Monday, January 31, 2011

My car battery and my status as a woman

Last week my car battery died, and I decided that it's ok to need a man in your life.

I promise the rest of this post will be less dramatic, but not by a lot.

It was a Thursday night and R and I were on our way back from Thousand Oaks, California where we'd gone to see my good friend Paul in his performance with the touring company of A Chorus Line. I was !!!!!! about it. R was !!!!! about my being !!!! about it. How R actually felt about it would and will remain a total mystery. This is one of R's finest and most appreciated qualities.

There are a lot of details that are significant about this part of the story, but I'll spare you most of them. Just know that Thousand Oaks, California is 30-some-odd miles from L.A. and 50-some-odd miles from Santa Monica, where both R and I were prior to departing for the show. It took 1.75 hours to travel those 50-some-odd miles. We went to dinner before the show at a restaurant called Exotic Thai where we ate one Chinese and two Japanese dishes. After the show we took my friend Paul for a celebratory drink at the one venue open past 10pm - a BJ's. BJ's has an incredible dessert called the Pizookie, which is a hot cookie topped with ice cream. R had a really bad cold. And, upon arriving home to LA at 12:30am, my car battery was dead.

There are a lot of details that are significant to my car battery being dead, but I'll spare you all of them because I have absolutely no idea how it happened, when it happened, or if it's going to happen again. Just know that car issues of any kind are among my greatest fears and frustrations. I've never had my own car, I've never wanted my own car, and most days I contemplate abandoning the one I have and spending the monthly lease fee plus insurance and gas on a personal driver. Unfortunately I've looked into the costs for that sort of thing and they're slightly higher than the lease on 2010 Jetta, despite the leather interior and sun roof. Same with cabs. Total injustice.

Needless to say I am beside myself. Concerned. Confused. Tired. Annoyed. Pizookie-stuffed. Convinced that my street is a danger-ridden place, that my car is a total lemon, and that I've already caught R's cold.

There are many difficult life scenarios in which I perform well to very well. I'm incredibly comforting at a funeral. I know how to mediate a group of sisters who can't remember what they're fighting about. If you're a sexually confused man looking to decide whether you belong in or out of the closet, I'm your girl (and it's out). But throw me into a scenario in which I must perform a technical task related to heavy machinery for which I am financially responsible and I will crumble. Put that task on a dark street at a late hour with a man who just wants to help, and I will add a layer of stubborn anger to that crumble that would scare a AAA man away.

"What's the problem?" R kept saying, "I'm here. I have jumper cables. I know what to do with them. No one's going to bother us. I'm going to teach you how to jump the car and charge the battery so you won't have any problems in the morning. It'll take 15 minutes, tops."

He does not yet know that no amount of logic would work in this situation.

See, in this scenario, in my mind, independent feminist is waging war against girl who's learning to be in a relationship. In my mind I should know how to jump a car, and I should have a AAA card in case I don't. In my mind I'm now a needy, typical keep-you-up-'til-1AM-making-your-bad-cold-worse girlfriend who's as helpless as they come. (I warned you about the level of drama...).

No this doesn't make sense, and I know that. There are plenty of men out there who wouldn't know what the hell to do, but the man I'm standing with does and he's saying things like, "I so glad I'm here so I can teach you how to do this," and, "If I wasn't here I would expect you to call me to come over here and help you." I'm making weird whining noises and a face that says both "thank you" and "there goes my independence" (jaw structure is similar to "pathetic").

We jumped the car. We got in and drove together around the block for five minute so my battery would re-charge. We re-parked the car in a safe spot with ample room in front and back in case (as I suspected) a parallel parker bumped it and the alarm went off all day draining the battery (R: "Good. That's a great theory. See! You know what could have happened. You're great at this!"). And then I made R quiz me on how to do the whole thing all over again so I could do it on my own.

I cannot explain why taking kind and patient help with something I know nothing about (and for valid reason) makes me feel like less of a woman slash person. Maybe it's because I feel most natural being the more helpful and able party in a party of two? Because my self-confidence is rooted in self-preservation? Maybe it's because my mind still exists in single girl mode? Maybe it's because I'm inclined to want what each person gives in a relationship to be totally equal so that it's really more like the best high school group project you ever worked on?

Or maybe it's because in that moment I realized that I looooved having a guy around to make it all better, and that made me feel part guilty, part nervous and totally unlike myself... And maybe that was what felt somewhat scary and unnatural for me...

Whatever it was - the source of my ridiculous neurosis - I got over it. I took the help, I liked the help, and I didn't do what I was inclined to do which was buy R some over-the-top "thank you" gift for providing the help.

