Category Archives: Dating Advice

I Need Some Space…

 

So...tell me... what do you like about ME?  Hold on...let me just get this text...

So…tell me… what do you like about ME? Hold on…let me just get this text…

A friend of mine (married) recently chuckled as he said, “Oh I love that one story about the guy who went on a date with you and didn’t ask you anything about you.  That’s my favorite.”  I looked at him in complete deadpan calm and said, “That’s EVERY date.”

Truth is… the NUMBER one thing men do wrong on dates (are you paying attention, guys?  This is it!  You’re always asking and I’m here to tell you) – is using all the time to talk about themselves and never investing in getting to know the woman.  Not engaging at all in getting to know who I am.

And I’ve tested this a bit.  When on a date with a guy and having realized we’ve spent the last 10 minutes talking about him (partly because I ask…I really do want to learn about him!), I’ll use a counseling trick and let us sit in up to 30 seconds of silence (which, on a first date, is a LIFETIME, by the way) to see if he’ll fill the uncomfortable quiet with something meaningful.  And 9 times out of 10, it’ll end with me having to pick the conversation back up with, yet, another question for him.

"Ok, champ.  You're gonna be great tonight.  Just tell her all night long what a catch you are... you'll have her begging for more by dessert."

“Ok, champ. You’re gonna be great tonight. Just tell her all night long what a catch you are… you’ll have her begging for more by dessert.”

I’ve even tried just inserting facts about myself into conversation, unbidden.  He’ll finish a story about his family and I’ll say something overwhelmingly smooth, like, “speaking of families, I’m the oldest of four kids…my dad’s a pastor…”… and then wait as the crickets play their symphony of discomfort around us.

A few times when the guy texted the next day to ask for another date after a first date I wasn’t thrilled with…I’d explain that I felt like he wasn’t particularly interested in getting to know me.  One time, a guy came back with, “I know ALL about you!  You’re the oldest of four kids!  Your dad is a pastor!”
Good job, detective.  You pieced that together from me TELLING YOU, did you?  Sigh…

I suppose this isn’t just a male problem, per se… it’s a cultural problem that plagues us all – men and women.

We are increasingly self-absorbed and unaware.  (which is a paradoxical combination, if you think about it.)

blog - spaceOne of my biggest pet peeves is when someone is walking into a building/store/restaurant in front of you and instead of holding the door open for an extra 2 seconds to allow you in, they let it slam behind them.  As if you weren’t even there.
#rude
And don’t talk to me about how chivalry is dead.  Letting the door shut on the girl behind you goes way beyond chivalry (which, I don’t actually think has all the way died.  It may be on life support, but there are still a few gentlemen out there opening doors and telling women they look pretty.  Not many…but they’re out there.)

No – the reason people don’t hold doors open or ask questions on dates is, I think, not because we’re losing our sense of good manners…but we’re losing our sense of SPACE.

My brother posited a theory which I’m loving more and more (well…not LOVING in its application, but in its wisdom).  He said… as we become increasingly drawn to the small space between our eyes and our smartphone, we’ve become ONLY aware of that small field of vision… so much so that, even if you’re not currently looking at your phone, you’ve trained yourself to be unaware of anything outside that zone of attention.  The world, for all intents and purposes, is invisible.

I think he’s right.

"This is the perfect date... she's not bugging me and getting in the way of my defending my clan from that annoying 5th grader who's always attacking..."

“This is the perfect date… she’s not bugging me and getting in the way of me defending my clan from that annoying 5th grader who’s always attacking…”

As technology has grown, our awareness has narrowed.  Noticing the beauty and peculiarity and intrigue around us has been replaced with apps that do just about anything we could ever want or need.  No need to even make eye contact with the Starbucks barista… just swipe your phone and move along.  If you play it just right, you might not even have to stop your game of Trivia Crack to get your drink.  Walking to your car after grocery shopping?  No need to look up… just use your app to find your car and then let another app tell you what route to take to your next location.  Heck… there are apps to tell you how you slept and if it was a particularly restless night and your phone got lost in your sheets, just use your FitBit to find it.

