Saturday, September 25, 2010

"In that minute, I have likely started to suss you up in my brain. You're probably very pretty, very interesting, and given time and circumstance you and I will likely hit it off great, right? WRONG AGAIN!"

Since roughly Halloween of 2007, I have been single. Worse still, since some point before then I have also been unwittingly "enjoying" a vow of abstinence. In this year alone, I feel that I've gone through every possibly thought train in regards to the subject. I have been defiantly alone and uncaring, I have been outwardly defiantly alone and uncaring while secretly upset and depressed, I have been outwardly upset and depressed while secretly antsy, desperate, and yearning, I have been cold and numb. It has been a very interesting roller coaster to find myself on and in the hours and hours of over-thinking I have discovered some very interesting contradictions about my personality that seem to feed into these mindsets. Worse, these seem to be the root of my frustrations while simultaneously being things that I hold as pillars and refuse to shake. These contradictions are as follows:

1.) I highly value strong conversationalists, but generally balk at the opportunity to start conversations with people I have never met.

If nothing else, I live to converse. I have been told by countless people that I excel in long-form conversation and am the willing (or otherwise) confidant of many of my friends. This ability should make me personality gold in the eyes of women everywhere right?

For some unspeakable reason that I can't quite figure out, I am utterly dumbstruck when it comes to actually starting said conversations with people. Despite performing in a rock band and generally being the wise-cracking asshole in any room, when confronted with the possibility of starting up a conversation at random with people around me I often find myself cold and idealess. Perhaps this has something to do with a lack of interest in things that most people talk about on a base level (i.e. meteorology, sports, current events)? I don't know. Maybe it's just echoes of the shyness I had during my pre-college days?

2.) I value people with passions and interests that are different from my own, but oftentimes refuse to throw myself into situations where I would meet said people.

I have been noted as saying on multiple occasions that ideally I would love to meet a woman who has only casual interest in the fact that I'm in a rock band. I've had the "I hate your band and I'd wish you'd shut up about it" type and I've had the "This is the most amazing thing ever." type, and frankly, I'd like it somewhere in the middle. I've always valued people who have really strong passions and interests in their lives, and for potential mates I tend to aspire for people who have strong but different interests than mine. Shouldn't be a problem, right?


The inherent problem I keep running into is that because of my own interests, I tend to run into similar types of people. Not that I have any issues with meeting women who love Star Wars (dated one girl who hated it once. Never again. NEVER AGAIN.) or have impressive record collections. My issue is that I want more than this. I think that sharing and new experiences and exploration are the things that give relationships a lot of their interest and drive. But since I run in my own circles, I often have no way of finding these people with drastically different interest sets.

3.) I'm actively interested in the idea of casual dating, but ultimately sabotage my efforts in this because I hate wasting my time.

Ok, of the three I would say this one is simultaneously the worst and the best of my attributes at work. Before I get too deep into this one, some backstory must be presented for the consideration of my readers:

My parents have been together since they were 16 years old. First boyfriend/girlfriend each had ever had. They married at 22, and have happily carried on ever since through thick and thin, poverty and prosperity, and two really annoyingly sarcastic children. In a world where there is a 50% survival rating of most marriages, and the news is plagued with stories of broken families and spousal abuse, my parents are a shining example of "sometimes it all just works out." It's really touching..... and also totally not representative whatsoever of how things tend to go between people. Worse still, because they are really the only people they have ever been with in multiple senses, neither of them have a treasure trove of hilarious stories from their youth about their mishaps in high school dating. Once I had broken up with my first girlfriend, they suddenly had a lack of understanding as to what was going to happen with me next. Sorry Mom and Dad.

Now given the example I have had growing up with this, I am faced with the contradiction in front of me. On the one hand, it has given me an EXTREMELY high level of respect for emotional intimacy, commitment, and compromise. These are all things I am extremely proud of and hold myself to. Unfortunately, as a side effect of these attitudes, it has also brought me into the world of mating and dating with a very single minded view of things. This causes me to talk myself out of anything that may (a key word here) only result in temporary enjoyment or interest and put most women I meet to what some might call unreasonably high standards in order to get a second look from me.

Let me present the reader with a hypothetical but ultimately realistic situation that has probably happened to me dozens of times:

You are a beautiful, interesting, three-dimensional woman. You have your own interests, your own family, a job, a car, etc. etc. etc. You meet me in a typical "first meeting" type of environment. It's probably some kind of party. You have never seen me before but likely have heard some tale told of me because we have mutual friends. We strike up a conversation. It's probably about some kind of media (movies, music, tv shows), or some kind of dirty jokes that have spiraled off into a sarcasm-laden contest of who can jokingly offend who the worst. Let's say this has gone on for more than a minute.In that minute, I have likely started to suss you up in my brain. You're probably very pretty, very interesting, and given time and circumstance you and I will likely hit it off great, right?

WRONG AGAIN! Most likely, in these 60 seconds, I have very likely already voted you "off of the island" for something ridiculous that likely is only a first impression and might not even be true in the long run.

So given these three contradictions, and the time I have taken to think about them, I have realized that clearly there is something a bit wrong in the operating manual and I need to make some adjustments to the tune of the following: 

1. Don't be a pussy. 
2. Don't be a pussy. 
3. Relax, enjoy new experiences that may only be short term, and DON'T BE A PUSSY.
Any other suggestions?

Oh, and if you are an attractive woman who was interested in dating me and just read all of this.. uh... ignore everything you just read except the parts about me being committed and into compromise and in a rock band.


Alan A-Dale


Since you have written your questions to me in the form of three contradictions, I will attempt to give you some answers by addressing each of these contradictions individually.

1.) I highly value strong conversationalists, but generally balk at the opportunity to start conversations with people I have never met.

There is a plethora of advice out there on how to start conversations with women. Google "pick-up artist," "PUA," "openers," or even just "How to talk to girls," and you'll be flooded with ideas. But don't worry- I'm not going to tell you to play the Cube Game or give you instructions so intricate that they necessitate terms like HB7 and "kino." My advice will be much simpler than that.

