Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Read This: How the pill changed the world


This month marks the 50th Anniversary of the birth control pill- a fact that feels like remembering that when my Mom was in grammar school there were "white" and "colored" bathrooms.

Only 50 years ago all that the pill changes about the way women and men behave, reproductively speaking, took effect. The effects, though, extended far beyond the way women and men behave when speaking of reproduction.

A fascinating article in this week's New York Magazine by writer Vanessa Grigoriadis takes a look at all those changes and puts the focus back on the original intention of the pill - the prevention of pregnancy.

Did it succeed? And, more importantly, in succeeding, did it really fail some of us?

Take some time to read today. I'll take some time to put together my thoughts for tomorrow.

"Fifty years ago, birth-control pills gave women control of their bodies, while making it easy to forget their basic biology—until in some cases, it’s too late."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Week 12 in L.A.: going home to New Jersey



This post was supposed to be about how weird it is to come home for the first time after you've moved clear across the country.

I was going to start with my various anxieties around all the awkward things that were sure to happen:
  • I'd have to sleep on the trundle bed in my sister's room and we'd fight about when to turn the reading light out and who's the louder sleeper
  • Relatives at the Thanksgiving Day table would make like working in L.A. is akin to life on a Russian space station - "what do you all eat there?" and "how are you finding breathing the air?" and "are people willing to make friends or is it really just every man for himself?"
  • Life would have gone on among the family and friends I left so that every piece of gossip was about new people with new problems that I didn't know how to properly judge.
  • I'd be absolutely, totally, and completely freezing the entire time and then complain about it like some jerk who moved to L.A. two plus months ago and forgets what winter was like for the 26 plus years she lived on the East coast.
In fact - part of the reason it took me so long to make this move West is because of this very scenario - the first homecoming. Yes, the moving 3,000 miles away to a place with actors and cars was terrifying, but it was as much the idea of change and distance and discomfort coming back to my place of total comfort that scared me out of taking the plunge.

There is nothing as jarring as feeling like a stranger in the place you once felt most safe/calm/happy/known - that moment of realizing, "this isn't where I go anymore."

It was that same sentiment that had me so nervous to make the first visit back to my Alma mater after graduation - the feeling that this place did not freeze in time like I'd hoped and, instead, only got better after I left. That sense of looking around and thinking - I'm never going to fit back in and, more devastatingly, this place wouldn't welcome me if I tried.

It's like that scene in Fiddler on the Roof where defiant daughter number two (the one Blossom would play in the re-make) leaves the village and you think Tevia is going to say something like, "Blossom, you always have a home here" but instead he says something like, "TRADITION!!!" then turns his back while it cuts to a really intense musical interlude - the kind that says both yes, that's really it and also, but keep watching because it just gets crazier.

Both of my parents could sing you every line of that movie, but that's not how my exodus from the home played out. In defense of...Seidle was it?...I talk to them three to fives times a week, Skype with them once every other, and write this blog about every detail of my life experience, keeping them (and all the relatives at the Thanksgiving table) pretty up to speed.

  • It isn't really that cold in New Jersey right now, but when I felt a chill I put on a jacket and scarf like I did every other time I was cold every year for the 26 previous.
  • Dani was kind of excited to play sleepover in her room, and turns out both of us are really quiet sleepers. She was kind of freaked out that I sleep in a sort of blanket cocoon all the way under the covers, but she got over it.
  • People asked me sensible questions about life in L.A., and I responded with sensible answers. It was the first time I'd had to talk about the experience in quite so much detail so, like any time you're forced to talk about your life, I learned as much about it as they did.
  • All the gossip was about the same ten to twelve people it's always been about, so I just threw the judgment track on autopilot and kept up just fine.
  • Yes, my mom was sure to reference any and all individuals (known or read about) who have had any ounce of success in the New York entertainment industry since I left (see, so-and-so is making it just fine in New York); and my sisters still at home worked in digs about my waltzing in on Thanksgiving morning to open the wine and enjoy their hard work; and it was a little weird to think that this is how my holidays will be for the foreseeable future...
But it wasn't at all unlike coming back from my first semester at college. I was excited to talk about my new life, and people were excited to hear about my new life, and it all felt like one of those indie films where the black sheep of the family comes home from some extended European "vacation" except I didn't get anything pierced, no one in my family has a drinking problem, and the soundtrack to our Thanksgiving is less angsty rock and more James Taylor and friends.

In fact, nothing about my move so far would make a very good movie. I think there was a time when I would have thought that was a bad thing - not enough drama! not enough crazy! not enough anxiety!!

Luckily that time has passed and with it any thought that this place will ever feel like anything but home.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A cut-and-paste e-mail for the drinks set-up situation



Sometimes it's still the simplest steps that stress us out the most.

I recently received an e-mail from a blog-reader recounting her g-chat with a male friend - that is if you can call one person questioning, deleting, and re-writing every sentence of a five sentence e-mail and the other person responding, "JUST SEND IT," in every possible form. The e-mail in question was of course to a girl - more specifically a girl he'd just met at a party and now wanted to follow up with in an effort to schedule drinks (the word we 20-something use so we don't have to say date).

Reading through his painful process I realized we've never covered this most basic issue - what to say in the first e-mail you send after meeting someone. Awhile back we covered what e-mails you should never send, no matter how annoyed you are with the radio silence from that person you just met - arguably the more commonly faced issue - but the issue of how to structure the first response to what seemed like a hit-it-off encounter needs attention. So here, finally, is a little cut-and-paste action.

A quick/qualifying note: if you find yourself in a scenario in which someone gives you their personal or work card and says, "call me" - do not e-mail them, even though there is an e-mail address on the card. Simply place a call and speak the words I've outlined in e-mail form below. If you e-mail a person who explicitly tells you to call them you immediately lose points. It goes like this, "Yeah, I heard from him, but he e-mailed me instead of calling. Lame." True story.

