Monday, January 31, 2011

I Want My Money Back

In the past few days that I've been a member of I've seen at least twenty or twenty-five members' profiles without pictures. I've been contacted by at least two or three of them. One guy with pictures in his profile did contact me, but his face was half covered with enormous sunglasses, which made me think of Jeff Goldblum's character in The Fly.

I have to wonder if any of these guys would even bother to respond to me if I didn't have any pictures in my profile (probably not). I did read through their profiles, but the majority of the guys without pictures barely write anything. A couple guys didn't even bother to include a screenname; they're simply identified as "New Member".

On the other dating sites that I joined in the past, you could choose to block someone from communicating with you. On eharmony you'd actually be able to see from someone's profile if someone chose to "close communication" with you, which basically meant that if they saw you in person they'd probably roll over and play dead or start shrieking, "Oh, NO! She found me! HELP! HELLLLPPPP!"

But for some reason I can't figure out how to block guys from contacting me on I don't even know if it's an option. So even if I click on "Not really" if the website asks if I'm interested in certain guys, the guys can still contact me. I know because it has happened more than once. That makes me worry that I might get incessant e-mails from some guy, with the messages reading something like, "This is the 57th time I've e-mailed you. Surely my persistence will win you over, no?"

Several guys who did include pictures of themselves also included pictures of their dogs. Not themselves with their dogs, just their dogs. That makes me wonder if they just really love their pets and want to show them off to the world, or if they are secretly werewolves and the dog pictures are actually what they look like when the moon is full.

On this website they don't have the option of sending "winks" to people you're interested in; you simply click on the "Yes, I'm interested" button and the website will let them know.

One guy did let me know that he was interested in this way, so I sent him an e-mail because he seemed interesting. And now, one week later, I haven't heard from him. I'm wondering if it's because I mentioned that I was out of town and wouldn't be coming back to Chicago for a few days. Still, though, it's frustrating, especially since the same kind of thing happened at least ten or twelve times on eharmony.

I'm considering setting up a profile on one of the free dating sites, like, if things don't start looking up on I'm hoping to meet at least a couple guys through this site, but I'm not sure if anything is going to happen.

Maybe I should have just used the money that I spent on this membership on several pints of ice cream. Chocolate chip cookie dough has never disappointed me.

Check out this commercial from I like it because it reminds me of Daniel Powter's music video for his song "Bad Day". Although as I told Melanie (who writes the blog Lost in Singledom), I'm not sure if this dating website's connection to that song means anything ominous.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dating Bigfoot

I just signed up for a membership with a new online dating website,

Okay, okay, I know I just wrote a post about saving money. But the thing is, I've actually been setting aside money for several months just so I could have enough to sign up for an online dating membership. And I poked around online and found an awesome "3 months for the price of 1" deal on this website, so I only had to pay fifty dollars! is affiliated with, but it's actually quite similar to eharmony. For one thing, you don't get to comb through a bunch of profiles yourself; the website sends you about half a dozen matches per day with the idea that these are the people with whom you have the most "chemistry", based on a personality test that you have to take beforehand (but that's for another post).

I specified the age range I was going for, somewhere between the ages of 25 and 35 (I'm 29). And yet, seems to feel that I'm compatible with several twenty-year-olds. Be still, my heart.

Nothing personal against anyone who dates someone who is significantly younger or older. That's their prerogative, and if they find true love, more power to them. But I doubt that I'll ever be a cougar. Teaching guys in their early twenties has pretty much ruined that for me, since I'll always just view them as undergrads rather than as potential dates (and besides, as a college teacher, dating undergrads is out of the question as far as I'm concerned).

As I wrote in an earlier blog post, sometimes, a picture says a little too much. But I would like to give advice to any guy out there who is on an online dating site or is considering joining:

1. Manscaping is good for the soul...and your social life. I have seen a few shirtless photos of guys who are either standing in profile, flexing their muscles, or standing with their backs to the camera. It's one thing if they have hairy chests. But hairy backs? That's pretty much a deal breaker for me. I'd really rather not feel like I'm dating Bigfoot, mm-kay?

