Datin’ Without Hatin’ — Return of SM’s Dating Advice Column! Inspired by the Godawful Relationship Writing on “The Flash”!

Well, hi there! I know, it’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog, let alone this column. But I am not gone! I am still here!

 

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And I’m still capable of advising you on how best to live your life, because I’m definitely not an internet hermit to whom it makes no difference that I’m snowed in on a Sunday because it wasn’t like I was planning to go outside anyway. Nope, that’s definitely not me right now.

Anyhow, I was inspired to write a post lambasting some of the horrendous relationship choices made by the writers on The Flash this season, specifically one particular section of dialogue from the most recent episode.

If you’ve never seen The Flash, don’t worry, I shall explain:

Barry Allen is the Flash. He can run super duper fast. He thus became a superhero and fights all sorts of supernatural threats that regular cops can’t deal with.

This season, he met a lady cop named Patty. Patty is awesome and they start dating, but Barry never tells her anything whatsoever about being the Flash or about the supernatural threats that are endangering her, even though Patty is on the special police task force specifically established to deal with supernatural threats. 

He constantly flakes on her, backs out of plans without explanation, lies to her about everything from his whereabouts to his emotional needs, etc, all because he refuses to tell her anything she needs to know, even though this is constantly putting her in danger because she lacks the critical information necessary to protect herself.

Girls, boys, and others — this is SUPER unhealthy. But my even bigger issue came this past episode, when Patty finally confronts him about his behavior. How does she do it?

“Look, I have been a really cool girlfriend, okay? Most girls wouldn’t have the self-esteem to deal with [begins to list numerous ways in which Barry is a lousy boyfriend].”

This line…this line…I don’t even have the words to explain how much I despise this line.

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You want to know why many girls put up with lousy boyfriends? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not because of self-esteem.

Usually, it is literally the opposite.

We put up with lousy partners, negligent partners, abusive partners — and why? Because we don’t think we deserve better. We think that our emotional needs aren’t worthy of attention. Because we think that making our needs and desires known will make us “uncool” or “clingy” or “demanding” or “shrewish” or, god forbid, “nagging.” This goes for all genders, fyi, but I do think that there are extra complications for women because there is SO MUCH societal pressure on women and girls to be nice and polite and sweet and accommodating and “cool” in a low maintenance way.

Note that “shrewish” and “nag” are used almost exclusively to describe undesirable behavior in women. Note that Patty equated her silence with being “a cool girlfriend.” Note that on other occasions, she prefaces perfectly reasonable requests with, “You know I don’t want to nag, that’s not who I am.” The fear of being considered a nag can be so intense that we frequently shut up about what we want or need in an effort to just be “cool.”

I speak from experience, as someone who dated a lousy boyfriend, years ago, and put up with all the flakiness, the cancelled plans, the broken promises, the constant “compromises” that weren’t compromises because they just amounted to me giving in to what he wanted.

I thought those things made me a good girlfriend. I thought that I was being nice, that I was being strong and not giving in to insecurity, that I was being generous and understanding. Because I did understand that, say, he was tired and didn’t want to hang out, or that he canceled on my birthday because he was feeling really anxious about a lot of things so we skyped instead, or that it made more sense for me to travel an hour and a half to see him on certain days because he had class until noon and if he had to travel to me after class ended, we’d have less time to hang out.

All of these things individually were understandable, but they piled up, skewing the reciprocity, so that I was giving, giving, giving, and he was taking, taking, taking. And when I did try to say that it felt unfair or that I needed something from him in return, he would call me “clingy” or “demanding,” and I would be appalled at myself and shut down my needs, and concentrate on just giving more and being better.

It was not because of self-esteem.

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I haven’t forgotten that this is a dating advice column. So here’s my advice:

To girls, because we’re socialized to be pushovers (but this can of course be applicable to other genders as well): Speak up about what you need. Don’t be ashamed of it, don’t repress it, don’t be afraid that it makes you naggy and clingy and undesirable. If it’s something that you honestly think you would willingly do for your partner, it’s not too much to ask. And if your partner is repeatedly unwilling or unable to meet or respect your needs, walk away. You will be better off.

To boys, because it’s not your fault but you’re probably not aware of just how much girls are socialized to accommodate others: If you feel like you screwed up, but the girl says, “it’s okay” or “don’t worry about it” — don’t always take it at face value. Sometimes it is okay, for sure, don’t get me wrong. Like when I walk into a guy’s place and he’s all, “sorry about the mess” and I’m all, “pffft, whatever, don’t worry about it,” I genuinely mean that, because messes genuinely do not bother me. And if it’s a once-in-a-blue-moon canceled plan. But if it’s a fairly big no-no, like canceling on her birthday, or if it’s a pattern, be mindful of that. There is so much pressure on us girls to just be okay with everything that sometimes we stay silent when we should speak up. So just in case, try to make it up to her sometimes. Nothing flashy, just “I know you said x was okay, but I felt weird about it, so I did y, or I got you z, or I made q plans” — just something.

