Modern Hate - Is Our Time our Own?

I am tentatively venturing back into the land of online dating after almost a year spent away; as one might re-approach a fascination with cars after a year spent tinkering with a quality but thoroughly unreliable bicycle. I'll preface by saying that despite the ridiculous habits that people have which make it a challenging terrain to navigate, I think that online dating is one of the most important social innovations of the modern era, in terms of giving people access points to finding the whatever type of intimacy they desire.

However, I am certainly glad that I have years left (really an unlimited number of years, if I stick to this not wanting kids thing) to experience it as a fun experiment rather than out of true necessity for finding a long term companion. But I guess it's also that way with any kind of dating – it's so much more fun when you don't have a set expectation in mind, and can relish the joy of the absurdity instead of being angry that every scrub you meet on the street isn't trying to spend 100% of their time obsessed with you.

In fact, percentage of time spent obsessed with another human is actually among the troubles I am running into with dipping my feet back into this sea of humans flailing about. (Gross but accurate image.) I spent so much time alone this past year in San Diego. I don't think of this as a 'good' or 'bad' thing (good and bad being paradigms I am trying to escape in all areas of my life) but rather as a natural occurrence that now other natural occurrences flow from – I got used to spending so much time alone, and now I have a steady barn of horses in that area of my life who need consistent food and exercise, and though it can be hard to give them all the attention they require, it is a necessary and vital part of my life.

I have activities that I already plan to do alone, I am used to thinking about a certain amount of topics per day and if I neglect them or am too distracted, I get really overwhelmed and panicky because I feel behind and like I haven't properly processed things. Add to that the fact that I have an actual laundry list of things I do need to accomplish completely alone by virtue of being in a new city – job training apartment whatever job job literary shit job shit meeting old friends understanding the subway job job – that whereas the average person might (the average person does) look at my life and see a wide swath of free time, ready for them to grab and use at their leisure, I do not see it as such. I see pockets of time that I can devote to strangers and friends alike, and try to dole them out in a way that is fair and healthy.

I'm going to venture a guess that humans have not considered this, given the way they treat my time. Keep in mind that the following have all occurred prior to meeting someone in person, because once someone exhibits these behaviors I react like an animal who senses a harness nearby and scampers in the other direction, making sure they have no way to entrap me.

First, in the online medium itself. Multiple times – honestly multiple times a day – people will message me, wait a few hours, then message me again saying something like 'guess I wasn't cool enough for you' or 'people probably don't like you because you're a bitch' or any variation of getting pouty that I haven't replied as soon as I saw their message.

Yeah, a lot of these messages I probably wouldn't have replied to in the first place, but the funny thing is usually when people do this it's within a time frame where I just haven't SEEN the message. I usually only check the messages once a day, or at least do one bulk session of responding in a day, because if I kept the app active on my phone it would just be this constant obnoxious barrage of messages. So – these guys apparently think I'm just sitting by the app, waiting for them to message me so I can be ever so impressed with their man-ness and become obsessed with them.

Then, you know, there's the people that I do message back, and we talk a bit, and you know, it's hard to say if they're cool or not because I don't know them, but they seem possibly decent so we say 'hey, let's grab a drink sometime, here's my number' and we start texting, and maybe -

Maybe someone I already know from one of my previous lives calls me up to go to an event or dinner or coffee. Maybe I go to hang out with my sister. Or maybe, oh my god, maybe – I have a plan to do something by myself. See the Steve Job movie. Walk the high line. Get up early for something writer-ly. Actually write something writer-ly. I'm trying to develop a schedule for writing and hold myself to it, because if I don't take myself seriously, who will? But anyway, as I am doing things, with other humans or with myself, one of these guys texts me and says do you want to grab a drink tonight? What are you doing now? When can we meet up?

And maybe I don't see it for a while – I don't keep my phone on the table if I'm catching up with an old friend. I go on runs that can run (heh) up to 2 hours, during which I am also not checking my phone. I do check my phone when I'm working on things, but I'm trying to break the habit or at least not get engaged in conversations because it's v distracting and a bad work habit. Maybe I do see it and I think 'I'll reply to this later, when I figure out what's up.'

