This Modern Love

As is the case for many women in their mid twenties these days, I am single and fabulous… living that independent lady life. Like Beyonce…

Oh wait, she’s married.

Amy Schumer? Oh, she’s in a relationship, too? Lena Dunham? Meryl Streep? Tina Fey? Alright… fictional characters work for me- LIZ LEMON.

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However, after 4 years of focusing largely on my own goals and taking myself on dinner dates, I recently decided to be more open minded toward the idea of dating. I’m not trying to marry the next dude that walks through the door, but, for the first time in a long time, I feel that maybe having another person to hang out with (fine… and make out with) could make me happy.

BOY DID I THINK WRONG.

Okay, okay… I can’t really say that with 100% confidence, and I’m not running back to my Jane Austen collection to drink and die alone just yet.

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BUT, I do think that the dating world is a scary and confusing place that no one should have to navigate on their own! There are so many forms of social media and communication through which to experience rejection; you really need someone to have your back and help you translate that strand of 8 emojis and zero English words that you just received. Thankfully I have several work friends, sisters, and one notable best friend who are all more than willing to listen to my stream of consciousness rants about dating on a pretty much daily basis.

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And also, Aziz Ansari, who is a sharp and hilarious comedian, wrote a book about dating in the technology age and how much it sucks. So, fellow singles, it helps to know that we are not alone in the struggle! A real live famous person wrote a book just for us! And he pretty much nailed his observations, too. If you haven’t read Modern Romance you should definitely check it out, no matter what your romantic situation (okay that’s my one plug of the book- it’s really insightful)

Moving On…

A few of my favorite Aziz observations, mixed with my own opinions, are as follows:

   1) We have SO MANY choices with online dating tools (including Tinder, Bumble, and even Facebook), that it’s hard to commit to one person!

Translation: Basically, too many fish in the sea means that we spend all day looking for the best place to cast our line, and end up with zero fish to show for it at the end of the day! (Look at me whipping out a fishing analogy like I even know what fishing is).

Solution: Swipe right more! Stop looking for the greatest fish you’ve ever seen and just jump in and grab one, if it sucks after closer inspection, throw it back and try again (don’t kill it and eat it… it’s not that kind of fishing analogy). This whole notion of “you’re getting too old to date someone you couldn’t see yourself marrying” is BS. Just pick one person from wherever you meet people, go on a date, and, if it’s not worth a second date, hopefully you got some good food out of the deal. Try again with someone else!

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2) With many popular forms of communication that aren’t actual face-to-face talking, we forget that there’s a human on the other end of that text/e-mail/DM/dickpic (please NO everyone)!

Translation: Technology is a wall that we hide behind because we are big fat cowards! You can get away with not responding for hours (or ever) instead of just breaking it off, or you can send nasty pictures that no one wants to see and never have to show your face again.

Solution: Be a respectful texter!!  If you were having a conversation in real life (or irl if you’re twelve), you wouldn’t go make homemade fettuccine and read the paper for 3 hours before answering someone’s question. Sometimes things happen that delay a response, but for the most part, you know you saw the text- just respond. You don’t want to hang out because you are not interested? I’m sure the girl or guy on the other end would love to know that and stop wasting their time! Simply say “no thanks, I don’t want to,” and stop making people guess how you’re feeling! Even if it hurts them to hear it, be honest, respond in a reasonable time, and move on with your life.

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3) Finally, in the same vein of communication, without having to talk on the phone or see someone in person as often, it very easily becomes unclear if you are dating, talking, hanging out, or just randomly texting a wrong number on a daily basis.

(If you’d like a rabbit hole of wrong number text responses).

Translation: ARE WE DATING OR WHAT??????

Solution: It’s okay to talk about feelings sometimes. You like someone? Tell them that! You want to hang out? Ask them to do an activity at a specific time and date so that they know you actually want to see them! Then follow through- making time for someone in your busy routine isn’t always easy, but it goes a long way! I don’t know when it became “clingy” to tell someone that you enjoy spending time with them. No, you don’t need to whisper that you love them under your breath on the first date, but give the other person some positive reinforcement from time to time! If you have no intention of ever getting serious with the person, make it clear that all you want is friendship- I know it seems uncomfortable, but it will save you both in the long run!

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So… dating is tough. There are a lot of unknowns- some that have always existed in the world of romance, and some that have developed with technology. But at the end of the day, if you can be yourself, communicate honestly, and keep an open mind when it comes to meeting new people, you will make it out alive! You may not meet your forever partner right away, if that is your intention, but you will be happy that you are putting yourself out into the world and seeing how you are received. And, if you want to run back to your happy, single place every once in awhile, go for it! There are no rules: you are not too old or too young, too skinny or too fat, too ugly or too pretty to be alone right now and figure out what you want, or to get out there and date the hell out of some people…

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A Love Letter to my Big Baby

Sometimes in life you find your perfect match in something or someone else: maybe a house that you feel instantly connected to, a job that inspires you to work your hardest every day, or another person who you want to spend your life with, …two years ago I found that match in Jessie. I have had several dogs in my life, but Jessie was my one true love. She could drag an open bag of flour all over my house, eat the arm of my sofa, break my windows trying to bark at people outside, chew up my new shoes, scratch up my historic front door (all things that she did over our short few years together)… and I would always forgive her and try to help her be better next time. Because above all else, we loved each other. Together we moved into my first real home, together we biked all over the island going full speed and trying not to crash, together we hit up happy hours and play dates and yard parties, and most importantly, together we connected with hundreds of children as Pet Partners at my school.