And please, for the love of god, do not call her “clingy” or “naggy” or “demanding” or any of that stuff. They are all ways of saying, “your needs are not important,” and if she believes you, and starts believing that, the psychological damage is enormous. Believe me.

If her needs or desires genuinely do overwhelm you and you can’t meet them, either because what she wants is truly outlandish or because you personally are not equipped to handle it, that relationship is probably not the best fit for either of you, and you should probably end it.

 

I know all of this is general and oversimplified and each individual relationship comes with its own calculations, but overall, I think these are important to keep in mind, along with the most vital piece of advice I can give you: Don’t listen to the Flash writers about dating. Just don’t.

 

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Like this post? I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you, wonderful reader, that my GoFundMe campaign is still open —http://www.gofundme.com/sm-automotive. The proceeds no longer go toward automotive school tuition, because I have paid off my loan in full, but you can still commission me to write anything you want. You can force me to watch ANYTHING and review it for you. Anything. Real-Housewives-of-Atlanta-kind-of-anything. Hit me with your best shot.

#ThrowbackThursday — “On Family (A Confession)”

Can hardly believe it’s been almost a year since I wrote this.

Originally posted as a Facebook note on April 23rd, 2014.

 

On Family (A Confession)

 

On the last day of Passover this year, I read a book called Wonder. It centers around a ten-year-old kid named August “Auggie” Pullman who has facial anomalies/deformities that are so extreme that almost no one (other than his dog) is able to meet him and not recoil in horror. And he’s starting fifth grade in a prep school for the first time after being homeschooled by his very loving parents all his life.

Sure, Auggie’s story is interesting and all, thought-provoking about superficiality and how-would-you-feel-if-this-was-you and WHY-ARE-KIDS-SO-MEAN and so on, but (and in hindsight this is kind of “duh”) I connected much more with the brief section of the book written from the point of view of his older sister, Via. She uncomplainingly takes a backseat to August, understanding full well that he and his medical, surgical, and social integration issues are more important than whatever run-of-the-mill problems she will ever deal with. And then came this passage:

On my last day in Montauk, Grans and I had watched the sunset on the beach. We had taken a blanket to sit on, but it had gotten chilly, so we wrapped it around us and cuddled and talked until there wasn’t even a sliver of sun left over the ocean. And then Grans told me she had a secret to tell me: she loved me more than anyone else in the world.

“Even August?” I had asked.

She smiled and stroked my hair, like she was thinking about what to say. “I love Auggie very, very much,” she said softly. I can still remember her Portuguese accent, the way she rolled her r’s. “But he has many angels looking out for him already, Via. And I want you to know that you have me looking out for you. Okay, menina querida? I want you to know that you are number one for me. You are my . . .” She looked out at the ocean and spread her hands out, like she was trying to smooth out the waves, “You are my everything. You understand me, Via? Tu es meu tudo.

I understood her. And I knew why she said it was a secret. Grandmothers aren’t supposed to have favorites. Everyone knows that. But after she died, I held on to that secret and let it cover me like a blanket.

Listen, I’ve read and reread John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, a tragic love story about kids dying of cancer, and it’s never made me cry. Choked up a little, maybe, but that’s all.

This passage just destroyed me. I had to literally put the book down because wiping my eyes with one hand wasn’t helping because the tears just kept coming. I had to bury my face in my arm and let them soak into the sleeve. I wanted to just keep crying until I had no tears left because how did I not know how badly I’ve always wished someone would say something like that to me?? — but I couldn’t, because I was sitting on the couch in the living room during a Passover lunch, and about 15 feet away was a table full of 14 people, a combination of family and guests, and emotional meltdowns are just not done in these situations. So I pulled it together.

Because that’s me, and that’s Via. We get that other things come first, and we’ve internalized it to the point where hearing someone say “No, you come first” is just incredible, in the sense of “not credible” — not true, not real, not possible.

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If you asked me: “What’s the best thing about being part of a big family?” I would not be able to tell you.

Or even if you asked me: “What’s one good thing about being part of a big family?” I would still draw a blank.

If you pressed me for something, anything, I’d probably eventually come up with, “No matter what you do, there’s probably always someone else around to distract your parents from being mad at you for too long.”

