Monday, January 5, 2015

Holy Cow

I am pretty open about the fact that I'm not a religious person. I consider myself a recovering Catholic, meaning I was raised in the religion and attended Catholic grade school through the eighth grade but no longer adhere to the protocols. The plaid uniforms and knee socks did nothing to endear me to the doctrine. Nor did the nun who would smack you upside the head if you played the wrong note in music class. The sticker chart in our classrooms were for the prayers we had to memorize, not for who lost their first tooth or could tie their own shoes. I didn't know you could eat meat on Friday until I went to public high school. I do believe I had a cheeseburger at the end of every week for my entire Freshman year just because I could. I should have taken that as a sign that I was losing the faith.  I honestly gave it a good shot, but it just didn't stick. My cynicism is not restricted to Catholicism, as I have attended services and meetings of many different denominations and have similar objections to all of them. It's the organization of organized religion that tends to give me pause. Besides, I can sit and judge myself and my own actions in yoga fat pants at home. 

Religion tends to creep into the dating process. It is a very understandable deal-breaker for many people. And I get it. If I had something I felt so strongly about that I would willingly forfeit a percentage of my income to support it, I would want a significant other that would respect it. I have some deal-breakers as well, but they tend to be socially- and politically-oriented, and not based on a stranger's opinion of whether or not my partner and I would get to spend eternity together. I would hope we as a society could evolve past such outdated ideals, but religious people tend to be resistant to the process of evolution. I've only run across one potential suitor for whom religion was an issue. He got very judgmental about my life and belief system, which I took great pains to inform him only reinforced my issues. It was a futile conversation. He's in the market for some arm candy for Sunday service, and that's just not my bag. 

I was recently introduced to a few people at my local coffee haunt by a good friend. We all fell into conversation very easily, and the subject of both religion and dating came up. I mentioned my blog, and one of the women said that she has had quite a few clearance-aisle experiences of her own. We discussed a few, but my favorite is when she exclaimed, "Jesus stole my boyfriend!" After the peals of laughter subsided, she explained that she had been dating a guy that had recently joined a local church. A few months into his new spiritual journey, he informed her that he was told the urges he was feeling toward her were sinful and must be avoided. So he broke up with her. For Jesus. I have to say, as a clearance-aisle dater the competition out there is pretty stiff. And now we have to compete with the son of God? Sigh. Lord help us all. 

Our Catholic school uniforms were black and red plaid 
similar to these. But they made us wear navy blue knee 
socks with it. To this day, I have no idea what that was about. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Easy There, Rider

As the only girl in my family, I'm familiar with man-toys. My dad was a hunter, so there were duck calls, blinds, guns, decoys, boats and beyond in our house at all times. Even out of season, there were decoys to carve, duck calls to tune, and shotgun shells to be reloaded. My oldest brother enjoyed most of these outdoor pursuits, and went on trips with my father and uncles. My other brother shied away from such things, focusing on the tech-toys instead. He owned the very first computer in our family - paid for with his own hard-earned cash. I distinctly remember dial-up internet that you had to pay for by the minute. My college only had 6 computers connected to the internet, and you had to book time to use them. I also remember there not being much to connect to - mostly we connected to other school's card catalogues to find journal articles to request for one of the never-ending string of papers that had to be written.  Typing term papers on the computer became a snap - if you remembered to hit "save" every few paragraphs. We've all had that gut-wrenching experience of marathon paper-writing at 3 am when the computer crashes and 10 pages of thought-provoking analysis of the different behavioral explanations of asynchronous hatching of eggs go straight down the tubes. No amount of Funyuns and Ben & Jerry's ice cream can make that any better. Don't judge - it was my go-to brain food at the time. My brother and I would hit up the local QT at ridiculous times of night to refuel and get a certified-quality fountain drink. I rated the quality of a paper with a "number of pints to complete it" scale. My senior thesis clocked-in at over 30.

