4 Things You Should Never (Ever) Talk About On a First Date

This was originally published on eHarmony’s blog.

If you’ve been single for a while, you’re probably used to the first date dance by now: he asks where you’re from originally, you ask about his job. He asks if you prefer red or white wine, you ask about his hobbies. It usually feels like the same ole’ conversation just with a different person, unless you stumble across a truly magical (and rare!) amazing date.

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Ask the Addict: Why Going to a Wedding Alone is Awesome

This post is part of the Ask the Addict advice column. Learn more about submitting your (anonymous!) question here

QUESTION:

My older cousin is getting married and invited me with a plus one. The thing is, I’m single so there’s no significant other to bring. I was thinking of bringing a girlfriend along but after thinking a while, I really feel like going without a date… would that be weird though? Is it fun to go alone to a wedding?

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All At Once or Not At All

I watched the girls chatter and talk, laugh and make sweeping hand gestures in a crowded, sweaty room in midtown east just a block or two from Grand Central. Most of them I didn’t know, a few I recognized but couldn’t place a name and some, I had watched grow from eager intern to unemployed maniac to confident, happy editor.

It was a beautiful thing to see – this program that was just a little idea of mine a few years ago – in its third year, matching the job seekers with the job keepers, and hopefully, creating friendships, too. I’ve been in all of their shoes before: moving to New York without an apartment or any income, working the 9-6 as an editorial assistant, barely making enough money to pay rent, eat and actually leave my apartment for a happy hour from time-to-time. I’ve felt all of those scary, invigorating and desperate feelings – wondering when my chance would come, when I could write home to North Carolina that I wasn’t a failure, that I wasn’t out-of-mind, that I was surviving. That I was really living that life I had imagined for so many years, that it wasn’t just a pipe dream or a silly fantasy, but my reality.

Nearly four years, three job titles and one very big blog later (wow!), I wish I could say that everything is easier. That I have it all figured out and my ducks are in their perfect little rows, and I’m relishing in the success I’ve made for myself. And in some ways and on some days, everything is smooth sailing. But if going through all of the stages of being an early to a mid-20’s something has taught me anything, the biggest lesson is…

…life happens all at once or not at all.

When you first make that huge leap to an unknown place with an unknown destination and unplanned outcome – you’re terrified. But you’re so full of drive and bubbling with so much energy, that you forget that you’re broke. You stalk job sites and you have as many networking hours and coffee dates as you possibly can – and then some Friday, on some random afternoon, when you’re wasting time on the internet, you get that phone call for your first job. You forget to negotiate the salary (you learn how to later on), but you don’t mind. And then the next weeks are filled with paperwork and learning curves and figuring out what to wear and getting to know the personalities of your team – people you’ll see more than you see anyone else in your life.

And then when you switch jobs two years later, you do it again. Three years after that, you’ll go through all the same steps with a new gig. It will happen so quickly, so intensely, after so many months of playing the waiting game, after so many dreaded edit tests and long, nerve-wracking interviews – it’ll just happen. And, dare I say it, rather easily. Because that’s how life happens. All at once.

Or not at all.

When you’re looking for that first apartment, when you don’t know the city and you don’t really understand the difference between neighborhoods and you don’t know how to tell if it’s safe or if it had bed bugs or if you can actually afford it (since you don’t have a job yet) – you wander aimlessly, hoping you’ll just know when you find it. You’ll settle on a place that’ll do, that’s not ideal, that’s most importantly, very cheap. You’ll make friends with the building, you’ll grow use to the rancid smells coming from downstairs and down the street. You’ll figure out how to drown out noise and the unreliable rhythm of the closest train to your place. And then just as you’ve started to feel settled, it’ll be time to move again.

So you will. And your budget will be different because your job will be new. You’ll find an upgraded place suddenly and move swiftly. You might even adopt a dog because you get so comfortable. And then three years later – with a new raise, you’ll crave a new place. There will be complications and gap months and broker’s fees and you’ll watch your money crumble away… but that’s how life happens. All at once.

Or just, not at all.

When you first start dating, it will feel like a rather clever experience. Entertaining mostly, and then so frustrating, you swear each time you’ll never do it again. But something makes you keep trying, keep putting your cards out on the table, waiting for the right hand, carefully eying the players for their poker face. You sign up and you delete, you give up and you repeat. You fall backwards and then forwards, believing, and then trying your best to hide the disbelief when someone turns out just so very… very…. wrong. You venture out alone on trips and adventures, you invest in yourself and in your future, figuring if someone is meant to be in your life, they will enter it.