The scenario: you meet someone at a party who gives you their personal/work card and says, "Really great meeting you. E-mail me. We'll get together."

Decoding the meaning: This means he/she experienced enjoyment, pleasure, happiness and/or excitement as a result of meeting you. Because of this they would like you to get in touch via e-communication for the purpose of scheduling a time to be in the presence of each other again.

But why an e-mail instead of a phone number? And isn't the business card the blow off? And does "we'll get together" mean for drinks or dinner? Alone or with a group? This week or next month?
I don't know, and neither do you. What you do know is that this person provided contact information and told you to use it. Let's celebrate the small victory and worry about what you're going to get them for Christmas when we have that bridge to cross.
The response:

Timeline -
You can wait one, two, three, four or five days to e-mail someone with whom you've had an excellent first-connection. Any more and they're skeptical.

Wait, what? why? rules?
This isn't a dating rule - it's a fact of life, and same applies to interviewing for a job or sending someone a gift. We expect a timely response to an expression or encounter in which it is clear that both people feel similarly. How would you feel if you met someone you thought you hit it off with and they didn't hear from them for two weeks? Right.

Structure -
  1. Simple subject line
  2. Simple salutation
  3. Reference of time you met
  4. Specific detail to showcase attention paid to time you met
  5. Suggestion of follow-up meeting (including date/time offer)
  6. Suggestion as to manner in which person should response
  7. Sign-off.
Sample -

Subject line: Hi

Body of e-mail:

Hey Jessie,

Hope your week is off to a good start. It was really great meeting you last weekend at Abby's party. I told my roommate we need to break our lease and immediately move to a place with an AstroTurf roof. That was incredible.

So we should get together sometime soon for a drink. How's next Thursday night for you? Let me know if that works, and we'll pick a spot.

Talk soon,
Mike

Some notes:
  • Do not lead with, "It's Mike, from Abby's party Saturday night." TRUST ME, she knows who you are.
  • Feel free to go with more personality slash a joke in the "specific detail to showcase" section. That's your time to shine.
  • Do not over think the "specific detail to showcase" section to the point of not sending the e-mail. If you've got something, great. If you don't, move on to the next section.
  • Yes, suggest an actual date for the drinks. Not suggesting a date just means more awkward back-and-forth intro e-mails trying to figure out a date. Place the ball solidly in the court of the other person and let them handle the next move.
That's it? Seems short and stupid. Should I suggest dinner? What time of day should I send it? Should I send it from my work or personal account?
Yes, that's it. It should be short and it just seems stupid because you're insecure about it. I'd stick with drinks, but that's just me. It doesn't matter, but for the purposes of providing direction, send it between the hours of two and eight pm.
See - here's the thing. In sending a response at all (and within the five day window, please) you are placing yourself 10 steps ahead of most people in the world. You cannot control what's going on on the other side of this e-mail. A million issues stand between you and marriage to this person. I say focus on the two very specific issues at hand. 1. This person told you to e-mail them because they want to see you again. 2. You want to e-mail this person so that you can see them again.

Best case scenario - you go out and it goes well. Worst case scenario - this e-mail downward spirals into a ridiculous chain of confusing e-conversation and the date never happens.

But then you've avoided dating the wrong person, which in my opinion is always the second best case scenario.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Surviving my first mini-trip as a couple


Now seems like as bad a time as any to expose the fact that I'm a fraud.

For the past three years I've written a blog focused in large part on dating and relationships while remaining pretty much single and very much inexperienced in the realm of life as a couple. Up until three weeks ago I hadn't dated someone long enough to "meet" the parents. Not since high school have I purchased a birthday gift for a man I call my boyfriend. And never have I ever played the female part in a couple's Halloween costume (or the male!).

So when the idea for us to get out of L.A. for a weekend came up, I was slightly more than slightly panicked. And when I was later informed that the idea was, in fact, mine - I about fell over.

"Well since you claim this was my idea," I told the most patient 28-year-old man this side of the Mississippi, "can I change it from two nights to one?"

And so we left this past Saturday morning for Ojai, California (not just the name of the family business in Brothers & Sisters!). R had taken care of absolutely everything like some living, breathing "36-hours in...." New York Times article leaving me plenty of time to over-think every element of our uninterrupted alone time together.

Do not get me wrong. I very, very much like R and was very, very much excited for our maiden voyage together. But that in no way prevented me from being preoccupied with fear about the myriad things that could go wrong. I am a mental multi-tasker.

My fears included but were not limited to:
  • Getting car sick on the ride up. No, I don't generally get car sick, but every once in awhile I'll look down at my blackberry too much while I'm passenging and start to feel a little wonky. This is embarrassing because it doesn't/shouldn't happen to people over the age of eight.
  • Absolutely hating the way R drives on the freeway and questioning the quality of his entire person as a result of this finding.
  • Not really remembering how to ride a bike. I've gone five plus years without riding a bike and found that, despite what they say, it is not just like riding a bike. This one's doubly problematic because I can't possibly look adorable in a bike helmet and therefore run the risk of suffering a massive head injury resulting from my inability to remember how to ride a bike. (Note: We didn't end up biking but did go on a "hike" during which I wore a Louis Vuitton saddle bag and carried a large, skim cafe au lait.)
  • Finding out that we are wildly indecisive as a couple in situations that require "winging it." R: So we have an hour to kill, what should we do? Me: I don't know...what do you want to do? R: I want to do what you want to do. Me: Well I don't know what I want to do.
  • Finding out that we are wildly incompatible as a couple in situations that require "winging it" R: So we have an hour to kill. What do you want to do? Me: I'd like to spend 45 minutes in each of the seven vintage clothing stores in town. You? R: I'd like to drive around and see if we can find somewhere to shoot skeet. Me: Ew.
  • Talking in my sleep, snoring, and/or passing gas in the night (slash at any point over the course of the trip). If these fears were placed in order of gravity, this would be #1. If you are reading this and thinking, what's the big deal??, you are probably a man. If you are reading this and thinking, uummm, one or more of those happened, and want to stay my man, keep it to yourself.
  • Not liking Ojai, assuming I therefore won't like most of California, questioning my decision to move/plan in life/ability to make plans in general aaannnddd then lacking any ability to keep these thoughts to myself such that I finally annoy this seemingly unwavering man to the point of no return.
None of the above happened (I repeat: if you know otherwise, zip it). It was, in fact, just as comfortable slash fun as spending 36 hours together here in L.A. except we've never gotten involved in a competitive wine taste-off here and don't generally see barefoot pregnant women dancing to a band of four, 65-year-old men performing a set that 180'd from a Credence medley to an Incubus hit.

