Friday, July 22, 2011

The Pros and Cons of Online Dating

I've been taking a break from online dating for the past couple of months, but I've been thinking of trying again. I'd like to try, since I haven't been on the site before. But it costs money to join and I can't even afford to buy coffee (oh, caffeine, how I've MISSED you) because of my low-paying retail job.

So I've been thinking about rejoining okcupid. It probably won't be for another month at least, because online dating (and just dating in general) takes up a lot of time that I don't have right now. I also can't help thinking of all the pros and cons of online dating.

PRO: If I meet someone I like, then being with him will give me something to look forward to.

CON: Thinking of all the guys I met and didn't like makes me dread the thought of another bad first date.

PRO: Since it's summer, there are more date options, like watching movies in Grant Park or going to a neighborhood festival.

CON: Since it's summer, that means I'll wear a short-sleeved/sleeveless top on the date. That also means that it'll look a lot more conspicuous when I keep checking my watch if my date's favorite topic turns out to be himself.

PRO: If I rejoin okcupid, it won't cost me anything since this dating site is free.

CON: Going on dates can be expensive. Two of the guys I had coffee dates with waited until after I'd paid for my coffee before they came up to meet me for our dates.

PRO: It's fun to get interesting e-mails from nice guys who want to date me.

CON: It is not fun to get e-mails that say stuff like, "Your profile says that you're Catholic. Exactly how Catholic are you?" and "My ex-girlfriend was a total drama queen, so hopefully you're not like her," and "Is there any part of your body that's not real? Just checking, haha! But seriously?"

PRO: Even if online dating doesn't work out, at least it gives me material that I can use in my writing, as several people who have read my blog have pointed out to me.

CON: Speaking of material, I should probably come up with new excuses if I end up on dates with guys I don't like. Excuses like "I think I'm going to be leaving the country and I have no idea when or if I'll be back," and "I want to have kids and I'm thirty years old, so I need to get pregnant really soon," and "I don't really feel like going out for drinks. Want to go shoe shopping with me instead?" might not always work. So I need to come up with new excuses to end the date early, just in case.

To be honest, I kind of like being single right now. I like not cringing when I read my e-mail; I like not spending too much time reading profiles. I like being able to do what I want on my time off, instead of setting aside time for dates that go nowhere.

But on the other hand, I do want to fall in love, get married, and have a family someday. I don't know if any of that will ever happen for me, but I haven't given up hope yet.

What do you think? In your opinion, what are the pros/cons of dating and/or being single?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Why I'm Not Writing

1. At the store where I work, a customer sneezed all over my hands as I was giving her the change from her purchase. Now I can't stop sneezing.

2. Since I can't afford to take a sick day, I've been going to work and trying not to sneeze or cough on the other customers. I feel tempted to sneeze on a couple of the supervisors though, because they claim that the A/C in the store can't be fixed. It is extremely warm in the store and several customers have asked me if I'm going to pass out.

3. I think I might have accidentally mixed up my nighttime cold medicine with the daytime medicine, which might explain why I keep falling asleep on my laptop.

4. I thought about giving up TV for a week so that I'd have more time to write. I figured if I could survive a TV-free week, maybe I could cancel my cable and save money, even though I don't subscribe to extra cable channels or Netflix. But then when I went to sleep I kept dreaming of all the shows I was missing. (Side note: Jerry Seinfeld is kind of scary when you dream about him. Or at least he is when I dream about him.)

5. I considered rejoining okcupid, but I couldn't stop wondering if there's a way to loser-proof my profile.

6. I have to complete a draft of my dissertation, and I'm supposed to do a lot more research. But the only thing I feel like reading is People, which may be one of the reasons that my brain is not fully functioning right now.

7. I keep muttering "Murf" to myself when I'm at work, because one particularly stressful day I thought, I could kick a Smurf right now. (Side note: No Smurfs were hurt before, during, or after the writing of this post.)

8. I've been combing through the job ads to see if I can find something better than my current retail job. It turns out that there are a lot of (ahem) interesting characters on Craigslist, including one guy who wants to hire someone to spy on his wife because he thinks she's cheating on him, someone who wants a personal assistant who is "easy on the eyes", and a business owner who described himself as rich and good-looking and was looking for an "open-minded" receptionist.

9. I thought about starting my own Twitter page, but then I figured that most people aren't going to be interested in Tweets like "I managed not to yell at any drivers who were talking on their cell phones today" or "Would it be wrong to jump into tourists' pictures to make them stop blocking my way on the sidewalk?"

10. I keep wondering why two of my favorite shows, Law and Order and Law and Order: Criminal Intent, got cancelled but shows like Storage Wars were renewed and the Kardashians keep getting spinoffs.

But then I think about what my life would be like if I stopped writing altogether and how much I'd miss writing. I think about how I'd continue to feel the urge to grab my journal and a pen every time I saw/thought/heard/felt something weird, funny, or interesting. I think about all the characters I created who have become real to me and how I have to keep writing their stories so that I can find out what happens to them.

