It’s not the chase, it’s the intermittent reinforcement.

I briefly mentioned (in my exasperated rant about yet anther ghosting) that I have once again entered the dark and mysteriously alluring world of online dating, this time with an altered approach. For one I’m on a different site than last time (no more bottom feeders at POF for this girl…I’ve moved on to the (still free) illustrious pool of somewhat eligible bachelors matched to me via the very loose algorithms of OK Cupid.). And for two, I’m more interested in and open to an actual relationship this go round. Shocking, I know. It kind of snuck up on me too but I’ve realized I feel sort of…maybe..almost ready for a regular other person in my life. Whatever that means.

However, just because that’s what I think I  want right now does not mean it’s what I’ve gotten. While there does seem to be more candidates on this site, the dates I’ve been on have not been so different. There’s been the FriendZone guy (decent, easy to get along with, interesting but no chemistry), the boring guy (super available, not a lot going on in his life, nice but…nice), and, the one that seems to click, the Ghoster.

It’s the last one that gets me every time.

He’s fun, interesting, and makes me laugh, even gets my sense of humor. He meshes. Usually there’s something that makes me hesitant at first but a  few dates in and I start thinking “This has potential.” And then it happens. As soon as I start leaning towards wanting him around and feeling optimistic, he “Ghosts”. Dude just drops off the face of the earth never to be heard from again. I’ve experienced this a few times. And every time I’m infuriated.

But then it happens again.

Sometimes there are signs. He texts a little less or seems less engaged. Little things like that. I should be able to recognize the warning signs by now. And I sort of do. The problem is the warning signs make me want the dude more… I thought I just really liked the chase (in a lot of ways I am more like a stereotypical guy than girl. Seriously, don’t buy me flowers…give me beer and a burger and I’m a happy camper.) But then one day, in a somewhat frustrating but still rewarding texting situation with a friend, a light bulb dinged in my head saying:

“Intermittent reinforcement”!

See, this guy and I have a mostly texting based friendship. Occasionally we’ll talk about meeting up for a random adventure. And it has actually happened. Twice. In three years. Sometimes, okay maybe more than sometimes, I’ll randomly text him and he won’t respond. But then sometimes he does. Once in a while he’ll even text me out of the blue. I’m always super excited and kind of happy about it. This pattern has gone on for a while now, over a year (I’m almost embarrassed to admit). Little spurts of fun attention with spans of mostly being ignored or getting short answers in between.

Intermittent reinforcement.

I’ve taken a couple psychology classes (Or I’ve taken a psychology class a couple of times. Whatever. Basically the same thing.) and I remember B.F. Skinner and his rats.

Skinner, an early behavioral psychologist, studied rats and their response to reward based stimulus. He talked about operant conditioning and stuff. (Here’s the Wikipedia page to prove it.) One of the things that this Skinner dude found, way back before the middle of the 20th century, was that intermittent reinforcement was way more effective than continuous reinforcement. Meaning when we consistently get a positive (or negative) result from our actions it isn’t as exciting and, well, rewarding as when we only get that same result once in a while. We thrive off the unpredictability of the prize, it makes us crazy for more and drives us to increase the behavior for even just the chance of getting the reward.

In rat studies this looks like the rat getting a food prize every time it pulls the right lever versus only some of the time. The rat who only gets a prize some of the time will pull that damn lever over and over and over again. Think gambling and slot machines here. It’s exponentially more exciting and rewarding because we’re surprised when we get the reward and addicted to the possibility of getting a reward next time when we don’t. It’s a very effective training tool.

So what do rats and reinforcement have to do with dating?

Everything! Getting a response or attention from a person only some of the time instead of every time we try makes us want to try to get that person’s attention even more. Anyone who had done any online dating can probably give antedotal evidence of this. 

So I realized that I was engaged in a pattern of intermittent reinforcement with Fickle Texting guy. The fact that he didn’t respond every time, or even regularly, made me want interaction with him even more. When he did actually respond and interact it was like all the cherries lined up on the slot machine. Excitement and win ! When there was no response it was annoying and frustrating but I was still drawn to texting him again at random. Because he might respond. The possibulity was there. As soon as I recognized this dynamic with Fickle Texting Guy (I’m slow sometimes but eventually I get it.) I started to notice it other places in my life too, specifically in some of my past dating experiences.

Heck, I’ve been on the receiving AND the giving end of intermittent reinforcement.

I think we all have and that’s not necessarily unhealthy. At the beginning, in moderation, it’s part of what builds attraction. But, and this is a big butt, it can very easily become unhealthy and even feed into abusive relationship dynamics. Continued intermittent reinforcement basically gives one person control of the interaction pace and lends itself to a craving in the other person that goes largely unsatisfied. Again, think gambling addiction here. It’s the same thing.

SO now that I’m aware of this thing, what do I do with this it? 

Do I try to “hook” a guy using intermittent reinforcement? It does sound like a fun social experiment. But what kind of a relationship dynamic would that foster? And what kind of guy would I catch with that?

