Monday, February 10, 2014

From the OK Cupid Case Files: Tales of Confusion and How Not To Be a Dick

If you haven't been keeping up, I did some online dating recently. I did so for the same reasons dog owners take their dogs to the dog park: so they won't get nervous and pee everywhere every time they see another animal. I needed socialization. Here now, for your entertainment, are the highlights. Names have been changed (sometimes) and portions have been sanitized for the benefit of my relatives, but I promise you that this all happened. My responses and conclusions might be completely wrong, but I've got the facts straight. I left some people out mostly just because I couldn't find a way to write about what happened for whatever reason.

1. Chase. First person I met from the site.

First of all, Chase is his real name. I don't fucking care. I hope he reads this and I hope he cries. Read on to find out why!

First contact: He messaged me

Why I said yes: He was among the first to message me and I was anxious to get started. Also his profile said he was originally from Texas and I thought that might be an interesting twist.

Outcome: 1 drink. No kissing. Not fun

About Chase: Age 30. Worked for some kind of Independent Film acquisition something or the other. Whatever it was, he was very impressed with himself for dedicating all of his free to movie marathons.

What happened: I met Chase at a bar in Greenpoint. He was on the short and pudgy side, which I could be completely fine with, but he was wearing skinny jeans and a tight cardigan and a little pageboy cap and it kind of made him look like a very fancy Cabbage Patch Kid.  I didn't object to the way he looked otherwise but I can only describe his fashion sense as "trying very hard and failing without noticing". I could have forgiven this had he not been completely pretentious and self-involved but unfortunately every word out of his mouth was either about some famous person he met while living in LA or some completely unfounded opinion about New York. I was not having it and I am terrible at masking contempt so I thought I was making my signals clear. He walked me to the train and we didn't kiss. I assumed that was that. A case of incompatibility that neither of us needed to dwell upon. 

Yet when I arrived home I received a follow up texting wondering if I wanted to hang out again, to which I responded: "Full disclosure I only joined OK Cupid last week and I have a bunch of other dates set up. Not really looking to settle into anything"

I am aware that this was not as straight forward as it could have been but I figured it would do the trick. This is how he responded:
Either way you've gained me as a friend. First and foremost. You can still be single and hang out with boy. You can even cuddle and make out with a boy and still be single

A fair enough response, but keep in mind this is a 30 year old man we're talking about. I found the message unsettling and was pleased not to hear from him again. Until almost a full month later, the following text exchange occurred (everything is lifted directly from the texts):

Chase: wanna make out asdhfsdkjdhgf
Me: That was 40% not words. And no that's not really topping my priorities at the moment.
Chase: Ok good. You were kind of a bitch.
Me: That sounds about right.
Chase: You think you are so cool. Little do you guys are using you. Don't respond whore.

What I learned: If you have no interest in making out with someone you DO actually have to say the words "I DON'T EVER WANT TO MAKE OUT WITH YOU" if you met them on OK Cupid. Otherwise you will get insane texts that will make you feel weird:

2. Jake. 3rd person I met from the site.

First contact: I messaged him because he was originally from Vermont and mentioned a pub I like in his profile and a few other things that made me think we might have things to talk about:

About Jake: Age 28. Self described Liberal Politcal Junkie. Not a Hippy. Cute glasses.

Outcome: 1 date, many drinks, multiple locations, multo makeouts

What happened: Jake was right in my wheelhouse of short, bespectacled, and easily flustered. We got moderately drunk and had a good time (the kind of good time you have in public, that is) and the date lasted much longer than it would have had it not been going well,but we both had work the next day. A tentative plan was made for the following Sunday. I liked him, but due to the nature of the evening I actually did need more information before I knew how much. I hyper focused on Sunday and, because I am neurotic about scheduling sent WAY too many texts. On my end it was purely logistical at this point, but I realize now that the sheer volume suggested that I was already really INTO him. He didn't know me well enough to know about my proclivity towards obsessive planning. So what ended up happening was on Sunday morning I received a text that said "Hey I'm really sorry but I feel like shit. Rain check?" To which I send three consecutive texts confirming and suggesting other days. This was, apparently, not the way to go. I never heard from him again.

What I learned: It is entirely possible that he didn't actually like me at all to begin with, but I think it is much more likely that he just didn't like me ENOUGH to counteract the crazy I threw at him. Lesson learned. Consecutive texting is bad unless a precedent has been set.

