why leaving the “perfect” person isn’t crazy/why i hate love actually

i want to start this blog by saying one of my favorite words:

fuck!

one, because i haven’t written, let alone published a post in three months, and two, because this particular post has been the hardest i’ve ever had to write. it might be because i’m worried about offending people. when you set out to shit on such a gooey movie like love actually, you’re bound to infuriate pretty much everyone.

the idea for this post began two weeks ago while i was visiting my friend in orange county, california, a place where people actually say shit like right on and gnarly! and my pronunciation of the word water sorely sticks out.

wor-ter.

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this is me on the couch-bed sleeping with my friend’s dog.

i sat on her couch/my bed for the weekend and tapped a bunch of random notes on my phone’s notepad. they looked something like this:

movies, reaching for the same bottle of wine

jerry seinfeld dating himself (janeane garofalo)

relationship “résumés”

compatibility vs. boredom

eharmony

cracking knuckles

opposites attract?

and then we were sitting in a breakfast spot called the old vine café, talking about what we always talk about: relationships. we generally take a hacksaw to them and their origins, trying to figure out why most pairings slacken, the honeymoon phase is just that, and boredom can delicately wind itself into our lives in such a sickening, slow way that we don’t realize it’s there until we have been nearly strangled.

i remember a time not long ago when i had vivid daydreams in the aisles of grocery stores and subway cars, and between the shelves of bookstores. i’d think about what it would be like to meet someone in places like these. maybe we would both reach for the last unsweetened coconut almond milk. or we’d both be reading a young adult book no one else had ever heard of, our eyes catching as we finished the page we were on. or we’d simultaneously go to touch a book like goodnight moon, and the first moment we’d both had it read to us would play like a vhs tape in our heads.

i took to heart the compatibility ratings on match, okcupid, and e-harmony. and when i messaged men who i thought i couldn’t go wrong with—

he also likes tennis and lifting weights. he speaks spanish too! and, like you, he’s an only child with the same birth month!

—i took pains in writing first messages and responses, only to be disappointed many times over.

lots of women, and men, too, to be honest, live their lives as if love will—and should—be found and cultured within minutes in a modern fairy-tale setting (i.e., serendipitously in an a&p, the adult equivalent to a child finding a key to a magic kingdom in a clichéd chapter book). we also take common interests and the coincidences of having the same “favorites,” and mistake them for chemistry.

you like unsweetened coconut almond milk too?!

compatibility, sure. chemistry, not necessarily.

for the record, i learned how to crack my knuckles when i was ten because the guy i liked cracked his. i thought having this in common would make him like me. i am sad to admit this.

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in the changing room at urban outfitters

at the end of the day, you can have the same cultural background, religion, political ideology, and fiscal opinions, love red wine but hate white, and be obsessed with curb your enthusiasm, but it can still equal not right. and many people, when they realize this, are dumbfounded. their mate, on paper, is perfect for them. you’d be a 100-percent match in nearly every how compatible are you? relationship quiz in cosmo magazine. you guys just makes sense! your families get along really well! you both like parrots (for whatever reason)! you think ugly christmas sweater parties are stupid and passé! you both think using a word like passé isn’t at all pretentious! he’s a really great guy! he treats you like gold! he knows how to cook and you can’t scramble eggs!

relationships, my friend and i have hypothesized, successful ones, anyway, are less about compatibility and more about not getting bored.

so you’re all like, isn’t that uppity of you to think you know what’s a successful relationship and what isn’t!

probably. so i’ll let this quote from the huffington post online say it instead:

“a successful relationship is where the honeymoon period continues to snowball, not where the honeymoon is but a fond memory.”

one night when i was in college, i was in a car driven by our designated driver and a friend’s then-boyfriend/now husband, and we’d just left one of the two bars worth going to within a five-mile radius of our college. the girl and my other friend, plus another girl (i’ll call her acquaintance for accuracy’s sake) were also in the car, and acquaintance was knocking a girl whom a guy she liked had “chosen” instead of her when the lights had gone up after last call. she was spewing all kinds of nonsense that would have caused a person listening but who hadn’t met the target to think this girl had three eyes and the personality of a baby jellyfish. such ridicule included the following types of statements (types because i was a bit too drunk to remember specifics):

  • “but we both love the mets! she doesn’t even like baseball!”
  • “she’s cute but she’s not that cute”
  • “doesn’t she have kind of a funny-looking [insert arbitrary body part]?”
  • “and we’re both poly-sci majors!”

this rant went on for a mile or so, and while my two friends and i stuffed our mouths with quikchek sandwiches as both a method of distraction and to prevent ourselves from yelling, “shut the fuck up!” my friend’s then-boyfriend finally snapped. at a red light, he didn’t even bother to turn around. he simply said in a calm, rational voice: “do you ever think that maybe he just really likes her?”

acquaintance stopped mid-insult and unwrapped her quikchek sandwich, joining us in food shoveling and quiet reverie.

i was twenty-one. and at that time, my ideal mate would think dashboard confessional wasn’t just for moody high-schoolers; would believe the yankees, steroids and money-grubbing aside, were the greatest baseball team of all time; and would be italian and from new jersey—otherwise you just wouldn’t fuckin’ get it. i looked at guys i liked who chose girls who weren’t, in my opinion, as good of a “match” as i was, and thought, i don’t get it. we’d be perfect together.

which is also what people in failing relationships often say to themselves when seemingly they inexplicably want to leave their significant others.

i don’t get it. we’re perfect together. what’s wrong with me?

nothing is wrong with you.

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a california sunset

with regard to love actually, had i seen it when it came out, when i was twenty-one, i would have adored it. i’d have cried and found myself wishing i could fall in love with someone who couldn’t even speak my language. or someone who i’d never spoken to at all! (the prime minster and his housekeeper—really?) the only good part about the movie is emma thompson.

that’s it.

on christmas day i’ll be with my atheist boyfriend, plus his family and jewish videographer, watching home alone, actually.