But that’s kind of the crux of it, isn’t it. That the best thing I can say about big families is that you constantly get lost in the shuffle? That’s not the best thing. It’s not even a good thing. But it’s the only thing I can think of off the top of my head that’s different about having a big family vs. having a small family or a close-knit group of friends.

One of my boyfriends, after meeting my parents, said to me quietly, “Your parents are amazing. But it seems like they’re always so busy; I feel like they probably could never quite give you the attention you needed.”

I defended them, but he was right, of course. My boyfriends are sharp like that.

It’s not that my parents play favorites. It’s not that anyone kid gets all the attention over the others, although I’ve heard various siblings whine about how “HE/SHE always gets this but I never do.” I’ve never felt like I’ve played second fiddle to any one particular sibling. It’s just that we all play second fiddle to the family as a whole. To the other 8 people in it. We all occasionally have our moments to shine, but nobody ever gets to be the lead, and you know that no matter what you do, good or bad, you will be forgotten by the next day or at most the next week. This is probably why I have never been obsessed with being remembered forever or of somehow achieving immortality through my actions or my writing — being part of a big family is the quickest way to learn that all glory is temporary. Which is probably a good life lesson to process early, but still, it, well, it sucks.

The truth is that in a family with seven kids (and two parents, and for six years a sick grandmother who lived with us), when it comes to attention, you have two options: Compete or Retreat.

You can demand attention in three ways: 1) by acting out, 2) by being spectacular, or 3) by getting sick. (I totally understand Munchausen’s, by the way, because the only time any of us are ever truly prioritized over the others is when we are sick. Like hospital and/or medical testing level sick, or mentally/emotionally therapy level sick.) I didn’t like doing (1) on purpose because it seemed babyish and also would get me yelled at. (3) happened all by itself and I never faked being sick just for attention, because I hated being seen as vulnerable. So that left (2) Being Spectacular, and I probably did that the most of those three choices: brought home pristine report cards; wrote a novel in high school; received glowing praise from almost all the teachers I’ve ever had, in every subject from English to History to Talmud to Gym.

And of course, if the only time anyone is ever looking at you is when you’re spectacular, that becomes very much tied to your self-worth, because you know that if you ever slip and stop being spectacular, no one will give a damn about you anymore. Or so the internal logic goes.

But for the most part, I didn’t want to compete for the attention. I wanted to imagine myself as better than that. I also didn’t want my parents looking at me too closely or asking me anything too personal, because what if they ever wanted to talk to me about God, or religion, or even *gasp* what boy I had a crush on? Worst nightmare, amirite?

In a big family, the kids who can find ways to amuse themselves, be self-motivated, and appear to outsiders to be mostly self-sufficient, are the ones who get the least attention. If you are having some kind of internal crisis and you don’t want anyone to know, the best place to hide is in a big family. So I sort of disappeared, popping up every now and then when I got sick, when I did amazingly well on a test or a paper, when I got stories published, when I got depressed, when I got scholarships, when I had a boyfriend, when I graduated from something, etc, and the rest of the time I stayed mostly out of the way. And I think the rest of my siblings did and do the same thing because fortunately none of us are “problem children” and we’re all fairly healthy and capable and self-sufficient in our various different ways.

Resources like time, energy, and money, are limited in large families, and they have to get distributed in a way that best serves the family, and my parents do the best they can. Every kid is always going to have something that is going to require a little more investment than it does for the other kids — my medical bills, for instance. Also my bras probably cost more than any of my sisters’ because that’s just how anatomy and pricing work together in glorious harmony. And because my acne was so bad in my early teens, my mother took me to Macy’s and had the saleslady teach me some basics about makeup. And when my dad found out that I liked Mr Goodbar chocolate bars, he bought me a giant one, apropos of nothing. And of course there’s the fact that even though they’re not very comfortable with where I am religiously, they never pick fights with me about it or try to fix me.

They’re great parents. They do so many things for each of us. They try so hard. But that doesn’t change the fact that on a daily basis or a weekly basis, it is simply not humanly possible to make enough time for each of seven children, and none of us wants to be the ungrateful one, or the demanding one, or the problem child, and so we all retreat. I retreat. I put the family first. I help out more than any of the other kids. I go to lots of family gatherings even when I’d seriously rather not. I calculate expenses and I tell my parents not to spend money on things for me that I don’t need. My idea of an expensive dress is one that costs more than $20.

But does part of me resent the fact that I constantly tell my parents not to spend extra money on me, that I saved them thousands of dollars by getting a full merit scholarship to college, and yet the beneficiaries of that are my younger siblings, who get that money toward their college tuition while I’m going to have to pay on my own for that automotive technician training program I’ve been eying? Yeah, I resent it. Of course I do. I understand it, I understand prioritization, I understand that they earned that money and are obviously entitled to spend it how they choose, I understand that Pratt charges an arm and a leg and probably your opposable thumb too, and I understand how whiny and bratty my resentment is, but yeah, it’s tough to swallow sometimes. But that’s family. And I know that if I ever really needed something, they’d redistribute resources this way for me. But 6 out of 7 times, I’m going to be the one who gives a little, and not the one who gets.

