Saturday, January 29, 2011

Should we support our matter what?

A few weeks ago, my friend Sandra got engaged to Greg, a guy she had been dating since Summer of last year. Given her history of dating so many men who didn't deserve her, who verbally, emotionally abused her, I was so happy she finally found a guy who treats her like the queen she is, or at least it seems that way. Sandra now lives across the country. Her friends here and I never met Greg, but she seems very happy in this relationship. So although I was a little concerned about how quickly they got engaged, I was able to honestly say, "Congratulations," when she made the announcement.

Four days ago, Sandra and Greg eloped. Sandra basically said they couldn't afford the wedding, couldn't figure out logistics, and didn't see the point in waiting any longer when they really wanted to be married. I couldn't get the nerve to type "Congratulations," when I received her email. Is that wrong?

I was concerned about the quick engagement. I'm worried about the eloping. Scared, even. She made a wedding site anyway with their favorite songs, their story, photos, etcetera, as a way to still have the rest of us be part of their wedding. I'm still not satisfied. Well, all I knew about their story was that they met on okcupid. Sandra was one of the people who urged me to try it again, in fact. I didn't know much else about their story, so at least I finally got to read that.

But it just doesn't feel right! I worry. I'm worried that this girl, who is so book-smart, might have let her heart run away with her. It sounds like they've had a lot of deep conversations in a pretty short amount of time. Maybe they do know each other well enough to marry. Maybe they have thought longterm. Their plan for now is to save for a car and condo, for Sandra to get her doctorate, and they don't want kids. Well, Sandra doesn't want kids and it sounds like she's talked Greg out of it. But saying no to kids is a big deal. Well really, it's a bigger deal for the family than it is for the couple. Do Sandra's parents know she's not giving them grandkids? Do Greg's parents know? Have they even met each other's parents? Not that you should only do things your parents approve of, but how did mom and pop take the news that Greg has married a young woman he met online after dating for about 6 months, who, by the way, won't give them grandchildren? Do Sandra and Greg really know the implications of their actions? Lord, I hope they thought this through!

Both Greg and Sandra are from around here, actually. So they're both living far from their homes. It's so easy to forget you are part of a community when it's just the two of you living 1000 miles away from your old friends and family. It's so easy to think you're the only ones in the world and that your choices and life do not affect others. Well, Sandra made the wedding site so perhaps that consideration did cross her mind.

I told her I hope the first few days of marriage have been going well so far and that next time she and Greg come home, we can still celebrate their marriage some other way, even if it's not a big wedding. That was the most sincere thing I could say about this. Honestly, I feel terrible that I can't be more excited and shower her with "Congrats! Congrats! I'm so happy for you," like everyone else. Of course I wish her well. Of course I don't want her to divorce (unlike her parents, who had a shotgun wedding because mom was pregnant and later divorced). But I worry anyway. I hope they really do have a strong foundation, and are really ready to face marriage, and face the world, together.

Monday, January 24, 2011

bad advice from good friends

When I started online dating in Summer 2009, I received a variety of advice from co-workers to whom I was perhaps a little too close.

The first guy I spoke with was Derrick. We met on okcupid. We seemed to have a good rapport online. I had some reservations about him, but because he seemed to be an overall good guy, I overlooked the issues. He definitely boosted my ego a bit with all the compliments (though those got a little annoying after awhile, but anyway). I found him funny and a bit quirky.

My coworkers noticed my lighter, happier demeanor and one asked, “Is it a guy?” When I answered in the affirmative, my other two coworkers of course wanted the deets.

The questions began...

“Does he got a job? Apartment? Car? Where does he live?”
“He a mama's boy?”
“Was he in a relationship before? Why did it end?”
“How much money does he make?”
“What's wrong with him? You need to know to see if you can deal with his flaws!”
“What's his social security number?”

Alright. They were joking with the last one.

Now, despite my lack of experience, I figured that early in a relationship, it is best to keep things light. My mother learned in cosmetology school to never talk about politics or religion with her clients. I figured politics, religion and sex were probably no-no's early in the dating process too. I was not about to jump into a philosophical discussion when we knew each other for only one week.

