On New Orleans, Belatedly

I’ve always wanted to go to New Orleans. My little brother – rather, younger brother, as my little brother towers over me at 6’4″ – is getting married, and I am now a bridesmaid (although I tried to explain I really didn’t need to be one), so I was invited along to the bachelorette party in New Orleans.

Now, I do love my brother’s fiancée quite a bit, but the thought of me, a Colorado woman whose very low maintenance beauty routine generally consists of “when’s the last time I wore makeup and where is it?”, traveling to a beautiful city with beautiful Dallas women who know how to curl their hair intimidated me immensely. However, I own a super sexy black dress, and I’m Katie Fucking Barry (sorry Mom, it’s a figure of speech), so I figured “I got this,” grabbed my makeup bag, stuffed it in a backpack with my laptop, and headed down there.

I spent the time waiting for the flight seated at a bar, chatting to an oil and gas intern who had recently relocated to NOLA and had been in Colorado for a conference. He was fresh out of college and seemed to enjoy his chosen industry, although did not express love for living in New Orleans. I spent the flight seated next to a very loud contractor who thanked every flight attendant for coming to work that day, as if they had any choice, and who proceeded to advise me on upcoming home remodel work. He was attending his sister’s book launch in New Orleans, and clearly had not been on many airplanes. I prayed he’d stop talking at some point, because he was so loud, but he was so enthusiastic and kind that I just let him continue, whispering back responses. We talked about books, and his pet bird, and wood floors. He promised he’d read American Gods.

I really do have the strangest but most wonderful conversations with people.

I arrived too late and exhausted (I had spoken at a conference for court reporters on cannabis and employment law, complete with a super amazing Jeopardy PowerPoint I made before flying to New Orleans) to meet up with the lady crew, so I curled up in a twin bed (note to self: never again) and fell asleep, after realizing that I’d left all of my jewelry and my toothbrush in Denver.

Shit.

I woke up in a strange house in a strange neighborhood, and immediately set off to procure dental hygiene products. Our Airbnb was in an interesting neighborhood. I’ve lived in Chicago, and in interesting parts of Cape Town, so I’m really not bothered by much. I strode into the nearest store, which was an oddly compiled bodega carrying everything from canned beans to beer to purses to free condoms to one tube of toothpaste.

Joy secured, I returned to my temporary home. The women were surprised I’d walked in the neighborhood alone. I  reminded them that daylight is a beautiful thing. This Airbnb, a remodeled shotgun house with a cute red front door, was full of weird gnat-like flies. Obviously, I wasn’t sure about the local insect game, so I withheld judgement until I realized that this is absolutely not normal. However, I made my peace with the flies after the first two hours of continuous aggravation. The showers were odd. It was a nice reminder to me that I should absolutely pay someone to do my tile work for me. They had done a decent job remodeling the place, complete with bright turquoise accent walls and exposed brick and newer appliances, but man, were they inept at tile work.

And I have to imagine that neither am I. So as my bathroom remodels get underway (ha, eventually?), I will have to remind myself that my DIY mindset does not extend to actual DIY practice. And I will have to bring in skilled assistance or risk being mocked mentally by anyone who ever uses my bathrooms.

We got ready to go to fancy brunch. However, immediately after brunch, we were headed to an alligator tour. (I have so many thoughts about this tour – we paid $105 each for this adventure, and I found similar ones on Groupon for $16….so I complained, but only mildly.) I donned overalls that my brother’s fiancée had brought for me. They looked great on her, but I was just swimming in them. At least they were comfortable! (I’m generally too long for one piece things, which is annoying. I guess they don’t make clothes with the long torso-ed in mind, and it ends up touching you in places you’d rather not.)

We made it down to brunch, two of us wearing overalls, one wearing obscenely short shorts, one wearing a vest made out of Bud Light boxes and held together with leopard print duct tape, and a fanny pack with a naked male belly button on it (as though it were an outcropping of exposed stomach), and attempted to enter the restaurant. The man guarding the door, I mean, the host, dressed in a suit and bowtie, looked us up and down and said, “None of this is going to work,” while he waved his pointed index finger back and forth, up and down.

So, banned because of the way that we were, we went next door (same freaking restaurant) and sidled up to the bar, where I ate delicious gumbo. (Rabbit, duck? Something gamey that I’m not usually keen on. But still enjoyed. Would eat again.)

Then, the alligator tour commenced. I’m a naturally curious person, and I love adventure, generally. I enjoy nature and I enjoy water, so this was bound to be a good time. We climbed into a giant SUV with a couple, and were carted off into the swamplands surrounding the city.

I am in love with trees. I have been in love with trees since spending most of my childhood in and around the apple tree in our backyard, and the trees in the South do not disappoint. (See also my obsession with tulip trees in Kansas City. Not trying to say that’s the South. Adding additional context for tree love.) They are both formidable yet graceful. They loom large above you, and I imagine I could happily build a cabin and live beneath one forever.

I had never been on an airboat before. These things are awesome. They glide over floating foliage, loudly, and gather speed. I held my arm out, as one should, feeling the wind on my exposed skin. I loved it.

We navigated through a larger water channel before turning into a smaller passage, and eventually arrived to float among some plants. The guide brought out marshmallows, hooked them onto a pole, and then we met our first alligator, who floated up next to the boat, eager for food.

A smaller alligator joined that one, and the two of them chased pieces of raw chicken and marshmallows while I peppered the guide with questions about the alligator market (which is not what it once was, despite their utility as a food source), alligator lifestyles and territorial habits, and their lifespan. Turns out, they’ll eat anything, they grow to about 17 feet, live for up to 70 years, and grow very slowly. They’re very territorial, and are left to fend for themselves immediately after birth. You used to be able to get about $5,000 for a decent sized gator – but now the going rate is roughly $500 for the same gator. Hunters are given tags based on the land that they own, and it’s a good thing for population control. Alligator skin isn’t as popular as it once was for outerwear, and as such, the industry has suffered. I do believe I ate a gator nugget in Florida once.