2. Don't lie about your age. I've mentioned before that I've seen several profiles of guys who claim to be in their late twenties, yet their pictures make them look like they're in their late thirties or forties. (I've seen this on all of the dating sites that I joined.) Yes, some people do look older than they actually are. I myself actually get mistaken for being younger. But that's mainly because I'm not afraid to admit that both Britney and Miley are on my iPod (Shut up. They're fun.) and that I don't like going to "adult" things like wine-tasting parties (mainly because I'd spend the whole night spitting out the wine and going, "PBBBBPTH! Blech! Don't you have any soda? And what's with all the CHEESE? Is there NO candy here?").

      But several of the pictures I've been seeing have made me say out loud, "There is NO WAY that guy is 27!" It's one thing to feel self-conscious about your age. But don't lie about it.

3. What are you trying to hide? One of the things that bugged me about eharmony was the large number of profiles without pictures. There are several without pictures on chemistry too. As I've stated before, looks aren't everything, but they do matter to some extent. Of course, I've seen profiles where the pictures show cute guys but the stuff they write in their profiles makes them sound like total jerks.

But you should have at least two or three pictures of yourself up there. If I went out to a bar and a guy started chatting me up, I'd walk away if he was wearing a bag over his head so that I couldn't see his face. The only way it would work would be if we were at a masquerade ball, where everyone was wearing masks. And even then I'd still want to know what he looked like.

And if you don't post a picture, don't describe yourself as "Athletic/toned". Because if you were, you wouldn't be afraid to show what you look like. (Believe me, I've seen enough guys - and girls -  parading around the gym and showing off their physique to know this for a fact.)

4. Don't insult me. Some guys have pictures in their profiles where they look like they're glaring at the camera, as if they're really angry about something. It's as if they're saying, "Jeez. You better finish taking that picture THIS SECOND or I will shove that camera up your nose." Or maybe they think that the angry look is attractive.

Some guys sound really angry in their profiles, as if they've been burned by one too many women in the past. They write stuff like, "Don't expect me to pay for every single date, because I am NOT looking for a gold digger." Um, okay. I WASN'T expecting that, but thanks for just assuming that I would.

Or they'll write stuff like, "I hate it when girls play games. If you don't want to go out on a second date with me, why would you go out with me in the first place?" Maybe you should think about how you treated your date the first time around, and then ask me that question.

I'm already having doubts about, but I already paid for the membership. Hopefully I'll have more luck this time, although I am a little embarrassed that this is the fourth dating site I've tried. As many of you know, I've already tried, okcupid, and eharmony. I went out on dates with guys I met on all three sites, but I didn't meet Mr. Right. Maybe I'm the one who will be single forever.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Raiding the Piggy Bank

It's been in the news lately that the state individual tax income rate in Illinois is going to be raised from 3% to 5%. So apparently the state of Illinois believes that I am being paid too much and is going to take even MORE money out of my paycheck. When I heard the news, I had the urge to start shrieking, "Why, Illinois, why?" I also had the urge to take all of my money out of my tiny checking account, hide it under my bed and then stand guard over it 24/7, snapping my teeth at anyone who tried to take it from me.

In a way, I can understand why they're raising taxes. Illinois has a LOT of financial problems, and it's been this way for years now. Hopefully the money from the increase in taxes will be put to good use. But it's still hard not to feel angry, frustrated, and...worried.

It's difficult to work full-time because of my graduate course work and my teaching responsibilities, so I've earned extra money from working part-time jobs, including teaching at other schools, my website job, and working in retail. Every penny counts, and I do what I can to save money.

