Friday, May 30, 2014

My Own Murtaugh List

There comes a time in your mid- to late twenties when you realize that you can no longer stay out until two and survive on six hours of sleep as you once did in college. Dancing madly for hours to the sweet, sweet 80s sound of the Spazmatics takes its toll; ergo, today's post will be postponed until Monday. How to Lose a Girl will return to its regularly scheduled programming the following Friday.
E (who is getting too old for this shh)

Friday, May 23, 2014

That Star-Spangled Man with a Plan

Look at how the women fawn over him! 
Brace yourselves, dear readers, because I am about to drop some knowledge. Are you ready? Here it goes.

First dates are all about making a good first impression. There is only so much you can get to know about a person over the course of a couple of hours, so in my opinion, the point of a first date is to intrigue the other person enough so that he or she would like to see you again.

Boom. Was your mind sufficiently blown? The goal of a first date is to get a second date? I NEVER WOULD HAVE GUESSED.

Sidebar: The goal of a second date is to get a third, by the way. I’d say this cycle continues until about date five, at which point you’ve certainly established if there’s any chemistry and hopefully have gotten a decent enough sketch of one another’s personalities to determine compatibility, at which point it’s either “Yay! We’re dating!” or “Erm, better not.”

The goal of a first date might be easy to discern, but what’s hard is working out how to achieve it—how do you impress someone enough that he or she might want to see you again?

If you only ever watched romantic comedies for dating advice, you’d probably think that a Big Romantic Gesture is the only way to go. And perhaps for some women (and men), it would be; however, despite what you might think, neither I nor really any other lady with whom I’m acquainted requires a coat thrown over a puddle in the name of chivalry or a boombox hoisted over head, blasting Peter Gabriel.

Sidebar: Even though “In Your Eyes” is totally my jam.

In my favorite John Hughes movie, Some Kind of Wonderful, the main character, Keith, played by a delicious, young Eric Stoltz, plans a crazily elaborate first date with the most popular girl in school, Amanda Jones.

Sidebar: Amanda Jones—definitely no minor-leaguer who would be swept off her feet by the touch of his amateur lips—God, I love this scene. If you haven’t seen this movie before, drop what you’re doing and rent it—what? It’s not on Netflix OR Amazon Instant? That is soooo disappointing.

The date involves (aside from a standard fancy dinner) his best friend, Watts, playing chauffeur all night, and breaking into an amphitheater and later a museum where Keith has temporarily installed a portrait of Amanda that he drew himself, as well as a pair of diamond earring purchased with money from Keith’s college fund. All of these things went over about as well as you'd expect them to.

I remember the first time I watched it (in a class on marriage, of all things), I thought that Keith was adorable, but also a little creepy, what with the stalker drawing and expensive gifts. The execution was way too much, but he did do one thing right: as insane and extravagant as his plan was, he did still have a PLAN. Not only did he have a plan, but it was also one that required no small amount of forethought on his part.  

And for me, that’s the number one way to impress me on a first date—showing forethought. I don’t need flowers, or chocolates, or a $100 dinner. I certainly don’t need jewelry. But it absolutely kills me (in the best possible way), when a guy I’m going out with clearly put some thought into our evening together and didn’t show up at my door with nothing more than the question, “Soo…what do you wanna do tonight?” Ugh.

One of the best dates I’ve been on was with a guy I went out with last summer. It was basically a blind date, set up by my brother-in-law who worked with the gentleman in question. My BiL didn’t tell me much ahead of time about Phillip other than a cursory, “He’s a single, employed Aggie Catholic—what more do you want?”

Sidebar: Not much more, actually. That’s pretty much the dream, amirite?

I assume Phillip got the same kind of abbreviated biography about me, so neither of us went into the date knowing what to expect of the other.

Phillip first impressed me with his willingness to pick me up at my sister’s house where I was staying for the weekend—it was out of his way, and he had to contend with not only my brother-in-law who has a bachelor’s degree in winding people up, but also my wedding-obsessed niece and nephew who would naturally assume that this young man was here to marry me so I might be Maiden Aunt Sissy no more, which is not intimidating or awkward at ALL.

