Tag Archives: feminism

The Dating Game

Remember when I was perusing Craigslist solely to gather information for you, fair readers? Well, today we’re moving on to part 2, dating advice. I may or may not be dating — if you want to find out for sure, you’re going to have to buy me dinner and drinks. A lot of drinks. But I digress.

I was with my friend Mike visiting our favorite bartender in Boston, and we noticed a young couple in the middle of what had to be a first date. It was pretty plain to see the body language. He was chatting and working pretty hard at being charming and funny — leaning in, if you will. Both Mike and I decided we’d be happy to have been on the receiving end of his efforts. But the young woman was less than enchanted. She was bordering on being rude, looking away, looking at her phone. Our favorite bartender confirmed our suspicions and filled us in because she’d been eavesdropping. Hence one of the many reasons she’s our favorite bartender. She was in favor of the young man, who was holding up his part of the date, but the young woman seemed to be too caught up in her own insecurities — there was a fair amount of tugging at her skirt, looking at her phone, and fiddling with her hair. She was clearly not present. And even if she was, hey, if you’re not into it, then you need to find a graceful way to end it. That’s what grownups do. Or maybe we all need to be aware of whether our date is into it, and if not, have the courage to end it gracefully ourselves.

The three of us heaved a collective sigh of relief that it wasn’t us, and we agreed that this is what’s so hard about dating when you’re young. At that age, most of us often only want someone for the sake of wanting them, and we really haven’t figured out what we want from ourselves, never mind a partner. And yet there’s this great pressure to be out there and dating and finding The One! So you go on dates, dragging along your wheeled baggage that definitely does not fit into the overhead compartment. (I’d like to give shout out to my friend Lora who introduced me to this apt metaphor. She also told me plenty of stories of being on dates with folks in their 30s and 40s who should know better and still have a death grip on their luggage. So sadly, this does not just apply to the young ones.)

Sometimes I regret that I didn’t date more at that age, and wonder if it would have made a difference in my choices. But was I even ready for it? Would it have been just a series of dates like the one I witnessed, only it would have been me worrying about my body, clothes, hair, stupid shit? To be fair, back then we didn’t have phones to check, but would my eyes have been darting around like a trapped animal? Or staring into the middle distance like fictional characters do when their lives are hitting bottom? Would I have been able to learn from it? I’ve recently become addicted to enamored of a website called A New Mode, which among other things dispenses a lot of decent, sensible relationship advice aimed at straight women, but I think all humans can find something useful in it. There is also a lot of insight into how straight men think. I could write a whole blog on this topic alone, and maybe I will — it’s totally fascinating.

But for this blog, I like how A New Mode focuses on loving yourself first, having a full happy life without a partner, the fun of dating, and not taking anything too seriously at the beginning. And it’s good enough that I can overlook the fair amount of hard sell of various $49 videos that will reveal for the FIRST TIME! The THREE SIMPLE WORDS that will make the man you want crave you and devote himself to you forever! As a writer, I find the word “crave” an interesting choice. Obsession is too scary and in all states, illegal, but the word “crave” is marketing genius. It’s being wanted without the scary part, although it’s still too scary for me. As an older, wiser woman, I can happily skip the craving and devotion, and have many better uses for my 49 bucks, thanks.

But the other advice makes a lot of sense to me because it validates what I learned through hard-won life experience. I’ve spent my post-divorce time getting to that place of filling my life with things that bring me joy, being happy with myself, changing a few things I’m not happy with, and letting go what doesn’t really matter. But I wonder, would I have been able to truly understand this advice the last time I was thrashing about in this arena as a 20-something? I was definitely carrying over-regulation-size luggage, and I was an 80s angry feminist who had just extricated herself from a messy, abusive, dysfunctional relationship. OK, I waited two years after the relationship, but still. I think in that time I managed to unpack the equivalent of a cosmetic bag, and angry feminists don’t wear makeup. Would I have really been able to love myself and not just plaster on a fake sticker, “Yes, I love myself, now date me!”? I really had no idea who I was, and I don’t think I had any business dating, not even for purely recreational purposes.

