Category Archives: Ask Sarah

Ask Sarah – Dating at the Graveside

Dear Sarah,
     I’ve recently encountered a situation that requires the advice of a love expert like yourself. Here’s a brief background story: In the fall of 2012 one of my dear and most loyal friends died of a self inflicted gunshot.  I ran into his ex-girlfriend various times over the next couple months and the poor girl was obviously a wreck, …and then we didn’t see each other for quite a while.
     Several weeks ago I ran into her again at a gig I was playing and we caught up – it was great seeing her. I immediately asked her how she was, and I guess by the look in my eyes, she knew what I meant and said she was doing better. She looked better, she looked great. So after an hour or so passed, while we spoke, and while more booze was consumed, I started to notice that she was getting a little flirty. And when I say a little flirty I mean it, nothing blatant, just a couple of the eye movements, and brief contact with knees. Keep in mind she is a very attractive person and normally it wouldn’t take much to win me over. The difference is that she is an ex of a deceased friend of mine. Not just a friend but a loyal man who would have given his life for me. He told me several times “Anybody who messes with you’s gotta mess with me first!! I’m serious, Bobby.”
      So the question is: Is it ok to sleep with, date, or pursue an ex of a deceased friend?
My philosophy is that you cannot do any of the above with the ex of a friend, associate, or anyone you know or respect. If you don’t care about the person, then fine, go for it, otherwise stay away a**hole!! What do you think? Also is she considered an ex since she was dating him at the time of his death? They weren’t married so she can’t be his widow.
Anyway Sarah I’m lost about this matter. Please give me any advice you can know of.
Thank you,
Your fan,
Bobby

Bobby,
Let me ask a few questions first.
1.  Does she understand the difference between “your” and “you’re?”  EVEN when texting?
2.  Has she stopped using hearts for punctuation?
3.  Does she own fewer than 5 cats?
If the answer to these questions is yes, then what’s the problem??
I want to tell you a different story and you tell me how you react.
There was a sweet couple – Jean and Hank – high school sweethearts – married 40 years when Jean was diagnosed with cancer.  As they battled the disease over the course of 4 more long years, they hired a live-in nurse, named Maria, to assist with medical issues and offer support.  The family became very close with Maria: it was clear she cared about all of them and she became more than a nurse… she was a friend.  As Jean slipped into her last weeks of life, Maria was there around the clock, tending to her, but also offering a listening ear or holding Hank’s hand as he grieved for his wife.  The day finally arrived and Jean passed away.  Maria was there for every moment of the mourning process – helping with the Memorial service details, talking with some family members, crying with others, sitting silently with some.  And as the weeks and months after Jean’s death passed, and life slowly started getting back to normal, Maria stayed in contact with Hank and his children, coming to family dinners from time to time, meeting for coffee to check in on them, etc.  She and Hank had developed such a strong friendship over the next year or so, that no one was surprised when one day, he announced that he and Maria were dating… and a year after that, they married.
How does that hit you?  Does it sound scandalous or wrong?  Does it break the bro code?
I have a feeling it sounds normal… sweet even.
Is that so different from your situation?  The only real difference is the age.  They’re old.  You’re young.  But why is it wrong simply because of youth?
Bottom line is that I absolutely disagree with you.
Who BETTER than those who were close with (read: possibly shared similar values and character traits as) the deceased, to take care of, and love, those left behind?
Now – if your question is, “can we have sex?” then my answer is different.
But if your question is, “can I start a relationship with this person and see where it goes?” I give my unequivocal two thumbs up!
Think of it this way – if he really loved you as much as he says, if you could go back and time and ask him, in a serious moment, “Dude… if something every happened to you, what kind of guy would you want to end up with your girlfriend?” – I bet he’d respond with something like, “Oh man, I’d want her to end up with someone like you.
What’s the alternative?  I’m guessing she’s not going to be celibate and alone the rest of her life.  So, if she’s going to date and eventually marry SOMEone, why not someone who loved the man she loved?  Makes sense to me.
The only sticky wickets in this king of situation would be:
– entering into a romantic relationship too soon after someone has passed away.  People need time to mourn.
– turning it into a purely physical relationship where, in the end, she’ll just feel used by someone she trusted
I find it interesting that you stated it this way:
“My philosophy is that you cannot [be in a relationship] with the ex of a friend, associate, or anyone you know or respect. If you don’t care about the person, then fine, go for it, otherwise stay away…”
Seems backwards to me.  “If you DON’T care about the person, then fine?”
So, let me see if I have this straight:
Date people you don’t care about… and stay away from those you do?  Hrmmmm…
If you care about someone who passes away, you’re supposed to remove yourself from his loved ones’ lives?
I sure hope if I were married and my husband died, that my friends wouldn’t adopt such a policy.  I want them to stay close – for comfort, friendship, support, and ultimately – healing.
So, there you have it – my permission to date this girl (if that’s what she wants too!).
And I’ll be curious to hear how it goes!

Ask Sarah – Soulmate vs. CatLady

photo 2I’ve received two letters through the “Ask Sarah” tab/form that were so similar, I decided to combine them into one post.

The first one is the latter half of the letter I addressed a couple weeks ago in Ask Sarah – Damaged Goods.
He asked the question:
I guess the crux of my point is this: Is the idea of finding your true soulmate too hard, in this instant age of Facebook, Twitter, eHarmony, and all the others?

The next letter came from a woman:
How do you endure such crappy dates and dissapointments and not give up on dating all together?
Every time I’m reminded again how dissapointing my choices are, I run away. I suspend my online accounts and vow to become an old cat lady.
How do you endure the dismal dates and continue forward with optimism?


