Thursday, September 30, 2010

Someone to Lean On

A few weeks ago, I cried on the phone to 'F'.

It's almost comical to see in those words on a screen.  If nothing else, this year will go down in history as the year of uncontrollable crying.  I think I've cried more in the first three quarters of 2010 than I did in all of the entire previous decade (granted, crying twice a year was probably my previous norm).   The odd thing about this particular instance was that it was even more random than usual.  'F' didn't say anything to piss me off (for once).  Actually, he probably didn't say anything more than "Hey."  Literally.  He called me, I picked up and the next thing I knew, nothing was coming out but tears. 

I was tired.  Tired of being in charge.  Tired of being responsible.  Tired of being in control but not in control.  Tired of doing everything for myself.  Tired of doing shit for other people.  Tired of organizing get-togethers to no one's full satisfaction.  Tired of answering questions like "Where's X Bar?" when the questioner could have easily taken an extra 4 seconds to type the "X Bar" into google instead of immediately sending me an email.  Tired of giving date recommendations to my guy friends.  Tired of giving second date recommendations.  Tired of giving recommendations period.   Tired.

Most of the above are things that I generally enjoy, or at least don't mind, but after an entire summer of what felt like constantly stepping up when others weren't, there were times when I just wished I could go to my parents' house, crawl into my childhood bed and have my mom take care of me.  Escape all of my responsibilities, even for just a moment, and let someone else do things for me for once.

I guess it is quickly becoming the one critical trait that I look for in a guy.  It's not necessarily how funny or how smart or how cute they are, it's that Darwinian instinct in me that asks, can he take care of me?   And for me, that means whether he's someone that I feel like I could turn the reins over to, even for just a moment.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Nobody Just Wants To Be Friends

Nobody just wants to be friends.  This has quickly become one of my favorite phrases.  Originally, the phrase was used in this context:

Cute Friend: This older guy who is friends with my friends but isn't friends with any of them on facebook just friended me and then said we should get coffee.  Is that weird?
Cute Friend's Friend: Yes.
Cute Friend: But he's just really friendly.  I think he just wants to be friends.
Cute Friend's Friend: Nobody just wants to be friends.

We started using the phrase repeatedly because said Cute Friend gets this type of "friendly" message all the time.  I think of it as a "feeler" message.  Generally, no one, especially not someone you know through friends, really wants to just lay it out there up front so instead they ask if you want to do something wishy washy that makes you think well, maybe-it's-a-date-but-maybe-it's-not.   The last time I got a feeler message like that, I told him I thought his friend was cute (and then that friend and I dated).  Yeah, I was that brutal.

So anyway, the phrase has become applicable in my own life lately.  The guy I went on one match date with ages ago actually emailed me MULTIPLE TIMES to see if I just wanted to grab lunch in the park or go to an architecture lecture with him or see a movie with him and his friends, you know, "just as friends."  It's probably my own fault since I pulled the "I'm too busy to date" line.  At first I sent him polite, but what I thought were very clear, responses.  And eventually I stopped responding full stop.  Nobody just wants to be friends.

And then 'G', the Good Guy who I just couldn't bring myself to keep dating, emailed me out of the blue a few weeks ago and asked if I'd be interested in hanging out with him and some of his friends now that football season is starting up (Uh, what?  I do not watch football), totally not as a date thing (riiight), just because he thought I was really fun (well, thanks) and might have fun joining up with him and his buddies sometime (because that wouldn't be awkward).  I don't know that I could've had a more negative reaction.  I wondered if I was just being too cynical, so of course I told half my friends (aka forwarded the email) about it, who similarly concurred that it was weird, and then I proceeded to tell an entire bachelorette party the story, and they all thought it was weird too.  Nobody just wants to be friends.  (On the bright side though, in one fell swoop, that email erased any chance of me having any future regrets about ending it with him.)

And then 'F' popped up again.  True to form, I just asked him why the fuck he was emailing me.  In a nutshell, he said, can't I just say hi?  I said, no.  He said, we can't be friends?  And I said, what?  No. Why would we be friends? Nobody just wants to be friends.

Now I know.  It is so absurdly cynical, but if you think about it, in a post-college stage in life, isn't it sort of true?  There's always some reason, as innocuous as it may be, that you wind up exchanging numbers with a member of the opposite sex - whether it's that you want to date them, or that you want to date their friends, or that you want to work for the company they work for, or that you need a new tennis buddy.  Sure you may eventually end up becoming actual friends after you've dated/dated their friends/gotten a job/played sports together, but at the very beginning, there was probably some ulterior motive.  Since graduating, I cannot think of a single straight guy I've become friends with purely because I thought he would be a fun friend.  It's kind of like in that episode of Friends when Joey challenges Phoebe to find/perform a truly selfless act and she fails.

Nobody just wants to be friends.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Hiding the Ball

I recently read an article about a study that measured the happiness of married couples one, five and ten years after marriage.  And they didn't measure the happiness of just any old married couples; they compared happiness of arranged marriages versus "love marriages."  Surprisingly (or maybe unsurprisingly), the couples whose marriages had been arranged were happier than their love marriage peers five years after getting hitched and much MUCH happier ten years after tying the knot.