I have no problem with technology, mind you.  I love all my nifty apps.  But, it seems if we want to have things/people in our life that MATTER, we’re going to have to make a concerted effort to look up from our screens and see the world around us… engage with it… ask it some questions.  I know I’m not the first person to say this.  But, I contend that this issue is part of what makes people BAD at dates.

You see…as the space we ‘live’ in has narrowed, so has our scope of interest and awareness.  It’s like we’ve trained ourselves to only care about what’s right in front of us…what’s easily accessed… what doesn’t take any work or energy on our part.

Not only that… but our smartphones haven’t just made us stupid about things like mapping your way to a new location, but even knowing yourself.  People depend so much on devices telling us what to do, where to go, what’s funny, what’s trending…that we spend less time in self-reflection and self-awareness.  And if we can’t even be self-aware (a very sexy quality in a date, by the way), then how ever will we manage being “other aware?”

I suppose if all you’re interested in is getting me into bed, plying me with the drinks and talking about yourself all night might actually work.  (I don’t know…that’s not really my thing).

But if what you want, ultimately, is to make a meaningful connection with someone and build the relationship to a place where it brings you pleasure and a deep-down satisfaction, …then you’re going to have to KNOW me.  There’s no getting around it.  So, why not start from the beginning?  Move your attention from your virtual smartphone and engage the world around you….or at least across the table from you.

It’s easy to do.  Ask questions!  Anything, really.  People love to talk about themselves, so you don’t even have to be particularly clever…just provide the conversational springboard and let narcissism do the rest.

The world of first dates would be infinitely different if people could begin to look away from their smartphones, look inside themselves, and then look at me.  Eyes up here, folks.

 

Love Kills

Warning – the following blog post is wrought with reverse sexism.  It’s a joke, people.  Please don’t comment about how I’m setting women’s rights back. 

 

Recently, I’ve had a bit of a bug problem.  Gross, huh?  Well – it’s all fixed now, but when I was texting my landlord about it, I was joking with her that she could either call an exterminator or, …find me a man.  A man who will kill bugs for me.

* Swoon *

Well, I’m still waiting on the man (thanks a LOT, Glenda… geez…what do I even pay you rent for?), but we did get to talking about how many dates you’d have to go on to be able to ask for such favors.  I propose that a girl should be able to ask for such things on date 1… as part of the sizing-up process.  You see… there’s lots of different methods for disposing of 6 and 8-legged creatures (yes, yes, I know spiders aren’t technically insects… You can spare me the science lesson on thoraxes and such… but if they’re an abomination (which spiders CLEARLY are), they count toward my thesis…and they need to die), and the way a man kills them tells you tons about him. 

 Bug Killing Personalities:Bug killer

1.  The “Squash and Scram”
This is the guy who rides in on his noble steed, who bravely vanquishes the befouled beast, and then leaves you to …clean up the guts?

Guh….ross.  
Where is the chilvalry?  Where is the sacrifice?  The guts clean-up is the worst part.  Nay – it is the essential part.  It’s that “fashion a giant mitt of paper towels to mop up all manner of pest entrails and juice, whilst fighting back the bile creeping up your throat” moment that begs for a big strong man who will smash it, and conceal all evidence.
That’s the stuff of fairy tales.

2.  The “ ‘If you Love it, Set it Free’ Bug Hippy”

We all know these people.
They take that whole “why he wouldn’t even hurt a fly” thing WAY too seriously.
They’re the ones tenderly corralling the 4-foot cockroach into your good Tupperware (which now has to be burned), only then to liberate it from it’s hu
man home-shaped prison, back into the wild where mother nature intended. 

Nuh-uh. 

The only catch-and-release program happening in my home, is the one for the guy who won’t actually kill the bug.  ‘Cause I know what happens….. that bug, once emancipated, goes and tells all its horrid little friends about the mean lady who was scowling and rolling her eyes while the knight in shining armor rescued it from its certain death…. And then they conspire to come and get me in the night. 

Yup…I’m fairly certain I have my finger on the pulse of the bug community and this is exactly how it goes down.  Town meetings, assembling a quorum, grabbing their tiny pitchforks and storming the castle of my bedroom to call down their reign of terror.  So – if you’re going to set it free… you might as well just keep walking.  Your alleged mercy is my impending doom.

