Thursday, March 27, 2008

Looking for a date in grocery stores, bus stops, and other public places

Ordinary places can be extraordinarily effective as meeting and greeting grounds:
  • Grocery stores: Buying food in the local market has that comfort/ familiarity/nurturing thing going. It’s a (usually) nonthreatening environment, you’ve probably been there before, and if no one datable happens to meander in front of your grocery cart or pause invitingly in the produce section, you can still pick up your milk and Ding-Dongs.
  • Bus stops: Waiting at the same place and at the same time every day creates a sense of community. You see each other — and every other regular passenger — here all the time, and you can sit together. The trick here is to go slowly (pun intended). Don’t worry unless the person you’re interested in moves or switches jobs; you have plenty of time. _ Laundromats: What’s more domestic than airing your once dirty, now clean, laundry in public? Always carry extra fabric softener and change (you never know who may need to borrow something) and under no circumstances mention underwear.
  • Bookstores: In some bookstore chains, you can curl up in a big comfy chair and listen to jazz quartets — and even be tempted to chat each other up. And if you happen to spy some cutie perusing your favorite author’s latest, discussing the finer points over a soy latte in the bookstore café seems fun, savvy, and safe. Somehow being picked up in a bookstore seems really smart, dontcha think?
  • Restaurants: Asking to join someone sitting alone is a bit iffy. If the person says yes, you don’t have to eat alone, but if the person says no, you may lose your appetite. I once got up the nerve, after I’d finished my meal, to ask someone if he would like company, and he said no; he really liked eating alone. I was so rattled that I left the restaurant without signing my bill, and the waiter came running after me. But if you have nerves of steel, go for it. My experience is mercifully unusual. Most folks would be both charmed and charming!
  • Airplanes: You’re both together, going to the same place, side by side, with a flight attendant to take care of everything you need — in addition to the hint of being united against a common danger in the clouds. Hey, don’t miss the opportunity. Buses and trains have much of the same criteria, but a little less cool of the factor. (Still, some pretty cool movies have focused on train trips; think about the possibility of meeting a Cary Grant, Mimi Rodgers, Gene Hackman, or Ingrid Bergman in the dining car.)

Dating in parties, vacations, and other fun stuff

Fun places are some of the best places to scout out datables. Everybody’s relaxed, open, less uptight, and prepared to be happy and smile (it’s the reason for so many vacation romances). Here are a few of the best places to look:
  • Parties: In terms of comfort, meeting someone at a party offers one of the same advantages that meeting someone in your neighborhood offers:
    You both know somebody in common.
  • Cruises: Cruises can be the perfect vacation if you’re single, especially if you don’t emphasize the need to meet someone. Cruises meet the criteria for comfort and safety and, after a day or so, familiarity. Just be aware that vacation atmospheres are more fantasy than reality, but don’t overlook the potential here.
  • Movies: Not everybody in line is coupled up; lots of singles go to movies, so the line into the movie, especially if it’s a long line, is not a bad place to get to know somebody. If you have the time to get to know each other before the movie begins, offering to share popcorn can work, too. (Yeah, I know the old joke about the chicken in the popcorn box. Puh-leeeeze.) But if you talk in the movie, I’ll give you a piece of my mind.
  • Dances: Folk dancing is great, as is square dancing, because the caller tells you what to do, and you’re always changing partners. Ballroom dancing is a bit iffier in that there is a huge premium put on doing it well, and you’re pretty up-close and personal with someone. But if you love to dance and you’re good at it and you don’t mind your feet getting stomped occasionally, dancing does meet the something-in-common, sorta nonthreatening thing.
    If the music is loud, it’s often hard to talk when you’re dancing. If it’s disco, forget about it — you’ll never hear a word each other speaks, but then again, at least you don’t actually have to follow your partner.

How to look for someone to date in your neighborhood?