A lot of their questions, I couldn't answer. I knew he had a job, car, and lived with his mother. I was troubled by them telling me to ask about his past relationships and finding out what was “wrong” with him. I did not think his most recent relationship was any of my business. And trying to find out his “bad habits,” his flaws already? After one week?

Well I did eventually ask about his most recent relationship in the nicest, least nosy way I could. He did not say much. I did not press it.

I think my coworkers just wanted to help. Maybe they were living vicariously through me. Maybe these forty-somethings saw me like a daughter and were trying to protect me, or something. But I think my instincts were right all along. I am open to advice, but I now realize that “advice” that works for some might not work for me.

By the way, Derrick and I stopped talking after about three weeks. I was bored with him, honestly. I used my childfreedom as a “get-out-of-jail-free card.” It was not clear in his profile if he wanted kids. When I asked him directly, he said he did and I said I can only be friends with someone who wanted kids. He logged off and did not message me again until 4 months later. C'est la vie.

I am talking to a guy on okcupid again, now. We hit the one week mark and the conversation is still flowing. Hopefully this will not be another Derrick!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

step 1-put yourself out there, step 2-TALK!

My New Year's Resolution is to "put myself out there." It has two parts: go to a bar by myself regularly (starting with once a month and gradually working toward 1x per week) and meet a new group of people every month. So far, I've met my goal for January. No date came out of it, but at least I started.

I went to a vegan meetup at a restaurant in my city. There were two big tables with some seats left. I sat at a table but didn't really pay attention to who was sitting there. Oops. As more people arrived, my table became the table where all the married and middle aged people sat. :/ All the young men were at the next table. The food was good and I did have good conversation...with two married women. Didn't succeed in the other part of the plan.

So that night, because the meetup ended early, I decided to go to a bar by myself. Apparently it was still a little too early in the night. I went to my favorite local bar, just a few blocks from my apartment. There weren't many people there and most of the people there were coupled. There was a group of decent-looking men a couple seats from mine at the bar. There was a mirror behind the bar and I looked in it, seeing if any of the men were looking my way. Nope. But at one point, the men talked about going to some other bar to pick up chicks. Perhaps we weren't compatible after all.

So I've succeeded in putting myself "out there," but clearly that's not really enough. I might have to actually talk to someone. A novel idea! But in my defense, no way I'm going to go up to a guy who is surrounded by a posse of four of his friends! The person who is in a group should go to the one who is alone. I'm willing now to approach a cute guy looking my way if he's alone and I'm with a friend or two. I don't expect a man to come talk to me when I'm surrounded by my posse. It's like a tribunal of girls.

Next month, the plan is to actually go where the young men are, and possibly go a little later in the night to encounter single guys at a bar.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Rowan Atkinson Live - Elementary dating

I was watching Rowan Atkinson Live and this was an extra on the DVD. Love it!

Monday, January 17, 2011

okcupid and the single, childfree Catholic

I do not understand how okcupid matches people.

For those unfamiliar with okcupid, it has a feature called “Quiver,” where they send 3 recommended “matches” daily. For the past week, all my quiver matches have been Atheist or Agnostic. I don't know how this happened. Are there only non-religious people on okcupid? Did I not get that memo?

On okcupid, you can answer thousands of multiple choice questions, which supposedly help improve your matches. When I first started, okcupid was matching me with conservative (politically and religiously) Christians who wanted a crapload of kids. You can choose the “importance” of questions, so I started making any question related to liberal politics “mandatory,” to weed out the conservatives. I was successful in that…too successful apparently. I went from conservative Christians to liberal Atheists. I cannot win!

I know I can be a very logical, scientific person, which maybe came through in how I answered questions. Perhaps my “no kids” answers were matching with Atheists and Agnostics who did not want kids (a lot of people who do not want kids are non-religious).

