Monday, February 23, 2015

Why I'm Not Dating

1. When I work out at the gym, both the muscular guys and the not-so-muscular guys either ignore me altogether or take one look at me and immediately avert their gaze to the girls with bigger boobs, flatter stomachs, and tighter clothes that accentuate their bigger boobs and flatter stomachs.

2. I thought about joining Tinder, since apparently that's the new dating app that everyone keeps talking about these days, and I've already tried, eharmony,, and okcupid. But in order to join Tinder you have to join Facebook, which I never joined.

My parents are on Facebook, and they still don't know that I have a blog/a Twitter page/haven't voted Republican in the last three elections. I can't even set the alarm clock on my cell phone correctly half the time, which is why I keep running around shrieking, "I'm LATE! I'm LATE! There is NOT ENOUGH coffee to wake me up right now!" in the morning. So I doubt I have the patience to figure out how to use those privacy settings that would "parent-proof" my Facebook page.

3. I mentioned in a previous blog post how I recently became closer to a guy that I liked, who liked me back. Like I said before, I had my reasons for not describing in detail what happened with him on this blog. What I will say is that the person I thought he was turned out to be very different from the person that he actually is.

It felt like we were both trying to get each other to change a little too much. It's one thing to address your flaws and change bad habits, but it's another thing altogether to try to change who you are entirely. He and I are just very different. Although I've now accepted that it never would have worked between him and me in the long run, that realization was a letdown, especially because it's been a long time since I let myself feel anything real for anyone. I still want to meet someone special, but there is a part of me that is afraid I'll experience yet another letdown, and I'm already stressed out enough for the following reasons.

4. I've been applying for teaching jobs, and although I will not get an offer for a tenure-track job this year (you have to have gotten a request for an interview at the MLA conference that already took place in January), I am still hopeful that I will land a full-time position as a lecturer at a four-year college or a community college. The thing about the academic job market, especially for an English Ph.D., is that I have to go where the work is. I have no idea if I'm still going to be in Chicago next year or if I'm going to be halfway across the country in some college town. I don't think it's a good idea for me to start something new with some guy when there's the possibility that I might not even be here next year.

5. I took a leave of absence from teaching this year in order to focus on my dissertation and applying for teaching jobs, both of which have taken up a lot more time and a lot more caffeine than I expected. After tearing apart my most recent draft, my advisor told me that I could always defend next year if this year doesn't work out. But I have to finish and defend my dissertation this year, because I won't be able to get any more graduate funding after this year; I'm not willing to take on another student loan. The longer it takes me to earn my doctorate, the more difficult it will be for me to get a tenure-track job (and the reality is that many PhDs never become tenured). I'm ashamed that I'm behind many of my classmates, who finished a year earlier than I did (though their student loan debt is more than twice the size of mine, since they didn't work additional part-time jobs like I did) and already have tenure-track jobs.

I'm anxious to prove to the people who told me that my work isn't good enough (which, as a workaholic, made me feel like I wasn't good enough) that even though I will never be an academic superstar, at the same time I am intelligent and my work and experience do make me worthy of a full-time teaching job at a good college. I've been spending almost all my time holed up in my apartment, at the library, or in coffee shops, writing, reading, and caffeinating myself in order to stay awake long enough to get more writing and reading done.

Basically, I'm in full-on workaholic mode, and I'm so focused on my academic and professional goals that I have little time, energy, or interest in perusing more online dating profiles that say nothing but "If you want to know anything about me, just e-mail me"; to get "winks" from guys who are twenty years older than me; to get e-mails from guys my age that say, "I don't live in Chicago, but I'll be in the city for a couple days pretty soon. Want to meet up?" (That's code for: I'm looking for a one-night stand. Interested? My response to those guys is always a polite "no," but what I'd like to say is "Sure, I'd be happy to meet up with HELL!")

On one of the rare occasions I let myself take a break to spend time with a friend, that particular friend told me, "You know that this is what you have to do to get your PhD." And I do know. But I can't help thinking of how I spent the majority of my twenties (years I'll never get back) earning my master's degree, teaching full-time, working in retail. In addition to the last years of my twenties, I spent almost half my thirties pursuing this PhD. Sometimes I regret that I didn't let myself take a break from working and enjoy my youth more often, and I worry that I'll wake up one day in my forties and realize that I worked my thirties away too. 

What about you? Have you ever had to severely limit your social life in order to focus on other responsibilities, like work, school, or family? How did you deal with the consequences of that decision?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Writing What You Like to Read

Recently, I was at a bookstore, thumbing through a literary magazine (which shall remain nameless), and suddenly slammed it shut, like I'd just been caught reading 50 Shades of Grey during Mass. (I can't help thinking that if I actually did that in church, the rest of the congregation would point at me and shriek, "Get thee gone, Jezebel!")

