Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Moving On

There's this guy at my gym who tries to talk to me every time I go in there. The first time I saw him, he smiled and said hello, and I said hi to be polite. The second time, he called me "little lady" (apparently, he got his pickup lines from Western movies that were made in the 1950s) and said, "Hi, I've seen you around here a lot." I merely said, "Yeah," and walked away.

It was rude of me to do that, but I just wasn't interested. I must admit that one reason is because he looks like he's about three hundred pounds. I wish I could say that looks don't matter, but physical attraction is important, though of course, it's not the most important thing. I think it's good that he's working out and trying to lose weight, though.

You'd think that would have ended it, but he still tries to talk to me a lot. The last time, he literally stepped in front of the stationary bike I was on and waved at me, even though I had my headphones on. I didn't smile or say anything, and he walked off.

That's why I no longer work out at night and started getting up earlier to work out at the gym in the morning instead. And that's where, one morning a couple weeks ago, I saw the Model.

I didn't know he worked out there, but I recognized him from far away. I'd had fantasies of seeing him again, though preferably when I was fashionably dressed, at least twenty pounds thinner and hand in hand with Ryan Gosling's long-lost twin, not when I was in sweaty gym clothes and with my hair pulled back in a ponytail.

I debated going up to him. I knew I would regret it if I didn't, so I finally mustered up the courage to do so at the end of my workout. We talked for a few minutes. I told him that I had cancelled my Tinder membership, and I asked if he was still on it. I must admit that I was curious to find out if he was dating someone else. "Not really," he said. "I've been working all the time, so I've been really busy."

I wanted to say that I still wanted to be with him and that I still thought about him a lot. I wanted to ask why he'd ghosted me ("ghosting" is apparently a way that a lot of Millennials break up with each other, where they don't even have "the talk" but just stop responding to messages). I wanted to say that I'd felt nothing but numb for so long and that he was the first man I'd felt anything real for in a long time, and it broke my heart that he no longer wanted to be with me.

But I didn't. I remembered how a couple months ago, I'd texted him on two separate days about seeing him again, and how he didn't answer either time. It was painful enough to be rejected like that over the phone, and it would be even worse to be rejected in person.

I also thought of the guy at the gym whose persistent advances made me change my exercise routine; I didn't want to be like him. He reminded me of this woman who comments on almost every single one of the Model's posts on Instagram (I know I shouldn't look at his posts, but I still do, sometimes). She leaves long, personal comments that reveal details about her life, her admiration for his muscular physique, and pleas for him to DM (direct message) her. She must have begged him to chat with her online at least half a dozen times, and he obviously never has or she wouldn't keep asking. He usually doesn't respond to her at all or merely says "thank you" to her compliments. I didn't want to be like her either. I didn't want to become the person who can't or won't take a hint..

Finally, he smiled and said, "It's good to see you," and he hugged me. I hugged him back and walked away, even though I would have been happy to keep talking to him that day, and every day.

In my previous fantasy of seeing him again, I'd harbored the hope that it would rekindle his feelings for me. It didn't. I haven't talked to him much since then, except to say hi in passing at the gym.

I don't know why it's been so hard to get over him, especially since we didn't date for that long. There's also the fact that I knew in my heart that I wanted more than what he was willing to give. I've had unrequited crushes before and I was able to come to terms with them and move on, but this is different. I suspect that this will take longer. I think it's partly because I slept with the Model, whereas I wasn't intimate with my other unrequited crushes.

I tried dating other guys, and at least half of the guys I've dated in the last three months wanted to keep dating me. Several other guys I talked to on Bumble and Tinder were interested in meeting me too. But I rejected all of them for various reasons, and one major reason was that I wasn't over the Model. I didn't feel that it was fair to form a relationship with someone while I was still thinking about someone else.

