Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Today, last year: "Are people still being stood up"

Today - in the spirit of I-am-too-swamped-to-write-three-original-posts-this-week, we re-visit a classic query from the year past.

Geanna brought it up first. "I wonder if people are still being stood up..." she said.
I had to stop and think about all the dates my friends had been on in the past few years. Then when that proved futile I had to think about all the dates I'd seen recounted on reality television in the past few years. No -- no one was stood up.
Could it be true that people no longer just don't show up to a date? No one makes a plan to meet somewhere then forgets or blows it off or -- in blind date scenarios -- sees the girl/guy and aborts mission?

I promise a new post tomorrow. Other than crying my eyes out at this week's episode of So You Think You Can Dance, I'm without plans.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Peer pressure 2.0

Katie and I were sitting on the terrace of her Upper West Side Summer sublet eating peppercorn jack and talking about someone. I can't put my finger on who exactly, which is likely due to the sheer number of times Katie and I have been doing that exact same thing in different locations with different cheeses (none of which will ever compare to the "dipping cheese" of Fall semester senior year).

The gist of it all was that this someone was doing some things that seemed strange or misguided or oddly timed for their life. Like living home when they could completely afford to live on their own or blowing money on a Summer share when they were in debt or going to business school even though they had no idea what they wanted out of it. They seemed to be going through motions that were counter intuitive to what would have actually been progress - or, progress to us.

Then Katie said something like, "right, but look at his friend group," (so it must have been a guy...), "that's just what they do."

And I said, "There's a blog post in that."

When I was a senior in college there was this huge push of kids applying to post-grad volunteer programs like Americorp, JVC, Peace Corp and the like. It was pretty typical of Boston College, so we all saw it coming, but what surprised me were the number of kids who pursued four years of Finance and then had a huge change of heart 6 months prior to graduation. There was a culture of this alternative graduation plan, and that culture - those kids who always planned to pursue this path - became a point of reference for the rest of the crowd.

But when I tell my NYU friends that I had 12 friends who volunteered for a year after college they're like whoa.

It's one example of a large issue that's an interesting part of 20-something (and probably all adult) life. Point of reference pressure.

It's peer pressure - in the simplest sense - but of a totally different vein than the come-ooon!- everyone-is-going-out-on-mischief-night variety.

If all of your friends from high school move home after college and commute into Manhattan to save money, that's your point of reference. It's culturally acceptable if not flat-out expected. Break the mold, and you're the one they talk about. If 75% of your graduating class from Ole Miss stays in Mississippi or nearby it after graduation that becomes what you assume you should to too. It's what's been tried and tested. You know just what it will look and feel like. And so not only does your brain go "this is the path I should follow because this is the path that I'm on" but it goes, "I know that...that's comfortable...that makes sense."There is nothing wrong with moving home after college or staying in Mississippi. But when gossiping on terraces about how one entire friend group all got married within five years of graduation we have to remember the operative word there ('s group).
It's for this reason that I feel incredibly uncomfortable that I'll never have a graduate degree but totally fine having not dated someone for more than 6 months in my recent adult life. Throw my story to the terrace of two other girls and they may have a very different opinion.

It's natural to want to do what's modeled for us - to follow the trend or wave or mob, and in many ways it pays off. Walking through life stages in lock-step with your closest peer group provides comfort, shared resources, and convenient conversation topics for future terrace talks. But what I've always wondered is how much the point of reference pressure guides a person versus how much the person points themselves inside their right reference. How many people in a different group at a different time would actually reach a better, fuller potential? We make decisions - where to go to college, what to study, where to life after - at an age where we can't be trusted to rent a car and then let those guide us for much of the rest of our lives.

If college started at 30, if no one told each other where they were going our what they were doing after graduation, if you were forced to live in a different town than the one you grew up in - what would we all do differently? And how would we all turn out?

Friday, June 25, 2010

What is courtship? Why do we need it? And why are we screwed without it?

Let’s get into this based on yesterday's reading assignment. I’ll try to make my assessment as un-five-paragraph-English-essay as possible.

Why the case for courtship? In Kass’s words:

“…First, because I believe in marriage, both for its unique opportunities for erotic fulfillment, deep friendship, lasting intimacy and personal growth, and for its indispensable contributions to the well being of children. I do so, second, because good marriages depend on good choices, and choices are more likely to be good if they are prepared by the activities of courtship.”
So two important premises that, in and of themselves, can be overlooked or denied by our generation:
  1. Being married is – to put it simply – better than being single. More fulfilling. Better for your personal development. Better for children.

  2. The process of courtship is the way (according to this author) to best make the incredible decision of who to marry.
One of my favorite parts of this piece is the story Kass tells about her student who, when asked the question, “what’s the most important decision you’ll make in your life” said, “deciding who should be the mother of my children.”
I may be jaded by too many years in NYC, but that wouldn’t be my gut reaction to that question. What career I should pursue? Where I should live? IF I should even have children? – those might be my answers. I admit that despite desiring to be married and hoping that marriage will be life-long and incredibly fulfilling, I am not marriage-minded. I am individual minded.

