Thursday, April 14, 2016

Do we need to draw a line?

People need friends in all parts of life. We may say that going to bridge tournaments is mostly about playing cards but really it’s probably more about spending quality time with people you like. We may say that we joined a tennis team to play tennis but really what we care more about is the camaraderie. We may say that we work just to make money, but why we choose and stick with a particular job has more to do with the atmosphere, including the people we work with and for.

Relationships are hard, whether it’s boss-subordinate, pro-client, teacher-student, boyfriend-girlfriend, acquaintances, bridge partners, landlord-renter, friends with benefits, or friends who want benefits. Where do you draw the line between what’s appropriate and what’s not? Is it even necessary to draw such lines?

- Is going out drinking with your boss okay or should the boss-subordinate relationship stay within the office?

- Is going out for social activities with a client/student okay or should the pro-client/teacher-student relationship be kept to business?
- Is sharing a hotel room with someone of the opposite gender okay or is it taboo unless the two are dating or family?
- Is renting a room/apartment to a friend okay or is it too dangerous to the friendship?
- If you are either paying or receiving money directly from someone, should you become friends with that person or does that money relationship make being friends not acceptable?
- Should you arrange social activities where your friends from different parts of your life meet or should you keep your groups separate?
- Should you try to set up your friends with people or should your friends’ finding other friends/dates be totally up to them?
I’ve had all such situations and firmly believe the former (more liberal view) in each case is the way things should be and the way I have approached them my whole adult life. You can have a friendship or romance with anyone - how you met or what your jobs are shouldn’t really matter.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

I talk about myself too much. What?

This dating story comes from earlier this year. I went to meet a friend and some of his friends for a walk on the beltline in the afternoon. I couldn't decide whether I should bring my dog or not and he said I definitely should because the girls like dogs.

So I met up with them at a patio bar and the whole group was I believe 4 girls and 4 guys (only one of which was a couple). We were there long enough for 2 beers and this one girl, let's call her Alice (not real name), was super interested in Winter (my dog, real name). Upon making moves toward dinner, Alice and Winter and I walked together well behind the group and were getting along well. At dinner, we tied Winter to the fence next to our table and Alice was responding to everyone's requests to pet her and pretty much had claimed the dog as her own. After dinner, the rest of the group went inside and it was just us again and she talked more and more, which is totally fine by me. I wanted to get some more words in but she was doing well by herself with my adding an occasional follow up question or quick joke.

After awhile we walked back up the beltline and I dropped her off at her apartment and asked for her phone number. Things seemed great. It may have been the dog that initially attracted her but by the end of the night she seemed genuinely interested in me as well.

The next day, I called her at about 10am because I don't believe in waiting and our specific situation was such that it would be two weeks before I would be in Atlanta again so it seemed appropriate. Anyway, we agreed to a lunch date at another patio restaurant along the beltline and of course I brought the dog. Lunch was fine, conversation was good, and I probably made a bit more effort to share more about myself since the night before she did at least 90% of the talking. This day it was close to 50-50. Lunch lasted over two hours and like the day before, I walked her home and kissed her.

We exchanged a couple of texts over the next week until I tried to arrange another date and she said no. Being someone who wants to learn from experiences, I asked her why not and she said it's because I talked too much about myself. Wtf? No one has ever said that to me. People consistently get the exact opposite impression from me - that I don't say enough, that I'm too reserved.

Oh well.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Conflicting Rules

There are so many "rules" of dating and relationships that contradict each other.

"You should wait awhile to call/text her so that she starts to miss you" vs. "You should call her the next day or even later the same day because why wait to talk to someone you're interested in."

I don't wait and it frustrates me to wits end when people don't respond or respond slowly. I'm a busy person and have a lot of things to do and people to see so it's stressful to not know if/when someone will want to go out with me. Maybe I should change this, but if a girl is really gonna get upset about me texting/calling an hour after getting her number and after a good first outing, she's not the one for me. Especially in the world of bridge, waiting makes even less sense because we are often in close proximity for a week during a tournament and then it may be months before we are in the same city again. I've mentioned this before but in How I Met Your Mother, Barney advocates the 3 days rule or waiting 3 days between getting her number and texting/calling, but Ted has a much more sensible rule: "If you like her, call her." Barney is a player who for the most part didn't want a relationship while Ted is a romantic who only wants a serious relationship. I'm definitely like Ted.

