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. 

to my person, someday

a letter to the future

To you, 

If I ever get to meet you,

Just so you know, I like to laugh.

I’m writing this to you, floating on the buzz of Malbec and gin (weird mix, I know), just to let you know about the laughing. It feels important right now. Don’t worry, though, I’m easy to please. I laugh easy, smile easy; life’s better that way.

I make lists, too, just so you know. I wrote this one months ago, on a little pad proudly titled “Eggcellent Notetaker.” I’ve got four sunny-side up themed pages on who I hope you’ll be. Eggcellent, obviously.

Besides that: You will be kind.

The human in me also hopes that you’re cute. Let’s be honest, I’ll have to look at you, and I tend to like guys with sweet smiles and kind eyes. Usually tall too, but that’s not a dealbreaker. Just please don’t be so gym-y that you’re douche-y. Maybe you exercise a little but also eat pizza? We’ll get along better that way, probably. Or maybe that’s just my insecurity talking. I’ll work on it.

Anyway, the back to the list.

I wrote down normal things:

  • Intelligent
  • Genuine
  • Driven
  • Responsible

And some more particular things:

  • Balanced
  • Attentive to the present moment
  • Self-reflective
  • Growth-oriented

And some more fun things:

  • Will dance
  • Will drink
  • Will play games
  • Will have friends

And the dealbreaker NOPEs:

  • Creepy
  • Mean
  • Uses women
  • Doesn’t want kids
  • Lack of faith
  • Disrespectful of boundaries
  • Selfish
  • Lazy
  • Poor priorities

AKA a decent human (according to my sister. Also probably me too, now that I look again).

If you aren’t a nope, congrats. 

If you’re the match for me, we go further.

I think you’ll be faithful, but not a weirdo. I’m Catholic, and it’d be lovely if you were too, but if you were centered on Love and oriented towards Good and understood (as much as any of us can understand) Jesus I think we’d be cool. He’s my friend, and I’d like it if you knew Him too. 

I hope we can go on dates and we can get appetizers and bottles of wine and dessert. I hope you have a budget, but sometimes know that beautiful living means there’s a little bit of wiggle room. Good food requires the wiggle. So does art. And music. And travel. I hope you like those things as much as I do.

I hope over the wine and apps and pasta we talk, and talk, and laugh, and talk some more. I hope you’re a good conversationalist, which implies that you’re also a good listener. And also probably funny.

It’s a pipe dream, but I also hope you are loyal to the Patriots. If not them, at least football. It’s not a dealbreaker, but it’s how I spend Sundays after church. If you’ll be there it’ll be easier if we can just hang and share the nachos.

I hope you love your family. I hope you want one with me. I want one with you.

I hope you are compassionate. 

And here’s what I know, before I’ve met you: 

You have a strong character. You know what you’re about. You’re a leader. A leader who I’ll let lead me because you’re so damn respectful. And you appreciate women. You support them. 

You support me. 

You see me.

And you’re gentle. Strong, and brave, but soft.

Maybe we can read together, some time? With coffee? I like both those things. Then, maybe, a bit of wine and pasta later, we’ll fall in love. And go to church and eat nachos and yell at the TV and talk about philosophy in our sweats then go to game night with the neighbors. Or maybe we’ll cancel on the neighbors because we decided to make a baby or two and finish the nachos in bed.

Anyway. Hope you’re doing well, wherever you are in the world.

Looking forward to knowing you.

Love,

Me.

a woman in the world

independent women who like men

How am I supposed to pass the Bechdel test?

There should be two women (this woman) in a room (on a blog) talking about something other than men. Preferably they have names.

I tried to pass. Put in my very best effort. I went to Ireland last month a very happy me, full and satisfied and single and thoroughly enjoyed all things green.

