I have many topics I am eager to write about, but I'm a different girl now. I am officially divorced and I am writing this in my own apartment, at my own little desk. I've never lived alone and the experience thus far is truly cathartic. I am, for the first time in about ten years, a real single girl and it's pretty rad. Unfortunately, I keep getting told I suck at it. I've been told that I don't know how to flirt, talk to men, communicate with a guy, play hard to get, create an aura of mystique, give the silent treatment, appear desirable and many other things. I've been told I am too direct, too anxious, too bold, too much of a weirdo, need a more of a filter and need to just generally learn how to act "more single". What the fuck am I supposed to do with that? This gave me a fair amount of anxiety for a while and I will openly admit, I have made some missteps in the last several months. I started to think that maybe dating and being single was not all it was cracked up to be. That is not a good thing for someone who writes a blog about dating and relationships to think. Then I realized, it wasn't the dating or the being single which was the problem; it was the communication, the interactions and the stupid, stupid, stupid rules which were making my head spin.
It was time to re-evaluate.
Here for you is what I might call a "mini-Treatise", a term which I know is oxymoronic in nature, but that's what it is. This is my re-evaluation of the rules we formerly used as a "field guide". Today, the Field Guide will serve as your anti-field guide and I will attempt to encourage you think of things in a different way. I'd like you to let go of all your former dating education and pledge to join my new band of enlightened goddesses who don't need single-girl rule books.
Okay, now I want you to take all that fucking shit and imagine dumping it into a giant meat grinder, then feeding the resulting mush to wild dogs. Imagine the wild dogs running away into the desert, never to be seen or heard from again. If the dogs come across anyone who buys this drivel once reguritated, they will be much dumber than you, because you are not eating that dog food anymore.
If you have a friend who says things to you like, "Oh no girl, don't text him back. How many times has he text you versus times you have text him? What do you mean you don't know? Count them! Who was the last person to try to make plans, you or him? Because you can't be the plan maker twice in a row and he needs to be the plan maker at least three times before you can be the plan maker again. Unless, you were the plan maker and your plans actually happened, but then none of his plans panned out, because that makes him look like the desperate one, so then it might be okay to try to be the plan maker again, but only if he's been texting you like he really wants to hang out..." then you should tell that friend to shut the fuck up in the nicest way possible, and then you should tell them to come read this article. That shit is exhausting and honey, ain't nobody got time for that. Well, not anymore at least.
I am not suggesting we abandon the confines of appropriate behavior and just do whatever we please whenever we please. In fact, doing so will probably make you look like a raving lunatic. I have looked like a raving lunatic and I don't recommend it. I am far more charming when I am refraining from lunacy than when I am engaging in it. What I am suggesting is that instead of a media-driven, self-conscious, devaluing set of "rules", we look to the notions of dignity, self-awareness, self-esteem and self-respect to guide our choices in dating and interacting with the opposite sex (this applies to both men and women) and that if you successfully follow those principles, you shouldn't apologize for anything else. It's novel, but simple and I'll explain what I mean.
A few weeks ago, someone I hardly know, but at the same time strangely know sort of well, said something to me, which I have been thinking about over and over again. I don’t think they realized the profundity of their statement, nor did they understand the universality of its application. That is partially why I love the thought as much as I do; the genius is in its simplicity. When something strikes you the way this struck me, it's easy to recognize that it's cool, but sometimes difficult to articulate why. I would liken it to the Japanese concept of umami, which is an abstract description for a flavor of deliciousness. The Japanese include this as a fifth basic taste, with sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Basically, they define it as "a pleasant savory taste". Many fishes, beef, such as a good seared rare steak, (if you your eat steak medium-well or even cooked medium, then you aren't doing it right. Unless, of course, you are at a Ponderosa, where no undercooked meat should be consumed. If you eat at Ponderosa, then you have bigger problems and you should stop reading this and go work on them), cured meats, mushrooms, tomatoes and several vegetables would be described as having the flavor of umami. My brother's mantra, which I've previously shared (see archives), "What you chase, runs from you" has that umami, simple genius quality as well; the profundity being in the ease of application and the truism in its simplicity.