I also learned a lot about water and land ownership rights. Turns out, in Louisiana, you can own water as though it were land, where in other places, you cannot. (You generally buy land with bodies of water on it, but you do not have claim to said water other than by the deeding of water rights, which are generally shared amongst those whose land butts up again or includes that body of water.) I need to do some more research, and learn how to more effectively communicate my understanding of water rights, but from what I gather, there are different applications of water rights depending on the potential for usage of a given waterway, and your water rights extend roughly 6 inches below the surface of the water. (Again, this is not legal advice, and should in no way be construed as such. I was drinking alcoholic beverages and asking questions that I don’t know the guide was qualified to answer.)

I enjoyed the afternoon immensely, and it culminated in me holding a baby alligator! He was very squirmy, and clearly not in the mood to be manhandled by humans. But he was sweet, and I imagined he’d feel right at home in my bathtub with Carl for a brother. They could hunt mice and squirrels in my backyard, and I would build him a pond for summer relaxation.

We left the alligator tour and went and ate the best fried chicken I have ever eaten in my entire life. I love fried chicken. I would eat it all the time. And man, the sides. Sweet potatoes, collard greens, mac and cheese, beans, rice. Heaven. This is what my heaven buffet includes.

We went home, napped (very necessary), and then became beautiful for our evening adventures. It included Hurricanes at some famous bar, then somewhere else, then a club. By this point, I was ready to go home, but they refused to let me go alone and thus, I danced wearily for several hours, while holding onto a railing, until we could leave.

The next morning brought beignets and I was able to pick up a new set of tarot cards. My friend Madeline had gifted me some in high school, and I’ve since lost them. While I am in no way blessed with the ability to remember anything about the tarot, I do enjoy possession of said cards, and was happy to procure them. The voodoo shop was lovely, cluttered, and full of things I could have spent hours looking at.

We wandered until it was time to check into my hotel, and we all hauled ourselves and our stuff there to wait until it was time to go to the airport. As soon as they left, I  immediately put on the bathrobe (because in theory, bathrobes are amazing but who actually bothers to use them in real life?), and then sprawled out across the bed.

I ordered room service. Obvious mistake, but the exhaustion deadened my bones and my fear of committing some GrubHub faux pas in a hotel lobby loomed larger than it should have, so with that, an over-priced Caesar salad and turkey club were whisked to my room. I opened the door in my bathrobe, hoping that wasn’t too weird. But I would imagine they’ve seen worse?

The next morning, I had formulated somewhat of a plan, and took the streetcar to a cemetery. I am obsessed with graveyards. I find them to be beautiful places of quiet reflection, the immensity of life somehow compacted into tiny markers of who once was. I’ve often stared at gravestones, caught in my own head, thinking hard about what it is to live a full life and then be reduced to a few lines of text for future consideration. In New Orleans, due to the sea level situation, you can’t really be buried underground, as your grave would just come back up, rejected by the earth. So instead, you are buried above ground. This cemetery housed graves going back to the late 18th century, I believe, and I wandered and wondered until the heat of the day and the weight of laptop digging into my back signaled that it was time to depart.

I perused a local bookstore for about an hour. I could read forever. I have lost my gift of immediately knowing a book is worth reading by looking at it, overwhelmed by the offerings of language and stories. I selected two, finally, one, a memoir by a well-known blogger known as The Bloggess, because she’s magical and hilarious and I would happily support her by purchasing her book, and the other, because the story felt compelling. I also had one more book in my backpack, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, a man whose writing I adore. So now, with three times the books I had with me when I started this three-day adventure, I sat wearily and made a new plan.

I had a few hours. I was exhausted. I was sweaty. The air was thick. Since I’d just spent $30 on books, I didn’t want to Lyft anywhere and I wasn’t sure what else I needed to see; although I had a couple museums in mind, I did not have the time. So instead, I decided to take the city bus to the airport, figuring I could just curl up at a bar somewhere with a book. So that’s exactly what I did.

I am not the most adept at public transportation, nor am I the least, so I figured that even with my several hour window, I’d manage to arrive in time. One streetcar ride, to the end of the line (I got to ride past the Loyola New Orleans campus, so that was cool), two buses, and a half mile walk in between seemed not that daunting. I made friends with a woman at one of the bus stops. We talked for half an hour about everything from high cholesterol to Chicago and weather and fried chicken. She said the locals don’t love the fried chicken place I’d fallen in love with as much as they used to, and I agreed that once something gets too popular, its quality generally decreases. However, I swore I’d come back to sample more chicken offerings, and we laughed about the quality of fried chicken in Denver. When she left the bus, she waved at me and shouted for me to have a blessed day. I loved her.

I arrived at the airport, having lost more fluids to sweat than I ever have in my entire life, exhausted and content. I found a quiet bar, curled up, and brought out my book. After the couple next to me left, a large man sat down, and immediately began talking crazy. I gave him some insight into adoption, after he told me a completely rambling story about a niece that had been given up for adoption who had reached out to the family, but the family was not getting along and so they refused to give him her information, and this and that and everything. So, I directed him to where he might find additional resources for tracking her down and I assured him that knowing is important, and that meeting her might provide some important closure for his sister, her birth mother.

With no ability to create any sort of insightful conclusion, I conclude. Alas, that was New Orleans. I’ll go back; it was beautiful.

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On Tindering, Tentatively

Note: Family members who are queasy at the thought of discussion about human sexuality/romance/all that jazz should not proceed past this point. I will take no responsibility for the intense burning in your retinas or the rise of Catholic guilt or the subtle reproaches of glaring disapproval emanating from you at future family gatherings, because you will not be able to say that I didn’t warn you. (It’s probably not going to be THAT bad, but I’m hedging my bets just in case.)

 

““Some people still catch feelings in hookup culture,” said Meredith, the Bellarmine sophomore. “It’s not like just blind fucking for pleasure and it’s done; some people actually like the other person. Sometimes you actually catch feelings and that’s what sucks, because it’s one person thinking one thing and the other person thinking something completely different and someone gets their feelings hurt. It could be the boy or the girl.”