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“the only sea i saw / was the seesaw sea / with you riding on it. / lie down, lie easy.”*

back in may, i was in vegas with one of my best friends, as well her husband and another couple who they both knew but who i had met only a day before. the five of us were standing in the taxi line outside encore, and the little bitch of a queue had snaked around the ropes about five times, as the club had just closed and everyone was buzzed and grumpy and horny and ready to go home. for some reason (please don’t ask me, because i don’t know why), i had decided earlier that day to start counting random things i saw in the voice of, who else, the count from sesame street.

thecount

for example:

one, two, three drunk idiots!

ah, ah, ah, ah.

one old lady blowing her retirement on slots!

ah, ah, ah, ah.

 

it was at the time (as well as in my head at this moment) hilarious.

in vegas at around three a.m., if not earlier, in any given venue that serves alcohol, girls not accustomed to wearing sky-high heels are drunk, their feet are swollen, and their formerly sexy-looking platforms have ended up as spiky stumps in their hands. so while we were waiting in line, i started counting girls sans heels. . . .

one, two, three shoeless sluts! ah, ah, ah, ah.

now, i don’t like the word slut, not really, but it worked for the joke and anyone who knows me would have been aware that i was having a little harmless fun. but my best friend’s friend, the female half of the couple i had essentially just met, nodded toward the girl in front of us (shoeless!) and then looked at my friend and whispered, “wait, she knows that girl right there isn’t wearing—”

and my friend simply replied, “yeah . . . kaitlin doesn’t really . . . yeah.”

so i’ve now established that i have no filter. and apparently a severe lack of tact.

at least in person.

because usually i keep it pretty pg for my posts, aside from a few fucks here and there. but today i’ve decided that i don’t fucking feel like keeping it pg!

(and, for the record, that girl in line was sucking face with a large-muscled, overly tanned dude and was so intoxicated, she hardly could have associated her lack of shoes with my barefoot transylvanian muppet parody.)

i have a friend who recently broke up with her boyfriend of insert long, long time that makes most people gasp, and who has been going on a bit of a rampage since. drinking, blackouts, a sprinkle of what she deems promiscuity thrown in there, losing important things like licenses . . . you know, all sorts of responsible shit.

i have become her go-to for advice and reassurance (and i’m more than happy to be, of course), because i went through a similar shitstorm post-breakup, and she knows this because she had the unfortunate role of being my friend during this time. i made lots of “interesting” decisions that caused most people in my life both to worry about me and/or think i was kind of an asshole with no morals.

recently this friend told me that she feels like a whore, getting drunk and hooking up with guys, and as this was via text, i wrote back:

why?!

dual punctuation is acceptable in text messaging but pretty much nowhere else. the end.

she said that she gave some guy (who she has seen several times, mind you) a blow job.

ever basking in my slutty glory, i wrote back: that’s it?

then she pinged me some self-hating comments and finally, i’m just not that type of girl.

i wondered, then, what this means: that type of girl.

because to many, you’re either a saint or a sinner. and if you’re a woman, you have sex with no one, one person, or a few people—or you have sex with a lot of people. an in-between exists, but it’s not generally cited when it comes to making sweeping generalizations and stereotypes.

if you’re finding this hard to believe, then i literally can’t even with you right now.

so i’d call myself the s and w words back in the day too, when i went from loyal lover to bed-hopper, and sometimes my response to doing something i deemed too hasty and not well-thought-out was to drink some vodka and eat peanut butter and cry about what a piece of filth i’d let myself become. sometimes i’d just eat ten clif bars, or however many it took until i felt like throwing up.

if i binge, i nearly always binge on clif bars, and any type of clif bar will do. i do not know why.

men are generally taught it’s cool, and expected, to bed binders full of women, and during coitus rehashing, a male will go stifler on his friend in a ceremony of congrats. i don’t necessarily agree with the idea of sex as a prize or a triumph, but i do think that sex, and having it, is a good thing. for both sexes.

i have female friends who’ve never had an orgasm, be it via masturbation or via someone else. and it’s not because they don’t want one, but because they can’t relax or they’re self-conscious. or they don’t know how. they have sex because they’re drunk or lonely or sad or because, at this point, after however many, why the hell not? i’m for why the hell not? as long as it’s safe and fun. if both those factors don’t exist, however, it all just makes me sad.

i don’t think i have to say that i don’t have any male friends with this problem.

and it is a problem.

so after my friend bashed herself as a sexual transgressor, i sent her this text:

you are used to being the girl with one guy, and that’s it. and that is fine. this new way is also fine, though. you should be able to act on impulses and do what you want as long as you’re being safe. it’s okay to have sex or near sex. men do it all the time. give yourself permission.

the whole point of this moment in your life, being single, is to figure out what you really want, and unless you talk to and date and hook up with guys, you might not discover what else is out there. there’s more than you think. whore it up a bit, though i don’t think of it like that at all.

i had originally written four exceptionally long-winded diatribe-like paragraphs about sex after i’d retyped the text message above, but after reading them over i was boring even myself, which is always a bad sign. so now i’m going to close (that’s a euphemism for sex) with five paragraphs that are still long, but i hope not long-winded, yawn-worthy, or pedantic.

my friends have told me, since about middle school, that i think like a guy. i used to believe this was a bad thing, that i was wrong to be so forward about sex and my sexual habits. now i’m inclined to believe otherwise. it’s been said that women actually want sex more than men do; we’re just too repressed and programmed to shun it for pleasure’s sake to realize or embrace it.

or maybe we’re worried that some girl speaking in puppet language will judge more than just our shoelessness.

i want, outside of jokes meant to entertain, for us to stop calling ourselves sluts and whores, and to stop feeling guilty for wanting sex and having it. after all, as betty friedan said, “no woman gets an orgasm from shining the kitchen floor.”

so, friends, go have sex. i just did, and it was tops.

 

*dylan thomas (the last line of that poem, by the way, is “let me shipwreck in your thighs.” oh, baby.)