I do not care what religion a match follows as long as he practices something! Despite not having the same religion, I have a lot in common with my non-Christian, religious friends. We take spiritual growth seriously and are active in enhancing our relationship with our Creator. We also see the world and morality similarly. We “get” each other's holy seasons. They get why Lent is important and I get why Ramadan is important, and we truly respect each other. It's not, “Oh, look at those blind, brainwashed sheep, depriving themselves to keep some power-hungry Skydaddy happy, submitting to an imaginary being's will. Why do they try to 'improve themselves' if nothing is ever good enough for their lightning bolt-wielding Zeus, if they are still going to some 'Hell' anyway?”

I have Atheist and Agnostic friends with whom I agree politically and with whom I share a respect of the scientific method. We just don't talk about religion. If my man and I, though, cannot pray together, if he bows his head to please me but doesn't believe ANY of the words I'm praying, that is a serious mismatch.

I guess the algorithms misinterpreted my openness to other religions to mean “non-religious.”

I do try the Match Searches too where I can type in the criteria (religion, distance, no kids, etc), but scrolling through dozens of matches, reading all those profiles, gets tiresome. I thought Quiver was supposed to pick the “cream of the crop,” as it were, so I do not have to spend forever reading dozens of profiles, looking for compatibility. I have messaged guys whom I found this way...but none of them wrote back.

I plan on going back through the “religious” questions to see how I answered. There are thousands of men out there, but okcupid keeps sending me all the mismatches. Some technology.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Enneagram: "The worst thing is to be morally corrupt."

Last night at my leadership meeting, we discussed the Enneagram. For those who don't know, the Enneagram is a tool for exploring one's personality, motives, drives, needs, values, "shadows," etc. I've seen it mainly used in religious and spiritual groups, but it was developed by psychiatrists. The supposed Eastern origins of it are unconfirmed. According to the Enneagram, everyone is one of nine basic personality types. Everyone is a little bit of everything, but one type will emerge as dominant, and it's innate. It's your own way of being in the world.

In college, some friends of mine were learning about the Enneagram. I read bits of one of their books and took the survey in the back. Based on that inventory, I typed as a 3, aka "the achiever." I read a little of "the achiever as a child" and the another blurb in the book about 3's, and it sounded like me: hard-working, leader, well-liked by teachers and parents, efficient, gets the job done.

Last night, the presenter went into more depth (as much as is possible in a 90 minute presentation). She also focused a great deal on each type's motivations. Knowing a type's motivations can help one determine which type she is, especially if she can't figure out which type of two she is. Prior to all this, we took an inventory for our Enneagram type, but the email didn't tell us how to score it.

The first signal that I may not know myself as well as I think was when she discussed the 3 big categories of the Enneagram. Again, there are 9 personality types, but they can be grouped into heart, head and gut orientations. She gave us a worksheet where we had to check off whether we thought we were a head, heart or gut person followed by nine words. We had to choose the word we thought suited us. I checked off "head" and "good." The other two words I considered were "wise" and "productive." I don't think I'm wise or productive enough to check off one as those as my defining word. Also, I have always thought of myself as a "head" person. Maybe gut was my number 2, but heart was definitely not how I function.

However, when the presenter said that the "gut" people enter new situations and basically act like, "Here I am. Deal with me," that struck a chord.

She then started going into personality types. Enneagram type 1 is "the Reformer" or "The Perfectionist." Reformers value goodness and avoid anger because to them, anger is not good. They want to live life the "right" way. Hey, that sounded familiar. Then she said they value wholeness (me too...). They don't want to be wrong (neither do I...). Then she said that to a one, the worst thing is to be "morally corrupt."


Then she said that ones are big on repression and suppression in order to better themselves (yes...) and when those pesky emotions/instincts act up, they do something that's the exact opposite to fight it. For example, when they get really angry, they actually get really polite and nice toward the person that angered them (guilty, though I think my anger is becoming more obvious). Ones under-express their drives. And the presenter mentioned that when they, in particular, feel their sexual desires arise, they act the exact opposite: puritanical.

What's my blog's name again? I wanted to crawl under my chair and hide. Did she just sneak into my brain?

