Sunday, September 29, 2013

Don't ask why.

I read this recently:
"When I work with couples in my practice, one thing we do early on is forbid either partner from asking the question, "Why?" We do that because "why" is a gateway for blame.

Most important, though, is that people use "why" as though an explanation is a solution or a magic palliative for emotional pain. It's as though knowing why someone made the choice they did will somehow make the pain go away and thereby solve the problem. Nothing will change simply because the motive for the action has been explained.

When one partner asks the other why, it changes the direction of the communication between them. Instead of being solution focused, it becomes gratification focused for the asking partner. Even when the explanation is negative, the asking partner acquires power because she is attempting to put her partner in a one-down position. It also shifts the focus away from positive emotional connection as one partner struggles to explain what is oftentimes unexplainable.

"Help me understand" is a phrase that works better. This way can open the possibilities for the broadest communication channels and thus helps everyone speak their feelings in a safe, nonaccusatory, solution-focused environment.

Bryn Collins, How to Recognize Emotional Unavailability and Make Healthier Relationship Choices 
I first started reading this book after Mr. BB and I broke up and I began to realize I was picking relationships that weren't good fits. I expected that it would teach me about my partners but what I found instead was that it is teaching me about myself.

That statement above is a very good observation about asking why.

The Russian had asked me, when I backed away, "Why are you continuing to meet other people?" The honest answer was painful and I didn't want to say it. "Because although I don't totally feel able to move forward with you, I still have hope that there is someone out there I may feel that way about." Ouch.

It's the truth though, and it's better than "it's not you, it's me" because 1. people aren't stupid and they know when you're putting them off, 2. you shouldn't have to defend how you feel. Saying "I don't feel what I need to feel in order to want to deepen things" isn't up for negotiation. But the "it's not you it's me" could be:
"The timing is wrong."
"Well, I'll wait!"

"I'm just super busy."
"No worries, I understand!"

"I need to work on myself first."
"I'll be there for you in the meantime."
In each of the above scenarios, you end up uncomfortably ensconced in a dance. Honesty about your feelings is really the best way to go. I have been on both the admission and the excuse end here and can say from experience that an honest statement is far less hurtful than a manufactured put-off.

When the Russian asked me why, I felt terrible. I wanted to tell him what he wanted to hear. I wanted to feel differently, I wanted to be in the same place. I felt so sad that I was not.

I have been on the other side too. I remember asking the Cyclist why, when I could tell he wasn't in the same place as me emotionally. Now I read the above and cringe a bit. It is not an answerable question. The answer would not have changed anything and the question puts him in the position of both being asked to hurt my feelings and to explain himself, neither of which are considerate or productive.

What is productive: understanding that how someone feels, or doesn't feel, isn't a statement about your worth. And you can actually have a closer, more authentic connection when you let go of the need to have something be a certain way and embrace instead what is.

With this in mind, I have cracked open the door to the past and gaze there now with a different view. A view that's kindof healing. I want to be around people that don't mow over my boundaries and I don't want to tread over theirs. (What does that look like? Gentle acceptance of where we each are without feeling as though one person's state is threatening to another. Some people are born with this compass, others must learn... but the good news is, we can learn when ready.)
"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there." Rumi

Friday, September 27, 2013

A time to run and a time to crawl

Liking someone or not, I will not be rushed. Life is good right now and I'm going to take the time to enjoy it. I'm not waiting on anyone and I'm not hanging hopes anywhere. If a connection is going to be meaningful, then it will click and things will fall into place on its own time.

The guy from last week hugged me when we were parting and said, "I'd been ready to set up a third date with another girl until I met you. Now I'm not that interested. You ruined it! I don't want to see anyone else."

"Aww. You can make another date with her and also keep meeting other people," I told him. "I am... I mean, I feel like when people are getting to know each other, at some point it will feel natural to have the 'let's be exclusive' conversation but until then, it's open."