...and then dying though I was to buy my very own jumper cables to keep in my own car to fix my own messes, I didn't.

Instead I just haven't given R his back. Baby steps.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Kate Middleton quit her job, should you?

*photo credit: Ben Stansall, AFP / Getty Images

In case you've been away from the Internets for the past three days, Kate Middleton quit her job to prep for the wedding to Wills.

Naturally this news has the International press in a total tizzy, so I decided to join the party with my own take for AOL's

Agree or disagree? Like or dislike?

--> *note: I don't necessarily think she shouldn't have...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A few more things to learn from The Duke Sex List Girl

I promise this will not be a blog post beating of a recently deceased horse.

The other day my friend Becca e-mailed me an article about the unfortunate collection of student issues that have arisen at Duke University over the past few years. It was ingeniously titled, "The Hazards of Duke" (note: if you include a pun in the title, I will read it). The writer, Caitlin Flanagan, was trying to point out that something is up with Duke based on recent events that include Lacrosse Player Gate of 2006/7, the birth of Duke Law student turned writer Tucker Max, and Karen Owen whose infamous Power Point you'll remember from last Fall.

Flanagan writes an awesome piece about student culture, college campus oversight, and what seems to make Duke kids tick. I recommend reading some if not most of it.

The reason I bring it up today is because of several points Flanagan makes about Miss Owen that I find particularly poignant. I thought I'd thought everything I have to think about the topic, but this piece brings up some angles that made me think some thoughts some more. One of my thoughts is around the topic of what it means to be a sexually liberated female. The other is about expectations women have around men specific to sexual encounters. Neither looks very favorably on what Karen Owen did, but mine is not a rant against Karen Owen - it's an observation about all the version of Karen Owen that exist.

Thought one is based on the following chunk from Flanagan's piece:

"She’s like a fraternity’s ideal pledge: she races around to deliver hot breakfasts to the brothers, drives them to practices, hangs out loyally on cold streets while they work out potential DUI hassles with the cops, listens to them chew over their buddies’ girlfriend problems, tells them—with apparent sincerity—that they’re awesome at spitting Biggie raps, never demands her own turn at Mario Kart. Even her attitude toward (and during) sex seems to have been dreamed up during a Sigma Nu smoker: she’s certainly not the first young woman to perform fellatio in a crowded college library, but surely there aren’t many others who in the middle of this act earned an appreciative—and robustly returned—high five."

Note: all the examples listed in this assessment of Karen Owen are taken straight from that 40-some-odd-page Power Point. Flanagan isn't making assumptions based on some behavior Owen referenced.

She goes on to write:

"If what we are seeing in Karen Owen is the realization of female sexual power, then we must at least admit that the first pancake off the griddle is a bit of a flop. What rotten luck that the first true daughter of sex-positive feminism would have an erotic proclivity for serving every kind of male need, no matter how mundane or humiliating, that she would so eagerly turn herself from sex mate to soccer mom, depending on what was wanted from her. "

Flanagan is taking a stab at the many journalists, media personalities, and individuals (from online bloggers to ladies who brunch) who met Owen's Power Point with a BRAVO! They felt she was a breath of fresh air; that finally a woman was taking her sexual life by the reigns; that this was the kind of attitude we should celebrate.

When I first wrote about Karen Owen I made the point that a woman objectifying men like men objectify women is not something to celebrate. Here Flanagan is saying, a woman bending over backwards (pun potentially intended) to meet the needs of every man she's looking to conquer is not objectifying him, she's being his doormat. And when they eventually have drunken sex, that's not her conquering, it's her having casual sex.

I think this is an important distinction we need to realize in the conversation about what it means to be a sexually liberated woman. All too often that classification is applied to women who are or seem comfortable with casual sex. Women who - for lack of a better explanation - treat sex like some men treat sex.

Based on the very detailed descriptions of Karen Owen's 13 sexual encounters, she doesn't do that. She doesn't put her sexual wants and needs first or close to first. She doesn't communicate to her partners what she wants out of the sexual encounter. She's far more concerned with status and appearance than a sexual connection.

So, there's that. And it's important to me because (omg-I'm-becoming-my-mother moment) as young girls start to form an understanding of what it means to be an empowered person making sexual choices, it's easy to confuse power and control for the total opposite.

Onto the next. Quoting Flanagan here, again:

"Subject 2, who was rated a 1 out of a possible 10, is the impetus for the entire thesis. In fact, at the very end of the whole ugly mess of it, after she has become so good at oral sex that she is repeatedly praised for having no gag reflex, after she has learned to crave sex so rough that she’s left battered, after she’s been cast aside over and over again, the final line of the thesis—before her jaunty “Acknowledgements” slide— is another angry remark about Subject 2. Being rejected by Subject 1 was hurtful and embarrassing, but being treated like a whore by Subject 2 is what broke her heart and her spirit, and if you are the kind of person whose heart and spirit can be broken by a one-night stand, then you may not be the brave new face of anything at all."

