I don’t often cross-post things I announce on my Facebook wall on this blog, or vice versa. I mean, really, since I have mostly the same group of friends, and I don’t need strangers with Google to know what I ate for lunch or where I’m going clubbing on Friday, what’s the point?

However, this piece by Charles Warnke, entitled You Should Date An Illiterate Girl, appealed to me so much, thought everyone should read it.

I absolutely love this piece. Not only does it indulge my overly romantic, manic pixie side by making me feel a bit more appreciated for those sometimes annoying qualities, it makes a statement about the utterly boring, uninspired, conformist culture in which we’re all encouraged to participate.

If you are a guy who is, or was, involved in my life in any way, you will love this. If you are a girl who has read a book, you will love this. If you are a guy who is dating a girl who has read a book, you will love this. If you are unconventional, idealistic, and not willing to settle for the generic ennui of life, you will love this.

Read on.

Quite recently, I was chatting with a friend of mine about relationships and age differences. While I don’t really have too many answers on the subject, I do have some unique perspectives. Somehow, in my life, “relationship” and “age difference” have always been synonymous.

An interesting factoid about me that most people are surprised to learn is that I’ve never dated anyone younger than myself. Yes, I’ve had occasion to hook up with people younger than myself and gotten myself into complicated and confusing situations with people younger than myself, but even then, I have a 4-year rule. In my world, if you were in elementary school while I happened to be picking out colleges, it’s probably not going to work out.

It’s quite funny, because I’m one of the biggest advocates of the “age is just a number” ideal when it comes to dating people older than myself. On average, most of my relationships have been with those a decade older than myself, although strangely, the ones I tended to see working out for the long run occurred with people “around my own age”. While age may be just a number, the truth of the matter is that people go through phases of life, self-discovery, and maturity, Most people tend to go through these transitions around a certain age range in life (I’ve noticed, with very few exceptions, that 27-28 seems to be a time of chaos and struggle for most people, because it’s the time when your problems officially become “adult” problems. I don’t think it’s coincidental that there’s a “club” of famous and accomplished celebrities who have passed away at this point in time.) The idea of the college student finding himself, the young 20-something disregarding everything in favour of really heavy experience, the 27-year-old realising that she is finally the adult, the 35-year-old realising that he’s not only responsible for himself but for other people, the 50-year-old desperate to recapture lost youth…I think they are phases that happen to most people. If you’re in a relationship with a significant age difference, at some point, someone’s “phase” or growth process will come to matter a great deal.

For me, I think the difference is more pronounced when I encounter someone younger. I don’t have much patience for the shallow or for trying to emotionally connect with people who don’t quite know who they are. I never thought I’d be that person, that someone who was, well—old. I remember being in my mid-20′s, and getting a “here’s why we’re parting company e-mail” from a someone in my life, someone I admired greatly and probably idealised more than I should have. One of the things he said was “When you’re at the age you are now, life is all about heavy experience and figuring out who you are. By the time you reach your 40′s, you’ve already determined that. I’ve already gone through what I’ve gone through. You won’t go through what I’m going through now for quite some time. When you do, you’ll understand this better.”

This, of course, broke my 20-something heart. I’d always thought of myself as “old for my age”–certainly more intelligent, more experienced, more well-traveled. It seemed obvious that’s why I’d consistently bond with people older than me, because guys my own age were too self-centred, cared too much about sex and image, and didn’t know how to behave like the type of man I was looking for. But, in certain other ways, I wasn’t the girl who was ready to settle down, to make commitments, to stay in one place, to stay with one person. I’ve always been the sort for whom my intellectual age and experience surpasses my actual age, but in other ways, I’m exactly like most folks my age (at whatever age that has been.) The older I get, the more I see the person who sent me that e-mail didn’t intend to be hurtful—he was just giving me perspective on a journey he’d already taken, that I’d likely learn to understand in the future.

When I was 17 and in university, I dated a grad student who was finishing up his studies and getting ready to receive his doctorate. There’s something about the academic atmosphere that kind of makes you forget about age, particularly in the world of the arts. There’s a certain change in looks and personality that happens to most people after sophomore year, but for many, it can be difficult to forget there’s any difference between 19 and 29 when you’re working as peers in a collaborative environment.

It didn’t occur to me that I was 17 and dating someone who was nearly 30. It also didn’t occur to me that this happened because, far from being the ingenue, I kind of initiated the situation. I suspect he knew better than to get involved with me, but people don’t always listen to their better judgment, particularly when nobody is being hurt in the *now.*

When I went off to school, a director of mine told me to look up this guy, whom he’d worked with years back and always remembered. He warned me that the guy was talented, brilliant, but difficult in a way that bordered on narcissistic. I’m sure it’s not a surprise to anyone that this hardly dissuaded me from remembering the message. And, although I didn’t actively seek him out, I think the laws of serendipity were on my side, because he ended up in one of my dance classes.

I remember approaching him, introducing myself, and really not planning for any friendship to emerge just because we once worked at the same theatre company. Yet, he was extremely friendly despite the obvious ego, and a friendship naturally developed. It didn’t develop terribly quickly; but I remember going to dance class one day and feeling disappointed that he wasn’t there that day. That’s when it occurred to me to notice, “Hey, maybe I like this guy.”

If I did, I didn’t do anything about it, and neither did he. He started inviting me to parties that freshmen wouldn’t be at. We started hanging out in a group with friends, and never once did he hit on me or make any sort of move. Yet, when I had a family emergency and had to leave for a few days, I was greeted with a bouquet of my favourite flowers, in my favourite colour. It was not an understated, “I went to the Korean grocery and picked these up” kind of move. I’m not sure, to this day, anyone’s ever given me flowers quite like that. It took effort.

Yet, he never asked me out. One Monday, I heard from a friend that he had asked out another girl who was a mutual acquaintance, an anorexic dance major known for her bubbly personality and lack of self-esteem (code for a fragile girl who had no qualms putting out on the first or second date.). It offended me on so many levels. I remember my friend saying, “I just thought you should know, because I thought you guys kind of had something going on”.