 

Bug Killer 3

3.  The “Girly-Girl Trapped in a Man’s Body”

(if it wasn’t already anti-feminist before…buckle up) 

Look – I want a man who kills a bug like it’s built into his DNA.  …Like it’s no big deal or better yet, like he enjoys protecting me from the multi-legged menaces.  I don’t want someone to cower or whimper or scream like a girl while performing bug murder.  (I’m not making it up – I’ve had two significant men in my life who would literally scream while taking care of an unwanted critter). 

75% of the bug killing’s purpose is to actually exterminate the invaders.
The other 25% is to display his bravery, so I’ll practically faint with adoration. 

I’m being silly, but there’s something to this… I’ve watched as friends of mine handily kill and dispose of a bug and I find my insides getting all squishy with desire.  Recently a friend killed a spider outside my house and I think I may have audibly moaned.  Yup.  That happened.

So, if he winces and eeks in fear, I’m still glad for the insect death, but I’m not going to pounce on him for a smooch either.

 

4.  The “Half-Hearted Warrior”

This is the guy who doesn’t really get what the big deal is.
You’ll find out who these men are when faced with the bugs who get away…
you know – one of those “I just saw him, but I don’t know where he went” moments. bug killer 2

Guys – we want a man who will go on the hunt – for LOVE!  I mean… er… for the bug.  If you say, “well, I don’t see it now…” and sit down on the couch expecting my affection to resume at the same level where we left off… you are sadly mistaken. 

See, the importance of my happiness to you is directly correlated to how long and how hard you’ll search to end the little devil’s life.  Will you move a couch?  Will you look under a bed?  Will you lie in wait for the creature to think he’s bested you and leave his hiding place, only to suffer your wrath?  Now THAT’s romance.

 

I could go on, but I think we get the idea. 

There are a few things you have to experience with a significant other – to truly know whether it’s a good fit.  Dance with ‘em, play Monopoly, have them meet your parents, and maybe most importantly …see if/how they’ll kill bugs for you.

Look…this life is hard.  If I can find some small measure of solace in the strong arms of a bug killing man… is that too much to ask?

Kill bugs.  Kill ‘em good.  Clean ‘em up, and come back to claim your reward.  Rrrrrr….

Making a Donkey out of U-M-E

The other night I was playing the radio game with some friends.  (If you’ve never played the radio game, you should remedy that posthaste.  It’s great car-trip fun.)
Anyway – on one song, my friend named the artist before I did, and in his excitement, put up his hand for a high-five (for his amazing musical catch).
Without even thinking about it, I slapped his hand in reciprocal excitement…only to then think, “wait…why am I celebrating his win?  He’s my opponentHe’s the enemy!”
So, why did I high-five him?

assume 7
Simply because he put his hand up!

And it’s human nature to respond.
I’m basically just a sheep, blindly following non-verbal commands…even if it means praising my adversary.

And while that’s fine for me and a buddy playing the radio game, its more insidious counterpart in the dating world…isn’t so fine.
But it happens ALL the time.

 

assume 3

Men and women both do this – me make assumptive gestures – in words and actions – and on a date, it’s hard not to return the metaphorical hi-five.

Picture this… you’re 5 minutes into a date and the girl makes a comment about how you’re going to just LOVE her parents….
Um…what?

Or, before you’ve even finished your first drink, the guy is planning your next date.
Come again?

 

This is an issue I keep encountering in my own dating life… men who assume.  (And we all know what happens when you assume…)

Everyone jokes that women all do this – practically plan out your wedding before you’ve closed out date one.  But, I’ve experienced it recently, comin’ from the menfolk too.  It’s not just us girls.

These are the guys who, by their references and actions, presume all manner of things…about a level of mutual attraction that isn’t necessarily there.

There are two main forms this unrequited “we have a real future together” attitude comes in:  verbal and physical.