"I get it," he said. "It's just that I feel a really nice spark here."

We talked honestly and I really like that he seems to understand and respect where I am. So luckily things aren't complicated yet (and no need to make them that way, at least not yet, even if it does make this blog stultifyingly boring; I promise I'll look for some neuroses to discuss soon).

A new tactic: whenever I start to find my heart wandering into old territory, I go tire myself out. I get into the gym and start jogging. If I do this first thing in the morning, it takes my mind off everything. It's great.

I cannot think of an activity I loathe more than running. But I'm DOING it. I started about a month ago and it took 16 minutes to go ONE mile. (Isn't that awful? Snails can crawl faster!) Today I made a mile in 11:50 - still terrible but... better? And it's getting easier. And while I despise every second on that treadmill, I really like the tired feeling in my legs afterwards and the sore spots deep in my rear reminding me the rest of the day that neglected muscles are awakening.

I should clarify that while I hate jogging, running fast is fun. However I can only do the shortest of sprints. I always liked sprinting though. In 6th grade, I entered a race once and right at the start time, my legs buckled and I fell to the ground (I always did get performance anxiety). But I recovered and placed third, which wasn't bad considering how much time I'd lost inspecting the dusty ground up close.

Also as a kid every time my parents would go to the store, the second they parked the car, I would leap out and sprint top-speed to the front door. Sometimes I would zigzag back and forth from the door to them, I had so much energy. I never understood how people could WALK so slow across the parking lot. So boring! (I continued to do this into my 20s which garnered puzzled looks until I learned to mask the urge by leaping onto a shopping cart and sailing across the parking lot. Somehow this was more socially acceptable.)

There's a time to run and a time to crawl. And a time to leap and a time to go foodshopping.

(Sent from my phone)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013



So, I went on a third date with this guy (second date was last week but I didn't want to write about it until I had a better feel of our dynamic) and he SAID THE SAME EXACT THING he said last year:

I don't, actually, but it's nice that tables offer an optical illusion. If I have to resemble SOMEthing, I'd rather it be that than, say, a wrestler.

Anyway, so I had gone on one date with him last year and then shut down (yeah, I know, historically my M.O.) so we didn't end up going back out. However, a few weeks ago, I was lying on my bed flipping through my phone and came across his name. "Huh, he seemed like a pretty nice guy," I thought. "I wonder if he's still single."

I called him and he picked up while in a restaurant.

"WHAT?!" he yelled into the phone.


"LEMME CALL YOU BACK!" He boomed in return.

He texted me next. "Sorry, I can't hear anything in this place. Can I call you in an hour?"

I text-replied what I'd been trying to say, and he said sure, would be nice to catch up.

So date #2 (the first date was a year ago) last Saturday was nice, I noticed conversation flowed really easily and his eyes were warm. Tonight was date #3. And you know what? I think I could really like this guy. Damned if I'll tell anyone though, the last time I called my sister to gush after a date, I had to backpedal when it turned out my spidey sense was way off. Now I won't mention a damn thing about anyone I'm dating until I'm getting ready to print the wedding invites. Let my parents think I'm a spinster or a lesbian, I don't care. It's too hard to hear the disappointment in their voices that I'm still alone.

Last week I friendzoned it with the other two other guys I was getting to know. I felt terrible about it - I liked them both but one reminded me of my ex-husband (the good things, but it felt weird) and the other, well, I dunno. It wasn't completely clicking. Oh and the other really good 5 hour date, well, he texted last week about getting together right that minute and I don't like it when someone appears flippant that early in the getting-to-know-you stages. I WAS free but I didn't want to see him last minute like that. So that's out.

Anyway, now I have to figure out what to do with my feelings for the Cyclist. Clearly he has said not to wait for him. But I wanted more time for this in-between stage.

But I could really like this guy, I think.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

PC Loadletter?!?

Happening now:

And happening in 2 minutes:

(Censored, safe for work version.)

