A Dog Could Eat Your Face (online dating tourism and intellectual labor)

I kind of hate living in an interesting city sometimes. There’s suddenly all this pressure from visiting people to know cool things they would personally be interested in, to be free to hang out. I feel guilty for having a life (or needing to sit quietly in my room, which, let’s be honest, after too much time on the central line, you need some days) when people are in town. But it’s always nice to see them! Even if it’s not for as long as they would like. And these people are generally a-ok with me putting my sanity/well-being first. That’s what makes them friends, not strangers.

But what gets my goat is strangers using online dating profiles to get travel advice, often with the insinuation of a hookup.

What they say, interspersed with some infantilizing “baby” or “sweetheart” type words: Meet me for a beer right now. Show me around town. Recommend a place for dinner. Convince me this city is where I should move. Make London a pleasant experience for me. Entertain me.

attentionWhat they seem to expect in response, sans sarcasm: OH YES HERE LET ME DO SOME FREE LABOR FOR YOU. THIS IS THE SHIT I LIVE FOR. Lord knows, without attention from a man I will wilt like a flower without sun. Please, please, shine the glowing light of your masculinity on me so that I may once again find purpose! And maybe could we make out a little bit? Just to make sure your time in the city is really, truly great and worth telling your buddies about when you get home, so you can high five and bro it out like the goddamn champion you are?! Because that’s all I want for you out of this trip here. #DIFTSBRO

It adds up. Even just the time reading these dumb messages presuming that I would somehow be invested in their experience of London. Let alone all the time it would take to fulfill all these men’s touristy dreams. Often, they’re making these requests in their very first message, not even after exchanging greetings. Conveniently, it does make it very easy to trash their messages.

a club last weekAsking for a date is one thing. There’s a mutual burden of being interesting and a shared hope that it might be fun; however, asking someone to provide what is essentially a service simply because you found them interesting and they had the nerve to exist on the dating site in the city you’re in is absurd. You want to eat/drink/have fun like a local? Read a guide book. Watch Anthony Bourdain. Use Google. Don’t ask me.

Because I really don’t care if you enjoy London. I did not move across the planet to be some North American angel of tourism. I did not set up an OKCupid because I wanted to guide bored men to Borough Market or show them round to pubs I like. I barely have the time/energy/inclination to do that with people I already know.

Stop asking women for their time for your convenience, rather than seeing yourself as having an equal responsibility to entertain them. Got it? Now read that again, with handclaps between every word.

Emotional labor is labor. Intellectual labor is labor. And if there’s none of that being exchanged, that’s called-wait for it-wait for it- TAKING ADVANTAGE OF SOMEONE. And I’m not interested in having someone use my time, my mind, and my own sense of “well I’ll just take 5 minutes to tell you all this to be nice” for their own benefit.

boredI don’t want to list fun places for you to go. I don’t care where you go. You mean nothing to me beyond some words on a screen. Right now, a dog could eat your face, and I’d never know. And guess what? I’m ok with that.

So here’s a better plan than my meeting your only-in-town-for-the-weekend self for a drink: I’ll stay in my pajamas and have another glass of wine while coloring in “a cluster of fucks” by Never Stay Dead and watching 30 Rock. You get a travel app on your phone.

goodbye foreverWe never speak again.

EVERYONE WINS. Unless a dog really did eat your face. In which case, please seek medical attention.

Strangers with Compliments

I don’t think I ever despise humanity as much as I do when online dating. Don’t get me wrong – there are some amazing people out there! I’ve made terrific friends and dated some awesome people, but that’s after much sifting the wheat from the chaff.

beautifulI’ve been using OKCupid lately, and, unlike Tinder where at least I’ve swiped right, anyone can message you. I despise this aspect of OKC. In the grand tradition of catcalling, men frequently think that their inaugural attentions should be reciprocated, and what’s more appreciated. As if saying “you have beautiful eyes” in an initial message to me means I owe you something.

Someone’s virtual presence on a dating site does not entitle you to their time, effort, and emotional energy.

pulling-me-towards-myselfA compliment is not a transaction. In this case, it’s an overture. When your overture is ignored/rejected or I just stop responding, that has to be ok. Whether I just haven’t been online in a few days because I’ve been busy, or I just don’t like you, or I’ve realized you’re a creep, I don’t owe you my words.

The only time I feel like someone deserves a response is when we’ve been talking for a while, real conversation, and we’ve made plans to meet. That’s just courtesy. Otherwise, you’re a stranger, and I don’t owe you anything.