And I would like to insert here that I am not, by definition, a not-responder. I am a responder. I have a general timeline in my head of when I should get back to someone by, even if I'm busy. If I take a long time I'm very apologetic and explain my current in flux life situation.

In the preferable scenario, I see the message eventually, I reply, words are exchanged, it's understood that we're all in a weird place in life and plans are hard to make, we make a plan or we estimate a time when we will know our schedules better.

OR -

“Hey I became unexpectedly free today what are you up to?” (I am asleep, do not see message)

“Hoping to hear from you soon!” (I wake up to both, am annoyed)

“I guess today's a no go...” (Is it now?!)

“Hey can you let me know what time tomorrow you might be free I'm just trying to figure out my schedule...”

If those were four separate messages from four separate people, great. All normal. Even two of them would be like, fine, whatever. But nope, all four were from the same person within the same five hour period. Dude, come on. If someone doesn't respond to me and I haven't met them, I just throw it out the window. If I've met them once and they don't respond to me, I am chagrined that they don't realize I'm the best person in the world, but I still throw it out the window. If I've known them for several months, I might send them a second text after like, three days.

(And I should throw in the caveat here - I'm not trying to apply any of this to people that you have actual consistent relationships with. This is purely about strangers.) FOUR TEXTS IN FIVE HOURS TO SOMEONE YOU'VE NEVER MET?! What do you think my job is, sit in room with cell phone and do nothing to distract myself from important messages from strangers?

OR -

Guy keeps texting me with times he could meet up, random questions about my life, all the changes in his schedule that flit about moment by moment, but then when I eventually reply a decently lengthy apologetic text that I'm having trouble penciling people in because of again, the job the training the weird life of having moved here less than a month ago, they respond with something frosty and/or salty, pick your food based adjective, and I'm like alright, bye felicia, if you can't handle me being busy before I've met you, you sure as hell wouldn't like it later.

Can we just dwell on the absurdity of that for a moment? How can someone believe before they've even met me that they are so entitled to my time that they can get indignant or angry or have the right to know exactly what I'm doing to not respond or see them? Is it that hard to imagine that I might just be off doing things alone that I think are important, because I have a life of value? I assume it is a mixture of

A. I am a woman, so what better things can I have to do than pay attention to men who deign to speak to me?

B. Cell phones – if we're always plugged in how can we not be communicating, etc

It just confuses me, because it's not like I'm some princess trying to hit away my armies of suitors with a flail made of horse hair. I spent the majority of my teens and early twenties with no male attention to speak of, and the attention that I did have was generally fraught and creepy. There are scores of men who I've paid attention to who have either completely ignored or backed away from me, and although I complained to my friends about it, it's not like I sought retaliation unless they did something you know, evil, which I think is fine. If I were actually doing anything malicious to these internet strangers they'd have every right to be pissed at me – but in the aforementioned cases, I was just being a normal human who doesn't have her shit figured out because she moved to a city less than a month ago and doesn't have a set schedule. You wanna text me this morning that your day suddenly became free? Well my day isn't, and for you to expect that I'm just sitting around waiting for some guy to text me is ridiculous.

It seems that somewhere along the line of being a woman with an iPhone, people forgot that I have the right to my own time. I'm not going to say I lost the right, because that right is still 100% mine and any random dude (or any human's) opinion of that is irrelevant. I can give it out in select increments, but it's not yours to take because you think I have a hot picture on okCupid and you like how I phrase things in my profile. My days are not just swaths of time up for the taking. You're not doing me any favors by deigning me with your presence. If any deigning of presence to be done, it is going to be understood that it's a two way street – I am lucky to get a chunk of your time, and you are lucky to get a chunk of mine. We're all busy humans, but one gender's busyness is not more important than the others.

