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On a great date, the conversation will flow, there will be a bunch of questions you want to ask and a bunch of topics you want to pursue, and it will end with a continued sense of fascination about the person with whom you’ve been spending time.

Most dates aren’t great dates.

But before we start talking about my own personal date conversation dislikes, let me suggest that we all try our best not to take this post too seriously. Because you know, life is short and we’ve all made a few of the conversational blunders I’m about to point out. ME TOO. That doesn’t mean they aren’t funny or worth talking about. That also doesn’t mean you fail at dating or socializing.

It simply means, hey, life is ridiculous sometimes. We screw up sometimes. Things that don’t work for me might work swimmingly for you. Etc., etc.

So with that out of the way, let’s talk about my least favorite conversational gambit of all time: the What Do You Like to Do in Your Spare Time question.

Sometimes this question can masquerade as “What are your hobbies?” Both questions are about equally wretched and boring. In fact, I hate this question so much that at this point I will endeavor to avoid having to answer it. Unfortunately, most people who have strayed so far off a good conversational path will inevitably HOLD THEIR GROUND, thereby consigning us both to an asinine few minutes. The only consolation, and it is a tiny one, is that I can then ask them the same bad question to see if they actually have a good answer to it. For science. (But they don’t. They never do. At least not so far.)

Okay, stop and take a deep breath if you often ask this question. I’ve asked it too. We are okay. Really. Just, you know, maybe think about it before you ask it next time.

Here’s why I think it’s such a bad question: because the response it encourages is merely a bland list of activities. Basically this question sucks for the same reason that my blog sometimes sucks, because it doesn’t give you nice, juicy concrete details. It doesn’t lead to stories. It doesn’t lead to connection. It leads to boring boring boring. (Or if you’re talking to me, it leads to me going completely blank and giving you a piteous look.)

Photo Credit: jwordsmith via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: jwordsmith via Compfight cc

A better conversational tactic is to talk about what the two of you have been doing recently, which will usually automatically give rise to talk about activities and subjects that interest both of you, but in such a way as to encourage anecdotes and details and maybe even an actual discussion. (I know, I know, I set my sights high.) Granted, if all you’ve been doing lately is working, this won’t be as effective, but here, have a nice reason to strive for a little bit of balance in life. You’re welcome. (Or, barring that, I suppose you could talk about what you want to be doing or what you’re going to do.)

Here are some other quality conversational blunders I love to hate:

  • “I know you don’t drink alcohol, so let me talk for a lengthy period of time about alcohol.” No. Just don’t do it. In a group, I will deal with it. One-on-one, this is totally unnecessary. If you have a huge passion for wine, or Scotch, or whatever, I accept that maybe someday I’ll have to listen to you talk a lot about it, just as you’ll have to listen to me blather about musical theater. But that time is not the first date. Or the second. Or probably even the third. Basically it just shows you’re not paying attention to what your companion finds interesting. (If, on the other hand, it hasn’t come up that I don’t drink, you’re totally off the hook. Expecting your date to be a mind-reader is not cool.)
  • Personal questions about money. I understand my date might want to be reassured that I’m solvent and responsible and not about to flee the country or file for bankruptcy, but beyond that, waiting a couple dates before prying into all the details of my financial situation is a good call. I know some people think this is totally fine behavior, which is their prerogative, but I’d never to do it on the first couple of dates myself.
  • “Here’s what you should do about x situation that you didn’t ask for advice about.” Ugh. This is often kind of annoying anyway because people usually want a different response (and that’s if they’re actively talking about their problems in the first place, which is rarely the case in early dating, when you’re merely trying to get to know one another). But on the first couple of dates, it’s particularly bad because the other person probably doesn’t even know enough details or information to actually be giving relevant advice. But then when I stand my ground and then try to change the subject, they won’t always let it go. Fun times.
  • Saying something mean-spirited/putting the other person down. Here’s the thing. Maybe the person was nervous. Maybe the person was making a joke (granted, a mean-spirited joke). But ultimately I don’t care why it happened. If someone says something kind of mean during one of your first times together, odds are it’s going to happen again. And again. And again. This isn’t just a red flag, it’s a get-the-hell-out-NOW flashing neon sign of doom.