I love how the automatic corollary to finding the love of your life is always to “become an old cat lady.”  Really?  That’s the exclusive alternative?  That’s the spectrum?  Love on one end, running a feline menagerie on the other?
(Ever notice how Cat “Woman” is sexy and powerful, but Cat “Lady” is old and pathetic?  I digress.)

The questions above seem to be not only- why keep believing in the efficacy of online dating,… but how to stay optimistic at ALL.

But, really, I think the issue is less about optimism and more about HOPE.

Ok – full disclosure… I’ve typed and retyped this post several times now.  And in the spirit of authenticity, I should tell you – I’m really struggling with answering this question!

It’s not because I can’t think of a “cool” way to say it…it’s because, until now, I don’t think I’ve given much thought to the question of – how DO I keep up hope?  And is it the same as being optimistic?  Or… is it something more?
Is it just my cheery personality?  Am I just wired to be hopeful?  Or maybe it’s something else…

Part of me wants to say:

The difference between optimism and hope is this–  Optimism says, “It’s all gonna end up fine, no matter how the evidence suggests otherwise.  The reality of this world is that there’s a lot of suffering.

But, hope – unlike just thinking that the glass always half-full – hope has an ace in the hole.  Hope has the (and yes…this is going to sound uber cheesy, but just hang with me for a few minutes)… Hope has the power of the human heart.  Oh gag… wow…even knowing where I’m going with this, that sounds way too blindly inspirational to stomach.

So, ok — it has to be something other than simply the “power of the human heart.”  Because, while in moments of national tragedy, when I see people behave with unbelievable kindness and sacrifice… I also know that a day or two later, those same people are privy to the same crankiness and despair that plagues us all.  The same human spirit that prevails over heartache, also yells at their children days later, or tells a lie to save face, or…any other transgression that misses the mark of true goodness.  Goodness exists – but right along with our heart’s natural tendency toward selfishness and rebellion.

No…hope can’t JUST be a product of the strength of the human heart…

So then another part of me wants to say:

I have hope because I believe God has someone for me.  And surely he wouldn’t have created me with such big love in my heart only to let it stagnate with only a handful of cats to be the final recipients of my affection.  Right?

But that argument breaks down really quickly …after all, he allowed me to be divorced, and that sucked pretty hard.  And there are lots of lonely people out there – people HE created – who don’t ever find the love story they so desire.  And then you get into the whole problem of evil …God doesn’t save millions of people from starvation and illness … how could I believe that I have some kind of relationship insurance just because he loves me?

No…there’s something more to hope.  (Plus, I really don’t want to get into a theological debate in today’s post).

 


 

I dare say we are CREATED to be hopeful people.  That doesn’t mean that it always works out the way we want.  But, maybe HAVING hope IS the good thing.  Getting what you want is just icing on the cake.  Maybe the very virtue of being hopeful keeps us alive… I mean really alive.

And maybe all we’re ‘supposed’ to do – is ‘keep the faith’…that is, make  choices for love, rather than out of fear?

Ultimately my answer may not satisfy some, but here it is:

photo 1

I have hope because I HAVE to have hope.

For me… there really is no other option.  Those Friday nights where I’m sitting alone on my couch and I feel those lonely thoughts creep in… the “I sure would like to have someone special here to snuggle up with me” thoughts…
should I just resign myself to that?  Is that the answer?
If it comes down to surrendering to a life of loneliness or holding out hope that there’s someone out there for me… someone that can push past the insanely picky parameters I’ve set…then I have to choose hope every time.

So – yes – it’s a tautology…but that’s the best I can come up with – for ME, that is.  I am a hopeful romantic.  Hopeful because…I choose to be.  I have to be.  I’m not ready to succumb to a life of cats JUST yet.  (Don’t get me wrong…I like cats… I just like the idea of a handsome man a bit more…)

 

And that brings us back to – can it be found online?  And…what about all the bad dates?

Well – I don’t know if online is the answer…I just know it provides a filter that you can’t find anywhere else.
I’m still open to other things…
like friends setting me up.  Ahem…
*clears throat*
FRIENDS SETTING ME UP!  hint…hint…
…as well as just meeting someone organically – at a bar, at church, at the DMV…. ha!  Kidding…just seeing if you’re paying attention.  Do NOT go out with anyone you meet at the DMV…..lawsa mercy…

So – let’s just say that the online option is just that – AN option…that’s all.  It’s one of many avenues to potentially finding the one.

And as for the bad dates…well….THIS is why I blog.  It’s a great outlet to vent my frustration and once I verbally vomit my misfortune all over all of YOU…. I can move on to being the hopeFUL romantic I naturally am.  And hey – for every few bad dates, there’s a good one.  May not be THE one… but good nonetheless.

I guess, in the end – bad dates, abysmal online profiles and photos, and all other manner of dating discouragement – are not enough to dissuade me from the necessary hope I have.

And here’s hoping it continues long enough for me to find a couch-snuggler of my own.

 

 

Ask Sarah – Damaged Goods

damaged goodsDear Sarah,

What is it about dating today that feels so awkward?  Sure, I spent more than half my life with one woman who, comes to find out, was nothing more than a cheat and a liar. But why does that seem to automatically place me in the “Damaged Goods” bin?

Are damaged goods defined as a man who placed his wife and their children first? A man that made every decision, both personally and professionally, with them at the forefront? Who today is bouncing back as a single dad with a terrific son in college and a precious daughter in high school who lights up my life with her smile…is he really “damaged goods?”

