Tag Archives: dating

Breaking the Silence

19 Jul

I realize that I have not written in the blog for a long time–weeks, in fact. Please excuse the fact that I haven’t been fulfilling the obligations to you, my readers, and to myself. I hope you that you will enjoy this entry, and I promise I will be writing a lot more often. Also, please realize that the events written in the following blog are now several weeks old, and the situations described have, like bread in the open air, gone stale.

People react to silence in many different ways, probably because there are so many different kinds of silence. I could argue that there are as many ways to react to silence as there are continents, or countries, or people populating the planet. But, there are three very noticeable ways that we humans deal with the midnight monster—invisible, but with a notable, crippling presence—that is silence. Some people try to fill up silence, penetrate its pure, virginal nothingness with streams of nonsensical chatter meant to make a point. Others try to wring it out like a towel, and absorb every moist bit of wisdom before it soaks into the ground. But the common denominator between those two opposing silent camps is that both want to tamper with silence’s innate beauty. Those in the third camp, mothers of newborns, people in new love, and those studying for the big upcoming test, cherish silence. They do not wish to see it altered, but cradle into it like a Tempurpedic mattress.

I went on three dates with two different men recently, and I have experienced these three different types of silences, and I saw myself chameleon into each one. The date with the first man, Liam, was filled with silences I tried to fill with more words. When trying to fill up an empty silence, you can’t expect Shakespeare to come through. The first things that come up are the commonalities—the “how-are-you’s?” the “How-was-your-days?” It takes heroic effort to move past them, but in a date filled with this much silence, commonalities could do little to salvage the pieces. We went to a nice restaurant, and then out for drinks, and we had spoken previously on the phone and on the Internet, so I thought this should have been going better. However, we just weren’t clicking that well.

What about the last two types of silence? Before we get to that story, I have to lead you in and hold your hand through the little story of how I got to these dates. I was attending an open mic reading to support my friend who I knew would be reading at the event, only I thought it was a closed poetry reading, not one that openly encouraged participation from any patrons of the bar. I was approached by the organizer of the open mic—a nerdily cute, charming, talented man in glasses—who told me the event was open, and that I should read something. I sat towards the back of the bar, far from the stage where the readers opined about things like sex, high-pitched voices, and meeting new partners, in silence. I had erected a cocoon of silence for myself as a place of safety and protection—and antisociality. However, it was the encouragement of the cute organizer that made me go up and speak, and I did. I read a series of letters about how much I had come to dislike the online dating world. And it was well-received. After I had broken my own silence, I spoke to the organizer of the readings, who encouraged me to come back, gave me his number, and asked me to call him sometime. His name was Bruno.

On our first date, we had dinner, drinks, and a walk through Riverside Park. We sat in one of the park’s waterfront benches, where we discussed our writing styles, our histories, and exchanged wit back and forth with heavy fire. Each time there was a silence, it was like we had to catch our breath from the laughing, or we just had to sit and appreciate the person sitting across from us. It was then that I became the second type of silent person. I was trying to glean so much from this silence. I was trying to read his verbal and bodily cues like roadmap of where he wanted us to go. Except the roadmap was scattered all over his body. It was in his green and yellow eyes, in the stubbles of his facial hair, and the warmth of his smile.

Breaking a Heavy Silence

On our second date, we marched through Heatpocalypse 2010, stopping along the way for brunch at a Russian diner and two overwhelming ice coffees. We were having a blast. After a while, we came in from the heat, and we had a beautifully honest conversation together. This time, our words, like bricks, were mortared together with silences that each of us wouldn’t dare speak over. We knew these silences, sitting there, were okay. We need not alter them, or wish for something more or less from them. Like we accepted each other, we accepted these silences for all their baggage and all their meaning, and we hoped that they would change us for the better.

So, why such a long break in between blogs? I consider myself a very reactionary writer. This writing blitz that I’ve been on in the past year—stretching all the way back to last summer—has been out of unhappiness. Part of my reacting to unhappiness is writing. Even the creation of this blog is evidence of that. And, with my new enjoyable dating situation, I found that I had less and less to write about. But, then again, that might just be a personal challenge for me in the future. What happens to the writer who suddenly becomes happy? Hopefully, this long writing silence of mine will find me doing three things:  trying to fill it up with writing, trying to glean something from it, and enjoying the happiness while it lasts.

