Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It's Not Easy Being Green...with Envy

Everyone gets jealous. But we're often told that we shouldn't feel envious of what others have or what they can do. We're told not to compare ourselves to others because it'll just make us feel bad. We're told to be happy with what we do have and what we can do.

But I think that jealousy can be a good thing, to a certain extent. You don't have to let it consume you. There are some cases where jealousy can motivate you to do better. There are other cases where it can help you realize that you'll never have what other people have, but that's okay because you can have other things instead.

For example, when I work out at the gym, I sometimes can't help feeling envious of certain girls who exercise there. They're the girls whose shorts are up to here and whose tops are down to there, and all the cute guys are checking them out. Some of the girls who look like they're a size 2 or smaller often have buff boyfriends in tow. One thing I've noticed is that after each set, the boyfriends will meet up with their girlfriends to mop their faces with the towels they're carrying for them, compliment them for lifting those extra five pounds, or possibly so they can look down their girlfriends' tops again.

I, on the other hand, wear gym clothes that keep me covered up, partly because I'm far from a size 2; it's also partly because I tend to dress so conservatively that probably even nuns would tell me to lighten up.

When I first started going to the gym, I wanted to look like those thin girls who I envied not because of their buff boyfriends (okay, I'm totally lying; I was a little envious of them because of that), but because they were thin. I'd seen them drink soda and eat ice cream outside of the gym and they never seemed to gain weight, whereas I could gain five pounds just by looking at a piece of cake.

Most of the other women at the gym look more like me or are bigger, yet I can't help feeling self-conscious about the way I look and comparing myself to the girls with slim figures. But I know that women come in different shapes and sizes, and you don't have to be skinny to be beautiful. I've accepted the fact that I'll never be a size 2, not only because I love junk food too much but also because I'm just not built that way.

But because I felt envious of those girls, I started working out more and more. And then I started enjoying exercise, because it also gave me the chance to listen to music or read a magazine while I worked out. It gave me a break from grading papers and doing research, and I didn't have to feel guilty about taking the time off because I was still doing something productive.

Then I started attending the classes that my gym offered, and I found that it was fun to work out with other people. Every time I went to another class I looked forward to the rush of endorphins I got after the class was over. Exercise became less about comparing myself to the girls who were thinner than me, and it became more about making myself look and feel good. I went from a size 12 to a size 8.

Jealousy affects other aspects of my life. For example, recently there was a big fuss because Snooki from the TV show Jersey Shore was paid more money than Toni Morrison to give a speech at Rutgers University. I will admit that I watch the Jersey Shore because those kids say the stupidest things, like how Snooki said that she refuses to swim in the ocean because it's full of whale sperm. But then I heard that she got paid more money for one day than I earn in a year. Did I wish I had the power to ban her from every bar, club, and tanning salon in the country, and then did I imagine myself pointing and laughing while she wept at the injustice of it all? Hell, yes.

(Side note: When I heard about that story, I didn't wonder why they paid Snooki so much money. I wondered how many of those students at that school have actually watched Jersey Shore and how many of them have read Toni Morrison's books. I read a news article that said that Rutgers wouldn't have invited Snooki if they didn't think that a lot of people would show up to hear her speak. Would I have gone? Yes. But I also would have gone to see Toni Morrison too.)

I have to admit that I feel envious of celebrities like Snooki, not just because they earn all that money but also because it's so easy for them to get novels published. They decide they want to be authors, and then within months their books are out on display at all the bookstores; tons of people show up at their booksignings, and the celebrity authors probably never have to read a single rejection letter.

But on the other hand, I wouldn't want to be like them, because from what I've heard a lot of them don't even write most (if not all) of their books. They hire ghostwriters instead. Nothing against ghostwriters of course, but in my opinion I think that the books belong more to the ghostwriters rather than the celebrity authors; even if the celebrities come up with the concepts of the books, in some sense it's still the ghostwriters' voices that the readers are hearing.

If I ever do get published, I want my books to be mine. I'm not saying that I wouldn't want input from agents and editors. They would know more about the publishing industry than I do, and they would know what would make a book appealing to audiences. But I want to publish a book knowing that it came from my ideas and my imagination. I don't just want to be published for the sake of being able to call myself an author.