(Note: I’ve gotten some push-back in the past when I’ve talked about this particular neon sign, and I think it might be because people are worried their teasing will be interpreted as mean or negging or whatever. But if it is interpreted that way, then that means the two of you are not compatible, end of story. Your senses of humor simply do not mesh. Or else it means you are crossing the boundary between teasing and being disrespectful and aren’t aware of it. But nobody owes you a lesson in that; it’s something you’ll have to work out for yourself. Or maybe people are worried that I am too sensitive. Don’t be. My main failure at reading people is sugarcoating what I know and being too accommodating, and I’m fine with being willing to stand up for myself.)

In conclusion, most dates aren’t amazing out-of-this-world I-can’t-stop-talking-about-it dates. If they were, dating would be a simple and short process (and for the people for whom it is, hey, more power to you!) But dates are certainly a lot more pleasant when both people are kind and polite and make an effort to be in tune with one another. On that I suspect we can all agree.

PS: If you would like to share your least favorite conversational gambit of all time, I’d love to hear it!

The Rock Star Formula

“How do you build up confidence?” he asked.

I gave him some of my general advice, and then I had an inspiration. “Or, just pretend you’re a rock star because that will be way more fun.”

I love this thought experiment so much. It doesn’t really matter what form it takes. You can pretend you are a rock star, or a movie star, or a famous opera singer, or a Bohemian poet, or a tragic romantic figure, or that you’re leading a literary life (substitute that adjective as needed), or that you’re the type of person who is going to have ridiculous memoirs to write when you’re ninety years old. The point isn’t the exact shape the thought experiment takes, but rather, using your imagination to get out of your own head.

The trick is to get out of your normal mode of thinking. Instead of thinking, “What would I do in this situation?,” I think, “What would rock star Amy do?” And then I do the rock star way, pretending like it’s actually what I’d do and ignoring any resulting discomfort as much as possible.

So how I am leading my rock star life?

Well, because I’m a rock star, heads turn when I enter a room. I’m allowed to wear fabulous and eccentric clothes as much as I want. And I’m charming, and people generally enjoy meeting me and are interested in hearing what I have to say. And I can go and strike up conversations with random people without it being a big deal. Whatever, I’m a rock star.

Because I’m a rock star, I generally get to do what I want. I’m not afraid to ask or put myself on the line. And when something really sucks, I speak up or I move on. When someone isn’t treating me respectfully, I just walk away. Because I’m a rock star, so I don’t have time for that shit.

Sometimes I am also a super hero with a secret identity and everything.

Sometimes I am also a super hero, with a secret identity and everything.

Because I’m a rock star, I can try new things and be fearless. My self-esteem doesn’t ride on my success or failure. I feel good about myself, so it doesn’t matter if I’m bad at something when I start out, even when other people feel the need to vocally judge me. Instead I can enjoy the satisfaction of the challenge.

Because I’m a rock star, I can say absurd things in conversation and then stare the other person in the eye and dare them not to find it funny. And if they don’t find it funny, I laugh anyway.

Because I’m a rock star, I stay up late and I sleep in late and I don’t cook unless I feel like it. I can find instant oatmeal and peanut butter toast glamorous when in the right mood. I have dance parties in my kitchen, anthems that I talk about incessantly on Twitter, and I proudly make brownies from a mix because they’re damned good.

Because I’m a rock star, I never have to apologize for who I am. And I don’t care if you like me because hey, I am who I am. Instead I celebrate myself.

Because I’m a rock star, I can walk in a room where I know no one. I can stand in a crowd and not have to talk to someone every single second. I can afford to not hide behind my phone. I can smile a small, amused smile and watch the world turn until I choose to engage.

