Monthly Archives: December 2010

New Year’s Resolution? (JK)

But what about the French cuffs and crinoline?

This made me spit my muesli out this morning (laughing):

“The secret to longevity is never getting married.”

—According to Angela Something or Other who turned 100 years old today, as announced on Willard Scott’s Smucker’s Today Show Birthday Celebration.

Some links on not getting married:

Why We’re Not Getting Married

Seeking Happily Ever After

You’d be a cat lady, too…

bart the cat

Bart, before he was famous.

Bart, my cat, is mentioned 10 times in The Science of Single. He’s usually laying on his back licking his balls while I fret/cry/winewhine over every aspect of my overanalyzed romantic life. He’s been a good buddy to me for a long time now (despite his tendency to be a complete and utter pill between 3 and 5 am), and while he, by no means, replaces my desire for a meaningful relationship with a human being, he’s definitely a better dinner companion than some dates I’ve been out with, and I think has played an important role in reducing the chances of me settling for not-quite-right.

Teaser Time: The Science of Single

Still not sure if you want to read my new book The Science of Single yet? Let me help ya! An excerpt from the intro with a painting by Dana Ellyn, which illustrates this passage. You’ll be able to see all of her paintings inspired by my book in January at Tryst in Adams Morgan (that’s DC). Her opening event is Jan. 6. I’ll be there for a book event on Jan. 20. Both 7-9pm.

***

"Afloat" By Dana Ellyn

"Afloat" By Dana Ellyn

Intro: The Science of Single

I can trace the origins of this book back to one night—the night I went on a date with Mark, a man I’d met online. There were omens that could have predicted that the evening, with a razor-sharp breeze in the dead of January, would end the way it did.

Omen #1: Mark was shirtless in one of his profile pictures. He had a hunky chest, but the fact that he needed to show it to the world right off the bat smacked of overcompensation.

Omen #2: On the way to our rendezvous point, I ran into a guy I’d broken up with in a heated email exchange a few months before. Actually, I saw the ex-whatever-he-was (what’s the name for the emotionally unavailable guy you date for a few months but can never quite call your boyfriend?) coming toward me, pulled my wool cap low over my eyes, nipped my chin with the zipper on my puffer jacket, and feigned preoccupation with my cell phone so I wouldn’t have to face him as he walked by not five feet away.

Omen #3: I was damaged goods. I forged into the bitter unknown and away from the harmony of my life, which includes a persistent orange cat called Bart and a studio apartment where I can survey my entire domain from every single corner and there are never any surprises. I was getting myself back out there after having my hopes of love and commitment shredded a few weeks before by yet another Ex-Whatever. He lived thousands of miles away, but had still managed to sequester a large percentage of my heart in the years we’d been friends. After four years of intermittent phone calls, somehow, I got the idea that maybe it would work out between us. I was almost relying on it, perhaps because even though there were just phone calls, he was the most consistent man in my life.

My first and last visit, which included a wretched night spent in hostel bunk beds, solidified the fact that that it actually wasn’t going to work out. You have to wonder about someone who’s willing to haphazardly toss her love and commitment eggs into one basket 3,000 miles away, like I did. I was a clueless romantic, and after this experience, I toughened up and decided I would only date men in my area code.

That’s where Mark came in. Despite the omens, it should have been a perfect date. We met at L’Enfant, a small and dark café at the far end of Adams Morgan, the Washington, D.C., neighborhood where I live. It has exposed brick and the type of lighting that makes everyone’s complexion glow, and it’s a safe haven away from the short nightlife strip that’s an odd conglomeration of hookah lounges, sports bars, and coffee shops.

Maybe it was first-date jitters, but Mark was a tough customer. Like a circus lackey, I jumped through hoops trying to get him to show a little teeth, or even curl up the corners of his mouth into a mere hint of a smile. And for two hours, I watched Mark’s face vacillate between a sour-grapes grimace and a deer-in-headlights freeze. I worked through two drinks, a salad, and a bowl of soup, and by the end of it, he made it painfully clear that he did not like me or my sideshow. He expressed this without uttering a single word. Instead, he ceremoniously opened the bill and set it between us so we both could see—and pay. I’ve found that not picking up the tab is a universal sign men use to express that there won’t be a second date, though I was pretty sure Mark’s email said, “Can I buy you a drink?” So I let him struggle over the math of who owed what, we each paid for exactly what we consumed, and left.

That bit at the café was the cakewalk, and it was the next ten minutes trudging home together that tested the boundaries of excruciating pain. Trying to get Mark to pull his conversational weight was like yanking wisdom teeth without an ounce of Novocain. By the time we reached my street corner, I’d expended all of my energy and felt as deflated as a four-day-old Mylar balloon. I’d tried with this man, and I’d failed. But people are people, and we’re all trying to get by in this cold, harsh world, so I stopped to shake hands, hug, and offer a proper good-bye. Mark didn’t stop. He picked up his pace into a trot, barely turning his head as his “Nice to meet you” was diced apart by the shards of ice blowing in the winter wind. I’d been dealing with mostly passive rejection up until then, so this was a sharp, stinging slap across my already frostbitten cheek.

Men were now, quite literally, running away from me. I walked myself to my own door, plopped down on my floor model Ikea couch, and downed half a bottle of three-dollar merlot while Bart head butted my cheek with his wet nose. Frustration, confusion, and anger that needed avenging coursed through my veins. They funneled up to my heart, and by the time the emotions reached my brain, they had mixed themselves into a productive email to an editor pitching a story about dating that turned into an article reviewing dating self-help books that turned into an idea to write a book about dating. Not a dating-advice book, though. An investigation—an experiment—to see what happens when you use all the resources you possibly can to meet and date the opposite sex.

peace love joy

tree

Merry Christmas!