Monday, September 23, 2013

The art of contentment

A recurring conversation with an old contact used to go like this:

"I should feel happy. My life looks so good on the outside -- I have an amazing job, I get to travel all over the country, I am doing what I always wanted to do, I have a nice home, I'm healthy, no one I love has died, I'm in a relationship with my best friend, I'm in good shape financially. Why don't I feel great?" It was disturbing to recognize how much was going well and yet how elusive good feelings about it all were.

I think contentment is wanting what you have. The person above had all those great things but wanted something more. Something felt missing.

I don't know how to *make* yourself content if you're not -- it doesn't seem like you can just will yourself to feel good (and you shouldn't even try if it's due to chemical imbalances, that's like trying to regulate your diabetes through willpower alone and will land you in the hospital if not the grave).

I always like to use the diabetes example because for some reason, people don't prioritize their emotional health the way they do their physical. Maybe it's because the consequences of not paying attention to your health can be much more dire but you can slog along unhappily indefinitely. Or maybe it's because results are unclear -- do 100 situps a day for 100 days and your efforts will be clearly visible but how to know what will make you *feel* better? Talking it out with a counselor? Meditating? Medicine? Hard to know and if you're already feeling crummy, it can be exhausting (and even disheartening) to try.

James Altucher says every day you should try to meet 4 basic needs: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Physically, eat well, exercise and get enough sleep. Get some mental stimulation: read, talk, write, think. Have an emotional connection (to people, parakeets, whatever). And spiritually, well, for some people this involves a religious practice but doesn't have to. (Maybe religion is popular simply because this is so hard to define individually.) I think it can even be a sense of philosophy and personal conduct like, say, wanting to be a decent person and respect the planet or whatever values fit.

Last year at this time, I was still not completely content. I was still outward-seeking, wanting to build my life to regain some footing after a big life shakeup. This was so central to me that I established a whole outlet to write about it (this blog) and thought finding love would be the answer. I even fell in love, and then agonized that it wasn't the complete scenario I'd envisioned: the objet d'amour wasn't in the same place. I turned inward, wondering what could I do for them to like me more? Silly girl. I'm embarrassed to even admit I wondered such things, but it's probably very human. We all wonder what could influence fate in our favor.

But this year, something has shifted. I don't feel that longing. Nothing has changed, really, and yet everything is different. I still adore mon objet. I'm still striving for inner & outer growth and understanding. But I finally want what I have.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Present

"Yesterday's the past, tomorrow is the future, but today is a gift. That's why it's called the present." Bil Keane

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A rant for dudes in workplaces

Dear Dudes in Workplaces,

This is a little bit of a rant. Please understand that your female coworkers may be extremely uncomfortable with anything that feels like it crosses lines. How can you tell if it may cross lines? If it's not something you would say or do while your wife or girlfriend is standing right there, then you shouldn't be saying or doing it.

Please don't tell me you "just wanted to see me" because all I will be able to think about is 1. how 10 people just heard you say that to me, 2. now people think we are having an affair, 3. I somehow feel guilty even though I didn't do anything except receive the comment. If you are married or otherwise taken, please know that your partner is in the room with us at all times and I cannot view you without that context. I want you to also, please.

Please note that this applies even if you have a girlfriend but want out, like that one dude who confessed, unasked, while I was getting coffee one morning. No, I am not available for your venting pleasure about your relationship issues and likewise I am not interested in dating after you two break up because 1. I don't mix work and relationships* and 2. I don't want to be the next person you complain about as you size up potential replacements for your new girlfriend. Girls know how you treated the last one is how you will treat the next one.

Also please also do not lean too close to me. How to know if you are leaning too close to a female colleague? Would you stand that close to another dude? If not, then you are crossing lines.

Maybe it is old-fashioned, but please consider that people can take their workplaces very seriously. If you reach out with flirty behavior and it is not reciprocated and in fact if the recipient looks uncomfortable, please note this and cease immediately.