My novels and stories are populated with characters who often serve as a catharsis for all sorts of issues, and only after reading that passage in Wonder did I realize that this was one of them. I created characters who were only children, so that their parents would shower them with all the attention I never got. I created characters who came from families whose parents were even more overextended than mine, or parents who were outright abusive, so that whatever buried feelings of neglect I had about my family could be painted onto them. I even wrote both of those extremes into the same family once — a pair of twins whose mother favored and pampered one and cruelly neglected the other. But I never wrote a character like Via, with parents who try so hard and do the best they can but somehow it’s just never quite been enough. That would have been too close to the truth. I wanted Via to have her own story, her own book, not one centered around Auggie. But of course, she doesn’t.

People still ask me fairly frequently why I don’t particularly want to have children — “But don’t you want a family??” — and I answer them that I’ve just never wanted kids. Not in my wiring. And yes, maybe something is odd about me biologically or evolutionarily that’s responsible for the fact that I have never wanted to reproduce, but it also probably has to do with the fact that I’ve never seen family as this pure good, as this lofty ideal. It’s just a way of living, with its pros and cons like every other way of living, and to me the tradeoffs have just never really felt worth it.

And of course, not reproducing doesn’t mean I won’t have a family. I’ve got one. I can’t get rid of it.

 

 

 

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Agree? Disagree? Like my thinky thoughts? You can commission more of them via my GoFundMe campaign — http://www.gofundme.com/sm-automotive — or subscribe on the sidebar, and thanks for reading! You can also buy me tools from this Wishlist but really I just like money.

 

REVIEW — The Flash, Season 1, Episode 15, “Out of Time” [#SPOILERALERT]

 

 

I was commissioned way too many months ago by a generous [and patient!] donor to review an episode of The Flash of my choosing. (Commissioned post #8, booya!) First I thought I’d do the pilot, because it was a pretty darn good one and record-setting to boot. Then I thought I’d do the Flash/Arrow crossover, because it was pretty epic.
And then last night’s episode came along, and, well, I had to write about it. Not because I loved it, but because it is such a hugely important episode (a real “gamechanger” as the showrunners have been telling us), and ultimately, to me, a hugely frustrating episode. And I feel like most reviews are going to be going gaga over how awesome they thought it was, so I just have to come along and poop on everybody’s opinions before it’s too late.

[SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS I CANNOT BE HELD LEGALLY OR MORALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY DAMAGES INFLICTED ON YOUR SPOILER-PROTECTED SOUL IF YOU READ PAST THIS POINT]

 

So on the one hand, I am really really glad that they FINALLY told us who Harrison Wells is (or confirmed it, anyway, since my comic book geek friends have been telling me for weeks that in the comics, Reverse Flash’s last name is Thawne, and thus he’s probably a descendant of Eddie Thawne — aka Mr Romantic Obstacle who will be discussed later — and that’s why Reverse Flash didn’t kill Eddie when he had the chance). And the show told us his main motivation: to pull a Marty McFly and get back to the future. He’s been trapped in this time period for 15 years, and he believes the Flash’s speed holds the key to him getting back to his own time, and he’s so desperate to return that he’s been sociopathically murdering anyone who might hurt or kill Barry, because that would destroy his only chance to get home.

 

Great. Got that. It mostly makes sense. (Except the part where he was going back in time to kill Barry in the first place. That one’s still a mystery for a later date.)

 

What I did NOT get:

 

What are the parameters of Dr Wells’ powers? Wtf is that speed mirage thing? How fast can he go and what else can he do, and also WHAT THE HECK was Cisco looking at when he was reexamining the containment field? That was what almost killed the whole scene for me — he’s running some kind of test on the containment field and then the Reverse Flash appears within the forcefields, doing and saying exactly what he did and said that first time, and it’s supposed to be this BIG REVEAL MOMENT, but I…didn’t get it? What was it? A recording? A hologram preprogrammed by Wells to do all that stuff, including beating him up (there were actual bruises on Wells; they treated him for his injuries) and killing all those cops? But can a hologram beat up a person and kill things? And if it wasn’t a hologram then what? Huh? Was it another application of this whole speed mirage nonsense? That Wells-in-the-Yellow-Suit was a speed mirage left over to beat up Wells-not-in-the-Yellow-Suit? But a speed mirage lasts seconds.