Lest I sound like a harangue of online dating, I would like to clarify that I am not – both thinking it's a necessary and important medium, and for those who know my recent non-online dating narrative, not exactly a peach grove either. Somewhere on the scale of 'less weird and unpleasant than my roommate stabbing himself but more weird and unpleasant than moving across the country.' And, cannot forget, there are lots of guys speaking to me who are NORMAL and who seem perfectly willing to accept that my time is just as valuable as theirs, and that I might want to spend a lot of it alone (Since I say that. In my profile. You've been warned.)

Note: sometimes I write things on my blog or online that people decide to apply to my entire past and then go on a rant about me, to me, about how I'm a hypocrite or whatever. If you have this in mind, spare yourself the time. I'm a growing girl, half the point of this time in life is maturing and figuring things out and revising earlier held opinions. If me at 22 was the authoritative version of Becca, for how I'd be for the rest of my life, you'd all be in for an obnoxious time.  

Modern Hate; Difficult Horse: Easy Course?

One of my bad habits is reading shitty articles on the internet. I also read a lot of good articles on the internet, but the shitty ones somehow end up working themselves in. My worse habit is that I get caught up in the words that these shitty articles spew and let them fuel anxiety.

Luckily I am getting better at recognizing stupid shit; or at least shit that doesn't really apply to me. The most recent manifestation of this was an article about how important it is to implement 'the chase' when dating because...I don't even remember, but you know, probably some really hard evidence about how all men are the same and all of them love this 'chase' and also about how people value things they have to work for.

I don't debate that people value things they have to work for, but I knew that this idea of women having to set up some kind of chase or not act how they really feel to get men to be interested didn't sit well with me. Then it hit me pretty fast why I think this can be true and false at the same time.

Yes, it's satisfactory to get things that we work for. But this pervasive idea that women need to implement things into a relationship to create obstacles and challenges forgets that there are women out there who are difficult and challenging on their own, without any effort put forth other than just being themselves.

Obviously, I am one of those women. I'm a challenging person to be involved with, whether it be friendship, romance, working, living, or however else we're involved with other humans. It's hard for me to say exactly why I know that I pose such a difficulty for so many people, because I'm just me and I think that although being me is hard re: the many thoughts that I have and how boredom turns into anxiety so I have to have a lot of activities, it's just my life. But I know that I'm intense, and I expect a lot of the people in my life, and I let them know that without really trying. It comes from the things I say, the stories I tell, the way that I describe my life. It's evident in my writing, in my conversations, in my quick responses to stimuli. I'm neurotic and anxious, I have strong reactions to things both positive and negative. This isn't to be negative on myself, I also show strong and obvious affection for people, I engage deeply in my relationships with people and with art, I care deeply about art and discussing it. But all these things are still intense, and for most people who don't live at the pace that I do, it's a lot to handle and a lot to be around.

I find myself trying to make things easier for the people around me so often – because I know that I'm a lot to handle, I try to consistently do things to make it easier and less intimidating. My friends, my family, my coworkers, and yes, with the people I date.

This is the big societal no-no. If he isn't working for you he'll drop you! You can't make it too easy for him! Etc etc.  Love, the internet.  

But it's already hard. I'm already challenging. It's already enough work just to keep up with me. If I don't meet people half way, there's plenty of likelihood that they would just give up – not because it's not challenging enough, but because it's too much.

I know what the textbook response to what I just said is – there's some guy out there who is just going to fall in love with every part of you immediately and do everything right away and it'll be perfect!  Love, the internet.

Meh. I don't believe that – or maybe that's true, but I don't want that. The energy I have is already intense, and if there's some guy out there who would be obsessed with me right away and come on really strong, I would probably hate him. I seek people in life who have a laid back energy compared to my intensity, and laid back people aren't going to do the pushy things.

I was talking to my best f about this on the phone, and she's the one who came up with the horse analogy. At least the beginning of it. I'm so thankful to have a best friend who is not only willing to make up absurd analogies about my version of 'problems,' but is also not only willing but also able to cater them to my obscure interests. It's truly amazing. There are easier courses and easier horses, and there definitely needs to be a challenge somewhere, but she said that I am a challenging horse.  I liked this because challenging horses were the ones I liked best back when I was a person who rode horses.  