So when I hear about celebrity authors like Snooki, it motivates me to keep writing. It makes me think about how maybe I might never draw the same number of readers as they do, but at least I can still work on writing books that are funny, honest and real. And hopefully, all that envy and motivation will help me accomplish my goal someday.

What about you? Who are you jealous of, and how do you deal with that jealousy?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Smartphones Make Me Feel Stupid

Last week I finally caved in to peer pressure that I get a cell phone that's so fancy it's basically like having my own robotic personal assistant. (If only it could cook meals for me too, that'd be perfect, especially because I can't cook meals without setting fire to a) the food b) my clothes c) anything else that is remotely flammable and happens to be nearby.) I also needed a new phone because I got my phone company to disconnect my local phone service in order to save money.

Since I renewed my contract with my phone company for another two years, they gave me a free cell phone; I think another reason was because I hadn't upgraded my phone in more than five years. I was one of those people who thought she was "above" all the other people who start shrieking and running around madly if they lose their cell phones. That only happens if I lose my iPod. Or if the grocery store runs out of Coke.

My Blackberry Torch 9800 is "refurbished", which is basically a fancy way of saying "used", but my phone company reassured me that it had been thoroughly inspected for any possible deficiencies before it was resold. When the representative told me that, I just kept wondering how many times the previous owner had sneezed on the phone and whether the company had thoroughly inspected it for any possible infections before reselling it.

Normal people who buy new cell phones can simply read the instructions and figure out how to use the various features in a short period of time. Or they choose not to try to figure everything out at once but rather over time as they continue using it. But anyone who reads this blog can tell that I have never been normal. But I don't think that that's necessarily a bad thing. It can be, though, when you end up spending hours trying to figure out how to use a cell phone that makes you feel as if you should be chosen to be a contestant on the TV show Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader, wherein all the ten year olds will laugh at you because you can't even figure out how to send e-mails on your phone, you NEANDERTHAL.

Here's a breakdown of what happened after I activated my cell phone last Saturday and then proceeded to try to figure out how to use it.

4:00 P.M. Gee whiz! A new cell phone! Look how fancy this looks! The screen is just so darn big! It's so much nicer than my old phone! Look at all the things that I can do on this phone! This is just swell and peachy keen! (When I'm happy I sometimes sound like one of those actors in a 1950s beach comedy.)

4:02 P.M. How exactly do I transfer all my old contacts to my new phone? The online directions say I should "tap contacts". But wait, where is the "Contacts" icon? Oh no, I accidentally clicked on Youtube!

4:03 P.M. Cool, my new phone has Youtube! This rocks! Why watch the videos on my laptop when I can watch them on my cell phone? I mean, other than the fact that I signed up for the cheapest data plan that my phone company offered and I'm probably racking up additional fees for every Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga video I watch?

4:04 P.M. Wait, why does it say "Not available on Mobile"? Awww....

4:06 P.M. Yes, I finally found a video I can watch on my phone! Now I can just sit back and...wait, the video is still buffering.

4:07 P.M. Still buffering.

4:08 P.M. Great! Now the video is playing! This is so cool! Now I can...wait, now it's buffering again.

4:09 P.M. Still buffering...

4:10 P.M. Oh, forget this. I'm just going to try transferring my iTunes to my cell phone. Now I won't have to replace my iPod that I bought more than five years ago and keeps breaking down as if it's saying, "Why don't you just get a new one and let me rest, for Pete's sake?"

4:30 P.M. Yay! Now all my songs and playlists are on my phone and...wait. Why do so many of the songs say "unsupported format"? Why is it I can play songs by Kelly Clarkson but not Colbie Caillat on my phone? (Side note: Yes, I know that my taste in music is basically the soundtrack for a chick flick. You can stop rolling your eyes now.)