 

I haven’t looked up anyone else’s reviews or explanations of what that was, because I want this review to be about my untainted reactions at the time that I watched it, and my untainted reaction at the time was: Error. Error. This does not compute in any way.

 

 

 

So for me that whole scene was a fail because when your Big Reveal moment winds up being just a Big Huh??? moment, it’s incredibly distracting and not only takes away from the reveal but takes away from what comes afterward because I was still all WHAT IN THE NAME OF ZEUS IS SUPPOSED TO BE GOING ON HERE when Wells himself came into the scene and [SPOILERED] Cisco and I suspect that part had much less of an impact on me than it was supposed to, because my head was still stuck several minutes back.

 

Speaking of which!

 

The other awesome/gamechanging development in this episode came in those final seconds when Barry somehow punches a hole through the fabric of the spacetime continuum and travels through time. Woohoo!! And surprise, he doesn’t go to the future or the very distant past — he goes back, conveniently, to nearly the beginning of the episode, so that the writers have in effect hit a handy dandy reset button on everything that happened after that. Cisco isn’t [SPOILERED], Wells hasn’t revealed himself, the police chief hasn’t been struck by lightning to save Joe, Joe hasn’t been kidnapped by the Weather Wizard, Barry hasn’t revealed his powers to Iris AT LONG LAST, Iris hasn’t confessed her undying love for Barry, Iris and Barry never did something so abominably thoughtless as smooch each other while in relationships with other people — but more on that development later.

 

As for time travel, it’s still super unclear what the rules are. Like, are there now two Barry Allens walking around in the past or did he somehow merge and become only one, because I didn’t see a second Flash on that streetcorner when he appeared in the past? And can he alter history now, or not? Because if he could, then what we saw happen would never have happened, because there would have been a second Flash running around stopping it in the first place, because time travel is circular and paradoxical and totally makes no sense.

 

But I figure they probably won’t address that and just have him try to change things and have OTHER things go wrong. Which I’m looking forward to, for sure.

 

But I think it’s a bad thing when an episode makes you feel glad that it pressed a reset button if the reason you’re glad is because you think most of the choices made by the characters were stupid choices and phew, now they get a do-over.

 

Like, oh my god, I am not okay with the direction the romance on this show has taken. I am really not a fan of when a show presents alternate love interests who (a) might as well have OBSTACLE emblazoned on their foreheads and then (b) proceeds to treat them poorly, depriving them of development and having the main characters who are dating them instead of each other treat these disposable obstacle characters like crap. (This is what happened to Dean after Jess got introduced on Gilmore Girls and so much NOPE there too.)

 

Barry, you are dating Linda. Focus on that. Stop dwelling on Iris. Stop asking Joe for advice about her; ask a neutral party. (Joe gives terrible advice here that deserves to be erased from the spacetime continuum; he advises Barry to “hold onto those moments” when he thinks Iris loves him back, rather than pay more attention to the girl he is actually dating. You cannot date someone seriously — and Linda has made it clear she would like to be dated seriously — if you are actively holding onto hope for someone else. Bad, Joe. You should know better.)

 

Iris, you are living with Eddie. You know Barry has feelings for you. Stop feeding that. Stop inserting yourself into his love life, by crashing his dates, being touchy-feely, giving him your unsolicited opinion that the girl he’s trying to date is wrong for him. That is an area of his life that you need to butt out of, period. Let him get over you and build new relationships. Not to mention the discomfort you’re causing Eddie. Which has reached a point where he speaks up about it and calls Iris on it. (Aside: I really liked how he did it, btw, the way he phrased it: “I didn’t like how I felt when…” I didn’t like how felt. He doesn’t accuse and blame her, but he makes his feelings clear that he felt like a third wheel when he shouldn’t have to feel like that. He was much more diplomatic than my little sister’s assessment, who is only 14 but can still tell that Iris’s behavior is not okay: “Iris is really bugging me right now.”)

 

All of this detracts majorly from the moment at the waterfront where Iris confesses her feelings and they kiss — the whole time my brain was just screaming “WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS ROMANTIC??? You are dating other people! You are lying to them! This is not romantic! This is not okay!” But with the music swell and the camera’s loving, lingering shots, clearly the show is presenting this moment as romantic, and I am so not cool with that. (Also Joe was being held hostage and there’s an impending tsunami and why are you kissing. Also that.)

 

 

Also was not cool with Linda’s line to Iris that she thought Iris had told Linda about Barry’s feelings because that was “typical weird crap women do to each other” — that line just radiates Male Writer in a way that really rubs me the wrong way. Maybe a woman who sees herself as such an outsider compared to other women might say something like that, but we really don’t know enough about Linda for that to feel authentic to her character. It basically sounds like a man writing a woman, and doing it badly.