As my daughter and I like to say to one another, “We didn’t choose this life, this life chose us,” and we are making the best out of our situation. This is our new normal and now my daughter has pushed me back into the dating waters because she wants to learn from me a lesson on regaining happiness.  Unfortunately, she seems to have lost faith in happiness and true love after the hell we suffered through.

I know there is a special woman who waits for me and I pray I can find her sooner rather than later. This woman needs to have a smile that can brighten my day, a laugh that can shake a room, and a heart that beats in sync with mine. She can’t be afraid to be who she is, because I seek a woman who can challenge me to be better.  A woman who can think for herself and share with me what she wants and accept it when I offer ideas so we can help one another get to where we want to be; who isn’t afraid to show me her true emotional self, and can embrace that from me, because I’m an emotional man. I guess the crux of my point is this: Is the idea of finding your true soulmate too hard to find anymore in this instant age of Facebook, Twitter, eHarmony, and all the others?

 


Dear “damaged goods,”

First of all, it seems to me like you’re asking two questions here:

  1.  Am I automatically seen as ‘damaged goods’ simply by virtue of the fact that I’m divorced?
  2. Is it even possible to find the love of your life these days and in this place in life?

I’ll tackle the first one today.  …watch for the next one next week

 

To answer your first question…..…. We are ALL damaged goods!
I think it’s just a matter of HOW damaged you are, if you know it, and how you deal with your own damage.  Let me unpack that.

Everyone is imperfect.  We all have ‘issues,’ fears, insecurities, …broken places.
Does that make us ‘damaged?’  Perhaps.
But, if so, then we have an equal playing field full of broken people.  The better question isn’t “am I ‘damaged goods,’ but, how am I dealing with my personal damage/baggage/hurt.

If you’re still wallowing in bitterness, resentment and anger about your divorce, then – yeah – probably not your time for the dating world.
Because all you will do is cling to the first person who shows you something remotely close to love, whether s/he is the right person or not, and project your broken places onto him or her.

But, if you’ve taken the time and emotional energy to work on yourself – to acknowledge the places where you bring some baggage with you – then you can (hopefully) own your own junk.  You’ll also be better at communicating your wants and needs with a potential partner, including letting him/her know in which areas you’re more sensitive/fragile.
As someone with a background in counseling, this is one of those places where I think EVERYONE could benefit from a session or 12 😉 with a licensed therapist.  Yes, your BFF is totes amaze… but a neutral party and professional, who is used to dealing with post-divorce emotions, is an invaluable asset to those of us who have gone through the pain of divorce.

damaged goods 2

So, no – being divorced does not automatically make you less-than or unworthy – it is simply part of your story.  A really sad part.

[Side note:  Divorce is never a good thing.  Please don’t hear me saying that.  It is a natural product of a broken world where people are self-serving rather than sacrificial; and chase after momentary pleasures rather than see marriage as a marathon of hard work and surrender.  So – yes – being divorced is – by virtue of the fact that it means the end of promises made to love someone for life – bad.  I don’t ever want my words to sound like I think divorce is just another option in a large sea of life choices… neutral and without consequence.  I think it’s sometimes a necessary evil, but evil nonetheless.]

So, I guess the real issue here isn’t whether you’re “damaged goods” because you have a failed relationship in your past… don’t we all have one or two of those?  The better issue for examination is – WHERE is my damage/pain and what am I doing to work on that so I can be a better partner to the next person I love?

Ask Sarah – Bad Sex

Dear Sarah,

I’ve recently started dating again and was trying a “new MO.”  I confess that I watch The Millionaire Matchmaker and she has a rule of ” no sex before monogmamy.”  So, I thought I’d give this a try.  So, I dated this guy several  times, liked him a lot, had lots in common etc. After we had a discussion about seeing other people, we decide to make the whoopee.

Bad bad bad.

It was so bad on so many levels that I’m embarrassed to go there again. Here’s my dilemma…in the old days, it was an easy fix.
But since I’ve gone out so many times and I genuinely like him as a person, how do you ditch someone over bad sex (not to mention unfortunate anatomy issues)?

Thanks for your wisdom and advice.


 

bad sex 1

Dear Disappointed in bed,

First – let me just applaud you for making the bold and counter-cultural decision to wait on having sex.  I know this couldn’t have been an easy choice when the temptation is so strong!

And the issue of when to take intimacy all the way is a touchy one (no pun intended) because I know I have readers on every part of the continuum from no-rules to no-sex-before-marriage and everything in-between.  So – let me make this caveat that my answer to this question isn’t a commentary on when people should enter into a sexual relationship, but rather, thoughts on how a less-than-desirable sexual partnership can be turned around.

Ok – so – are you sure you want to end it?  Have you come to that conclusion?  Or is part of you wondering if this is salvageable?  Not surprisingly, I have some thoughts on this.

I don’t think bad sex is insurmountable.  Now – please don’t hear me say that I think people need to settle for less than everything they want in the bedroom… I think it’s great to aim for an amazing sex life.  BUT – I think the factors that make the sex bad – can be fixed.  Hear me out.

If you find a good man (and that’s a big if, I’ll admit), then you can turn bad sex into hot sex.

If the problem isn’t the sex, but the person behind it, then…yeah …it may be time to end it.

But, if the person you’re with WANTS you – that is, he wants you physically AND he wants to know you and love you, then you have all the tools you need to have great sex…with a little help.