5:17 P.M. Dagnabit! Fiddlesticks! Confound it all! Why can't I figure out how to use this thing? (When I get frustrated I start swearing in euphemisms like some cartoon character -pre-South Park era- or perhaps some actor from one of those old black-and-white movies where the characters are all American but they talk as if they have British accents. I am not exaggerating. When I started teaching, I didn't want to swear in front of my classes, so I started using euphemisms, much to the amusement of my students. I occasionally resorted to swearing in euphemisms  when I did embarrassing things, like accidentally fling a piece of chalk when I was gesturing with it, only to have the chalk come this close to hitting one of my students in the face.)

6:41 P.M. Maybe I should go to one of those cafes where they have free Wi-Fi. I bet the connection would be much better there and then I could finally watch a video without seeing that gosh darn "buffering" message every two seconds. But then I'd have to actually buy something to get that free Wi-Fi, and I only have eight dollars in cash right now. And I need that money to do laundry tomorrow. I mean, I could wear my jeans for a couple more days but I think that my socks and towels need to be washed at some point.

7:56 P.M. I can't believe I've been trying to figure this out for almost four hours. I should really get back to my other work at some point. Or at least put my cell phone down.

8:03 P.M. I wonder if I should include the numbers of the guys I dated in my list of contacts on this phone. It's not like I talk to them anymore (or want to talk to them, for that matter). If I include them on my list, I might accidentally call them someday and then they'll think that I want them back and I'll say, "NO! My phone called you, not me! I think my phone hates me and it's calling up all the guys I can no longer stand to be in the same room with out of revenge!

8:47 P.M. Why is it that whenever I tap on one of the icons, I end up opening up something else altogether?

9:21 P.M. Hey, someone's calling me! Wait, how do I answer this thing? Hello? Hellooo? Is anyone there?
Caller: (static) Hello?
Me: Maybe if I put it on speakerphone it'll work. Wait, why does it say "Call disconnected" now? Oh no. I think I just hung up on that person.

3:05 A.M. I can't sleep. Maybe that article I read about how staring at the screens of computers and cell phones for too long can give you insomnia really is true.

8:30 A.M. Gosh, my eyes look so red. I hope the people at Mass today don't think I'm some kind of demon in disguise who's out to tempt them with the evils of technology.

Now that I've had my phone for a few days, I more or less understand how to use it now. And I have to admit that I'm pretty impressed with all the things that my cell phone can do, especially because my old one basically enabled me to just send and receive text messages and phone calls.

But am I the only one who sometimes feels confused by all the new electronic devices out there? How did we ever survive without these things? I came of age in the nineties, where for most of the decade the Internet and cell phones were things that (for the most part) only rich people and nerds used, so I do recall a time when we were able to survive without them. How is it that you can't go out on the street these days without seeing at least a dozen people who spend more time checking their cell phones than, say, checking to make sure there aren't any cars before crossing the street? And how is it that I've now become one of those people? (But don't worry, I know I should put my phone away while crossing the street. But then I feel the urge to check my phone again as soon as I'm on the other side.)

Confound it all.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I Remember...Working

One of my favorite books on writing is Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones. One of her writing prompts in this book is "I remember".

When I look back on my twenties, one of the things that strikes me the most is how much they were defined by my work experiences. I spent more time working than doing anything else.

1. I remember doing several internships in college. I always wanted to be a professor, but I figured it would be good to get work experience in other fields in case I needed a Plan B. I soon learned that when many people think of the intern, they think, "Ugh, I do NOT want to stuff all these envelopes, clean out the file cabinet, or make dozens of calls. I know! Let's get the intern to do it so that we can all leave early! And let's make sure to look sympathetic when we dump all this work on her, so that she can't tell that on the inside we're laughing gleefully about the fact that we don't have to do any of this crap."

2. I remember working at my desk in the office that I shared with other graduate students on a Friday night. A group of grad students were getting ready to go out to a bar (not one of them invited me to come along), and one of them laughed when she saw me still sitting at my desk. She said, "It's Friday night," not in the robotic yet catchy way that Rebecca Black sang it, but as if it was some kind of social crime to stay in and work on a Friday night.