Seeking out guys who don’t engage in imtermittent reinforcement seems like a better idea. I mean, I’ve already proven to be good at finding the guy who is going to run away, probably after the next shiny thing. Identifying patterns of intermittent reinforcement early could be a good way to weed out the Ghosters before the disappearing act begins. This is something I’m going to mull over and keep in mind as I message new guys online and continue to try and find one who will not only stick around, but who I also actually want around. 

As for the guy who only responds to texts sometimes, it’s been about a month since I’ve restarted the intermittent reinforcement cycle and I’m not all that interested in doing so. Maybe knowing really is half the battle.

 

 

Is it you or the rejection?

In the last month of 2016 I did this thing. Again. I created an online dating profile and threw my hat into the ring.

It had been close to a year since I conscientiously decided that my life had no room for dating. But then things started to feel different. I was…idk. Feeling more ready to have a regular someone? Or maybe I was just a little sadder and more lonely than usual. Maybe I was trying to distract myself from the lingering uncertainty and imminent disappointment of not having gotten a fall interview for dental school. Maybe I saw a few blank days on the calendar and, knowing how poorly I still handle more than three days in a row without my kids (especially when there’s no school to occupy my time), sought to fill them. Mostly I think I just wanted connection, positive human interaction to look forward to. And I found that. For a hot minute. Just.

A couple weeks into the process I had already been on three dates. One was fun but it was pretty clear the feelings were only platonic. One was a little awkward and almost boring. The other, though, that one had potential. It lead to a second then third date. There was the right amount of texting in between with banter, sarcasm, and regular conversation. He got my slightly sarcastic and jaded, dry sense of humor. It was great and on top of that he was local and had enough life stuff of his own going on to not be boring, desperate, or overly clingy. (In retrospect that’s a little ironic.) Both personally and logistically there was promise here. That is, until a few days ago. We had talked about “doing something” Monday or Tuesday. He said he was definitely interested. That was on Friday, I think, and regular texting continued for another day or so. And then… nothing. A-fucking-gain. Dude just stops responding to texts.

I’ve only sent two. One Sunday night asking Monday or Tuesday and one Monday afternoon saying “Welp, guess not today huh”. And, yes, it’s only Tuesday but given that there were tentative plans I’m taking this as a bad sign. This isn’t the first or, sadly, even the second time I’ve been “ghosted”. Maybe I’m wrong here but I highly doubt it.

So now I’ve been properly (re)disillusioned about dating. And it sucks. Again. It dredges up the same feelings as before. Frustration, anger, and some good ol’fashioned hurt. But did I really attach that fast? And if I did what the fuck is wrong with me??? It’s been maybe a month since the chatting and then texting began and only three dates. That’s not personal investment level time even if the guy seemed like a good fit. Which makes me wonder, is it him or just the rejection that’s got me all bent up inside?

Hell, maybe it’s the post holiday let down or the recent inability to sleep or the empty house and missing the kids. Or all of the above, along with the aforementioned looming dental school disappointment. Probably all of the above.

But, seriously, again?!?!

I think there’s some effed up homing mechanism in my head, like the thing that helps birds migrate back to the exact same spot every year except mine acts as a beacon to the guys who are going to disappear. Really I should start a service where I suss out the ghosters for other women. (I could be a Ghoster detector…a Ghoster Buster!) Because if I like them and there seems to be potential, well, chances are he’s going to disappear. Maybe it’ll be a few weeks, maybe a month or three, but one day he’ll just drop off the face of the earth. Figuratively speaking of course. Unless that’s what is literally happening. There could be a Bermuda triangle of guys I started sort of dating out there somewhere. That would explain a lot…

At any rate, I’m not sure how I want to let this affect my recent spate of online dating attempts. Is this the hot pan that I pull back from quickly, thankful the burn wasn’t worse, or the cold lake that I jump into and tolerate until I’ve adapted?

 

New Goals

I was all pumped up on endorphins or something in the days following the Cleveland race and I did something that maybe I should not have. I signed up for the Detroit half marathon in October. There was a discount for it in my “virtual race bag” and, despite the terrible weather, I really did enjoy the actual running of this last half especially since I had gotten faster and maintained the average pace I was aiming for. Maybe if I just kept my mileage high between these two races I could get even faster. the allure of running a 2:05 half marathon combined with a ten percent discount was too much to resist.

In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, I’m a goal oriented person. In the spirit of building on positive momentum and adapting to my typically more relaxed (though maybe for the last year) summer schedule I’ve come up with some new running goals.

Speedwork: I love listening to other runners’ conversations. During the Cleveland race I heard a guy chatting up the woman running next to him. He explained that he hasn’t been a runner for very long and said “I’m only thirty so I should be faster.” (Because being younger should make you inherently faster than that sixty year old dude over there who clearly just runs twenty-four-seven. Yeah, that’s exactly how it works.) Her dry, almost sarcastic response of “Do you do any speedwork?” made me smile. So obvious!

Of course he replied that he did not do speed work; he didn’t know that the only way to get faster is to run faster. Running more helps but unless you practice running faster you won’t just magically race faster. Since I do want to race faster my goal here is to do regular speed work stuff. Once a week. Or maybe once every two weeks…at very least twice a month. I’m not talking about anything crazy, just a few 400’s at the track, some hill repeats, and a pace run here and there.

