I Got A Lot Of Problems With You People!

festivus

 

[For all of you who were unable to make it to my festivus party last night, here is my airing of grievances.]

 

My dear dinner guest. My dear Woodys and Wienberger’s, and my dear Yates and Goggans, and Dalbys, and Kollins, and Divacks, and Cohens, and Also my good Sackville-Bagginses that I welcome back at last to Bag End…Er…Anacostia Today is officially Festivus; the satirical oppositional holiday valiantly standing against the oppression of Christmas. As foot soldiers in war against Christmas we gather together all of our darkness, queerness and Marxist rhetoric to pay vitriolic homage to end of White Supremacist Christian Centric Hetero-normative Patriarchy. I hope you are enjoying yourselves as much as I am. I shall not keep you long, I have called you all together for a purpose. Indeed, for three purposes! First of all, to tell you that I am immensely fond of you all, and that I am so fortunate to live among such excellent and admirable people. I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve. Secondly, to celebrate Festivus. Thirdly and finally, I wish to make an ANNOUNCEMENT! I regret to announce that- I have a long list of grievances. I know I promised to keep it short but I lied.

 

1.)       To The Snow Flake Theory: Here is to every child and grand-child of the Baby Boom Generation. Here’s to every black rimmed glasses wearing, sandaled, tattooed, pant sagging, God Fearing or Dawkins loving side show freak that wanted to the write the great American Novel. This is for everyone who refuses to conform because they feel that they were born to be different and for every conformists who does it because it’s not cool. Here’s for the teetotalers, for the drunks, the druggies, and the high-on-lifers. This for the weed smokers, the abstainers, the occupiers, the workers and couch potatoes proud to be the grandchildren of the Tool Makers, Stackers of Wheat, Players with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handlers. This for everyone who was told by their parents and grandparents, by their teachers and coaches, and by everyone who ever thought that they could sing or act that they were special. And this, is for everyone, everywhere, struggling under the daily oppression of a society that makes us think average is a dirty word. I’m here to tell you that your gut was right, that nagging feeling telling you that striving to be “more unique” is as pointless as it is absurd, was the one you should have been listening to.  We have become a generation that conforms to nonconformity and is only unique in the sheer ubiquity of our attributes. I’m sorry if I am the first to tell you this but…you’re not that special.  Do not despair. You are in great company. Your boss is also probably not special. Your favorite teacher, your mother, your mailman, your bartender, most congressmen and the lady who cooked your egg Mcmuffin are also, probably, not special.

2.)      To the Extreme Right Wing of the Republican Party, or shall I say, the Crazy Wing of the Grand Ole Party. To all the Neolithic -Conservatives. Tea-Partiers. Ironically Religious Ayn Rand Acolytes. Stop. Just…Stop. I get it. You have spent the last 30 years becoming whiter and whiter. You’ve spent all your energy fleeing the inner city and sending your daughters to Catholic Schools to insure your whiteness. And congratulations, other than your daughter who is dating the Asian woman she met at St. Mary’s and your grandson who inexplicably dropped out of his MBA program to teach in the inner city you have succeed. You are whiter than you have ever been. You make Ronald Reagan look like Malcom X. We applaud your dedication to trying to whitewash America’s Technicolor Quilt even as we hate just about every political action you take.  So, there is good news and there is bad news. The bad news you need to stop…because I hate you and because you are a dying breed. The good news is that your daughter’s girlfriend is awesome and if you stop being crazy, you’ll get invited to Thanksgiving again.

3.)      To the “Radical” Black Nationalists who wear $1,000 Italian Suits while shouting Black Power at “community meetings.” Either donate your suit to the United Negro College fund or sit down and shut up.

4.)      To my beloved family, whom I care for and cherish: If you keep taking my Apple products I swear fore God you will feel my wrath. They are not interchangeable. Mine are still in mint condition, yours are broken…that’s how you tell the difference.