Except then as is typical in our conversations, we both got confused about what exactly we were trying to say. And then moved on to another topic. When I said the theory that I'm positing here, that since I'm already a difficult horse it's okay for me to make the jumps you know, shorter, she said that wasn't exactly what she had in mind, but she hasn't told me yet so too bad my theory wins because it's my life and my blog.

At the end of the day (a phrase that my besty hates) I think this is just going to be the way that I live my life regardless of what anyone, friend or internet or professional, has to say about it. I've realized as an adult that there are things that I know I'm going to do regardless of how much advice I get to the contrary, and most of them relate to the fact that I'm a generous and forgiving person who likes to give others the benefit of the doubt and live by the way of grace as posited in the movie The Tree of Life -

(and the bible, I guess, but let's go with the movie)

It's basically like grace accepts things and loves things and accepts when it's slighted or what not. Versus nature which is forceful and tries to lord things over people and shit.

How this relates makes total sense in my brain. I don't want to falsely create an obstacle course when I'm already a lot of a person. If that in the long run made someone think that I'm not enough of a challenge to be happy with, that would be fucking absurd. Even aside from me being intense, building relationships with other people is already hard enough. Even in friendship! Even with coworkers! Where are these people who have such an easy time building relationships that they need to make it harder so other people can 'value' them, by which I mean who are these horrible people that don't value that other people are putting themselves up for the potential slaughter that intimacy requires and need them to create false games?  Can't we just value the fact that companionship is even possible in this horrible but wonderful place called the world?  

A Caricature of the Writer as a Young Idiot by Becca Schuh

It's strange how one single day in life can be so singular and yet they all end up blending together anyway to create a year slash a life. I perhaps think I had such a day today. It's not as if so many spectacular things happened, rather the space between what goes on in my brain and what happens with the humans I interact with was much closer than usual.

This probably happens to me more often than most people because I'm apt to fall prey to a suggestion as soon as it happens and yet then let the consequences emotionally affect me much quicker and at a more intense rate than they would to a normal human.

I don't know what phrase is the best one, for society or for myself, so I'll say: there is human who I met several weeks ago who I have been seeing on a relatively consistent basis for adult sleepovers and we have things in common that most people don't have in common with me re: reading and writing.

I was telling him last night how I was at my critique group. Which is a fab group of feminist baller writer ladies of different ages and circumstances who have somehow found each other to have a great writing workshop. Truly amazing. Anyway, today he asked me to send him what I wrote for the group.

Funnily enough, what I sent to the group this week was Night Mares, which is –

Basically one night in college I sat down on my couch and wrote the best essay I have ever written in twelve hours and it is centered around womanhood and beauty and shame and desire and what it means to understand yourself, but it is also at its very core an exploration of two feelings, immense beauty and disgusting terror.

And another way to describe it is 'periods sexuality entrapment discomfort exclusion fighting desire reality acceptance”

One last way to describe it is “not an essay you would ever send to someone you are sleeping with”

And so I began to go through the other options. There are a fair amount, but the challenges of adulthood set in: the essays I wrote in college are unquestionably better written.

Because I had time. They're more lyrical, more evocative, they reveal my soul in ways that I could only do when I was living my soul in daily life.

My writing now is more accessible, it tells interesting stories in ways that people can understand. But I wanted to show him the best, because I know what I am capable of.  And since you never really know how good someone else is, you need to assume they are great and send them the best you have.  So I sent him not Night Mares, but my second best essay which is also intensely personal but not so much 'periods sexuality loneliness despair' as 'things that I don't talk about on the internet re: other people's privacy.'

And so I found the old file in my email and did a decent edit, cried that I am not as good at writing as I was at age 21, penned a quippy email to go along, and hit send.

I thought I would be fine, but I also knew I wouldn't.

Reading about the environment didn't help. It already gives me panic attacks. I just saw numbers and statistics and they all went through my brain without consequence. I got hungry. I walked to the kitchen and without any external stimuli the panic attack set in.

What was I thinking?