That being said, nobody in my family was a gear-head. We were never the car and dirt bike types. My grandpa had an ATV. The one and only time I got to drive it, I got stuck in the asparagus patch. That was pretty much the end of my off-roading career. My uncle has a golf cart, but it has 3 wheels, which makes it impossible to avoid potholes. If you straddle it with the two wheels, you hit it dead-on with the third. If you go around it with the third wheel, you hit it dead-on with one of the two. Obviously I'm missing something there. A good friend of mine's husband has a vintage Harley named Tucker. We met him in the city for dinner one night, and it was decided I should ride back home on the back of the bike. It was a bad plan. First of all, I was in a dress. We solved that by slapping me into a pair of sweatpants dug out of the back of the car. Second, legally I had to have either sunglasses or a helmet. The only thing we could find was a pair of zebra-patterend sunglasses in the glove compartment. I was a sight to behold. And I kept leaning out of the turns. It's a miracle we didn't tip over. As a woman of a certain size, I couldn't get over the mental image of my rear end billowing over either side of the seat. It was all just too much. Upon safely dismounting, I made a solemn vow to never bulge over, I mean ride a motorcycle again.

This all becomes problematic when sifting through online profiles. I would say that 50% of the men online have a picture of their motorcycle as one of their profile pics. It sets a girl to wonder if single guys in their 40's are required to purchase a bike as soon as the ink dries on their divorce papers. It seems like a missed opportunity for dealerships - they should set up a lot outside the courthouse. Or advertise in lawyer's offices. Guys, I don't mean to be a downer, but we don't want to be your Harley-momma. Stop saying that you're looking for "A woman who is comfortable taking the back seat." I'm just brain-storming here, but maybe that mentality is the reason why you're still single.

If the single-man-over-40 stereotype ID card is a motorcycle, the single-woman-over-40 stereotype ID card must be a cat. Or 12.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Bugging Out

  I'm a person who believes in being prepared. I make lists. And then I make lists of my lists. On index cards. You will always find an index card on my desk with various things to do. And I edit my list - if an item is only  partially-done, I make notes under the item. Sometimes I put items like "go to the bathroom" or "take a deep breath" on the list just so I have something to cross off. Or I'll add items I already did and cross them off to give myself a mental high-five. There is no greater pleasure in my life than the feeling of crossing the last item off of the list. Because then I get to tear it up and throw it in the recycling bin, thus completing the cycle. I know it sounds a little OCD, but we all have our thing. Or a couple of things. I also count stairs when I walk up them. Just up. Not down. I have no idea what that's all about. I tend to get flustered when I go "off list". The online dating system is all about having a list. When assessing a potential suitor, one tends to check the boxes on the mental list when deciding if it's worth taking the time to communicate. And as the process goes forward, more boxes are checked or the name gets scratched-off the list of potential candidates. And sometimes it feels great to tear up the list and toss it in the recycling bin.

  In a former life, aka my 20's, I spent a lot of time outdoors. I had a group of friends that went camping and hiking at least a few times each year. My organizational skills came in very handy - packing lists were vital when you were carrying on your back everything you needed for several days. You do not want to be stuck in the woods with no toilet paper. Trust me. And I never bought into the tulip-poplar-leaf-as-TP philosophy. Even when I had my packing routine down to a science, I still made and double-checked the list. As my outdoorsy friends will attest, it's easy to acquire a bunch of gear. Knowing what you will need and what to take becomes an art form. The really good ones don't take anything extra. I once led a group of teenagers on a short trek along the Appalachian Trail. The co-leader cut all of the tags out of his clothes to make room and lighten his pack. When you are walking 100's of miles, every ounce counts!

  I was contacted by a guy a few years ago who called himself "outdoorsy". This is actually a box in the positive column for me, since I have positive memories of my outdoor adventures over the years, and would like an excuse to venture out again from time-to-time. We messaged the standard pleasantries back and forth a few times. And then I get the message that made me grab my cross-off pen. He asked how I feel about "survivalist/doomsday prepping". Sigh. I know I'm a little biased from watching the doomsday-prep shows on cable, and I know it's not right to judge, but most of those people are what I like to call "whack-a-doos". I should have cut the line, but I decided to let it out to see where this fish was going. I got some amazing information before deciding to just throw the pole into the water. Things like the shelf-life of different kinds of ammunition. Or that if you coat eggs in mineral oil they will stay good for years. Years. Did you know a can of Crisco will burn for up to a week as a candle? Some friends and I actually tried it, and it does work. I had the idea to get the Crisco sticks and make tapers out of them - you know, for a romantic evening. It turns out I said the wrong thing and pushed one of his buttons by insinuating he might be a conspiracy-theorist. Oopsie. He responded by telling me that I was brainwashed by "the man" and that he would be laughing at me when he survived the impending apocalypse. He ended by stating that he gained his greatest satisfaction from knowing that he could survive ANYTHING. I feel the same way about online dating.

