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.

I started writing this blog a few days ago, before my internet crashed. I now have internet and TV back in my life again..so, YAY! However, there will be no obligatory 4th of July post. I hope all my American readers had a lovely one!:)

From time to time, I get questions from readers of this blog—something that is often shocking to me, because I tend to only assume that unless you’re a close friend who is somehow invested in my world, there’s little here to interest you. In fact, the tagline on some of the pages from Jaded Elegance, v.2, read “Unless you’re terribly bored or hopelessly in love with me, stop reading and do something more interesting.”

Fortunately for me, either there are a lot of bored people on the internet, or I have a way with admirers. :P My warning wasn’t heeded.

One of the most common things people write to me is that they’re seeking advice regarding crushes. You’d think this is confined to being a 14 year-old girl problem, but it’s not. I get notes from women who are part of my generation asking about secret office romances, and those in their 40′s who are newly single and ready to get back out on the dating scene. Men of the world, I’ve come to one giant conclusion: for all the time you spend thinking about sex, relationships, dating, flirting, and attractive people, you’re remarkably oblivious to those around you. There are a lot of women walking around this world with secret crushes, and while perhaps many are subtle enough to never let you know about it, I’m sure that some are dropping hints here and there.

I’ll be honest. For a girl who built a blog around the concept of always being infatuated with one thing or person or another, and is working on a book of poetry based on 11 years worth of “intrigues”, I’m not terribly good with crushes. It isn’t that I don’t have them, it’s more that I don’t have that genetic female predisposition to keep the information to myself for prolonged periods of time.

In high school, I was an accomplished flirt who secretly enjoyed seeing the faux-machismo of teenaged boys disappear when you put them on the spot or made them feel uncomfortable. I was never the sweet, innocent, easily offended type. I learned to counter sexual harassment with equally overt sexual harassment, as if to say, “See how you like it”. *laughs* As both they and I became more experienced in the ways of the world, I learned to combine my tendency to flirt with witty banter. Somewhere along the way, witty banter gave way to a remarkable capacity to be very straightforward, in a way that prospective partners either find genuinely appealing or quite off-putting. I have to confess, it amuses me a little when I leave someone a little speechless or make them turn various shades of red. I’m the most harmless person out there, truly. It shocks me that people don’t always see me in that way.

However, the point is, I’m terrible at crushes because I’m too damned straightforward to be charming. This is why men don’t woo me, don’t show up at my door with flowers, don’t move heaven and earth to get my attention. I don’t play the game properly. After feeling confused about whether or not my crush might like me, or if not, why not; after suffering through a few weeks or months of mixed signals and flirtation may mean something, but may not, I just come out and ask. Sometimes, it’s a calculated decision, in the form of a heart-to-heart conversation. Other times, it’s a drunk text that says, effectively, “Hey, you idiot…have you not noticed I like you, and why aren’t you doing anything about that?”

I would love to be a more subtle, charming person. I would love to be that person who engages people with a mixture of inaccessibility and little coy looks here and there. I would love to be the girl who waits three years for her crush to notice her, and have the world’s greatest love story ensue. I sometimes think that men would take me far more seriously if I behaved with the demure subtlety women are supposed to possess in these matters. But I am impatient, and I don’t really hide emotions well. I don’t see the point in playing games, and life is too short not to tell people how you feel about them…especially if the way you feel is that someone else is an awesome person. At the very worst, you’ve made the day of someone who isn’t interested in you by expressing your admiration, and you can get over it over a cosmo and some reality TV. At the very best, you’ve saved you and another person years of waiting for one another to make a move, express a feeling, or wonder “What if?” in a more out-loud fashion.

If there’s one positive thing to be said about me, it’s that people always know where they stand with me, and if they don’t, all they need to do is ask. It’s surprising to me how many people are reticent to ask about things they spend time wondering about. If I really want to know, I lose sleep trying to keep it inside. *laughs*

I think I rather gave up on crushes when I was a teenager, and saw how they never got me anything except a lot of emotional angst. I think, the first time someone I liked asked someone else out instead of me, and I cried over it, only to have the guy later tell me, “I had no idea you were interested, and it seemed like she was.”, that crushes seemed like a cute, romanticised, idealistic idea, but weren’t going to get you anywhere with the object of your affection.