“i have to see a thing a thousand times before i see it once.”*

i was telling someone the other day that somehow i’m always surprised to find mistakes, sometimes egregious mistakes, in a book i’ve been working on when i read it a second time. if i could go through a book a third—or even a fourth—time, this would be ideal, but given that it takes already thirty hours (if not longer) to copyedit a three-hundred-page book, this isn’t realistic. it’s especially difficult to spot errors on the first read if the book is enjoyable because i can get caught up in the story. lucky, and unlucky, for me, i am usually assigned good reading.

but when you read something a second time, and those errors seem to spring up as if out of nowhere, you start to 1. hate yourself—

how did i miss that?—

and 2. hate the book—

well, if you had paid any attention to yourself, any attention at all, i wouldn’t have had to find that error in the first place. you stupid, stupid book.

you’re thinking (and my mom actually said, “aw!” at the above as i read this post to her), the book didn’t do anything! it was the—

now you know why i can’t say that word. though i hope to be one myself, i notice the same kinds of errors in my writing, even after i’ve read it ten times. i can be a stupid, stupid book often.

as i was wondering why the hell i didn’t add a period to the end of a punctuation-less sentence—i had clearly fallen asleep for a second—i remembered that i’d brought a specific book to north carolina, my current location, to reread.

in my personal life, i never reread books (with the exceptions of shiloh and the outsiders, both of which i’ve read so many times, the binding has disintegrated). but this book is one i read two years ago, soon after i’d broken up with my ex-boyfriend. like any starry-eyed girl, i saw myself in the main character, who is essentially given two paths: stick with her stable life, the one with the stable intellectual man and comfy flat in england, or choose the less distinguished man, a traveling drunk, a player of both women and snooker, though a professional of only the latter.

while i’ve loved many, many books, this author’s writing is one for which i would do a series of inhumane things to emulate. any writer who uses a word on nearly every page that i either have to look up or work hard to define in context is both my hero and sworn enemy. i’ve been chided by friends when i’ve used a lesser-known, more obscure word in favor of its go-to synonym, even though i do this simply because i like language, and i like playing with it, and one word is always a better choice than another. it just is.

and maybe in some cases the best, and simultaneously easy, way is to pick the dumbass substitute and not its distinguished cousin. because sometimes it’s far better to say fuck and not dress it up. sometimes fuck is what you need and only fuck will get your point across.

so far, the book (the post-birthday world by lionel shriver) is just as well crafted as i remembered, and a few parts, which i’d obviously forgotten, have pulled at the strings again, though i can’t imagine they’re pulling in the same way they did the first time. it’s funny that i am rereading this in the outer banks, a place i haven’t been to since i was nineteen, and which had been, up until that point, where my parents and i went nearly every summer. days that used to be packed with hours of sun-filled beach, aquarium visits, and lots of family togetherness have been replaced with an hour of beach time, freelance work, and general lounging/writing/reading, my dad going off to play tennis or do a jigsaw puzzle with my uncle, and my mom and aunt going to thrift stores.

(the contention of the freelance work, by the way, has not gone unscathed, and seemingly no one can imagine why i’d be doing work on what is supposed to be a vacation. the facts are: i up and quit my job less than a year ago and can’t afford not to work, and i genuinely like working, and when i’m not, i tend to get jittery and crazy, and only more work or a workout will calm me.)

i started thinking—upon my second reading of the sci-fi young adult novel i’m copyediting, revisiting birthday, and failing to re-create the summers of my childhood—just how important it is to reread, or reevaluate or reassess, everything. no one thinks twice about reassessing his or her property value, but, and i’m included in this mix, few people reread relationships of any kind, be they romantic, platonic, business, or familial.

ah, the errors you find on a second read.

it’s always sort of assumed, if you’re in a relationship with someone (any of the four above makes up a relationship), you’re together and that’s it, and it’s only when you have a fight or a falling out that you sit there, a screwed-up pursed-lip look on your face, and wonder where things went wrong. how two people could go from tight-knit to nothing in an hour or a few weeks or years of impassive drifting.

why didn’t i see the signs? is usually the question we pain ourselves with. of course, it’s difficult to step back from a relationship in the middle (or maybe it’s closer to the end than you think) and prod it. the danger is that we will find something wrong.

it’s like when old people don’t want to go to the doctor because they’re afraid the doctor will “find something.” fucking old people! go to the doctor!

anyway.

rereading the same manuscript in a three-week time period, i’ve spotted errors and inconsistencies. and not only those, i’ve spotted chunks i didn’t appreciate the first go-round, lovely phrases or great dialogue i glazed over. and, as i’m rereading birthday, the visceral reactions are plenty, but i doubt that i two years ago received the same emotions and gained the same lessons i am now. the writing may be the same, but i am not.

sometimes, in life as in books, you can get caught up, so caught up in the story that this whirlwind of emotion and passion takes precedence over the events and details themselves and what they truly are, and what they mean, positive or negative. but as humans, once something sets in our minds, it’s hard to imagine it another way. the job that no longer fulfills us. the marriage that isn’t working. the friendship that had begun to fail from nearly the get-go. it was all so good at first—when did it take a wrong turn?

and then sometimes you realize you’ve managed to grow something beautiful in what started as a pile of shit.

when you’ve had a chance to be away from someone or something, you have time to reflect on him, her, or it. i, for one, can’t reflect if i’m not alone. i liken it to being lost yet continuing to stand in the middle of a crowded intersection, rather than pulling yourself into whatever starbucks is closest and reassessing the situation. once you do, you might reread it as positive. or maybe negative. or maybe you simply conclude that you need to keep an eye on it. that you need not forget to reassess.

the greatest danger is to take anything at face value, and purport that value for years—even with things we can’t change. i’m sure, were someone to find a glaring mistake in the post-birthday world, that the publisher would fix it. largely, though, the work will stay unchanged; it is only the reader, therefore, who changes, and thus, the reader’s assessments, emotions, and conclusions associated with the work. the same principle should be applied to relationships . . . to anything, really. we can never expect a thing to remain constant, especially when we are constantly growing.

to grow together is wonderful, and possible (i hope); but to grow apart is not unlikely. and we can avoid the pitfall of surprise at a failed anything if we continuously look at what’s in front of us for what it truly is at that time, and not at any other.

two years ago i rooted for the snooker player. the womanizer. the bad boy. today, despite knowing the ending, and however foolish it makes me, i find myself still hoping for the same.