That's also one of the reasons why I've decided to take a break from dating, so that I can focus on work and so that I won't keep watching videos like this one (though I do like the song):

I know I need to move on with my life, but it's hard to do that when the person you're trying to forget is all over the Internet (he's become even more popular on Instagram, accumulating thousands of followers in just the past month), who also lives in the same town as you, and who goes to your gym. But on the other hand, I know that if and when he leaves town someday, it would make me feel even worse because then I would never see him again.

Side note: I can't afford to switch to a new gym. I can't change my workout routine again because the only other time is the afternoon, which is when I'm teaching or have office hours. And I don't want to go back to exercising at night and run the risk of running into the Guy Who Won't Take a Hint again, at least not until I've learned karate.

What about you? Has it ever taken you a long time to get over someone? What kinds of things did you do to get over that person?

Monday, January 22, 2018

Fifty Shades of Awkward

Recently, I went out with another guy I met on Bumble, who I'll refer to as the Nice Guy. I was on the fence about messaging him because although he was attractive, I wasn't really attracted to him. But unlike most of the other guys I've seen on Bumble, he doesn't live an hour (or two) away; he lives in College Town. In fact, he works at the same college where I teach, though he is not a member of the faculty. He was my age, and he seemed nice enough.

He suggested we meet for lunch at the school cafeteria. I'm not saying that the guy has to bring me to a fancy restaurant, but eating cafeteria food in the company of undergraduates, including some of my own students, is not my ideal first date. But I didn't want to be a diva about it, so I said yes.

We had the usual first date conversation: where did you grow up, how do you like your job, and yes, I would rather move in next door to the Kardashians and Dog the Bounty Hunter than live next door to undergrads again. But to be honest, I didn't feel any chemistry with him.

Nice Guy apparently felt differently because just a few hours later, he texted me to ask if I wanted to watch some stand up comedians perform the following night at a bar in town. I thought that although I didn't feel a spark with him on the first date, maybe I would feel something on the second date. First dates are often awkward, after all, because both people are nervous and still getting to know each other. Maybe I should give this guy a second chance.

When I arrived at the bar, I couldn't find parking, so I had to keep circling the area to find a spot, until I found one that was several blocks away. It irritated me that not only did I have to spend money that I couldn't afford on a ticket to watch comedians I'd never heard of, I also had to spend money on parking and trudge through the snow and ice (I got lost on the way back to the bar) to get there.

I'm ashamed to admit that I was irritable when I talked with him, partly because I was frustrated about the parking situation, and partly because I didn't really want to be there.

I was also irritable when I said that I didn't like the seats the host put us in (there was assigned seating); we were seated at a table right in front of the stage. Nice Guy said it was fine and that he liked sitting up front. But I knew, based on my experiences watching comedy in Chicago, that if you sit near the front, you will definitely get made fun of by the performer at some point during the evening.

I apologized for being irritable with him and said that I was stressed out over an academic piece that I'm writing and revising that is going to be published soon, which is true. He was nice about it, but I could tell that my mood put a damper on the evening. So I stopped being moody and we went back to talking about random things until the comedians started performing. Our conversation improved after that.

I'd like to say that the comedians were hilarious and put me in a better mood. I'd also like to say that I didn't eat M&Ms for breakfast. But then I'd just be lying.

Although Nice Guy and many of the other people in the audience enjoyed the show, I didn't laugh once. I felt bad about sitting there stone-faced right in front of the comedians because I know it isn't easy getting up there on stage and trying to make a room full of people laugh. But I don't see how a joke like "I don't want to have kids. That's crazy!" or "I hate marathon runners. They piss me off!" is funny.

I was right about sitting near the front, too. One of the comedians asked Nice Guy and me if we were on a first or second date. When we admitted we were, the Unfunny Comic (listening to him speak made visions of sheep jumping over fences dance through my head because I was this close to falling asleep during his act) made fun of me and started joking about sex acts I should perform on Nice Guy later.