 

Female representation on this show is not its strong suit, which is a crying shame, because representation of other minorities is done so well. There are multiple non-white characters in the regular cast, and it was established in an earlier episode that the chief of police has a boyfriend, who is now a fiancée.

 

That’s the one moment that I am sad to see vanish into the ether of rewound spacetime: the way everyone reacts to the fiancée — that is, they don’t react at all. They treat him as anyone would treat any distraught significant other, with no mention whatsoever of the fact that this is not a heterosexual relationship and no “look at us, we have a gay couple on our show!” It’s presented as completely mundane and normal. The show made such a statement by deliberately not making any statement at all, and I loved, loved, loved that.

 

One final gripe: Dear lord, everyone is so stupid about the Weather Wizard. After Cisco makes that magic weather wand, and after it has been proven to work, WHY ON EARTH IS JOE GOING ANYWHERE WITHOUT IT? What is wrong with you?? And since he didn’t take it, why didn’t Barry take it when he went to the waterfront?! WHY ARE YOU SO STUPID. (I know, I know, gotta pass the Idiot Ball around because Plot.)

 

One final non-gripe: The Weather Wizard is pretty. So glad he’s the one who gets to have a recurring role, and not the creepy-looking dude who played his brother.

 

So…yeah. These are my thinky thoughts. Basically, most of what happened in this episode bothered me, especially the romantic subplots and the stupid way everyone dealt with the Weather Wizard, and I was glad it was stricken from the record of history. If it was the intention of the writers to make me feel that way, well, good job, writers. But that doesn’t make me any more thrilled with the contents of this episode.

 

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Agree? Disagree? Like my thinky thoughts? You can commission more of them via my GoFundMe campaign — http://www.gofundme.com/sm-automotive — or subscribe on the sidebar, and thanks for reading! You can also buy me tools from this Wishlist but really I just like money.

 

Datin’ Without Hatin’ — Edition #2: Full Frontal Nerdity!

Well, last week’s debut of this new column was pretty well-received, so I suppose onward an upward is the way to go from here!

An anonymous person posed a question to me the other day, and in the ensuing back and forth we came to address a more general issue in addition to the specific question asked. Intrigued? Okay, enough with the intro.

At what point do you reveal to a date that you are a raging nerd? (Specifically, if you are female and he is male and as far as you know, not geeky or nerdy in any way.)

I don’t think there is any specific time or way. I mean, as it comes up?

Yeah, but what if it comes up early, like, first-date early? And I am a RAGING nerd, not just a Star Trek fan. An “I hate JJ Abrams” level Star Trek fan, a “let me show you my thesis on the reboot” level Star Trek fan.

I’d say talk about what’s relevant to the conversation – let the guy know what he’s in for. I mean, I’m not saying give him your kindle and be like “LOOK AT THIS METRIC BOATLOAD OF FANFIC I’M READING” but “oh, in case you can’t tell, I’m a huge nerd” seems like a perfectly legit thing to say.

Like if the conversation is about Star Trek, and you start rambling about all your opinions, it’d probably be kind of charmingly self aware to say, “Um, I kinda have VERY STRONG FEELINGS about this.” As a rule, a little self- deprecating humor makes plenty of quirks go down easily.

Which is NOT the same as apologizing – there’s no need to apologize for being a nerd; it’s part of who you are and how you see the world, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. If a person is automatically scared off by your niche of interests or passions, chances are they are a pretty boring person.

Boring is not a dealbreaker!

But boring in this case would indicate a certain narrow-mindedness, and THAT is probably a dealbreaker.

True.

But some people seem boring at first and take a while to warm up to people but then they turn out to be amaaaaazing —

And here’s where the conversation morphed into that aforementioned general issue: When dating, how much time do you give a person to establish themselves before you write them off and turn them down?

And the answer is…exactly as long as you are okay with. Yes, that is the same as saying “there is no right answer.” Sorry. But it’s also the same as saying, “there is no wrong answer.” Sure, there are people I’ve thought were boring initially but after a while, a connection was built and we’ve become close friends. But there are also people I’ve thought were awesome who, upon getting to know them better, turned out to be not so awesome.  And boring people who stayed boring. So yeah, it’s always theoretically possible that that ugly duckling fledgling relationship will become a beautiful swan, but it is by no means guaranteed.

You have to make a judgment call, is what it comes down to. There are different things people weigh in order to make that call. Some people prefer to feel an immediate interest in the person from the very first date. For some people, if the person doesn’t interest them, but there is nothing about him/her/xem that actively disinterests them, they’ll give ’em another chance. If there is immediate interest but also factors of disinterest, it’s more complicated and probably worth allowing it to play out a little longer to see if the positives come to definitively outweigh the negatives.

