On Thursday night, I experimented with sleeping half-naked on the floor of my apartment. It was kind of like camping at Burning Man, but without a tent, and completely sober. It was, for the record, far less fun.

This sounds like a classic Alayna-type story of “Something that should not have happened”, but it was definitely not my fault.

As always, life has been a little crazy lately, and so today’s “Literary Libations” is not getting itself posted today. It will be postponed until Monday, when I’m a bit more awake and stuff. I think I exhausted myself a little, between some fun social events, deadlines, and what was likely the most uncomfortable night in recent history. Not sleeping is OK for a little while, but at some point, the gas tank most definitely hits “E”, for exhausted.

Thursday night seemed like an ordinary, low-key night. I had a bunch of articles with a deadline of Friday afternoon, and needed to get everything out of the way before my events on Friday night. I had also been set to participate in the “All Authors Blog Blitz”, basically a day where independent and self-published authors each posted a guest post on one person’s blog, and hosted another author on their own blog the same day. Obviously, that didn’t work out for me, but more about that later. I will be posting about the Blog Blitz, and featuring my guest author on Monday’s blog.

I managed to get my guest blog written at somewhat of the last minute, and made my way through about half of my assignments, when tornado warnings began to come through. Tornado warnings and strong thunderstorms are common here; nothing at all like the storms I’m used to in the Northeast. I actually *love* thunderstorms, as long as I can watch them from the inside or under a covered porch. I think they’re romantic and beautiful and never fail to remind me of some of the better moments of my life. (Ironically, I will always remember watching rainstorms from a daybed in New Orleans, and feeling wistful and sad and happy all at once. I thought it was really the kind of city I wanted to call home, even though it was small and Southern. I didn’t, of course, but New Orleans had some problems with water that were not at all romantic, so it’s interesting that I think of that city and remember how beautiful the rain is. Most people will always remember the devastation in following years.)

Tornadoes are a different thing entirely. We get a lot of warnings regarding them, but I don’t take them too seriously. I once threw an event in the middle of a tornado, thinking nothing was going to happen. Meanwhile, across town, the tornado hit Downtown Atlanta. I’d like to think my penchant for not taking things too seriously helped keep people safe. *laughs* On Thursday, I saw the alerts on TV, heard thunder, and assumed there was a storm.

Then, of course, the power went out. Fortunately, it was still somewhat daylight, but I became alarmed when the thunder started to shake the floor of my apartment. Ornaments fell off my Christmas tree. I went to hide in the little area of space that serves as a “closet” in my Zen room. Of course, I could still see the storm from my window, and my phone made the horrible emergency alert noise that always makes me feel really anxious. It said, “Emergency alert—danger imminent. Take cover now.”

That did not make me feel better, as the giant tree in front of my window started to shake, loud thunder seemed to be in the apartment, and the blackest storm cloud I’d ever seen was staring me in the face. Even on my beta-blockers, there was definitely an adrenaline problem, because I was alone in a closet and went from “Oh, storm, la la la…” to “Holy crap, we’re all going to die!”. My dog hates storms, so she’s really not a calming presence when a tornado comes through.

The storm ended, nobody was hurt, but the power was out. It was, of course, hot. It was 92 degrees that day, like it has been every day, and humid, and not a fan or AC unit to be had. At 8 PM, they said the power would be on by 9:15.

By 12 AM, I was starving (realising I had no food other than candy that didn’t require cooking), and walking around lighting up the apartment with my Kindle. By 1 AM, I was annoyed that The Guy I Am Currently Dating didn’t come to rescue me, because I’d used up my phone battery with the sporadic messages I was allowed to send (cell networks were also down) and calls to the power outage hotline. At some point, they didn’t give an ETA and my phone went dead.

By 1:30, The Guy I Am Currently Dating scared the hell out of me, because I’m sitting in a pitch black apartment and hear someone rattling with the knob at the door. I immediately think of every horror movie I’ve ever seen, but fortunately, he showed up with McDonald’s, which I ate in about 7 minutes. (If you know me personally, you know it takes me forever to eat food, so this is an important indication.) He also brought a flashlight, which was good, because the phone died and the Kindle was down to 15%. (I did read a book during the power outage, which was kind of nice. If it had not been hot and dreadfully uncomfortable, I would have appreciated the alone, non-electronic time.)

By 3 AM, I wanted to sleep, but couldn’t. The porch door was open, because it was 10 degrees cooler outside than inside. Walking the dog was particularly weird, because the lights were out EVERYWHERE. It was rather like a post-apocalyptic scene in a movie, and I felt like I needed a bow and arrow or something in order to channel my inner Katniss. The Guy I Am Currently Dating later told me that 200,000 people lost power, and there was not a light in the entire area.

I tried to sleep in every room, on every piece of furniture. I think I successfully got about 4 non-consecutive, uncomfortable hours. It really sucked. I am not a fan of summer power outages, for the record.

The next day, it only got hotter, with the apartment reaching 82 by 1 PM…and no power. The Guy I Am Currently Dating showed up again, drove me to McDonald’s, and tried to find a place to charge my phone. The parking lot was full of people who looked like they hadn’t showered, brushed their hair, eaten, slept, and were aware it was 90 degrees out. It was a cranky day. Finally, by 5 PM, a little girl shouted “The power is on!”, and you could hear a huge cheer throughout the apartment complex. I was lucky, as I had enough time to shower and get ready to go out, but I was exhausted.

Not everyone was so fortunate. On Saturday night, we saw a news headline that said “Parts of Atlanta Still Without Power”, so it could have been worse. I don’t know if I’d have survived another day.

(Interestingly enough, as I’m writing this, a thunderstorm is running through the area….)

While I still had access to my phone, I got the news that winners had been chosen in the short story contest over on Mysti Parker’s blog, and my little story I wrote at 4 AM one night won first place. YAY!! I’m totally honoured that my story, appropriately entitled “All That Glitters”, was something that stood out and captured attention. If you haven’t read the story or visited Mysti’s site yet, I totally recommend it.

In an example of synchronicity, Mysti is one of the mentors for the online writing class I’ve been doing at Writers’ Village University. I am not in her class, but it was one of her posts that pointed me to the community. Since she’s my friend on there, and my screen name is “PrincessAlayna”, I figured she knew it was the same person.

She laughed when she found that out, because she didn’t put the names together. (there aren’t that many Alayna-s floating around, and I have a photo posted, so that makes it even funnier.) An even greater example of synchronicity is that I received copies of books written by people I’ve actually met through the class, which I only started two weeks ago. Even cyberspace can be a small world.

Writing isn’t always something that gives you much validation. You publish a book, and as someone posted recently, “Oh, I sold a book this year, which is one more than last year. Things are looking up.” is not an uncommon scenario. For all the promoting people do, nobody is actually BUYING books, which makes it seem like a gigantic exercise in ego-reinforcement. I am not sure whether anything I write is good or not, ever. I am also not sure it matters, because everyone with a computer is an author these days, and what I’d really like is a paycheck. The things you receive paychecks for are often written in a drone-like fashion, without your name attached, and feedback is rare and almost always focused on punctuation. (Apparently, I suck at adverbial clauses and the use of commas.)

So, small things like someone you’ve never met liking your story actually count a little in the “You don’t totally suck” department. :) Are all the little bits of positive feedback enough to convince me I’m talented enough to actually be a successful writer…and does it matter if people don’t really read? I don’t know. But it’s cool to be appreciated now and again.

It’s the little things, like ice, Chicken McNuggets, and winning short story contests that make a hot June day without power a little bit better.

For the record, electricity is my new favourite thing.

As you may have noticed, the blog has been a little quiet, and I slacked off and skipped last Sunday’s “Literary Libations”. In addition to the health issues, June has turned out to be quite the busy month for me, and I wish I had the same level of energy I once had, before I got sick. And old. OK, mostly old. The oldness is certainly to blame.

I’ll start off with talking about my favourite subject: me…and where other people are talking about me! :P Long ago, I did an author interview I figured the interviewer simply wasn’t interested in. As it so happens, she simply published many of them at the same time. While it was one of my first interviews and therefore not one of my best, and the interviewer spelled my name incorrectly, I enjoyed reading it because the questions were a bit different from the usual. If you’re interested, you can catch me talking about me here. You know you want to.

Every so often, you have an interesting weekend. This one was definitely an interesting one for me, one that started on Friday when I planned an event at an upscale restaurant that literally just opened a few weeks ago. I’d sent a friend of mine to scout it out, and she’d told me the menu was limited, but the decor was really nice. I later found out the dinner menu was more extensive, they had excellent martinis, and the place really is beautiful. I fully expect to see it on “Real Housewives Of Atlanta” sometime in the near future.

The staff was extremely friendly, and we had occasion to meet both the manager and the owner. I found out that the owner was my kind of guy, an exuberant Italian man from New Jersey, and he seems to treat his customers and his employees like family. The food was good, but overpriced. For instance, The Guy I Am Currently Dating and I ordered a bruschetta appetizer and decided to split an entree, so we could have dessert. I ended up going for the teriyaki chicken breast with pineapple salsa, because it seemed at least somewhat healthy.