Maybe this relationship stuff isn't as complicated as I've made it out to be over 500 posts in the three years of writing this blog.

"Yeah, I've been meaning to talk to you about that," R said lowering the Ojai playlist he made us for the ride there and back (I know...), "I did some back-reading of the blog. I think you might have be over-thinking some things."

Forgot one:
  • That my boyfriend will start reading old blog posts and realize just how insane I am.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The things-you-should-know-about round up


Every once in awhile I like to provide a little summary of the brilliant, terrifying, hysterical and/or fascinating things I've recently found across the world wide web. In editorial speak this is what's called a "listicle" - as in an article in the format of a list. Yes, I agree that the combination of those two words is ridiculous. Unfortunately, that doesn't stop me from loving it.

The picture is for you, Mike.

Brilliant/Necessary/Not going to happen
Jimmy Kimmel declared this past Wednesday (11/17) National Un-friend Day saying, "friendship is a sacred thing, and Facebook is cheapening it." As such he solicited the help of people like Danny McBride and Dr. Oz (which sounds like the start of a joke) to urge all Facebook users (so, all humans) to take a nice, long look at their "friends" and de-friend those who don't belong. In theory, this is an amazing and necessary idea for so very many reasons (who will go un-named). In reality it's never going to happen because of the gripping fear we experience at the thought of people we haven't seen in 5+ years finding out we've de-friended them and being pissed.

Fun/Funny/I'm probably going to buy some
Be-speckled, 90's songstress Lisa Loeb just launched her own eye wear line - 10+ years too late.

I can't decide if she just realized the only way people know who she is is by her glasses , just realized that celebrities launch things like eye wear/perfume/clothing lines three times a day or just got a new agent. Regardless of which, I'll be ordering this pair tomorrow.

Sad/Illogical
Willow Palin (whose number in Palin offspring order escapes me, on purpose) made homophobic comments on the Facebook, specifically ones that involved her using the F word (rhymes with maggot). Bristol Palin (who is the one who just won Dancing with the Stars, also on purpose) apologized for her sister's words. Then GOProud, a group that, "represents gay conservatives and their allies" released a statement saying calm down, you hear that word on the streets of Chelsea and West Hollywood every day. To which I went, yes, true, but remember how in grammar school two wrongs didn't make a right? They still don't. Actually, more so now because we're adults.

Really, really exciting
Ear cuffs are coming back! Christmas gifts: check.

Sheer genius
Jane Pratt - the pioneer behind devastatingly defunct SASSY and JANE magazines is teaming up with 13-year-old fashion-blogging sensation Tavi Gevinson to launch a new version of the beloved glossy for today's teens. This. Is. Huge.

Gross/Funny/Swing and a miss
There is now a dating site called CanDoBetter.com in which you post a picture of yourself and the person you're dating and ask the audience to determine whether or not you can do better. It's like "Hot or Not" except weirder and meaner. The way it should really work is that it secretly sends the link of you participating in this website directly to the person you're evaluating.

Subject line: You can do better.
Body of text: Than a person who would use this website, even for fun.

Can someone over there get on that tweak?

A preview of what we'll be hearing about for the next 12 months
Prince William and Kate Middleton get engaged, world stops for 24 hours to judge every element of it. In the spirit of if-you-can't-beat-'em, join-'em - here's my take:
  • It's fine that he wanted to give her Di's ring, but he should have re-set it to make it special for them and less reminiscent of his parent's disastrous marriage.
  • I want to find it creepy and antiquated that the Brits go mad for things like commemorative plates announcing the engagement and porcelain thimbles with Kate's face on them, but I have a Barak and Michelle bobble head set in my bedroom, so I can't judge
  • Everyone has got to stop talking about whether or not "Waity Katie" as the U.K. tabloid viciously nick-named her, should have held out so long for Willy Nilly (I came up with that one myself!) to lock it down. If your indecisive and generally lame American boyfriend can't make up his mind after 8 years (or way less), you walk. If you're dating the crowned Prince of England (who seems like a total sweetheart), you wait. There's no debate here. The guy is going to be the king of England. Want to know what his response to "shit or get off the pot" is going to be? "Sorry sweetums, I own the bloody pot."
Happy Weekend everyone!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I Skype-met the parents. Yes, you read that correctly.



You (should) know you're in trouble when your editor says, "Wow Jessie, you're a really brave girl..."

I'm not sure if "brave" is the correct word, but I wrote the following piece none-the-less.

The subject-matter should be pretty clear from the title.

The reasons why I thought this was a good idea...still fuzzy.

I Skype-met the Parents

"It's important at this point to mention that I have never "met the parents" in an adult relationship. (High school has got to be disqualified at this point.) I didn't date anyone in college and didn't date anyone long enough post-college to warrant the meeting-the-fam milestone.

It is more important to mention that the gravity of this fact did not hit me until 30 seconds before the Skype session began."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Week 10 in LA: The dining/drinking difference between New York and LA


This one might get me in trouble...