And even Ryan, who believes that human beings naturally gravitate toward polyamorous relationships, is troubled by the trends developing around dating apps. “It’s the same pattern manifested in porn use,” he says. “The appetite has always been there, but it had restricted availability; with new technologies the restrictions are being stripped away and we see people sort of going crazy with it. I think the same thing is happening with this unlimited access to sex partners. People are gorging. That’s why it’s not intimate. You could call it a kind of psychosexual obesity.”

The above is an excerpt from an article in Vanity Fair about hookup culture. I’m nearing 28, and I’m smack-dab in the middle of a sexual revolution of sorts. I’ve been meaning to post about this for a while now, but I haven’t been able to put it all into words. And still may not be able to…but here goes:

One Thursday, I rolled into work in the morning and stood at my desk chatting with my work wife across the pre-fab bland blonde walls of our cubicles. “Oh god,” I said in dismay, “the feelings have landed.” Her face was sympathetic. “Really?” she said, and the discussion wound on, evaluating pitfalls and what it might mean to actually be having feelings. Feelings, we agreed, are the worst. Feelings make everything complicated.

I inwardly groaned when I realized I’d been infected with feelings for the person with whom I’d been sleeping. <— How horrible of a sentence is that? Dismay at the thought of actually liking someone? Distress because suddenly it’s not just skin contact and cocktails any longer? Panic because of the potential for disaster?

Of course there’s potential for disaster! The only things in life worth doing involve great potential for disaster! Not really, but for the sake of this argument, the ability to be vulnerable in a relationship is a risky move, but also one that has great potential for growth, etc. And that is important! The minute that we lose the ability to be vulnerable and to accept that this may end in horrible heartbreak and be the inspiration for the next “500 Days of Summer,” we’ve lost the most important part of human connection (besides the skin contact and endorphins, am I right?) and also a potentially lucrative screenwriting credit.

If we lose the ability to truly feel the emotions associated with romantic/sexual activity, we’ve lost the meaning, the depth, and in the end, the entirety of the relationship has been reduced to posturing and pretense, a superficial and ultimately narcissistic exercise in fleetingly empty satisfaction.

For me, life’s meaning is rooted in love and connection. There are all sorts of kinds of love, obviously, and I love them all. But there is something utterly fantastic about romantic love, and I absolutely appreciate the fact that I’m able to experience it, and would never want to lessen the impact that it has and can have on your life. It is profound. It is immense. It sears through you and shapes you. It’s beautiful, and deserves the utmost in care and appreciation.

We sit here in our digital age and wax nostalgic for the days of a simpler time, when men were gentlemen and they still called. Then we get on our apps and play the 2016 version of “Hot or Not” on Tinder while we wonder why we can’t find anyone suitable. We actively avoid getting involved with people, because we’re all too busy trying to evaluate all of our options, move upwards in terms of societal valuation of our scores, and ultimately….oh wait, what happens at the end of it? When happens when we’re not toned and fit and still hot? What happens when we are suddenly forced to rely on the content of our character? What then? What happens when the potential matches have dried up, the game has lost its luster and you’ve not attained any level of connection or progressed as a person?

There’s a lot to unpack here and I’m going to attempt to do that and then impart my wisdom (read: draw wild conclusions and dig in on them, because I can).

Here is the summary of what I’m going to attempt to discuss: communication, connection, cultural standards, the advent of the internet and its effect on sexuality and dating, expectations, exploration, and my goals/hopes/dreams (and so on, ad nauseum).

Where I’m coming from (while I may not be Raymond Carver, I’m still coming from somewhere…): I’m 27, have been actively dating since I was 15, and I’ve got over a decade of relationships and relationship failures (and successes) under my belt. It’s like the end of an NBA commercial I saw last night: “Success is just failure that hasn’t happened yet.” Foreboding, yet mostly correct.

One of my favorite quotes from well-known sex columnist Dan Savage goes something like this: you date, you break up, you date again, until eventually you don’t break up. I’ve always taken this to heart – even if I go on my last first date when I’m 80, I will have tried. I will have built a body of experiences and relationship endeavors that will have led me to find the thing that I seek. I will have loved and lost and, perhaps most importantly, learned.

I have hundreds of great stories about dating. Some of them are beautiful, some hilarious, some cringe-worthy, and all of them comprise the library that is my experience and the lens through which I evaluate relationships or potential relationships.

I’m an excellent first dater, because I’m not into the superficial conversation that generally comprises a first date. I want to know all of the things, because in finding out the deeper parts of a person, you’re better able to assess their potential as a possible partner or mate. Part of it is my unwillingness to conform to the expectations of the date as an interview mentality, because it is and it is not – the dating part of it is the longest interview of your life, and should be embraced wholeheartedly – and part of it is because I’m fantastically curious.

But then I find myself quickly losing interest, because the men I’m dating just don’t have “it.” They’re bland. They don’t hold my interest. In the early moments, I’m able to mirror my own versatility and excitement onto them, because they’re still reflecting that back, but once the mirror drops, it’s often a letdown. Tobias calls it “the sparkle phase” – normal people refer to it as the “honeymoon phase” – it’s the endorphin-filled glittery time when things are still new and we’re all still filling in the gaps of unknown information with the things that we want them to be. Once all that subsides and the routines of normalcy land, we’re left with the actual real human person and we’re forced to cope with the fact that they might actually, unfortunately, be just like us – flawed, neurotic, normal.

I always say that I want to find someone whose weird matches mine, or at least, works with mine. If we can each understand each other’s negative qualities, or even real human qualities, and still respect each other, then we’ll stand a chance of succeeding. I love my friends unconditionally. I know their flaws. But the sum of their parts as a person obviously overwhelm those flaws. Besides, if they weren’t flawed, they’d be totally boring, and I’d never want that.

I’m intelligent, pretty enough in an unusual way, and not into the whole image thing. I’m dynamic; I like a lot of things. I’m not driven by physical attraction – well, obviously a little bit – but I find that character and authenticity are far more important to me than a chiseled jawline. I need to find someone who’s driven, intelligent, kind, dynamic, flexible, willing to deal with my inability to organize and my ADHD-driven conversational patterns, and a little bit wild (a lot wild, but not too wild, you know?). It’s hard to find that blend of adult/responsibility/adventure/intelligence. Really hard.