To my surprise, the chicken arrived….and, well, that was it. No veggies, no potatoes, not even garnish on the plate. I absolutely realise why America is fat and unhealthy. 20 dollars either gets you one chicken breast without accompaniment, or enough food to feed 6 people at KFC.

The oddest thing was the drinks. We saw they had a special offering $5 martinis, which turned out to be only available upstairs in the lounge area. Downstairs, the same drink with Absolut vodka was $10-$12. Upstairs, the $5 martinis were made with Grey Goose, and significantly better. Of course, they were only for the ladies and only served until 11, facts not widely advertised until you received your bill.

Nevertheless, the club area was a fun bar, although a bit loud and with some flashing lights. There were couches, tables, a large dance floor, and once the crowd around the bar dissipated, it was a nice place to hang out. A friend of mine decided to leave early, and because she lived nearby, The Guy I Am Currently Dating drove her home. I went to pull up a chair and sit next to another friend of mine, one with whom I wished to exchange gossip and, you know, typical girl chat.

We talked for a bit, and that’s when things got weird. I somehow found myself rejected by an 80 year-old guy.

OK, maybe he wasn’t 80, but he was old. And boring. And, although I’m a modest person (sometimes), I definitely have to say I’m quite out of his league unless he happens to have invented the first dot matrix printer or something, and is one of Atlanta’s eligible millionaires.

When the seat on the other side of my friend opened up, he got up and moved to sit next to her, informing me “It was time to upgrade”. Really? I mean, WTF, dude? Is that not the rudest thing someone you don’t know could say?

The funniest part is that he seemed oblivious to the fact that we knew one another. He immediately “upgraded”, bought her a drink, and completely interrupted our conversation. From time to time, she would attempt to resume it. We took pictures together. The bartender brought us champagne, compliments of the owner (at my suggestion. :P ), and still, at one point he suggested we should get to know one another because we both played musical instruments. I don’t know how oblivious someone who has been on this planet for so long could be.

He then basically stalked her for the rest of the night, made her feel uncomfortable, and when she left, he grabbed his coat and made a quick exit as if hoping to catch her. The Guy I Am Currently Dating, whose job it is to oversee all damsels who may find themselves in distress (seriously, he often has a car full of women.), ran after her to make sure the guy didn’t have an opportunity to catch up with her. I later told the bouncer, who was cute and talkative in that Southern country way, that the feminist side of me was angry that girls should be made to feel so uncomfortable they choose to leave rather than cause a scene. On the other hand, I’d have had no problem making that guy feeling uncomfortable enough that he’d have left the building first, but my friend is far nicer than I happen to be.

Regardless of the fact that it was a creepy old stalker delivering it, I am still irritated by the comment. By the time you’re 80, you should know how to treat classy women. In my mind, that includes me. My friend is also a beautiful, intelligent, and classy woman…but it isn’t that often that people walk away from me, informing me they’re planning to upgrade. :P

I also had an unexpected and short visit from a good friend who was passing through my part of town, and took some time to catch up with me. This friend does not like to be mentioned on the blog, so I’m violating one of my rules here. However, we don’t get to see one another as often as I’d like, so it’s worth noting in a vague and positive way. :P

I think everyone has a larger group of friends and acquaintances in the world, but a very small and select number that can be described as “favourite people”. This friend most definitely falls into the latter category. There are some people in the world who, once you break down a certain number of barriers, reveal themselves to be among the most caring and uplifting people you know. I count this friend in that category, and we somehow have formed a very natural and authentic connection over the years. It is a unique dynamic and not always uncomplicated. There are few people with whom you can honestly share a full range of often-uncensored emotion and experience, and still like one other, and laugh at the absurdity of it all even when life is this complex and uncertain thing. Of course, this friend and I will likely never live in the same city, which makes actually getting to see one another a more valuable thing. (Sadly, this is true of many of my closest friends. I do have a few “favourite people” in Atlanta, and they play a huge role in keeping me in Atlanta. Atlanta is not one of my “favourite people”.)

Hey, wait a minute. Maybe it just means people like me more when they don’t live anywhere near me. :O (insert abject disillusionment here.)

Finally, I’m not sure if I mentioned this in an earlier post, but I felt like I needed a new and challenging project for the summer, especially since my physical being is still less than cooperative and I always seem to be too broke or too busy to travel. So, when I saw an introductory course being offered at Writers’ Village University for fiction writers, at a mere $10 fee, I decided to sign up.

I really had no idea what to expect, but the community seems very diverse and very supportive. There are some extremely skilled writers, and there are people like me, who have never taken an online workshop before. The “getting to know you” phase of things seemed to be successful, as people had a very positive response to “meeting” me (which is always a self-esteem boost, if you’re me.).

However, I feel like I might be a little out of my depth in this writing community. At the very least, it’s a humbling experience that points out, “Hey, my writing isn’t quite as appealing as I though. Maybe there’s a reason my collection was rejected.” Hopefully, I can learn from being surrounded by better and more imaginative writers.

The class hasn’t officially started yet, but they kicked things off with an optional writing prompt. The prompt for my room was to write a story about nature using words like “stapler”, “billboard”, “car”,”phone”, and “hard drive”. I sent what I concocted to The Guy I Am Currently Dating, and he said he liked it, but I suppose he’ll probably always say that. My reply to him was:

The comments left by the mentors leave me with the vague impression that they didn’t quite get it. Maybe they just didn’t like it that much, but I think more of the first. I notice that I don’t tell stories in a way that is as straightforward as some of the other people in my group, and I rely more on description and you needing to insert yourself into the situation.

Uh-oh. I think I might be creating the literary equivalent of Darren Aronofsky films when I write short stories. Oscar committee gives a thumbs up. People are like “WTF just happened?”.

Remember all those people who got mad when they thought the cable went out during the final episode of “The Sopranos”, but it was really the ending? Yeah. I’d have been responsible for something like that. *laughs*

I did get some positive feedback from other members of the class, but I’m looking forward to the challenges that come from writing with a very diverse and gifted group of people.

One of the cool things is that The Guy I Am Currently Dating, who is not a writer, but a very imaginative and talented person, decided to take the class with me. We’re in separate classrooms, but it’s fun to have someone with whom to share the journey. I don’t often share my work with people, so frankly, I’m never sure if anything I come up with is good or not. I always rather assume it’s not, but have not yet stumbled on to that secret of success that says, “Hey, your writing is now good! Isn’t that awesome?”

Regardless, I now have something interesting to do over the summer when I’m not out socializing or home watching Big Brother. Let’s face it, those things occupy 70% of my waking hours during the summer, because I still have not mentally accepted that I am an adult and need to work even if it’s July. In my mind, I’m on summer break! As it turns out, that’s not a thing in life when you’re old. :(

Now, if only I could get my body stabilized from the medication-change fiasco, I might be a pretty happy camper. Or, at least, a pretty content one. :)

At the beginning of this month, I decided that I was going to follow up on some pretty cool advice, and schedule the 12 Dates Of December! Of course, I don’t actually mean going on 12 dates (not only would The Guy I Am Currently Dating probably not appreciate that, I think my habit of telling people I don’t sleep with anyone on the first date (no matter how many martinis and compliments I receive) makes me seem more trouble than I’m worth. Getting old and having standards complicates things…*laughs*

Even for an extroverted person, finding 12 things to do in 31 days that are more out-of-the-ordinary than having dinner, going for coffee, or seeing a movie seems like a bit of a tall order—either that, or it turns out my life isn’t all that interesting. (something I’ve been saying for years, but nobody ever believes me.). Since there’s only 11 days left in which to pack interesting events, I’ll update you on my progress.

Date #1: A party at a furniture store. Yes, that’s right. For some reason, Atlanta has decided that the swanky new venue for classy parties involves high-end furniture, because I’ve literally been invited to three of them. One gave me free tickets for myself and a guest, so my friend and I headed out to participate in a wine tasting, browse jewelry, and eat from a food truck. It was an interesting experience, drinking pink Moscato on a $2,000 couch, while eating $4 grilled cheese and turkey bacon sandwiches from a food truck. We both agreed, “This is the weirdest party I’ve ever been to.”, but it was a good time. Everything was a benefit for Toys For Tots, as well, so it’s good to see the socialites of Atlanta giving back…even at a furniture store.

Date #2: A housewarming evening for a friend who just moved to Atlanta. She recently moved here from St. Louis, although prior to that, lived in NYC, where she was friendly with a dear friend of mine and his long-term girlfriend. We knew one another through FB, but honestly, had no idea if we’d like one another when she arrived here in Atlanta. Fortunately, we just seem to “click” and have a great time hanging out together, so I’m thrilled to have a new addition to my social circle. We planned a “swanky” evening for her, since she’s a classy kind of girl (she looked like she was on the set of “Mad Men”, with her black dress and jewelry and not a hair out of place), and somehow, our little party had a blast. After checking out her new place and having dinner at an Italian restaurant, we headed to Whiskey Blue. Between her “Mad Men” vibe, and my gothic-Lolita-with-fascinator ensemble, I’m pretty sure people mistakenly thought we were important. Strangers bought us shots (at a place where the average drink is $15, that’s a nice gesture), asked us to pose for pictures, and gave us their “Reserved VIP” table when they left. I suppose if you’re not famous, you might as well just look like you might be. :P

Date #3: Attending a pretty unconventional wedding at the Masquerade. Two pretty special people that I’ve known almost as long as I’ve been in Atlanta, and am connected to via a number of social circles, finally decided to make it official. It’s probably the first wedding I’ve been to where drink tickets were issued at the door, people wore costumes and utilikilts, and the entertainment included belly dancers, a photobooth, and aerialists. All in all, it was a pretty special day for two special people…and I got to dig out an awesome dress I just haven’t had occasion to wear in a long while.