3. I remember wanting to hurl my books at them and reply with some witty retort, but I couldn't think of anything to say. It's too bad my "inner writer" had apparently taken the day off and couldn't come up with something equally condescending for me to say back to them, something like, "You're right! I mean, it's not like you guys don't burn the midnight oil every other night; the fact that I choose to work on a Friday night automatically means that I'm a loser!"

4. I remember working at the concession stand of a movie theater one summer and observing the way that people would get really emotional over their snacks. For example, one of my coworkers put butter on a bag of popcorn for a customer, only to get yelled at; the customer started screaming, "NO! I said NO BUTTER!" Everyone looked at the customer, not my coworker, with pity, because it's obviously the worst thing in the world if a cashier gets your order wrong. (The customer is always right...and will never let you forget it.)

5. I remember working in retail and how a nice customer once offered me a tip for being so helpful with his order, but I wasn't allowed to take it because it was against the store's "policy".

6. I remember working in a bookstore and how customers would often ask me for directions to various other places in Chicago. If I didn't know the answer, they would actually hold up the line at the cash register for several minutes because they wanted me to ask my other coworkers for specific directions on what was the best restaurant to go to or how to get to Navy Pier. I resisted the urge to say, "Um, I can't tell you how to get to Navy Pier, but I can direct you to our travel section where there are dozens of tourist guides on Chicago. I can also direct you to some etiquette books on how to not make your cashier totally lose it."

7. I remember how my hands shook the first time I wrote on the chalkboard during my very first class as a teacher.

8. I remember how I burst into tears at least once a week during my first few months as a teacher, just because I felt so overwhelmed. I'd be at home watching TV; a random commercial would come on and all of a sudden the tears would start flowing and wouldn't stop. I don't cry that often anymore, though I do still occasionally wring my hands at certain commercials, particularly the ones featuring "Wives", i.e., Basketball Wives, Mob Wives, Real (Annoying) Housewives, etc.

9. I remember how my high school students showed me poems and rap lyrics that they had written. It was so refreshing to see that they were learning to view writing as a way to express themselves and not just as something that they had to do for school.

10. I remember how I started writing in coffeehouses as a way to take a break from all the other work that I always had to do. Being able to enjoy good food and coffee while writing something that wasn't constructive criticism on students' papers or notes on my graduate research was a relief. My fiction writing became a comforting escape, especially because it was the one thing in my life that didn't feel like work. It soothed me enough to keep me from breaking down in tears in front of my students, hurling books at my classmates, or yelling back at rude customers. As long as I got to keep writing regularly, I had something to look forward to. And that made everything else a little more bearable.

What about you? When you look back over your work experiences, what are the first things that come to mind? What was something that helped you deal with the not-so-good experiences?

One of my favorite fellow bloggers, Richard Boemcke (whose writing always makes me wish that there were guys like him who lived in Chicago) recently released the pilot episode of his Web series, "Twentease", which he also wrote and starred in. I watched the first episode and I'm already intrigued; it's "a show about people not making it in their twenties". Check it out! I think you'll like it too.

Twentease - Pilot Webisode from Richard Boehmcke on Vimeo.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Does This Mean I'm an Adult Now?

Two weeks ago, on April Fool's Day, I woke up hearing the theme song from Jaws in my head, and for a moment I couldn't figure out why. I've included the audio to it below, just to help you understand how ominous the morning suddenly seemed to me.

I thought, "Self, you don't normally wake up hearing the Jaws theme song in your head, unless you just had that nightmare again about how the Kardashian sisters suddenly decided they wanted to be your best friend and you decided the only natural response was to dive into an ocean full of sharks because that would be less scary. Why oh why do you feel like something bad is about to happen?"

And then I realized that nothing was about to happen. It had already happened before I even woke up.


Not yet! I'm not ready! I can't go through with it! Why is this happening to me?

It was my thirtieth birthday. This was my reaction:

Okay. So maybe turning thirty isn't as scary as being ambushed by Norman Bates wielding a knife while I'm in the shower. But the terror was real. I am now three decades old.

Those of you who turned thirty years ago are probably rolling your eyes and shaking your heads. You're probably thinking, "Thirty isn't old. Just wait until you're watching a commercial for arthritis medication and you point at one of the actors and say, 'I went to high school with that guy!'"