When someone asks me for something I want to give it to them, but how could I not think of how much this would scare me?

Let me be clear – I did not care if he liked my writing. Liking is such an irrelevant emotion to art. Liking something is similar to liking a pretty flower or a friendly dog. Sure, that's great. But serious art and literature is not about the arbitrary emotion of like. (This is all majorly inspired by musero uno, J Franz, Jonathan Franzen) I don't know what exactly it's about yet, but it's not about something as asinine as whether you like something or not.

I did care, on some level, about if what I sent him was too much. But I told him from the day we met that I write personal essays. I have repeated this fact. He is adept at remembering things more than most males I have met. He asked me. He must have known.

And yet, I was still so afraid. I haven't cooked in days but I started chopping up tomatoes and peppers and mushrooms and kale and opened a bottle of wine and watched the oil start to bubble and threw the pepper into the heating pan.

And I paced around the kitchen and the panic grew.

I planned on putting the organic version of Buffalo wing sauce, Bella's, on the vegetables. Until that point in the 'recipe,' I kept pouring on salt, hoping the vegetables would char, and trying to grasp if I could taste that this was a Cabernet Franc or if it was just my imagination  that I knew anything about wine.

Of course, at this point, I could no longer talk alone to myself about this predicament. I had to start radiating my anxiety outwards to my friends.

Which, if you know me, you know I had already done before I sent the essay. I'd been discussing it with my lifeblood long before I'd hit send.

He asked me to send him the writing as I was walking to the bank. I was wearing black shorts with lace trim and a black t shirt with wolves on it. I had recently gotten off work which is the story of my life most days. Today I was supposed to be serving the cocktail tables but another waitress was having some v. serious issues and the restaurant was slow, so for the first two hours of the day I food ran and tried to make the bartender who was expoing love me and then I took over the other waitresses section and cried because if you've ever been slow and then slammed its really hard to get your shit together.

But I did great because I am an excellent server. And I think in the first two hours of the day of no tables I did some good friend making. Which has been a v. stressful topic for me of late at work.

At the end of work my checkout seemed off, it looked like I'd only made 70 off 1000 which even though our tip out is 7 percent is still off. And everyone tried to help me but sometimes its just a mistake.

And then I realized there was a 20 slipped between the 50 and 100 in the money I owed the house. A portrait of the idiot.

My boss and I laughed about it and I walked home and got ready to go to the bank.

At the bank I was depositing 2020 in cash and something like 350 in checks. I've never deposited 2020 in cash before. I wondered if the teller wanted to ask if I was a prostitute. Meh, he's probably used to it.

Then I started walking home and stopped at two bookstores because recently my father told me about how Kurt Vonnegut called sports 'grandfalloons' aka meaningless events that people gather around so I was like for sure I need some more Kurt in my life. But the first one which is always so fucking disappointing even though I always want to like it failed miserably by having no Kurt or anything else which offends my sensibility because I try to always buy something from a used bookstore. And the second one didn't have Cat's Cradle but I got Timequake and Welcome to the Monkey House and a new ish Sylvia Plath Biography.2

Which is funny because she is who man and I spoke about when we first met

Great.

And then came the times of stress at home - 

because I thought he would think it was weird that I was being so personal and run away? But how could he do that when he had been the one to ask me for an essay, I reasoned. But also he could - they always do.

And everyone kept saying to me 'he will like it.'

But I need to repeat.  I didn't care if he liked it.  Yes, as I said, serious art isn't dependent on liking.  But more than that: I know it is good.  I don't know what kind of good or what directions it will reach or how far I need to go to get to my desired destination, but I know that it is good.  I don't need his validation - if I wanted that, I would have asked him if I could send him an essay.  But I didn't.  He asked me.  I don't know if he was curious, or judging, or interested, but it doesn't matter.  

And how do I know if I trust his opinion? He hasn't sent me any of his writing. Should I just trust it because he's a man?

But here is the thing, the thing that was giving me so much anxiety was not really those things. It was this:

This is me as a person.

And you are either going to take it or leave it.

