Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Disappearing Acts, Unmatching, and What I Really Want

Recently, I had a nightmare that I was getting married. I couldn't see my groom's face; he was turned away from me in the dream. My mother was in the dream, and she was thrilled that I would no longer be an "old maid" (one of her favorite insults for me ever since I entered my thirties). The church was full of smiling people who were all happy for me, and all I could feel was a sense of dread and the realization that this wasn't what I wanted. In the dream I started walking down the aisle towards my groom, and then I woke up, relieved that it wasn't real.

My dream more or less confirmed something I've suspected for a while now but didn't want to admit: I don't want to be in a relationship with anyone. I'm not saying that I never want a boyfriend, but I've been on my own for so long that I've grown accustomed to my independence. I like that when I got the job in College Town, I was able to just pack up my stuff and go. I didn't have to consider how it would affect my significant other because I didn't have one. I like that if and when I get a new job and leave College Town, I can just pack up my stuff and go. There's a sense of freedom in being single, and I'm not prepared or willing to give it up...at least not yet.

I think that's one of the things that drew me to the Model. He made it clear from the beginning that he wasn't looking for anything too serious and that he just wanted to have fun. And it was fun with him, until I developed feelings for him, texted him that I wanted to see him again, and he never answered.

One thing I've observed about dating in my thirties is that it's very different from dating in my twenties or my teens. When I was in my twenties and still living in Chicago, people dated because they just wanted to have fun. But I didn't get to have fun in my twenties, not really. While other people were barhopping or clubbing and staying out all night, backpacking across Europe, or taking cross-country road trips with their friends, I was going to graduate school and working three jobs. I taught at various schools around the city and worked retail jobs, where I regularly resisted the urge to bitch-slap rude customers and twenty-two-year-old supervisors on power trips.

While I definitely have no desire to go clubbing and stay out all night (especially not when I have to teach an 8 AM class the next day), at the same time I just want to go on dates and have fun. (But I feel like since I'm 36, I'm not supposed to say that and am supposed to be looking for someone to settle down with.) And as far as having children goes, I think of it as like winning the lottery: it'd be a wonderful life-changer, but it's okay if it never happens. And I'm not going out of my way to buy lottery tickets.

Now that I'm in my thirties, most of the guys my age that are on the dating scene are divorced and/or have children. The Artist and the Musician were both divorced with children. I'd never dated anyone with kids before, and it's hard to picture myself as someone's stepmother. Whenever I try, I just get this image of myself as one of those wicked stepmothers from a fairy tale, talking to a mirror while stroking my pet raven.

On both Tinder and Bumble, you can only message (it's basically the equivalent of texting, unlike the e-mails that are exchanged on eharmony and match.com) someone if you "swipe right" on each other. On both apps, you can choose to "unmatch" people that you've matched with if you change your mind. What often happens to me is that I'll match with a guy, and if I send a message, he won't answer or will unmatch me soon after. I can't help wondering if maybe my age (36) is working against me, since I know that most guys, including the ones my age, prefer younger women.

Sometimes, the guy will initiate the conversation, but then he'll disappear for days without saying goodbye, and then he'll suddenly pick up the conversation where we left off. Recently, I got messages on Tinder and Bumble from guys who disappeared in the middle of our chats three weeks ago, and then messaged me again without apologizing for or explaining their prolonged absence. I didn't answer and unmatched them.

Another thing I've noticed about guys in their late thirties and forties is that a lot of them want to be in relationships ASAP, and they'll reject me in the middle of our conversations (or sometimes I'll unmatch them if the conversation gets too intense) because I don't want what they want, like this one guy I'll call Loverboy. Here's an abridged version of our chat:

Loverboy: So what are you looking for on this site?

Me: I'd just like to meet new people and go on dates. You?

Loverboy: I'm looking for my SOUL MATE. I want to find a woman that I can adore and spend the rest of my life with. Does that sound good to you?

Me: Um, well, I'm not  ready to be in a serious relationship right now, but I'm not opposed to being in one eventually.

Loverboy: Well, then you're not the one for me because I don't want to love somebody who won't love me back.

Me: Aaannnd we're done here.

It's one thing to go on a dating site looking for love, but I think it's weird to say something like that in the first conversation with someone you haven't even met in person yet. My reaction to guys like that is similar to the reaction that most guys would have if I posted a picture of myself in a wedding dress in my profile with a tagline that reads, "Now all I need is a groom!" or if I posted a picture of myself holding a baby doll with a tagline that reads, "I can't wait to hold my real baby."

What I want is to go on casual dates with several guys, get to know them, and then figure out which one I like most and am most compatible with. And it's fine with me if they date other women, as long as they're not already in serious relationships and want ME to be the other woman (THAT would NOT be fine). But I'm not sure how to convey that to the guys who ask, "So what are you looking for on this site?" I figure that it will take time, at least several weeks, for me to figure out which guy I like best, but the problem is that a lot of the guys on these sites want to get serious sooner rather than later. I suspected that one reason the Artist texted me every night wasn't just because he wanted to get to know me; he wanted to keep tabs on whether or not I was on dates with other guys.

I'll keep my Bumble account open for now, but I deleted my Tinder account (though I might reactivate it later), partly because these last few weeks have been a whirlwind of emotions for me and I need a break. And partly it's because of Tinder profiles like the one below (which I initially thought was fake but it included the guy's pictures, so methinks he was actually serious):

After seeing THAT profile, all I could think was, "Aaannd I'm done here."

What about you? When it comes to relationships (as Carrie Bradshaw would say), what do you really want? How would you answer the question "What are you looking for on this site?" if you weren't ready for a relationship but didn't want a casual hookup either?

Monday, December 11, 2017

A Genuine Connection

I did end up seeing the Model again, and um, another time after that. On the one hand, the rational side of my brain was saying, "You should stop seeing him. You know you want more than what he's offering you." The other side of my brain said, "Dang, he looks really good without his shirt on."

What I felt for him was all-consuming. I'd literally never felt anything this strong for anyone before. It wasn't love. It was desire. Most of the guys I've gone out with have been attractive, but the Model has the kind of looks that literally gets him thousands of likes on every one of the selfies that he posts on Instagram.

The last time I saw him, he answered the door wearing nothing but his underwear. It's a good thing that none of his neighbors saw him because otherwise they would have either whipped out their phones and taken a picture or shrieked, "Cover thyself, devil worshipper!" (College Town is actually pretty conservative for the most part.) When I saw him, I said, "Well, I guess we can forget talking first." He just laughed and then led me to his bedroom, where he immediately started tugging at the button on my jeans.

After that last time, I didn't hear from him again. Initially, my reaction was like this:


I also spent some time listening to Taylor Swift and Adele's songs about their exes and sniffling, "Their music just speaks to me!" I was tempted to text the lyrics to Alanis Morrissette's song "You Oughta Know" to the Model, but I didn't.

Even though I always knew that whatever happened with the Model was not going to end with "happily ever after" (and to be honest, I don't know if I really believe in a "happily ever after" anymore, at least not for myself), I'd hoped that I'd get to be with him for longer than I was, and it makes me sad that I'll never be with him again.

On the one hand, he has several good qualities. I was always self-conscious of my plus-size frame (my body is more like Mindy Kaling's or Amy Schumer's than one of those Sports Illustrated Models, whom I always want to pinch to see if they're actually robots), but he was never judgmental of me. Instead, he said I was beautiful. I was able to tell him things that I had never told anyone, and I knew that I could trust him with my secrets. He was very patient and kind, except at the end, when he stopped responding to my text messages.

He was very private and rarely opened up to me about his own life. He's led this really interesting life, and I wish that he had told me more about it. I wish we could have had a genuine connection, rather than a mainly physical one.

But for whatever reason, he didn't want that, at least not with me. And I thought that since I wasn't in love with him, it would be easy to just move on and date other guys. But when I look at profiles on Tinder or Bumble now, I don't feel excited at the prospect of meeting someone new; I just feel depressed. (Also, seeing profiles where guys literally write stuff like, "First things first: are you into bondage?" not only makes me roll my eyes but also makes me Google "chastity belts" to see if they still make those.)

I was talking to this one guy on Tinder who seemed to be the opposite of the Model in that he clearly wanted a relationship (Carrie Bradshaw would have called him the Marrying Guy). But that turned me off. Similar to the Artist, he messaged me every day, which irritated me. The second time the Marrying Guy and I messaged each other, he asked me where I wanted to travel someday. When I told him, he said that we could go there together someday. Instead of being charmed, I thought, "We haven't even met yet, and you're already talking about taking a trip together? Slow down there, pal!"

The Marrying Guy was going away soon for a months' long trip for work, which is why I questioned whether we should go on a date since he was leaving and that he might meet someone else while he was gone. He said, "Relationships are based on trust and loyalty." That freaked me out even more. I said that since we hadn't even met in person yet, it was too soon to talk about being exclusive. After I said that, he stopped messaging me, which made me feel relieved.