3. Raoul. 6th Person I met from the site

First Contact: He messaged me.

Why I said yes: Adorable Alliteration. Liked his face.

Outcome: 3+ weeks of all kinds of stuff.

About Raoul: Age 25. Actor. Loud, tall, and entirely lacking in any kind of social filter. 

What happened: Raoul and I went out on New Years Eve under the logic that New Years Eve is already terrible, so why not combine it with a potentially terrible first date as well? Long story short it all went very well for a couple of weeks. He didn't really have any money, so activities were less "dates" and more "experiences", but I've never been a fan of staring at someone across a dinner table and trying to remember why I'm interesting. I didn't see much room for our lives to integrate (which is typically what needs to happen in order for a relationship to make the transition from casual to committed), but I was ready to let things play out as they would. I survived the demise of a 6 year relationship so I was pretty sure I could handle whatever might be in the future. We had a chat about exclusivity and at one point he, in an advanced state of inebriation told me that he thought of me as a "partner", but no one was picking out rings. There was a steady exchange of entertaining texts of various sorts and just enough honest exchanges to make it seem…promising.

So when, just a week shy of what would have been a month of involvement the texts abruptly stopped aside from a couple of very dry "sorry I'm busy" texts, I knew something was amiss. The lack of explanation and contrition suggested a troubling lack of investment. Paranoia doesn't suit me so I gave him the benefit of the doubt, but after a week of not answering his phone, paired with a photo which appeared on Facebook (oh, so you're not too busy to eat cupcakes?) I had to assume the worst. I don't like to do things via text message, but he wasn't answering my calls so I told him that he had to tell me if he was over it. Any longer would have ruined my weekend. I was right, of course, but since I wasn't expecting anything serious anyway I was content in ending things cordially and trying to be friends.

My level of OKness was slightly compromised when, the next week, Facebook informed me that he was "in a relationship" with someone else. So  he lying about being busy (well, unless what he meant was "busy dating someone else") and god knows when he would have gotten around to telling me had I not prompted him.  It stung, but I realized that I myself was already looking forward to seeing other people, and what good would it do me to be angry just because my pride was damaged when my actual feelings for him were entirely resolved? Furthermore, finding out that he was a half a dick in the door of another relationship while still technically involved with me completely eradicated any lingering romantic affection I may have had, which actually made it much easier to offer genuine friendship. I know that sounds unhealthy but it is what it is. So we're friends. Unless he doesn't like being written about in which case this might be the end of that.

What I learned: There is something between one terrible date and a full blown relationship, and it can be pretty OK. Sometimes people are cowards when they don't want to hurt your feelings, but it doesn't mean you need to get your panties in a bunch when they inevitably do hurt your feelings.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Well-Adjusted Love Songs

It's two nights before Valentine's Day, which means some of us are stressed, some of us are sad, and some of us really don't give a shit but know that saying that you don't give a shit sounds bitter so we're not quite sure what to do with ourselves. Personally I could not care less beyond the fact that it falls on a Friday this year and pretty much all of my friends are in relationships and probably won't be available for shenanigans, and even if I were feeling saucy making out with strangers on Valentine's Day is super tacky.

This is my first Valentine's Day on my own since 2007 and since I don't have to spend any time worrying about what I'm going to doing, wearing, or buying, I have decided to take the opportunity to compile a list of songs that deal with relationships that don't fit into the standard romantic archetype of either love blinded obsession or unrequited longing. Most love songs are either hyperbolic or reductive and it is easy to feel like a worthless piece of crap when you hear them whether your in a relationship or not. I've also decided to attempt to play and sing a few, because it gives me something other to focus on than the inconsolable wails echoing in my barren and cavernous heart which could only ever be filled by a man's love.

Here is the link to the youtube page with the covers. I don't like the idea of having my own crap right next to the real thing:

So here are some songs that I find genuine, insightful or simply realistic. These actually are NOT love songs for the most part. They are mostly about what its like to navigate a relationship in which love either isn't a factor or isn't enough. My apologies for the misleading title. "Songs about Reasonable Romantic Feelings" just didn't have the same ring.

True Affection
By: The Blow

This song is a little indie darling from 2009 that comes up on my Pandora stations a lot. It doesn't have a lot going on in terms of production value, but I think the lyrics are wonderful in their insightful simplicity. It's about how sometimes affection isn't enough to patch the distance between two people, but that doesn't mean the whole relationship should be discredited.