But to be kind to myself, I Googled “Dating Advice from the ‘80’s,” just to see what advice was available to me at that time. And while I may not have been ready to follow today’s advice back then, I think I can safely say there was no way to be successful using the advice of that time. Phew, that’s a load off. Check this out advice from a book called How to Be Popular with Boys by Stacy Rubis (1984):

  1. “Boys get an ego boost from your awkwardness. It makes them feel more in control, more manly. And at the same time they get more protective toward shy, trembling you.” Hmmm. If that were the case, I should have been beating them off with a stick. Awkward was my middle name! Don’t get me stated on the trembling, what am I? Some Hollywood starlet from the ’30s?
  2. “Don’t take any chances when getting ready in the morning. Always put effort into looking good. Effort, plain effort, is often the only real difference between average and stunning girls.” Hey, I always made sure my “rat tail” (a little chunk of hair in the back that is about 4 inches longer than your short hair) was dyed blue and braided. Believe me it looked good. Really good.
  3. “Another good way to turn a crush into the real thing is to determine your man’s schedule of classes for the day…Figure it out and arrange when to bump into him…a lot.” Um, I think this is called stalking now, and is illegal in all 50 states…
  4. “Try eating at one of the ethnic food stands in the mall, preferably a taco place where it’s hard to discern the ingredients of a meal. Then say to a boy whose plate is piled high, ‘What is that you’re eating?’” Yeah, because meat, various vegetables, and cheese are so ethnic, that they are hard to identify. That aside, practicing inflection seems key to this advice: What is that you’re eating? What is that you’re eating? What is that you’re eating? I don’t think I quite have the sexy innuendo down right…

So, there you have it. Dating is never easy in any time or stage of life, but it sure makes for good blog fodder, and that, my friends, brings me great joy.


Girlie Adventures: The One That Got Way

Occasionally I write about my forays into the world of girlie girlness. It took me a while to get here, having been a pants-preferring feminist for a long time. I used to equate girlie girlness with weakness, which is really the opposite of feminism, but I was  young, passionate, and convinced I was right. How adorably clueless is that? Lately I’ve come to the conclusion that I can be a strong woman in a cute dress; leaving any of my talents on the table is not what living my fullest life is all about. So when my brains and brawn need a little help, I’m learning to not be afraid of bringing in the girlie girl.

Which is what I was practicing on a recent walk around Jamaica Pond in Boston. I was feeling full of vim and vigor and decided to power walk around the pond. I went right from work, and in my cute, black dress, tall black boots, and well-chosen accessories, I was a vision of girlie power. I walked fast and sure, not unlike Carrie Bradshaw in the opening credits of Sex and the City. She’s walking in NYC, in her weird, yet fetching girlie outfit, flirtatiously raising her eyebrows and smirking confidently. That was me, smirking at strangers and swinging my arms. I was killing it. Up ahead I saw I guy casting his fishing rod, so I slowed a bit. When the rod pointed in the direction of the water, I sped up and surged confidently past him. When I was directly behind him, I felt a gentle thwack on the front of my thigh. With my kickass boots thumping, all my brain had time to formulate was that the fisherman had thwacked me accidentally with the tip of his fishing pole. That had to be true because I was walking confidently in a cute dress like Carrie Bradshaw.

On I walked, once, twice around the pond, going strong. Because I was busy looking outward and facing the world with my amazing girlie girl self-possession, I dismissed the shiny thing near the bottom of my dress as being the zipper of my open coat. You know, as one does.

I would have been better off remembering Carrie’s bus splash.

As I started to slow down, I got a good look at the “zipper.” Lo, I had been walking around the pond with a shiny, flashing fishing lure hooked to my dress. My brain was flooded with endorphins from all that walking, so I laughed at myself and sat down to pull it out. I had a vague notion that these lures could be expensive, plus, how cute and flirty would it be to hand it back to him with a little toss of my head and witty remark about being the one who got away?

And then I noticed the sucker had three hooks, and they were all embedded in my dress. What the hell did this guy think he was going to catch in this little pond? Jaws? I worked at it for a bit, but the damn thing was like a fishing hook Rubik’s cube. I’d get one hook free, but as I triumphantly released the second one, the first one would dig back into the dress. The third one was just permanently attached and laughing at me.

The sun was starting to set and I was hungry and needed to get home. Sadly, there wasn’t going to be any flirty exchange or little toss of the head. Of course, I was also clear across the pond from my car. But I scraped together my brains, brawn, and girlie girlness and power walked back, acting for all the world like I’d invented a new dress accessory: the triple hooked shiner.

Back at my house, I started the Rubik’s cube game in earnest. But since I was only ever able to solve one side of that thing,  I wasn’t really getting anyhere. Brawn wanted to rip the hooks out and sew up the holes, but the tears would be right on the front of my favorite dress and girlie girl was having none of that. Brain finally realized that the fabric was stretchy, so, at least in theory, I might be able to use braun to strategically stretch the fabric over the nasty hooks with out ripping anything. It took most of the evening, considerable patience, and the phone support of a friend who actually had solved Rubik’s cube, but I did it. And that is the true power of not letting any of your talents get away.