And at the end of the day it doesn't really matter which, because whichever one happens is the on that was supposed to be,

But that is a very pivotal moment.

And hence the fear

And as I said to Natasha,

“Even if he bails tomorrow, it still exists that I've never done anything like this before I've never sent a guy I'm sleeping with my writing and that I think is a good thing even if its not …. and I think I trust him a little bit but I also trust no one

And eventually he replied: "I got it it's good you're a strong writer

and I know, that's nice – but -

What are you, a professor? I didn't ask for your opinion. You asked to read one of my essays. I know I'm a strong writer. Actually, I don't even care if I'm a strong writer. I am someone who writes with raw honesty, with joy, with love and with passion. If I had wanted your or anyone elses opinion, I would have asked for it. And I do – in the aforementioned critique group, with my writing peers from college, with Leslie and Alisa and all my other fabulous professors. But me offering you this after you asked for it is a gift, not a judgment. And a positive reflection is still a judgment. And also, I know. I don't need you to tell me.

What I need is for you to accept me. Because if you are going to ask to read what I write, you need to know what you are asking for. It is such an intense and visceral part of me, that you are on some level accepting responsibility as you ask for it. I did not offer this to you. You asked. And I am a person who wants to give the things I possess away, but you need to be prepared since you asked.

And we've been talking in the hour since, and it's great, and it's fine, and it's mediocre, and it's more and less than what I expected.

But what it shows me, above all else, is that I am a person with a carriage. Everyone says baggage, but it isn't all so negative. Yes, there are complications, but it is mostly intensity and engagement with the world and emotional vulnerability and a willingness to be who I am regardless of – anything. And that's not baggage. That's a carriage, and it is heavy, but it is beautiful and it will take you on an adventure and it is what it is. You can hitch your horses and pull it along or you can pick a lighter load. 

Modern Hate: This is My Pretentious Bookshelf

Imagine the challenge of explaining the following things to someone who professes to have no knowledge of any of them in under an hour:

  1. literary theory

  2. what 'good writing' is

  3. Joan Didion

  4. how people in Ghana do not live in huts

  5. how rude people are to servers

  6. how a personal essay differs from a 'five paragraph' essay

  7. Ebola

And now imagine that you are supposed to be figuring out if you are romantically interested in this person.

Alas, an hour of my life was spent that way. Pretentious statement of the day: dating is hard when you're smarter than most people. You go in thinking you can talk and be yourself, and then quickly learn that you can't mention anything that you spend your life doing without answering 200 questions about it. You realize you don't want to be the person doing all the talking, so you ask the other person questions. They answer them in one sentence and go on asking you to explain previous things you've mentioned offhand.

Perhaps I should start telling people I majored in marketing and that my passions outside of work are cooking and watching the news.

Though I guess that my degree of madness and passion for the arts is a good first buffer for potential suitors. That shall be the lesson of the night of order at the counter sushi in Clairemont.

San Diegans beware, I've never had a good experience at a date in Clairemont. It has literally been the go to location for lame guys who don't know how to converse. Oddly though, the first one had the issue of trying to instruct and explain everything to me, while this one had the problem of knowing what nothing I said was and asking me to explain in more excruciating detail than I ever want to with someone who I theoretically am trying to see if I have chemistry with.

I credit him with paying for the 35 dollars worth of sushi, and swatting away me trying to help pay, I guess chivalry is not dead. Moreover, I enjoy a free meal. Twas delicious from Niban, but I caution anyone: don't take a girl you're meeting for the first time to a sushi restaurant where you order at the counter and then sit down. It wasn't even cheaper than a sit down place! The fluorescent lights, news in one corner of the room, and pop music blasting from the other corner don't lend themselves well to an intimate ambiance.

Here's a I'm learning about dating: the first five to ten minutes are always pretty awkward. You're trying to hit the conversational stride or find the thing that's going to turn you from two strangers sharing the cultural tradition of a meal to two people who are out together having a good time.

Honestly, that stride usually comes for me. I'm not saying every date I go on goes well, in fact most of them are stupid and I wonder why I didn't just stay home reading a book. But, I can usually get the other person talking enough to have some jive going on, or find a commonality that we can laugh about.