 

*thomas wolfe in you can’t go home again

in defense of pickup artists

my boyfriend first told me, in june 2013, that while yes, in a general sense he was a motivational speaker and life coach, his job title actually had another, more specific name:

professional pickup artist

while i’d heard of the term, having heard about it was the extent of my “knowledge.” my ideas of what a pickup artist was came from:

  • the show on vh1 aptly named the pickup artist, which, ironically, my ex-boyfriend and i watched together
  • having heard the term pickup line, which conjured thoughts of one of my male friend’s favorites: how much does a polar bear weigh? enough to break the ice. hi, i’m . . .
  • the book the game by neil strauss, of whose existence and bible-esque cover i vaguely remembered from college

and that was it. so when my boyfriend asked if i knew what it meant to be a professional pickup artist, something i now simply refer to as a pua, both in print and in person, i said, verbatim:

you lie to women and manipulate them into sleeping with you.

so then we talked into the night about his job, about us, and about men and women and society in general. the next day at work i googled this:

how to date a professional pickup artist

shockingly, few relevant results surfaced, and of those, even fewer (semi) positive results popped up. the two non-overt-pua-bashing sites were articles highlighting two well-known puas who had gotten married (one of these couples has since divorced after four years of marriage), and one of the headlines read something to the effect of:

is this girl crazy?

this question has been put in the second person, phrased in a variety of creative ways, and posed to me multiple times since last summer by my family, my friends, coworkers, strangers . . . yeah, okay, let’s just say everyone.

shit, i’ve even directed it at myself a few times, though i haven’t done so recently—until this weekend.

if you’ve seen the news, you probably know that a guy named elliot rodger murdered six people in santa barbara, california. you’ve probably also seen the association made between him and the pua community, particularly that he was on a site called “pua hate,” which is devoted to actively despising the pua industry, believing that it preys upon vulnerable, desperate men. its members do not, however, necessarily hate on the pua philosophy and lifestyle. as a woman, and in particular as a woman who has a serious romantic relationship with a professional pickup artist (no laughing, please—i’m going to be moving across the country to be with him), i felt as if i had to say something about the comments and beliefs that label pua’s as misogynistic, hateful toward women, interested in only sex, etc., etc.

i consider myself to be of above-average intelligence. i also consider myself to be successful, likable, attractive, and worldly. i don’t think i’m a masochist. i don’t think i’m naive or malleable. i wouldn’t define myself as pro-feminist or antifeminist. i would say i’m nontraditional, being that: i’m an atheist, i probably won’t get married, and i don’t work a nine-to-five. but i’m not living in a commune for alternative lifestyles, i don’t sell my lack of religious beliefs door-to-door, and i’m not into whips. or chains. or hot pokers (if that’s a thing; i’m sure it is). taking all this into account, i’d like to think that if something were truly evil or wrong—though both words are defined according to those who define them—i wouldn’t be dating, or in love with, someone whose career centers around a truly evil, wrong thing.

do i like all aspects of pickup? no. do i think that some men take a kernel of pua ideology and blow it out of proportion? of course. do i think people everywhere do this with everything? communism, violent video games, the bible, the second amendment . . . yes. do i think because some unhinged college student with low self-esteem took what he wanted from pickup and used it to blame women for his unhappiness, that pickup, in general, is evil and wrong?

no.

this is not meant to be a glowing defense of pickup artists, and i will never—and i won’t do this with anything, actually—give it my full stamp of approval. i’m too doubtful, and curious, of a person to ever believe wholeheartedly in something. even my relationship—and i love my boyfriend, pua and all, as he says, “more than anyone has ever loved another person. ever.”

my boyfriend isn’t just some guy who practices pickup. he teaches it. his first mentor was the guy on the vh1 show. he appears in the game. he isn’t a random chode, to use pus terminology, who posts on pickup forums, skews the information he’s given, expects women to lift up their skirts for him, and pouts when they don’t. my boyfriend has a degree in mechanical engineering. he’s phenomenal at soccer, he does yoga, and aside from sometimes forgetting to eat, he has the best, most disciplined diet of anyone i know. he’s well read. he’s ambitious. hardworking. determined. loyal to a fault to those in his camp, including me. he takes care of me. he reads my writing and encourages it, and asks me to correct his grammar. he even pays me to write for him. we are in a long-distance relationship, but we talk every day. he tells me i’m beautiful and sexy and smart, none of which are lines. but he almost always thinks he’s right. he can’t multitask. he’s forgetful. we agree on most things, but some of our ideologies, both meaningful and trivial, don’t always line up. he misses more flights than anyone i know. sometimes i think he is wasteful with money. i think he is overworked to the point of exhaustion. i think he needs friends who aren’t pua’s. i wonder how he somehow thinks he’s perfect but also thinks that he constantly needs to improve. he puts two spaces between sentences and doesn’t understand that words like the and to should be lowercase in headlines. getting him to even consider taking time off is a painful struggle.

would i trade him in for someone else? nope.

i’ve watched many times since september, as he takes men out to bars and clubs in various cities, men who are successful and kind but shy and awkward, and helps them to talk to women, gain confidence, and improve themselves as people in general, not simply with respect to women. and i’ve had the pleasure of not just watching my boyfriend coach, but assisting him in doing the same, albeit on a smaller level. to get a thank-you from these men, these (shock!) pickup artists, none of whom have resembled that santa barbara gunman in terms of character or creed, at the end of a long weekend, feels pretty good. i’m happy to help them, because this big positive well outweighs any negatives.

in fact, i believe that my life is far better because of pickup.

i also don’t believe that six people are dead because of it.