It Takes a Village, Part 1

23 Jun

Why do we stop being raised after we grow older? If it takes a village to raise a child, then who raises the twentysomethings like me who wander through life—not exactly aimlessly—without a clear guide map through young adulthood’s piney forest? If it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes a family, a campus, and a city to raise a twentysomething. We, Lord of the Flies—style, have to fend for ourselves and raise each other. And we people of the concrete jungle know that our island can be just as rough as the one in Lord of the Flies, because rather than a group of gangly boys, we’re dealing with eight million people who would put our head on a pike to get ahead of us personally, professionally, and romantically.

I think a lot of us in our lives try to paint by the numbers. We see how others have succeeded, and try to follow along within the lines other people have outlined. Putting personal flare into our lives is a topic that I have previously advocated in my blog, but it was advice that I didn’t take myself until a friend of mine swooped in and caused me to color outside the lines.

Patrick is a friend of mine through a long line of connections. He goes to Fordham at Rose Hill, and I met him because he dated one of my best friend’s roommates. With such a tenuous link between us, it seems weird that he was still in my life at all, but we have kept in contact through this time. Last Friday, he called me up because he was in the city, and he took me to lunch at Empanada Mama where I mislead him as to the size of the empanadas. I could’ve sworn they were bigger. But what they lacked in girth, they made up for in flavor.

The date went really well. It wasn’t a romantic date, and neither of us have any interest in each other (unless Patrick is one to conceal his passions, and from his out-there, expressive demeanor, I doubt it) but it was the best date I had so far. Patrick had a lot of great advice, and it was really great to work through some of my problems with someone one-on-one. Whereas most dates cause anxiety, this one worked as a kind of relieving therapy session, only a booth replaced the couch, and the office was Hell’s Kitchen.

I had become discouraged because, while I have seen and felt my body respond well to the diet and exercise, I felt as if I was failing in my mission. Patrick, though petite and healthy, is on a personal journey to lose weight, even if I believe he doesn’t need it. It’s always part of the plight of the fat person to believe that every skinnier person should be happy with his or her body. However, we may have a bigger blind side to the problems of pretty, skinny people than skinny people do to those of us who are an extra pizza slice away from visiting the tailor to have our pants let out. He advised me to not always worry about the numbers, and that if I felt myself shrinking, it was best to follow what my mind was thinking, and if I liked the way I looked in the mirror, then I shouldn’t ache to bring a scale into my circle of friends. Whereas friends can give subjective, personal advice, scales cannot.

It Takes a Village to Raise a Child, It Takes a Bulldozer to Raze the Concrete Jungle

As I related in my previous blog, I recently began speaking with my ex-boyfriend. Though he hurt me in the past, much like Patrick felt obligated to help me where he had experience, I feel an obligation to him to help him through experiences I share with him. He has been having problems with his boyfriend, and when he called me to talk to me about it, I heard a lot of the same things I said last summer after we broke up coming out of his mouth. Even though I knew how to deal with them, I remember how hard it was for me to take advice last summer, even from friends of mine who knew how I felt. When someone is going through a break-up, it’s especially hard, because the person is expected to transition to the single life while simultaneously going through a period of trauma. Transition is hard enough without having to do it in a distraught personal state. If being broken up taught me anything, it’s that you need other people to get through it, because going cold turkey doesn’t work when it comes to break-ups. Breaking up is a team sport, and your friends are the star players. However, my ex-boyfriend finds himself right out of college, most of his friends have moved back home, and he now has no boyfriend, which is why I have come in to help him through this period.

I got the job as the intern for the About.com GayLife blog. During the interview, my boss talked a lot about how he believes that journalism is an important platform for social change. The blogosphere is a place where people can feel community without being within physical proximity of each other. If you can relay important news to a lot of people, and force people to think about important issues, then you can change the way their brains think and their hearts beat. It’s very powerful. With this blog, my writing is a force for personal change. However, there is still a community. Knowing that I have readers who are coming along with me on this journey is important to me, because you are an unseen motivation, the unsung heroes behind the biking, the dieting, the reading, and the writing. It still takes a village, but at this age, it’s a village of equals who stand to learn from each other. We are often blind alone, only able to see peripherally, or not able to see past the end of our nose. But together, we navigate the concrete jungle in search of love, financial success, and friendship, and along the way, a little bit of not-by-the-numbers fun.

Pressure Cooker

17 Jun

College students often feel driven by pressure. And I’m not talking about the “Will I smoke the marijuana?” type pressure. I’m talking about sweat-down-the-back, eyelids-falling-down, instant-rice-cooking-in-the-microwave pressure. So many sayings about pressure exist in college life. The pressure can be “on,” we can “feel” the pressure, and some of us feel like we’re constantly “under” it. It’s hard to believe that pressure has such an overwhelming effect on us, especially when it has no corporeal form. Therefore, in order to affect us, pressure has to manifest itself in concrete obstacles. These obstacles are imbued with frustration, deadlines, anxieties, and challenges.