I only go to movies twice a year. I don't buy new clothes or shoes unless they have holes in them that can't be repaired, or unless people start pointing and laughing and saying, "You do realize those things went out of style in the nineties, right? Hahahaha!" And then I do a bunch of karate kicks, bellowing, "Do you DARE to laugh at ME, weaklings?" until they run away in terror and then I point and laugh, saying, "Who's laughing now?"

I clip coupons. I buy stuff on sale. I don't go into the designer boutiques on Michigan Avenue or Oak Street, since I've always had this fear that the exquisitely dressed salesladies are going to take one look at my clothes and start shielding their eyes, sobbing, "I can't look! It's too awful!"

I rarely eat in restaurants. I don't buy alcohol, but that's partly because when I drink it I become really neurotic. I work extra hours at my website job so I can earn more money. My biggest splurge is a Frappuccino from Starbucks once a week.

I also read personal finance blogs for tips on saving money. My favorite one is written by Donna Freedman, Surviving and Thriving.  She also writes for Smart Spending. (Side note: I recently entered a giveaway on her Surviving and Thriving blog, and I won six kinds of Godiva chocolate! Woohoo! Thank you, Donna!)

Now that I'm going to be losing more money to taxes, I'm trying to figure out what else I can do to save money. I could cancel my gym membership (which I have a student discount on), but I view exercise as a necessity because it not only helps me burn calories and strengthen my muscles, it is also a great stress reliever.

I could just jog outside, but more often than not it's always so slushy or icy outside. I'd probably develop a reputation as The Girl Who Keeps Falling Down and Brings Everyone Down with Her, so that whenever people saw me running on the sidewalk, they'd start running too, screaming, "Look out! She's coming! RUN AWAY! Don't let her get you!"

I'm also thinking about moving to a cheaper apartment, which will be necessary anyway if I don't find a better-paying job for next year. Hopefully at the new apartment I'll have less annoying neighbors, so that I won't have to say stuff like, "Could you leave your old mattress in the dumpster and not outside my door?" and "Just because the postal worker accidentally put my mail in your mailbox does NOT mean it's okay for you to open it!" and "Hey. Are you awake? Are you alive? You probably shouldn't just lie in the hallway like that." That last question is often asked in the morning after my neighbors come home after a long night of partying/barhopping.

What do you do to save money?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I'd Like to Thank All the Little People

Theresa Milstein, who writes the blog The Substitute Teacher's Saga, is hosting an awesome contest titled "Four Hundred Follower Fiesta on February Fourth". You should definitely visit (and follow!) her blog and check it out.

The grand prize is a query critique by Nicole Zoltack, whose publisher is Desert Breeze Publishing. You could also win several great books, including The Red Garden, by Alice Hoffman and The Dating Game, by fellow blogger Talli Roland. In order to participate in the contest, all you have to do is be a current (or new) follower of Theresa's blog. Also leave a comment on her blog post (the link to the post promoting the contest is above) that indicates which of the prizes you'd like to win.

Theresa also let me know that I got a free book, titled Smart Words: Vocabulary for the Erudite, since I was one of the first two commenters on that blog post. How cool is that?

When I was in high school, I used to watch several of the awards shows. I even taped some of them, including the MTV Video Music Awards and the Grammys, if my favorite musicians were performing. I thought it was nice that musicians and actors were honored for their hard work.

I still think that it's good for them to get awards. They do work hard after all, and I suppose it is nice for them to be recognized and praised for what they do. But I have to admit that sometimes I get a little tired of all the awards shows. Not to mention all the gossip on the red carpet gets old, because how many times do we really need to see a bunch of celebrities parade around in expensive clothes while everyone else compliments them?

I probably sound like I'm jealous. I am, a little bit. It would be thrilling to be the center of attention like that. I think it would be fun to live that life for one day.

But I wouldn't want to live that life 24/7. Can you imagine living under a microscope, with everyone watching and judging everything that you do? Can you imagine spending hours getting ready for one of those red carpet events, only to end up on some worst-dressed list while people like Joan Rivers laugh at you and say, "I can't BELIEVE they even nominated someone who dresses like that! If they had put on a burlap sack or a clown outfit they would have looked better!" (I should add that I've never liked Joan Rivers very much.)