“love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.”*

my friend’s polish grandmother, as relayed to us, my group of college buddies, once famously said in her eastern european drawl: “monogamy: it’s not for everybody.”

and then, of course, there’s vince vaughan’s best man character in old school who shakes his head and mutters to the groom, will ferrell, on the altar: “you get one vagina for the rest of your life. real smart, frank. way to work it through.”

oh, boy. so i’m about to talk about monogamy or, more specifically, nonmonogamy (my dad suggested coining a whole new word, nonogamy, but i find this annoying to pronounce and therefore i vetoed it). if i thought my post on telling women to bring porn on first dates was bad, this might be worse. or maybe not.

i’ve been avoiding talking about this topic—even though i’ve been interested and intrigued by it for some time—not so much because i have a very definite opinion and i wish to share it and i’m worried about the backlash, but because i’m not even really sure which way i swing. cue the sexual orientation jokes.

today i was jumping rope on my deck. pre-jumping, i had cued up a handful of songs to last through about twenty minutes of exercise, songs that included such classics as “back that ass up” and “put your ass into it,” mostly for the gluteal motivation. i did add a few recently downloaded tunes (“timber” being one of them, which i’m ashamed to admit to having downloaded at all but am admitting to because i think it’s okay to listen to shitty music if it makes you go faster at whatever you’re doing). cue the sex jokes.

so “back that ass up” had me going at a decent pace, but the newer songs pumped me up more if only for the reason that they’re new. i’m not as familiar with what’s coming next. plus our bodies like new stuff. if you do the same strength-training exercises every week for a year, eventually your muscles say, “this again?” and yawn, stop responding, and stop growing. new clothes are fun too. but wash a shirt once and it’s officially yours, no longer has the department-store-fresh scent, and is bor-ing. new, fun. old, blah. me, tarzan. you, jane.

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a disgustingly rich mutt and his harem of hb’s

i once saw a commercial in which a dog wins the lottery (i know, right? they let dogs play the lottery? i was thinking the same thing), and at the end of the advertisement, the canine, some mutt, is sitting on the backseat of a limo, surrounded by three little white poodles with pink and purple bows in their fluff. you can watch it here if you like. they’re dogs, i know this, but those poodles look happy. they’re with some rich mongrel in the back of a limousine and each one is fine with not being his one and only. and of course the lottery-winning dog is thrilled; he has three bitches to pleasure him. despite my belief that monogamy isn’t the most natural thing, is there really a need to rub it in everyone’s face that men like sex and like it with multiple women and that, if able to buy sex or partners (not directly, but indirectly), they would? we figured that one out ages ago. and, by the way, that dog, on a human attractiveness scale of one to ten, would rate about a four. and previous to his winnings, he was jobless and living in a shack in the backyard, paying some fat dude rent. yet there he is, the object of affection of three hb’s (hot bitches) because now he has, and can offer, a “lifestyle.”

i stole (meaning i asked nicely if i could borrow and then horde for months) a book of my friend’s entitled the myth of monogamy. this was back in late summer, and i’m just now tackling this subject. (side note: my friend also recommended this book, sex at dawn.) anyway, myth was written by a doctor of psychology and a psychiatrist who, ironically enough, are married. there’s a really cute photo of the two of them snuggling on the back cover. kind of makes ya sick, it’s so sweet. anyway, “when it comes to mammals,” they write, “monogamy has long been known as a rarity. out of 4,000 mammal species, no more than a few dozen form reliable pair-bonds.”

then there’s talk of a few things of which i’ve already heard and one that made my brain explode:

  • “males in general—have a lower threshold for sexual excitation and a greater fondness for sexual variety, or, to look at it more negatively, a penchant for equating monogamy with monotony.” so y’all get bored easily, is that correct?
  • “if a female mammal makes a bad choice and is inseminated by an inferior male . . . she pays a substantial toll in risk as well as in lost time and energy. . . . a male mammal who makes himself available for one of many sexual dalliances has invested comparatively little.” typical.
  • there is such a thing as “sperm competition.” apparently, sperm from multiple men can compete for one egg. um. this one, i’ll admit, i didn’t know was even possible. female mammals can, essentially, load up on the sperm of multiple males if they were to engage in coitus a number of instances in a short time span. women can hope that they acquire the sperm containing the best genes. may the strongest swimmer win?
  • “what limits the reproductive success of any given male would appear to be his access to females, rather than inherent limitations of his reproductive anatomy.” in nine months of pregnancy, women can’t get more pregnant. men, on the other hand, can still, uh, go a-sperming.
  • “the potential reproductive benefit of having one or more additional sexual partners is high (if any of these ‘girlfriends’ get pregnant). . . .” so the more partners for a male, the more potential for offspring, the passing along of traits, and continuing the lineage.

okay, that’s enough biology. there are so many variations on relationships (and i mean all relationships here: heterosexual, homosexual, or otherwise). an alpha female who shares her partner with other females who purely satisfy sexual desires. or vice versa. men or women who are bisexual and have an agreement with their partners that they can either go outside the relationship solo with a same-sex partner or they can share the experience (aka a threesome. or some-other-number-some). then there are swingers. or the couples who give their partners hall passes to sleep with celebrities or some pre-agreed-upon dream screw. couples who engage in activities even my gutter brain can’t think up. then the people who just cheat/have affairs, the partner none the wiser, remaining monogamous. and finally couples who, for a lifetime, both remain monogamous.

some folks have notions about how things were “back in the day,” when chivalry ruled and the family unit was very clear. you married young, you had kids early, you lived in a house in the ’burbs, and everything was tidy. this was, though, a façade in many ways. infidelity still occurred, of course. i know for a fact that it occurred in my family long, long ago, and no, i’m not willing to say any more than that. i think it’s silly, however, to look back and think of “long, long ago” as a more simple time, and therefore simplify the relationships that existed within it. human nature isn’t so easily changed.