We didn’t, but I thought that at some point, we might. I thought naturally, pieces might fall into place. And it offended me that he’d spend all this time and energy on getting close to me, but ask out someone I saw as not even in remotely the same league as me. It didn’t occur to me that I wasn’t sending back the right signals, or the guy wanted to be a good guy by not messing with a 17-year-old girl, or that he might have other connections in his life outside of school and just wanted someone with whom he could have a good time. All I thought was, “I am absolutely heartbroken, because I am so much better than that, and he treats me like I’m special, but I’m not attractive enough for him to ask me out.”

So, in a fit of over-emotional Alayna drama, I pulled a passive-aggressive move that I knew would either work out tremendously well, or end up with me sobbing into my pillow for weeks. I sent a long, rambling e-mail about my feelings, followed by refusing to pick up the phone or staying away from anywhere he might be for days. It was a cause of great turmoil, accompanied by feelings that ranged from “I’m so glad I did that” to “OMG, I’m a fucking idiot, and it’s no wonder I’m going to die alone and without friends”.

Fortunately for the sanity of my roommate, it worked out well. He showed up at my door to “talk”, and the next thing I knew, we were seeing each other, and he’d canceled the date with a now perturbed dance major who didn’t much like me..

We dated for a while, but the reality of the situation was, not much changed. Looking back, I realised I had feelings for him, but didn’t quite understand them. We connected on the intellectual and emotional level I wanted, and we were the best of friends, but I can’t say there was any great passion there. In my mind, we had a relationship because we had a good time together, but I don’t I understood why that “magical” thing I was looking for wasn’t there. Simply put, I didn’t love him. He mattered a lot to me, but I didn’t love him, and he didn’t love me either. It was always as if there were some unspoken limitation.

Around Christmas, I had the opportunity to figure out what that thing was, and what my intuition was telling me. He had his best friend come and pay him a visit from her school in upstate NY. They were around the same age, had known one another for a long time, liked the same things, laughed at a lot of inside jokes, had deep conversation that bored me. I was still immature enough to conclude that she was no threat to me. After all, she was a foot taller and 90 pounds heavier than me. Her fashion sense was what could be described as “I don’t care”, and she came across more condescending than fun. In my mind, she was like a teacher, not like someone I had to worry about as feminine competition.

But that’s when it hit me: She looks that way to me because she’s 30, and she’s an adult. And so is the guy I’m dating.

I started to realise I didn’t want to be the only girl in my sorority who brought someone 13 years older than me to the Winter semi-formal, and when I did, how conspicuous I felt. I started to realise that all the things I found attractive, all the stories about the cool things he’d done in his life, were things I wanted to do and be—and that he would never want to do or be those things again, because he was moving forward. But mostly, I came to realise that the frumpy, condescending girl was indeed my competition.

She didn’t like me, or if she did, she didn’t act as if she did. Mostly, she seemed largely indifferent to my presence. The closest we ever came to bonding was singing musicals together in the car. But, it became awkward to me that when she was in town, my boyfriend would invite me to a party or an event or a show, and it was unspoken that she’d be there, too. I felt oddly like I was dating a couple.

I didn’t say anything about any of these things, and the guy and I were still dating when Easter came around, and his best friend returned for another visit. I studied them very intently; they never flirted, held hands, gave any indication of being a couple. She never seemed jealous of me or put out by my presence. But there was something that upset me, a way they acted that seemed like they just understood one another, that their whole relationship was this endlessly amusing inside joke of which I could never be a part.

One night, we all went to a party, and we all ended up drinking too much. I asked her why it seemed she didn’t like me, and what I’d done to offend her. Her reply was, “I don’t dislike you. I just feel a little sorry for you sometimes, because I know what it’s like when you’re with someone who doesn’t love you.”

It was a painful thing to hear, but not vicious. She was simply a straightforward, cut-and-dried kind of person. It was mostly painful because she said things aloud I’d thought in the back of my mind for a long time. Yet, I never had the courage to ask her the one thing I most wanted to know: “Why are you always here? Why are you this necessary part of our lives?”

One night, on the same visit, my boyfriend and his friends went out to a bar. I couldn’t get into the bar, because they carded, and I was far from either being legal or looking it. Rather than leave with me, he stayed with this out-of-town friend and a few other people I knew. Someone else drove me home. The next morning, we were all going on a road trip, but I wasn’t excited, and I didn’t sleep.

Instead, I just cried. I cried for hours. I realised the simple truth: This guy won’t ever love me because he’s already met his soulmate. I’m just the temporary distraction while they have to be apart. I allowed myself to be the paranoid, jealous person I can be on the inside, and rarely let out. When I called his phone at 2 AM and got no answer, I assumed they were sleeping together.

I’ll never really know what happened, and it’s irrelevant. I know she was at his house in the morning, and had stayed there the night before, whereas they had to come and retrieve me for the road trip. I know I was so hurt I couldn’t even pretend to smile and be amiable. It wasn’t until we got to where we were going, and I met up with other people, that I became even the slightest hint of myself again. People seemed to go out of their way to make me laugh and smile, although nobody asked what was wrong. It was as if everyone knew but me, and I don’t know if I was more hurt by not being loved or by being humiliated in front of others. A good friend of mine was present that day, a guy my own age who got me through that terrible weekend and many other difficult situations over our years together, and I think it was having him there that kept it all together. On the way back, I didn’t even ride in the same car as the guy I’d supposedly been dating, and I don’t even know how much he noticed.

After that, he attempted to act as if everything was fine, and we were great friends and nobody had to be hurt. I couldn’t do it. If I spend a night or two crying over you breaking my heart, we will probably never be great friends. I am still not a big enough person for that. Oddly enough, we never broke up. We simply stopped calling each other, we stopped hanging out in the same groups together, and my friend asked him, “So, are you guys broken up now?”, to which the reply was, “I guess so”. We still had to work together, but we stayed out of each other’s way. I gave a polite smile when we ran into one another. One day, the friend who had rescued me on that horrible trip and I were running around the theatre, attacking each other with newly painted duct tape, laughing like difficult children. We were not a couple, as he was dating someone else, but we were unofficially “sneaking around” in the most unsubtle way ever. Armed with duct tape and laughter, I went into the green room, and saw my ex sitting there. I think there was a collective lightbulb that went off, that said “This is what was always missing, because we couldn’t connect that way”. I don’t know if it had to do with personality or age, or both, but the way we related seemed as if it should be right—yet never was.

