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Monthly Archives: September 2010

I suck at dating. I can back this up: I always fall for someone only after getting to know them for a loooong time. I’ve turned down guys I ended up being attracted to way after they’d moved on. It took me years to get over my high school crush. Do you read me? No wonder I’m a mess. The adult, not-in-school-anymore version of dating is like a foreign language to me!

So what the hell do I think I’m doing auctioning myself off tonight? When offered the chance to write my bio for the event, I didn’t know how to fill in the “Pam is looking for____” blank, so I panicked and passed.

Luckily, there’s one thing I’m REALLY good at: athletic competition. I might not be a gymnast you’ve heard of, but this is fact: 9 out of 10 times, I will do a better routine when it counts than I’ve ever done in practice. That’s because I’ve mastered getting into The Zone. When you have to compete alongside kids more than HALF your age (yes, I do that), well, let’s just say it’s a humiliation not to be enjoyed but to be survived. And The Zone is your strongest weapon.

Zing! Humiliation- isn’t that the very essence of dating? Who WANTS to be dating? Most of us suffer through this misery because we want to be married someday. Yes, even me. Someday WAY down the road I hope, but yeah, even relationship-phobic me.

Back to my analogy. If you really want something, you must go through (sometimes mortifyingly embarrassing) fire. It’s practically a rite of passage. Lucky me, I embarrass myself quite often, so I’ve got The Zone down to a science.

Preparing for a date (or auction) is OBVIOUSLY best done as you would for a competition:

FUEL UP
Because when you’re out there competing, or dating, not only do you need the energy, but the thought of eating might just make you nauseous in the moment, so you need to be able to go, go, go. And you never know; maybe your date will take you somewhere with horrible food. (Take a granola bar along just in case.)

REMEMBER: WINNING ISN’T EVERYTHING
Actually, every real athlete knows this mantra is total bullshit. If you don’t wanna win, why are you even bothering? The trick is this: you only think about winning during practice. When you’re under pressure, you BETTER be telling yourself winning doesn’t matter, because it’s the only way you won’t crack! So go ahead, tell yourself: this date does not matter. It does not matter if no one cool bids on me. If I don’t make a good first impression, it doesn’t matter. Etc. Feed your ego some BS during crunch time, because it needs it!

PRACTICE LIKE YOU TRAIN
You don’t spend all those hours in the gym just to falter when it counts. Likewise, you don’t enjoy being single, figure out who you really are and what you really want only to fall for the first schmuck who looks good and is fully employed. Stay focused!

DON’T PAY ATTENTION TO THE COMPETITOR AHEAD OF YOU
When I compete, I never, EVER watch the person who performs right before me. I’ll watch everyone else, then use those extra minutes to clear my head and shut out everything around me.

So, don’t think about so-and-so who met the guy or girl of their dreams last night, or another friend currently hiding from Bunny Boiler. Others’ performances don’t affect you! Thinking about them now can only trip you up.

SET SPECIFIC GOALS
Every athlete knows this. Set a new PR, increase your mileage, just finish—whatever. Goals are personal. For tonight’s auction, mine are the following:

–         Do not trip on stage. DO NOT.
–         Have fun! Because the 19 other Singles are awesome, and some of my derby family will be in attendance! (Look for the badasses on skates!)
–         Look good. Because when there are pictures to be taken, I’m extra vain. Simple as that.

FORGET ABOUT THE PAST
How you messed up in training yesterday does not matter. How royally you screwed up your last relationship or date does not matter. GET YOUR HEAD IN THE HERE AND NOW!

Do you give yourself a pep talk before a date or approaching strangers?

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It’s the simplest thing in the world to do – start a conversation – but when there’s attraction and potential rejection involved, apparently it becomes a MESS.

The October issue of Hampton Roads Magazine is out, and I feel like I’ve been thrown to the socially awkward wolves. The auction isn’t till Thursday, but we 20 Sensational Singles have already been friend-requested on Facebook, and getting messages and emails from ones (supposedly) interested. And I’ve been bombarded with the reality: The real reason there are so many singles out there? People suck at starting and/or maintaining conversation.