You may find some very datable people in your own neighborhood. Familiarity breeds comfort, and feeling safe and making the other person equally comfortable are important. So somebody you frequently run into or who knows the people you know works for both of you.
Dating a neighbor has some advantages:
  • You may already be acquainted with each other, and therefore, the situation isn’t as scary as approaching or being approached by a stranger — and making somebody feel safe is a priority in this exercise.
  • You probably run into the person often, giving you plenty of opportunities to take the bull by the horns (so to speak).
  • You probably know many of the same people. The only reservation about dating someone in your neighborhood is that you should be careful about next-door neighbors. If the thing doesn’t work out, the possibilities of being spied on increase greatly. Even if they don’t own binoculars, the “bump intos” could feel uncomfortable, awkward, painful, or embarrassing.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Finding a date in school

High schools, colleges, and adult education classes are all dating mills. You can sit next to somebody in class for weeks, smile shyly, and eventually get up the nerve to say, “Hi” or “Can I borrow your notes?” or “A bunch of us are going for coffee.” So number one on the list of places to meet somebody is a classroom: high school, college, traffic school, cooking school, power squadron course, art history course, computer course — you get the point. Find something you’ve always wanted to learn about and take a course. Even if you don’t see any datables in your classroom, you’re out of the house, learning and relating, and your chem partner may have a cute sibling who’s single.

Searching for the Best Places to Meet Someone

The best places to meet people are ones in which
  • You can see clearly, hear clearly, and respond honestly.
  • You have an interest in what’s going on, increasing the likelihood that you’ll have something in common with anyone you meet there.
  • The atmosphere feels safe and familiar.
It makes no sense to hang out in places where you hate the activity. Doing so is kind of like people who feed their babies Gerber’s veal and then are surprised when their kids like only veal, which the parents never eat. Hang out in places where you would be happy even if you weren’t searching, and — bingo! —you’re happy.
A place you enjoy, where you feel comfortable and safe, solves the problem of what to talk about. The key is to be lighthearted about approaching a stranger. The situation is similar to baking a soufflé. You need to tread gently and avoid loud noises, early peeks, or banging doors. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a dessert that nobody wants — flat, ugly, and unappetizing — despite the effort and right ingredients you put into it.

How to overcome shyness?

Most people are a little shy around new people, especially people to whom they’re attracted. A little shy is okay. A lot shy can keep you from the three fundamentals of dating: 1) getting out there, 2) taking chances, and 3) enjoying life. These are the three fundamentals to dating, so it’s important to shake that shyness if it’s getting in the way. To do that, here’s some stuff you can try:
  • Meander around a busy public place for an hour or two so you get used to being around people.
  • Practice smiling and making eye contact. Lift your chin off your chest and nonverbally connect with people who seem nice and interesting to you. (No touching; just look and smile.)
  • Decide to chat with one new person a week. You can do this in the grocery store, the school cafeteria, or the line at the bank. Nothing breeds success like success.
  • Act “as if.” If all people waited until they were totally comfortable before trying anything new, no one would do anything new! Pretend you’re not shy and act “as if” you’re full of confidence.
  • Calm yourself by telling yourself over and over again that you’re safe and everything’s going to be okay. Say it aloud in private and in your head in public as often as necessary.
  • Identify the worst-case scenario. What’s the most hideous thing that could happen if you walked up to someone you liked and said, “Hi”? Putting a face on your fear helps reduce it to a manageable size. For example, the worst thing that might happen is the person turns around and walks away. Yeah, rejection hurts, but you’re not going to die from it. Acceptance feels great, and you’ll never experience it if you don’t take a chance.
  • Have fun! Shift the focus away from your own fears and zero in on what makes someone else tick. Before you know it, you’ll forget all about being shy.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Word about Attitude — Yours

Before I begin listing some of the good places to find somebody fun, let me encourage you to be open — not open-minded about what I’m going to suggest, but open to spontaneity. If you’re in Macy’s and a great-looking person asks whether a particular color looks good with his or her hair, you should hear bells and whistles: potential date, potential date, potential date. Potential dates are everywhere, once you start looking. Just keep a few things in mind:
  • Be aware. Both men and women are understandably cautious about being picked up by strangers, so if you’re the one doing the approaching, the hallmarks of your approach have to be gentility, civility, humor, and gentleness. Otherwise, somebody’s likely to call the cops on you. I know — so what’s the problem? Cops are cute. Pay attention here; I’m being serious.
  • Be considerate. If someone has found the courage to approach you and you’re not interested, unless they’re really, really scary, say no civilly. You don’t have to be nasty.
  • Don’t panic. If I were to promise you that you would meet the person of your dreams in ten years, and the two of you would be wildly happy for the rest of your lives, would you be willing to wait that ten years? Of course you would. So assume that meeting your dreamboat is just a matter of time and, in the meantime, have fun, which definitely increases your chances of being appealing when you run into that date-to-be ten minutes, months, years, or decades from now.

