Dating: Or, I like talking about myself — but live in fear of the Awkward Lull

What I like about first dates

I get to dress up. The anxiety revolving around what to wear, what to wear! on these outings is nothing compared to the fun of shopping for said outfit ahead of time. If I have enough advance notice, I like to run out to the mall with sis or best friend and pick up a new top — or two. (Or four, but who’s counting.) I go through the motions of choosing the right color (I favor red or blue), the right cut (flattering but not too low-cut; I’m a classy lady), the right style (modern and hip, but not too young or old. I’m a ripe 24, after all).

I get to talk about myself. Let’s not play games here, friends — I run a blog. On said blog, where you’re currently hanging out (hi! Thanks!), I talk about . . . whatever I want. Books? Sure. Writing? Yep, I love it. Me? Always. write meg! is the public display of my vanity, and that vanity runs deep. Writing post after post about my goals, dreams, projects, love life and aspirations all point to . . . me just liking me. And I totally love me, actually, since we’re on the topic.

Getting to share the hilarity that is Meg with someone new is exciting! Because, I mean, who cares if I tell the same hil-arious stories again? He’s never heard them. I can wow him with the same stuff I’ve been torturing friends and family with for years, like my obsession with England and my recent trip to London. (Did I mention I went to London last year? Um, a few times? . . .  OK, sorry about that.)

I get to learn about someone new. Despite that narcissitic preceding paragraph, I do genuinely like people and love hearing about their lives. Maybe that’s the writer in me. (Or just the nosy girl in me.) Generally speaking, if you like to talk and want to share, I’ll listen. I’ll tell you the London story, and you can . . . tell me whatever you want! Let’s talk books. Travel. Romance. Food. Stupid TV shows. You can tell me your life story and I’ll sit with a mug of coffee, giving you my patient listening face.

The promise of possibility is intoxicating. Even though I try to go into first dates with as few expectations as possible, it’s hard not to succumb to the intoxicating aroma that is possibility. I mean, we could have the best date of our lives and fall immediately in love with each other. This could be the story we tell our future (adorable, brilliant) children about when Mommy and Daddy met, a la “How I Met Your Mother”!!!1! Or, you know, the funny anecdote we bust out at cocktail parties about our first meeting. If I spill something on myself, we could laugh as you gently hand me napkins and become enamored with my reddened cheeks and way I manage to, um, maintain my composure. Sort of.

I struggle greatly with this one, I’ll admit, because the moment I start mentally tacking your last name after Megan and wrinkling my nose in thought, I’ve got a problem. But I don’t put too much stock in early dates and generally manage to stay cool, calm and confident. If it works out, awesome! If not, no worries. Um, most of the time.

Attraction. Boys — they’re cute! That’s why I date ’em. I like looking at them, holding their hands, wrapping my arms around them. I like their boy cologne smell. And it feels good to be attracted, and to feel excited, and to be appreciated. Chances are that if I’ve made it to a first date with a guy, even one I met online, I’m going to be attracted to him — at least intellectually. And as a start, that’s enough for me!



What terrifies me about first dates

The awkward lull. Every conversation has its ups and downs, to be sure, but every now and then you spot that most dreaded of visitors: The Awkward Lull. Lord knows I’m a Chatty Cathy, but even I cannot always navigate around the Lull when it settles down at our table, takes off its jacket and grabs a roll from the bread basket. Suddenly, I can’t see anything but that Lull, all sloppy and annoying and silent. I can think of nothing to say. And I guess that’s around the time I usually get up to use the ladies’ room and frantically begin texting everyone I know for help. This hasn’t happened too often (see: “I’m a Chatty Cathy” above) but I live in perpetual fear of the moment that it does.

Who pays? After dating several men who were, um, flat broke, I’m particularly sensitive to this issue. I’m a modern woman and certainly don’t mind paying my own way, but on a first date? If a man doesn’t want to impress me now, it’s all downhill from here. I fully expect my date to pick up the check, but it can be so awkward. Do I reach for my wallet and offer to pay for myself, though I don’t want to? Will he be annoyed if I don’t offer? Will he be annoyed if I do? Gah. It’s almost enough to make me curl up with “Becoming Jane,” a mug of cocoa and my laptop and call it an early night. Almost.

Will we like each other? I know I’m all cocky and silly, talking about how gorgeous and brilliant I am (and I am!), but there’s always that off-chance a man will . . . um, not fully appreciate me. Or understand me. Or think I’m funny. My fear stems mostly from the fact that either I’ll think he’s fantastic and he’ll fail to become enamored with me or, conversely, that he’ll think I’m great and I’ll feel that leaden “meh” feeling in the pit of my stomach. Unrequited affection is just so inconvenient.



Why I want to punch brains after first dates

Communication. So, hey — let’s say we had a great time! We clicked! There was totally a “connection” between us, the sparks were flying, etc., and so on. And now? Now, I get to wait to hear from you.

Constantly.

I’m not exactly a “sit back and chill” sort of girl. I don’t like waiting. If I can jump in there and get something going or done, I probably will. So the idea of being demure, playing “hard to get” or seeming aloof isn’t something with which I’m comfortable. That doesn’t mean I’m going to start texting you nightly at 3 a.m. with my musings and professions of love, but it does mean you’ll probably hear from me. At a reasonable time of day and in reasonable intervals.

