an illogical letter

Nine months ago I went to the Met Breuer alone on a weekday and saw an exhibit about absurdity in art in times of political turmoil. It was a time when I was worrying a lot about politics and not about the state of my personal life. I stopped listening to political podcasts a month later. 

The only thing I remember from this exhibit nine months ago is a small painting or maybe it was a print, it looked like nonsense cursive, the size of a normal piece of paper. It’s title was something along the lines of “It’s impossible to write a logical letter to a general.”

I found this poignant because I was very paranoid about North Korea and was thinking often about names like Mattis and McMaster.

That week as weeks do has taken on a lot of extra significance in the intervening months. I know, logically speaking, that I had not yet met the person who would throw my life off course. And yet, when I remember standing at the Met Breuer in my billowing pink pants and a strappy black top that really shows my chest, I remember it as though I’d already met him. Time is stupid and not real and a trick.

Two or three weeks ago, so still May, my best friend from college was in town en route to a wedding. We also went to the Met Breuer. A month before that I went to the regular Met with another college friend when he was visiting on the five year anniversary of our college graduation which is also 4/20. Before those two Met visits I hadn’t been to a museum since I was in France in the fall.

Outside the Musee Orangerie I was trying to take a seflie and this man started following me and trying to talk to me so I walked faster and faster and I got into the museum and paid my admission and I saw him waiting by the doors. It’s a small museum. There’s a gallery in the basement but the main attraction is two large rooms with Monet paintings lining the walls on the ground level. Half of me was trying to fall into the paintings of water and half of me was calculating if I’d been inside long enough that the man by the door had probably left.

I relayed this tale to another man, how a creep followed me into a museum, playing it off as the classic combination of hi I was in danger and also well look I’m hot and it’s so hard to travel as a woman and look this is really fucked up and don’t you wish you had been there with me and hey aren’t you catching on here’s the scheme the man I confided in was and is absolutely more dangerous than the man who followed me into the museum though he was dangerous also.

When I returned to the Met Breuer with my best friend from college three weeks ago, we went to Flora in the basement first and I ordered and absurd anchovy appetizer and she got a citrus salad and then we split the halibut. I got the halibut nine months ago too. It was a little different. Secret: fancy restaurants keep the same proteins but change the accompaniments.

Then we went upstairs and watched an open rehearsal for a dance exhibit. We marveled at how young the dancers seemed. “They must be just out of college, and already preparing for a performance at the Met.”

The main exhibit was about bodies.

Someday I will write about the past nine months. Wait, I already have. I wrote an essay. I got it workshopped in Hudson four weeks ago. I forgot that I knew how to write an essay. But the women who I’d never met understood what I was saying. They were surprised that I’d written the essay in two days. They wrote annotations that are the same as the annotations I usually write in the margins of essays I read by other women: “I hate him.” They also wrote annotations that I won’t bore you with, about plot devices and interpersonal psychology and carefully placed details. See, like Ali Smith said, How to Be Both.

Some of my friends are fucking thrilled that I wrote that essay which yes I will eventually try to publish. Other people, (ah, yeah, which ones do you think,) said, “I hear you wrote an essay.”

I said exactly the response someone like me would have but which is also true: “I’m an artist, and this is how I process what happened to me. Look, don’t be nervous, it’s more about me than it is about him. Don’t worry. You come off fine. Don’t worry! I’m going to make sure that everyone who could be affected reads it before I consider publishing it.”

God, I love to spend time placating friends of abusive men that they personally will not suffer from being friends with abusive men.

This weekend I guess there’s another panel about freedom of the press. Oh did I mention, that’s the other thing that happened the week of the Met Breuer and the letter to a general. A panel on freedom of the press. I don’t want to say that’s where it began because I know now that things do not begin in discrete moments, but.

I started to wonder if there was a rip in the space time continuum. Did the past nine months not happen. Am I living in a scratchy film loop of bad men and the Met Breuer and panels where progressive men pontificate and then turn around and

And then I remembered a therapist (a male one!) who I had during the summers between college who to be honest is the person who most taught me what mental health means and how when I’d go on my long rants (ha, see my offset of Longreads, Longrants,) about dramatic friendship issues, he’d say, sometimes all you can do is shrug.

I’m simplifying how good he was. But this one thing was simple and true. Instead of searching for the meaning of the panels and the museums and the coincidences—well, it fucking happened, time is a flat circle.

You can't write a logical letter to a general.

You can't have a logical conversation with a sociopath. Good thing I saw that exhibit, I guess.

I always loved books but no one told me how much of my life I’d spend trying to rewrite horrific narratives into something acceptable. I didn’t know that something as simple as ‘enjoying an experience’ would contort in my memory into tar, because I’d realize that what I saw as an equal interaction was just a man manipulating me as an activity. 