First off, if you feel that you have chronic social anxiety and want to shake your head up, I recommend an herb called St. John's Wort. I'm not a big fan of using drugs to "treat" psychological issues, but, let's face it: we do it with alcohol anyway, so why not do it with stuff that works better than alcohol? Drugs like zoloft and lexapro are addictive, expensive, and sometimes decrease your sex drive. St. John's Wort is weaker than those pharmaceuticals, and that's part of why I think it's better. It's also much cheaper. Psychiatric drugs involve a large investment and you've got a lot to lose by trying them, but St. John's Wort is a minor investment and you don't have much to lose by trying it. If you've ever been curious about this sort of thing, I highly recommend it.

But that's not the most important issue here. The more important issue is that many nice guys have this problem in talking to women. It's not because nice guys are weak or dumb or "respect women too much." It's more because many nice guys are also (to some extent) loners. Nice guys are not used to traveling in packs.

They say that nice guys finish last and assholes get the girl. That's often true, but it's not a cause-and-effect relationship. It's just a correlation. One of the several reasons for that correlation is that guys who travel in packs tend to get the girl. Many nice guys don't travel in packs. Many assholes do.

Since nice guys are so used to being loners, many are still not used to traveling in packs, so, even when they do have a "pack," they feel a little strange. They compete with each other. They talk to each other about how hot some girl is and how nervous they are.

The average group of nice guys will sit together in a bar and alternate between arguing with each other about a topic and arguing about who's going to talk to that group of cute girls over in the corner.

My suggestion to that group of nice guys would be to take that argument over to the table of cute girls- to say "Hey, we were arguing about [insert quirky topic here], what do you think?"

Some people say that women are "attracted to men in packs" because it makes them think of cavemen hunters who could protect them. I don't really buy that. But I am positive that being with a group of supportive friends (ie the kind who want to see you get with a girl, not the kind who just want to watch you try) will make you feel more confident. It's not that it's necessarily going to come off as creepy or anything if you talk to girls all on your own (although it might, and being with good friends does insure against that). It's just that it's easier with your friends around.

On the topic of conversation-starting, let's think of it this way. Which would be more interesting, 1) a girl who comes over to you at a bar and says, "Hi, my friends and I like Star Wars, let's talk," 2) a girl who says, "So, my friends and I have been wondering, why are guys so into Star Wars?" and then sat there and listened, or 3) a girl who not only asked you why guys are so into Star Wars and listened to your response but also explained to you, in a coherent and relatable fashion, her theory on why she and most other girls aren't that into Star Wars?

Basically, we want to be #3. Being a good conversationalist with strangers is not, as The 40 Year Old Virgin Suggests, all about asking questions (although that scene is still hilarious) as much as it is about asking pointed questions that encourage people to share their most interesting opinions while simultaneously sharing your most interesting opinions.

This approach is also a good test to see whether or not a girl even has opinions. Some people don't. Most interesting people do, and, if you respectfully share yours, they will probably begin to feel comfortable enough to share theirs.

2.) I value people with passions and interests that are different from my own, but oftentimes refuse to throw myself into situations where I would meet said people.

I believe that college and the internet have enabled in many of us a problematic habit of seeking out only the people and things that are in our comfort zone. 

With the internet, we no longer have to sit through whole books to feel that we are learning; we can sift through facts and dismiss the ones that bore us or disagree with us, and we lose patience for absorbing more complex bodies of knowledge. 

With the way modern colleges are, we can choose to attend schools filled with people with the same superficial interests as ourselves, register for classes concerned only with our own superficial interests, and then choose to move off-campus with only people who mirror our own superficial interests.

The biggest problem with this is not what we think. The problem is not in hanging out with too specific a type of person; the problem is actually that the type of crowd we choose is too vague. When I really look back at what I had in common with college friends, I realize that what we had in common was that we liked to smoke weed and listen to music, were homebodies, or were in a class together. We didn't have many fundamental differences that made things interesting, but we also were not even that similar. Smoking weed, listening to music, being homebodies, and having a class together are pretty vague foundations for friendships.

As we get older, we're better served by finding people with whom we have more specific and active interests in common. It's not that we've got to seek out these people as much as be attuned to them. Maybe you'll meet someone who likes to go to comedy shows. Maybe you'll meet someone who likes to cook interesting dishes. Maybe you'll meet someone who likes to ride bikes early Saturday mornings. Obviously I have no idea what your interests are, but I hope you get the idea based on that. The more you keep an eye out for specific interests, the more likely you are to meet someone who you will have fun hanging out with but will also not be annoyingly similar to you.

So don't actively seek out "different" people. Be open to people who you can relate to about one or two specific, active interests. I think that that kind of basis ends up opening you up to being intrigued (rather than annoyed) by each other's differences.

3.) I'm actively interested in the idea of casual dating, but ultimately sabotage my efforts in this because I hate wasting my time.

In your expansion of this section, you spoke of the Curse of Foresight. I know this curse very well- this feeling of, What's the use, because one day, it won't work out. The funny thing is, even though this foresight is frequently correct, it is not all that beneficial to us. Sure, it tells you "This won't work out in the long-term," but it doesn't tell you how interesting and surprising the person will be. The way I survive is by more-or-less ignoring that feeling that I know how it will turn out and telling myself that I really, really don't know. "I really don't know," is not the truth, but it is not far from the truth, because, sure, I can predict that we will not get married, but I can not predict how much fun we will have together for the year, season, month, or week that we end up spending together.

This is sometimes seen as a selfish, sexist attitude. This comes from a longstanding belief that women are into commitment and settling down, and a man who enters a sexual relationship wanting anything but that is a pig. I believed this to some extent for many years. 

A good female friend of mine knocked it out of me in one good conversation. "What's your biggest fear in a relationship?" she asked me. "It's that a woman will learn something from me and then she'll be done with me," I said. "But isn't that all a relationship is?" she asked. "Isn't that pretty much what you'd be doing, too? Learning something and then moving on?" I had to admit that she was right.