Because I’m a rock star, I get to go to live concerts and plays and museums and clubs and dances. I get to travel and see new places and learn new things. I get to write and dance and sing and spill out my heart and soul for you in characters on a computer screen, and I get to be nostalgic about ink.

Because I’m a rock star, I get to surround myself with other rock stars, people who have passion and dreams and ambition and gratitude. People who don’t ask me to shrink down a few sizes but who take up their own space just as I do. People who love and laugh and have accidental adventures on a Sunday afternoon. People who are both fascinating and fascinated and love to laugh. Imperfect people, yes, but imperfect people who don’t take their lives for granted.

Here’s my secret: I’m not really a rock star. But when I pretend to be a rock star, all the above things are true anyway. Because when you pretend something long enough, after a while it stops feeling pretend, and instead it simply feels like you.

So if you want to become more confident, give it a shot. Pretend to be a rock star, and see if you can find the freedom to be yourself.

The Maybe-Date

I was having a conversation with a friend, and after telling me about someone new she’d hung out with, she asked, “So. Do you think it was a date?”

This is not as uncommon a question as you might think.

I myself am the master of the maybe-date, so much so that I have coined the phrase “maybe-date” in order to more efficiently communicate with my friends. “Oh, what am I doing Wednesday night? I have a maybe-date. Yeah, I’m not really sure. Maybe.”

Photo Credit: zeevveez via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: zeevveez via Compfight cc

Here is how the maybe-date tends to come about. You’ve met someone in real life (aka not via internet dating, which tends to cut down on ambiguity, although YOU WOULD BE SURPRISED). You’ve met them at work or at a party or at some other social event. You likely have at least one friend in common with them, and often more. They are your preferred gender, and they are available. At least you think they’re available. If you’re me, you also think they might not be polyamorous. At least you hope they’re not polyamorous. (Although if you’re me, you have tons of polyamorous friends, and therefore the likelihood the guy you just met at x social function is polyamorous is fairly high. This tends to confuse things even further.)

Anyway, you and this person who you think is available have made plans for just the two of you. But is it a date? Or are you friends hanging out? WHICH IS IT?

You think it’s easy to tell the difference? Well, yes, sometimes it is. And it’s always satisfying to be able to say, “Yes, I have a date” with conviction. But sometimes, between the context and the casual way everything has come about, it isn’t so clear. Add to that the fact that sometimes I’m not even sure if I want it to be a date or not, and the confusion can mount quite quickly. And sometimes you’re pretty sure it IS a date, only to end the evening with a shrug and an “Or not.”

Okay, so let’s break down some signs of date vs. not a date that you can disagree with me about in the comments, shall we?

  • Gives you lots of compliments: more likely a date, unless it is a colleague trying to help you out of the depths of impostor syndrome
  • Pays for your meal/activity: not clear. Yeah, I know this is gendered, and it used to be my go-to way for telling if something was a date, but it doesn’t work anymore. It’s actually become a pretty bad way of telling, because enough people like to treat and enough other people go Dutch as a matter of course that this is simply not enough data.
  • Touches you a lot, like on the hand or shoulder or whatever: more likely a date
  • Is also touching other people in the same fashion (say, if you’re at a party or other group event): probably likes flirting in general, so who knows?
  • Invites you to dinner: more likely a date, but solidly in the gray zone
  • Invites you to a group activity: probably not a date
  • Invites you to a group activity, and then because of the vagaries of life, it ends up being just the two of you: probably not a date, unless they’re trying to be weirdly crafty (which is unnecessary, since they could, I don’t know, just ask you on a date?)
  • Randomly runs into you and then hangs out: not a date (yes, I’m defining a date has having been planned in advance.)
  • Mentions dating: Who knows? People on a date love talking about dating. It’s kind of weird but true. But people also just like talking about dating in general.
  • Asks you on a date-like activity soon after meeting you: more likely a date
  • Has gone to a lot of trouble to elaborately plan what you’re doing: probably a date. Either that or maybe they just really like to plan stuff?
  • Flirting: more likely a date, but people’s definitions of flirting differ (for example, smiling can be seen as flirtation, but I smile at EVERYONE, it’s just part of Amy-ness)
  • Stays up talking too late with you: more likely to be a date, but could also just be a night owl (like me) or love chatting (also like me)
  • Hugs you: I live in California. This means nothing here.
  • Asks for your phone number: more likely to be a date, although context really matters here. The advent of the Facebook age has definitely increased the number of maybe-dates in the world.
  • Holds your hand and/or kisses you: yeah, it’s a date
  • Asks you explicitly on a date (aka “Would you like to go on a date? Would you like to go out sometime? I’d like to ask you to dinner. etc.): Easy peasy! It’s definitely a date.