Forgive me, but there's no less crass way to say this: you don't get to act like a whore and complain when men don't treat you like a lady. You put something down - a reputation, a pattern of behavior, a quantity of drinks - and the men you put it down in front of pick it up. PLEASE note, this is not a "she wore a short skirt, she asked for abuse" argument. This is a, "she treated the sex and the men she was having it with disrespect, she can't be shocked when they do the same."

I find this topic even more interesting than the former because I think we do this is more ways that the Karen Owen example. We act in one manner but expect the other person we're dealing with to exist in a control where they're as chivalrous, mature, and respectful as we'd like. Where we can be whomever we feel like, but they're supposed to see us a perfect ladies (whatever that means).

Meet a guy when you're wasted at a bar, and end up furious when he doesn't call the number you scribbled on his hand. Were you wasted? Do you barely remember what happened? Are you somewhat nervous about what he looks like as a result? Right. So is he.

This is not giving rude, disrespectful people an excuse. Wrong is wrong. But we have to be real about our expectations, and we can't forget to consider our own actions in the mix.

And with that, we're done with this topic and all that surround it for some time, I promise.

Monday, January 24, 2011

2011 New Year's Resolutions: Better Late Than Wronger?

New Year's resolutions are not for the indecisive, or the chronically over-achieving, or people carrying 8 bullet-point to-do lists over from 2010. Unfortunately, right now I'm all three.

It wasn't until this past week that I finally crossed off the last task and deemed myself ready to start thinking about how to live my 2011 life. Ready to start thinking about, being the operative sentence part. A few weeks back I'd received a helpful e-prod from the new-year, new-you! focused people at Weight Watchers to jump start resolution season (*see below if you'd like your own help from WW). Apparently they've geniusly (a word?) re-tooled the classic "points system" to the new Points Plus system giving women everywhere the opportunity to both organize their weight loss plan and practice memorizing the assigned point value of every food known to man. I filed the e-mail in my "to be dealt with" folder - a folder I just opened for the first time in 26 days.

There is nothing quite like that feeling of deciding to finally deal with something you've put off for way too long - pick a New Year's resolutions being low man on a totem pole that includes "Check funds in bank account" and "Schedule lady doctor appointment." It's pit-in-your-stomach slash rock-in-your-throat inducing, or in my case spontaneous-and-unstoppable- restless-leg-syndrome).

And yet this time when I opened the file I experienced this very strange sense of knowing exactly what to do, which is among the strangest senses a 20-something female with a new job/life/boyfriend/car/pants size can feel.

Delete, respond with an apology, file in "SuperSave", click link through to purchase, add to research, delete, deleter, respond with dates available. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Bing, bang, boom, out! And with it the pit and the rock and the jiggles.

I'd put it all off and on account of that lag in time now knew just where things did slash should stand.

And with that I finally figured out what my 2011 resolution should be:

More procrastination.

No doubt some responses should have been sent earlier, and for those examples I am regretful, but the general list of crap-to-think-about-and-decide-on could wait, did, and was all the easier to make a call on as a result.

So with more procrastination comes less frantic urgency to know/do/fix/respond.

It's like the Marlboro Man once said at a high school assembly at which I was a lucky audience member, "don't just do something, sit there." (And you thought the Marlboro Man only knew cigarette and/or cowboy-related maxims).

I think in our attempt to pack it all in before the buzzer goes off we can (or at least I most certainly can) end up in a haste-makes-waste situation. We rush to make decisions. We rush to make plans. We rush to assign judgment.

So I think I'm going to attempt to spend 2011 not rushing.

I'd also like to read the New York Times online at least three times a week, develop strong skills in the kitchen and, when R says, "Sure, I'll go with you to that," not respond by saying, "Are you suuure?? because you really don't have to, at all, if you don't want to, so..."

Happy 2011, again. I think 11 months of being resolute will be plenty this year.

--> To give you an opportunity to experience Weight Watchers® yourself, Weight Watchers is offering a 14-day Free Trial to Weight Watchers Online. The offer ends on 1/26/2011. After the free trial, you will be charged for a 3-month subscription unless you cancel before the trial ends. After the first 3 months, subscription automatically renews monthly at standard rules. Click here to sign up today for this great offer from Weight Watchers before it ends!

Friday, January 21, 2011

A 40-something issue that's more 20-something in my book

My friend Mark e-mailed around this op-ed by writer Tim Kreider earlier this week. "Brilliant read," he said.