I also think that there are too many awards shows as it is. Although hosts like Conan O'Brien do provide entertaining commentary, at the same time the acceptance speeches seem to be the same every year.

Often you'll see a celebrity go up there all teary-eyed and happy, saying, "I didn't even prepare a speech because I didn't think I'd win! I just want to thank all the people who weren't as talented as I am, so that I could win this award instead of them." Or sometimes the person accepting the award will act like he or she doesn't care, and they'll go up there all cool and indifferent. They'll say something like, "Yeah, thanks, I guess. I have to go and let people fawn over me now before I go clubbing with other people who are also too cool to care."

And then you have the people who were nominated and didn't win, and they'll say something gracious like, "Really, it's an honor just to be nominated." But what they're really thinking is, "I should be up there! Am I the only one who recognizes my greatness?"

It seems like every other week I turn on the TV and there's another awards show being promoted. I do have to wonder if they're going to create even more awards just so they can have more excuses to roll out the card carpet. Here are some examples of awards that they could come up with:

"I'm So Beautiful It Only Takes Me Six Hours Every Day and a Styling Team to Look This Way" Award

"Most Popular Reality Show That Is about Nothing But Cat Fights and Hot Tub Hookups" Award

"Biggest Scandal Involving a Porn Star/Public Rant/Celebrity Breakup" Award

"Most Popular Socialite with the Highest Number of Famous Boyfriends/Girlfriends" Award

"15 Minutes of Fame" Award

"15 Minutes of Fame That Should Have Ended Last Year and Yet He/She Won't Go Away" Award

I'm not sure if they'll ever make awards like these, especially since the titles are too long to put on those trophies. But I can think of more than one celebrity who should be nominated for one or all of these awards.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

And I Thought Black Swan Was Scary

Two or three times a year, I like to treat myself to a movie. I don't go more often because I can't afford it. I don't have Netflix for the same reasons. But I like going to the movies. I like sitting in a dark theater in front of a giant screen. It's fun to get pulled into someone else's world for a while. And the buttery popcorn is good too. (I know, I know, it's totally unhealthy, but I only eat it twice a year. So whatever.)

I also like going to movies alone, because then I get to pick what I want to see and I don't have to share my food with anyone. Also, my friends don't always like my movie selections. For example, I actually went to see Mariah Carey's movie, Glitter, when it came out. (Okay. You can stop groaning now.) I couldn't see why everyone hated it so much. I didn't think it was that bad. (But admittedly, it wasn't that great, either.)

Recently, I went to watch Black Swan, partly because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, and partly because I've always admired Natalie Portman's work as an actress. And in this movie she was, as always, brilliant.

However, the movie was slightly confusing, because I couldn't really tell what was real and what was not (which I guess was the point). Since it was a thriller, there were several instances in the movie where the audience was suddenly startled by something particularly shocking or scary. (And maybe that's why I was confused by the movie, because I kept covering my eyes and ended up missing parts of it.) At least twice during the movie I gasped, jumped in my seat, and spilled some of my popcorn. It landed on a guy sitting near me. He looked at me as if to say, "At least aim the popcorn towards my mouth next time."

I like sitting in the back of the movie theater, because there are usually fewer people up there. However, there is one disadvantage, because it gives you a full view of everyone in front of you. That includes everyone who loves their cell phones so much that they can't bear to turn them off for two hours.

It's as if they want to say, "I can't, I just can't! What if my best friends update their Twitter feed and I can't immediately respond to their Tweets? What if someone in my family calls for the third time today to discuss what we talked about in the last two calls? What if someone sees my Facebook page and has no idea what I'm doing because I haven't been able to update my Facebook status in over an hour? Then there would just be madness, I tell you!"

