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Archive for February, 2013

Shipping & Handling

People have been asking me to talk about which online dating sites are best, so I thought I’d give you my opinion of some of the big players.

But, when it comes down to it, all these sites really offer are varying levels of quality for filters and search tools.  The product?  Men.  (Or women, if that’s what you’re looking for, obvi).
To me, filter and search are like the shipping and handling of the online dating world.  And in the same way I wanna tell Amazon or any other online shopping, “look – you take care of the shipping, …I’LL ‘handle’ things,” I care much more about the filtering than I do about the built in search/matching options.  …But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Online dating sites are just like any other online shopping… I know what I want to begin with, and I go in search of it.  If I’m dead set on a pair of mustard-colored espadrilles, no, you won’t be able to convince me to buy suede boots.  In the same way, if I’m looking for a tall, metro-preppy, smart, funny, Jesus-lovin’ man who can dance… then, no, you cannot “interest me” in an uneducated atheist who doesn’t know how to correctly use its/it’s in his profile.
And, unfortunately for me – because of this blog, I click on a lot of less-than-desirable men who message me or show up in my matches… which seriously screws up my future match-ups.  So, now I get a lot of… “Because you checked out TexasUnimaginativeGuy69, you may like TXNotSoSmart69.”  Sigh with me…will you?

So, for me – I’d prefer a site that offers me:

– a large bank of quality men
– a user-friendly and easy-on-the-eyes interface
– detailed search tool options
– lots of filters (data)

Knowing that, let’s just jump on in to the ones I’ve used.  I’ll go in order of my subscriptions…

[Quick caveats –
1.  all of the following statements are MY opinion from MY experiences on these sites.  I know others have had different luck with them, so… take it as one single girl’s perspective…
2.  all the photos are how the site looks to me once I log in – just to give you an idea of the “look” of each.]

 

After a heart-breaking, gut-wrenching break-up 2 winters ago, (I like to start things out on a cheery note)… I decided to try online dating.  I had briefly used “ChristianMingle.com” before, which is where I’d found my ex-boyfriend.  Despite breaking my heart, he was a fantastic guy, so…I figured the site would have more like him on it to choose from on the second round.  I was wrong…it was a colossal disappointment.

ChristianMingle may USED to have had a bevy of hunky Christian men on it… now it’s full of either Osteenites (yes, I admit… not a fan of the ‘church of Joel’) or men who may love Jesus, but are about as smart as a box of rocks.  I’m sorry…I know it sounds harsh, but I actually had a guy on there tell me “not to use such big words”… sigh…


So, I figured I’d hit up the big guns – “Match.com.”  S & H - MatchThe apparent quality of men on this site was markedly better – I guess you do get what you pay for.  Of all the sites I belong to, this one probably has the most ‘settled’ men…meaning, there are many guys on here who have their stuff together – decent jobs, decent living situation, have dealt with whatever issues may have gotten in the way of having a relationship and are ‘ready’ to find the one.  The only problems I’ve found with Match Men are that –
1.  They can be cocky (they know they’re the cream of the crop, so they dismiss women quickly)
2.  I’m not as likely to find ones who place as high a value on their faith as I’d like (again…that’s for ME)

But, Match.com has something else going for it, and that is their “stir events.”  These are various types of real-life meet-ups where people who are members of the site can meet other members in group settings – they offer happy hour mixers, speed dating (as you may recall, I checked out one of their speed-dating events), cooking classes, sporting events, etc.
This is a GREAT incentive to subscribe – because you get the best of both worlds.

Still, when I started out on Match, before I was the cyber-dating shark I am now, it seemed to be, essentially an online street corner, where men troll for sex.  I’ll share with you later a few stories that will practically have a little voice in the back of your head whispering, “it rubs the lotion on its skin…”  But I digress…

In addition to Match being full of creepers, I also wasn’t getting any responses from the men I DID initiate conversation with… so I decided to analyze the situation scientifically – what could it be that was keeping men from interacting with me?  I mean…. I AM, after all, QUITE the catch.  I concluded that maybe it was the fact that I’m a mom… I get that.  I can see how it could freak someone out that I come with two children as part of the package…fair enough.


S & H - SingleParentMeetSo… I signed up for a couple months on “SingleParentMeet.com.”  Wow.  Just……wow.  I literally – and I am not making this junk up – for almost 6 months, renewed my subscription with them SOLELY for the rich material it provided me for the blog.  The steady parade of egregiously unqualified men was staggering.   And when I say “unqualified,” I don’t just mean as potential partners… but I don’t know how some of these guys are allowed to BE parents at ALL!  Sigh…


S & H - eHarmWith the wind somewhat sucked from my sails, I thought I’d pour my remaining vestiges of hope into the almighty “eHarmony.com,” or, as I affectionately call it, “The eHARM.”  Now, eHarmony does things a bit differently – you can’t go searching (let’s call it what it is…shopping) on your own.  You have to wait ‘til they deem someone worthy of a match and send you the information.  And they have been…. Across the board…. All of them – as in, 100%…. ugly.

I know it sounds harsh, but it’s the sad truth.  Men – if you’re reading this and you are good-looking and on eHarmony…. Call me.  I mean…um….(shifts nervously)…you’re the exception.

Yup.  They may have a great character, good job, love Jesus… but they certainly aren’t about to win any beauty awards (holla  Monopoly’s “Community Chest”).  And, I’m sorry, but there has to be a physical chemistry/connection!!


SO, even though I can’t stand either of the names of these next two, I thought I’d join millions of Americans and condescend to the free sites… Plenty of Fish and OKCupid.

S & H - POFIf Match.com seemed to be the street corner of cyber dating, then Plenty of Fish is the under-the-bridge option.  If you’ve lost all self-respect and are just looking to hook-up with someone who very well may have at least one communicable disease… hit up PlentyOfFailFish.
I’m not saying EVERY guy on here is gross.  But if they’re NOT, then they’re probably not here for long…they’re the unfortunate misguided traveler who stumbled upon this quality-forsaken hole by utter accident.  OR…they (like me) stay for the sheer staggering display of reprobation.

By some divine intervention, I have actually met a couple of great guys on this site… and we’re still friends (in fact, the acclaimed “Raul” was a PoF find), but all of those men have since seen the light and moved up to a higher-grade site.


S & H - OKCupidOKCupid  was one I resisted for a long time because, what kind of a name is that?  Not – “YAY, Cupid!” or “Let’s DO this thing, Cupid,” but rather… “meh… whatevs… so-so…. OK….”

Still, I’d heard good things about it, so I ventured in.  And I gotta say, I’ve been pleasantly surprised.  I’d have to say this may be my favorite of the online dating sites.  It’s pleasant on the eyes, easy to use, has a fascinating associated blog with tips and tricks for the dating world, but mostly – it’s the questions.  Yup – OKC has hundreds of multiple choice questions you can answer (you answer as few or as many as you like…and you can go back and answer more any time) which help them match you up with others.  The answers you choose, and the importance you assign to the topic, are compared against potential matches so you can see how closely you line up on various issues.  It’s a pretty cool system actually.


S & H - eVowThen, one day while harvesting blog fodder from PlentyOfFish, I saw their advertisement for their sister site, eVow, which claims to be ONLY for people looking for serious relationships.  I wrote a blog post about this, including my findings after testing them out to see if they were legit in their claim (which they were!).  I haven’t been on eVow much because I haven’t seen any guys on there I would date… they may be looking for the same thing I am, but they’re certainly not dazzling me with their charming wit or sparkling intellect.  So… meh…


 

So – that’s what we’re working with, in terms of online dating.  Here are the cliff’s notes:

ChristianMingle – the K-Mart of online dating – used to be something in its day, but it’s taken a nose-dive into loser-ville

Match – Once you learn how to avoid the creepers, a decent bank of options

SingleParentMeet  – Clueless/Dim (my soft euphemisms for stupid) men…with children (heaven help us all)

eHarmony – all the men with the “great personality!” (you don’t need GoogleTranslate to know what that means…)

PlentyOfFish – perfect if you want an STD or a stalker

OKCupid – Free and pretty good, considering.

eVow – meh…

Conclusion:  I’m still relying on chance coincidences or “happening” to bump into Mr. Perfect at Club Kroger…..