It also made me wonder if maybe deep down, I really don't want to be in a relationship with anyone.  In most cases, when guys I dated made it clear that they wanted me to be their girlfriend, something inside me recoiled. But on the other hand, if the Model had wanted a serious relationship with me, I would have been more than willing. So I guess it depends on the person you're with, which seems obvious, but I know people who just want to be in a relationship with someone, anyone, just so they won't have to be alone. Being alone doesn't bother me. Being with the wrong person does.

One thing I learned from the Model is that even though physical attraction isn't everything, it does matter. I dated several guys I wasn't really attracted to (like the Artist) but who were "nice enough". But dating someone I'm not attracted to isn't fair to the guy or myself. I want someone who I not only physically desire but who I am happy to hear from and want to talk to every day. I don't want to settle for anything less that, though of course the guy doesn't have to be as good-looking as the Model is. (But dang, he really did look good without his shirt on, sighhh...)

What about you? How important is physical attraction to you when it comes to relationships? Would you have gone out with someone like the Marrying Guy?

Monday, November 27, 2017

Worst. Date. Ever.

At first, Bumble seemed like an upgrade from Tinder. For one thing, there were far fewer half-naked pictures of guys posing with their phones in the bathroom, nor were there as many profiles written by couples looking for a "third wheel" (insert shudder here). I did, however, see several wedding pictures where the guy was looking lovingly at his bride, as well as one where the guy was actually proposing to his girlfriend. In one of those profiles, the guy wrote, "I'm just looking for someone I can talk to other than my wife." (It's too bad that we haven't yet developed technology that allows us to reach through our phones and slap someone in the face.)

I noticed that several of the guys who'd posted profiles on Tinder were also on Bumble, including the Artist. On Bumble, I quickly "swiped left" (meaning "not interested") on the Artist's profile, though he did contact me recently, asking if I'd be free to go out again sometime soon. I thought I'd made myself clear when I ended it the first time, but apparently I was wrong. I told him that he was better off dating someone else he had more in common with, but I didn't add that when I came home from my dates with him, I immediately Googled "Should I keep dating someone I'm not attracted to?".

Recently, I've been talking to a guy on Bumble. We agreed to meet for drinks. We spent several hours talking, though I noticed that he kept checking his watch. Also, he wasn't even paying attention to me half the time I was talking. I'd start saying something but his eyes kept wandering around the room; he kept getting distracted by some loud, drunk people who apparently didn't know each other but kept hugging each other and saying, "I love you, man!" and "I love you too!"

I'm not saying a guy has to give me his undivided attention the entire time during the date, but I do want him to at least look at me and listen to me when I'm talking. On the other hand, it was hard for me to focus on him sometimes when he started talking because he was pretty boring. He kept going on and on about some topic that I had no interest in (I even said that I didn't know anything about what he was talking about, but that didn't stop him from talking about it for way too long). I ordered more soda in order to keep myself awake; I didn't want to doze off in the middle of the date because he bored me to sleep. He also kept ranting about the government's "interference" in our lives through technology. I'm not a fan of the current administration either, but he sounded like someone who's seen The Matrix way too many times.

Another thing that kept me from enjoying the date was that I kept thinking about the Model. The day after I sent him those texts about how he was sending mixed signals (none of which he responded to), I woke up regretting what I'd said. I realized that I'd overreacted. Maybe he really did have to work that night and hadn't been blowing me off at all. I felt bad about reprimanding him, so I sent him a text apologizing for how I acted. He still didn't answer.

He didn't contact me at all that week, unlike the previous weeks where we'd talked to each other almost every day. I couldn't stop thinking about him, and I found myself unable to look forward to my date with the Boring Bumble Guy. Finally, on the day of my date with Boring Bumble Guy, I sent the Model another text with another apology. This time, he texted back and invited me to come over to his house right then and there.

And I did. And I hope this doesn't make you all think less of me, but I spent the morning with him in his bed. I don't normally sleep with guys after only knowing them for a few weeks, but it was different with the Model. He made it pretty clear from the beginning what he wanted. Unlike other guys who'd propositioned me, I was intrigued by the Model (I must admit that his big muscles, great smile, and the fact that he was better-looking than all the guys I've ever dated made him especially intriguing). I knew what he wanted, and I wanted it too. But I didn't give in until that day (and don't worry, I took all the necessary precautions, including a trip to Planned Parenthood beforehand).

I liked it. I liked being with him. That night, during my date with Boring Bumble Guy (I hope the fact that I spent the morning with one guy and the evening with another also doesn't make you think less of me, though BBG didn't even get to first base with me. I would have needed alcohol, not just soda, in order to tolerate a kiss from that guy.) I kept thinking of how it felt to be in the Model's arms and to have him kiss me.

Boring Bumble Guy mentioned going out again, though I was noncommittal, saying maybe but also citing a busy schedule. He also texted me not once but twice the following week, even after I told him that I was too busy with work to talk. Either he's totally dense or he really DOESN'T listen when I talk. (And also, why is it always the guys I DON'T like who want to keep dating me?)

I went out of town during Thanksgiving break. As soon as I got back, the Model texted me, saying that he wanted to see me. So I did see him again, and one thing led to another...

I knew from the beginning that the Model was not boyfriend material. But there's something about him that I can't resist, even though my brain keeps screaming, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" I've spent my whole life doing what I was supposed to do, and for once, I wanted to get away from that. I typically date clean-cut, "guy next door" types, and the Model is more of the "bad boy" type.

But now, I think I've gotten it (and him) out of my system, and am looking for another guy next door. If the Model ever contacts me again, I will not give in to him.

Or at least, I'll try not to.

What about you? What do you think of the "bad boy" type"?  What was your worst date like?

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Swipe Left on Tinder

Things with the Model fizzled, as I knew they would. He kept asking me to send him pictures of my chest, though he used terminology that was much more crude. I said NO because a) I am not one of those people who don't see anything wrong with sending naked pictures of themselves to other people; b) phones can get stolen or hacked, and all it takes is just one of those pictures to end up on the Internet or being passed around to who knows how many people; c) reputation is very important in academia, and if just one of those pictures was accessible to my colleagues or students, then my career would be over. I'd lose everything that I've worked for all these years, and all the sacrifices I've made would be pointless.

I tried explaining that to the Model, but he kept asking. But after we met in person, his texts were much less frequent. We were supposed to go out recently, but when I texted him to confirm the date about a half hour before, he said that he couldn't go because he had to work overnight for his job. That was a lie because the type of job he has does not require him to work overnight. I think he met someone as sleazy as he is, someone who is more than willing to send him boob pics.

And did I mention that when I was reading those messages he sent about the pictures, I was eating lunch in a deli near campus, when all of a sudden my bosses showed up right behind my table and invited me to eat with them? They may or may not have seen his messages, which is why I nearly choked on my sandwich and stammered, "Uh, I was just reading an article about the Mueller investigation!" The whole time I was eating lunch with them, I kept thinking, Good God, did they see his messages? Do they think I'm some kind of nymphomaniac now? I'm really not! But if I explain that to them and they didn't see his messages, then they really will think I'm a nymphomaniac! I didn't say anything about the messages, and neither did they.

I remember looking into the mirror that night after he blew off our date with no real apology; I'd spent almost an hour getting ready. I wondered if he would have even bothered to tell me that he couldn't make it to the date, or if he would have just let me show up and wait in vain for him. I'd spent all week eating nothing but yogurt, fruit, and other healthy foods in an attempt to slim down and look good for him. After he broke the date I bought some takeout and scarfed down a cheeseburger and fries, thinking it might make me feel better. It didn't.

Two days later, he texted me to invite me to come over to his house. I texted back, not asking for an apology but an explanation. I asked why he kept acting hot and cold: one moment he was totally into me, and the next minute I was invisible to him. He didn't respond. I messaged him one last time a few hours later, saying that I would have been willing to see him again if he would have just talked about what happened. He didn't respond but later posted a picture of himself on Instagram that same night where he was literally staring at his phone in the picture; therefore, I know he got my messages but chose to ignore them (and me).

I did not have romantic feelings for the Model. I'll be the first to admit that it was just a physical attraction. But I find myself feeling disappointed and foolish nevertheless that I let him treat me like this. And on his Instagram page he presents himself as a really sensitive, thoughtful man, which makes his many followers fawn over him (well, they're really fawning over his big muscles), when really he's the kind of guy that makes me Google "curses" on the Internet, such as "How to make your enemy's hair fall out" and "How to make his vital appendages fall off".

I also ended things with the Artist as well, and he was really nice and understanding about it. I couldn't keep dating him, though I could have since he made it clear that he had feelings for me. But unlike the Model, the Artist is a genuinely nice guy and I didn't want to use him just so I wouldn't be alone. It wouldn't be fair to him, and he deserves to be with someone who feels the same way about him.

I'm seriously considering deleting my Tinder account, even though it's only been three weeks. I'm tired of reading profiles of guys who say they are looking for "someone to smoke weed with" or who say that they AND their wives are looking for "a hot chick to hook up with" (in those profiles, they include pictures of their wives as well).