5.)      Last, here is a list of things I don’t like

  1. Chief Keef
  2. Playtionships
  3. Almost irresistible urge to engage trolls online
  4. People who use fake science to justify their faith. I get it, you believe in God. So did Charles Darwin. I don’t want to hear how Methuselah lived so long because the atmosphere used to be ice. Just say you take it on faith and I promise not to question you.
  5. People who don’t understand what the first amendment is
  6. Hipster Racism
  7. Black people who refuse to acknowledge how racist the redskins name is
  8. People who think Obama is Muslim AND that he believes everything Rev. Wright ever said about anything
  9. People who wear socks with sandals
  10. Men who wear sunglasses inside
  11. People who say retarded to mean dumb
  12. Everyone who has every followed a racist statement with “…but I mean, not like you, you know…the OTHER BLACK PEOPLE.”
  13. People who start sentences with, “I’m not racist but…”
  14. People who put empty jars of peanut butter back on the shelf
  15. People who interrupt me when I talk
  16. When people don’t get my references
  17. When women tell me they once had a crush on me…after telling me they just got married
  18. People you leave facebook without telling me
  19. People who tell obvious lies and hope that I won’t call them out on it
  20. People who stick their favorite fragrance under my nose when I tell them I can’t smell
  21. People who don’t know when to shut up
  22. People who make lists that are too long
  23. People who ignore social cues telling them to shut up
  24. People who continue to talk because the they love the sound of their voice
  25. …there’s really two types of people I hate: people who are intolerant of other people’s culture…
  26. And the dutch.

Unsent Letter To All The Girls I’ve Loved

bell hooks on love

[Below is an unsent letter to every female friend I’ve been secretly in love with whom I sent really long e-mails to or hand written notes to after/before I went to college/when you were studying abroad/when I moved back to Falcon in 2008/when I moved to Colorado Springs in 2010/when you moved to a coastal city once I made it back to Chicago/when you went to grad school/visited your family for Hanukkah/ moved with your significant other [sometimes another female friend I had also once liked] back home/I moved to D.C.  If this sounds remotely similar to a letter I once sent in you in one of these moments then this was probably the first draft of a letter I wrote and decided not to send for one reason or another. I realized that this a recurring pattern in my life that I need to analyze…so I did…and what better way to process self-analysis than self-parody?]

To All The Friends I’ve Loved,

[There always start with some  overwrought and florid metaphor for whatever I’m unhappy about in the moment. In most of these letters it is my hometown] I’m not sure if a tree makes a sound when it falls in the forest with no one to hear it but I know from experience that the speed at which it falls is in direct proportion to number of observers. Falcon is not a place for me to write. Falcon is where writers are born. It is where the bigotry and backwardness drips from the lips of neighbors destined to be characters; cold as molasses and twice as black, pumping sweet visceral into an author’s creative glands.  Falcon will serve as the time capsule I use to write of time so long ago that it never really existed, at least not in the way I remember it.

In my stories I call it Mesa Valley, my Yoknapatawpha County [always includes an oblique reference to writer whom I feel an unjustifiable though visceral connection to. Sometimes I’ve only read their shortest published work but count them among my favorite authors] I write about the villains and saints of my childhood in this Mesa Valley so that the fictionalized grandiosity of the moment evokes the same emotion as the tonnage of years of microagressions and mini miracles. Put simply, the events are lies but the emotions are real. My neighbors will undoubtedly protest but I imagine my fame will soften their protest the same way their privilege softened mine. Their bigotry bit into my psyche layering trauma upon trauma [I actually had a pretty chill childhood but I thought for a while that I need to be a tortured artist to be a good artist.]

Is life so miserable? Is the darkness seeping in, encroaching on my happy moments? No, I suppose not. [almost all of these letters start the second paragraph with a refutation of the overwrought opening metaphor…insecure much?] In reality life is bland and it is that blandness that frightens me. Like Oscar WildeI live in terror of not being misunderstood. [quote is purposefully out of context. In an example of hipster letter writing, it serves as an illustration of my meta awareness] Drama and vibrancy are my heroin. In their absence I fiend for the thematic like a smoker turned niciderm addict. I lust for action with all the gusto and impulsiveness of a sex addict.  In the late hours of the night, when time seems to drip like a leaky faucet in a silent kitchen instead of flow, I try to figure out why this is. I have always had an overactive imagination and I have always been vicarious reader, living the lives of the characters as I read them. If you had asked my 12 year old self what I wanted to be when he grew up he would have said “a living legend.” Yet no childhood trauma or tendency could explain this burning desire of mine in its maturity [though, when I was 8 I used to scream “I’m going through a stage!” at my family when my siblings complained about my parents bending over backwards to not accommodate my latest fixation. I heard my parents discussing my habit of hiding eggs around the house and whether it was a “stag” or ealy onset mental illness one night and decided to use the phrase to justify my weirdness…jury is still out about early signs of mental illness]