I've been in LA for either 9 or 10 weeks (depending on how subtraction works) and remain in constant assessment of the differences between this town and my former. There's no shortage of differences. From the work culture (again, stay tuned) and attire (all things are far more casual here) to the hours people keep (it's more like 10am to 6pm here, depending on the job) and what they do on the weekends (that being, go to a seemingly endless number of BBQ's) - it's drastically different.

But so far the comparison that's struck me most is that between dining culture and drinking culture in the Metropoli of each coast.

A quick set of disclaimers in an attempt to protect myself:
  • Many of my friends here are serious foodies. While my friends in New York enjoyed and ate good food, none of them were hard core foodies, so we weren't as collectively obsessed with restaurants.
  • The whole you-have-to-drive thing is a major issue that deeply affects drinking culture
  • Owing to the fact that there is less of everything in LA - restaurants, bars, places that sell Moleskin notebooks - a greater percentage of people are familiar with the available options.
  • I am less interested in drinking than I was at the age off 22 when I first moved to New York
That disclaimed - I believe dining culture is to Los Angeles what drinking culture is to New York.

By this I mean it has been my experience that if you ask people in LA what they did over the weekend they'll mention several restaurants they went to, and what they ate at each. If you ask a New Yorker the same question they'll rattle off a list of bars and/or neighborhoods in which they went out. New Yorkers certainly eat, and there is no shortage of outstanding restaurants in New York - far more than there are in L.A., but the social life of a 20-something NYer is not organized around restaurant culture, it's organized around bar culture. What neighborhoods you go out in, what bars in those neighborhoods, what nights of that week at those bars in those 'hoods. I'm going to go so far as to say that it defines your entire New York experience.

There's that in LA, for sure, but from what I can tell people spend far more time organizing themselves and their groups around restaurants slash meals. Mention any restaurant in an acceptable radius to LA proper (Santa Monica/Venice included) and most people will both know if it and tell you what to order. Again, maybe just my group of friends? But I will say same has applied to people I work with and random people I meet.

Here's what I think is going on:
  • Restaurants are more affordable here - At first I didn't think the difference was that significant, but time and time again I expect to walk out paying $50 or more for a good meal and end up at $40 or below. There are simply more mid-priced restaurants here serving very high quality food. So it's easier and more affordable to eat out therefore people do it more often. Simple as that.
  • It's harder to drink here - also simple as that. You can certainly organize an entire night around drinking, but the driving issue makes that a little more complicated. So it's not that people don't go out drinking, it's just they aren't as consumed with it (or as consumed as my group was in our first years in Manhattan).
  • The food scene in LA has been booming as of late. People are talking about LA chefs, LA cuisine, new LA restaurants. It's du jour, so it's what people are into. Another simple reason.
  • The bars are greater in number and quality in New York. Sorry, but that's a fact. I have been to some excellent bars in L.A., but nothing compares to the sheer number and variety of bars in NYC. On Avenue A alone there are more fantastic bars that I've been to in this entire city. It's hard to develop a culture around something that doesn't offer strong options.
I'm sure I'm not doing justice to some issues and overstating others, but in my experience all of the above contributes to my theory. Luckily I like restaurants just as much as I like bars, so the transition from one obsession to another hasn't phased me (or my bank account) much.

Unfortunately I can't say the same for what it's doing to my weight...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Follow-up: how to tell your friend she's a chameleon dater



Someone sent me a very smart follow-up query following last week's past about chameleon daters.

Forget about whether or not you, yourself are a chameleon dater. What do you do if your friend is downright chronic? How do you make her realize the ridiculousness slash wrongs of her ways?

Good question. Tricky answer.

I think the best method is to orchestrate a very carefully constructed conversation of the lead-the-horse-to-water approach. Get your friend to see just how much she's changed by pointing at specific shifts she'll have no choice but to recognize.

Below is a sample convo written as a scene for another project I'm working on, but the gist of the method is the same. Pointed questions that slowly but surely make your position clear as day without you ever having to say, "your entire personality changes the minute you start dating someone new" or, in the case of this scene, "you're dating an absolute douche."

Enjoy!


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LIFE SCRIPTS: scripted options for adult conversation. Note: some of these have not been tested – sober.

Explaining to your good friend that her boyfriend of 1+ years is a douche.

