We interrupt the usual program of Self-Depreciation for a ground breaking, slightly self-aggrandizing, report on the state of my life…
If I were going to write about my shortcomings and failures, my main struggle would be attempting to somewhat honor brevity. Instead, as I seek to enumerate areas of improvement, and subsequently, my fingers, have been starting and stopping, herky-jerky like a stick-shift drivers-ed car. This is probably two parts self-loathing, two parts lack of societally (and thus, easily) recognizable accomplishments, and one part modesty. Yes, just a mere one part modesty, as modesty is not something that I possess in abundance, nor is it something that I aspire to. In fact, I dislike modesty… at its root, it’s either about “shrinking” so that others may feel large, or truly feeling bad about oneself (my unfortunate case at present)… or simply being disingenuous.
But, I will try nonetheless.
I had some reservations about listing this first, as I take exception with women (especially myself) defining themselves by their romantic relationships. However, the impetus of this blog post lies in my reflection of my dating life.
Over X-mas vacation, my brother was throwing in his two cents about the kind of guy that I should be dating. I laughed a little on the inside when he said that the guy should have ‘a job… or better yet an occupation.’ I thought “Duh!”, and was momentarily a little bristled that he found it necessary to tell me something so obvious. As I contemplated my both my own life, and my dating history, I had to concede that the advice was not unwarranted.
After all, my resume already reads much longer than what some people will “achieve” in a lifetime. I’ve quit jobs because they were too far away, too boring, because I wanted to or needed to move, because I was starting school or a new job, because I felt disrespected (which sounds more flimsy than it is, I could, but won’t, at present, expound upon this), because I wanted more time to hang out with friends, etc. Actually, more on this later. So my point here is that, people tend to keep company with those like themselves. If my own occupational and corresponding financial histories are kinda spotty, it’s a somewhat reasonable assumption that I would surround myself with similarly… unpredictably employed people. And indeed, I do, or at least used to.
My first kiss was a guy that I met at a dance club of all places. We danced for several songs in a row, before we stepped off the dance floor to cool off. We grabbed some water (this was in my pre-alcohol days; I was both underage, at 19, and straight edge: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straight_edge) and headed to the patio, where we preceded to talk for hours; sharing our life plans (grandiose and naive, for the both of us), beliefs, values, favorite movies, etc. Our conversation meandered and went on for hours, while our respective friends continued to sweat it out on the dance floor. I was young, eager for connection, giddied by my impending relocation, and, again, naive. In short, I was well primed for a romantic encounter.
Eventually, our parties trailed in out by one, exhausted from hours of dancing, and growing increasingly impatient; impatient at everyone that wasn’t ready to go, keeping them out long after they’d had their fill of the nightlife. All the impatience eventually became focused on us, the lingering two, (to them probably) seemingly unceasingly chatty duo. Eventually, we said (prolonged goodbyes), making promises of visits, phone calls and emails. We ended things with a very unsexy, sloppy kiss. He was much taller than me, and my back cracked as he pulled me in close. Nothing like a little chiropractic simulation to set the mood. I had no idea what I was doing, and it seemed to be the case that he didn’t either.
Those visits, phone calls and emails never happened. I tried calling him a few times, to no avail. He was never home (this was back in the days before the cell phone’s ubiquity). I found out through the grapevine that he was in jail! Apparently, he had a son (which he neglected to tell me about), and had failed to pay child support. In retrospect, I’m not sure that was the whole story, even. Do people go to jail for that? I’m not sure. At any rate, it was either bad, or worse.
So my first kiss was a soon to be jailhouse inductee. I really wasn’t all that shaken up about the whole ordeal. I was soon to get the hell out of my deplorable hometown, and on to an actual city, full of possibility, opportunity, sunshine, and surf.
