The Nondating Life

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The green-eyed monster

NOTE: I wrote this one MONTHS ago and hit draft rather than post. Maybe my better half trying to protect me from myself. So, here it is with minor tweaks.

A friend of mine is detailing a bit of a foul-up she had with her long-distance lover. After a stressful day at work, she'd gone out with a friend to wash the day away with some tequila. During the course of drinking, she and loverboy exchanged texts and the implication was that she'd call him when she returned home. However, upon returning home, the young lass succumbed to the tequila and passed out. Upon waking, she found a series of text messages on her phone, starting at worried and escalating to first insecurity then anger. Among the messages, "Are you with a boy?" and "What the hell?!"

My friend, in telling me this, was worried that she'd fucked up big time. She felt she was in the wrong and had apologized but felt that this could hang over their relationship for a bit longer than a day.

My reaction? Shock. Shock on any number of levels. Of course, I'm perfectly used to young ladies making asses of themselves in these situations, of always counting on an apology, a sexy little pout and some puppy-dog eyes to get themselves out of trouble, over and over and over again.

No, what shocked me was the guy texting these things.

I swear, my very first thought upon hearing this story was, "What the hell was he thinking? He can't say those things!"

I didn't think this because I thought he was wrong to say it. His thought process was a perfectly natural, in my opinion. No, I thought he was nuts. Why? Bascially because I, like plenty of other guys brought up in the 80s, have been neutered, were stricken at the formative age of our lives by a lethal combination of sentimental movies, television and music that convinced us that being sensitive was the smart way to go. (Nevermind that experience proves otherwise. Sensitivity buys you an express ticket to the Friend Zone.)

Why the anecdote above struck such a chord with me was because the guy in question violated one of the sensitive guy's biggest commandments. "Never let them see you jealous."

It was fine for him to get worried. Fine for him to get a little pissed off for her not calling. But that "Are you with another boy?" line. Well, that's just not done.

"Oh, I'm not the jealous type," is practically a mantra among certain types of men. And by mantra, of course, I mean lie. Ladies, it's the biggest fucking lie out there. Hell, I'm here to tell you men that, too. Straight or gay, all men are "the jealous type"; some just hide it better than others.

We're territorial by nature and competitive to boot. Women know this. Women use this. Women, in fact, have been known to purposely tug on that envy bone just to see if a guy is still paying sufficient enough attention. (And it's not nearly as much fun as when they tug on that other ... oh, nevermind.)

And while I'd never suggest to anyone, guy or girl, to give voice to every whim of envy that moves through your system, I will say that it's time to put a foot down, to kick through this particular double standard.

Double standard, you say? Damn right, I say. Because in the course of the conversation with my young friend, I found myself venting the sort of stuff I rarely say. Things like, "Well, good for him for actually saying what was on his mind, for having a pair of balls. It's hard enough being long distance, but to be long distance, knowing that your fine-ass girlfriend could be out with a guy because it just so happens that half her friends are guys?"

Then a question occurred to me, and I knew the answer ever before I asked. "Does he have a lot of girl friends?"

No. Of course he didn't. Exception that I may be, guys don't need or want a lot of girl friends. Too much drama. Too much hassle. And that only doubles if he has a girlfriend. Hell, the only reason I have so many girl friends is because I've slept with them, am sleeping with them or hope to sleep with them soon! (I kid, I kid. Mostly.)

I asked my young friend how she would feel if loverboy was out after work with a bunch of chicks, getting sauced and suddenly stopped answering his phone.

In a fit of honesty, she said that it would piss her off and that she's glad he doesn't have any girlfriends. One of the reasons I love this girl to death is because she is honest about things like this and never starts futzing up her answers with what SHOULD be said.

Because what should be said is "Well, I trust my boyfriend enough, yaddayaddayadda." But my young padawan learner, in another bit of brilliance, said, "It's not about trusting him. I just know what other girls are up to."

