Monday, January 23, 2012

The Impossibility of Dating: A Terrible Quarter-Lifer's Guide to Being Terrible

Good Catholic that I am, I want to reenter the confessional for a moment. I've been itching to do some more autobiographical writing lately (even if my teenaged attempts at the genre suggest that I'm not very good at it). "Twenty-something confessional" or, dare I say it, "Tales from the Bad Years," was never quite the project I imagined for this blog. However, bearing in mind that blogs need to be as malleable as the assholes that pen them and that we almost never know where we're going until we get there, I am now deviating from the blog-path I originally imagined. If you're looking for a smarter, more discursive post, go here. Or even here.

One of the most frustrating things (so far) about my unmoored twenties, other than the permanent gnawing sensation that's lodged itself in my stomach, is that I find myself totally incapable of really comprehending anything. More than any other time in my life, I find myself needing to learn and re-learn the same lessons; nothing seems to stick. I know, for example, that going to the gym will make me feel great and is occasionally the only part of my day that gives me any sense of forward momentum, but convincing myself to go is still quite the chore. Every time I go, I learn this lesson anew, only to forget it the following evening. And calisthenics are not the only area of my life in which this lack of retention has surfaced. I really hope this inability to actually know anything doesn't become a permanent fixture in my life.

Perhaps the strangest occurrence of the past six months or so is that I've had my first sustained brush with dating. I don't know what it is, but the strange combination of desperation/anxiety/immaturity must be some kind of pheromone for gay men. On this seemingly endless string of first dates, I've picked up a few ideas about dating (only to forget them 48 hours later). So, without further ado, I offer you the [Never a Grown-Up] Quarter-Lifer Who's Never Really Done Much Dating but Now Finds Himself Thrown into the Romantic Deep-End's Guide to Dating, for the Neurotic Self-Saboteur in All of Us :

[A legal disclaimer: There is no one on the planet less qualified to talk about dating in any sort of successful way. These simple tenants were generated by a string of humorously unsuccessful first dates (with a few successful ones thrown in the mix; even a stopped clock is right twice a day). I can guarantee, however, that these thoughts will enrich your post-date Last Five Years sing-along, which is the cornerstone to any successful self-medication attempt.]

1. There's always more: Seriously, look around you. All the most obnoxious people you know are dating someone, sometimes multiple someones. Even if the date is going really well, there will be more awkward first dates in your future, whether a week/month/year/decade from now. When the person sitting across the table from you decides to stop answering your calls, there will always be another painfully attractive asshole waiting in the wings to repeat the experience. You will go on other dates. And they will suck just as hard as this one does. I'm wanting to say something about fish in the sea, but in a much shittier formulation. Dating feels less like fishing and more like guest-starring in Two Girls, One Cup the sequel.

2. Sometimes it really isn't your fault: That really cute guy sitting across the table has stopped answering your text messages. And you're sure, neurotic as you are, that it's because you accidentally mentioned the time when you celebrated Tyra Bank's birthday (December 4th, incidentally) by wearing a yellow sundress and having a photo shoot/walk-off. Or else you showed up to dinner wearing the same shirt you've been wearing for four consecutive days. Without trying to sound like a deluded seventeen year old prom queen, sometimes it isn't something you said. Really. Bad timing, lack of chemistry, or a weird head shape can mean that you've done everything right and still aren't getting a callback.

3. Sometimes it really is your fault: You accidentally made a joke about wearing his skin as a suit (we've all made that mistake once or twice), you got drunk and vomited on him, or you made some comment about transnational sexualities that he 115% misunderstood. In any case, this date went sour as a direct result of something you did. Well, the joke's on him, because you are going to fuck it up over and over and over again for the rest of your life. Two years into a relationship, you are going to continue to say exactly the wrong thing. I might even argue that interpersonal relationships are about failure above anything else. If that's the dealbreaker, fuck 'em. As someone whose foot likes to live in his mouth, I repeat: fuck 'em. There's only so much apologizing (or accommodating) you can do for your inept mode of communication.

4. Don't be scared of other people: Admittedly, this is the lesson on this desperation checklist with which I am most uncomfortable. That 6'2, blond, crazy attractive former-athlete you suddenly find yourself sitting across the table from (God only knows how)? He's a person, and probably a less interesting person than you are. Glitter/sunshine doesn't fall out of any of his orifices and 7-9 times out of 10 (depending on how attractive/what a basket-case you are), he's every bit as jittery as you are and just as likely to say something stupid. No one escapes the horror of dating. No one has an upper hand. This dinner is about to suck for both of you.

5. Hide the crazy: In the car, on the way to this date, you listened to the Rocky theme four times, followed immediately by The Greatest Love of All, And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going, Shake It Out, All I Really Want, and any other determination anthem that occurred to you. Plus, you showed up 45 minutes early so you could accomplish this sadness sing-along and still be on time. Whatever you do, do not mention this. As an Ally Sheedy-sized basket case, I can tell you that no good will come of it. You might think it's quirky and endearing, especially if you've just finished a lengthy conversation about Liz Lemon, and maybe one day it will be. For now though, nothing cuts a date short like tipping the hand of your neuroses. Hold it in, even if that means you cry all the way home because you're pretty sure there's no cat heaven.