Long Runs: For two of the three halfs (halves?) I’ve done I ran just over thirteen miles at least once. That made a big difference in how I felt during those races even if the long runs leading up to them felt terrible. Since fall is a busy time for me with all my children and myself getting back into school routines after the less structured summer, building mileage in those long runs gets a little more challenging. To ease that challenge a bit my goal is to maintain my current (sort of…not much running had gone on the past two weeks) level of running. To put that in concrete terms, it’s my goal to do at least two ten or more mile runs a week.

Mileage: Mt running app informed me (the day before my birthday this week) that it was our year anniversary. At least I made it to a year anniversary with someone…even if that someone is an app on my phone. According to Nike Run I’ve logged 802.5 miles this year. I wish it had been 1000 because that just sounds way cooler. So, that’s what I’m aiming for this year. I’ll need and average of 16.46 more miles a month than I had this year to accomplish that. If I am achieving the aforementioned long run goal this should not be a problem.

Races: Aside from the October half marathon I want to get in a couple 10k’s this summer. Ideally I’ll find one a month for June, July, and August on the weeks I have my kids so that my First and Fourth, who both run cross country, can join me. My oldest is the type who can go out and run a 10k in 45 minutes even though he hasn’t run in months. Ugh! I’m so jealous. With it being his senior cross country season this fall I’d like to see him start running over the summer (you know, like most normal runners who have to to get in shape do). My Fourth is in middle school so his school based races are two miles. they run more than three in practices but he’s hesitant to do a 5k. I know he can do it with just a little regular running but he’s not so sure. Getting a couple fun 5k’s in over the summer would give him a great confidence boost before cross country and his second year of middle school starts.  Whether or not this happens will depend on a few things including money (my single mom/student budget is not very forgiving and races are way more expensive than they should be especially when you’re signing up three people).

Coaching: I’ve been wanting to get into coaching cross country for a while now but my life has been a little on the crazy side as far as schedule and responsibilities go. My schedule is still pretty intense but there is a coaching change happening at the school and a couple parents have asked if I was going to either coach the middle school team or be an assistant coach. I’m looking into the logistics of this and am excited that it might work out. There are a few details to work out still so maybe it won’t, but I’m hopeful.

Relaxing: I’ve been told once or twice (maybe more) that I need to slow down and relax once in a while, that I should learn to take it easy. Psh, take it easy, what does that even mean?!? But since more than one person has said something along these lines to me I’m taking it to heart and adding relaxing to my list  of new goals.

coffee & crochet

I took this picture last summer, proof that relaxing does happen on rare and isolated occasions.

Over the summer I’m also working on getting my dental school application complete and submitted, getting my house clean and organized so I can tackle a few smaller home improvement projects (I have a wall that’s begging to be knocked down), crocheting, and reading. I even have a (mental) summer reading list. It’s been so long since I’ve had time to just read for fun and interest, I can’t wait to get started. Hopefully there will be some beaches involved in this summer reading thing. I’ve been toying with the idea of getting back on some dating websites too, it seems to be my summer trend (which I promptly abandon when I remember what my life is really like each fall). Despite the weirdness of online dating, it can be fun and entertaining to engage with so many new people and the thrill and possibility that comes with someone new is exciting. However, my efforts and energy might be better spent fostering the friendships I do have and on introspection and self-improvement…and on running. Unlike online dating, running is always worth the time and rarely disappoints.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve only run once this month and I’m starting to feel symptoms of running deficiency…time to go log some miles.

crazy runner meme

Okay, so maybe that makes me a little crazy…

 

He Said Whaaaa???

This past dip in the pond of online dating, though it was a very short one, yielded some of my most interesting interactions of my online dating expedition thus far. There’s the good, the bad, and the funny and more than once I found myself shaking my head thinking “Did he really  just say that?” Spoiler alert:Yes he did.

Now there's a pick-up line that would actually work on me!

Now there’s a pick-up line that would actually work on me!

The Good Gone Bad

“You and I are probably apples and oranges but you’re adorable.”

Good opening line, right? Unfortunately after a little surface level banter he busted out this line: “Some friendly advice, try not to be so complicated. Guys don’t like that shit.” Ummm, what? I’m not even sure where this idea that I’m complicated came from…we hadn’t even started to get into the actual nitty gritty of my life. The five kids and crazy schedule with very little free time, you know, that stuff. Jeez! And I’m pretty sure the goal is to find a guy who likes me, not to change to get guys to like me. I told him as much.

You know how they say people will tell you who they really are so you should believe them? So true! After that this dude told me he could be sarcastic and that he had a nice way of insulting people to their faces and they’d just laugh it off (paraphrasing here). Is that supposed to be appealaing to me? He mixed lines like that in with things like “You really are very cute.” and “So how is someone like you still single?” (to which I responded: because I don’t date assholes.) Then after faux apologizing, the dude unloads this crazy story about how he had been an Olympic swimmer but got burned out on the training, he was with this woman who’s seven years younger than him for a long time and she suddenly told him she didn’t love him anymore and up & left, that his dad had died, and he’d been single for five months now because no one he had dated was “right”.