There was a guy I'd been messaging who seemed nice, but when I suggested meeting in person for coffee, he chose that time to say that he didn't want to date anyone because he was moving soon and he only signed up for online dating because he was bored. He claimed that he didn't lead me on, but I think it is misleading to sign up for online dating if you have no intention or interest in dating someone. I think it fed his ginormous ego to make single women interested in him and then immediately reject them because it's not like there's anything wrong with that. It's okay because he's just "bored".

I'm tired of seeing profiles that make me shriek and shudder, like the one of the guy who literally included a picture of his penis in his profile.

And I'm literally tired because I haven't been getting enough sleep; I've spent so much time exchanging messages with random guys and going on these dates that I've had to stay up late and wake up early to finish my work (I do still have two jobs, after all.).

I'll keep my Tinder account open, at least for now, but I'm not going to hold my breath. At a friend's recommendation, I just signed up for Bumble, a different online dating app. It has the "swipe right if you're interested; swipe left if you're not" option that Tinder has, but unlike Tinder, women have to make the first move. That is, although men can express interest in women on Bumble by swiping right, they can't message them unless women message them first. And I like that idea. So we'll see how it goes.

In the meantime, I wrote down a couple of those curses on an index card and put it in my purse, just in case I run into the Model around College Town.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Musician, the Artist, and the Model

The last time I was on match.com four years ago, I was a member of the site for more than three months and only ended up going on a date with one guy. I've been a member of Tinder for two weeks and have gone out on dates with three guys.

The first guy I went on a date with is a graduate student at the college where I'm teaching. He isn't in my department; he's a musician and has performed professionally many times. We met at a coffee shop close to campus and had a really great conversation. It was nice talking to someone who also works in academia and could relate to a lot of things that I've gone through. He seemed like a genuinely nice, intelligent, and talented guy. And it was about as romantic as being on a date with my cousin. Apparently, he felt the same way because he hasn't called since then.

The second guy I went on a date with says that he's an artist, but he hasn't earned any money from his art. Instead, he works a regular day job and hasn't worked on his art in more than a year. I don't have a problem with dating a guy who doesn't work a prestigious job, and you don't have to earn money at your art in order to be an artist. It's one thing to take a break from your art or to struggle to earn a living at it; most artists can relate to that, including myself. But as a Type A workaholic who's stayed committed to her professional goals for years, it's hard for me to relate to someone who doesn't have as much drive and ambition to succeed.

I will admit that when I lived in Small Town, months went by where I didn't touch my manuscripts because I had to work so much at my two jobs. But I kept writing in my journal, my blog, and my Twitter page; I attended a writing class and read one of my stories at an open mic night. Now that I'm in College Town and teaching dozens fewer students than I was in Small Town, it's easier for me to make time for writing. I've entered two writing contests in the last couple months and submitted a story to a literary magazine. I was rejected by all three, but it didn't make me feel bad. Those rejection letters were proof that I was writing again and putting my work out there.

On the other hand, the Artist is a nice guy who is really easy to talk to, and I enjoyed his company. We've been on two dates so far, and he's been texting me almost every night. But the regular texting irritates me. Because I have two jobs, I don't have time to text people for hours every night. And it seems too soon to be talking to each other that often. I've told the Artist that there are some days where I'm just not available to talk, and he's been understanding about it. But I think the fact that I'm not that excited to hear from him is very revealing, especially because when I think of the last guy I was involved with in Chicago, I smiled whenever he texted me, and I was more than willing to drop everything and go hang out with him.

When he kissed me good night, I was flattered and thought it was a pleasant kiss, but I didn't feel a spark. It made me wonder if there was something wrong with me because here was this nice guy who genuinely likes me and wants to get to know me. But I just keep falling for guys who just aren't that into me, like Small Town Guy. I can't help thinking that maybe I should go out with the Artist at least one more time because he seems like someone I should be with, but I don't want to lead him on if there's nothing there. Or maybe I just want what I can't have because it's easier than dealing with the reality of actually being in a relationship with someone.

The third guy I met on Tinder is a "model", and by "model" I don't mean the kind who is featured in magazines or commercials. I mean the kind who has a six figure following on social media because of all of his shirtless pictures of himself.

The Model is so not the guy for me; I knew that from the beginning when we first started texting each other, and meeting him in person confirmed it for me. He is very self-centered, is too young for me (he's in his 20s and I'm 36, and I feel like I should be with someone closer to my own age) and we have nothing in common.

But physically, he's exactly the kind of guy I've always been attracted to. When I first saw him, I felt an attraction that was stronger than I've ever felt for anyone. He didn't even wait until the end of the date before he kissed me, and I kissed him back. I found myself thinking about the Model all week: when I was grocery shopping, when I was at work, and when I was resisting the urge to head-butt people at Starbucks who didn't decide what they wanted until they got up to the counter and then asked the baristas a bunch of questions about every drink (it's like, do they want to hear me start screaming like a howler monkey? Because that's what happens when I haven't had my coffee.).

The Model wants to see me again. I know that whatever happens between us won't lead to anything serious. But I still want to see him again, even though I know I shouldn't.

In a perfect world, I'd find someone that I was physically attracted to and could have good conversations with, someone who's a combination of the Model and the Artist. But I'm not sure if that person is out there, at least not for me. I'd feel more optimistic if it wasn't for the fact that I'm 36 and I've lost count of how many guys I've gone out with, not to mention Tinder is the sixth dating site I've tried. And considering how time-consuming this whole process has been (which also irritates me because I get antsy when I'm not working and due to all the messages from guys and dates, I've fallen far behind in my work), I'm not so sure that I want a relationship with anyone anymore. Or maybe I just think that because most of the guys I've dated so far are not guys that I want to be in a relationship with.

Or maybe I think that because I'm still new in College Town and trying new things (I even joined two Meetup groups and have been to three events so far, which I'll blog about later), I'm not ready to be in a relationship with anyone right now. And I'm still not fully secure in my career, which is still the most important thing to me and which I can't afford to neglect for too long.

In the meantime, I guess I'll stay on Tinder for another week or two at least, and then maybe I'll try a different dating app like Bumble or Hinge.

What about you? Have you ever dated someone you weren't really attracted to, or have you ever been attracted to someone who was all wrong for you? Either way, did you go on more dates with that person, or call it off after one or two dates? If you're in a relationship with someone, at what point did you feel that "spark"?

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

What Not to Put in Your Tinder Profile

1. If you're only going to post one picture of yourself in your profile, don't put a picture of yourself with your guy friends and then not indicate which one is you. What if I swipe right on your picture, thinking that you are one of your better-looking friends? That would just be awkward.

2. If you're only going to post one picture of yourself in your profile, post a picture of your FACE, not your back, your car, your dog, a blank wall, a package of flushable wipes (some guy really did post that, along with a picture of breath mints, but nothing else in his profile), etc.

3. If you're only going to post one picture of yourself, make sure that the viewer can SEE you, so don't post a picture of yourself standing fifty feet away from the camera.

4. If you post nothing but a picture of two hooks that are intertwined and a profile headline that reads, "Wanna hook up?" I'm DEFINITELY going to swipe left.

5. It's okay to post shirtless pictures of yourself (I guess), if you at least have other pictures of yourself wearing clothes. But I'm not looking for a hookup, so I'm going to swipe left if you post nothing but a picture of your bare chest because that immediately tells me what YOU'RE looking for. I know that a lot of people join Tinder specifically looking for hookups, but I really would like to get to know a guy before he takes his clothes off. (The bare chest makes me think of peacocks showing off their feathers to attract a mate, and the female mates like me are all, "Meh.")

6. I'm also going to swipe left if you write that you're married and looking to have "quiet fun on the side" or if you write that you don't want to meet anyone in real life but are just looking for a chat partner to "spice things up" for you.

7. Don't post a picture of yourself with a woman who's kissing you, has her arms around you, or has her legs in your lap. Like, don't you have any OTHER pictures of yourself?

8. If you're only going to post one picture of yourself, show your whole face, not just the side of it. For some reason, I've seen lots of profiles where the only picture of each guy shows nothing but one side of his face. I don't believe that looks are all that matter. I just want to know what you look like so that if we set up a date, I can find you among all the other guys and not have to say, "Um, could you guys all turn to the left right now so that I can see the side of your face? 'Kay thanks."

9. It's one thing to post a picture of yourself with a cardboard cutout of a celebrity. It's NOT a good idea to post a picture of yourself with a cardboard cutout of Nicki Minaj, cupping her breasts. (I swear I'm not making that one up.)

I joined Tinder a couple days ago. Now that I'm more or less settled in College Town, I'm ready to start dating again. I chose Tinder because years ago, I already tried the other major dating sites: okcupid, eharmony, match.com, chemistry.com, and plentyoffish (on that site, some loser offered to be my "financial benefactor", even though I never said ANYTHING in my profile about wanting money from my dates, which I DON'T).

It seems like Tinder is the big dating app these days, though I've heard that it primarily started out as a hookup app. On the other hand, I know two women from Small Town who met their boyfriends on Tinder, and one of them is still with him, a year later. I figure that I'll give it a shot, at least for a few weeks.