The Right Time for Dating

The best time to begin dating is when your life is really in gear, your friends think you’re swell, you’re relatively content with the way you look, work is going well, you’re even on speaking terms with your parents, and you can think of exes without raising your blood pressure. Hey, you’re ready. If you’re so allfired happy, why go through the hassle of dating, you ask. Good question, I respond. Because, let’s face it: The right person can make a good day great and a great day simply fabulous, and there is something about that chemistry thing. Following are some scenarios that may motivate you — happy, well-adjusted person that you are — to jump into the dating arena:
  • Your friends are involved. Often the trigger to get you going is that all your friends are involved, and they seem really happy. Equally important, they also don’t have a whole lot of time for you these days, or at least not as much free time as you find yourself with — good motivating factor.
  • You’re feeling great. Feeling much better about your life than you have for a long, long time — cheerfully assuming you’re stone cold sober and not high when you notice the feeling — is also a great time to begin. Remember, it’s always easiest to borrow money when you seem to not really need it, and the same is true with relationships. You’re your coolest self when you’re happy and relaxed. If you could bottle it, you’d be rich. You don’t have to bottle it, but you may want to spread it around.
  • You’re in a new city. You’ve made new friends, you’re not on house arrest, there are new restaurants to experience, new parks in which to picnic, new museums to explore. Don’t substitute a search for dates before friends, but once the friends are in place, it’s quite kosher to mention that you’re new in town and looking — talk about your clean slate. Moving to a new city is a really good time to get in the swing. You’ll learn the city faster and have someone to share it with, someone who knows the sites taking you around. Be sure to leave some time for you to be by yourself. Although having someone along is great, time alone to explore your new surroundings is important, too. When you’re alone, you get to concentrate on the parts of the city that really interest you.
  • It’s New Year’s Day. Although a New Year’s Eve party is a really treacherous first date experience, New Year’s Day itself can be a good reminder that time is marching on, and if you want someone marching with you in your parade, it’s a good time to push yourself a bit. (A New Year’s Day introduction also can make a great opening line: “I decided meeting you was going to be the first terrific thing I did for myself this year.”)
  • A big event is coming up. A big deal event coming up in your life — a wedding, a party, an anniversary — can be a useful motivation to offset your lethargy or fear and inertia when it comes to dating. It can be a good opening gambit. If you feel compelled to take a date to the big event, do be a bit careful about making the big event the very first date. It’s quite possible to have a couple of date-ettes to break the ice before the big event. If possible, give yourself enough time to have a couple of dates or even a couple of months before the event.

The Wrong Time for Dating

The wrong time is any time when you’re feeling blue and lonely and sad and sorry for yourself — which is, of course, the time when all of us decide, “Okay, I need to find someone.” You may be particularly susceptible to this type of thinking when your boyfriend just dumped you, your girlfriend told you she just wants to be friends, you’ve just moved to a new city and are lonely, or any other time when attaching yourself to someone else sounds easier than being alone.

I know the songs all talk about “I want you, I need you, I love you,” but need means dependency, and if that’s how you set things up, you’ll distort any potential future you could have with someone. Either you will be nurtured (and thus less needy) and the whole reason for being together evaporates, or you’ll continue to be needy. What a drag — literally! Need is a lousy basis for anything other than employing a nurse; need won’t hold up for any length of time, and breaking up is always the pits. So pull yourself together and get yourself better before you even think about hooking up with someone else.
When you’re needy,