Phillip handled my brother-in-law’s teasing and niece and nephew’s sweetly embarrassing questions with aplomb. What was even better was once we finally made it out to the car, I found out he had researched not one, not two, but three options for drinks. All were slightly different—a tapas bar, a charity saloon (so cool!), and a gastropub—and all were within walking distance of one another, so if one place wasn’t to our liking, we could try someplace else.

It was clear that he even though he didn’t know much about me, he had spent some time thinking about what might be fun to do, and I was so appreciative of his attention to detail. Each choice was unique to the city and offered a slightly different mood, and it was great to be able to have some actual options from which to choose. Phillip showed up prepared, and that was awesome. I had a great time that night, and I hope he did too, and had we lived in the same state (and had I sufficiently impressed him enough to ask me out again), I definitely would have gone on a second date with him. 

This advice isn’t limited to just guys planning dates, or even girls planning dates. We as people in general like to feel special, and someone taking the time out of his or her day to put together a plan—whether it’s a romantic twilight picnic date at Miller Outdoor Theater or a Sunday brunch at your bestie’s favorite restaurant to celebrate a new job or a fly fishing trip with your dad just because or remembering to send a note to someone going through a rough patch—is bound to make whomever it is you’re treating feel important. And that’s something that we can, all of us, learn to be better at doing.

Friday, May 16, 2014

...Don't I Know You? look familiar...
Have you ever noticed that right after you buy a new car, you start seeing that same car everywhere? I bought a little Honda Civic a few years ago and was totally weirded out by the sheer number of sporty “pewter” two-doors I saw flying down the highways and byways of southern Texas soon after I signed the dotted line. I guess there's something about dropping thousands of dollars on a thing that makes you hyper-aware of its existence in the world.

Online dating has a similar phenomenon, especially if you are on one of the smaller, niche sites. I’ve been on Catholic Match three times—a month here, six months there—and I've noticed you tend to see the same people over and over again. Sometimes they’re sending you message after unwanted message, sometimes you’re the one staring longingly at their profile picture (which naturally includes them and a small child—“That’s my adorable niece in my profile pic, in case you’re wondering!” they clarify in earnest—clearly someone has been spreading around that viewing men with babies wears down a woman’s steely resolve until her heart is 75% effaced, and she might consider going out with a guy even though he has a hint of a rat tail), wishing they would message you back.

On a night when Mars was bright, just before I moved to the quasi-frozen North, I took a little turn about Ye Olde Catholic Match to see what kind of prospects T-Town offered me.

Sidebar: By the way, every time I re-open my account, I end up having to write a new “About Me,” a task that could be used as a punitive measure for certain crimes against humanity. Few things are more awkward and painful than trying to accurately describe oneself in 500 words or less. I am large, I contain multitudes, dammit!

That was the first time I saw Clay’s profile. He was cute doctor, and if memory serves (as it sometimes does), we exchanged a few messages before I got busy with the whole moving saga and deleted my account.

A few months after I’d loaded up all of my worldly possessions and bid friends and family a tearful goodbye, I was finally settled up in Tulsa. Pictures were hung on the walls, my classroom was somewhat organized to my liking (though I didn’t get my awesome life-sized cutout of Ten until the next year—my students constantly break my heart when they ask who the six-foot tall creeper judging them in the corner is), and I started trying to carve out for myself something that looked like a social life.

Which is how I found myself at the local edition of Theology on Tap with a few friends. I have absolutely no recollection of what was discussed that night, but at some point during the proceedings, a guy came and sat in the empty chair next to me. Eager to make new friends, I struck up a conversation and found out the following:

Name: Clay
Occupation: cute doctor
Niece: adorable
Face: …eerily familiar

We spoke for twenty minutes before I finally put two and two together. I immediately grabbed my friend Jennie and dragged her into the bathroom for an emergency powwow.

Me: That guy—
J: He’s cute!
Me: I know him.
J: What?
Me: I mean, I kind of know him.
J: How do you “kind of” know him?
Me: We talked online.
J: Online?
Me: Yeah. Do you think he remembers me?
J: No idea.
Me: Do I say something? It seems too late to say something. I’m not going to say something.
Swift dissolution in to giggles.