Sometimes I remember men who I went on one or two dates with who were maybe decent and I think why did I drop that? Why did I run away? Was it really that bad? And then I’m at a bar and a decently attractive man wearing a shirt patterned with poinsettias is telling me how women just need to ignore men and create their own art and I nod and smile and think yes wow what a genius solution.

And then walking home slowly in wedge heels I recall exactly why I could not physically force myself to text any of the men back.

Despite what happened, this time, or any of the other times, I’ve been so fucking lucky.

If I didn’t preserve the cave I’ve been given by running away from people who threaten the small things I hold—

I’d be a fucking fool.

 

all information is good information

I’ve been thinking lately about how restaurant industry people have a terrible reputation, both in terms of general attitude and propensity to party. I have been thinking about it because every time I tell my bar coworkers stories about my ‘creative’ friends, they’re like ….what the actual fuck. Who are these people. 

After the retelling of a particularly harrowing interpersonal tale, my old British bartender Phil just looks at me and says: “That guy is crazy.” He said more but I’ll refrain so you will have no idea which of the men I interact with my beloved bartender referred to as crazy. It was funny in the moment, but it was also a little shocking—not because calling someone crazy is such an egregious insult, of course it isn’t, it’s just that he was so quickly able to read a situation that I’d been through and yet was still having trouble parsing. I don’t even know that I think the situation or person in question IS crazy, at least more so than I myself am insane. 

I appreciate the cold reads that my industry people have on all the other people I know, because I’m not so good at assessing people clinically. I think about how I feel around them, I think about what we talk about and what they say to me and I analyze the way they interact with the world, but I generally don’t get judgmental until someone has crossed a certain threshold of poor behavior. That threshold is, uh, a bit farther along on the spectrum than is perhaps healthy for me. 

I’ve been worried lately that I’m not really getting anything out of therapy, and every time I have that thought I end up in a conversation with a friend who tells me something that is more insightful and better advice than my therapist has ever given me. But I love my therapist! But back to friends:

“I know this means fundamentally changing who you are as a person, but I need you to get better at protecting yourself.” 

I can’t disagree. There’s a time in my life when I would have gone on a discourse about how being open and vulnerable is good and tenderness and the way of grace, but I don’t want to do that anymore. It’s not that I necessarily think it’s false, I just don’t know and I don’t want to invest my energy in having a specific systemic belief about how best to interact with people and the world. 

She’s a better person than me, my friend. When I tell her stories of people who upset me, she’s sympathetic but she tries to get me to understand their side of the story in a way that is illuminating without negating my pain. She tries to get me away from the people who are forces for destruction. And she’s mean! I love it. A few months ago she said to me, “My opinion of you lowers every time you talk about him, to see you so hung up on someone who doesn’t deserve your respect makes me question the person I believe you to be.” It was so harsh but it was so important. I get so caught up, I need someone to tell me what it looks like from the outside.

I was complaining yesterday about how annoying it is to have so many friends who pay attention to my social media shitposting, particularly on twitter, because it makes me censor myself in a way that I never had to bother to do on that particular platform, or when writing in a personal blog. Trying to write about your life knowing that others will read it can bring a transcendent level of understanding to a situation, but I've had to accept in the past, say, two years, that there are hard limits that I won't, can't cross. I value loyalty more than transparency. But still, I think about the way I wrote about my interactions with Californian, what, three years ago? Knowing he would never google me, and knowing that writing about my feelings towards him had no impact on his life. I miss that freedom. 

Theoretically I could say his name now, there’s no way anyone will ever find him. He’s so incredibly offline, which is strange for me now that everyone I interact with is so very very logged on—but it was strange at the time too. I’m going to refrain from making any sort of commentary on whether it’s ‘good’ or ‘bad’ that there’s this meta-universe of social media now, because it just exists. I never want to hear another diatribe on it, it’s just pointless. 

But yes, it felt odd even at the time that he was so untethered to anything I could trace. That being said, I’ll still refer to him as the Californian—I respect his privacy of course, and it’s a fun Jonathan Franzen joke, and it’s the past. It’s relevant in that it’s my history, but I no longer think of him as a named recurring character. That gun has gone off too many times. There’s a point where you have to accept that the enrichment someone offered your life, and vice versa, is over. The way we dragged it out was not necessarily damaging, it just reached the point where it was silly. I’d be snapping him pictures of my boobs while working on a book review. He’d ask me to retell things that happened two fucking years ago. There are only so many stories. 

I remember earlier this year when I first started really hanging out with other writers frequently, I would get anxious at the outset, but once I started talking to people it was always very easy and I wouldn’t get stressed, it was just like a parade of potential. I always wanted to feel more comfortable and know more than say, one face in a room, but now that I know many faces in many rooms it comes with it’s own set of difficulties.

