i’m uncomfortable

step back; dating is not a transaction

I matched with a guy who checked all the boxes. He was older than 30. Not a frat boy. Had a job. Benefits. Wanted a God-centered family, had friends, and was pleasant to look at.

Even better, he was intentional. He texted me, called me, followed up, and I responded. 

And then I turned him down. 

At first I felt guilty – how dare I turn away a perfectly nice guy who was interested? How dare I look down my nose at someone who’s crossed my path and actually paid attention to me and wasn’t a certifiable creep?

Something felt weird, though, and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

I spent a couple days torn between my head (He’s nice! Smart! Interested! Socially acceptable! Not looking to just get laid!) and my gut (This just feels wrong. Why did I wake up to four texts and a Bible quote when we’ve only spoken once?). 

My gut was saying get away! My head was screaming get over it!

But then- then!- my finger landed on the point my gut had been trying to make.

I felt like I owed him.

I don’t think that was his intention, but I still felt I had to keep up with the level of interest he was showing me. It started to feel pushy, not to mention ever-so-slightly delusional (why are you already so into me it’s only been four days you don’t know me). In the end, I just felt weird and I said goodbye. 

Sounds lame and felt lame, because what kind of excuse is that? I felt weird. Boo hoo. But then, my gut – that wise, mysterious organ of intuition – brought me to another point.

I don’t owe anyone anything. 

My discomfort is reason enough to step back. That needs to be okay.

Allowing the spirit of paying debts and fulfilling obligations to weigh me down is a social norm that might be harmless now but has the potential to spiral out of control. It is the mild-mannered gremlin with the capacity to evolve into something much more threatening. 

For instance: When he takes the time to call do I owe him one tomorrow? When he puts in the effort to set up dinner, am I obligated to attend a second one? When he pays for drinks must I stay for dessert? A kiss? A hand job? Sex? 

No.

Dating cannot be transactional.

Dating must be respectful.

He may have called, and I may have answered. We may have talked, and I may have been interested. He may have complimented me, and I may have been grateful. But then I was done, and I should not let these deeply ingrained, transactional, cultural standards pressure me any further.

It is time for me to practice ‘no means no’ in a much lower-stakes scenario. I’m now free to learn what I want to say no to and adopt my standards well before I’m faced with a situation where I feel like I want to say no but I feel like I can’t say no because the sense that I owe someone something has overpowered it. 

It’s time I practice making my own decisions and becoming obedient to my own intuition before the “you’re such a flirt” or “why’d you turn me on” or “but I want you” beckons the guilt back home. Before “don’t you want to make your man happy” feels less like a request and more like a demand to perform sexual services that no, I don’t want to provide if that’s what it takes to make you happy, especially at the expense of my security, safety, or preferences.

I must reserve the right to step back. We all must. Being uncomfortable should be an acceptable enough reason to do so.

I need to let it mean enough to me first. Men next.


In that same spirit, I’m going to bring up some things again that’ve gotten lost somewhere in my Instagram feed so they can get lost somewhere in my blog feed.

I repeat- again, I repeat: ‘No means yes and yes means anal’ is NOT a funny joke. 

This is a PSA for the creepos that’ve said it and a validation for the rest of us who’ve looked on confused. 

When we’ve agreed to become involved with one another, be that for a casual evening, a relationship, a marriage, or otherwise, we are agreeing to take on a small sliver of responsibility for that person. That person should be handled with care. With respect.

This means we are listening to the requests of that person and then ACTUALLY TAKING THEM SERIOUSLY. 

Behaving in a way that falls short of this, actually being douche-y enough to ignore someone’s NO, or joking about such inappropriate behavior is ridiculous. Ignoring consent is not funny, it never should have been, and it never will be to people who actually have fully formed brains.

Let’s also agree that ‘no means no’ is one of the weaker mantras we stand behind. At this point, evolved as we are, we shouldn’t be pushing each other so far that we’ve had to turn boundaries into a catchy marketing platform. As if they’re new.

Best practice: Ask for permission, not forgiveness. Don’t put people you date and love and care for in a place where they are on the defensive, awkwardly defending their decision to take your hands off their chest because choosing to kiss you did not also mean she wanted hands in her bra. 

So. To be perfectly clear. Me agreeing to step one did not automatically mean I wanted step two. You greedily taking what you assumed was yours is rude- you wouldn’t help yourself to my pantry without asking, my underwear drawer, my makeup box, the pages of my journal- and in the world of intimacy, behavior like that is barbaric and is also actually considered assault. 

This is especially true when I’ve been clear about what I did or did not want, you knew that, but then you tried it anyway.

Of course, there’s also those scenarios where no isn’t clearly communicated. Where it’s happened too quickly, where there’s a power imbalance, or where there’s simply confusion. Does that mean we assume all is fair in love and sex and take whatever the heck we want? Or does that mean we assume people have more boundaries than they’ve yet had the chance to describe? In practice it’s  the former. Best to assume the latter.