She did mention positives about ones, though. They always strive to be better, they are witnesses to the truth, they can be very wise, very hard-working, get things done early (that's usually true for me). I guess because I just might be the perfectionist One, I'm focusing mainly on my issues, my shadows. :-P

By the way, ones are a "gut." I thought that I couldn't possibly be a one, then. I'm so cerebral! I'm such a thinking, reflective person. Therefore, I resemble the Enneagram 5 type, "the Thinker," too. I thought, "I better reflect further on this and look deeper into the Enneagram so that I don't think that I'm the wrong type...wait a minute..." "Guts" are about holding their ground as they interact with the outer and inner world. Guts need reflection with action. To reflect and think endlessly without action (like the 5's do), is a waste of time to them. Ones have deeply held opinions or beliefs that "feel" right, and then they rationalize it.

That's actually how I make a lot of big decisions. I narrow down the choices to the ones that fit my specified criteria, and then I go with the one that feels right instantly. Isn't that what everyone does though?...Maybe not. I am very practical and don't take much interest in ideas or theories that don't have a practical application.

The presenter also said that another clue to your type is to see which of the "shadows" bug you the most. If there's a shadow you really don't want to deal with, that's probably your type. Later, I went online and looked at the description of extreme, unhealthy Ones: judgmental, self-righteous, intolerant, inflexible, dogmatic, absolute. Well, in two of my former crushes, the biggest turn-offs for me were that they were snobby and self-righteous. You couldn't be radical enough or Christian enough or whatever enough for them, and of course, they were the gold standard. Actually, all of those qualities of unhealthy ones sound horrible! I could not possibly be in a romantic relationship with someone like that!

Wait a minute, the extremes of the unhealthy One are my biggest turn-offs? Hmm...

By the way, that original inventory she emailed to us prior? I typed as a One (Three and Five were tied for second place).

So I think I'm a One. I know, essentially it's a personality test, and you shouldn't let it box you in. It's a tool. It's a tool to help gain a better understanding of yourself, and can give you tools to bring out the best in you, help you live more authentically and overcome your shadows. Of course, I've been thinking about how the shadows of my One personality might be keeping me from being more successful in dating.

Being a "reformer" or "perfectionist" isn't all negative. There's nothing wrong with striving to be better, to improving oneself and wanting to help others improve themselves. Though it sounds limiting, it's rather secure to think, "I'm a perfectionist. That's just the way I am. I can't change it, but I don't need to change it." I just have to get to that "healthy perfectionist" place and stay there.

So the task is figuring out how to use my strengths to be more successful in romance!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

"If I use a vibrator, am I still a virgin?"

Reason number 537 why we need sex education in schools!

I googled "vibrators for virgins," seeing if there was some sort of list or recommendations for vibrators for virgins. A couple forums popped up and one adult toy website gave a sort of buyer's guide. It's rather overwhelming the choices that are out there. Wow. And some are over $100? And there are further accessories you need, and they are made of different materials...

But actually, what kept popping up more often than adult toy shops were forums of girls asking, "Is it okay for virgins to use vibrators? Am I still a virgin if I use a vibrator?"

Pardon my virginal ignorance of all things sexual, but I thought coitus involved more than one person?...

Well, 15-year-old girls asking if a vibrator can deflower them I guess isn't so surprising. What was more disturbing were some of the answers they received.

"No. If you insert anything inside you, you aren't a virgin."
"Well, if you just use it outside and not put it in, then I guess you're still a virgin."
"No because vibrators can break a hymen and if you break your hymen, you're not a virgin."
"Well, if you use a vibrator, and it doesn't break the hymen, you're still a virgin."
"You shouldn't get a vibrator. You should wait until you're married and have sex with your husband. Don't put plastic inside you first!"

Is the virginity of teenage boys questioned like this when they start self-stimulating? Why is it such a dilemma for teenage girls? Actually, I can think of some reasons why: women being the keepers of purity, sexuality being a dirty thing for women (you can't be the Madonna and a "whore"), etc.