Apparently this isn’t entirely my fault. Kass says that our generation is ill-prepared to get married; we haven’t been well-educated on what makes for marital success. Frankly I think I’m going to be fine because I never missed an episode of The Cosby Show but I can’t speak for the rest of you.
According to Kass the issue is that, “today there are no socially prescribed forms of conduct that help guide young men and women in the direction of matrimony.” I know – what’s a prescribed form of conduct that used to guide people in the direction of matrimony… Aristocratic courtship processes, arranged marriages, and – likely – fervent religious standards. I’m not sure I’d go back to that but it’s true we’re relying on social mores and Mom’s advice these days.

Highlight reel: a good marriage is insanely important, we don’t know how to get one for a number of reasons, the answer is about to be courtship. Everybody with me?
Why Courtship argument one, nut-shell version: because look how shitty things are without it…

The sexual revolution succeeded so all the barriers to casual sex are “gone”: moral inhibitions, parental disapproval, fear of pregnancy, social shame, religious condemnation. Society supports this (i.e. condom distribution) and media exacerbates it (i.e. Secret Life of the American Teenage). Calm down – I’m not saying this is wrong. I’m saying this is.

Problem is – according to Kass – we’re not happy – especially if we’re women. I’m generalizing for the purpose of this not being 5,000 words but the gist is that our generation while morally and physically fine with casual sex and “hook up” culture isn’t happy or fulfilled by the results. I can’t say I disagree with that… Fun, exciting and liberating are different than satisfying and inspiring happiness.

Ask yourself how many fulfilling relationships you’ve had since graduating high school – made you happy, made you stronger, changed you positively as a person? Now ask yourself how many guys you’ve “dated/seen/hooked-up with.” These are experiences too – yes – and often experiences that have value in some way shape or form. But if the question is “is hook-up culture working out for you?” my answer would be no.

Kass goes into an arm of her argument around cohabitation that I’m going to gloss over because it’s part of the bigger issue of “process” and “pacing” to get to a true bond. You can imagine what she says (or read the whole article). The only thing I’ll say is that Kass’s suggestion that men and women move in together with different goals is interesting. For guys, she says, it’s about convenience and quicker access to the women. For women, it’s a down payment on a proposal. I don’t know how true that is, but it speaks to the greater issue of the differences between guys and girls and how that affects relationship dynamics.

Highlight reel: We’re sexually liberated, comfortable with our independence and open to exploring relationships and sex from whatever angle we choose, but this a. doesn’t make us happy and b. doesn’t help us understand or find the right person to marry.
Why courtship argument number two: because it works (because of how men and women inherently behave and relate)

First - what really is it: "Human courtship is that collection of activities amimed at (1)finding and (2)winning(3) the right one (4) for marriage."

Things we need to know to figure that out include what is "the right one" for me and "what is marriage." I'll admit I'm stuck on the former but that may - according to Kass - be because I don't understand the latter. Tricky.

In comes courtship - "traditional courtship took romantic or erotic love as its starting point, but sought to discipline it in the direction of marriage. The need for such discipline derived from the recognized promise and perils of sexual desire and the fickleness of erotic love."

This essentially means courtship is a cold shower. No, really.

"The process of courting provided the opportunity - and the obligation - of enacting the kind of attentiveness, dependability, care, exclusiveness, and fidelity that the couple would subsequently promise each other when they finally wed."

Fine, so a cold shower and then a processed audition for worthiness. Essentially the courtee says, "you want to date me, eventually sleep with me and maybe marry me?" fine - show me what you got. So then I guess a cold shower and a really long test drive.

I love this part: "Courtship, a wisely instituted practice, was meant to substitute for any lack of personal wisdom. It pointed the way to the answers to life's biggest questions: Where am I going? Who is going with me? How - in what manner - are we both going to go?"

Courtship is like, "you might be too dumb to see that this person is completely wrong for you, so you should let them practice being married to you so you can see that..." Ha!

Which brings us to the part I have the hardest time with - "The roles in courtship were sexually distinct: the man wooed, the woman was wooed; as in a dance, each quite self-consciously took up the appropriate part."

Aanndd now I want to ignore the entire argument because it makes me mad that my role is to be courted not to play an equal part in the courting process. Here's where the men-are-from-mars-and-women-are-from-venus stuff comes in. But while it makes me feel like women have no control, the opposite is apparently true.

In courtship - women have a lot if not most (but sort of all...) the control. And it's not just "you want to sleep with me? Prove your worth it" it's, "I am a woman am inherently governed by a different kind of bonding more aligned with a deep, symbiotic friendship versus instant sexual connection so I'm going to help you - man - get to that point too because it's that deep bond that makes for a good marriage."

Does that make sense? It's not that pre-marital sex or pre-marital cohabitation is wrong or bad. It's that if rushing things without the process of really, purposefully dating (today's courting) happens we can think we've found a/the right one but really still be making decisions based on lust, like, passion not the deeper stuff.