News flash, buddy, No one is going to be “right” until YOU are right. Take some time to get over that girl…and yourself. You think you can insult me and I won’t notice because you say something nice two sentences later?

Nope. I’ve already had that relationship and , Spoiler, it ended in divorce.

This one also had a great opener. “You are absolutely gorgeous. If you’re half as kind, as you are pretty, I’d probably end up being crazy about you. Are you attracted to scruffy musician types?”

It didn’t get too bad and he seemed pretty decent. We actually exchanged phone numbers and were talking about meeting but (surprise) our schedules weren’t meshing that week due to my kids’ spring break. We texted a little though and at one point, when I was driving back from Ohio, he made the comment that he would just be sitting home alone watching tv when I drove by. *hint hint*

Wanna know why he would just be sitting home watching tv? Because his kids would be in bed sleeping. Does he not realize that I could be a crazy psycho killer or worse, a stage 5 clinger or something?!?

And this one, this one just made me say “What is wrong with you people???” Like the others it started out okay: “I like your name. Well you may not believe this, but I also like Pina coladas and getting caught in the rain…and Batman. I like to boat and fish and be outdoors in the sun. I work at an industrial gas plant as a foreman. I love trying new beers…and retrying old ones! 🙂 I greatly dislike flying in planes but I will if I have to. Your turn for now!”

This wasn’t his opening message. He lead with the classic  lame “Tell me more about yourself.” To which I responded “I have more personal information in my profile than you do, why don’t you tell me about yourself?”

It lead to a few more messages one of which ended with this: “The picture of you in the short skirt and high boots kind of gets me going. 😉 I’m not a perv….just have a high drive for it.” Umm, okay. I didn’t really acknowledge that comment but responded to the rest of what he had said. Then there was this at the end of his next message: “So, I hope this isn’t poorly received, but how would one get to see more pictures like the short skirt picture? Or find out what’s under there? ;)”

A vagina. What do you expect to be under my skirt? And, no, you can’t see it. Adios.

Then there was the guy I talked to for over  a week. He seemed okay and, honestly, I wasn’t super interested but was giving him a one or two meeting chance as part of my “try something different” approach to dating. I was a little concerned because he lived about an hour away (sounds familiar right?). I expressed this concern to him but it did not dampen his enthusiasm. He assured me that he liked driving and would gladly come out my way regularly if I wanted.

After some consistent back and forth texting, mostly initiated by him…on an almost daily basis, (which had me wary of a certain unwarranted level of attachment on his end) we were making plans to meet the next day. And then this: “I should also tell you, I won’t have a car for like two more weeks, mine was totalled by a drunk driver and I still have a few weeks of saving to do before I buy my new one.” He went on to apologize for not saying something sooner and all that. Blah, blah, blah.

“So you wouldn’t be able to meet somewhere tomorrow?” I responded. “If it was around here I would. I really don’t have anyone to borrow a vehicle from.” Followed by more apologizing and talking about how he really does want to meet me… So….you think I’m going to drive over an hour to an area of the state that I’m totally unfamiliar with for a first meeting with a guy I found online??? That sounds like the beginning of a horror movie. No thank you! I haven’t heard from him since and it’s been four weeks. It’s okay though, I get the feeling I dodged a bullet on that one. There were a few signs of more clingyness than I can handle.

The Straight Up Bad

I know I mentioned in a post early in my online dating experience about some of the…straightforward messages I’ve received so I won’t go into those type of messages that I do occasionally get but there’s another type of bad that’s been creeping up…The You Owe It To Me guy. If you’ve online dated before you probably know what I’m talking about. The guy who messages you, most likely says nothing except “Hi” or ” how r u today”. You check out his profile and maybe don’t see anything that interests you or even see something that is a major red flag ( or something like this: “if you want to know anything about me ask even though i am sure alot of you ladies think you are better then me and everyone else i have to try this sorry if i am being too honest but thats how i am i speak my mind if you dont like it ohh well get over it. It does not matter what a person looks like really as long as they have a good heart and look for the beauty within a person.”)

So you ignore the message. Then he comes back with something along the lines of “Oh so you think ur to good to talk to me”…Umm, nope. But just because you took all of one second to message me a few words does not mean I am obliged to respond and now I really don’t want to talk to you…let alone entertain the idea of meeting you. Does this approach actually work for anyone???

The Ood  Odd

One guy I was talking to last week seemed pretty normal. He gave me his phone number and we started texting back and forth a bit, mostly about food since we both happened to be preparing dinner at the time. I mentioned I was cooking for my kids. Usually I throw out that I have kids (it is on my profile too but I don’t have pictures of them or mention them in my write up at all so I think people forget) He took the bait and asked “How old are your little ones?” Umm, yeah, some of them are not so little. I told him as much and that there are five of them…there was a notable pause, an increase in response time before he came back with “How many dads?” That one caught me by surprise, I’ve never been asked that but it’s a valid question. At this point I thought for sure he was about to run away. It’s okay, it happens. But then it didn’t…

We talked for a few more days, food came up a lot. That first evening he mentioned that he loves milk but buys 1/2% even though 2% is his favorite…”Less fat obviously.” Then he mentioned that he’s “trying to avoid bread…even tho i luv it” and later that he’s going on a high protein diet. When he commented “i luv chz (cheese). Thinking about giving it up tho.” I just had to laugh. Seriously, from his pictures he looks like a pretty skinny guy too. I just don’t understand. I told him no one should give up cheese…ever!