Also worth considering, what do we say about the situations where seduction has played a part? Where person A pushed the line so subtly and slowly that person B hardly noticed what was happening until it was too late and their no got lost in hormones and habits and appetite and then, even if mentioned, feels a little less meaningful because it’s a little more breathless and maybe the body now wants something that the heart and the head didn’t plan on. 

If we consider drunk college girls as incapable of providing complete consent, should we also consider consent incomplete when the body has been coerced, seduced, and is now practically drunk in a haze of endorphins? If nothing else, at the very least, it is altered. 

This becomes dangerous, especially when those seductions and coercions aren’t anchored in love or respect. Especially when those seductions are based in self-focused hunger. Especially when she’d made it clear days and weeks and months ago that she’d really feel most respected when you did/did not do X but you kept at it anyway because she looked hot or you were horny or she wasn’t complaining so that probably meant it was fine. 

FYI that does not mean it was fine.

Don’t take what does not belong to you.

Don’t push for a no. Listen for a yes. 

Then let ‘I’m uncomfortable’ be reason enough. 

We’ll practice that together.

cleaning in spring

restore the peace, remove the rest

I’ve been doing some purging. 

The easy stuff was first. The closet! The nightstand! The dresser! The cleaning buzz even took me through the wilds of the file boxes. And then the bathroom! The bottoms of purses and the pockets of backpacks! Then the car! The work bag! Nothing felt better than the hours of sorting and tossing and donating. What inspired the frenzy I’m not quite sure, but something in me wanted to be more portable. Unattached. Ready to move and flow without the bog of sticky old cough drops and forgotten bits of mail weighing me down. 

The most thorough part of the purge was the clothes. I’m usually pretty good at pulling out the older things, but this time around I went a step further. Not only did I get rid of the clothes that obviously didn’t fit, I got rid of the clothes I wished would fit. The tops and skirts that were ever-so-slightly too snug, that 5 or 10 pounds would fix, those pieces I begged to stretch just a bit so we could be happy together- all removed. Goodbye to them, goodbye to wishful thinking. Up next, the clothes I thought I liked but never actually wore. Time to stop lying to myself; I’m never going to wear that sweat-dress and I don’t actually like mini skirts. Farewell. 

Today I’m happy to report I’ve been able to get dressed quickly, both in clothes I like and items I don’t have to change because I’m being choked by collars or buttons. Magical. 

Next was the scale. I held it lovingly, looked into it’s cold, dead eyes, then promptly shoved it into the trash. Goodbye little black machine that kindly ruined so many of my days. We are no longer friends. I’ve had my physical and, yes, though I’m heavier than last year, the rest was A-okay. I’m not a diabetic, don’t have anemia, am free of vitamin deficiencies and my blood pressure was fine. The scale-free experiment of the last several months proved successful- my body knew what it needed without your direction. It asked for the right amount of exercise and the right amount of nutrients, I obliged and, shockingly, did not turn into an amorphous blob of cholesterol. I am now firmly convinced that weight can’t be the only marker for health and I’m pretty done letting it run the show. My mind was made to obsess over more important things than calorie counts. 

Happily curled up in pants (that fit) I finally came to the next great purge: The Application for Annulment. At the end of it all the thing turned out to be a thesis paper better off titled: Reasons Why I Should Have Known Better. A small book of lessons learned and shame packed into 70 pages of double-spaced type, neatly mailed away for examination by a crowd of church-goers I’ve never met. At worst, they’ll be scandalized, at best, they’ll be impressed by our profoundly poor decision making skills. I could be wrong- maybe they’ll all just be nice. Either way, I’m trying not to think about it and I’m mostly just glad it’s done. If anything, hopefully at least they’ll be pleased with my A+ work; all my years of training went into this project. The finished product was a binder complete with slip-covers, tabs, tables, headers, footers and 1-inch-wide margins. Now it is off in the universe waiting to be graded like my life’s most terrifying SATs. At least it’s out of my hands.

My name got chopped up next. Goodbye to the married, exotic, Sicilian experience I used to be a part of. Welcome back to the name I learned to spell in kindergarten and had printed on diplomas. Driver’s license, social security, credit cards, nursing board all changed, changed, changed. A long but satisfying list to check off, with every completion another snip at the dangling threads of my old life. I’m still working on my signature- it’s a confused mess of letters that don’t belong to each other, so don’t look too closely if you find my notes at work. In the meantime, I’ll try not to make you feel weird when you congratulate me on the change because you think I’ve gotten married. 

In other news, Lent is here now. A season practically devoted to purging. What else is left to trim? I am portable, satisfied, free. I am unmarried. Back to the name I was born with. 

After some thought, I found the next victim- now on the chopping block are those pesky apps threatening to upset the peace. Those harmless looking squares make me question my worth, my value, my beauty, and, worst, distract me from the present. So, once again, I bid adieu to you, Dating Apps. We had a nice little time together, but you were disturbing the state of the union. Maybe I’ll see you on Sundays, but the days between you’ll find me reading good books, practicing Italian, and remaining blissfully unavailable to the men who say they’ll call but then swipe, swipe, swipe their way through Nashville’s brightest. Adios. 

Or rather, arrivederci.