Thursday, March 31, 2016


I haven't labeled what I'm doing much. I haven't put it in my OK Cupid profile. Sometimes I think I should, though I'm going on the assumption that the act of online dating implies non-exclusivity in and of itself. I suppose it's best described as "in an open relationship."

It gets raised eyebrows sometimes when people ask me about it, and sometimes furrowed brows. I've been on the receiving end of high fives and fist bumps. Some of the conversations I've had are goofy, and some are thoughtful. A couple of people have mentioned the old adage of "If you love someone, set them free..." etc. One person told me, "It's like that old saying, only you're really doing it. Everybody says it, but nobody really does it. You're actually doing it. That's cool."

And it is cool. But I wanted to verbalize what it is I think I'm doing, and why.

For me, this is about two things most of all: fear and genuine human connection.


I have been afraid, and I have been dishonest because I was afraid. Fear has done more damage to my interpersonal relationships in the past than anything else. And the greatest fear of all? Fear of rejection. I have not been honest about who I am and what I want because I have tried to be and want what I thought other people wanted or expected. It didn't work. I was insecure because I couldn't know what they wanted, so I couldn't know who to be.

An open relationship brings that fear of rejection to the front and center of everything. I am reaching out and asking women to meet and interact with me to see where, if anywhere, it goes. Friendship? Romance? Rejection? It was a terrifying idea to me, reaching out. But now, already, only three weeks in, that particular fear is nearly gone, at least in the online realm of dating apps. I still haven't made that leap in person, but I have no fear of messaging women anymore. I have almost no fear or nervousness in meeting them for the first time. I've been rejected twice after first dates now, and even that wasn't the horrifying, embarrassing, or even mildly awkward experience I was afraid it would be. Both times, it was a "Fair enough. Best of luck to you!" sort of experience, and one of them even told me, "You are a gentleman, and you deserve to be happy!" How terrifying is that?

What I'm learning is that the world is full of an infinite variety of human beings. Some of these may be a good match for me in personality, temperament, humor, and taste. Many will not. If we are not a good match, then what's the harm? None, unless we arbitrarily determine that staying together is more important than being a good match, and then, damage is done to both of us. That's a silly path to take. So peace be with you! Go with God! Fare thee well!

Jealousy, too, is only fear of rejection. If the woman I love chooses to date other people, what shall I choose? To be afraid that she will find someone she likes better than she likes me? No. I can choose to set aside that fear response and look at it from a distance. She loves me. I love her. If we go on our separate adventures, just like anything else we may do separately, we can come back to each other and talk about it. We can each find in other people human characteristics that we do not find in each other, and that is part of the joy. Each person we meet, interact with, and connect with meaningfully will resonate within ourselves a different set of tones, and by discovering the differences in how we connect and relate with others, we discover truths about ourselves we would not otherwise have had the opportunity to bring into the light and examine. We have new pathways through others toward change and growth in ourselves.


That's the real treasure of this weird scavenger hunt I'm on: human connection. For me so far it's mostly been first dates, which is only the first step in developing connection, a first step with its own challenges, but it's a necessary first step. I've told and listened to tales meant to reveal something of who we are. How we tell and hear these tales is the beginning of a kind of connection that we as humans seem incapable of having with the hundreds and thousands of nameless strangers that surround us. It is the first step in humanizing The Other, in turning a Them into an Us, and it's a joy. And with second and third dates, it's an even greater joy to begin to see how that connection can, with openness, honesty, and a rejection of fear instead of a fear of rejection, begin to blossom and spread into something even more meaningful.

And the connection with the woman who started all of this for me has deepened, too. Maybe that's a surprise. Maybe not. When we come back together, missing each other and craving each other's company, we talk. And some of what we talk about is what we are learning about ourselves and each other through this process of opening up, reaching out, and connecting. That, in turn, brings a new and higher level of connection between us. And missing each other, by the way, is a wonderful thing. Being apart long enough to yearn for each other's company is far preferable to seeing each other so much that the connection becomes stale and taken for granted.