An even more illuminating moment was later in the conversation. "Why are guys so put off when a girl says she's interested in a relationship?" she asked me. "It's not that we don't want to be monogamous," I said. "It's because we don't like feeling like a girl wants a specific thing out of us. We don't like feeling like you're sizing us up and trying to see what kind of father we'd make or how well we'll be able to support you," I said. "Oh god!" she said. "I don't want that! I just want to be able to date a guy for a while without him freaking out on me!"

I think we both learned a lot about the sexes that night.

In short, there's nothing wrong with what some refer to derisively as serial monogamy. There's nothing wrong with dating somebody who you don't expect to stay with forever. Chances are, she doesn't expect to stay with you forever, either. Nonetheless, some of us have this idea that we're letting a woman down if we feel that way. Maybe it's our mother's faults. Maybe it's society's fault. Either way, there's nothing wrong with us. We've got little reason to feel scared or guilty for not wanting to marry a young woman.

And I can't finish this message without at least paying lip service to the other kind of foresight: the feeling that she's "the one." We can't predict how things are going to turn out with her any more than we can predict how things are going to turn out with the girl who we seem to have not much in common with. The only good this feeling can do you is to give you confidence. If it doesn't give you confidence, it can only freak you out.

I've had dry spells and "wet spells" (goodness, I didn't realize how dirty it sounds when you use the opposite metaphor), and, in the end, the only thing that's made me happy and relaxed is when I remind myself that getting to know girls is always an adventure into the unknown, whether you initially think she's perfect for me or you initially think you'll never be able to have a deep connection.

No matter how much our minds trick us into thinking we can predict them, other people - especially those of the opposite sex - are the most psychedelic drug in the world. So start tripping. It's safer than you'd think.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I'd like to think that's the world we live in.

Before I begin this post, I will declare my habit of referring to males and females only as boys and girls to be officially done. I think it's because "boys" sounds too childlike.

I just read an article advising women on how to deal with one-night-stands on

Here's an excerpt:

Interestingly enough, even guys themselves often don’t know what they want from the woman they are seeing. Their vision might be blurred by a strong lust to the degree where they themselves don’t know what they want until after they satisify their sexual urges. Thus, a guy who thinks that he is interested in dating a certain woman, might change his mind immediately after having sex with her, realizing that he wants nothing else from her but what he just received – again – a one-night stand, but the one that he didn’t plan to have. It can be painful and unfair to women, but he doesn’t really have a control over that.

The article seems to operate from two assumptions:

1) Women assume that having sex with a guy means that he likes them enough to date them.

2) Women do not pursue sex with men who they would not date.

Say it isn't so! Is this the world we live in? Because I'd like to live in a different one.

I'd like to live in a world where girls know that whether or not a guy wants to have sex with you is not related to whether or not he would be interested in a relationship with you. 

I'd like to live in a world where guys accept that girls use them, too, and don't feel a need to go around bragging, "That girl totally wants me, but I'm just gonna keep fucking her even though I don't really like her."

I'd like to live in a world where girls do pursue sex with guys they would not date and don't settle for sex with guys they'd like to date but who would not date them.

I'd like to live in a world where most people can tell the difference between not wanting to put a label on things and just not wanting a relationship with the hapless person they have sex with all the time.

I'd like to live in a world that encourages us to make decisions rather than to continue doing things until we "figure out" whether or not we want them.

I'd like to live in a world where girls don't justify their hook-ups by saying, "I was lonely," or "I was hurt." I'd like to live in a world where it's accepted that all of us are lonely and hurt, and where it's not unusual to admit that loneliness and hurt goes into every romantic and/or sexual encounter we ever have, no matter how hot or mind-altering or hilarious the encounter happens to be.

I'd like to live in a world where a website called Impractical Happiness could be as successful as one called Practical Happiness. Because happiness isn't that practical in the 21st century. Most of us kind of have to figure it out, and it's a little bit easier when you don't get derided for always considering others' opinions and sharing your own. 

I'd like to think that's the world we live in.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Possible, but is it worth it?

My first and last posts have proved to be my most discussed, both on the internet and off. I'm going to say one final word on the topic of "Can boys and girls just be friends?"

And my final comments (until somebody else asks me about it, of course!) consist of the following two sentences:

1) Yes, but it's not always worth it.

2) It's always best to be honest and open with people about your "quirks" or "faults" if you want them to be your friend. Otherwise, all types of confusion can - and probably will - ensue.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A revisitation of my first post, "I know some of the nicest guys, who I would love to be friends with and hang out with, but after a while they always start getting a bit flirty."

For several months, friends have been saying to me, "Hey, I read your advice blog, but I've got a problem with that thing you said about how a girl should fend a guy off by saying that he'll get clingy. That would never work!"

The post that they refer to is my first, which is on the subject of how a woman might turn guy friends who always flirt with her into *actual* friends. And the section that they refer to is this one:

1) Open up and/or lie about how crazy you are and what a bad idea it would be for the two of you to make out.

When a girl says, "I'm sorry, I can't make out with you, I'm just not into you like that," it hurts. But when a girl says, "I'm sorry, I'm a nutjob and you shouldn't make out with me," it hurts much less, because it doesn't insult the guy, it also lowers your sexy aura of mystery a bit, and it makes the guy feel respected.

If you're super brave (or if this is the truth), tell him that you wish you could have just a one-night stand with him, but you know you'll get clingy, so you don't want to risk that.

Basically if you make yourself appear less mysterious and more crazy, it will remind the boy of all the things he doesn't like about getting close to girls. Then he'll appreciate how nice it is to be just friends with you.

My critical friends are right. I really didn't explain this well enough and I used a bad example. But I still do stand by the idea that, if you make yourself appear less mysterious and more crazy, an interested party will truly begin to appreciate you as just a friend.

I'm going to rephrase some of the things I said in that old post and, as I did in that old post, I will invoke the ghost of Say Anything.

Now, let's go through a brief Q&A session on why Lloyd and Corey will not date:

Why does Lloyd not date Corey (aside from the fact that it would make the movie much shorter)?