On Tinder, you're shown a bunch of pictures from guys' profiles, and unlike the other dating sites, the guys don't typically write much (or anything) in their profiles. I did write a short bio in my profile (where I also indicated that I was not looking for a hookup), and I always pay more attention if the guy actually makes an effort to write something. You can swipe right if you like someone, or swipe left if you don't. If you and the person you like both swipe right, then Tinder lets you know that you made a match. Then you're left to instant message each other. You can only message people that you match with.

So far, I've gotten twelve matches and exchanged messages with five of them. But I'm not sure yet if they'll lead to anything. As I've learned in the past, just because someone shows interest in you on an online dating site, it doesn't necessarily mean you'll get to go on a date with him. Of course, I'll keep you all updated either way. Fingers crossed...

Have any of you ever tried Tinder, or do you know anyone who has?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

No, No, a Thousand Times NO!

Student #1: Can you just tell me exactly what to write on this paper so that I can get an A?

Me: No. You won't learn anything that way.

Student #1: But I'd have an A, so...

Me: I said no.

Student #2: Can you look over my works cited page and tell me if I did it right?

Me: There are some mistakes, so you'll need to revise them.

Student #2: Can't you just tell me how to correct them?

Me: No. I went over citations in class. I showed you how to find the information online, and it's also in the textbook.

Student #2: What if I just e-mail you at least three of my citations, and then I'll just correct the last one myself?

Me: Seriously, just look in the textbook. (rummages around in my bookbag for the bottle of aspirin I always bring to school)

Student #3: Could I set up an appointment with you to discuss my paper?

Me: No, I've already met with you twice to discuss your paper. If I meet with you a third time to discuss that same paper, it'll be like we're writing it together.

Student: But I can't figure it out by myself.

Me: As a student, it's your job to figure some of these things out for yourself. As the teacher, there's only so much I can do.

Student #3: How about I e-mail you my draft, and then you tell me what I should fix?

Me: No. Or as they say in Spain, no!

Meeting with students during my office hours is part of my job. And it is good to meet with students to find out what they're struggling with; it's better I know that now rather than when I'm grading their papers. What's not so good is when I have to set aside twelve (or more) extra office hours (in addition to my regular hours), as I've been doing almost every week since I came here, in order to accommodate all the students who want to meet with me. That means far fewer hours for grading, making lesson plans, research, and my website job, which is why I've had to stay up late almost every night to get all my work done.

At first I thought that I was the problem. I thought that maybe they kept coming to me for help because I wasn't getting through to them in the classroom. But dozens of appointments later (many of them with the same students over and over), I've realized that too many of these students want me to do the majority of the thinking, correcting, and revising for them, and all they have to do is fill in the blanks. I refuse to do that for them because I really want them to learn, and it's frustrating.

I can't keep going on like this. Because of my two jobs, I'm still working months at a time without a day off, and if I keep going at this rate, I'll have a heart attack before I turn forty from all the stress, or maybe just from all the coffee.

I've started being more firm with my students and setting more limits with my office hours. I will continue to be there for my students as much as I can, but I've finally started to realize that it's okay for me to say no sometimes, especially for the sake of my own health and sanity (and also because otherwise, I might start hitting myself with a chalkboard eraser during class and shrieking). I want to have more of a life outside of work, and that won't be possible if I keep saying yes every single time someone tries to get me to do extra work.

What about you? Do people at your job ever try to get you to do more work for their sake? Do you have a hard time saying no to them or in general?

Monday, October 2, 2017

Office Space

In academia, one of the most noticeable distinctions between untenured faculty and tenured professors is that the latter get their own individual offices, whereas untenured faculty have to share offices or don't get any space at all.

At one of the schools where I used to teach, the English Department would often take over my office for various reasons, such as "because we CAN", which is why I often had to meet with students in the cafeteria during my office hours (which all faculty are required to keep every week in order to be available to help students outside of class, regardless of whether or not they actually have an office). Nothing says, "I have arrived" like telling your students to meet you at the table next to the place where they make cheese sticks.

At another school where I used to teach, there was one office with about half a dozen cubicles that dozens of instructors had to share. There was one computer that we were all expected to share as well. One particularly greedy, self-centered instructor hogged the computer all the time, leaving his books and papers there even when he wasn't using it. When I sat down in front of the computer once, he asked, "Are you even doing work for school right now?" I wanted to say, "Why don't you come a little closer and ask me that again?" I was ready to throw down and go all WWE on him, but I might have gotten in trouble for wrestling one of my colleagues, even though he was a jerk. (I wish him a lifetime of broken computers, limited office space, and colleagues who are exactly like him.)

In Small Town, I shared an office with one other teacher, who was rarely there for students outside of class, so I mainly had the office and the computer to myself. It was nice to be able to work in peace and meet with students without hearing people say stuff like, "HEY! Get your OWN French fries!" I also liked that the department laminated my name, along with my title of "Dr." and hung it on the door, which was a nice change from all the other offices where my name was simply written on an index card and taped to the door. When I left Small Town, I took my laminated name plate with me.

In College Town, my "office" is actually a cubicle in a large room full of other cubicles, though at least I get my own desk this time. I texted a picture of it to one of my friends, who remarked that it was an "officle". I decorated it with pictures of my friends, postcards, and colorful office supplies.

One of the things I like best about working in academia is that I don't have to work in an office from 9-5. I like that I can do a lot of my work from home or in coffee shops, where I tell baristas, "Hit me with your best shot...of espresso that is!" and they all look at me blankly, not getting the Pat Benatar reference because they were born when Britney first came on the scene.

But since I am required to have office hours every week, I do have to spend several hours a week in my officle. I like the faculty; they've all been very nice and welcoming to me. But here is a small glimpse of what it's like to share office space with them:

Coworker #1: It is too cold in here. I'm turning off the A/C, okay?
Me: (sweat dripping down my face) Um, could we leave it on, please?
Coworker: OK, but I have to raise it to at least 75 because it is just so darn cold.
Me: (what I'd like to say: But if you're cold, you can put on a sweater. When I'm hot, I can't take off my shirt because then I'd just end up flashing all the undergrads and this is a college campus, not a Girls Gone Wild video.)

Coworker #2: Mm, this sandwich tastes so good.
Me: I bet all those onions make it taste like that. It's very, um, appetizing.

Coworker #3: How are your classes going? Did I tell you what happened in my class? (Launches into 15-minute story)
Me: (knows it would be unethical and illegal to slip a sedative into coworker's coffee, and yet...)

Also, it's not just my fellow faculty members; it's their students (as well as mine) coming in and out of the office to talk about their papers and their classes. There's constant chatter, and it can be a wee bit distracting.

But on the other hand, I keep reminding myself that officle aside, the point is that I have a better job than I did before, with a better salary too, as well as students who don't ask for a one-week extension to write a five page essay (after already being given three weeks to work on it). Sometimes, I walk around campus and feel lucky and glad to be there, especially after the stress I went through this past summer, where I was worried about not finding a job.

I will, however, be buying more coffee and a desk fan. And possibly sedatives.

What about you? What does your office space look like, either at work or at home?

Monday, September 18, 2017

A Tourist in My Hometown

Even though I spent the first eighteen years of my life in a small Midwestern town, I think of Chicago as my hometown. As the saying goes, "Home is where your heart is." In the town where I grew up, I was viewed by many people as "weird," but in Chicago, the vast majority of people are weird and it's actually considered "weird" to be "normal."

That's why when a relative offered to pay for my plane ticket to Chicago in exchange for my taking care of their two dogs for a week this past summer while the relative was out of town, I jumped at the chance. I was happy to spend time with those two adorable dogs, who snuggled by my legs when I slept and insisted on being carried around 90% of the time. 

I was also happy to be back in the city where I lived for more than a decade. When I was walking down State Street, here's a small sampling of what I heard:

"I hate you! I don't know you, but I hate you!"
"Oh yeah? I hate you too!"
"GET OUTTA THE WAY! Where'd you learn how to drive, freak show?"
"Dude, just be cool. The cops are right there!"

Even though it was supposedly summer, I had to wear several layers of clothes because it was so cold. Some guy pulled my hair on the El after I didn't smile when he ordered me to, and I responded by kicking him in the leg and then running off the train. A woman yelled at me in Spanish and threw sunflower seeds at me while I was eating a Chicago-style hot dog. And all I could think was, Ah, Chicago. It's good to be home.

Although I made sure I spent enough time with the dogs, such as taking them to the dog park and playing with them, I also did the things that tourists usually do in the Windy City. I rented a Divvy bike and took a ride by the lake. I visited the Art Institute (I've always loved the Impressionists' paintings and the Thorne Miniature Rooms best). I ate Chicago-style pizza and window-shopped on Michigan Avenue. I wrote in my favorite coffee shop in Lincoln Park. 

I took a selfie by the "bean" in Grant Park, and I walked around Boystown, my favorite neighborhood (aka East Lakeview). I couldn't help looking at the handsome, muscular men in Boystown, almost all of whom are very friendly and nice, and I thought, Dang. Too bad they're gay. I also got to hang out with an old friend who lived in Boystown.

