Friday, December 27, 2013

Actual Messages I Have Received on OKCupid (part 1)

I joined OKCupid about a month ago because despite the fact that I am not worried about being able to find someone I like on my own, I have very little experience actually going on dates and I felt like it would be a good way to make up for lost time. The actual meeting people experiment is still in progress, and there will eventually be a post about it, but in the meantime I wanted to share a few examples of what some people on this site think is a good way to get a lady's attention. I have already deleted QUITE a few thus far but I wanted to record these for posterity before I delete the rest. I'd also like to add that some of these are duplicates of similar messages. I currently have 58 messages which say something along the lines of "hello how are you" along with a passing reference to something in my profile.

Names have been removed to protect the oblivious:

Dec 27, 2013 – 9:25pm

I'll be brief, and perhaps a breath of fresh air in that I'll also be forward, but not gross in my forwardness- I think you're very attractive, and you seem like a cool person, and I'd really like to hang out sometime in a date-like capacity and get to know you. 

If you're interested, and technically even if you're not, I'm (name removed)!
Generally, if you use the phrase "breath of fresh air" in any self-referential context I am not interested in knowing more.
Hi gorgeous
Well! I...actually don't send many messages anymore, but I am curious about you. So there is that. : ) Hi! 
I…actually don't know why you would think this approach would work.

Happy holidays! Just wanted to drop you a line since we have a lot in common. Love jazz, and reading as well. Just finished The Casual Vacancy by J.K.Rowling, which was okay. Have you read anything good recently? 

Hope you are having a good holiday! What have you been up to? Wanted to catch Anchorman 2 today, but it was sold out. 
I feel mean shitting on this one because he is obviously making an effort to write the right thing, but there is something so sad about it. You read a book that was only OK and failed to see a movie? If this is the kind of information you chose to include in your VERY FIRST interaction with someone then I have to assume that your life is a nightmare.
soo why would we be 21% enemies for?lol
I don't know where to start with this.
So when are we going out?
Very bold, sir. But if it were that easy neither of us would be on this website.
From what I have been able to read from your profile it seem like you have never dated a Caribbean guy who likes the arts, loves to travel, speak French, and like salsa dancing? 
I think you are a cutie and we would have a great time if we get to know each other and stuff but I wouldn’t wait too long before I am off the market. lol… just playing. 
I feel like the undertone here is "you seem like you've only dated white guys." This happens to be true but my profile doesn't actually SAY that, so I'm offended.
hi, can we talk?
I know what you're trying to get across, but phrased this way I feel like you're already breaking up with me.
You must get a lot of attention, don't you?
This particular user had no picture and no profile information and his listed age was 50 :-(
Nice melons
This was the second message I ever received. Although I did not respond, I cherish it. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Love, The Signified

While all words have a dictionary definition and a denoted meaning, some words have more weight that others. Words are symbolic markers for ideas, and when an idea itself is difficult to define, then the word which is meant to signify that idea is bound to be troublesome.

Take, for example, the following words:


"Lemon" needs little clarification unless you are cooking with lemons and need a particular type. A lemon is a  smallish, roundish, yellow, waxy fruit. As long as the image that pops into your head when you read or hear the word "lemon" is something close to that, then congratulations, you are participating in the English language and should have no trouble with interpreting text as long as it pertains to lemons and what they look like.

"Tree" is a little trickier. There are a lot of types of trees and the word alone isn't a very helpful signifier without some clarifying details. If you tell two people to draw a tree and don't tell them which kind you will probably end up with different trees. It's not hugely important, but as a person and especially as a writer, its good to remember that not everyone pictures a pine tree, so if you're talking about pine trees you had better make that clear.

And then there's "Love". It has a definition, technically, but it means something different to everyone, and in some cases nothing at all. When given the assignment of finishing the sentence "Love is…" two people might come up with lists which not only do not contain any of the same words, but actually contradict one another. I do not doubt that the idea which the word "Love" represents does indeed exist. I believe in Love, the signified. However, because it means something different to everyone, it is alarming and absurd that we still cling to Love, the signifier, with such fervor. 

Love as a word/symbol/signifier makes sense when it refers to parental and familiar love because to anyone (from a healthy family) "love" evokes safety, loyalty, support, and unconditional investment in one anthers well-being. These things, while commonly sought after in romantic relationships, are not necessarily part of everyone's understanding of what it means to say "I love you" to someone outside of your family. Attraction. Respect. Passion. Shared interests. These are all things that most people want with a romantic partner that are by no means expected from your family. You HOPE that your family respects you, but even if they don't they are required to support you anyway, albeit begrudgingly. The fact that we never developed a second word as powerful as "love" to differentiate between these two entities calls into question the words validity as a meaningful representation.