The reason I stopped reading the story in that magazine was because it described in graphic detail a menage a trois (at least, I hope only three people were involved, and that I wouldn't have eventually stumbled upon an even more graphic description of a full-on orgy). This wasn't an "adult" magazine; this was a reputable literary magazine that many writers, including me, aspire to be published in.

Many editors and writers always say that people who want to be published in those periodicals should read them and familiarize themselves with what those publications are looking for. That's what I was trying to do that day in the bookstore. But although I'm not one of those people who think that everything on TV and in books should be G-rated (seriously, how boring would THAT be?), I do feel uncomfortable when I read some of the stories that are praised and published in those magazines.

I'm not saying that sex should NEVER be written about, especially because many of the chick lit novels that I've read do include love scenes. Some of them, however, go a little too far. For example, I read a scene where a girl's car literally exploded (someone was trying to kill her). Instead of doing something that made sense, like call the cops or the fire department or RUN AWAY SCREAMING, she and the FBI agent who was supposed to protect her went back into her house and...well, you know. And meanwhile I'm shaking my head and thinking, "This is what gets published?"

I've read other stories in other literary magazines that describe events that I don't describe in my own stories, like drug abuse, violence, and suicide. These are all important, real-life issues that should not be swept under the rug. But that doesn't mean that I want to be the one who writes about them.

Although I love reading chick lit, sometimes it's hard for me to relate to the main characters, whose lives often revolve around finding and/or keeping a guy. Although finding true love is important to me too, anyone who's read this blog for a while will know that I'm married to my work. Most of the guys I've dated didn't appreciate coming in second, and I don't blame them. I think that the fact that I can't relate to most chick lit novels is why it's been difficult for me to write one of my own.

One genre I love reading even more than chick lit is humor writing. Dave Barry was the first humor writer I ever read. He could make ordinary things like taking his dog out to go to the bathroom seem like one of the funniest things in the world. Angela Nissel, author of The Broke Diaries, knew how to describe a trip to Wal-mart or the laundry room in a witty, entertaining way.

I've also been reading hilarious memoirs by people like Jim Gaffigan, David Sedaris, Rachel Dratch, Jenny Mollen (though some of her raunchy descriptions made me think that the people at my church would probably hurl holy water at her but she would just stick her tongue out at them and keep writing), Jen Lancaster, and Tina Fey.What they taught me was that being neurotic and obsessive can be good, because I can put those qualities to good use in my writing. Those writers obsess over things that most people take for granted, but they do it in a funny way and they get paid for it.

I just finished reading Amy Poehler's memoir, Yes Please, and she wrote something that struck a chord with me: "Decide what your currency is early. Let go of what you will never have. People who do this are happier and sexier."

It made me think about what my own currency is. As far as writing goes, maybe my "currency" could be humor writing too. I haven't given up on the manuscripts of chick lit novels that I've written. But writing about my own life in a witty, funny way has always come much more easily to me, though I know I still have a lot to learn.

Of course, it's much easier for celebrities to publish creative nonfiction, though I don't discredit the talent of writers like the ones I've mentioned (especially because they are all very talented. On the other hand, there are also celebrity "authors" like Snooki, so...) But it got me thinking that maybe I should try to get my own humor writing published too, whether I collect some of the writing I've done on this blog or in my stack of journals and put it in a book, or whether I come up with new pieces and send them out to magazines and websites that publish humor writing (websites and literary magazines won't publish blog posts that have already been posted online, because they're considered "published").

What do you think? Do you write the kinds of stories that you like to read, or do you prefer to explore different genres? What kinds of things do you not like to read about?

Monday, February 2, 2015

(Not) The Marrying Kind

Recently I read an article that said, "If you care about your happiness, you should avoid marrying a neurotic person."

The author, Drake Baer, wrote, "Neurotic people are more likely to detect threats in their environments, which can lead to mood swings and obsessive thinking about what could go wrong. They have been found to be more easily distracted, less self confident, and to have lower salaries than their more emotionally stable peers."

Almost everything he wrote describes me, because this entire blog is proof of the fact that I obsess over almost everything; (hence my screenname, Neurotic Workaholic, and my blog title, "Obsessions of a Workaholic"). I've come up with some other reasons why I fit Drake Baer's description of neuroticism to a T:

1. One of my guy friends told me that I put off an "unapproachable vibe." When I'm out in public, I discreetly grip my keys in a certain way, so that if any guy tries to attack me I can use the keys as a weapon and stab him in the eye and/or the crotch. After years of being harassed, groped, followed down the street, and in one terrifying case, nearly abducted by random creeps in Chicago (I screamed and fought back, which apparently scared off the abductor), I've cultivated a "back the hell off or I will CUT you vibe."

