Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Rules: One to Five

My last post, The WSM Fallacy,  talked about dating issues and how certain aspects of dating the second time around were beginning to get me down. Very down. And not just down, but downright anxious about putting myself out there and being judged, and discouraged enough to want to throw in the towel on many occasions. So I picked up a book called The Man Diet that promised to show me how to stop feeling bad about my experiences with men and to quit making men, or the lack there of, the central focus of my self-esteem. The book gave 10 rules for avoiding specific circumstances that contribute to eating away at women's sense of self in relationships.  It does not in any way help you find "the one"; the purpose of the book is to help you find yourself. 

I said in my last post that after reading this book, I decided that I wasn't doing half bad. So this time, I will talk about rules 1 to 5 and how I handle them.  So Let's get on with the rules and how to go on a Man Diet. (Who makes up these book titles anyway?)

Rule 1 – Refuse to Have No Strings Attached Sex

Alright, nothing like starting out big (no pun intended) by putting the potentially most awkward and personal rule on the table first. No Strings Attached Sex. Call it what you will, this means no fuck buddies, no friends with benefits, and no sex for fun without commitment. No sexting and no flirtatious chats with substandard male candidates that you know will never be life partners. Why? Because as fun as it is in the moment, it makes many women feel like shit in the days after.

You can plan for it, you can agree to it verbally with your "victim," and no matter what happens, as soon as the clothes come off, sex changes everything. That person, will become forever ingrained in your memory in some way (good or bad). And if you are prone to agreeing to have casual sex in the hopes that it will become more -- no strings sex is a bad idea for some women.

It all goes awry something like this: You begin daydreaming about the potential and wish he would call or email. He may have politely asked for your email or cell number on the way out the door, or you leave it for him on the bedside table. And that call never comes. And it sucks a little bit of your soul, because by asking for your number, or by leaving your number, you just got permission to start expecting something more. Bottom line: Don't have casual sex if you can't leave it in the moment for what it was. You asked for it, you wanted it (you were lying to yourself) and you agreed to it.  Not to mention the fact that, for women, no strings sex is often pretty lousy sex. Why the hell would you want to have lousy sex that makes you feel worse afterward? You are an emotionless, cold (Ok warm), orifice to some guy's penis. That's it. 

Do I sound like I am speaking from experience? I read a book remember. I can glean all kinds of experiences from reading books. I've never been to Africa either but I could write about that too if I read something about it. Be careful about assumptions. The book had some pretty vivid descriptions of the emptiness some women felt in the midst of No Strings Sex. 

I have to be honest here though. In my first draft of this section I initially wrote, "I’ve never had No Strings Attached Sex? Honest to God. Never."  I've had a couple days to reflect and I've decided that is a bit of a white lie. What I have never done is go to a bar or a lounge or a pub and pick up some good looking stranger and take him home with me. There is my holier than thou moment amongst the rules. I discovered early in my youth that you can't have some pseudo-sexual experience with some guy you just met and expect it to turn into a relationship. So if I was actually looking for a relationship, and I always am,  I would stay as far away from shallow encounters as I possibly could. 

It isn’t like I haven’t thought about it. A lot. Sheesh, I should be out there having the time of my life, sewing my wild oats. I just can’t seem to do it. Maybe I'm just too old for that kind of behaviour now.  And when I've tried, the inexplicable has happened. I've managed to find some nice guy who also only wants relationships and he's continued to hang out with me, sometimes without me being especially enthusiastic, in the weeks or months after. Go figure. There are exceptions to the stereotype. 

Once when I was in my early to mid 20s I got pulled into some bar radio contest. I don't know how it happened, but what I do remember is that I was cold sober. I remember this because one of the prizes I won was a drink and I had to go trade it for something else because I was driving. But the contest involved licking whip cream off some guy's bare chest as fast as I could. He was a great, totally attractive guy, as I recall, but I hated the whole experience. I have no desire to do something that intimate with someone I know nothing about, I've never had a conversation with, and I haven't developed a deep respect for. It has never been purely someone's looks driving my physical attraction toward him. 

As a final note: as much as the sexual revolution of the 60s did for women in terms of bringing awareness to female sexuality, desires, and the acceptability of premarital sex, a guy who sleeps with many women is still described as experienced and a total stud. A girl who sleeps around is still a slut

Rule 2 – Cut Down on the Booze

I like a good drink, but I could stand to cut down on the booze. Mostly because I am old and I can't handle the extra calories the way I used to. Nor can I handle the hangover. I sleep lousy if I've even had a couple of drinks, I feel miserable the next day, and the combination of poor sleep and a hangover (which appears with less and less alcohol these days) is when I've had some of my most negative thinking about my love life (or lack there of). There is nothing like a good bout of binge drinking to make you ruminate negatively about how things are going in your life and Gawddammit, I deserve better. Why does this always happen to me? And geeze, Universe, stop dangling carrots in front of my nose and then yanking them away. 