 

My dad used to tell us (yes – my pastor father …dispensing sexual wisdom to his children…it’s true!) – that the most important sex organ is the mind.  Not the “bathing suit parts.”   If you devote yourself to another person, make their wants/needs as or more important than your own, learn about them and care for them in this way, you can have the hottest sex life.  It’s true.
But, it also requires the scary step – communication.  And communicating about sex is one of the most terrifying subjects, especially when you’re not on the same page.  Talk about vulnerability!  Talking to someone about how they are when they’re at their MOST exposed (literally naked) is the trickiest conversation to have.

THIS is why many people save sex for when they’ve reached the point in the relationship where they feel emotionally safe enough to talk about anything.  Where they feel loved and cared for so much that they have the FREEDOM to speak up about any issue.  This might also be why first date sex isn’t always as sizzling hot as you’d hoped… because you aren’t in a place where you can let your desires be known.

Reader – if this man seems like a catch in other ways, (and…heck…if you’re ready to, as you say, “ditch” him, then you really have nothing to lose), why not talk about this in a gracious way?  You might be surprised that he WANTS to have this talk because he’s eager to please you in this arena.  Now, obviously, this is an area in which to tread softly and use non-judgmental language.  But, I’ll bet if you broach it tenderly, maybe over a glass of wine, and using phrases like, “I really like you and I’m excited about making this thing great.  Would it be ok with you if we try a couple things differently next time we’re in the bedroom?  I really like it when…”

I know what some of you are thinking… “some people just aren’t sexually compatible.”  And I call BS.  If you have the right parts, you’re sexually compatible.  That’s just physics.  A plug and an outlet will always WORK, unless something else is wrong.  What most people mean when they say that, is that they’re not compatible in other ways – communication, intimacy, levels of desire, the ways you express passion, etc.  But all of those things are areas that CAN be changed or modified if you care about someone enough to truly learn them and they you.

That whole joke/phrase that women say and men scoff at:  “size doesn’t matter… it’s how you use it,” ….well, I think there’s some real truth to that.  I’m not saying that body types don’t enter into this discussion at all – but at the core of great sex – is desire, care, understanding, ….love.

So – I say, don’t go down without fighting.  You don’t have anything to lose.  If you try to talk about things and his ego can’t handle it…then you’ve just gained more information about him and he’s perhaps not the catch you thought he was.  And then, breaking things off becomes easier too – because you have more reasons than just bad sex – you have the much greater dealbreaker of his unwillingness to do the work to make the relationship great.

But, maybe you’ll be surprised that he likes you enough to endure a little conversational discomfort for the sake of compatibility – in every room of the house.

Ask Sarah – Supermarket Serendipity – pt. II

Dear Sarah,

Over the years I’ve kind of developed this theory that what pornography does to men destructively, the cute romantic comedy and romance literature, and Disney movies do to women (obviously they’re not the same in terms of decency). I mean that it creates a false sense of the norm, generates unrealistic expectations, and encourages dangerous unhealthy behavior. That said, there’s a fine line between romantic and creepy. Things on the silver screen which can take your breath away positively, would negatively take your breath away in real life, and possibly end with mace. Wild romantic gestures, whether in a relationship or to initiate one, wreak of creepy more than cute in real life.

I think about this often. One of the recurring themes is the “supermarket serendipity”. Women often dream of meeting their guy at the grocery store. When I’m grocery shopping I notice women, but it certainly seems like the most inappropriate place to hit on girls. If you strike up a conversation over things in the buggy, that’s weird. If you look like you’re hanging out there to pick up chicks it’s pathetic.

When I go to the grocery store I leave the kids at home; it’s a mini vacation, and my grocery bill is lower. I love the idea of randomly bumping into someone and meeting, but it definitely seems like poor timing. We’ve all got ice cream in our carts, and making a date is next to impossible.

Oh well, I’ll quit blabbering, but I’m curious what you think.


Well, we talked about the idea of women’s unrealistic romantic fantasies/expectations in Part 1, but today, I’m going to tackle the way more fun topic of the ACTUAL supermarket serendipity.

Yes – many women have this fantasy in their mind – that while at some public forum, a dashing single man will notice them and initiate conversation…ending in a kismet moment that they’ll look back on 3 kids and 10 happily married years later, and smile.

Is that too much to ask??    (kidding…    no, but seriously.      ok, ok – kidding.)

 

Before we launch in – let me say that YES – this can flop.  Yes, these moments can be disastrous.  I’ve heard several accounts of this going awry – women who are all-but-stalked in a grocery store where some guy follows them and then hits them up with an unbidden conversation dripping with an alarmingly high creepy factor and a suspiciously multi-level-marketing-ish tone.

That’s NOT what I’m talking about.  Those are men who are ‘hunting,’ not just noticing/looking.  A man on the prowl is different from a man who notices you’re getting a bottle of wine he loves and uses that as a springboard for authentic conversation.

What I AM talking about is a man (or woman!) being bold enough to acknowledge someone who strikes his fancy – and reading his audience so he doesn’t creep her out, but initiates a conversation that they can continue later if they’re both interested.

I carry cards with me that have my name, website and phone number on them, so that if something like this ever happens and I’m intrigued, I can give a guy one of my cards, flash him my winning smile and tell him with my equal-parts-seductive-and-genuinely-friendly eyes that I’d look forward to hearing from him.  Boom.