It’ll take months that turn into years until you finally, somehow, do in fact, meet someone. Unexpectedly. And those bad dates will seem far away, those experiences that were so disheartening, feel enlightening. Those things that were once so hard – texting and setting up dates and talking plans – are just easy. Simple. Uncomplicated. Because that’s how life happens. All at once, instantly.

Or, not at all.

To those of you who just graduated – or have been removed from school for a while but are embarking on a big change, don’t let go of your faith. Savor those periods of flourishing and mystery, where nothing seems certain, where everything is in the air. Because while it doesn’t feel like it at the time, those are the days when the magic is unfolding. That’s when it’s all happening.

And even if you can’t enjoy it now – don’t worry. You’ll go through the same cycle every few years, with every new place, new job, new guy – and it’ll feel just the same. Except that you’ll just be watching i from a new point of view, the kind of view where you can look into a room and see different stages of your life illustrated in strangers. And you’ll hope that for their sake, they let life take it’s tides.

That they’ll have the courage to let it happen. All at once. And then not at all. All at once… it’ll just all unfold.

 

 

 

 

You Can Do Anything

I wondered if everyone who warned me about the dangers and lasting effects of forcing my wide little feet into heels every day had some merit in their concern as I hobbled back into my Harlem apartment in 2010. It smelled like marijuana and though I bought the cheap air fresheners from the Duane Reade around the block (a pharmacy I had never heard of), the scent was far too overpowering to ignore. The big box my mom sent me from North Carolina sat in my “kitchen”, or rather the furthest left portion of my 400-sq-feet room that amazingly cost $850 a month. I had spent the day going to interview to interview, scouring through every possible magazine masthead I could, emailing to meet up for coffee and praying to the job gods to give me their blessing. I had only lived in New York for two and a half weeks and most of my savings were gone thanks to a security deposit and first months rent. I started my hostessing gig in a week if I didn’t find employment before then. My parents couldn’t help. I was 150% on my own. I was terrified. And I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream. I wanted the city to welcome me with the open arms I always thought it had somewhere buried underneath it’s tough exterior and soiled streets. But instead of falling apart, I repeated my mantra:

You can do it, Lindsay. You’re a Tigar. You can do anything.

Putting the dirty details of my existent and non-existent dating life on the internet was rather a bold decision, I told some girl I met through a new friend I didn’t know well enough yet. The girl was “obsessed” with my blog and I felt a little naked in front of her – considering she knew about my last one night stand the boy who broke my heart in college, and yet, I had no idea what she told me her name was 10 minutes ago. I should be thankful for my job, I reminded myself the next morning while writing a blog about taxes for small business owners. It was a challenging subject matter, and my salary (barely) covered my expenses, but I longed to do what I already did for free: write things that will help women feel less alone. I knew how to get from point A to point B, but the thought of keeping up a popular personal blog, working 9-6, dating, attempting to make friends and applying for a new job seemed daunting. I had done it before when I moved here a year ago, I reminded myself. My drive didn’t seem quite as high but I knew that passion could never really be put out. After all, I repeated:

You can do it, Lindsay. You’re a Tigar. You can do anything.

It was as if the city knocked the air out of me on the ride up Broadway to the Upper West Side. The cabbie had asked if I wanted to take the highway, but I said I preferred to pay a little more and watch New York wind down on that Sunday night. We had been broken up for six months then, but never stopped sleeping together. Even though I acted like I wasn’t seeing him drunkenly or haphazardly, dangling my heart in front of him as he pushed it away. As always. But then the last shoe dropped and something inside me woke up – was this really the love I wanted? Was this the type of relationship I would encourage my friends, my readers, the strangers in the street to have? It wasn’t – and I gave him the choice to make it better. Pick me and work on it, or get out of my life. He wouldn’t decide – per usual – so I made the choice for him. But as I cried silently and the driver ignored my sobs, I felt the fear building up. What if that’s as good as it gets? What if I don’t meet anyone? What if I can’t feel it again? To keep from sobbing from that pit in your heart few people ever touch, I sang my song:

You can do it, Lindsay. You’re a Tigar. You can do anything.