 

And ONE of these days, I’ll convince my programmer friend to help me BUILD a dating website… which will be AWESOME.

Til then… happy shopping!


Ask Sarah – Emotional Safety

Dear Sarah,

What does it MEAN to feel “safe?”
A lot of women use that phrase, but I’m never quite sure what they mean?


Fantastic question!  Talking about this kind of stuff is my jam – I love it.
I’d love to teach mini-classes on this kind of thing…with games, object lessons, etc… but I digress.

First, a quick caveat – Emotional safety has very little to do with physical safety.  Although – especially as it concerns sexual intimacy, there DOES need to be a baseline of love and CARE so that anything rough or agressive is viewed through that lens and is only received as passionate, not angry or sadistic.

But, if we ASSUME that both people in a relationship TRUST the other one with their physical safety and care – that the other person has no desire to harm or shame them… then we can move on from the physical piece and move to the greater element of emotional safety.

This – the idea of emotional “Safety” – has (unfortunately) become a trendy term in therapeutic circles and so it’s overused…  like – way overused.
Sort of like the word “co-dependent” that people throw around – half the time, incorrectly.  Ugh…
But the core idea of emotional/relational safety is so good and so beautiful, that despite the overuse of the phrase, it’s essential to dig into and understand if you’re going to be a great partner.
To be “safe” involves three things:
1.  safety is being loved,
2.  safety is being known (vulnerable) and accepted, and
3.  safety is believing that your partner perceives you as his/her only ‘object of affection’ – aka ‘belonging’

I’ll work my way backwards through the pieces of safety, from my way of thinking (and that’s all this is…Sarah’s thoughts…).

Beliefs / Belonging:
A woman wants to feel like she is the ONLY person being shown affection/attention by her lover.  If a man DOES only love/desire one woman – that’s half the battle…,  the secondary piece is her actually BELIEVING that.  Sometimes a man can do everything in his power to convince a woman that she’s the only one, but because of her own insecurities and doubts (ultimately based in fear), she can’t let herself believe she’s worthy of that love.
But, if a woman is relationally healthy and believes a man wants only her – that belief gives her the freedom to rest in her worthiness of love and affection – and enjoy it.

(and yes…this goes both ways…same for men as it is for women).(side note here… I think that ultimately, the greatest obstacle in man/woman relationships isn’t ‘lack of communication’ or ‘unwillingness to compromise,’ but is all about WHAT WE BELIEVE about ourselves and what we BELIEVE about the other person.  Perception is everything.  If I perceive that a man truly loves me – for me – flaws and fat and all – then I  have NO room for fear or other damaging forces.)Known & Accepted:
This is huge.  Not everyone wants this, when you get right down to it.  But, those of us who search for GREAT love – we don’t just want to be accepted – we want the double-edged-amazing sword of knowing/loving.
I want to be KNOWN – understood, “gotten”… and this is more than just knowing my story or my information (Sarah was “Student of the Year” in 3rd grade and has had 6 pets…blah blah blah…) – that stuff is important as you get to know someone, but truly knowing me means understanding the way I work – my strengths, my way of processing things, my areas of woudedness, the totality of me.  And when someone KNOWS me….and STILL decides that I’m worthy of full acceptance?  Well, that’s everything.  That’s what sets the great love stories apart from the sea of mediocrity.
To be known – is to be laid open.

Naked.

Exposed.

Stripped down and shown for who you are – metaphorical stretch marks and all.

 

And if people will live their lives as vulnerable creatures – being AUTHENTIC instead of numbing the painful parts of their lives (which in turn, numbs the joy and elation of things like big love), they’ll get the overwhelming gift of being known and accepted.  They’ll also get the excruciating pain from those who DON’T accept them.  So – it’s a huge risk …for a huge reward.  But aren’t those the very best kinds of rewards?
For me personally, I’ve decided to live my life in a somewhat counter-cultural authenticity – that means I’m transparent, open, honest, genuine…   I’m me.
But, I open myself up to a LOT of judgment, and…the pain of when people DON’T like what they see.
Still……it’s worth it for when people see the TRUE SARAH…and decide I’m worthy of their love.
This is a cool video on vulnerability…I REALLY encourage you to take a couple minutes to watch it.
From around 9:20 all the way to the end…she gets into stuff that I feel like screaming “AMEN!” to…in my own life.  It’s GOOD stuff…seriously.  I love this excerpt.

Loved:

Being loved in that REAL way – the way where someone has deemed you SO worthy of his love, that he’s made the conscious CHOICE and COMMITMENT to die to himself and put you in a place of greater importance (and of course, this works best when it’s mutual…she dies to herself and puts you above her) – is the ultimate sweet spot of safety.

True love is a DECISION for SACRIFICE.  If someone chooses to sacrifice his own pride or comfort to love you… that’s the real deal.

A couple important take-aways:
1.  When emotional safety is NOT present, you breed an environment of distrust.  This begins by not giving someone the benefit of the doubt, but evolves into a deep-seated resentment and cynicism.
example:  Guy says something careless to his wife, trying to make a joke, but accidentally hurting her feelings.

If there’s emotional safety, she has the space to say, “ouch!  I know you didn’t mean it, but that hit a nerve babe.”

If there’s NOT emotional safety, she assumes his intentions were to wound her, and it doubley hurt – one by the comment and moreso (two) that he would de-value her enough to WANT to hurt her at some level.  (And honestly, if there’s not a foundation of safety, she might be right!)

And once you start assigning cruel motives…you’re on a slippery path to bitterness and ultimately, apathy.

 

2.  Unlike our modern Oprah culture of ‘make things happen on your own’ – you make your own universe….you create your own happiness….,
the idea of emotional safety is, by its very nature – relationally based.  It’s DEpendent on someone else.

YOUR safety DEPENDS on the other person’s willingness to offer it to you.

That’s where that vulnerability/risk come in.  If I open myself up – I lay myself bare for someone that I think I could love…and who I hope could love me… he may.  And he may not.  And if he accepts me, flaws and all – then I get to live in the great freedom and joy of that safety.  But, he might not…he might say – “I don’t like you naked”…and that’s the worst pain.  This is why rejection hurts the most when someone knows you the most…because they’re virtually saying, “I see the real you.  And I refuse to accept/love that.”

So – emotional safety is dependent on another person.  And post-modern Americans don’t like that.  We want to make things happen ourselves.  But, the nature of this is that we offer it to one another.  I can give YOU a place of emotional safety.  YOU can give ME the same.  And so on.

3.  How do you let someone KNOW that you know them and accept them and love them?  Well…..that’s the stuff of another post.  For now, suffice it to say that you have to tell/show them… but that can be fun.  🙂

So – for my part – I try my hardest to live in a way that is SO real that others around me feel welcome to be THEIR real selves… and be known and accepted.  This is really hard.  It’s hard because being vulnerable hurts.  It’s like exposing your naked body to the elements.

But, when it works……….oh, the unspeakable joy.

 

If you want to love BIG, you need a place where you can love in safety, which means you’ll have the freedom to love the BEST.

