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single 101

I think Uncle Sam DEFINITELY has something against the unmarrieds…at least (especially!) during tax season.

Every year I see the amount I OWE TO THE GOVERNMENT steadily increasing, and I hate it. OK, so I don’t own a home, have any student loans needing payoff, or have any children. Or a husband. I get it. My net worth as far as tangible and nontangible assets is solely ME, and therefore I should give relatively more of everything I earn back to the national purse. Cruel logic, but fine. But since I hear nearly all my friends or family members around me sighing in agony about the pittance they’re expecting of a refund (or, about the tiny windfall, although that’s all relative)…it’s a tougher pill to swallow. Really? Shut up! is what I wanna tell them. I’ve gone through my taxes with a fine tooth comb and I still owe more than just a chunk of change.

And yes, I’m aware that many others have it much worse so…rant over.

Anyway, if you are similarly depressed and already looking ahead to 2011 taxes, here are some really small tips (coming from a non-financial advisor, mind you), and possibly useless bits of info I’ve gleaned in my attempt to find a silver lining in the cloud known as “Pay to the order of: IRS”…

1. Both the standard deduction AND the personal exemption will increase slightly for 2011. It’ll be $5,800 and $3,750 for singles claiming themselves. Does this mean the tax is also proportionately increasing for varying income levels? Er, I have no idea. But I figure an increase in both numbers can’t be a bad thing.

2. The first-time homebuyer’s credit of $8,000 will expire after April 30 of this year. Is this good news? Well, it is for those of us who aren’t really sure we wanna buy a home right now (me), and don’t want the tease of that tax credit clouding our judgment.

3. Apparently there’s a small credit available for current homeowners who install certain energy-improving accoutrements like windows, doors, furnaces, etc. Does not help me whatsoever. Still: good to know, right? Maybe it will help you!

Here’s my really short and not-so-ambitious recommended 2011 Taxes To Do List:

* Start a savings sub-account NOW for what you think you’ll owe in 2011. If you get a refund, great. If you’re like me and you don’t think your income or homeownership status or the like will change dramatically, you had better start saving. I recommend ING Direct for their comparatively awesome interest rates.

* Talk to a tax advisor… Really, how does one prep this far in advance for taxes? Increase 401K contribution? Reduce my withholdings? Oh, the possibilities are endless… You know, I don’t even WANT a refund! You hear that, Uncle Sam?! I just want to finish out my taxes and come to big fat $0. Never has a zero seemed so appealing!

Have any tax tips you wanna share? (Rants and raves are also welcome.)


P.S. I’m totally not a tax expert (in case you couldn’t tell). Here the sources I gleaned for some of the 2011 info above:
http://mdjonline.com/view/full_story/12820274/article-It-s-not-too-early-to-think-about-next-year-s-taxes?instance=secondary_story_left_column

http://www.northjersey.com/news/119994704_Done_with_your_taxes__Get_started_for_2012.html?c=y&page=2

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Thankfully, the ‘taboo’ and stigmas surrounding online dating courtesy of sites like Match.com or eharmony.com are things of the past. I don’t know what the stats are, but at least half the happy couples I know met online versus the traditional route of through a friend or at an event.

When do you know you’re ready to take the plunge? I don’t think you HAVE to be willing and ready to commit to something in order to try it. Atfer all, it’s not marry-me-tomorrow.com for a reason. Is it deceitful to not know what you really want? Some might say so, but then again, where has knowing exactly what you wanted gotten me thus far?

1. You Keep Making the Same Mistakes Over and Over
No matter what the mistakes are, the only way to break old patterns is by doing, by taking some type of action. And getting to know people you’ve just met in a no-pressure environment of a first date can be really good for bad-pattern-breaking.

2. Everybody’s Doing It!
I’m not talking about peer pressure here. Maybe it’s not a bad idea to sign up for an account to support a friend who’s taking the plunge and needs some solidarity.  Even if you’re still weirded out by what might be a new concept for you, think of how much easier it will be when you’re not choosing photos and writing out profiles solo.