Your knee doesn’t really hurt, you’re just listening to the pain instead of focusing on the finish. Remember philosophy class? What you give your attention to grows – focus on something else to distract yourself. I decided to think about complicated things as I pasted mile 8 on the West Side Highway last Sunday. Only 5.1 more miles to go to complete the NYC Half-Marathon that I didn’t have time to train for with everything. With my dad’s 5th surgery in one year. With the uncertainty surrounding my future. With my dire need to get laid after quite the dry spell. With a trip to Europe so close I can see it, but can’t get excited about just get. Not until my dad is fine. Not until my finances are balanced and my taxes are paid. Not until I finish this race, with my ears freezing and my joints aching with every step. But if I can just keep moving, I know I’ll be home napping before I can think. I know what to tell myself:

You can do it, Lindsay. You’re a Tigar. You can do anything.

Just when you think the sunshine that always defined you was withered away into the clouds that just keep surrounding you, a little ray shines it’s way through. People always warned me that finding my way on my own would be hard. That dating wasn’t easy in this city. That careers are flaky and my industry is shaky at very best. That friendships would require work and diligence, patience and understanding. That loving yourself and believing in the good gets easier and harder as you get older, as you experience more things and question, well, everything. And at times, it all seems impossible. It seems stagnant and unreal. Scary. Like all that you worked so hard for, all that you wanted, all of those magical things that you imagined growing up would never come true. And sometimes, they don’t. Other times, they do. Most of the time, they work out just how they’re supposed to – without you realizing they ever came to be at all.

But of all the struggles and the dilemmas your adult life puts you through, of all of the trouble, and all of the unanswered questions left spiraling in your mind, if you can remember one simple truth that’s true for you, that’s true for me, that’s true for everyone:

You can do anything.

That is, my dear, if you never stopping believing that you can. That you already have. That you always will.

The Greatest of These is Love

Stop holding your breath, honey, my mom said, squeezing my hand. I was stunned watching the swarm of doctors and nurses and then nurses and then doctors come in and out of the Emergency Room. One took blood pressure, the other started a drip. Another asked how he was feeling for the 100th time.

I wanted to scream at them to just pass along the information so my sick father didn’t have to repeat himself over and over again. I wanted to scream that I didn’t know that my surprise visit to North Carolina would end up in the hospital, trying my best to stomach my panic so my dad wouldn’t see it. I wanted to scream that four surgeries in one year was way too many. I wanted to scream that now, the pressure had broken not only my mother and I’s heart, but my dad’s too. I wanted to scream that this wasn’t fair and this wasn’t what we – the Tigar family – deserve or needed right now.

Not after everything we have been through. Not another medical bill. Not another surgery. Please God, not another surgery.

One hour passed and then another.

Five hours.

I wanted them to turn down these unforgiving, florescent lights and let my dad rest. I stood with the pashima I got in Chinatown last year for $5 wrapped around me, frozen by the air conditioning, while my dad – with a heart rate of 163 and climbing – was sweating. I could have sat down, there were two seats for my mother and I, and the nurse (Angie? Was that her name?), kept motioning for us to relax. You’ll be here a while, she warned. Take a seat.

But I stood anyway – right by the curtain, leading out out to countless other rooms, all filled with people. Filled with strangers with problems and illnesses and worries and fears – the anxiety of the place was so heavy that I felt consumed by it.

I wanted to run.

But I wanted my dad to be able to run with me. Instead, he couldn’t even get out of bed without his heart rate raising so high that he needed oxygen. Where was my father, that just last year, after beating cancer, could bike 10 miles on a hiking trail? Where was my father that was a far better swimmer than I’ve ever been? Where was my brave, unstoppable dad that gave me my sense of adventure and my thirst for jumping head first into everything?

Don’t worry Linds, he said. I’m going to be just fine. Don’t worry about me. He repeated himself every hour of so, the burrow in my forehead growing deeper than I’d like at the ripe ol’ age of 25. I tried to keep him smiling and entertained, telling stories of my New York antics and mishaps until around 1 a.m., when he was finally moved to a regular hospital room.

I have to stay the night, then? He asked the nurse. She just nodded and smiled, promising that we’ll all know more tomorrow. As the two hefty EMTs loaded my dad into the stretcher and into the ambulance to transport him less than a mile away, my mom and I held hands silently while walking to the car in the cold.

After a sleepless night, we arrived back at the hospital with hard candies and sweatpants, putting on our best grins to keep his spirits high. We watched Law & Order: Special Victims Unit because it’s his favorite and then 19 Kids and Counting because it was on.

Would you want 20 kids, Lindsay? he asked. I wondered if the morphine was going to his head or if he sincerely thought I’d want that many children. I made a joke and he laughed, and the sound filled my heart with so much joy that I had to rest my hand on my chest to keep myself steady.