i will say, though, that is much harder now. we look hotter, longer. i’m not trying to be egotistical. . . . okay, yes i am, but i don’t think that i look like i’m thirty. compared to women sixty years ago, i exercise more, i have a better diet, i am more easily able to support myself financially, i haven’t popped out two or more children—let alone one—and i continue to surround myself with a lot of single, successful, smart, attractive people (that’s the reason i’m friends with you all) in an urban, vibrant environment. everywhere i look there’s stimulation. it’s a far cry from being in a house away from the city, couples and families everywhere you look, encouraging a different sort of lifestyle. neither lifestyle is wrong. but it’s a lot harder to stay loyal when temptation is perpetually in your face.

i once beat myself up for months or, let’s be honest, years, for having cheated on someone. like most of my friends, i grew up in a social environment in which a family consisted of a mother, father, and children. or in my case, child. you mated for life. it wasn’t until i went to college, and even more so in recent years, that i have seen the entire gamut of relationships, and i’ve realized just how many of the relationships i thought were solid were littered, or are still littered, with problems. i continue to feel bad about having cheated years and years ago. then, however, i was the under the impression that i was weird for having done it. that i was unusual for not liking only the person i was with at the time. that there was something wrong with me for not being able to cull sexual thoughts about anyone else. for wanting to see what it was like even just to hold hands with or kiss another person or more. should i have acted on those thoughts? maybe not. but was i wrong to have them at all? i don’t believe so.

in summation, i’m really just looking for the best sperm out there. this post was my way of holding auditions. if you find me abhorrent, your seed is not welcome here. if all this makes me cuddly and adorable, you can print your name on the next available line. the sign-up sheet will be hanging above the mailbox adjacent to my front door. i suggest coming between ten and two. high-traffic time is during a.m. and p.m. rush hour. please bring your own pen. and a one-page cv. and a clif bar.

i’m laughing. i don’t know about anyone else.

one of my friends said recently, about the no-strings thing he has going on:

“right now i’m enjoying having a relationship with someone who doesn’t expect monogamy and neither do i. the hard part is i find it . . . lacking. i miss the monogamy.”

would he miss the no-strings aspect if he were in a monogamous relationship? probably. but i’m assuming that lottery dog has a favorite poodle (i’m betting on the one with the purple bows—the other two have pink bows and are clearly inferior). we may all seek variety, excitement, newness. there is a wonderful and special something, though, about building a life with one person, a person whose food order you know by heart, a person who sets you up for the perfect “that’s what she said,” and a person whose vision of what life should be looks a lot like yours. all this as you gaze ahead at this life instead of at each other, as the famous literary headline of this post suggests. and i think you can have this whether you are monogamous or nonogamous (i’ve decided to give this term a whirl). it’s about what works for you both—what makes you both happy, the definition of which is different—well, fancy that!—for each couple.

barash and lipton write:

“to be sure, human beings can be monogamous . . . but make no mistake: it is unusual—and difficult.”

*antoine de saint-exupéry

“‘well, i sort of made it up,’ said pooh. ‘it isn’t brain,’ he went on humbly, ‘because you know why, rabbit; but it comes to me sometimes.'”*

newhaul03

f. scott fitzgerald’s dedication in the great gatsby

for christmas this year, i gave someone what i dubbed the most self-centered gift i could ever possibly give, which was to be chosen as the person to whom i dedicate my book. my book, whether it forever stays a word document on my macbook or becomes stitched, bound, glued, covered, stamped, jacketed (and let’s hope there are some fantastical special effects on said jacket), boxed, shipped, and shelved. i gifted this present by way of an exceedingly long, handwritten letter, and i hoped that the receiver would realize just how important a gift it was, how much of an honor it is to be recognized as someone’s inspiration, or muse. the significance was more than clear to this person, and much appreciated, and i knew i had given the perfect gift, in that it was perfectly suited for this particular recipient.

it’s rare to find a book without a dedication, in fact, and the few times i’ve seen it lacking between the copyright page and first chapter have been memorably in james joyce’s novels and in children’s books that are part of a longstanding series. the author, i would surmise, by book ten knows what he or she is doing and might think handing out a tenth dedication for the same characters and setting takes away from the weight of such a profession of gratitude, as if dedicating a book to someone at that point has become akin to shooting t-shirts out of a cannon at a minor league baseball game.

the idea of dedications, and in particular, the muses that inspire them, had me wondering if muses come about naturally or if we desperately seek them, and either way, do we (and by we i mean creative types of any kind, be they artists, musicians, writers, and the like) need them.

the muses are the nine daughters of zeus and mnemosyne in greek mythology, and are the personification of knowledge and art, notably literature, dance, and music. in history, muses have mostly been the women behind the men, including ladies like zelda fitzgerald, wife of f. scott fitzgerald, and double muse pattie boyd, said to be the inspiration for george harrison’s “something” and eric clapton’s “layla,” “wonderful tonight,” and “bell bottom blues,” four songs which, you know, are just okay.

or beautiful. brilliant. although “wonderful tonight” was my junior high school prom song and has since been ruined for me as a result.

anyway, muses have journeyed down a long and winding road from being just pretty faces with botticelli bodies, and i like to think that things or places can be muses too. if new jersey wasn’t such a swampy, tragic hellhole, would bruce springsteen be bruce springsteen? i think if bruce had been sprouted in someplace sunny and lovely like san diego, he wouldn’t be as gritty, raw, or emotional. he might be, actually, the male version of katy perry.

up until recently, the array of muses i’ve had have consisted of teachers of sorts, beginning with my dad, the original and most powerful, who will never be dethroned, and who has been followed by middle-school teachers and college professors.

during my first semester of college, my rhetoric professor, an older adjunct faculty member who quit her job as a successful lawyer later in life to go into teaching, asked much more of me than any other teacher i’d had before. she assigned a five-minute speech on a controversial topic; the speech could not be memorized but had to be delivered from sparse notes on a few lined cards and needed to be free of movement behind the podium and devoid of ums, likes, uhs, and any other utterances that would add nothing but piffle to the argument.