The problem with these public conversation start-ups is that people feel more exposed and vulnerable than they do in more culturally acceptable venues.  Men will easily sidle up to you at a bar or a club and tell your their life story, but ask a man about a ripe avocado and watch the fear take over his face.  Geez…  why is it BETTER to be ‘picked up’ at a bar than at Whole Foods?  I dare say that I’m more my true self while checking out with my quinoa, kale, and ice cream (see …if you get enough health foods, you can sneak in the junk and NO one will notice…) than 2 craft beers in at my local watering hole.  I’m the real life me – not the dolled up, tipsy version.  Plus – think of all the fuel for conversation!  At least once every couple of weeks, I’ll remark on what someone ahead of me or behind me is purchasing – man OR woman.  If I see steaks, veggies, wine and cheese, I’ll often joke, “So!  What time shall I be there for dinner?”  People always chuckle and it usually opens us up to a brief conversation.  Or I’ll ask someone who’s buying something I’ve never tried, if it’s good.  What do you have to lose?

Tell you what – here are some simple tips for lighting the match of a potential match – in the grocery store (these can be adapted for WalMart/Target, home improvement stores, boutiques, jiffy lubes, and on and on the list goes):

– DO smile and be yourself, even if that means a little stuttering or tripping over your words.  We find that way more endearing than the slurred speech you’ll give us a few hours later while ordering your stout.
– Do NOT follow a woman through the aisles.  Speak or don’t.  But, don’t stalk her until you get up your nerve.  Having a ‘tail’ isn’t romantic, it’s cause for a restraining order.
– DO start the conversation with something relevant (about what you’re buying, etc.  I’ve had men give me tips on which wines are good when they see me surveying the options.  I’d be happy for them to follow that up with, “You know… I know a great wine bar not too far from here… if you’d ever want to go grab a drink?”)
– Do NOT use a ‘line’ like you might at a bar.  “So…you come here often?” doesn’t really dazzle the way you think it will at Kroger/Jewel/Publix.  Of course we come here often.  We eat.
– DO make friendly eye-contact.  It’s the first bait you can put out to see if she’ll bite.  Does she look back and smile?  Bam!  That’s your invitation to strike up a friendly conversation.  If she rolls her eyes, well – you have your answer.
– DO read your audience.  If she’s racing through the store in a near panic, she does NOT have the time to be hit on.  If she’s exasperated with 6 children nipping at her heels…she’s not feeling sexy.  If she’s buying tampons, ice cream, St. John’s wort and the latest Cosmo…well, I’ll let that speak for itself.  But, if she’s shopping leisurely and seems in good spirits, I say you go for it.
– DO go for it!  What’s the worst that will happen?  She’ll dismiss you and move on?  Ok – well, you didn’t know her before, so you’ve lost nothing.  And perhaps you’ve gained a bit of bravery?!

 

I talk with people all the time – men and women – who don’t want to do the online dating thing because they want their love story to start off “more organically.”  But, what does that MEAN?  If online dating is too contrived, I can understand that – but, then what?  Does that mean you don’t ever take the initiative to make contact with someone in public?  Are bars ok, but Lowe’s isn’t?  Is Friday night salsa dancing acceptable, but forget saying hello at church on Sunday morning?  Or are you ONLY waiting for someone to introduce you?  You might be waiting a long time.

Women like to be wanted.  And we like when men take a risk.  If you start up conversation while waiting in line for your Diet Coke at Burger King, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.  Instead of waiting for life to plop someone in your lap, why not look around at who life has plopped within 30 feet!?  That way you can have it your way – right away.

Ask Sarah – Supermarket Serendipity – pt. I

Dear Sarah,

Over the years I’ve kind of developed this theory that what pornography does to men destructively, the cute romantic comedy and romance literature, and Disney movies do to women (obviously they’re not the same in terms of decency). I mean that it creates a false sense of the norm, generates unrealistic expectations, and encourages dangerous unhealthy behavior. That said, there’s a fine line between romantic and creepy. Things on the silver screen which can take your breath away positively, would negatively take your breath away in real life, and possibly end with mace. Wild romantic gestures, whether in a relationship or to initiate one, wreak of creepy more than cute in real life.

I think about this often. One of the recurring themes is the “supermarket serendipity”. Women often dream of meeting their guy at the grocery store. When I’m grocery shopping I notice women, but it certainly seems like the most inappropriate place to hit on girls. If you strike up a conversation over things in the buggy, that’s weird. If you look like you’re hanging out there to pick up chicks it/s pathetic.

When I go to the grocery store I leave the kids at home; it’s a mini vacation, and my grocery bill is lower. I love the idea of randomly bumping into someone and meeting, but it definitely seems like poor timing. We’ve all got ice cream in our carts, and making a date is next to impossible.

Oh well, I’ll quit blabbering, but I’m curious what you think.

 


 

Dear lonely shopper,

There are two big questions here.  The first is – have romantic comedies set an impossible expectation for men to live up to, and the second is – is there any realistically good way to navigate the supermarket meet-up?

I think I’ll cover this in two posts because there’s so much good food for thought here.

To the issue of women’s “porn”…romance

Yes.  I think there’s definitely some “danger” in the over-the-top gestures and language used in (and made to seem normal and “findable” in real life) many movies and shows that women enjoy.  (These are mostly written by women… so it’s a fantasy world BY us, FOR us.)

But, like any good story – the onus is on the viewer/participant to distinguish between reality and fantasy.  An emotionally healthy adult can watch the Bourne Identity and not feel the need to sneak up behind their boss the next day with a knife to his neck because he’s ‘probably’ an enemy spy.  In like manner, a normal well-adjusted person isn’t going to start trying to breed an especially powerful species of orcs after enjoying the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  So, one can assume that, while you may willingly suspend disbelief DURING a movie (to enter into the story for maximum enjoyment), you un-suspend that disbelief when you return to reality – for the sake of your own sanity.