3. You’re Becoming Cynical
What’s the LAST thing a newly single or longtime single person likes to hear? “There are plenty of fish in the sea.” HATE IT!  I mean, really, no one likes to hear trite sayings. But, well, if you are starting to frighten yourself with the bitter comebacks you hear echoing in your mind or with how despondent and teary-eyed you’re getting listening to sappy love songs, maybe it really IS time to see what’s out there. And if you find out that there really aren’t plenty of good fish to go around after all? Well, at least you can back up that cynicism or despair with facts!

4. You (Sort of) Know What You Want
OK, this kind of contradicts what I said earlier…but I wouldn’t jump into the online thing unless you are certain about some things you absolutely won’t compromise on. Are you looking for something casual or serious? Even (especially?) if you’re somewhat unsure, tread carefully!

5. Money Isn’t an Issue (or an Excuse!)
Online dating can be as expensive as a monthly gym membership…i.e. really not that much considering what you might get in return. If $30 bucks is too much to you, you probably just aren’t ready to take that step. And if your coworker or mother offers to pay that monthly fee for you, well, now you REALLY have no excuse!

No, I’m not venturing into the online world…yet. At least, not that I know of. (Although one of my colleagues has threatened to set up an account for me. True story.)

Tips and input about Match, eharmony, etc., welcome!

It doesn’t matter if you’re single or not; happy or sullen. People will ask:

Why are you still single? Not engaged yet? Not married yet?” Etc.

The question is super annoying, but it won’t go away. And it seems like this time of year, holidays in full swing and reunions with loved ones and old friends aplenty, the question comes at you from left and right. And yeah, it can suck. But it happens, and I’m sure I’ve been guilty of asking it of friends myself, even though I know how exasperating it can be to be on the receiving end.

So, how to handle those awkward inquisitions that are sure to come your way?

Turn the question around
Ask the person about his or her significant other. Be nice–it can be tempting if you know the friend is kind of miserable in his/her relationship to lash out for their insensitivity, but be the bigger person and leave out any sardonic undertones. And if they’re happy, be happy for them. People love talking about themselves, so it can be quite easy to bury the question!

Be honest
“I just haven’t met someone yet” or “Things just haven’t worked out” or “I haven’t thought about it lately, I’m pretty busy with [school, work, other commitments]” are perfectly fine answers. Don’t make up a false significant other just to shut them up. 😀

…But be interesting
By the same token, the honest answer might be kind of trite. Melodrama that turns into a good narrative is always a better option (“I just ended it with the craziest person I’ve ever met. Funny story…”) Because there’s always a juicy twist, and even the politest friends will love to hear it! Just be sure you can actually quip about it, but hey, nothing like tears to make sure the other person NEVER asks you that question again…

And finally—

Just be flattered!
If your relationship status puzzles someone, it probably means they think you deserve the next logical step (relationship if you’re single, engagement if you’re dating, kids if you’re married…etc). So swallow your irritation, pick one of the methods above, and take the compliment!

How do YOU handle The Question?

“There’s someone I want you to meet.”

That’s what my friend K said to me yesterday. Really, is there a more loaded statement you can hear from a friend?

Aside from feeling pressure to like someone that your friend thinks highly of (you hope), when someone thinks they’ve found a match for you, they’re judging you to some extent. You get to find out exactly what kind of person they imagine you’d be attracted to.

K’s description: a really nice guy, and someone she didn’t find that attractive, but I might. (Laugh out loud, yes she did say those words!)

Lucky for K, we’re new friends, so I wouldn’t judge her too harshly on her judgment. And I know she’s honed in on a very specific type for herself (X-colored hair and X-colored eyes), so that last remark I will let slide.

Aside from the indirect judgment call a friend passes when they want to introduce you to someone, what if you don’t like the person at all? Awkward…

Do you trust your friends’ judgments on finding you a match? Or family, for that matter?
(First Person Singular’s response: sometimes and NO.)