Yeah, I know I’m a total dating rookie. My one, long-term serious relationships developed ‘situationally’ i.e. with someone I saw on a regular basis. There’s a reason for that—it’s REALLY hard to pique my interest with a few lines of chitchat. But I said I’d be openminded, right? Slowly, as I’ve warily sent responses to would-be weirdos, I’ve realized that ‘tis true: no one has a decent intro AND a good follow-up, which is really what it comes down to.

A few days ago I asked friends on Facebook to leave me the worst/best pickup lines they’ve ever heard. I noticed an interesting breakdown among the 8 people who responded (yes, 8.  I’m a blogger, not a social scientist!)—4 guys responded with typical sleazy/cheesy one-liners, while all 4 gals knew exactly what I was talking about. The pickup line is an ongoing test. It does not include one-liners that are more or less meant to grab attention or laughs. It’s more than that, and one slight can UNDO all past prose. And my own opinion: you have to keep proving yourself through the second or third interaction.

Whether in person or online (or the odd circumstance of someone seeing you in a magazine), the anatomy is basically the same.

The Essentials of a Good Pickup Exchange

Keep It Simple
Why are you talking to me? Do you think I’m interesting? Is there something interesting going on around us, or do you have something to say about a shared pursuit? Whatever the reason is: don’t make keeping up my half of the conversation hard work! Be friendly, don’t use physical contact too soon, and (in the case of online communication) do mention a detail you know about me, but don’t get weird.

Keep It Interesting
OK, now tell me something about YOU. Saying hi and/or paying compliments do not earn you a prize. (Perfect example from a recent message: “You look familiar. Let’s meet for a drink and talk about why you look familiar. I’m awesome, just wait and see!” I KID YOU NOT!).

Keep It Specific – No Ambiguity, Please!
Ask for a phone number, if you want to. Or, if it’s an ongoing email exchange, make an effort to keep the conversation going. ‘“Hi, you seem like an interesting person. I just wanted to tell you that. Okay, bye.”’ doesn’t give me much to work with. Thanks for noticing! If you want a response, you’re gonna have to do better than that.

*special note for online communication*: Use Punctuation Marks! So many things can be taken so many ways:
“Let’s get together.” (Is that a suggestion, a passing thought? If I respond to this, does it make it my idea?)
“Let’s get together!” (If you’re really that enthusiastic, you shouldn’t be keeping me guessing. See above.)
“Let’s get together?” (Nice. Now I know I have only two possible responses.)

And most importantly, here’s how to stop any potential interest DEAD in its tracks:

Be Totally Off the Wall
A fumbling-idiot line can be kind of cute, because it indicates nervousness and sincerity. But eventually you have to pick up the ball and sprint to the goal line! Real life example: “Do you believe in ESP?” I’d like to think he was just awkward, but 10 minutes later we were still playing guessing games, and my eyes were glazing over. He should have started talking like a normal human being after a minute or two. As soon as I saw my friends come in the restaurant, I politely told him to get lost.

The point is, go ahead, act like a total idiot! Just convince me you’re not really an idiot…preferably as soon as possible.

Be Inappropriately Inappropriate
Flirting is OK. It’s even OK to be racy. But don’t sexify a neutral topic! This is a time to be tasteful and classy. I understand that guys think about sex pretty much all the time. Just pretend you don’t for at least the first few conversations, OK?

What do you think, am I too harsh? (It’s my opinion that if you’re not picky about the pickup, well…you deserve what you get!)
Is there ANYONE who can keep it interesting and clean until they’re past the awkward stage?

Steer clear of your ex, and do it in style.

I’ll be entering Ex Territory this weekend when I go shopping with my fellow HRM Sensational Single Wendy Walker for our auction next Thursday. And not a little timidly. Because no matter what they tell you, you cannot be friends with an exYou should avoid your ex as much as possible. If one person still wants to rekindle the fire, contact MUST be avoided.