At some point, my ex called me up to hang out, and we ended up over at his place. I thought we could be friends again. He’d just broken up with the promiscuous dance major, and was looking for a booty call, which I was still too naive to see. We had a lovely day together, and when I wouldn’t sleep with him, he drove me home. We never saw each other socially again. I think I realised that maybe I could make him a part of my life again if we reconnected physically, but the truth was, nothing about it felt right. I knew I’d miss him terribly, but it couldn’t ever be the thing either of us wanted.

After a few months, things thawed out, and we were cordial again. He graduated with a Ph.D next to his name, as did his friend in upstate NY. They moved to Austin to start a theatre company, and offered me a job if I wanted to come down during the summer.

My junior year, I went into the green room, and looked at the bulletin board that had casting notices, call times, and the like. There was a wedding invitation, and that’s how I learned my ex and his so-called “best friend” were getting married.

I had one in my personal mailbox, as did the friend who helped me through that horrible time. Dignified as ever, I e-mailed them both with congratulations I didn’t mean, and informed them that of course I wouldn’t be attending. I asked them both point blank if they’d been seeing each other during the time we dated, and they both denied it. She actually said “It didn’t even occur to me that I already had what I was looking for until I saw him with what he wasn’t.” (She was always kind of a bitch, come to think of it. :P )

He was far more gracious, and also denied it. Yet, whether they were sleeping together or romantically involved or not, I knew that she was what made him emotionally unavailable and why I could never connect in the way I wanted to. Sometimes, you just *don’t* know, until you do. Other times, you’re the kind of person who is willing to play people. It’s naive of me, but I still choose to think these people fell into the first category. In the last e-mail we ever exchanged, he wrote, “Things just work out better when two people are at the same place at the same time, and want the same things. That would never happen for us. You had to have known that from the start. You’re always going to be too young for me. You’re going to see and do things you haven’t even thought up yet, and when you do, I hope you’ll tell me about them.”

I never did, of course. Although he was right, I couldn’t let him have the last word, so instead of the traditional wedding card, my UPS-ed gift included a sympathy card, addressed to her. I never spoke to either of them again, but I know they’re happily married forty-somethings with all kinds of degrees, living and teaching and directing in Austin.

Ironically, The Guy I Am Currently Dating is around the same age as this guy, which I have no doubt he’d find amusing. Most of the time, I don’t consider the age difference as—well, a difference. Yet, there are times when my irresponsibility and insistence on always going out and doing things and tendency to be a little emotionally draining gets to him, and we have arguments. Likewise, there are times when I know he’d rather go home early or falls asleep at midnight on a Friday, and I can’t help but feel restless and bored. There are times when I recognise that when he was going through early adolescence, I was busy being born. Sometimes, I think it’s necessary for both of us to bond with people closer to our own age, people who can relate to problems and experiences and cultural references.

As you get older, it is possible that age becomes less of a big deal. When you’re a freshman in high school, dating a senior is a big deal. When you’re a freshman in university, dating a grad student is a huge age difference. When you’re 30, dating someone who is 50 is typically a challenge. However, I try to remember that when I’m 63, it doesn’t matter if the person I’m with is 59 or 79. We’re all just going to be old.

As much as I’d like to say age is irrelevant, it’s not. The professors who date their students aren’t going to marry them. The cougars who pick up 18-year-old boys aren’t looking for love and connection. There are exceptions, but as a general rule, people need to be able to relate to one another—and part of that is being on the same part of the path in your journey. Can people of different ages do that? Of course. But I think the age itself matters. Someone who is 21 isn’t going to have a clue who they are compared to a significant other of 31, and it is this growth process, rather than age, that causes things not to work out.

Almost serendipitously, I met a guy from London in a bar the other evening. He attempted to chat me up, and was pleasant enough company, but I had to laugh when I found out he was 21. The friend he’d brought with him was 19. He likely considered it a compliment to tell me that I reminded him of Lena Dunham in “Girls” (note: being compared to an unattractive celebrity is not a compliment.), but I think it’s also very telling that he chose that as a cultural reference we might share. It made me remember that when I was his age, I was watching “Sex And The City”, and he likely has no idea who the hell Carrie Bradshaw is.

I left him laughing, because part of me wonders if in 10 years, I’ll totally be into the idea that a 21-year-old is trying to pick me up. Somehow, I suspect that won’t be the case.

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.

Despite the fact that I’m hardly a dating authority, it amuses me that I get questions from both real life friends and readers of this blog whom I’ve never met, regarding the big questions pertaining to dating and relationships. I do hate to disappoint, but I don’t actually have the answers. I just have some viewpoints based on personal experience, and my own unique personality. You may be nothing like me, and find out that what works for me doesn’t work for you at all. :)

Nevertheless, I received an interesting note in the comments section from a young lady who is bothered by the fact that she’s spending time with a guy who always looks around the room whenever they go out together, and wonders if being bothered by this makes her too sensitive.

You’ve come to the right place for advice on this one, friendly blog reader. As it happens, I have a personal pet peeve regarding spending my time with guys who suffer from “wandering eye syndrome”.

Obviously, this habit of looking around all the time, turning the head or body away when an attractive woman walks by, not paying attention to a word you’re saying because the guy’s eyes are staring at someone else, or actually getting up and leaving you to talk to an available attractive female is unacceptable in a committed romantic partnership. However, I find it unacceptable behaviour in virtually any context, and that’s just how it is with me. I’m not going to allow myself to feel diminished by someone saying, via words or action, “I like your company, but I’m going to pay attention to someone who interests me more”.

I shouldn’t have to. Why in the world would I? My company is way more valuable than that, and I know it.

Most girls don’t, so they tolerate it. They worry that demanding more makes them bitchy or “oversensitive.” It doesn’t. It just means you’ve set standards for yourself, so kudos on that. I’ve ended up never going out with someone again or ending a friendship over some of these more extreme examples, because if there’s one thing I don’t enjoy, it’s being disrespected.