I want to find someone who respects me first as a person and secondly as a partner. I want to be an equal, not an object. I also want to find someone whom I respect, someone who pushes me to be better, but who genuinely adores all of the things that I already am. And someone who laughs at my jokes, because I love (my) jokes. I want to find someone who’s funny, and who appreciates humor’s importance in our lives. I want to find someone to share my life with, to have adventures with, and ultimately, to maybe grow old with. (Or at least a suitable first husband.)

I seek quality. That’s why Tinder is completely overwhelming. I have to just swipe right a few times, get about 10 matches, and then sort from there. I can realistically only date a couple of people at a time. I don’t want my dating pool clouded with confusion, cluttered like my car, and ultimately counter-productive.

I’m also diligent about the endeavor. I don’t want a one-night stand, not that those are terrible. I want to explore the possibilities with a person before I bail, but I also want to make sure that I’m not settling. And that’s part of the problem.

My friend recently used an excellent analogy about cheesecake. He posits that dating is like being at the Cheesecake Factory (if you’ve been living under a rock, it’s an entirely self-explanatory concept restaurant with oddly off-putting interior decoration). Cheesecake is great, but what about this fancy cheesecake? Or that one? There’s so many to choose from, how can you just choose one? (See that earlier quote from the Vanity Fair article – “psychosexual obesity.” Pertinent.)

Well….if you don’t want to get fat, you’ll probably have to settle for fewer cheesecake pieces rather than all of them (dear lord, imagine the lactose situation you’d have gotten yourself into). Also, if we’re approaching this analogy in the manner of this NPR article, if we wait and hesitate, then the cheesecake will spoil, or be purchased by other hungry cheesecake seekers. But then again, are we missing out if we get one cheesecake and not the other? Is there a better cheesecake? What if I picked the wrong cheesecake? Arrrrghhhh! The wrong cheesecake, the horror!

This is the crux of the problem now – it’s well documented that increased availability in choices leads to more indecision and increased rumination about regret. “What if?” becomes a standard follow-up line of thinking after a choice has (finally!) been made. It’s a Millennial conundrum. We’re standing with a seemingly endless array of options, and we’re completely stagnant, unable (or unwilling) to decide for fear of missing out or making the incorrect choice. Ha. But that’s the thing about choice…

In the days of yore (anywhere from agrarian societies to pre-Industrial Revolution…or maybe even as far as the early 1900s…), we had fewer choices. There were a limited number of eligible bachelors (or bachelorettes, if you’re into that sort of thing) available for mating, and it was expected that the pairing would be mutually beneficial, befitting of your social station, and lead to procreation for the sake of posterity and lineage continuation. The finality of the match was sealed, and that was that.

Then came everything that has come since that time, including women’s rights (pesky things, women…can’t live with them, can’t live without them), the Sexual Revolution, the advent and popularity of divorce for “irreconcilable differences” (those again), and the internet (which brought us Imgur, so we’re clearly coming out ahead). All of that has led to a massive paradigm shift, and with that, different expectations for dating, mating, and the like.

Being a modern woman, I am blessed with agency in the choices relating to my sexuality and partner preferences that past generations of women have not experienced. The importance of that agency is not lost on me. I am also blessed with a healthy sense of knowledge and self-assurance as it relates to sexuality (including health, preferences, subcultures, and practices, etc.). A lot of that is self-taught. I became incredibly curious about sexuality as whole and spent a significant amount of time ensuring that I was well-informed when it came to health, in particular, but also to the other elements.

When you think about it, human sexuality as a whole is fascinating. We’re blessed with the ability to create tiny people, but it’s about more than that. The entirety of the connection and endless possibilities for pleasure is amazing. We are truly #blessed to have been gifted with these fantastic bodies and the creativity to explore them to the fullest extent possible.

We are all over the board. We like what we like. We want what we want. One of my exes always used to say that he didn’t want limit his connections with other people. I hated the way he said it, but I get it now. I finally understand what he meant.

I understand that human beings aren’t necessarily wired for monogamy. We do want to maximize the potential for procreation; it’s biological and it makes sense. But much like the fight or flight response has been dulled in our softer survival situations (fire on demand, indoor plumbing, buildings, reduced threat of mountain lion attacks, etc.), I find that there are certainly evolutionary options to consider. I think that romantic love is the highest form of love – and creating, nurturing, and sustaining a relationship with someone is a highly intense and rewarding endeavor. It transcends the more basic animal tendencies of straight procreation and evokes the will power and high-mindedness of our human experience.

That’s not to say that it might not get boring. It might. I am finally coming around the idea of increased fluidity in relationships, but not so much so that I would want to be a non-primary partner. Or even have secondary partners to actively date in addition to the main, really. I know that works out well when it works out well, and maybe at some point in the future, I’ll be happily reporting back about the navigation of that territory. But for now – I’m looking for my person.

That determination to seek partnership may stem from my childhood – the whole broken home, divorce, not happy parental relationship thing – and my subconscious need to “correct” it. But it may not. I understand the argument that marriage is a social construct, and is actually entirely unnecessary. And yet, I would like to have a person. My penguin, my lobster, my partner, whatever you’d like to call them. I think of it as a permanent adventure buddy.

I’m also not freaking out about time. I have plenty of it. As we’ve progressed with women in the workforce, delayed age of bearing children (yay birth control!), and other more modern societal norms, we’ve seen the socially created and maintained institution of marriage become less of a focus. And for that, I’m grateful. Whereas I would have once been considered a spinster due to my advanced age (ha, the advanced age of 27), now I’m only just entering my prime. I’m free to happily explore my life without the intense scrutiny that once would have befallen my adventurous endeavors.

Do I want to get married someday? I think so. Do I want children someday? I think so. But I don’t know for 100% sure. And I’m definitely not going to settle for shitty cheesecake, so if it happens, it happens. And if it doesn’t, I can still have my life and my adventures and some cats. And maybe a turtle. Who knows what will happen. The possibilities are endless!

I do think that it’s interesting to see how the dating game has changed as a result of all of the influx of technology and lowered expectations for commitment. It’s not that people are doing different things than they’ve been doing for millennia, it’s that suddenly, there’s access to information, to media, to availability.