WHICH IS THE EXACT SAME THING THAT GOES THROUGH A GUY'S MIND. But can we say things like that? Oh no. Guys these days are supposed to accept that their girls will have guy friends. And we're not supposed to show an ounce of jealousy. (Actually, we're supposed to be mind readers and show just the right amount of jealousy at the appropriate times). And we're supposed to sit there quietly and nod as you, ladies, say extremely stupid things like "It's not like that at all." Or, "He's just a friend." Or, "He's not interested in me like that." Oh, and the best one: "Well, most of the time, we talk about you anyway." Exactly. You talk about us because the guy is trying to get in your pants, trying to plant seeds of doubt. If you printed out a transcript of your conversation with your supposedly supportive guy friends, we could easily point out to you the exact passages where he is inserting jabs, insinuating doubts--and half the time, it'll be when he's pretending to be MOST supportive.

Ladies, if he has a penis and he's straight and he's ever said you were physically attractive... nevermind, sometimes, I swear, it's like talking to a wall.

I know some of you are getting your knickers all in a twist right now. "Well, I never." Or, "It's all about trust." And, well, I don't really care what else. Look into your hearts and think about whether or not you'd appreciate your fine-ass boyfriend going out with single ladies on a frequent basis and getting hammered.

Sure, you want to trust him. But if you see him as a studmuffin, you're pretty sure those other girls do too, right? And they owe YOU nothing. And you know how some guys get when they get a little too drunk and someone's just flattering them or possibly just accidentally falling into his lap or touching him on the thigh. Well, it makes you just want to cut a bitch, don't it?

Hell, I've always told my girl friends (not that they needed telling) that the minute I get myself a REAL girlfriend, they should all expect the dynamics of our relationship to change. Some of you who've been with me long enough may have noticed a distinct drop in comment flirting while I was involved with M. And now my real friends, who I used to go out with on a semi-regular basis give me crapola because I DO have a girlfriend and I spend most of my time with her.

Is this a case of selling out or being neutered? I don't think so. I'm a firm believer that your significant other should be, well, significant. He or she should be, if not your best friend in general, you best friend in that gender.

If you have a best friend of the opposite gender who happens to be straight and who you spend countless hours with talking and bonding, you both need to examine your damn relationship--especially if you spend more time with that person than you do with your so-called significant other. It's a matter of being honest with yourselves. It's a matter of respect for the feelings of your significant other.

When in doubt, flip the situation in your own mind and ask yourself how you'd feel if your S.O. was off galavanting half the day with a member of the opposite sex. Guys reading this, honest guys, are already saying, "Oh no she isn't." While most women are likely thinking, "Well, I'm an adult about the situation" or some other silliness.

Most guys don't have a circle of single girl friends that they hang out with. And even when they do, once a girlfriend comes onto the scene, a committed guy will throw his girl friends overboard about seven times faster than he will his guy friends. Why? Partly because one girlfriend is enough drama for one guy. And partly out of respect for his girlfriend. Because guys KNOW from jealousy. Guys know the green rage that, seasoned with a little booze, drives you to punching your knuckles bloody on unwitting doors and walls.

And because, typically, a girlfriend won't have any qualms about making her displeasure known about all the other trollopes in his life. "I don't see why you still have to hang out with her." Or, "God, she's always flirting with you. It's disgusting." And a girl definitely won't think twice about asking you where you've been, who you've been with.

You know it, girls. You've said it. Oddly, though, GF doesn't do this at all. Maybe I should be worried.

And guys? You're afraid to ever say such a thing, aren't you? You figure that if you make one little comment about Friendy McFriend or ask "Where have you been" with just the wrong inflection, suddenly you'll be cast as a knuckle-dragging, Camaro-driving, Republican.

But you know what, fellas? This is 2005 and we will not stand for double standards. If she can be jealous, you can, too. If she can have some eternally single, attractive guy hanging on her every word, you can do the same with a girl. Difficult? Not really. You know damn well how the ladies just come crawling out of the woodwork once you have a girlfriend.

So stand up for your right to be jealous. Besides, a little testosterone gets the ladies all hot and bothered. And feel free to tell her what Friendy McFriend really is... a walking penis just hoping he'll get his chance one day. And if she doesn't like it? Well, she can make a choice. She can have Mr. Sensitive Sissypants or she can have you Mr. 100% USDA Beef.


[Follow-up note: The couple mentioned at the beginning is still together. Hell, they're living together these days. Happy times.]