The book calls alcohol a problem because it is likely to contribute to unplanned sex, Facebook stalking, and negative ruminating. Not to mention it is tough on the bank account. Alcohol is the best, non-pharmacological anxiety killer in the market. And that is my biggest problem area. I've poured myself a beer, a glass of wine, or a gin and tonic while waiting for a date to pick me up, while waiting for a phone call or email, after a hard day at work, or during those moments when the kids are getting to me just a liiittle biiiit. And there is nothing like a cold beer on a hot day as the best recovery drink in the universe. I seem to have more friends than I ever had in my entire life and there is always alcohol around when socializing. Always. 

But in the name of losing the muffin top over the lip of my jeans, and on some days, my sense of self-worth, the booze must go. Or at least, I will cut back... yes, yes, I will. 

Rule 3 – No Facebook Stalking

All my Facebook friends are laughing right now.  Am I one of those famous people on Facebook?  Everyone knows every nuance of my life? Believe me I'm far less revealing on Facebook than it might appear. Usually I  just try and be witty and insightful and see what kind of response I'll get. There is lots of shit I don't reveal. Just ask my friends - I mean, the friends I see on a regular basis and actually talk to, in person and on the phone, and share my real life with.

My workplace doesn't block Facebook so I am on there virtually all day. Or at least the link is open. I'm not always sitting there monitoring everything that goes on. Do I check it a lot? Yep. But I have this little network on there. There is almost always someone talking to me about something and my phone is buzzing or I'm bored and I'm rotating through links and tabs while waiting in line or waiting for kids to come out of school. But 75% of my newsfeed on Facebook isn't people, it is cycling links. If I'm stalking anyone, it is pro cycling teams.

And I'm on it a whole hell of a lot less when I'm in a relationship. 

What I don't do on there is stalk my ex's -- much. Yes I have a few ex's that are Facebook friends. Occasionally they show up in my newsfeed.  There is a fortunate interesting trend amongst my ex's: They all have pretty low Facebook traffic so even if I was to be checking their profile activity repeatedly, there wouldn't be much to look at. Nor do I spy or much care about their current relationships.  And I've never asked a friend to spy on someone for me or hack into their boyfriend's Facebook account to spy on someone for me. No thanks. I don't need to know.  

OK, I will admit, that if I meet someone new and we become "friends" as part of the progression, I'll peek. Come on, everybody does it. Facebook, encourages it. That's how they hook you in. 

These are all scenarios that the book warns against.  The act of continuous monitoring of ex's and former dates, and potentials and partners can screw with your head. Seeing one tiny hint that someone who rejected you in the past is with someone else can be torture to watch and make it more difficult to let him go. And really, what you see on Facebook isn't real. It isn't a real person, it is simply a persona a person has created of themselves. No sense in beating yourself up over some read-between-the-lines statement that someone has made on someone's Facebook status. And if the guy is dating someone else instead of you, that isn't likely to change. 

Rule 4 – No Talking about Men

I have way too many friends and for a while I did way too much talking. The book suggests that constantly talking about your dramatic man stories and escapades can actually be emotionally draining rather than helpful and could contribute to you seeking situations that give you more dramatic man stories to tell. I suppose this is the female version of locker room talk.  The other problem with talking to your friends is that they are not likely to tell you when you are being an idiot. They are more likely to support and validate your opinion. And, trust me, you are not always making the best decisions all of the time and sometimes you shouldn't be validated but rather be given a good slap upside the head.

(By the way, if you think you need a friend to give you a good slap upside the head. I'm the one to talk to. I won't validate you, if you are being a dork.)

It was one situation and one situation only that got me to talk a few years back and it seemed at the time that I didn't have to do a thing to find myself retelling stories of conversations with this person that were, in a word, appalling. I wasn't creating situations to have stories to tell, they just seemed to land at my feet. I've mellowed a bit in the last couple of years. I have some friends I talk to about some things and other friends who hear different aspects of my life. In the end, it was never about the drama or the entertainment value or the plot that held my friends captivated. It was about their concern for me. 

Rule 5 – Do Something Lofty

Apparently, "lofty" does not mean riding your bike for 234 km in one day. That is, unless it involves a charity. Then it becomes lofty. Or maybe it means crazy. Take your pick.

I can find projects. I have more projects than I can possibly complete. I have books to write and training to do and research projects to plan. And kids to raise. There is no more loftier a project than children.

The first time I got dumped in an official break-up kind of way, I was 18. Prior to that boys just started ignoring me and hoped I wouldn't notice (That hurts more than anything, and as I've found out in the past 4 years there are still some 40+ year olds who think this is an effective dumping strategy as well).  But this dumping happened right as I started university and I did what any overachiever might do, I threw myself into my homework and got straight A's instead (except for that Philosophy course, remember. You know the one where I slipped my phone number to the guy before the final exam. Oh and Film Studies which got killed by going out and drinking every Sunday night and sleeping through Monday afternoon movie day). 

You know the phrase "go with the flow?" The word flow has scientific connections. It involves finding that zone where you are completely immersed in what you are doing with no other thought in your head. I equate flow with doing anything that makes me forget to check for messages on Facebook.  Sorta, kinda like now, when I am writing this. Except I don't think writing about relationships counts toward stopping your thoughts about them [ahem...  that's irony.]

Whatever works.

Coming up: Rules 6-10.... They just get better and better folks. 

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