Okay, so this person said to me, one day when I was feeling frustrated, the following:
"Some people just can't get out of their own way. Sometimes being happy is merely a decision to be so."
At first blush, "some people can't get out get of their own way" doesn't seem earth shaking, but reflect on it for a moment. Think about people in your life who seem perpetually frustrated. Now, think about people who have treated you poorly, or hurt you for no reason you can entirely discern. Now, if you are also in a place of frustration, transition or conflict, also think about yourself. Thinking? Good, we'll come back to this in just a second.
One thing I’ve mentioned previously in my musings is that the things in this world of the greatest value and most implicit beauty all have one thing in common and that one thing is sincerity. Feeling, humanity and evocation of real emotion cannot be faked. I don't know what you're into, but when I think of insincere sincerity, I sometimes think of things like Evanescence songs. Why the fuck do they need to INSIST so goddamn hard that they are deeply in love and yet so brokenhearted? Jesus, we get it. Most people can sense the fabricated nature of things which are forced (like Evanesence songs) and it repulses them. I feel a little bad for the people who can’t sense it. These are the people who buy mouse pads with famous works of art printed on them, or the people who have “Live, Laugh, Love” stenciled on their kitchen walls, or who listen to Josh Groban. These would be the people who have every volume of Chicken Soup for the Soul. They don’t quite… get it. These are not our people.
There is a reason why I cry when I hear Maria Callas sing, “O Mio Babbino Caro” AND when I hear Paul McCartney sing, “Blackbird”.There is a reason why Christopher Marlow’s “Come Live with Me and Be My Love” and a Haiku by an anonymous 16th Century author are equally beautiful love poetry. There is a reason why you love your grandmother’s cooking and the nicest meal out at the nicest restaurant prepared by the best chef (and maybe a tuna melt from the crappy diner down the street just as much as both of those). The reason is, all of these things are truly sincere - even the tuna melt... well, maybe just my love of bad tuna melts is sincere, but the thought is there. The point being, music, books, food, and even thought provoking philosophical statements do not need to be convoluted or complex to be awesome. Some things just have that umami quality even when they are no more than a single tomato slice on a plate and some things, no matter how well presented, will always be a medium well steak at Ponderosa.
The statement, "Some people just can't get out of their own way; sometimes being happy is merely a decision to be so," has the sincere quality which makes it great. It ties in with the game playing and the "rules" for single people and the exhausting, self-doubting, anxiety people attach to things. We are getting in our own way. If we would just stop, take a step back, untie all the knots and consider what it means to function not as girls trying to date, but as human beings trying to successfully exist, I think we would do a lot better. Let all that shit go, decide to be happy and get the fuck out of our own way.
In the time I've spent thinking about this, I drew the conclusion that a lot of the problems we create for ourselves, not just in dating, but in life, stem from not being willing (or maybe able) to believe that we deserve self-respect and to act on it. Women are taught from a very young age and pressured by society repeatedly to derive their value largely from their relationships with men. If you have a great boyfriend/husband/partner/whatever, then your stock goes up. If you are alone, the perpetual single girl who never has anyone to bring to weddings, then you are pathetic. There is an entire industry of media, including products, movies, periodicals, literature, songs and other items based on this premise. We aren't taught the concept of self-worth, because we really aren't taught to want to be a "self". We are taught in every conceivable way, from BIRTH to want to be in a couple and to attribute our value to whether or not we are with someone and how good of a "catch" the person is. Women who are okay with being single are labeled as man-hating, bitch, dragons who are either emotionally unavailable, psycho, old maids, too career driven or WORSE, they've "just given up". You must be in a relationship or you must want to be in a relationship. End of story.
What has this done to us? It has taken strong, fun, smart, amazing women and created in them a sense of self-doubt that is completely unfounded. It causes us to make fucking stupid decisions, date people who treat us like garbage, avoid talking about things on our minds out of fear it will create a rift in our relationships and do things we know are ridiculous, all in the name of dating. This has also caused us to do things like create sets of "rules" for single people to follow about how to catch men or what not to do, to avoid driving them away. This generated a multi-billion dollar industry, which only feeds and perpetuates it. I want to tear all my hair out, follicle by follicle every time I see a movie like "How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days", "Maid in Manhattan", or "What's Your Number?" I try MIGHTLY not to see them, but sometimes it happens.
