Monday, April 23, 2012

First Date Foibles

While I certainly can't guarantee you (or myself, for that matter) a second date, I can share with you some things that will guarantee you won't get one. Also, I love a list. So here goes...

How to Guarantee You Won't Get a Second Date

  1. Mention what your and your date's future children will look like, what you will name them, and how you're completely okay with adopting children if your date is unable to bear his or her own children.
  2. Try to get to second base. Or, Try to get to second base at a party in front of small children. You know, like you do...(or don't...if you're not still going through puberty!)
  3. Pick up your date and offer him or her Ritalin to get the evening started off right.
  4. If you're trying online dating, make sure your pictures clearly indicate you are six months pregnant. Otherwise, your date could be in for a shock when you show up glowing and eating for two.(This one probably just applies to women, but you never know.)
  5. Mention your hatred of whatever gender your date is. Save that until at least the third date.
  6. Use the word "tits" or any of its derivatives at least five times in the first fifteen minutes.
  7. Offer your date a lap dance.
  8. Bite your date.
  9. Tell your date you can't wait to call him or her your boyfriend or girlfriend.
  10. Lick your date's eyeball.
  11. List in great detail all of your past suicide attempts.
  12. Explain that you're a grad student at NC State. Then clarify and say you're really still an undergrad. Then clarify further and say you're actually not at NC State, but that you're attending Wake Tech. Wait for dessert and then explain that you're actually no longer at Wake Tech, but you are at least working. Next, mention your job is working as a waiter at Applebee's. When the meal is over, let your date know that you've recently quit your job at Applebee's, but that you are at least spending your time dreaming about your future career as a NASCAR driver, once you learn how to drive a fast car, and buy one. Of course, this is purely a hypothetical situation.
  13. Smack your date on the ass.
  14. Refuse to tell your date your real name.
  15. Begin an in-depth discussion of your recent gastric bypass and/or lap band surgery.
  16. Tell your date how important your child is to you and then find yourself at a loss as to when your child's birthday is or how old your child is.
  17. Cry. For any reason.
  18. Use finger puppets to communicate.

My hope is that this list is useful to you, as these are all things that have really happened.

Monday, April 16, 2012

I Can't Hear You...We're Breaking Up (Part One)

As someone who’s survived a breakup at least a dozen times (split about 50/50 in terms of dumper/dumpee role, so I’d say I’m a minor expert on both), I can say that most of the time, it sucks no matter which side of the break you’re on.

I could talk all day about how much it sucks to get dumped, and I don’t think there’s a soul out there who would disagree with me.  Sometimes it hurts so very much that it can be hard to acknowledge that the process is hard for person initiating the breakup, too.

Especially if it happens like this…

(the famous Sex and the City post-it breakup)

It absolutely SUCKS to break up with someone (unless it’s because you find him pinching his mother’s nipples in the kitchen, and then he justifies it by saying “Mama likes to have fun,too”…but I digress). I learned that in the not too distant past, and it was a tough, tough lesson. I finally had the courage to end a relationship with a great guy who “wasn’t the one,” and it was brutal – for both of us. I think I cried for 24 hours straight, before and after. I didn’t think I could do it in person, but I felt like I owed him at least that much. My therapist, however, said one of the best things anyone has said to me in my life.

“It is going to suck no matter how you do it,
and no matter when you do it.”

And she was right.

Breakups are shitty no matter how you go about it (well, maybe you don’t need to do it on a post-it note, or at a party in front of your closest friends in a crowded room while screaming and stroking another girl’s hair…but I digress). The important part is that you do it and are clear about meaning it.

I learned, the hard way, that staying with someone you don’t really love is selfish – NOT selfless. I was staying with him because I didn’t want to hurt him. Meanwhile, he was being lied to every time I smiled, held his hand, slept with him, or told him I loved him. I was also taking up his valuable time – time he could’ve been spending finding someone who actually appreciated what he had to offer. That someone just wasn’t me (no matter how much I tried or wished it were).

So, I did it over the phone. And it was every bit as rough as you imagine it might be. He didn’t see it coming, and didn’t believe me at first, but I had to be persistent. Repeating yourself over and over again, knowing that each time you do, you’re leaving a scar (that will, by the way, heal one day) on someone you care about is a form of torture that I suppose governments haven’t yet explored, but I assure you, it is almost unbearable.

Did he deserve a face-to-face break up at the end of what was a serious relationship? I think a lot of people would say so, and I don’t know that I even disagree with them. But I know that, for better or worse, I just couldn’t make it happen in person. Maybe I’m a coward sometimes, and I’m kind of okay with that, too, because in the end, he was free to go find happiness, and so was I.