But – much as the Vanity Fair article points out that people seem to be “gorging” themselves as a result of our ability to sudden meet and connect with potential partners whenever, wherever, however – I think that much of it is a false speculation of the true breadth of the market. There are thousands of people using Tinder within a 50 mile radius of me. I know this because I didn’t log in to Tinder for a few weeks, and Tinder sent me a notification saying that over 3,000 people had “liked” me since I last logged in. Whoa. That’s a seemingly endless supply, and yet…it is a finite and ultimately poorly represented number.

(Think of the data that came out as a result of the Ashley Madison hack…think of the disparity and misrepresentation occurring within that small niche market. Not that it’s representative of dating sites, per se, but I think that arguably, we’re all operating with the false notion that this supply is constant, consistent, and infinite, which is not the right way to approach it. Think about all the times you’ve logged in to your account online only to see, ugh, the same people you saw before. Think about the resurfacing of past bad dates, or running into an ex at the grocery store. It really is all the same concept. It’s not practical to operate on that assumption of infinity.)

As far as maximization of potential, it makes sense for men to swipe right on (which is to say, choose or like) nearly any woman. Women tend to be far more selective when it comes to online dating, and so for every time I swipe right and immediately get a match, there are equally opposite experiences on the other end. I know this because I help one of my friends with his online dating game on the regular. It’s hard out there.

Sure, the article talks about the twentysomething males who are focused on maximizing quantity, and that’s all and well. I think it’s also interesting to see the disparity between how they describe their experiences and the reality that I’m seeing when I help my guy friend. Not that he’s not getting dates, but he’s not getting 3 dates back to back in a night. I’m sure if he stepped his game up, he could. But that seems like overkill.

To me, it seems like an exercise in narcissism. I think that’s part of my criticism of online dating as a whole, and I’m not trying to excuse myself from complete and mostly complicit participation in that. I like online dating; much like all technology, it’s been able to bring people together and connect likeminded people, but it’s also brought about some worrying behaviors that I argue aren’t just relegated to online dating, but representative of a significant set of societal shifts that have occurred since the introduction of reality tv, the spread of the internet, and the increased prevalence of social media. Those behaviors include: the devaluation of commitment and connection/relationships; increased objectification of women; decline of chivalry; significant increase in brevity of and expectations for interactions; increased pressure to conform to societal expectations and engage in performative interactions as a way to demonstrate value; decreased authenticity; decreased depth of relationships as a whole; and an overall decline in etiquette to include devaluation of self and others.

The women interviewed in the article seem to discuss the way that manners have become less prevalent since the internet became the way that we date, and I agree, but also disagree. I have strong expectations for someone I’m meeting offline that I’ve met online. If we’re going to meet face to face, I won’t do it as a booty call or hookup. I expect that they will respect me, value me, and treat me as I treat them/want to be treated. Anything less than that gets a non-response from me. That and grammatical errors. I demand consideration, and so I get it. Otherwise, I’m closed for business, no longer interested in being a potential partner.

The twentysomething guys indicate that women love receiving salacious pictures. They report that women respond positively. Ha! I nearly choked on my tea when I read that. I have a friend who regularly sends me unsolicited lewd photographs. To him, it’s an expression of his masculinity, and an attempt to demonstrate value through physical appreciation. To me, it’s an exercise in utter narcissism, and does very little for me or my lady parts. I could do without them (the pictures, not my lady parts).

I think that hookup culture is fantastic, to a point. Women and men are able to engage in consensual activities that are mutually beneficial. For women, we’ve been able to cull the herd in ways that mitigate the onslaught of messages and requests for dates, and for men, they’re able to connect with women who are actually interested in meeting/engaging with them. It’s fun, it’s less oppressive than dinner on a first date, and it allows for increased adventures and decreases in pressure.

However, if one is participating in this process as a means of genuine connection, then it requires firm assertions of expectations at the outset. If you’re unwilling to accept a certain behavior, then you can’t bend on your standards, because if you do that, you’ll end up regretful. If you’re unwilling to have a hookup with no strings attached, then don’t hook up. Don’t have the expectations of something else from the beginning, because your hopes will be crushed.

That’s why communication is important. If you’re clear with someone from the beginning, and regularly touch base along the way, you’ll find that your interactions will progress far more smoothly than if you approach from a place of deceit. The autolycan nature of dating is depressing, and the fact that people are willing to lie, mislead, and misrepresent then truth of their intentions is indicative of a general lack of respect for and objectification of their partners.

I recently flipped through the book, “The Game.” I didn’t have much time, and may end up reading it in its entirety at some point, but near the end, the author is writing about meeting up with a woman who he’d hooked up with on a prior occasion, and who had just ghosted him. (Ha, ghosted. My word of week this week.) He asked her why she’d done that, and she replied that she wasn’t interested in his peacocking behavior. He wrote that during their drinks (the second time, post-ghost), he had already used so much of his material (meaning his “game”) on her that he had nothing left and was forced to actually be himself.

Surprise, surprise! I had a smug moment of “duh!” towards him when I read that. Authenticity is something I seek, and any posturing/peacocking/overtly annoying false presentation is going to drive me to near insanity very quickly. I’m not going to spend time with someone (relationship or hookup, whichever) who’s attempting to persuade me of their value without any real substantive proof. Smoke and mirrors are only just that. I want to see the man behind the curtain.

There’s another thing that’s mildly annoying about our current paradigm shift towards consistently casual dating. You start hanging out, you like each other, you keep doing that, and it’s never clarified. And then, seven months down the road, when you’re wondering where this is going, the other person is still free to be like, “Oh we’re not together, we’re never going to be, what are you talking about, weirdo?” and suddenly you’re the crazy one because you got hurt/developed feelings, etc. It’s curious, how that works. Yes, of course, no one wants to jump straight into a relationship, but I’m not willing to rule out that possibility.

If there’s emotional entanglement, the potential for heartbreak exists and is present and it’s the responsibility of both parties (or however many parties there are – I’m imagining class action lawsuit level number of parties, ha), to ensure that honesty is at the forefront and that clarity is communicated effectively.