What about you? When you have writer's block, what are the reasons why?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

(I Wish I Could) Just Say No

There are some situations in life where it's easy to say no. For example, "No, I do not want to get into your car, because I don't know you or your friends. Even though you may look like a bunch of guys who are just out cruising and think it's acceptable to yell out invitations to girls like me on the sidewalk who are not hookers but are just trying to go to the drugstore to buy candy (er, vitamins), I have seen enough Lifetime movies and episodes of E! Investigates not to get into the cars of people that I don't know."

Or "No, I do not want to invest in your company, because when I Googled the name on your business card to see what kind of business you were in, I found a bunch of online reviews from people with the word "SCAM" in almost every review. Also, I don't even have any money to invest, since I am a broke grad student who isn't even entirely sure what a "portfolio" is. If I asked my fellow grad students about it, they'd probably get into an extensive discussion about the literary significance of the word "portfolio" and then write scholarly papers about it."

But on the other hand, it can be hard to say no in other instances, because I often feel guilty about refusing other people's requests/offers. And in some cases, I have no choice but to say yes.

It's not like I am too chicken to say no, because I have learned to be more assertive and to put my foot down in plenty of situations. I just have to be careful about how I say no, however, because it's not like I can just say whatever I want without having to deal with the consequences. Here are two examples of situations where I wish I could say no and say exactly why :

To my students when they ask multiple times to be excused from class/completing their homework on time because of some kind of "emergency", which in some cases really is an emergency, but more often than not translates into "I didn't get my homework done last night. I don't want you to know that instead of finishing my paper, I was finishing a Real World marathon." Or "I don't feel like coming to class because I've only missed class, like, five times already, which is nothing compared to how many times other people in the class have been absent, so I should be excused." Or "I can't think of any reason why I should be excused from class so I'm just going to tell you it's an emergency. That way, you won't try to invade my privacy by asking me any questions".

When they ask to be excused, I remind them about how attendance is part of their grade; I also tell them that it's their responsibility to get their work done on time even if they don't come to class. I do enforce my attendance policy, but there are a few situations where I have no choice but to make exceptions. For example, some students have family responsibilities. A few have health issues that keep them out of school for several days (or weeks) at a time.

But on the other hand, multiple absences (and excuses) can be problematic because the students will miss out on a lot if they don't come to class. It's also problematic for me because then I'm stuck with a lot of late work to grade. If they have legitimate excuses for being absent, then I will try to work with them, as long as they put in the effort to make up for what they missed.

But once a student told me that he couldn't come to class because of a family emergency; I saw him hanging out in the quad an hour later with his friends. Another student e-mailed me about how her grandmother died; I checked all of the e-mails this student had sent and realized that that same grandmother had died at least three times. Not all students are like this, of course, but I've learned to be wary when I keep hearing the same excuses over and over again and multiple requests for time off from class.

So here's what I wish I could say: NO, you can't miss class AGAIN. Even though I love teaching, there are some days where I wish I could blow off work and just take a nap/watch TV/accidentally on purpose trip people who blow their cigarette smoke in my face when they walk in front of me. But part of being a grownup is accepting your responsibilities and doing what you have to do, even if you don't always want to do it. So if I have to be here, then so do you, kid.

To retail employers who expect employees like me to have flexible schedules. One of the things that you're going to see most often in ads for retail jobs are the words "flexible schedules". A lot of people who work in retail also have day jobs; they work at night and on the weekends. However, when you work in retail, your schedule is likely to change every week; you're much more likely to get hired and get more hours if you are available to work any time, any day.

This does make sense; retail employers can't always guarantee regular hours because it often depends on how much (or little) money the store is making and whether or not the employees meet their sales goals.

Also, stores aren't typically open from just 9-5, because that's when everyone's at work. So you have to be willing to work until the wee hours in the evenings and weekends, or get up in the wee hours in order to go to work (side note: why do they call it the "wee hours"? It's not like when I wake up at six A.M. to go to work or get ready to work until late at night I automatically think, "Yay! I get to go stand for eight hours and pressure people to buy stuff that they could get at half-price at one of the discount stores, but I can't tell them that because it's bad for business. I also think I may or may not have sold my soul to the god of retail for an employee discount. WEEEEEE!!!!").

I tell my employers what my availability is, and I try to keep my schedule open so that I can get more shifts. I try not to request time off unless I have a legitimate and unavoidable reason for missing work, and even if I do request a day off I'll do it several days in advance.

But here's what I wish I could say: No, I don't want a schedule that changes every week, because that makes it very hard for me to schedule anything else (including other paying jobs that would help me support myself, because I sure as hell ain't earning enough at this job to pay all my bills) into my life. Did you ever stop to think that maybe the other employees who don't show up to work/show up late/call in "sick"/switch shifts wouldn't do that so often if they had a reliable schedule?

FYI: I almost never show up late, because I always leave early to go to work. And I never call in sick unless I literally can't get out of bed. I developed this work ethic for all my jobs largely because of teaching. Most college teachers I know don't really get sick days. If we don't go to class, then there is no class. Even if I have a cold I'll go to class and just bring Kleenex, cough drops, and hand sanitizer with me; I don't worry about the students catching it from me because more often than not they're the ones who infected me in the first place. They're always coughing and sneezing in class, to the point that I want to wear a Hazmat suit when I teach.

What about you? What are examples of situations where you wish you could say no but you feel pressured to/have no choice but to say yes?