So… grab a banana nut muffin*, and think about letting people in – even more – to the real you… and in doing so, opening yourself up to great things.

* (that was a test to see if you watched the video).

 


Single Bands

When I see a handsome guy who MAY be remotely close to me in age, the very first thing I do is look down at his wedding ring finger to see if he’s married.  If I see a ring, well – he’s dead to me.

What?  Too harsh?  I mean, I’m sure he’s a lovely fellow and his wife is lucky to have a hunka-burnin’-love by her side, but I don’t need to waste any more time in attraction/curiosity when he’s clearly not on the market.

But, what about ALL those men without rings?  They’re not all available.  Some are engaged, some have serious girlfriends, some are alone but emotionally inept.  How’s a girl to know?

I mean – if I stand in line behind someone at Starbucks who, for all intents and purposes, seems available… it takes every ounce of bravery in me, mustered in a span of mere seconds while we wait for my nonfat chai latte, to strike up conversation.  It’s not easy!  And frankly, I don’t want to waste all that effort only to find out that he’s dating some supermodel who bakes homemade crumpets for orphans or something…

I think we need a system.  A taxonomy of availability and statistical information.  I’ve suggested something similar to this before – using a multi-colored ring system to denote relationship status.  You can read about it here.  But now I want more than that.  I want all the details in one easy-to-read location.  A user-friendly interface for dating.  I suggest wristbands.

Hey – if you can wear them for various causes and Lance Armstrong, you can wear them to find the love of your life, amirite?

This idea came to me recently when I had to have one of those hospital bands put on me (you know – way less cool than the wristband the nightclub gives you, but chock full of personal information for anyone to read should you suddenly lose your ability to speak or slip into a coma?).

I say we add a splash of color, bedazzle these puppies, slap some pertinent demographics on ’em and start the singles-finder revolution.
Who’s with me?

dating band

Each band could list your age, your availability status, and any major dealbreakers.

How awesome would that be?  No more guessing if someone is ‘on the scene,’ as it were.  No more calling up all your courage only to find out that the cute barista “isn’t ready for a relationship.”
Lame sauce.

Plus – the dealbreaker line gives you an automatic IN.  A natural topic for starting up conversation.  Heck, order yours to say, “Ask me about our BOGO event”…I don’t care!

The bands can come in multiple colors and styles, so you can pair them appropriately with your various ensembles.  Obvi.

Perhaps we can even take a page from the Swatch watches of the late 80’s and have interchangeable pieces that can snap in based on your mood for that day.

There can also be varying degrees of enthusisam for wherever each person is in the journey – something like:

  • SINGLE/SKEPTICAL
  • SINGLE/SEARCHING
  • SINGLE/OPTION PENDING
  • MARRIED/JERKFACE for NOT WEARING A RING

and countless others.  (you pay extra for custom design, but hey – it’s an investment).

 

It’s not enough to simply NOT be wearing a wedding ring anymore.  There are just too many non-married options to wade through…and who has the time?  Or the emotional energy?

I need details people!  DETAILS!!!

Now…off to build a prototype.


Ask Sarah – Death March?

Sarah,

So, in my recent singleness, I fired up the old online dating profile(s) again. I’ve gotten a few bites, and a couple of pretty promising leads. 

With one girl who I particularly fancy, we went from conversing on the site (3-4 messages each) to texting (for about 5 days). 

I’ve also been in the middle of a move this week, along with her working and in grad school. I thought, “Hey, texting will be great. We’re both super busy people, and it’ll be low pressure until we can actually meet in person in a few days.”

THIS DID NOT GO AS PLANNED! So, we texted back and forth a couple of times during the day, everything’s peachy. Then, I get a text earlier this evening saying “I look foward to meeting you, but I don’t think that with my current knowledge of you I can continue as we have been for several days by texting, as flattered as I am.

I explained how that I thought with both our busy schedules, texting seemed like a good, low-pressure way to communicate until we could meet.

So, then I said “How about I concentrate on finishing up my move, and I’ll just call you the evening before we planned to meet?” She said that she thought that was a good idea.

Is this just a death march at this point? At what point do you move from text to phone? DO I ACTUALLY HAVE TO TALK TO GIRLS TO GET THEM TO DATE ME? WHAT ARE THOSE LOUD NOISES?

Seriously, though. Help a brotha out. How can I salvage this thing (or, not make this mistake on the next one)?


Dearest brotha,
This is definitely puzzling.  I have a few clarifying questions…
1.  I wish I could see the last couple texts leading up to that one.  Did you say something that seemed distancing?  Or…did you let more time pass after one of her texts that you had up to that point?  I just wonder what the catalyst was for her text.
2.  Did you make firm plans to hang out soon?  I got the impression you had something “on the books” for the coming week… is that the case?
But, based on just what you told me, and her response, my best guess is that she’s trying to determine if you’re one of those guys who texts indefinitely and never pulls the trigger.  And trust me…there are a LOT of those guys.  That’s why I asked if you had something firm ‘on the table,’ as it were.
My advice:
a.  It’s NEVER a death march!  In today’s dating world, there are always ways to pull it back around.  It’s one of the perks of the post-modern casual methods… sometimes I get texts from guys who stopped texting me MONTHS ago… they found me in their phone/ipad and decided to go for round 2.  Who knows…maybe they were concentrating on someone else and when she didn’t work out, they went back to old connections.  Whatever…the world of dating is open and unless she has point-blank rejected you – there is still room for hope.  🙂
b.  Be painfully honest with her.  Don’t try to put a flirty tone on things (especially since that’s so hard to convey via text).  Just say what you truly want.  For example:
Your text seemed to come out of the blue… I hope I didn’t upset you somehow?  I was trying to give us both some room this week because I thought we were busy with school/moving/etc.  But, I DO want to meet you.  And I’d love to talk on the phone before that happens.  You seem really cool and I’d love the chance to keep getting to know you better.“….etc.
c.  Talk to her!  You have nothing to lose.  Plus, you get to hear if she has a weird voice or talks with an annoying upspeak or something.  😉
If you’re not great on the phone, give yourself some helpers:
     – Begin by saying that you only have a few minutes because you’re meeting a friend for coffee or you have a meeting…blah blah… point is, you have a predetermined time limit, so you don’t have to hem and haw to get out of the conversation.  I do this sometimes because, despite my extroversion and ease of talking to people, I’m bad on the phone.  I can’t use all the nonverbals of body language to help navigate the conversation, and I get nervous.
     – Go old school junior high and have a list of topics handy next to you.  She never needs to know!  Hey – if it works for teenagers, why can’t it work for us?  Think of some funny thoughts based on your texts or shared interests or things going on in Houston or something interesting from your day…and see where it takes you.  Then, if you hit a lull, you move on to the next item on your cheat sheet.  Nothing wrong with being prepared!
I have a feeling if you are honest with her by text AND you chat with her on the phone AND if you put something on the calendar to meet (even if it’s just drinks after work one day…or coffee/lunch…something simple) – you’ll be golden.
She probably just needs to know that you’re serious about moving things along.
That’s my take based on the information you wrote…
I’ll be curious to hear what happens!

Post Script:  I followed up with this reader.  He DID make a phone call which went pretty well… and they put a date on the calendar.  I asked him after the date how everything went.  Apparently is was great – she even said, “let’s do this again!” but then when he asked for the second date, she declined.  Aaargh… why do we DO that?  A topic for another post.

I suppose it’s true that we win some and we lose some.  And if he lost this one after giving it all he had, then maybe he dodged a bullet.

 


Dating at the Baggage Claim

Men are like waffles.

Or, wait…they’re from Mars and I’m from Venus, right?

Or is it that finding one is like picking out shoes?

travel 1

Well, today – I contend that picking the right man or woman is a lot like waiting on the perfect (or not so perfect) piece of luggage.