I wanted to jump up on stage and slap him in the face with his microphone. I wanted to yell, "And when's the last time YOU got laid, LOSER? What's the matter, did your inflatable doll break up with you?" But I didn't. I said nothing and didn't even smile, while Nice Guy and the others laughed and laughed at Unfunny Comic's sex jokes about me. I felt humiliated and angry, and to this day I wish I had made it clear that although that jerk was a "comedian", he had no right to degrade a woman like that.

It made me think of that episode from Sex and the City where Miranda has an awkward date with a guy at a comedy club because the stand up comic makes fun of them, too. I remember thinking, "Oh my God, my life has become an episode of Sex and the City, minus the sex." When I first watched the show, I was in my early twenties and couldn't understand why the women on that show were so cynical about men, dating, and marriage. But now that I'm in my mid-thirties, I understand.

After the show, Nice Guy suggested we go out again. I was noncommittal and said that I was going to be really busy.

The next day, I felt guilty about how I acted and texted him to apologize. I shouldn't have acted like that, and I was (and still am) ashamed of myself. He was a nice guy who just wanted to get to know me and have fun, and I shouldn't have treated him like that. I told him it wasn't his fault and that I was going through a lot right now, and that I planned to take a break from dating. He was kind about it, and he told me to let him know if I ever changed my mind.

I've gone out with three guys from Tinder and three guys from Bumble in the past three months, and I think it is time to take a break from dating. No more conversations with guys who disappear in the middle of our conversations or who swipe right on my profile but don't respond to my messages. No more profiles that say stuff like, "I'm married but bored" or "I'm a better-looking Christian Grey looking for my Anastasia" (I should add that the guy didn't look so much like Christian Grey but more like the dad on Family Guy). No more profile pictures of guys posing proudly with animals that they hunted and killed, with the bloody bullet holes still in the animals' bodies (insert sad Sarah McLachlan song here). No more awkward first dates, boring small talk, or unrequited crushes. No more. At least for now.

I'd like to take a break from dating and focus on teaching, writing, research, working out, and learning new recipes.

What about you? Have you ever been publicly humiliated on a date, or have you ever behaved badly on a date?

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Polyamorous Guy, or Why I Got Dumped for Being Too Neurotic

Recently, I went on a date with a polyamorous guy, who I'll refer to as the Bearded Hipster. I knew that he wasn't monogamous because he mentioned that he and his girlfriend were in an open relationship in his profile. I'd never dated a polyamorous guy before, and I had my reservations. What if I ended up really liking him? I might end up getting hurt, especially because he already had a girlfriend, and I definitely did not want to become his "other" girlfriend.

But on the other hand, after communicating with (and dating) too many guys who wanted to rush into a relationship before I was ready, this guy seemed like a good option for me, at least for now, because there was the possibility of romance and companionship with this guy without a commitment.

We went out for drinks, and we spent a long time talking at the bar. Then we went for a walk in a nearby park. I felt nervous because there was no one else at the park, and it was getting late. This guy didn't scare me, but after all those years in Chicago, I still had that sense of hyper-awareness, which is why I kept a tight grip on my pepper spray in my pocket.

We were standing there, talking in the park, when all of a sudden Bearded Hipster looked down at me, put his arm around my waist, pulled me towards him, and started kissing me. The kiss was basically 50% tongue and 50% his beard. He thought I kept pulling away because I didn't like him, but I was partly pulling away because his facial hair kept getting in my mouth. There's no discreet way to spit out someone else's facial hair, you know? I seriously don't know how those women who are married to those Duck Dynasty Guys kiss their husbands, though at least the Bearded Hipster's beard wasn't as long as theirs was.

While he was kissing me, I thought, I hope he can't smell the onion dip on my breath that I had at lunch today, though I did brush my teeth, floss, and gargle with Listerine afterwards. Wait, why am I thinking about onion dip right now? FOCUS!