Here’s a fun case study of a jackass whose message I didn’t respond to. It’s intended to be silly and to elicit a response. I took the bait because the underlying heart of this is (A) it’s okay to be manipulative to a woman to get what you want from her and (B) demanding her time is perfectly reasonable. FALSE.

He kept trying after that, saying I took things the wrong way. No. Bad mansplainer. Bad bad bad. You and your patriarchal subtexts are not welcome in my life, or in my inbox.

i-hate-youI look forward to continuing to break society into pieces.

Meaningful Meaningless Sex

peralta-sexSometimes I get shit from people for having what they consider “meaningless sex,” as if it’s pure debauchery and you get nothing lasting from it. “It’s just so meaningless. Hedonistic,” said self-righteous friend #1. You can probably hear my exaggerated eyes rolling wherever you are in the world. And that’s simply not true. Just because something isn’t romantic doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. Wow, so many negatives there.
Here’s the deal: meaning doesn’t have to be mutually derived. As long as it is consensual and entered into in the spirit that everyone’s there to have a safe and fun time, then hell yeah. I’m a firm believer in Meaningful Meaningless Sex.

silenceI’ve had liberating-ask-for-what-I-want sex. The kind where you walk in the room, and you know what you want, and you look someone in the eye, and you say I want it like this. The “I want to see all your tattoos, and let’s drink some tequila” kind of sex.

I’ve had let’s lie around and cuddle, and then we’ll do some crazy stuff, and then we’ll meditate sex. I left feeling centered, reminded that sex is such a human act, and found myself affirmed in my own humanity in the process.

transformerI’ve had I just need someone to make me feel pretty sex. Several rounds of just for the hell of it sex, because sometimes the meaning is simply physical satisfaction and a damn good time. I’ve had do it for the story sex. I’ve had let’s see if I like this sex.

And you know how much of it I regret? None. Not a night of BDSM, not a lazy afternoon in the sheets, not a well-that-didn’t-go-as-expected.

Because I learned from it. I got better at asking what I want. Hell, I learned what I want. I learned what lines I’ll draw from the start. I figured what I don’t like and got more comfortable saying stop. I’ve learned to catch myself when I’m looking for affirmation from others and instead seek it through myself.

Those things mean a lot to me. And maybe that’s not how you find meaning, but that doesn’t mean I can’t find mine that way.

Is it great to have emotional, eye-contact-y, feelingsy sex with someone? Hell yeah! That’s awesome. But that awesomeness doesn’t invalidate the positive experiences I can have through sex witsexy-trainhout all the feelingsy romance.

We get to make our own meaning.

And you know what? That is fucking awesome. Literally.

P.S. Got a question for Tinder Buttons? Ask away. My love life, your love life, whatever. The comments section is open, and I’m an open book. Well, blog.

“I don’t think you think deep thoughts.”

watch-yourself“I don’t think you think deep thoughts.”

I remember I was chopping something. I remember freezing as the words washed over me.

Why weren’t the next words out of my mouth “get the fuck out of my house”? Or a simple and elegant “no”?

I looked down, went back to chopping. Clean slice after clean slice. There’s a comfort in moving, especially when your mind has whirled to a stop.

I offered no stunning retort, no rebuke, no wrath. Nothing that was merited. How embarrassing. I am embarrassed at myself in retrospect.

I, I who love words so much, was speechless. Who says that to someone? Someone with whom they’re supposedly friends?

mansplainingI chopped and chopped said that I was currently thinking about the various waves of feminism and wondering about intersectional feminism’s relationship to the third wave. He was confused by the word “intersectional.” I explained. I listened to some bullshit about feminism and inequality which revolved around inequality being bad and very little being said of substance. I listened to him talk, because he wanted to talk, not because he had anything to say worth hearing in that moment. A bit of the underinformed man-splaining to which all women are routinely subjected as a price for existing.

Chop. Chop. Chop.

I remember my heart falling. This was never going to be a real friendship. I was both adored and belittled. At the root of both lies comparison, comparisons that say you are both greater and lesser than other people. It is having expectations thrust upon you, expectations for which you never asked.

gina-dont-keep-talkingIt is tiring being a woman. You talk too much, too little, think too much, too little. There is no just right. “Just right” is the great lie told in children’s stories. Goldilocks is a fairy tale not because of anthropomorphic bears, but because of the idea that a woman could choose something that would be just right. Women can’t get something just right. I’m surprised a man didn’t appear in the cottage and go “NO! You’re sitting in that chair improperly. How can you judge its merits with your feminine ass?”

I police my words as if they might run away. Sentences could turn against me.

