talk to her.

I have always been angry at my father for not protecting me or my sibling from my mother. He always refuses to admit when he's wrong. He has berated me in front of my classmates and friends. But when I found out he was in the hospital, I was scared.  He is better now, but he is still under a doctor's supervision.

Last spring, I decided to try online dating again. After what happened with the Model, I withdrew into my work. But I finally decided that I was ready to try again, and I signed up for Bumble.

That's how I came across the Model's profile. At first, I thought it might be a fake picture because he told me that many people had stolen his pictures before. Also, I thought he was still living out West, and his profile stated that he was in College Town (Bumble indicates how many miles away each person is from you). But I was curious, so I swiped right.  To my shock, he had already swiped right on my profile because when you and the other person both swipe right, you "match" on the app.

I sent out a brief and cautious message on Bumble, asking if it was really him. He didn't answer, so I figured it really was a fake profile.

But a few days later, I came across another Bumble profile with different pictures of him. I swiped right again, only to find that he had already swiped right on my profile. I sent another brief message, and still no response.

About a month later, he texted me, saying that he wanted to see me. He did not apologize for what he did or explain what happened. I could have blocked him. I could have told him that I'd been hurting for almost a year because of what he did. But I didn't. I went to see him instead.

This is the part where you are probably reacting like this:

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And I didn't just see him that night. That summer, any time he wanted to see me, I was there.

I asked him about his girlfriend. "We're not dating anymore," he said, but he didn't look me in the eye when he said it. "She's like my best friend now, but I might support her financially because she doesn't make a lot of money." I thought, I don't make a lot of money either, but my solution to that was to get a second job, not to get some guy to pay my bills and buy me things. There's a word for women like her.

He also mentioned that he had hooked up with other women out West. I wondered if she knew.

A few days after the last time I saw him, I texted him. No answer. I figured out that I could see his profile by simply logging out of Instagram, so I did. That same day that he ignored my message, he posted a video of himself "proposing" to the woman he claimed wasn't his girlfriend. The proposal was fake; it was just part of a comedy sketch. But the way she looked at him was real. So was the way he told her he loved her.

I looked at her profile too. There were no recent pictures of him in more than a year, but there were pictures of not one but eight vacations she'd taken in a year, most likely on his dime, even though at least three of those trips were "girls' trips" with her friends, not him.

I stopped texting him after that, and I didn't hear from him again for months. When his self-published book came out, I texted him and told him that I liked it. We spent the next two months texting each other regularly.

He had moved back to a small town in the Midwest and was focusing on his lucrative Instagram page and writing. But he always had an excuse for why he couldn't come to see me, even though College Town was not far from where he lived. On the other hand, he made several trips to the city where she lived, which was much farther away.

That was what made me finally snap out of it. I realized that he was literally passing me by to go see her. Even if they had been broken up when he and I reconnected the previous summer, they were now back together. I thought, I can't do this anymore.

And so I pulled away from him again, this time for good. I did not try to text him again, and I haven't heard from him in weeks.

That's why I stopped blogging. I couldn't reveal what happened because I felt deeply ashamed for running back to him. And after what happened to my father and the dogs, it was like my whole world was crashing down around me, and I didn't have the energy to write funny blog posts anymore.

Reconnecting with him last summer was a mistake. But it was a mistake that I needed to make. After he broke my heart two years ago, I kept blaming myself for what happened. I was still under the illusion that if I had just done something differently, he would have chosen me instead of her. But after everything that's happened, I know that I was wrong. The fact that he continues to choose her over me makes me realize that what I wanted with him was never going to happen.

I was addicted to him. Being with him was like being on a drug. It felt exciting and intoxicating. But it was never fully satisfying. I was always left wanting more. And I finally realized that for the sake of my own sanity, I had to stop chasing after this guy who had hurt me again and again.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't have feelings for him anymore. But I keep telling myself, I can't do this anymore, and it makes me feel better.

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?