After waayy too many words and two too many metaphors - that's the point of Kass's argument:
  • Finding the right parter is about a long and purposeful test drive

  • We don't (usually) do that these days because we're more independent and sexually liberated

  • And so we give each other a kind of "access" that rushes things, skipping the process of forming a bond
Do I think you can have a lasting and fulfilling marriage if you sleep together on the first date? Yes, I do. Do I think you can have one if you move in together before you get married? Also yes. My issue with this article is that it suggets that a very specific courtship is mutually exclusive to good marriage. I don't think that's true, but I do agree with a lot of the thought process around why it works.
Which, once again, it brings me to the question I'm terrified to tackle. What if the sexual revolution got reversed? How would that happen? What would that look like? And how would we all come out on the other side?
But that's for another 5,000 word morning...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Required Reading: A Case for Courtship

When Gil passes along an article, I read it. Even if it's 17 pages long and on a topic I feel like I've covered a hundred times before.

As usual - I was incredibly glad I did.

Amy Kass's A Case for Courtship is some heavy stuff. Fascinating, but heavy.

Overall, it's a case for marriage and, more specifically getting to that marriage via a more traditional process of dating. Yes, that means she advocates for not having sex before marriage or living together before marriage - the typical stuff you'd expect from an article that started as the keynote address to the American Values Institute's Annual Symposium.

But the reason I really liked this article was because it does make an interesting case for the psychological why behind things like following a slower more traditional courting process, waiting to have sex, and even choosing not to live together before marriage. Kass sways a little far to the moral argument in sections of the piece, but also presents things from a place of both logic and also the realities of the interplay between men and women. A sort of - listen, this is how the genders are and understand love and therefore this is what helps form a lasting bond.

I'm not saying I fully agree. And I'm not saying I think this is the only way to a lasting, loving union. But it's an interesting read.

More evaluation tomorrow. You have 24 hours to read it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A how-to-pick-two-girls-up story


Katie and I were standing side-by-side at a Soho bar drinking vodka sodas and talking about how much better the moment would be if Party in the USA were playing (well, one of us was…).

I can’t remember exactly how he launched into the convo, but a 5’10”ish-grey-v-neck-t'd guy came right up to us, grabbed me around the neck, and yelled, “SO LEMME ASK YOU A QUESTION!,” in my ear.
In his defense, it was very loud, but as a general note to the male masses – if you’re going to grab a part of a woman’s body to get her attention, don’t make it the neck.

“Sure,” I said because I’m back on the benefit-of-the-doubt-train.

“So say my friend here wants to talk to a girl he sees at a bar,” he said gesturing to the white-button-downed wingman that appeared beside Katie. “What’s the first thing he should say to her?”

My gut instinct: “That but skip the part where you squeeze-burned my neck”- but it was too loud for complicated sarcasm, and the guy seemed fairly earnest.

I turned to Kate. “What’s the first thing you should say to a girl in a bar to pick her up?”

We both though for a second - then a second longer… Then I said, “Wow, I should really know the answer to this,” and Katie agreed.

“Hi, are you having fun?” I offered – but that presents an awkward set up for follow-up. She says, “yes” and then you’re left with “what’s the second thing a guy should say to a girl he’s looking to pick up…” It needed to be a conversation starter – something that could prompt a conversation if she was interested but offer an out if she was not.

“Maybe, ‘Isn’t this a fun bar?’”

“Really?” neck-grabber said, “that just sounds so dumb.”

Yeah, it did.
"Well, I'm not sure it really matters," I admitted. Any conversation starter could work if there was some instant attraction – have you been here before? What brings you here? Do you know who sings this song? Where’s the bathroom?

I tend to be of the opinion that once you break the introduction seal it’s more about skillfully keeping the conversation going versus launching with the perfect liner. In fact, anything forced or pat will end up inferior to a natural question. Your goal is to let the girl know you’re making a definite point to talk to her without dealing her a line that makes it clear she’s #183 of the month.

Something specific would be good, I offered. Like, "looks like you're here with a big group. What are you celebrating?" or, "I see you bopping to that LED Sound system song. Are you into them?"

I told him that, his buddy took it in, and somehow the conversation turned to the fact that were from BC, they were from Georgetown, and one of Katie’s best friends from business school was the assaulter's high school prom date.

Fifteen minutes later we were inviting them to join us at the next stop on our bachelorette party bar crawl (Congrats Jeff and Vee!!). They had a second stop of their own and didn’t go through with the digits request, but it was a better conversation that either of us have had at a Soho bar in a long time.

I knew we’d be conned, but I had to commend the effort. Simple set-up. Two-man approach. Off-kilter question that we couldn’t help but stop the think about, and then a quick transition into the more traditional, “why did you guys pick this bar?”