I don't dress for attention at work but female colleages may feel this way too even if they're in alluring outfits -- please keep in mind that a person's clothing does not grant permission to cross lines.

Thank you,
Asexual at Work

[* There is only one exception I would make to my "don't date anyone at work" rule, and that is for a friend NOT in my same office who is of my most trusted contacts AND has the same ethics I do, which may be why dating has never actually been an option. But because of the solidity of both our friendship and his character, I really trust him. And there might be a few dudes I would consider if I were no longer working here but they'll never know.]

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My new band name is totally going to be The Fighting Shower Curtains

I got home last night ready to toss my skirt for being excessively annoying. It's made of this swishy fabric that sounds like shower curtains fighting and every time I waltzed down the hall, heads popped up from behind computers, no doubt wondering why there was a small fabric tornado descending down the corridor. How did I not realize an article of clothing could be so irritating? Sure, it's cute but no amount of adorableness can save it now. I'm donating it this weekend. Let someone wear it to salsa dancing class, I'm done with it.

However, I felt like dancing when I got home from that fantastic first date last night (luckily the restaurant noisily outcompeted my skirt). I wasn't sure how conversation would go since on the phone I was feeling shy but in person, while I was still nervous, it flowed easily -- we had a million things to talk about. Somehow we got on the subject "what was life like for you 10 and 20 years ago" (a great date question, it turns out) and never stopped. The coffee meetup turned into dinner and an almost 5 hour date.

When I got home, several roommies were chatting on the porch and greeted me happily, making the house feel all homey. I tucked away my leftovers and crawled into bed thinking about a very rich day: a great convo with the Cyclist, a wonderful date, and how lucky I am that I didn't get put on employee probation for noisily disturbing the workforce with my apparel. (I'm not so sure they'll be as understanding a second time, however, and now you see what I must do.)

Have you ever had a wardrobe malfunction?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Prescription for a tender heart

What's the prescription for moving on or getting over someone?

The clue can be found in medicine.

What is the treatment for an injury? Like when you fall off your bike and gash up your arm?

Well we know from experience what helps with healing: salves, bandages, wound care, maybe a sling. Every day you'll have to tend to it.

Every day you must take care of yourself. This vulnerable part of you needs your oversight. The slow climb back to your regular state begins with building up to regular activities in a safe and measured way. Your body will guide the pace. If you push too hard, it will let you know whether to ease up a bit or continue pressing forward.

Recovery won't feel great because you'll be sore. Healing takes both effort and patience -- you have to be tolerant with not only the physical discomfort but the cognitive. Yeah, you want to string grocery bags across your arm and wrestle with your dog and dive into water again but you must wait until your body is ready. No matter how much you want it, you simply cannot will the gash to stitch together. Knitting skin repairs itself on its own time.

When I volunteered at a PT clinic, I saw patients with frozen shoulders cry out in pain when stretched by the physical therapist. Recovery was almost unbearable but every week there was a measurable increase in joint mobility and range of motion. People couldn't tell progress was being made while it was happening but looking back, signs were more clear.

Recovering from something physical is so much easier to understand. You can SEE it. The wound tells you how it's doing.

The heart isn't so different though, really. You get a prescription and a recovery plan. You refrain from picking the scab. You get out and do activities synonymous with moving forward, just like the prescription says.

And that is why I took down that earlier post I wrote about an ex: so I could focus instead on looking forward. On nice new dates coming up. On fun projects and good reads and settling into a quiet space at the end of the day.

Whatever your salve, sling or physical therapy... follow your prescription and go through the motions. Go through them even when you don't feel like it. Change the bandages and exercise those creaky joints until it feels more and more natural. One day you will wake up and realize you feel pretty darn good afterall.

(Sent from my phone)

Friday, September 13, 2013

my subconscious has something to say...