Date #4: Celebrating birthdays at trivia! Yes, I know, trivia shouldn’t count as a new and exciting date, because it’s something we do virtually every Saturday. However, as it happens, about 6 people in the group of people with whom we’ve become friends over the years have December birthdays. We typically do a cake and a card for everyone when it’s birthday time, but because there were so many, we decided to have “Early December birthday” and “Late December Birthday” celebrations. The early December birthday cake was extremely cute, because it was decorated like a package. And, even though my birthday is at the end of the month, our friends decided to give me my Xmas/birthday gift early, because they thought I might want to use it throughout December. It was a new camera (my old one was 3 years old and starting to see better days, with the 3,000 pictures a year I take.),and so far, it has indeed been put to good use!

Date #5: Thursday night drinks in Vinings Jubilee. I used to live over in a part of town called Vinings, and while I don’t care for the suburbs, I like that area about 10 times more than where I live now. Not only is it more walkable, but it’s close to a little shopping center called Vinings Jubilee. Particularly in the winter, it resembles a Christmas village more than a shopping area, from the small white buildings and old-fashioned signs, to the train tracks and holiday decorations that light up the whole area. Because they refused to host my birthday party (or rather, I refused to sign a contract and pay a deposit_), we went to a restaurant called SOHO. It’s a little on the expensive side, but they make good drinks, and my friend had never been to that area. Afterwards, I took her to my old neighbourhood “Cheers”, a pub called Garrison’s, which has old-school oak *everything* and plays Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra. I’m kind of an old-school girl, so I really enjoy the atmosphere. We had martinis and shots called “fireballs”, which taste a lot like cinnamon schnapps. The entire time, a 50 year old guy visibly eavesdropped on our conversation, which was pretty funny.

Date #6: Putting up the Xmas tree. Although I’ve not been in the most holiday-spirited of moods this year—I’m broke, not visiting my family, the country seems to be suffering one hardship and loss after another, and I realise so many people I care about live elsewhere, rather than in this city that has never felt like home to me or been too accepting of me—-skipping the tree was simply not optional. Unfortunately, the old pre-lit tree died after 5 years, having fallen over when I was in North Carolina in October. Further investigation proved it must have been an electrical surge, because everything plugged into the wall no longer lights up. Fortunately, Big Lots had 50% off on Xmas stuff, and I now have a 7 foot tree ready for decorating. We also plan to take the broken lights off the old tree, and string it with new lights, and put it in my Zen room. I plan to decorate it with pink and purple ornaments, which rocks, and will make the Zen room even happier. Later in the evening, The Guy I Am Currently Dating and I watched “Catfish”, a movie that reminded me of the ups, the downs, the intensity, and the wistfulness involved with online/long-distance relationships. It’s been panned a little for inauthenticity, but as someone who ended up in Atlanta because of falling in love online, I highly enjoyed it.

Date #7: Swanky Midtown Club Night. One of my closest friends in Atlanta has a best friend who lives in Savannah, and every time this girl is in town, it’s a good time. We planned a party for her, and whenever I plan an event for someone who lives out of town, I always ask what they’d like to do. This girl wanted to go somewhere hip and trendy, so we ended up at Shout!, a restaurant in Atlanta that’s trendy but has always treated us well. This night was no exception; they gave us a private cabana on the second level, complete with its own bar (since the other two cabanas were empty until it was time for us to leave), and usually protected by the requisite red velvet rope. I brought my new camera, and everyone took turns taking funny pictures. After dinner, we all went out to the rooftop area, which has one of the best views around, before heading off to a club called Opera. I don’t typically like Opera…it’s a bit overpriced and pretentious to be my scene, and yuppies don’t typically attract me much…but the company is what matters, and we had a blast. We met up with some other old friends I hadn’t seen in a while, and our friend from Savannah actually ended up on a quasi-date with someone she met online. (he seemed nice enough, and entertaining.) I was pretty hungover the next day, so it was fortunate that the 1 PM brunch I had on the calendar included a Bloody Mary. I definitely can’t party like I used to. :P

There are 11 more days in the month, and 5 more special/memorable outings to go, so I’m going to have to store up all my energy to make it through. However, I kind of like the challenge of not just getting out and doing stuff more often, but doing different and more memorable things. A friend from North Carolina mentioned he might pay a visit in January, and although we speak pretty regularly, there really is no comparison for face-to-face time with people whom you truly enjoy, so I’m hoping he does indeed find time to book Atlanta on his itinerary. Likewise, I’m hoping to visit friends and family in March/April of 2013, and catch up with old friends I haven’t seen in too long. The 12 Dates Of Christmas makes me realise that when my focus is on friendships and relationships and new experiences, I am at my happiest. I always though I loved to travel because being in a new place was exciting, but it’s really the memorable experiences and people in those places that I value. Being reminded that I can do the same thing in my own city, if I put out the effort and convince others to do the same, is kind of an eye-opener.

That being said, I’m still thinking I’m not going to live in Atlanta for the rest of my days. *laughs*

Today, I commented on a conversation with a group of friends and acquaintances in D.C. about the bar scene, and specifically, how to approach someone at a bar, and which “pick-up lines” are worth using.

Personally, I’ll talk to a stranger at a bar if I’m alone and bored, but only when it’s obvious someone isn’t hitting on me. I’ll accept a drink from a stranger at a bar if it’s given as a genuine compliment, and it’s not apparent there are some ulterior motives attached. The first time I hear a pick-up line or anything resembling such, I’m probably not going to continue the conversation.

Here’s what I had to say about dating, and meeting people at bars:

“I haven’t dated anyone who wasn’t a good friend first for the past 8 years, maybe longer. Why? I want someone who is genuinely interested in knowing me, who isn’t afraid to get “deep” or talk about what really matters in life, and is willing to put the most authentic version of who they are out there. I’m disinterested in small talk, which tells me nothing about a person, and I’m even less interested in pick up lines, which often tell me about who a person isn’t or would like to be. If someone’s interested in getting to know me, they’re going to do it the old-fashioned way, through friendship, conversation, and spending time together. If someone wants to get laid without putting too much into it, they’ll offer to buy me a drink and ask what I do. My answer is “What I don’t do is meet strangers in bars, but thanks.” :)

The people who interest me are those who show me they’re interesting people who respect my intelligence and find me attractive, but aren’t plying me with alcohol and bad jokes to get me to sleep with them. I invest a lot in the people in my life, and trust and affection is earned over time. We might *meet* at a bar, but we’re not going to develop a lasting relationship or start a valuable friendship at the bar. You can buy me all the martinis you want, but if you’re seriously interested in me, you’ll have to call me and ask me out when we’re both sober.

I get annoyed with the clear disinterest in other human beings and selfish ulterior motives I see at bars and clubs, and it isn’t a gender-related thing. Both men and women show a huge capacity for being fairly vapid and shallow and not demanding too much in exchange for attention or affection. Both men and women allow how other people treat them, how much attention they get or how many numbers they get, to validate or invalidate a sense of being interesting and attractive.

I like bars. But they’re the place I go to have conversation with friends and significant others and people I already know and enjoy, not the place I go to seek validation via feedback from strangers. I miss the idea of the old 1920′s style bars, which were gathering spaces for artists and intellectuals.

Plenty of them got drunk, danced, had fun, hooked up, had relationships, and met new acquaintances. But somehow, some of the most creative ideas in the world were born, friendships solidified, the drama of relationships and marriages played out, and people had more interesting things to say than “You’re cute, where are you from?”

If I meet you at a bar, I might talk to you. However, your chances are so much greater if you’re a genuine person without ulterior motives. I seriously doubt I’m the only one.

If you’re single or in an open relationship and want to meet people, actually show interest in knowing people. Not because you’re out for no-strings-attached sex, or because your ego has taken a hit and you need a boost, or because you want a drinking partner who isn’t hard on the eyes, but because you’re the kind of person who is interested in other human beings. More than that, show interest in honestly putting yourself out there via real conversation that isn’t interrupted every time another attractive person walks by. It’s just a matter of respect and honesty–you know, the stuff that friendships and relationships are built on. Why would anyone want to go to the trouble of a drunken hook-up with someone who doesn’t offer any of that?

It’s not going to be an experience you remember. It probably won’t even be with a person whose name you’ll remember. Trust me.

Emotional and intellectual connection is hugely underrated, and an hour drinking at a bar with a stranger won’t get you that. If you do go home with that person, you’ll be able to tell you’re spending time with someone who could care less about you, and whom you’re equally non-invested in. I’d rather stay home and watch a movie or talk to someone with whom I genuinely share a bond.