Then again, it ended up a blog post for me and a not-first-date for Katie, so I can't call it a success. I think in the end the question is, have you ever been dealt that line? Have you ever dealt it yourself? What's your take on the faux-approach? And if not the sneak-pick-up, then what?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Crowd verdict on the "nice guys" debate

See, that's what this little site is meant to do...

Awesome comment and commentary from the crowd on the "nice guys" debate. I read through, picked apart, and assembled a summary of what we're all saying on the topic. The headline: yes, nice guys can tend to finish last, but we need to be careful about what we mean by "nice guy" and what specifically about the personality type (if you will) is unattractive or confusing to the female set. Here were your thoughts, and below them are mine.

Why (you think) nice guys finish last:

My theory about the way our attraction works is that if a guy or girl is too nice, it makes them seem like they have very little experience with the opposite sex and the world. When I meet a girl who's too agreeable, I think to myself, "This girl's never failed or struggled or truly been hurt. I can't really relate to her."
What about the thought that women want to feel special? A nice guy is nice to everyone, whereas to win an "edgy" guy's affection is a real accomplishment and something that he is not giving to every person who passes by.
The big thing i have noticed with nice guys is that they lack the backbone to make a move. I'm sorry if i am sitting on your couch drinking a beer and you have the urge to kiss me- do it. Otherwise, i'm going to assume you don't have the balls to date me.
Not my best quality, but the truth that I've realized over the years. I need a bit of a challenge from my guy or I'll get bored. This is not to say I want an asshole who's mean, just someone who says "no" once in a while and tells me when I'm being selfish/bratty/unreasonable. I need someone to push back (but in a nice way).
You don't really know how to flirt with me, you only know how to be my friend. Which is fine as long as we're talking football and movies, but doesn't make me go, hmmm, I would like to kiss you now. Or I would like you to kiss me now. Sexual tension is non-negotiable.
actually have a friend, who is a optimal "nice guy", but I have no attraction to him at all. A girl would be lucky to have him, but I just can't. Not edgy enough for me. It's a double edged sword, I think us ladies just don't really know what we want.
Speaking as a "nice guy" and from past relationships the things that have killed the potential for a relationship and consequently allowed for a relationship to happen was WORRY.....I have to say that crying about how "nice" you are is going to get you nowhere. Cause it sure as hell aint' getting me anywhere.
I don't date 'nice' guys, but I only date 'good' guys. That means he can be counted on, is honest, and is decent and kind. He doesn't leave me wondering where I stand with him- but if a guy starts pulling out all the stops before he really knows me I tend to think it has more to do with his need to 'catch' me than a genuine interest.

It’s not about just being a nice guy:

Nice guys who have a tendency to complain about finishing last need to remember that 1) not all girls want nice guys in the first place, but more importantly 2) you are not the only nice guy out there- in truth there are plenty of guys who aren't only nice, but probably more confident, interesting, attractive, etc. (And it's no coincidence that you will rarely hear those guys complain about their niceness being held against them).

Re-defining "nice":
I think sometimes dating lingo mis-defines "nice." I have been on dates with a few self-proclaimed nice guys who were, in fact, nice guys, but nonetheless could be described as "too nice" in dating parlance because they were too clingy, and somehow in dating parlance, clingy guys = nice guys. Think about it - if a girl is clingy, she's neurotic - if a guy engages in clingy behavior (calling all the time, wanting to spend every moment together, dropping the rest of his life for a girl), he's considered "nice." Just like I don't want a bad boy, I also don't want a clingy guy.
I think the issue at hand is that "nice" is actually a code word. For me, in my group of friends, "nice" is code for "boring." Because perhaps someone is kind, perhaps they're generous, or selfless, or dedicated to some interesting charity, but if you're reaching for the word "nice" to describe that person, chances are it's because none of those qualities rise to the surface to distinguish themselves because that person is actually boring.

And my response to those non-rhetorial questions:

"Jessie, do you want a guy who doesn't always jump at the chance to get dinner because you associate that with having your own mind/personality/strength? Do you want a strong male figure who exerts his own personality while also accepting yours? The former who "jumps" at your beck and call seems a bit too easily influenced?"
Yes - I want all of the above, of course. But in terms of why "nice" isn't quite my type, I think it has more to do with the strength, confidence, and forwardness of a guy. I agree that the "nice guy" stereotype may represent a lack of strong backbone, a easy-going-ness that won't mesh with a girl like me, and even that issue of him not treating me in any distinguishing way beyond how he treats everyone else.
I want to be with someone "nice" - everyone should - but if that's the primary way a person would describe this guy - "he's a really nice guy" or "he's such a nice guy" - that doesn't do it for me. Maybe (probably...) that's because at the end of the day, I'm nice in many many ways, but I'm not - at my core - a "nice girl."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

If and Why nice guys finish last.

Every once in awhile I find myself writing a perspective on a topic that I hate myself for having to admit - i.e. the Why Girls Go For Assholes explanation or Sexism: Guys v. Girls on Marriage Thoughts. This blog isn't about the way I wish things were or the way I'm trying to pretend things are. It's about the reality of things. And sometimes that reality is crappy.

