Am I Totally Misreading My Dates Signals?

Sometimes you go on an amazing first date and all of the “signs” seem to point to a second. And then, he disappears into the land of guys-of-great-first-dates-past, never to be seen again. Or what about those times you flirt endlessly with one of your vendors at work—and he gives the signal that he’s interested too—only to mention his wife (WTF?!) the next week.

I often find myself looking for “signs” on dates (or let’s be real: all the time) that they’re interested. He places his hand on the small of my back, he casually mentions seeing me again, we happen to like the same kind of cheese when ordering the platter, whatever. But more often than not, when it comes to reading signals…I kind of suck at it.

Such was the case with Matt.

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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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I Tried to Hate Christmas

It snowed for the first (real) time in New York on Saturday.

I woke up hazily hungover and tired, wondering how I’d ever make it to midtown east for Lucy’s vet appointment when my mouth still tasted like red wine. My little pup blended in with my comforter, snuggled between my feet like she likes to do, and I laid in bed, listening to the quiet. I relished in those peaceful, stolen moments before I have to force myself out of bed and into the chaos below. My room was colder than usual, only warmed by the bright white glow outside, and I opened the curtains just enough to inquire about the weather.. and there they were:

Perfect, fragile snowflakes, falling gracefully to the ground I can’t see below.

I watched them build up on the rooftops and though I’m 20 years too old to get so excited over such little things, I smiled and eagerly told Lucy it was snowing. She licked my face and went back to sleep, unimpressed and obviously not-human. I didn’t care though – I slung on my boots and dressed her in a (probably not necessary) coat and outside we went to see the snow.

As I walked down to the friendly Starbucks that lets me bring her inside when it’s cold, I kicked the snow underneath my feet and I laughed as Lucy played with it, hopping on the small piles and seeing the flakes flutter on her nose. The upper west side was alive and happy, excited for this wintery-mix that makes this dirty, darkened city seem more pure, more hopeful than before.

And like the snow lightened the push-and-the-shove of Manhattan (and Brooklyn and Queens, and maybe even New Jersey), it did the same for me. I’ve been adamantly against Christmas this year. In fact, I was so not looking forward to this time of year that I convinced myself that I wouldn’t be full of the holiday spirit, instead, I’d be a scrooge. I’d hate Christmas with all of my might.

After such a difficult year, with so much bad and so little good, why would I invest my heart and my expectations in December? Why would I think that the end of the year would be any better than the rest of it? Why waste money on decorations and holiday cards, postage and gifts, if in the end, I’d be miserably humming around a fake Christmas tree, mulling over everything I didn’t have? Over everything that didn’t happen or unfortunately did happen?

Why celebrate 2013 at all?

Maybe it was the snowflakes – or how the shift in the seasons shifted something for me, too, but I couldn’t keep my love of the holidays at bay. I couldn’t be negative about it. Even though New York and I have had our trials this year, the city wouldn’t let me forget about Christmas. Not with it’s street fairs and it’s subway performers singing “My Favorite Things.” Not with it’s lights and it’s weather, it’s people dressed in puffy coats and stockings from head-to-toe. Not with smiling kids and (surprisingly) grinning adults, even with it’s happy tourists seeing this place I call home for the first time, in the snow. Not with Macy’s windows and Fifth Avenue shops, not with splitting a bottle of wine with my friend in a cozy Parisian restaurant in the West Village. Not with all the truly magical parts of New York – from people to places and everything in between – that seem to glow with those silly white lights at this special time of year.

Though things haven’t quite gone my way and I’ve had more learning pains than triumphs this year, it only gives me better reason to show my thanks at Christmas and as 2014 begins. It might not have been the easiest of months, but they were necessary to teach me something. To be stronger and to take more chances. To believe in things that you can’t feel, see or imagine. To trust in something bigger than you, some force that you might not always believe in. To know that everything has it’s time and it’s place, that we will figure it out as we go, if we have enough hope to see it through.

I wanted to hate Christmas this year, I really did. But I don’t. I can’t. I won’t…

I sent out 50 holiday cards.