Cast:
YOU: you good friend who has a very high threshold of patience.
HER: your good friend who, frankly, doesn’t think Cirque de Soleil and Tony Danza, and using Evite, and summer straw hats are gay.
Scene: You two at Sunday brunch after a particularly significant fight between HER and him.
HER
Ugh – he drives me crazy sometimes, but you know, I love him, so, what can I do…
YOU
Mmmm…true…but – you know – sometimes you have to think about what exactly you love about him if you’re going through a time when you’re finding someone really bothers you a lot.
HER
What do you mean?
YOU
I just mean that I feel like you hear about people who say, “well he does _______ to me, buuut I love him,” and I feel like a therapist would say, “tell me exactly what you love about him.”
HER
Are you saying I need to see a therapist?
YOU
Oh – no – god no – sorry. I mean, you’re welcome to see a therapist if you feel like you’re – I don’t know – having trouble really seeing things clearly, but it seems like you’re not, so no. I’m just saying that sometimes we think we’re sure about something but our viewpoint is – I don’t know – clouded.
HER
So you think my viewpoint is clouded about him?
YOU
No – no – I’m not saying that. I’m just saying that if what I’m hearing is that x, y, and z really, really bothers you about him, then it might be helpful to weight those difficult aspects of him against his overall person and determine what you like and what you don’t.
HER
But why would I do that?
YOU
Well, to see if you guys are really a good couple.
HER
Do you think we’re not really a good couple??
YOU
No – again – not at all saying that. I’m just hearing what you’re saying and thinking “hhmm, that’s curious. My good friend is really troubled when her boyfriend behaves in this given list of manners. Wonder if she should take a pause and think about the two of them and their relationship a little more closely.”
HER
Take a pause like break up??
YOU
No – no – not like “break up” – just – I don’t know – take a pause… Like how about every time you feel compelled to say, outloud, “he is such an asshole” – maybe write that down in some form of little journal? And then next to it note why you feel he’s a fucking asshole – what behavior of his made you conclude that about him? And then after, say, a month or so, count how many times you’ve written that down and take a look at how that list makes you feel?
HER
Hhmmm.
YOU
Like – right now say – if we were to start a list. Can you think of the last few times you said that or something like that about him?
HER
Um….
YOU
I mean, I’m not trying to..
HER
…no – wait – I’m counting…
YOU
Okay – sorry – I really don’t mean to meddle…it’s just that I hate to see you frustrated, that’s all. And I feel like maybe sometimes it’s hard to realize that you’re frustrated when you’re in it because – I don’t know – there’s sex and stuff and that’s nice and…
HER
Okay.
YOU
Okay?
HER
5.
YOU
Okay – so that’s good – you’ve felt that way about him or maybe said that he was a fucking asshole 5 times since you’ve been together…so now…
HER
No.
YOU
Sorry?
HER
Yesterday.
YOU
Oh.
HER
Yeah.
YOU
Well then.
HER
Right.
YOU
Did you want another Bloody Mary?
HER
Yes.
END SCENE.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Why some girls are afraid to make it official



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Most girls live for the so-do-you-think-we-should-we-be-exclusive? conversation. They bite their tongues on the issue from the moment they’re sure he’s a contender to the moment they finally break down and ask.

Most girls are dying to say, “this is my boyfriend __________” or “my boyfriend and I were at ____________” or “ugh, do you know what my boyfriend is making me do this weekend??”
Which is why the very small percentage of them – fine – us who bristle at the B-word feel like freaks for preferring the single-centric life. It’s not that they don’t want a boyfr… guy – it’s just that relationships make things all complicated and potentially messy and maybe eventually painful and all together less controllable than life as a party of one. Right?

Recent events have made me more thoughtful about why the idea of saying, “yes, let’s be exclusive” scares the beejesus out of some girls. What exactly is so terrifying? Does it have anything to do with the specific guy? Does any of the neurosis hold any water? And how similar are the fears of a non-committal woman to those of her male counterpart?

Here, in brief and with little-to-no science, is my assessment:

· She’s Just Not That (fill in the blank) 75% of the time, if a girl says she just isn’t sure she wants to be exclusive it’s because she just isn’t sure she wants to exclusive with this guy. She might not know that, but her inner circle will. It’s a stretch to say that women have strong enough instincts to know when they can’t say no to a relationship, but much of the time that’s true. This explains all those I-was-the-most-independent-girl-in-the-world-until-I-met-______________ stories.

· Burn Me Once…Then there are the times where the fate of this guy is resting on all the issues with A, B, and C guys prior. It’s not always easy to detach the results of relationships past with the prospect of the relationship present. Women who have been cheated on often fall into this category. It’s a trust issue, and unfortunately it has zero to do with the current man’s level of trustworthiness. No that’s not fair, but it's also not controllable.

· If it takes her 45 minutes to pick an outfit then – Sometimes a girl honestly just can’t decide – on a anything from a pretend outfit to an all-too-real man. A million factors could be at play here, but if the girl in question resides in one of our nation’s more option-filled cities she may suffer from a simple case of shiny ball syndrome. Sure he’s great, but what if I meet someone tomorrow who’s better?

· The Compulsive Interviewer – She’s not all together unlike The Indecisive, but in this case the delay is because the interview is incomplete. For some girls the decision to lock it down requires the man in question to make it through an exhaustive list of challenges deeming him worthy of the task. It’s not as vicious as it sounds. For this girl it’s less about finding perfection and more about not making a mistake she’ll have to deal with later. Or, as one friend brilliant put it, “it’s a lot easier to tell someone you’re going in a different direction than to fire them off the job.”

· The Allure of the Single Girl There is something about the power of being a single, professional woman navigating life without the aid of a knight in shining armor, and I’m going to go so far as to say that the perceiving world agrees. Single girls are always available, always game, easily as much one of the girls as one of the guys. Being unattached gives them the freedom to move about as they see fit – no compromises, no obligations, and no people to disappoint because work comes first. And yes, there’s a reason this section is longer than the others…

So to the women out there who fall into any of the above categories I say, you’re not alone. You’re probably not exhibiting the healthiest behavior and might want to seek the counsel of a trusted professional and/or your mother, but you’re not alone.

And to the men out there wondering how the hell they ended up with someone less commitment-centric than they are I say, bear with us – please. If it’s right, we’ll get there with time.
...and then just when you least expect it, we'll finally tell the Internet we have a boyfriend.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Chameleon daters: who they are, and how to tell if they are you


  • "It's like she becomes whoever it is she's dating," C said over one, plate-sized ricotta-stuffed ravioli with a fried egg on top (trust me - it's perfection).
  • "Like a chameleon," R said, probably because chameleons are lizards and lizards are like dinosaurs and dinosaurs are second only to trucks in coolness to a boy, I'm told.
  • "Hmmm, chameleon daters..." I said, "...there's a blog post in that..."
And so goes every group dinner I've attended since 2007.

