Monday, September 23, 2013

I Give Up...For Now

If there was ever a reason to cancel my plentyoffish membership, it's this one: I was recently contacted by a guy who described his occupation as "Ass Sniffer".

I immediately thought of my parents' dogs, Neurotic Jr. and Jane Dog, who greet other dogs by sniffing their butts. Was that guy trying to say that he acts like a dog? Does he also drink out of the toilet and like tummy rubs?

I suppose it could have been worse. He could have described himself as a "Boob Grabber".

I'm embarrassed to admit that I only got to go on one date this time around on On the other hand, I've already described eight other guys on this blog: I met two of them on okcupid, two on eharmony, and four on Then there are all the other guys I went out with that I met on online dating sites before I started blogging. I'm not going to say how many I've gone out with, because it's more than I thought I would have to go out with.

I'll also admit that I haven't really been active on either site these last couple of months. I've just been so wrapped up in my dissertation that I haven't had time. It is time consuming to read through all those profiles and send out e-mails (I don't send winks anymore. If I were to meet a guy in real life, I'd strike up a conversation with him, not wink at him. Also, I don't like to wink because I'm afraid that my contact lens will fall out.).

I really do want to meet someone special. I want to get married and have a family. It doesn't help that almost every time my mother calls, she either asks if I'm dating anyone or she tells me that someone younger than me is getting married.

I want to meet someone whose personality is kind of like Harry's in the film When Harry Met Sally. I always liked that in addition to being in love with each other, they were also best friends. And they were perfect for each other, because they were equally neurotic. If I could fall in love with a guy who could be my neurotic best friend AND my boyfriend, life would be good. (It'd also be nice if he looked and danced like Channing Tatum did in the film Magic Mike, but that's not necessarily a requirement.)

I know someone who thinks that Mr. Right will just show up one day. She's still waiting. I thought it was better to put myself out there. I still remember how each time I went on another date, I felt a mixture of nervousness and hope.

But I DON'T want to keep sending e-mails to guys who aren't interested, or to receive one or two e-mails from a guy before he pulls a disappearing act. Every time I got rejected, it made me feel like there was something wrong with me. I thought I wasn't thin enough, pretty enough, or interesting enough. It made me remember what it was like to be a wallflower in high school. I hated it. I know that everyone gets rejected, but when you get rejected over and over again, it can be very disheartening.

I DON'T want to read any more profiles of men who only want to date women who are decades younger than them, but who don't want to date women who are their age or are two years older. Apparently their enormous egos prevent them from realizing that most women in their teens and twenties prefer to date guys their own age. Unless I start lying about my age or get plastic surgery (which will never happen, because if I could afford plastic surgery, I'd spend the money on books, coffee, and Kick Me signs instead), it may get even more difficult for me to find someone as I get older. But I don't want to be with someone who likes me just because I'm fifteen years younger.

I don't regret joining any of those online dating sites. I got to meet new people and go on dates. I learned what I want and what I don't want. I gained enough courage to put myself out there, which is something I was too afraid to do for a long time. I also got enough material for at least two novels.

Now I'll have more time to write fiction. I had to set my manuscripts aside for almost the entire summer in order to work on my dissertation, which is why I turned into the Neurotic Hulk. I'll also have more time for the other things that make me happy, like taking fiction writing classes, reading, visiting museums, watching TV crime dramas, attending plays, and teaching. And, of course, I'll have more time for my dissertation.

I'm not saying I'll never put myself out there ever again. My membership expires in November, so I'll keep it until then. I might even send out a few e-mails to guys whose profiles don't creep me out or who make me want to join a convent. But I'm not going to be as active on either site as I was before.

What do you think? Do you think it's better to keep putting yourself out there, or do you think it's better to leave it up to fate?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Turning into Our Parents

Every once in a while, I think I can hear my mother's voice when I talk. It makes me wonder what I'll be like when I'm her age. I recently read about a survey that said that we start turning into our parents when we turn thirty-two, which is how old I am now. It also makes me reflect on some of the advice that my parents gave me as I grew up.

If you keep scowling like that, your face is going to stay that way. 
I scowl like that a lot, especially when my neighbors decide to have a party on the sidewalk in front of our building and leave red cups all over the grass, or when I accidentally flip the channel to an episode of Storage Wars, or when someone tells me that I should stop drinking Coke (they should probably wait to say that until AFTER my caffeine high ends and after I stop bouncing off the walls).  And yet my face hasn't stayed "that way" permanently, and I can still make other facial expressions, like when I look at my students disapprovingly for coming in to class thirty minutes late, or when my face lights up at the sight of a Coca-Cola delivery truck.