The thing that’s different from action movies or sci-fi/fantasy and the movies you’re describing is in RECOGNIZING the fantasy.  We women WANT the dramatic displays of love in real life.  We WANT men to speak with us in terms of emotion and affection.  We WANT them to be thoughtful.  So, when it’s in front of us on the silver screen, it doesn’t always register as fantasy… but as potential reality.  In other words, we DON’T suspend disbelief.

When Mr. Big grabs Carrie and pushes her up against a wall and kisses her passionately, I don’t think to myself, “that’s fiction.”  I think to myself – “see?  There ARE men out there who do that… and I want one.”

And the good news and bad news is this:  these movies represent a small percentage of men who actually ARE incredibly romantic and enjoy going to great lengths to show a woman they love her.  I’ve dated a couple – and I’m not gonna lie – it’s pretty awesome.

Collection of puzzles Brad gave his sweetie - one piece at a time - for her to put together.

Collection of puzzles Brad gave his sweetie – one piece at a time – for her to put together.

I keep up loosely with my high school friend, Brad, on Facebook.  Brad met a woman who he’s now madly in love with and is constantly talking about how lucky he is to have her, and surprising her with little gifts/notes, and being thoughtful and creative in expressing his love for her on special days AND just-because-days.  And this isn’t just the beginning/honeymoon stages of love – it’s been going on for quite some time.  I watch her page as well, even though I’ve never met this woman, just to enjoy how much she gushes in response to his love.  It’s not fake.  It’s real-world fantasy.  HE is the real-life version of Matthew McConaughey.  So – it DOES exist.  But, it’s rare.  Probably about as rare as your boss being a high-level Soviet mole.

So, what are we to do?  Women know there are the Brads and Mr. Bigs out there.  So… we wait and hope that we land with one of the 5% of those guys, much like many men must hope they land a real-life version of a porn star.  (In the same way that 100% of on-screen heartthrobs represent about 5% of true romantics in the pool of men, 100% of women in the pornography industry represent about 5% of that female body type/figure in reality).

But, odds are that I am going to end up with a guy who, while passionate and caring, isn’t going to dedicate the entirety of his days to the sole purpose of showering me in his affection and romantic gestures.  And if I’m waiting for THAT…I fear I’ll be waiting myself right into a house full of cats with a subcription to “Spinster Life.”

But I CAN wait for the real-life version… as long as I have a healthy understanding that the real life version doesn’t have a Hollywood budget – and is subject to things like:  fatigue, cricks in the neck, bad traffic, work stress and other real-life romance-killers.  Romance isn’t about perfection – but about thoughtfulness and sacrifice.  Holding out for those is a good thing, as long as I’m not waiting for Harry’s end-of-movie-speech to Sally (though… if I found a man who talked to me that way, I’d lock that junk down, just to be clear).

I guess I’d say the trick is to be honest with ourselves about reality and fantasy.
Love – the good, big love that is actually out there – DOES have an element of fantasy in it… or it should… combined with other qualities like commitment, hard work, communication and sacrifice.
And a good story – instills hope, renews our faith in relationships, and if taken in the reasonable and realistic light of its place in life (that is – that it is JUST a story), lets us enjoy an exaggerated version of something fun – and MAYBE even spur us on to love others in our lives just a little better.  Just like watching Frodo endure to the end to destroy the ring of evil – watching Bradley Cooper or (my personal fave) Jason Bateman, give an empassioned speech of their enduring love for fill-in-the-blank-because-I’m-not-really-interested-in-the-woman-anyway – lets us crawl into the “other” (a story outside of ourselves) for an hour and 20 minutes.  And that’s not so bad – as long as we can take our minds back to reality when the credits roll.

If a woman waits around expecting George Clooney and is constantly disappointed by the Joe Smiths she goes out within real life, she’s missed the point of the story.

But, hey – more Joe Smiths for me.

 


Next time… finding love in the produce aisle…?

Ask Sarah – Money, Money, Money

Dear Sarah,

At what point in the course of dating is it fitting to start talking finances, i.e. income, net worth, assets, debts, etc?  This is a part of reality that can’t be ignored. But it also isn’t appropriate for a new relationship. So the question is, where between date one and engagement would you slot this convo?


money 5I had a professor in graduate school say that the majority of all conflict between couples has to do with one of two topics:  Sex and Money.

So, it stands to reason that there’s quite a lot to consider in the course of relationship about both of these areas.  And for today’s purposes, I’m going to suggest that we view them in the SAME light – and that’s this:

Both sex and money-talk, should happen/progress commensurate to the level of intimacy in the relationship.

For instance… in the same way that it is healthy to pace yourself sexually to match the level of emotional closeness, I think you should parcel out your financial situation discussion AS you feel emotionally safe to do so.  What do I mean by emotionally ‘safe?’  You can see the longer version of that here.  But, in essence, it’s where both people feel loved, known/understood and valued by the other person, so much so that they feel comfortable being vulnerable, knowing that they will be cared for.Money 3

Most people would agree (even if they’ve broken their own rule) that sex on the first date is damaging to the long-term goal of a good relationship.  Why?  Because the physical intimacy is WAY ahead of some other basics that should be in place for the sexual relationship to really blossom – love, trust, care, emotional safety, committment, etc.  So, the relationship is off balance… which makes it vulnerable to misunderstanding, hurt, frustration and ultimately failure.  This is not to say that every time a relationship begins in an unbalanced way, that it’s unsalvageable, but that it makes it difficult to get back to a place of safety and love.