I visited the American Writers Museum, a new museum that just opened in the Loop. It's small, and it has things like pictures of famous writers, as well as displays of their most famous quotes and information about their books. I thought it was wonderful and high time that writers got their own museum in this city.

I was quickly reminded by how fast Chicagoans walk, unlike most of the people in Small Town, who like to take their time walking, driving, and talking. Chicagoans, on the other hand, will not hesitate to push people out of the way and/or swear at you if you're walking too slowly. (I must admit that I was exactly the same way when I lived there.)

It felt so good to be back in the city again, if only temporarily. But it felt different this time around. I felt more like a tourist. It almost felt like I didn't belong there anymore, maybe because it had been more than two years since I'd lived there. And I felt sad, too, thinking of all the memories that that place held.

There was the beach where I and some of the other teachers took our students one afternoon as part of a field trip, back when I taught high school students. I had to keep telling students that I would call their parents and/or give them detention if they kept trying to drown each other. There was the spot in Grant Park where I hung out with some casual acquaintances that I thought were cool, right up until the point where they pulled out a joint and offered me a hit. I was all, "Uh, I just remembered that I'm late for my flamethrowing lesson. Gotta go!" There was the school where I taught my first class as a college instructor. There was the school where I earned my PhD, and I tried not to fall asleep during boring lectures by thinking of funny moments from Jersey Shore.

I remember when I was a kid, I wanted to be an adult so that I could do whatever I wanted. But the thing about adulthood is that you realize that you really can't do whatever you want. You can't stay out until 3 A.M. because you have to get up early for work, and anyway when you reach your thirties you actually want to go to bed earlier (at least I do). You can't eat ice cream for dinner because you're worried about your waistline (although I will admit that I have eaten ice cream for dinner, and that was because I "accidentally" burned the healthy meal that I prepared). And I can't stay in Chicago forever, even though I want to, because the rent and sales tax are too high (and don't even get me started on their soda tax) and I can't find a decent full-time teaching job there, at least not right now.

That's why I ended up first in Small Town and then in College Town. In academia, there are way too many PhDs and not enough jobs, so you have to go where the work is. But one good thing about being back in the Midwest is that Chicago is not as far away from College Town as it is from Small Town (though it's far enough that I can't go there every weekend, or even every month). But at least I won't necessarily have to wait until next summer before I go back for another visit.

Chicago will always be home. But another thing about adulthood is that you have to accept that some things don't last forever, and you have to move on.

What about you? Where is the "home" where your heart is?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Ottomans, Ice Breakers, and Anxious E-mails

I've been living in College Town for about a month now. It doesn't seem that long because I've been so busy.

For one thing, I had to deal with the movers and unpacking all of my stuff. Fortunately, the moving company I hired this time around did a MUCH better job than the furniture-stealing, price-gouging, we-were-out-getting-high-or-who-knows-what-and-THAT'S-why-your-delivery-was-several-days-late-but-deal-with-it-SUCKER scam artists I hired the last time around. None of my furniture or belongings were stolen or damaged this time, and the movers showed up when they said they would. And they didn't scream at me like the last movers did (the scam artist on the phone literally screamed at me when I asked them why it was three days past the promised delivery date and I still hadn't gotten my stuff yet and he just kept yelling, "I don't KNOW!").

Since I hope to stick around in College Town longer than I did in Small Town, I've actually made more of an effort to furnish and decorate my apartment. I've made a "wish list" of things I'd like to eventually get for my apartment, including a storage ottoman that could double as a coffee table, a bedside table (to replace the one that the scam artists stole two years ago), and another bookcase (the moving company from two years ago not only disassembled my bookcase and refused to put it back together, they damaged it so badly that I couldn't reassemble it myself). I also have a wish list of pop songs I want to download, including the solo singles of all the members of One Direction, but that's another story.

I went to the orientation for new faculty at my new school, and it lasted several days long, for eight or nine hours a day. We had to do various ice breakers that everyone else seemed excited to participate in, whereas I was all:


The fall term just started, and I've literally already gotten dozens of anxious e-mails from students that say stuff like, "I don't have the textbooks for class yet! I won't get an F for that, will I?" or "I might have to miss class for two days in October. I won't get an F for that, will I?" or "I think I bought the wrong books for this class. But it's not like I really need the textbooks for this class, right?" My response to that question was basically like this:


But so far, it's been okay. The other faculty have been pretty nice to me, and the campus at my new employer's school is beautiful and much bigger than the campus at my old school. College Town is all right, too. There are more shopping and dining options than there were in Small Town, which is nice, because I no longer have to drive several hours just to go someplace like Best Buy, a shopping mall, or a restaurant that doesn't play country music 24/7 (actually, I basically had to drive OUT of Tennessee for that last one, because that state is all ABOUT the country music).

As far as socializing goes, I set up an account on Meetup.com, and there are a few meetups that look interesting in College Town. One of them organizes get-togethers almost every week, and they have one coming up pretty soon. I'm planning to go and hopefully meet some nice, interesting people who I could possibly be friends with, and whose personalities don't make me want to head-butt them.

What about you? Other than Meetup, how do you meet new people and make new friends?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Singing My Way Out of the South

Before I left Small Town for good, Small Town Guy organized a going-away dinner for me. Nine of my friends showed up for the dinner, which meant a lot to me. When I first moved to Tennessee, I didn't know a single person there. I'd come from a life in Chicago that revolved around work, eating alone in school cafeterias, and kicking/and or swearing at guys who tried to grope me on the El. My life in Small Town also revolved around work, but it also included shared meals and parties with friends. When I look back on the two years I spent in the South, I'll miss the friendships I made there the most.

I remember looking at everyone as we ate together and spent hours talking, and thinking to myself, It'll never be like this with them ever again. Sure, I might come back to visit, but that is a long time from now (I have to pay off at least some of the enormous debt I incurred from all my moving expenses first), and by the time I come back, some people will have moved on to other places too and new people will have shown up, and it won't be the same. It made me feel sad when I thought of how this was yet another important part of my life that I had to give up in order to pursue a career in academia.

Although many things bothered me about my life in Small Town, such as the fact that I wasn't treated fairly at work, drivers who drove fifteen miles an hour in the left lane, and neighbors who yelled "WHOOOO" approximately five hundred times a night while tossing beer cans in the parking lot, there are some things I'll miss, other than my friends.

I'll miss the mild weather (it felt like spring lasted a lot longer there), even though Small Town basically shut down during the winter. There were usually no more than a couple inches, but it was enough to make most of the restaurants, stores, and schools shut down. People frantically stocked up at Walmart for the "blizzard," and I'd say, "You mean the snow that is melting as we speak?" In the Midwest, we get several feet of snow, wear multiple layers of clothing for more than two-thirds of the year, and keep ourselves warm by complaining about how cold it is.

I'll miss the mountains. As I drove out of the South, I went from driving past the green mountains of Tennessee to the flat farmland of the Midwest. Sometimes when I got claustrophobic in Small Town, I'd drive to bigger cities and towns, but what I enjoyed most was looking at the mountains. I never failed to marvel at how beautiful they all were.

I'll miss the interesting cities in Tennessee, including Nashville, which was my favorite. It was several hours away from Small Town, but I liked going there because of its thriving literary scene, including the open mic nights and poetry readings that were held there every week, hosted by hipsters who would no doubt have tossed their man buns at me in disgust if they saw all the pop songs on my playlist (I heart you, Taylor Swift. You too, Ariana Grande.) I even took a one-day writing workshop at The Porch, which is a writer's collective.

Nashville also has a really good music scene. A few months ago, I watched Vanessa Carlton perform (she sounds just as good live as she does on her albums) at 3rd and Lindsley, a bar that has a Sunday night concert series.

I also went to a concert at the Grand Ole Opry (there were a variety of musicians that I didn't recognize, but they were all very good), where several people attended wearing cowboy hats and boots. I also walked down Broadway in Nashville, which is full of honky tonk bars where aspiring country musicians perform. I bought a soda in a couple of those bars and listened to the musicians sing, and I thought it was so cool that I basically had access to all these "concerts" for the price of a couple bucks.

I told the English Department secretary at my former school about my new job in College Town, and I remarked about how I had spent almost my entire life in the Midwest. She said, "Well, maybe it's where you need to be." Maybe she's right, at least for now. But I think it was good for me to get out of my comfort zone, live in a state that I had never been to before, work at a rural college, teach students whose mindset was very different from my Chicago students (in Small Town, several students wore Make America Great Again hats. If they did that in Chicago, people would probably snatch the hats right off their heads, yell, "What's the matter with you, FOOL?" and throw the hats into oncoming traffic), and make new friends.

Before I left, I made a "Southern Songs" playlist made up of country music. Even though I felt sad to leave my friends behind, I sang practically the whole time I drove out of the South.