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E hosted (yet another) amazing Thanksgiving dinner.

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My friend A came to visit.

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I made a wreath (for $10!).

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My roommates put up a tree and I hung stockings.

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Lucy got a new red coat.

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And a new pillow (thanks Pottery Barn!)

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J threw quite the party with some deadly jingle juice.

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I shopped for Christmas gifts with M while looking at a lovely view.

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iVillage named me the Best Party Planner at our holiday party.

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This is my view while writing this blog.

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And best of all… my family will be here in less than a week for our very first Christmas in New York City.

I might not be exactly where I thought I’d be at the end of 2013, but I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, learning what I need to know. And maybe one day, I’ll have a Christmas with a man I love, watching the children we made open presents in a home or apartment we bought together. Maybe I’ll have the best year yet in 2014, maybe it’ll be harder than all the rest. Maybe I’ll move abroad, maybe I’ll keep falling back in love with New York.

Maybe it all doesn’t matter – as long as I’m thankful enough to realize that regardless of how it all turns out or what I have, I’m so incredibly blessed. And so very loved.

Something So Very Special

I found myself angry and upset, not sure why I wanted to cry and yet, hoping I didn’t let a single drop out while riding the uptown train on Saturday night to the home that doesn’t feel like one on the Upper West Side. I wasn’t drunk — or I suppose, I’m not drunk, is a better use of words considering I’m writing this at 1: 25 a.m., with every intent of publishing it on Monday.

On my blog, this blog, this very public, yet insanely personal blog that I happen to share with everyone I do and don’t know. This blog that is supposed to be about learning to love myself with or without a man. That’s supposed to be about being totally fine with being totally single, totally fine on my own, not letting men affect me, letting them come and go with their douchebagery-ways, their terribly disappointing manners, their shortcomings that aren’t supposed to matter to me. No matter how many times some man gives me five minutes or two weeks of hope, only to take it away in a second, or by falling off the face of my iPhone.

I was actually supposed to have a date tonight — a second one, which if you’ve read earlier posts you would know are my favorites. Merely because they are often so rare, with so many first dates that bore or well, traumatize you. So when some random guy that happened to be intriguing enough to agree to see again proved to be uncompromising and pretty much only in it for sex, I made plans with K, then met up with J and her guy, and the night went on. I went on – unaffected, perfectly content, not upset that some man couldn’t meet me in the middle, couldn’t get enough energy to make an effort to impress or even see me.

But I was frustrated. I was upset.

Maybe not by this specific man or this specific situation, but that these types of things happen so often that I find myself incredibly exhausted of talking about them. Much less writing about another failed date to share with the world. If I was honest, as I am here on these pages, I’d admit that I don’t want to date. I don’t want to go out on a Saturday night. I don’t want to spend unnecessary money on unnecessary vodka tonics in the hope that my next one will be free. I don’t want to stay out so late and be so tired the next day I can’t go for a run because I held onto the possibility that I’d stumble across someone worth talking to over loud music in a busy, sweaty bar. I don’t really want to do any of it at all.

But I do it anyway.

Because I refuse to give up, because I refuse to become completely bitter or to stop going after what I want. Because I don’t want to listen to everyone who says the best things come when you’re not looking because when are you ever not looking? Because the best dating advice can’t simply be to have fun and let it come, because that feels utterly impossible, month after month, year after year, date after date, date, date.

That can’t be the answer. If there’s any answer at all.

I started writing this blog to not feel just like I feel right now, writing this blog. Hopeless. Annoyed. Angry. Frustrated. Sad. Unworthy. Disappointed. Impatient. I never wanted a lack of a someone to change who I was or to let anyone be so important that they mattered. But maybe that was a pipe dream, something that can’t be ignored because everyone feels that way sometimes, at least anyone who is single post-college in a city.