Basically, it all comes down to body language and social cues, and sometimes those things make the “is it a date” question?” very clear, whereas other times…who can say? This effect is probably heightened when more of the interaction is done via a text medium (no body language and no tone of voice make it a lot harder to read) or if at least one of the people involved is a bit on the awkward side.

What to do about the maybe-date? Well, you can try to make your plans in a way that is more explicit. Certainly I have plenty of first dates that aren’t internet dates that I am still sure are dates. Barring that, you can just straight-out ask. This isn’t the smoothest thing ever, but it does resolve the question in a quick and efficient manner. Or you can learn to be comfortable in the maybe-date zone and wait and see what happens.

As for myself, I’m perfectly happy to take a wait-and-see attitude on occasion. By the end of the outing, I’ve usually made up my mind about something, anyway: either on whether or not this was a date, or if not that, perhaps on whether or not I wanted it to be. Although if I’m still really uncertain, I’m probably less likely to want it to have been a date, because you know, life’s too short. And then there’s Mark Manson’s popular Theory of Yes to keep in mind.

And what about my friend? After much discussion, we decided we think it was a date. But we’re still not a hundred percent sure.

I’ve Got Places to Be

Him: “Yeah, I went to the movies this past weekend, it was my fun thing for the month.”

Me: “You only do one fun thing per month?”

Him: “Well, it’s probably more like every other week, but yeah.”

Me: “Oh. But don’t you want to spend time with your friends?”

Him: “I’m kind of a Lone Wolf.”

Me: “Uh huh….”

Him: “I don’t have time to have a social life like you do.”

Me: “Hmm. I will ignore your condescending tone and actually think about this.”

So yes, I am lucky to have the time and energy to maintain the social life I do. And having had to jumpstart it twice in the last three years (yippee!), I’ve collected a lot of experience and information about making friends, and having friends, and what friendship can mean, and what can go wrong in a friendship, and what I want. And I have a bunch of theories about friendship and social dynamics that I occasionally trot out. (I want to say I bring them out at dinner parties, but I am never actually invited to dinner parties.)

Anyway, here are two myths about friendship that I’ve been thinking about recently:

Myth #1: Everyone has a lot of friends and a swinging social life.

I don’t know why I ever believed this one, but maybe it’s a weird remnant from high school or something? Anyway, as is becoming the norm for me, I’ve been meeting a lot of people, and as I talk to all these people, I’ve recognized a thread that keeps returning.

Not everyone has a lot of friends. And a lot of people are kind of sort of lonely. A lot of these people are really busy in their professional lives, and, like the guy in the conversation above, they don’t feel they have the time to prioritize friendship. Some of them don’t really know how to be a friend. Some of them don’t really understand how one goes about making new friends. Some of them feel stuck.

Of course, the amount of ideal social activity varies from person to person. And there are plenty of people who are content with their social lives. But this isn’t all people.

If you are unhappy with your social life or if your life is kind of unbalanced right now, you are not alone.