We’ve all been there – standing impatiently at the baggage claim carousel, hoping against hope that the next piece of luggage to plop out onto the belt will be ours.  OURS!
After all – WE are in a hurry.

Isn’t dating just like this?  I’ve had a lot of conversations lately with singles at varying stages of hopefullness/hopelessness and it occurs to me that picking out a man (or woman) is a precisely like waiting at the carousel.

You stand around in a crowd of people, some of whom have had the same luggage for years… they grab it up, smile endearingly, and walk away content with their wife of 40 years… er… Samsonite.

Others are SO eager to just GET a bag, that any will do.  They’ll grab up the first flashly expandable/collapsible rolling case with a built-in mp3 player in sporty orange and go… not realizing that it’s empty inside… or worse…full of its own nasty baggage.  (And hey – is there anything worse than baggage inside of baggage?)

travel 2

Then, you’ve got the folks who SAY they’re ‘picky’ or ‘doing things different this time,’ but darn if they don’t KEEP picking up the same suitcase every bleedin’ time it comes around.  Hey!  You know why it keeps coming around and no one else is scooping it up?  Because it’s bad luggage!
If you keep grabbing the same one, realizing it doesn’t suit you, putting it back and then grabbing it up again when it comes around the next time, …isn’t that the definition of insanity?
That person never leaves the airport… and then complains that life at the airport stinks.
Um…

But I, for one, am waiting for the “perfect bag.”  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not looking for a new or fancy one.  In fact, a suitcase that’s got a few scratches and dings from traveling the world actually sounds nice.  It’s weathered a few storms, but is better for it.  It’s not without flaws, but it’s perfect FOR ME.

Problem is… I have to wait.

And wait.

And…. wait.

travel 4

I watch the conveyer belt mockingly glide along with the same ski case, car seat, beat-up cardboard box and 14 black mid-sized suitcases that are all about the same… and they go round and round and round.  Every once in a while, something that LOOKS like my bag will appear in the rotation and I’ll pull it off, look at the tag, try it on for size, and then… quite quickly determine that it’s not right… and return it to the carousel for someone else to enjoy.  There’s no point in holding onto a piece of luggage any longer than you need to once you realize it’s not the one you want.

Now, I’ve come under quite a bit of criticism this last year for being “too picky.”  And, you know what?  Criticism is hard.  Really hard.  It makes you start to question yourself…
Maybe there’s NOT a bag for me?
Maybe I SHOULD just take one of those boring mid-sized cases and just deal with it not being a great fit.
Maybe I should bristle and defend myself to my naysaying and unsolicitedly vocal audience – “Hey!  A girl can wait, dangit!!”

But, in the end, honestly – I’m happy to wait.  I’ve got a great spot with a nice line of vision.  The airport is climate-controlled and full of snacks.  I get to meet a ton of fun people who pass through picking out their own luggage, and I wait.  I can rejoice with others who find their suitcase, and I can comfort those who thought they did, but realized it wasn’t theirs and had to return it.

In the end… the point is this – there is hope.  And I wait.

Think about it… when you wait for your piece of luggage to come through at the airport, and you start to realize it’s not happening – you get that sick, annoyed feeling in your gut because you know the airline lost it or sent it on the wrong flight and now some gate-checker in Boise is sifting through your unmentionables and back-issues of Bon Appetit.  BUT – you know it’s SOMEwhere.  And, even though you may have to drag your exhausted hiney to that poorly lit baggage office and have them hand you the consolation “travel kit” – [you know the one…  It offers you the luxury and extravagance of a toothbrush, shower cap, off-brand deoderant and a $5 gift card to Starbucks (’cause THAT’s all a girl needs to feel pretty)]… ultimately, you know they’re going to find your suitcase.  It may be delayed.  Heck, if it’s an international snafoo, it may mean a LONG wait.  But, it’s coming.  Your bag is coming.

travel 3

So, while there are moments of discouragement and questioning as I wait for my piece of luggage (oh…and by the way … mine is amazing.  You should SEE all the compartments and depth that is belied by its handsome exterior… Mmm…) – and those moments are no fun – my hope doesn’t diminish.  Because the bag is out there.
Sure – it may be in a frenetic baggage claim in Charles de Gaulle airport (hey…a girl can dream, right?  I like to think my bag has enjoyed some french artisinal cheeses along its path to me), and it may be (for now), in the hands of a misguided traveler who THINKS it’s hers, but hasn’t realized it’s not the right one yet.  It may have been damaged in flight and is being repaired before entering back into circulation.  But it’s out there.  And one day, it’ll pop out of that mysterious tunnel and into my life.

And I will be SO glad I waited.

 


Let’s Get REAL…like the housewives

Ok, I admit it – I’m about to recycle and old post on you guys.  But a have a really good reason…

I’m out of ideas.

 

HA ha!! As if!

I have more ideas than I’ll probably EVER get the chance to write about…because they flood into my mind faster than I can capture them, write them up and post them. Not to mention, you all have been GREAT about submitting questions to the “Ask Sarah” page…and I plan to answer them all.  (Keep ’em coming!)

 

No, I’m reposting this because I’ve been having a lot of conversations with people lately about boring or poorly thought-out online profiles, and it reminded me of one of my early blogs… so I thought I’d reshare.  If you’ve already read it, well – read it again in a cool accent.


 

Ubiquity is Everywhere.

 

Look.  You are no different from anyone else when it comes to the basics of what you want in a partner.  Obviously everyone is unique and has certain idiosyncrasies that set them apart in what makes them choose one over another.  But, the basics…the standard fare – is always the same.  I mean, c’mon – no one says “I’m looking for a lazy, ugly, cheating, raging, cheap man who will give me no attention or affection.”  (But if you know this girl, give her a “bless your heart” hug as soon as possible.)

So, since we’ve established that we all want the normal baseline of decent human character, can we stop TALKING about it?  I am so sick of reading profile after profile that say the same stinkin’ thing.  They all want a woman who is sweet, but also speaks her mind; who is pretty with or without makeup; who enjoys her work, but isn’t consumed by it; on and on…. something, something…blah blah…I’m alseep.

Can we start an uprising?  A revolutionary new way of approaching this?  How’s about this:  don’t say dumb stuff that’s obvious.  Say something that sets you apart.  I’m telling you – the profiles that grab my attention and make me want to send the guy a message, are those that have a flash of wit or an interesting musing or even just a silly story.  In an effort to jump start this grassroots campaign for uniqueness, I’m offering up my services – that is, I’m going to tell you how to not screw it up.

First off…guys, why do so many of your profiles say that you want an HONEST woman?  Well, duh.  Do we have to SAY that?  All you’re doing is letting everyone know that you were cheated on.  Which is sad, but it’s not particularly relevant for searching for a woman online… I mean, let’s just think this through to the end – if I’m NOT an honest woman, then obviously I’m not going to tell you I’m dishonest…that would be honest…which I’m not.  So, I can CLEARLY not choose the wine in front of you!  (If you don’t get that reference, you should have your funny gland checked… no, seriously…I’m a little concerned…)

Next, a helpful list for quick reference when writing the “about me” section:

Things EVERYone loves, so you don’t need to verbalize it:

–       Long walks on the beach.  The beach is beautiful, day or night.  Walking hand in hand with someone you love is delightful.  Who wouldn’t like to put these two things together?

–       Have fun.  ….OOOOooh.  Ok. Gotcha.