When two people enter into a romantic relationship and it progresses without incident, it is expected that at some point, someone will say "I love you". Either the other person says it back, or they don't. Either way, from that point on shit gets complicated. It really needn't, though. The problem is that people say "I love you" without knowing what they mean by it, or even if they do know what they mean they don't know how to express those specific feelings with the gravity they deserve. The other complicating matter is that if the recipient of the first "I Love You" doesn't call this proclamation into question and goes ahead and says it back, both people have now entered into a very ambiguous agreement. It's ambiguous because usually, both people assume that the other person's understanding of "I love You" is the same as their own, or at least they really want that to be the case and are afraid to find out otherwise. Either that or they panicked and said it just because they didn't know what else to say. There are a lot of things that can go wrong in the brief nanosecond after "I love you" but with the right approach, and an appreciation for the powers of words, the damage can be mitigated early on.

In most situations these potential problems don't actually become problems until later on. It feels great to hear "I love you". Even if you're only half sure that you feel it, it feels pretty great to say it, too. Especially if you're young and haven't yet watched the affection drain from a relationship enough times to be fearful of it happening again,  the first "I Love You" is basically a drug. At some point though, if you really mean it, you're going to have to be more specific. Otherwise, both parties will go on assuming that they found exactly what they were looking for, because they had both  projected their own connoted definitions of "love" onto the other person's words. Without clarification, lovers will abruptly find themselves unable to understand one another, and wondering what happened.

It doesn't help that most people we date as adults are people who we don't know very well. They weren't there for our childhoods (again, I said MOST), or our adolescence, and for a while in there simply isn't enough evidence to determine whether or not someone might be a pathological liar or at least a very strategic withholder of information.  It's easy to fall in love (by your own definition) with the parts of a person that you can see early on.  It's my own personal opinion that you should wait until you feel confident that you can really see all of a person before you know whether or not this person is going to matter to you in the long run. And that, by the way, is what I think "love" SHOULD signify at its very least; that this person matters to you, and will continue to matter to you on some level if you're not together any more. It's a hard thing to predict intellectually, but its pretty easy to feel.

 It is natural to feel like your are quietly going insane during the time period when you're very enamored with someone but unable to reasonably identify your feelings.  I fully understand how some people feel the need to express themselves IMMEDIATELY lest they suffer a severe brain hemorrhage. It's not that its impossible to feel what you perceive to be love mere weeks after meeting someone, especially if you have spent hours and hours talking to them. However, if someone tells you that they love way sooner than feels possible, you might want to ask a few follow up questions because that person might not fully appreciate the weight of their words. 

Although I doubt that the role of the word "love" in our culture will be amended any time soon, it seems like an important time to call into question our willingness as a society to throw it around. Instant communication and access to all varieties of bad movies and TV only make it easier to get it all wrong. So by all means, feel your feelings, but make sure you know how to describe them in detail before calling it Love.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Stress of Pure Joy

Bad things in my personal life don't stress me out. In Emergency mode, all of the organizational prowess and practical know-how which normally lie dormant under layers and layers of apathy and self indulgence come rushing to the forefront and I fucking get shit done. Stress is not useful during actual hardship and I have never understood how allowing oneself to worry about potential issues which might arise in the future is in any way helpful. There either is something to be done or there isn't, and worrying about it does not count as proactive behavior. I know it isn't so easy for everyone to compartmentalize their stress, but this is how it is for me.

What do stress me out, however, are very positive experiences. I'm capable of enjoying myself during times of joy and merriment, but once I have returned to the still calm of my own consciousness I cannot stop myself from worrying endlessly that I have not properly enjoyed myself, or that I wasn't paying close enough attention to remember the experience well, or that I might never be able to have that much fun ever again because this was the end of my good luck in life (this one is rare, but the thought has crossed my mind). In theory I consider positive experiences to be collectible, and I've had enough to know that there are probably more coming, but there is always a little voice in my head a little while after something good happens peeping "but I want THAT one back. I MISS it!" as if I had the option of going back and just living in that one experience forever.