Of course, there are hard caveats to online dating and tindering and swiping and hinging and whatever else we’re doing, bageling and bumbling, drunkenly groping for love in the darkest parts of dingy bars. It can get increasingly depressing, very quickly. The approach and results for everyone are completely different. It’s all about attitude, or so I’ve concluded. If you approach with an open mind and clear intentions, your results will be exactly as you want them to be. If you’re disillusioned, desperate, or despondent, your takeaways will reflect that.

In short – life is short. There is something beautiful about the intersection of love and sex, and even in the two on their own. We all strive for something meaningful, even if we’re loathe to admit it, and in our technology advanced society, we’re able to seek and strive so much faster than before. It’s like in movies – I have this theory that we’re far less patient not only because of the instant gratification options available to us at any given time, but also because in movies and other media, for the sake of story progression, the waiting parts are cut out or merely inserted as a montage. We don’t get to see the waiting, or the stagnation, or the things that aren’t action or explicit or explosions, and thus, we have come to expect that our own lives will progress in the same way.

However, unfortunately, that’s not how it works. If that were the case, I’d be montaging the hell out of my work week and speeding towards the action/explosions that comprise my weekends. (Of course then you miss out on the actual meat of life, and in speeding towards the ends of things, you miss the value that is the journey, blah blah, we all know that.)

It’s like everything – you get out of it what you put in.

I’m a part of a strange tide of children of divorce possessed with the unrealistic expectations for fairytale endings actively seeking our own connections in the world, unwilling to settle on something unless it’s “right,” and enjoying the hell out of the ride. Wherever I end up, whoever my person may be – if there even is one – I will at least know that in the course of my life, I’ve done the very best I can to attain adventures, tell fantastic stories, express emotions, and genuinely connect with people around me. If that’s not the best approach, I don’t know what is.

On Disillusionment, Forwardly

I’m sitting at my desk this morning, mind scattered everywhere but here, struggling to will my energy into my work, the lot of which is piled up around me, panic spread throughout the cubicle. I’m listening to some upbeat mix about wanderlust (I had entered “Rusted Root” in my search box this morning, attempting to find the right work music, but have thus far come up empty handed – currently it’s playing the song about the man Down Under, which is not in any way what I had in mind), and the whole discomfort at being caged is forefront in my mind.

I’m reminded of a book I started recently, “And Then We Came to the End.” (Love the title. If you’ve read my writing, you know that I adore beginning sentences with conjunctions…my inability to compress anything into a single thought must beget the need to ramble continuously, punctuation interspersed as a matter of necessity.) It’s about the fall of an advertising agency in Chicago in the midst of a recession. Of course, I’m halfway through. I haven’t finished yet, so I can’t tell you what happens, although if I had to hazard a guess, it might be that they come to the end.

The prose is slow, jumping here and there, relating stories I couldn’t care less about, and yet, I’m liking it. It’s a beautiful depiction of the monotony, of the meaninglessness that is the workday, which is somehow magnified to consume our entire existence. It’s heartbreaking and endless and realistic, all at once. I’m surrounded by the mid-toned golden pre-fab cubicle walls, lucky enough to have a window and 8 little plants. I have no decorations, other than a smattering of tea boxes and hand lotions. My existence is a mirror of theirs, although it’s not at all the same. And that’s the beauty of it.

I’ve been enjoying disillusionment literature lately. That’s not a genre, but it should be. I’ve written before about the letdown that was the realization that there is not this magic sense of resolve/purpose/justice/happy endings that we were sold in the literature of childhood…and I’m somewhat pleased to know that much of our adult artistic endeavors can be focused on puzzling out the muddling through that comprises the rest of our lives. Comfort in solidarity, I guess.

I recently finished “The Postmortal,” which is a haunting tale of a dystopian future in which science has discovered a cure for aging, and the population has fallen into near-anarchy. But that’s not the point of it, really. The story centers on a man who’s watched everything he loves fall away in part because of his own (in)action and in part because of this cure for aging. It’s a book that reminds us that all we have left in the end is love and the people with whom we share these experiences, no matter how small. After I read it, I forced the cat to cuddle with me while I cried into his fur and begged him not to ever die. I came away from it reminded that life wouldn’t be so beautiful if it didn’t end; that the temporary nature of it is part of the beauty. Things are, for their time, and then they aren’t. What they leave behind is the faintest whisper of their presence, memories of joy to be called up in dark hours, some legacy of interaction, hope.

I am an excellent beginner. Promise excites me. Much like the books that litter my life, half-read, consumed diligently for a few days before being discarded in favor of a new magazine, or a new book, or a Netflix show, I find myself struggling with the push to follow through. The beginning is bright, the future full of promise of the best things to come, and yet, when we get to it, there is always that looking forward and not so much realization that this present current now will stretch on endlessly.

There is consolation in the status quo, to be sure, and the complacency in repetitive routines is calming, reassuring. Yes, we rage against the things that can (or generally, can’t) be changed, but we take comfort that we’ve let it out, briefly appeased, forgetting that it will rise again unless we make the leap to change.

For me, it’s fear. The fear of the unknown; the fear of failure; the fear of that feeling of nervousness that comes with next experiences. Fear is the thing I’ve worked the most to fight in my life, and I’m sure the thing that will I will fight continuously for the rest of my own ever. Which is silly, because everything is new at some point. The swirling of anxiety pooling in the stomach will dissipate; all storms must eventually lose their momentum and die out, quietly. And yet, I find myself bound by those invisible barriers.

We are the sum of our parts (broadly; our memories, our experiences, our biology, our synapses, our hopes, our loves – reread that until “our” loses its meaning, because it will, and because you can), our power is internal and boundless. It’s a matter of harnessing that into moderately tangible progress, in accordance with our own end goals.

Damn. This means I need to reassess and cement some end goals. 2016 – Exploration, Visualization, Actualization. At last, we’ve accomplished one thing: a plan to plan (my favorite kind of plan), and some nice catchy words to go with it. And thus, we go. Onward. It’s like the Robert Frost quote that my brother had engraved on an iPod he got me when I graduated from high school (or was it college?) – “The best way out is always through.”