So I chatted with one of the two guys I am getting to know last night. I'm not much of a phone talker so we have emailed more than talked over the past two months. Anyway, conversation was great, I got off the phone thinking how nice it was and that maybe it would be fun to see him again. We'd only been on two dates so things are moving extremely slowly but this is good.

He wrote me the sweetest email this morning though, one that made me simultaneously feel warm and scared and I'm not sure how to respond. I don't want to shoot down his affections, I love it that he's expressive -- just, I don't know what to do with this.

Do I ignore that he just shared his feelings? Do I just respond with something that is not of an equal level but true to myself (thus awkward because it won't "match" him)? Do I use it as an opportunity to open a discussion and tell him where I am? I mean, I like where this *may* be going but I'm not sure. What he shared isn't at an inappropriate level (that usually sends off alarm bells) and I can tell he is not desperate or lonely or anything. And I can see about myself that I scare easily, so I'm just trying to put this in a realistic perspective.

Heh, speaking of scaring easily, I had a dream that I hugged my stepmom and she said "you're emotionally unavailable, you're emotionally unavailable." I guess I am thinking about being emotionally unavailable...!

Maybe I will use this as an opportunity to be open and talk. That always seems to be the best way to approach things. But I can't do it right now, it will have to wait until late tonight.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A post in which future me may consider as evidence for an undiagnosed form of OCD (but I really do love to clean)

I court myself when I get into bed. Tonight I covered it in fresh sheets and tucked the blanket in just so, readying it just for me. Then I washed my face, brushed my teeth and eyed my bed across the room with a deep thrill, knowing I would soon declare the evening over, obligations replaced with me-time. I will crawl inside with delicious anticipation: the next half hour I can do whatever I want. Read, meditate, draw, sit quiet. How delicious.

My favorite time of day is the night, it always has been. Stolen private time with my thoughts, a delicacy of solitude for feasting.

When I was a kid, I was always losing my keys and couldn't find my shoes and never had pencils for school or had my homework. I make up for this as an adult with an almost obsessive amount of orderliness. It relaxes me.

Now, my keys live in the one spot. Shoes stay by the door. I know exactly where to find the flashlight in the dark. My ex was shocked that we never ran out of toilet paper.

I always carry a pen and paper and my phone charger, metro card, coupons... anything I think I might need in a given day. Life is so much simpler now. Things that once caused so much stress are nonexistent. When I discovered it didn't have to be that way, it felt like I'd won the lottery. It's so easy to prepare for the small things. Let life's stressors come from the big things we can't control.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

being alone is awesome now

A little over a year ago I had surgery to repair a hernia and I STILL reach for my belly after eating to rub the lump.
(No more lump, yay! The scar is starting to lighten.)

Do not, under any circumstances, google "lady lumps."
You will run screaming from the internet. Trust me.
On the other hand, perhaps I have just found my Halloween costume.
I'm not totally in the mood to write tonight but there are some things I want to remember from the past few days, so I'll just freewrite, diary-style:

I am being the world's shittiest potential GF. Two really sweet dudes are being very awesome and I actually LIKE them, just... I keep holding them at arms length. I just feel like being alone lately. Last two dates with both of them, I told them I didn't know if I was ready to get into a relationship and essentially friendzoned things. They both want to date only me, and they both do and say all the right things. I don't know what is up with me but I just don't feel interested in romance right now. I do like writing them though and every once in a while, there's a bit of a connection and my frozen heart cracks open a tiny bit and I think "oh that was sweet" So I'm not ruling either out just yet, just need lots of space.

There's no way to say "I actually have the ability to be an attentive, responsive GF, thank you for not giving up even though you're not seeing that side of me." I don't want to "string along" anyone indefinitely so this is just until I have more clarity.

However, I'm letting my dating profile lapse again. It expires today. I don't feel like making a huge effort right now.

When the Cyclist and I broke up, I didn't really want to see it end. But I didn't see a way to handle my restlessness then. Afterwards, I almost immediately regretted it but I don't regret it anymore. This month is a year ago that I met him and if we were still dating, I would have felt extremely restless at the milestone year marker. So it's good that things ended.