I learned this the hard way. Post-breakup last fall, after polling the idea on Facebook (and getting a resounding NO), the optimist in me tried the friendship thing anyway. Dinner with the Ex. At a cozy restaurant we’d been to last when his family was in town. A few weeks before Christmas. (I swear I wasn’t trying to get back together. I’m just apparently really good at evil, cruel plots when I’m not trying.)

It was disastrous and awkward in all the ways it could’ve been. I was 10 minutes early; he was 20 minutes late, without explanation or apology. And (ironically) he was way too happy to see me; I had to shrink from an attempted kiss (really, Ex?)! He’d brought a nice, personal gift. I’d brought a nice, impersonal gift. He was expecting to get back together; I was expecting friendly catch-up conversation. The shortest dinner in our history later, he choked a goodbye and left (in tears).

Yeah, I got out of the try-and-be-friends business. But every few months since then, there’s always a call or text. I ignore, but I am really careful whenever I am nearing Ex Territory, as I’m never sure if there could be another scene or totally inappropriate attempt at PDA.

Luckily, Hampton Roads is PERFECT for avoiding your jilted lover or your soulless dumper (that would be me):

1. LOVE THY TUNNELS

Yeah, I know it can be a pain. As someone who’s lived, worked or otherwise heavily frequented Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Hampton, Newport News, Portsmouth, Isle of Wight/Franklin, and Williamsburg, I know. But really, guess what? The HRBT, Monitor Merrimac, Downtown Tunnel, Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and Midtown Tunnel are your greatest post-breakup allies. Learn to LOVE your nearest tunnel and you are a rare creature— 90% chance your ex isn’t thinking the same thing! If you don’t have a problem putting some distance between your most frequented locales, it can be the best manmade barrier between you and dreadful ex-encounters.

Also, think of it as free therapy! (At least an hour’s worth.) Because dumper or dumpee, you might need some time with your thoughts to let the breakup dust settle.

2. FIND A NEW FAVORITE RESTAURANT

Yeah, probably not a good idea to go into you and your former-beloved’s favorite spot—at least not yet. Painful memories aside, there’s nothing that puts a more bitter taste in your mouth than an unexpected run-in. Stay away! Luckily, there are plenty of restaurants that are worthy candidates for being a new favorite. Check out HRM’s 50-50 deals on awesome local spots. I’d tell you my own local faves, but I’ve gotta be protective…just in case!

3. CHANGE YOUR WARDROBE: GO INCOGNITO

Winters that start late and snowfall in March? “Hurricanes” more timid than your last toilet overflow? Hello, Hampton Roads weather! What we lack in predictability, we make up for in intensity. Whenever fall-like weather actually begins this year, we know it’ll get cold very suddenly. So, take advantage of the region’s well-defined seasons. Hopefully you were proactive and your breakup occurred at the end of a season, so necessary wardrobe changes can be tied in with the need to look totally out of character.

There’s also no overarching fashion rule governing Hampton Roads; we dress metro, hip, grunge, conservative, sporty, sophisticated. Anything goes. I’m not saying you should change your entire look just to avoid your ex. But hey, if you’re gonna cut your hair or buy new clothes for the changes in season anyway, the opportunity is there!

4. HAVE A LOT OF FRIENDS

Hampton Roads is very friendly to the social. And, it’s an awesome place to live, so people stick around for awhile. So, if you don’t have a lot of friends (maybe because you somewhat neglected them by being sucked into your relationship? It happens), reconnect or MAKE SOME.

Try not to venture into EX-VILLE without them. Because a scene is much less likely in numbers. And it’s much easier to duck behind a person than to find an appropriate you-sized object. Don’t risk it!

Do you go out of your way to avoid an ex? Does anyone have a non-psycho ex? How do you handle the unexpected encounter?

I’m definitely not ready for or wanting anything serious right now, but I also know that in the past I didn’t really KNOW how I felt about certain issues until I was committed to them. Which proves I can’t be completely objective while IN a relationship. Which is why I’ve started to think about some dealbreakers and dealmakers now. Not so much to take it from dating to matrimony, but at least to take it from First Person Singular to First Person Plural.