There is no pressure in dating. The word “dating” seems stressful, sure, but that’s not because it is inherently so. It’s because we think about coming up with topics of conversation, sustaining witty repartee, and deflecting any moments of blasé into oblivion. But, this week, I was faced with a different kind of pressure from dating. Even though a blog is a very public thing, I consider it very private, and I don’t let everyone know about it. I know that I post updates on Facebook and Twitter, and that is super public, but at the same time, I don’t openly tell people about it all the time, especially people I want to potentially date. I don’t want people to think they’re just another notch in my twenty-date belt, and I also don’t want someone knowing all my inner thoughts and insecurities right away. Two of the most useful aims of the dating process are discovering someone’s inner thoughts, and breaking down the wall of confidence and secrecy people put up in the beginning. Reading someone’s blog is the instant-satisfaction, drive-thru version of waiting for a home cooked meal.

I had a date on Monday. We met outside a Barnes and Noble, and proceeded to get coffee upstairs and chat. He’s a great person. He’s hilarious, coolly laid-back enough, and understands things that are important to me. He knew about my blog. He had referenced it once in conversation. And, at the end of the date, he said, “I hope I get a good write up.” I even consider this entry a bit of a swan dive for the relationship (hopefully not the friendship,) but as my father described, so is the life of the writer. If I lie, and write down something that pleases everyone, then the writing loses its truth, and if the writing loses its truth, then I’m doing a disservice to myself and my writing. Out of nowhere, I felt this kind of pressure on me. Do I stay true to myself and my blog, or try to nurture this egg of a friendship along? I don’t want to say I didn’t choose the relationship, but I chose myself, and that’s saying a lot. In the past, I haven’t always been my number one priority.

We walked around downtown, all the way up to midtown. We had great conversation, but I could feel a feeling of disconnect coming from both sides. Maybe it’s because he felt pressured to perform well, so he could earn a good “review,” and maybe I felt pressured to show that I was in it for more than the story. Either way, the blog was haunting me with every step. My blog is all about writing and feeling true to myself, but with it weighing over my head, I felt like it was pressuring me to act differently. But, if I take what I just said into account, it couldn’t have been.  An internet blog is not manifest, it’s just ones and zeros. That’s how I knew I was cherry-picking chimeras out of the air. Any pressure I put, undue as it is, comes from me and me alone.

Keeping the Pressure Down is Every Housewife's Best Friend

I cooked a meal today for my family. It was elaborate, and having to make everything come together perfectly was like orchestrating a symphony. Every flavor had to add to the meal just right, and slight changes in the recipes, and injecting a bit of my own personality into the given recipes was a big part of the success. I never feel any pressure when I cook, because it relaxes me. I know that if I follow the guide, and give a little personal flare, I should have a beautiful finished product. Any mistakes, any deviations from the plan, should not be given more weight than they deserve. It’s called “trial-and-error.” The potatoes, sitting on the counter, the pork chops in the fridge, they don’t have any inherent stress. Any stress people have about cooking doesn’t come up from the proteins in the meat, but are cherry picked from the air, where they nest and take root in our brain. Maybe dating is like that. We all know the road map to dating, even if we sometimes feel like we’re cooking without a recipe, or feeling our way around a city without a map. But, injecting our personal flare into things can take a lot of edge off of things. I didn’t just try to mimic the recipe, and hope for the best, I changed it to suit my tastes, needs, and wants. Dating is one of the most impersonal things around, because we change ourselves so much in the process. With cooking, I learned that the pressure is off as long as you stay true to what you want, and guide the ingredients along the path to success. Now, just let it simmer, and enjoy.

Suddenly, Last Summer

14 Jun

I went on a job interview this past Thursday. For the last question of the interview, the employer asked me, “What do you want from this job?” I answered that I wanted us both to come out differently at the end of the experience. It is my belief that no job is worth the experience if you don’t come out differently when you leave, especially the kind of job I was applying for—a one-on-one internship where I work exclusively with the director of About.com’s Gay Life Blog.  A job should not be meant only to utilize one’s skills, but to augment them, as well.

My philosophy on taking a job is also very similar to my experience with dating, or any friendship. Both relationships and friendships are based on compatibility. Like a screening process or an interview, any human relationship is built on met needs. Do you both have similar sense of humor? Do you both like the same things? Do you both want the same things for the future? A restaurant dinner table and an interview table bear many similarities—not the least of which is the stream of questions that fly over them when two people meet across them for the first time.