 Bill Withers: Use Me

This is such a great fucking song, first of all. Funky as fuck and sexy and hell. It's about exactly what it sounds like: Being used and being OK with it. Being used, or using someone, isn't always a sexual matter. You can use someone for companionship. You can use someone for their social life. You can even use someone for their listening skills. Pretty much any relationship in which you don't see a future with someone but want to be with them because they improve your life in some way is a form of using them. We are trained to believe this is WRONG because normally it's one-sided, and if it's not, why would two people waste their time being with someone who you know you won't end up with? Because it can be a lot of fun for a lot of reasons and you can actually learn a lot about yourself. I tried to learn this on guitar. I failed to bring adequate funk so I'll leave it to Bill.


George Michael: Faith (Shown Version if by Lake Street Dive)

Sometimes being used, and using someone, gets old. It's a hard call to make. Faith is what you should say to someone if you find yourself at that point.

Lenka: Everything's OK

To me this is a song about the role of love in society, be it romantic, familiar or platonic, and how we use it to navigate our lives.  I think its sweet and honest and ultimately uplifting.

Daft Punk: Something About Us

Sometimes you just gotta let yourself feel what you feel, man. I was not about to attempt to reproduce this one.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Other And the Internet: Interpersonal Artifice and the Art of Online Dating

In late November of 2013 I embarked on an experiment of sorts. It was the night before Thanksgiving and I, not having the necessary time off or the energy to make it home to Vermont, had the night to myself. I was in the living room of my Queens apartment and partaking in an amount of red wine which I will scientifically quantify as "a shitload".  I was on my computer watching Dexter when I had the sudden and poorly informed idea to sign up for the dating site OK Cupid. I had been contemplating doing something of the sort for some time because I had been single for around 4 months and was feeling like I really wasn't equipped with the necessary skills to enter the dating pool. Note that I did not say RE-enter here. That is because my previous relationship lasted for 6 years and began when I was 19 and living in a dorm. I cannot define anything I did prior to that point as "dating". I had been hesitant to do online dating because….ew, right? But I knew several people for whom it had worked well and after all I found all of my apartments on craigslist so I really didn't have much logic on my side as to why I hadn't taken the leap.

So, my confidence bolstered by wine and ignorance, I set up my account. It was easy, and I started getting messages right away. A self described "political junkie". A self described "film junkie". A lot of actor/bartenders or men who simply referred to themselves as "artists" without any further explanation. These were among my original pool of potential suitors. It is a strange thing to sit in a room and sort through disembodied faces, trying to decide which of them you might like to spend time with in person based on only what they choose to tell you about themselves. I had to keep reminding myself that these are real people. They are probably more complex than what I am seeing on the page. BE NICE.

It's hard enough as it is to fully appreciate another person's consciousness and harder still to do so for a romantic prospect. The problem is that we are wired to resolve our loneliness, so when we meet someone who might meet our criteria as a suitable mate, it is easy to reduce them to the parts that we want to see, or furthermore to what we want to be true about them. Truly knowing someone is not as easy as gazing into their eyes or sharing a tender embrace.

Even when someone is saying exactly what you want to hear, you have to to remember that they continue to exist and think and question in between your conversations just as authentically as you do. It is also possible that they do exactly what they are doing with you with someone else regardless of how sincere they might seem. These things happen. That's why it is so profoundly unsettling to engage in the act of making contact with another person on a meaningful level. Your expectations can be so easily and so irreconcilably violated that it can make you never want to try again. But you have to if you ever intend to find someone. You have to keep trying if you don't want your heart to shrivel up into a nasty, bitter pit.

The act of dating is so commodified in American culture that spending an evening with a perfect stranger, doing your best to get to know them, and then never seeing them again is considered not only normal, but an expected part of life, meaning that if you HAVEN'T done it you are missing out on vital information about the human experience. I have a lot of concerns about the entire scenario and I would ideally prefer to be friends with someone for at least 3 months and THEN see if we want to date, but this just doesn't seem to be a feasible approach unless you're in college. Then again I tend to make friends very slowly so maybe people do indeed do that and my real problem is that I don't have enough friends. Entirely possible.