Jessie was full of so much love that she wanted to share with every person she met in life, so her greatest joy was going to school with me once a week and loving on all of my students. The hardest thing for me to think about right now, is how I’m going to break the news to all of those same students who would call out “Jessie!” excitedly from down the hall as they spotted her, and would ask daily when she was coming back to visit again, who would shower her with hugs and kisses, and let her return the favor. How will I tell them that she won’t be coming back any more? How do I let them know that she is gone forever and way too soon?

Today I came home from a day out at the zoo with my family; I had been gone for about seven hours, nothing more than a usual day. The first thing I saw was trash strewn around the floor. Jessie LOVED to get into the trash can, so I had upgraded to a fancy locking one, but she was too smart and could still break in if she really wanted to. I could smell that she had pooped somewhere too, not unusual lately, since I brought a new foster pup home who liked to mark his territory. I was not happy that she had acted out and when she ran into the room I scolded her, took her by the collar, and put her outside so I could clean up the mess. That’s it. That’s the last interaction we had. After I had let her out, I realized that the water bowl was drained, items were knocked off of the counter, and things looked a little off. As I took the mess outside to throw away, I saw Jessie laying in the grass, in the pouring rain, not moving. I called her name, but knew instantly something was wrong. I ran to her, dropping paper towels all over the yard, and grabbed her, screaming her name. She was gone. Somehow my parents were called, and they arrived to find me hysterically crying and screaming and hugging my big, sweet baby, willing her back to life and apologizing for not knowing she needed me when I first came home. I will forever regret that the last thing I said to her was “bad dog” as I threw her out, resenting that I had to clean up her unnecessary mess. She had somehow managed to stay alive until I got home, and all I did was get angry.

As we carried her body inside and I started surveying the trash she had spilled more closely, I found an empty bag of dark chocolate chips. I remember taking them off of the top of the fridge, after discovering that I have a mouse visitor, and almost putting them in the cabinet. I opened the cabinet, set them in, and changed my mind- tossed them in the trash without a thought. That one action, seemingly innocent, was fatal. I know that I can’t blame myself for living my life and making a mistake,  but, still, I will never forgive myself for letting my last interaction with her be angry. She was the best dog in so many ways- smart, loving, unconditionally forgiving- and I hope that above everything else, she knew that I loved her beyond what I thought I was capable of.

The hole in my broken heart will labor my breathing, and ache my bones, and cause me to cry at unexpected times. It will heal slowly, but not without pain. Whatever I feel as I grieve, I will always know that we needed one another during the time we had. It was only two years (in fact, almost exactly two years), but we grew up together in those years, and made each other’s lives better and full of joy. She was my best friend, my soul mate in dog form- a bit of a mess, but a big, sweet baby that just wanted to love and be loved. Well, I love you, Jessie. I love you forever.

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Persistent Alone-ness (not to be confused with loneliness)

Persistent alone-ness, by my definition, means deliberately choosing to be alone despite the possibility of companionship. The reason for this could vary for different people: perhaps you hate the idea of someone else inhabiting your space (physical or emotional), or you have seen one too many bad marriages (or experienced a bad break up of your own) and don’t believe in the idea of relationships, or maybe you just won’t ever like anyone as much as you like yourself… so why bother??

Any of these reasons could be the cause of my condition on a given day… sometimes it’s one more than the other, but, ultimately, I persist in my quest to be alone. Yes, I realize that this goes against everything we are taught growing up; the importance of finding a soul mate is a concept so heavily hammered into us that my Spice Girls Barbies were getting hitched before I could even double knot my laces. However, past life experiences (particularly tough ones), mixed with current life experiences (particularly happy ones which result from my single-ness), have outweighed the societal impact on my pre-adolescent brain and allowed me to feel totally fulfilled and ecstatic to be living this life on my own! No, alone does not mean that I do not have family- in fact, my parents’ involvement in my life almost definitely makes being un-attached a more enjoyable and less lonely lifestyle than many assume it to be. I have a built-in support system, people to eat a homemade dinner with, extra hands for big yard work and someone to bring me soup when I’m sick- I am not truly alone in life, but I am alone in the intimate details. The big bed I sleep in is filled with pillows and dogs, the air filters only get changed if I haul out the ladder every 6 weeks and get it done- and no one is there to pay my mortgage if I over extend my credit limit. I am the last person I see before sleep and the first person I greet each morning. I treat myself to massages and cook my favorite meals; I even take myself to the movies on occasion. I have no one to nag for not doing the dishes or emptying the trash, no one is disappointing me by forgetting to put the sheets on the bed or leaving their towel on the floor. I am responsible for my own happiness, therefore it is a priority.

Having said all of that, I want to emphasize that I am not cynical about relationships, in fact I love seeing my friends find people who make them happy and improve their lives- it is a beautiful thing! And I make a GREAT third, fifth, or seventh wheel! I do not shut people out and am not resolutely against the idea of ever dating someone; I often re-consider whether I could be happier than I am, or if I feel that something is missing, and consistently determine the answer to be “no.” Sometimes I’ll meet a nice guy, we’ll text a little bit, then I start to slowly become reabsorbed into my very busy schedule. I forget to respond for a few hours, then a few days, then ever at all, and soon it’s back to life as usual.

My main purpose in writing this post is not to flaunt my happiness in a sadly desperate way as an attempt to prove to my coupled friends that “I really am doing ok!!!” My purpose is also not to tell others that they should break up and be alone because I am living a better life than they are. I just want to reach out to my fellow “single pringles” (as my students would say) in solidarity, and acknowledge that we exist. We are eligible women without severely destructive personality traits (as far as we know), who are choosing to do our own thing and don’t feel inadequate for it!

And, if there ever is a man (or person) who changes our perception of life and our own happiness, like we’ve always been promised, then more power to him for having the confidence to jump into our world- we will welcome you and try not to sleep like starfish all over your half of the bed.                baby starfish