Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Total Nerd Seeks Same (2)

None of my friends believe me when I say that, after much research in the field, I truly think I'm happier single. Being in a relationship always makes me anxious, because so often it's about walking a tightrope of false expectations. But my friends insist: "No, no. You just haven't met the right guy yet. When you do, you'll understand each other, and be able to share everything, and yada-yada-yada." (Oops. Did I just out myself as a heterosexual woman? Well, it's true.) At any rate, I'd sometimes like to believe them, but the truth is that dating is hard, especially the kind of dating you do with people to whom you've imparted your deepest secrets (at least the ones that make you sound hot or at least don't make you look bad) before you've even clapped eyes on one another. And, for better or for worse, that's the kind of dating most of us do these days. Two weeks of phone and email courting can lead to an imaginary intimacy which makes for a wicked post-honeymoon period letdown. Truly, what makes a person "right," and how can you tell by an ad? In my experience, personals ads tend to leave out important details -- like whether or not the poster is a hopeless, sloppy alcoholic who can't be taken out in public, for example. Okay, that's an extreme case, but it also happened to me.

But I'm not merely talking about giant potential sticking points like religion, having kids, or whether or not you smoke/drink/eat things with faces/enjoy porn/top or bottom. Even the trivial stuff can make a huge difference in the long run. So you both love movies? Perfect! But what if you like big boom-boom special effects extravaganzas and s/he likes they-came-to-talk indies? I see a lot of eye-rolling in the future. Or you both adore weekends in the country; unfortunately his ideal is a nine-mile nature hike before breakfast, and hers is nine hours of dozing in a sunny hammock drinking G&Ts. I think you get my point. The truth is, people often post ads which only reflect their most generic traits and ask very little of potential mates in order to maximize their dating window. For example, here's a short personals blurb that might reflect my search for Mr. Right:

SWF, 30's, seeks SM 28 - 45. I'm cute, 5'4, auburn/green, gainfully and steadily employed, well-educated (MA in English Lit, former teacher), love reading, writing, gardening, computers, movies & other media, smoky dive bars and spending lots of time curled up in bed -- with or without a book.

I'd love to meet a smart man who also makes me laugh. Regular job and easygoing disposition definite pluses.

Let's see now . . . not only is that ad unbelievably boring, it's also full of gaping holes. While it's all technically true, it kind of makes me sound like I curl up with Proust and a cuppa every night. Perish the thought (at least the Proust part . . . shudder). And apparently I'm looking to hook up with an accountant who tells jokes and drinks lite beer with his buddies on the weekend. I could get a thousand responses from every walk of life, and still, none of us would have a clue about potential compatibility with the person we thought we were going to meet.

So maybe meeting the right person is all about placing the right ad. You want to meet someone who likes the same things you do, has the same values as you do -- who'll love you for yourself? Then spill -- warts and all. The question is, what would I really want to say to the world about myself? And what would I want to ask for in return? See part 3, coming as soon as I work it out myself.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Total Nerd Seeks Same (1)

This is a think piece in preparation for my next personals ad. Funny thing is, I hate personals, mostly because I pretty much shun meeting new people. Anybody who enjoys the dating process is deeply disturbed, anyway, but meeting a total stranger cold just because it seems like a good idea on paper -- that's a whole different ballgame. It's about as much fun as a job interview at the dog food factory.

My experiences with personals have been a mixed bag thus far. Best case: I had a fling with one really cool guy, but I'm not sure it counts, since it was actually his best friend whom I met on the personals board. Awkward. Worst case: I woke up in a stranger's room only to find out later that my housemate had had exactly the same experience just a few weeks earlier. I mean exactly. Really awkward.

One thing about blind dates is there's that unpredictable chemistry question: it can be as flat as last night's opened beer, or it can knock you out of your panties from across the room. And it's fickle in a way no number of flirtatious emails can predict. I have a friend who carried on a torrid email affair with a guy she met online for about two weeks; on the big night he picked her up -- and then returned her about twenty minutes later. In the car on the way to the restaurant, they had discovered instant mutual non-chemistry, and had the brains to call it a wash rather than putting themselves through yet another bad date. Good call. At least if you meet someone at a party or through friends, you have some time to suss out that tricky attraction factor prior to winding up sitting across the table from him or her at some gruesome trendy bar with the evening ahead looking about as long as War & Peace.

So why is it I'm thinking about posting again? I'll get to that later. (Probably in part 3 of this particular rant.) There's also . . .