I have intrigues and infatuations, and most of them are short-lived. They hang around long enough for me to write a poem, to learn the hard way that someone wasn’t who I’d imagined them to be, and my idealistic heart is devastated for a week or two, until the next intrigue or infatuation comes along. If it’s been a few months or a few years, and I still have feelings for someone, I likely will have brought it up. Sometimes it’s in the form of asking “Why haven’t you ever been interested in me?”. Sometimes it’s “I know you’re in a relationship, and nothing can happen between us, but I’m sure it’s obvious I like you”. Other times, it’s “Why don’t you pay attention to me? Everyone pays attention to me.” More than one of my long-term relationships has started with this sort of straightforward, brutal honesty.

I’d love to be the person who has crushes, who has people who secretly have crushes on her. Alas, I am too direct not to let my crushes know and remove the mystery, and too intuitive not to know when someone in my life is attracted to me or has feelings for me.

When girls—and women—write to me for advice on their crushes, my advice is always this: life is short, and a broken heart doesn’t stick around forever, but the chance you didn’t take will haunt you for a lifetime. Express how you feel, in a way that feels comfortable to you. Both men and women are equally flattered by attention and admiration, so why keep it a closely guarded secret? There’s a certain romantic allure to the the crush that took years to get off the ground and eventually ended up in a wedding, but in real life, it doesn’t usually work out that way. People don’t stay unattached forever. Many times, your crush ends up with someone else not because he never noticed you, but because he never noticed you noticing him. Not everyone is particularly intuitive or emotionally observant.

If your crush is someone who is simply unattainable for one reason or another, take it for what it’s worth. It’s possible to be intrigued by people you don’t even know, as well as by people with whom you can never possibly share a romantic connection. But, if that person inspires you in some way, use it to be inspired. Whether it leads to that added little boost that comes from harmless flirting around the water cooler, a crazy night that wasn’t supposed to happen but leaves you singing annoyingly happy songs for days, or an actual date that makes you feel 15 again, crushes have potential. And if they don’t, because someone is unavailable or disinterested or the stars just don’t align, they can still brighten up the routine, the mundane, and make you feel a little more alive and engaged in the world.

Don’t be afraid to express your admiration, even via harmless flirtation. Being inspired and being admired make everyone feel just a little better, as long as you’re not the creepy stalker type. You have to know when you’re pushing too hard, when you’re no longer amusing, but a little weird. Don’t be that person.

I had someone tonight tell me that one of the things they really like about me is my brutal honesty. I observed that, running a social group–and having a lot of hobbies, interests, friends, and a personal life aside—I met an awful lot of people each year, and it was impossible for me to remember each person’s name. I half-jokingly pointed out that because I was never going to be genuine friends with 98% of the people I met each year, I don’t learn anyone’s name until I’ve seen them around three times and have reason to believe they’re likely to be a part of my world. Of course, this “brutal honesty” was interpreted in the most humourous way possible, with people poking fun at my lack of social delicacy, but it’s true. Someone I used to know used to say he only had so many spaces in his “friend book”, and from time to time, was not accepting applications.

It made me genuinely wish to be friends, however, with the person who remarked upon liking my brutal honesty. That is the kind of person with whom I inevitably interact with very well. And, ideally, it is how all my “secret crushes” work.(although, to clarify, the individual straightforward enough to comment upon my straightforwardness is not a crush, nor does that person have a crush on me. I realise that could have been read in a confusing manner.) I don’t always seek out new intrigues or have room for a fascination with another person in my life, because I may already feel my life is either rather content and busy as it is, or because it’s already way too complicated. When I *am* intrigued by someone, I don’t really want to wait three years to find out they were equally intrigued. I like flirting and romance and coy little games, but I guess I just like straightforward communication better…even about situations that are less than straightforward, or one dimensional.

It isn’t that hard to say, “I kind of really think you’re an awesome person”. In fact, more people should say that sort of thing to one another, whether it’s accompanied by a secret crush or physical attraction or complex friendship, or it’s someone you’ve literally just met and find cool.

That’s always my advice, for what it’s worth…but I’d love one day for one of my readers to write me back with advice on how to have a crush/intrigue/infatuation I keep to myself for all eternity. There’s something about that ideal that appeals to my incurably old-fashioned, romantic side. Sadly, too little of me is as old-fashioned or demure as I’d like to be. :P