Today's topic is one of those topics. It comes via a male reader who is a fan of both this blog, comics from the U.K. and Suburban New Jersey - so, my new best friend.

"One of the things I don't think I've ever seen you touch on is the topic of 'nice guys'. Being one, I can tell you that it's not a very enviable position. If I watch one more good female friend whine about how horrible guys are then run off after a terrible guy I might lose my mind. Yet most (those who I've chosen to make feelings known for) have spurned all advances. I feel like I'm stuck in this weird middle ground where every girl I meet either completely ignores me or ends up in the very good friend category. I already know all the textbook advice, like don't look like a slob, like yourself, etc. but apparently I'm just too nice. At least that's all I can think of; but I'd love to hear from some women what a truly 'nice' guy has to do to be seen as dating material."

The cliche - "nice guys finish last" is a cliche for a reason. Overtly loving, instantly affectionate, clear-with-their-emotions guys aka the best-big-brother-in-the-world types often have less instant success with the ladies than their brasher, rougher, asshole-ier counterparts.

(Massive disclaimer of this post: not all nice guys finish last, not all assholes finish first, not all girls like assholes, not all girls hate nice guys, I don't hate nice guys, I don't love assholes, etc, etc, etc)
Now here comes the part where I hate what I'm about to say.

There is something instantly attractive and sexy about a guy who is rough around the edges. He makes you work for a compliment. He gives you a look that might say, "wow" but could just as easily say, "hhmm." His jokes are edgy. His approach to things is a little rogue. You're not quite sure what he's going to do or how he feels about you. All you know is that you're attracted to him and turned on by his whole cocky energy.

This is not right or smart or universal or advised - it just is. Kind of like how guys are attracted to mysterious, coy, flaky girls instead of their overtly mature and together counter parts.

We want what we're not sure about. We want what makes us wonder. And some of us want that hate-to-love someone relationship.

I am not proud to admit this, but for the sake of this post I'll reveal that I have on more than one occasion referred to a guy as "too nice." I would never say I'm attracted to assholes, but I do love a guy who isn't afraid to make fun of me, who likes an edgy joke, who doesn't necessarily jump the minute I say, "want to get dinner?"

I cannot begin to explain the psychology behind this. Maybe I want someone a twinge mean because I'm a twinge mean and would feel uncomfortable around a sugar sweet companion? Maybe in some sick way I love the chase, and a nice guy makes it too easy? Maybe it all dates back to my childhood obsession with Beauty and the Beast? I don't know. I just like a little edge.

My conclusion isn't to say, "stop being so nice" or "blow her off once in awhile" or "tell some off-color jokes and you'll start hooking chicks like the best of 'em."

You should be your kind, caring, loving self because many, many women will be looking for just that. And - frankly - many more will be after they (and likely I) realize that around 29-35 "edgy" just becomes annoying...

Agreed, ladies? Equally frustrated, nice guys? No longer a fan of this blog, new best friend?...

Monday, June 14, 2010

What's a vocation and where can I get one?

I've never mentioned this, but for the past two years I've participated in a post-grad leadership-ish program for people who attended Jesuit universities. 12+ of us met once a month to discuss, study, and hear about different schools of thought around things like how to marry social and financial obligation, how to navigate a work environment that doesn't support growth or individuality, or - most poignantly - how the hell you're supposed to figure out what you're supposed to do in the first place.

If you went to college with me - it was like a post-grad Casptone on how to be a sane adult. If you didn't - stop rolling your eyes at me.

Last Tuesday was my group's final session, and we were charged with presenting a synthesis paper sharing our thoughts slash progress as the experience came to a close in 6 minutes or less. I don't tend to have thoughts that come out in less than 10 minutes increments...

The process was an interesting and incredibly valuable one for me. Not only did I make a dozen amazing friends, but it hit at a time in my life where I needed (and still do) a re-education in what's called discernment. This isn't a religious blog nor am I a very religious person. The idea of discernment does come from Ignatian spirituality - the foundation of the Jesuit order of Catholic priests - but for our purposes today, think of discernment as the process of figuring big shit out.

There is an insane amount of shit to figure out between the ages of 18 and 30. What should I do for work? Where should I live? What should I do in my free time? Who should I date? Who should I marry? Am I happy? Am I fulfilled? Am I going to be able to live like this for the rest of my life?

We've talked about it a million times, but these are the formative years. We're laying groundwork that - yes - can be torn up and re-paved, but conventional wisdom tells us these 10-or-so years to decide how we'll spend the next 50. That's why most/many/some of us fall into the overexposed-but-painfully-true quarter-life crisis.

My "speech" was about that idea of figuring out where we're supposed to land. I suffer from this non-problem problem of "nothing is wrong but I know this isn't right." I've enjoyed what I've done and succeeded in doing it, but always with a lingering feeling that my here and now isn't absolutely right for me. Something tells me that's a common feeling...