Don't stay up too late. You're not a vampire.
When I was a kid, I thought it would be cool to stay up as late as I wanted. But now that I'm an adult, I find myself falling asleep before midnight. It's partly because I automatically wake up early almost every morning, since I'm still used to getting up for 8 AM shifts for my retail jobs or early classes that I have to teach. Now when I wake up at 3 AM because my neighbors are having another one of their "Who needs sleep when we can get drunk?" parties, I'm the one telling them to be quiet and go to bed. (Except I don't exactly use those words when I'm yelling from my window.)

You should spend less time reading novels and more time studying your textbooks.
When I was a kid, I used to hide under my covers or in my closet and read novels with a flashlight. I was an A student, so I figured that I earned the right to read fiction for fun. Reading gave me the chance to escape to different worlds and meet new people. When I read those books, I could forget about all the kids who made fun of me at school, the pressure to excel in all my classes, and the fact that I was overweight, wore thick glasses, and had hair that looked like I should have been in one of those "before" pictures for a shampoo ad. Reading made me happy in a way that few other things did, and I never gave it up. (And I never will.)

You can never be too careful.
Recently I had a "disagreement" with some of my neighbors. Apparently they think it's too much effort to reach into their pockets, take out their key to the front door of the building, and unlock it. So they leave it propped open. I tried to close it, and I told them that it was because I didn't want to let strangers in. They insisted on leaving it open, though, and I figured that if I went all Karate Kid on them, I'd probably get arrested. I know that real life isn't exactly like an episode of Criminal Minds or CSI, but I've encountered (and been harassed and robbed by) more than one scary creep since I moved to Chicago. I'd just feel a lot safer knowing that the door was kept locked and the scary people are kept out. The only time I let people I don't know into the building is if they're delivering mail or pizza (because anyone who delivers pizza is okay in my book).

Even though I can now understand why my parents gave me that advice, I don't think I'll ever be completely like them. The fact that I chose to live in Chicago, pursue teaching and writing, and that I still scowl on a regular basis is proof that I have grown up to be someone very different from them.

I don't think it's a bad thing to become similar to your parents, though I know a lot of people worry about that. What do you think? Do you ever feel like you're turning into your parents, or have you tried to distinguish yourself from them?

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Evaluation

Recently I showed a draft of a chapter I've been working on for my dissertation to my advisor. I've been working on it all summer. I gave up many beautiful days outside to study, write, and read scholarly books and articles that may as well be titled "I'm smarter than you, and here are all the footnotes and academic jargon to prove it" or "Even though this author MAY have only meant to tell a love story, I think this story is REALLY about Marxism/neoliberalism/capitalism/feminism/racism" or "How to Over-analyze a Novel in 50,000 Words or Less".

I really thought that this draft was a significant improvement over the previous drafts I wrote. I made a list of all the feedback I'd gotten from my committee, and I tried to incorporate that into this chapter. I tried to develop a stronger core argument. When I showed the draft to my advisor, I hoped that for the first time he would give me even just a little positive feedback. Even just one line of encouragement, like "I can see that you've put a lot of time and effort into this", would have been enough.

That didn't happen. He kept saying, "Okay, BUT...", "But you didn't even do this...", "The problem is..." and "I still don't understand..." I'd mentioned that my original draft was much longer, but that I'd edited it. He said, "Well, maybe you shouldn't have done that; maybe the original draft was better than this one is." He even rolled his eyes at one point.

I felt crushed. I tried to explain my dissertation's argument to him, but he kept saying that my claims weren't clear enough or that I wasn't making any specific claims at all. At first I tried to hold my own by responding to his criticism with my own ideas, but he kept questioning all of them, which made me feel like my ideas weren't as good as I thought they were.

I felt angry and frustrated, which is something that I've been feeling about this whole process for a long time. I looked down at the notebook I was holding, and I realized that I was gripping it so tightly that I almost gave myself paper cuts. I wanted to tell him that he was wrong and that my dissertation wasn't that bad. I wanted to prove to him that all the work I've been doing really did amount to something important. I wanted to scream and scream and scream that I was doing the best I could, damn it, but it was never good enough; it made me feel like I wasn't good enough.

When I talked to graduate students and lecturers about my situation last year, they advised me that at some point I need to stand up for my dissertation if I really believe in it, even if my advisor doesn't agree with it (although of course they didn't say that it's okay to scream at the advisor). But I feel like I can only challenge or defy my advisor to a certain extent. He, as well as the rest of the committee, are the ones who are going to sign off on my dissertation (or not). He has the power to make me leave the graduate program altogether, which is something that I'm terrified of. He's also the one with the PhD and the long list of credentials that I don't have yet. He's already an expert in the field that I'm still starting out in, so it's like fighting with someone who has a black belt in karate and the only thing you've ever been able to do is win a thumb-wrestling fight.