What about you? If you were to leave your town/city behind, what would you miss most?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

When a Troll Is Someone You Know

Recently I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and came across a post from a former high school classmate of mine who'd served in the military. They wrote about President Chump's (oops, I meant President Trump. Or DID I?) ban on transgender people in the military.

HS Classmate wrote a long post about how they felt the ban was fair and the right thing to do, and listed all the reasons that transgender people deserved to be discriminated against. They argued that transgender people belonged in mental institutions, not the military.

I learned from firsthand experience that it's never a good idea to argue with people on the Internet. But this time I couldn't hold my tongue. I wrote on HS Classmate's post that it wasn't fair to discriminate against people, that they weren't mentally ill, and that they deserved to be treated with respect.

I thought of the transgender people I'd met in Chicago, who were funny, kind, talented, and beautiful. I thought of the transgender student in my class this year, who confided in me about how they'd been kicked out of their house by their parents after coming out as transgender. I thought of the transgender people who sang and danced on floats in the Pride Parade in Chicago and how no one there made them feel ashamed for being who they were.

But HS Classmate kept ranting about transgender people. When I shared an article on FB that discredited several of the claims they made about them, they filled up my Facebook page with several condescending retorts and more lengthy rants. I informed HS Classmate that no matter what they said or posted, they would never change my mind.

HS Classmate claimed that they had a right to their beliefs, and several of their FB friends agreed with them and joined in on attacking my comments that defended transgender soldiers and insulted me personally, though they'd never met me. HS Classmate didn't tell them to back off, of course, but seemed to revel in the attention.

I know that everyone has a right to their beliefs, including that person. But I still think it's wrong to use your beliefs as justification to discriminate against other people and deny them rights that they should be (and are) entitled to.

Now that I'm moving to College Town, I'll be living just a few hours away from the small Midwestern hometown where I grew up, where this person still lives. It's possible I'll run into them, and I'm willing to bet that they'll try to get me to talk about this. If they do, I'll say this:

"You have a right to your beliefs, and I have a right to mine. For example, my belief is that you're a Trump-supporting, InfoWars believing, Breitbart reading, conspiracy theory spouting, gay bashing, transgender hating BIGOT who's never been discriminated against a day in your life and is so threatened by people who aren't exactly like you that you feel the need to try to control them and put them down for being who they are. But again, that's just my opinion. So, how've you been since high school?"

One of my other high school classmates asked this person what impact transgender soldiers had had on their service in the military when they were on active duty. But HS Classmate didn't respond, perhaps because they didn't have a valid response to it.

The whole thing made me angry, and I unfollowed (but did not unfriend) this person on Facebook. If and when I do see them again and if they argue with me about this issue again, I might "accidentally" spill a hot beverage on them and/or "accidentally" make them trip and fall. But I digress.

What about you? How do you deal with people whose political views differ from your own?"

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Not Gay, Just a Workaholic

Recently, I went to visit my parents for a few days. My mother told me about some guy that she wants to set me up with, who has a white-collar job with a large salary. I suspect that since she couldn't convince me to give up my underpaid teaching jobs in academia, she thinks that I might as well marry someone who's overpaid. I was tempted to tell her that if I cared that much about being rich, I wouldn't have become an English teacher. But I didn't, though I did reject her attempt to set me up with that guy.

Later, she asked me if I was gay. She doesn't like or understand why I'm in my thirties and unmarried, while her friends and relatives' daughters, many of whom are younger than I am, are already married with children or are engaged. I told her, "No, I'm not gay. Just a workaholic."

I will admit that it's been more than a year since I went on a date. I went on a date with someone in Small Town last year (no comment on that one). And towards the end of grad school, I did have what Millennials call a "situationship" with a guy that I met, not on an online dating site, but through casual acquaintances. By "situationship" I mean it was not quite a serious relationship but it was definitely more serious than a friendship.

I didn't blog much about him, although I think I referred to him as He Who Shall Not Be Named. Although we did care about each other, we were very different and ended up disappointing each other again and again. I haven't talked to him since I moved to Small Town, although I'm sometimes curious about how he's doing (but definitely not curious enough to friend him on Facebook or call him on the phone).

In Small Town, most of the men I've met are married or have girlfriends. Not to mention I knew that my time here had an expiration date, and part of me thought that there wasn't much point in trying to start something with anyone around here when I would be leaving sooner rather than later.

My contract at my new school is for one year, but it's renewable, which is pretty typical for untenured jobs. My new employer said that some of the untenured faculty in their department have been there for many years, which gives me hope that I might get to stick around longer this time.

That's why, now that I'm moving to College Town, I've started thinking that maybe I should try dating again. Some of you have suggested Meetup, which I'm interested in trying. I might also try online dating again, despite my previous experiences that weren't so great, like the guy who made up an excuse to leave our date early (and left me with the bill for dinner), or the guy who waited a month to call me after our one date and then insulted me for turning him down for a second date, or the online dating profiles from guys who ranted about being "nice guys" who couldn't get dates from superficial women whose standards were too high (I think that their definition of "nice" and my definition of "nice" are very different, but I digress.)

I kept putting off dating again because of my stressful work schedule and because I wanted to wait until I got back down to a size 8 (unfortunately, I gained weight after moving to Small Town, but I've since lost half the weight that I gained). I also reasoned that in academia, you can't be too picky about where you live; you have to go where the work is. And if you're single and get a good job opportunity halfway across the country like I did, you have the freedom to just pack up and go, without worrying about how it'll affect your significant other or your relationship with that person. But there's always going to be an excuse not to date, and I'm tired of making excuses.

After I move to College Town, get settled, and get used to the daily grind of life at my new school, I'm going to try dating again. I've thought about trying Tinder, since that's the big dating app these days. I thought it was just for hookups (which I'm NOT interested in), but more than one of my friends have met their significant others through Tinder.

What about you? If you are/were single, what are possible reasons you have/had about being reluctant to date again? Have you heard anything about Tinder?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Spiders, Horror Movies, and College Towns.

Last week I literally drove all day from Small Town to College Town, which is several states away. It was less expensive than flying there, not to mention the airport nearest to College Town is hours away. It was my first time driving such a long distance by myself, and of course, I got lost.

I used the GPS on my phone, but took a wrong turn and ended up all the way out in Tiny Town (and at that point I'm still not sure what state I was in). The cell phone reception in that area was almost nonexistent, so I couldn't use my GPS. And like the genius that I am, I did not bring a road map either.

I had to stop at more than one gas station to ask for directions (I was all, "Stopping at a gas station for directions? What is this, the nineties?) before I finally made it back to an area with cell reception. I was very relieved, especially because getting lost in an unfamiliar place is exactly what happens in way too many horror movies, and the umbrella that I keep in my car would be no match against a chainsaw-wielding cannibal.

When I got to College Town, I got a room at a "hotel", and I use the term loosely because it was exactly the kind of hotel that you see in almost every horror movie, complete with screaming in the halls. Fortunately, the screaming wasn't from people being chased by serial killers or ghosts but was more along the lines of, "Dang it! Who drank the last beer?" and "I KNOW you were looking at her! Don't you lie to me!" and "Keep it DOWN! I don't want people calling the cops on us again!" Several of the guests hung out in the parking lot, drinking beer with their shirts off.

I went to College Town so that I could find an apartment. Here's what happened:

Me: Does the landlord pay for an exterminator if there are bugs in the apartment?

Leasing agent #1: Actually, the tenants are responsible for the cost of that if there are bugs. But don't worry, we don't have that problem around here.

Me: Okay, but there is a ginormous spider spinning a web behind you right now.

Me: Do a lot of college students live here? Most of my current neighbors in Small Town are students, and they are the reason that earplugs were invented.

Leasing agent #2: Oh no, this apartment complex is very quiet.

Me: (starts to answer but is distracted by the sound of someone playing the trumpet in the apartment above us.)

Leasing agent #3: And as you can see, we have a lot of nice amenities around here, like a swimming pool for the tenants.

Me: Oh, that's nice. (What I was really thinking: This is the Midwest. The tenants won't be able to use the pool for 80% of the year, and yet they'll have to pay for it 100% of the year.)

I finally did find an apartment that I liked. After I did things like get renter's insurance and set up my electricity in my new place, I drove to the campus of the school where I will be teaching. The last time I set foot on that campus was almost twenty years ago, when I was a seventeen year old high school student looking at colleges. Although I liked the school, I didn't go to that college; I chose another one that offered me a scholarship and a place in their honors program. It was so strange to go back to College Town as a thirty-six-year-old college teacher and see the place now that I was older, wiser, and much more heavily caffeinated.

I also drove around College Town, which is more than twice the size of Small Town. I noticed that the former has more restaurants and stores; it will be nice not to have to drive several hours just to go shopping at someplace other than Walmart.

Now I'm back in Small Town, researching moving companies, packing up my stuff, and getting rid of the stuff that I no longer need or use. I'm leaving for my new town and job in less than a month, and I feel nervous, excited, and a little scared. I hope that I'll like it there, and I hope that I can stay at that job longer than I did at the one I had here.

When I drive back to College Town, I'll be sure to bring a road map. And possibly a chainsaw.