Is it shitty to break up with someone over the phone or email instead of in person? Maybe. Probably. Is it shittier to stay in a relationship in which you are unhappy and the other person is being denied the opportunity to find love? Absolutely.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

All the Single People...of Durham

As we go about this process of finding another single person with whom we are compatible, it can often feel as if there are just no single people left in our city. Sure, logically we know this isn’t true…but still, it seems like it’s true. So just how many single people are there in Durham?

The government gives us a good estimate. According to the 2010 census, there are approximately 49,348 available men over the age of 15 and 62,202 available women over the age of 15.

I realize that most of us would not date anyone under the age of 18 – at least those of us who prefer not to have to register as sex offenders – and most of us are not looking for someone over the age of 65, but you get the idea. Similarly, I can’t tell you how many of these people are in relationships or cohabiting, but I can say they’re not married or separated (not that there’s something inherently wrong with dating someone separated, but it just seemed easier to look at the numbers this way). I also know that this number doesn’t count members of the LGBT community whose unions are not (yet) legally recognized.

Even though there are what seems like many more available women than men, it still seems like there is a decent pool of people out there for all of us to explore.

Now if I can only find one who meets these requirements…

Sunday, April 8, 2012

What I Wore

Month: April
Weather: Perfect spring weather
Location: Pop's
Time: 6:30 p.m. Sunday night
On the agenda: Dinner
Date level: Second

As a casual second date, I still went with my jeans (I seriously need to wear something other than jeans on my next date!), but I broke tradition and opted for flat sandals. It was warm, sunny, and a comfortable way to look cute. Plus, as much as I love my heels, I also love being relaxed and comfortable on Sundays. My flat sandals are brown with gold metal detailing, have a thong between my big toe and second toe, and an ankle strap that zips up the back of the heel to connect. The Bagley by Dolce Vita is a nice substitute for mine, though I didn't pay nearly that much!

I topped it off with my white Old Navy Tank from my Federal date and my berry colored Old Navy Cardigan, which I love because it's comfy, inexpensive, and honestly the color looks amazing on me, if I do say so myself.

I didn't wear much jewelry - my silver ball studs and a silver watch, since I wanted to keep it as casual as possible. I looked relaxed AND put together, which is often what I strive for. I also think the color brightened me and brought out my hair and eye color, so I felt great.

Cuddlequette - A Guide to the Lost Art of Cuddling

Admittedly, I am not reduced to a misty-eyed floral sachet of estrogen when I watch romantic comedies, receive flowers, or am serenaded by a date who “plays the guitar poorly a little.” But you know what gets me every dang time? A good cuddle.

I don’t want to cuddle the whole night, and am honestly usually the first to break the embrace, but a good cuddle is tough to beat. (I mean, obviously there’s one thing that can top cuddling in bed, but you see my point.) It melts my cold heart instantly and turns me to putty in the right man’s capable hands and arms (and maybe even legs).

Which brings me to this: (you’re welcome, in advance)

So aside from being creepy AND hilarious (who doesn’t love that combination?), there are some valid and helpful lessons hidden in this “tutorial.”

To begin, the Stamos Soother is EXCELLENT when combined with running your fingers through a woman’s hair. I’m not partial to the scalp massage portion, but to each her own. If a man touches my hair or face, my defenses are useless. I also really enjoy laying my head on a man’s chest and being able to kiss his neck and stroke his chest. Sure, the video makes it cheesy and funny, but it’s really nice.

The Stamos Spoonful is kind of given the shaft here (haha…get it?) so I feel the need to highlight that spooning can be awesome. What makes it less awesome is the poke factor if you’re not in the mood for round two with Mr. Cuddler. That aside, I tend to think I feel safer and more protected while being spooned than I do in the “Stamos Soother” position. I can occasionally enjoy being big spoon, but most of the time it’s not my favorite. I tend to select that only if I’m also giving the guy a back rub or scratch of sorts.

I also enjoy the Stamos Swadler as a cuddle position but enjoy nothing else he mentioned! Do not ever rub noses with me, give me “butterfly kisses” (seriously?!), or STARE AT ME, INCHES FROM MY FACE, WHILE I SLEEP. I will call the police. That is all.

And then there’s the Stamos S’Touching (her with your fingers).  A good caress IS excellent, but it really needs to be combined with one of the previously mentioned positions. Otherwise, caressing without cuddling in bed can come across as timid, lacking confidence, and sometimes even annoying. If you’re going to cuddle, commit to a position, gentlemen.