The Referendum
(new york times, September 17th)

Brilliant read was right.

I strongly encourage you to peruse it yourself, but for purposes of maybe-you-have-a-lot-of-work-to-do-at-work-today, it's about a man's thoughts on how we personally choose to move through life, and how we view the choices of others relative to ours' around the time we hit 40.

His version is clearer.

"The Referendum is a phenomenon typical of (but not limited to) midlife, whereby people, increasingly aware of the finiteness of their time in the world, the limitations placed on them by their choices so far, and the narrowing options remaining to them, start judging their peers’ differing choices with reactions ranging from envy to contempt."

So we get older, time becomes more finite-feeling, and as such we judge the way our peers choose to spend that time more...judgey-ly.

I've never been to midlife, so I can't say whether or not this phenomenon is fact, but based on Kreider's description and my general knowledge of humans, it sure seems so.

But as I read through the piece UmmHhmmand-ing Amen-ing outloud with every new paragraph, I realized that that there's another stage in life where this pattern of behavior rears its not-wildly-attractive head.

You see where I'm going.

Never have I been more aware of exactly where my peers are in life, what decisions they're making, and how different they are than my own. I've written about this before, back when we were all obsessed with the whole quarter-life crisis situation.

We are undoubtedly at the time in our lives where every decision feels all-the-more major because we don't know how significant or insignificant it will be. Everything is a game-changer because we've only just started playing the game.

The life phase Kreider writes about is the one where you've decided to play the game, are fairly set in your game-playing ways, and now know what kinds of benefits and costs that play of game will yield. He's referring to the second hour of RISK.

I'm referring to the first thirty minutes, and I'm going to boldly declare that I think the amount of judging going on then (now), while different in nature, is actually greater in quantity.

Every single day I see another status update from a random Facebook friend and think, "shit, she's doing that?! I'm not doing that?... But maybe I should be..." And then, hard as I try to stop it, I judge.

"Well, she's probably just doing that because __________" or "It's so typical of her to do that because ________________" or "She's doing that now but that just means she'll be burned out and looking for something else to do soon."

We judge, not because we think we know best, but because we're just so desperately trying to know something. At 40-something Kreider can look at a stable, family-man friend and say, "sure he has money, but he never traveled the world, and I think that's more valuable." We 20-somethings are stuck with looking at the peers around us making decisions based on finance versus love or family versus adventure or passion versus stability and having to guess who will end up happier, why, and how we feel about that. We have our own sense of value, desire, and goal, but no real idea how it will all turn out. Some of my friends got married very young. When that happened I said (to myself), what a mistake, they have their whole lives to get married. That's my personal world view, but it's not rooted it anything other than that, and there's a very strong possibility it's wrong.

And - and here's the fascinating thing about it all - when I think about the root feeling behind my comment I realize I said it to make myself feel more "right" in my world of unknown. To validate myself. To make me comfortable with my chosen path. To make me right, and everyone else less right.

"I just want someone to tell me that I'm doing OK," I once told a friend who was counseling me after my decision to leave one job for another.

"I think somebody would if anybody knew," she said.

And if there's one thing that always comes with a lack of knowledge it's a whole lot of judgment and assumption - different assumptions and judgments than apparently await us 20-some years from now, but undoubtedly from that same place of insecurity.

So thank you Tim Kreider. You write a fine piece of opinion. And with it you render me less annoyed at the 20-something set and more annoyed at the entire human condition. No judgment, of course.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

L.A. Month 4.5: Can you wait too long to move to L.A.?

I developed this fairly well-rehearsed speech right before I moved to L.A. - partly out of necessity, though I only just figured out who exactly needed it.

Everyone I encountered wanted to know why I was moving, how I was feeling, and when I'd come to this decision. By the time I was ready to move I'd perfected my lines to the point of answering the questions before they were asked...
  • Someone: Hey Jessie, how are you today?
  • Me: Good, good - feeling really solid in my decision to make the move now because I've established some strong connections out there that will make my transition a lot easier.
  • Someone: Um, sorry, out where?
  • Me: L.A. - yep - so it'll be a rough few months once I move in, but I'll be living with the boys and have a lot of good family friends, so I really think I'll be totally acclimated in no time.
...slaaash before the subject was broached.

Same went for the first few weeks after I moved. Tell someone you're fresh off the New York City boat, and they're bound to wonder the same few things - what for? why now? who do you know? Or at least those are the three questions their faces very clearly read when you introduce yourself and (generally without prompting) announce that you've just arrived.