I know thirty isn't that old. But I did look in the mirror on my birthday, and to my dismay I saw lines in my face that I'd never noticed before. Maybe that was Mother Nature's "gift" to me, as if she was saying, "Happy Birthday to you, CHUMP! You didn't think you'd look young forever, did you? Hahahahaha!"

But the truth is, I started teaching college students when I was in my early twenties, and that was enough to make me prematurely age by at least ten years. The first time I got to sit on the other side of the desk was when I first started feeling like an adult, because it was if I had stepped into this different phase in my life that my students hadn't yet experienced.

I didn't mention my birthday before because I was kind of reluctant to admit that I wasn't twenty-nine anymore. I liked being twenty-nine. I thought that maybe I could just pretend to be twenty-nine for a few more years. But I do actually feel older. For example, maybe if I was fifteen years younger, I'd think guys like Taylor Lautner and Justin Bieber were cute. But all I can think when I look at them is, "They look so young." I also think, "It'd be nice if I could watch either of them without wondering if they ever feel like throwing up after spouting sickeningly sweet lines that make teenage girls swoon and make adult women like me think that real guys never talk like that unless they're chatting up the girl who looks like a supermodel and also happens to be ten years younger than me."

I have to admit that I thought I'd be in a different place by the time I was thirty. When I was twenty, I thought that I'd be married by the time I was thirty. I thought I'd be done with my Ph.D. I thought I'd have a full-time salary, a house, and a car. I thought I'd be living in some college town teaching literature and writing to students who were enthusiastic about learning or at least could get through a full hour of class without discreetly watching videos on their cell phones.

Instead, I'm thirty years old and I'm still single. I've been on a series of awkward/bad/boring/makes me want to ditch him but I don't want to be rude except he doesn't seem to mind being rude seeing as how he's spent the past hour talking about himself without asking me any questions and didn't even offer to pay for my drink but WHATEVER dates that I've become just a tad cynical.

I'm not done with graduate school, mainly because getting a master's degree and a Ph.D. took a lot longer than I thought. It's also a lot more mind-numbing, soul-sucking, makes you want to cry yourself to sleep but you can't sleep now you have seven more chapters of critical theory to read and fifty more papers to grade so suck it up SLACKER than I thought, but that's another story.

I don't have a full-time salary, because I can't work full-time while I'm in graduate school, which is a full-time job in itself. So instead I (barely) get by with part-time jobs that pay me just enough money to buy ramen noodles for dinner.

I don't have a house or live in a college town. I rent an apartment and live in Chicago, a city I love but that also annoys the hell out of me sometimes, or maybe I've just been living here for too long. I don't have a car; I take the bus and the train, where it is not unusual to sit next to someone who will start yelling at you or hitting on you if you look at him or her for a split second (or even if you don't look).

I am teaching literature and writing, and several of my students inspire me because of their enthusiasm for what I'm teaching them. Sometimes they even teach me something new because of how they respond to the material and how they view the world, which is partly why I keep teaching. Several other students, however, send approximately 10,000 text messages a day and update their Facebook pages every five minutes while claiming that they don't have enough time to complete the homework I assign them. But I digress.

I already made my Things to Do Before I Turn 40 list a few months ago. I didn't make a list like that for my thirtieth birthday, though, because when I was twenty I just kept thinking about how in a year I'd finally be old enough to drink alcohol. (But now I still just order soda when I go to bars, because I stopped pretending to like alcohol years ago. Hey! I'm the nerdy but doesn't-succumb-to-peer-pressure-so-that-makes-me-cool kid in one of those Just Say No videos! Go me!)

It's kind of sad to realize that I'll never be in my twenties ever again. There are things that I feel too old to do now. For example, I can't date a twenty year old, because then I would just keep thinking about how he isn't old enough to buy me alcohol, even though I don't even drink alcohol, but still, it'd nice to have that option. I can't be a member of 20 Something Bloggers anymore (that's why I removed the 20sb badge from my blog), which is too bad because it's a really cool online community where I got to participate in interesting discussions and met some really awesome bloggers.