As I prepared to write I couldn't stop thinking about this speech we heard from a BC professor slash priest on the very first day of college orientation. Michael Himes was famous for cutting the most complicated life issues down to a simple-step process, and the most famous of these lessons was his advice around discovering your vocation in life.

"Discovery your vocation" sounds heavy because it is. It's not necessarily about the 9-5 job you land or the hobbies you pursue. You can enjoy financial planning but find that your vocation is volunteering with the poor. You can work for a non-profit researching AIDS in Africa but discover that your vocation is playing the guitar. It doesn't have to be the way you make your living, it's about the way you guide your life. I know that's still vague, but Himes's 3 questions give it a little more clarity:

He says there are three key questions to help people make a decision on where their life is going:
  1. is this a source of joy?
  2. is this something that taps into your talents and gifts—engages all of your abilities—and uses them in the fullest way possible?
  3. is this role a genuine service to the people around you, to society at large.
What next? will be a question for as along as we live, but what next in the context of a 20-something is so much more significant because there are such endless possibilities. If at 22 you decide you want nothing more than to be a professional musician - you could. If the goal is neurosurgeon, you could do that too. Problem is, we aren't all blessed with trust fund cushions that make it easy to dabble in life-paths until we find the right fit and we don't really have limitless time to decide.

What Himes and my post-grad Capstone class are saying is that it's a process of questioning and answering. Exploring what we enjoy and testing it against these three key questions. For so many of us the three questions are more like Will it make me money? Will it give me status? Will it be bearable? or Will it create a life for me that I like?

For the past two years my 12 friends and I practiced screwing all the "sensible" questions and working on asking ourselves the simple-yet-difficult ones above. Who am I really? What are my strengths? What do I love to do? What can that mean practically, but also what can it mean impractically?

The gist of my 6-minute-speech-that-landed-somewhere-closer-to-8 is that you have to decide you're going after a vocation instead of just a job or career and there's no guaranteeing that decision won't cause more pain and frustration than the other route. In many ways, the process is like deciding to open up the biggest life can of worms you've got. Once you say, "I want to figure out what's absolute right for me" you're admitting that a lot of things are going to be wrong. And trust me, it's absolutely possible to live an entire life where nothing's ever wrong but nothing ever arrives at absolutely right.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Picking up on the guy/girl "liking" behavior AND just so you know, guys don't really love going on dates

Let’s recap.
I asked guys what they do when they really like a girl and want to show her. They said lots of nice things they try extra hard to do sos to show they care.
Then I asked girls what they do when they really like a guy. They said lots of things they try extra hard NOT to do sos to prove they're not insane.
Then a bunch of you ladies said oh-god-I-do-that-too!!! in comments.
Conclusion: when a guy likes a girl he goes the extra mile to prove it through his words and action. When a girl really likes a guy she holds back and tries to play hard to get. Note: these are generalizations. I have yet to poll the world.
Next slash natch - this prompted a bunch of conversation like the one I shared between one close guy friend and I.
His position: [girls] may have grown accustomed to men who aren’t actually fully interested in them (so for example, guys unlike the ones who responded in today's column), and are therefore trying to hold on to a fleeting thing by not pushing the issue too quickly
My position: If you don't date shitty guys, you won't have to play hard to get.
Conclusion: We have the same position, and it's essentially this.
There are girls out there who are crazy. Bat-shit, stalker-call-til-he-picks-up, call-him-her-husband-before- their-first-date, start-asking-to-sleep-at-his-place-every-single-night-following-date-one crazy. They exist. They can't help themselves. And they're not really a factor in this conversation.
Then there are guys who, on the other extreme - are looking for a coy, mysterious, game-playing, chase-inspiring girl. These guys want to make every move and call every shot. They're not interested if she starts suggesting dinners and asking to meet his guy friends before he's ready.
These types exist and, as such, the people who find themselves dating these types have to act accordingly. So the crux of my whole assessment of this situation is - avoid dating these people. Also, girls, try not to be insane and guys, try to give a little and understand that in many, many circumstances she's playing hard to get because she doesn't want you to get her...
In conclusion - IF you (girls) are making sensible moves to prove your affection and the guy is immediately turned off - he's not the right guy for you. Point blank period.
To get a little more color around what guys think of the female perspective on this whole issue, I sent a "what do you guys think about this whole issue?" email. I got several one-line responses agreeing with the comments on the blog - as expected - and then I got this:
"I know you talked about girls playing hard to get, but another possible theory maybe managing the other sex's expectations. Conventional wisdom tells us that girls love going on dates, whereas guys could probably either way. I'm not saying that guys don't like dating, but at first we go on them b/c that's what we're supposed to do, and later on in the relationship, it's to keep the woman happy. We, of course, enjoy the company of our dates/girlfriends/wives, but many times, dating can become obligatory. And when I say dating, I mean it in the sense of doing activities together - dinner, movies, plays, etc, and really the whole attention that comes into play early in the dating/relationship.
So on a fundamental level - girls love dating and guys may enjoy it, yet not love it. I think this affects your "when I really like him/her..." b/c in the beginning, guys are at their creative height, while girls try to water down their own enthusiam. Guys are trying to show that they're unlike all other guys since they really enjoy the whole courting thing. Girls, on the other hand, don't want to come across too enthusiastic, perhaps for fear of coming across as high-maintenanced or hoping not to attract too much attention. It just seems that early on, with girls holding back, they're much more worried about scaring guys off, instead of engaging in affirmative acts, like the guys do. Just another possible explanation to your findings."
I know there is a lot of interesting information in this guy's assessment, but I stopped reading at "conventional wisdom tells us that girls love going on dates, whereas guys could probably either way." Uuugghh that makes an annoying amount of sense... It doesn't change things, per se, but it starts the whole situation from a different stand point.
Guys? Agree or disagree? Girls, maybe best to sit this one out until we have some more intel.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Why (one girl thinks) everything we believe about dating is wrong