I can just hear it now, "I'm sorry, children. You can't color any more. Mommy didn't buy enough cans of Crisco for the end of the world."

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Shades Of Gray

I'm the type of person who sees things as black and white. Something is either acceptable or not, right or wrong, good or bad - you get the idea. The first lines of A Tale Of Two Cities could be my biography. This also seems to relate to the people in my life. I have a strong, polarizing personality. People either tend to really like me, or want nothing to do with me. And the feeling is usually mutual. There are very few people who say, "Eh, she's ok" when my name is brought up in polite conversation. And this is not hearsay. When you're exceedingly blunt, people tend to talk to you the same way. It's not that I don't have a filter, it just has very large holes. A basketball could probably pass through with ease. I actually do blame this on my Catholic upbringing. We were told that the mysterious man-in-the-sky was always watching. Every action either earned you a white dot, or a black dot in the magic book. So as a child, I was constantly counting the dots I had earned throughout the day, judging everything I had done as either black-dot-worthy or white-dot-worthy. Like a spiritual balance sheet. And St. Peter was the accountant that tallied them up at the end of your life upon arriving at the pearly gates. One black dot too many, and Poof! Off to the fiery depths. I was convinced my future was red-hot.

I started looking for the gray in my 20's. Literally. I was 23-years old and found a gray hair while checking the rearview mirror in my car. While I was driving. I almost had a wreck. I've heard that gray hair runs in the family, and I don't remember a time when my mother did not have gray hair. She informed me, while I was breathing into a paper bag, that she also started finding gray hair when she was my age. Another score in the genetic jackpot. I also starting finding the figurative gray. My first few years of teaching, I was a bit of a battle-axe. The rules were the rules. Black and white. I have learned that exceptions are sometimes necessary. Knowing when to make one is an art form, and I set the goal to become the exception Picasso. My filter eventually started catching a bit more, only letting through golf-ball sized oopsies. I'm pretty sure that's about as good as it's going to get. Having to be a professional has also taught me how to work with people whom I normally wouldn't want to deal with. It's often not easy, but is always worth it. Especially when you are up-chucking at 5 am and they agree to photocopy some lesson plans for you. I guess we all grow up eventually. Although my psyche still feels acne-laden and hormonal from time-to-time.

The other day I found myself ensconced in one of those seriously in-depth conversations you can only have with a friend who knows you better than you know yourself. I was bemoaning the state of my current dating situation. Specifically wondering why the guys who you are most interested in never seem to be all that interested in you. I got the cock-eyed eyebrow look that I hate, because you know the next thing they say is going to shake you to your soul like a magnitude 8.5 earthquake. I was then informed that I tend to try to make things out to be something other than they are, instead of going with the flow. After a fair bit of denial and requests to explain it again, I finally realized it's another manifestation of the black-or-white situation. I'm either all-in or all-out. And if he's not there, I just pretend he is. And then get mad when it's not working. Totally fair, right? So I've now decided I need to start searching for the gray in relationships. Wish me luck.

