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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It doesn’t necessarily have to be Christmas; it can be your favourite December holiday, or absolutely nothing at all, that decides it’s time for you to brave the cold (or, if you live here, the slightly unwelcome chill that doesn’t make “Winter Wonderland” seem really relevant.) and get out there in the world.

Last week, Gala Darling posted a day-to-day plan of action for December survival. While I found the article interesting, let’s be realistic. I’m not going to be motivated enough to do something cool, fun, or creative every single day of the month. Some days, I’m going to spend my evening in bed watching the Real Housewives of Something and eating pizza, because I like reality TV and junk food and don’t really want to do something with every moment of my life. I appreciate time spent doing nothing.

One of the suggestions, however, caught my attention: 12 Dates Of December. The premise is easy, of course. This month, schedule 12 dates to do something fun and interesting.

Gala’s list implied that you should schedule 12 dates to do something fun and interesting with your significant other or spouse, but again, I’m not really that kind of girl. I may *see* The Guy I Am Currently Dating 12 times a month, but if there were always the pressure to do something interesting or romantic or different, I’d quickly exhaust myself. Some of the best times we spend together involve decompressing from everything else, not planning even more shit to do on the calendar.:P Also, no matter how much I like a person, there is no one person in the history of my life that’s ever made me feel like “Hanging out together is so cool, we don’t ever need to hang out with other people”. I know some people experience this, but I think I’m just not wired that way. I’ve never been one to be part of the couple who falls off the radar, because they’re spending every night at home. After a week or two of that, I get incredibly bored. Additionally, The Guy I Am Currently Dating and I do not live together, so I’d be even more over the introversion factor.

However, I totally support the idea that you should make the effort to put 12 interesting, adventurous, fun, or sociable events on your calendar for December. Being an event planner, this isn’t too difficult for me. I like to go out, I like people, and I like events that are a little out of the ordinary. When you think about it, though, 12 social outings that are not just a trip to the movies or the coffee shop can seem a bit daunting. Particularly for introverts, spending over one-third of your free time socializing with your fellow human beings can take some effort and commitment. Also, during a season where everything seems focused on the need to spend money, going out all the time can seem overwhelming for the average person feeling the pressure to buy expensive gifts for everyone.

I don’t really want or need much in the gift department. I like my clothes and my jewelry and my perfumes, but for the most part, I’m more likely to spend my money on experiences. It’s OK with me if I show up in pictures at different events with different people, and I’m wearing the same outfit, as long as all the photos look like I’m having a great time. I’d much rather have a friend take me out to do something new and interesting than buy me a scarf or an Amazon gift card, because in my world, sharing experiences with other people is what it’s all about.

I personally am going to try to focus on spending time with those important to me, rather than stress about spending money I don’t have in order to celebrate the holiday season. I’m not traveling this December, I’m not buying anyone a new flat-screen TV, and I’m not putting undue pressure on myself to find a new job before January 1st, or to make the holiday season the most perfect one ever. I’m not buying a $300 dress for New Year’s Eve, or looking to score tickets to the hottest event in town. I’m not even baking cookies. Strangely, I’m feeling pretty happy and relaxed about all of those things. It’s as if I’ve realised how much anxiety is really behind all our holiday traditions, and behind that is the desire to please other people, especially our families. Often, this is at the cost of our own peace of mind or emotional stability. Anyone who has ever seen Chevy Chase freak out because one of the two million lights he’s put on his house to impress his kids burned out and the thing won’t light up, only to discover the power supply in the basement was disconnected, knows that this pressure can be pretty great.

That’s why I like the 12 Dates Of Christmas. I am going to try to create 12 different, fun, memorable experiences with some of the people in my life who are important to me. (alas, many live at a distance, and while I really want to see them and spend time with them, I know it’s not feasible…and I may end up also having 12 Dates Of March to catch up with all my Northeastern friends and family.) Whether you’re in a relationship and want to schedule 12 dates with the same person, you’re actively looking for someone and want to amp up your dating life, or you’re like me and want to make time to really connect with those who hold true value in your life, it’s a really rewarding idea.

I rang in December 1st with my first date of Christmas, sitting outside on a rooftop bar in Buckhead, drinking overpriced cocktails and sharing stories with good friends while being silly with strangers.

I’ve recently become friends with a girl who moved to Atlanta and I’d known on FB via an old friend of mine in New York, but never met in person. I had no idea whether or not we’d hit it off; we’re the same age and have a few things in common, but also a few huge differences in our personalities. Since I don’t really tend to click with other women all that often, I wasn’t particularly expecting us to become friends, but I’ve been surprised how much fun I’ve had getting to know her. I wish we’d lived up in NYC at the same time!

Alas, we’re here in Atlanta now, and I wanted to make her feel welcome by throwing a housewarming party to celebrate her new apartment, and inviting out a few friends who have been in my life for many of the years I’ve been in Atlanta. I don’t think there was anyone in attendance I’ve known for less than four years, which was kind of cool. Since she’s the kind of girl who likes places, people, and things that are both fun and classy, we decided to do dinner at a nice Italian restaurant in the area that actually holds the honour of being the first restaurant I ever visited in Atlanta. That was followed by a cocktail at a bar known more for ambiance than for anything else, Whiskey Blue.

I remember the place having a nicer view of the city than it actually does. Although it’s a rooftop bar, the sides are obscured by plastic dividers that keep drunken patrons from accidentally falling off the building, and lots of fake trees with Christmas lights. We managed to not only make some friends who bought us tequila shots, but to steal their table when they left 15 minutes later, ending up with a good location to chill out, talk, and spend time with friends.

I also found myself in extroverted mode for the evening, and wore a fascinator in my hair that others seemed to find—well, fascinating. This resulted in free drinks, pictures, and friendly hellos from strangers, a vibe you don’t always get at bars where everyone is there with their own group of friends, or looking to hit on single people. We’d only intended to stay and have a drink before heading to a bar with a different type of scene, but before we knew it, it was 2:45 AM and the city was closing for the evening.

So, I have to give due thanks to Whiskey Blue for being more entertaining and providing a better atmosphere than expected, even if they did charge $10 for parking. It was a good way to ring in December, all captured with some fun photos. I hope, also, my new friend is starting to feel more at home in Atlanta. It’s not NYC, but you can definitely have fun and meet cool people if you try hard enough. :)

I have 11 more interesting Dates Of Christmas to go, and am not sure what sorts of shenanigans that might lead to, but I’ll certainly blog about them. I was born in December, so between that and the holidays, it’s always been one of my favourite times of year. However, it’s historically been defined by travel. (For some time, I was insistent on celebrating NYE in a different city each year, and I did.) This year, I’ll be going out of my way to have a great time in my own city. Advice and suggestions are always accepted!! :)