Girls, this is all simply undignified.
However, I am big believer in love and despite what you may perceive as a "tone", I like men and I think we should keep them around. So, here is what we are going to do instead. We are going to dictate our behavior by viewing things through the lens of DIGNITY and SELF RESPECT. That's it. So, when asking yourself what to do in different situations and what the appropriate response is, do not allow yourself to think any thoughts like, "what are the rules of singledom in this situation?" Instead, you are going to analyze things like this -
1. Where is the bar of self-respect I am setting for myself right now? Does this scenario fall at, above or below it? If I engage in this interaction, will I later feel like my self-respect was compromised in any way? If the answer is YES, then don't proceed. Choose self-respect over everything else, because in the morning, no one has to wake up in your skin but you.
2. Is what I am about to do, doing, just did, DIGNIFIED? Does sending a text, answering the phone, the thing I am about to say, storming across the room, throwing a drink on this person, whatever, feel dignified? If the answer is no, then DON'T FUCKING DO IT.
Here's how this plays out in real life. Scenario: You like dude, dude is ambivalent or hard to read. Dude said he would text you about plans for Friday, but did not. You shot him a text Friday at around 2:00 p.m. but he didn't respond. Now, you are sitting home on Friday night wanting him to get in touch, but realizing he probably won't.
Single-Girl-Rule-Book Version: You can't text him/call him/smoke signal him, because you will look desperate, but it is perfectly acceptable to sit there all night dressed up, just in case he does get in touch OR to go out, but to check your phone every ten minutes to see if he text and to talk about it all night long with your girlfriends and possibly strangers, depending on how much you drink. If he does get in touch, you should consult everyone you are with to determine the best way to respond. Once the group of fifteen people and possibly at least one stranger reaches a consensus, send that text and if it receives a positive reaction, leave wherever you are and go hang out with him. Bleh.
Field Guide for Avoiding Terminal Stupidity Version: You are a worthy and amazing person and your time is valuable. You would not ditch out on someone if you told them you'd be in touch, so you are going to have the SELF-RESPECT to not tolerate it from other people. You are not going to take it personally that dude did not get in touch, because that is inconsiderate behavior and you are awesome to chill with. You are not going to text him again, but not because there is a rule against it; you are not going to text him, because it would be undignified. You are going to make other plans or if you don't want to make other plans, not make other plans and put on sweats and watch a movie and eat something with mayonnaise on it and have a Manhattan (maybe if you're me, if you are not me, then maybe that disgusts you) and if he does get in touch, you are not going to jump up and go meet him, because it is undignified to cater to people who are wreckless with your time and that is below the bar of self-respect you are setting for yourself. If you want to text him back or answer the phone, you will only do so if you are also able to maintain your dignity. You are going to be relaxed about it, because you are the most important person in this scenario and anyone who doesn't want to hang out with you is stupid, stupid, stupid. If he wisens up enough to realize that, maybe you will entertain the notion again, but only if self-respect dictates thusly. You will always be polite and you will never be wreckless with other people, because... that would be undignified.
Essentially? You are going to GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY, treat yourself with respect and decide to be happy. All the drama llama, worrying, anxiety building, game-playing, Cosmopolitan, rom-com BULLSHIT is just keeping us in our own way. Get out of your way, relax, be yourself. This is a paradigm shift and it isn't easy. I AM STILL TRYING TO CONVINCE MYSELF TO THINK THIS WAY, so don't think I am being all condescending. I am only inches away from being a complete moron, but I am ready to take the plunge and try. This doesn't only apply to women, or even only to single people. I think that men, people in couples, small dogs and whole aboriginal tribes could benefit from this way of thinking.
Okay, you've read the mini-Treatise. Now, you are going to take the pledge. Watch the video below and take the Field Guide for Avoiding Terminal Stupidity April Fool's re-launch pledge to never think about the "rules for single girls" again and to view things in a new and fresh way.
This, by the way, is where it will get playfully weird. Happy April Fool's Day.