The concept is as simple as C's one-line evaluation. There are people who adopt the elements of the person they're dating to the point of transformation. Sometimes it's a one-time-only deal - someone falls into a new relationship unlike any they've been in before and a whiplash 180 in mannerisms, personality, likes, dislikes, political party (not kidding, knew a girl) results. But in general, chameleon-dating is a chronic issue - an M-O of the relationship variety. These types end up with slight to drastically different partners from one pairing to the next and, as if suddenly cast in the role of __________'s ____friend, become enveloped in the significant other's every life detail ala the 1996 definition of a poser.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with a natural melding of two lives. At a base level attraction is about liking similar things. The next logical step - the becoming a couple part - is finding the "we" mutually pulled from your individual lives. We love hiking. We love sushi. We love making plans three to six weeks in advance then adding in little details through careful research during the weeks leading up execution of the original plan.

But most of that works because it starts from a place of shared interest. Chameleon daters change their interests throughout the dating process. A meat-lover goes vegetarian. A club scene devotee switches to indie rock. Someone who was always dressed to the nines now opts for casual jeans and T's. Suddenly they love watching football or can't get enough karaoke or think flea markets are awesome.

Not that football or karaoke or flea markets aren't something one should learn to find awesome. It's the near hypocrite nature of the chameleon-dater's switch that's troublesome. So, two months before the new beau arrived camping was a bug-infested freak-fest for people who have no interest in a good night's sleep. Now they've dropped bank on REI supplies, tweet links to new-found hiking trails, and strong-arm everyone who'll listen into joining. "We just love to camp," the chameleon dater says, "thank god we crazy kids found each other!"

So you see the "what" of it. Now here are some suggestions on the why, all of which exist in fine line territory for a number of reasons:

  • A person has a less-than defined personality to begin with, so any coupling is going to see them take back seat to the lifestyle of their new other half. This is less chameleon dating and more what I like to call sheep dating. It's not that sheep want to be the shepherd, it's that they need something to follow. Pardon the elementary school metaphor.
  • A person is exaggerating/lying about how alike they and their ____friend have become. In this scenario the camper is secretly miserable and planning Troop Beverly Hills-style escape strategies while smiling out of the other side of their mosquito-bitten face. This is the two-faced dater. A relationship criminal far more dangerous than the chameleon dater. They're not transformers; they're pathological liars.
  • A person sees that their new significant other is really, truly better than them in many ways and decides mimicking their every move is actually a smart life strategy, regardless of the relationship. In this scenario the person remains categorized as a chameleon but with the slight differentiation of, "and thank god because they needed to make some changes..."
So have you done it? Are you doing it now? Or, in the case of bullet point number three, should you maybe consider doing it next time?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hypotheticals: The case of the financially-stalled future fiance



New week, new series.

If there's one thing we 20-nothings do very well it's maintain that we have no clue as to how to direct our own personal and professional lives while being fully in control of how everyone around us should live theirs'. It's not that we're hypocrites (though many of us are that too) - it's more like we're chronic back seat drivers who openly admit we can't pilot the vehicle ourselves.

So - to help work that judgment-from-afar muscle, I'll be posing hypotheticals specific to our set for all to evaluate. Consider it a way to get your fix without deeply pissing off people you actually know.

Today: The Poverty Proposal Predicament.

A guy and a girl have been dating for some time - say 3 years? There has been talk of marriage and mutual agreement it's eventually going to happen. Naturally the she of the they has expressed a desire for it to happen soon.

Now in this particular situation that she is in a stable career with strong job security making a sizable salary. We'll call her a derivatives trader because that sounds like something that would make someone a lot of money. The guy, not so much. He's a writer or actor or aspiring professional musician. He's making rent, but that's about it. Every penny he's able to scrape away is used in pursuit of his passion, and there is no 5-year-plan to shift gears from starving artist to plan B.

Now the guy is fully ready to propose - has been for some time - but owing to his financial situation, he can't afford a ring. Hm, correction, he can't afford a ring that costs more than, say, 1K, and that's assuming he's either resolved the bad credit issue previously preventing him from getting another credit card or that his parents will throw him a thousand bones for an engagement ring.

A quick note on thousand-dollar engagement rings. They certainly, certainly exist. They are certainly not what the girl in our hypothetical wants. And, and I may get in trouble for this, they're not what most girls want...

So let's - for the sake of argument in this exercise - say our guy knows the 1K option is not an option. He doesn't have the credit, he can't borrow the money, and he needs at least 5K as it is.

At his current rate of saving given his current life situation it will take him three more years to save 5K - maayybbee two years if he drastically alters his lifestyle and way de-prioritizes his passion.

And to make matters more challenging for you experts out there - clock is ticking with the girl. While she doesn't want him to deny his dreams, she's nervous about what this prescribes for the future.

So 21st-century yentas - what should they do??

The way I see it, there are the following options:

  • He explains to her the financial situation and they settle on a proposal marked with a ring of very low monetary value (we're talking 400 bucks) that she can trade up once he's able to afford something larger or no ring at all.
  • He borrows the money from someone and sets up a payment plan with them like he would with a credit card if his credit were stable.
  • They pool make the decision to pool their finances/savings and together buy her a ring knowing that "together" is essentially her.
  • He drastically alters his entire life to begin a strong savings plan that allows him to propose in the next year. We're talking new apartment in a new part of town. New or supplemental work. Significant adjustments to social life including his life with her.
  • She decides that she can wait to get engaged until he's in a position to propose with a ring he bought on his own, even if that means she waits five more years.

I think that covers it, but feel free to explore other options in comments. I've purposefully left off, "she leaves him" because this specific scenario is about how two people compromise, but if you think that's the correct decision, feel free to suggest.

Okay. Ready. Set. JUDGE!

Friday, November 5, 2010

LA Week 9: my very first visitor



This weekend is the very first time someone is coming to visit me in L.A., and I'm nervous.

At the moment my primary nervousness surrounds the fact that I've never picked someone up at LAX, and I'm worried I'm going to somehow do it wrong and leave my guest stranded or confused or, worse than that, under the assumption that I'm really bad at living in L.A. It is my perception that knowing how to pick someone up at LAX is one of the cornerstones of knowing how to live in L.A.