Maybe that’s just me. I’m old, and not much fun. I’ve had enough wild times and meaningless encounters to identify the worthlessness of those experiences, and maybe everyone needs to go through that. Then again, I don’t really think it’s just me. I think there’s a lot of people like me, male and female, who are looking for much more than they’re ever going to find at the bar—but don’t know how to fill that empty space.

There are many shallow people out there looking for shallow things. If you’re not one of them, you have to set the bar high enough that you’re not going to tolerate anything less than what you want, just because you’re bored, insecure, or think you need to “play the game”. You don’t. You need to define the rules of your own game, especially if you live in Atlanta or DC or any other city that is known for being perpetually single, work-oriented, and transient.

You don’t have to know me very well, or for very long, to know that I have a love-hate relationship with Atlanta. In fact, it may be the most complicated relationship I’ve ever been in, and that’s saying quite a bit. When things are good, they are very, very good. When things are bad, I want nothing more than to start a brand-new life anywhere that isn’t here.

When I moved here, the transition wasn’t easy. I didn’t expect Atlanta to be like New York, or Philly, or London. Yet, I didn’t expect it to be like L.A. or Miami, either. I’m not sure what I expected, except a place where people walked around after dark without getting mugged or harassed, a place where chivalry was still alive and well, and a world that was a little slower and kinder and gentler than the one I was used to. I thought of it almost as a trip to 1950′s suburbia. “Hey everyone, guess what? I’m moving to the South to live with a guy who’s smart, adorable, loving, and works hard. OK, so we don’t know each other that well, and I’ve never been to Georgia, but I’m sure it’ll all work out and everyone will love me!” .

Obviously, it didn’t, and the fact that things ended as they did may have kind of left a sour feeling towards Atlanta in my heart, one that always reminds me “I allowed myself to fall in love, take a huge chance, change my life because I’m stupid enough to believe in following your heart, and it really fucking hurt…so maybe that’s not a thing I should be doing anymore.”

Yet, I did stay, and I built a life for myself. Three times, it came crashing down around me in a dramatic fashion that involved immense feelings of betrayal at the hands of someone I either trusted, loved, or believed in…or all three. I won’t even claim my own choices had nothing to do with how those situations worked out, because of course they did, but on the karma scale balance of things, what I suffered far outweighed the transgressions I committed. I came to a point where I finally believed karma and I could call it even, I was going to put the past behind me, and move on.

When I put my mind to something, that’s typically what I do. When my intuition tells me I should take an opportunity, head in a certain direction,or take a chance on a relationship or a friendship that doesn’t seem to be the easiest or most rational choice, I listen. This is largely because I’ve learned the hard way. When I don’t listen, when I do what I think is what I should do rather than what that thing inside my gut is telling me to do, I run into obstacle after obstacle. Everything I do fails; every new endeavour is fraught with challenges and difficulties. When I don’t listen to that voice somewhere deep inside me that tells me my instincts *know* things, I end up feeling like the car trying to prove it’s stronger than the brick wall.

A few times, that voice that says “Atlanta is not your home; you don’t fit here, you don’t belong here, you’re not loved or wanted here, and it is nothing like you.” got insistent enough that I almost listened to it. Yet, every time I packed my bags or started making plans, something else, something that seemed like an opportunity I shouldn’t ignore came into my life. Of course, I took it as a sign…and I’m still here. Somewhere, in the core of my being, I know I am meant to be here for now, and it is not forever, but there is a reason I am supposed to be here right now, despite all this city has put me through and how incompatible it is with my lifestyle. Maybe it’s related to a relationship, to friendships that are like family to me. Maybe it’s related to me finding a career, a purpose, a calling. Maybe it’s just because I’m supposed to be in this place at this time, and one day, it’ll all make sense. I have this sense that when the time comes for me to leave, I won’t put it off, weigh the options, have doubts. I’ll know, and I’ll make a huge move in my life’s direction, just as I did in coming here.

Nevertheless, there are some things about Atlanta I don’t quite like. As a non-driver who isn’t a big fan of all things corporate, living in a city where people work in huge office buildings and everything is sponsored by some major corporate entity and spend 2 hours a day driving through a metro area the size of a small state isn’t necessarily a “go” for me. As a person who believes in real, emotionally connected relationships and soulmates and all that—despite my commitment-phobia and my pretty solid belief that we’re all meant to have more than one of the above in our lives—living in a city where 75% of single people say they wish to remain single, and dating means getting drunk, going to a club, hooking up, and moving on to the next option has never really been for me. Not that I didn’t do it, of course, but it taught me it isn’t who I am or how I am. As an uber-liberal, don’t-judge-me-and-I’ll-live-my-life kind of person, the conservative politics, the tendency to judge everyone and everything, and the fact that if you say something negative directly to someone, you’re “confrontational”—but if you smile and talk behind everyone’s back, the prevailing wisdom is “She’s so sweet!”—it just doesn’t gel with me. I was never a rude, obnoxious, weird, gold-digging whore in other places I’ve lived. Here, I’ve been labeled all those things, and much worse. It’s tough on a sensitive person, and maybe that’s the lesson Atlanta is meant to teach me.

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you’ve read about all my exploits with dating people who turned out to be amusing anecdotes, friendships that went awry, douchebag people I shouldn’t have devoted blog space to, but did, and the dislike of certain types of individuals I’ve encountered in this city. You may have even heard my story of a fling with “The Worst Guy In Atlanta” turned into spoken word entertainment. For the first half of my stay in Atlanta, it seemed I was meeting all the wrong people. Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to make some of the best friends and most stable relationships of my life, but for a long time, I was really convinced that giving up on the people of Atlanta was the way to go.

You see, more than anything else, I was meeting the people of Atlanta who didn’t make me feel secure. They didn’t let me be myself. They judged, and judged some more. I was meeting people who reminded me on a daily basis that nobody would ever love me because I was too weird, too odd, not pretty enough, not ambitious enough, not smart enough. Now that I am older and wiser, I see that’s just the vibe of how things go around here…a trip to the ladies’ room at the Buckhead club will convince anyone to get plastic surgery and develop an eating disorder, and that if you’re not married by 31, you might as well become a lesbian.

Yet, now I have vindication. It isn’t just me. A recent magazine article pegged Atlanta as America’s “Third Vainest City” (cities number one and two being in Florida and Texas, also Southern states known for urban sprawl, beauty pageant contestants, and driving your car around town to show off how awesome it is just because you can.)

Not that this is exactly the most scientific study out there, mind you, but if you disagree with me…I dare you to come live here, and when you leave, tell me how positively you feel about yourself, and how much you still like other people.

Sorry, Atlanta. We’ve always known this wasn’t going to work out, and one day, whatever we have is going to come to a timely end. It’s not going to be that painful for either of us, I suspect. However, when that day comes, I now have some proof to back up my assertions of why, exactly, it wasn’t meant to be.

You made me feel crappy about myself a lot, but it’s because you’re kind of an insecure jerk hung up on looks and money and power-tripping and name-dropping, and you’re really kind of mean and two-faced. You’re intimidated by things and people you don’t understand, so you judge them, which makes me realise I may be way too smart for you. You have a lot of nice people living in your space, but almost all of them have come from elsewhere to take advantage of your reasonable rents, bigger apartments, and greater chances of getting a job. Those who haven’t will likely catch on to the fact that you’re just not that nice, and end up moving somewhere else.

It always takes me a long time, after realising something isn’t right for me, to finally have that catalyst come along, smack me in the face, and tell me it’s time to make a change. I don’t know when that will happen. So, until then, we’ll stay together and I’ll tolerate your bullshit. I’ll make it work, even when it’s in the form of passive-aggressively raising the temperature to 106 degrees when my AC doesn’t work.

But, secretly, I know the truth. It’s not me, it’s you.

And since I’ve been likened to Casey Anthony in the past year, that’s got to be saying something. :P

Last night, on a free, low-key night spent running errands, eating dinner from Moe’s while watching “Smash” On Demand, fixing my computer, and later watching “Breaking Dawn” on DVD, the Guy I Am Currently Dating and I got to talking about some of life’s more serious and thought-provoking subjects. Among them, this one:

“Is a person only as good as the worst thing he’s ever done?”

This is clearly not a black and white question, and the answer does not apply fairly and equally to all people. If you say “No”, you have to take into account people such as Hitler and Stalin and others whose brutal disregard for human life far outweighs the good they could ever do. If you say “Yes”, you’re minimizing the contributions of Wagner, Dostoevsky, Oscar Wilde, and others whose behavior ranged from anti-social to unconventional to downright criminal. Even the Marquis de Sade, the self-described lunatic credited with the art of sadism, is a respected author.

As it applies to me, I certainly don’t think I happen to be defined by the worst thing I’ve ever done. I’m not Hitler, I haven’t destroyed thousands of lives, I haven’t killed anyone or even caused physical harm to another human being. I do not necessarily think of myself as the world’s best person, but neither am I the villain I seem to be typecast as.