In that same way – talking about finances before you’ve established some intimacy/safety, can be just as damaging.  Especially when the two people are in different places, financially.  This is all much easier if you sense (and you will) that you’re in a similar situation as your partner.  People will make jokes about being poor (I know this from personal experience), or you’ll be able to tell by someone’s spending, that s/he is financially comfortable… so if you’re equally matched up, this conversation can happen sooner and probably more easily.  Two people steeped in debt can empathize with each other on how difficult it is to climb out.  Similarly, two people doing well for themselves can celebrate each others’ situation and enjoy the equity that brings to the growing relationship.
But, when one has money and the other doesn’t (QUITE often the case), talking it out can be really scary…

 

Let me back up for a moment.money 4

SOME financial talk is inevitable at the beginning of a relationship.  Heck – whether it’s spoken or unspoken, there is “talk” of finances on Date #1 when the check comes.  Who pays?  Is there an assumption?  Do both offer to pay and then there’s a short transaction of terms?  Money is always a present factor, whether we dive in fully or not.  But, there’s a difference between dealing with the immediate financial situation, and delving into the deeper waters of net worth, savings, debt, etc.

Side note:  Men… while there ARE women out there who don’t fit this rule, the quality single women out there value GENEROSITY much much more than WEALTH.  Now, a wealthy person has much more opportunity for generosity, so wealth itself isn’t bad or wrong, but when a man tries to show a woman JUST how well-off he is, it’s off-putting.  A man who insists on paying for dinner in a kind and gentlemanly way is FAR sexier than a man who brags about his cars, watch, 401k, etc. 

I’ve been on dates with men where they show me photos of their cars or shove their watches in my face expecting a reaction of awe… except that I know NOTHING about watches, so I can’t tell if it’s from a plastic box from WalMart or the felt-lined displays at Patek Phillipe.  So, it only serves to make me feel silly/awkward for not knowing how to respond.  Do I go with a “OOoooh, how nice!”  or “I like a man who can bargain shop!” (note…do not use this one unless you’re certain it’s a reasonably priced watch.  I’m just sayin’…. it doesn’t end well.  I ought to know.)

But a man who pays for the date without complaining about menu prices – that’s ‘money.’  (<—yes…I’m using that as an adjective.  Meaning… it’s good.)

Alright – back to the issue at hand.

money 6Part of the advantage of waiting for this talk until you know the person better… is that you’ll learn the character of the person BEFORE hearing the financial situation.  You’ll start to see whether the person is greedy, kind, impulsive, overly-cautious, free-spirited, calculating, etc.  So, when the conversation finally does happen, you’ll be able to weigh the cold hard facts against what you know to be true about the person.  That’s no small thing.  Think about it this way, you would have a grossly different reaction to finding out that your potential partner has major medical debt that s/he’s still fighting, if you know the history:
Option 1 – she was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease that took a few years to figure out, treat, and come up with a maintenance plan for.
Option 2 – after a car accident, she became addicted to prescription pain-killers and struggles with substance abuse.

Neither is insurmountable, but they’re awfully different, right?  And KNOWING the person will shed light on the financial situation.

I’ll tell my own sad tale as a way of proving my point… (prepare for disillusion) — I am a divorced single mom with 3 jobs.  I don’t have any fancy 401k’s or money sunk into the stock market.  I have student loan debt (how do you think I got THIS smart?), and other annoying financial burrs in my side.  As much as I like to think I’m wise with my money (not using credit, saving, etc.), there just never seems to be enough…   So, for someone like me, there’s no way I’m going to feel comfortable putting all the details of my grim financial situation out there for someone until I know I’m loved, cared about and there’s a level of commitment that’s NOT conditional on my financial standing.  Once I feel safe with someone, I will start to give him pieces of the overall picture.
With an ex-boyfriend, we were almost a year into our relationship when we finally started putting actual NUMBERS out there.

money 2

So, unfortunately, there’s no clear timeline answer on this.   YES, you have to talk about it as you become increasingly closer and more commited to each other, but NO, you should talk about it until there’s a layer of safety and understanding/love there to protect that conversation.

Building the relationship should be the number one focus of your energy, and as you grow in trust/love, and as intimacy increases, so will physical connection, as well as openness about topics like money.

Ask Sarah – Uncomfortable Silences

 Dear Sarah,

Ok, you meet someone online.  There’s a bit of a spark.  You chat, then move to text.  You set up a date but due to scheduling issues the date gets pushed out.  Text conversation is simmering down to “hey” and “what’s up.”  What can you talk about to keep that interest going?  Need ideas!

Seriously….I’m down to stuff like “I like the color purple.  No, not the actual color, the movie.” 

Help o loquacious one….


uncomfortable silences

First of all, I think I’m going to add “Loquacious One” to my growing list of nicknames.  Love.

Next…  I’ve been on the OTHER end of this…where I begin to lose interest before we ever meet…so communications naturally taper off… and here are the reasons why:
  1. It’s SO hard to find a time to meet that I start thinking I wouldn’t want to date this guy anyway if he’s THAT busy.  I really value availability in relationships.
  2. I’ve gone back and looked at his profile again and noticed something I didn’t see before (he’s shorter than I am, he listed ‘religion’ differently than I go for, he lives outside the loop (ok, ok…I’ll make exceptions for this one..but let’s not get crazy, League City…), he’s got a total body tattoo that didn’t jump off the page the first time I looked…you know – that sorta thing).
  3. As we’ve been texting, it’s become obvious that he’s not as smart or witty as I’d hoped…so why would I want to get together with him?
  4. While I was waiting to meet him, someone else came along who grabbed my attention more.
If any of these things were going on, I’d probably just let communication die down naturally.  After all, we haven’t yet met, so I don’t feel like I owe him an explanation.
BUT… if a guy ever asks – and they have – I’ll tell ’em what’s up.
Example: 
          Tatooed, un-funny, Jesus-hating Dallas-dweller:   “Hey ….did you lose interest?”
           Me:  “I’m sorry I’ve been MIA.  To be honest… the more I think about it, the more I just don’t think we’re a good match.”
Boom.  Just like that.
So – to YOUR question – and what you can do.