I was a little disappointed that Stamos left out suggestions on how to break the cuddle without hurting your significant other’s feelings (a problem I run into often as I tend to get squirmy and can’t hold a cuddle all night). What I have found to be most effect to use with a guy – or to have a guy use on me – to prevent hurt feelings is to kiss your partner, perhaps on the neck, forehead, or arm, rub them gently on the back, side, or arm, and then roll away to your own side of the bed. This generally makes me feel cared for, rather than abandoned, while clearly signaling that cuddle time is over for the moment. Win-win, no?

Location Review - West End Wine Bar

Location - West End Wine Bar (601 W. Main Street, Durham NC)

Overall Rating: 3
Food: 3
Drinks: 5
Service: 3
Atmosphere: 3
Recommended for: First dates, drinks with friends and family.

Interestingly enough, when I went to West End a few weeks ago for a first date, I asked my date if he had any favorites on the wine list as he had chosen the date location (and also because he wasn’t making conversation). His response was that he doesn’t like wine, and he proceeded to order an Italian beer.

I know.

Anyway, it was a nice night, so I asked if we could sit outside. There were two other groups seated outside; one, a couple on a date (clearly not a first date, as they proceeded to make out a little bit later – though, I do suppose it could have been an AMAZING first date) and the other a pair of friends catching up. The PDA going on next to us was a little distracting, but it’s definitely not West End’s fault. Generally, I enjoy people watching when I’m out in Durham. Really, it’s one of my favorite pastimes anywhere, but there’s almost always something or someone fascinating to watch in Durham, more so than other places.

Except there is never any good people watching to be had at West End.

This has been my chief complaint in going there over the last few years. I love wine, so I want to love West End. Their hummus plate is pretty decent (it’s not the best I’ve ever had, but I generally don’t go to a wine bar for food; it’s good and gets the job done, keeping me satisfied without stuffing me so that I still have room to enjoy my fourth second glass of wine) and I’ve enjoyed a few other small plates there from time to time. They have a great selection of wine and I always get to try something new. But for whatever reason, the people who frequent there (except for my fabulous group of friends and myself, naturally) are just…well, they’re there. And that’s about all I can say. I can’t relate one funny story (that my friends and I didn’t create ourselves) or recall one funny moment I witnessed at West End, and while I know that those things are far from requirements for a first date, it is nice to have a decent crowd of interesting people around to comment on, in case the date goes south. I also can’t recall meeting and talking to any interesting people there, which if nothing else is a given in almost any bar or night spot in Durham.  I’m not sure why people don’t frequent it more, but there seems to be a drought of young and lively folk there. Sigh.

However, I do know that I will periodically go back anyway, hoping, wishing, dreaming that I will find amazing wine AND a lively time in one place.

So, I give West End three stars out of five. It is by no means a bad place for a date, but it’s not particularly noteworthy or amazing either. (Especially if you don’t like wine!)

Location Review - Pop's

Location: Pop's (603 W. Main Street, Durham NC)

Overall Rating: 4
Food: 5
Drinks: (didn't try any)
Service: 3
Atmosphere: 4
Recommended for: First dates, second dates, casual dinners with significant others, meals out with friends and family.

For a second date, I recently went to Pop’s for a Sunday night dinner (6:30pm). I was excited to go because, I am ashamed to admit, I hadn’t been since they moved locations two years ago. Parking was easy (my date scored us a spot without having to circle), and the location definitely has curb appeal.

Inside, the hostess asked us if we’d like to sit in the dining area or at one of the high tops in the bar section. My date deferred to me, and I chose the high top because it was next to the window and had a pleasant view.

My entrĂ©e choice was the gnocchi with duck meatballs, and it was fantastic. The gnocchi was good, but what really delighted my tongue were the meatballs. Not always a huge fan of duck, I was very happy to discover this was delicious. (My date went with the salmon, but we weren’t at that “level” where I was going to ask to try his food, though the thought briefly crossed my mind. He seemed to love it, and didn’t leave a bit on his plate, so I’m going to assume it was equally as good as the gnocchi and duck meatballs.)

Being a Sunday night and having gone out with friends the night before, I opted to pass on having wine with dinner, so unfortunately I don’t have anything to say in that department. Perhaps a future date (sadly, with someone else – we lacked a “spark,” which I use as code for “anything to talk about”) will afford me this opportunity?