Thus the "thoughts upon my departure" speech was tweaked to "thoughts upon my arrival":
  • "I'm just going to take my time really learning the industry before I dive into my ultimate goals here."
  • "I feel very grateful to have a full-time job to get me started on two feet and learning the ropes."
  • "My whole attitude about living in L.A. is to not pretend it's anything like New York, you know? - appreciate it for what it is, not what it's not."
After a few encounters I started to notice a slightly different mantra creeping into my rationale routine. I think it grew out of people asking me what it was like to live in Manhattan in my early twenties, or maybe because someone said I was lucky not to have been in L.A. as a poor, 20-something? Somehow something like the following line was added to the act:
  • "You know - I really feel like moving in my later 20's is right for me. I did the entry-level struggle in New York so I'm not jaded about the entertainment industry, plus I feel like I have a better head on my shoulders in relation to the whole fame and success thing. You know?"
No one asks, "so, could you provide a one hundred word reflection on your decision to move to L.A. at 27 and not 23?" And yet here I am waxing logical about the age at which it is best for one to transition from one epicenter to the other.

...which would be all fine and well and typical of my tendency to speak in three to five sentence sound bites when nervous if not for the fact that I think I might be wrong.

I think there's a chance that I moved to L.A. too late.

See when you move to this city at 23 you're part of a whole pool of 23-year-olds who all know the same amount of information about the industry - zero. You begin to climb the ladder together - falling down or off around the same rough patches and helping each other up along the way. You learn all the names of the major agencies, who works there, and who they work for. You memorize all the acronyms and production terms and times of year when specific things like TV pilots happen. And eventually you begin to know who around town is the real deal and who's not; who can be trusted and who can't; who's slept with whom and how recently.

The greatest L.A. learning curve isn't figuring out how to avoid rush hour traffic going from west to east - it's learning to speak the language of the industry and, often more importantly, learning who you should be speaking it to.

This is not a, "turns out you can't teach an old dog new tricks" sob story. I've been here for 4.5 months and learned and incredible amount. I'll be here for 4.5 more and learn an incredible amount more. And one lesson among the current set is that you can arrive here and achieve your goals at many different ages. 27 is not, literally speaking, too late.

This is a, "is it better to grow up in this world than out?" "Grow up" meaning career-wise. "In this world" meaning the ascent from some kind of assistant to some kind of professional.

My post-move mantra rudely suggested that people who move to L.A. at 21 are jaded by 27. Are they? Or are they writing their first hours of network television, making their first talent deals, and logging enough hours on set to earn them entree into organizations with acronyms I still can't remember?

It will take me at least a year to really know how things work around this town. Yes, I'll have the discerning eye of a New Yorker and the perspective of someone who's worked somewhere other than here, but what would life be like if I started here at 21 and moved to New York in an alternate version of now?

It's less a regret and more just a wonder. My timing was based on hundreds of factors that I couldn't and wouldn't change. But existing way at the bottom of a steep learning curve does make you wonder what starting earlier would have looked and felt like.

So is there a right time to make your way to this crazy place? Can you do it too soon or too late? And, maybe more importantly, how long does it really take to catch up?

(note: these questions are in not rhetorical)

Friday, January 14, 2011

On doing the long distance thing - or not

To be totally honest, I haven't written about the lost distance thing because I don't know what to say. I've never really done it.

There was a brief, undefined something with a guy in D.C. while I was in New York, but I don't think you can count it if it ends before it's defined. And then I did first meet R while he was here in L.A., and I was still living in New York, but that would lend itself to a post about the benefits of getting to know someone long distance (yes, benefits. I'll get to that story soon). I met him in my pursuit of opportunities in L.A., so the plan was set to move.

Regarding how to handle a committed, long distance relationship; if you should knowingly enter into a long distance situation; and the elephant in the room of any such set up, if and when one among your couple should take the plunge to move - I'm not really qualified to comment. Not that that's stopped me before...

What prompted this post were the two separate e-mails from two separate readers last week.

The first wasn't technically about a long distance relationship, or rather, the e-mailer didn't think it was. It was (paraphrased), "what are your thoughts on balancing a relationship and career?" the balance, in this person's situation, being when to make a location move in pursuit of career that would take her away from her serious relationship. A question of priority, but one in which one option means choosing to go long distance.

The second was also about the decision to enter into a long distance relationship, but in this e-mailer's scenario, the couple just got together. So it's (paraphrased), "Should I do it? Is it a waste of time? If I do it, what should I expect?" and the scariest question of all, "Do you think it can work?"

At first they read like two completely different issues. One is about the factors surrounding choosing career over relationship when that choice means a long distance set up is in store. The other is about choosing a long distance relationship when life is otherwise peaceful, easy, and un-drama-filled.