while it might be hard to imagine that i had trouble speaking in front of people, i used to be one of those folks who would have certainly rather died than stand up in front of one person, let alone twenty-five, and talk about anything, even a topic on which i was an expert. so that fall i sat in the supposedly haunted basement of my dorm for hours, preparing, practicing, and standing behind an invisible podium with my feet shoulder-width apart (a tip from my short story professor that same semester who guaranteed this pose would not lead to swaying, weight-shifting, or any sort of distracting physical behavior like hopping around).

i desperately wanted to impress this woman, this professor, whom i admired for having had the guts to quit a high-paying, cushy job and follow her passion, and i sought, finally, to stop being afraid. after giving the speech and receiving her evaluation, all boxes in the excellent column clearly checked and a bubbled note at the bottom reading you’d make a fantastic lawyer someday, my public speaking fears vanished and have not once reappeared. i’ve googled this professor many times since 2002. i can’t find her, but my gratitude remains eternal nonetheless.

why her, though? i don’t doubt that i had it in me for years to go on a solo mission to get over this fear. i was more than capable. what was it about her? what was it about my fifth-grade english teacher that got me absolutely hooked on properly punctuating sentences and declining verbs, nouns, and adjectives? or my sixth-grade spanish teacher who somehow communicated to me without saying so that spanish, not french (though i really liked my french teacher as well), was the language i must learn, that somehow, even eighteen years later, i would still be using it—to work on spanish children’s books, write letters to the child i sponsor in ecuador, communicate with locals when i travel, or practice the language with my boyfriend, whose father taught it to him. then there’s my sixth-grade english teacher who put a one-sentence mark twain quote on the board about the difference between the right word and the wrong word, the teacher who made me realize that no matter what else i ever did, it would always, always be writing and i.

we creative fools are often a self-loathing bunch, our biggest doubters and critics, even if we’re exceptionally talented. one of my best male friends asked me a few days ago why i love my boyfriend, and one of the first things i said was that he inspires me. he encourages my writing, and he tells anyone who will listen to look out, because one day i’ll have my name slapped on the cover of a bestselling book. i’ve written more in the ten months i’ve known him than i have in ten years, even those few semesters in college when i was so emotional, poetry practically bled out of my fingers. to this my friend said:

“there’s about 2/3 of that first part that i hope you realize is all you and has nothing to do with him and everything to do with you and how awesome kaitlin is, boyfriend, girlfriend, or no.”

it is, to date, one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. but while those qualities have most likely always been there (i mean, i hope they have been—i’m not saying my boyfriend is a magician, jeez), maybe they needed to be mined by the person with just the right ability, strength, and set of tools. and just as i didn’t choose those teachers as muses any more than they chose me, it was them, and no one else, coupled with the kind of chemistry you can’t seek out, manufacture, or wait for, who i needed. if it makes me weak to admit i’ve required, and sometimes continue to require, the push i haven’t quite been able to give myself, then call me as such. i have a feeling that someday, even just to one person, i’ll return the favor.

my boyfriend and i both remember being, on our first date, the wittiest and most clever we’d ever been. and even now, nearly a year later, i’ll often open my mouth and speak, and out something tumbles, to which he’ll say:

“write that down.”

three of the nicest words in succession any writer can hear. i doubt i’ll ever tire of them.

*a. a. milne from the house on pooh corner, in which pooh is inspired to write a song after seeing tigger in the woods

“women are the only exploited group in history to have been idealized into powerlessness.”*

recently thoughtcatalog put up a blog post entitled “10 old-fashioned dating habits we should make cool again.” (i’d strongly recommend that you have a go at it before reading this post. also, i added the hyphen to old-fashioned. come on. proofread that shit!). i knew, without even clicking on the link, images of disney characters and rose petals frolicking in my head, that i would disagree with the majority of the list, but i read it anyway. this is probably because i’m a bit of a masochist, but more so because i smelled my post brewing.

everyone is different and expects different things from a relationship at any stage, from the first date to the proposal to makin’ babies, if applicable, but being that this is my blog (mine!), i’d like to talk about what i think of old-fashioned dating habits.

i think they’re old and out of fashion.

i’d say it’s likely that i’m destined to live somewhere only outcasts go, like under a bridge or a remote cabin or las vegas, so i don’t feel too badly about tossing some opinions out there, of which most people won’t be too fond.

my general opinion on flowers as presents has always been that they are dumb—unless, that is, they’re in a beautiful garden through which i can stroll, much like the one my mom has planted to the right of our house. i appreciate the thought behind flowers, like when they come from someone who i’ve known for a while. my ex-boss gave me flowers after i’d been in my position for a year, and that was a lovely gesture. those daisies, however, were earned. flowers on a first date? did we meet in a bar and probably not have a real conversation because that would have required screaming in the other person’s ear? are the only things you know about me the ones in my online dating profile? what did i do to deserve those flowers? oh, i have a pretty smile? i couldn’t feel more objectified. give me flowers once i’ve shown you my sparkling personality. or, you know. never.

i’m obviously assuming that these flowers are to be given from man to woman and not the other way around. i’d therefore be apt to feel pretty silly, having shown up (or, wait—he came to my door, according to cool old-fashioned dating habit number one) empty-handed. i’m for gender equality and, after all, as kristen wiig said in bridesmaids, “this is the nineties.”