There was this woman in front of me who pulled out her phone to send and receive text messages at least six times throughout the movie (I counted). Texting isn't as bad as talking on the phone, but the light from her phone shone directly into my face, as if someone was shining a miniature flashlight at me. I wanted to say to her, "You want to see something scary? Turn around, JERK!"

It got to the point where I was ready to lean forward and tell her, "Could you please stop doing that? The light from your phone is bothering me." But I was going to say it in a polite way, without dumping my giant soda (which apparently is laced with some kind of mind-altering fluid that makes anyone who drinks it willing to pay more than their ticket price for soda and popcorn) on her head, and without taking her phone away and flinging it at the screen and yelling, "Go FETCH!" But I didn't, because she finally shut her phone and put it away.

There was a younger girl there, who looked like she was twelve or thirteen, who actually answered her phone during the movie. It sounded like she was talking to someone she had a crush on, because she said, "Oh, hi. No, not much is going on right now." Everyone in the audience let out a collective groan, and for a moment I was afraid that they were all going to attack her with their own cell phones. Fortunately, she walked out of the theater, still talking on her phone, of course.

I also found myself wishing I hadn't bought such a large soda (although honestly, a small soda at a theater is basically a large soda), because I kept fidgeting for half of the movie. Finally I got up about halfway through the movie and tried to make my way down the aisle, though I tripped over someone's enormous shoes and my arms started waving in the air. Then I almost went flying, looking as if I was trying to imitate the dancers leaping across the stage in the movie (I wasn't). I tried to apologize to the person I tripped over, but someone else was all, "SHHHH!" And I was all, "You SHHHHH!"

It was then that I realized that the lack of money isn't the only reason I rarely go to the movies.

What about you? What do you like/dislike about the movie theater?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Average People Need Not Apply

The University of Type-A Overachievers in College Town, USA invites applications for a position as Assistant Professor in English, to begin August 2011. A PhD is required, so hurry up and finish your dissertation because otherwise we won't even call you, you SLACKER you. The successful candidate will specialize in Renaissance Literature, although you will be required to teach mainly freshman composition classes, because the veterans don't want to teach those and you should consider yourself lucky to get to grade eighty papers a week. The successful candidate will also have a long record of publications, with books that would make scholars like Homi Bhabha and Judith Butler lament, "I'll NEVER write anything as good as this!"

Party School in College Town, USA invites applications for a tenure-track position in English, to begin August 2011. A PhD is preferred, but as long as you know how to proofread and don't fail too many sudents, that would be okay too. The successful candidate will call students to remind them to come to class and make classes entertaining so that students will have fun and maybe learn something.

The College of High Expectations in Big City, USA is hiring instructors in the English department to teach a minimum of four classes each semester. But we would really prefer that you teach five classes a semester, because you don't really need to waste time SLEEPING, do you? Please send your curriculum vitae, transcripts (and you BETTER have straight A's), and three letters of recommendation from professors who are so impressed with your scholarly work and teaching that they would give you awards and write songs about you if they could.

A few weeks ago, my blogger friend Lisa Maliga, who writes the blogs Notes from Nadir and Leaving Nadir, wrote an amusing post titled "I Am Sane" about the housing ads she saw on Craigslist when she was looking for a new place to live. It made me think about the job ads I've been seeing as I search for a full-time teaching job. Obviously, I made those ads up, but they're not entirely far from the truth of what many schools expect from teachers.

Reading these ads made me feel a sense of inadequacy about my own situation. Most of the good teaching jobs require applicants to have already completed their Ph.D.s. But even though I've completed my course work and passed my preliminary exams, I won't be finished with my dissertation by August. I'm a Ph.D. candidate, but I'm what's called an ABD (all but dissertation). The problem is, even if I was lucky enough to find a full-time teaching job, the fact that it's full-time would make it even more difficult for me to complete my dissertation.