Certainly, there are levels of tolerance for this behaviour based on your relationship with someone. If it’s coming from a husband, fiance, or monogamous male partner, it’s way more of a problem than if it’s something that happens when you’re out with a platonic male friend.

However, there are many different types of relationships, and many different situations where “wandering eye syndrome” is a problem. For instance, if I’m on a first or second date with someone, I realise this person is obviously keeping his options open. However, if you’re that open that you can’t focus on getting to know me because you saw boobs walk by, you’re probably not for me. I’m not going to be calling you back, 100% guaranteed.

Likewise, if I am in an open relationship and have a secondary partner or “friend with benefits” in my life, I’m well aware I am not the only female in this person’s universe. However, when that person is spending time with me, I am. If we’re not in a monogamous relationship, you can do whatever you want (as long as you respect our agreed upon guidelines), but NOT EVER when I am in the room. Sorry, but I have to insist anyone I’m involved with, even if it’s not exclusive, or we’re not going to end up getting married and living happily ever after, shows me a certain amount of respect and interest. It’s freaking rude to hit on someone in front of anyone you’re currently sleeping with, and you have all the time we don’t spend together to meet other attractive women. This kind of relationship can be very complex and full of drama, or it can be very simple. I prefer to keep it simple, by having “relationship rules” that work for me. One of them is, “You may be seeing other people, and we may even discuss it, but respect me enough to keep that out of our time together.” If you don’t have the attention span, interest in spending time with me, or level of self-control where that guideline works for you, we’re not compatible, and probably should not have any kind of romantic involvement, period.

Of course, there are exceptions to the romantic relationship rule. You may be in a happily monogamous relationship with a guy who is a hopeless flirt, and it doesn’t bother you…except, the truth is, sometimes it does, but you don’t mention it. You may be in a happily poly relationship that’s going so well that it’s time for your primary and secondary partners to meet, and maybe they just happen to hit it off fabulously. In these cases, you’re just going to have to expect that someone paying attention to others is part of the package. But, for the most part, whether you’re committed, seeing other people, or just open; married or dating; on your first date or your fiftieth, you should expect that the other person has gone out with you to spend time with you and connect with you, not scour the room for other objects of interest. Of course, that’s just my personal opinion. I know other people who disagree, and are apt to categorise my way of looking at things as “high-maintenance” or “oversensitive.”

The place where it starts to get confusing, for many girls, is when it comes to spending time with male friends. I have some male friends I actually used to date or have hooked up with at some time in the past, some that I’ve been attracted to at some point, some who’ve been attracted to me at some point, and some where that kind of chemistry never once entered the occasion—and the disinterest in anything beyond friendship has always been mutual and obvious. So, whatever your past history or current feelings towards your friend, is it rude when your friend stops paying attention to your presence because someone else has caught his attention?

In a nutshell: yes. This doesn’t just apply to male friends, but all friends in general. If I’ve taken time out of my life to have dinner with you, I expect a little more regard from you than “Sorry, I didn’t hear you” because you were staring at something or someone else. I mean, I didn’t have to go out to dinner with you, and I certainly didn’t do so to feel invisible.

Again, there are exceptions. I’ve gone to singles’ bars with single friends, with the express purpose of helping them meet someone, and as a result, had to find my own way home. I invited an ex-boyfriend, a shy guy who hadn’t had luck finding any serious potential dates since our long-term relationship ended, to a party where he didn’t know anyone. He ended up leaving me as soon as we arrived to talk to a girl who caught his interest, and is now his wife. I can’t really fault him for that one. If the purpose of an outing with friends is to meet dating prospects or hook up, you can’t feel ignored, abandoned, or slighted when this happens…even if you have a huge secret crush on the friend you accompanied to the singles’ bar. (and why would you do that anyway?)

On the other hand, I’ve been on first dates where the guy I was with kept looking at the door like he was expecting someone the entire time. This clued me in that either he wasn’t interested, was a player, or was married. I’ve been out at a dive bar with a platonic friend who began rudely ignoring me to talk to a stripper who worked at the establishment next door, leaving me sitting completely alone and out of my element for some time. I’ve traveled 800 miles to visit a friend, who then pretty much ignored me the rest of the evening because he was more interested in talking to another single friend I brought out with me. I’ve gone to visit a friend in another city, attended a party with him where I didn’t know a single person, and had him abandon me for the night because I wasn’t as attractive of a girl as he was looking for, but he met someone who was. All of these were incredibly uncool scenarios where I ended up feeling as disposable and insignificant as the gum stuck to the bottom of someone’s shoe, while simultaneously knowing I deserved a little more respect and regard from anyone who called me a friend. And, incidentally, these are all examples of situations that occurred with male friends with whom I didn’t have a romantic or physical relationship. You can imagine how colourful some of the others are. :P

Time is a precious commodity, and we don’t have unlimited amounts of it. I generally look to populate my universe with those genuinely interested in spending time with me. If someone isn’t, is halfhearted about it, or is always putting the potential hook-up above friendship, I don’t know that I’m that interested in keeping the friendship as part of my life. I don’t really spend time going to dinner or having drinks or catching up with acquaintances. That’s just me. I’m kind of hard to get to know on a one-on-one basis, and while I know a lot of people, I’m not very invested in those I know socially. I know I’ll always see them around. If I’m spending time with you one-on-one, it’s because we’ve achieved a certain level of respect, friendship, and emotional intimacy. It’s because, for one reason or another, I care about you or you interest me in a way that puts you amongst a select group of people. Because of this, I tend to develop extremely strong, long-term friendships…but am very choosy about them. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. And if I turn down your dinner invite, it’s not personal. :P

I used to be as bad about disrespecting friends and romantic partners as anyone on the planet. I didn’t have the “wandering eye” problem, but I’d go to a party with one person only to leave with another. I was so inconsiderate that The Guy I Am Currently Dating, before we were actually dating but I knew he was interested in me, offered to drive me to another guy’s house—as well as the other guy—because the other guy was too drunk to do so. I had a friend come visit me, declare his attraction to me, and in order to deal with the uncomfortable situation, I got drunk and made out with some guy I didn’t even know or like very well. I’d have friends invite me to lunch or for drinks, and incapable of introverted communication, would immediately turn the event into something I invited 5 other friends to. It is clear that genuine intimacy terrified the hell out of me at this point in my life, and I went to all lengths to avoid it…but I was really hurtful towards others throughout the process of growing up.