They are friends.

So? Lots of friends end up dating.

Yeah, but Corey is really crazy. Lloyd would not go for that.

True, Corey is crazy. But so is Diane. She's a repressed, manipulative daddy's girl who is really hard to talk to.

Good point... So, why would Lloyd never date Corey, then?

Because he's already familiar with Corey's craziness. He doesn't truly see Diane's craziness until he's already become attached to her, and, by that point, it only makes him care about her more.

Think of all the things that you hesitate to say to a guy you like when you first meet him. Think about your minor skeletons. Maybe it's that you're on lithium. Maybe it's that you've cheated on former boyfriends. Maybe it's that you once belonged to a cult.  None of those things would truly make a girl any less likely to be a good girlfriend or a great person. But, if an attractive, cool girl who I'd just met were to tell me any of those things, I'd be slightly less likely to want to be involved with her and I'd be slightly more likely to want her around as the type of person I can talk to about un-romantic subjects (like prescription drugs, cheating, or belonging to a cult). In other words, I'd be more likely to want her as a friend.

So that's my revision of my original advice. In my original post, I made it sound like I was advocating merely for saying "If we have sex, I'll get clingy," but that was merely a poor example of a bigger idea, which is that if you tell a guy friend the kinds of things that you would *not* tell a guy you were interested in, he will be less likely to see you as more than a friend

We've all got a good number of things that we wouldn't talk about with somebody we did not yet feel comfortable around. And what is comfort, after all? Comfort is knowing where you stand. Comfort is knowing whether your relationship is romantic or platonic. That's why we often don't open up (about some things) to people we want to have sex with until after we've had sex. The earlier you allow yourself to open up, the earlier you clarify the nature of the relationship. If you really open yourself up early on, it will not make you unattractive, but it will do a lot to clarify that you are friends.

Even if you don't feel like your own "baggage" will necessarily be a deterrent, you can still make it work. For instance, don't say, "I don't know if I'm cut out for relationships, (sigh) I guess I'm just going to turn into a cat lady." That will make him want to comfort you. Say something like, "Oh man, last time I dated a guy, there ended up being so much drama, I don't even know how it happened."

Don't play the cute bird with damaged wings. Play the role of his crazy friend. Play the Corey to his Lloyd. 

This might sound disingenuous, but I really don't think it is. We all play roles whether we mean to or not. Our roles change depending on what we want out of people, but sometimes we fall into such strong habits of interaction that we forget what we really want. Sometimes we get so used to relating to the opposite sex in one way that we forget that it's not in our best interest to relate that way to every member of the opposite sex. 

When I was 15 or so, I went through a phase where I habitually tried (and failed) to be nice and accommodating to nearly every girl I met. This was my habitual, natural role. But I didn't actually want all of those girls to like me. I wasn't actually attracted to most of them nor was I interested in being friends with most of them. What I'm suggesting is this: Recognize the roles you play in your interactions with the opposite sex and take more control over them. You will be more likely to get what you want.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A minor thought that involves tags and baggage claims used as metaphors

I once heard the expression that women should come with a tag that says, "Handle with care." If that's the case, then men should come with a tag that says, "I am a boytoy, boyfriend, surrogate-dad, and a shrink, but I am not a baggage claim attendant."

Friday, July 9, 2010

On How We Figure Out if We REALLY Like Someone

Send me your questions! But until then, I leave you with another original post.

In my never-ending quest to figure out what distinguishes the relationships that end with minimal pain from the relationships that end in volcanic eruptions, I decided to take a look at the time in relationships when the foundations for future battles and reconciliations seem to be set up: the "getting to know you" phase.

In a way, we're always getting to know people and we never know people as well as we think we do. The phase I'm referring to is the early one where we figure out just how much we're capable of actually liking a person, and, whether we stay for that person for two more weeks, two more months, or two more years, our gut feelings about the person, in many ways, do not change all that much beyond that stage.

Let's take a look at an early-stages scenario, the emotions it causes, and the ways we can choose to act on those emotions.

Scenario: After sleeping with your partner, you wake up and drink coffee together. You show them a bizarre music video on YouTube, because that is the sort of thing that amuses you. They respond by saying, "So is this what you do when you're bored?" You say, "Uh... yeah. Actually, I do." There is silence. You feel a void develop between the two of you.

And now, I leave you with a host of Choose Your Own Adventure choices, and I leave you to judge which ones are the best. Because, frankly, I think I know what is the best way to go about it, but I really don't.

A) Break up with them right then, or a few days later, saying, "We don't have enough in common."

B) Recognize that you don't have enough in common, but see where else the relationship can go from that point onward. Assume that you're not going to really fall for this person and don't expect too much from them. Wait to see if you have other things in common that will make you feel that "certain something," but until then, don't commit or allow them to commit.

C) Recognize that they're missing a certain something, but push the person with all your might into being serious about you, and see if you like them then. Get them to do "serious relationship" things that they may have been hesitant to do before. If they fully commit to you and you find that they are still missing something, break up with them.

Something tells me that we all have done something like this; that, unless we've found someone who was perfect and didn't make us go "Hmm..." at any time during the early stages, we've all had to make the choice of "Do I want to stay with this person, and, if I don't know yet, how do I figure it out?" The four choices I've listed are the methods I can think of so far.

Readers: Do you have any you'd like to add? Which "techniques" do you use to make your choice?

Addendum: I originally made four options but then realized that the middle two were the same, so I combined them. B was originally B and C and C was originally D.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Thoughts on "Hookup Culture"

Many articles have been written about Hookup Culture. Like many written-about things, most people who feel the articles refer to their own culture will tell you that the new buzzword is all stupid hype- that it's not a real thing.

But nothing with the word "culture" in the title is a "real thing" because no cultural phenomenon is really tangible. "Hookup Culture," like "Infomania" or "Boy Crisis" is an attempt to describe something that was not directly created and has no quantifiable measurement.