  • "You know to wait at the In-N-Out for the person you're picking up to call so you don't have to loop, right?" Robby said.
  • "You know what to tell the cops if they tell you to get out of the arrival pick-up lane to get them off your back, right?" Ann said.
  • "You're going to take La Cienega all the way to La Tijera, right?" said someone I really didn't mean to slap in face...
No! No I don't know about In-N-Out and police evasion and the fastest route to the airport. I've only ever arrived via car service or people other than me driving, and at this point it's too late for me to commit these tricks to to memory meaning I'm sure to mess it up and then when someone back home asks my visitor, "how is Jessie doing in L.A.??" they'll say, "It's a disaster. She doesn't know how to do it."

The simple solution, of course, would be to use the GPS that I keep in the glove compartment of my car for use in instances when I'm 100% sure I will get lost without the device and don't have time to be lost in that given moment.

I've set those very specific parameters because I don't want to grow reliant on the GPS like I hear people who just move to L.A. can get, and then two years from now (yes, or less if I move home sooner, Mom) I still won't be able to get from my house to the part of town where all the karaoke bars are. And if there's anything I'm not willing to risk it's my knowledge of how to get to the part of town where all the karaoke bars are.

I've established the one "unless" knowing there are those very specific moments where you know you will get lost and don't have time to figure out where you are by looking for the Hollywood Hills and/or trying to use gas station prices as neighborhood indicators. This has happened twice. Once en route to a party in the Hollywood Hills (which I was able to find by virtue of they go up, but couldn't navigate once I got in them) and once en route from my office to a business meeting at another office. If there's two things you can't mess with it's proper arrival time to both parties and business meetings.

In this particular case of picking my guest up at the airport I have both ample time to get lost and a very serious pride issue going on, so there's no way I can use the GPS. Instead I've been forced to create a mnemonic device for the directions both going to and leaving the airport. The recommended route there given my starting location is La Cienega to La Tijera to Airport Way to Culver Blvd is LLAC - so - Ladies Love Avocado Cubes and going home is Follow Signs to the 405 to take ramp to 405 North to actually exit onto La Cienega - which is trickier, so I just set those words to King of New York from Newsies, which works surprising well if you ever come across a tough mnemonic situation.

Luckily the whole there-are-no-tolls-here situation means I don't have to deal with the wild card of pulling up to a toll booth close enough to reach the ticket and/or press the button without putting the car in park, unbuckling my seat belt, opening the door, and reaching out akin to some idiot whose never pulled up to a toll situation before. That is as clear a sign as any that you don't know how to live in L.A. and you do it in a forum that's totally inviting people to snap a camera phone shot of your lameness and upload it directly to Facebook. Caption: L.A. Fail.

So, it should all be very simple. Drive there without getting lost, pulled over, or in an accident. Navigate pick-up and drop-off lanes to secure visitor. Remember how to pop trunk to put luggage into trunk of car. Exit airport and mentally reverse directions just driven to get back to house while seeming in complete control of both the vehicle and life at large.

Aanndddd then repeat over four days playing tour guide...

Wish me luck, and easy-to-pull-into parking spots.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The pros and cons of letting your gay friends play matchmaker



On Monday I killed some buzz with the news that your girlfriend's boyfriend is likely not the source you hoped he'd be for good-guy set ups.

Today I hope to Tink-clap that buzz back to life with the news that a friend of the gay variety could possibly be the right guy to find your right guy.

This like all my advice should be taken slightly more seriously than however you'd properly modify the expression "with a grain of salt" to fit the grammatical structure of this sentence.

I may live with two gay men, call three best friends, and spend many a weekend with between eight and ten others, but I have never technically been set up by one. I believe there's a valid reason for that, which we'll get to as we move through the pro/con list relative to their services.

(A quick disclaimer - the contents of this post contain generalizations and stereotypes meant to be honest and comedic, not intended to offend or insult. I'm an equal-opportunity critic, exaggerator, and caricaturist).

Pro.
  • Gay men have a real pulse on the entire male scene. You think you're paying attention to the general crowd at a given bar in a given moment, check in with the gay guy standing next to you. He has not only eye-cased the joint thrice over but, given his assessment of the scene can likely predict who was there 15 minutes prior, and who's about to show up. It is a unique skill I'm told is accomplished almost entirely by taking inventory of the pants and shoes worn by every person in the bar. This specific super power means a gay man will never answer, "So, do you work with any cute, straight guys," with a, "hhmm, uummm...I don't know..."
  • Most gay men don't mince words when it comes to the realities of dating. This means that in a scenario where you say, "well, I think what I'm looking for is _________," they'll say, "see, that's your first problem. You actually need to be with a __________."
  • The idea of potential drama, awkwardness, gossip and/or the need for careful social scheming does to a gay man the opposite of what it does to a straight man. These issue are not the risked results they take in agreeing to set you up - they're the rewards they reap.
  • Unlike girlfriends, they're not secretly out to set themselves up with all the guys they're claiming to be finding for you. Never, ever trust a girl who, when you say, "but if he's so great, why don't you want to date him?" responds, "well, we work together, so I technically can't..." You know that minx will be all over it just as soon as she can get herself transferred without it being blatantly obvious.
  • Bragging rights over the future of your entire relationship. This cannot be underestimated.
Con.
  • While any friend gay or straight will surely aim to respect your set-up ground rules, the gays have been known to go rogue. This doesn't mean they don't ultimately get the job done. It just means you shouldn't be surprised if the guy acts like he knows wwaayy more about you than you intended on your first date.
  • The converse to Pros List, Item 2. Yes, there are many instances where your gay best friend will be right - you should be with X kind of guy instead of Y. But there is bound to be a percentage of instances where he will be very wrong. And in 100% of that percentage he will have recommended someone eerily similar to the kind of guy he should be with...and/or Jake Gyllenhaal.
  • It is often the case that no man is good enough for a gay man's girl. This is very kind and very sweet until it gets to the point where every single man you put forth is met with a, "sweetie, you can do better."
  • Giving a gay man an inch of control over your dating life is akin to letting your little sister start to borrow your nicer clothes. Slipperly, slipperly slope.
Despite the list of Cons, I do recommend putting your gay friends to the set-me-up task. But please note that the same advice does NOT apply to allowing them free reign over your online dating profiles. Yes, I know they know you so well and wouldn't lie about which pictures are best and have such a great way with words, but you go look at one online profile for a gay dating site and tell me I'm wrong.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Is 30 our self-imposed deadline for marriage?