It let me shift a bit inside and think about what I really want.

I thought I wanted love again but now I'm not so sure. There's been opportunities and yet none have particularly moved me. All I want is just to enjoy someone's company, I think. Maybe I passed some crucial point and I have been living alone too long but I got used to that and now I kinda like it.

On a recent long drive, I was thinking about the relationships that felt somewhat dangerous to me. What made them feel dangerous? Someone wanted something from me that I could not give, thus they were angry.

Normal people, when they want X from someone but get Y, they go elsewhere for X.

You don't stop needing & wanting X, but geez, you can't get blood from a stone. If you want me to skydive with you, that's not going to happen. Find another jumping partner.

Universal coping method: adjust expectations to match reality or adjust reality to match expectations.

But those relationships, they never gave up on wanting X, and wanting it from me. And the resentment built.

I wanted to deliver X; when you love someone, you want to give them everything they want. But that's not always possible, realistic or healthy.

Well, it's okay to splurge sometimes.
So I know I lost like, one of my two readers constantly pining over the Cyclist and I'm sorry I keep bringing it up, but he never asked for X. He knew the reality of what existed and what didn't.

Lots of lessons there, you guys, in people who accept you for who you are.

These thoughts are also part of the reasons I don't want to totally discount the two nice guys I'm emailing. They're both gentle, sweet and accepting. Geez, I'm almost a phantom and they still are sweet to me, demonstrating nothing but thoughtfulness and consistency. They don't know it yet but this has my attention.

For a long time, I didn't know how to not be a lifeboat. I'm full of love and good will, let me help! But this isn't always helpful. Sometimes it crosses lines to codependency and enabling.

It wasn't that I wasn't being honest with myself when lines were crossed, I honestly didn't see it.

I read the right books and went to counseling but I didn't get it until my own life became too large to take on anyone else's.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

6 Online Dating Mistakes to Avoid

"People are unreliable self-reporters..." Good article on how to navigate the world of online dating:

(Sent from my phone)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

An arrest that arrested anything further

We walked to the car after strolling familiar streets and he leaned over to kiss me just as four cop cars screeched to a stop and officers ran out, approached the sedan parked in front of us and pulled a bare-footed, semi-conscious man out of the car, arrest him and stuff him without protest into the back seat and drive away.

And that was how I kindof kissed (but not really) the gentle, shy boy that I played with after school in 6th grade sometimes. We both liked poking at the earth together, then, fascinated with the flaky patterns of dried mud.

The moment was gone but the ease was not and we hugged, made jokes about the almosts and drove away.

I can tell the chemistry is such that that will simultaneously be the first and last time we'll ever bridge romance but when I got back to my dad's house, he remarked, "you're awfully chipper" and looked at me quizzically.

"I had a really nice time tonight," I replied, smiling.

(Sent from my phone)

Friday, September 6, 2013

A conversation in which I reveal why I would make a terrible spy

Girl 1: [Mutual friend's] hair looks so good in this play, it really fits him.

Girl 2: Yes, this hairstyle is great, he looks awesome!

Me: Um, his hair is different?

Girls 1 & 2: hahaha, you didn't notice?

Me: Uh, not really.. I mean I'm not really looking at his hair at work.

Girls 1 & 2: What ARE you looking at then? Oh my!

Me (struggling to understand why they are giggling) (slowly getting it) (horrified) (is it not obvious that people in the workplace automatically get compartmentalized into asexuals??) (right??) (wishing I'd said something witty like "his pocket protector!" but the nerd in me wasn't fast enough) (what's a pocket protector??): Nothing I swear! (Why do I suddenly sound, and now feel, guilty?!?)


Women are not as visual as men, seriously, we are not staring at crotches to assess partner potential!

(Sent from my phone)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

We notice each other too much, maybe.