–       Staying in and watching a movie, cuddling on the couch.  Men always list this right after they’ve used that whole line about wanting a woman who can put on her heels and go out on the town, AND be able to just throw her hair up in a ponytail and relax at home.  I think they must think that we need to hear them admit to being homebodies?  Everyone likes vegging out on the sofa.  Everyone likes having someone around to snuggle with.  Again…put these together and you have a universally acceptable partner activity.

–       Laugh.  Really?  You have to say this?  You have to specify that you enjoy that thing your body naturally does…when you’re experiencing enjoyment?  Is there such a thing as a person that doesn’t like to laugh?  I mean, barring all those people with cripplingly painful laughter muscle diseases… obvi.  But, are there women out there who hate it when they laugh?  Try picturing someone laughing and hating it at the same time…kinda funny, right?  Kinda makes you want to laugh, right?  I hate that.

–       Love.   So, wait… you love love?  AND you’re on an online dating site?  That is so. weird.

–       To enjoy life to the fullest.  This one really chaps my hide.  Why do they have to be so extreme?  I mean… I like to enjoy life as much as the next guy, but…. ‘to the fullest?’  I don’t know that I’m ready for that kind of commitment…

–       Simple Pleasures.  While I prefer to have to toil tirelessly for a small amount of happiness, I suppose I can get on board with some pleasure that comes easy… it’s asking a lot, but I’ll try to power through.

And, let me just admit that I’m guilty of this too.  I guess I feel like if I DON’T list the globally understood basic  decencies I want in a person, that I’ll be that lucky girl who ends up with some soul-less sociopath, rocking in a corner somewhere, muttering to myself, “I should’ve specified that I wanted a nice, honest guy….what have I done?”

But, perhaps ….just perhaps… one day, I’ll be bold enough to take my quasi-generic checklist down and put something like this up in its stead:

“Sassy, sometimes controlling, but always fun grammar nazi seeks a man who:

– prefers real Christmas trees over fakes ones.  I mean…eww.
– will kill spiders and all manner of bug or icky-like creatures that come into my path.
– will play the radio game with me, and never stoop to letting me win.
– won’t tease me about my spray butter problem, unless it’s that adorable flirty teasing thing.
– won’t judge me for watching trash TV…and maybe will even watch a few shows with me.
– is handsome enough that I can’t resist him, but not SO perfect that I feel insecure around him.  I don’t need abs of steel… abs of a good firm back-sleeper-pillow will do just fine.
– won’t roll his eyes at my habit of turning every phrase into a song.
– will let me convince him to abandon white flour.  It’s the wave of the food future, dude.  Just surrender now.
– will let me have 5/6ths of the bed and keep the ceiling fan off.
– will watch chick-flicks with me without rolling his eyes and saying words like “formulaic”
– doesn’t consider a matinee and dinner at Chili’s a “romantic evening”
– will offer to rub my shoulders without me having to ask, from time to time
– can cook.  Or at least will join me in a culinary adventure where I cook and he’s my hunky sous chef.  Oh my….
– drinks wine.
– owns clothes other than graphic tees
– will throw a party with me… bonus points for hosting or going to a costume party where he actually dresses up.
– loves Jesus…and actually GETS that we need him.”  (whoa…heavy…)

So – there you have it.  Men of Houston, form a line and let’s do this thing.  I’m accepting 7’s and higher tonight.


Ask Sarah – V Day

Dear Sarah,

How can one navigate the tricky waters of Valentine’s day? I feel like it puts undue pressure on a new relationship and would rather skip all the hubbub.

I think Valentines is better for couples in established relationships. How do I bring this up without sounding like a killjoy? Or would most men be secretly relieved?

V Day 13

     Signed,
          N
ot a Valentine’s hater but enjoying a relaxed new relationship and wanting to avoid unnecessary pressure on said relationship…


 

Dear Non V-Day Hater,

V Day 5

First of all, I agree… Valentine’s Day DOES put undue pressure on a new relationship.  And it IS tricky.  Unfortunately – that’s just how it is… so the question becomes, how are we going to RESPOND to a situation that’s already in place?  You can’t undo Valentine’s Day.  So, … all you CAN do is buckle up, stock up on non-perishables and ride out the love-storm.

I know I’ll sound like a broken record, but…. I don’t think you can go wrong with being honest.  With your new guy AND with yourself.

Step 1:  Be honest with yourself about your own expectations.

V Day 2

I think for ANY person out there in any sort of relationship (new or established/defined), the first order of business when it comes to a day like Valentine’s Day, that celebrates relationship and romance, is to take an honest look inward and ask yourself what you truly want.
A lot of women claim that “Valentine’s Day isn’t a big deal,” but then if their guy does NOTHING to acknowledge the special day or them in a special way, they’re hurt.  Why is this?  Well, whether or not you agree with the way our culture has blown this day into a high-stakes game of “I love you more than THAT guy loves HIS girl,” the truth of the matter is that relationships are on display on this day.  You may not willingly participate, but unless you live in convent or a commune, you can’t help but be privvy to the barrage of red and pink and chocolate pressure accosting you at every turn.

V Day 6

Some people cheerfuly surrender to the cheesiness of it all, making and sending Valentine’s to the people they love, planning surprises for their special someone, baking heart-shaped cakes and searching for that perfect Star Wars box of chocolates for her 8-year old son… oh wait – that last one’s just me.  I digress. 
But, the point is – some people dig it.  I happen to be one of those goofballs.  So WHAT that it’s a “Hallmark Holiday?”  It’s an excuse to celebrate love!  And love is grand.  So, take THAT, grumpy people of the world!

*takes deep breath and composes herself…

V Day 1

But, others feel the societal pressure and are either paralyzed by the fear of ‘doing it wrong’ or annoyed at being culturally ‘forced’ into what feels like a contrived celebration.  They’d rather take a more organic approach to their relationship and acknowledge it outside of being told “Today!  Do it today!  And use stuffed animals, you fool!”

SO – really assess where you are.

Because if you get right down to it and realize that, while you don’t have any expectations of grand gestures and an endless fount of gifts, but you DO want SOME kind of acknowlegement or excitement- on a day that’s set aside to to so –  then you MUST own it.  And, by “own it,” I mean claim it, let it be known (in a kind way), and understand that if that expectation isn’t met, that part of the equation was what you wanted/expected, not the other person’s transgression, per se.

V-Day 3

Just knowing where you stand on the Valentine’s Day thing, will help you navigate your reactions to your significant others’ actions (or lack thereof), and will hopefully help you make known your desires.

 

Step 2:  Talk about it!

For rizzle, yo!

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with just putting it on the table.  You can certainly use humor to do so – to offset some of the pressure – but talk about it nonetheless.

Trust me – talking about it, IF YOU DO IT THOUGHTFULLY, will only take pressure OFF the situation.

V Day 12

Look – Valentine’s Day is in 3 days.  If your guy hasn’t already said anything about it, then I’m guessing (unless he’s planning some surprise…but I wouldn’t get your hopes up about that) that he’s not thrilled about it and is either planning on completely ignoring it and hoping that’s ok with you, or is sweatin’ it internally and would welcome you bringing up the pink and doily-ed elephant in the room.

Example:  “Hey… so, Valentine’s Day is coming up. 
I don’t know if you get into that holiday or not, but I was thinking maybe we could just rent a couple movies and hunker down with a bottle of wine…what do you think
?”

V Day 10

And remember step one here.  If this day is important to YOU, then take the reigns and make it special! 

Example:  “So… I know Valentine’s Day can be kinda awkward when you’re newly dating someone… but, would you mind if I put together a fun night for us?  No pressure… I just get into the cheesiness a bit (I know…I have a problem… but admission is the first step toward recovery, right?)  What do you say?”

Step 3:  Have fun!