The atmosphere was pleasant, though not particularly romantic, which was fine by me as it was only a second date. The walls were painted red, which seems a bit obvious for an Italian restaurant, but it did look nice. Because it was earlier in the evening, it was very light out, so that may have contributed to the casual feel. I think it might have felt a tad more intimate if I had chosen a table in the main dining area rather than the bar. The bar was great in that it had a lovely view and there was a TV so I could glimpse college basketball highlights between the long and boring pauses in conversation as we focused on eating rather than talking. The huge drawback of sitting at the bar is that it’s right next to the open kitchen, so there is a TON of noise. I sometimes have random hearing trouble, so when that was combined with a soft-spoken waiter, it made things a little difficult. Plus, it’s hard enough talking on an awkward second date, so it would have been nice to be somewhere a little quieter. Oh well, you live and learn, and I take full responsibility for our seating choice.

It was a great meal, a good location, and has good date seating options, even though we didn’t take advantage of them. I would give this date location four out of five stars.

What I Wore

Month: March
Weather: Warm to a little cool
Location: West End Wine Bar (Durham location)
Time: 7:30 p.m. Thursday night
On the agenda: Meeting for drinks
Date level: First

I really wanted to wear a skirt for this date, since it was nice outside and I kind of like my legs. However, none of my skirt options could be paired with appropriate footwear, so pants it was.

I work medium wash denim with button flap pockets (I can't locate the original pair, but this is a close approximation - just imagine the wash a tad lighter).

Because it was newly spring (and spring always awakens my secret love of nautical wear), I decided to pair the jeans with an orange tank, navy sweater, and some gold jewelry. (see also: my other car is a yacht)

My orange tank was from Loft and was a brighter shade of orange, but it was gauzy like this one, so you get the idea.

I carried a navy clutch with gold and silver studs that I bought from Loft a few springs ago. (and of course there isn't a picture of it online either). The bag below - from Etsy - is pretty darn close.

I finished the outfit off with my black Tahari Flynn leather pumps.

I'd say there was nothing terribly offensive about the outfit, but it fell short of the mark. Or at least what I feel the mark should be. I don't inherently have a problem with navy and black together, but I only like it when it's deliberate. This looked more like "I had no other option" than "I'm playing with color." The blues in the navy and denim worked okay together, but I'm very particular about mixing blues, especially with denim, so I wasn't really satisfied there either. Were I to grade this date outfit, I'd give it a C-. (Note: It apparently didn't phase my date - he asked me out for a second date. So there's that.)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

What I Wore

(I typically get annoyed with the "what I wore" posts on blogs, maybe because of the poses people take when photographing their outfits. So, that's not how this is going to work. I plan on posting images of the clothing, sans moi.)

Month: April
Weather: Cool
Location: The Federal
Time: 8:00 p.m. Saturday night
On the agenda: Meeting for drinks
Date level: First

Grey cashmere cardigan (very light, but just enough warmth for a cool spring evening). I'm not sure grey is a great spring color, or a "notice me color" for a first date, but it's super cute, flattering on me, and I feel so relaxed and comfortable in it that it seemed like a good choice. (Note: the picture below isn't the exact sweater I wore, but it's the closest I could find. My sweater came from Marshall's. I love a deal.) I also wore dark, straight leg jeans, not all that extraordinary, but good basics, so they looked close to those that the sweater is paired with.

I paired the neural outfit with my red Jessica Simpson pumps, which always make me feel confident and usually get a few compliments thrown my way.

Underneath the cardigan, I wore this basic old navy tank in white (shown below in teal). It doesn't look like much, but unbutton the top two buttons and you show just a hint of cleavage without giving anything away.

I carried my Micahel Kors Berkley clutch - another absolute steal at Marshall's.

I topped it off with just some simple silver studs, a silver bracelet, and a red floral scarf from Loft (I couldn't find it online anymore, but the one below is similar and very pretty, and it's from Etsy!)

I wore my hair down and naturally wavy, and I felt comfortable, beautiful, and, dare I even say it...a little sexy? The casual nature of the outfit made it great for the Fed and a first date, the red pumps made it date-worthy, and the scarf kept a little spring in it despite the cooler weather at night. (Plus, the cashmere sweater was perfect for the end-of-the-night hug!)

My Hair Hurts (and Lesson One)

Though this post isn’t directly about Durham, it is certainly about dating and we can probably see ourselves or someone we’ve dated in here somewhere.

One of my dearest friends, Wendy*, lives in a picturesque northern city, complete with New England historical charm. Despite being beautiful, in excellent shape,  very smart (she has a master’s degree and a job that requires a high level of intelligence), and laugh-until-you-cry funny, Wendy is, like so many of us, trying to find a guy that she can form a real relationship with and becoming frustrated in the process.