Shortly after that comment, though I don’t think it was related, he asked if I had a picture I could send him. Crap! I understand wanting to see that the person you’re talking to is who they say they are and that a lot of people use misleading photos on dating websites BUT my phone won’t send picture messages right now. Lame, very lame, I know. And I said as much to him. He seemed a bit miffed by this saying “That is lame…lol…who the hell cant send pics in 2015??? Ha.”  Welll, me. That’s who. I explained how I had just switched phones and a whole bit about SIM cards and stuff. The more I explained the weirder it sounded. Double crap! I thought this was it for this guy…he is surely going to run away now. But he didn’t.

The next day he texted & asked how I was…and what I was making for dinner. I had to chuckle. Isn’t there some saying about the way to a man’s heart being through his stomach? Maybe there’s some truth to that. (I’m fairly certain being able to cook doesn’t hurt with guys…ever). Admittedly this one was a little odd with his food issues but I found it amusing, almost charming. My friend pointed out that he had “fat kid food issues”. Oh, now it made sense. Okay. I can deal with that.  In fact, this guy’s oddness made me more curious to meet him. I really wanted to see how it translated in person. He commented that “we seem to like similar food. I think ud like arabic food…maybe we should try it together sometime. Theres a restaurant near my condo thats good.”  I expressed an interest but there was no asking about an actual time that would work or attempt to make plans quite yet. It was a promising sign though.

And then he upped the oddness ante. “Random question” he asked “what size shoe do u wear?…im assuming small since ur 5’2” Yup, that’s random. Apparently he’s “attracted to small feet”. I told him my shoe size (which is not actually very small). Curiouser and curiouser.

I think the feet did it though. We chatted a little more that evening but that was the last day I heard from him. I texted a few days later and got no response. After all that, the five kids & not being able to send pics, it seems it was my big feet that finally killed my chances with this one. Not going to lie, I was slightly disappointed. I’ve never met anyone with food issues AND a foot fetish. Plus he had a very normal nine to five, weekends off work schedule. Odd AND available. Huh, too bad.

no Ood or drink

The Unavailability Clause

About a month ago I wrote a post about dating. Really, there had not been much dating going on here since January when This Guy dropped off the face of the earth (which was sort of what I was writing about then), but I had (and have) been thinking a lot about dating.

It’s almost the same thing, right? (Okay, it’s not quite the same. I know this. )

I haven’t just been thinking about dating like “Gee, I’d like to do more of that sometime soon”, I’ve been self analyzing my dating tendencies and my (albeit limited) past dating successes and failures. While there hasn’t been much of either, there is something to be learned from the experiences I’ve had. One thing I’ve noticed, as I mentioned before, is that there are certain similarities in the men I’ve gone out with. This is no surprise BUT I’m not talking about things like having dark hair and at least borderline nerdy interests. I’m talking more about similar behavioral things and interpersonal dynamics that have emerged…My pattern.

Everyone has a pattern but you’re more likely to notice other people’s patterns than your own. For example, this single friend of a friend, I look at (what I know of) her dating habits and the guys she dates. It seems like she does the same thing over and over. And, guess what, she gets the same results…over and over. She chooses these alpha male types, police officers or military guys, that type. They’re manly men with strong protective instincts who like to be in charge. This is her type, her pattern. Even though it doesn’t really go the way she wants it to she picks the same guy over and over again.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

This girl, she’s not unique. It’s a human thing. So when she would come up in conversation and some of her dating woes were mentioned I began to wonder Do I have a pattern? I definitely don’t want to repeat the relationship dynamic of my marriage. Not at all! And I’ve only just begun dating.  So far the guys I’ve chosen to date varied quite a bit in professions and personal interests and a lot of things like that but the almost-relationships that I’ve had (all two of them) followed the same pattern. Super interested, fun back and forth texting or messaging, meet, go on a few fun dates & getting to know each other, start liking, then…fade out. Or just straight up drop off into the abyss. Seriously, this has happened a few times now. So what was the similarity? What’s my pattern? Clearly you can’t make or discern a pattern with two data points so I can’t just include the guys I’ve actually been on dates with but when you look at Almost guys or Interest guys the pattern becomes clear…

My type, my repeating folly, is the unavailable asshole. I was originally going to use that as the title of this post buuut my previous post had asshole in the title too and I didn’t want to overdue it. I probably use the term asshole more liberally than your average girl (or guy). Not that I run around assholing all the time, it’s just that I really do think everyone has at least a little bit of asshole in them, some more than others. Way more. Or in different ways. So I pretty much call almost everyone and asshole but in a general way, not an angry, trying-to-insult-them way.