  • Your feelings are so clouded by your pain that you can’t make sound choices regarding what you want.
  • You ask another person to make you okay.
  • You can’t see objectively what the other person is able or willing to give.
  • Dating leaves you in a worse situation than you were in before.
  • You can camouflage or ignore growth areas (for a while) that need and require your concentration.
When this relationship ends (which it’s bound to do), not only will you not be better off, but you’ll actually be worse off because you’ll have all your original issues to deal with in addition to anything that came up in this last relationship. If depression and anxiety were attractive and neediness were sexy, it would be okay to whine on a date, and everybody would fall madly in love. But you know that’s not the way the world works. Believe me when I say that the need to find another is the world’s worst reason to try to find another.
Following are some especially bad times:
  • The death of a parent, a dog, your best friend, or anybody you feel close to. The human psyche needs to reaffirm its mastery over death, so the impulse not to be alone and sometimes even to mate can be really strong when you’re feeling bereft. Unfortunately, another person can’t act as a human bandage. You need to be able to embrace the sorrow of loss and let it go before you can resume your normal life. Not only can beginning a dating experience with someone before you’ve healed mess up a potentially good situation, but it can slow the healing process as well.
  • You’ve just lost your job. First things first. You need to find another job, not a date. Because both a new date and a new job take time to find and time to get used to, stabilize before you add a complication. Because you won’t starve without a date and you may starve without a job, get the job first. Additionally, getting fired feels lousy, and finding a job feels good. You want to feel stable and healthy, not like somebody’s charity case, before you begin dating.
  • The loss of a place to live. This may seem like a really good excuse to latch onto somebody who has a place to live and a bed and a stable existence, but that n word (need, for those of you not paying attention) has to be a tip-off. Need is not good to put on another soul. I want you. Yes! I love you. Yes! I need you. No, no, no! If you don’t have a place to live, you don’t have a place to take a date, a place to sleep, a place to get phone calls at night —all that’s pretty basic. So take care of the basics and then go for it.
  • You’re depressed. There are times when all of us feel lost and alone and out of tune with the Universe. The priority at that moment is to get back in tune, not to find a human teddy bear to keep the monsters at bay. Being depressed doesn’t mean you’re hopeless; it just means that dating is going to tax resources that are stretched pretty thin already. If you’ve been feeling really sad and bummed for more than a week or two; if you can’t eat, sleep, or concentrate; if you cry easily and feel hopeless and tired all the time; and if things that used to make you happy really don’t anymore, the cure isn’t a date — it’s a therapist and medication. No kidding. Those are signs of a serious, but very treatable, illness. However, the prescription isn’t a hug; it’s some important work so you won’t feel like that again.
  • You’ve just broken up with someone. There is a piece of folk wisdom that says if you’ve just been thrown from a horse, the best cure is to get right back on. That may work really well with horses, but don’t even think about applying it to dating situations. If you’ve just broken up with someone, don’t use another person as proof that you’re still lovable. It’s not fair to you, and it’s not fair to the human aspirin you’re using to make your headache go away, at least temporarily. Think of going to your bank and trying to borrow money. If you go in looking all raggedy and dirty and seedy, do you think the bank is going to loan you money? No way. If there isn’t some indication that you’ll be able to pay back the loan, the loan officer may feel sorry for you but won’t loan you money. Relationships are based on surprisingly similar theories. Somebody looking to get involved with you expects to give but also to get something back, and expects you to show a little interest (pardon the rather obvious pun). If you’re getting the idea that misery is not a very good motivation to date, you’re exactly right.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A personal ad with no purse strings attached

Here I want you to use the gimmick simply to get in touch with you. The major distinction between a real personal ad and this exercise is that real ads are limited in number of words and just focus on the tip of the iceberg. Without these restrictions, you can look well below the H2O level.

One of the quickest ways to make sure that what you’re advertising for and what you want are the same is to write a personal ad that is just for fun and practice and that will, most likely, never see the light of day. A personal ad can tell you very quickly whether what you want and how you’re advertising are out of whack. If you’re looking for someone with whom to settle down, for example, then looks should be less important to you than stability, sincerity, and fertility. If you love to travel, you shouldn’t be trolling for a homebody. To use your personal ad for this exercise, look at what you said you wanted in your mate (your fantasy) and what you said about yourself (your reality). Look for compatible or complementary traits.

For example, if you listed that you want stability and commitment in your About Me section but listed adventurous risk-taker in the About Him/Her section of the ad, you’ve got some work to do in order to achieve some semblance of compatibility. In determining whether the lists are compatible, look for overlap in words or ideas. If you see “fun-loving” in your list, you probably want to see “fun-loving” — or a concept like it — in the fantasy date’s list, too; be careful if your fantasy date’s list includes qualities that conflict with yours, like “down-to-earth and serious.” You’ll think of them as a stick-in-the-mud, and they’ll see you as frivolous, flirtatious, and untrustworthy.