I read somewhere that there are 3 important levels of compatibility: Intellectual, physical, and emotional. So with those in mind, I’ve started a list of some of my make-it-or-break-it essentials.

Intellectual Compatibility
Enough is enough; no more explaining what I mean five times. Or vice versa. Conversations should flow relatively easily. (Exception: pop cultural references. And not just because it’s not a real reflection of intellect. Mainly because I have to use urbandictionary.com stealthily at least once a day while talking to friends. It’s just not a fair assessment!)

DEALmaker: Nerdy habits are attractive. So, have a nerdy quirk, like using physics laws and math equations to explain something. Even if I can’t understand you, I’ll find it fascinating!

dealBREAKER: I read a lot. So tell me what you’re reading, or even tell me you think I have bad taste in books. DO NOT say something like, “Wow. That’s so cool. I can’t remember the last time I read a book.” (Sadly, I did not dump him on the spot.)

Physical Compatibility
I’ve gotta WANT you, and not just for your incredibly intelligent and sexy-nerdy brain. I want to forget your mind once in awhile and just focus on your body. I grew up valuing intelligence, but I might have overromanticized it…because in a relationship, I’ve figured out I also want and need real chemistry. Hey, I’m not saying it’s gotta be a 50-50 split between brains and rip-your-clothes-off attraction. I’ll take 51-49.

DEALmaker: I’ve never been a fan of PDA but recently it occurred to me: hey, maybe it’s not me, it’s THEM! If you can make me want to just grab you (parts unmentioned) in public, no matter who might be watching, you’re in. If I don’t want you almost all the time, where’s the fun?

dealBREAKER: If I find myself completely, 100% engaged in conversation with you after the third or fourth time we’ve met, it’s probably not a good sign. My mind should be wandering already!

Emotional Compatibility
(I’m not completely sure what “emotional compatibility” is, so I’m gonna wing it.)

DEALmakers

  • Be my age, or at least within 2-3 years: We need to have similar goals. I don’t want to be super career-driven while you’re just ready to start a family (or vice versa).
  • Compliment me: But not all the time, because that’s annoying.
  • Be very down-to-earth and practical: Because I am NOT! I need someone to tell me that my dreams are absurd and impossible but that you like me anyway—it means I’ll never have to rely on anyone but myself to find the way down my chosen path. It also keeps me motivated.

dealBREAKERS

  • Being needy or smothersome: I don’t wanna talk to you ALL the time, and I don’t want a play-by-play of every thought that passes through your brain.
  • Not having lots of friends: I mean, I’m totally flattered if you consider me your best friend—until I find out I won that position by default.
  • Being really attached to TV or material goods: You won’t find me in front of a TV all that often. Plus, how will we chuck all our belongings and travel the world otherwise?

What’s on your list? Am I missing any big things? Keep in mind, this is a SHALLOW list!

So I told you last post that I’m gonna be auctioned in a few weeks as a ‘Sensational Single’.

But wait. Sensational? And…single? Did I skip a beat? How can those two words stand together without causing a cosmic explosion?! Society tells us that single people cannot possibly be happy!

In Facebook speak, “single” means you’re: NOT in a relationship; NOT tangled up in some “Complicated” affair (that you’re admitting to, anyway); and NOT matrimonially bound. W-2s and passport applications, on the other hand, don’t give a damn about who you’re dating, not dating, or non-dating. ‘Single’ just means unmarried.

Either definition, they’re rubbing it in your face. You are ALONE! And baby, you are miserable!

The world paints singlehood in an ugly picture—and many of us buy it. We forget that being single isn’t just defined by the presence or absence of an ‘other half.’ And here I must reiterate one of my core beliefs. If you are always on the lookout for someone to fill the void, that’s not being single; that’s being pathetic. (Trust me, I’ve been there!)

Now, I’m not knocking marriage or love. But that doesn’t mean you need to be in full-out search mode all the time.