But as I talked the scenarios over with Dani Rosen (who is now, "never leaving L.A.") I started to realize that I was saying the same words and formulating the same thoughts for both, regardless of their differences.

Do you take the risk or not? What's more important, maintaining things as they are or knowing what they could be? How could you possible know how poorly or well it could go unless you try?

I want to be clear up front that I believe all long-distance relationships are very difficult. They can work, of course, and you hear stories about incredible things happening, but the situation is not ideal.

But the question in both these scenarios is what's worse? - risking and failing or never knowing what could have been?

For the career versus relationship question, how do the two options look? Option one, you put career first and make the move away from your boyfriend. That decision puts too much of a strain on your relationship, and it crumbles - maybe because the strain was too great; maybe because your other half resented you choosing something over the relationship. But in this situation there are options. He could move to where this career opportunity is for a period of time. You could agree that if it isn't working, you'll consider moving back. People and places and jobs are movable, so the idea that one person is choosing to destroy the relationship isn't quite the case. Like so many things, the only thing you can be sure about is what happens if you don't pursue the career opportunity, and that's the you'll never get that same opportunity at that same time again. The relationship may fail for its own reasons. You may suffer a greater strain because you're now resentful that you turned down the opportunity. Or, yes, another opportunity much closer may present itself, but let's pretend this is the opportunity of a lifetime.

I'm hesitant to tell anyone what to do. Every single scenario has its own set of issues - issues you can't fully spell out in an e-mail. All I'll say is that if it were me, I think I would go.

Which is my same thinking around the question of whether or not to enter into a long distance relationship in the first place. In this case I think the risk of the unknown is greater than the risk of trying. Yes, you could be frustrated. Yes, you could lose money traveling back-and-forth. Yes, it may end badly, leaving you upset and having "wasted your time." Or you could discover that long distance works well as a the starting point for an incredible future and eventually marry the guy. Extreme, I know, but it could happen.

I am, admittedly, a risk taker, so all this thinking comes with the disclaimer that it's based on the mind of a person who recently moved clear across the country to pursue a very different life. My attitude about that move was always that I was taking more a risk by not doing it then by doing it and failing. I don't sit well in the unknown. I also truly believe that people are movable, and life is long, and patience under tough times is the greatest indicator of how you'll deal with the rest of what's to come.

But that's me, and considering my very first disclaimer - I've never, technically, been through a long distance relationship - it's probably best if some of the rest of you who have weigh in...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

News round-up: 20-something topics you should know about

Keeping it simple today with a round-up of interesting tid-bits, news stories, and new sites across the Internets. Miss Dani Rosen is visiting L.A. this week, so I'm otherwise occupied trying to prove that I know where I'm going, and how to park once I get there.

  • The New York Times highlights the trend of niche online dating. - Compatibility is rooted in like interests, so why waste your time trolling and okcupid if there's an entire site dedicated to people who prefer MAC's to PC's. This article breaks down the latest niche sites and explains the shift away from come-one-come-all search engines.
And that's ten! Back Friday with a post requested by two readers via two e-mails on the very same day: The dilemma of the long-distance relationship...

'til then.

Monday, January 10, 2011

My attempt to explain the "single girl badge of honor"

Bear with me. This is a little hard to explain.

The other day I was trying to express the fact that sometimes I have these moments where my "single girl badge of honor" rears its head. It's almost devil-on-the-shoulder style - this tiny voice scoffing and then rolling her eyes at whatever couple-y activity I'm about to engage in or "we"-based compromise I make. "You know if you were single you wouldn't have to _______," she says.

Those are the things you think slash say when you're a single girl or, rather, when you're of the "single girl badge of honor" persuasion. It's not really about being a member of the couple haters club, that's all rooted in jealousy and insecurity. The single girl badge of honor is more about really relishing in all that it is to be single. It's an entire world view that acknowledges the benefits of being in a wonderful relationship but holds the idea of independence as ideal.

"Weird. I don't know," the friend I was trying to explain this to said, "I think that's a New York thing,"

And so a blog post was born.

Is single girl pride exclusive to single and proud New Yorkers?

First - let's back up so I can attempt to better explain this badge of honor situation. We were at independence and world view...

Maybe the better way to explain it is to say that when you're single for long enough you become a member of this sort of union - like Sally Field in that movie where she holds the UNION sign above her head. And as a member of that union it's both your responsibility and privilege to advocate for all that it means to be a member.