Looking back, I see how reprehensible this behaviour was, and how I generally had no respect for the feelings of others, or concern for anyone but myself. I really was honestly one of the most self-absorbed and callously hedonistic people you’d ever meet, and it took a swift kick in the ass from life to get me to grow up. I think this is why I judge this behaviour so harshly in others, and have very little tolerance for it. I see not just the behaviour itself, but the selfishness and disregard for others that lurks behind it…and no matter what our relationship, I tend to not have space for that in my world. It’s something that’s going to piss me off, make me cry, or leave me confused because I know I deserve better from people, but am not getting it.

So, in reply to the person who came seeking advice about the “guy who looks around the room all the time when he’s with me”, I can only say that I don’t know this guy or what kind of relationship you have with him, but you deserve better, too. If the relationship is romantic or physical in any way, take it as a “He’s just not that into you” sign. If it’s a friend you’re interested in, find someone else worthy of your interest. If it’s a friend who is a purely platonic friend, realise he’s more interested in looking for dating options than your friendship, and take it or leave it as you wish.

No matter what, it’s worth having a discussion about. I once considered not spending time with someone because whenever we were out, his eyes would constantly move around, or he wouldn’t make eye contact, and I’d feel I wasn’t being heard. I finally brought it up, and expressed my frustration. He apologised and explained he had ADD, and sometimes, it was hard for him to sit still and focus on any one thing, task, or person for too long. It isn’t always personal, so if someone really matters to you, don’t just jump ship before bringing it up.

However, if someone abandons you at a bar or a party, or you’re out on a date and you excuse yourself, only to find them elsewhere, talking to a hotter/more interesting/more sexually available person, just move on. If you’re dating someone who flirts with others in your presence, including your friends, to the point that it makes you uncomfortable, it’s probably time to move on. There are enough people out there who will assign you greater respect and value that you don’t need to try to make excuses for that behaviour. It hurts when this happens, but there are many people who will move heaven and earth to spend time with you.

Why not demand that level of value, instead of trying to convince someone who doesn’t see it that you’re worth it? You’ll never convince that person, whereas someone else may offer it freely, just because you’ve put it out there that you don’t intend to settle for less.

When it comes to the history of my dating and romantic life, I’m not really in any position to complain. When I look around at the number of single female friends who are constantly bemoaning the lack of eligible dating partners and end up getting hooked up with people who clearly don’t treat them in a way of which they are deserving, I can both relate and not relate at the same time. Many of these girls come to me for dating advice, because my story is not theirs. It doesn’t make it a better or easier story, mind you, but just a different one.

I’ve never had problems meeting people. Perhaps it is because, as discussed in a different post, I take a different approach to dating and relationships, in that I don’t really invest myself in strangers. It takes work to get to know me, and anyone who is really interested is going to put in that work. Whether that way of doing things means I end up with a good friend, a lover, a committed romantic partner, a confusing yet positive life situation, or some combination of the above, what it does mean is that I don’t surround myself with people who treat me in a way that is less than I deserve. I am not disposable, a one-night stand, an object of amusement, or someone you wouldn’t want to hang out with, regardless of how our relationship operates. I’m pretty happy with that. The result is that I have some awesome folks in my life.

I also tend to be more open-minded when it comes to who I choose to spend my time with. Like everyone else, I have my superficial side, but things like looks, money, what kind of car someone drives, and what they do for a living is rather an afterthought when meeting someone. The thing that’s going to get me to call or e-mail the day after I meet someone is “It was awesome to meet you, because it seemed like we had a sincere emotional connection.”

If I’ve had a downfall in my dating life, or a masochistic tendency, it’s my penchant for falling for unavailable people or idealising impossible relationships. I’m rarely interested in those who actively pursue me with compliments and flowers and e-mails telling me how great I am. I’m appreciative, but whatever inspires someone to spend way too much time thinking about another person, that doesn’t light up that particular switchboard for me.

On the other hand, I have no tolerance for chauvinists who approach women as objects or conquests, people who are too shallow to care about anything other than getting drunk, hooking up, and never talking to one another again, and people who outwardly show disdain or disrespect. They say there’s a fine line between love and hate, but I know where the line is, and I’m not foolish enough to fall for anyone who doesn’t think I’m awesome.

No, my particular downfall is the person I *think* may be interested in me, but I’m not sure. Or, it’s the person I *know* is interested in me “but”, and “if only”. “If only I were single when I met you”, “If only we fit together better on a practical level”, “If only it weren’t impossible to make this work”.

I actually have awesome intuition when it comes to these things. If I *think* someone is interested in me, but they refuse to acknowledge that—because they don’t see it turning into a relationship, because they’re already in a relationship and trying to observe boundaries, because I somehow scare or intimidate them, because they’re playing a game where they’re counting on indifference to get my attention—I’m almost always right. And because I don’t take the most traditional approach to relationships, indifference and uncertainty does not dissuade me. It actually makes me feel more interested and more attached to someone who may or may not be the best choice for me.

A wise friend of mine told me it’s simply because I’m a natural-born huntress; I enjoy the chase, the idealism of a relationship that could be over the reality of a difficult, messy one that actually is. I enjoy the attention of those who are unavailable—friends who can never become lovers, lovers who can never become committed partners, committed partners who may not be lifetime soulmates—because I am at heart committmentphobic, easily bored, and enjoy the thrill of infatuation.