There is an answer to the question. And yes, that is the short one. I’m doing fine. [you are supposed to assume the unasked question “how are you?” Man, is this guy meta or what?] Living with my parents has been interesting though not ideal. I am doing what I can to not waste way. When the monotone hum of prairie life turns into a tempest of passive, almost inert, aggression that threatens to overwhelm me I try to think of you and your adventures in [insert study abroad program, grad school, or new city her]. I imagine your [insert distinguishing feature] as you [insert activity that can I think can only be done where you are]. How is it in [insert colloquial/pretentious nickname for current location]? How is the air? What are you thinking about? What things are challenging you? Forcing you push your limits? What do you know now that you didn’t before? [still not sure where this habit of asking these sorts of questions to people became a thing that I do…constantly… but I can remember doing it as early as middle school]

I know you are probably laughing at my intensity. You mention that intensity often and each time I want to tell you how I really feel. [this when I show my insecurity in a self deprecating way. This portion is usually added to qualify previous or subsequent statements that were overly florid or ridiculous but I found too well phrased to delete.]  I spend so much time trying to calm that intensity for fear of scaring you away yet sometimes restraining my love for you seems more intolerable than your absence. I want you too know, finally, that I love you fiercely. [this is the part that is ALWAYS cut out of the final draft. The unspoken longings off…ugh…I’m doing it again!] When we take our walks through [insert significant place in our friendship] I’d be convinced that my feet never touched the asphalt if hearing you about what’s one your mind this week didn’t make me feel so grounded. I love the way your mind unravels in those moments. Your thoughts are distinct and intricately laced like braided steel cables supporting intellectual bridges from Kafka and Morrison to Weber and Du Bois [I always reference Kafka but never actually read Kafka until like 6 months ago.] Sometimes I am too mesmerized by how an individual thought of yours develops that forget how your smile gives me butterflies.

Your wild and frantic idiosyncratic hand gestures that increase in their assertiveness as the topic turns from history to your theory of how we constructive our identities through narratives remind me of the awkward girl I first met and not the poised woman I know now. As your passion burns through your light brown eyes I’m tempted to believe that my world has the same golden haze has its reflection in your gaze. In these moments I want to tell you that I love you. I know you would just smile and say “I know.” I know that I would have to hold your heart-wrenchingly beautiful gaze longer. I would lock my eyes with yours to add weight to my words; to tell you this was that kind of the love. The kind of love that causes me to fear that I’m losing myself in you, the terror of thinking that maybe falling so hard for you that I forget who I am sounds more like heaven than white clouds and halos. [who says that…seriously….I mean…it has a nice ring to it though…reminds me of this poem I wrote about my first “real” love]

Instead, I smile and hold my tongue. We walk miles through this city, you and I, with the secret of my love between us like a warm invisible sea. Swimming through it is the most exhausting endeavor of my life but living without it seems dry and barren in comparison. When we hug goodbye I wish I could wrap my hands around your soul instead of your waist and I pretend that my sadness is contemplation and not the awareness of the inevitability of your departure. [this would typically get re-written to something about missing you but not loving like THAT.]

[I feel like some of my friend must have suspected that I was not so secretly in love with them. Yet, I still write letters to some friends like this, long after I’m crushing on/overly-dramatically in love with them so I think most of friends probably just think its par for the course…and I guess it is par for the course. I love all my friends dearly, male or female and I’ve had a crush on like 95% of the women I’ve met who are no more than three years younger or 10 years older than me. I think if I had to put a number on it, which I don’t but will anyway, I’ve been in love with about 30% of my good female friends at some point in my life. I don’t actually think I’m using the phrase “in love” lightly here either. I have a natural tendency to love easily, deeply, quickly and fiercely. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been with a female friend and thought “we should just get married…like… right now. Why wait.” Yet for most, the timing was off or I was too shy. By the time either changed, we had changed.   But I’ve been in love with almost 1/3 of my female friends even if only for a moment and while that might seem pathetic and laughable…well…it might actually be laughable…it is not pathetic. I feel very fortunate to have befriended such amazing and beautiful women in my life.