6. Bring up Tina Fey: Seriously. My 30 Rock fanaticism has smoothed over more first dates than I could have imagined. I'd always suspected that quoting Liz Lemon at length would be terrifying on a date, but it has almost always worked out nicely. Thank you, Tina, for facilitating my access to a slowly revolving door of mediocrity (with an actual good date every now and again).

7. Don't over-think: There's so much bullshit circulating about the right and wrong ways to approach dating (the previous paragraphs included). Wait three days to call, make sure they don't think you like them too much, retain some air of mystery, be as oblique as possible, etc, etc. My general feeling is, messy and complicated as people are, dating them can be surprisingly simple. If they like you, you've got a lot of leeway in terms of approaching them. (When's the last time you were put off because someone you really liked was texting you too frequently?) If they don't like you, it really doesn't matter how long you wait to respond to their message, does it? Despite all the terrifying minutia which dating induces, isn't it ultimately governed by a relatively simple bottom line? They either like you or they don't. You either like them or you don't. I think we can probably all benefit from being told not to worry so goddamn much, right?

Obviously, the state of my quarter-life existence means that I will need to be reminded of each of these (variously useless) bullet points 24 hours from now, but hopefully my writing them (and your reading them) has provided us occasion to examine our various approaches to the black art of dating. Or maybe I've just made you extremely glad that you are no longer a single twenty-something. In either case, you're welcome.

As a final observation, this is the least queer and most lame this writing experiment has ever been. Whoops!

Edit: An infinitely more public version of this post can be found here.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

2011: A Retrospective Drinking Game

I'm nearly two weeks late on my retrospective, but 2011 was a weird year, so let's take a moment to take stock. Though the year brought a few really great moments, I'm pretty thrilled to have it behind me. Overall, nine or ten of the last twelve months can burn in hell, where they will be kept company by the majority of my dignity and self-esteem. In honor of such a horrific year and with Elaine Stritch as my muse, I've organized the Will Danger drinking game. The rules are simple: Clutch your gin and tonic tightly and take a drink for every recounted event. One drink for something bad, two for something good, and three if you can't decide how to categorize the occurrence. Also take a drink for every typo you find. Vodka Stingers are acceptable for this game as well, but if you opt for the Stingers, you must also drink one for Mahler at every turn. Without further ado, I present a short, harrowing, and uncharacteristically sex-laden list of 2011 occurrences (in no particular order):

1. I dun graduated college: Many, many years in the making, Will Danger finally finds himself outside the ivory tower's comforting walls, without salary, purpose, or a clear way to keep from bleeding out in his bathtub. Sometimes lost is best, but the real world is still a work in progress here on the Block.

2. On a related note, 2011 was also the year in which I completed my PhD apps. It was a long, obnoxious process, but I learned a lot about beginning to negotiate academic bureaucracy and also finally started to get a handle on the editing process (something I never quite managed to pick up during my undergrad). I'll drink to that.

3. I developed a taste for and subsequent addiction to coffee. Growing up, I was always taught that coffee made you jittery, but it turns out that it just makes your brain work. Who knew?

4. In 2011, I had my first threesome (this is a great way to find out if my mother is reading. My money's on no), and it was great. I don't plan on making a habit out of it because of the inevitable sexual competition it engenders, but seriously, give it a shot, folks. It was pretttty good.

5. I've been sort of silent about it 'round these parts, but I also rectified my eating/exercise habits this past year. Though it's turned me into a bit of a health nut and been a little pricey, I gained 10 pounds of muscle in 2011. The endeavor's been great for my self-esteem, anxiety, and general health. Plus, if #4 is any indication, I've gotten some pretty good sex out of the deal.  Blogging about this feels vaguely narcissistic, but I set the goal about a year ago, just to see what would happen. Think of it as an exercise in self-crafting.  I don't think I'll ever be as comfortable topless as my gender demands, but I feel pretty good about being a queer Dungeons and Dragons/book nerd who woke up one morning, decided he wanted to be a little less scrawny, and is now just shy of benching 225. Drink two for that one.

6. At the opposite end of the spectrum, I also gave my first conference paper this year. It seems to have been pretty well received and was more fun/less gut-wrenching than I had expected. Speaking of which, check out what's going on on this year at Queer the Turtle University (phrase thieved from Roxie). Some really neat stuff. It's good to know they haven't been completely lost without me.

7. The word "dude" and the phrase "fair enough" have both crept into my everyday speech. I'm not sure how to feel about it, which strikes me as fair enough.

8. Let's pour some out for the various celebrities we've lost this year. Here's to you Amy, Patrice, Kim Jong, Liz, et al.

9. Finally, 2011 was the year in which this cozy slice of the internet was born! As we ring in the new year, let's all toss one back for my first sustained (if under-trafficked) blogging effort! Somehow this post and this post managed to garner some pretty significant traffic (I suspect people were just image hunting). What does 2012 hold for New Queer? Perhaps an attempt to live-blog the apocalypse? Who knows?

For the tl;dr among us, have a few drinks to catch up with the rest of us and toast the end of a pretty crappy year. Sorry/You're welcome for encouraging heavy drinking on a Thursday morning and drunken commenting is always encouraged. Happy New Year, everybody.

This is the most autobiographical, perhaps the most livejournal-y this blog has ever been. Let's hope this doesn't become a trend, eh?