My answer to my own interview question got me thinking over the next day whether I came out changed from my last—my first and only—relationship. When the relationship failed, I was the first one to heap blame on the other party, which is one of the things I try not to do most in my life. I believe that in most arguments, or disagreements, or separations that there is blame to be parceled out. In the vain of Carrie Bradshaw, “Blame for everyone!” So, it was unusual, even if I was badly hurt when we broke up, for me to parcel him all the blame.

Breathe, Just Breathe

These questions couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. While Thursday saw me at a Date with Destiny, Friday saw me on a Date with the Past. As fate would have it, my ex-boyfriend and I spoke with each other Thursday night, and we agreed to hang out that Friday morning so I could bring him to the video game shop that I discovered by Union Square. This would be the first time that we would hang out alone and have to get along amicably. Not that that would be a problem for me. I had most definitely moved on, and I was no longer angry with him. I think the part I have to take blame for is that I wanted more from him than he was ready to give. The only way I knew how to get what I wanted from him was through incessant nagging and bickering. In a way, I wasn’t a very fun person to date, because I didn’t want to date him as he was—I wanted to mold him into someone that I wanted to date.

Between my constant questioning of myself, my questions about my last relationship, and my thrusting into the dating scene, last summer was creeping up on me steadily.  And, I didn’t like where I was when last summer ended. I was experiencing growing pains. After being thrust out of a relationship, rediscovering writing, and being dumped by two rebounds guys, I wasn’t in a best place. I was doing a lot of growing really fast because of my circumstances, and I didn’t get all the time to reflect on it. That’s why this summer, I’m documenting my growth through these tiny reflections. ST. Ignatius of Loyola reminds us that an experience is only half an experience without reflection. I want this summer to be the fullest experience possible, which is why this blog exists. Because this is my reflection, and it’s the other half of what I need to keep my experiences full and fresh—steady reflection.

A Remote Sense of Control

9 Jun

What is wrong with getting chills when you feel a sense of control? If you like too much control, people label you a control “freak,” a word so awful, control freaks are almost made to wear a scarlet “F” embroidered on their tee shirts. I don’t identify as a full control freak. If I had to rework the vocabulary, I’d say that I only have an occasional relationship with control—I’m a recreational user. In fact, this week, I learned a lot about the way I deal with control.

Video games have always been something that were very enjoyable for me. When I was young, I was the only one of my friends who had a video game system, so I came to view video games as a ritual left mainly for a one-person immersion experience. It wasn’t really until college that I began playing video games with three friends crowded around a television having to fight over who would play as Yoshi or Peach in Mario Kart or Mario Party. In my older age, I think I like gaming as a one-person experience, because it’s completely about the person’s control. We’re asked to immerse ourselves in worlds completely different than our own, and we’re told that only we hold the power to manipulate the world, and hopefully triumph over adversity in the end. Such is the appeal of video games for a recreational control user like myself. This past week, I started playing more and more because I’ve found myself with more summer time.

Here's to hoping there's no "Game Over" in the dating world.

When it comes to reading, control is something that is completely relinquished upon opening the book jacket. Unless you’re reading a Goosebumps “Create Your Own Tale,” the only control one has over a book is how much information we absorb at once, because we can only choose whether or not to read the next page.

This past week, I went on my first date of the summer. Even when it comes to dating, I like a sense of control. That’s another reason dating is hard for me, or for anyone. Though there are few ways you can control a date or dating in general, the only way I try to control it is through scheduling. Good dinner discussion and physical attraction are great, but just as stimulating to me are the times when you have to take out your Blackberry and figure out the exact moment where your two bodies can be in each other’s presence for the first, second, or seventy-eighth time. At this moment, at the meeting of thumbs and whizzing trackballs, is the inception of expectations and anticipation. It’s beautiful.

We had scheduled our date for a Friday afternoon, the only time the both of us could get together. I was sitting in a diner on Monday night with two friends, my boss and a colleague, when I got a text message from him. His name was Bill, and he was a theatre enthusiast/ desperately-wannabe actor. We met on my favorite/least favorite free dating website, and he said that he wanted to go get some coffee, but that he didn’t want to take the walk alone. Because that was the sheerest of see-through invitations, I replied with an opaque yes. The only problem was, it was past one o’clock in the morning. Well, control me was mourning the death of a part of myself, while part of me was digging the impulsive night-stalker that had replaced him.

I'll try to pencil you in.