This may be true. For instance, I recall once taking a class every Monday, and looking forward to it because there was this guy, and I couldn’t tell whether or not he was interested in me. Yet, for three hours every week, I was interested in finding out. I wasn’t yet the person I am today, the one who’d just come out and ask, or actively pursue the guy, but I knew how to read people. I knew that if he were totally indifferent to my presence, I wouldn’t bother looking forward to seeing him every Monday. Yet, he never made a direct move. It was like a game, and one I looked forward to participating in every week. (As a side note, we did end up dating for awhile. It’s one of my more memorable and life-changing experiences, but we were far from right for one another. If people who are extremely opposite in personality and approach to life struggle to make it work, people who are effectively the same person struggle even more.)

I have another friend, one I’ve known for many, many years. I really don’t know if he’s ever found me attractive. Neither of us has ever made a move, or asked one another out when we were both single at the same time. Yet, for years, I’ve always been thrilled to run into this person when I do. It’s that weird thing that always makes you smile when you see someone, and you don’t know why. I don’t even actually think I’m attracted to him—he’s not my type, on so many levels. But I enjoy our friendship, and I enjoy the unspoken knowledge of “There’s something a little different in the way we relate than just being friends who get along.” If I *did* know he were attracted to me on more than an intuitive level, it would really create some weirdness and dysfunction and potentially ruin a friendship. Likewise, if I found out that over the many years we’ve known each other, he was never once attracted to me, I’d doubt myself, my intuition, and my ability to read others. Therefore, our friendship will always stay exactly as it is, at least if I have anything to do with it.

I also have people in my life who, in the world of polyamorous relationships, would (or have in the past), become ideal secondary partners. These relationships have oddly been the strongest, least complex, and emotionally fulfilling relationships/friendships in my life, despite by nature being something that should be complex. Sometimes, it’s just easy, and it’s because you know where and how someone belongs in your life, at least at a certain point in time. There is a certain freedom in those relationships that is important to me, and even during my monogamous relationships, I’ve somehow kept what I term “romantic friendships” in that particular space in my life. Yet, if we were both single, available, on the same page and in the same place in life at the exact same time, attempting to have a more committed, exclusive relationship would probably do irreparable damage to all the good things we share.(yes, lessons learned the hard way.)

Not all of the soulmates you encounter in life are those you’re supposed to consider white-picket-fence-marriage-and-babies material. People are in your life for different reasons, and if they’re unavailable to you on a certain level, it’s probably because they’re never going to fit into the convenient little space you wonder if they might—and it has little to do with other people, other relationships, practical obstacles, and whatnot. If someone is the right person for you, you’re going to move the world around to fit them in your life. Otherwise, you should be content with knowing they are meant to fit into your life in some other way…even if everyone’s feelings are utterly confused about the situation.

Knowing this does not keep me from being most interested in those when I’m not quite sure how someone feels about me, or what the possibilities are moving forward, or whether or not life circumstances will be subject to change in the future….but my intuitive sense and simple enjoyment of the time I spend with someone tells me there’s more to the story than “It’s really awesome that we’re friends”. This is a dangerous habit, one The Guy I Am Currently Dating would most likely prefer I did not have. I think I might consider myself a more monogamous person by nature if I did not have this particular tendency, and did not feel consistently energized and intrigued by the emotional uncertainty of these situations. On the other side of the coin, these situations and people always affect me on a deeper level than they should, so you think I’d want to stop developing serious emotional bonds with people who exist in my life as question marks.

The thing that always throws me is that I’m so infrequently wrong in how I assess a question mark situation, and the type of relationship I end up having with someone….or at least, getting some clear resolution on how someone feels about me.

Sometimes, the answer really is “It’s complicated”, and you need to learn to back off, let go, and have a less emotionally bonded, more platonic friendship…which is difficult, if you’ve never really shared that sphere of existence with someone before. It’s like learning to relate to someone in a whole new way, and it’s not easy, and it feels like a genuine loss for everyone involved. But, sometimes, if you treasure the friendship, it’s necessary (which is how I’ve managed to stay friends with a large percentage of ex-es who have moved on and are now married or committed to other people.) Somehow, it’s easier to move on when you know how the story ends than when something remains an eternal question mark.

Other times, the answer is “It’s complicated”, but there’s something beyond friendship worth exploring, and simply ignoring it causes confusion, emotional angst, and has the power to destroy a friendship. At some point, you have to take chances in order to find out what someone means to you, how they really fit into your life. I think it’s important to assess and appreciate all relationships for what they are, not what you’d like them to be, or how they most conveniently fit into your life at any given time. Sitcoms in the 1990′s loved to address this “friendships-that-are-more-but-nobody-ever-talks-about-it” dynamic; we were all intrigued by Ross and Rachel, Jerry and Elaine, Daphne and Niles. While the situation in real life is just as present and complicated, the answers are not always as black and white as in sitcom-land. It’s possible to fall in love with your friends, be friends with people you once dated, have lovers that are amongst your best friends but you’d never want to spend your life with in a monogamous relationship. It’s possible that most relationships are, a majority of the time, a question mark.

It turns out, I’m not alone. Women are, by nature, attracted to and most likely to be seduced by uncertainty. While many men I know have told me they’ve been attracted to me as a result of being direct and straightforward and not flirting and playing games “just because”, I’ve more than likely been attracted to them because they once existed as a question mark in my life, and there was a need for me to be straightforward, direct, and figure out intuitively how someone felt about me before making a move that can’t be rescinded. More proof that, on a fundamental level, men and women are wired differently and respond differently to different approaches by different types of people.

Sometimes, it amazes me that anyone ever gets together…or stays together…or has clear and simple convictions about the nature of relationships. I actually don’t know if anyone does. We’re all pretty much just winging it here.

But me, I’m hopelessly attracted to things in the shape of a question mark. Fortunately for me, most of life is just that. I’m unlikely to get bored with living anytime soon.

Earlier today, The Guy I Am Currently Dating, who would be proud to label himself a “geek guy”, forwarded this article to me. It took two seconds for me to roll my eyes. I’m sure the article came my way because he was sure I’d blog about it, and of course I did.

Why is there a question mark in the title? Of course it’s offensive. It encourages stereotypes and how to pretend to be someone you’re not to attract someone you have to work to click with, rather than just organically bonding with someone who seems like a natural match. It’s no different than “7 Steps To Get A Mega-Hottie To Talk To You”. Could the media stop perpetuating this bullshit?