I have made my peace with my gray hair. But the gray eyebrows I've been finding are another thing entirely.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

   My experience with cars got off to a very rocky start. Luckily, the kid I was paired with in driver training was never at school, so I got to drive the entire time. I needed it. And my Driver's Ed teacher was a saint. The one thing I could do flawlessly was navigate a drive-thru. He always seemed to need a cup of coffee when I was in the car. My mom would never let me practice when she was in the car, which turned out to be for the best. It mostly consisted of her cringing and writhing in her seat, which only served to make me an even more nervous driver. I actually earned a blue slip, and only went and got my license because it was about to expire. Most of my other friends had cars, and never seemed to mind picking me up. My favorite was my friend Melanie's green VW mini-bus, which was dubbed the Pickle-mobile. The radio was broken, so we had a boom box we used. But then the antenna broke, so the passenger would have to hold it and stick their hand out the window to get reception. It became problematic when it was raining. My friend Amy had an old truck with a leaky gas tank. We always had to estimate how much gas it would take to get somewhere, because if we overestimated, it would just leak out while we were wherever it was we were going. Those were the days.

   My family's cars were never in much better shape. My oldest brother fixed up an old Chevy Nova and got it repainted. A few weeks later, my mom hit a post and scratched it pretty well. And then my other brother smashed it into a highway barrier. Oopsie. My middle brother bought his first car for $65 and it had to be started with a screwdriver. The floorboards were all rusted out too, so you had to be careful where you stepped. I learned to drive manual transmission in that car. It was great - it ran like a go-cart. The first time I asked to borrow my mom's car was to meet my friends at a movie about a year after I got my license. Everything went great until it was time to pull back into the garage. I cut it too short and got hung up on the door frame. I didn't know what to do, so I gunned it and crunched in the entire driver side of the car from the driver's side door to the gas tank. I didn't ask to borrow the car for another year. I never bought a car in high school or college. Since everyone else had one, it freed up my dad's truck for me to use. It was a Dodge Ram Charger and I loved it. I have no idea when my dad actually got to use it, but it always seemed to be filled with his treasures - things like squirrel pelts and buckets of tools.

I purchased my first car after I graduated from college and promptly landed my first teaching gig. It was a Chevy Cavalier. I drove it for 9 years, and only got a new one because I got into an accident. I rounded a blind curve and smashed into someone who had put their car in park on a very busy street in my home town. It totaled my car, and I got a very expensive ride to the hospital. Airbags are brutal, but I hear windshields are worse. The police were as flummoxed as I was about why she was parked in the middle of the street, and I didn't get a ticket. The officer informed me it was the first time he had not issued a citation for a rear-ending. I felt special. My current car was purchased soon thereafter.

I got a message the other day from a guy and we started texting. The texting was good - he appreciated my snarky humor, and came back with some funny stuff himself. He called me, and the conversation was easy and nice. We talked about the things we like to do on a date, and what we were looking for in a significant other. They lists jibed pretty well. Then he asked if I wanted to go out later in the week. I said I would love to. Then he asked me if I could pick him up. Seriously. I asked if he had a car and his reply was "not yet." I have no idea what that means. Friends have suggested a suspended license. My good friend suggested maybe his mom won't let him borrow the minivan until he cleans his part of the basement. I still tease some good friends who invited me over for dinner one night and then had me cook dinner. He now trumps that story. Luckily some "friends" came into town and I'm going to be busy for the rest of the week.

My current car is a Honda Element. My students have dubbed it "The Toaster". They don't make them anymore because they didn't sell to the demographic they were designed for. Which pretty much sums up why I've ended up in the clearance aisle.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Squeezing The Charmin

   I've been spending a bit of time on some of the dating sites and apps out there, and a couple of things have struck me about this experience. After years of spectacular failure on two of the popular paid sites, I was shocked at how many people I've made contact with on the free sites. And of all of those, there have been about 10 or so with potential. I find it interesting that single 40-somethings are not willing to shell out any of their hard-earned cash to meet Mr. or Mrs. Right. At our age, everyone has had some sort of heartbreak or major relationship failure. I don't blame people for not wanting to pay for it to happen again. There are a few guys I've dated that I would pay to forget, if the service were available. I've always heard you never love your second true love the way you loved your first. This obviously includes finances as well as emotions. The moral of this story - save your cash. You don't necessarily get what you pay for. That being said, I was also struck by the amount of truly desperate guys out there. And how open people are about what they are actually looking for. I never knew my little town was such a swinging place - and I'm not talking trapeze, people.
   I had no idea that each dating site has their niche. It becomes fairly obvious after you get a few fish on the line what the general kind of connection they are looking for. There are sites where people are very serious-relationship minded. It's more of an interview process and you have to be in serious contention of donning a poofy white dress to merit a first date. There are others where guys don't even want to know your real name and you can feel them breathing down your neck from the first message. For better or worse, sites get reputations as having more of one of the other of these polar-opposite people. And those reputations are fairly accurate. So it's out there - whatever you are looking for. I didn't realize how important it was to really know what I was looking for. I had no shopping list, and was simply browsing. And I've had some pretty awful products land in my cart. Thankfully, most of them got shoved back on the shelf next to the M&M's in the checkout lane. My friends have been seriously entertained with some of the racier stories that don't merit publication. It's rough out there, folks. And I've got pretty thick skin.