Thursday, November 17, 2005

There is no need to bring God into this transaction

It took me exactly one evening commute to hit on something to rant about. Actually, this been driving me nuts for months.

Backstory: I recently fled to Oakland after ten years of city living. In exchange for cool things like more space, a big ol' garden and zero parking hassles, I got an hour and a half commute to work in SF every day, which gives me plenty of time to work up my bile. (Life is but a series of compromises.) And, like any blue-stater worth her salt who can't afford a Prius, I use public transportation -- train and bus. Because I choose to frequent a station a little further from my bus line, but where I can be assured of a seat on the train, every evening I bravely traverse the Fourth Circle of Hell (that's the one reserved for the Avaricious and Prodigal, for those of you too lazy to Google it) otherwise known as Union Square.

Union Square is the glittering market central of San Francisco: it's got Tiffany's, Burberry, Macy's, Neiman Marcus, The Disney (TM) Store, Bang & Olufsen, a Mac Store, a M.A.C. store and a Cheesecake Factory (when you're starving and/or need an expensive but stiff drink after all that fabulous shopping). It's got pigeons and some kind of historical monument. At this time of year, it's also got gorgeous window displays, a monolithic Christmas tree and an enormous menorah. So what's not to like? Something for everyone, right?

Well, at times it does seem like everyone is there. At 5:45 pm, Union Square is ground zero for the population explosion that is the city. It's jammed with pampered stay-at-home-shoppers, frantic pass-through commuters, well-heeled tourists headed for the theatah, slow-moving fat suburbanites eating pizza, an infinite and colorful variety of college kids with backpacks, and knots of disaffected teenagers with nothing better to do than stand around waiting for their pants to fall down. Let's just say the place is crowded.

And where there are crowds spending money, there are panhandlers working those crowds. Now, I'm not here to rant about panhandlers in general -- I get that the economy sucks and some people just have it rough. I treat them politely; even if I'm not in the emotional or financial mood to rummage for change or hand out smokes, I usually say, "Sorry, not tonight," or some equivalent that acknowledges their existence. I know people (some better than I'd like) who have done productive work in the spare-change biz. They're just like other people, doing whatever it is they have to do to get through the day.

But there's This. One. Guy. I walk by him every night, and every night he makes me want to smack him. He's generally clean-ish and polite, and relatively non-aggressive. He's exactly the kind of guy I'd give some loose change or a cigarette to, except for one niggling issue -- his approach. Every night as I pass him, I hear his mantra: "Spare some change? God bless you. Spare some change? God bless you. Spare some change? God bless you." And it makes me cranky.

Call me touchy; call me un-Christian (both would technically be true). Say whatever you like -- maybe I'm turning into one of those knee-jerk liberals who wastes time campaigning to stamp out having a "Merry Christmas" in favor of culturally aware "Happy Holidays." (In truth, I was a big fan of last year's Virgin ad campaign that wished us all a "Happy Chaunachristmakwaanzastice" or somesuch, but that leaves out Ramadan, so even it's no good.) However, I seriously doubt those kind of people would have to fight the urge to kick this guy on a daily basis.

Fundamentally, I just don't understand what religion, a personal and various and heated construct at the best of times, has to do with a simple financial transaction like spare-changing. Maybe "God bless you" is as American as apple pie and the frantic consumerism of the crowds around us, but it just doesn't work as a marketing tool for this particular demographic. It's the presumption that bothers me. I give this guy a quarter, and he passes on a secondhand blessing from his imaginary friend and makes like that's a good thing. A fair trade. How does he know I'm not a devout Muslim, or a Buddhist, or a gleeful baby-eating Satanist wanna-be who just might kick him? Does he imagine these foolsgold "blessings" will sway me into emptying my pockets if I hadn't planned to already? ("Oh, goody! For being so generous, I'm getting a treat from the nice man in the sky!") Or is it a veiled suggestion that I'm not a good Christian if I don't give, so God will never bless me? (Okay, now I'm just being paranoid.)

Doesn't he realize that some -- perhaps many -- people might be put off by his narrow, prescriptive view of the universe as run by his god, no matter how well-meant or commonplace?

Okay, maybe he doesn't realize. Maybe I expect too much from my fellow travelers in the dark wood. But seriously, a simple "Have a good night," or "Thank you" would suffice. He could even say "Bless you" -- that at least sounds like it's from the heart and is nondenominational to boot. I say let's separate church and commerce -- if he did, I might even give him some change.

Next up: Don't even get me started on those perky Scientologists a little further down the street. WTF?