I can't party all night at clubs with other young people without people looking down their noses at me and saying, "Aren't you a little old to be doing that? You have to work in the morning." But then again, even though I did go clubbing when I was in my twenties, I didn't really like it too much because I just kept thinking about how much I would rather be in a quiet coffeehouse or a bookstore than on a crowded dance floor.

One thing I started doing in the last year of my twenties that I still intend to do in my thirties was blogging. I actually started this blog a little over a year ago (so I guess this is my belated one-year blogiversary, whooo! This is my 119th post!) as a twenty-ninth birthday gift to myself. Before I started blogging, I'd never shown my writing to anyone outside of the fiction writing classes I'd taken. But now that I've started blogging, I've stepped into this fascinating world of bloggers that I had never been in before. It also gave me the courage to finally start entering short story contests and submitting stories to literary magazines, which I've always wanted to do but have never done before. Even if it's years before I get published, the fact that I'm finally sharing my writing with people is something.

I suppose it is kind of cool to be in my thirties now. Somehow it sounds more grownup than being in my twenties, though I still have a lot of growing up to do. I guess I should stop thinking that Froot Loops is part of a balanced diet, and I should stop listening to Britney Spears, but...nah. Maybe when I'm forty.

Oh God. In ten years I'm going to be forty.

I think I can hear the Jaws theme song in my head again.

When was the first time that you felt like an adult?

(Side note: Chemistry.com is offering a "freebies" weekend where you can take their personality test and have matches picked for you for free; it lasts until April 18. Just thought I'd send that out in case anyone is interested in checking out the site; out of all the dating sites I've tried, chemistry is actually the one that I like the best.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fighting Writer's Block

I've been feeling blocked lately, both as a blogger and a fiction writer. There are some days where I feel like I have nothing interesting left to say.

Those also happen to be the same days that I find out that someone who is younger, thinner, more attractive, and less neurotic than me just signed a two book deal with a major publishing house; that same person is now going to be earning so much money not just from the book deal but also because of the fact that she just became engaged to some rich person. Now she never has to work a day job again EVER while I have to keep struggling to pay my bills with part-time jobs that make my hair fall out because of stress (this has actually been happening lately) so that I worry about having to buy a wig and having it accidentally fly off my head on a particularly windy day in Chicago and then the wig will fly right into someone's face and then it really will be the worst day EVER.

I once took a fiction writing class where the teacher advised us to carry a notebook with us at all times; he said that we should jot down interesting things that we observed or thought about in our daily routine. That way, we could go through our notes later and see if any of our observations could be used in a story.

So I've been jotting down certain things in my journal that I've been thinking about and observing. Here are a few examples:

1. Quoting from Dr. Seuss does not make you attractive to members of the opposite sex, at least not once you reach adulthood. Neither does plagiarism. I wrote a post recently about the weird things that people write in their online dating profiles. I actually created a document on my computer where I've been cutting and pasting copies of some of the weirdest or most disturbing profiles that I've seen; this file is now several pages long.

One of the matches that chemistry.com sent me did not include any information in the section of the profile where he was supposed to describe himself, except for a brief excerpt from Green Eggs and Ham, and I quote: "I do not like green eggs and ham I do not like them Sam I am." This guy then went on to quote a few other lines from the book. I shouldn't say "quote", because he didn't actually cite the book. Plagiarism is one of my pet peeves (not just when people plagiarize my own writing (and that has happened before, but that's another story) but also when I see evidence of how other people have stolen writing from other people's work. Maybe it's because I'm a writing teacher. Or maybe it just bothers me that a guy like that one can't come up with anything original to say about himself, except maybe that he doesn't like green eggs and ham. Or maybe that the last book he read was by Dr. Seuss.

2. Just because you're drunk at 2 A.M., doesn't mean I have to know about it. I live on a street where my neighbors come home drunk on a regular basis. How do I know that they're drunk? Because I wake up in the middle of the night to hear them yelling stuff like, "Gosh, it's so DARK out! Can you believe it gets THIS DARK at night?" and "I am SO calling in sick tomorrow! YEAH!" and "HOW could you flirt with that girl right in front of me? I would've thrown my beer at you if I wasn't already drinking it, jerkface!"