Apparently, based on past male interactions of interest, I like a particular brand of asshole. It’s not something I was really even aware of until recently when I was talking to my co-blogger. She asked about a guy I was involved with awhile back, as I was describing his personality, she started laughing. She said that I just described the guy I was currently having a flirtation with. That gave me pause. My perceptive friend, co-worker, and co-blogger had hinted at such a thing but I didn’t recognize it until that moment.

Turns out I like assholes….nice ones though. The ones who can be, and always are for a while, overwhelmingly nice, especially nice to me even while they’re being assholes to the other people in their lives. Funny, sarcastic, assholes. The type that will tell you straight off and with a charming smile that they are an asshole. If they have some baggage that makes them somewhat unavailable it’s a bonus. A double whammy of attraction for me. (hence my pattern guy being the Unavailable Asshole) One guy, the disappearing concert ticket guy, told me he was probably too nice for me…turns out not so much. But he read me right; I know I can be a jerk so having someone who gives it back to me a bit might be a good thing. It’s the whole Scarlett O’Hara principle: Like Marries like. Actually her father said it first. and she didn’t believe him but over the course of the story she realizes it’s true. About the same time Scarlett finally figures out that she & Rhett are alike and that’s why they belong together, he decides he’s done with her. Timing is everything.

At any rate, unavailable assholes, it’s a thing.

The unavailability clause, now that has been a little more apparent. There’s the emotionally unavailable guy with baggage that prevents him from really investing and the logistically unavailable guy…or sometimes they’re both. The first guy I went out with more than a couple times (I think it was like five, maybe six altogether) was a bit like me in his level of busyness. His days were packed and his free time was limited. Sounds familiar right? He told me on the first date that he was very into his career, worked a lot, and it had been a problem in past relationships. His work was his main interest, almost his obsession. I can understand that and it was quite an interesting career (he’s a detective and did stuff with data patterns and linking people…it really was pretty cool). And that obsessive level of involvement made him more attractive to me and…well, unavailable. Then there was the younger guy (who it never would’ve worked with anyhow…part of his appeal). We went on two & a half dates and then he dropped off. Turns out he was seeing another girl too and that took a turn for the more serious. I learned this when they were in Splitsville for a bit and he contacted me again. Hey buddy, your asshole is showing!

It doesn’t take a degree in psychology to see the appeal of the unavailable. It’s safe and I don’t have to worry about things actually working or getting serious and what I would do with that. I have some pretty strong self-preservation mechanisms, the unavailability clause is just the first layer.

So what now? After realizing this and acknowledging my pattern, what do I do with it? If I keep doing the same thing I will keep getting the same results. If nothing changes, well, nothing changes.

Even though I probably shouldn’t, I got back on an online dating site. I wasn’t really planning on it but then saw someone interesting and unhid my profile. The momentum built from there.  I’m trying to take a different approach this time though and date people I might not normally date. Nice guys. Normal guys. Available guys. So far I’ve been on one date and it was…okay. We had decent conversation but a spark was missing. I’ve been cautioned that that might be the asshole spark and, keeping that in mind, I’m giving it some time to see what happens. A second date and maybe third…well, as soon as we find a time that works for both of us; it’s looking like that might be a challenge but not because of him. Looks like I may be a bit of an unavailable asshole myself.

This is Why I Don’t Get Dates

It was a Saturday late morning or maybe right around noon, well past the time for pajamas at any rate, and I was at the grocery store. I had to run out to pick up a kid from a friend’s house in the midst of my Saturday morning homework binge for the second time that day and realized I needed milk and a couple key ingredients for a cake I was supposed to make that afternoon so I swung by the store. No big deal. As I was walking in I noticed my reflection in the store doors before they slid open and I thought to myself “Yup, this is why I don’t get dates.”

I’m not a bad looking person but my over-sized, ratty hoodie & semi-pajama pants tucked into the tops of my clunky winter boots were not doing me any favors nor was my total lack of grooming (maybe not total, I did brush my teeth before going out). It’s not that I don’t care about myself or how I look, I do (really, I do!), but I have a very low level of caring about what other people think of me. Add that to never having enough time, running (late) in five different directions regularly, and often being sleep deprived…And, yup, I’m pretty sure this is exactly why I don’t get dates.

Truthfully I do get dates when I try. The two separate times I attempted online dating I got lots of attention. Some of it was even the kind I wanted and resulted in conversations and even a few dates. For a hot minute there back in January I actually thought I had a thing going with a guy I met online, like a dating-almost-relationship thing. It was pretty cool. Even though I didn’t go into online dating looking for a relationship I liked This Guy and we hit it off really well right from the start (I’m pretty sure he liked me quite a bit too). There were a lot of regular back & forth text messaging and phone conversations, and some good dates with only funny-awkward moments  not bad-awkward moments. At one point I remember telling a friend that I was a little worried about how much I liked This Guy because surely he had a harmatia (basically a fatal flaw) and it was going to become apparent sooner or later and then I’d just be disappointed. This was the first time I saw possible future potential in a person I was interested in who was also interested in me. By long term potential I just mean the possibility of dating on the reg for an extended period of time. I’m not planning weddings or naming babies here, people. Been there, done that, got the  t-shirt   divorce to prove it. No need to go back there any time soon if ever.