Verbal

This includes, but is not limited to…

making plans to do things or visit places together, inlcuding international travel
     “Oh, you haven’t seen the new Mummy exhibit at the Science museum?  We’ll HAVE to go…”
     “Well – you’re going to LOVE the margaritas in Cabo… you’ll see…”

speaking about meeting family and attending family functions
     “That’s totally something my mom would say!  She’s gonna love you.”
     “You haven’t experienced St. Patrick’s Day ’til you’ve spent it with my crazy family.  You’ll see.”

talking about what kind of house you want to live in, how many kids you could have together (or how to blend your existing kiddos), who would move to the others’ place, etc.

assume 6I was on a date recently with a sweet guy.  We were hardly 15 minutes into our date… as in – the food hadn’t even been ordered yet – and he was pulling up photos of RV’s we could use for future camping trips.
(Now, a caveat – most men, when they hear that I don’t like to camp, always want to win me over… so, this isn’t THAT strange, but when he continued on later in the evening, showing me more spacious and convenient road-living options… it was too much.
Really – ANY talk of RV’s is too much.)

 

 

Physical

These are tricky in first-date land.  Because everyone comes in with a different set of rules and limits on what they will/won’t do on a first date.  Will you hold hands?  Snuggle?  Hug?  Kiss?
These are already sticky wickets for 2 people who LIKE each other…but what about a date you’re just ‘enduring?’assume 4

Assumptive posturing in the physical arena may look like:

Putting your arm around my shoulder

– Opening up your hand to you, as if to say, “hold this”

– Leaning in eagerly, and oh-so-expectantly for a kiss.

These (and more) are all things that it’s hard to NOT reciprocate, without feeling like a 1st-class jerkface.

Say you’re watching a show/concert/movie and a guy puts his hand, open/face-up on your knee… …what would you do OTHER than hold it?  Give him an akward low-five?
Put a Werther’s in it and give him a friend-zone-worthy smile?
Cross your legs at that exact moment, as if you didn’t even notice his hand there, and watch his arm fall off with a thud?
Shoot him that “not gonna happen, buddy” stare?  (Seems harsh!?)

assume 5This happened to me recently on a date… I wasn’t feeling the spark at all… but the guy sweetly put his hand out… and what did I do?  I took it!  And we held hands for easily 10 min!  And all the while I was conflicted about the mixed messages I was probably sending.  Argh…

Same for the arm around the shoulder!?  Wriggling out of that isn’t exactly a subtle communication.  Sigh…

Now… the more egregious faux-pas are easy to sidestep.
If I’m dancing with a guy and he presumes to grab my hiney, I’ll take his hand RIGHT off.  That’s culturally acceptable… and often expected.

But, refusing to hold a hand…just seems mean!?
And yet…I really don’t want to hold the hand of someone I’m not feelin’ chemistry with.  Am I locked in, simply by rules of courtesy?

What’s a girl (or guy!) to do?

I need some super suave, stealthy tricks to evade these unwanted gestures.
Not unlike the “hug & roll.”
Open to suggestions here, friends.

assume 2

The moral of the story is this…

When you’re on a first date –
READ THE ROOM!!
Use the clues your date is giving you to know if you can pull off the hand-holding or even a little goodnight snogging.  Watch for things like eye contact, light touching, sitting close, etc. to know.

If she’s making frequent trips to the bathroom…with her phone, or looking off into space, or checking the time, or scooting away… it’s not the time for a smooch OR showing her the latest motorhome models.
It sleeps 6!  That means we CAN have those 4 kids!”
smh…

 

Ready to Rumble? – The Art of Apology

One of the most dramatically powerful artforms in human relationships is a good apology.

A good apology can soften the hardest heart, heal deep wounds and restore hope to what seemed lost.

But…there are a lot of bad apologies floatin’ around out there.  And I’m here to point out the bogus ones and help us learn how to do it right.

art of apologyMost of the times I hear someone attempt an apology, my inner George Costanza comes out and I start muttering, “You can stuff your sorries in a SACK!”  And George is right… most sorries are only worth a sack stuffing…
Because I dare say that 85% of apologies – blow.  Yup.  They’re terrible.  They’re either disingenuous or lazy or just plain wrong.

First – let’s talk about what a good apology is NOT:

1.  A passive aggressive way to criticize someone.

I have a friend who’s in a bit of tense ongoing conversation with her parents and she receieved a text from her mother, apologizing, seemingly sincerely, about not having told my friend earlier all the ways in which she was disappointing her.  What?  That’s like saying, “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner that you suck.”  That, friends, is NOT an apology.  That’s a coward’s way of skirting around an issue.  Just say what you mean – don’t couch it as something good and kind like an apology, when all it is is criticism.