   These experiences have only reinforced my belief in the clearance-aisle mentality of dating at my age. I've been trolling a lot of aisles, checking the specs on a lot of products, and yes, even squeezing the Charmin. Not a ton, but it happens - I have a feeling my mother just closed her browser. And it's been an interesting process.  I'm most amazed how people are genuinely craving a connection with someone else. There are the romantic types who want to make you happy so they can be happy. And the hedonistic types who just want to feel something to reinforce that they are human. There are even the hopelessly wounded types who need somebody to understand that they are broken. The current squeeze is a decent combination of all of these things. I'll keep you posted...

I've always known that good things don't have to be expensive. My favorite potato chips were the Rodeo Bill brand my grandma bought from Aldi.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Save The Date

I was going through my mail the other day, when I came across a postcard that was accidentally delivered to my house. It was an RSVP card for a couple who are getting married in October. The card had two options for people to check off. They were "We wouldn't miss it for the world" and "We'll be celebrating elsewhere." A couple of things popped into my mind immediately. Firstly, that I wouldn't have been able to fill out that card without committing perjury. Not only would I miss it for the world, I would miss it for considerably less. Like a root canal, or bunion surgery, for instance. Second, if I miss the wedding, I would most assuredly not be celebrating elsewhere. Unless "celebrating" means sitting on the couch in my yoga fat pants while eating a package of Twizzlers and watching Netflix. I do not for the life of me understand why engaged people need everyone around them to propagate the myth that their upcoming wedding is the bright center to the universe. I realize that it can be the most important day of their life, and that their family is probably ecstatic for them. But that's about it. Most people I know consider weddings to be an obligation to their friends and family. They are boring, time-consuming, and can be quite pricey to attend. And everybody has "that uncle" that gets a little inappropriate when fueled by the offerings at the open bar. The only part of a wedding that I really like is the cake, and I can Betty Crocker in my yoga fat pants at home.

I recently got to hang out with a friend who now lives far away. We were discussing relationships and she is going through that first wave of friends getting married just to be married, regardless of whether it's a good idea or not. We've all been to those weddings. Hell, some of us have been IN those weddings. Leo Kottke has said he wrote the song "Rings" to sing at the wedding of two friends who he states, "Had no business knitting their souls together." Well my friend told me the big rage in Save The Date items was sending a magnet to hang on the refrigerator. She said that she and her boyfriend have started throwing the magnets in the trash when the couple gets divorced. They are down to two lowly magnets,  and "one of the couples isn't doing so great, so we moved them to the side of the fridge closest to the trash can." Hilarious. The part that cracks me up the most is you know they spent 2 weeks and had 3 arguments about which picture and font to put on the magnet that now symbolizes their disastrous pairing.

I recently found myself meeting an online set-up for a cup of coffee at my favorite local haunt. I knew it wasn't going to be good from the minute I said hello. He literally had the bug-eyed, cartoon-eye-with-the-old-car-horn-sound-effect look that everyone dreads. We chatted, had a glass of iced tea, and he told me he had a bad headache and needed to get home. Right. I absolutely knew that there was no saving of that date. The bitter part of me wishes I had snapped a picture so I could turn it into a magnet to send to all of my friends and family.

There is nothing worse than waiting for a follow-up text that never arrives. C'mon guys. Man up and let us down easy. It's not that hard.