It appears there's another 20-something year old out there with some strong opinions on dating. Way stronger than mine, in fact. Jessica Messa's HuffPo article Why Everything You Believe About Dating is Wrong is an out-with-the-old, in-with-the-reality pitch. People don't really date anymore, so don't expect to be dated. People don't limit themselves to seeing more than one person at a time, so don't be shocked if you find out you're number 2 slash 5. If he doesn't ask you on a date that doesn't mean he's just not that into you; guys now show their affections through text or Facebook message so note those signs, and take it from there.

I'm not saying anything in her account is wrong per se. Several of the realities she outlines are annoyingly real. But this, like so many accounts of modern dating tries to say, "the new rule is no rules!!" but then outlines what you should and shouldn't do.

Everything I believe about dating isn't summed up in these five"myths" but by way of review - here's my take on the five this optimistic single lays out:

Myth #1: Your love life should revolve around dates. - "Revolve around" no, but I refuse to align with the whole "dating is dead" mentality. I go on dates. My friends go on dates. My guy friends ask girls out on dates. And that's in Manhattan!

Myth #2: If he doesn't ask you out on a date, then he's just not that into you. This is tough because it's easier to believe that it's true. Yes, a shy guy can show his affection through random gchats and Facebook wall posts, but - and don't hate me for this - that might not be enough for me. Does he have to flat-out ask me out, no, but can he dance around it until I finally say, "Listen..." - also no.

Myth #3: Women should never pursue men. I know I know I know - chase him just enough to know he's being chased but not enough to know you could probably hunt for dinner and raise the children on your own. If the "myth" is that women shouldn't ask men out on dates and we're busting it with "but they can make it obvious they want to be asked out" fine - but I'm never going to love this situation.

Myth #4: Being involved with more than one guy at a time makes you a slut/player/Samantha Jones wannabe - All I'm going to say is that if your "problem" is you have too many men to date, probably don't worry about busting and/or understanding dating myths.

Myth #5: Traditional dating is the best way to build a strong, lasting, loving relationship - I don't really know what this means, but nothing about much that we do these days is traditional, so I'll just agree for the sake of simplicity.

Could I identify better or more myths about dating and then bust them? No. My "manifesto" on how to best navigate the dating world would be title, Do Nothing Dating (Watch it... I already wrote that down and mailed it to myself), but I'm sure you could find a million people, guys and girls alike, who agree with everything above. My issue is that you'll find just as many if not more who disagree. So I guess that makes my number one myth that there are set myths about dating at all.

As a P.S. - Jessica Messa is at the helm of another dating-themed site for your perusing pleasure. WTF Is Up With My Love Life?! - a soooort of Cathy-comic-strip of the blog world, but chock-full of interesting insights from frustrated daters.

Monday, June 7, 2010

What I learned at my 5 Year reunion

To say that my friends and I have been preparing for the BC 5-year since we left BC 5 years ago isn't an exaggeration. It is a momentous occasion. So momentous that some people will fly to it from Chicago the day before their business school finals begin aanndd others will drive from South Boston at 8:30am just to be on campus the minute registration opens. The amount of g-mail chains it took to make these three days happen is down-right embarrassing.

Here - with an attempt at incriminating (most) people - is what the weekend taught me:

  • NOT drinking 7 nights a week (and eating late-night 40-50% of those) does wonders for people's general appearance.
  • It is really, really nice to be able to say, "I am a lawyer" or "I am a doctor" or "I am a teacher" when people ask you what you're up to. "I work in media doing sort of branded-entertainment and integrated marketing projects and also do some writing on the site but am ultimately trying to..." - you get it.
  • There is no age at which people will stop breaking into places you tell them they can't go. Just leave everything open. It'll be easier for everyone.
  • Being limited to two nights of partying is very dangerous. As Pierson put it, "what saved us from the 2am-5am mistake every night of college was that you had to see everyone in class the next day."
  • If you make this announcement - "Attention everyone: the bar will be closing in 4 minutes" - you need to purchase enough beer for what will follow...
  • It remains almost impossible to dance on the 2 inch, wooden arm of a couch and not fall off
  • If your name is John Kennedy you are a God-of-a-man and excellent source of publicity for this blog. (How was that?)
  • Everyone knows everything about what everyone's been doing for the past five years because of Facebook making it completely acceptable to say, "Hey! Looks like Law school's been a blast! Sorry to see you're not dating that blonde guy you were with in all those pictures your first year. Oh, and awesome pictures from you trip to India!" Or, at least, it got acceptable after about midnight.
  • Purchasing nips for consumption in transit from one activity to the next saves nights.
  • Speed quarters with a mixture of Roggie Bowls and beer at 5pm ruins them.
  • Someone will always fall for the "no pants party" invite. Well played, T.K.
  • And - and brace for over-sentimentality - if you work hard at keeping in touch with all the friends that made your college experience perfect, reunion isn't sad or awkward or depressing at all - it's just a three day re-live of the time of your life.
Let the countdown to the 10-year begin.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Art of Meeting Men

I owe you an explanation of Tuesday's post, but until then here's a little video that will solve all your dating problems. I know - if I'd just found this video 2.5 years ago we could have just skipped this whole blog situation entirely...

Enjoy! (and thanks Gillian!).

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A theory based on last week's he says, she says debate

So last week's girl-v-guy discussion on the issue of how you behave when you really like someone sparked some serious conversation. Among them was an interesting gchat I had with a male friend after I posted the male take on the issue last Wednesday and alluded to the fact that the female version was a shocker. Here's the chat. Tomorrow we'll expound upon it a bit. Thursday we'll stop talking about this somewhat annoying issue.
Male Friend: hey there - I have to ask for the preview- what did the girls say
Me: It was almost all things they "don't" do like, "I try not to text him too much" or "I play a little hard to get.” It wasn't like, "I buy him gifts and cook him dinner." Seems girls feel a definite need to pull back when they like a guy a lot
MF: Now what do you think explains that?
Me: Just the innate differences between boys and girls - and frankly what girls are told – “play hard to get”
MF: Hmm...I think thats possible
Me: I used to really disagree with that premise. Now I don't. Like, I used to be really open and honest and forward and all-in, really quickly. Now I keep things a little more interesting at the start of something
MF: Hhmm. Another theory I might haphazardly throw out there is that they may have grown accustomed to men who aren’t actually fully interested in them (so for example, guys unlike the ones who responded in today's column), and are therefore trying to hold on to a fleeting thing by not pushing the issue too quickly
Me: A very, very valid theory
MF: not sure how much sense that made....I think I want to explain better
Me: No, it’s probably true. It's like, bottom line, if you didn't date shitty guys you wouldn't have to play hard to get…there's a blog post headline. I should write about that..hhmm..want to contribute?
MF: Maybe - what’s the thesis that you're working on?
Me: I guess that if a guy really, really likes you - you don't need to play hard to get, you can just show him how much you like him back, immediately. Guys who want/need mystery, hot and cold, games either don't really like the girl or are shitty overall
MF: Well....without making this sound too bad, I think the reason girls play hard to get is that they frequently know deep down that they might be involved with the wrong type of guy, but just want to slow down the process of it ending (I wont dig into the psychology of why they would want it to drag out, I can’t begin to guess)
Me: Well girls like attention - of any variety
MF: Right
Me: Low wages are better than no wages argument
MF: Haha, right. I think the most important thing is to act the same way at the beginning of the relationship as you normally would act a few months in. I get the sense from certain female friends of mine that they feel the need to act coy or play hard to get at the beginning, even though that's the complete opposite of their natural personality, and isn’t how they would be acting naturally in the relationship
Me: Yeah, but most people don't do that
MF: And so I think that’s a recipe for disaster
Me: True, true
MF: You're right, most people don't do that, but I actually think that's something more people should do
Me: I mean, we're older now. I think that will start to happen because people are done wasting time. Like when you're in your early 20s it's "what else could be out there..." Now it's, "I've seen what's out there, and I'd like to stick with you"
MF: It's not so much a matter of playing hard to get at the beginning vs. stating your interest immediately up front....It’s a matter of behaving in whatever way comes naturally to you vs. trying to play an angle
Me: Right, totally. Some things aren't appropriately immediately, but me acting shy is just a lie
MF: At least personally, and this comes from the perspective of a guy, and a single one at that (so take this with a grain of salt), I’ve had far more success lately by throwing my cards on the table right off the bat
Me: see, you're a guy though. We're not used to that, and so it's refreshing. The general sexist opinion is that you should be like that, and I should be coy…a little mysterious
MF: Hmm...I understand the general opinion, just not sure if I buy it
Me: Well you're not intimidated by a confident and forward girl, so mystery and coy isn't necessarily a requirement….whiiiich brings us back to our thesis. If a guy wants total mystery and coy and games - he sucks