I’ve been blessed to love women who have pushed my intellect, who have encouraged me to follow my dreams by pursuing theirs, who have shown me what it means to live by your principles, who have become teachers, and mothers, and executives and dancers and writers and organizers and PHd candidates. They are the unofficial therapist of their friends, the shoulder to cry on, fierce advocate for justice, level-headed and practical guides, the uplifting jokers and gorgeous wordsmiths of my world. I have learned and grown so much from these friendships and am so glad that we got  through the infatuation, the puppy love and the romantic love to richer and more sustaining and truly platonic love with my friends. I feel that with a few of my friends our relationship has matured into something greater than any romantic love I’ve ever experienced; we’ve learned to “love each other well.”  So to all the girls I’ve loved. From the playground to county fair to the main quad and whether I loved you for a conversation, a week or since the moment we first talked about our passions, I’d like to thank you teaching me, for bearing with my florid passion and intensity and, most of all, for accepting my love even if you were unaware of its true form. Know that every letter I send and note I write expresses the truth of how I feel about everything, even if only a part. Though honestly Erin, if you are reading this, my offer of marriage still totally stands. My romantic love for you is eternal and forever enriches my platonic love for you which is equally eternal. So, uh…call me, Maybe?]

With love [in all its varied forms and meanings],

Aaron

True Love

Dating Darcy

Darcy, Moped[**Disclaimer: This account, like all the previous and future posts about my romantic life, are to be considered all almost entirely fictional unless clearly stated otherwise. Any resemblances to real life women who have been unfortunate enough to go on date with me are a result of the statistically common reactions to my many idiosyncrasies**]

Its late afternoon in DMV and I’m running late for the date. My latest addition to my healthy lifestyle involves walking everywhere and I’ve forgotten how long it takes to get to the Café from my house. I’ve walked this route every morning for a week and I can hear my father telling me I need to be more observant as I consider my next move. I debate texting Darcy to let her know that I’m going to be late. It is 10 minutes before I said I’d meet her and I’m about 8-12 minutes away. If I show up exactly on time I’ll seem punctual but I will have to walk fast enough to break out into a sweat to do so. I slow down and decide better to be fashionable late and put together than on time like a hot mess. I consider calling my friend Sam to ask if I should include an exclamation point after the sorry. I decide that Sam is probably too busy having a job and being all responsible to help me compose a text message right now. I decide that go with the exclamation point anyways. My brother always told me not to use smiley faces but I think all other punctuation is kosher.

Sorry! I’m running a little late.

She replies a minute later: no problem at all!!!

 

I pause in the middle of the street to decipher the message. I ignore the horns of oncoming traffic as I try to decide if three exclamation points mean it is really is not a problem at all or if it’s really not a problem…like…at all. As I begin walking again, the exclamation points seem to be more and more angry. Of course she’s mad; I’m going to make her wait. I debate whether or not to text her a joke about a troll underneath the 11th street bridge but I think she needs to see my face for it to be funny. I try and time my burst of quick walking with the gust of autumn air, exerting myself only when the wind will keep me from sweating. I vaguely recognize that this makes me look like a crazy person and vow to stop when I’m within eye sight of my destination. If I’m lucky I’ll arrive with a minute to spare having sent a text message saying that I would be late. That should show that I’m both punctual and considerate.

Two blocks away from the Café I slow down just as I’m starting to get nervous. I wonder if every woman I walk by is actually her. Perhaps she didn’t want to wait in the Cafe itself and is leaning next to her moped smoking a cigaret like a Parisian woman. Could she have dyed her hair, gained 20 pounds and invited her husband on the date or is that someone else? I as I start to look for her, not knowing if she will be waiting causally outside for me or take a sit inside, I marvel at how attractive D.C is. I begin to understand the value of making an effort to look nice and anxiously look at myself in the reflection of the store windows. I cringe at my overweight body made even more awkward by the only clean shirt without holes in it. Check that…my last non overly offensive smelling shirt without major holes in it.  She said that she didn’t like guys who spent more time getting ready than her and she seems to revel in that “I just got out of bed look.” At least she will be put at ease by my homeliness.  15 yards away from the Brown Bonnet, where a local feminist blogger described meeting her partner so vividly that I thought it would hold some the same magic for me and Darcy, I begin to wonder if I want her to be more or less attractive than her pictures.