Myth #2: Having friendships and an active social life just kind of happens.

I don’t know why I ever believed this one either. Because oh my gosh, maintaining a busy social life is A LOT OF WORK.

I know, tiniest violin, right? I’m not saying this is something warranting complaint, but it is simply fact that it takes a fair amount of effort. Maintaining social ties takes work. Making new friends takes work. Keeping in touch takes work. People say all the time how bad they are at keeping in touch, and the reason that’s something it’s even possible to be bad at is because it requires thought and action and time.

And of course, when you’re kickstarting your social life, it takes even more work. Or, um, when you’re running your social life close to capacity. Which, yes, is what I’m doing right now, and so I’ve been feeling like I’m running behind, and like I always have messages I need to answer, and occasionally I forget them because my brain cannot hold all the information it needs to hold, and I can almost always make time, but that works exactly the way it sounds, with a whole bunch of effort put into somehow making that time materialize. And then once in a while I have no plans and I don’t have to schedule or coordinate or drive for two hours or find parking or figure out an activity or restaurant suggestion or communicate clearly and instead I can sit on my couch with Nala on my feet and eat ice cream and watch Star Trek and that is the best thing ever.

Have I mentioned I’m just the tiniest bit tired?

It’s completely worth it, or I wouldn’t be doing it. The rewards are incalculable. But I have also realized that five years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to do this. It would have been actually impossible for me. Because the only way I can keep this up is by communicating as clearly as possible and asking for what I need and sometimes saying no and not moving heaven and earth when the logistics are really complicated but instead just accepting this isn’t the right time. The only way it works is if I can trust my friends to take care of themselves the way I’m doing my best to take care of myself. The only way I can do everything I want to do and spend time with everyone I want to spend time with is by accepting that in the process, I’m not going to be perfect.

I couldn’t have done those things five years ago. And as a result, I might have been a bit of a Lone Wolf. I didn’t really like being a Lone Wolf. It was lonely, and also I didn’t have as many choices, and also when someone behaved poorly, there was more incentive to ignore that instead of taking care of myself.

But no longer. When the particular Lone Wolf at the beginning of this post spent the conversation putting me down and proceeded to make a “joke” telling me I needed more exercise (implying what? that I’m fat? really?), I was completely happy to run, not walk, the other direction.

I’ve got better places to be.

San Francisco at dusk.

San Francisco at dusk.

The Flawed Feminist

Lately I’ve been feeling like a bad feminist.

It kicked up a gear last month when my feminist book club read Feminism is for Everyone, by bell hooks. I learned a lot from the book, but the entire time I was reading it, I was thinking, “Wow, I feel like I’m really falling short, and I don’t even really understand how.” It talked about raising consciousness, and I’m pretty sure my consciousness is completely NOT raised. Whatever that means.

This month we’re reading Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay, which is making for a nice change of pace. Roxane Gay is smart and insightful and funny, and she also seems like she isn’t perfect, which is reassuring since I am also far from perfect.

For example, I have this fascination with eye makeup. It all started when my friend was visiting this coast from Boston, and the friends he was staying with invited me to stay for dinner. It was a lovely evening of good food and even better company, but I kept being distracted by the woman’s eyelashes. She had AMAZING eyelashes. And I was sitting there at the table, wondering if she glued on fake eyelashes every morning or if she was able to work these wonders with mascara, and if so, why had I never been able to work similar wonders with mascara?

Thus began my fascination. It started with mascara experimentation, but after some months I branched out to an interest in eyeliner and different colors of eye shadow. And a few weeks ago I took a field trip to Sephora and obtained this fat eyeliner pencil that is a modern wonder of cosmetics.