So ONLINE dating, then, is both exactly what I needed to do in order to avoid developing a stagnant heart and exactly what I really didn't want to be doing because it was so essentially unappealing to me. In another post I'll regale you with the tales of horror, boredom, and disappointment, but for now it is suffice to say that I was  right to be tentative. In every day life people are already creating artifice around them in order to dictate how others respond to them, and online dating requires buying into someone else's artifice at least a little bit before you've had the opportunity to have a natural reaction to them. You agree to quasi-romantic terms before even meeting, so even if they end up being a person who you would never be drawn to under usual circumstances, you've already agreed to it and already let your mind accept any and all potential outcomes. So you have no one to blame but yourself when shit gets weird. For the foreseeable future I think I'll stick to only hacking through the nonsense we serve each other in real life and spare myself the additional layer of online absurdities. I tried. To say I failed would be remiss because I gained a lot of valuable experience, but I don't think my heart can handle the metaphysical implications of dating in the digital age unless I take some time to see how I fare on my own.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Soul Spelunking

From what I observe, most people seem to house their unpleasant emotions in something like a well (the term "well of sadness" is a thing, right?). Some people's are shallow, which means their emotions tend to overflow easily, but at the same time they are never far from the surface and can be easily rescued if a flood occurs. Others are deep and have an easier time managing their demons but are in greater peril should they happen to fall in. A well adjusted person then would be someone whose well is juuuust right. They can use their little bucket to retrieve their emotions when they need to deal with them, but keep them tidily out of sight when they don't. Obviously, and I know I've said this before, this might be a completely false metaphor because I am not other people and I really cannot know how they experience their emotions. It sounds right though.

My unpleasant emotions are stored in what I can only describe as a network of subterranean caves. I can access them but only through a very narrow opening of treacherous descent. I know there are others like me but if I've met them I haven't been able to get close enough to find out, as will make sense if you continue reading. Most of the time I forget that sadness is even a thing. I'm not ignoring it or avoiding it, I really just don't have much access to my sadness.  Furthermore I don't intentionally bury my emotions; they just kind of evaporate on contact. But the thing about evaporation is that it's going to come back eventually as rain. One way or another it's all ending up in the cave.

I have plenty of sadness stored up, as should everyone who isn't a sociopath. Consciousness is a bitch and life is pretty tragic when you think about it too long. On the plus side I tend to be fairly even tempered and not prone to making irrational decisions because I am upset*. The down side is that it does make it difficult for me to empathize. I have to really TRY to remember what feeling sad is when I am trying to relate to someone in order to help them. It doesn't come very naturally.
(Image courtesy of I did not get permission to use this. If I get arrested I promise to blog about it)

That is why, in my quest to grow as a human person and make better connections to the other human people around me, I have recently tried to make a more concerted effort to access my negative emotions more frequently so I can better understand the complex network of humanity in which I must make do. I don't feel my emotions in an overwhelming way, so sometimes I don't have to deal with them fully when they first crop up. It's been very helpful to me to go back and try to reconcile that which I initially reacted to by saying "I DON'T WANT TO BE SAD SO I JUST WON'T, DAMMIT." I know that approach sounds really unhealthy but you have to believe me when I say that I am actually capable of simply deciding not to feel things that I don't want to feel…at the time. I have an understanding with myself that I will deal with it at a later date.

When I set aside time to get down there and sort out my sadness (which is usually when I get a certain funny feeling in my chest which hopefully isn't actually just an arrhythmia), I imagine myself down in the caves with the stalagmites picking up ugly rock blobs of sadness and asking myself "Why was this upsetting? Why was this upsetting really?". I gather as much as I can hold and resurface, hopefully armed with a little more wisdom.

Since moving to New York, where I've had to pretty much rebuild my social network from scratch, I've found that I tend to be drawn to shallow-well people (not to be confused with simply shallow people). I love people who barely have their emotions under control and want to tell me all about every emotion they have in real time. They are my favorite. Maybe I'm hoping that if other people hurl enough of themselves at me my cave's opening (ew. sorry) it might take a good enough hit to widen up a bit (oh god it's getting worse), so I'll be able to haul a bigger load through it (ok now I'm doing it on purpose). This might be the most ill-conceived metaphor in the history of psychological self-diagnosis, but I'm actually quite fond of it. Now instead of "sulking" I can tell people I'm "spelunking".

*none of this applies to my first two years of college because I basically only had two speeds: clammed up introvert and sloshy drunk.