I taught myself a lesson after college. I taught it to myself with the thought that I would use it when I further pursued an expensive degree in cultural studies, and I thought that it would make me one of the greatest theoreticians of all time (before I realized that just about anyone feels like the greatest theoretician of all time at some time or another, and that study often distracts you from applying your analytical skills to your own life). 

The lesson is this: When you analyze a topic, don't ask why it exists. Ask what functions it serves.

So that's what I'm asking now. What are the functions of Hookup Culture?

These are the functions that I can think of. Please feel free to add more and to argue these.

- makes the desire for sexual adventure more palatable to those who may otherwise be squeamish about it

- uses a clinical term to distract from emotions that may occur during a sexual situation

- replaces the older phrase "sexual conquest" and other dominant/submissive terminology in narcissistic discussions of sexual encounters - lightens the sense of narcissism

- takes constant desire for attention from the opposite sex - eg "mommy issues" and "daddy issues" - and repackages it as a desirable commodity

- lets women know that they shouldn't feel lonely after sex with someone they don't know

- takes men's potential loneliness after sex with someone they don't know and buries it even deeper into the ground 

- responds to a world that is threatened by overpopulation and rampant spread of STD's by further mystifying the details of sexual arrangements, making all contemporary sexuality much easier to swallow

- speeds up the process of getting to know a person - is very useful to those who do not have enough free time to go on dates and confusing to those who do - lends an air of urgency and decisiveness to any sexual encounter

What does Hookup Culture mean to you? What functions do you think it serves?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

"Is 26 the new 22 for guys?"


After you have read my blog, you no doubt have several thoughts on the neurosis that plague me. :) But since you did recommend that I write to you, I figured- "what the hell?" I am going to copy and paste part of an unpublished blog I didn't feel quite right for my blog, but perhaps it will work for yours.

Is 26 the new 22 for guys?
I remember when I was 21 and 22 and I thought- just five more years and the boys with have grown I am older, supposedly wiser, and still disappointed. Like all of my 5 year plans, it never actually counts down...its it still 5 years away. I am now convinced that a man must be older than 30 to be mature enough to date, enter into a relationship willingly, and stay in that relationship in a healthy way.

Mr. Ball-less (the very recent ex) has commitment issues and isn't ready for a GIRLFRIEND. I wasn't asking him to Wife Me....just introduce me as his girlfriend and maybe let me meet his friends. I wasn't asking for the world here- just a common courtesy. We decided months ago to be exclusive...and he told me he loved me...and I believed him...but he just couldn't have a "label." 26 years old and afraid of the big "GF."

I believed a lot of things he said... again, when he said he LOVES me and that he would never let me leave him because he would stand in my front yard with a boombox above his head everyday until I took him back. I believed him when he told my brother, "Dude, you never have to worry about killing me for hurting your sister because if I ever hurt this girl- I will kill myself." I believed that he told his coworkers that he has never had more fun with anyone in his entire life than me. I believed him when he told me that I am the coolest girl he has ever met in his life AND that everytime he thinks of me he "gets a half chub" (that was a bit drunken, and crass...which is why we were so perfect) I believed him when he said that there is no one in the world he would rather be with than me and that being "with" me is the best thing he has ever experienced in his life...

Now, I keep hearing all these stories about guys who realize their mistake and come back...and as optimistic as that sounds- I don't believe them? He will still be a schizophrenic 26 year old with commitment issues. I believe he will miss me- fucking DUH! I was the most fun person he has ever been with and the coolest girl he has ever dated (just quoting him here...not tooting my own horn...much). But will he realize that he fucked up and try to make it better?

So what do YOU think? What are the odds of the Return of the Prodigal Son?

Mademoiselle Haute Mess
from (yep- you plugged yours, so i'll plug mine! *wink*)

Dear Mademoiselle Haute Mess,

Your description of your situation is very evocative and I can tell that it began as a blog post, and I thank you for sharing it.

In full disclosure, when I began writing this response, I had just gotten out of a relationship less than 48 hours before. The way it ended resembled the end you described, but with myself in your position. I will do my best to use my experience for your benefit and not forget that the point of this post is to help you, not to just air my own story.

The problem of 22-year-old 26-year-olds is not as uncommon as you might think. Because of how often our pop culture feeds us the idea that men are "immature" and "commitment-phobic" by nature, it is tempting to chalk this situation up to the inane platitude of "That's just how men are."

Nearly any generalization about the sexes covers up an innate fear that most of us seem to have these days: the fear of the vast unknown that lies inside every individual.

My ex-girlfriend told me that she could not get over the fact that she missed out on her teens and early twenties due to consistently having boyfriends from the age of 15 and being in one long relationship from 19 to 24. She wanted freedom. I'd experienced that freedom before in a way that she had not. If it were as unfamiliar to me, I would probably crave it as well. I still don't know if we have an innate craving for that freedom or if we just want it because our culture constantly markets singlehood to us, but we all do desire it at some point.

The topic of freedom is a very interesting one. The question of "What does freedom mean to this person?" tends to lead to some of the best answers you can find in life. It applies to love, sex, politics, business... like I said, life.

I went on a bit of a tangent there. My point was this: many people would take a look at my ex and say, "She has issues." But many people would take a look at your ex and say, "He's just a guy." But he has issues. He clearly does.

Some people say "commitment issues," or "intimacy issues," but I like to call them Freedom Issues.

I feel like the best I can do here is help you see how this guy did what he did because he's a complicated mess- not just because he has a penis.

I can think of three primary things that give a man Freedom Issues.

1) He's burnt out on being associated with another person. He dislikes introducing someone as his girlfriend because it makes him think of his own history of being introduced as someone's son, someone's brother, some bigger kid's sidekick... and so on. In life, it's been hard for him to feel that he's standing on his own. He's comfortable being attached to another human being because it is familiar. But it hurts him, too. To him, freedom means not being associated with another human being.

I really don't know how common this is, but I know a few people who have this issue and I suspect that it is not uncommon.

2) He was popular with women very early in life. Maybe he was one of the first boys in his class to grow muscles and lose his baby fat back in middle school, and he only got more popular when he joined the football team in high school. He experienced that thrill of popularity that seems to be strongest during youth. No matter how successful he is now, life still hasn't lived up to the excitement he felt during his early peak.