The added bonus to all of this is that I'm finding that I really am losing interest in maintaining the relationships I have that don't fit, that provide no real connection, that make me feel bad about myself. And that's a relief. If you don't like me, that's fine. You don't have to. But I don't have to listen to you tell me all about why you don't. That that is a revelation to me says a lot about who I was and who I'm working to become.

Thursday, March 24, 2016


I suppose an update is an order, and really I should get that shameful obscenity out of the top spot on my little corner of the web here. So here ya go:

You may have heard: I'm dating. This is still a mind-boggling turn of events for me, but how many times exactly can I keep telling you that you met me at a very strange time in my life? I started with Tinder. I did communicate with a couple of women through it, but mostly it was silence. It was crickets chirping. It was the sound of one hand clapping. So I deleted my account. A friend told me, yeah, that's mostly for hook-ups. Even though all the women with profiles say they're not there for hook-ups. But notice that it wants your GPS location, and a whole lot of the women have no profile at all. So: current location + picture only = hook-ups. And I wasn't getting any of those. Not that I wanted those. At least, I don't think I did. A few more tests. (That's a reference to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Mom). (Yes, I just spoke parenthetically to my Mom while talking about hook-ups).

So I started using OKCupid. Because I'd heard of it. And because it also was free. But then I lost my mind and started paying for it anyway? Because I'm easily lead? Because I was in an internet-fueled feverish haze? Anyway, what was I saying again? Oh yeah. Dating. OKCupid. Right.

I was stunned to discover it worked. I made my profile. I answered my questions. I added my pictures. I browsed my "Matches." I sent messages. I got responses. If the banter went well, I asked women out. Some said yes. A couple even asked me out! It was madness. Pure madness.

So now I've gone on two first dates, with a third scheduled for tomorrow. I have my first second date on Saturday. I have no idea what's going on here. And that's OK!

I have to say, my favorite exchanges have been with women who've been on dating apps for a long time and feel qualified and justified in critiquing my approach. It probably has a name, talking about courtin' while courtin'. Meta courtin'? Meta dating? I don't know. It's hilarious. Experienced women love to take me under their wing. I'm a newb. I'm a rook. Ha ha!

Wait, what was I talking about again? Oh yeah. Here's the most amazing part of all of this: I did something that terrified me. And it was fun. And shows every sign of continuing to be fun. And (I notice this is a recurring theme in this blog) the thing that I feared most didn't come to pass. I was afraid that I would be unappealing to women, that I would attract no interest myself and all of my interest in others would be rejected. Looking back over the last week, I see now how silly that is. In the world of online dating apps, where a person is defined almost entirely by his words, I am a man who can use words well. That has appeal. I have appeal. Also, my fellow men have largely set the bar pretty low, as evidenced by the jaded comments women sometimes feel compelled to include in their profiles, like, "Don't message me if your profile pic is your chest or your crotch."

In the last year, I've had a dear friend with relevant life experience tell me that I would be happy again, when I was sure I would not. I've had an amazing, beautiful woman that I thought of as out of my league demand, "Are you going to kiss me or not?" And now I've asked several women out, and they said yes. I've asked one woman for a second date, and she said yes. My self-esteem has gone from completely bottomed out a little over a year ago to bobbing along at a pretty damned healthy level right now thank you very much, and I couldn't be happier about it.

If I keep dating, though, I'm going to have to get a second job to boost my disposable income. This social life business is expensive! But if I get another job, how will I have time for dating? Such a conundrum.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Fuck It, I Ain't Skeered

As long as I'm handing out advice about being unafraid, I've decided I'm going to do a few things that I wasn't doing for fear of what might happen. First among these is dating. I kind of stumbled into a new relationship almost as soon as I was available, which I didn't see coming at all. I was suddenly available after being faithfully committed to a monogamous relationship for over half my life, then true story: I was asked, after a few weeks of escalating flirtation, "Are you going to kiss me or not?" So I did. And she did. And the upshot is: I've done some flirting, but I've never really done the whole dating thing.  I met my ex-wife in my first year away from home at college. I have never in my life tried, successfully or unsuccessfully, to pick up a woman in a bar. Never. I've never been on any dating websites or used any apps. Never. Never! When I got involved with the woman who was getting tired of waiting for me to work up the nerve to kiss her, I was relieved in part because she's awesome and way more than I thought I deserved at the time, but also in part because the idea of putting myself out there and risking rejection was more than a little terrifying.