Granted I have no idea how this study "measured" and "compared" happiness, but my first thought was well, obviously, the arranged marriage couples were quote unquote happier.  Their expectations were lower!  Happiness is nothing if not relative.  Case in point: I loved law school.  But was I actually happier while I was in law school than I had been in college or at any point in my life before that?  Or was it simply that I had expected it to be horrible and when it wasn't, I was suddenly not just happy that it didn't suck but I was also happy that my decision to attend law school had been validated and I wouldn't eventually regret being saddled with a miserable amount of debt to pay for a miserable three years.  So, my point is, of course arranged marriage couples are happier.  They probably expected it to suck.   So when it didn't suck as much as it did, they were happy that it didn't suck and on top of it all, they were happy that they were happy.

(Or.  Maybe the people whose marriages were arranged had spent two years being single in New York and had given up hope that they would ever find anyone so they were just grateful that their parents were able to find someone for them to marry at all.)

The study did not espouse any such cynical theories.  The one that struck me the most was the idea that in arranged marriages, everyone's faults are out there on the table from the start.  Everything has already been vetted and all the cobwebs have been swept out of the closet.  You know exactly what you're getting into.  On the the other hand, with 21st century dating, you can spend months getting to know someone and still have no idea what the catch is.

Now, I realize that maybe not everyone has a catch.   And for my own sanity, I think I'd want to know that too.  If there are NO deal breakers attached to a particular guy, it would be great to know that up front, so I could stop looking for faults and stop waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I feel like I've spend way too much time trying to figure out the end of the phrase "he's really great but..."  And similarly, I feel like I've expended a lot of energy hiding my crazy girl side from guys I've dated.  So maybe it would be nice to just say to a guy at the very beginning, "Hi, nice to meet you.  And by the way, I can get a little nutso at times, I'm a commitment-phobe and I don't like holding hands."

This all sounds so nice to me in theory.  After years of futilely playing the dating game, the idea of having a little cheat sheet, a guide to getting the next level in Mario Bros., well, it just sounds lovely.  But then I wonder, if I did have such a cheat sheet, would I ever give anyone a chance in the first place? Would anyone give me a chance in the first place?  Maybe it IS better not to know someone's faults until you've had a chance to meet each other and sparks have flown.  Maybe it's only after falling in love with someone that you can really accept someone's faults because you actually want the good to outweigh the bad.

So is it better to have all the information up front?   Or is it better to keep hiding the ball?  I'm not sure.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Dating Cycle

This weekend, it felt like fall had finally found New York (nevermind that it is supposed to be 89 degrees tomorrow).  I love fall.  I love the sound of leaves crunching underfoot and being able to sleep with the windows open.  I love how fall comes with so many mixed feelings - giddily looking forward to a new school year full of potential while wistfully saying goodbye to the carefree days of summer, eagerly picking crisp, red apples while noticing the sudden absence of lush, summer berries from the produce aisle, wrapping a warm scarf around your neck while reluctantly tucking away your flip flops.  I love how fall feels quiet, but hurried, as though everyone is trying to get as much done as they can before turning in for the winter.

This year, the tidings of fall came with the usual melancholic mix of feelings.  But more present than ever this year was dread.  This fall will usher in my third year at my job.  This fall will mark five years of living alone.  This fall will mean two years have passed since I last saw or spoke to 'C'.  And this fall will mean that I've been actively dating for two years, with not much to show for beyond a few more proverbial notches on the bedpost.

As if I haven't said this enough already, dating is exhausting.  First, there's the exhaustion of trying to get a date - going to bars, weeding through the online profiles and flirting, flirting, flirting.  And then there's the exhaustion of going on first dates - making small talk, putting your best foot forward and smiling, smiling, smiling.  And then there's the exhaustion of the second, third and fourth dates - actually getting to know someone, determining whether you're compatible and analyzing, analyzing, analyzing.

I have yet to make it much further than these stages.  It's like I'm stuck in the board game Chutes and Ladders.  I keep plugging along, square by square.  Occasionally, I get lucky, land on a ladder, get really excited, climb up, and then boom.  On the next roll, I land on a chute and get spiraled right back down to the beginning, where the game begins all. over. again.  

Right now, I feel like I'm at the starting line and it's my turn to roll, but I just don't want to.  I don't want to put myself back through the cycle and risk landing on chute after chute after chute.  I just want to sit here for a moment.  Sit on the sidelines.  Take a moment to stop thinking about boys all the time.  Take a break from thinking about how lonely it would be to live by myself for the next five years, much less the rest of my life. 

I guess this dating break has a lot to do with why I am dreading the fall.  That same quiet, hurried feeling that seems to wash over New Yorkers (and squirrels) as they try to get as much done before winter arrives is taking over me.  I have a completely self-imposed sense of urgency that I need to get to the end of this board game before the sand in the hourglass runs out.  Hence my dreading the fall.  The change of seasons seems to remind me that as long as time is tick, tick, ticking, then I need to keep dating, dating, dating.

But I don't want to.  I just want time to stand still with me for a sec while I take a moment to prepare myself to roll the dice again.