What about “Stop trying to find a certain kind of guy by pretending to be something you’re not, and maybe you’ll actually meet someone who likes you? ”

I’ve attracted a geek guy in my life. Or 20. Or maybe way more. I’ve had serious relationships and meaningful friendships with more than a few. Some of them are fairly well-known geek guys. And, you know what? I don’t watch sci-fi, Felicia Day annoys the hell out of me, I don’t program computers, I don’t play video games, and I don’t see the need to dress like Slave Leia or dress in duct tape to get attention.

I have some geeky hobbies. I keep a blog. I play trivia every week. I’m a literary geek, a theatre geek. I’ve been to both Dragon*Con and Burning Man. But I also love shopping, reality TV, and all things girly. I don’t wear glasses. I’m emotional rather than rational, and people don’t often see the intense and substantial side of me until they get to know me.. Yet, geeky guys tend to be attracted to me, and although it’s not always an instantaneous attraction, I often find myself falling for geeky, introverted guys with whom, on the surface, I don’t have much in common. Often, though, it’s a balance that works. My strongest and most emotionally bonded relationships and friendships have been with geeky guys, and I don’t have to pretend to like Star Trek or Halo to build those.

Not every person is attracted to the same kind of person. One type of geeky guy may want an uber-rational, scientific, logical type of person who will communicate and share interests on a more intellectual level. Another might want an outgoing social butterfly who is going to open him up to new experiences. Still another may want a girl who genuinely enjoys the same hobbies. Some may simply want the hottest girl that’s willing to sleep with them, even if the relationship is largely superficial on both ends…you know, kind of like every “type” of shallow person out there. Thinking that a guy you label as “geeky” is a stereotype is just kind of ignorant. Thinking that turning yourself into Felicia Day or Zooey Deschanel is what’s going to land his attention is as stupid as assuming he’s looking for Scarlett Johannsen or Angelina Jolie.

For the record, I’ve had geeky guys I’ve been attracted to tell me they didn’t want to date me because they perceived me as the crazy manic pixie type that was going to disrupt their universe, or because I was too outgoing and socially exhausting. I’ve had geeky guys break up with me for low-key, plain librarian types, and for blonde, surgically-enhanced California girls. People change. Just because someone is intelligent or unconventional doesn’t mean they know what they’re looking for in another person, or that what that person thinks is right today is going to be right in the future. So, not shockingly, nothing in this article has much value, unless you’re completely one-dimensional and seeking an equally one-dimensional partner you can manipulate into falling for you, and never changing or growing.

I’ll admit, my life is a little bit of a stereotype in certain ways. Quirky manic pixie attracts geeky guys who want help coming out of their shells? Yeah, not an uncommon story. It’s happened to me more than once. I’ve “inspired people”, helped them to “explore life” and “come out of the shadows” and “live more”, only to have them leave me when they’ve figured out they’re now who they want to be and don’t need me anymore—or they can land a prettier, richer, or saner girl thanks to their newfound confidence and experience. They don’t show that part of the story in all those indy romance flicks.

I’m just me. I’m kind of smart. I’m kind of quirky. I’m kind of attractive. I’m kind of off-the-wall sometimes. I can be a little too much for some people. But geeky guys tend to like me because I’m unconventional and willing to accept people for who they are. I don’t try to change anyone. I don’t judge people for not being like me. In fact, I often am drawn to people because of it I’ve learned there’s a balance between similarities and differences that is essential to a relationship that works for me. This is not true for every person. The people for whom this same balance is important seem to seek me out…or, if not, I seek them out. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

I must repeat: I have never, ever played Halo. I don’t read comic books. Sci-fi bores the hell out of me. I suck at math. And I’m not the shy, quirky librarian type. If you are into these things and want to date a geeky guy because you have stuff in common, that’s awesome. But this article isn’t going to help you with that either.

Yes, I naturally attract geeky guys. I think it has to be the blog…which many of them have refused to read over the years. *lol* Surprisingly, I don’t do it purposely. For a long time, I defined my “type” as someone way different. And then I learned the shocking truth: people aren’t categories. It’s not “geeky vs. hip”, “assholes vs. nice guys”, “friends vs. romantic partners”, “alike vs. different”. People are not simple, and relationships certainly are not on one dimension of compatibility. This is part of the reason I’m fully convinced that people who go into relationships looking for everything they’ve ever wanted in one person, or need to be “completed” are doomed to fail.

The biggest challenge I’ve faced with geeky guys is not meeting them or attracting interest, but convincing them to be straightforward and emotionally open enough to take a chance on approaching me and trusting me. More than once, I’ve heard someone was afraid of me. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard “A girl like you could really hurt me”, I’d have some serious extra spending cash. But, again, that kind of judgment really isn’t good. Anyone who really knew me would know I’m not the heartbreaker, and not the manipulative type. In fact, I’m not a type at all.

Neither are the geeky guys I know, even if they are proud of their passions, accomplishments, intellect, and unconventional interests.

I really resent articles like this that tell you how to change yourself and other people to attract a certain kind of person. It’s demeaning to you, and it’s demeaning to that person. What happened to just being yourself and attracting people who click with you? The more you know and love who you are, the more objectionable the idea of changing yourself or anyone else in order to attract a partner or make a relationship work.

Being as authentic as possible is what works for me, and it means I don’t have to spend a lifetime pretending to want to stay in playing Halo on a Friday night when I’m planning to put together a social event. It means I don’t have to dress as or emulate a TV character in order to be “different”, because quirky is what’s in right now.

I think a lot of people who identify themselves as “geeky” go through life looking for a certain level of acceptance, someone who really feels “I care about you because you’re you, not because I see you as a type or because you might have potential if I change you enough.” I think it’s not just something “geeky” people feel and want, but something anyone who’s ever felt a little bit not like everyone else has experienced. I think I attract unconventional people because I understand the importance of authenticity and acceptance. If you don’t have that, you don’t have the kind of openness and level of trust that builds strong relationships.

If you want to attract a geeky guy, sure, you can do the stuff that’s in this article, and find a guy who’s interested in sleeping with you and hanging out with you for a little while, until it becomes obvious you have nothing in common and pretense wears thin. That’s true of almost any “type” of person you want to consciously try to attract.