2.  A sneaky back-handed way of shifting the blame back onto someone else.

This one is common in romantic relationships.  Example:  “I’m sorry that you were sensitive and took what I innocently said and heard it as something hurtful.”  Translation:  “You’re insane and I did nothing wrong.  But, I’m sorry that you’re crazy.”
If you really don’t think you did ANYthing wrong… then there is still a way to do a “sorry you got upset” without invalidating the other person…but that’s a conversation for another day.

3.  A way to end an uncomfortable situaion, rather than a true attempt at peace.

Saying something generic like, “I’m just sorry this whole thing happened…let’s move on” leaves the other person thinking (and correctly so), that all you’re really sorry about is that you’re having to endure some relational discomfort.  A much better tactic at this point would just be to take a break and come back calmer to do the real apologizing.

4.  JUST saying “sorry.”

Sure,  the world of romantic-comedies has women HOPING for the empassioned and pleading “I am a lout and am unworthy of a woman like you…. is there ANY way you’d take me back???” apology that dips into the pool of idol worship and unquestioned adoration.  Heck – I’d take one of those any day!  But, it’s not realistic.  And not particularly healthy.
However, the other end of that continuum  – the weak, half-hearted “whatever” of apologies is no bueno either.  Pushing out the word “sorry” from your unyielding, annoyed lips doesn’t count.  It’s not honest.  And everyone knows it.

 

A true apology contains these elements:

– Authenticity
– Acceptance of responsibility

That’s it, folks.  I’m here to say that you don’t even need to FEEL a ton of remorse to offer up a decent apology…though, remorse definitely makes it better.
But, sometimes you apologize for something because you KNOW you erred and you hurt someone, but the feelings of sorrow haven’t caught up with you yet because your body’s too busy feeling frustrated or embarrassed or….the biggest player in this game –> stubbornly prideful.
And yet…you recognize the wrong you’ve done, and you make it right.

That’s all it is – seeing your error and making it right.  Restoration.  Repair.

When my children mess up and hurt each other, they have to apologize to the other person and include WHAT they did wrong.

Examples:
Bad:   “Sorry…”  (eyes rolling, half whispering it as you walk past the other person)
Good:  “I’m sorry for scratching you with my toy.”

They have to identify what the ‘wrong’ piece was and own it.

That’s all we have to do as grown-ups too!  The problem is that our silly pride gets in the way.  And so often, BOTH people are at fault, and in our stubbornness, we don’t want to admit our OWN culpability until they do theirs.  We want things to be FAIR.

But, what would happen if we tried- even as a social experiment – apologizing for our part of something REGARDLESS of whether the other person ever owned up to his/her stuff.  And see if it doesn’t make relationships move more smoothly and make you feel better.

The other day I had a small moment of friction with a friend where he said something that hurt my feelings.  But, when we talked about it, I realized that I am probably overly-sensitive in this area because of some junk in my past… and so I may ‘require’ my friends to tread softly in that arena.  And that’s not altogether bad… good friends recognize each others’ areas of woundedness and can be especially tender in those places.  But, I also have to own up to my fragility and not put all the blame for my hurt on him.  So, I said so – without demanding anything back… and it was HARD!  It’s hard to press the pause button on waiting for someone to say, “Oh – I hurt you?  I am SO SORRY!” and simply call myself out on my own transgression.  But I did… and it was quite freeing.  For us both!

I think my willingness to take the one-down approach to the situation made him feel less like he was on the chopping block, and so he felt free enough to say he was sorry too.

And my apology didn’t negate his wrong.  He still did say something hurtful.  Me admitting my own frailty and apologizing for being overly senstitive doesn’t take away his role in the hurt.  But, it helps shed light on the situation AND shows him that I’m willing to turn toward him, even while hurt, and do my part to make this right again.

The point is this – when friction arises… there’s a strong possibility that you’ve done SOMEthing to contribute to it.  Even if the part you played was only 10% of the problem… if you identify that and take responsibility for it – you’re intentionally participating in restoration.  And restoration is ALWAYS a good thing.