Whether you’re in a relationship or not… Valentine’s Day can be a sweet opportunity to let people know you care about them and you’re glad they’re in your life.  It doesn’t just have to be for the person you’re smooching… use it to celebrate the love of your family, your friends, your children, your co-workers, or even strangers (how amazing would it be to bring a trunk load of Valentine’s gifts and presents to a shelter? 

V Day 4
Additionally, it’s a time when you can bless the people around you who are lonely or depressed because another Valentine’s day is coming where they are without a special someone.

V Day 9

And if you ARE in a burgeoning relationship, use the day to let that person know you’re excited about the possibilities ahead… even if you do it ironically and full of that sarcastic “this holiday is so stupidly American… blah blah blah” attitude.  Throw in a wink and some yummy snacks and call it a day.

 


Speed Dating – Raul’s Take

Some of you will remember “Raul”… a friend of mine who guest posts from time to time.  The short version is this… we dated briefly…he was dead weight, so…I cut him loose… and he BEGGED me to write for my blog if only to have the fleeting contact of the occassional post-related e-mail.

Ha ha!  No…I keed, I keed… 

Raul is a dear friend.  We DID date briefly, but we had a comical (and mutual) transition into friendship, which you can read about here.  Since then, he’s chimed in from time to time on the guy’s perspective of the dating scene.  Today, we get to hear HIS take on the Speed Dating event we went to last week.  Do NOT believe his lies about me not “helping him out”… I’m a wingman to the end, Raul.  Don’t you forget it.


 

Speed Dating – the concept alone, I imagine, is enough to send a wave of nausea through most people that are not used car salesmen, carnival barkers, and other preternaturally extroverted types.  I’m not shy, but this kind of event is so far outside of my comfort zone that it’s not even in the same zip code.  Yet against all odds, the more I thought about it, the more my curiosity took over – what kind of people go to these things?  What’s it like? Is it awkward, or funny, or simply the most socially weird situation imaginable?  Eventually, I was intrigued.  A few days later, I signed up.  I’m glad I did.

I’m normally a pretty optimistic guy, and if this were a single blind date, I’d probably have my fingers crossed hoping for something along the lines of Monica Belluci’s long-lost twin, somehow separated at birth and shuttled away to the United States.  Ka-Pow:

Raul 1    

But this wasn’t just one date, it was FIFTEEN dates, and the law of averages being what they are, I ratcheted my expectations down to something closer to this:

Raul 2 

The event was held at Eighteenth Cocktail Bar, a speakeasy-themed place with knowledgeable, friendly staff and a relaxed atmosphere (even if the Prohibition-era cocktail bar is getting a bit clichéd at this point, it was still a nice bar and worth a visit in its own right).

Once just about everyone had arrived I surveyed the room and found that the mix of people there (both women and men) wasn’t nearly as awful as I had feared.  We were given 10 or 15 minutes to simply mingle while the last few stragglers arrived.  The fact that everyone was there for the same reason – for the sole purpose of meeting other single people – completely removed the potential awkwardness of simply walking up to a stranger and introducing yourself.  Only a few people seemed to be clinging to the bar or nervously staring at their feet.  Everyone else had little difficulty making introductions and scouting the field.  This was also a good sign – I didn’t want to have 15 mini-dates with people who struggled to carry on a conversation.

I used the time to meet several different girls and “work the room” a bit, and to be honest – it didn’t really matter who they were…to my mind, the important part was just to be seen talking to women; walking up, smiling, introducing myself, etc.  Why, you ask?  The thing about these situations is that eventually you’ll be judged on your own merits, but you must also understand that you will be judged relative to your peers – all the other men in the room.  If you are the guy standing at the bar alone staring into your beer or simply looking around the room without taking initiative and wishing someone would talk to you, my guess is you come off looking weak and hesitant; you get pegged as the “omega” male in the room.  You don’t want that.  So get moving and talk to people.  Unlike other bar situations where it’s always a coin toss as to whether a woman wants to be approached or not, here you’re basically guaranteed to find a receptive audience when you walk up to a stranger.  I would simply pick a girl, walk up, smile and say something like “Hi there…I hear it’s not really worth the price of admission if you don’t introduce yourself to anyone, so my name’s Raul…”  After that, a handshake.  And it worked.  Then I’d launch into my litany of knock-knock jokes and/or talk about my mother.  Just kidding!  There is a time and a place for everything, and that was neither the time, nor the place for either of those.

Then we transitioned into the actual mini-date portion of the evening – five minutes with each person.  Sarah’s already described the mechanics of this, so I’ll just move directly to the analysis. 

In a potential mate, we’re all basically searching for – in no particular order – 1) physical attraction, 2) personality attraction (can include faith, politics, and anything else one finds important in another’s beliefs and outlook), and 3) that mysterious, indefinable “something” that sparks a desire to really get to know someone better and spend more time with them.  For lack of a better word, we’ll call it “chemistry.”  The trick, of course, is finding all three within the same person.  And while those three characteristics – especially if reciprocal – may not be enough to equal “love,” my feeling is that they are the minimum prerequisites for establishing a relationship that is more than merely friends.  For those of you with a more quantitative mindset, here’s my breakdown of how the field looked at the speed dating event:

Looks: 

–          Very Attractive:  4/15     (27%)

–          Cute to Average: 7/15    (46%)

–          Not Attractive:  4/15       (27%)

 

Personality:

–          Great Personality:  5/15        (33%)

–          Average Personality:  7/15    (47%)

–          Marginal Personality:  3/15   (20%)

 

Chemistry:

–          Yes:  3/15    (20%)

–          No:  12/15   (80%)

 

All three in one package:  2/15  (13%)

 

In terms of both looks and personality, there was an almost perfect bell curve distribution.  But what does this mean in real life?  For me, it meant that half the women in the room were pleasant to talk to and reasonably easy on the eyes.  A few had – to this author – flat personalities or looks that, for whatever reason, just didn’t spark any desire or interest on my part.  But for all those that fell flat, there were just as many that I was definitely intrigued by.  And a select few were attractive, had charming personalities, AND possessed that something extra which meant I’d really like to see them again.  When you think about it from the perspective that it only takes one “match” to make it all worthwhile, this really wasn’t a bad outcome…especially when you consider that some of those on the cusp between ‘above-average’ and ‘really interesting’ might have been diamonds-in-the-rough that, with a little more time invested, might really be something special.

As an aside – all of this is subjective, of course; I tend to focus a lot more on what’s on the inside than what’s on the outside, so a different guy may have graded things on a different curve, or might have been more harsh or lenient with respect to some of these criteria – or possibly had different criteria altogether (for example, a guy with a foot fetish might have been scrutinizing feet – I didn’t notice if the women there that night even HAD two feet.  But hey, different strokes…) 

So my mini-dates all went well, and I ended the evening by staying behind and having a great conversation with a lovely woman that – to my mind – was in the very top echelon of participants that night.  Over the next several days, I was contacted by several girls I had met, which was also nice. 