 

Please. Do not settle.

teenage bridesDear ss,

What is your impression of Lori Gottlieb’s controversial book, Marry Him? As a 49-year-old divorced male with no children who became single again one year ago, I found it extremely captivating. I have been somewhat shy about dating after being married for 18 years and sought her book out for insights before plunging back into the volatile dating world.

In some ways, her conclusions are a bit discouraging for me. Lori asserts that many American women, especially women in the 20s and 30s, are impossibly picky and are focused on finding a perfect 10 to marry (regardless of their own status as a 6, 7 or 8). This often leads to the tragic and unwanted outcome of either an extended sojourn into singlehood or a fruitless relationship with a superficially appealing guy who is exciting/glamorous on the surface (with plenty of physical/emotional chemistry), but who is also incompatible with the woman’s life goals or values and/or lacks the traits that make for a good husband and a good father. As a Jimmy Stewart-type guy who would not pass the Superman test, I’m not sure what to do with her conclusions.

Finding an intelligent, active, kind, respectful, responsible, and open-minded woman who is grounded in things beyond tall, dark, and handsome, would be a gold-mine for me, but apparently I think differently than my contemporaries from both genders. I would greatly appreciate your insights on Lori’s book and any advice you may have.

Jimmy Stewart in Arlington

Dear Jimmy Stewart,

I call complete and utter bullshit on the idea that anyone should settle for Good Enough. BULL. SHIT. (I’m feeling less diplomatic than the first time I blogged about Lori’s book that I still haven’t read.) However, I do somewhat agree with her assertion that many women adhere to a superficial checklist of an impossible ideal. I think men do that, too. I do not think chucking it all in and settling for any old schlub (or schlubette) who can split a mortgage and child-rearing duties is the answer.

Let’s be clear: Lori’s asserting that if an aging woman wants a family, then she should settle. From her article in The Atlantic Monthly: “Because if you want to have the infrastructure in place to have a family, settling is the way to go.” Her premise for this whole idea of settling came out of her own experience as a single mother, having decided to go to a sperm donor to have a kid because she hadn’t met Mr. Right.

“… while settling seems like an enormous act of resignation when you’re looking at it from the vantage point of a single person, once you take the plunge and do it, you’ll probably be relatively content… Marriage isn’t a passion-fest; it’s more like a partnership formed to run a very small, mundane, and often boring nonprofit business.”

Personally, I don’t want to be relatively content. I want to be absolutely content with all of my decisions. Do I need a perfect human specimen to feel this way? No. No, I don’t. Also, my friend Cathy brought up a very good point, and I’ll paraphrase her here: “If you’re looking for a relationship about business, you better be prepared to find the business elsewhere.”

So instead of advising that people should settle, how about the idea of people revising their checklist of priorities for a mate? Decide what’s truly important: Someone who is stable and caring and listens and wants to share their life with you in the way that you would like to share it and smells good and gives good hugs—or doesn’t hug much if that’s what you like. Fundamental things. It seems like you have that list for yourself already, Jimmy Stewart, and you deserve someone who has hers together, too.

What does all of this mean for you? Personally, I think you should date when you’re ready to date and only go out with women who are down to earth and who don’t have their heads stuck in a dusting of idealistic perfection. (You can sniff them out pretty quickly.) I am 100% positive there are women out there who are tired of dating guys who are mildly—if not utterly—clueless about nurturing a relationship. And this is where you sweep in with chivalry, consistency, attention and dates that are thoughtfully planned out. That stuff goes a long way. Maybe it doesn’t happen right away, but if you’re confident, grounded and clearheaded, the right women will notice. I’m a big fan of holding out for someone who can truly make you happy.

xo, ss

Where do you meet men?

Dear ss,

I am 46 and divorced. Where can I go to meet nice men my age in the DC area? Please don’t tell me a bar!

Single and Restless in Vienna

Dear SaRiV,

Sister, you have come to the right place. And I would never tell you to go to a bar to meet men. That’s just no good. The key here is diversifying your portfolio and being proactive.

First thing’s first: Set up a profile on an online dating site. There’s simply no excuse not to be online. It’s how I meet 98.724% of the guys I go out with. Go to OK Cupid. I see the same guys on there who are also on match.com, eHarmony and theonion.com personals, so it’s good representation of single males in the area who are dating online. Also, it’s free.

2nd: Decide what you like to do and join groups of people that like to do that sort of thing, too. I’m generally bad at following this advice for myself, but whenever I do, at the very least, I make a new friend (who might know someone). Maybe it’s a running club or ballroom dancing. There are groups for everything. (Meetup.com is a great resource.)

3rd: I’ve invested some serious $$ into dating services in the past, so I am ALL about spending as little money as possible now. However, if you have the disposable income to hire a matchmaker this is totally legit. Just be sure to do your research. Make sure you feel comfortable with who you work with (they are going to ask you a lot of questions about yourself!) and also find out about their clients. A matchmaking service is only as good as its client base.

Other things you can do:

  • Put the word out to your friends that you are open to being set up on dates.
  • Strike up conversations with people around you whereever you go. A dating coach I used once was adamant about the fact that you constantly have to be putting yourself out there. When I followed his advice, I was not lacking in dates. Don’t get me wrong. I’m an introvert, so it wasn’t easy at all. But it worked.
  • Don’t not do something because you don’t have anyone to do it with (going to movies, museums, dinner). You never know who you will meet along the way.

xo, ss

Why I Wrote a Book About Dating…

and other revelations in this slightly awkward author video. I don’t know who edited this business, but he/she did a really, really good job. (And I love that brass section.) Ignore the sections where I go tangential and repetitive. I was really nervous.