Don’t wait (necessarily) until you “feel” sorry… we are grown-ups… we can recognize when we’ve messed up even if our feelings of remorse haven’t caught up to our brains.  Do the hard work of swallowing your pride to apologize for your piece…and see if it doesn’t move the whole relationship closer to wholeness.

 

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 – 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.

Let’s Not Get Greedy, Now

Yesterday I overheard two girls talking in line at a cafe, and one said, in a cavalier tone, “I mean… JUST because I’m engaged, doesn’t mean I HAVE to marry him!”

Um………..it doesn’t?

I posted this on Facebook and got quite the response from men and women – which inspired this post.

It occurs to me that this attitude of committing to something without really committing to it – is becoming a dating/relationship epidemic.  People are saying yes to anything from a second date to marriage proposals – out of fear that maybe there won’t be anything better… so they hedge their bets by holding on to something that isn’t perfect for them.

Greedy - dressIt’s like when you’re shopping at Ross and you buy up any dress you think MIGHT actually look nice on you in the flattering light of your own home… knowing full-well you’ll likely return some or all of them in the coming week.  So, why buy them at all?  You buy them so that you can have the OPTION of owning them, and so that no other woman can scoop them up.

And I do this too – you try it on and you don’t LOVE it, but you think you might GROW to love it, with the right level of Spanx scaffolding and distracting accessories…you could make it work?… so, you don’t want to give up the possibility of ownership… even though your gut tells you it’s way too hoochie-mama, or see-through, or tight or unflattering in some way.  You hold on to less-than-perfect

Are we doing this in the dating world?  Holding onto a girlfriend or boyfriend longer than we ought to… just because they’re the ‘best so far?’  Do we keep our claim on someone so that no one else can have him/her even if we know deep down that s/he’s not the one?  Or do we think if we put the right proverbial spanx on our guy/girl that they might turn INTO the one we really want?  We’ll just keep accessorizing around the problem – that we’re NOT a good fit?

This is terrible!

And it’s also why I’m a fan of the quick elimination system.

I contend – and stick with me for a minute – that dating should be greedy… in order to NOT be greedy. Hold on, before you check out… check this out:

greedy - quoteI was having lunch with someone the other day who was hesitant to get back into dating because she doesn’t have time to go on multiple dates with people who she doesn’t like…. WHAT?  I asked her WHY she would go on any more than one short date with someone if he wasn’t showing potential for being ‘the one?’  She responded with this popular sentiment that there’s some sort of expectation to go on several dates with people because it’s …good manners?  Pbshhh…. Nuh uh!  I call poppycock.

I say you only spend your time hanging out with someone who you WANT to be spending your time with.  Be greedy.  Don’t accept second dates out of obligation or some kind of weird cultural expectation.  In this way, it’s OK to be selfish.  When being picky is being greedy – I say being greedy is ok.

It’s OK to want the whole package.  (Not perfection… there’s a big difference between realistic expectations and fantasies…that’s probably enough fuel for a whole other post, but for now – know that when I say the “whole package” – I mean someone that meets the parameters you’ve set in your mind/heart for who is a great match for YOU).
It’s OK to be picky and wait for it.

Be greedy on the front end, so that you don’t end up greedily holding onto something that isn’t meant to be yours.  Be greedy, to not be greedy.  See what I mean?

And in the meantime, it’s OK to let the men or women around you grab up the dresses that made you look fat while you wait for the one that fits you like a glove.

I can only hope that my perfect dress (I imagine it’s ruched for maximizing my curves, while having a big, passionate heart) is out there on some rack, waiting for me to try it on… and not being held hostage in some other woman’s closet while she holds onto something that isn’t right for her, out of fear that there won’t be something better.

 

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

Ready to Rumble? – Know Thyself

One of the first steps in becoming a better fighter is increasing self-awareness.

Wow… this really rings of a wax-on-wax-off kinda talk, doesn’t it, grasshopper?

Imagine any scenario where you’ve had friction with someone… inevitably the human instinct is to defend ourselves by either assigning blame to the other person or at the very least, avoiding the blame yourself.

But, a surefire way to fan the flame of disagreement  is to jump right to what the other person did/said wrong and working out your rebuttle or defense to their incorrect conclusions. Continue reading