Now, some general observations about the event itself:

1)      Guys, don’t kid yourselves – these speed dating events are designed for women.   Specifically, it is designed around making women feel secure and comfortable.  Much like “ladies’ night” at a bar, the promoters know that if women feel comfortable and show up, the guys will naturally follow.  This is not a complaint, just an observation, and I understand why Match, for reasons of liability and risk management, would want it that way.  For example, guys are discouraged from handing out business cards or asking for contact information other than the girl’s Match.com “screen name.”  There’s even a bathroom break in the middle of the speed dating portion so that the girls can cluster together out of earshot and compare notes.  And also pee.  But trust me when I say that there is no such caucusing in the guys’ bathroom during this break.  [By the way…I realized at this time that if you go with a female friend to one of these events, you can have an accomplice on the inside that REALLY talks you up in the girls’ bathroom during this time, significantly augmenting whatever you bring to the table …I likely got no such help, but I’m just saying, if you want to game the speed dating system, you might consider working as a team.]  J

2)      What you get out of speed dating is as much a function of your expectations as it is the pool of daters that show up.  If you’re suspicious of speed dating events as potential horror shows, don’t be.  If you think it will be incredibly awkward and filled with stilted, forced conversation, it won’t be.  The people are essentially normal and well-adjusted, which means your odds are decent of finding at least a few people you’d like to know better.  So go in with a positive attitude and expect that there will be several people that are at least pleasant to spend some time with, along with some duds, and a few that just might be exceptional.  And if one of the exceptional ones happens to view you in the same light, well buddy that’s definitely worth the price of admission.  At the same time, this IS a gamble – there’s just no way around it.  You don’t know what you’re going to get until you simply show up. 

3)      Price.  This is a very slight quibble.  At $38, I felt like this was asking just a bit much for what, as I just mentioned, is a complete gamble.  I can imagine countless better ways to put that money into a first date with someone from Match (or anywhere else) that I already know I want to spend some time with…but if there’s no one like that on the horizon, then you might want to re-draft your profile and take out the shirtless mirror pics speed dating may just be the ticket to getting back out there and justify the cost.  But because speed dating provides such useful practice at striking up conversations with people you’ve never met – which is a significant real-world skill to all single people – I ultimately felt that it was worth the price.

4)      Don’t show up with a canned script, but DO think ahead of time about the more interesting/compelling aspects of your life or personality that you’d want to get across.  At the same time, think of some of the important characteristics you’d like to find out about someone else.  Weave some of these points into the otherwise natural conversation that you have with each mini-date.

5)      You’re going to have to make some conversation, so make sure your “is this appropriate to say” filter is in place.  By way of example, here’s an “icebreaker” question that’s OK to ask:  “So tell me something unexpected or interesting about yourself – is there something you do or enjoy that people who don’t know you might be surprised by?”  People light up and talk about travel, skydiving, collecting this or that, hobbies, interests, etc.  For comparison, if your idea of an icebreaker opening question is “So, what’s your safe word?” or “Do you carry pepper spray in your purse?”…you should probably definitely come up with something else.

6)      Watch your alcohol intake.  I didn’t want to seem a bit quiet on mini-dates 1-4, gregarious on dates 5-10, slurred speech through dates 11-14, and close out the session by vomiting on date #15’s shoes.   So I didn’t do tequila shots all evening.  I wanted to be consistent, in control, lucid, and charming, so I just sipped on a glass or two of water all evening, and had a beer after the final mini-date when there was additional time to mingle.  If you’re a more reserved or introverted type that might feel the need to have a drink at the start to “loosen up,” then that’s fine, but please pace yourself and remember that you drove there.

7)      Finally, if you’re one of the countless people that have a problem with walking up and introducing yourself to cute girls/guys at a bar (or a grocery store, or at church, or anywhere else), an event like this is VERY good practice to help you get over that anxiety.  Sure, the audience is rigged in your favor, but you’ll learn a lot about different things to say to break the ice with a complete stranger, how to have a decent conversation in just a few minutes, and how to exit a situation with tact and class.

Well, that’s my take.  To anyone who has even the slightest interest in such an event (and even those, like me, that had ZERO interest)…there are worse ways to spend an evening, and worse ways to spend 38 bucks.  Do yourself a favor and don’t be afraid to give something different a try! 

-Raul


Stalking is Sexy

I think we’ve already established that dates are like interviews.  Anyone on the dating scene knows this to be true.  And if you prepare for an interview, wouldn’t you do the same for a date?

But, today’s question is – how much “preparation” is ok?  And when does pre-date prep stalking research cross the line into a place that will actually HURT your chances at a successful date?

I’m a big believer in using the variety of tools at your disposal to be prepared.  But, how far is too far?

Many times, I will Google a guy before even agreeing to a date at all.  I don’t always have this privilege because it requires having some basic information (last name, where he works, etc.) that online dating doesn’t always afford you, but if I can – I do.  I will Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and any other available cyber stalk.  And what am I looking for?  I just like to get a sense of his personality outside of the profile HE wrote about himself.  I also don’t mind verifying that he actually has a job.

Honestly, I’m really not usually looking for “dirt,” I just want to get a broader sense of who he is!  Is his FB page full of political rants?  Photos of family?  Annoyingly “inspirational” posters?  What is he passionate about?  What does he like to DO?  Could I show his Facebook profile to my mother?  Does he play Farmville?  This is very important. I say yes to Words-With-Friends and an emphatic no to Farmville.  They’re very different sorts of guys…  It’s like the Bloods and the Crips…only less stabby.  But, back to our topic…

I know that some women will take it to the next level(s) as well:
– if they’re going out with an alleged millionaire, they can check out whether his company is registered with Companies House
– if the guy claims to be a musician, she can look for him on MySpace, YouTube, Vimeo, Soundcloud, etc.
– and I’ve even had women I know call in favors from law enforcement family members and friends to run background checks.

This is certainly not exclusive to women.  I know men pre-date-stalk too.  In fact, the impetus for this post was a guy friend who started reading the blog of the woman he was going to go on a date with and asked me if I thought that was inappropriate.
(Inappropriate, not because it was ‘creeper’y, but because…is there such a thing as knowing ‘too much’?)

The trend seems to be – women would rather know more about a man ahead of time and men would rather discover these things in person.  Why, you say?  Well…that may be enough fuel for a whole other post, but …it has to do with trust, insecurities, fears, etc…. cheery stuff.

Here is my stance on all of this.  I think it’s fine to collect as much information as you want to before a date.  But the tipping point of how it will GO for you, is in HOW you use your information.

First…know that every piece of information you have – you have OUT of context of the whole person.  So, while it may be integral  data to your processing, it needs to be paired with the REAL person.  Meeting and talking with someone face-to-face will ALWAYS shed light on who they are, no matter how much preliminary data you’ve collected.  And once you have a feel for the real person, every bit of information before and going forward is now filtered through that lens.

An innocuous example of this is my blog.  I’ve had people criticize its tone as being harsh or mean… but the people who KNOW me, “hear” my “voice” as they read it and hence, hear it as dry-humor or the silly rants of a woman who has a soft heart.  They’ve seen my face, heard my voice, seen the tilt of my head or the wink of my eye as I say things, and now when they read, THAT’s the Sarah they ‘hear.’  This works with people you date as well.  So – remember that all that information you gathered ahead of time is SANS real person.

Next…no overshares.  When you’re going on a job interview, you WANT the potential employer to know you took the time to research their company, learn about the history, management, stats, etc.  This impresses them.  This does NOT impress dates.  Just to clarify.

As in… do not lead in with any talking points, “So, when I read that article you wrote your junior year of college…inspiring.”  Or, “those pictures of you in the bathtub when you were four are just precious.”……. chirp…. wide eyes… not a great date-starter.

The trick is to USE your information wisely.  Remember…with great knowledge comes great responsibility.
(What…that’s NOT how it goes?  Well… consider that my own pithy rule of thumb then.)

Knowing tidbits about your date is a great insider edge when making conversation, but use it sparingly and mostly as information in the back of your mind that helps fill in the master portrait of who they are.

If people will get to know the WHOLE person in the dating process, we’ll be that much closer to living lives of authenticity.  And in then end… that is what will make a relationship work.

 


Speed Dating – 2.0

Some of you may remember my first foray into speed dating last summer…which, aside from the entertaining story it provided and a friend I made in the process, was a colossal failure.  When you endure a 5-min. long detailed description of a man’s recent toe surgery, you pretty much know you’re not walkin’ away with a life love… or a man who can walk correctly at all, really.