On Last Weekend, Belatedly

So what have I been doing with my life?

Well…enjoying the nothingness of unscheduled weekends. I’ve found myself getting very aggravated lately when I have things that interrupt my two days of freedom. I had not realized how much I relish that time to myself, that time to let the days unfold as they will, to do what I want with no structure or demands on my time. It makes the weekends stretch on forever. We find ourselves doing everything, and nothing, and by the time the weekend ends, I have entirely forgotten the pressures of the previous work week.

Last weekend, I babysat on Friday night, so I took my 9-year old to get ice cream and then we decided to wander around the Denver Botanic Gardens. While we were there, we saw a few toads. Boyfriend grabbed one (because he’s not amphibian-phobic in any way, and apparently well-versed in the toad-holding methods I must have missed in biology), and held it out. She was nervous, but touched it hesitantly. From that point forward, the mission was toad-seeking. We saw another one – huge – and I was too nervous to catch it, so boyfriend caught it and then I held it. Toads pee on you, that is a scientific fact. So I got peed on but I held a toad! He was very wiggly and I think I may have been more scared than he was.

On Saturday, we woke up and made breakfast. I was in nap-mode, but boyfriend declared it “Activities Day,” and came to snuggle me while I protested activities day in favor of sleeping, but then he promptly fell asleep. I almost elbowed him awake, yelling “Activities Day!” but instead also fell asleep. Naps are fantastic. After the nap, we drove up to Boulder and went to the Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory. Oh man, what a letdown. My mom had reported to me that there was a “Mint Room.” Maybe it came from too many viewings of the original “Willy Wonka and Chocolate Factory,” but I went to the tea factory with this lovely pre-conceived idea that this magical mint room was an entire room full of lush, live and growing mint, green and light and leafy. Nope. Enter a concrete room full of bags of different mints. Pungent, to say the least. But so underwhelming. This fantasy of a room filled with mint is still alive in my mind, and actually, I’m thinking that maybe I’ll just plant mint plants all around my living room or something just to make the dream come true. (Like in “Patch Adams” when the lady swims in noodles…)

After that, we went and played a very competitive game of miniature golf at this fantastic place I haven’t been in ages. He told me after that it had been a test of sorts, because he had wanted to see how I was as a competitor. He told me that I’d passed, with flying colors. I laughed, because I love the idea of mini-golf and no one will ever go with me. We had fun. It was like a date – I got serious about it. We watched the families around us, with stone-faced parents who weren’t interacting with their children or each other. He made me promise that we’ll never be that boring. I promised. That’s a promise I can definitely keep.

I was exhausted. We went home and I curled up on the couch and we watched some episodes of a Canadian show that I’m starting to get into and fell asleep early like old people. We woke up on Sunday late – I slept hard, snuggling the cat, happy to have my baby back home. (He had a horrible week last week – I thought he was going to die, but in the end, it was a simple matter of draining my savings and giving some meds and fluids and an overnight stay at the vet. I’m still nervous – he’s lost weight, isn’t back to 100%, but he’s alive. So that pleases me greatly. He brought home a mouse the other day, even though he’s not eating as much as he should be. I’ve been trying to keep him inside so he doesn’t get into trouble in the real world, but he’s been crying and miserable about being inside. Ugh, the standing firm part of parenting is the worst. And he’s been in 100% snuggle mode lately. I think the night at the vet was a nice reminder that mom isn’t the worst guy.)

After coffee (necessary, always), we decided to paint my room! It’s been this horrible turquoise since we moved in and I made the mistake of not testing the paint I bought before painting the entire room. However, the idea of re-painting just always seemed like too much. But he hated that green color enough to motivate us to get it done. So we wandered down to Home Depot and I found (ahem, same way – pick up a paint swatch, immediately purchase gallons of paint) the perfect color. It’s called “Monet” and it’s a soft blue/gray blend with just a hint of lavender. I’m in love.

We went home, moved things around, taped a bit, and were off. By the end of the day, I had a new room! It was like extreme home makeover minus the overly-shoddy DIY creations. I still have stuff to do – next week is Organization Weekend. Ugh.

On Falling, Swiftly

This is going to be a whole bunch of word-vomit about what it’s like to be in love, so if you’re not into that sort of thing, stop reading now.

I’ve been putting off blogging lately, because I have two serious fears about blogging while happy: one, that it will somehow magically disappear because I’ve talked about it, and two, that I’ll come across as a boastful, arrogant and/or smarmy. Smarmy is the perfect word to describe that, because I feel slimy typing it. That’s not how I want to be perceived.

Anyway – it’s time. I have accepted love, settled into it, and am attempting to keep my cool. And now you should know about it.

I met a boy.

Okay, you know that story. Everyone meets boys all the time. And they’re just that. Boys. They’re funny and they’re quick-witted, but then what? Where does it go?

This one is different. This one’s more man than boy, but has still managed to retain his youthful charm.

This one matches me, in a way that I was entirely unprepared for. Before our third date, I’d decided that I was going to be single for a long time — single in a way that allowed me to figure out how to become a real person, single in a way that allowed me to figure out what it was that I wanted, single in a way that I imagined would help me be better able to spot the one when he happened by.

But as it turns out, he happened by.

We went on our third date sometime in early June. We’d both come into the date with some heavy info about the other (because of our mutual friends, oddly enough), and we were both hesitant, nervous, tentative. But somehow, over vegetarian waffles and whatever noodle dish he ordered (he remembers kim-chi stew), we sorted it all out and lingered.

After that, it was like it had been lit on fire — the propensity of the potential skyrocketed that night, much like it has since, and I found myself entirely comfortable and disconcerted at the same time. How do you meet someone who shares your dreams, your goals, your passions and not recognize that?

You don’t. I mean, you do. In the best way. You accept it; you embrace it; you allow yourself to jump in with both feet.

I found that, unexpectedly. For the first time in my entire life, I’ve jumped into something that terrifies me. Not because it’s bad, but because it might be right. So yes, it terrifies me. I’ll never forget the moment that my mom stared me in the face, in one of those “real talk” moments and said, “You’re prettier than I ever was; you’re smarter than I ever was; never settle.” And she’s wrong about two of those points (my mom was a fox, and she’s the cleverest, wittiest woman I’ve ever met), but the never settling part was burned into my brain. I never wanted to settle, and there’s a few times in my life that I just about have. Thank goodness I had that talk in the back of my brain, stirring the secret inclination that there might be something else out there.