The minute someone ends a relationship (dumper or dumpee) you're there with a cocktail and rally cry for the benefits of spending time alone to really discover who you are. When a friend comes to you depressed about the inability to find one good man in this world you respond with a, "who needs a man!" speech - spend time on your passions! dive into your career! relish in your friendships! At a college friends' wedding when everyone else is freaking out about the fact that, "we're not getting any younger," you're the one reminding them just how young we really are. "You have your whole life to be married! Plus weddings are the best place for a make-out and run." Bottom line: never would you ever suggest that getting a boyfriend is the solution to anything.

Or maybe the very best way to explain it is with this story.

Four girlfriends and I were enjoying a night out on the town. We were 24, maybe 25? It was one of those nights that started with, "let's go dancing!" and ended around 3am at Sam's Falafel. Somewhere between the dance floor and the hummus run, one among our group got a little down in the dumps - beer tears style. At first she wouldn't tell us what was wrong, but I stole a moment in the cab for confrontation. "Don't tell the other girls," she finally confessed, "but I think I really, really want a boyfriend."

That's the exact scenario my L.A. friend was crying "so New York" about. This common 20-something mentality that a girl is better off without a relationship at that point in her life and that wanting one makes you less of a strong individual. According to my friend, most 20-something girls are relationship-oriented, not single-oriented. Meaning if you asked any single, mid-twenties girl in any other city whether or not they really want a boyfriend, they'd say yes.

"But it makes sense," my friend said, "based on the kind of girls who want to live in Manhattan."

And with that the plot thickened.

So not only is it that the single girl badge of honor is exclusive to NYC, but those who wear it were pre-disposed to the mentality, and their choice of Manhattan as a home supports that predisposition. The chicken/egg question has an answer, and it's worldview first, city second. Something(s) about Manhattan make it a place where girls who are not inclined to desire a boyfriend want to live. The focus on career? The need to be independent? The fact that getting by on your own is a source of pride?

"I can see it," R said as I explained the gist of this blog post to him, "You get yourself all set up in your tiny apartment, managing everything all on your own, and you feel good about that, like I came here to make it and I am. I could see how adding another person into that might not be desirable or practical. It's about being on your own."

The topic had gone from a musing about a curious devil on my shoulder to a city-based sociological theory - per usual.

"But regardless, I think it's something you grow out of," he added.

I can handle a few twists and turns in a topic, but this was getting out of hand. Now not only is it specific to a given city for a myriad of reasons but now it's also a phase we enter into and out of based on life stage and life goals.

The devil on my shoulder was too confused to comment - as was I - which means the rest is up to you.

What's your take? Why? And apparently, most importantly, where to do you live?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Who should say "I love you" first, and why

Some people are always concocting half-baked theories about why things are the way they are in the interpersonal department. Theories like why some girls are always attracted to assholes and why some guys seems to prefer crazy girls and why after three months you know if you really want to be dating someone or not.

Some people think they know everything.

Other people dole out their theories far less frequently, which is why I took a pause in our walk from the Farmer's Market back home to hear Mike's latest.

We had been talking about the dreaded three words. Well, dreaded if you're Mike and me and over-think every element of a relationship to the point where even the happiest milestones are marred in neuroses.

I was saying I thought the moment needed to be incredibly special/meaningful/cinematic - Mike was agreeing. Mike was saying he thought the moment needed to be fairly serious, as in you can't say it silly/jokingly and count that - I was agreeing. This may or may not be how we always end up going 100 dollars over budget in decor for every holiday party...

Then Mike - who has blessedly grown less over-analytical through his year + relationship - dropped this knowledge.

  • "I think the pursuer can't say "I love you" first.
  • "Wait, what?" (I was trying to remember what pursuer meant...)
  • "Yeah, I think that the person who was really driving it from the beginning isn't the person who says "I love you" first
  • Right. That person. Why?
  • Balance of power. It's like they already put their neck out their big time to make the relationship happen. Now the other person is up.
I was inclined to argue immediately. For as many rules as I write, my ultimate rule is that there aren't any. Relationships are built on far stranger set-ups than the pursuer both igniting the relationship and saying those three words first. Maybe that person is just more vocal? More comfortable? Less neurotic...

I think the "I love you" is wildly important, which is why the idea of it as a pawn in the battle of who holds the cards in the relationship rubbed me the wrong way. At first...

Then I got to thinking about what it feels like to be the pursuer - the one who takes the leap of faith to say, "Do you want to grab a drink?" and then, "I really like you..." and then, "I want us to be dating." For as sure as you can be that the other person's "me too" (x 3) is genuine, there is always that doubt. It is easier to say "me too." And some people are built of "me too" cloth - especially when it comes to relationships. Imagine if you're the type of pursuer in the type of situation where you feel like you've gotten to each phase first and therefore made each phase happen, in a way.