So I'm going to do it. Because it's terrifying.

I made a Tinder account two days ago, and it's already a weird mixture of hilarious and depressing. The profile of every fortyish woman in the Greater Austin Metropolitan Area contains the phrases "outdoors, hiking, and wine" as well as "looking for a partner in crime!" And for some reason, height is really important for a woman's Tinder profile. Should my height appear on my profile? Does it matter for men as much as it seems to for women? I'm 6'2". Does it matter that I'm 6'2"? I used to be 6'3", so I'm shrinking. Maybe that should be on my profile: 6'2" and shrinking. Fuck it, I'm going to go add that right now.

So I've done a lot of swiping. Which is getting pretty dull. I feel like a heel making straight up yes/no judgements on so little information, but I suppose that's the point. At first I kept screwing it up, left swiping when I meant to browse pictures. Right swiping when I meant to say, "Nope!" I mostly say no when there's no profile text at all. Saying absolutely nothing about yourself is an attraction strategy I don't really understand. I'm mis-swiping less now, but I think I did accidentally Super Like someone. I don't know what that means. I almost dropped my phone when I got my first match notification, then proceeded to immediately make an ass of myself when I messaged her. I think I did pretty well on my two other matches, but I still haven't heard from anyone.

So there's that. I'm dating. Or will be, if I can get a date. Even though I already have a woman in my life that's very high on the list of Best Things to Ever Happen to Me. Brave? Or stupid? Don't answer that.

Another thing I did because I'm pretty sure I was afraid of it was to invite that amazing woman to date other people, too, if she were so inclined. When we first got together, I told her that monogamy was important to me. On reflection, I thought I may have said that out of fear of competition, that if she put herself out there again, she'd find someone she likes better than she likes me. But fuck it, I ain't skeered. Who's better than me? I'm awesome! And if she finds someone who makes her happier, then more power to her. I want her to be happy. She's awesome, too!

Which all makes me solo poly? I guess? I'm Googlin' all sorts of acronyms, abbreviations, and other mysterious shorthand that appears in Tinder profiles. I'd never heard of solo poly until I saw it on my first night of swiping. I get that the poly part is polyamorous, having multiple relationships. I'm not clear on the solo part, though. I guess. Maybe that makes me fuzzy poly? Maybe I should wait until somebody actually responds to a message before I start wondering what all this makes me. Or maybe I shouldn't give a shit what it makes me. The acronyms are fun, though. There are a lot of personality types, like INFP and ENFJ, on Tinder profiles, which are apparently related to Jungian Functional Preference Ordering. I dozed off before I could slog through what exactly Jungian Functional Preference Ordering means, but it does give me a giggle to use phrases including the word "Jungian" in the same sentence as the word "Tinder."

Another was "6+4+3=2." The woman suggested in her profile that if I knew what that meant, I might have one up on the competition. So I Googled it. She and I were clearly not made for each other.

My favorite so far, though, was TDTF. I assumed it was another personality type. One profile said, among other things, "Please don't be TDTF." I tend to text in full sentences, so I didn't recognize it as texting shorthand. I Googled it, thinking it would be another of the personality types. Am I TDTF? I wondered. Turns out it stands for "Too Drunk to Fuck." Ah. Well! No problem there then. I have not, in fact, been TDTF in quite some time.

Next, I'm going to try hitting on a stranger in a public setting. Maybe a bar. Is it weird for a dude who doesn't drink to hang out in a bar trying to pick up women? If I have a Topo Chico in a glass with lime, who's to say it doesn't have a shot of something in there, right? Do fortyish women go to bars to be picked up? Ah, fuck it. I'm doing it. I ain't skeered.

I'm thinking of trying karaoke, too. And dancing in public. Why not? What's the worst that could happen?