So I returned to the table and engaged in uncomfortable conversation with Clay, unsure if he knew that I knew or if he even had a clue. What’s a girl to do?

Sidebar: Rhyme. The answer is rhyme. Obviously.

In December, I threw a Christmas party with my roommate. Madeleine, who was much better at carving out a social life for herself than I, had met lots of young Catholics in town, so the party mostly consisted of her friends. I was in hostess mode, busily whipping up something delicious in the kitchen, when who walks into my house, a bottle of Jim Beam in tow?

A) Will Ferrell, dressed in his full Buddy the Elf costume
B) St. Nicolas, the big man himself
C) Clay, the cute doctor

Sidebar: C. The answer is C because that is the logic of my life. Also, St. Nicolas is buried in Venice, and Will Ferrell has much better things to do than crash my Ugly Christmas Sweater party, no matter how sweet our homemade photo booth was.

I stayed in the kitchen, making uncomfortable conversation as I attempted once again to ferret out the whole “Does he know that I know he knows—or does he even know?” situation, analyzing each eye twitch for a hidden double meaning, until another totally random person from my past texted me, and Clay returned to the living room while I stayed in the kitchen and hid, drinking mulled cider spiked with a healthy glug of bourbon.

A month or two after that, my friend Rachel got it in her mind to set me up. Her first choice? Clay, the cute doctor she knew from med school.

Was this real life?

Clay continues to crop up in random places around town, catching me off guard every time. To this day, I have no idea if he remembers me as the flaky girl from Catholic Match who never returned his message or just as the super awkward girl who is noticeably twitchy around him for no discernible reason.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Chemical Inactions and the Date-Time Continuum

One of the most obviously difficult aspects of online dating is the issue of chemistry. Without a screen and the…shall we say forgiving response time texting affords acting as intermediaries (I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again—anyone can be clever if given five minutes to google), and with the presence of pheromones, chemistry—or the lack thereof—is usually readily apparent in person.

However, things get a little murkier when you take that dance online. Too often, I’ve felt an initial spark (witty banter is my catnip), that failed to kindle in person, and sometimes fizzled out before a real life date could even take place. That’s probably why most of those who have success in online dating start with a large pool of potentials—however, I tend to pick one person with whom I’ll conversate exclusively for a number of weeks before finally meeting him for drinks or a disappointing dinner, quickly (sometimes with reason, sometimes without) lose interest, and then delete my account. This cycle will repeat the next time Venus is in retrograde, or it’s the week before Valentine’s Day and I find myself once again without anyone but myself to buy me chocolate and a hideously lurid bear that was likely born in a Honduran sweat shop. The odds are never in my favor.

So after (mis)reading the signs from Facebook’s great Server in the Sky that HowAboutWe could potentially lead me to He Who Has Not Yet Been Named, I followed my formula: I found one guy, Paul, whose date suggestion involved neither binge drinking nor violating international laws but was still interesting enough to catch my eye (though apparently not interesting enough for me to remember what it was eight months later). I sent him a message and then waited with bated breath for his reply. In this case, messaging transitioned quickly to texting, and even a phone call or two.

Sidebar: I’m convinced that this fact alone made Paul something of a unicorn in the online dating scene—a magical yet rare creature that allows you to hear the sound of his voice before subjecting you to the inevitable awkwardness of your first meeting.

Before too long, I was giddily getting ready for a drinks date with a guy who, according to his profile at least, was tall enough that I could wear five inch wedges without worrying about deflating anyone’s sense of manhood.

And we actually had a pretty great date, at least as far as first dates go. I got there first and perched myself daintily on a barstool. He didn’t keep me waiting and arrived soon thereafter, more bearded but no less towering than he appeared in his profile picture.

He did, however, bear a striking resemblance to a friend of mine. A friend on whom I may have had a tiny crush several years prior and who at the time was preparing to become a Man in Black—no not that kind, this kind.