But if there’s a lot of uncertainty about whether or not you are interested in the person you’re dating, at any stage, you are under no obligation to hang in there and wait and wait and wait to see if something blossoms. You can if you want! It may work! But you don’t have to. If you’re sticking it out, make sure you’re doing it for reasons that you are okay with. For instance: If you feel like you owe it to yourself to find out if it can work, or you feel like you will deeply regret ending things with this person at this point, or you feel like your emotions are on a trajectory and are progressing but just aren’t yet where you want them to be — those are probably good reasons to give it a little more time.

I personally would not advise staying in it for reasons such as:

a) fear of having to start over with someone new (because life is not like TV; you don’t have to keep circling back to the same person; there are new ones out there that you can forge something with)

b) Everyone else (friends, family, parents) thinks you guys are great together (because they are outsiders and only you know what you feel)

c) For the sake of the other person and not wanting to hurt their feelings (because believe me, if your heart isn’t in it, sooner or later the other person will notice and they’ll be hurt all the same).

To be clear, all relationships have an element of uncertainty and there’s nothing you can do about that, and it’s not inherently a bad thing, just a fact of life. But you can still be on the lookout for basic red flags that your internal relationship meter is sending you. Like if the uncertainty is causing you excessive stress. Or if you used to feel happy if someone said “oh, I heard you’re dating so-and-so!” and you don’t feel positively about it anymore. Or if the thought of people knowing and associating you with so-and-so has never made you happy. Sometimes your gut knows these things before your head can catch up. Try to be attuned to that.

Well, golly gee, look at the time! I think I’ve blathered long enough. Ciao!

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Datin’ Without Hatin’ — Dating Advice Column, Debut Edition!

A number of people have asked me to write up some posts about dating advice. Well actually, some have asked me to write a book on it, but would settle for some posts in the meantime.

 

 

Since my own love life is nothing but grand epic tragedy of Shakespearean proportions, I find this notion amusing. But people come to me with questions a lot, and find that I’m generally a good resource for advice, because I do have to admit, what I do have going for me other than tragedy is that a) I’ve had a number of very strong, meaningful relationships with genuine connection and exceptional communication, and b) no one I’ve dated has, to my knowledge, come out of the experience hating my guts; they all wanted to be friends afterward. So my area of limited expertise is probably something like, “How to date without making anyone hate you.” Hence the catchy title of this column.

 

Note that most of the questions I’m asked and most of the experience I have is in regard to dating for the sake of a long-term monogamous relationship. I’m not a casual dater, and neither are most of the people in my social circles, so this column will likely reflect that. But I have on occasion been a sounding board for other sorts of dating, so if your questions go along those lines, I will certainly endeavor to answer them to the best of my ability.

 

*  *  *

I decided to kick things off with a simple Q & A post, sent in by an anonymous woman in need of some advice recently. Behold the following exchange of ideas:

 

I have a second date next week. I have a sneaking suspicion that this will not work out between us.
How do I tell him that?
When?

 

Well, in my experience, there’s no way that it won’t be at least a little awkward, but not too bad if you stick with something like, “Look, I think you’re a really nice guy, but I don’t really see this going anywhere. I’d be glad to keep an eye out for girls who I think would be a better fit?” Bonus points if you have someone in mind and offer to check if she’s available.

Also, maybe at least let the date play out in case he pleasantly surprises you the second time. Unless you have really hardcore reasons why the first date was enough (in which case, it may be better in the future if you don’t accept a second date).

I definitely do recommend breaking things off in person, if it comes to that, mostly because I’ve been the listening ear to a lot of guys who’ve had things ended over text or in other impersonal ways and they’ve been pretty hurt by it.

I’m definitely letting the second date play out. That’s what the second date is for (at least this time). Good to know to do it in person though. I guess I’ll have to decide then if I should do it right after the date or do it another time (if at all).

When I was on a date with a guy I knew I didn’t want to see again, at the very end he accidentally gave me an opening just before he dropped me off, by saying, “So I’ll call you?” And then I got to be all, “Look, you’re a nice guy, but etc, etc.” So if you’re sure by the end of the date, it’s fair to say something at the tail end just to close the book.

If you’re not sure at that point, but become sure after the date has ended, well, then if he contacts you afterward, it might be better to tell him over the phone that you don’t want a third date so that he doesn’t go through the trouble of planning one, with misplaced expectations.

*  *  *

And there you have it: how to politely reject someone straightforwardly but hopefully with a minimum of hard feelings. In the words of Wil Wheaton, don’t be a dick.