But I'm facing pressure from my family to find a full-time teaching job, since I'm almost thirty and am still working multiple jobs just to pay the rent. People my age who already have successful careers would probably take one look at my paycheck and either fall down laughing or look at me with pity and offer to buy me lunch.

There are smaller colleges and community colleges that offer tenure-track positions that people who haven't completed their Ph.D.s yet can apply for, but the thing about tenure is that means you're making a commitment to that school.

There's nothing wrong with smaller colleges or comunity colleges, because there are plenty of good ones out there. But right now I'm just looking for a full-time job to tide me over until I complete my degree. Maybe I will end up at one of the smaller schools, but I'd like to at least take a shot at a prestigious school.

It's also hard because a lot of the schools require recommendation letters. I could ask the professors on my dissertation committee to write letters for me, but they're familiar with my scholarly work (which still needs improvement), not my teaching. And anyway, my professors would probably not approve of my current job search (though they might understand my reasoning). They would urge me to finish school first before I get a full-time job.

So it's hard. I'm not sure what's going to happen next year. I've sent out a few applications, but I'm not sure if it would actually be a good idea for me to get a full-time job next year. I don't want to be an eternal student, but at the same time I've already spent too many years focusing more on teaching than on my graduate work. And a professor has to be both a teacher and a scholar, and I don't feel that I've proven myself as a scholar yet.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

That's When I Started Primal Screaming

I recently returned to Chicago after visiting my parents in another state. I took a shuttle to the airport, and once I was in the van, I suddenly realized something.

No. It can't be. Oh, dear God, NO. Nonononono! TURN THE VAN AROUND! But it was too late.

I realized I'd forgotten my iPod at my parents' house.

Before you roll your eyes and call me superficial, think about how often you use your iPod/cell phone/laptop, and then try to see if you could live without it for a week or more. I wouldn't have minded leaving my cell phone behind, because I hate talking on the phone anyway. Forgetting my laptop would have been worse, especially since I use it for work, but I can always just use the computers at school. But my iPod? I NEED it!

I use my iPod when I'm commuting, doing chores, or working out. I also use it when I'm walking around outside, because if I look like I'm not otherwise occupied random creepy people will see that as an invitation to talk to me. And then I have to run away from them, and seeing how it's often so snowy and icy out right now, I'd really rather not slip, fall, and crash into a crowd of people, you know?

Not having my iPod meant that everything seemed to take so much longer. It also meant that I was more prone to eavesdropping on the people around me. I thought, Maybe this is good. This will make me more observant, and maybe I could pick up some writing material. But when I think back to what I observed and heard at the airport when I was waiting for my flight back to Chicago, I'm not so sure. Unless I write a book with a chapter titled, "Things You Shouldn't Say in Public".

Here are a few examples:

Barista #1 who was making my coffee at the airport cafe: I feel so itchy today. Would someone scratch my back for me?
Barista #2: I don't want to catch anything from you. Then I might die.

Woman sitting next to me in the waiting area, who spoke loudly on her cell phone for 45 minutes: I'm just waiting for my plane. I think I'm going to go get something to eat, and then I'm going to go potty later. (I should add that this woman looked like she was in her forties, and based on her conversation it did not appear that she was talking to a five year old.)

Woman sitting behind me on the plane, who was talking to the guy beside her: Well, if you have time while you're in the city, let me know. I could show you around. I'm sure my husband wouldn't mind.
Guy: Sounds like fun.

It didn't help that several of the people around me were listening to music on their iPods, which made me stare at them with envy. I think one guy thought I was checking him out, but I was really just wondering if he had any of Katy Perry's songs on his playlist.

I won't be getting my iPod back until next week, so hopefully I can live without it until then. Or maybe I'll just curl up into a fetal position and whimper softly until I get it back.

What about you? What is one thing that would be difficult for you to live without (aside from the obvious, like oxygen, food and water)?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Resolutions I Will (And Won't) Be Keeping

Like many people, I always make resolutions on New Year's Day. I like the idea that people resolve to improve themselves and/or their lives by doing things differently. However, I usually end up failing to keep one or all of the resolutions by February.