(*A caveat: if you are NEWLY single, i.e. newly no longer part of a couple, the wound is fresh and open—you won’t become a giddy first person singular overnight.  So if that’s your case, please read on with bitterness and then read again once you’re feeling a bit human again.)

The Top 7: Why I Think Being Single is the Most Awesome/Important Thing You Can Do as an Adult (Besides Be Employed):

  • You decide what’s important to you. When paired up, we tend to be REACTIVE instead of proactive. We value our significant other’s opinion and hold it to a high standard. It’s nice to make a decision without needing input!
  • You can pursue outlandish/expensive/weird passions and hobbies freely. These things tend to go on the backburner when someone enters the picture. If you simply don’t WANT anything except a spouse, 2.5 kids and a picket fence, and that’s ALL you want to devote your life to, fine. Okay. You’re a lot more selfless than I am! (And a lot more boring.)
  • You have the freedom to make decisions, big and small, that only affect you. Whether a sudden decision to travel the world or a failed attempt in the kitchen, you’re usually only uprooting (or poisoning/starving) yourself.
  • You learn to take care of yourself. Budgeting, doing laundry and taxes correctly…you should be able to do these solo. (OK, maybe not the tax thing.)
  • You can be totally spontaneous. You’re much freer to go with the moment. Say yes. Change your mind. Reschedule plans, throw common sense out the window, buy a cross-country plane ticket at 2am that leaves in 10 hours. Whatever!
  • You can figure out who you are and what you want. Ever considered the possibility that you DON’T KNOW? What do you REALLY want from a significant other? When we’re just seeking constant companionship because we don’t wanna be alone, we gravitate toward instant gratification: Someone to “understand” us (FYI, I have never “understood” another human being, nor do I wanna try). A permanent plus-one for holidays and weddings. Someone to hold us at the end of a stressful day. Etc.

    These little things barely scratch the surface. They seem so important, but I think it takes a LOT of mature self-awareness, and a lot of clearheaded non-desperation, before you really get to the nitty-gritty issues of compatibility and lasting love…and isn’t that what everyone really wants? (So I’ve heard. I keep hearing good things about this “love” business.)

Which brings me to the most important reason to be single of all:

  • When we’re suckered in a relationship (after relationship) under false (read: desperate) pretenses, or are always in “lookout”mode, we are that much further away from finding the right person! Your dream match might not happen to be single during those small windows when you’re unattached or drowning in self-pity. Remember that scene in When Harry Met Sally when Carrie Fisher tells Meg Ryan, “If you don’t get him first, somebody else will, and you’ll have to spend the rest of your life knowing that somebody else is married to your husband!”?
    DOESN’T THAT IDEA JUST TERRIFY YOU??

I’m totally kidding. That is NOT the most important reason. I still think the other, more selfish, reasons are way better!  But if you don’t buy my other reasons quite yet, I’ll resort to scare tactics!! Don’t wish away your single years!

Okay, enough serious talk. I’m not ready to give up being single yet, but I can be proactive. Next post: my top dealbreakers & dealmakers!


Am I crazy to like being single? Leave a comment!

As I’ve mentioned, this year I’ve been mulling over my future tactics, if you will, for whenever I’m ready for an LTR again. So naturally I have to consider all past history. And it hit me at one point—I have the arranged-marriage gene!

It was a true eureka moment. Why had I not realized this before?! My parents had an arranged marriage, as did their ancestors in India before them. I may have been born and raised in the U.S., but by golly, my genes haven’t had time to evolve. It could take generations! Of COURSE I don’t know what I want. After centuries, it’s only natural that my know-my-type-and-what-to-do instincts are a complete mess.  My ancestors never had to date around or hunt down their mates, so neither could I! It’s not ME, just ask Darwin!

Then I remembered…my parents actually knew each other for years before they got married. My parents’ siblings all had ‘love-marriages.’ And I have a first cousin who’s having a love-marriage wedding in January.

Damn it.

Ok, so maybe I have to look at more recent history.