But I don’t want to contact you first. How will I know if you like me if I’m the one instigating all of our communication?! Answer: I won’t. Maybe you’re just polite and don’t want to ignore my calls or texts (or emails, or tweets . . . ), so you answer but don’t tell me you’re not interested. So how do I know?

I know if I hear from you, so I just have to wait. Like Drew Barrymore’s character in “He’s Just Not That Into You,” I get to look for you to call, text, Facebook, tweet or Gchat me. And really? You could do any or all of those things at any given time and I would probably instantly know. That’s one of the joys — or traumas — of living in the digital age. So for my iPod touch, cell phone, work phone, work computer, email inboxes and Twitter to all be silent is . . . ick. Unpleasant. Rejection on a multitude of platforms is way suckier than just waiting for your home phone to ring like, you know, in the old days. Say, 1997.



 And by all this, I mean . . .

Dating is fun, scary, intimidating, awkward, exciting, frightening, sweat-inducing, nerve-wracking, thrilling, unbelievable, crazy and . . . good. And I know that if I can swallow all my anxiety and make myself go on these dates and be myself, I have a decent shot at finding the right person for silly, dramatic and loveable me.

Let’s just hope he doesn’t freak out if he sees this OCD blog post.

Book review: ‘A Match Made In High School’ by Kristin Walker

Fiona’s senior year of high school is off to an interesting start. After a brief (but thrilling) encounter with her massive crush Gabe, the senior class is shuffled together and given a year-long assignment: to participate in a marriage education program in which one girl will be partnered with one boy in their “relationship.” These marriages include the works: establishing an income, choosing a “home,” organizing budgets.

And trying not to kill each other.

Much to her dismay, Fiona’s partner is none other than Todd Harding, a goofball bully whose girlfriend Amanda has been torturing Fiona since grade school. Fiona’s best friend Marcie is buddied up with Johnny Mercer, a music-obsessed loner, in an arrangement that seems to be working out far better than Fiona’s match with Todd.

Because, you know, the guy’s a jerk. Fiona thinks being a male cheerleader would instill the guy with a little humility and sensitivity to others’ feelings, but not so much. Todd goes out of his way to make his faux relationship with Fiona, a sassy and honest teen, a nightmare. Once the constant pranks and barbs have gotten to be too much, Fiona must finally stand up to Todd and end the feud once and for all. For the sake of obtaining her high school diploma and keeping her sanity.

Kristin Walker’s A Match Made In High School is a funny, erudite look at high school and the drama and angst that accompanies teen relationships. When the novel could have derailed and become another campy young adult novel, Walker’s sharp writing kept it on track. Narrator Fiona is smart-mouthed and quick-witted and was, from start to finish, distinctly her own character. And a realistic one at that! Even when I wished Fiona would end her obsessing over Gabe, it was with a measure of chagrin that I realized I probably acted the exact same way about my crushes at seventeen. (OK, I know I did. It’s just a phase, I promise.)

The novel’s overall premise felt both unique and familiar to me at the same time — the classic trope of students paired up against their will, forced to work together on a project in which neither of them have much interest. I’ll cite Bella Swan matched as Edward Cullen’s lab partner, say. But it really didn’t bother me — mostly because the marriage education program? Pretty creative. The idea of kids having to examine what makes a “real,” healthy adult relationship function was pretty interesting, though we all know you can’t really teach someone about a partnership. And there is that whole pesky “love” angle to consider.

But Walker’s not making a case for the program; if anything, she might have been making a case against it. You can’t predict who or what will appeal to you, and love comes in very unique forms. A Match Made In High School didn’t take me in the classic, predictable route I expected, and I won’t ruin anything for you . . . but I was very surprised and pleased with the ultimate pair-ups. Because you know this has to have a happy ending, right? And I’m so glad it did. An entertaining, smart debut novel I’ll be happy to pass on to a friend!


4 out of 5!

ISBN: 1595142576 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by author

Why I’m a hopeless romantic, vol. 1: Craigslist’s ‘Missed Connections’

I’m a hopeless romantic.

This has gotten me into trouble many, many times when, despite the fact that I tell myself to relax, be calm and just enjoy the moment, I inadvertantly find myself adding my first name to the last name of a young man about .386 seconds after meeting him. I’ve tried to train my brain to stop misbehaving — to just relax and not overthink anything. But I can’t help myself from looking at the way in which I meet someone and deciding if it makes a good “story.”

Do you know what I mean? It’s one thing to say, “Oh, yeah, I met my boyfriend/husband in college” or “We were introduced by a mutual friend.” Both totally reasonable, respectable ways in which to meet someone. But I can’t shake the feeling that I want a significant story to tell for the rest of my life — this moment of kismet, or destiny, that brought me to The One. That I just happened to be at this particular cafe on this particular day and he just happened to be there, too . . . and we spoke. And knew. Destiny, a la “Sleepless In Seattle.”