The other grad students and lecturers also told me about their difficulties with their advisors. One or two of them told me that they had to switch dissertation directors because they had so many problems with them (not an option for me, since my dissertation is on a specific topic that my advisor specializes in, unlike most of the other professors in my department). They also didn't always feel like they could stand up to them, because the professors had a lot more authority than they did.

At this point, all I can do (other than track down my professor's address and toilet-paper his yard) is revise my chapter. Again. I'm determined to finish this dissertation. I do NOT want my dream of becoming a professor and to be recognized as a "Dr." to be taken away from me. I don't want to let it go. I will NOT let go, unless they literally make me do it.

What about you? Do you ever feel like you can stand up to the people who have authority over your work? If not, why not? If so, how do you stand up to them?

Here's the video for Katy Perry's new song, "Roar". The video is kind of cheesy, but I like the song, especially the point she makes about how she finds her voice. I can definitely relate to THAT right now.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Don't Be That Friend

Even though I am a loner, I do try to make friends with people who have similar interests to mine, whose company I enjoy, and who don't make me feel like I'm stuck in the movie Mean Girls. For example, once I invited a girl my age to have a picnic in Grant Park. Even though it was a nice day out and the food was good, I still felt like hiding out in my apartment with the shades drawn and the door locked, just so I wouldn't have to listen to that girl talk about the fight she had with her boyfriend. She spent the entire time talking about him.

In college, I was friends with a guy who talked about his girlfriend every single time we saw each other. It didn't matter what conversation we were having; he always found a way to bring her into it.

Me: Do you want to go check out that new music store?
Him: Yeah, that sounds like fun. I think I'm going to buy a new CD for my girlfriend. I haven't bought a gift for her this week. (I'm seriously not making that line up.)

Me: This pizza tastes so good.
Him: You know who else likes pizza? My girlfriend.

Me: Don't you hate it when people are always talking about the same thing? (This was my not-so-subtle hint to him to shut up about his girlfriend.)
Him: I know. My girlfriend doesn't like it either.

I also tried to make friends with a young woman who I liked a lot, until she met her boyfriend. One year, she promised to take me out for dinner for my birthday, but then she didn't respond to my e-mail where I tried to confirm the outing. I spent that birthday eating dinner in front of the TV and waiting for her to call. I later found out that she didn't call because she wanted to keep the night open in case her boyfriend wanted to go out.

Even worse, every time we saw each other after that, she'd have more "good news" about how amazing her boyfriend was and how much in love they were. "Did I tell you about the flowers he sent me? I felt so loved." "We're going to buy his and her towels when we move in together." "He is so handsome. I think he should have been a model instead of a doctor."

I smiled and nodded and looked at their vacation pictures, but what I really wanted to say was, "Good thing the flowers didn't give you an allergic reaction." "In addition to the towels, are you also going to tattoo each other's names on your faces so that everyone knows that you're in a relationship?" "Does he carry a mirror around so that he can admire his good looks all the time?"

I admit, I was a little jealous that those people found happiness with people that they loved, while I was still alone. But it wasn't like I wasn't happy for them too, because I was. I just didn't need to hear about their boyfriends/girlfriends all the time.

Maybe it's harder for me to relate because I'm single. I don't know what it feels like to want to talk about one person all the time, or to want to spend all my time with that person. (If and when I do fall in love, I don't think I'll want to spend all my time with him. I'll need time to myself to work, write, and put banana peels on the ground in front of unsuspecting annoying people.)

I also can get focused on one topic. Most of my blog posts this summer have been about online dating, ever since I joined Not to mention a lot of my other blog posts are about my work, seeing as how work is the love of my life. I'll also admit that in the past, I talked about my various jobs with my friends a LOT. But now I've learned that it's important to write and talk about other things. I've learned that it's important to listen to what other people have to say, and to consider the fact that what I'm obsessed with might not be what they want to hear every single time together. I've learned that if I want to stay friends with someone, I have to show them that I really do value their company, that I don't take them for granted, that I'm sensitive to their feelings, and that they're not just a sounding board for my personal life.

Still, it made me a little sad that those "friendships" didn't work out. It made me blame myself a little; maybe the fact that I'm a loner or the fact that I'm a neurotic workaholic keeps me from connecting with people. It also made me value my own company more, because at least I don't make myself want to hide in my apartment with the door locked and the shades drawn.

What about you? Do you have friends who go on and on about their boyfriends, girlfriends, or spouses? If so, how do you deal with it? Do you ever get to a point where you can tell them that you don't mind hearing about their love lives occasionally, but you don't want to hear about them all the time?