You may be saying to yourself, “Hey look, I’m only talking about a date.” But don’t go off in a direction that makes no sense (why date someone of another faith if you would never allow yourself to fall in love with that person or marry out of the faith? Why date someone who smokes if you hate smoking?) unless you simply want a diversion, which is expensive in terms of time and energy and emotion. Of course, if you want to do that, it’s fine with me. Just make sure that you make your intentions clear upfront to all parties concerned, including yourself.

If you’re not sure what you want, it’s okay to experiment, but make sure that your uncertainty isn’t based on an unwillingness to face up to who you are and what you want. That’s an expense none of us can afford. Because this ad isn’t going anyplace, don’t worry about how many words you use, but do make sure that you’re not avoiding reality by tap-dancing with a lot of words. Are you looking for romance or companionship or commitment? Don’t tell me all of the above, because they’re really not the same thing.

If your ad sounds like every ad that you’ve ever read, start again. This is you. The real you, the honest you, the specific you. No one ever has to see what you really want, but doing this exercise can focus you in a very helpful way. What you’re looking for in your personal ad is something that really says you. The fact that you love grape jelly and Bob Dylan and are allergic to cats says a lot more than that you like moonlight and long romantic walks on a beach. Puhl-leeeeze. If there was ever a time not to be trite, it’s when you’re talking about yourself and who you are and what you want. Don’t worry that you’re being too specific.

If your ad seems too picky, you can always modify it and try that approach for a while or rely on the Fates and chemistry to steer you. Keep in mind, though, that a little bit of that unwillingness to take responsibility goes a long way. So do be careful. Do not be tempted to send this ad anywhere. Personal ads can certainly jazz up your social life, but don’t waste the time or the money on a personal ad until you have a bit of conventional dating under your belt. You want to make sure that you have most of the details worked out before you take the act on the road.

Tuck the ad away in your notebook for a while and go on to the next chapter. If, after dating for a year or so, you feel like you know what you’re doing but would like to widen the dating pool, you’ll be prepared. Do read the ad again to make sure that everything is accurate in terms of how you see yourself and your prospective date. (Of course, it certainly should have changed a bit once you’ve been out there — nothing’s quite as valuable as a bit of experience.) You’re now most of the way through armchair dating. Just a bit more and you can get out there and strut your stuff.

Being the real you

Once you’re aware of who you are, you can begin working on how you’re you. You can look at your body language, your wardrobe, your vocabulary, your tone of voice, your fears, and your desires and make sure that there is some consistency between what you truly want and what your behavior indicates you want. It’s amazing how often we all give out the wrong clues in an attempt to pretend to be someone we’re not. When you’re more knowledgeable about yourself, you can hold a mirror up to your behavior and see what others see —and respond to. Think about how you present yourself and determine whether you send out signals that are consistent with what you want.

Are you timid and looking at the floor or confident and covering up sweaty palms with a bit of swagger? Are you noisy because you’re fearful no one will listen to you, or do you whisper so that people have to stand close because you’re afraid of your own power? Do you stoop to appear short or fluff your hair to appear bigger?

Friendly and not-so-friendly ghosts

When you begin thinking about who you want in your life, the kind of person who makes sense, you may be influenced by a ghost — not Casper and not necessarily friendly, but someone who haunts you without your even being aware of it. This ghost is someone who rearranged the emotional furniture in your room and is likely to be someone who you cared about but who didn’t turn out as you wished. It may be a first grade teacher who seemed to like your best friend best, a best friend who moved away, or someone who didn’t give you a Valentine. It could also be a traumatic experience, like overhearing a remark from a supposed friend that hurt your feelings.

And just like ghosts, who are assumed to be souls who haven’t found peace, your emotional ghosts are fueled by lack of resolution in your head or heart. Because this chapter is about laying the groundwork to go and do something that’s scary and fun and exciting (that is, date), it’s a great idea to have as much of your energy at your disposal as possible. Therefore, an exorcism is in order. You don’t need holy water, incense, or a priest, just a bit of courage and a paper and pencil. If you’re haunted by an emotional ghost (what an image!), write down the specific characteristics of the ghost — turn on the light of your intellect and understanding.