It’s not that I want to control other people on a date, but can’t other people attempt to control themselves? Yes, I want to get to know you, but I don’t want to get bulldozed by your words and ideas. While he talked, I would look at his rapidly moving lips. Cheetas and bunnies having intercourse would be jealous of the speed with which he could relay close to nothing. We got coffee in the Columbus Circle Starbucks, then sat in the circle and talked, while listening to the fountains turn on and off. It quickly became a dud, and after he thwarted a few of my escape attempts, I was finally able to get home and recuperate with one of the funniest phone conversations I have ever had in my life with Miss Emily Mongeau.

This week, I also finished my fourth book. In a way, the book was also about what happens when you try to take control after being denied control for so long. I read I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced, which was about Nujood Ali, the first child bride to be granted a divorce in Yemen. Because of her status as a woman and a child, Nujood had no rights, even after she was married off at the tender age of nine to a man three times her age. I devoured the book in two days. Though people who like control too much are often derided and given a bad name, there are few phrases more triumphant than that of “taking control.” In its own quotidian way, it’s quietly heroic. Where I saw heroism in Nujood’s ability to take control of her own situation and get herself out of a destructive marriage, I also saw hope in the power of taking control of one’s own life, even if I have to learn to sew so I can finally put the “F” for control freak on all my favorite sweaters.

Current count: 4 books down, 16 to go
1 date down, 19 to go
4 pounds down, 16 to go.

P.S. After reading Nujood, I decided to begin the largest leg of reading in my challenge—to read all six Jane Austen novels at one time. I began Wednesday with Northanger Abbey, and hope to have them completed in a month.

Nothing to Fear, But

4 Jun

As I sat in the dark, air-conditioned movie theatre for the 11:20 matinee showing of Sex and the City 2 (SATC2), I began to think about the things that were causing me anxiety. In reality, I had been writing a blog about that very topic the night previous, and my inability to finish the piece was near the top of the anxiety-inducing list. The dissolution of my weekend plans was somewhere on the list, as well. I guess that’s what started the chain of events in my mind. Sitting there watching Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte act so differently than the four girls I knew and loved in the television series, and even the first movie, was a disappointing feeling. In the film, Samantha gets upset when Charlotte refuses to go to Abu Dhabi with her after she attends all her children’s birthday parties. Imagine the disappointment of someone like me who had been asked to go through six years worth of tribulations with the girls, only to find ghosts of their actual personalities show up to the party that was supposed to be SATC2.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Later that day, while reading One Hundred Years of Solitude, the reason for my many anxieties appeared to me in the pages of the book. The characters (the Buendìa family) and the main town in the book, Macondo, all live a cyclical life, with generations repeating past generations’ mistakes, and it was at the end of one of the later chapters where fear is identified as one of the main causes of the Buendia’s problems. So, too, was my problem one of fear. The things that caused me anxiety—dating, my blog, cooking rice and beans again—were able to invade my psyche because at some base level, I was afraid of them all.

Much like the characters in One Hundred Years of Solitude, I was starting to become afraid of the cyclical nature of things. It wasn’t that I wasn’t learning the lessons that life had to offer me, but rather that the repetition of failure had caused me to have a deep-seated fear of dating. But, unlike my friends in SATC 2, I couldn’t vacation from my problems. I think the cyclical nature of something like dating can be fear-inducing because with while busy dancing delicately through the dating world, we fear any misstep that could land you with one hundred months of solitude. How does one break a cycle? Do we do it by facing our dating fears and just going out there and dating? Or, do we try to work on ourselves separate from the dating world? There is no clear-cut answer, but whether you want to work from the sidelines or on the frontlines, facing your social or inner fears, it is necessary that we always do something, and not just sit around.  Like I said from the beginning, action is character, and I’m beginning to learn that acting on one’s fears may be the only way around them.

When it came to breaking the cycle for my beans, the first step came with research. Last time I had made them, they were kind of gross, and had horrible texture. After researching my mistakes, I realized that I had let my beans boil when they were supposed to simmer. After cooking them for about an hour, I went to the pot and tasted a perfectly cooked pinto, one that mashed as I pressed it with my tongue onto the roof of my mouth. When they were cooking, I added thyme, rosemary, and salt, and the result was fantastic. Those additions were my own idea. The only thing I really needed the whole time for my beans was to adjust the way I confronted them. I didn’t need the fanfare of boiling, just the nurturing of a simmer. Though there are some main ingredients to love and pinto beans, the rest is really up to taste. It’s because of personal tastes and identifying my fear and my mistakes that I was able to stop worrying and cook the beans. Now, as for dating, my fear is still there, but confronting it head on now sounds better than spending a century in solitude.