The other day my editors at Lemondrop passed me a Media Week article referencing a new study specific to the 20-something set.

The research covers a bunch of issues facing the "transition generation" - as they refer to us, but it was one in particular that jumped out at the Lemondrop team as something I'd love to sink my teeth into.

"Per the TRU survey, 30 has emerged as a soft deadline for marriage, home ownership and career advancement, a development that has much to do with the pragmatism that informs today’s younger consumer."

They know me too well...

Here's my response to the that notion and my personal feelings on the idea of 30 as a marriage etc. deadline.

Is 30 The New Deadline for Marriage?

But I want to take a quick second to add that I remain torn about the idea of an ideal marriage age. What I say in the piece is absolutely true - I don't believe cultural "deadlines" invoked by peer pressure or long-standing tradition should force us to be ready for something when we're not. But that doesn't make the age-old question go away - if you're a career-guided woman who still wants a multi-child family, when do commit to making that happen? And, maybe more importantly, how much is the fact that you're a career-guided woman contributing to the fact that it hasn't happened yet?

Thoughts for another headline.

For now, hope you enjoy this take and include your own thoughts in comments.

*photo from Lemondrop.com

Monday, November 1, 2010

Why even the greatest guys probably aren't going to set you up with their friends


It happened again last night.

One of the girls we were with pulled me aside and said, "you need to tell him to set me up with one of his friends.

The "him" is Robby, and yes I'll eventually explain both that back and current story.

For purposes of this post you should know that he is the kind of guy who inspires your girlfriends to pull you aside and say, "you need to tell him to set me up with one of his friends."

We say that when believe we've identified a good man who we believe may know other good men. In our minds it's as simple as, good men attract good men meaning this good man will know a good man for me. Sort of like how if you make one "IT" friend you seem to immediately find yourself wrapped up in a whole group of people with access to insane things like infinity pools and midnight Prince concerts with a 20 person guest list. Sort of.

In theory, it makes perfect sense. On a macro-level - like-minded people make the best friends. And on a specific level - good guys tend to have a low tolerance for guys of the major asshole variety. Plus if they're good by nature then they'll surely want to do things for the benefit of others and, given the value they obviously place on relationships, will want one of those things to be organizing a set up between a girlfriend of their girlfriend and a guy among their group.

Unfortunately it's not only that that's faulty logic but also that there are a whole host of other male-specific issues at play that prevent even the best of guys from ever being able to set you up.

Here's some of that whole host:

1. Guys don't make the kind of snap assessments that girls do about a person's entire personality.

I can spend five minutes with a girl and tell you the kind of guy I think she should be with for the rest of her life. I may be (will be...) wrong, but that's irrelevant. The first thing most guys will say when you say, "come on...don't you know someone for _________ to date??" is, "I don't feel like I know ________ well enough to say who she should be dating." Then we say something like, "of course you know her well enough! Brown hair, works in TV, likes music, from Pennsylvania, is always the one at the party trying to clean shit up even though it isn't her house - what's the issue?!" I know what you're thinking - ugh, I know who always-the-one-at-the-party-trying-to-clean-shit-up should be with!! You know what most guys are thinking? When is she cleaning shit up? I never see her doing that. Or are you just exaggerating again?

2. Good guys aren't necessarily friends with other good guys.

Qualities people look for in friendship are not always equal to qualities people look for in relationships. Of course we should all only be friends with really good people with solid moral standing who treat members of the opposite sex with nothing but respect and chivalry, but obviously we're not or we we'd all have slipped into angelic couplings and be living happily and without need for set ups. Nice guys can be friends with jerks, just like the rest of us. They can also be friends with guys who make fantastic friends and not-great boyfriends outside the "asshole" category.

3. In the case where great guys do have great guy friends, many of them are already in relationships on account of, they're great.

I wish there was a but here, but there isn't. I'm sorry.

4. In general, guys really hate setting people up.

Or rather, the idea of it given how little it's actually done. Setting people up is risky and tricky and often leads to disappointment on the part of multiple parties. Setting the girlfriend of your girlfriend up with a friend of yours is all that risk plus the added potential for both your girlfriend and your buddy to be really upset with you. Guys fear those scenarios independent of each other. The potential combination is a disaster.

5. Sometimes the message doesn't quiiite get passed along...

I want to make very clear that this is not what happened the other night and isn't, in general, what happens if you ask me to ask a guy to find someone for you. In general, I will pass that message along and see where the cards fall. But, if I had to speak on behalf of all women kind I might admit that sometimes we see the writing on the wall, know our guy has no chance of making a solid match, and decide it's best to leave well enough alone. Bottom line: we have enough factors at play to mess up our own relationships. Many of us don't need the additional stress of a set-up gone wrong between our camp and theirs'.

I realize this post is simply 800+ words that all essentially say, "you now have one fewer means to meet good men," but I think it's best for us to all head out into the field fully aware of what forces out can help us navigate the battle to eventually win the war. Sadly I'm saying your friends' boyfriend is not one of them.

Tomorrow - why your gay friend is, if some important ground rules are set.