Welcome to the real world. This isn’t “Some Kind of Wonderful”, and you can’t offer a smooching lesson in your friend’s garage (no matter how hot the scenario) to get you out of that Friend Zone you’ve dug for yourself. See this girl? Yeah, me. I’ve been there–countless times. But not since post-grad. I might be way off the mark, but I think once you reach adulthood and you don’t share a bus, five classes, or a dormitory with someone every single day, the Friend Zone is largely a relationship myth. Really, by now, what mature adult is THAT clueless about someone right in front of them? Either the attraction just isn’t there and you’re in denial…or maybe you’ve managed to create a Friend Zone without knowing it. Can you cross over to the other side? Don’t ask me! But you can be proactive…

How to Stay Clear of the Friend Zone:

Don’t Facebook him/her.
If you’re REALLY interested, don’t click the ‘Add’ button too soon. The 24/7 contact that is social media is about as close as we can get to the shared bus ride. If it can’t be helped, minimal wall-decorating and status-commenting is best to keep the mystery from becoming the predictable. You always want what you can’t have, right? Those stuck in the Friend Zone always harbor that hope: “maybe if I remind him/her that I exist…” Nope. Keep your distance!

Don’t divulge or accept too many details on your/their love life.
This can be tricky. I admit I sometimes drop a casual reference to see if the guy cares or, er, to get even for an especially annoying reference from their end. However, if I frequently get into a nitty-gritty play-by-play and you’re on a first-name basis with guys you don’t even know…you’ve dug yourself real deep. Gloss over the topic and move on. This isn’t an easy “in” to someone’s heart, it’s an out. Because guess who they’re thinking about when they talk in details about their love life? Not you!

Don’t expect him/her to “wake up”
High school/college is one thing; we’re all figuring out who we are. By now, we know what we’re doing (at least somewhat). Odds are, your object of attraction just isn’t interested. If they really have a lot of growing up to do before you, their reason-for-being, would become obvious– why are you so interested, anyway?

Don’t woe-is-me the situation
Yeah, you’re SUCH a good friend that you’re the answer to all his/her problems? You know what’s best? But real healthy love is not that in-your-face. The funny thing about the Friend Zone is that you are way into the other person and totally self-absorbed at the same time. Do you frequently have “Why doesn’t he/she SEE it?!”-ish thoughts? It may seem innocent enough, but constantly reminding the other person how compatible you are and how much you have in common in not-so-subtle ways just prevents them from seeing the genuine, non-crazy, non-selfish you.

Be a REAL friend
You know, one that can be counted on but isn’t a 24-7, at-your-service standby. Unless you’re that saintly and save-the-day-ish to everyone, inner resentment (you know you harbor it!) will shine through when you don’t get your anticipated reaction.  If you have any hope of moving this thing forward, don’t pay any more attention than you would to an actual ‘friend.’

The Friend Zone is like the Catch-22 of relationships, in my opinion. The harder you try to get out of it, the deeper you find yourself in…

Am I wrong? Is the Friend Zone fact or fiction in the adult world? Have you ever navigated your way out of one?

My kitchen and I have been having a staring contest since I moved in. So far, I think I’m losing.

I know plenty of people who are single and living alone who are perfectly capable of cooking somewhat delicious tasting, non-takeout or non-microwaveable meals—but I’ll let you know something: I’m not one of them.

And while I could probably continue to subsist on cold milk and cereal, or Subway and Pizza Hut, for dinner, I realized something over the past year.

would like to be married and have kids someday. And according to Ms. Irene in New Orleans, I’ll have a daughter and a son. The realization came with not just a little soul searching, and well, who am I deny the words of a New Orleans palm reader? All well and good. But then it hit me:

These kids are gonna have to eat.

And while having kids might be years away, it will be nice not to starve until then. So since cooking has always intimidated me, I’ve named November the month to start getting over my tendency to default toward Ramen-like meals.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Buy only the essential essentials…for now
Saucepans, mixing bowls, a baking sheet, and staples like butter, flour, sugar and salt. If you had all these things already, you are way ahead of where I was, um, a few weeks ago. With everything else, you can improvise when you get there. And if you get as easily stressed out by endless recipes as I do, baby steps are the only to preserve sanity.

Find one good cookbook and cling to it for dear life
For me, that’s Alice Water’s The Art of Simple Food. She does make it simple, and the hand-drawn illustrations make the read non-threatening.