I begin to think that if she is more attractive than her pictures I may start to feel that I’m not good looking enough for her. Then instead of meeting cool, calm and collected Aaron she’ll get sweaty, voice still somehow cracks at 25 Aaron and even I don’t like that guy. She’s pretty enough in her pictures that if she was less attractive in real life she’d be as attractive as me and therefore easier to approach.

I see her sitting down at the same table I imagined the blogger was sitting at. Life is imitating blog and make sure to note it for my next comment. She’s wearing the same argyle sweater that she was wearing in her profile picture from Vienna. I know I shouldn’t say that though because then she might know how often I looked at her profile. I notice that her back is too the door which means that June was wrong last night she said that the mug shot in the pictures was real. If Darcy spent time in Prison she’d never have her back to the entrance. Before I walk up to her I find myself hoping that she is in fact as pretty as her pictures. I think I could handle that. I remembered to brush my beard so I’m looking pretty good despite the stripped shirt.

I start to approach her from behind. I realize how that would sound in my re-telling of this moment and I pause trying to map out a path through the crowded café that would allow me to casually walk up to her and not seem like a creeper. Instead, my Uchicago awkwardness permeates through the moment and she senses my presence. She turns, rather gracefully I might add, to see me starting at her. I could have saved the moment with my charming smile instead I give her my “well, this is awkward…you caught me” smile.

As I see her face I realize it is worse than I imagined. She actually looks the most like her third picture, the one where she pretending to sing a Britney Spears song at a New Years party. She has the type of face that you know that most people find her attractive but you’re not sure if you do yet. She’s basically Jennifer Garner in in beginning of the movie, before you know if she is the nice character or the stern mean one. I stare at her for a second and sense my face flash the moment’s disappointment.

“Hey, I sorry, I wasn’t sure if that was you” I say knowing that it was her but finally brandishing my charming smile.

[**Disclaimer, for those you who don’t know me, you should be aware that there is no empirical evidence to suggest any difference between my charming smile and my creepy smile. The jury is still out**]

She smiles back. It is a warm smile that instantly makes her seem more attractive. “It’s okay” she says with no understood ellipses.

I take the seat across from her and as I tell myself not to do that thing where I try to figure out if someone is attractive while they are talking to me. I don’t listen though and find myself analyzing her facial features as she describes racing over here because she thought she was going to be late. When she mentions not having enough time to finish getting ready I smile and tell her she looks nice. It’s a temporary lie.

I haven’t decided if she is attractive yet but I noticed that she had brought a copy of Carcassonne and had set it out on the table. I decided that it was inevitable that I would fall for  any girl this smart, nice and with affinity for board games. I knew that eventually I would think that she did in fact look nice, so it wasn’t really a lie.

Before I begin an internal debate of the fact that because she was in fact very well dressed the statement “you look nice” would have been true even if I wasn’t attracted to her, she asks me if I’ve read any John Rawls before. I panic. I was prepared to fall for this girl slowly, with her attractiveness becoming more and more readily apparent over time. My confidence and comfort was supposed to raise as fast if not faster than my attraction. If she started talking about “A Theory of Justice” my voice would almost certainly crack.

I stare at her for a second. Only her slightly inquisitive tilt of the head reminds me that I have yet to answer her question.

“Yes” I say confidently, suddenly proud that I was able to so speak clearly to such an attractive young woman, “I have.”

She smiles again and I get butterflies for the first time since I read her message about how she is surprised at how comic book heroes have started killing their enemies after decades of calling it a line they’d never cross. I decide that she is being super generous in accepting my oddities. She must either be a closet awkward person or just a generous person. I’m personally fine with either but I’m hoping for the first. As she talks about “A Theory of Justice” I lose track of all my dating tips: I forget to manage my eye contact and stare intently into her eyes, I forget ask her if she want dessert and order so much food myself that assumes I expect her to share, and I forget to compliment her three times. Instead I forget that this is a date and allow myself to be dragged into a pleasant intellectual discussion.