I’ve touched on the rabid incest that took place within my group of college friends before, and so the uncanny physical similarities—he didn’t just look like my friend, he sounded like him, had the same mannerisms, and was possibly his long-lost twin—between Paul and Sean made me feel a bit…weird. He also did this bizarre thing where he would push his lips out, squint, and nod emphatically in agreement with something I had just said—Sean, for the record, has been known on occasion to make a similar face, although always in jest. With Paul though, I couldn’t tell if the expression was sincere in its vigor or if he was making fun of me. 

Odd facial contortions aside, we still managed to talk for hours, all but closing the bar where we met. He walked me to my car, and even though I didn't exactly feel that zsa zsa zsu, I was prepared to kiss him, but instead he went for a hybrid hug-handshake—a peculiar choice following his gallant gesture, but one I went with.

Unfortunately, I tend to have remarkably poor timing when it comes to relationships (shocking!), and so this date came right before I went out of town for a glorious and heartbreaking weekend of football. Then Paul was out of town. Then I was swamped with papers, had a League commitment, and was out of town again. However, before our game of scheduling tag reached epic proportions, Paul called me up and asked if I wanted to go to a concert with him—the catch was that the concert was four weeks away. Against my better judgment, and breaking another one of Barney’s rules (You never make plans with a guy further in the future longer than the time you've been going out), I agreed. And then before I knew it, two and a half weeks had gone by and not only had I not seen Paul, I’d barely spoken to him. 

(Please excuse my jury-rigged video capturing--how was this not already on YouTube?)

Panicked, I quickly arranged a brunch date for the following Saturday. The morning dawned cold and decidedly damp and my bed was perhaps the most warm and comfortable it has ever been; the morning was tailor-made for rereading The Thirteenth Tale and drinking mug after mug of Earl Grey while snuggled under the covers. Hopeful, I texted Paul to see if he wouldn’t rather postpone our date in light of the gale-force winds, leaving me to my book and hot tea, but Paul refused to let our plans get rained out. Longingly eying my cozy duvet and pile of pillows, I dragged myself out of my room and into the bathroom to get ready.

Sidebar: If I’m being honest, I’m not sure my preparations included a shower. I’m not proud.

Brunch was okay, but honestly, it was already over for poor Paul. Through no real fault of his own, the lack of momentum after our promising first date killed my initial interest, lulling me into a state of romantic ennui. Plus, Boise State was playing at home on the screen just to the right of his head and I simply could not. Look. Away.

He talked, I focused most of my concentration on trying to pull my eyes off Dead Smurf Turf, we ate, I paid.

Sidebar: It’s usually not a good sign if I insist on paying on the second date. This means that I have no intention on going on a third date with you, and this is my way of paying you back for dinner.

He walked me to my car, and I clutched my open umbrella, thankful that it prevented tall Paul from attempting to up his game from hug-handshake to a more urbane, double-cheek kiss while he cluelessly asked if I wanted to come to his place for dinner the next day.

I replied automatically: I didn’t…I had church?

Sidebar: I did actually go to church that night, so not a lie, just convenient scheduling. Plus, Paul was still a near-stranger, and I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of being alone with him at his house.

Later that week, I contracted some kind of hideous mini-cold—perhaps I caught it while standing out in the rain that weekend, but more likely some darling germy teenager infected me at work. The concert was still a few days away, but the forecast for the weekend included more freezing rain, and the last thing I wanted to do was pretend to be excited about Josh Abbott Band when I felt so icky. 

I texted my sister for advice—she rightly told me I couldn’t cancel outright—tickets, after all, had been bought—but I could tell him that I’d been sick and didn’t know if an alfresco outing (Paul wanted to hit up the carnival beforehand) would be wise. So I gave him the option to ditch me for someone who could do both things—the outdoor fair and the indoor concert.

Paul gave me the out, which I took gratefully.

Then he replied, “No worries. I’d prefer not getting sick from making out afterwards anyways ;)”

You and me both, Paul. You and me both.