Mise en Place (that’s Le Français for “everything in its place”)
This one’s a gem from Alice. She recommends reading a recipe ahead of time and laying out not only the ingredients but also the utensils and equipment needed. My own suggestion: read the recipe multiple times and highlight. It’s really annoying to buy all the ingredients you didn’t have on Sunday and be all excited on Monday evening to put it all together—only to read that one portion of your recipe calls for 4 hours of refrigeration. GREAT!

Beg, borrow, steal
There’s nothing wrong with borrowing or pinching ingredients from mom and dad. Nothing can deter a zealous culinary-unhopeful such as myself like a long list of the smaller, less obvious ingredients. Like, for example, a recipe I tried out yesterday that called for ground nutmeg. Ground nutmeg? I’m sure it’s important, but what exactly does it DO? When else will I need it? Right now I need simplicity, not answers. So I (unintentionally) displayed my ignorance to the parents, and they were more than happy to let me take the called-for tablespoon in a plastic Ziploc bag. Crisis averted.

Get used to inconvenience
Like many awesome things, good-tasting and healthy meals  come at a price, mainly inconvenience. I can’t name many drool-worthy Indian meals my parents make (and yes, I WILL most definitely be learning that too!) that don’t require the oven and/or stovetop.

So for now I’ve decided that everything that needs heating or reheating needs to NOT go in the microwave anymore (little steps, remember?). I may not be ready to cook a pot roast yet, but the  shiny new cookware I bought recently mainly for the sake of the next generation (Lord help them) has got to come out of the box!

This week I’m trying to make apple pie and get used to using real, LIVE cookware. Updates to come, and don’t worry, more over-opinionated relationship analysis forthcoming as well!

Any tips from you experienced home cooks out there? Am I missing something?

Surprise. Sometimes I don’t love being single.

Was I starting to fool you? Hey, I’m not a robot.  It’s not always sunshine and anything-but-red roses for me. Just because I’m not ready for a commitment doesn’t mean I’m always giddy about it.

So, this is the first in a series of posts I’ll do when the dark mood strikes: your ‘Singles’ Survival Guide.’ (Even the optimists just need to get through sometimes.)

That being said- it’s fall and it SUCKS to be single. Am I the only who feels all the good things of the season are family- or couples-oriented? Getting one’s kids ready for school, walking through the park, carving pumpkins (I’m clumsy—I can’t carve a pumpkin by myself). Comfort foods? Um, at least for this single, you’re looking in the wrong kitchen.

Not to mention the suddenly rainy and blah weather. This year’s transition to cooler temperatures has especially caught me off guard. Whereas normally I get home in the evenings and have a ton of things I wanna do, the weather is making me lazy and totally unproductive. (‘Slogging’ is the correct term for it.)

So, how to survive a damp and dreary autumn amid nauseatingly happy couples and families around you?

Turn Down the Volume of Your Thoughts
No, really. I hardly ever turn on the TV, but even I see my DVD player as a valuable survival tool. Woe-is-me thoughts get louder during this time of year. We all have them—do whatever it takes to drown them out with noise!

Take Lots of Naps
If you’re too cheap to turn on the heat (I refuse to turn it on before December), sleep more. Your wild and crazy summer probably deprived you anyway. Hey, you can’t be unhappy if you’re unconscious.

Hang Out With Friends…on Non-Single Turf If Need Be
There is an inverse relationship between the weather and the NEED to hang out with friends. In warm weather, you do it because you want to—friends are fun! In cold weather, it becomes more of a necessity. If, like me, you only have friends who are in serious relationships, hang out with the ones who can excise themselves from their other half, or at least function in groups as two distinct beings.

Exercise More
Because endorphins make you feel good. And it will wear you out and make it easier to take those additional naps mentioned above.

So yeah. Not doing so great right now. And as long as we’re setting records straight here—I need to confess something: just because I don’t believe in relationships as a lifestyle default doesn’t mean I’m not seeing anyone. Um, yeah, you could say there’s someone in my life—someone I’m kinda-sort-of-not-quite-seeing. I’ll go into more detail in future posts; right now he’s pissed me off and I have nothing good or objective to say. Yeah, I know what that sounds like… but it’s a non-relationship relationship.  More later!

Questions for you singles: do the seasons affect your happiness with your relationship status? What else can I do to make it to winter?