Friday, November 18, 2005

Date Baiters Get Sued

I never did like Although I hear that with new ownership, Spring Streets/Nerve is acting a little shady lately. From Reuters., a unit of IAC/Interactive Corp. is accused in a federal lawsuit of goading members into renewing their subscriptions through bogus romantic e-mails sent out by company employees. In some instances, the suit contends, people on the Match payroll even went on sham dates with subscribers as a marketing ploy.

Match isn't the only shady dater on the block. And no, I'm not talking about that guy who keeps sending you the weird text messages.

In a separate suit, Yahoo Inc.'s personals service is accused of posting profiles of fictitious potential dating partners on its Web site to make it look as though many more singles subscribe to the service than actually do.

One thing that stands out in the story.

U.S. consumers spent $245.2 million on online personals and dating services in the first half of 2005, up 7.6 percent from a year earlier, according to the Online Publishers Association.

Hey, you CAN put a price tag on desperation.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Take the low road

Not too long ago, before I was distracted from the worthy mission that is the Nondating blog, someone had mentioned a friend of a friend of a third cousin or something who had an “issue.” Don’t we all.

The issue in this case was as follows: This hapless soul had been wronged in a relationship, been treated questionably, then unceremoniously dumped. Not only that, but the dumper wanted to . . . wait for it . . . remain friends.

Yes, the old “remain friends” gambit.

It goes without saying that the dumpee, though mildly tortured by this, was more than willing to go along with this scenario and was armed with all sorts of rationalizations for this idiotic behavior, chief among them the desire to take the high road.

Before you to rush to judgment, admit it: you’ve done it to yourself before. Hell, despite a firm belief in scorched-earth breakups being the only good breakups, I’ve found myself in this pathetic position.

I guess it’s only natural. And by natural, I mean stupid.

So you find yourself with this weird urge to be polite to a person who has crushed your very soul, yet wants to hang around and remain friends. “Remain friends,” of course, means reminding you every day that you just weren’t up to snuff.

It’s almost funny, this impulse to be nice to the Breakup Bastard. You, the type of person who steals office supplies, gossips about best friends, and once stole your best friend’s significant other simply because you wanted to see if you could pull it off. You suddenly have a keen interest in taking the high road.

“Listen, I can be adult about this situation,” you might say to your friends and yourself (over and over again). This from someone who stomps out of the corner deli personally insulted when it runs out of Super Fudge Chunk.

You might toss in a little extra wisdom for good luck. “It’s not like we’re in high school.” Well, I have two things to say to that. EXACTLY. You’re not in high school and you don’t have to see this person again, you’re not forced into homeroom and/or other awkward situations with this person every day (unless of course you’ve been shagging a coworker, which is an entirely different topic). But, that said, high school never ends. When it comes to relationships, no one – and I mean no one – grows emotionally beyond the 10th grade. That’s as good as it gets, my friend.

So if you’re suffering from a seemingly noble impulse to take the high road, I have some advice: Ignore it.

In this case, the high road is paved with delusion, pot-holed with false hope and dead ends in a stagnant swamp of your own tears.

Besides, it’s the road most taken.

We’ve all done it. Out of some mixture of wounded pride and the unspoken hope that we’ll salvage the relationship, we decide to remain friends with someone who has treated us like so much garbage.

And we’ve all seen how that ends.

So screw it. Disclaimer: I’m not talking cases of mutual break ups. That’s an entirely different set of delusions. I’m talking dumpage—everything from the “It’s not you” speech to finding your lover in bed with someone else.

Why take the high road? This is one of the few times in your life you’re allowed to be petty and vindictive, so you might as well enjoy it. You know how you always fantasize about getting fired or winning the lottery and you have this whole laundry list of things you want to tell your boss?

Well, guess what? You just got fired.

So get dirty. Tell your ex to piss off. Let them see you cry or punch a wall, hear you scream. Call them while you’re drunk off your ass, sobbing or angry, it doesn’t matter. Kiss the high road good by. And leave behind silly phrases such as “I don’t want to give her the satisfaction” or “I’m a better person.”