Last week I read an article quoting several women on one of the sad side-effects of aging in our society: feeling invisible. No longer being noticed by men or offered seats on trains.

Granted, some complaints cited men ignoring them in bars but a bar is a total pickup joint. I'm not surprised a woman wouldn't feel appreciated for her intellect, wit or compassion there.

But it made me think about how I *like* being invisible. I don't enjoy being noticed, it makes me feel self-conscious. When a guy tries to hold my eye contact extra long, all smiley and flirty-like, I start getting shy. Yesterday I bought chili from a local deli and the cashier, a local college boy, smiled winningly and batted his eyes, I immediately felt my cheeks get red and looked away. I'm old enough to be your MOM, I thought. I don't know what to do with friendliness sometimes, even if it's not personal and only because someone is working and just being nice.

I have some issues about my body too. When I was younger, I had some girlfriends who carried extra weight and were extremely self-conscious about it. I felt terrible that they felt terrible so I dressed in baggy clothes whenever we got together. (Bonus: baggy clothes are *extremely* comfortable and I'm ALL about comfort.)
Even Jessica Simpson's on board, see?

Another of Jessica Simpson just for contrast.
(See how different it looks to be dressed sexy vs. baggy?)
Now I dress mostly moderately -- kindof plain, but it fits me. I do remember one time when my ex-husb and I were newly-together and I got all dressed up (the second and last time in my life I wore heels?) when we went out with a bunch of his friends and they all gawked approvingly, I was kindof mortified. It felt (and I feel ridiculous for saying this but I honestly felt like this) extremely uncomfortable since at that time, the only guy I wanted to notice me was my partner. It felt uncomfortable being noticed by his friends. They weren't inappropriate and wouldn't have crossed lines but the fact that they said anything at all made me feel strange.

I asked my partner later if he was uncomfortable too and he said no, he was proud of me and liked when his friends thought I was attractive but it was still weird for me. I didn't dress up much. I favored baggy sweats (hey, I was a student! It was the school uniform.)

Once, though, a friend of my partner, a gorgeous, petite girl who always dressed sexy took me aside and suggested I dress more provocatively for my mate. She said he would appreciate it. She seemed to indicate he had expressed this wish to her but I didn't really want to dress sexy and so I did not.

I have this memory from standing on the cusp of being wonderfully un-selfconscious to suddenly self-aware.

When I hit adolescence, I was an ugly duckling. I was tomboyish and climbed trees and played soccer and ran through the woods with my dog. I was kindof a loner. I had a few friends but not many. I wasn't popular but this was okay, I liked being alone. I certainly didn't get the attention of any boys and was used to being invisible. It was nice.

My family moved near the beach after our house sold and I began zipping up and down the shoreline on my bike. I rode for hours, it was the only thing I wanted to do. I didn't care what the weather was. I didn't have special gear or clothing so if it was hot, I just wore something light.

Well one day it was like 100 degrees out so I threw on a pair of shorts and had this tiny hand-me-down tank top with spaghetti straps. It was loose and so the wind could get underneath and cool me, I thought.

I threw it on without a bra since I was only 14 and barely had a chest. I certainly didn't need the support. I hated bras anyway, they signified being a woman and I rejected the expectation that I should start wearing makeup and be girly, and I especially hated the restriction in movement.

In retrospect, this top was like a piece of lingerie but I didn't realize it at the time and so threw it on and went for a long bike ride.

I stopped by my dad's shop to say hello -- it was on my route -- and he greeted me happily. We chatted a bit and then he said "um, it's so nice to see you but next time you stop by, maybe wear something that covers a little more? I don't like the way I see the guys here looking at you."

This took me by surprise.

I was indignant at first. I can't wear something that will keep me cool because some dudes will notice me? What a pain in the ass. I didn't want to be looked at. I wanted to glide through life invisibly, it felt safe not to be noticed.