Think of how much popularity meant between the ages of 12 and 17 (roughly). When you're not the person everybody wants to fuck, you think to yourself, "Isn't there more to life than being the person everybody wants to fuck?" But when you are the person everybody wants to fuck, there is little reason for you to look at the situation critically. Some do realize that there is more to life than the currency of popularity despite being popular themselves, but some become so used to it that they value themselves with that same currency long after it ceases to matter in the eyes of most people.

This manchild is perhaps the most commonly-known type of manchild out there. Sometimes I think that it is because our culture considers these men "normal" that we are left with the cliched idea that men "don't grow up" and "can't commit" and "can't keep their dicks in their pants."

Imagine a woman spending her twenties and thirties trying to relive the days when she was 16 and everybody wanted to fuck her. Many people would call her a slut who was out-of-touch with reality. Many people would notice that she was desperately clinging to something of questionable value. Apply that same reasoning to a man and... voila! Now you have reality.

3) He was unsuccessful with women into his teens and perhaps even well into his twenties. He is one of the Tiger Woodses of the world. He is the opposite of #2. While the #2's were banging the girl #3 had a misguided crush on, #2 resigned to the fact that he'd never be an alpha male. Chances are, he finally did manage to get a girlfriend - probably one who began as a close friend he had a long-term crush on- some time in his teens and it was a big deal to him. It was an even bigger deal to him when they split up, because he realized he was ill-equipped to meet more women. Perhaps he continued like this even into his early twenties.

Then, one day, he made a discovery that men often make: it's not actually that hard to attract women! Sometimes, if you don't say anything incredibly pathetic or stupid, they might actually - surprise! - make a move on you! This guy is conflicted: he's identified himself as a Lloyd Dobbler for most of his post-pubescent life, but now he's made the discovery that, to reach girls who are in their mid-twenties, you don't have to call their fathers and ask permission to take them to a dance, and that sometimes they actually like it when you chill the fuck out and don't play them Peter Gabriel outside in the rain.

This guy has an urge to make up for all the years he lost. He thinks of the #2's of the world and, even though for years he has believed that he is a better man than they, he secretly (or not so secretly) wants to feel like one of them.

He's had a girlfriend before. He hasn't had options before. Having options is new and its novelty has not worn off.

Is 26 the new 22? For some of these guys, it is.

Considering their sensitivity and intelligence, you might expect that men in the #3 category would have discovered their own ability to attract women in college, but that is often not the case.

You might think that, once released from high school, they became free of their high school baggage. But no. When many of these guys encountered the freedom of college, they chose social circles and subjects of study that supported their older ways of thinking. They fail to see that the brooding cave they into which they retreated as teens was just as much of a prison as the stifling high school social scene. For these guys, it was not until after college that they ever learned how to function outside of their cocoons. In this case, 26 resembles 22 on account of arrested development.

Your ex-guy, despite being a headache, sounds like a pretty romantic person, and here's one thing that's common to nearly all romantic people: they scare themselves. It is very likely that, when he said "I love you," he actually scared himself, and that caused him to back off.

Sometimes, early into a relationship, a man realizes that he wants to hold on to a woman and then subsequently realizes that they are not officially together. He panics as he realizes that she has no major reason not to sleep with another guy. Sometimes, he just says, "I really like you," and leaves it at that. But sometimes, he says, "I love you," or "I'll never leave you."

If these romantic/possessive declarations do not freak out the woman and she complies, then this immediately guarantees him the security he craves. It often freaks him out later, however, as he realizes the commitment that he got himself into.

I hate to use a shallow and reductive metaphor like this, but it makes some sense in this situation: Sometimes, saying "I love you," is like making an impulse buy. Sometimes, men see George Foreman Grills at Home Depot and think, "Damn! I don't have that!" and then they immediately buy it. Then they take it home and realize that they don't have the energy to put it together, and will have to do some work to clear out the patio, so they abandon it for a while.

What freaks guys out about commitment is sometimes just the fact that they no longer have the freedom to get with other girls, but sometimes it's also little things. Like the fact that they will have to increase their level of thoughtfulness and attentiveness. That they might, for instance, find themselves helping a girl build a closet, and that merely buying her candy or flowers won't cut it any more.

Re: Will this guy come back? Whether or not this guy wants to come back right now is not important. What is important is the best way for you to handle the breakup.

Sometimes, the best way to handle a breakup where you were on the losing end is not to merely tell yourself to give up and forget about it, but to actually tell yourself that you can get them back.

If you wonder to yourself "Does he want me back?" the worst that can happen is that you'll start to believe that he does want you back without seeing any true evidence of it, you'll wait for him, and then he won't come back. That would suck.

If you constantly tell yourself, "Get over him, get over him, get over him," the worst that can happen is that, in the midst of all the trying to get over him, you'll hold in emotions that may have been used in a more productive way. That would suck, too.

But if you get over him with the intention of using your newfound confidence to get him back, the worst that can happen is that you won't get him back and, this time around, it won't hurt you the way it did when he broke up with you.

We've all got our own ways of getting over people. Jumping into another relationship ASAP is not one of them. Forcing yourself to hate the person who hurt you is not one of them. Meeting new people is good.

Doing the things that comfort you when you're alone is good, but be very, very conscious of how much time you spend alone (when you're alone, confidence can turn into heartbreak pretty quickly).

Spend a lot of time around your friends, but be careful around friends who, in giving you advice, will attempt to use your situation to toot their own horns. Don't spend too much time around the friends who say, "Oh, you must be so hurt... Don't go out tonight, stay with me and cry!" and don't spend too much time around the friends who say, "Guys all suck, forget about it, be single with me forever," either. Stick with the friends who help you harness your sadness in a way that genuinely strengthens your friendship.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

"I can't help but think that guys are so simple - that maybe we are just creating this complex analysis to make her feel better and what the truth really is is that he is just being an asshole and didn't want to give up partying to be with her."