As I walked myself west while all my friends went east, I did everything I could to hold in the tears. I looked up at the full moon in disgust, cursing it for not bringing the change to my life I so desperately need. I noticed all the tall, thin, gorgeous girls in heels, laughing into the night, so different from me, the not-carefree, unhappy woman struggling down Houston. And as I walked, not making eye contact or slowing down, I saw a store called Something Special.

And I thought of all the fairytales that have undoubtedly made me rather naive. The love stories my mom would tell me, the romance I’ve craved since I knew you could crave such impossible things. I was always promised something special, something fascinating. Something that was unexpected and life-altering. Something intoxicating and breathless. Something so different from the rest.

Something worth all of this waiting.

But when that day comes, or as the cynic in me phrases it, if that day comes, who do I want to be? Do I want to be this desperate, defeated girl? Do I want to be scared and disappointed in every man and frankly, in myself? Do I want this pitiful self-confidence or this pouty attitude around my friends, my family and on this train, angrily typing this blog?

Or do I want to be someone special?

Someone who admitted her failures and yes, handled her emotions as they came, even when they came stupidly and sometimes far too soon. Someone who stood up for herself without letting herself give up in the process? Someone who lived her life instead of waiting on some man to come to build it with? Someone who wanted to cry on a Saturday night it someone who wanted to dance?

If I want something so very special, don’t I need to start believing in and acting like I’m someone special?

She Can Get Some Satisfaction

It was snowing on Saturday when I left my apartment to catch the downtown train. I’ve been aching for a change and for the temperatures of Spring, so naturally my hair became a prime canvas. I’m not sure where this craving for transformation grew from — I’ve felt really settled and comfortable lately.

In fact, I haven’t desired much lately at all. With many amazing things spattered about my calendar in the months to come, I’m impressed with the life I’ve made and the days that I have to look forward to.

But that hunger. The fight. The work… To meet someone. Well, it’s gone.

Sure, I’m checking online dating profiles and if a guy wants to buy me a drink, I let him. I send flirty text messages and from time to time, I sext with Mr. Smith.  But nothing is really piquing my interest or encouraging the flight of butterflies and bumblebees. I haven’t felt their gentle and intoxicating stampede for nearly two years now.

And the thing is, I’m kind of satisfied.

Sure on nights like last night when the sleet beat against my air conditioning and the air was so cool I took two trains to get home, just to avoid being outside for an avenue longer than I needed. When I watch my beautiful best friends fall in love with men who have a promising twinkle in their eyes, I wonder when my turn will come. Sometimes I question if it will ever arrive at all — or if a girl with a heart as big as mine ca ever find another one to love in return. Sometimes, as my parents age and things don’t work as well as they once did, I feel guilty for leading a selfish existence instead of producing the grandchildren they keep telling me they look forward to spoiling.

I get down on myself, but I’ve been happier by myself than ever before. There’s something nice about solitude and those Saturdays I get to spend at the salon and the dog park, running in Central and treating myself to a $6 latte just because I want it. Or booking a trip to Mexico with my best friend because we want to celebrate being sufficient and young — and in need of some serious sun. And if I feel like going out on a Friday, the city is my playground with it’s men just pawns in a game that I’m good at playing, even if I’ve yet to win. But if I want to stay in, there is no harm, no guilt from a partner who wants to do something else, the only harm, really, is in my fear of missing out.

Lots of my friends who mastered being single a lot faster and earlier than I did used to tell me about these perks – of never having to consider another person in any decision. Or being able to date around to see what feels right, right now and what may feel right later on. They used to talk about how good it felt to be free and to have endless options, opportunities — from travel and finances to dining and sex.

I never understood it, though.

I wanted to factor in a man into the plan. I wanted him to figure out what we were cooking for dinner, what we were doing next weekend, what we wanted to do about that lightbulb in the kitchen that keeps going out or where we should take the dog to get her yearly vaccinations. I craved those discussions. I needed to meet him so I could go ahead and start thinking about the rest of my life.

But why wait for my life to begin when I’m already living it? Why linger to get satisfaction instead of doing things to satisfy myself?