I’ve lived a wild, complicated life, to be sure. In my younger years, like many people, I experienced a great deal in my life that I’m not sure I ever had the tools to deal with in a positive way, or at all. On the outside, I was a charming and bright, talented student who worked hard because there was no other option for someone desiring a better life. I found achievement to be necessary to define my place in the world. Yet, there was another side of me that was intensely self-destructive.

I’d like to say that changed when I went off to college and found myself, but it didn’t. I was still accomplished, talented…but I also drank heavily, experimented with drugs, engaged in promiscuous behaviour, battled with my weight and a constant dislike of my body, and pursued virtually any dangerous or masochistic behaviour that came my way.

I’d like to say those things changed when I went to work after college, and came to Atlanta…some of them did, and others remained. I found myself being the sort of person who could easily lie, cheat, steal, manipulate. I never behaved with the intention of harming other people, but I had a reckless disregard for myself and anyone else in the world, and even life itself. I had a few lovers, all of whom I put through a very difficult time, who stayed with me through my many betrayals because I represented some sort of exciting world, only to inevitably recognise it wasn’t worth the investment of emotion and moving on was the healthiest thing to do. I didn’t even take time to think about the kind of person I was becoming; in fact, I never thought beyond the next day in life.

I paid an extraordinarily hefty price for my poor decisions over the course of a few years, times when I did, in fact, engage in the worst things I’ve ever done. I was left completely alone, friendless, broke, and in a difficult situation. I faced legal consequences for my choices, and the embarrassment of everyone in the world knowing about the worst things I’d ever done in a very public way.

Yet, I believed I could start over. I believed everyone is entitled to rebuild their lives, to make amends, and to carry on without judgement. As a result, I entered a new phase in my life, one that was highly focused on joie de vivre, of living a rather hedonistic, manic existence. Many people judge this period in my life, as I unintentionally hurt others…but I do not cast judgement upon myself. I lived more in the course of a few years than most people will live in a lifetime. Those who were most hurt were rarely hurt by my actions, but by the fact that I’d have the unmitigated gall to proceed with my life as if the past were not everyone’s business. To this day, it’s an attitude I do not understand. Simply because you live your live in a way that many judge or find morally difficult to comprehend does not make it wrong, it makes it different. If a person does not confide in you about their past, or about their private life, it’s simply because it does not affect you. You’re not in a position to judge, nor to know the sordid details of another person’s past, unless you’re that close to them. I will never understand this “Everyone has a right to know everything and pass judgement on everyone” kind of world we live in.

If we are close, I will tell you about myself, about my past, about my sordid adventures, about the things that fall into the “worst things I’ve ever done” pile, as well as into the “worst things ever done to me” bin. Again, I paid an extremely high price in my life during those years, a period during which I abandoned and forgave myself for my past wrongs to others…for doing nothing wrong, other than having a chequered past that I’d moved on from, and living an unconventional lifestyle that simply wasn’t the world’s business. Despite some appearances to the contrary, I can really be a remarkably private person when it comes to the things that truly matter in my private life.

After that difficult experience, which found me alone and abandoned by virtually everyone who dared to call me a friend—not based on how I’d treated people in the present so much as offenses I’d committed in the past—I was forced to rebuild yet again. Honestly, I didn’t think I was strong enough. I went through a period of great isolation and depression, where I didn’t wish to leave the house for months. People took it upon themselves to attempt to destroy my life for no other reason than they judged my past and disagreed with my present.

It took some time, but eventually, I built a really strong group of friends. I knew that, when push came to shove, many of these people were the real deal, because when people whose lives I did not affect in the least would contact them to tell them about my chequered past and the things I’d done to hurt others, they were not only not shocked. They defended me. In fact, I had older and wiser friends reassure me “You are not the worst thing you’ve ever done, or defined by the pain you’ve caused those you loved.”

I truly believe that. I am not the person I was a decade ago, the one who believed that reinventing myself and letting go of the past meant creating a whole new persona. I am not the self-destructive person who would lie, cheat, and steal because life was a game of “Survivor”, and no matter what, I was determined to survive. It took me years to gradually abandon my wild ways, and get in touch with the person who was still inside, a romantic dreamer with ideals the world couldn’t possibly live up to, and a girl who didn’t need sex or alcohol or material possessions or crazy adventures or destructive outlets, but love, and a way to indulge her desire to create.

I credit this to letting go of some toxic people in my life. When I was at a point in my life where behaving with a certain level of class and respectability wasn’t a concern, I met others who led me down similarly destructive roads. I met people who had no compulsion about lying, cheating, stealing, and learned what it was like to be on the other side of a destructive relationship, more than once. I had a roommate who ran off with my belongings. I carried on affairs with married men without caring, put myself in situations that might have been dangerous, the kind of stories we all see on Lifetime movies. I met people who were unconventional artists, former and current addicts, people with pasts who made mine look sweet and innocent.

When I found myself becoming a different person, the law of attraction seemed to apply. I attracted more kind, understanding, and forgiving people than I’d met in 6 years in the Atlanta area. I found people who, little by little, I could open up to about my life. I found more than one guy who knew about my past and decided to believe in my inner beauty anyway…and one who turned into a relationship that’s totally changed my world for the past three years. I found a job I could stand for more than a few weeks at a time, that used my creative skills and helped me launch a new career. I stopped being afraid of a world filled with people bent on destroying me.

I’m not a saint. I’m still a little wild and crazy. I still like to party and have a good time, but I’ve learned life is not an episode of the Jersey Shore. Most of that is simply growing up. I would not consider doing most of the things I did when I was 22, and because of that, I don’t think I deserve to be permanently defined as the worst thing I’ve ever done. People do change and grow and live and learn and develop into who they’re eventually meant to be.

I still have unconventional views that not everyone understands. Although I’ve been in a monogamous relationship for three years, I am still unconvinced about monogamy. I believe we all have more than one soulmate in our lifetime, and those soulmates come in all different forms; hence, the perfect relationship or marriage is one that does not place limitations or restrictions, and is not defined by jealousy. I still believe that if I want to marry someone of the same sex, smoke pot, or visit a prostitute, the government should allow me to make my own choices about my life. I do not wish to have children, am not sure that marriage is a necessary institution, and think that large corporations and government are slowly eroding individualism, and perpetuating a culture of “Everyone is entitled to know everything about everyone and judge accordingly.” I am pro-choice, anti-judgment, and would love to see a world where love and equality reign supreme.

A friend of mine told me this is likely part of the problem I face in my life; not that I haven’t changed from the person who selfishly hurt others and paid a tremendous price a long time ago, but that I have not relinquished my pride, changed my ideals. I’ve suffered through a great deal, and in many ways, simply see it as karma for the unhappiness I once inflicted upon others.

These days, I’d say I define myself as a good friend to many, and a devoted admirer of a few I’d like to know better. I’m a loving and supportive girlfriend and companion, an intellectual equal to most I meet (though certainly not all), and a talented writer, actress, singer, event planner, and bar trivia participant. I’ve been told I am compassionate, have the gift of empathy, know how to bring people out of their shells, and am the instigator of good times. I’ve learned to choose friendships over acquaintances, because popularity has little to do with love or understanding. I’ve learned that life is short, and it pays to say “Yes” to adventures more often than “No”. I’ve learned that health isn’t forever, and you have to care for yourself above all else. I’ve learned that giving to others…whether donating a few extra dollars to a charity, creating a piece of art for a friend, or sending greeting cards for life’s important occasions…helps define who you are. I’ve learned that you can’t change yourself to please others, because you never will, and you can’t abandon the things you love because they don’t fit with who you think you should be. There is no “who you should be”, only who you are.

Part of that is, of course, who you were. Accepting and coming to terms with the past is important, but it still doesn’t mean I believe everyone in the world is entitled to know everything there is to know about my life. It certainly isn’t in anyone else’s place to tell them. Neither is it in any other person’s place to judge or gossip…we’ve all walked different and complex life paths.

I am no better than anyone else, but I don’t believe I am any worse. I’ve made my mistakes, and I’ve paid the consequences. I’ve made choices, and positive or negative, had to deal with the fallout. If you look at the world around us, obsessed with scandal and self-destructive behaviour and lack of connection with others, and the idea that sex and money make the world go round, there’s little I’ve done that seems too scandalous. I suspect trading stories with Angelina Jolie or Kim Kardashian or any of Atlanta’s “Real Housewives” would leave me looking like a choirgirl in comparison.

Yet, although I am not famous or notable or anyone special in any way, I live in a world where people repeatedly think my past is their business, and they have an obligation to bring it into my present. This happens in the forms of stories I hear from across the country, people I barely knew who attempt to embarrass me in public settings should there be an encounter, and those who send e-mails to people I care about, re-hashing the past in an ultimately painful way.

At what point in life has a person redeemed herself? At what point is it safe to say “I’ve moved on, and I don’t understand why so many others, particularly those who will never again encounter me, cannot.”

I am not who I was at 19, or 22, or even 27. I suspect few of us are. And many of us have more than a few transgressions that have been forgiven, and made personal life choices that are none of the world’s concern.