I can't believe people (people who live in the "educated," industrialized world anyway) still use the hymen as the test for virginity. It can break if a girl has a bad fall or goes horseback riding! I don't know the percentage, but many girls/women have no hymen when they initiate sex.

Thankfully, there were some people who said, "Sex means more than one person," and who clarified the deal with the hymen. There is such a stigma around toys for women. It's hard enough saying no to sex until marriage. Now women are made to feel guilty for a vibrator? We aren't allowed to know anything about our sexuality until the wedding night?

Now I already know that the Catholic Church says, "No," to masturbation because there is no possibility for procreation. Sex has to be open to kids in order to be valid, legal sex.

It can't only be for kids, by the way. It's also the closest a human can come to physically experiencing God's love and seals the "covenant," the love of the wife and husband. So having un-fun sex is not good either.

I get why the Church says it, though I don't fully agree with it. My thing is, if self-stimulating keeps a person from engaging in unsafe sex, isn't that preferable? And if you already know what pleases you, doesn't that help the sexual aspect of the relationship?

Anyway, it just further shows why we need to get information out there, particularly to young people. Otherwise, a lot of misinformation and needless guilt fly around. The ignorance just spreads like weeds.

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Sunday, January 2, 2011

The science of attachment

Valentine's season is coming (apparently). Despite never having a date on Valentine's Day, one thing I like about this time of year is that the nerdy, scientific media starts talking about the science behind attraction.

I had time to kill at the bookstore and saw that this month's Scientific American Mind has an article about attachment. The sub-headline said, "Find your attachment style and make your match." I never saw this magazine before but I had to buy it, especially after browsing the heart-themed optical illusions in the middle of the magazine.

Well, the article wasn't anything particularly new if you've taken some psychology courses about human development (which I have). Levine and Heller referred to Mary Ainsworth's descriptions of three attachment styles: secure, anxious and avoidant. Later research says there might be a fourth attachment style: anxious/avoidant. I learned about these styles in relation to child development (particularly infant's development), not in relation to adult interaction. So that was a new twist. Now, are there only 3ish attachment styles? Who knows? But let's just roll with this idea for now.

Secure attachment means that the people in question are comfortable with intimacy and from their secure base, go out and explore the world. They can be separate from each other and be okay though they also like being together. Anxious people desire intimacy but when they are separated from their partner, they worry a lot about whether or not their partner will be faithful, will be there when they return. Avoidant attachment means people are very independent from their partner, keeping them at a distance, and often avoid intimacy. Of course, secure attachment is probably the ideal, but theoretically, that's not everyone's style (and early experiences influence the later attachment style).

Although the theories seem to make sense, I wonder two things. First, is there an "extrovert bias" to these attachment styles? I think about someone who is introverted (like myself). Introverts aren't always "open" about how they are feeling because introverts, theoretically, process internally. A "secure" person, according to Levine and Heller, has little difficulty expressing needs and wants to his partner. Some introverts don't verbally express what they want often, and is that necessarily "bad?" Avoidant people often don't desire as much intimacy as their partners, and introverts may not be as "intimate" as others. I can see how by these definitions, an introvert can be pegged as "avoidant." So what's the difference between introversion, which is okay, and avoidant, which is not okay? Where do we draw the line between personality trait and problem? And what exactly is "intimacy?"

Similarly, I also wonder if it's possible to be a mixture of styles. Does everyone fall neatly into one of these 3 categories all the time? Is it possible to change from one style to another (or is it pretty much set in stone based on early experiences with parent-child attachment)? Are anxious people only anxious if they match with an avoidant? Can an anxious person switch to secure if they match with another anxious person or a secure person? Of course, a magazine article doesn't have room to go into all these nuances, but I wonder if the actual research did?

My impression after reading, though, is that not having a "secure" style isn't as big a problem as matching up with someone whose attachment style is dissimilar to yours. You have to know your style and what you want from a partner (and your partner should be willing to give it). This can be a bonus for introverts who, because of their introspection, probably know this about themselves already.

Geez, matching up sure is complicated!