When 2013 started, I had a feeling in my bones that it would bring about positive change and personal growth. I just knew that something big — something incredible — was in my cards this year, and the romantic in me convinced herself it had to do with love.

And maybe it still does. Or maybe not.

Sure, I might meet that man — who is as elusive and imaginary to me as he’s always been — but I think I’d rather meet a better version of myself. I’d rather become a woman I’m proud of. One who doesn’t need a man … and that’s why she meets him. Not because she’s doing all the right things and working hard to be available and open, but because she’s herself, leading a life she’s proud of.

 And most importantly, she can get some satisfaction… with or without him.

Five Down, Many To Go

Terrified that having a puppy (as lovely as she is) would ruin my social life as I know it — I’ve been quite the busy dater this past month. I can’t blame Lucy entirely for my new-found interest in getting back into the scene — it’s also the chilly weather that reminds me of cuddling under covers with no clothes except socks, the smell of pumpkin spice that remind me of home, and just how handsome men look with rosy cheeks and scruff that’s a little too out grown.

And also, the fact that I’ve been single for over a year now…

Given, I spent some time (okay, maybe a lot of time) hung up over Mr. Possibility. And even, yes, sleeping with him far longer than I should have. But now that my past is both figuratively and literally miles and months behind me, I have the urge to meet someone. Doesn’t have to be my forever-and-ever guy, but just a guy….would be nice. It’d be comforting and exciting — and hopefully, it’d spread some of my natural optimism into my romantic relationships, instead of the negativity that consumes them recently.

So, with a few clicks of my mouse on three online dating profiles (yes, three!), enticing friends to set me up with the eligible bachelors in their lives and throwing some flirting glances across practically each room I graced, I somehow managed to have five first dates in the past four weeks. For me — who walks a dog three times a day, works 40+ hours and runs three miles at least five days a week — dating can sometimes be difficult to budget into my time. But, with as much hope I could muster without making my eyes blush, I jumped head (not heart) first into the scary Manhattan pool of singleness.

The first date, the guy upped his height by six inches, which isn’t really fudging on your online dating profile, it’s just flat-out lying. And while I know how tall a dude is shouldn’t affect my taste too much — it really does. Maybe it’s my own personal hangup or my need to feel small and protected around someone I’m dating, but it’s not something I’ve been able to compromise. I prefer 5’10” and above, but if I met the man I’d been waiting for and he was 5’9″ — I betcha I could get over it. This particular guy arrived before me and was already sitting down, so I didn’t know his 6’0″ claim wasn’t true until after the drinks had been drank and the bites had been nibbled, and we stood up to leave that I realized his very white lie. I wasn’t wearing heels and at 5’4″, he wasn’t even a head above me. The conversation hadn’t been intriguing enough to entice me for another date and his shortness in character and in height made it easy to respond with, “Let’s be friends!” when he texted the next day. Of course, no response.

The second guy was interesting enough — but mainly because he reminded me of my gay husband, J. He was flamboyant, incredibly social and made some joke about how he psyched his parents out at Christmas one year by saying he may bring a guy home (Red, red flag!). He talked more than I did, insisted on walking me home and didn’t attempt to kiss me goodnight (which I didn’t expect, either) — and still texted the next day. I did the same routine as I did with the first guy and this one quickly stopped contact, too.

The third date was the best of them all — over sushi and some wine, I chatted it up with a friend of a friend. The rapport was fast and clever, the shared glances were subtle and enticing, and I understood why my friend thought we’d get along. However, as I’m prone to picking up on what could be deal-breakers way sooner than I have in past courtships, I noticed that the majority of the conversation wasn’t targeted at me, but about him. He was the classic one-upper (which would be his Mr. title if he actually made it into this blog for more than a paragraph), and by the time the check came and left, I was ready to not compete in the conversation anymore.