This was not the case on order at the counter sushi night. The guy was a fellow Midweserner, and we couldn't even manage to make that into a fun conversation. Instead, he asked

“So, you're from Wisconsin, are you a cheesehead?”

What does his mean? Can anyone tell me why this is a funny thing to say to someone from Wisconsin?

He told me about his boring job, which I did not even judge him for until realizing later that he was, in fact, a boring person. Not everyone can have a job that gives them a million stories about strangers saying you're the worst waitress in the world/asking you to move into their homes.

I tried to say that I work at a restaurant and am switching soon and leave it at that, because I hear you're not supposed to talk about work on dates. Alas, my one attempt at etiquette failed because he went on to ask me one thousand questions about what ranks among the least appealing jobs in the world. Nothing makes you feel like a more attractive date than telling someone about how often you get insulted by strangers.

Further on in the date, I had to explain ebola to him, because he stated that all he knew about it is that it was the same as the Spanish word for grandmother. First off, is it? Second, explaining ebola tops the list of grossest topics I've discussed on dates. But by this point there was really no use in trying to salvage the time, once you've gone to blood pouring out of every orifice, you're really beyond all repair.

He went on to ask me to explain literary theory, good writing, the difference between a personal essay and a five paragraph essay, and had me list writers who I deemed to be 'good.' I always thought I'd be happy talking about Joan Didion with a man. Alas. The crowning moment was when, as I tried to steer the conversation toward mutual interests, and I talked about enjoying going to the beach now that the tourists are gone and the children are back in school, he said,

“Do you think it's a good practice to correct someone when they are wrong?”

Um, sure?

“I do. If I hear someone doing something wrong, I try to correct them so that they know for the next time and can protect themselves from embarrassment.”

Right...

“So you won't be offended or get mad if I correct you on something?”

No, of course not...

“Well, you said you like going to the beach because there are less people there. Technically in that situation you should say there are fewer people there.”

For sure man, for sure. I don't care if you seize on the one moment when you have the upper hand over me to reassert your status of power as a man. Duly not noted – I'll listen to grammar lessons when they come from my writing group, not a guy who asked me to explain the difference from an essay that I would write and a five paragraph essay for school.

Obviously, this date was an outlier in some sense. Ebola, explaining what literary theory is, staring at someone in shock as they say that they've never heard of people being extremely rude at restaurants. But in another way, it's pretty much the norm – it's hard to be a good person to date when your pool is the entire population, and your personal circle is people who are smarter than most of that population.

How do you go about finding someone who you won't feel guilty around for not dumbing yourself down? Where are the men who have heard of Johnathan Franzen but aren't so pretentious that they'll ignore you because you talk fast and appreciate pop culture?  How do you not feel like a total asshole for thinking this is a legitimate problem and seeking out solutions for it?  How do you reconcile the fact that you just may be an asshole for writing about it on your blog?

Most of the men I meet aren't as absurd as the one chronicled above. But most of them do present a challenge in the cultural literacy department. I will certainly date someone who hasn't heard of every author on my bookshelf, but I don't want to have to soothe their ego after they say they haven't heard of anyone on it by saying “This is my pretentious bookshelf. Look at the one on the other side of the room.”

Because at the end of the day, Nora Ephron, Emily Gould, and Ann Patchett aren't pretentious. Books on creativity aren't pretentious, neither are anthologies. Philosophy books are a little bit pretentious, but I can't help that I want to continue my theoretical education after college. Am I alive in a cultural moment where the works that are the common knowledge of my circles are hopelessly obscure to the average person? Is that what I have to accept about not having found a mate while in school, or is there hope that I'll find someone who will say ah, yes, I also spend too much money on hardcover copies of contemporary literary fiction.  Perhaps there is, but I fear that most men who say that are languishing on the pretentious ladder a rung above me, and would not deem themselves fit to date a woman who also loves Titanic and won't walk around cooing over his intelligence or ironic glasses.