It’s the context that builds when you see the same people everywhere, I guess. And I love that context, it’s the stone of any social experience, but it’s hard. There’s so many things to be mindful of, and I don’t want to be paying attention constantly.

And yet insofar as I complain about the emotional toll of the context, the prospect of entanglements, romantic or platonic, without any context becomes increasingly meaningless and boring to me. There’s a guy who I was seeing for a little while in the summer who’s attempting to reappear, texting me a few times a week seeing if I’m around, and I have no ill will against him, I’ll probably put aside my malaise and get it together to see him soon, but the fact that he just exists as an amoeba with no connection to the rest of my life makes him seem boring, not attractive. 

I think my younger self would laugh in my face at the way I complain about the men who pursue me. She had been pursued never so didn’t have any conception of how it can be so meaningless and frustrating when it’s not coming from a source that you value. I still have so much sympathy for young me since her and I still share so many of the same questions about the habits of the general population, which I still feel very separate from. 

I was at a friend’s house the other night after we were out at the bars and she brought a guy I’ve expressed interest in before. There weren’t many of us there, and he and I paired off fairly quickly with the usual flirty touching and whatever, eye contact. It was so easy, and not stressful. I used to spend so much time questioning whether or not men were attracted to me, and it’s strange to not really have to do that anymore. Of course, in that problem’s place all the other problems with trying to create intimate connection between two lives full of their own context arise. And back again to: problems one can’t write about publicly. 

Last year around this time I was joking with one of my old professor homies because she posted an article about a certain area of study and I sent her one on the same area of study by someone I was sleeping with. I told her as much—people always think it’s weird when i say things like this, but my professors were, are, my friends. And c’mon, it’s funny! When I said “too much information?” She said, “All information is good information.”

The more time that passes the more I believe this. You’re entitled to having a base of knowledge about a situation before you involve yourself in it, so you can decide if you want to proceed. As a not very private person I know it could seem irrelevant or self serving for me to say that, but I think it’s actually a separate issue to your own standards of modesty. If you’re asking other people to be even minority involved in your life, they deserve the basic knowledge of what that does or doesn’t mean. The only way to attain an equal playing field is through the transmission of information. 

So yes, I personally believe that means freely offering the information that people you're choosing to interact with need in order to make decisions. Women have been trained to shield so much about ourselves, and the women’s work I love the most is the work that removes that shield and works to display the context that makes up a story and a life artfully and with grace, no matter what the content itself is. 

Sometimes when I read a book like this I end up so engaged that I start to feel in the mindset of the author, and have to remind myself of the differences. I just read How to Murder Your Life, and Cat Marnell is such a beautiful shitshow, and everything is just a mess and I’d stop reading and think like oh yes I totally get this, I’m a mess too!

I make a lot of jokes on soc meds and in real life about not having my shit together, and I think those jokes are funny so I will probably continue to make them, but as soon as I’d be like hell yeah Cat, shitshow sisters, I’d step back and look at my life and think, wow, my shit is pretty much together. I make good money from several steady sources, I’m responsible in my jobs and my personal life. My art is on the exact path that I want it to be on, to the point where I don’t really even get anxious about it anymore, which is huge. I rarely feel like I’m at risk of truly fucking anything up. I worry about the effect that the mad outer world will have on my ability to sustain a stable life, of course, but if it were left up to only me I would not be worried at all. 

If anything, I think that the restaurant industry has shown me how deep my ability to be a dedicated and responsible person is. At the type of jobs I have, there is no room whatsoever for fucking up. There is no leniency. I’ve had to train myself to be dedicated to something that is, in terms of belief, so irrelevant to me as to almost be antithetical. And then I think, imagine what I could do with that level of dedication and structure, instead of giving it to a system that I generally abhor but utilize for it’s financial stability, imagine if I could give that to a person, to a life with a person. It would be beautiful. 

 

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: The Chronicle of the Retreating Couch Surfer

Anyway, I don't really like strangers, so I try to be friendly to the couch surfers while not engaging in a great deal of BE-friending. I don't dislike strangers because of any specific strangers sucking, rather because strangers don't have enough time to 'get' me and I'd rather not waste my energy when I already have very little time to spare on someone who is inevitably going to be confused by my presence and perhaps end up being a little bit rude.

Read More

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.  

Caricatures in Misogyny: Modern Hate

Recently someone asked me to clarify what I meant when I said that one of the topics I write about is misogyny.

“Well, I try to bring to light the everyday instances in which men mistreat women, in such ways that are so ridiculous that they become caricatures of themselves.”

“Like what?” he asked. I also happened to be on a date with 'he,' so this was not necessarily what I wanted to be discussing. However I am not one to back down from discussing the problems of humans, so I continued.