I stopped writing. What if the words were wrong? What if the thoughts were wrong? Was Tinder Buttons just a sea of shallow thoughts into which I pull other people?

im-backWell fuck that. My thoughts of varying depths and I are back. And you’re cordially invited to wade in with me.

That Time I Said I Love You

I love you“I love you.”

The last time I had said I love you to someone romantically was years and years ago.

It felt strange as I murmured the words. It was a statement wholly unexpected on both of our parts. The surprise was unflattering.

He wasn’t necessary to my happiness.

But I liked having him around.

It’d been a short, whirlwind course of dating, marked by too many hours gazing into each other’s eyes and conversations about our dreams and our plans, our feelings about Romeo and Juliet and tireswings.

I wasn’t madly in love. But his existence made the world better, made my days a little sweeter, and for that I loved him. It was a simple fact, not a confession. It was never a secret, even from me, because the moment I said it was when I knew it.

I loved him for being unabashedly himself. For his passions, for his joy. For his willingness to be ridiculous for the sake of fun. For his ambition, for his compassion. For being a person who makes your life and the lives of those he meets a little more beautiful.

sentenceI was still embarrassed when the words slipped from my lips though. It’s nice to get to know something on your own for a while, to have time to turn something over in your mind. To let it be yours for a little while.
I blinked, things changed. He was headed out of town for the summer, I’m moving to a different continent in August. I was ok with goodbye hurting if it meant we had a wonderful time. I found myself wanting to suck every last drop, to get every last bit of fun and joy from our time together. He wasn’t, needing more closure and space than I, a sort of winding down period, which I respect, but certainly did not want or enjoy.

We spent our last day together with a game of him keeping me at arm’s length.  Thanks to the wonders of disc golf, I mean that quite literally. Those discs are sharp.

OH.These days, texts go unreturned or with a short reply. I had successfully moved into the being friends territory, but friendship doesn’t look like this. Friendship is genuine joy and caring. There are people I only talk to periodically, but there is such a warmth and a generosity of spirit when we do talk that it is clear that the friendship has not languished in the silence. Instead, the silence has simply been a chance for us to have adventures and thoughts and feelings of which we can speak together.

Here, I feel as something has crumbled. The distance resounds as if perhaps we’re afraid of each other, because real interaction might run the risk of resparking what had been, reminding us of the shining possibility that for a while there, we both so clearly saw. Or we might run the risk of hurting each other. Or a million other things that could go wrong.

And you know what?

It feels oddly satisfying to look at a pile of crumbles. To know that while it’s not what you wanted at the time, it doesn’t really hurt you, or your plans, or your dreams. To kick the dirt and watch it fly. To know that for all your inadvertent slips of the tongue, you never said anything you didn’t mean.

I loved you, I loved you, I loved you.

And how sweet those words will always be.

My Thighs are Applauding (Shamu, Chub Rub, and our Secret Bodily Shames)

“When I said cute dress, I didn’t think you’d wear leggings underneath,” he said, resting his hand on my knee as we sat having drinks by the fire at a rooftop bar. Given I didn’t know quite how fancy the date was, I had asked if I should go with a cute dress or jeans. He’d suggested the dress, and realizing that if we walked anywhere my thighs would be rubbed raw, I stuck a pair of leggings on underneath. I feigned some excuse about how it was cold, but in actuality, I was trying not to blush that they were necessary to keep my curvy self rash-free.

I wasn’t bothered by his personal preference that I didn’t have them on (while I do take suggestions on occasion, no one gets to say what I wear but me), but the fact that I too would have preferred otherwise and couldn’t figure out how to make that happen.

it burnsThis chafing issue has plagued me for much of my life. I vividly remember getting splashed at the whale show at Sea World. My parents shepherded one drenched and exhausted little girl to the car. Yet as I walked back to the entrance, my legs burned. They felt like they were on fire, my soaked jean shorts suddenly grating my chubby thighs. I found myself hobbling, legs splayed, walking with a weird figure 8 motion as I tried to keep my legs apart, tugging my new black and rainbow t-shirt with a panda on it as far down as possible in a vain attempt to stop the pain.

That was the beginning.

take off pansIn the fifteen years since then, I’ve nearly stopped wearing dresses, skirts, and shorts, and on the rare occasion I don one of these non-pants articles, I typically only do so with a protective layer of leggings underneath.

I hated the rubbing feeling, the red rash on my inner thighs, spoiling my walks places, making even a short errand uncomfortable. And the sound! That slight smack-pull-smack-pull as my thighs rubbed against each other made me cringe. I was convinced everyone could hear my chatty thighs which inevitably screamed “LISTEN TO HER FAT THIGHS. SHE’S SO FAT THEY’RE CLAPPING THAT SHE CAN EVEN WALK.”