The other reason I kept pulling away was because I felt uncomfortable. On most of the other first dates I've had, the guys usually either hugged me goodbye or gave me a good night kiss. Those dates didn't end with a full-on make out session like this one did.

I really was attracted to him, and I wanted to kiss him. I liked kissing him and being in his arms. But I felt overwhelmed, like it was too much too soon.

I'm not naive. I knew he wasn't looking for a long-term relationship, especially since he already had a girlfriend. I knew that he was basically just looking for someone to hook up with, and I must admit that I wanted a casual hookup too (it was my misguided attempt to get over the Model, who I still have feelings for). But I couldn't get myself to relax, and he could tell. He even said that I seemed tense while we were having drinks, which surprised me, because I'd actually been pretty relaxed when we were just talking.

As he walked me to my car, I tried to explain to him that it wasn't his fault, and that I really did like him. But I made the mistake of mentioning the Model (rule number one: NEVER mention someone you used to date while on a first date with someone else) and how I had anxiety about being intimate with someone else. I said I wanted to be with him but that I wanted to slow things down a little. He kissed me good night and said to let him know if I wanted to go out again.

The next day, I texted him, but he didn't answer. Several hours later, I texted him again, and this time he responded. He said that my anxiety was too much for him to deal with, especially since he just wanted to have fun. I've never been rejected by a guy for being too neurotic before, but I guess there's a first time for everything. It did not feel good. It made me feel like there was something wrong with me, like I was a freak. I wished I had let myself just relax and enjoy kissing him, especially because I really did want to kiss him.

It also made me think of the Model and how different he had been from Bearded Hipster. He was well aware of my anxiety, and unlike Bearded Hipster, he didn't judge me for it. He specifically asked me what I was and wasn't comfortable with, and he didn't try to rush me into anything that I didn't want to do.

I know that I am overly sensitive, too uptight, and too neurotic. It's something that I've been trying to work on because I know that if and when another guy tries to kiss me, I don't want to pull away or turn him off, especially if I really do like him and want to kiss him back. But I also know that I'll never be able to completely shed the neurotic part of my personality because it's part of who I am. I need to find someone who accepts me for who I am and doesn't judge me or make me feel bad about it, but after too many dates with the wrong guys, I'm doubtful that there is someone like that out there for me.

It's dates like that one that make me want to swear off dating altogether, or at least cancel my Bumble membership. It doesn't help that just recently some guy sent me a message on Bumble that merely said: "Three-way." It also included a picture of himself and his male friend with their shirts off. Guys like him are the reason the "block" button was invented.

What about you? Has anyone ever judged you for something that was central to your personality or your life?

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Starting from Scratch and Writing My Own Story

My favorite TV movie is called My Sexiest Mistake, and it stars Sabrina Lloyd as a romance novelist who is suffering from writer's block. It's hinted throughout the movie (and she doesn't realize it until the end) that the reason she's struggling to finish her latest romance novel is because she doesn't really want to write it; she wants to write her own story. When she finally does, the words flow out of her, and she finishes her book.

I was watching the movie again recently (it's no longer being shown on TV, but fortunately, I taped it) and it was something that I could relate to because I finished writing the manuscripts for two chick lit novels months ago. There were several good scenes in both stories that I am proud of, and I am fond of the characters that I created. But it took me years to finish both stories, and even after all this time I am reluctant to send them out because there is something about both stories that doesn't ring true for me. I finally realized why.

I realized that although I enjoy writing fiction, what I enjoy most of all is writing creative nonfiction. When I go to bookstores, the authors I am drawn to most are the creative nonfiction writers: authors like David Sedaris, Dave Barry, Mindy Kaling, Jen Lancaster, and so on. I especially like the ones who write funny stories about their own lives, and sometimes, as Ruth Reichl put it, they "embroider" the truth in order to make their narratives flow more easily. I've always admired (and occasionally studied) the ways they can make something as mundane as a trip to the grocery store or taking their dog for a walk sound hilarious and interesting. It's something I've always tried to do in my own writing: make the ordinary sound extraordinary, by making it funny.