Okay I am in need of some advice. So I am having to take care of my best friend who just got dumped by her boyfriend. They started dating two months ago and everything was going perfectly until he wouldn't quit smoking pot (which - at the beginning of the relationship she told him was a deal breaker and he told her that he wanted to quit because she was more important to him than pot. She never asked him to change, but she did warn him up front that she didn't like it). They got into a huge fight and he broke it off with her. Well really he told her they were on a break - but has taken their relationship off facebook and completely quit talking to her.

So here is my question: She is obviously distraught as they both fell for each other quickly (I love you's were thrown around prematurely if you ask me). He just graduated from college and is having to find a "real job" and is having a hard time with transitioning from the party lifestyle of a college student to a more grown up life style. Her and I both think that he broke things off with her because, although he was attracted to her and liked the idea of her, when the reality set in - he couldn't handle it. And instead of continuing to hurt her - he just decided to end things. Are we looking to much into it? I can't help but think that guys are so simple - that maybe we are just creating this complex analysis to make her feel better and what the truth really is is that he is just being an asshole and didn't want to give up partying to be with her. What do you think?

-My Friend's Got Issues

For the record, I made up that moniker, as the writer didn't supply one. I know I could have done better but MFGI will suffice.

This message is divided into two somewhat separate parts.

1) The Relationship

In short, your friend should move on.

I think that your friend knows that... but that's not what she needs to hear.

Many of us - or many Americans, at least - hold the misconception that blunt is *always* good and is always what the person in need of help needs to hear. It's not true. On account of the overpresence of bluntness in our culture, many other Americans tend to hate bluntness so much that they retreat into the realm of Maybe, I guess.

I suspect that what your friend needs to hear is neither the negative and blunt Get over him, nor the vague and passive Wait it out and see where his heart takes him, but something more.
Here's what I think of this guy. I don't think he's an asshole. I think that he's confused and complicated. I think that he can change and all that. But I'm not sure that it would be worth it. If your friend truly wanted to remake and remodel him, she should be grateful that she got an easy exit out of what might have been a long-term but painful relationship that exhausted her mind and soul.

I'm going to repeat/rephrase something that I said in there because I think it's pretty key. They say that people can't change, but they actually can. The problem isn't that they don't change; it's that changing them is usually too hard for it to be worth it.

Think of training a pet. Yes, I know it seems wrong to compare a person to a pet, but it's actually not that inaccurate. To change Sparky, you have to behave in many counterintuitive and exhausting ways. You have to refrain from petting him when he's not performing acts of obedience. You have to click the crazy clicker thing every time you give him food and then eventually phase out the crazy clicker thing if you ever want to get across the message that, Yes, Sparky, you will be fed, just not at the dinner table, so stop putting your head on my lap.

And so on. Changing a person is like that, but harder, since people have a much greater range of thoughts and emotions than dogs do. If she wants to change a person, she should come to terms with how difficult it is, and I don't know if she has.

I get the impression that your friend does not really want to think of the relationship as finished. It's hard to do that. And you can't force it.

I can think of a relationship I was in that was similar to the one your friend was in. It was similar because it too ended with a tentative This is too much for my poor little self to handle, I need a break, rather than an assertive This is not working.

The way I handled that situation was that I thought to myself, I need to do something cool and independent with my life so that the next time she sees me, she'll want to come back.

Because, as many people will tell you, an ex will probably not want to get back with you if they sense that you've been thinking about them for the entire time that you've been apart.

So I got back into some old hobbies and started a new one and met other girls. I saw my ex again and tried to get back with her and she rejected me. But at this point I didn't care. My genuine attempts to make her feel like I was a catch who she'd want to get back with did not make *her* feel that way, but they did make *me* feel that way, and I did end up getting over the hurt in the process.

So basically, I'd encourage your friend to invest in herself, to think of how much she has to offer to men, to see other men, and other things of the sort. I'd tell her that in her process of "getting over" her current tentative boyfriend, she'll actually *increase* her chances of getting back with him at the same time that she increases her options in life (as well as her ability to enjoy those options).

2) Marijuana

I have this to say about weed: to tell someone to stop smoking weed is comparable to telling someone who is not an alcoholic to stop drinking. Weed is a misunderstood drug. Telling someone to stop smoking it is not the same as telling someone to stop doing cocaine or stop smoking cigarettes. Cocaine and cigarettes are genuinely addictive and thus are things that most good people would actually like to stop doing.

Good people feel empowered when they overcome physical addictions. But weed, as is the case with alcohol for non-alcoholics, is not physically addictive and is the kind of thing that most people do more casually. To completely abstain from participating in a hobby that many people enjoy in moderation does not feel empowering as much as it just feels uncomfortable.

On the subject of addiction, I'll say this: In the case of physical addiction, the addiction *is* the problem. In the case of psychological addiction, the addiction *masks* the problem. If a person is addicted to weed, they are addicted psychologically, which means that the drug is not the problem. If your friend's boy has that serious of a problem, then refraining completely from smoking weed won't even solve it.

I smoke weed but I am far from addicted. Sometimes I smoke several times a week. More frequently, I will go for weeks or even months without smoking it. If all the weed in the world disappeared, I'd be very disappointed, but I'd survive, and eventually I'd stop missing it. But if someone told me never to use it, it would be like telling me never to use facebook. I use facebook way more than I smoke weed, and, while I don't smoke too much weed, I do use facebook too much. When I go for a long time without using facebook, it's refreshing. But if a girlfriend told me to stop doing it, it wouldn't feel right. Every time I saw somebody else using facebook, I'd feel a strange sense that my personal life was being invaded as I thought of the person to whom I promised I wouldn't use that pesky social networking site.

In the end, I think that your friend's heart can be mended by doing the same things that would increase her chances of getting back together with this boy- ie taking care of herself and not patiently waiting for him to come back.


Telling someone you like to smoke less weed= good idea

Telling someone you like to quit smoking weed completely = not so good idea

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Since the last post, two things have changed.

Since last post, two things have changed.