2. Most of the guys I've dated thought it was weird that with the exception of the hello/goodbye kiss, I didn't like to kiss in public (especially if his version of kissing meant "I'm going to touch your tonsils with my tongue" or I didn't like the guy, in which case I was all "back the hell off or I will CUT you"). I've never even been comfortable with holding hands or letting the guy put his arm around me in public. I've never liked public displays of affection, because I think that there is a time and a place for everything, and so basically anywhere that has people in it who are not too drunk to notice IS NOT THE TIME NOR THE PLACE.

The last time a guy held my hand, I spent 50% of the time thinking about how long I had to hold his hand before I could wipe off my sweaty hand on my pants without looking rude, and wondering if I could ask him to wipe off the sweat on his hand, and maybe put some hand sanitizer on as well, because I also spent the other 50% of the time on our date thinking of the germs on his hand that could potentially infect me with the flu because he coughed two hours before. (If there was any doubt in your minds that I am completely neurotic, I'd say this paragraph pretty much proves it.)

3. Since I don't even like to hold hands in public, I would definitely not be charmed by a public proposal, where the guy gets down on one knee in front of a restaurant full of other customers, or in a park filled with a singing/dancing flash mob that he organized. Then I'd just be all, "Are you asking me to marry you, or are you asking me to make you famous on Youtube?" I also think that public proposals put way too much pressure on the person to say yes.

Note: If you are married and your spouse proposed to you in public, I hope you don't think that I am saying that public proposals are unromantic or wrong, because I'm NOT; I'm saying that if I ever did get engaged, that's not how I would want it. As an introvert, I'd prefer to have that moment be something that's just between me and the man I love, not me, the man I love, and dozens of people who are filming us and will post the video on Youtube.

4. Recently, over the past few months, I became closer to a guy I liked, who I did not describe on this blog for various reasons. He was much more laid-back than I am. I eventually realized that he needs to be with someone who actually means it when she says, "I'm fine," and I need someone who understands when I'm not fine and will listen patiently, say the right things, and talk me out of stress eating peanut M&Ms (and of course, I would do the same for him).

5. If I ever got married, my parents would want to throw a huge church wedding and invite all their friends, including the friends who keep asking why I'm in my thirties and still single, and especially the friends who think I'm a lesbian because I'm in my thirties and still single. Planning a wedding is stressful enough, but planning that kind of wedding with two Type A personalities like my parents (two guesses where I got my personality from) just might push me over the edge.

I've attended weddings that cost six figures. If I had that much money, I would use it to buy a home or start a college fund for my future children, not blow it all on a party that lasts one freakin' day or one weekend. My "dream wedding" would go one of two ways: either I'd get married in City Hall and then go out for a nice lunch with my husband and some close friends (like Carrie and Mr. Big did in Sex and the City) or I'd get married in a community garden and have a small reception in a nice restaurant, like Miranda and Steve did on SATC.

Although I am a big fan of Sex and the City, I am not Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, or Miranda. I'm the female George Costanza, because I wear glasses and I'm usually pissed off at somebody. Basically, if you marry someone as neurotic as I am, be prepared to marry the entire cast of Seinfeld. That means that the majority of your conversations (til' death do you part) will be like the obsessive, nitpicky conversations that George, Jerry, Kramer, and Elaine had in the coffee shop every day. It's one thing if you are also neurotic, but it could be very stressful or hard for you to understand or relate to your partner if you are not also overly self-conscious and over-analytical. However, although I have those "George is getting upset!" tantrums on a regular basis, I know that I am capable of making someone feel happy and loved.

I don't know if I'll ever get married, and there is a part of me that thinks that my neurotic personality and workaholic nature will decrease my chances. I also know that it is important to make compromises and address my own flaws in order to make a relationship with someone work, though I don't think I'll ever be able to completely change who I am (and I wouldn't want to anyway).

I've also started to realize that there are worse things in life than being single, such as marrying the wrong person just so I can have kids, won't be alone, or can finally prove to my parents and their friends that I am not in fact a lesbian ("not that there's anything wrong with that!" as Jerry would say)

I will also add that some of the best writers I've ever read and some of the guys I thought were the most attractive were also the most obsessive, neurotic people I've ever encountered. Actually, my ideal husband would have Jerry Seinfeld's personality (and Chris Hemsworth's looks and Channing Tatum's dancing ability, if I'm going to be completely honest).

What do you think? What kinds of personality traits do you think are important for a happy, loving relationship, and what kinds of personality traits do you think could make a relationship fall apart?