What about you? Have you ever moved to a new place where you never lived before?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

I Got a Job!

Last week I had a Skype interview with a search committee of several professors at a school in College Town, a few hours away from the small Midwestern town where I grew up. When the English Department chair called yesterday and offered me a job, my reaction was basically like this:


It's a better job, too. Although it's not a tenure-track position, it is a full-time one, and it's a higher-ranking position than the one I had before. The pay is better, and the courseload is lighter (which means fewer papers to grades, YES!). The school is also more prestigious and well-known than the one I was teaching at before.

Now I feel like a giant weight has been lifted off of me, especially because these last few weeks I've been feeling like this:


But now that I have a new job, I don't have to work as a part-time adjunct instructor, nor do I have to go back to working in retail. And that's definitely a good thing because I have a lot less patience for rude customers and might say something like, "I SPIT on your credit cards! GET OUT!"

The department chair said that my offer letter would be sent soon. I would never do this, but I kind of want to go to my old department with the letter, wave it in their faces, and be all:


But I still need to use them as references for the future, so nah. What's interesting is that if my contract had been renewed for another year, I would not have applied for this new job in College Town. The other school posted their ad a couple weeks after I found out I wasn't being rehired. So maybe it worked out the way it was supposed to.

It will be strange to go back to the area where I grew up. I haven't been there since I was a teenager. Many of my old high school classmates still live there. They're all married with children, whereas I don't even want to stay faithful to my cable company, and when offered the chance to hold an adorable baby, am more likely to say, "No thanks. I would like to pet your dog, though." Also, I don't really want to see any of them until I lose twenty pounds, become richer and more successful, and am married to a guy who looks like Chris Hemsworth and has Jerry Seinfeld's personality (so basically never).

It will also be sad to leave behind the friends I made in Small Town, especially because I'm not sure when (or if) I'll see them again. I did not have a lot of friends in Chicago; most of my friends from college had moved on to other places, and I was pretty much an outcast in grad school. My friends here welcomed me into their circle, invited me to their houses for parties, and included me in their outings to restaurants and bars. It felt good to have something in my life other than work. I hope it won't be too difficult making new friends in College Town, but I have a feeling it will be.

But I need this job, and more importantly, I want this job. When I took the job at my former employer two years ago, I took it a little reluctantly because I did not want to leave the big city and had been hoping to teach somewhere else. But although there were several other schools who were interested in hiring me, at the time, the job that my former employer was offering seemed like the best option. This time, though, it's different. I am actually looking forward to teaching at this school.

Now I have all kinds of preparations to make: packing, cleaning, etc. And of course, I need to download more music for the long drive to College Town; I still have the musical tastes of a thirteen-year-old school girl who eats too much sugar.

Thank you to all of you who wrote supportive, encouraging comments on my blog. I appreciate it, as always, and I'll blog about the new place once I get there in August.

What about you? Have you ever started a new job that you were excited (or not so excited about)?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Maybe When Hell Freezes Over

I haven't blogged in almost a month because ever since I found out that I was not rehired for the 2017-2018 school year at the school that's employed me for the last two years, I've been frantically applying to all the schools that are still posting job openings. I've applied to about twenty schools in the past few weeks (and I applied to many more schools before that).

And I've been doing fine, really. I mean the fact that other than my part-time website job, I have no job leads and will end up on the street if I don't find a full-time job has me as cool, calm, and collected as this:


My mother keeps calling to ask me if I've found a job yet. She keeps saying stuff like, "Well, you chose to work in that field." (When I was eighteen, I stood up to her for the first time in my life and chose to major in English, rather than choose the major and the career that she wanted. To this day, she still hasn't forgiven me.) She also said that if I can't pay my rent, she and my father can't give me any money (I didn't ask her for money, BTW, and I have no intention of doing so), but I can move back in with them. My reaction to that was basically this:

First of all, there is no way in HELL that I will ever move back in with my parents. I haven't lived with them in eighteen years, and I'd rather move in with Sean Spicer AND Sean Hannity than do that.

One thing's for sure: I have to leave Small Town. My lease ends in the middle of August, so I have to be out of here by then.

I still have hope, though. When I was hired for my most recent teaching job two years ago, they didn't even offer me a job until July. So there's still a little bit of time, but I find myself growing more anxious (and more likely to start climbing the walls) as the days go by.

What didn't help, though, was that two members of the committee that decided not to rehire me at my old job invited me out for lunch about a week after I was rejected. They acted like nothing had happened and mentioned wanting to try a new restaurant that opened in town.

I politely declined, and I resisted the urge to say, "I'm not available now, but maybe when hell freezes over? Or maybe when Trump starts Tweeting things that don't make him sound like a narcissistic freak show? So basically, NEVER."

Maybe they wanted to explain why they voted against me (and I know for a fact that they did). But I'm not interested in listening to their rationalizations. I wasn't really friends with those two members, though they taught in my department and I had lunch with them a couple times to be polite. But now that I am no longer working there, I have zero incentive to be friends with them, and I don't want to take the risk that if I were to have lunch with them, I might "accidentally" hurl something at them. But I digress.

Like I said before, it's complicated to be friends with people at work, especially when those people have authority over your job. And I was never friends with either of them to begin with. But they kept inviting me out to lunch, kind of like the girl who continues to believe that the guy who stopped returning her calls three months ago will eventually marry her. And the trouble is, since this is a small town, there's always the risk that I will run into them, in which case I will have no choice but to do this:


I also can't help feeling angry at them for voting against me. The person they chose instead of me is also someone that I know, and although that person is perfectly nice, they are not better at their job than I am (and I have evidence of this, too). Maybe they had other valid reasons, but still, I can't help feeling that they're either totally naive or arrogant to think that I would still be up for a lunch with them where things did not get thrown.

In the meantime, I'm continuing to apply for jobs, and keeping my fingers crossed. Hopefully I'll find a full-time teaching job soon. And if not, well...

What about you? Have you ever been in a state of uncertainty (and also, in my case, just a little bit of PANIC) over where you were going to end up when it came to your work?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Good at My Job

"You're my favorite teacher. I really enjoyed your class."

"I didn't even like reading before I took your class, but I read another book by that author we studied, and I really liked it."

"I told all my friends to take your class."

"You're not like the other professors. You always seem like you're happy to be here, and you always make time to help us."

At the end of every term, many students approach me to tell me that they like the way I teach. Others say that they signed up for another class with me. Over the past several years, more than ninety-five percent of my student evaluations have been positive.

But I recently had to reapply and interview a second time for the same job I have had for the last two years. I was rejected, which means that it is now May and with the exception of my part-time website job, I have no job leads. The lease on my apartment ends in mid-August, and I only have enough money to get me through the summer. After that, if I don't find a job before the next school year starts, I'm screwed.

My department chair said that there were more than a hundred applicants for the job. He said that they were looking for someone with a different specialization (all Ph.D. candidates choose a specialization that they focus on in their dissertations, and it typically determines what kind of job they get). But the person they chose over me has the same specialization that I have (and less teaching experience, not to mention this person rarely holds office hours, whereas I set aside extra time every week in addition to my regular office hours to meet with students). Not to mention I've been teaching at the college level for more than ten years. I've taught at several colleges, in addition to high school. It may have taken me more than a month to figure out how to turn off my cell phone, and I might not understand half the things that Millennials say (I neither know nor care what "on fleek" means). But when it comes to teaching, I know what I'm doing.

On the one hand, I've been unhappy at this job for a long time. Everything they said I could do or have, they took back. For example, they said I could have my own office. Less than a day later, they said I had to share it with another instructor. They told me I wouldn't have to keep reapplying for my job, but changed that policy less than a year later. They told me that I could teach literature classes, but then changed the job description to just freshman composition. And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how I've been treated.

If I had known that all of this was going to happen, I would not have come here. But I need a job to pay my bills and to cover the health insurance I need for my ongoing treatment. My health is unfortunately not good right now (in fact, it's gotten worse), and my doctors said I need ongoing treatment. That's why I can't just fill out an application at Starbucks or go back to working in retail. Jobs like those won't pay for my treatment.

It makes me angry that I worked so hard for two years and sacrificed the only two things I had left outside of work that mattered to me: a city that I loved and my writing, which I've barely worked on since I came here, only to end up like this. It's disheartening to know that although my students think I'm doing a good job, it's not enough to make my department rehire me. The academic term isn't over yet, and I still have to face my colleagues. It's all I can do not to scream and scream and scream or run to the restroom and cry.

But on the other hand, I thought of how my dissertation committee thought I would never finish my dissertation and how they kept criticizing my work. I kept writing, revising, and doing research, and I finished my dissertation. I earned my PhD and the title of "Doctor".

I thought of all those awful retail jobs I had where customers screamed at me and twenty-two year old managers on power trips bossed me around. I kept working, and I survived.

I've applied to dozens of other schools, although I've been rejected by several of them already. But I still have hope. Two years ago, when I applied for jobs, six schools were interested in hiring me. Five of them did not start contacting me until June of that year. So there's still time.