The fourth date was my first Match.com date, and I was excited to see how powerful their magical matching brew really is. I showed up earlier and caught up on reading, while waiting for him to arrive. I could tell from the first smile that he was shyer than most men I date. He was looking forward to going to Comic Con, came from a good family and lived on the Upper East Side. (Which frankly when you’re on the West Side, is nearly too much distance to handle.) I was attracted to him and his politeness was overwhelming, but I didn’t feel that thing. I know sparks don’t always fly in the very beginning and they sometimes take time to flicker, but I think you know if the flame can be ignited, even just a little bit, from the start. He walked me to the bus stop and kindly hugged me goodbye. We haven’t spoken since, and I haven’t noticed.

The fifth date was on Saturday, and is still a little too depressing for me to share in vivid detail. What I will say is that I now know that some preferences are set in stone. Like, I don’t care for someone who checks the score of the game — and talks about it — more than once at a dinner table. On the first date. Or someone who gambles or plays pokers… a lot. Or who doesn’t have respect for animals. Or is sexist about the toilet seat. But mostly, if they think voting for Mitt Romney is a vote for women. Nope, not interested. But proud of myself for walking out of a date for the very first time. I have a feeling it surely won’t be the last.

Needless to say, I haven’t really found someone I’m interested in, even after making a whole new commitment to putting myself out there. I always try to find the lesson in everything — the silver lining that will make it all make sense, that will make it all seem part of a grand scheme, or some predetermined fate that I can’t even begin to visualize yet. But really the only thing I’ve become convinced of the past month is…

…dating can suck. It can honestly, really, really suck.

It’s constant disappointment. It’s something being off even if you’re not quite sure what that something is. It’s trying to avoid the wolf underneath the sheep, and to find the sheep that’s hidden by your mesmerization with the wolf. It’s hoping for a someone you’re not entitled to meet just because you’re you. It’s a lot of scheduling and work, compromising and wondering when it’s all going to fall into place. Frankly, it’s so exhausting, I’m tired of writing about it — but…

…I still want to do it.

Even if five not-so-great dates turn into hundreds of bad dates. Even if I have to endure Republicans and receding hairlines, guys who are in denial about their height, ones who aren’t out of the closet yet. Even if I have to meet all of the very, very wrong guys that aren’t a great fit for me — I’d rather do it. I’d rather suffer through and keep going. Keep dating.

Because you can’t find the right one if you don’t know how to spot a bad one. And you can’t get what you want if you refuse to go after it. Or to let it go after you. You can’t have your heart feel those many wondrous things it longs to feel if you don’t open it wide enough to let someone touch it.  To capture it.

And even though it would be so lovely, you can’t skip the sucky first dates if you ever intend to find a guy who you can’t wait to go on a second date with. Or a third. Or five. Or many, many more…

And Then I Found Love

It was March 16 — and I was having one of those terrible, horrible, very bad, no good days.

It started with a lack of hot water in my apartment for like the 100th time  (sadly, only a slight exaggeration), which resulted in playing chicken with the shower head until I was at least somewhat clean. From there, it only went downhill: the train was late, the weather was depressing, the line at Starbucks was way too long for me to make it to work on time, and as it always does, the course of negative events left me feeling less than 100 percent. Midway through the day while eating the snack-size Lean Cuisine that I somehow manage to consider lunch, something else popped up to make what was a crappy day, completely shot to hell.

He emailed me.

And for whatever reason, even in my near-crazy state, I decided the logical thing to do was to read it. Then and there, on the spot, while chewing highly processed food that I didn’t care for. The sentences weren’t important, nor the sentiment, but the feeling I had my stomach — and in my heart — was. Moving it to trash doesn’t make it any less significant, but it at least gets it out of plain sight, or at least, I thought so anyway. But with the swift deletion, I started to feel them inch their way up, fighting to let out the crisis I felt I was facing. My warmest organ started to burn, signaling it was time to make a b-line for the bathroom where I could exhale in semi-private.

Standing in the stall, counting to ten over and over, looking up to the fluorescent lights, feeling the salty, achy drops form in the corner of my eyes, I got angry. Not for the first time and certainly not for the last in this ordeal, but for the first time, it felt real. I thought about the six months I had wasted communicating when I knew I shouldn’t, the few months I spent going back to what I knew was wrong, and most of all, for trying to be so strong and really, being nothing but weak. Sure, I forgave myself (and luckily my awesome friends did too), but knowing I needed to focus my energy on positive things, like my great job, I decided that it was really, truly time to move the f*** on.