I have a good friend in NYC who shares a similar story; the more high-profile her life becomes, the more she has those determined to bring up her past in an attempt to humiliate, discredit, or make her an object of ridicule and ostracism.

My life is not a high-profile one, and those who I love and trust enough to discuss matters like my past know what there is to know about me. Shockingly, I’ve learned there are far more people in my life who know about the stories from my past, and still love and accept me. I’ve been blessed to learn that for many, friendship and love is fairly unconditional.

I have moved on. I am a different person with a different life, surrounded by different people, focusing on different goals. It is unfair to be repeatedly cast in a light that’s no longer reflective of who I am, and to be judged upon the past rather than the present.

This year, the tarot reader at my party told me that in order to move on with a prosperous future, I had to make peace with my past. I believe I’ve done that. I only wish everyone else would choose to let it be.

If I *do* deserve to be defined by the worst thing I’ve ever done, it means so does everyone else in the world. And, were all the skeletons to be released from the closets of everyone you know by others who believe “it’s only right that everyone knows, I think the world would struggle greatly.

Even in today’s day and age, certain things are entitled to be kept private. And, when I choose to share those secrets in my life with someone I love or care about or respect, that should be my choice, and not anyone else’s.

My past does not change the person I am today. Judge me on what I am to you *now*, not on what and where and who I’ve been.

After all, no matter who you are, I do not think you are the worst thing you’ve ever done. I think you are a complex human being, and until I walk a mile in your shoes, I cannot understand your life or your choices. I do know, beyond a doubt, that everyone changes.

Once upon a time, a friend of mine advised me not to take it all so seriously, to be so hurt by incidents that constantly rehashed the mistakes of my past or put me in situations where my lifestyle was open to judgment. He told me, “Life is just like the movies. People are comfortable with the idea of heroes and villains, even though neither is so clear-cut. For some reason, you’ve been cast as a villainess in your own life, and your major transgression is your lack of conformity.”

Whether or not I am destined to play one in life, on stage, or anywhere else in the world, I am no villain. I’m extraordinarily emotional, and have a definite need to be liked. Judgment hurts me, being overlooked and gossiped about and ostracised hurts me…but not enough for me to lose sight of who I am, where I’ve been, and where I am going.

In my way, I possess a tremendous strength, and a kindness of heart, a unique and endearing soul, and keen survival instincts. I may not have always made use of these gifts, but I know now they are mine.

And what about you, dear readers? Are you ultimately and permanently defined by the worst thing you’ve ever done?

Addendum: The Guy I Am Currently Dating pointed out that this question is a complex on explored in one of my favourite books/musicals, Les Miserables. It’s a very multi-faceted story, and explores the question from multiple perspectives: Can a person be defined as anything other than the worst thing he’s ever done? An important element of the story is that while Jean Valjean finds himself beaten down by judgement for his past and ultimately returns to a life of crime once he sees he will always be thought of as a criminal, and unable to succeed or survive in a difficult time, it is the love and compassion shown to him by a priest he attempts to rob that transforms his life and his character. The final sentiment of the musical?

Remember the truth that once was spoken: To love another person is to see the face of God.”

I have yet another confession to make.

I really do not like clubs.

I try, and give them a fair shot. Every so often, I’ll participate in planning a huge multi-Meetup thing where the goal is to get hundreds of people to get to come out to your club party. In my head, I’m always psyched about gping, and then I spend an hour there, and realise I’m quite bored.

When I was younger, I loved clubs. Most of my social life, from age 17-26, was spent going to one club or another. I knew the bartenders, I dated some of the DJs, and even if I didn’t have a friend who wanted to go because it was, say, Wednesday…I always met friends when I got there.

It’s easy to rationalise that I don’t enjoy clubs because I’m sick, get tired out easily, and have been suffering from perpetually low self-esteem for the past 6 months. A majority of social events are just too much for me. Yet, I’d been doing fairly well at social outings lately. For quite a few months, I couldn’t handle more than two or three people at a time. By the time we celebrated my birthday and New Year’s Eve, I could handle a much larger crowd, and alcohol. I even danced a little.

Unfortunately, last night didn’t really go so well. By the time we got to the restaurant and ate any food, it was well after 8 PM, which doesn’t work for me. Whenever I take my evening Valium, I need to take it with food, for some odd reason. I will always take the Valium with a cookie. Once we were there, I found the restaurant to be overheated, and I couldn’t remember for the life of me if I took my medication. I looked in the pill bottle, and did not see a half pill. (that’s all I get for the evening.) This freaked me out, because it meant either I’d failed to take the pill, or absentmindedly taken an entire pill. (which means, for me, I shouldn’t be drinking at all.) Everyone told me not to worry about it, but after one martini, I felt really “up” and energetic. After we got to the club and I had a second drink (others mentioned they were very strong drinks), I started to have brief flashes of dizziness/vertigo. These scared me, and then of course I struggled not to have a panic attack. I knew that messing with my medication at all could produce a very bad effect, and while alcohol usually makes me forget I’m even ON medication, last night it made things a lot worse.

I left the party by 12:30, which is unusual for me. By the time I did, I felt huge pressure in my brain, tingling throughout my body, and numbness in my arms and hands. I was really panicked about the whole situation, and on top of it, was starving. (for some reason, medication makes me extremely hungry, and not eating enough makes my body feel bad…even though I resolve not to eat any more than necessary most days, because of the simple fact that my body does not burn calories anymore. ) By the time we’d dropped our friend off and gone to the McDonald’s drive-thru, put on PJs, and were watching late-night Futurama, I had a full-scale migraine. It hurt to open my eyes. I think the loud noise and flashing lights provided an atmosphere I’m just not healthy enough to handle yet, because I hadn’t had one of those in maybe 6 weeks.

However, even before my recent illness struck in July, I noticed I didn’t really have fun at clubs anymore the way I did hanging out with my friends, whether in a group of 5 or 50. I like people, drinking, music, dancing, and generally having fun, so why would I not like clubs? Here are a few reasons why:

1)Dealing with jerks. In the club environment, rude people of all genders, shapes, sizes, and and attitudes have a few drinks, and start to show their true colors to strangers. This can range from the guy who physically grabs you on your way out of the restroom, after you ignored him all night. (yes, this actually happened to me) to the girl who threatens to punch you in the face because her boyfriend (who conveniently never mentioned he was there with someone) is buying you drinks and chatting you up at the bar. (this also happened.) Guys and girls alike tend to suffer from either inflated-ego-syndrome or feel somehow inadequate at the club, and both are demonstrated by just being an ass to strangers. Last night, I happened to meet a guy who sat next to me and started talking. He seemed a little like a jerk, but nothing I couldn’t handle. (I can be fairly snarky when I want to be.) Then, he started harassing me about whether or not I was a natural redhead, and making comments about how he was married to a redhead. The conversation was generally weird and awkward, and for some reason, he grew kind of hostile. I don’t know, maybe I reminded him of his temperamental redheaded ex-wife. So, I simply asked him if he was from New Jersey because the last time I saw that much hair gel was on the Jersey Shore. (he was also either Italian or had the requisite Jersey spray tan.) He then went to sit next to a friend of mine, where he talked about me to her while I was sitting less than 10 feet away, saying “That girl is too bizarre to talk to.” When she showed total disinterest in conversing with him, he talked to another friend, and I don’t know what he said to her, but he ended up telling her she needed to lighten up. The funny thing is, he kept coming back to our little VIP booth area we chose to occupy, although it was clear that nobody wanted to be bothered with him. Even my boyfriend, who is nice to everyone, glared at him.

Note to people in clubs: Girls are not weird, or stuck-up, or in need of lightening-up because you don’t get the feedback you want from them. It means they just don’t like you. It isn’t us, it’s you. Trust me on this one.

2)Running into people with whom you have past history. It doesn’t matter whether you knew them a year ago or 10, or you parted on good terms or agreed to hate one another, when you run into someone you used to hang out with socially and you no longer count amongst the people in your universe, it’s weird. It may be someone you used to date or hook up with, an ex-best friend, or someone who was a jerk last time you encountered them at the club. It’s still weird. It’s even more awkward when you have to pretend you’re happy to see that person again, and introduce them to all your friends. It’s even more awkward than that when said person sees that as an “in” to hit on your friends.

3)Running into friends whose names you don’t remember. Sometimes, you run into people you are happy to see, because you really do like them or have enjoyed their company in the past. In some cases, you haven’t seen them for years (as in the case of running into a guy last night who, the last time we hung out, I had the honour of meeting his beautiful daughters…and one of them was a very energetic, active 13-year-old girl. She’s now 18 and out of high school.Wow, feeling old.), and in others, you met them at an event but honestly didn’t pay enough attention to them to learn their names. I meet approximately 500 new people a year, and that’s a conservative guess. I have a good memory, but I can’t remember that many people. Meanwhile, they’ll not only remember my name, but where we met and what went on at said meeting. That kind of makes you feel crappy.