The particulars of her argument matter very little to me. I get the sense that though we are both engrossed by the subject matter we a still being too polite to have a real argument. We are mostly discussing feelings about the practicality of the theory and trying to politely disagree. I am fascinated by the way her mind works though and the clarity with which she can reconstruct my arguments as she gets to see is she heard me correctly.

“You really think that democracy is overrated?” She asked with her butter fly producing smile, clearly thinking I’m being sarcastic and loving it. I decide not to press the point and lie for the second and last time that night, “no, I’m just joking. Of course I love Democracy.”

It’s ten o’clock before I realize we have been talking for hours. I’ve developed substantial if somewhat hard to pin down feelings for her by the time she says it’s getting late and she needs to go to bed. This is the moment when all the advice columns tell me I need to make my move. I am supposed to gauge the situation and go in for the kiss [except for maxim, which seems to think I should assume I’m going to bed with her].

I look at her and she has an amused look on her face and I can tell she had a good time. Yet, ultimately I decide that a mutual good time is different than mutual romantic interests. She was pretty, smart, funny, nice and interesting. I’d definitely love to see her again but our connection was one of exciting potential and not immediate lust. I raise my hand to give my signature and slightly boyish two fingered salute good bye as she sticks out her hand to shake mine.

[**Disclaimer my signature salute is not as nearly as creepy as it sounds. It is literally waving goodbye and not something from one of Dave Chappelle’s “Great Moments in Hook Up History”**]

I realize askmen.com would say that I put myself in the friendzone with that move but then I’d just say “you’re a website, what do you know” and walk away confident in my disbelief in the existence of zones…I only believe in having awkward conversations about how we feel about and will you go out with me? [Yes. No. Maybe] notes.

Dating In The Chocolate City? A Humorous But Impotant Excursion Into Beltway Dating Rituals

singles-dc

You would think, for a man recently reentering the dating game in a new city, living with two beautiful D.C residents would be a huge added benefit. My sisters are both attractive, accomplished young professionals in the DMV with goals and ambition and laid back [broadly speaking] demeanor. They must have insight into the befuddling and majestic alien creature that is a beltway woman. In all seriousness, I recognize that all women are individual human beings with their own wants, desires, strengths, quirks and insecurities. Yet, I also know that each region has it norms and regional ways of going about social interactions. I was hoping my sisters, DMV veterans that they are, could enlighten me. Yet let’s examine how these conversations actually play out.

[**Disclaimer the following account is a fictionalized account of true events. Everything in this account happened but the timeline, names, and minute details of the dates were changed for illustrative and entertainment purposes** **Irritable Bowel Disease is a real condition and if you identify with any of the symptoms, please seek out medical attention**]

Sister #1 [we’ll call her…Lindsey.] is currently wearing sweat pants and flowing flowery shirt. She is rubbing her stomach and smiling a satisfied smile.

Lindsey: Hey, have you noticed anything different about me?

Sister #2 [We’ll call her…June] is currently wearing her red dreads wrapped up the Do-Rags Lindsey bought for the community clean up last month. She eyes Lindsey and gives her a patented “really?” look.

June: [looks at me now, one eye brow raised] Don’t say anything…maybe if we ignore her she will go away.

Lindsey: [Has lifted her floral shirt above her belly and is now unabashedly rubbing her stomach that is significantly smaller that it was yesterday] I finally had a bowel movement…I just lost like four pounds.

Me: [In a true testament to how not-at-all-out-of-the-norm this is] Yeah, you look great Linds. [I give her a proud look like she just chugged a beer and smashed it on her forehead.] That’s a lot of shit kid.

June: [Clearly disgusted] Tsk. Don’t encourage her, she needs to go to the doctor.

Lindsey: No, I think one more bowel movement and I’ll be good.

The Conversation continues like this until we wake up. My sister’s bicker back and forth for about 10 minutes.

June: How was your date?

Me: It was great. She was really nice, smart and pretty. We had a really great conversation; I’m hoping to see her again.

