Pair And A Spare

Spare
Don’t be the donut tire

My friend L did the double dating thing on Sunday. She went to brunch with guy #1 (day dating can be fun), the guy who has been giving her that goofy grin. She met guy #2 in the late afternoon and ended up spending 5 hours with him. She likes them both. She likes the idea of dating them both. I asked her if she already a spare.

A few years ago, women seeking dating advice were told to, “Date Like a Man.” I didn’t know who originally came up with the idea. Was it Steve Harvey or Patti Stanger? My research turned up a woman named Myreah Moore or, “America’s Dating Coach.” She wrote the book on the theory a decade and a half ago and then promptly fell off the face of the earth.

Dating like a man aims to bring down a woman’s tendency to emotionally attach a couple of notches to shrug level. The idea being that when a woman and a man go on a date and feel a connection, she turns into a baby monkey (gripping him around his neck so as to hang on for dear life) and he’s texting someone else.

Dating like a man teaches a woman to date three men at the same time. A pair of guys she likes and sees a romantic future with and a spare, who she also likes but for whatever reason is unavailable (schedule conflicts, separated or divorcing, FWB potential only, lives far away etc.). If she’s dating multiple guys, she won’t focus too much on one AND she’ll get more free dinners. I kid. I’m not Patti Stanger. Sex with all three is optional.

I have too many spares, but I like them. Whine! I think my therapist (see you Thursday Kelly) would tell me to keep focusing on how I want to feel when I’m with potential future guy. When you’re dating spares, you are also the spare and who wants to feel like the donut tire? I want the smart, passionate, handsome, funny guy. More than all that combined, I want to be a priority.

Games suck. Power plays suck. If I want to text a guy I’ll text him. If I want to tell a guy he is amazing. I’ll tell him. If I want to focus on one guy or date a lot, I’ll do it. I will love when I want to love, reciprocity or not. I will live my life. I will not live his. He will feel like a priority. I will feel like a priority.

I’ve got one final question for all those who play hard to get. If you act unavailable or legitimately spread yourself too thin, and some dude finally “catches” you, what happens then? Where did your allure go?

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Pair And A Spare

The Good Part

Another fucking fantastic guest post from my friend Melissa. #wisdomwednesday

impossible_love__ghost__by_je2design

I am your classic high-strung overthinker. I have dutifully kept a planner circa sixth grade, routinely set dozens of Google Calendar reminders and often find myself lying awake at 2:00 a.m., leaping out of bed periodically to jot down the action items ricocheting through my head in said planner. As my fellow worriers will attest (shoutout to Sarah and DC!), anxiety thrives on unpredictability – nothing feels worse than sitting still and not knowing what will come next.

That dread guided the better part of my young adult life. I earned exceptional grades and attended a prestigious university. My first boyfriend had a cushy accounting job. After graduating, I worked at a research lab, with plans to apply to med school in a few years. Then my boyfriend and I would marry and baby makes three by the time I hit 30, that magical age when all the pieces would fall perfectly into place, and life would really begin.

And then, my painstakingly conceived 10-year-plan began to show cracks.

Biology fascinated me, but I had always known I was a writer, and so did my English teachers and professors, who found my chosen pre-med path frustrating and bewildering. On Saturday nights, my boyfriend cloistered himself with Fallout 3 as I cajoled him to at least grab dinner. He moped when, listless, I made plans with family and friends. We isolated ourselves, two planets orbiting each other.

Slowly but surely, things began to give. I could no longer ignore that quickening in my chest, urging me to write. I quit my lab job and headed to journalism school. That summer, I uprooted myself from the Bay Area to take an internship in L.A. – boyfriend in tow – that unapologetically glamorous yet gritty place where I knew no one, what I imagined would be the perfect antidote to my restlessness.

Meanwhile, one by one our mutual friends got engaged, stemming from what, to me, felt uncomfortably like a business transaction – as if it would be a waste not to sign on the dotted line after investing so much in each other. They predicted we would be next to walk down the aisle.

But after nearly seven years together, I couldn’t. He was my best friend, but I wanted more — someone who would gaze at all of me, gentle curves and harsh edges, and not recoil, who took a genuine interest in what I read and wrote, and understood my self-doubt. We were scared. We couldn’t imagine a life without each other. I broke his heart, and my own. As I watched him speed off through the 2nd Street Tunnel, I felt like I had just wrested the earth from beneath my feet.

I moved back in with my parents up north. Breakup brain hit hard. Hundreds of miles from L.A., where the last threads had unraveled, I felt fine, which I thought must have meant I was. In true Type A fashion, I wanted to breeze through the grieving process, cross “break up” off the list and move on. I wanted to date again, dammit.

So I hopped on Tinder, of course. One of my first matches was a chef who dug my pixie cut. My anxiety cresting after a series of back-and-forths about his favorite restaurant in Oakland, no date plans in sight, I finally messaged him: “So… when are we gonna check out this place?”

That first exchange pretty much encapsulated our relationship. I constantly initiated dates, grasping for something that always felt just out of reach. Six months in, I dropped the dreaded “What are we?” question. He didn’t want to label us. Maybe I was too anxious? Too controlling?

Toward the one-year mark, he began standing me up and evaded requests to Talk. I wasn’t insane after all. He was pulling the classic fadeaway, a prelude to ghosting. After a year of dating. What in the actual fuck? I resorted to a text breakup, tired and out of fucks to give.

In hindsight, chef reminded me of my ex (albeit douchier) — an avid sports fan, a foodie, funny. And like with my ex, I didn’t feel seen. A few weeks before chef’s disappearing act, I confessed that I still felt like I didn’t really know him. “Is there anything you want to know about me?” I ventured. He responded that he “wasn’t concerned” about my past. As long as nothing incriminating lurked beneath, he couldn’t care less about peeling back the surface.