4)Clubs are the place where self-esteem goes to die. Not true of all clubs, but if you check out the women’s restroom of the trendy club in your neighbourhood, you’ll see a ton of girls standing at the mirror, fixing their hair and makeup, complaining about how they’re too fat, too old, too flat-chested, too whatever they don’t like about themselves. This is natural, because you’re surrounded by 22-year-old with perfect hair who believe that lettuce and vodka are food groups, and who occasionally have implants that are bigger than their heads. This is tough on the average woman, no matter how many cocktails you’ve had or how many drunk guys hit on you. It’s even worse when you’re just coming to the realisation that you’re old and on pills that cause you to resemble the Macy’s Day Parade Float. Yesterday’s club wasn’t too bad on that account; it wasn’t nearly as pretentious as some.

5)Being disinterested in hooking up with strangers. Let’s face it, most people go to clubs because they’re single and ready to mingle. They want to drink and smoke and dance and forget enough inhibitions to make bad choices and show interest in people they might never otherwise bother to know. If you’re there with your friends, your significant other, and other people in committed relationships, or those who just aren’t looking to meet strangers at a club you kind of wonder why you’re there. You could have gone to the bar and had the same drinks, the same conversations, the same experience, without the overbearingly loud music, obnoxious people, and flashing lights.

Besides, nobody ever meets anybody with whom they’re ever going to have a relationship, or even a real friendship, at the club. I’ve done a comprehensive study on this known as my 20′s, and it’s just how it is. I do know one couple who had a one-night stand at a club and eventually got married. I hate those people (for entirely different reasons than they met at a club.) Other than that, you’re going to meet people you’ll never hear from again, until you see them 5 years later at a club and have to pretend to remember their names. And it will annoy you when they hit on your drunk friends.

I do have one person in my life who’s an exception, someone I met at a club, got to know fairly well outside of the club atmosphere, fell out of touch, and later reconnected with. We are friends now, but there were at least 3 or 4 years in between where we had no contact, and the re-connection was totally random. I wasn’t sure that a friendship would be a wise or positive idea, and he had to do some work to change my mind. I will likely never go to a club with him again, though. *laughs*

6)Casual sex. If you are single and at the club looking to meet someone, clubs are the mecca of cheap, easy, casual sex. This is rarely an experience that’s that enjoyable (if you’re too drunk to remember their name, it’s really awkward in the morning, and the entire experience probably didn’t live up to anyone’s expectations..which is why you will never hear from that person again, unless you had the bad luck to meet a stalker.). As an older, wiser person, I have to say, just say no to picking up strangers in clubs.

Our society is really funny that way. We Google people before blind dates to make sure we’ll like them and are not dating serial killers, but we’ll go to a perfect stranger’s house to drink, do drugs, or have sex, without any regard to who that person is….because we met them at a club.

I decided long ago, long before my present relationship, that if I was going to have any sort of physical or emotional relationship with a person, it was going to be someone I already knew and trusted and considered a friend. Why would you want to end up in bed with someone you just met, and have no idea if you’d even like them as a person? I was about 26 when I stopped going to the club, and it’s also when I realised it was pretty unrewarding to have any kind of relationship…or even engage in flirtation…with people you don’t share any sort of emotional/intellectual connection with, and aren’t in an atmosphere to find out if you have anything in common. At least if you’re at a bar, it’s quiet enough to talk.

In summation: I guess that’s called “growing up”, but it’s a little sad to me that I see some of the same people at the same clubs doing the same thing that they were doing a decade ago…especially when they were 7 or 8 years older than me to start with. Not everyone goes through that emotional evolution in respect to human relationships, and most of those who don’t…the perpetual bachelors and bachelorettes who enjoy meeting someone new every weekend…you’ll meet at the club. I can simply no longer relate, and it typically makes me want to hang out somewhere else, doing something else.

As it turns out, the older (and sicker) I’ve gotten, the more I’ve learned that it’s fun to drink, dance, flirt, meet people, and be silly, but I really value substance and connection over style. There’s no doubt I like groups of people and being the centre of attention, especially when I’m well and not suffering from lethally wounded self-image. But, when all is said and done, I’d rather sit in a restaurant with 20 of my friends, play trivia with 5-10 people I know and find smart and interesting, drink at a bar with a handful of people, or just share a bottle of wine and extensive conversation with one person. Getting in touch with my introverted side has taught me friendships I truly value mean 100 times more to me than the fact I know 2 million people.

Maybe there’s room in my life for both, but as for clubs…not right now. It’s time for a new generation to take over. ;P

Recently, it’s occurred to me that I live in a city that’s not only the right kind of city for me or a place I really enjoy living, but the more people I talk to, the more people I find don’t particularly enjoy it here, either.

It’s no secret that Atlanta isn’t for me in a number of ways. I’m a city girl that doesn’t drive, and has no interest in ever owning a car. I want to know there’s a subway that will take me anywhere I want to go, when I need to go there, and I needn’t depend on anyone else for a ride or to want to go with me. I’m not staying in because of heat, cold, rain, snow, or sleet, and unless there’s a blizzard, don’t think weather is a valuable reason to cancel things. I’m outgoing, talk to strangers, walk through dangerous neighbourhoods by myself, and don’t feel odd eating dinner alone, unless the waiter sees the need to point out, “Oh, it’s just one today?”. I’m quirky, artistic, love the energy I get from crowds and a fast-paced lifestyle. I’ll never be blonde, blue-eyed, anorexic, or have perfect hair and a Southern drawl (real or acquired.) I don’t date based on how much money you make, and I don’t make my life decisions focused on how much money I make. I enjoy authenticity, drama, creating something interesting…even if it’s only yourself.

Here in Atlanta, conformity is the name of the game. While Donald Trump takes the NYC subway, very few people in Atlanta are brave enough to use it as a primary form of transportation (I have friends who are literally AFRAID of Atlanta’s MARTA train.). Not only that, the subway doesn’t serve over half of the Atlanta metro area, making it impossible for non-drivers to leave a very specific bubble. Only 500,000 people actually live in the city of Atlanta; the other 5 million live in the suburbs that aren’t served by public transportation, although many low income people have been forced to move out to the suburbs for lower rent, and walk miles each day, sometimes crossing dangerous highways.

At dinner the other night, the conversation of dating in Atlanta came up, and I mentioned an article I’d read. The article stated that Atlanta is one of the best cities in which to be single, but only if you expect to stay single. Over 80% of singles in Atlanta aren’t looking for long-term relationships. As someone who spent years being single in Atlanta, I can tell you first-hand, the emphasis is on going out, drinking, dancing, social climbing, showing yourself off, and ending up going home with someone you deem worthy, whom you’ll likely never call again, or even think of, until your paths cross socially.

Very few people are looking for friends, which is alien to me, because I wouldn’t date someone with whom I didn’t have a pre-existing friendship. I’m neither stupid nor naive. I don’t believe at love at first sight. Anyone can jump in bed together, and doing so does not create a relationship, 9 times out of 10. Friendships, on the other hand, take time and effort to cultivate, and not everyone is capable of or compatible with each other when it comes to developing those friendships. I have never had a successful long-term relationship with someone who was not a dear friend to me first, and I’ve never had a one-night-stand or friend-with-benefits turn into anything meaningful, even when I put tons of effort into trying to make it happen.

Even girls don’t seem to want to be friends with other girls; there’s this element of competition that seems to make most women view other women as “frenemies”. For me, it wasn’t until I was in a long-term relationship for years that I began to find friendships with women that weren’t based upon gossip, backhanded comments, and tearing down other people behind their backs. The people that have treated me most viciously in this city have always been women, from girls my own age who didn’t appreciate my free-spirited lifestyle and behaviour, to mothers of guys I’m dating who forget Southern class long enough to make death threats and use the C-word.

Once you’re in a relationship, it’s still a challenge. If I were still living a polyamorous lifestyle, I’d probably find Atlanta easier. But now that I’m not, I’ve noticed how little committments are respected. Both men and women will approach you, in front of your significant other, to hit on you. Friends will proposition you, saying they still respect you’re in a relationship. And ex-es will call you out of the blue to get together, pointing out that hanging out for “old times’ sake” doesn’t mean anything. Even married couples are not immune to this, and I’d imagine the rate of infidelity in the Atlanta metro area is far, far above the national average.

If I find myself single again in the future, it won’t be here. I’ve learned enough about Atlanta to know it can’t give me what I want….with the exception of more living space, a more reasonable standard of living, and a great group of friends I’d be sad to leave. But it’s not a fair trade off for low self-esteem, a general disbelief in the honesty and integrity of other human beings, being called horrible names, and driven to develop issues with depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.

There’s not a lot of value I see going on in ATL. Sure, there’s value on money, good looks, good jobs, the kind of car you drive, the image you present to others, and what you can do for me, should we start hanging out together. But there’s very little value being placed in getting to know others as a person, on friendships, on lasting relationships, and even on developing a positive mindset on how you feel about yourself that isn’t dependent upon what others are saying about you.

I think Atlanta is potentially the second-most shallow place I’ve ever lived; Los Angeles taking the cake for being the first. I’ll find it hard to leave behind the things here that matter to me…but there’s a reason everyone I like is constantly talking about no longer being here, and those that stay, find it hard to build long-term lives and relationships characterised by stability.