Lindsey: Hm, did you pay for dinner. [June gives Lindsey her “WTF?” look] It may be the 21st century but a man should always pay for the first meal. [June’s look now says seriously cuz?]

Me: Well, I…

June: See this is way you should come to me with this. [Pause. Looks at Lindsey and back to me.] Some people [look back at Lindsey and rolls her eyes] No, I’m playin’. But seriously. What was she like?

Me: She was really cool. I had a really great time. I’m starting to really love the life I’m been building for myself in D.C. Being proactive, meeting great new people…it’s nice. I’m not sure if I should write her today or wait…I

[simultaneously]

June: call her now, it’s not the 90’s

Lindsey: Wait a few days. You’re a grown man, you have shit to do. You don’t have time to be writing her every moment.

Me: Uh…I feel like… I should just be able to…

June: [fainting anger] What kind of shit is that Linds?

Lindsey: What? He shouldn’t appear needy. Just wait a day.

This continues until they get distracted arguing about their exact same opinions of “The Rachel Ray Show.” I have learned nothing from this conversation other than that my sisters are two very different people. I enjoy it because they are hilarious in their sibling bickering. They are polar opposites who have grown eerily similar due to prolonged exposure to each other’s idiosyncrasies. As they continue to argue I turn to Google to solve my dilemma. As I type in “dating advice” into Google I revel in the butterflies flirting through my stomach as I think about the date. It is been a long time since I’ve had butterflies and so they are a welcomed feeling. What is even more welcomed is their background presence in my day. They are a dull echo compared to my college crushes.

The online advice is basically ten different versions of be yourself, don’t do anything borderline rapey or stalkerish. Check. Check and Check. Phew. I’m glad got out of the clear there. It can never hurt to make sure you are not exhibiting rapey or stalkerish tendencies.

[**Disclaimer. For real though, EVERYONE should check themselves for rapey or stalkerish tendencies. Just because I joke about it, doesn’t mean it’s not serious. I’m looking at you “I’ll get few drinks in her before I go for the kiss” Happy Hour Dude**]

While this confirms my hope that I am perhaps not as out of the loop as I thought, it provides little insight into my current situation. Undeterred, I type in “advice for e-mailing after a date,” and I try my best to wade through the sea of rules for dating.  I lack the focus to stay on task and end up reading a series of variations of Men Are From Mars Women Are From Venus [MFMWFV.] I’m fortunate at least that as writer this is now no longer procrastination but will be referred to as “research.”

I continue my research as I try to find the nuggets of truth in the universally misguided and oft times bigoted glimpses into out dated courting rituals and blindly binary hetero-normative written projections of loneliness. I am slightly encouraged by the fact that these thirty and forty somethings whom deem themselves worthy of bestowing their wisdom to my generation still believe in being yourself. A few young millennial writers note that people are just people, and therefore women are in fact not from Venus but Brooklyn and Hyde Park and Tarrytown. I am heartened by this but am still left thinking, great, but do I write her today or tomorrow? How do you tell if a person [any person really ‘cause it might help with these job application follow ups] values immediate communication or if that seems too eager? Do I tell her she’s beautiful or should I tone it down a bit? How do you know whether someone is a hugger?

After about 30 minutes of distress I decide to call back on my sisters. I try and channel my mother and project the face that always gets them to stop bickering pleasantly. They see the face and, reminded of my mother, are ashamed for a second. June in turn imitates my mother’s “I’m listening intently but also kind of mocking you face.”  After listening to my blown-out-of-proportion-because-I’m-really-bored dilemma, June says that older people [read: in their 30’s] call this dating etiquette.  I relax a little and peruse those articles before finally settling on http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/07/dating-rules-better-than-3-day-rule_n_3403137.html.

I silently thank Arianna Huffington for solving my immediate problems and write a heartfelt message about how much I enjoyed the date and plainly asked for another. I feel much better at this point and am glad that, unlike 18 year old me, I feel confident that I can go about my day without waiting for a response. The more I think about the series of MFMWFV articles though, the more unsettled I become. The feeling of unease creeps up on me like after you get off the 90 in D.C or the Redline in Chicago and aren’t sure what to make of the man selling apples out of a biohazard bag. You know it’s not okay but you are unsure as to the extent to which it’s not okay.