In most cases, the pursuer knows how they feel. They may slash probably even know that they feel love of the "I love you" level before their slower half. Maybe they figure, what the heck, I've gone this far, may as well throw it all out on the line, plop the "I love you" down on the table, and find out once and for all where I stand.

Or maybe for some pursuers, no matter how bold, those three words are a sort of hold off. They felt strongly, they acted strongly, but now a level of self-preservation kicks in, and they need the other person in this relationship to meet them where they are before they're willing to go further. It's less a power play and more a protection play. Some people are willing to be fully vulnerable without knowing or caring what they're going to get back. Others are more comfortable with things built on a clearer degree of relationship milestone equality.

I still stand where I did with my "no theory is perfect" ruling, but I have to admit Mike's assessment holds water. I have to also admit that by "holds water" I mean that things played out according to his prescribed plan in the story of my own 3-word dance. And I do believe the fact that the pursuee in my relationship said it first helped us both feel more secure about everything involved in it being said.

But MAN was I nervous...

Monday, January 3, 2011

Fear, Desire, and 2010 reflections

We unanimously decided that classic, New York Chinese food was the proper last lunch for my trip back East slash reunion with the Mississippi's. Jenny, Zac, Meg and I were joined by R and Clelia (my college friend, his childhood friend, and the person who suggested we meet). It was just the meal we bargained for, despite it being 10,000 degrees in the second floor dining room of Ollie's Upper West Side location. L.A. does many things right, but cold sesame noodles in not one of them.

When the time came for our fortune cookie dessert the crew decided final-fortune-cookies-of-the- decade fanfare was in order. What better way to predict the ten years ahead than with a randomly assigned prophecy, lesson in Chinese vocab and 7 is it? lucky numbers.

Mine - like everyone else's - was not a fortune. It's like somewhere along the the way the Chinese restaurants union got sued for wrongful identification of future events and in a CYA move, replaced all the actual fortunes (you will meet a tall, dark stranger) with cliched sayings that either don't make sense of sound vaguely familiar (all we are suggesting is give peace a try). Or, in my case, fear and desire...two different sides of the same coin.It didn't serve as any form of prediction of what's to come in my decade ahead, which is disappointing since if all goes according to the way things usually go for college-educated American females I'll get married, buy my first piece of property, have my first child (if not more), and (god-willing) find success in the career of my choosing (once I finally, definitively choose). I'll be 37-years-old ten years from now. When my Mom was 37 she had four children, had been married for 12 years, and was prepping to move into the new home we'd built. My fortune didn't mention anything about that.

But in a way it did sum up the feelings wrapped up in some if not all of the major changes I've been through in the past year, if not entire decade. Fear - that often inexplicable emotion we experience relative to so many things - fear of failure, fear of change, fear of being loved, fear of not being loved. The black cloud version of the devil on our shoulders pushing us to believe we can't/shouldn't/won't do whatever it is we want to do.

But how co-dependent are the two really? Can you have desire without fear? Of course. People speak of absolutely knowing that something is right all the time - whether it's a love-at-first sight scenario or a major career change. You can want something that you are not afraid to go get.

But I'm not sure you can overcome the fear of what that wanting may result in without a strong enough desire. I've written about this before - that Anais Nin-quote about the desire to blossom overcoming the flower's fear to bloom. In the question of who wins - the fear on your right shoulder or the desire on your left - I think it's always a matter of what's stronger.

The problem in my case has always been that fear is often rooted in logic and desire is likely rooted in feeling. So when I hemmed and hawed about moving to L.A. for two plus years there were legitimate and very real fears that stopped me from taking the plunge. Financial fears, fears about being so far from home, fear of falling off the progress ladder and not being able to get back on. "What have you got to lose?" people would say. The answer was actually, a lot of things.

But when those same people asked me, "so why do you want to go," the answers almost always included the word feel. "I feel like if I don't go now I'll miss the opportunity forever" or "I feel like this is what I was meant to do in this world" or "I feel like I've never wanted to try something more." Fears are feelings too, but they're attached to real causes and effects. Desires, not so much. You just...know.

I wish there was a fortune telling device - cookie-based or otherwise - to predict which desires are worth ignoring the fears. I didn't flip a coin and decide to move to L.A. I allowed all my desires to outweigh all my fear and convinced myself that going was right.

So far, it has been right. But that's besides the point. I am one example, and mine is one story.

Should you always let desire win? And if not then how much desire should there be before you say, okay, let's go?

I don't think it's an issue for Ollie's Chinese to tackle, which is fine because as long as they're willing to continue owning the sesame chicken solution, I'm fine continuing to wrestle through the fear slash desire debacle.

Happy, Happy New Year everyone. May yours be filled with a manageable balance of the two sides of the coin.