What characterizes most truly joyful experiences is that they are times in which I am entirely outside of myself and feeling a genuine connection with others. Not all fun times get to this place. Sometimes I have thinky fun where I am enjoying myself but not quite able to switch off the introspective lens due to either the nature of the conversation, my mood, or the fact that I am doing whatever activity it is by myself. I do feel very happy and content when I am exploring or enjoying a quiet lunch while reading but I don't feel truly joyful. This mellow type of happiness doesn't ever cause me any stress. This is probably a good sign because it means I don't fear solitude. However, despite being comfortable being alone, I genuinely enjoy the company of others as well as any activity that reminds me that life is something to be participated in, not just observed and analyzed. Some of the most joyful moments of my life have been the following:
- Conversations with someone I recently met when we both JUST realized we have something in common that we are both very excited to talk about
-Slightly drunken nights out with friends with whom anything and everything is on the table for discussion
-Singing in front of a crowd when I feel like its going really well
-Strutting down the street in really kickass weather to a particularly grooving' soundtrack (I know this is a solitary act, but the right music always makes me feel like being a part of humanity isn't such a terrible thing after all).
-Soccer games when my team is playing well (win or lose)
-Nice moments in relationships which highlight how this romantic Buddy System most humans have worked out for ourselves in a pretty sweet deal. The best of these types of moments are immune to sully regardless of how the relationship turns out. I have at least a few from each one I've been in.

I know I'm pointing out the obvious here, but the warm embrace of others is both comforting and exciting, and having to step back inside oneself after such an experience will always be somewhat sobering. I know some people who seem to spend most of their time in this warm, interconnected space **(I'm aware that there is no way for me to actually KNOW what kind of space anyone else spends their time in considering I'm not sure if anyone else actually views their own social behavior in these terms anyway and its possible that I am over thinking this)**.  I am not the best at striking up conversations from nothing and It takes me a while to get to that comfortable space with most people, so I am willing to admit that just because someone is better at it than I am doesn't mean that they are worse at existing alone inside themselves and use others to escape from themselves. But I kind of need to believe that just a little in order to account for myself.

I like to think that maybe since these fuzzy, exuberant experiences are somewhat rare for me, the high I get off of them is a little bit higher than that of someone who goes there more frequently. The danger in my scenario is that I will accumulate less friends in the long run, and eventually if we part ways one by one I might find myself alone. That's one of those possibilities that I refuse to worry about now, though. For now I just need to learn how let the joy of good experiences linger long enough to cancel out the naysaying voices in my head. Maybe I need to meditate? Do yoga? Today I ate quinoa with peppers and tofu, and although I was basically DISGUSTED with myself, I guess this means that anything is possible.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

What Ladies Are Supposed to Do

**Warning: The following contains heteronormative language. This essay is written from the perspective of a heterosexual female, so it discusses love and dating between men and women. First of all, it would be very confusing for everyone if I de-gendered this essay. Secondly, I have never been a lesbian or or a gay man or transexual or bi-sexual so it would be nonsense if I tried to write about relationships from any of those perspectives.**

Based on the information floating around in the universe, here is how it's supposed to work if you are a person who is interested in a meaningful relationship:

A woman identifies a man whose interests, lifestyle, and body type compliment her objectives in life. She will use her feminine mystique to catch his attention. He will try to woo her. She will act aloof. He will try to woo her again. She will agree. She will secretly screen him in order to verify that he possess the qualities she desires in a mate and convince him that she is his ideal match and that she is worth forsaking his evolutionary impulse to continue to search for partners. This goes on until it is officially more problematic for both parties to exit the relationship than to stay in it and if it doesn't work out everyone involved is damaged and sad.

I know almost no one whose relationships actually mirror this trope, but you cannot tell me that it doesn't still govern the way many of us think about relationships, or at least the way we're expected to behave if we find ourselves on the precipice of a potential relationship. I take issue with pretty much all of it.

The other night I attended a "symposium" hosted by comic Aziz Ansari and some professor from NYU whose name I can't remember because I deleted the email. Aziz is writing a book about dating in modern times and the impact that technology is having on the single experience. I went because it was $5, less than 10 blocks from where I work, and allowed me to kill a couple hours before late night plans. I found the topic intriguing and was interested to see what might happen. Also I wanted to see if Aziz is as short as I assumed he was. He was actually taller than I expected. Not TALL, mind you, just not teeny tiny. His head is also a normal size.

At this event the seating was split up with men on one side of the room and females on the other. He asked questions like "who has met a guy/girl in the last few days that they've been texting with?". Then when people raised their hands he would bring them up on the stage, have them pull up their texts, and read them out loud. It was an entertaining exercise, but the follow up questions to the men and women in the room tended to make the basic assumption that men ask women out and then women decide if they are interested based on what they say. There wasn't much room in the discussion for the possibility that a girl might ask a guy out, or that sometimes non-dates can sort of turn into dates part way through so any follow up interaction is just an extension of a previous agreement to see each other again.