"Be upfront about who you are from the beginning" vs. "Stretch the truth and hide the baggage until several dates later"

I've recently tried introducing myself as a pro bridge player instead of an engineer. That's not a lie as I do play pro occasionally, but it's stretching the truth because it makes up a very small part of my income. However, ladies seem more interested in me when I lead with that. I also claim to be from Atlanta, which again isn't a lie because I do own a condo in Atlanta, but it isn't where I spend most of my time. But beyond that, it just feels shady and wrong to portray yourself as something you're not.

"Invite her to casual low-pressure outings with others" vs. "Invite her on something that is unquestionably a date"

I like the low-pressure non-date dates but with no more than 4 total people.

"Go out of your way to agree with the girl or root for her team" vs. "Say what you really think - a little friendly debate is good"
If the date is going to watch a Duke-GT game and the girl is a big Duke fan, I'm not gonna cheer for Duke to be like her. We can have a friendly rivalry. Even if it's two teams I'm more or less netural toward, like if she's a Kansas fan and we are watching a KU vs. UK game, where I have only a slight preference for Kentucky because my dad went there, I'll still cheer for Kentucky.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Reset of expectations

Cristal used a phrase I really liked the other day: she said that throughout the course of relationships and friendships, a reset of expectations is necessary. She and I have been good friends but not super close for a few years now and haven’t had any such reset of expectations – I guess we just see the world the same way. Expectations are a big thing. I expect to get 3-4 long weekends of time with her per year, mostly playing bridge, and occasional communication the rest of the year, not regular but never more than about 2-3 weeks between conversations. With most people, however, one or other usually wants more contact than the other.

If we expect someone to talk to every day but the other person wants only once a week, there’s a problem. If one person wants someone to confide in but the other wants to just be a fair weather friend, there’s a problem. If one person wants to date and the other wants to be platonic, there’s a problem. And just because we may want different things at a particular time does not mean that we can’t change our expectations to align better. These differences can be overcome, and I think in general we should try to overcome them, but it requires clear communication about what you want/don’t want/like/dislike about the relationship.

I am not one to give up on people. Once I decide I want you in my life, I’ll work like heck to keep you in it. Once you’re a legit friend, I’ll have your back, I’ll argue with you and complain to you but it’s all out of love and wanting to grow and be better for each other. When there’s conflict, I want to talk about it and work through it. In the last few years, I’ve come across several people who run from conflict, who run from relationships and friendships over seemingly a small disagreement. I’ve had people completely cut me off with no explanation or discussion, and I don’t understand this lack of an effort to resolve things or at least end on agreeable terms.

If we only hung out casually once or twice and you want to not see me anymore, you could probably fade away and no one would really care. However, if we have been seeing each other fairly consistently for several months, this deserves at least a conversation and I’d expect a little effort on both sides to figure out why and reach a mutual understanding. One bad night or one fight about a weekend plan not working out should hardly be more than a tiny speed bump.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Crazy Girl with Twins

I think this story is also from 2009. One of my female tennis friends, with whom I always had a strictly platonic relationship and who was in the process of getting a divorce, would once or twice a week go out for some drinks at a local bar, sometimes alone but sometimes with a couple others, often after a tennis match for one or both of us. Someday she started inviting her friend Crazy Girl With Twins, recently divorced.

Okay, so now I had two women now to be my wing woman and help me figure out how to get back in this whole dating thing. In return, I provided emotional support for them through a rough time and maybe a different perspective on things than they are used to hearing. It’s pretty clear that I wasn’t interested in either of them, I think. The one who was initially my friend got it, and I think eventually hooked up with one of my single friends who sometimes came out to the bar, but I’m not sure. Both of them had sons who were about equally younger than me as they were older than me, and many of our conversations were about strawberry chicken girl and other girls I was interested in or thought I might be interested in.

Anyway, out at the bar alcohol loosens people up and brings out emotions that we sometimes repress. She (the twins girl) flirts, I flirt back, we danced a bit, all just for fun – there’s no way she thinks this is going anywhere. I’ve said so explicitly: I do not want to be with someone who has kids, certainly not someone with three kids, one of whom is a teenager. That’s kind of a deal breaker to me, right behind smoking as the top deal breaker. Today I could probably handle someone with a kid, but I’m wiser and older and there are many fewer women my age without any baggage. Eventually I reject her advances that go further than just flirting and dancing publicly.