Bullshit. They’re not going to get any satisfaction from you crying or getting angry. That’s just your retarded ego speaking. He just dumped you. You think he’s getting satisfaction from you freaking out? Hell no. The only thing giving him satisfaction at this point is thinking that he got rid of you. He dumped you and managed to do it without you getting mad. He suggested to remain friends? Guess what? He didn’t mean it. He’s just keeping you around to assuage his guilt (or possibly for stand-by sex). So screw nobility, and screw your ex.

Go nuts. Maybe you’ve dumped a person before and maybe you know that dread you have that the other person is going to make you feel bad. It goes both ways. So if you’re feeling like you’ve been abused and you were dumped without good reason (and, really, is there ever a good reason to dump you? YOU!?), kick it up a notch. Don’t let your ex off the hook so easily.

Let her know just how miserable you feel. Let her know how much it hurts. But don’t be passive about it. Don’t weep and moan and write poetry, as if this is some sort of disease that just sort of happens to people randomly. Oh no. Let her know, in clear and explicit terms, that all this pain and misery is her fault. And let her know you’re not happy about it. Tell her, tell her parents, tell your mutual friends.

Worried she might think you’re pathetic? Well, who cares what she thinks? She dumped you, for crying out loud. Worried he might think you’re a psycho? And? Who made you that way?

Friendship is for chumps and suckers. If you’re out of college, there’s no reason to go collecting friends of the opposite sex in the first place. You have enough friends bugging you with phone calls, making demands on your time, pestering you with their stupid relationship problems. What, you want another friend? No, of course not. Besides, you didn’t get into this particular relationship looking for a friend, now, did you?

Not only do I say to hell with the high road, I encourage you to take the other person down into the mud with you. Besides, did she not say, “It’s not you, it’s me?” So, obviously, she needs to be taught a lesson.

Just don’t take it too far. I’m not advocating stalking, tire slashing or house-burning (but mostly for legal reasons and, hey, there’s a lot to be said for catharsis).

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UPDATE: A "Ken's stupid and wrong" post and a comment-section debate. I guess it would be too much to ask that the debate happen on MY site.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

History 101

[Okay, boys and girls. I’m back. I’ll be posting to Nondating Life at least once a week. There’ll be something here every Tuesday. I swear. I promise. Really. Please take me back.]

It’s funny, almost, how quickly and haphazardly your past can catch up to you. You tend to forget it’s right behind you, like a tailgater just waiting for you to even think about touching the brakes.

A couple week backs, while sorting out party invites, I sent a couple of Evites to GF. One was sent by a couple she’d met, the other by a group of three girls.

“How do you know them?” she asked.

“Oh, I know X.,” I replied.

“Oh, how do you know her?” she asked.

“She’s a publicist and works for Y,” I replied.

“So you slept with her,” GF said, more or less, and without skipping a beat.

“Well, uh,” I started. “Actually we kind of dated.”

Let me be clear. This wasn’t a trap of any sort and I wasn’t overly worried about being lured into some nightmarish maze of questions planted in GF’s head by the nefarious editors at women’s magazines.

Still, I didn’t want to get into it.

“What do you mean, you kind of dated?”

“You know, we kind of dated.”

And I quickly gave a summary of a brief relationship that started as friends, veered over into a kinda-sorta dating relationship—one of those unmarked territories in the wild lands nestled along the borders of the Friend Zone and Friends With Benefits and Real Relationship Land. It’s a happy, carefree place with little drama and no pressure on either side. And since there was no pressure on either side, no great demand for either to step up to the plate, neither did and we drifted back into Friend Zone.

No harm, no foul. I know for others, these things typically end in disaster, but for me, this isn’t an uncommon occurrence. And GF is aware of my Friends With Benefits past.

What piqued her curiosity here was that I actually affixed the label of dating to this particular girl. You have to be careful fellas. If you craft an image of being half a step shy of a cad, some guy who slips in and out of girls’ lives and beds, calling them friends the whole time and generating little ill will—if you put a label other than friend on one of them, people will notice.

So GF wanted details.

“I just want to knowwwwww,” she said.

But I gave her little more than the summary and I was done. No more details—not that it was all that interesting—would be forthcoming.