But I had been guilty of the same. My ex called me his girlfriend weeks after we had met, and I obliged, relieved to tie any remaining loose ends. All I knew about him was that he worked in accounting, and sang and played guitar. Terrified of the emptiness he had left behind, I fled to what felt familiar. I wanted to call a blasé chef I barely knew my boyfriend.

Things started to give again. Ready to embark on the freelance career I had always dreamed about, I pulled the trigger and left my staff writing job. I moved out of my parents’ and rented a room in Oakland, forcing myself to make a living freelancing full-time.

Meanwhile, I had begun seeing a therapist, practicing yoga and meditation, reading Rumi and Thich Nhat Hanh – all those mindfulness practices I had once pooh-poohed as New Age-y bullshit. But I didn’t want live out of anxiety anymore. Mindfulness helps me quell my racing thoughts, to pause and sit with my negative emotions instead of fleeing from them. It reminds me that the past and future exist only in my imagination, and to savor the present, the only thing that exists in reality. (They call mindfulness a “practice” for a reason – that shit’s hard!)

Mindfulness also taught me self-care, the idea that I’m worth taking the time to care for. Hanh talks about cradling your wounded inner child, which I had written off, again, as clichéd. Until I remembered my own 10-year-old self, owl-eyed and ungainly, anxious for approval — and broke down sobbing. I remembered everyone who had ever made me feel like shit (strangers, friends, guys, chef) and told myself I could never, ever let anyone treat me like that again.

Around the same time, I discovered my neurotic woman crush in Heather Havrilesky, a.k.a. advice columnist Ask Polly. In one of my favorite responses, she advises a successful 33-year-old woman who thinks that if she only works hard enough, she can lock down a relationship. Havrilesky tells her not to let singlehood undermine the happiness she’s already built. “Don’t speed through these days to get to the good part,” she writes. “This IS the good part. Savor it.”

As someone who’s always viewed life as a series of milestones toward the good part, I need to constantly remind myself to make now the good part. What can I do now so that I don’t feel as if the earth has crumbled beneath me if some other guy drives away? So far, I’ve formed friendships with women I admire, with one even blooming into a kickass creative partnership. (Hayy, DC!) And thankfully, I’m a bit of a workaholic — I relish in the exhaustion of a hard day’s work, which these days consists of building my freelance business

At a freelance retreat a week before I moved, we talked about embracing the process, because in the end, the process is all there is. The good part is illusory; even Pulitzer Prize winners need to return to the dreaded blank Word doc day after day. It’s helped me stop comparing myself to others who are further in their careers, and to savor the start. Even my dingy room in the too-cold house, with the mattress on the floor and my cluttered writing desk, which is actually just a plastic foldout buffet table from Wal-Mart. Even as I brew coffee at 6:30 a.m. to the sound of my neighbors screaming at each other, on a trash-strewn street that reeks of kush and dog shit. Even as I eat canned tuna and rice every night, agonizing over whether a check will arrive in time for rent and wondering if I’ve just made a terrible mistake. But as my therapist pointed out, “It’s actually kind of romantic, isn’t it?” Whatever happens, I’ll look back and feel proud that I found happiness in the face of my anxiety. Besides, I can’t imagine doing anything else. This is the truth now, and it’s all I have.

Also, I’ve recently started dating someone. But this time, I’m trying to savor the process of getting to know him, of letting him unfurl – slowly, patiently — rather than treating it as a way station to the good part. And I really like what I see so far.

In fact, life in general is more romantic than it’s ever been. Last month, DC and I organized a five-mile run and chug for my 29th birthday. We ran through Berkeley’s near pitch-dark residential streets, giddy from liquor and the heady scent of flowers, and arrived at Jupiter’s, breathless yet exhilarated. We stuffed our faces with Oban-laced cupcakes, and the entire courtyard broke into “Happy Birthday.” This is the good part, and it’s terrible and beautiful, and I intend to savor it, every last minute.

The Good Part

How Would You Feel?

Emotions_-_3My therapist K is fucking great. With her help, I’m becoming a better dater. This week she told me to focus on figuring out what I’m looking for in a partner and only date men who fit the bill. That’s not exactly groundbreaking advice but this next part is. She told me to write about how I would feel when I’m with my ideal guy instead of creating a laundry list of qualities and characteristics. Woah.

The mistake I make again and again is that I feel attracted to people whom I deem “special.” I meet someone who’s handsome, released an acclaimed album, and has a great job at Google and I’m besotted. This next part is even worse; I proceed to put him on a pedestal. I’m down here waving like an idiot and he’s way up there. People hate pedestals. People on pedestals have to fall.

What I’m really looking for now, after my past missteps is someone with whom I can build a life, someone who is my equal. I want to build up that pedestal with someone and then stand on it together. Unfortunately, being in my later 30s means that these guys are harder to find. Most of them know it too.

So, how would becoming Mr. and Mrs. Pedestal feel? I would feel like he likes me as much as I like him. He’d make me feel kickass and inspire me to be even more kickass. I’d feel secure knowing we’re a team. I wouldn’t feel batshit if I did something thoughtful for him. I know the, “she’s batshit because she just gave me homemade jam” look all too well. I wouldn’t have to worry about when to text, or if to text, or the text of my text, or the subtext of my text.

I would feel he’s interested in what I have to say even if it’s about boring codes on boring government paperwork. I would feel special knowing that he trusted me and felt like he could be himself with me. I would feel like him paying for things was not somehow synonymous with masculinity or chivalry. We’d both pay for stuff as we could because it was for us. Finally, I’d feel sexy because he’d want to do sexy time as much as me.

How Would You Feel?