Ghosts need darkness, fear, and tension to survive. You may not be able to get rid of all the thoughts, but you can probably keep yourself from being haunted by just getting all those thoughts out into the open and into your notebook. Ghosts can only haunt you in the dark, so turn the light on.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Describing an Ideal Match For You

Now that you know who you are, what would you like in a partner? I’m not necessarily talking about the rest of your life — after all, you may very well want different things in someone at one stage or another of your life — but it makes no sense to date someone who loves kids and animals if you want a lifestyle of travel and high adventure and risk with a partner. Similarly, if sex is crucial in your life, dating someone who thinks sex is dirty is somewhat counterproductive.
Look at a specific list of the characteristics that would balance your good and bad points. For example, if you’re shy, would you be happier with someone who is more outgoing or shy like yourself? There is no right or wrong answer here, just good questions.

Start with the fantasy list describing your ideal partner, and compare that list to the list describing your characteristics. See if there is a fit, a match. Are you looking for security or excitement, domesticity or adventure, stability or thrills? Are you looking to balance who you are or find someone just like you?

Who Am I?

All of us are the products of our gene pools (that’s why this chapter begins with parents); our experiences (that’s why the preceding section looks at patterns and fantasies); and our choices, intellect, and emotions, which is what this section looks at. By now, you’re beginning to understand that there are no perfect people and no perfect characteristics. Almost anything can have a plus and a minus. You can’t begin to work on emphasizing the good stuff and downplaying the icky until you know exactly what and where each is.
So to work:
  1. 1. List the things you really love about yourself in your dating notebook, and be very specific. What you love about yourself is the basis of everything else, but for heaven’s sake, don’t write, “I’m a really nice person.” What does nice mean? Instead, write that you are patient with your little brother, impatient with a check-out clerk, likely to snitch a candy bar if no one’s watching —well, actually, that part goes in the next step; so carry on with the good stuff, or if you can’t separate ’em, begin the “what I’m not crazy about” list and come back to this one after you’ve purged yourself. Make sure that this list is long enough to withstand the next task, which is to list what you don’t like about yourself. If you can’t come up with at least ten specific good things, you’re having a pity party or you need a therapist, seriously. We are each responsible for fashioning ourselves as likable by our own standards, at the very least. If you can get other folks to agree, terrific; if not . . . well, we’re not talking crazy here.
  2. Now complete the I’m-not-crazy-about-these-things-in-myself list. Just bedrock — who you are and what you can change and what you’re going to have to learn to live with yourself — goes here. Some of the things you’re proudest of often have a downside. For example, if you’re independent, you may not be as attuned to others’ feelings as you would like. If you’re sensitive, you may be too dependent on others’ opinions.
The point of this exercise is to emphasize the positive and either downplay or obliterate the negative. The very act of thinking about yourself in this way, being specific, and taking inventory is the first step toward taking responsibility and changing what you can and want to change about yourself. Then you can begin to repattern your behavior: Snap that rubber band against your wrist when you lose your temper or fine yourself when you gossip; focus on your great posture and ability to put others at ease.

Look for the Patterns before Start to Date

Since you’re old enough to read and think about dating, you have some patterns to go on. Even if this is your very first dating experience, you’ve talked to the opposite sex, fantasized, and interacted. In this section, you look at those patterns (this is also good information to put in your dating notebook):
  • Who you choose: Are you drawn to blondes, bullies, actors, athletes, people who hold you too tight, or people who seem to disappear? Are you talking down-to-earth or mysterious, bubbly or reserved, serious or silly?
  • How you act: All of us act in characteristic ways, and once we understand those ways, we can see our behavior and the effect it has. Understanding this, we can then begin to see alternative ways of behaving — what to do more of and what to change — before our emotional bruises become permanent. In your notebook, put down what works really well for you and what bombs. Are you really a good listener, or are your jokes terrific? Do you dance well or help everybody with homework? Can you remember your first grade teacher’s name? Do you do well at Trivial Pursuit? Do animals love you? Are you great at crossword puzzles?
  • How you react: Where are your buttons? What makes you blow up —what words or phrases or situations? We all have them, and they’re often connected by a long, sturdy thread to our past. I hate being told to shut up. “Keep quiet” is okay; “stop talking” is okay; but someone’s saying “shut up” makes me see red and purple and black and blue. Don’t get hung up on the belief that some people are just naturally good at dating and some are awful; it’s basically not true, and even if it were, it has nothing to do with you. The goal of this blog is to help you figure out how to build relationships in a way that makes some sense to you and is effective and honest and sincere and fun.