If you want to have a meaningful relationship or friendship with a geeky guy, don’t do a single thing this article mentions. In fact, give up on the idea of people as “types” or attracting a “type” because it’s cool, or what they might have to offer you, and just be comfortable enough with who you are to put it out there and attract people because they are somehow right for you.

Maybe then you’ll be on your way to a healthy relationship, whether your partner is a geek, a hippie, a prep, a yuppie, a hipster, or any other “type” you can think of. Because, in reality, that person isn’t representative of that “type”. They’re just a compatible partner for you, on whatever level that connection happens, and you don’t have to fake it to find it.

Spending your life faking it isn’t good for anyone. I don’t care if this article, or Cosmpolitan, is telling you otherwise. Both you and your potential partner(s) deserve waaaaay better, right?

Yeah, there’s way too much bullshit on the internet. I exist to counteract that. :P

Yeah, this is one of those kind of “taboo” subjects that nobody ever talks about, except behind the backs of other people when they’re busy gossiping about other people’s relationships. So, of course, that makes it perfect to talk about here.

If you’ve known me for any length of time, you’ve seen one thing that a majority of my past romantic partners have in common–and they’re largely such a diverse group that they have little in common—and that’s not being anywhere near the same age as I am.

Of course, this is always a difficult thing to judge. I am one of those girls who doesn’t have many people accurately guess her age, thanks to a petite stature and annoyingly high-pitched voice. So, although I might find hanging out with a 22-year-old to make me feel like a creepy future cougar, the rest of the world wouldn’t give it a second glance. Likewise, I tend to have a sophistication and level of maturity in how I carry myself, particularly in social situations, that can lead people to believe I’m actually older than I appear. It makes it harder for me to be the victim of “you need to date someone your own age” discrimination, for the most part, which I appreciate.

The Guy I Am Currently Dating is slightly older than me, something I largely forget, unless we’re talking how the fond memories of his childhood and pop-culture related stuff mostly happened before I was born. Outside of that, it doesn’t even occur to me that there’s an age difference, and it’s not an age difference I find significant (more than a decade, but way less than two. :P )

It’s not an anomaly for me. When I was 20, I wasn’t interested in 20-year-old frat boys, I was dating grad students and professors with mid-life crisis issues. When I was in my 20′s and spent time actively looking to date, meet people, hook up, live the single live, etc., I’d routinely end up with someone at least a decade older than I was. The last four meaningful relationships in my life have involved an age difference measured in over a decade.

I have, of course, dated people relatively my own age…and when I refer to people “my own age”, I’m giving a 4-year leeway. “My age” means we were in high school or college around the same time, we watched the same TV shows as kids, and remember secretly drinking with our friends while listening to the same kind of music. I do not know why, but those relationships, which you think would have greater commonality, have had the highest level of drama and insecurity and unwise choices. Probably because there was no mature “voice of reason” in the relationship to keep stupid shit from happening. Dating someone my age means that, yes, we’re going through the same life struggles at the same time, and we can relate to one another…and that’s a positive. It also means it’s a negative, because neither of us has any of the answers or solutions necessary to get through that part of life together, cooperatively and sanely. Someone a decade older than me can say, “Yeah, I remember when I was your age….”, and has a certain amount of perspective on the drama that seems complicated, confusing, and the end of the world. The fact that they survived whatever you’re going through means you probably will, too.

I’ve never dated anyone younger than myself. It’s like I have internal radar that keeps this from happening. There have been times I’ve considered it, but for the most part, even someone who is technically “my age” and three or four years younger than me seems rather young and inexperienced for me to look to in a romantic context. I realise this is a negative self-imposed limitation, and there have been a few times I’ve almost been tempted to overlook the fact that someone was a few years younger, because we mostly seemed at the same place in life. I think this is just what happens after a lifetime of thinking someone being a decade older than you isn’t unusual. Or, it’s simply because I don’t like feeling old.

For some people, however, the age thing is a huge deal. The mother of The Guy I Am Currently Dating has a list of reasons why she hates me and wishes I would disappear from the planet, or at least her life, but the most repeated complaint is that she finds the age difference “disgusting”. (judgmental much?). Other people are visibly surprised when they learn about our age difference; like us, they’ve gotten so used to seeing us together, it isn’t the first thing that anyone notices. Others look at it the way I do, and think it’s no big deal what the age gap is, as long as you’re emotionally in sync.

A good friend of mine had to laugh recently when a group of us were out at dinner, and I remarked in a joking fashion that he and I could never date, because he was too young for me. He was visibly confused, because our birthdays are less than a month apart. We probably graduated in the same year. *laughs* And while I was just being my usual sarcastic self, it reminded me of how rarely I’m ever attracted to anyone “my own age”, and if I am, how rarely that materialises into a relationship of any sorts. I don’t know why that is; I don’t discriminate against people my age, or younger. Many times, I don’t even know until I like someone how old that person really is. It’s just a thing that *happens*. I think it may be as simple as many older men typically come across as more dominant and self-assured, and not as interested in playing games, and that’s what I respond to, in meeting people of any age. It isn’t that people my age don’t have those qualities…it’s just that fewer people my age have those qualities (and, yes, I’m including myself in this evaluation. I can be downright insecure and prone to causing drama. In my case, however, I think it’s more personality than age influenced.)

Why tell this story, you ask? Well, it’s because I read this article, which has to make you think: what isyour acceptable age range for dating? And, how does that differ from what society believes your acceptable age range should be? (and let’s face it, all of us care enough about what society thinks to pay attention to the talk, but not enough to let it influence life choices. At least, I hope.)

A friend of mine tells me she can’t wait to see what happens when I’m 45, because I’ll either be seducing unsuspecting 22-year-olds, or hanging out with Hugh Hefner wanna-bes. I told her she’s disregarding the obvious: that perhaps I’ll be settled down, happily monogamous, living in the suburbs, and driving a mini-van.

Her reply? “Mini-vans don’t come equipped with cup holders for martinis. You’d hate that.”

Words to live by. *laughs*

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*