I was concerned with the lack of practical non-patriarchal relationship advice for men. Again, I’m super excited that there is a lot of advice on how not to be a creepy needy slightly rapey date. And, admittedly, dating etiquette was helpful for the more banal questions like what to wear, what to say, where to go. Yet what about the more meaningful concerns. Even though I’ve only gone on first dates my mind inevitably wandered to questions about more serious relationships. What does courting look like without patriarchy?

[**Disclaimer. Mom/Dad/ random other adult figures in my life. I’m going to talk about some adult themes so if this is going to make you slightly uncomfortable or[ worse] make me slightly uncomfortable, please stop reading**]

How do you bring up physical intimacy and sex without offending someone or worse pressuring them?  How do you clearly state where you’re at and what you want at the different stages of courtship, dating, and being a couple? What if you’re not sure if you what kind of relationship you want? Is there a way to bring it up without your date being like “dude I’m not even sure if I’m going to peace out on you when my friend calls to see if I need an excuse to leave?”

I tried relationship advice but found that far too broad and again, obvious. Thank you Doctor Phil, now I know that I probably shouldn’t talk about my emotional scars from previous relationships in the first or second date. Really? I probably shouldn’t pretend to be interested in a committed relationship if all I want is sex? I then tried “dating advice for feminist allies.” This advice was only slightly more relevant to me. There were some interesting discussions about not using the word rape to describe things are not rape and how you can show women respect [ http://www.anamardoll.com/2012/11/deconstruction-how-to-be-male-ally.html ]. Don’t get me wrong, I think that the article is awesome. I think everyman should read it and if everyman took it to heart we could end large swaths of rape culture in America.

My concern is, are there really so few men in my position? Most of this discussion is, quite frankly, obvious to me. This would be fine if I were some saint of new age maleness. I would be fine if it meant that I was so far past my Neanderthal-lite contemporaries that I didn’t need this advice. Unfortunately, I struggle with and perpetuate patriarchy every day. I still am not sure how to confidently approach sexual topics with women as equals. How do I make my wants and desires clear and respected while giving her space to do the same? How might I ethically navigate a hypothetical partner’s “sex-positivism” with my odd mix of slightly old fashion views on “common decency” and unique sexual desires? Basically how and when do you create a safe, non-awkward space to talk about physical and emotional intimacy from kissing & sex to commitment issues & mental illness?

To be clear, my concern is less at the practical lack of easily available discussions of these sorts of issues now that I’m dating, it is about the symbolism of the absence in our discussion. Past experience has told me that often these sorts of things resolve themselves organically in my own relationships. I’m fairly confident that if I continue to be the honest, open and caring person I try and often succeed at being it is unlikely that any potential partner will feel uncomfortable pressure or offense. Yet what does it mean that there is no cultural conversation about this. Do people either accept offense and pressure as hazards of dating or possess some sort of brazen honesty on these subjects that risks scarring off potential partners in order to avoid said pressure and offense.

And if I’m perfectly honest with myself [and by myself I of course mean the 20 random people who will read this], it would be practically helpful for me too. What if I’m wrong about things working out organically? What if one of my many unknown unknown’s was that I am doing things in my organically developing relationships to offend women? It’s been known to happen [ “nice guy patriarchy” or back when I used to dance beside girls and pretend like I was dancing with them in college].

So, Facebook friends, random bloggers, fellow allies, womanists, feminist, queer theorists and free thinkers: how do you date ethically in the modern world? I suppose I should also ask, is it reasonable to expect to be able to date, hold true to your needs, wants and beliefs without inadvertently benefiting from or perpetuating patriarchy? I’m not asking about how to date without getting your feelings hurt [mom I know that probably what you’re about to send me a heartfelt message about…send it anyway just in case] I thinking dating, like all human interactions, come with risk and miscommunications. My question is can it come without rape culture, patriarchy, emasculation and WTF moments? Not only would I like to know but I think this conversation (which is undoubtedly taking place somewhere in the interweb) needs to be more main stream. Please, if I’m simply missing out on a great conversation out there, post it in the comment section. Can’t wait to hear from you!

p.s. what’s the deal with :)’s. Is that deal breaker? What if I’m really excited about what I just said?