But this week, I participated in Match.com’s version and it was considerably more successful.  Sit back and let me tell you the tale.

Let me begin by saying that I DIG the idea of speed dating.  I think anyone on the dating scene can agree that in 5 minutes, you know if your date is someone you want to spend the rest of your date with or if you’d rather be home watching Storage Wars.  So, the premise is simple and reasonable – 5 minute dates with several men, and if you liked what you saw, you could contact them (or they, you) for a real date.

Eighteenth Cocktail Bar

Eighteenth Cocktail Bar

The event was held at the charming Prohibition-themed “Eighteenth Cocktail Bar” near Rice Village, and Match.com had supplied SEVENTEEN dates!  Not shabby.

I was greeted by an enthusiastic woman who gave me the run-down of the night and passed me on to another fun, charismatic personality (I would later covet her job) who signed me in.  There was about a half an hour of mingle time where people could get drinks, food and chat.  That’s the only part I would’ve done differently had they asked ME to run the show… not everyone is comfortable making conversation ex nihilo.  I think an icebreaker type of cheesy game would’ve helped the non-extroverts of the group ease into the night.IMG_5335

I was fine because I ooze conversation, but even for me, it was a stretch – so I can only imagine how the less “Sarah-ish” folks fared.

One of the nicest guy there

One of the nicest guys there

So, I got my perfectly crafted mojito and sidled up to a few folks to start chatting.  The girls were great and the guys seemed …well… normal!  I didn’t see anyone right from the beginning who caught my eye on looks alone, but the personalities were enjoyable for sure.

Finally, the woman in charge (did I mention I want her job?) got everyone’s attention and gave us a run-through of how it would work, including directing everyone’s attention to things like table numbers, list/notes for the night, and suggested icebreaker questions/conversation starters for those people who can’t think of how to move conversation along for the ENTIRE five minutes… hmmm…  She was great, though.  Her introduction helped bring a shared humanity and recognition of a collective nervousness to the event that evened things out a bit.

Our host and a kindred spirit (meaning that she was loud and vivacious....like your favorite blogger)

Our host and a kindred spirit
(meaning that she was loud and vivacious….like your favorite blogger)

We got started and I sat at table 12 (I’d like call it “the best table” from here forward…) to await all my 5-min. suitors.

And they trickled in, one by one, shaking my hand, introducing themselves to me and asking questions to get to know me.  I will say this – most of these guys were quite lovely – they have good jobs, they were intelligent, capable of making conversation and asking me about myself and they were (mostly) appropriately complimentary.

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There were exceptions, of course… a couple of the guys talked WAY too much about themselves, filling the entire 5 minutes with talking about the details of their jobs and how important they are, and never asking me anything about myself.  But, hey – that’s life… better to happen on a 5-min date than a 45-min one (or worse!)

Some guys were simply drinking too much.  When a guy sits down and he’s obviously drunk…well, let’s just say – you’re grateful for the 5 minute limit.
(related note…any blurry photos were taken by people who couldn’t master the button pushing because of inebriation.  Let me apologize in advance for them).

Being goofy with some of the folks after the fact

Being goofy with some of the folks after the fact

This guy (dubbed "the coolest guy in the room" by the moderator) and the person taking the shot...were quite drunk.  Sigh...

This guy (dubbed “the coolest guy in the room” by the moderator) and the person taking the shot…were quite drunk. Sigh…

One gentleman was especially smarmy.  He started out great…asking me a unique ice-breaker question, “What were you doing on New Year’s Eve?”

I answered him, telling him I was at a party with a singles group I coordinate,

and he went on to ask what the IDEAL New Year’s Eve night would look like for me…

IMG_5339
…interrupting me to grab my hand in his,
scoot slightly uncomfortably close and remarking,
“You have the reddest lips and fantastic breasts!”

(record scratches)…

Um….. thank you?  …man I’ve known for 42 seconds…?

So, that was fun.

 

 

About halfway through the evening, the MC announced a short break and, as I’m sure you can imagine, the ladies’ restroom was abuzz with debriefing.  It was like a sociological study in there – listening to all of us exchanging stories and anecdotes and talking in general about the world of dating…fascinating stuff.  If Match.com wants the REAL scoop on what people were thinking of the event, all they’d need to do is plant a mole in the Women’s restroom and listen.

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I honestly could’ve ended the evening there – conversing and laughing with the other women – but duty called and I returned to my post.

At the beginning of the night, I’d tried to make contact with all the people in “charge” of the event, including a manager of the restaurant and the bartenders helping us out.  I guess I made an impression because right smack dab in the middle of one of my 5-min-dates, the bartender came over to me and brought two shots of some delicious melon drink – one for him (the bartender!  Not my date!) and me.

Bartending twins...totes adorbs.

Bartending twins…totes adorbs.

It cracked me up – and I didn’t quite know how to navigate the situation except to diffuse the awkwardness with humor, so I thanked him and told my ‘date’ that he was probably making up for snatching my not-yet-finished mojito from the table while I’d been in the bathroom.  Still… it was hilarious and flattering to be interrupted during the shortest possible date, by a man offering me a free drink.

 

 

Photo taken by the aforementioned "coolest guy" (perhaps we should name him the "drinkiest guy?") Thanks for at least getting PART of my face in there, fella...

Photo taken by the aforementioned “coolest guy” (perhaps we should name him the “drinkiest guy?”)
Thanks for at least getting PART of my face in there, fella…

SO… there were several men who helped vindicate my enduring faith in online dating – that is,…they’re great guys who will make someone very happy I’ll bet.  But none for me.

Although…there was ONE guy there who was quite fascinating to talk with… friendly, handsome, engaging, witty… sound familiar?  Yup – it was Raul!  (For those of you who haven’t been reading the blog long, Raul is a close friend I made via online dating.  We simultaneously and mutually agreed that we weren’t a romantic match, but we’ve had a fantastic friendship ever since.)

He was there!  What are the odds?  (OK, maybe he heard me talking about it and decided to go WAAaaay outside of his comfort zone and come check it out.  He’s guest posted a couple of times on here, and… he’s going to post TOMORROW about HIS perspective from the night!

At the end, I snapped some photos with folks who agreed to let me splatter their faces all over the interwebs, said my goodbyes and went on my merry way.

In retrospect, there’s really only one thing I would’ve done differently.  I think a classy move all around, would be to put a tip jar on my table.  You know – I’d pad it with a couple of ones and let the cash roll in.  I mean… as each guy left his 5-minute date, I could give it a subtle tap-tap with my fingernail, as if to say, “I’m not saying a sizeable tip would increase your chances of another date……but…..”
Hey – money talks.  Let’s make it rain, boys.

What…??  I might be sassy and confident, but this single mama’s gotta make a living!
As Daniel Tosh says, I’m a baller on a budget.

The next day, I got a few messages from guys who were there…but not many.  I suspect that Raul got considerably more… we’ll have to wait and see.  But, I hypothesize that my lack of enthusiasm over any one guy was obvious…I’m known to be pretty transparent.  I don’t think I was at ALL rude or unkind.  I had FUN with these guys.  But, I also think they walked away thinking, “that was fun.  But, I don’t think she likes me enough for a date.”

speed dating 1

 

speed dating 2

 

Speed dating 3

 

All told, I consider the event a success.  I didn’t go in thinking I’d probably find love, so I wasn’t disappointed… but I WAS encouraged by a room full of well-adjusted (mostly) folks looking for the same thing I am… that connection with that one person… and they haven’t given up hope.  THEY are all still searching like I am – still believing that it’s out there to be found.  And that’s nice to see.