“i feel as though i should be bringing the guy something in exchange,” i said to my male friend the other night while we were discussing the thoughtcatalog post. “what would you want for flowers? a subscription to maxim?”

he paused and looked up. “porn?”

ah, i see now why women don’t bring anything to a first date.

a man comes to your door to pick you up so he can make sure you don’t trip walking down your own sidewalk and are able to get into a car properly by opening and closing the door for you. i’m pretty sure the last time someone opened and closed a car door for me was after i’d been placed in a car seat, and i’m fine with having been somewhat nonverbal the last time this chivalrous event occurred. i checked, and i am quite capable of walking to a car, opening the door, and sitting on the seat all by myself. okay, so maybe the “here” text message isn’t too romantic, but how about: “hey, you, i’m outside, waiting in the car for ya, keeping it warm. :-)”? i’d take that over being extracted from my place of residence any day.

and on that note, having the door held open for me so that i can walk into a building or a room first? do i get a prize for being first? am i being put on a pedestal? i’m a person, i don’t belong on a pedestal, and i can open a door well enough on my own.

so you’re on a date. you’re wearing a nice dress. you’re sitting across from your date. you’ve been talking for an hour. you’ve had a glass of wine. the bar is dimly lit and all sorts of romantical. you’re finding your date attractive. you’re thinking, i wouldn’t hate it if he kissed me. and then, just when you think he might, he puts out his hand timidly and asks:

“is it okay if i put my hand on your thigh, on the intimate-but-not-too-invasive place just above your knee?”

well, that was clunky and awkward, akin to the ass-out hug vince vaughn describes in wedding crashers. if i don’t want you to touch my leg, i’ll find a way, quickly, to let you know as much. but don’t approach me as if you’re asking a waitress if you can sub sweet potato fries for regular, because you weren’t sure if that’d be “cool” with the kitchen? is that cool? are you positive? touch my damn leg.

the other day i was talking to a single friend of mine about her dating life, and she said she was seeing a guy, but she wasn’t feeling that into him. i asked how they met, and she gave me a rundown of their brief relationship thus far (they exchanged a few messages online and have since had a number of dates over the time period of a month) and, “of course,” she said, “typical me, i slept with him too quickly.”

i didn’t ask what “too quickly” meant, but i could gather that it meant either dates one, two, or three, because women usually think they’ve exited slut territory around date four (what the reasoning for this is, i’m not sure). i told her that she must stop, quit, cease, and desist feeling as if sex is something to give up, something women aren’t supposed to want or find enjoyable until it’s socially acceptable to want and enjoy it.

the list of ten says, “a date does not have to be a precursor for sex.”

. . .

i have already seen relationships, even the mothers of all relationships, marriages, fail because people have married the male version of their best friend, someone who shares their likes and dislikes, is caring and nice and sweet and funny, earns a good living, likes babies and animals, but isn’t—

  • the guy whose clothes they want to rip off, or
  • the guy with whom they want to stay up all night, talking about absolutely everything.

women will later cite the cause of this breakup as a lack of:

  • “connection,”
  • “passion,” and
  • “romance.”

your partner should not be one or the other—a sexual, passionate man or a reliable, wholesome nice-guy—and it’s a myth that they have to be. your partner should be both. the best friend who tells you when you have a booger in your nose and the lover who kisses you (or touches your leg) without asking, maybe so unexpectedly that you jump in your seat a tad.

sex is really fucking important. for men and women. i said it. if you don’t think of a date as a precursor for sex, why are you going on the date? i can think of a slew of ways to make new friends, but a date isn’t one of them—at least it shouldn’t be at the top of the list. i’ve had friends come out of dates, but this result certainly wasn’t intentional or planned.

the excessiveness and ostentation of engagements, showers, bachelorette parties, and weddings has hit an all-time high, and is one of those often-discussed small-talk topics that late-twenties/early thirties women bring up at dinner or drinks. it sits alongside how texting is ruining relationships and communication, why can’t we be more like canada and have free health insurance, and gosh, everyone on facebook is getting married or having a baby, and i found a gray hair and there’s a new wrinkle on my forehead. the ironic thing is that i’ve heard the same women with high-carat (not karat or carrot) rocks on their fingers poo-poo another woman who spent “too much” on her wedding. side note: i wrote high-carat because i’m not even sure what is considered a large carat diamond on an engagement ring. one carat? two? anyway . . .

when did life become so much about things? women want to be equal. they want the same pay and opportunities as men. they want the same respect. but they also want to be treated like princesses? if you want to make certain that you continue to earn less than men, keep expecting them to buy you drinks all night, bring flowers to every first date, and take you to fancy places so you can waltz your ass around.

if a man were to go on four first dates in a month, he could conceivably spend ten dollars for gas to pick up a woman (or take a cab to get her), twenty dollars (conservatively) for those damn flowers, and fifty dollars (again, conservatively) for dinner and/or drinks, bringing one date to a grand total of eighty dollars, on the low end. times four, that’s $320 a month. and then, i’m sure, if it turns into a relationship, he’s expected not just to keep the status quo, but most likely to improve upon it. shows and concerts and ballets and expensive dinners and elaborate proposals and an engagement ring worth, at the very least, three months’ salary. i make practically pebbles for the work i do and i cannot fathom spending a few k on anything, least of all a symbol for something that should not need such extravagant symbolizing.

“i’ve put dating on the back burner because i can’t afford it,” my other male friend said to me once a few years ago.

i hear ya, pal.

i went to costa rica at the beginning of october, and while i was there, i wanted to get my boyfriend a souvenir. all the usual things—t-shirts, shot glasses, and coffee—oh my god, the most incredible coffee ever—seemed ill-fitting. i’ve rarely caught him wearing a shirt containing any sort of writing; the only shot i’ve seen him take he sipped and then gave the rest to me; and he pretty much categorizes coffee as molten poison. i had my work cut out for me, until i saw the imperial beer–labeled, waterproof drawstring bag my traveling buddy was toting. i flashed to an image of my boyfriend’s suitcase, his laundry kept in one of those plastic, tall, kitchen-dwelling garbage bags, and i thought, that’s it. i made it my goal to find one of those pouchlike bags. when i finally did, i realized it was the first outright gift i’d ever bought him, even though i’ve known him since late february. i also realized that while he’s paid for flights and club covers and food, he’s never once placed a traditional (or old-fashioned, if you please) gift into my hands. i smiled. i smiled again days later when i saw him use the bag exactly as i’d intended it.

then i realized that other people probably think all this is weird—insane, even. but then i realized, oh, right! i stopped giving a shit about what other people think a long time ago.

ladies, go halfsies, i say.

or start bringing porn to your first dates. it’s only fair.

*erica jong