Flawed Feminist

Flawed Feminist

And every time I play with eye makeup, I know I’m probably being a bad feminist. I’m propagating a certain ideal of feminine beauty, and I guess as a feminist I’m supposed to deliberately subvert that ideal, and I don’t. I get almost as annoyed when people imply I shouldn’t wear makeup as I do when people imply I must wear makeup. I want to look the way I want to look, and I want to wear what I want to wear, and I don’t want to care about the messages I’m sending or the subconscious misogynistic ideas I’ve no doubt internalized over the years. And so I wear makeup when I feel like wearing makeup.

Also, when I’m on a date with a guy, I allow him to pay. I’m pretty sure a good feminist would not do this. My rule is never assume, but accept graciously. I cannot pretend that this is motivated by anything but self-interest. I don’t want to get into an argument about who’s paying for dinner (conflict adverse, me?), and also, it’s really nice when someone buys you dinner. The allure of free food and being fed, which to all rights should have died down after college, remains strong. The allure of being treated remains strong. It’s also super unfair, and I know this, and yet. I accept graciously.

Even my language is suspect, and for a writer, this is inexcusable. I like to say and write “you guys.” I like to say, “Man.” I know a good feminist would never say or write these things. And I do try to avoid this gendered language sometimes, especially in tweets. But there aren’t any good alternatives! I’ve tried “you all,” but I’m not from Texas and I’ll never be from Texas. “You people” is horrible. “Friends” sometimes works, but not always. And the best substitutes for “Man” are all profanity. So I have to choose between saying “Man” and swearing a lot.

I imagine if I had my consciousness raised, I wouldn’t do any of these things. I’d effortlessly never say “you guys” and I wouldn’t wear any makeup EVER EVER and I’d insist on going Dutch every single time. So where does this leave me?

I guess it leaves me far from perfect. But that doesn’t mean feminism isn’t important to me. That doesn’t mean being a feminist isn’t part of my identity. I think what it really means is that I’m human and flawed and complicated, and aren’t we all?

You guys, I’m a bad feminist. But even so, I’d rather be a bad feminist grappling with these issues than not be a feminist at all.

So what’s going on with your blog, Amy?

If you’re guessing my blog is coming up more than usual in conversation and correspondence, you’d be right. And there’s a story behind it.

20150207_131011

I was sitting in the bar at ConFusion one night, the way you do when you’re a writer, and I was hanging out with two of my favorite bloggers. I have to admit I’m kind of snobby when it comes to bloggers, and these two people both knock it out of the park on a regular basis. And one of them said they had trouble emotionally connecting with my blog.

You might remember that at that time I was in the throes of impostor syndrome, so my poor brain was screaming at me, “You see, Amy, you see? You even FAIL AT BLOGGING.”

I listened to my brain for a minute or two, and then I said, “No, this is dumb, I don’t fail at blogging, and also, hello? This is a GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY.”

So I asked these two bloggers for their advice. They had both read my blog. What was one thing I could do that would improve it and create a stronger emotional connection with my readers?

I talked with one of the bloggers about how to structure a post for maximum impact, which was geektastic and fascinating. And then I turned to the other blogger. “You tend to be kind of vague, Amy,” he said. “You don’t use specific details.” And then he gave me some examples.

And I thought, yes, I know, I totally do that, and worse, I do it on purpose, I pull my punches. I don’t say what I really want to say. I try to write about the truth without showing you the truth.

I tend to pull my punches in real life too. I can be so freaking nice. You know what other words spring to mind along with nice? Milk soppy. Wishy washy. BORING.

In-fucking-visible.

So I resolved, there and then, to write a post about my impostor syndrome, which is something that most writers face at one time or another and yet many of us are afraid to write about for fear of damaging our careers. And I resolved to NOT pull my punches. I resolved to pay attention to structure and to use specific details. I resolved to tell you what it was like in that bathroom, down to not knowing where the hell to put my glasses while I cried.

I became a better writer the day I wrote that post.

And the day I published the post? Well.