Although it wasn't spelled out as such, I got the sense that most people in the room subscribe to the theory that prior to a first date women have the upper hand and men will bend over backwards to get a "yes", but then after that, if she likes the guy, it becomes her job not to "scare him off". I have to admit that I actually stopped listening for large portions of the discussion because I was busy having my own thoughts so I might be projecting a little, but I felt like most people present subscribed to the following assumptions about dating:

-Men should make first contact and women should wait for this to happen, otherwise they can assume that the man is not interested
- Once one or several dates have occurred, a woman should not admit to a man that she likes him until he has proven that he is not just trying to sleep with her. This is best achieved by withholding sex for as long as possible.
-Despite the fact that we as women should under no circumstances invite a man back on the first date if we like someone, we should be worried if a man doesn't TRY to get us into bed on the first date.
- The fact that when we as humans like someone we sometimes get nervous, and sometimes when we get nervous we get stupid and say and do weird shit, has no bearing on any of the prior assumptions.

Here are a few things that I believe to be true of humans with a normal capacity for emotion, who are seeking meaningful relationships:

-If a new relationship has potential, telling a guy that you like his face is not going to be the thing that derails it. Worst case scenario is that you have paid him a compliment. I think both of my most recent ex-boyfriends can testify that this tactic works at least a little, if I remember properly.
-Sex with a new person is a little worrisome if you like them. Some men are afraid that if they don't do a good job then that might be it for them so if they like a woman, they actually have much more to gain from waiting until they know the woman likes them than she does.
-It is pretty obvious when someone ISN'T interested in finding out if you're relationship material
- After one or two dates you don't know NEARLY enough about a person to know what their actions mean
-No matter how much someone might like you, if you have only met them once or twice, it would be literally insane if they made you a priority in their life.

Here is a good question to ask yourself if you are dealing with a new potential love interest and you're not sure what their actions, or lack thereof, mean:

What do I have to gain by freaking out and deciding it's a lost cause?

Here is what you should probably do if you're into someone but you're not sure if they like you, and you feel like you need more information from them:

Fucking relax. Don't send passive aggressive texts. Don't start any sentence with "I'm starting to think…". Ask for whatever it is that you want from them in a simple way. If the request sounds too unreasonable to ask so soon then YOU are probably the problem here.

Here is something that is true:

Being a woman is hard because we are conditioned to believe that we have to wait to be chosen. Being a man is hard because they are expected to make the first move. Neither party can really understand what the other is dealing with unless they try to occasionally approach dating from the other side. This is probably why online dating is so popular.

Here is something else that is true:
My last relationship started because I decided to hit on my friend. I was 19 and we lived in a dorm. It worked until it didn't and the whole thing took 6 years. Since then I have been on one legitimate date. So, no matter what you do, definitely don't listen to me. I don't know what I'm talking about. Cheers!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Corona Flushing Park: Stark Remnants of a Dying Dream

Last weekend I visited Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens. This area is about 40 minutes from Manhattan on the 7 train and is the 4th largest park in New York City. I'll let Wikipedia tell you everything it contains, because copying and pasting is easy:

It contains the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the current venue for the U.S. Open tennis tournament;Citi Field, the home of the New York Mets baseball team; the New York Hall of Science, the Queens Museum of Art, the Queens Theatre in the Park, the Queens Wildlife Center, and the New York State Pavilion. It formerly contained Shea Stadium, demolished in 2009.

Perhaps more notably, it was the site of both the 1939/1940 and the 1964/1965 World's Fairs. Before it was a fairground it was an ash dumping ground for coal furnaces. When F. Scott Fitzgerald referred to "The Valley Of Ashes" in The Great Gatsby, this is the area he was talking about. This is a very fitting connection because the site itself represents the unfulfilled dreams of American modernity and prosperity. But perhaps I am getting ahead of myself.

The scenery of the park is, for the most part, bleak:

You might expect as much from a former fairground, but for an area that once held unprecedented wonders and a promise of a shining new era, it was surprisingly joyless. I was expecting some kitsch and manufactured nostalgia and I was disappointed to find none. The place is ripe with the history of the American spirit and I was ready to have it sold to me. The past is a spectacle to me and I am always ready to consume it. Why is there no business for exploiting the ignorance of people like me? 

Some features still remain:

If you've ever seen Men In Black, you are familiar with one of the highlights at the New York State Pavilion:

The Unisphere is also an attraction:

The only establishment I visited was the Queens Museum, which is really more of a contemporary gallery than a Museum. I enjoyed it thoroughly but was very displeased with the gift shop. I wanted an old-timey World's Fair poster and there were none to be had. I won't tell you about the Museum. They have a scale model of all 5 burroughs of NYC which is pretty cool but not worth posting pictures of. They have a website. You can go to it.

I plan on going back to this area because I find it fascinating so this might be a multi-post topic.  Maybe next time I'll find the poster shop.