But then…dating This Guy fell off into the abyss. I’m not real sure what actually happened but I’m going to go with it was him not me. I think the craziness of my life freaked him out a little.

I have five kids and a lot of responsibility. I keep myself going 90 mph until I crash…then I pick myself up and do it all over again. That’s just the way my life goes right now. Yes, I realize some of this is my choice but I’ve got a lot to get done and this is just the way I do it.

So, even though the dude said he understood that I wasn’t looking for someone to jump in and really participate in my life, I think he got overwhelmed. I say I think because he kind of just got weird after having to cancel a couple dates (due to kid issues, which I totally get and was okay with)…

and then suddenly stopped. Yup, just stopped. But only (right) after he bought concert tickets a month in advance and then invited me to go. Seriously, the last conversation I had with him was via text when he asked if I wanted to and was able to go to a concert we had been talking about. He even sent me a picture of the tickets after he bought them.

Mixed messages much?

I was a little confused for a while. Clearly This Guy didn’t want to see or even talk to me anymore, but what about the concert tickets? Was he just going to pop back up in a couple weeks and be like “Hey, babe, how about that concert?” I didn’t think so but why buy them if he was already on the way out? Also, I really did want to go to the concert with or without him. I even texted after not hearing from him for a couple weeks and asked if he wanted me to buy the tickets off him. I got nothing.

After a bit of angry & confused ranting I realized this was a good thing.

It gave me a moment to really think about why I don’t get dates. Or, rather, why I get dates but then get The Fade out Why it seems like it’s good and then it just ends. It’s happened a few times to different degrees in the oh-so-short time that I’ve been dating and I can’t help but ask What am I doing wrong here?

Here’s what I came up with:

1) My initial enthusiasm is misleading.

When I meet someone new that I’m interested in and enjoy talking to I tend to “talk” to them a lot whether that be actual conversations or back-and-forth text sessions. I’m all like “Ohhh look, New and shiny!” and I get kind of caught up in that. Also, I don’t interact with many adults on a regular basis so this person becomes my new social outlet. Maybe that’s overwhelming to people…or makes them think I’m more needy than I am. Really I just want someone to play with.

2) I lose sight of what I’m looking for.

I got married when I was 20. I was married for technically 13 years and logistically over 11. I don’t really know how to date. Yes, I’ve heard you just do it and make the rules up as you go along, but I seem to fall into something exclusive and more serious minded way faster than I mean to. Maybe it’s habit. I know married dynamics, I don’t know what casually dating looks like from the inside. I really don’t want a relationship right now, I want someone to go do fun stuff with and spend time with on a semi-regular basis but the way I act when I start seeing someone might not be saying this. I’m not sure exactly how to make that different. It takes time to re-learn long term learned behavior I guess.

3) I really don’t have time. 

On maybe the second date I went on with This Guy we were having a casual conversation about our respective limited post-divorce dating experiences. I mentioned that my lack time and availability was an issue in my previous attempts at dating. he immediately assured me that it wouldn’t be with him. Like me, he had gotten used to being alone, had other stuff (parenting, work, etc) going on, and enjoyed a certain amount of personal space so not being able to spend copious amounts of time together wasn’t a problem. A few more dates into it when things were starting to get a little more physical he made the comment that he didn’t want this to become just a physical thing and could see that happening due to the time thing. I think not having as much time or flexibility with my time made it weirdly intense way too soon which then makes it seem more serious than it should.

4) I date the wrong guy…over and over.
Every person dating, whether just casually or with hopes of finding “the one”, has a pattern that they tend to repeat. I’ve just realized what mine might be and can see how I really have been perpetuating it.
I’m not going to go into more detail than that right now because this is deserving of it’s own blog post methinks. Suffice it to say, I date the wrong guy…on purpose. It’s safe and familiar. But obviously it doesn’t work. I may need to convince myself that I do want something that can work.

So now that I see some of the things that might be standing in the way of dating success (whatever that means), what am I going to do about it?
Well, I’m going to take the lessons I’ve learned and try again armed with a little more self-awareness this time. …once this semester is done. I really am way too busy for any dating right now!

Oh and, in case you were wondering, I ended up getting my own concert tickets and going with my co-blogger (She blogged about it too). And I didn’t see This Guy there. Not that I was really looking. I just scanned,really, and it was a smaller venue. Pretty sure I would’ve seen him if he was there. Who wastes perfectly good concert tickets like that? Jeez!