Don’t assume that everything you can do, everybody else can do. It’s just not true, and the beginning of any good relationship is the relationship you have with yourself. Don’t be shy and don’t be overly critical or overly kind. Paper and pencil can help you to focus on your strengths.

When you’re done, you’ll probably have a pretty detailed list of the most super New Year’s resolutions of all time: how you’re going to polish, trim, highlight, and embrace who you are and who you are cheerfully and enthusiastically becoming. The more specific the list, the more obvious the path and the more straightforward the task.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

How to escape parental haunting?

The solution to parental haunting is to figure out how your parents acted, figure out what you wanted them to do differently, and determine how, logically, you can fix it so that this pattern of behavior doesn’t control your dating behavior. Because you’re doing an inventory here, keeping a notebook in which you can jot down thoughts and impressions is a great idea. Make sure your notebook isn’t left around for other folks to read; it’s personal and just for you and your work.
  1. Start with a heading called “Mom and Dad,” leaving a page for each, and write down any thoughts that occur. On Mom’s page, you might write, “Neat-freak, warm laugh, takes care of the finances, whines,” and so on. On Dad’s page, you might write, “Rarely home, drinks too much, loves fishing, gives good hugs.” It’s a good idea to leave lots of space so you can let your mind roam.
  2. Now go to a new set of pages, again one each for Mom and Dad, and try to organize your thoughts into positive and negative. For example, on Mom’s page, you might put her warm laugh and the fact that she’s in charge of the finances on the positive side and “neat freak” on the negative side. Of course, if you’re being honest, warm laugh might be positive, but “doesn’t take me seriously” might be the downside of her sense of humor. See if you can use your grown-up self to look at things fairly.
  3. Once you’ve got a good list going, begin to relate the items on your list to dating behavior. For example, a sense of humor may be important, but so, too, may be someone who won’t laugh at you. Which is more important: having someone who listens a lot or someone who talks a lot? Make sure that the characteristics you want aren’t mutually exclusive. For instance, on one hand you want a man who is really successful; on the other, you want someone for whom you come first. Nope! Doesn’t happen that way.
When you understand which of your feelings about the opposite sex are directly related to Mom and Dad, you may be able, with your grown-up mind and paper and pencil, to free yourself of some of the knee-jerk responses that all of us have. Consider these examples:
  • If your Dad always beat you at checkers, you may go for the kill in games, taking all the fun out for both of you, or you may be unwilling to play at all. Finding a game at which you can best your Dad might free you, but at least understanding the cause and effect helps.
  • If your Mom was a worrywart, you may feel great anxiety before you leave the house. Your adult self can understand Mom’s fears and separate them from your own.

How Mom and Dad can still ground you?

The purpose of this exercise is neither to prove that there is a terrific set of parents who would have sent you forth with all you needed nor to prove that the parents you got have emotionally maimed you. The purpose is to show that anything your parents did has some positive and some negative possibilities. Once you understand the consequences of parental influence and behavior, you can emphasize or compensate for them. Consider the following examples:
  • If you felt your parents never had time for you, you’re probably self-reliant but find it difficult to trust and are a bit brittle on the outside. What you most want is someone to hug you and tell you that you’re great.
  • If your parents were really lovey-dovey with each other, you may have felt envious and excluded. As a result, you may look for a date who ignores everybody and everything but you.
  • If one or other of your parents doted on you — and I mean really doted —you may feel an overwhelming need to perform or be perfect. A date who asks what you were doing last night may make you feel claustrophobic, as if you’re being monitored or graded again.
Once you know that, you can look for someone who isn’t like the parent, who is self-sufficient, and who is not overly sentimental. Unfortunately, most of us choose someone who’s like the parent who didn’t do whatever we wanted them to do when we were kids, and — voilá! — because we pick the same kind of person, they act in the same kind of way.

Why you should not whining?

Whining is the vocal manifestation of house arrest, pity parties, blaming, and comparing. It’s hard to listen to, will give you wrinkles, and is social suicide. Nobody likes a whiner, which makes it so remarkable that all of us do it from time to time. The worst of it is, the more we whine, the whinier we feel, so make a big sign with a goblet inside a circle and put a slash through it. Get it? No whine (or wine, as the case may be).
Occasionally whining is okay — that’s what friends and family are for — but the amount of time you spend whining should certainly be no more than the amount of time you’re willing to spend listening to someone else whine.