To that end, I’ve been making a mental list this year of my Never-Have-I-Evers—tactics I have not tried in the name of finding love (what, were you expecting something kinky?), actions that others might call, um, normal. Like the following:

  • I’ve never given out my phone number to anyone who asked. Ever.
  • I’ve never followed through on friends’ offers to introduce me to someone they thought would make a good match for me. I didn’t even ask for specifics. I flat out said no thanks.
  • I’ve never randomly chatted up a hot stranger, even if he was literally smiling and making eye contact.

I know what you’re thinking: You tried to blame this on evolution??

Hey now. I’ve admitted my past life as a disgusting romantic.  The downfall of being a romantic is that we tend to (sometimes unwittingly) reject anything less than the most picturesque and serendipitous scenario. We tend to fall for people we’ve known for years (what Friend Zone?). We seek what is comfortable and idealize the hell out of it.

A lot of good that’s done me. So, I’ve decided, what better way to kick formerly-romantic-me’s starry-eyed idealism in the ass than to seek out ways to undo the list? I will effectively conquer anything that could go on my Never-Have-I-Ever list,  if and when the chance arises with person(s) of interest. Anything that makes me quake with unease. New mantra for me and for all you first person singulars out there: Be open to possibilities, especially uncomfortable ones.

So, when Hampton Roads Magazine announced its annual 20 Sensational Singles call, I decided to apply. Put myself out there. Yeah. Why not?

I spent days nervously poring over the Q&A application, feeling hopeful yet panic-stricken the second I hit ‘Send.’

A week later, I got the email. YES! The editors did think I’m sensational! Yay! Woo hoo!

Wait a minute. What feature spread in the October issue listing all my info and answers? What photo shoot? What LIVE AUCTION on September 30?? Sell myself on stage to WHOEVER ends up casting the highest bid? No chance to call on my natural instincts to renege, reject blindly, or run?

Gulp. I’m a Sensational Single. What have I gotten myself into?

Are you comfortable giving out your phone number or being matched up by friends?  Am I the ONLY one who’s never done either? (Go ahead, lie. Make me feel better!)
And feel free to make a suggestion for my list. I’m feeling bold, I just might do it!

"If you really wanted to screw me up, you should've gotten to me earlier." – John Cusack as Rob Gordon, "High Fidelity" (2000)

Great skeptics are made, not born.

I’m what you might call a Reformed Romantic. The hearts-and-initials, crush-crazy, silly girl who needed to get a grip? That was ME in high school and college!

So how did I end up here, avoiding love/relationships like the plague? Well, I’ve gleaned the following over my five years post-grad:

#1: I make the same stupid mistakes over and over again. (So much for wisdom.)
Ever notice how when you meet someone and hit it off, BAM! you’re careening toward commitment every inch of the way? Yet when the dust has settled we look up and wonder, What was I thinking???

#2: I have no idea what I want.
Am I alone in this? All my love-at-first-glimpse experiences have turned into disasters. I consider the whole “Know Thyself” thing to be a foregone conclusion…except when it comes to my type…whatever the hell that is!

*Case in point: The top dealbreakers that sealed the end of my last serious relationship were ALL things that I knew going into the relationship! Infatuation is a dark, dark cloud.

#3. Being engaged is a fast-moving train that takes superhuman strength to stop!
Not that the momentum’s a bad thing—if love is what’s driving it. But I’ve literally heard otherwise-intelligent people soothe their doubts like so: “Oh well, we’ve already put in so much time. Maybe it’ll work out…”

I was never engaged, but it was talked about—it was just a matter of time. After witnessing a friend’s post-engagement fiasco, I knew I had to end the relationship I’d become complacent in BEFORE it got to that stage. Because I didn’t know if I had that superhuman strength…and I was scared to death of just accepting complacency.

BUT I don’t want my skepticism to turn into cynicism…so there’s only one logical next step: I’ve decided to sell myself. Wait, not like THAT…for charity.  More details in my next post!

Do you trust your judgment or do those rose-tinted windows fog your relationship savvy? And seriously, is there ANY better answer to all life questions than a John Cusack movie?