Online Dating: The First Month

Way back in the thick of the divorce proceedings my lawyer told me that she advises her clients not to date until at least six months after their divorce is finalized. My response was something along the lines of “Six more months once this is done? But we’ve been separated for well over a year now.”
It wasn’t that I was in a hurry to get out there and start dating but that just seemed like a long time to wait after an already long time of being alone and not much fun.
Really I just wanted some fun.
She sent me a couple articles about dating during divorce and why not to. They made sense, saying stuff about healing and messiness, hurting your former partner’s feelings, and whatnot. I got it.
Plus my lawyer is a pretty smart lady and seems to know what she’s talking about most the time .
Not that I wish I was back in the midst of the divorce mess but I do miss talking to her on an at least weekly basis.
For the most part I took my lawyer’s advice and just laid low for a few months, spent some time healing and adjusting. If you’re a regular reader I’m sure you’re aware it’s an ongoing process and far from complete. Truthfully I knew I wasn’t even ready to start thinking about dating. Sure I was (and am) lonely but I still felt like such a mess inside and was dealing with that and learning to be okay with and by myself. Frankly, the idea of sharing this mess (or even letting someone else see it) was a little terrifying. It still is.
Lately though things have been changing and it’d been five months since the divorce was finalized. As I’m starting to accept that my life is what it is I find myself feeling ready to move forward. So I took the first tentative steps into the strange new (to me) world of dating.
I created a profile on an online dating site.

I don’t get out much and have a wicked shy streak when it comes to talking to people I don’t know.
And by people I mean any guy I’m even remotely interested in.
Let’s just say I’m the master of the deer in the headlights look.

deer in headlights

It’s no good for meeting new people. Plus I have this crazy seven night in a row work schedule and a bunch of kids that are pretty demanding of my time combined with a severe lack of single friends (or maybe just available friends) to play wing man; it was very clear that online dating was going to be my best bet for now.

Creating a profile was almost painful. Like many people, I just don’t like writing about myself or putting personal information out there. Plus what the heck are you supposed to say on these things? But I did try and came up with something appropriately vague and mildly clever.
Finding an acceptable picture or two to use in my profile was another small hurdle. I have next to no decent pictures of just me especially since they recommend you use accurate pictures and I cut a lot of hair off last year. Putting pictures of me with my kids on a dating website seems weird and maybe a little counter productive. That kind of thing might work for guys (Awww, look at that nice, caring nurturing man with his kid (or puppy). Clearly he is good mating/father dating material.)
I’m pretty sure a woman with a picture of a kid does NOT evoke the same kind of reaction from a guy.
But thanks to the wonder of photo cropping I found a couple of good enough pictures to hack my kids out of and use. None of them are great, a couple are post run pictures and I am wearing sunglasses in all three of them.
However that has not seemed to make a difference.

online dating

Guess what…People like me (online people at least). I get at least a few messages everyday…well, everyday that I go online.
Sure many of them are the type of people who message with a simple “Hi” or “How are you?” And don’t seem to be able to or want to say anything after that.
(I thought the point here was to meet people and discern whether or not you wanted to meet them in person and possibly date them. How does that work if you don’t “talk” to them?)
Or the type of people who open with lines like “Hey there girl you’ve got a rocking bod.” followed with “what you doin’ this morning?”
(I’m pretty sure that’s code for Want to come have sex with me right now? ….Uh, nope, not so much.
Maybe that’s a product of being online late at night/very early in the morning. That’s when most those messages come through.)
One guy messaged “Hey sexy wyd luv ur smile an bod lol im bored in (a town near where I live) lol”
(Seriously? I know using proper grammar can be a challenge sometimes but do people not even use full words anymore? I thought you were trying to impress me here!)

That’s a little better than the people who lead with something vulgar (I’ll spare you any actual quotes on this one…use your imagination).
Maybe not though, at least with them you know exactly what they’re looking for straight off. They’re definitely not hiding anything.
Some guys do have slightly better lines like “I also wanted to write you because I liked the fact you have a nice look to you. I like to call it “classic beauty” Very nice if you don’t mind me saying. :)”
Or my favorite “You’re the most beautiful woman on this site.”
(Yeah, that’s just statistically improbable…especially since I didn’t even use good pictures.)
One guy did compliment my use of adjectives.
I really liked that.
Overall the quantity (if not the quality) of attention I’ve gotten in my fledgling attempt at online dating has been a nice little ego lift. Sometimes I sit back and think to myself (and maybe out loud to my co-blogger) “Jeez, imagine the result I’d be getting if I had actually found good pictures to use. Maybe some where I’m not wearing running clothes or even have clean hair and make-up on.”

In all fairness, I’m not that great at messaging people either. It’s hard to figure out what to lead in with when you only have a few lines in a profile write up to work with. I’ve said things like “You live in (the same town as me) and can’t stand Country music? You may be a rarity. Also, a fully functional brain is usually more of a dating profile asset than a shirtless pic.”
or “So you say you love dogs but you don’t have one. What’s up with that? Do you want mine? She can be kind of annoying sometimes and I’m tired of feeding her.
P.S.- That was just a joke. I would never give my dog to a stranger.”

I’ve even been known to say things like “You sure are pretty but you don’t say much.” when there really is nothing in their profile. (Don’t worry I was only that lame once and I blame a special kind of tiredness that produces a unique level of ridiculousness in me.)

For some reason none of those guys responded to the messages I sent them…at all. Nothing.
Clearly I am no online dating Don Juan either.
But I figure if someone responds well to such odd attempts to start a conversation they’re probably worth talking to.
It’s even worked a few times. I’ve had some fun back and forths, a few good conversations, and have even gotten some actual real life dates.
That’s right, dates with real in person people (only two, don’t get too excited).
Nothing spectacular but it’s a start and that’s something.