This is one of those things that if it works out, I’ll be one of those annoying humans who says, “When you know, you know.” And I hope I’m both annoying and right. I hope that I’ve found the person I’ve been searching for.

He’s smart. He’s brilliant, actually, nerdy in the way that I wanted when I was younger, then gave up for the worst sort of man/boy. He’s funny; he’s smart; he’s non-judgmental. He’s sweet, kind, and he adores me. How wonderful it is to be adored, for exactly who I am with, with no pressure or pretense.

I’ve been attempting to explain to him the immensity of this – the fact that I’ve never gone into anything with two feet and that I’ve always held back. I’m still not sure that he understands how much he means to me.

I’m enthralled by his intelligence, his humor, and his sense of purpose. We seem to want the same things. We seem to have enough similar interests to keep the other entertained for a while (or at least cultivate new and different interests along the way). He’s an introvert; I’m clearly not, and we’ve both attempted to be communicative in ways that will mitigate any potential disruption as a result of that.

He’s met my family, mostly. There’s still a Denver contingent that he needs to meet, but my most conservative, hard-to-please matriarch on one side is absolutely enamored with him, and I consider that to be a solid win. I imagine that the rest of my family will love him; mostly because of who he is as a human, but also because of the happiness that he brings to me.

It’s a calm that I’ve never felt. Even while the stirrings of the inevitable are writhing around inside of me (and with them, the natural panic of relationship-ing), I have an unsettling and yet very settled feeling of deep content. I’m settled, even though nothing is sorted and the future is wild and unbridled. We may end up in Africa, or Indonesia, or wherever, and for the first time in my life, I’ve admitted to myself and to another that I would be willing to forego my Denver life in order to create and establish something else somewhere else with someone else.

I wish for adventure and for magic; I also wish for communication and understanding and appreciation. I want love, life, and happiness. I want to struggle with someone; to grow with that person; to arrive at the end of our lives and to be able to say that we’ve done everything that we wanted to do and that we’ve made something of ourselves, and created a life together. I imagine this, and I adore this imagination, and I truly hope that in some way, I am able to substantiate it. I want nothing more than whatever comes, but whatever it is, I hope that it is as breathtakingly beautiful as the past few months have been.

On Marilyn Manson and The Smashing Pumpkins, Nostalgically

I wrote recently about the disillusionment that comes with adulthood, and last night, I felt all of that, and then none of it.

I have been so excited about seeing Marilyn Manson and The Smashing Pumpkins at Red Rocks for weeks. I didn’t think I’d be able to find anyone to go with me, but lo and behold my friend Emily was game. (She is my favorite for concerts of moderately ill-repute; we’ve seen Swayze, Mickey Avalon, a local Denver band masquerading as fake Germans called Total Ghost…..all of them equally fantastic in their own ways.)

I saw Marilyn Manson play in Milwaukee in 2009 and I was enthralled. The show was amazing. I was with my college boyfriend, and he loved Marilyn Manson. He’s the one who got me into him. I find Manson’s music to be mediocre when it comes to hardcore cred he’s tried to earn over the years; his act is more of an image-based popularity. But he does touch on themes of love and disillusionment that I so identified with during my teenage and early 20s years.

I’ve never seen The Smashing Pumpkins. The ringtone I had set for my mom for years was “1979,” so whenever I hear that song, I think of her, and then think I might be in trouble. It’s sweet, that way. My friend Dave in college had all of their music on vinyl. I’ve never been that into vinyl, but he had me at “Want to come over and see my records?” I did. They were crammed into his studio apartment, and I respected him immensely for allowing pieces of flat discs crammed into cardboard to consume so much of his living space.

Rolling Stone posted a review which very adequately described the show. Marilyn Manson was present, said the word “Denver” at least seven times, and had a suitably theatric, aesthetically interesting show, but it lacked the energy that The Pumpkins were able to provide.

I personally was crushed because he didn’t play “The Nobodies” or “Love Song,” both off his Holy Wood album (which is my favorite). Or even “Heart-Shaped Glasses,” newer but sweet in its own way. But still, even as he’s progressed into the depth of adulthood, he’s not lost his slightly irreverent charm. Emily and I concurred that it might have been our Catholic school upbringings, but there’s something beautiful in the slight scorn of religion. Then again, I’ve lost the passion for all things anti-Christ (most likely because I don’t have an overly devout teacher calling me “Sister Katherine” in a slightly sarcastic way, spurring the inklings of teenage rebellion), and much of the set fell flat for me because I’m no longer amused by religious appropriation. Much of his set was propelled by props but lacked substance and soul.

But oh my, The Smashing Pumpkins, or what’s left of them (namely Billy Corgan), blew my mind, tore apart my heart, and released such great nostalgia and joy. It’s that cathartic energy that brings you simultaneously back and forward, to the nights when you first fell in love and felt your emotions in time with their songs, and suddenly into the present here, now.

We stopped for a bathroom break and then decided we would wait for a few more songs before we adulted our way out of the amphitheater. I am so glad we did. We were able to find standing room in the 6th row, where we saw them play my favorite songs. “Landslide,” “1979,” everything else. I caught myself smiling that wide, unbidden joyous smile.

I fell in love with The Smashing Pumpkins my freshman year of college, and the resonance has never left. “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” was my jam forever. Hearing it live was beyond fantastic.

My life is such a fantastic one. I’m so pleased to be able to look forward and look back, and spend time with people who have known me (and will know me) forever. I treasure my adventures; each and every experience; every minute I am able to do what I want, because I know that there is only this one chance. I’m not giving it up without a fight.

I love the intensity of this photo. I love our faces, our lives, our experiences. I am so blessed to have a friend who will go with me to the strangest places and who will fully commit to the adventure of living in the moment. We look like animals. I love it. I love the intensity here. We had an absolute blast. My life is even more complete now.