I started to worry, though, because I had nothing to write about. Nothing new to say. I was just living, and living well. There’s not much to tell when I’m wasting hours in the back corner of a pub with my Baileys coffee and book. No drama to investigate. Just me, feeling alive, riding bikes on an island, content with sweaters and soups, just as impressed with latte art as real art. No story hidden in the simplicity. No secrets.

Who wants to read about girls who are, well… fine?

Am I interesting anymore, without a man? Without a story to tell? With the story I have that’s just featuring me?

But then again, it’s not just about me, is it? I don’t want it to be, anyway- I still would like to find a man, right? (*cue feminist cringes*)

Should we be cringing, though? What’s wrong with men? What’s wrong with wanting to be with a good one?

There were some Irish nights, instead of soaking in my singleness, that I found myself putzing around on newly downloaded dating apps. I wasn’t really interested in the guys looking for someone who’s “a freak for her man” (whatever that means), and not really interested in guys who think Vegas bachelor parties are considered world traveling. Even still, I was there, and a little interested. 

Why couldn’t I just be the lovely, independent, strong woman that Lizzo wants me to be?

Why was I on the other side of the ocean with two sisters, adventuring away, and still hoping for the attention of heavily accented red-headed bartenders? Go back to your Guinness, girl! 


No Irish bartenders for me, but I did get home and try to go on a date. Shocking, I know.

We met on an app (weird), he asked me on said date (weirder), then hours before meeting flaked on date (weirdest). No explanation, no follow up, hardly even an apology. Maybe the actual weirdest part was that I was surprised. 

Anyway, it was a strange, disappointing entrance into the so-called dating scene. 

In an effort to redirect this post away from the feminist rant it could be and towards the peaceful, lovely, self-secure place it should be, I’m going to tell you the truth now. 

I was annoyed, yes. However, primarily, I was relieved. Despite my wishy-washy I-want-a-man meanderings, I don’t think I actually wanted to meet the man. 

Probably in part because it’s much safer and easier to be single. No one can hurt you when you take yourself to the movies, right? Also, I really don’t know if I have the energy right now to form a meaningful connection with a stranger male, or the real desire to take responsibility for a that same male and incorporate him into this life of mine. I’m still busy stretching and wiggling and allowing myself to toy with the idea of learning Italian and taking writing classes and doing whatever the hell I want because I’m relearning what it is I want. 

Of course, I’m also relieved to learn of flake-boy’s flakiness before I’ve started to care. He’s been kind enough to reject me before he’s actually met me, which is much gentler on the ego. 

Anyway. 

I’m failing Bechdel again.

I would like to have something to say that doesn’t have anything to do with relationships, whether that’s getting into them or out of them. 

Or maybe Bechdel was a little bit wrong. Maybe I just need to make peace with relationships and having things to say about them. Really, the whole point of life is relationship, isn’t it? It’s an endless back-and-forth between us and ourselves, with God, with others. It just so happens that a significant portion of those others are male. And, ultimately, I’d like to be with one of them. 

In the long run, it’s not going to be the most interesting thing about me, but it might still be worth my attention.

Yes, I’m already on an adventure- insert strong independent woman cliché- but I’m thinking that maybe strong independent women can also coexist with men who respect them. Maybe she’s even encouraged by them. 


In the meantime, I’ve gone to Ireland and bought my own Claddagh ring. I’ll not die pining after anyone like the sad little man who made the first one. I’ll buy my own jewelry and I’ll turn the heart towards me, not because mine is taken by a man, but because I’m already cared for. I’m quite securely held by God, my friends, my sisters, my parents and myself. 

I think I’ll try to operate out of that place and let go of the rest.

Bechdel approved or no, I’d like to anchor into myself just enough that I can still move through the world with love. After all, isn’t that the most wild adventure of all?

Ever so slowly, these doors I’ve closed are opening. Fresh rain-clean breezes are blowing in freedom, untamed by rules or tests or time. This new, free, self will be the best self.

All will be well, no matter who’s talking in what room. Just love. Live well. Drink Guinness. Move on.