I did not expect the reaction I got. Not at all. The outpouring of support was….well, it was amazing and overwhelming and inspiring and strange and deeply meaningful. It changed me. You changed me. Part of the reason I write this blog is to give something to you, and then you wonderful human beings turned the tables on me and gave me something so precious that I’m tearing up while I’m trying to write about it.

Thank you.

Thank you thank you thank you.

So that’s what’s going on with the blog. I’m experimenting with the good advice from two bloggers who I deeply respect. I’m not pulling my punches. I’m trying to give myself permission to write the way I was born to write. And it’s making people uncomfortable, and it’s making ME uncomfortable, and it’s making me a better writer, and I don’t know where I’m going with it.

And it’s not just the blog that’s changing either; I’m changing right along with it.

Exciting times, my friends. Exciting times.

The Breakup Expert

In the wake of my most recent breakup (last Sunday night, woo!) I realized I have a lot of experience with breakups. In fact, I could put up a website proclaiming myself a breakup expert and not feel like a complete fraud. Not only have I experienced a range of breakups myself, but I have watched many other people’s breakups. And not even only on TV!

So of course I thought, the way you do when you’re me, I should blog about the post-breakup experience.

*

I took the breakup with the first guy I was in love with really hard. We were together six months, and he worked all the time (not that I’m magnetically attracted to workaholics or anything), and I was going to be moving to the UK and he still had two years to go at university, so, you know, not the most practical relationship ever.

But I was so devastated when we broke up. Common knowledge had told me that after a breakup, I would need closure, so I went to have a closure conversation with him a few weeks afterwards. This taught me something about breakups: You don’t need to have a long closure conversation. You don’t need closure, full stop. What is closure, anyway? I have no idea, but I’d say ninety percent of the time, once the relationship is over, you can work things out on your own.

And then I heard this rule that has stuck with me ever since. It’s a stupid rule. It’s not true. But I’m going to share it anyway: It takes half the length of the relationship to get over the relationship. At the time I found this rule deeply depressing because it meant I’d feel terrible for three months, which seemed like a very long time to feel terrible. But lo and behold! By the time three months rolled around, I was only a few weeks away from feeling terrible about an entirely different relationship. Hmm. Maybe Past Self missed the point on that one.

Here’s what I think is true: getting over a relationship takes the time it takes, and it always takes longer than you want because who wants to feel terrible? So when I felt like a flattened pancake on Monday morning, I reminded myself this was a process and time would help. And then I worked on my novel and wrote a certain blog post and I wasn’t really thinking about the breakup anymore and I totally felt better. So, you know. Time. And distraction. Distraction can be good too.

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After going through enough breakups, you also begin to get a sense of the normal phases you go through.

First I feel kind of numb, and everything seems very quiet. Maybe things don’t seem completely real, or maybe I feel a sense of relief. Or both.

Then I feel completely wretched, like my insides are collapsing while at the same time I am obviously completely hollow and empty and don’t even have any insides. I know, it makes no sense, but that’s how it feels. This tends to be when I start to cry. This also tends to be when I phone someone up. If I’m going through a bad breakup, this step might repeat a bunch, in which case I can’t call someone up every time. But for a minor breakup, it will probably only happen once or twice, in which case calling someone is pretty much always the right thing to do.

Then, in no particular order, the following things might or might not happen: I feel mopey. I eat ice cream. I don’t sleep well. Or I sleep a lot because breaking up is exhausting. I spend a lot of time thinking, and I have all the emotions. I feel like I’ll never find anyone to date again. I feel like I never want to date anyone again. I feel like I have to start dating immediately. I think that maybe someday I’ll get back together with the person. I realize I never want to get back together with the person. I get bored thinking about it all.

It’s become pretty predictable, so I’m sitting there going, “Oh yeah, now I’m at the part where I’m pretending we might get back together, and I know that’s total bullshit so can we move on to the next thing already?”