These days, the sound doesn’t bother me (they’re applauding my awesomeness!), but the burning that accompanies the sound does. It’s hard to have a night out dancing with your friends or strolling around town when you’re walking like you’re sheltering a herd of puppies beneath your thighs.

And then, low and behold, I saw that episode of The Office in which Andy contends with nipple chafing as he runs. WHAT. Chafing happened to people! Or at least, to Andy “Nard Dog” Bernard. I felt less alone, at least in that “oh, well, if it can happen to someone on tv, maybe I’m not being individually punished by the chub gods with my freaky thighs” kind of way.

I heard a rumor deodorant would help, but it was a shortlived solution, and there’s only so many times a day a girl can sneak off to apply antiperspirant to her thighs without beginning to loathe the smell of cucumber Dove.

oh my godA few years, many thigh-hole riddled pairs of leggings, and way too many sticks of deodorant later, I happened upon an article on chub rub. And not just any article-an article with actual preventative measures and garments! It was a revelation unto me!

And by “a few years later,” I mean last week.

So I’ve ordered a few different products! I used one today, wearing that same dress I’d worn with leggings on my date. It wasn’t the best choice given the nearly freezing weather when I got in the car, but I spent all day thrilled that I could walk around in a dress comfortably AND see my knees at the same time. Hello knees! You are beautiful, you dimply lumpy bumpy bendy things!

So what’s the moral of this? It’s simple. I felt so alone about something so normal. Something that was in the realm of my control, and I didn’t even know it. Why the hell don’t we talk about these things? Why did it take me 25 years and American sitcoms and the internet to realize my thighs weren’t outliers but were perfectly a-ok, and simply victims of friction? We all have bodies. We don’t have to be alone in the struggles bodies inevitably bring.

I’m challenging myself to talk more openly with people about the challenges of embodiment. Oily hair, sweaty thighs, that weird chin hair that sneaks up on you every few months…brace yourselves my friends. I want to know your tips and secrets!  I want to share your mucus-y, rashy, painful woes!

After all, as the newly half-score old great piece of cinema that is Highschool Musical reminds us, “we’re all in this together.”

The Mystic Cuckoo Bird of Love

I always thought dating was something that happened when your life was perfect.

I’d be thin and absurdly pretty, with a well-paying distinguished job and a classy apartment filled with practical but comfy boho-chic throw pillows and exactly zero stuffed animals. I would wear contacts instead of glasses, having gloriously overcome my fear of things being near my eyeballs. And then love would find me.

In actuality, the stars don’t align. I still don’t fold my underwear, and I can’t wear liquid eyeliner. I wear my hair the same way I did when I was 8 (ponytail, slowly drooping over the course of the day). Sometimes my twenty-five year old face spontaneously erupts in acne. I still sleep with my stuffed snow leopard. His name is Sam. He’s every bit as snuggly as the day I got him in Kindergarten.

I’m chubbier than I’ve ever been, thanks to the depression (and carbs. God I love carbs.) that came with my OCD battle and now my OCD meds which cause weight gain.

seriously
I say this to myself on a regular basis. Even though it’s not true.

Two months ago, I had to have a ping pong ball sized super glue tangle cut out of my hair.

I work two jobs, both of which I love, but neither of which are particularly fancy. At one, I still manage to push on the door you have to pull and then run into it like a bird on a cruel Windex commercial. Every. Damn. Day.

I never evolved into glamour, grace, or effortless charm like post-makeover Mia Thermopolis in The Princess Diaries (though I have my moments). Clearly someone should have tied me to a chair with Hermes scarves more often.

There’s no magic timeline. At no point does the mystic love cuckoo bird that lives in your biological clock stick its scrawny little neck out and suddenly go “you’re a legitimate enough human being to date now.”

pennyBecause you’re legitimate already. Messy, ridiculous, not always pulled together you. Or even if you do have it all together, you don’t have to wait for some magical someday when your schedule becomes free and clear, or when you’ve done enough yoga that your tummy won’t be jiggly when you’re making out, or that you’ve mastered cooking and calligraphy and how to fold a fitted sheet without watching a youtube video.

You get to be you. And if dating/romance/love/like/monogamous handholding is something you want to pursue with someone, then you can. And if you don’t want to, that’s great, too! You do you! But know there’s no formula. You don’t have to wait to become perfect. You can enjoy meeting people and kissing people and dating people and all sorts of things at whatever point in your life you find yourself.

Show that screwy cuckoo clock love bird who’s boss, you lovable imperfect bad ass, you.

swipe right for self awareness

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