1) I have a girlfriend.

2) I have received no new letters.

Both of those things have contributed to me updating this less.

Number Two makes a difference for obvious reasons. Number One has just made me think a little differently.

I'll put it this way: I went from thinking, "I'm good at this," to, "I'm actually clueless," to realizing that just because I'm not excellent at relationships doesn't mean I have no good advice to offer others.

For much of my life, I've been able to come up with the right things to say - not just the most comforting things, but the things that challenge people in the right ways - to many people with more experience than myself. I haven't changed too much- it's just that I'm now discovering more than ever how incongruous a person's ability to give helpful (I'm attempting to eliminate the phrase "good advice" from the English lexicon. I don't believe that advice has inherent value. Only varying degrees of helpfulness.) advice can be with their ability to take good care of themselves.

That incongruity used to floor me. When confronted with it, it used to make me think one of two things, depending on the situation:

1) I'm an idiot and my opinions are worthless! 

2) Since I'm smart, if things don't work out the way I thought they would, it must be the other person's fault!

Both are wrong. But like most wrong things, they are very easy to believe.

I guess what I believe now is this:

1) Most advice is worth listening to, but only about 15% of what most people will tell us will be helpful to our unique situations, and if all of us, both when we're in the advice-giving role and in the being-advised role, accept that, then we will probably learn a whole lot.

2) Being clumsy in a relationship doesn't disqualify a person from giving advice to anyone else. If that were the case, most psychiatrists would probably get fired.

Friday, April 2, 2010

"She usually makes very sweet comments when she calls. I'm not saying I don't like her like that; I just don't know. But she's visiting me soon!"

Benny- Here's a question for you.

There's a woman who lives very far away from me. She's a friend from way back. She's a wonderful person and is apparently very good-looking, based on what other people say about her. (Sometimes, I find her attractive; sometimes, I don't- plus, it's hard to make a decision based on photos). We talk a lot- I texted her once saying that I was bored on Valentine's Day being around a bunch of couples (I have to admit that I wrote her first, wishing her a Happy Valentine's Day and such). She texted back saying that that wouldn't be if she were here. She usually makes very sweet comments when she calls. I'm not saying I don't like her like that; I just don't know. But she's visiting me soon!

Am I worrying over nothing? Am I being conceited? Am I leading her on? And how do I figure out my feelings for her, while, at the same time, toeing that line of a friend?

-Tom Cat on a Midnight Spree


Actually, I'm just going to call you Tom.

Anyway, Tom, thanks for being the first male to submit.

 I'm going to start by answering your concluding questions directly.

-Am I worrying over nothing? 

Yeah, pretty much. 

-Am I being conceited? 

Conceited? Not necessarily. Narcissistic? Maybe. I think that many of us sometimes have a tendency to blow situations out of proportion when somebody is interested in us... particularly those of us who have felt unpopular or "unfuckable" at one time or another.

We often have an almost-involuntary reflex of a voice that says, 'This girl is into me, so I better do this right or else I'll be a loser.'

Oftentimes, this reflex continues no matter how many situations we've been that in theory should serve as proof of our "fuckability."

We get this question in our heads: 'What am I supposed to do?' And that question often trumps another more important question: 'Do I want her?'

-Am I leading her on? 

You don't appear to be leading her on based on your account. If you were to say, 'I can't wait to see you, I have a crush on you too,' that would be leading her on. If you were to have sex with her while still being this iffy about her, you would be leading her on.

Another tendency that many of us who suffer from the "Chronic Unfuckable Blues" have developed is to assume that other people are as lonely as we are at our worst.

Let me explain. When I was at my most shy and lonely, I very rarely acted on my feelings. It seemed like such a huge step even to banter with a girl in a way that would demonstrate my attraction. So when did I act on my feelings? Only once my interest had developed into a massive overpowering crush. Only when I'd been admiring her and thinking about her for months on end. I held it in and then let it all out in a massive explosion of emotion only after it had become far too intense to hold in.

A history of this type of introversion can obscure an important fact: many people don't operate like this at all. 

Most people actually operate more like this:

'I'm kind of into this person. I'll let them know. OK, this person likes me. OK, let's see how it goes.'

Or this:

'I'm kind of into this person. I'll let them know. Oh, they're not that into it. OK, good to know. Move along. Next!'

Here's what I'm getting at: You're probably not doing anything as powerful as "leading her on," with all the negative connotations that has because, seeing as she hasn't spent all that much face-to-face time with you, she's probably only very mildly into you.

-And how do I figure out my feelings for her, while, at the same time, toeing that line of a friend?

Hang out with her. Maybe make out with her. Don't have sex with her unless you decide you actually like her. In fact, don't even let her suck your dick unless you decide you actually like her. (I guess that stuff passes for casual among daredevil middle school girls, but, let's face it: most girls who aren't daredevil middle schoolers will only do it to a guy they really care about or  a guy they desperately want to manipulate.)

My take on this girl is that she either A) is really intensely into you in a long-distance, idealized way or B) is kind of into you and doesn't have anything else going on, so she figures, hey, I'll sweet talk this faraway guy I'm going to see soon, and maybe it'll turn out cool.

If A is the case, then she could be bad news, and you should be cautious. If B is the case, then just take it as it comes.

Also, say to her what you said to me. At some point when you are hanging out with her, say, 'You're attractive, but I'm not sure if I really like you yet.' 

I also want to call our attention to another thing you said in the message: 'She's a wonderful person and is apparently very good-looking, based on what other people say about her.'

What other people say about her should not matter. When you see her, stop asking yourself if she's hot or not. That voice will probably be there, but turn it off. Let the situation develop however it is going to develop. That voice that's questioning your attraction (or lack of attraction) to her will only distract you from what matters, which is the quality of the connection you have (or lack) with her.

In Improv comedy, one of the first things they teach you is to trust the other person to provoke "the funny" rather than attempting to constantly create "the funny." The idea is that comedy comes from truth and truth comes from genuine reactions. I'm not certain exactly how this relates to your situation, but I'm pretty sure it does.