Let’s try to do a few rounds around the hall, okay? The nurse asked, unhooking the colorful cords that were attached seemingly everywhere. The three of us trekked slowly around, passing many open doors with sleeping patients. I tried not to look because I thought it was inappropriate, but I did. I later told my mom that all of the patients on the heart wing seemed elderly and it didn’t make sense that dad would be joining them. Sweetie, he does collect social security now, she had said.

How were my parents aging before me and I had yet to notice?

After lap three, my dad had to rest because he was out of breath. While he sat upright in a chair, thankful to be out of the bed, we all watched more Law and Order, and I held his hand, thinking of all the times he had held mine. Walking into grocery stores and to banks, down the stairs when they were too tough for me to climb, when I was scared of jumping off the high diving board, when my heels for prom were dangerous for my ankles, when the snow was too slippery. I knew I couldn’t support him now, not without a degree in medicine, but I could hold his hand.

We have to get you back on the drip and oxygen, Jim, the nurse rushed in and told us. I didn’t like her, she was too abrupt and not sensitive to my dad’s many questions. A team helped him into bed and got him hooked up to monitors that kept beeping, and then they talked outside. We watched them chatter, unable to make out their words. And then my mom and I looked at my dad.

He looked so scared that I started holding my breath again.

While I sat frozen, straining to hear the secret medical huddle going on outside, my mom raised and hugged my dad and whispered something I couldn’t hear into his ear. They stayed in a hug – or at least as much of one as you can have in that position- for a few minutes, and I watched my dad’s heart rate go down. 10 beats down. Then 15. Then 25. He stopped crying. The fear left his eyes.

They kissed.

And though I’ve never been married and I have never loved someone so unconditionally like my parents feel for each other, when I witnessed their embrace, I couldn’t help but think:

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

The kind of love that’s worth everything, endures. It is not about fancy dates or finding the most attractive person to wed. Instead, it means it when it says for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. It is not about romance and diamond rings. Instead, it doesn’t judge. It is not about having the most spectacular sex or having the highest paycheck. Instead, it is patient and it is kind.

It is the love that my parents have always had.

While I pray for faith in the universe as my father heals, and I hope for better answers and less stress for all of us, I rejoice knowing that even if I can’t always be in North Carolina to help my family, I know we have the greatest truth of all between us.

Love. And even if hearts beat out of their chests, there will be love to steady the rhythm.

Why I’m Not Ready to Get Married

Originally published on YourEngagement101.com

When I was a little girl, I would wrap a white sheet around me, put on my plastic princess heels and steal wildflowers out of my mother’s garden to play bride.

Because I grew up an only child, my parents were forced to indulge my imagination: my dad serving as my grinning groom, my mom stuck as the minister. I would make my kind, patient father write and deliver vows and then I’d perform them as if it there was a studio audience that consisted of more than my wide collection of stuffed animals.

Getting married wasn’t the only thing I played make believe with though: I was also Indiana Jones, a secret spy solving a murder mystery, a woman finding her man cheating, a homeless person begging for pennies, a teacher and Lois Lane – just to name a few.

But of course, all of my adventures in pretendland always ended with a happy embrace, finding love, meeting that perfect man, having a family.

Happily ever after.

Twenty years later, a lot of things in my life feel unreal because they’ve turned out so much better than I could have dreamed up myself. I live in New York City, I’m a writer, blogger and an editor, I have the luxury to travel and explore, I’m blessed with friends all over the country, I’m healthy enough to run a half-marathon, and though I haven’t met the man I’ll marry, I’ve been lucky to fall in love a few times with some pretty great guys.

Part of me can’t wait to start that relationship – or to at least be reassured that this mythical creature actually does exist out there, somewhere, dating all the wrong women while I date all the wrong men. Part of me is afraid that I picked the absolute worst city to capture the right guys attention.

And another part of me - probably the biggest part of me – is nowhere near ready for marriage. Even if the average bride in the United States is 25 – it’s hard to imagine being wed at this point in my life.

I’ll admit it though – I scour through my Facebook friends walls, reading their engagement stories, liking all of the photos in their wedding albums. I smile at little baby bumps that grow into bouncing toddlers. I get excited thinking about when some of my best friends will get engaged and how I’ll be a bridesmaid and watch them take those sacred vows, joining together with boyfriends that I’ve started to call my friends, too.

There is no doubt that I’m a sucker for love.

It’s my driving force behind everything, and above all other things, it’s the one truth I’ll always believe in: love is powerful and it exists in so many different forms.