Last year, I took a one-day writing workshop at The Porch, which is a writer's collective in Nashville. One of the writing prompts that the teacher gave us was to write about "home". I'd been living in Small Town for a year and a half at that point, but I was still homesick for Chicago, the city I'd lived in and loved for more than a decade, even though it's also the city where a guy picked his nose and wiped his hand on my coat when we were both on the El. So in that class, I started writing down bits and pieces of what I remembered

After the class, I put away what I'd written and tried working on my novels again. But it wasn't until recently that I pulled out those pages I'd written about Chicago. The words started flowing again, and I wrote more and more.

I wrote about how one way to distinguish the tourists from the locals in Chicago is that the tourists often pause and remark about how loud the El is as it rumbles on the tracks above them, whereas the locals don't even look up, because the sound is a natural part of their urban soundtrack.

I wrote about how isolated I felt in graduate school because it was like junior high all over again: cliques that I couldn't join or fit in with and parties that I wasn't invited to.

I wrote about how it took me almost a year to realize that my best friend of more than a decade no longer wanted to be my friend. They kept saying that they were too busy to hang out, until I finally stopped asking. I wrote about how crushed and sad I felt, but eventually I understood the reason for this former friend's withdrawal from my life: we had outgrown each other, and there were things that we both did that bothered each other. I couldn't forgive that friend for what they did, especially since they never apologized or acknowledged how hurtful their actions were, but I understood why they did it.

I wrote about how I never stopped marveling at how beautiful the city was, and how I would go for bike rides by the lake, walk around the Loop, or visit a neighborhood like Chinatown and Greektown and eat the food while listening to the different languages being spoken around me.

One common theme that connected a lot of these memories of Chicago was the loneliness I felt for years, and how I sensed that it was a feeling that many Chicagoans felt, despite the millions of people around them. That theme helped me pull those sketches together into a story that flowed more naturally.

I found a literary magazine (I think it's called Creative Nonfiction) that is hosting a contest where the theme is "Home", and the deadline isn't until May. I'm planning to revise my Chicago story and submit it to the contest. It probably won't get picked, but I figure it's worth a shot.

I've also been writing about the dates I went on with guys from online dating sites, and that turned into a separate story that I realized I also wanted to write: a memoir about my experiences as a member of seven different dating sites (not at the same time, of course), as well as my attempts to meet guys through a church group, a speed dating party (in hell, you have to go to a speed dating party every night), and other social events. I started writing about how if you look back on my dating record, what you'll find are a series of bad dates, failed relationships, and unrequited crushes on guys who just weren't that into me. I wrote about how I wondered if the problem wasn't the guys but me: that maybe I was incompatible with everyone, and how each unsuccessful date made me feel more and more alone.

I've sent out stories to literary magazines before, and one thing I've learned is that they consider blog posts as "previously published" material, which is why they refuse to consider them for publication. It doesn't really seem fair, especially since I'm lucky if I get more than a few dozen hits on my blog every week.

But I don't think there's a rule about using those same blog posts for a book. After all, that's what Karyn Bosnak did when she wrote a book about being in debt, and that's how Jen Lancaster started out as a writer after she lost her job and started blogging about unemployment. It made me think that maybe I could go through my old blog posts, pick out and revise the ones I like best, and turn them into a memoir or a book of essays and title it (wait for it) Obsessions of a Workaholic.

I'm not going to throw away those novels I wrote, but for now, I'd like to focus on writing and sending out creative nonfiction. It's made my writer's block a lot easier to deal with. I also figure that since this is a new year, it's a good opportunity for me to get a fresh start on writing my own stories.

What about you? Have you ever shelved (or thrown out altogether) a story that you'd worked on for a long time? Which genre do you prefer to write in?