I admit it; I don’t know the rules

I’ve never been a Rules girl. Perhaps this has been the source of some of my relationships problems, perhaps I need to study up. But I am learning a thing or two.

Here’s where I’m at:

  • I’m not going to chase a man again. Ever. I’ll let him know I’m interested and let him take the lead. If he wants to see me, he’ll find a way.
  • This doesn’t mean I won’t occasionally reach out if I see something relevant to a conversation we had. I’m not an automaton.
  • I’m dating around, not falling easily into exclusivity. It’s already helped me gain more clarity. I expect the same from the men I date — they’d better be seeing other people! If he ultimately chooses me, I want it to have been an informed choice.
  • Meanwhile, I’m going to be absolutely clear about what I want. That way, if we’re not on the same page, he can opt out early and save us both some misery.
  • This clarity can have an added benefit:  he quickly learns how I expect to be treated.
Am I on the right track? Recommendations? Resources? I’d love to know what you think.

post-feminist dating

I was a staunch feminist in college and beyond. My serious papers took on sexist language and such things. I’ve been called a femi-nazi on more than one occasion. So let’s relate this to dating…

If I don’t come across as particularly adept at dating now, you can imagine what an idealistic (in all the wrong ways) fool about it I was in my twenties. One of my more memorable boyfriends lived hand-to-mouth. Much of the time he didn’t have a dime to his name — but when he did, he was sure to buy me gifts or treat me to an amazing night out. I went dutch with lots of guys, too. I remember reading an article that promoted the notion that couples should contribute equally to relationships, and should strive to date at the level that the lower-earner of the two can afford. But let’s get real:  very few couples are composed of equal earners or equally motivated partners.

Frankly,  I now wonder whether not allowing a man to buy dinner when dating could have landed me in a decade-long relationship in which I supported an entire family. Perhaps there is such a thing as too much self-sufficiency. And I’m through supporting a perfectly capable man!

Contrast my past approach with a sassy widow I know. She recently revealed that she asks men who ask her out to pay her sitter.

Damn, girl! The last time I was in the dating game, it was common to split the tab. It was only the older, wealthier men who you knew with confidence were buying dinner. Either that, or I was just too dumb or too feminist. (And, no, I don’t believe they are the same thing.)

At this point in my life, I’ve developed an appreciation for receiving male attention in many of its forms, including gifts, meals, etc. In other words, it’s pretty unlikely that I’m going to pull out my wallet on the first couple of dates. Still, I’m not sure how that conversation goes…

He:  “So, wanna go out for a drink sometime?”

She:  “Sure, if you’re willing to pay for my babysitter.”

Which brings me back to my point:  If we get what we expect, then I’m okay with expecting a lot. I’m a successful woman; I deserve a successful mate. But I have yet to master the language of high expectations — i.e. the language of asking or negotiating for something I know I can provide for myself.

My friend puts it this way:  “We pay for the manicure, pedicure, brow wax, facial, we get made up and do our hair — look at the investment of time and money we’ll put into looking and feeling good for a date! And all he’s gotta do is pay for dinner and a movie?! No. I let him know that if he wants to go out with me, this is part of it. Maybe on the second and third dates, I’ll split the cost of the sitter and, if I like the guy after that, I may leave my children with my mom or sister. But my reality is that I have children, and he might as well understand that now.”

This woman has set the bar high. I can respect that. There are some dating experts out there who might refer to this as “Degree of Difficulty,” as in, a woman should have a high DoD in order to attract a guy who is willing to work hard to make her happy.

In any case, if she can rock it, I’m gonna learn to rock it, too!

analysis of the unexpected call

Yesterday I wrote about one of the most bizarre and uncomfortable conversations I can recall having. Today I will reflect a bit more deeply on this discussion and the relationship minefields it brought up.

A day later, I’m still flabbergasted that this friend, the thought of whom has not crossed my mind since I addressed holiday cards, believes me to be harboring some sort of feelings for him. What might have given him that impression?

I am a firm believer in taking responsibility and in karma and, for all those fools who wonder why there’s so much drama in their lives, I say it’s because they attract it. But I have shed need for drama in my life…so what part do I have in all this? And what do we owe others in relationships — platonic, romantic or committed?