My dating choices became poorer before they became better. My relative poverty (both financial, and of dating experience) played a big role in this. Free dinners? A break from my bare bones diet of undressed Boca Burger patties, cheap spaghetti, bananas and oatmeal was quite welcome. In those days, the sole necessary trait for me taking a guy seriously, was that I found him to be ¨uber attractive and/or that he took me to good restaurants. Back then, to me, men seemed to be silly creatures at their core, and stupidly, bumblingly insidious, if you let them be. So, when I just wrote “taking a guy seriously”, I only mean relatively so, more accurately meaning my attitude toward them was slightly less flippant than usual. All and all, men seemed to be sources of free meals and vapid entertainment.
We tend to find what we expect. And so, I dated a disproportionate stream of under-employed and often, altogether unemployed degenerate men. Directionless sloths, milking some kind of system or other.
Eventually, though, I had to come to terms with the incongruity of how I regarded men in general, and how I regarded the many platonic men in my life. The men in my family, my friends, my coaches, etc. My male relatives who so lovingly took the time to teach me practical skills and life lessons, not because they were mighty men, and I was a silly girl, but rather, because I was the youngest (both in my nuclear and extended families) and had less life experience. Au contraire, these were some of the same men who helped form my strength and independence. They were people who had my best interests in mind, people who offered words of support and encouragement. They were people who have been hurt. They had depth, and they were human.
And, eventually, I tired of shallow dates and shallow relationships. There isn’t a single meal in the world delicious enough to ease the discomfort of swallowing dim wit and unchallenged, pop media-fed ideas. I divorced myself from my reductive, pseudo-misandrous views, and started becoming a more discerning dater. The mere decision to seek a genuine relationship was almost enough alone to bring more genuine men my way.
Rather than meeting guys in random places like the beach, and in stores, I began dating men that I met through places of mutual interest, such as art galleries, bookstores, music events, etc. It’s now been several years since I’ve dated an unemployed or under-employed guy. *Btw, I don’t want to make unemployed people feel bad… it happens to the best of us, but when it’s chronic, and the person’s complacent… it’s not a good thing in and of itself, and it says a lot beyond the obvious.*
The men that I’ve dated in more recent years include: artists (working artists, read: receive actual paychecks), a psychologist, an illustrator, a musician (again, an actual paid musician, classically trained and broadly skilled), a personal trainer, conservation biologists, a librarian, a social worker, a professor, a non-profit founder, etc.
And for the most part, I wouldn’t mind running into any of the guys that I’ve dated in recent years. They’re all good guys, many of them even interesting and ambitious. One of the conservation biologists even went on to become a TED speaker (who shall obviously remain nameless, like all other people from my personal life) . Kinda cool. I went from almost dating a jailbird to dating a TED speaker.
Areas of improvement: I’ve become a more discerning person, moved away from reductive thinking, and though I didn’t get into it above; I’ve become more assertive, realistic, judicial, and communicative with people, both inside of and outside of relationships.
Because this post isn’t long enough already, 😉 as a final note, I’d like to note that my use of the word dating merely means going out with a potential romantic interest. I’ve been known to end dates with a wave, a high five, fist bump or brisk hug. So if it sounds like I’ve dated a lot of people, I have, but I haven’t “dated” a lot of people, in the sense that you may, perhaps, be thinking.
While, conceptually, I agree with Naomi Klein and many other feminist theorists, that women should share their “slut” stories to help destigmatize true representations of female sexuality (and consensual, healthy sexuality in general), in practice, I’m unwilling. I feel like I have enough crosses to bear, by simply being a Black person, a woman, a biracial person, a black person, a poor person, an atheist, a childless (early) middle-aged person, an often single woman, a feminist, a true liberal (at a time when American politics, considered as part of the whole of industrialized nations, we, as a nation, are pretty conservative, even the majority of democrats, and, notably, the democratic party has been sliding the the
wrong *ahem* I mean toward the so-called right, conservative side of things, being a true leftist liberal is to be a minority) without stacking on ones that don’t even accurately belong. Being far from a sexual libertine, I don’t want to paint the picture of myself as being one, and suffer the subsequent backlash. Prudent? Certainly. Cowardly, perhaps.
Now, back in theme with this programs self-aggrandizing; yay self for no longer dating douchey men!