In a recent discussion about workplace gawking, I realized it's not always men that do the noticing -- most of the time when someone has made me uncomfortable about my body at work, it was a woman.

Women spend a huge amount of time sizing each other up and they're not always discrete about it.

There is a woman I work with who, every time she sees me, does a full body sweep so obvious that I have come to dread seeing her in the hall. It happens without fail and I don't know what I could possibly say. If it were a guy, I would be direct and request it stop but here, I'm at a loss.

I mean, it is socially acceptable for women to notice and say things about each other's looks. Sexual harassment training at work targets mostly men but not so much awareness for female peers. Still, it's not usually a big deal. Between friends, it can even be sweetly supportive but with strangers or acquaintances, this kind of attention can feel uncomfortable.

Maybe we are like this with each other because of  a biological sense of comparison. I mean, how else to explain the draw of a $3,000 purse? No dude ever asked a girl out because of her handbag.

The purse is what's captivating here, obviously.

But I don't want to compete.

If I'm thinner than my companions, I want to apologize and if I'm fatter, I feel self-conscious.  (And I have seen this from both sides: being thinner AND carrying extra weight.) Either way, our bodies always seem up for comment.

Oddly enough, my self-consciousness can manifest in a sense of judgment too, which I am not proud to admit. Ten times a day, I may think "I wish I were that thin" or "at least I'm not like that," which is kindof a shitty projection to carry around, and paradoxically, probably the exact voice that compels the very noticing that drove this self-conscious post in the first place.

I wonder if men feel like this too, very aware of whether or not they fit in.

Maybe it's a societal thing and none of us can escape being noticed.

Sunday, September 1, 2013


When I agreed to meet today's date, it wasn't a date in my mind. We'd been chatting by email and although from two different worlds - my atheistic one and his ultra-religious one, I felt some empathy for him, having lost his wife last year and just now branching out for friendships. But when we did the "hi, nice to meet you" hug, he clung to me and wouldn't let go, trembling slightly. I'm guessing he hasn't been hugged in quite some time, poor guy. But OHMYGHD freak out.

We sat at the table and it would have been a nice enough conversation if it wasn't for the marriage talk. Not his marriage, OUR marriage. I guess this is what it means when someone is "marriage-minded" - the first date is mostly about picking out the ring (he actually bridged this) and how we can spend our Sabbath regarding our mutually different celebrations, but please can I not make pork for dinner?


Luckily he had to take a phone call and I texted a girlfriend. "Meet me in a half hour? I gotta talk." So now I'm sitting in a diner writing and waiting for her, trying to shake off his scent (dear god I hate perfume and cologne) and thinking about our parting words:

Him: I'm going to miss you when I drive away. The second you are out of my sight I will be missing you already.

Me: [blinking]

Him: Can I call you? I want to see you again. I'm very attracted to you. (Wipes spittle from lip.)

Me: Um, I think it will be nice to just be friends....

Him: oh no! I'm getting the friendship speech on the first date!

Me: [gulp] [fuck!]


Time to update my profile a bit more. It's so easy at this point to state what I DON'T want, oy.

(Sent from my phone)

Let fun be the guide

You guys! I think I finally turned a corner.

I saw the awesome Cyclist today-- spent pretty much the whole day together -- and feel nothing but great about seeing him. No sadness, no poignancy, no awkwardness, no pining. I did have a few moments where I thought "DAMN he is hot" despite attempts to not notice this kind of thing, like I usually try to do with male friends (it seems almost a violation of boundaries so I try not to cross them in my head) but go easy on me, we were in a pool. A woman can only be so strong.

Can you blame me?
(The only time my knees truly went weak... good thing we were floating.)
So I think this friendship thing can work. Not only that, but I could see being friends for a long time.

And something else came out of this day: realizing that some of the other guys I'm getting to know don't make me laugh. Granted, I'm just getting to know people and you can't have fun until you're comfortable, but note to self: use FUN as a gauge, okay? Okay.