I’m not sure why that particular afternoon meant so much to me — it wasn’t any different or worse than other days I spent attempting to let go of Mr. Possibility. I probably still Gchatted the regulars expressing my frustration and he obviously still made an effort to talk to me, as he did for such a long time. And if I’m honest, even here-and-there now. But in that brief thirty-minute span where my lunch break turned into the moving-on-moment, it clicked in a way it hadn’t before. Maybe I saw that regardless of how much time passes or how many tears I waste, it’s still impossible to make something out of nothing. Or that some sorts of love and relationships simply aren’t meant to last forever, and that’s okay. Perhaps it was just that I finally figured out I wanted more – I truly deserved more – and I wouldn’t get any closer to the best kind of love if I kept holding onto to the hope that mostly-bad could turn into kinda-good.

And so, I did what I always do when I set my mind to getting over someone: I started frantically dating. I signed up for two dating sites, tried to make my profile sound like myself (though, it rarely does), and accepted three or four after work drink invitations. I smiled and flirted, and had meaningless conversations with men who now I can’t remember their names. I didn’t find anyone appealing or entertaining enough to continue to a second date, and I found myself a week later, sitting on Gchat complaining to K about the stress of trying to rebound and how much dating felt like some cursed chore I really didn’t want to do.

So don’t date.

Her response was how much of her advice is — to the point, realistic, mature and taken from the wisdom she’s gained from many more experiences than me. I started to counter her argument, stating I tried that in college and decided placing rules on myself wasn’t healthy and that I never lived up to the promises anyway. I’d be 20 days in when I said I’d wait 60 and give in to some guy I worked up into my head to be the guy. He never was and I only became more disappointed in dating, and worse, in myself. She then, with careful words and gentle encouragement, convinced me that because it was my decision — regardless if I changed my mind later or not — giving myself a break from the whole scene, the intolerable exhaustion (especially in this city!) would make me hopeful…and less bitter.

Ouch.

It hurt to see those words in black-and-white and it stung even deeper to feel it in my heart. Mr. Possibility hadn’t turned me totally sour, I had swallowed that pill all on my own — allowing destructive, damning mantras to become my normal, instead of the cheery, optimistic phrases I usually live by and post around my bedroom walls.

And so, I took K’s advice and set a time frame — from March 23 until May 31, I’d be single. Like really, completely, refusing-to-go-on-one date single. I would be by myself and I would do what I needed to do the most: heal and forgive. Myself, Mr. Possibility, New York and love itself.

Today, on June 7, I’m happy to announce that I did it: no dating, no falling in love with strangers, no making random glances into advances on the subway, no anything. I went to and returned from Puerto Rico, welcoming the world of adventure that awaited me there. I found the peace I had been needing from Mr. Possibility by realizing that somethings really don’t change, but I can, even if he can’t. I stayed out later than I usually did and felt comfortable calling it a night a bit earlier than my friends. I showed my beautiful mother the city I love, ending the last evening by running through an open fire hydrant on my street, and savored every tone, every pitch in her laugh, wishing I could capture it for whenever I feel alone in this big place I adore. I started to accept that maybe, I’m never going to be a size two again, but size six looks pretty good on me. I had heart-to-hearts with my friends and dove into the work that fulfills and excites me.

And then, out of nowhere, without any warning at all, I found love. Real, powerful, all-consuming, can’t-live-without-you love.

No, not with the first guy I went out with on June 1 (he was actually rather awful). I don’t intend to find it with the dates I have lined up next week — but instead, I fell in love with myself. With my life here, with the people and the experiences that have made up the sum of all of my parts.

K was right — I needed time to put dating totally out of the picture so I could see that at the center of it all, there is me. There is the hope I’ve always believed in. And most importantly, there is love.