Got questions of your own that you’d like me to take a stab at? Stick ’em in the comments, tweet at me @FloatingSpirals, or if you’d prefer more privacy/anonymity, email them to me at smautomotive00@gmail.com!

 

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#ThrowbackThursday — Untitled

This is VERY different from a usual Throwback Thursday post. It’s not from a previous Facebook note, blog post, or even radio segment. This is from a personal email I sent once, to a boyfriend. It’s probably also in a file somewhere on my computer — when I start having stress about a relationship, I start a file with the guy’s name on it where I write out my feelings. Sometimes I send them or parts of them to the guy (like this one), sometimes I don’t because it would only compound whatever the problem is, because it’s unfixable and I just need an outlet so I don’t explode. I have probably a half dozen files titled with various boys’ names floating around my computer, accumulated in the past 3 years or so that I’ve been dating. Some of them have many, many entries, some have only one or two. Some haven’t been opened in years; one was just created recently.

But I decided I wanted to post this email (editing out certain personal information pertaining to people who are not me) because it seems that I have a number of friends embarking on new relationships and new relationships are terrifying, especially when your previous dating/relationship experience has been crummy, and this email did a pretty good job encapsulating some of the many complicated emotions of that roller coaster.

It’s from November 11, 2012.

 

 

*   *   *

“I’ve been having a lot of thinky thoughts about us.

What I keep circling back to is this line from the movie trailer of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” — Emma Watson’s character says: “We accept the love we think we deserve.” And I think that was always [insert name of another ex who has his own file on my computer]’s problem – I loved him so much more than he felt he deserved, and he couldn’t accept it and pulled away.

And now there’s you, and you’re crazy about me in ways I don’t think he ever was, and even though I’m supposed to be the one with the ego and the confidence and everything, I think on some fundamental level I feel like I don’t deserve this insanely high opinion you have of me. In a perverse way, I was more comfortable being treated worse because I know I’m not perfect so I didn’t deserve to be treated perfectly all the time. It’s like, you’re the exact kind of person I need, someone who appreciates all these things about me that other people never quite get, so you can’t possibly be real; things like that just don’t happen. So all these walls come up to insulate me and protect me from getting too attached because my brain is sure this can’t last.

What I can tell you is: I really enjoy spending time with you. I think you’re an incredible person and I don’t understand how you were still single when I met you. I really like that you’re honest about how you feel about me even when it puts you in a vulnerable position. I have to admit that I do get a little uncomfortable or pressured whenever you say something or look at me in a way that reminds me that your feelings for me right now are stronger than the ones I have for you, but that’s only because I want to reciprocate so badly and I don’t know how yet and I get scared that I won’t be able to and that I’ll hurt you and hurt myself by ruining something amazing.

I feel like there’s also this perverse instinct that we humans have, where we most want the things that we can’t have, and since you’ve made it abundantly clear that I could definitely have you if I wanted, that instinct doesn’t kick in. So I don’t have that superficial kind of “want,” and I have to build up a real, serious emotional connection instead if I want this to work.

And I think it’s pretty clear that the only way to figure these things out is to be patient and give it more time, which I of course absolutely intend to do. I just want to continue in our tradition of hot emotional honesty and make sure I keep you informed on exactly where I stand.

SM”

 

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#WaybackWednesday — “Stop.”

An old warning to myself to steer clear of toxic friendships and relationships. I’ll never be a poet but very occasionally I write poems.

Original post was a Facebook note on April 10th 2013, and it was also published on the Boylan Blog while I was interning for the English department at Brooklyn College.

 

Stop.

 

“Hey, you — You actually left your house to see me!”

“Just needed to get some air; don’t feel special.”

“Don’t worry, you are very good at making me not feel special.”

“Oooh, burn!”

 

I laugh. You smile.

We talk

fast

easy

back and forth

familiar rhythm

I’m sure we look adorable

we always look adorable

bickering

that old married couple vibe

we give off

as a pair of 20-somethings

striding through the park

No one would ever guess

that you’re killing me

and I’m killing you

 

I match you insult for insult

smile for smile

and you do the same

stuck in this loop

eviscerating each other

with our laughing smiles

our barbed jokes

I hit every one of your weak spots

You hit every one of mine

 

And still, we laugh

and still, we smile

because it’s all we know

because we’re both too proud to say

Stop.

I care.

You matter.

That hurts.

Stop.

Stop.

Stop.

 

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Like my thinky thoughts? You can commission more of them via my GoFundMe campaign — http://www.gofundme.com/sm-automotive — or subscribe on the sidebar, and thanks for reading! You can also buy me tools from this Wishlist but really I just like money.