3. Maybe I should leave it to the experts, or at least read the instructions first. I wrote this down after I unsuccessfully tried to mend one of my shirts that had holes in it. (I'm pretty broke right now so I can't afford to buy new clothes that often.) I don't know how to sew, so I thought I'd look up the directions on how to mend clothes online. I ended up with bloody fingers because I kept jabbing my hands with the needle and then the blood kept getting onto my shirt. Maybe I should have read through all the instructions, rather than follow them as I read them. Now I have a shirt with holes AND spots of blood on it. I guess when I can't wear certain clothes in public, it really is time to buy new ones.

When I reread all the things that I'd written down in my journal, one thing that kept coming up again and again was online dating. Even if I don't succeed in finding Mr. Right, maybe I can succeed in writing about my search for true love. Every time I come home from a less-than-great date or I read yet another profile that makes me want to hurl my computer out the window, I write down more stuff about what I feel and what I've experienced so far. Even though the whole dating process hasn't been making me very happy lately, the thought that I could use my experiences and my observations as material for a good story (or possibly more than one) definitely makes me happy. And then I start writing again.

What kinds of things do you do when you're looking for inspiration?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Cupid Has It in for Me

I haven't been having much luck with online dating lately. For example, recently I was contacted by a guy on chemistry.com. Here is an excerpt from his profile:  I am a virgin and am 18 I wont lie, ladies it is up to you if you want to break that or I am very wiling to wait until I am married so that she knows that I waited for her fully.

I am also becoming more and more irritated every time I see a profile without any pictures; I've stated before that at least a third (if not more) of the matches that have been sent to me don't have any pictures in their profiles. It's not necessarily chemistry.com's fault, because they can't exactly force members to post pictures; I just don't understand why any guy thinks he's going to get a lot of girls (or any girl) to respond to him if he doesn't post any pictures.

I don't get to see any of the women's profiles on chemistry.com, only the ones of the matches who are sent to me by the site. So I don't know if this is an issue with women's profiles. I do know that on eharmony this was an issue too, though.

I think that a guy who doesn't post any pictures is probably refraining from doing so for one of the following reasons: 1) He is self-conscious about how he looks; 2) He doesn't want anyone to find out that he's on an online dating site, which is totally lame because online dating is socially acceptable now; a lot of people do it, so GET OVER YOURSELVES, GUYS; 3) He thinks that he can simply win women over with lines like "Even if you're not at the ideal weight, I can work with you on an exercise plan until you lose enough weight to look good" and "I'm not interested in girls who play games, unless you're buying dinner"; 4) He's an alien from a different planet and the flash from the camera would make him spontaneously combust.

Disappearing acts are something else I've had to deal with. One of the reasons I didn't renew my membership with eharmony was because at least ten or twelve guys disappeared with no explanation after the first or second e-mail. On chemistry.com this has happened at least six times. One guy e-mailed me, and then the next week he blocked off communication with me (similar to eharmony, you can actually see on chemistry.com which guys have decided to reject you).

Last Sunday, three guys e-mailed me, and then I never heard from them again. I know that one of them didn't actually sign up for a membership; he just signed up for the free communication weekend, so the other two might have signed up for free communication too and didn't bother to pay for a regular membership.

There were at least six disappearing acts when I was on okcupid, so in total this has happened to me almost TWENTY-FOUR TIMES! I've reread a few of the e-mails I've sent to these guys, and I don't think I wrote anything that would have scared them off. It's not like I wrote anything like, "I've attached pictures of my top three choices for wedding dresses to this e-mail. Let me know which ones you like best."

One of the worst cases was a guy on okcupid who sent me ten or twelve e-mails, but never agreed to set up a date where we could meet in person. He said stuff like, "I'm sure we'll meet eventually; in the meantime we can just chat online." He didn't seem to get that the whole point of online dating is to find someone you can actually date in real life; most people don't join the sites just to get online pen pals.