“You know, just for example...one of my friends [me] had this really horrible time where a guy was just so cruel to her after their time together for really no reason and I wrote about that....I find it happens more often than people realize so I want to bring that to light. And also the ways men mistreat women that they don't realize are misogyny.”

“Isn't there another word for that?” he asked.

I didn't really want to get into an argument of semantics with this guy, although I should have, because he ended up being le worst. I segued the conversation to how I also write about the great stories of the men in my life who have helped me overcome my fear of men in general and how they should be celebrated. I think I did write about this. Once.

This fellow and I actually ended up having a great time on the date, or so it seemed. It started out a bit awkward, as first dates can, but we quickly found common ground and the conversation seemed to take off. I could tell he was a bit more boring than the people I usually spend my time around, but I like to give people the benefit of the doubt so I framed this as 'calm,' 'kind,' and 'attentive.' I don't know if I laughed much, but again I wanted to be forgiving since we seemed to be getting along well.

After hanging out at my house for a bit after the date, he actually agreed to go out with my friends and I, which to his credit was nice. I enjoyed not feeling like I had to be socializing with strangers at the bar, and it was fun to have someone to be my buddy.

All, it seemed, was well.

For the next few days we spoke consistently via text, basically continuing the same conversation. This hasn't happened to me in a while, (partially because I had sworn off men after the early summer fiascos,) so I found I quite liked it. I got worried that we were talking about everyday mundane things, but Amber told me that this is just what you do when you're getting to know someone, or even when they're dating them.

“That's part of the thing of dating people. If you see a really weird car, you tell them.”

Interesting, I thought, this is actually kind of fun.

Alas, it lulled me into a false sense of security, when I clearly should have been saying to myself, “BECCA SOMETHING WILL GO WRONG SO DON'T GET YOUR HOPES UP ABOUT THIS OR ANY OTHER MAN EVER”

Again alas, I did not say this to myself. We continued to speak, flirtatiously, until on Wednesday I received a text which basically said : (I would copy the real thing, but I left my phone charger in Redlands so I'm trying to save the battery until I go to bed because I've been borrowing my roommates charger but she uses it at night...anyway...)

“I've been doing some thinking and I don't think our personalities mesh the way I want. I'm sorry. You are a great person and I'm sure you will make someone else very happy.”

I will say straight away that I am not actually angry about the content of this text. I mean, it's annoying, but all in all a relatively respectful way to do what it accomplished. I said something along the lines of 'alright, I'm just curious as to why you'd text me every day for four days if that was the case...seems to not be accomplishing anything' to which he had a somehow simultaneously vague and overwrought response.

I was rather upset at first, but seeing as this was yesterday and I'm already glad that he saved me from his boring self / happy to go on living my Sex and the City themed life of dating and being adventurous, I am more interested in the other aspects of the situation.

He was probably correct on some level that our personalities don't mesh perfectly, but my question is, is that really necessary in getting to know someone? I would never argue that back to him certainly, because I would never try to fight with some rando to date me when they are already over it, but I am curious. I find that in not just dating but also friendship and workship and life, I want to get to know someone better than I can in a few hour timespan to make that kind of judgment. I find that the more I get to know someone and see their interesting aspects, the more I can find a way for them to fit in my life, whether it be romantically or in friendship or even just an interesting person to be around sometimes. Not everyone I meet or date has to be my soul mate, and in fact I'd like to date a lot of people who aren't my soul mate before I find my soul mate (if such a thing exists) so I can get the experience of sharing my life with all different kinds of people.

Perhaps this is not a common held belief. Meh. I think it will make my life much more fun and interesting.

Then, the truly sad thing that a friend brought up:

“Most guys are just looking for a pretty, probably boring girl to sit with them on the couch and cuddle while they watch TV and listen to them talk. You aren't that.”

She may be right. What a sad thing. I guess to each their own, but it's a shame to think that so many people are willing to give up an interesting life (not with me, literally with anyone) because it's so much easier to sit around watching TV with a lame companion. Le sigh, what is the word for general distaste for most humans and their motivations? Oh, misanthrope.

Perhaps you are wondering how I categorize any of this as misogyny. I don't. I actually would like to encourage more men to be up front when they don't want to date someone instead of ignoring them. The rest of the aspects of this fellow's behavior, mainly talking to me for four days straight while simultaneously brewing this little plan, is not admirable, so don't do that, but not particularly misogynistic either.

Wanting to write about this but it not fitting into my first category of man related posts brought upon a second category, a wee bit of satire, one might say. The New York Times runs a series called Modern Love, and seeing as my experiences are nothing of the sort, I've decided to call my dating trials and tribulations that are entertaining but not necessarily misogynistic Modern Hate. Funny that Hate is in the title when misogynist is woman-hating, but the joke is hating the dating in the modern world, not any genders hating each other. So stay tuned for periodic stories of the fiasco which is my life of trying to casually date in the modern era.