A couple of weeks pass with nothing happening and some weeknight we wind up chilling on my back porch with both the legit friend and the crazy girl with twins. Methinks the latter was just tagging along because she wanted to try to hook up with me again. The friend calls it a night and I expect the other to go as well but she insists on staying, which I was not a fan of but I try to be supportive and listen to her complain about her life because I’m a good listener/friend even to women I don’t want to date. 30 minutes later I insist on taking her home even though she’s all for a sleep over. The next few days I deal with her begging me to go out with her, and I tell her no the way I prefer girls tell me – clear and direct rather than ignoring or beating around the bush. The next week she starts texting me again and blaming me for letting things go so far. Hmm.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Strawberry Chicken Girl

Let’s go back a few years and talk about strawberry chicken girl who I met on eHarmony. We started chatting in March 2009, and agreed to first meet at a Mercer baseball game sometime in late March. She flaked out and gave a list of things she was stressing about, but at least she let me know rather than just not showing up. Her immaturity was showing. Although I was only 3 years older at the time, I was far more mature. She was 21 and clearly an emotional wreck. Next time we did Outback Steakhouse and a movie on a Thursday and she showed up on time, freaking out about something. I paid for dinner and she paid for the movie, through which she texted almost nonstop. After the movie she complained that I didn’t say thanks for paying for the movie. She didn’t say thanks for buying dinner so we were kind of even, but not really because dinner was probably like $5 more but not important. We went to church and lunch together the following Sunday – nothing eventful.

I asked her out for the following weekend and she said only if I get her a strawberry chicken pie. Kind of a strange request but we’ve established this girl was kind of crazy. So what do I do? Invite her over and bake a pie with strawberries and chicken. Duh. As I recall, it wasn’t very tasty to me but she was really impressed. I never figured out if she seriously wanted that or was just kidding around or testing me to see if I’d actually do follow her request, but she got what she asked for.

After that date, which I thought went pretty darn well, she changed her facebook status to in a relationship… not with me. I should have dropped her at that point, but instead I asked her about it and she wrote back “I just need space and time away from you. You have hurt me over the past few days. I forgive you for upsetting me. however I just need space.” I gave her space and a couple days later, she seemed more sane and apologized: “I’m sorry how things have gone down, I had a huge test I was studying for. I sent some hurtful messages because I was emotional and stressed at that time. I know that you are a sweet guy who has feelings and I just ruined them for you. I hope you will accept my apology.”

I, of course, quickly forgave and moved to try to figure out when we would go out again. I’m often too quick to forgive someone for hurting me emotionally and often keep people in my life longer than I should. We went out one more time – to Starbucks where I helped her study for a linear algebra final.

The next week strawberry chicken girl had some guy call me and tell me to quit talking to her because I was supposedly so mean to her. She didn’t delete or block me from facebook, but I let this marinate for a couple of days before calling her up to try to figure out what the heck was going on. Was she seeing two guys and this other one stole my number because he wanted me gone or was she really sending him to end things with me or was she just a crazy person who doesn’t know what to do at all?

She responds via facebook message: “…I am sorry if I have done anything to you. I just want the best for you and to be completely honest I have no idea about you. I am a lost human and don’t know what I want with life. Saturday was fun and I’m glad I got to meet you… I am not going to be coming back to Macon next year and I just need to be closer to home in VA so I will only be in GA another week.”

For a lost girl who only saw me 4 times, that was a pretty nice way for her to end things. About two months later, strawberry chicken girl and I chatted on facebook a few times, and it was okay until we got into a discussion about politics. My very liberal and socialist views came out, and she would have none of it – deleted me from fb in an instant. Not so sane after all.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Revival of the Voyager Blog

I used to say that most of what I know about dating comes from How I Met Your Mother. But I’ve lived a little more over the last few years and gotten out there with more experiences of my own. I can’t say many if any have a good ending but they’ve been interesting and confirmed my belief that I know very little about dating.

It’s time to revive this blog. It’ll be now be more of my thoughts on dating and male-female relationships, both platonic and romantic, and I’ll try to anonymize most of the names so as not to call out specific people but rather hopefully entertain and share frustration and joy with you all.

I’m getting close to 30, still single, and still hate the whole dating process. But apparently it is a necessary part of living for anyone who wants to eventually get married and have a family. I still think the best way to find your mate is to not date at all but seek out good close friendships and work on developing close friendships, and have that gradually morph into romance over several months/years. It worked really well twice – for my two longest-lasting relationships. There’s an xkcd comic about that I often think about and relate to.

Anyway, I have a lot of female friends I talk to on a regular basis who are quite clearly just good friends to me (I don’t maintain these relationships with the idea that they’ll become dependent and eventually fall in love with me but because they’re simply good companions), so you’d think I’d know better than most guys how girls think. That doesn’t seem to be the case. When I go out with a woman on something date-like I am often confused at the end of it.

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