Don’t get me wrong. Some do, and they’re very happy. The first thing those happy couples do? They move to the suburbs, and spend 3 hours a day in a car. :)

Single or not, there’s little about Atlanta that’s for me…and most of those I’m close to seem to have similar feelings. I guess the best I can hope for is a Prince Charming that dreams of a penthouse condo and isn’t afraid of the subway. *laughs*

I had a number of different topics to write about recently, but I think the theme for the week is this: crazy people.

This particular post got moved to the front of the writing ideas queue because once again, my roommate had an out-of-town friend imposing on our hospitality, and staying with us. In the past, my roommate has had a friend whom I call The Most Obnoxious Man In The World stay with us. He eats our food, stays out at the clubs until 5 AM, wakes up the entire house by slamming doors and turning lights on, makes rude and demeaning comments to and in front of women, talks loudly on his cell phone while everyone else is sleeping, and is generally the most inconsiderate person I’ve ever met.

That is, until I met Ted. Of course, the visitor’s name is not really Ted, but he kind of looks like a Ted, so it’ll do for descriptive purposes.

On first glance, Ted seemed nice and hospitable. Despite the fact that I’ve been seriously ill for 6 weeks, behind on work, and need peace, quiet, and non-stressful situations in my life as much as possible, my roommate thought it was a good idea to let Ted stay here, AND have two of his guy friends over to cook dinner. Said guy friends are very nice and polite…one actually did cook dinner for all of us, and cleaned up, despite my objections…..but we live in a 1300 square foot apartment with a tiny kitchen, and AC that doesn’t work properly. There’s very little room, and when people are over, talking and watching TV, it is not restful. It is not a low-stress environment. It is not conducive to work, and this is why I rarely have anyone over, outside of The Guy I Am Currently Dating.

We also have 2 bedrooms, and four couches, and none of them are well-suited for visitors, in that they don’t pull out into sofa beds, or provide any level of comfort. In short, we’re well-equipped for having people over to watch a movie or hang out, but when all is said and done, they need to go home.

That being said, it’s a little annoying that my roommate keeps having out-of-town visitors we don’t have space for, but it would be the tolerable inconvenience if said visitors were polite and respectful. Last night, after dinner was eaten and cleaned up and my roommate’s two guy friends went home for the evening (it was 11 PM on a Sunday, so that seemed an appropriate time to call it an evening.), my roommate took Ted out to his favourite local bar for some drinks.

All seemed well and good until my roommate returns at 2 AM, extremely anxious, without Ted. Ted apparently wanted to drink more and more at the bar, and the next thing you know, Ted is attempting to score cocaine from guys who appear to be dealers at the bar. On a side note: Seriously, how do you know who is a coke dealer at a bar you’ve never been to, in a city that’s brand new to you? I’d like to point out that, probably because I’m not into drugs,I’ve only met drug dealers at bars/restaurants a handful of times, and in all those experiences, the offending individuals were owners/management of the venue. (and offers were declined. Don’t do drugs.:P )I would have no idea how to go to a bar and find a drug dealer. But, apparently, Ted does.

My roommate, sensing trouble on the way, told the bouncer that Ted was being a little unruly, and it was time for him to get cut off. The bouncer told Ted to close out his tab and leave, and that should have been the end of it. Instead, Ted gives his wallet, keys, cash, cell phone, and other items to my roommate, and proceeds to leave the bar in a car with the aforementioned strangers/potential-drug-dealers.

At this point, the only thing my roommate knows Ted has is my roommate’s cell number, since it seemed ill-advised to give our address to a guy riding around the area with sketchy strangers, drunk, possibly high, and very likely to attract police attention. However, the problem turned into “Where did Ted go?” and “How is he going to find his way home?”.

Finally at 5 AM, there’s a loud knock on the door, and voices. Lights go on and off, doors slam open and shut, and I have no idea who is in the house…whether it’s Ted, police, or angry drug dealers. All I know is I’m scared shitless, despite taking my evening Valium (prescription drugs are OK. :P ), and pretending not to be in the house. Finally after 6, it seemed that everyone was back in the house, and we all went to sleep…which would be great if I didn’t have to work, being Monday morning and all.

I wake up, and my roommate is on the couch, and Ted is passed out in my roommate’s bed. 2 PM, and he’s still here, sleeping it off. I find that Ted had been doing shots from my bar, and left the sticky shot glass sitting on the counter, so it was covered with ants, and the cheese I had bought to make grilled cheese this week was opened and used by not me.

I don’t understand. I’ve been a Couchsurfer for years, and have met many interesting people, and felt welcome at many different places. But I’d never dream of any of this behaviour that seems to characterise my roommate’s friends. I’d never abuse hospitality of a stranger, but especially not a friend.

I do like my roommate, especially since he’s been working on getting his life together, and has become a more considerate individual with whom to live—and because he adores my dog. But experiences like today’s make me believe I really need my own space, my own calm, and my own anxiety-free living situation. Perhaps some people are just “alone” types, while others are less bothered and feel less infringed-upon by rude visitors. I think I’m the first.

As you may have noticed, I haven’t been around much lately, and the “Life Less Ordinary” project has found itself on hiatus. Initially, this was a good thing—I spent two and a half weeks traveling to see family and friends in the Northeast, hanging out in NYC, Philly, and spending a week in the sun at the Jersey Shore.

Not unexpectedly, the latter is where things began to go terribly, terribly wrong.

If you know me, you know I love the beach. In fact, most of my “what I want to do one day when I’ve made enough money and am ready to disappear into anonymity” scenarios involve living on a beach somewhere. And, since I’ve been under a rather large amount of stress lately in my everyday life, I figured there was nothing better than spending hours each day on the sand, soaking up the rays.

This provided a fun and relaxing holiday, until the very last day, when I decided to rent a beach chair and sit near/in the ocean, while reading my book and drinking my contraband vodka and clementine Izze soda. It was a great day, and when I got back to the hotel and took a shower, I noticed I’d acquired a killer tan.

Two hours later, I noticed that the tan was actually sunburn, and it was kind of painful. By the end of the evening, I could barely walk without crying, and of course, the next day was the day we were set to travel to Philly.

I made it—barely—but spent the next week largely in bed, with blisters and painful 2nd degree burns over my legs and belly. In addition, I started to have dizzy spells for no reason, often accompanied by a feeling that fainting would soon occur, heart palpitations, and a feeling that my body was out of control. The first time, I thought I was having a heart attack, and was going to die. :(

I can’t tell if these experiences are provoked by heat exhaustion, anxiety, or a totally unrelated medical issue—but let me tell you, nothing is more frightening than the feeling your body is working against you. For nearly two weeks, I’ve been unable to tolerate bright lights, heat, and staring at the computer screen. Even small things have tired me out immensely, which is unlike me, and my typically energetic, vivacious approach to life.

Slowly, things are improving, and over the past few days, I’ve had the physical and mental stamina to return to work, largely through the help of sunglasses. (wearing sunglasses indoors so you can work on your computer looks silly, but if you are intolerant to light, it actually works quite well.) Yesterday, the sun and the 100 degree temperatures decided to disappear, and it was the first day I actually felt like my old self…so I have some level of confidence that I am recovering, although perhaps not as fast as I’d like.

As always, I enjoyed my time in NYC, although I’m always there far too briefly for my tastes. I had the opportunity to catch up with three old friends I’ve known for years, and always miss dearly. It seems like years ago, distance wasn’t such an impediment to friendships, since there was always time for phone calls, IM chats, e-mails, and the like. Nowadays, there’s rarely the time, and when there is, there’s not always the energy. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, but it’s something that kind of sucks about getting older.

Philly, on the other hand, was a bit of a disaster—with the exception of July 4th. If you’re going to be anywhere on the 4th of July, you want to be in Boston, Philly, or D.C., which is one of the reasons I always plan my trip up there over that timeframe. Unfortunately, being ill really limited my ability to see anyone or do anything, and also reminded me of how difficult it’s always been for me to get along with my family. They’re largely like strangers to me, strangers I find negative and less than supportive, and who don’t really relate to me or anything I have going on in my life. It’s always been that way, of course, but the older I get and the more well-defined my own life becomes, the less they seem like people I know or understand. There are always arguments, always difficulties co-existing, and within two or three days, I begin to miss living in my world instead of theirs.

I think that, all these years, I’ve tried to create a relationship and an understanding with my family that just doesn’t exist. I’ve tried to create a feeling of “home” in this place that should be home to me, and I’m always devastated to remind me that it’s not. I’ve created an ideal in my head that I’ve always wanted, a place that feels like I belong and am loved and understood, and it’s natural to assume that safe place should be with one’s family. For me, it isn’t, and I’ve come to realise that the stability and support and comfort I want from “home” is going to have to be one of my own creation. It’s reminded me why I’d like to focus on finding a place I’d like to live on a permanent basis, and being able to buy property there, so that “home” doesn’t have to be someone else’s, and it doesn’t have to be a transient idea.

I’m glad to be back in Atlanta, though, and to spend time with the people I care about here. Even if I have to spend a chunk of my summer in bed, watching TV and working with sunglasses on, there are still some good times to be had before the summer is over.

And, of course, Big Brother is back, one of my favourite summertime guilty pleasures!:)