So what’s the moral of this story? I teased last week that Paul only seemed normal, but he probably was—though I doubt his parting words to me inspired the reaction he intended. No, what I took away from this dating interlude was that for being a despicable human being much of the time (and a fictional one always), Barney Stinson’s rules for life are usually pretty on-point, and so if ever I find myself once more on the receiving end of an invitation from a man I've only been out with once that requires me to flip several pages in my datebook, I believe I will politely pass in case the relationship doesn't last without the zsa zsa zsu. 

//image via Pinterest//

Friday, May 2, 2014

When Facebook Knows You Better Than You Know Yourself

I’m oftentimes amazed how well the apps in my life know me. Google can nearly always autocomplete my search thought, Siri can sometimes autocorrect accurately (though, really, “hahahags” was a typo and oh em gee, it was ONE TIME). Netflix knew for, like, two years that I would become obsessed with and consume in an embarrassingly short amount of time love Sherlock, and so kept it consistently in my suggested picks until the promise of Benedict Cumberbatch’s cheekbones finally wore me down.

Sidebar: Scientists have actually discovered a substance that is harder than diamonds, and it is located on BBatch’s face. True story.

I am not generally a superstitious person, but I do occasionally subscribe to the notion of SIGNS. An unexpected job offer is a sign I should move back 500 miles to my other hometown. A Lord of the Rings marathon on TV is a sign I should transition from half-hermit to full-hermit mode, and also I should really try that recipe for lembas that I pinned two years ago. My pint of Haagen Dazs melting prematurely is a sign I should just eat the whole thing. No one likes refrozen ice cream melt. No one.

So when, over the course of a week, I saw the same ad for about twenty times as I was scrolling down Facebook, I’ll admit it—I gave pause.

The little ad that sucked me in

“Could this be it?” I wondered. “This seems like the slacker version of a real dating website—perhaps my future husband has been waiting for me here the whole time!”

Sidebar: There is actually a lazier dating app than HowAboutWe and it is called Tinder. Don’t worry. That’s coming later.

The basic premise of HowAboutWe is this: you create a fairly simple profile (no 5,000 match points survey to fill out here—I’m looking at you, eHarmony), and then post date suggestions. I think one of the first ones I posted was “How about we meet up for brats and beer?”—a suggestion I felt was both creative and broadcast an irresistible girl next-door vibe. You can search other people’s date suggestions on the site, and send them a message if you’re interested. And why wouldn’t you be? Here’s a sampling of the date ideas of some of the quality men found in my city:

“How about we…violate the Geneva convention?”
Yes, let’s waterboard some suspected terrorists. That sounds both charming and romantic.

“How about we…ving a date?”
Ving? I’m terrified this is some cool new slang with which I’m unfamiliar. Is it like a vine? Is vine a verb now?

“How about we…im here to find that one so dont bull @#$% me.”
You sir, sound like you come with absolutely no baggage whatsoever. Sign. Me. UP.

“How about we…Grab some drinks and if chemistry is good we come back and I give you an amazing foot massage and cuddle to a movie”
I don’t know what it is about this rash of strangers on the Internet offering foot massages to prospective dates. Do these men really think that all a woman wants is to be awkwardly caressed by the random guy who just bought them dinner at Cheesecake Factory? Since he puts it out there, are we to expect that it’s coming and get a pedicure? Is this allegedly amazing foot massage offer good for all kinds of feet, or is it saved only for toes clean and dainty? Does he have references? So many questions…

“How about we…Smoke some KB, throw back some shots of PatrĂ³n and see what happens next...”
Oh, yes. Let’s. Casual drug use and binge drinking. Classic date idea!

So yeah—it was not a sign; the Facebook advertising algorithm had clearly logged the number of times I’ve used the hashtag forever alone and was trying to do me a solid.

Sidebar: They are also constantly suggesting I try something called Zoosk, a website with which I am passingly familiar from their recent Hulu commercial that featured a larger-than-life, sentient plush heart. It was as weird as it sounds.

I did, however, manage to find one guy during my stint on HowAboutWe that seemed normal. Seemed.

***How to Lose a Girl will be posting new stories on Fridays at 12 PM. Start your weekend off right by laughing at my dating ineptitude!