The Science of Single

Pour mes petits choux …

February 14, 2010 · Leave a Comment

… and here’s where you can.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

xo, ss

p.s. Matt Damon sings it best.

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Alone? Or Settle?

February 13, 2010 · 5 Comments

One day, I will give this up for someone. But not just anyone.

On the eve of Valentine’s Day, I’d like to address a particularly important issue to me: Is it better to be alone and get to sleep in the middle of the bed? Or settle and scooch to one side of the mattress (along with other great compromises) just for a relationship? My answer is always I’d rather be alone than with someone who’s not right for me. That’s the loneliest feeling of all.

And while I fervently attempt to keep this notion top of my mind and stay in the moment (I am exactly where I should be), I do worry about the future and whether I will meet someone who is not necessarily perfect, but hopefully perfect for me. (Or maybe I have met him, but I don’t recognize him yet, as my wise friend Nancy once observed. She’s a smart one.) There has to be a middle ground between being Mrs. Settle and being Mrs. Cat Lady.

I’ve been thinking more about this ever since I heard about Lori Gottlieb’s new book, Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough. It was born from her 2008 article in The Atlantic Monthly called Marry Him! Her thought is basically women who are in their 30s should stop looking for Mr. Perfect and settle.

Well.

When I read the article, it burned me up. And then that book (that I truthfully haven’t read)—the book that would further infest the minds of even more single women with this idea that Mr. Good Enough truly is enough…my thoughts percolated into a rank and acrid: Really?

I was so incensed I started a blog post last week called “An Open Letter to Lori Gottlieb.” And let me tell you, I let her have it. But not before Bella DePaulo who had already had laid into her as well as Liesl Schillinger.

But then I saw Lori on The Today Show and realized that all she’s saying is that women should ditch their superficial checklist for Mr. Perfect and focus on the important things that create a good relationship.

Because, let’s face it, there are legions of lone women and men who have built their expectation on an impossible ideal. They think they get the perfect man (or the perfect women) with the perfect hair and the perfect laugh who everyone loves and who shares all the household duties and spoons you when you’re premenstrual and doesn’t forget birthdays and de-ices the car and pumps the gas and pays the bills and does all the shit you don’t want to and you still have this amazing sex life. He completes you, and life is perfect.

This person—this Mr./Ms. Perfect—does not exist. At least not in this totality.

And so my ranting “Open Letter to Lori Gottlieb” was quite useless because she and I agreed (for the most part) on this one crucial issue.

However, I do believe there’s a Mr. Just Right who sits squarely and decisively between Mr. Perfect and Mr. Good Enough. Yes, it’s a case of semantics. But there’s a danger in using the terms “downgrade” and “settle,” as Lori does. They carry the burden of negative connotation. They are a shoulder shrug, a future eye roll, an “aw shucks” kick in the sand. They’re a Debby Downer trombone. And while love, dating and marriage (I’ve heard) can be difficult to negotiate at times, these are not the concepts I want to ascribe to a lifelong relationship at the outset. And actually, once you strive for the essentials that create a good relationship (shared values, physical, intellectual and emotional attraction as opposed to your favorite hair color and height), it isn’t settling at all.

And is absolutely worth giving up the middle of the bed for.

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The Snow Swoon

February 10, 2010 · 2 Comments

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Unraveling Mixed Signals: Just ask.

February 7, 2010 · 2 Comments

This is great, but where is it going?

Dear ss:

I have a question about the difference between a “hangout” and a “date.”  I have a guy friend who does several date-ish things. He calls me every night just to talk, when we go out he almost always pays, and when we do hang out it, it is always one on one (even though we have many mutual friends). This has been going on for months now, and I’m not sure how to take it. We are both adults, but the only “move” he has made physically is hugs and we have cuddled a couple of times.

While I love having guy friends, it sometimes becomes confusing as to what constitutes a date, and what is just two friends of the opposite sex hanging out together. It is hard to tell sometimes if he is just a very good friend or a guy who likes to take it slow. I have several friends with the same question about what makes a date a date. Are there any steadfast rules?

Love,
Mixed Signals

Dear Mixed Signals,

You are so right. You are getting some serious mixed signals!

To answer your question, MS, some people would say there are steadfast rules that qualify a date. I think it’s subjective. For me, I qualify a date being a situation where I am spending time with a man with whom I am interested in forming a romantic and physically intimate relationship. There is generally some attraction there, whether it’s physical, emotional or intellectual, and we generally do something outside of our respective houses, and that something is probably drinks and maybe dinner.