*

Apparently catharsis can be good. Photo Credit: Brother O'Mara via Compfight cc

Apparently catharsis can also help. Photo Credit: Brother O’Mara via Compfight cc

Other things that make me feel better after a breakup:

Thinking about the bad things. I read this in an article once, that people recover from breakups more quickly when they focus on the bad parts of the relationship. Maybe because they pass over a bunch of the phases more quickly this way? It’s hard to think too seriously about getting back together with someone when you immediately remind yourself of why you were unhappy.

I mean, you all know I’m a positive person, but I am a big believer in focusing on what wasn’t working. I look at it this way. I will spend the rest of my life being broken up with this person, so I have plenty of time to think kind and charitable thoughts about them. So I can damn well spend a little bit of time being irritated first, while thinking of all the things that are no longer my problem.

Plus this way I learn what’s important to me and what I want, and that’s pretty much the point of dating in the first place. I mean, if you’re not going to be beautifully and madly and happily in love. That would be another point.

Friends. I always think people who neglect their friends while they’re dating are incredibly short-sighted. Or, um, maybe just really optimistic?

So last week I was upset because a hurtful thing happened with the guy I was dating and I knew it was bullshit behavior, so I texted my friend, and he brought me a chocolate milkshake from In N’ Out. He brought it to me. And then we’re sitting there and I’m being upset, but there I am with one of my favorite people in the world, drinking a chocolate milkshake, and then we just start to crack up about all my ridiculous dating stories from the past couple of years. Because they kind of suck, but they’re also pretty funny, and how can I be super miserable when my friend just brought me a milkshake? I just can’t maintain the woe.

Especially because the next night another friend feeds me chocolate popsicles and cheese and strokes my head and tells me funny stories. And then on the weekend there are awesome people and cookies and sushi and shopping and movies and the best pancakes ever. And then on Monday night I’m swinging an inflatable sword around shouting “Inconceivable!” and smacking myself on the forehead with yet another wonderful friend.

And then of course there’s the friend I called in tears on Sunday night who told me I could call any time.

Any time.

Now that is love.

Self care. Metta meditation. Long walks and good books. Hot baths. Little dogs. Eating. Sleeping. Blah blah blah. You know the drill.

Looking fabulous. You know the stereotype of someone who feels miserable and slouches around all day wearing saggy sweatpants and a T-shirt that’s falling apart? When I feel bad, I usually dress UP. I want to look amazing. It’s harder to feel woe when you look amazing. Plus you can make tragic faces at yourself in the mirror, and that’s pretty fun.

Being fabulous. It turns out all that self-esteem work really pays off come breakup time. As does all the work to make your life as amazing as possible. Sure, maybe the self-esteem needs a little shoring up, but when you already know how to do that, then you can just do it instead of floundering around for long periods of time practicing self-flagellation. And dating is just one part of your life. It may be an important part, but even so, it’s still JUST ONE. Having other things in your life that matter to you makes all the difference.

*

I cannot end this blog post without addressing the elephant that’s hanging out in the corner over there. You kind, wonderful people, I know some of you will be concerned after reading this post. I know you’ll be thinking, “Oh no, Amy broke up with someone? On top of everything else? Is she okay?”

So allow me to reassure you. It was early days, which tends to make things a lot easier, and I am fine. If I were not fine, I would not have written this piece because I’d be too busy being curled up in an oozing puddle of misery and self-pity. But that is not what is happening.

My blog stats tell me that you really like it when I talk about dating. So here is some truth for you. When you’re dating, breaking up is fairly inevitable. Not everyone finds someone they’re super compatible with right off the bat. Is this unfortunate? For sure.

But being too afraid of breaking up is the true tragedy. And breaking up is no longer my chief fear. When I was hanging out with my milkshake friend, after some laughter had made the truth more easily accessible, I told him, “I’m afraid I’m letting myself down.”

He gave me a knowing look.

So know this, friends. I am no longer afraid I am letting myself down. And that is what matters the most.

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