Needless to say, this hasn’t happened to me — not in a lasting way, anyway. Most of my relationships over the last eight years have been gradual, growing experiences — men I met through school or work who, over time, became more than just friends. The closest I’ve come to some great, cosmic love match was when I met someone at a wedding five years ago — and I knew, instantly, that I was in love. And fall, fall I did — so incredibly hard. When it was over, I blinked like a newborn baby and had to readjust my footing in the world. It took a long time to feel okay again.

But now, I’m way more than okay — and, despite a recent spate of bad dating luck, I feel happy, confident and free. My tendency to examine “stories” surrounding the circumstances in which I meet cute guys will probably never change, but at least I can indulge in that in a safe fashion. By not placing my own heart on the line so much, so fast, but reading about other people doing just that.

Enter the Craigslist “Missed Connections.” Of the many things I enjoy in life, I’d have to place the MCs somewhere near the top! Whether I’m looking for something to make me giggle, roll my eyes or restore my faith in romance, there’s something there for me — something so . . . weirdly romantic and disconnected all at once. Plenty of the ads can set off my Creepy Meter, sure, making me question whether these people are sweet or unstable stalkers. But most of them are just lovesick. Like “You’ve Got Mail,” one of my favorite films ever, it’s the push-and-pull romantic tension that’s so appealing to me — the “will they wind up together? Can they really find each other?” energy.

As I’m from the D.C. area, I spend my time culling the MCs in and around the District. Like any major city, people from Maryland, D.C. and Virginia spend a vast amount of time on public transporation — in our case, the Metro. It never ceases to amaze me how many people spot some “hottie” (do people still use that word? Apparently) on the yellow or red or green line and decide to hop on Craigslist to look for them. What are the odds the object of your affection even saw you? How did you wind up in the same train at the same time on the same day? Is anyone (other than me!) actually reading these?

Destiny. Either you’re meant to connect . . . or you’re not.

Here’s my favorite in recent memory, a “m4w” (man seeking a woman) called, “Dana, I miss you. Read this.”


I’m sorry for the way I hurt you, and the way I treated you.
It was not right, and I am ashamed of the person I was to you.
No one deserves to be treated like that — not even the worst of the worst.

I miss you.
I hope you want to see me, too.

Let’s go to Clarendon Ballroom, let’s do Ibiza. Let’s do WHATEVER you want. NO LIMITS!

I want you to be my first New Year’s Kiss.
I want you, and only you.


Friends, tell me that’s not modern romance. If I were Dana and came across that in my daily travels around the Internet, I’d be leaking tears all over the keyboard and calling that guy to book a flight to Ibiza ASAP. I mean, seriously.

A “Missed Connection” like that is a Grand Gesture — a declaration of affection, often public, that makes me believe in serious, sweeping love. Each time I see/read a Grand Gesture, I file it away in my brain and use it as ammunition for pulling myself up when I get down on romance. They’re scary . . . and the ultimate leap in faith. I’ve seen a few in my own life — and even been the object of a few. And they’re everything that’s great about living.

But that will be “Why I’m a hopeless romantic, vol. 2” — because there’s plenty more where this came from!

Book review: ‘Meeting Mr. Wrong’ by Stephanie Snowe

meeting_mr_wrongMarried at 22 and pregnant with twins, Stephanie never imagined she would find herself re-entering the mysterious, awkward world of dating. But after her husband leaves her for another woman and she has their children alone, our fearless narrator discovers an inner strength — and, many months later, puts herself back out there to find a new love. And preferably one without a mullet.

Meeting Mr. Wrong: The Romantic Misadventures of a Southern Belle is Stephanie’s short, fun look at trying to find true love while experimenting with online dating via Yahoo! Personals — and its cast of characters — starting in 1999. Despite a friend’s warning that the Internet is “full of axe murderers” who surely want to kill she and her children dead, Stephanie gamely sifts through e-mails from men pledging to love she and her children for the rest of her life to find someone who, you know, might be tolerable. Among many others, we meet Gil, the “birdbrain,” who probably adores his feathered friends more than he enjoys human contact, and Ben, the coworker who can barely remember Steph’s name, let alone be bothered to keep from vomiting in her general direction while drunk.

Stephanie’s incredibly strong, narrative and hilarious voice is what kept me compulsively reading this one. At 150 pages, this was a fast and enjoyable read that was almost like a compilation of awesome, hilarious blogs — and that’s not a bad thing. In fact, I loved that about it! It was punchy and to the point. The chapters were short and focused. There were several “laugh out loud” moments — especially when Stephanie’s mother was trying to convince her that if you want to find a man in the South, you sure as hell better like NASCAR — and I found myself chuckling at many other points, too! I could clearly hear her speaking voice through the entire book, and found her unique and innovative varieties of mild cursing hilarious! I know, I’m terrible. But we share the same sense of humor. And as a woman growing up in and out of the South, I felt like I had an extra appreciation for it.

A fast, fun and ultimately hopeful read for anyone who loves dating horror stories — or for anyone looking for a laugh and “thank God that wasn’t me!” moments. And does Stephanie’s story have a happy ending? Grab this one and get to reading!


4 out of 5!

ISBN: 1592994016 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Blog
Personal copy won from badgerbooks.