But it’s also something that I have faith will always be there and is never anything to rush into. As much as there is happiness and hope surrounding marriage, I think a lot of women also feel fear (I know I do): what if he doesn’t exist? What if this kind-of-okay boyfriend is really the best I’ll ever find? What if I wait too long to get married and can’t have kids? What if I really am too picky? With so much doubt and questioning, it’s easier to throw in the towel and settle down with someone who is good enough…

…but maybe not quite great.

Before I’m committed to someone, I want to commit to myself. I want to go through lots of difficult things as an individual that will make me brighter, stronger and happier. I want to be a whole person before I meet another whole person – I’m not looking to be completed by anyone else. Before I say “I do” – I want to say, “I do” to adventure and travel and experiences that don’t involve a man. Before I get into a relationship or put on an actual gown (and not a sheet), I want to know that no matter what, I’d be totally fine on my own.

Because there’s a difference between wanting a man and needing one. And I’ll know when I’m ready to get married, ready to walk down that aisle, ready to maybe change my last name when I want a partner, I don’t need one. Most fear, after all, comes from desperation, and most of our regrets are from when we were afraid.

So I’m single. I’m 25. I’m not desperate. I’m in no rush. I’m not ready to get married. And that’s better than good enough. It’s great.

The Illusion of Mr. Right

Originally published on YourEngagement101.com.

I’ve always imagined that at the end of my long dating road, with its twists, accidents, forks and bumps, I’d make it up the staggering hill and there, standing atop, would be this shiny, sparkling man. He’d be made of everything I wanted in a partner – kind, loyal, tall, successful, loving – and maybe sport a few special qualities that I’d inevitably fall in love with. The price of playing the dating game is steep and strenuous, but the payoff must be tremendous if you have to work so hard to earn it.

Or at least, a girl can hope.

I’m still owning my single status, but if the countless dates have taught me something – it’s that you can’t predict anything. And you certainly can’t carve out your husband out of vision you’ve dreamed up in your head. Somehow, life just doesn’t work that way. But a lot of women think that it does – and when they’re dealt a different hand than what the prepped for, suddenly they feel lost because they never made the effort to define themselves before they went searching for a man.

But the thing about making up Mr. Right is that every single man you date, including the one you’ll marry, will never be Mr. Right.

Because no one – absolutely no one – will fulfill you in every way that you desire. He will not say all of the right things at all of the right times (and if he did, you’d find him patronizing). He will not always know exactly what you need when you need it without you telling him (or you would long for someone who surprises you). He will not be overly romantic and terribly kind 24/7 (or you would wish he’d make you work for it, just a bit more). He will not make an astronomical amount of money, tower over you when you’re in your tallest heels and still have time to cuddle on the couch for hours at night (or he would would be a character in a Ryan Gosling movie).

The thing about admitting that you’ve found Mr. Right is admitting that your description of him (and yes, your expectations that you’ve had since you were 6 years old)… were wrong.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a long list of things you value in a partner and standards you hold them to – it just means that to be happy, you have to accept that really, the person that will (and should) make you the happiest is yourself. And it’s only when you can accept your flaws and the fact that your dream guy will also have some imperfections, is when you stop believing in this illusion of Mr. Right.

It’s when you realize you never needed a Mr. Right to come and rescue you from the woes of singledom – instead, you learned to savor the time you have alone and go on adventures without having to worry about someone else to consider. It’s when you become proud of the life you built, all on your own, on your own two feet, without having to depend on any man to lay the foundation for you. It’s when you see yourself as this whole being, this entirely grounded and secure person, that’s not looking for another half or for an idealist man to make you complete. You’re complete already, and though you might not need a man to share your journey…

…you want one.

And you don’t want the world’s best guy. You want the best guy – for you. One that has wrongs: he’s always three minutes late, he can’t remember anything to save his life, he isn’t as motivated as you, but he’s happy with his job, he’s more introverted, he might be balding. But he has goods too: he absolutely adores you, he’s awesome in bed, he’s super smart and teaches you things, he’s interested in travel, he always wants to hold your hand. And you would have never known what you want if you didn’t date. If you didn’t learn how to love yourself, no matter what, with or without someone.

If you didn’t have to go through all the trouble and all the lessons, you’d never make it to the top of that mountain. You’d still be sitting at the bottom, waiting for a prince and his horse to carry you to the top. But you didn’t wait. You went ahead and made it yourself. Now, just maybe, you’ll meet the guy who climbed it too – just on the other side.

And perhaps you’ll meet at the top and take in that view together.