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Be Not Afraid

Have you read "The Rise of American Authoritarianism" by Amanda Taub on Vox? It's making the rounds on social media, at least my social media. It's fascinating. I know nothing about her or the website that published her article, but... wow. Reading it creates in my head the sound of tumblers clicking as they fall into place.

And as these things do, it clicks because it meshes with recent experience in my own life. Not political experience. Nothing to do with Donald Trump, or immigration. But still, it was an experience of fear of The Other taking from me what I see as my own, my right. My experience has no place here, as it is not my story to tell, for the most part. Let it suffice that my "other" is just a blowhard drunkard (read: douche!), not the specter of a horde of inhuman invaders (read: Muslims, LGBQT, atheists, environmentalists, etc.) whose values are terrifyingly foreign to my own experience. Although that particular douche is, in my mind, inhuman. And his values are as foreign to me as they could be. But still!

What I noticed in my own experience is this: the fear was more real than the reality. The possible was more real than the actual. As such, it was not a possibility, it was a certainty. And thus it demanded something from me: a response, a prevention. Action!

Does this make me authoritarian? God, I hope not.

What my own fear experience taught me, though, is a lesson I should have learned before now, because I've had this epiphany before, particularly when I gave up reading What to Expect When You're Expecting about a third of the way through, when little Thumper was still a bun in the oven: the fear experience can be nearly orgasmic. The pomposity of feeling like you're expertly preparing for the thing you fear is also nearly orgasmic.

But! The thing you fear and prepare for is likely not the thing that will happen, and the thing that will happen is likely not the one for which you prepared. And obsessed. And worried. And drove yourself to ecstatic levels of stress and anxiety imagining.

Don't read that book, by the way. If you're expecting, don't expect all those worst-case scenarios. Expect joy, instead. Deal with what comes, if it comes, as it comes. But don't read the book first. It preys on fear. It profits by the uncertainty of the inexperienced and their powerful desire to be ready for whatever experience may be coming.

But! That's the nature of life. You can't be prepared for every possible experience that is approaching you from beneath the curve of the horizon. Besides, if you did know with certainty that the worst-case scenario was actually coming, would that make you any more prepared, really?

And here's the thing: in some of those cases, the fear itself brings about the very experience of which you were afraid.

For instance: the military industrial complex, of which Eisenhower warned us, employs over decades the rhetoric of fear of Islamic fundamentalism (which, by the way, is to Islam as the KKK is to Christianity) to help justify and build support for what is largely a gigantic money grab. So for fear of Islamic fundamentalism spreading across the globe and attacking us at home, we approve of putting boots on foreign ground and everything that entails, which engenders a deep hatred of us globally even beyond the existing Islamic fundamentalists and fuels the growth of fundamentalism, providing new motivation for exactly the kind of attacks on American soil of which we were originally afraid. Which makes us more afraid.

Oversimplified? Yes, of course. But to some degree, we fueled, because we were terrified, the growth of the very thing that terrified us, and now we're even more afraid.

So is fear the answer? Is voting for Trump going to make anything better? Instead, be not afraid. Be not afraid of the Mexican immigrant. Be not afraid of the protestor who wants only for his child to have as little chance of being murdered as your child does. Be not afraid of the woman on the bus who has covered her hair out of the same kind, if not the same flavor, of piety that motivates you as a good Christian church-goer. Be not afraid of the sex lives of those that aren't having sex with you. Be not afraid of those who suggest that unrestrained consumerism may, in fact, be ultimately destructive. Be not afraid that the weed will lead to the heroin will lead to the children dying in droves, impaled on the pikes of syringes on every street corner. Do not dehumanize the other, nor fear his values, though they seem on the surface foreign to your own.

Please don't vote for Trump. Forgiving for the moment that he speaks in sentences and thinks in patterns far less complex, sophisticated, and nuanced than even my 8-year-old does, remember always that a political leader cannot defeat your fears. Only you can. Instead of fearing, live. You do you. I'll do me. Let each of us be calm. Take deep breaths. Meditation is good for that. So is yoga. But hey, I'm not militant, so if that's not your thing, that's cool.
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