Then, after a month of communication, the guy disappeared; I tried sending him one or two e-mails, but he ignored them. I think that he must have stopped communicating because he thought one of the following things: 1) Oh no, I should stop e-mailing her because I forgot to tell her that I'm married, not to mention my wife might find out; 2) Why should I meet her in person when I can stay at home with my action figures for company? 3) It's much easier to deceive women if I never meet them in person; 4) Why should I e-mail a girl who's interested in dating me when I just know that Heidi Klum is going to answer one of my letters any day now? 5) Maybe I should go see the Wizard of Oz and get some courage. Or at the very least he could give me a brain.

I also think that several of the matches that I've been sent on chemistry.com are no longer active on the site. On chemistry.com, it'll indicate whether the person was active in the last 24 hours, but it won't give any information beyond that. So you don't know if the person was active last week or three months ago.

So I haven't been dating. I'm starting to think that I either just have bad luck or Cupid is exacting revenge on me, maybe because I laughed about the fact that he never wears any clothes (except for the diaper).

Monday, April 4, 2011

When to Speak Up

There are times when I wonder when I should speak up, and when I should stay silent. In Chicago in particular, it's not typically a good idea to confront people you don't know, because you never know what they're capable of. I've witnessed fights in the street, the laundry room, restaurants, etc., and it never ends well.

A few days ago, I was in a coffeehouse that I don't go to very often. I don't go there very often because there is a group of obnoxious people who go there every day and stay for hours. They act as if they own the place; they talk loudly and have no consideration for people like me who just want to enjoy their coffee in peace. I don't expect cafes to be quiet, but I do think that people shouldn't talk loudly enough for the whole place to hear them.

That day, however, I heard them talking about a story that has gotten a lot of attention in the news lately. Two police officers are in trouble because a woman accused one of them of assaulting her. I heard one of the men in that group of disruptive customers say, "She probably enjoyed every minute of it." I didn't hear any of the other people in that group contradict him.

What he said filled me with rage. I wanted to flip over their table and throw my coffee in their faces. I wanted to scream at them at the top of my lungs. I wanted to tell that "man" that he had no right to say that. I wanted to tell him that he was offensive, insensitive, and heartless, and I wanted to grab his collar and throw him out of the cafe with all the strength that I had.

But I didn't. I turned around and glared at them, and one of them stared right back at me. But I didn't say anything. I wish that I had spoken up.

I am not trying to badmouth those police officers who are in trouble. (On the other hand, if they are guilty of that crime, then they should be prosecuted and convicted for it.) Let me just say that I respect the Chicago Police Department; whenever I see them patrolling the streets and the subway stations, I feel safe. The police officer's job is one of the most difficult jobs anyone could have, and the police force as a whole do not get as much recognition as they deserve. But I also have sympathy for that woman.

Once I was walking around in the South Loop and I noticed a man following me. I stopped in front of a Starbucks, hoping that he would pass me by. But he came right up to me, grabbed my arm, and tried to drag me off with him. I started screaming and broke away from him, and he just wandered off. It was the middle of the day, with dozens of people around. Not one of them stopped to ask me if I was okay, as I stood there, shaking. I think that a lot of them didn't even notice.

There have been other men who followed me on the street, and there was one man who leaned in and tried to kiss me before I ran away from him. There have been men who have reached out to stroke my arm or my hair on the train. There have been men who make every kind of explicit comment to me that you could think of, and who yell insults at me when I ignore them. There was one man who took his pants off and exposed himself to me on a mostly empty train, right before I ran off the train. I'm afraid to go out by myself at night, because it's not always safe. I have never enjoyed any of that despicable harassment from any of those disgusting "men". But I have never been assaulted.

Even though I haven't been, I still think that that man in the coffeehouse was WRONG to say what he said. I know that freedom of speech is one of Americans' most valued rights, and I can understand why this right is important. But that doesn't mean that what that man said was okay. It was far from okay.

I spoke to the manager of the cafe. He said that if they were ever offensive to me personally, then he would speak to them. He said he couldn't control what they said, but he did say that he would ask them to keep it down next time. But I still feel anger towards those obnoxious customers.

Normally I try to be funny and ironic in my posts. But this is one case where I don't think anything is funny about the situation.