I think a lot of us feel this way, particularly if we can identify with what Charlotte has to say:

(Honestly, I’ve only been dating since I was 16,
 but you get the idea.)

So Wendy and I have had daily a few talks about keeping the faith and believing in the process. We also talk about what my therapist says. (What? Like you don’t go to a therapist, or at least secretly suspect that maybe you need to? Or maybe that’s just me.) She says it’s largely a numbers game, and to a certain extent, I think that makes a lot of sense. And out of all those attempts at relationships, only one will really work out (for most of us). Accurate? I think so. Bolstering in times of frustration? Sometimes. Also a little depressing? Yes. One…out of what seems like hundreds? Sigh.

I am notoriously not sappy, so keeping positive and hopeful in the romantic sphere can be a tiny bit challenging. (For the record, I do not like Nicholas Sparks. Period. See also: the Hallmark channel.) I am generally not inspired by romantic comedies – they tend to make me feel as if they are making women everywhere false promises. So I try to focus more on the dating experience as a series of mini lessons learned. It makes the “numbers” less overwhelming, and lessons are a little more tangible than numbers to me. I was never very good at math, anyway.

Which brings me to lesson one.

While doing a little day-drinking with a friend (it was Good Friday, after all), Wendy received a text from a number she didn’t recognize. She asked who it was, and it turned out to be Al*, a guy she had gone on a date or two with, but who stopped responding to her texts two months or so ago. When he identified himself, she even told him she’d deleted his number (ballsy, and I like it!) and he responded by explaining that he had only just two months ago just a few minutes prior received her last text (“It’s really weird!”). Still, they made plans for him to meet up with her at a bar a little later in the evening. (So, not as ballsy, I guess, but I knew there had to be a good story coming out of this, so I refrained from protesting.)

(I know what you’re thinking – has she not seen or read He’s Just Not That Into You? Well, yeah, she has…but the numbers game can mess with your head sometimes.)

So Al meets up with Wendy and Bo* (Bo is a guy who is just Wendy’s “friend,” but sometimes they cuddle and make out. See previous explanation about Al.) After a while, Bo goes home. He was originally going to be her ride, and probably her place to   cuddle   make-out   get to second base   crash for the night. At the end of the evening, Wendy asks Al if she can go home with him, and he mumbles something about his brother (our dear friend whiskey impaired Wendy’s ability to sketch out what that situation was all about, but at least we can thank whiskey for a few laughs). The two wander around for some time, trying to find Bo’s house (which is of course one of many in blocks of identical town homes – damn you, numbers game, damn you!), and Wendy begins to cry and mumble incoherently, which is understandable given she was drunk and frustrated and worried about how to get home, though it admittedly doesn’t make for a great ending to a date. She also falls, creating gashes on her feet and hands that bleed profusely. (We hope the blood comes out of her shoes - they were really cute.) After they narrowly avoid her death by exsanguination, Al does the gentlemanly thing and gets her a cab. She hops in, but has to have the cab driver take her to an ATM on the way home because she doesn’t have any cash with which to pay him. When she gets home, she discovers that she also left her keys at home, so she has to bang loudly until her roommate comes and unlocks the door.

Then she sends incoherent drunken texts to several people in her phone and takes pictures of her bloody feet. That kind of story needs documentation.

So, after I was finished crying (from laughing so hard, because this story could truly only be told by Wendy, because this kind of thing happens to her), we discussed what we’ve learned. The morals of this story are as follows:
  1. Always have keys and cash.
  2. Don’t go out again with dudes who lie about not getting your texts have cell phones that deliver texts two months late.
  3. Despite being douches, some guys have a glimmer of potential in them (Al is certainly no catch, but he did keep her company through the debacle and made sure she had a safe way home.)
  4. We suspect that if you deleted someone’s phone number, you probably had a good reason to do so and should trust that instinct.
  5. One man (and temporarily one woman) down, a few more to go.
  6. Wendy has the best stories.
  7. Don’t day-drink without a trusted chaperon.
  8. Someone should probably invent a cell phone that comes with a breathalyzer to keep you from drunk-dialing and texting.
  9. Always wash your cuts with soap and water, especially if you got them on the street.
I don’t know if her story gives me hope that I will find my Mr. Right, but it definitely made me laugh and helps to keep me from taking this whole “numbers game” too seriously. There's always a point, even if he's not your dream man, no?

Plus, I will never again day-drink without a trusted chaperon. Also, I may become an entrepreneur with that breathalyzer phone idea. That’s pretty valuable, right?

*Names have been changed to keep me from being sued…I hope.