And it wasn’t because I was hearing six or seven issues of advice from boys’ magazines like Men’s Health, Maxim and Esquire. Well, not only. Besides, you all know how I feel about the advice of people in general when it comes to relationship. I hold the advice found in these magazines—especially from the token women some these titles bring in—to be about as worthy as the advice printed in that Gardens of Old Jerusalem tour guide that Judas slipped to Jesus at the Last Supper.

Nope. Rather it had to do with the fact that I didn’t want to know. And I don’t want to know. And I never want to know.

In the first month or so of our relationship, while doing the Meet the Friends tour, it became apparent that GF had dated a lot of people. I’d slept with a lot of people. She’d dated a lot of people. People she was still friends with. And, to be honest, I think the difference between us is our many relationships was mostly semantic.

As my friend Jason pointed out to me, in some way, I’d “met my match.”

Maybe. But where she was curious and seemed to roll with the punches of meeting some of my former bed-compatriots, I, upon meeting hers, would secretly size them up, measure their shortcomings, their longcomings, everything about them. Some might be too attractive, making me feel unworthy. Others might be homely, making me feel as if I was just another in a long line of ugly schmucks.

Okay, I’m lying. I did this secretly only as long as I was sober. After a few drinks, and after leaving whatever party, it was “What the hell were you thinking? HIM?”

As you can see, this isn’t exactly a gender thing. It’s a personality thing. In stereotype world, it’s always the woman who gets catty and jealous about such things. And the guy doesn’t care as long as he’s getting his and he gets to lord it over the other guys.

But we all know better than that, right? I’m not just some girlie-man, right? Of course not. You’ve all seen Clerks. You all remember the infamous blowjob discussion, in which Dante flipped out when he discovered how many guys his old lady had been with.

I can say this much for myself. I’m not like that. I’m not that bad. Hell, it takes some pressure off of me having someone who’s got a similar track record. It’s good not to be considered a male slut or, worse, a playboy who needs training and reforming.

And I can’t tell you how excellent it is to have a girl who’s rational about these things.

But there’s a limit. She’s almost too rational and I have to watch that I don’t wander into traps of my own making. Obviously, an idiot who keeps not one, but two blogs likes to talk about himself. And it’s hard sometimes to remember that telling all my stories to a woman I’m interested in isn’t necessarily the smartest thing in the world. Over the years, I’ve gotten better. In the past few years, I got to the point where I could have almost four whole drinks before I started in with the “Oh, I’ve slept with all my friends” line. Of course, it should be pointed out that at any social outing I typically have eight or nine drinks, so the point is kind of moot. But I do hear second and third-hand reports that I’m HIGHLY entertaining at industry parties—which might explain why I’m reluctant to pull out all the big guns in my print-world so-called gossip column.

In my current case, GF doesn’t mind hearing these stories. She has an almost academic-slash-romantic interest in them. She wants to see what makes me tick, see where I come from, how I got here. And again, it’s not that she’s sitting there with the chick notebook, writing everything down to use against me at a future date.

Shit. Maybe she is. Maybe she’s THAT good at playing me. This is all going into the great big book of “Well, what about the time you did hrumhrumrum with soandso(andso)!?” Excuse me while I go hyperventilate into a paper bag.

Go figure. All we have in the house is plastic.

At any rate, the limit I’m looking to place here is solely for my protection. While she might be able to handle details about my past… and while I might delight in giving them, I can’t handle details about hers and I want nothing to do with them. As it is, all I need is a name and all the little green-eyed gremlins in my head get to work filling in all the details. (Ladies, this is what leads the man you’ve just broken up with or just toyed with or whatever to fly into a rage and start punching walls until he breaks his knuckles. Guys, you may have run into the girl version of this: she’s slashed your tires or poured sugar into your gas tank.)

Look, if you’re looking for a word of advice in all this, I don’t know what to tell you. In the short term, I stick by all previous claims that if your partner likes you (really, really likes you), you can do no wrong. But I’d venture that in the long term, if you want a clean and simple life, just keep your mouth shut as much as possible. That rule about lowballing the number of people you’ve slept with (god, that sounds dirty) is there for a reason.

Ultimately, what I’m doing is protecting myself AND being fair. I don’t need to fly into a rage and since I don’t want to hear her stories, I’m not going to subject her to certain details of mine.

Not while I’m sober at any rate.

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