At the risk of sounding like a Diana Ross song, I will survive this. I didn't let all the other people who tried to drag me down stop me from achieving my goals, and I won't let anyone else do it now.

What about you? Have you ever lost a job? What was that like?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Us vs. Them

Something happened recently that made me think that it might be better not to befriend people that I work with. It also made me wish that I could get away with carrying a light saber to work, but I think that seeing me chase my colleagues across campus with it just might negatively affect my students' opinions of me.

Even though my department originally told me that I could stay in my position for up to three years, maybe even a fourth year, without having to reapply, they recently told me that due to a change in policy, I would have to reapply for my job, which included an interview with a search committee from my department.

When you're untenured like I am, you don't get a lot of say in what happens to you, but it's hard not to feel jealous (and a tad resentful) of tenured professors. They get teaching assistants to grade papers and hold office hours for them, so that the professors can focus on their research. They teach fewer, smaller classes that focus on their specializations. Untenured faculty members like me, on the other hand, end up drinking so much coffee that we end up understanding what squirrels are saying, just so we can stay awake long enough to grade a hundred papers (or more) at a time. We are expected just to squeeze in research whenever we can, and we don't get funding to go to conferences. And in academia, the best way to get ahead is to do (and publish) research.

Whenever the tenured professors shake their heads and say they're sorry about how I've been treated, I always shrug and say, "It's okay! I understand!" But my real reaction is more like this:

When I found out that they were making my class sizes significantly bigger but not paying me more, my secret reaction was like this:

But of course, I can't express how I truly feel to them. As an untenured faculty member, my status here is not secure and I can't say things like, "STOP THE MADNESS!" or "No, I don't want to bring anything to the office potluck because you don't pay me enough to bring anything other than peanut butter sandwiches. And those are all for ME."

In addition to re-applying for my current job, I also applied for a promotion, albeit for an untenured position, but still one with better pay than what I earn now. A friend of mine was on the search committee for that one.

Work Friend had been posting about the job search on Facebook recently, and they mentioned doing interviews for that promotion that I applied for. I was not called in for an interview, so that's how I knew without being told otherwise that I'd been rejected for that job.

I asked Work Friend if they were doing interviews for my current job soon, and I got an e-mail saying that they couldn't talk about it. I understood, yet I resented this person's tone, as if they assumed I was trying to get them to do something unethical. I didn't ask them why I'd been rejected for a promotion, who was being considered for the job, or how I could increase my chances of getting rehired for next year. I knew THAT would be unethical. I also wondered why, if Work Friend claimed they couldn't talk about it, it was okay for that person to post details about it on Facebook to people who weren't in our department and also make jokes about the people who were applying for the job.

I especially resented the jokes because I was one of those people. I think it's easy for tenured professors to forget about how difficult it is to be untenured and how you have to basically grovel and scrounge for work every year. It's easy to forget that not everyone has to move around from school to school every couple years. It's easy not to know what it's like to have to work two (or three) jobs. But that doesn't mean it's okay to be insensitive to what untenured teachers are going through. Not all tenured professors are like this, of course. But at that moment, it kind of felt like Work Friend was.

Although I understand that maybe I hadn't earned a promotion yet, I must admit that the whole situation did change my perspective of Work Friend a little bit. From now on, I'm not going to talk about work with this person at all; that way, I'm less likely to end up chasing them across campus with a light saber. (But if Work Friend makes fun of job applicants like me again, all bets are off.)

What about you? Do you think that making friends with colleagues who are in a position of authority over you is a good idea, or has it ever made things awkward for you?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Old Friends, Googling, and Mug Shots

Recently, I received an e-mail from an old friend from high school. I hadn't seen or spoken to her in person in almost twenty years (God, that makes me want to immediately apply anti-aging cream to my face). We'd exchanged e-mails for a while after graduation, and then we lost touch. She must have Googled my name because she sent the e-mail to my work address (there's a picture and profile of me on my school's website).

The message was brief and didn't really reveal anything about her life. Ordinarily, I would have e-mailed her back. When I joined Facebook, I received (and accepted) multiple friend requests from old high school friends and classmates, including people I barely talked to when we were teenagers. But this time, it was different.

When I didn't respond, she sent another e-mail a couple days later saying that she "wouldn't bother me anymore" but that she viewed me as one of her best friends. She also mentioned a few sad things that had happened in her life, which made me feel like she was trying to make me feel guilty for not responding.

She clearly has a selective memory in regards to our friendship. We were friends, but she spent much less time with me once she met her boyfriend, who came home from college almost every weekend to see her. I was only fifteen at the time, but even I could tell that it was unhealthy to let your life revolve around just one person. Our lives went in opposite directions after high school. While I moved away to attend college, earn my master's degree and PhD, and become a teacher, she married her boyfriend soon after high school and had children.

Why didn't I write back? I won't go into all the details, but let's just say that before I joined Facebook, I did a Google search of her and some other old friends, because I was curious about how they were doing. I found the usual information: their LinkedIn pages, wedding websites, pictures of their children, etc. When I Googled Old Friend's name, I found her mug shots (and that's right, I mean mug shots as in plural), as well as her details about her criminal record.

What I found shocked and scared me. I couldn't believe that the shy person I'd once been friends with would even be capable of committing crimes like that. She's not in prison now, though she did spend a little time in jail.

I wasn't sure about whether or not to respond to her e-mail at first. What was I supposed to say? "Hi, how are you? I mean apart from all the felonies?"

She still lives in the same town where we grew up, and most of the people there have steered clear of her, due to the damage caused by her actions. I suspected that she must be pretty lonely if she's seeking me out after all this time. But that still wasn't enough to motivate me to e-mail her back.

Another friend suggested that I send her one e-mail back and say that I didn't feel comfortable reconnecting, given her circumstances. But I thought that might hurt her feelings even more.

Part of me thinks that I should feel sorry for her, but I feel more pity for the people who she hurt. I feel angry at her for doing those things. She had all these options, and she chose the worst one. I know that I shouldn't judge her, especially since I don't know all the details of her life. But it's hard not to, given the circumstances.

What about you? Have you ever had a friend or acquaintance with a troubled past try to reconnect with you? What did you do, or what would you do?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Liberal in a Town Full of Trump Supporters

Small Town Local #1: I think President Trump has the right idea! I want to shake hands with that man!


Small Town Local #2: If people are poor, it's because they don't work hard enough.


Almost two years ago, I went from living in a big city where drag queens read stories to children in public libraries to a small town where many people think that homosexuality is a "choice". It was definitely a culture shock.

Although I've become fond of several of my students, sometimes listening to some of them is like listening to a panel of Fox News correspondents. Every time I see one of them wearing a Make America Great Again hat or one of the other locals drive around town in a pickup truck with a giant Confederate flag flying from the back, I have to bite my tongue to keep from screaming.

Yes, it's America, and they're entitled to their beliefs. And I have to be very careful not to become one of those professors who use their classrooms as political soapboxes. But it isn't easy to live in a town where a lot of people think that Hillary Clinton should be "locked up," shake their heads over "fake news", and yell racial slurs at minorities from their truck windows.

I'll be the first to admit that not all of the people in Small Town are like this, and fortunately, I haven't heard any of my students say racial slurs (although one of my students, who is from another country, confided in me that other students from other classes ridiculed him and laughed at him because of his accent when he tried to talk to them).

I'll also admit that there are advantages to small town life, such as the fact that I'm far less likely to get body slammed for my wallet or for no reason at all (both of which did happen to me in the city I lived in previously), and people are generally friendlier here.

I'll also admit that I'm not completely liberal, partly due to certain liberals whose behavior is often as intolerant as some of the Trump supporters I've met, like the ones who try to prevent controversial people from speaking at colleges and have even gone so far as verbally (or physically) attacking them when they try to give their speeches.

Many colleges are in small towns like this one, so it is quite likely that I'll spend the rest of my career in a small town. I'd be okay with that, as long as I had more job security, a salary that enabled me to quit my second job and have at least one day off a week, and more classes that I want to teach, rather than the "required" classes that most of the tenured professors do not want to teach. That's not the case at the school where I'm teaching now, which is why I want to leave.

I've applied to almost forty schools, and I'm hopeful that I'll find something, although I've already received a few rejections. There's a strong possibility that I'll still be here next year, although it's not a guarantee.

I'm worried, though. If I don't find something better for next year, then who's to say the situation will be any different next year? I'll still have mostly the same qualifications. I do need to do more academic research, which is hard when I'm working about thirty-five to forty hours a week at my teaching job (due to my full teaching load, large number of students, department/committee meetings, etc.) and twenty hours (and sometimes more) a week at my website job.

It's ironic (and unfair) that in order to advance in my career I have to do more research, but because I'm not in an advanced status yet I don't have time to do that research. Tenured professors, on the other hand, have fewer classes to teach and assistants to grade papers and hold office hours for them. But I digress. Such is academia. I probably should have gone into something less stressful, like taste testing for the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un.

What about you? How do you react when people start praising a politician that makes you want to Google "one-way ticket to Canada" and "cheap flasks"?