Some people will say that something will become a date once he or she becomes interested. I think this is a load of crap. I think a date is a date whether you end up liking the person, hating the person, fucking the person or spooning the person. As for the difference between a “hang out” and a “date,” there is none. It’s semantics. The guys I know who use “hang out” when describing a situation that is very much a date are the most non-committal guys I know. They can’t even commit to the freaking concept of a date. It’s ridiculous.

You and your friend are doing date-like activities with no commitment and worse, no kissing. It’s exactly what you think it is, and as simple (and complicated) as that. He pays, you cuddle sometimes, but nothing more. I had a friendship like this once. We did this exact old-married-couple routine for four months, though it sounds like my situation might have involved more sleep overs. Only spooning though. Even when I was laying in his bed in my bra and underwear—only spooning. I tried SO HARD to bridge the gap, to get the third piece of the relationship puzzle (physical intimacy) in place. But I never actually said anything to him about wanting more. I just lay there…waiting. In vain. It was desperate and not my finest moment.

And then one night, after drinking way too much, he invited me up to his apartment and, instead of me going along with it as I always did, I said no. And he asked why. And I said because I felt weird because where was this going? So he invited me up to talk about it. And we had a drunken conversation about where we stood, came to no conclusion (I wanted more/he wasn’t sure), had sex and didn’t talk for eight months because the next morning and then for a week later he handled it really, really badly. And it hurt my feelings. And I needed to break up with him even though we weren’t dating, exactly.

We finally had a very honest conversation about the topic of he and I. He admitted he didn’t know why he couldn’t commit to anything more than friends with me. And that was it. I was done with his ambivalence and the half-baked relationship he was offering and we are now just friends. We get pizza from time to time. He pays. Then I pay. We talk about his girlfriend, I talk about my cat and we hug goodbye. And it’s fine. Not awesome. Not bad, but perfectly fine.

So where does this leave you MS? Well, first, I’m going to refrain from analyzing what’s up with your friend because I don’t know him or his situation, though I do know at least two men who would say he’s either gay or a pantywaist, and definitely not worth your time because you deserve more–if you want it. But for you:

1. Decide what you want. If you want your relationship to change, and whether you want more (or less) from him. Or do you even need to draw the boundary? Sometimes it’s okay to have cuddle friends as long as you are exploring other possible relationships. Though I’m assuming you’re asking this because you do want more.

2. If you want more from him, you’re definitely going to have to talk to him. I mean, you could just go in for the kiss and see what happens. But then you just might end up having sex and still have no idea what your relationship is. So again, tell him you are sensing mixed signals and that your relationship feels like more than friends sometimes and you’re wondering how he’s feeling about it. (This is also where you have to give something of yourself and tell him how you feel. That you want more.) If he can’t answer you the way my friend couldn’t answer me, well, that’s kinda your answer. He’s unsure, ambivalent and probably not worth the time you are investing in him. Or maybe he’s just really uncertain and needs a signal from you…a hint that it’s a sure thing. Guys are just as scared to make the first move as girls are, and while it may seem ridiculously obvious to you that you’re interested, he might not be tuned into your cues.

3. If you just want to be friends, then do that. I’m not sure if you need to have a conversation about it. I wonder if you can just act out the kind of friendship you want from him: If he pays once, you pay the next time. Stop cuddling. Don’t invest every night talking to him because when you do that, you suck away the time you could be talking to someone who wants to have a complete relationship with you. If you feel like your shift in how you relate to him requires a mention, then tell him how you feel. Tell him you like spending time with him, but you feel like the signals are mixed and it’s confusing to you. If he’s a true friend, he will understand. If he’s a jerk about it, then I don’t want you being friends with him anymore.

Another thing that may or may not be related:

The beauty of men is their ability to live in the present and enjoy things for what they are without analysis. This is also the most frustrating thing about men only because women are wired to want to know where things are going. (Damn biological clock.) I’ve had guys tell me they can go for months operating in the gray area of non-committal relationships and only when the woman finally brings up the “what are we doing?” question is when they finally decide to shit or get off the pot.

In my opinion, it’s better to know now than to wait around wondering. And if it doesn’t work out the way you want it to, at least you will be open to the possibility of something more with someone else who might be into dating, cuddling and kissing. Which is so cool.

Good luck and let me know what happens!

xo, ss

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The Afternoon Swoon: I love you

February 5, 2010 · Leave a Comment

Because we all need to hear it. And I totally dig readers who stop by!

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