Here are a couple resolutions I probably won't be keeping:

1. Write every day. I wish I could write every day. I could send my work out sooner and increase my chances of getting published. Then, when I finally do win the Pulitzer Prize, I could start my acceptance speech by saying something like, "I based all the characters with no conscience on the people who made fun of me in high school. Here are a list of their names..."

It's not possible for me to write every day. I have to work on my dissertation, complete projects for the website I work for, teach classes, grade papers, hold office hours, and answer students' e-mailed questions with a definite NO when they try to get me to change their grade, pressure me to let them miss a month's worth of classes without penalty to their grade, or explain to them everything that happened in a one hour class in one e-mail.

I do write several times a week. If I could write every day, I would. But since I can't, I choose not to feel guilty about it.

2. Stop watching reality TV. I don't watch most reality shows. The Real Housewives makes me want to punch my TV, or at the very least take the cast members by the shoulders and yell, "What's WRONG with you?" So does The Bachelor. Why would ANYONE want to date someone who's already made out with three other women in one day?

I did try watching Top Chef, but the chefs always seemed so angry. That made me worried, because I thought that it was possible for their anger to somehow affect the food they prepared. Then I started worrying about angry chefs at various restaurants I visited, and I thought it might be like Tita from the novel Like Water for Chocolate; everything she felt went into her food and affected the people who ate the food. I thought of that one wedding where she was upset while making the wedding cake and then everyone started throwing up and running around in a panic and....

ANYWAY, the only reality shows I watch are Millionaire Matchmaker and Jersey Shore. Millionaire Matchmaker makes me dread dating in my thirties, because the majority of the guys on there are so despicable with their impossible expectations of women and the way they treat their dates. And yet I can't help watching. Watching the people on the show helps me learn exactly what NOT to do on dates.

Jersey Shore is exactly as trashy as you think it would be, yet it's so hilarious I can't help watching it either. For example, Snooki, one of the female cast members, said, "Whenever people ask me what race I am, I just say I'm tan." I mean, come ON!

It's mean of me to write this, but I watch the shows partly because it makes me feel better about myself. Whenever I feel inadequate because I'm not succeeding in grad school as much as some of my classmates are, I can turn on the TV and laugh at the hair-pulling, drink-throwing, insult-exchanging fights that people have in hot tubs.

But on the other hand, there are things about my life that I want to change, and I figure making a promise to myself will help me accomplish that. So if I can keep just ONE of my resolutions, I'll be satisfied. So here are a few resolutions I probably will keep:

1. Learn to cook. I have tried cooking several recipes before, but I always end up doing something wrong. Then I end up setting fire to the food, spitting it out, or throwing it away before I head to the nearest fast food place. But this year I will try some recipes and find a way to cook without setting off my smoke detector.

2. Complete a draft of my dissertation. One reason I haven't worked on my dissertation as much as I could have was because I was scared. I was so scared that I would write something stupid, or that I wouldn't know what to write at all. I was scared that it wouldn't be good enough, and that all the professors on my dissertation committee (professors that I admire and aspire to be like) would burst out laughing when they read my draft and say, "You cannot be serious. Show us the real draft." Or maybe they'd point to the door and say, "GET OUT! You don't belong here."

I'm still scared. But I have to keep working, because otherwise I will never complete my degree. And I've put in too many years to just quit now.

3. Continue online dating. I took a long break from online dating, because of several bad dates, creepy e-mails that scared me more than the shower scene in Psycho, and guys who sent me e-mails but disappeared before agreeing to meet me in person, which made me think that they must have gone into the Dating Protection Program. I've resolved to join a new dating site soon, but part of me wants to keep putting it off. But I have to put myself back out there, because even if I do end up going on more bad dates, there's also the chance that I could go on some good ones.

What about you? What resolutions have you made? Are there any resolutions that you think you won't be keeping?