First of all, there IS just a chance that she got busy with her job, family, etc. and it has nothing to do with you.  For me, that’s almost never the case because I give a LOT of priority to relationships…even budding ones.  And if I really like a guy, I’ll keep the text momentum going even IF I’m busy.  BUT, not all women are like me.  Some are much more career-focused and can zone out of one facet of life to devote themselves to work issues/demands.  I have girlfriends who will go dark for a while and then come back to life on the weekends.

 

So – she may be genuinely busy.

 

But, if it’s NOT that… all you can do is be yourself, use your wit to keep her laughing, and get that face-to-face on the calendar as SOON as possible.  Because, honestly, so many people are more attractive once you’ve met them, than they EVER are over texting.  (Sadly, the opposite is also true…but that’s a discussion for another day).
I think you could even ADDRESS the situation with a sense of humor.  You could say, “I’ve noticed you haven’t been texting as much…is it my breath?”  Or something equally silly.  That way, she can respond to the issue if she wants, or she can avoid it with an LOL and leave you as clueless as you are now, but… still engaged.
Lastly,… one of my pet peeves is when guys text ONLY about themselves or only closed-ended topics.
Throw out a text that demands a response!  I don’t mean that you need to ask her her thoughts on the conflict in the middle east, but engage her about HER.
For instance – I love the silliness of the “color purple” bit… use that line and then ask her what movies she likes!?
If she still isn’t responsive, it might be time to just fish or cut bait…see if she’s still willing to meet up, and make a solid commitment to a time/place. 
If she hedges, cut her loose. 
You don’t need to beg.

Ask Sarah – Girls in Cars

Dear Sarah,

Why do women take so many photos in their cars?  Are they trying to prove that they know how to drive?  Big woo…


Ahhh…the classic car selfie shot.  I know it well.

Here’s the deal, fellas…car selfie

When we women get ready to go out – we do it right.  Assuming we have the luxury of time in the dolling up process, there’s a multi-step system to full beautification.

Let’s say I’m going out with some friends to dinner and dancing on a Friday night – I’m going to give myself enough time to shower, use all the expensive skin and hair products, take the time to blow dry my hair JUST right, curl it JUST right, pick out JUST the right outfit…

(which often means that my bed becomes a graveyard of rejected outfits – THIS shirt with THAT pair of jeans, …no – THAT pair only works with THIS sort of top… no, how about a dress and boots?  No…leggings and heels?  Wait…what about the first shirt with the leggings and THIS necklace.  No wait, …hard to dance with a necklace flying everywhere… maybe the heels at dinner and change INTO the boots?  What about if it’s cold?  ….the internal dialogue is dizzying, truly.)

Then, you put on your makeup the way you only can on a weekend night – where you take the time to actually put it on NOT while driving or taming children or propping the phone between your ear and shoulder to talk to your friend who’s going through a rough time…   No, this is the sort of makeup application where you start with a bold red lip so that you can feel that confidence coursing through your veins while you put on the rest… and taking the time to put that tiny bit of frosted powder in the corners of your eyes or on your cheekbones to contour your face JUST right…

And if it’s me, all the while I’m jamming to some fun music (I keep my speakers in my bathroom for just this reason, actually), which is building the anticipation for the night ahead.

So – when the time finally comes to hop in the car… and I see myself in the rear view mirror… I’m seeing what I think is the best version of me – all primped and polished and ready to go – before the evening adds its patina of wear and tear to my look – before the humidity or well-intending hugging friends undo my curls or sipping my yummy drink removes my lipgloss – just the way I want the world to see me.  So, it’s the time to snap a photo to show me at my best!

Add to that – not only do I feel my prettiest, but I’m also full to the brim with excitement about the evening ahead and confident in my ‘look,’ so my mood is great.

Is there a more perfect storm for the self-taken photo?  Lookin’ good and feelin’ great?

So – we snap away.

It has nothing to do with the car or with driving – just in the stars aligning in such a way that we feel picture-worthy.

And often there’s no one around in those moments to TAKE the picture.  I mean – if you’re single and on your way to hang out with friends – you’re usually getting ready and leaving the house alone.  So – you take the photo yourself.

And THAT is the story of how the car-selfie was created, boys and girls.

 

Hope that helps shed some light on the female way.

Ask Sarah – Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Dear Sarah,

I’m curious, have you ever written anything regarding facial hair on men? I’ve sprouted some recently and I’m always interested in how differently girls respond to me when I have it. Someone even told me it made me look sinister…ha! Thoughts?  I don’t really look sinister, do I?

I’ve included pictures of me you can use in your analysis if you like. 😉  Also just so you know, I’m not really looking for advice on whether I should keep the beard or not.  I have it because I like it, and I’ll shave it when I decide I don’t like it any more.  I am interested in hearing what women’s reactions to the two different looks are though.

 Ask Sarah - Facial Hair(This reader gave me permission to post these, as long as I was clear to the women in my readership
that he is single and available.
(His profile)

A man after my own heart.  Ladies… form a line.)


Dear Sinisterly Furry,

First of all, before weighing in on your personal situation, let me speak to the more general questions this brings up.

Turns out I actually have lots of thoughts on all things coiffure. Continue reading