  1. First let’s look at my own questionable behavior. I was not entirely respectful toward Genna, Adonis’s live-in girlfriend, when I last saw her several months ago. That is to say I did not treat her as the woman of the house. My friendship with Adonis goes back many years to when he lived in the same home with his wife, and I simply defer to him as the homeowner and host when I visit. Still, being a woman, I suppose the most appropriate course of action would be for me to communicate primarily with Genna and treat her as the hostess. Are such rigid social roles necessary in 2011? Oh, all right, I suppose rigidity is neither here nor there, when one has behaved like an insolent brat.
  2. In my defense, while keeping up a friendship with me, Adonis has not been forthcoming with updates, such as “I’ve been seeing Genna for a few months now” and “Genna and I are living together” or even casually bringing her up in conversation. And these are the sorts of things most of us tell our friends. In fact, I might go so far as to suggest that it was disrespectful of Adonis to fail to bring up the critical fact that “this is now Genna’s home, too.” Add to this that Adonis has made it clear he does not intend to get married (this is fine with Genna). Are the ways in which he behaves towards her providing me cues about how to behave toward her, as well? I can say with certainty that I want my mate to let others know when we reach relationship milestones, such as moving in together.
  3. What would compel a man with whom I haven’t spoken for a few months (and with whom previous conversations were related to cars) to believe that I was holding out hope of a relationship with him? I wrote recently about having a “high water mark” among my single friends — and Adonis, while a beautiful specimen — is not him. Even if we’ve flirted in the past, isn’t this a classic case of Narcissism? And if I have a tendency to attract Narcissistic men, does that mean I am also a Narcissist? Or is my awareness a critical first step along the path to healing?
  4. I’ve been so busy trying to figure out how this misunderstanding happened that I forgot to bring up probably the #1 Cardinal Rule for Men and my biggest relationship pet peeve:  Do not ever tell a woman how she feels. Ever. Or assume you know how a woman feels. (My ex was the master of this misbehavior:  he assumed and he never bothered to take the time to verify. p.s. He also didn’t bother to address his own feelings. He just projected onto me.) A woman is much better equipped to know her own feelings, even if so many of us have been socialized to suppress them. Or even if she doesn’t know them, it would be better to begin with, “You seem upset…” Adonis could have handled all this weirdness in a much gentler, less offensive way. He might have asked, “Are you sure you’re not mad? Because I was sensing some… and I observed… and last time I saw you, you said… and so I thought…” Telling me how I feel is never going to get a positive response.
  5. I’ve been told that I have a very “sultry” energy about me, something alluring or intriguing without being full-on sexual, a certain je ne sais quoi. (Mostly I’ve been told this by other women.) Truth be told, I am not often conscious of having such energy, nor do I feel adept at using this to my advantage. Is this cluelessness about my own feminine energy causing confusion among others? Have I been casually and unconsciously flinging signals about in all directions?
  6. Folks in the Midwest are known for indirect communication. Often, things I’ve said quite plainly have been interpreted to mean something wholly different from either what I said or intended. I once remarked to a man that he had beautiful eyes and was immediately told by a bystander that this man was married. Is it really a crime to compliment someone simply because he or she is married? My goodness! I sincerely meant that the bloke had beautiful eyes — nothing more! (And I’d like to think that others would see my compulsion to blurt such things out as innocent and disarming.) By the same token, when I suggest we go out for sushi, I’m merely suggesting that because we both like sushi, we might grab some sometime. It’s not an exclusive sort of invitation, nor is it a suggestion that “maybe you want to step out on your girl in favor of me…”
  7. There are surely some lessons in this experience with which I can and will use to cultivate my own maturity:
    • curb the social drinking, particularly when functioning brain-to-mouth filters are necessary (I have an under-developed filtration system as is)
    • be more conscious of cultural boundaries
    • use provocation cautiously and reserve it for intellectual discourse
    • don’t flirt with men in relationships, particularly in front of their S.O. (you’d think this would be obvious, but some of us are apparently slow learners)
    • communicate with as much clarity as possible


Bottom line? I still think my conversation with Adonis was outrageous, and I continue to be befuddled at how it all got so convoluted. Is Adonis projecting his own feelings onto me? It’s pretty clear he has regrets. I admit, accept and take full responsibility for behaving badly toward Genna.

What do you make of it all?