He likes me… he likes me not… he likes me!

There is nothing as wonderful as finding out that the person you like, miraculously likes you back! The whole world begins to make just a bit more sense. Colors become brighter, sounds more vibrant and you just can’t stop grinning. And your blog readers roll their eyes and make gagging noises at your mushiness but you just don’t care. Because the boy you like likes you too!

It all started last Saturday. My friend Sally and I found ourselves at a very mediocre event of a certain young professional organizations. In fact, give me a few more weeks for sufficient DATEctive work I’ll post a review. The room was full of usual suspects – lots of gorgeous, interesting women with some socially awkward and/or plain-blah men mixed into our midst. When all of the sudden… crowds parted and I saw HIM. This absolutely stunning man with the most amazing smile I’ve ever seen! Think Blair Underwood but taller and more artsy-looking. It was like the room became a little brighter and then… I lost sight of him. Where was he??

After excusing myself from several mindlessly unremarkable conversations with totally unremarkable people I escaped to the bar. And there he was, Mr. Gorgeous, totally by himself, as though waiting for me to stop by. My heart dropped as I mustered every ounce of my courage to say hello. I must admit, it’s in these types of circumstances that I admire men most. I mean it’s usually up to them to approach US! And some of us (present company excluded, of course) are not that nice when they do. Hmm, I wonder whether this is exactly why on-line dating has become so wildly popular. Emailing someone is infinitely less intimidating than approaching them out in the wild!

As it turns out, Mr. Gorgeous (or Mr. G, as he shall be known from this point forward) is one of these stunning SHY men who doesn’t realize how truly beautiful he is and as a result has managed to develop a fantastic personality as well! The unfortunate part about his shyness was that it was hard to tell if he was into me or just merely polite. After chatting for a while – about who remembers what, as I was totally infatuated – we exchanged cards and I promised to send him the article we apparently discussed. Reluctantly, I walked away and found myself in the sea of unremarkable men vying for female attention. The room once again became a little dimmer (in addition to Mr. G’s smile disappearing from my radar, someone turned down the lights and turned the music WAY up.) Sally and I made a beeline for the door.

The moment I got home that night my hands started itching to email him. You know that feeling – like your hands have a mind of their own and they are not listening to your sensible head advising you to wait a bit. It took herculean effort to occupy myself with something else – sitting on my hands – before I headed to bed. On Sunday I ran away from home early for the fear that the darn hands would take over and email Mr. G prematurely. By that night I couldn’t wait any longer. I spent an embarrassing amount of time composing a three-sentence email that could be construed as friendly, flirtatious or just professional depending on the recipient’s interest level. I held my breath as I hit send / receive…

At that same EXACT moment – 8:58pm – a new email popped into my Inbox and guess who it was from! I kid you not – my heart just about stopped. Of all the hours, minutes and seconds between our meeting on Saturday and 8:58 on Sunday, how is it possible that we choose precisely the same moment to email each other!? WOW, we must be cyberpathic (similar to telepathic – or in my case telePATHETIC – but on email!)

So to fast-forward several emails where he shyly tried to express interest (at least that’s how I chose to interpret it) and me not-so-subtly trying to get him over his shyness and ask me out – we’re going out on Friday! Hallelujah!!! There is a higher power! Laws of attraction at work right here, ladies and gentlemen! Whew!

Except… it’s been a looong time since I’ve been this infatuated. And it feels somewhere between thrilling and downright terrifying! Not at all safe, which I often have a luxury of being, as the guy assertively does all the wooing work. Nope, I am pretty sure that for a change I may be WAY more out on the limb here. This is such unfamiliar – and did I mention SCARY – territory!

Am I going to fall off and get hurt? Should I play it cool, keep my expectations low, coach myself to stay aloof (or at least my version of aloof which is not at all!) Or should I let myself get excited, dreamy and totally unlike the usual-sensible-me? Any words of advice, wisdom or sanity would be hugely appreciated. With DAYS to pace on pins and needles (see, already this sounds painful) I can use all the help I can get!

Romantic movies dangerous?

Are romantic movies putting in jeopardy our realistic expectations of relationships? Do they make us crave things we can’t possibly attain in real life? So claim social scientists at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, England.

The skeptical part of me sees their point – most romantic comedies depict scenarios that are quite far-fetched. When was the last time you heard about a millionaire falling for a hooker (Hugh Heffner and his half-dozen barely-legal girlfriends not withstanding – yes, I know they’re not technically hookers.) And in every-day life “you’ve got mail” does not usually produce a Meg Ryan or a Tom Hanks type – it produces someone who worships fruit flies or themselves! Then again, none of my relationships ended due to him drowning to an Anya song (at least as far as I know).

On the other hand, the girly romantic part of me truly believes that there are soul mates (I just have yet to meet him), that flowers on random occasions is perfectly normal (because it was in at least two of my relationships) and that it’s possible to be with someone who treats you as though you’re god’s gift to the world (been there too!) Obviously, none of those relationships have worked out, but they made me certain that you CAN have it all (and hopefully in the same package when it IS your soul mate you’re with).

And what about the other real-life relationship parts where life throws you lemons and you have to jointly make grape juice? I admit, I haven’t met many couples who have the type of a relationship I am looking for, but I’ve met a few. I see how they balance out each other’s strengths and weaknesses, support each other in triumphs and defeats and laugh with rather than at each other. That’s what I want (I can live without the roses.)

So with all my might, as I click my hills together and wish upon a star, I know that my soul mate is out there and no romantic movie critic will convince me that wanting what I want is unattainable! At least that’s my belief – I’d appreciate it if you left my pink bubble intact! 😉

And what do you think? Do romantic movies raise unrealistic expectations about relationships? What about other types of media? In what way do you think the entertainment industry influences our desires, expectations and ultimately, relationships?

Dating Resolutions for ’09

Ah, the New Years Eve! Perhaps the most pressured evening to couple up (with notable exception of Valentine’s day, of course.) Probably because I’ve been single for most New Years (and V-days) of my adult life – my relationships seem to be sprinkled in between traditionally romantic holidays – I am perfectly serene about my singlehood this time of year (or is in it denial?) However, both in talking to friends and reading the latest dating industry statistics, it’s obvious that I am in the minority.

Apparently, desire for love and relationships strikes singles most during the holiday season (and tough economic times). Dating websites like Match.com, Plentyoffish.com,Craig’s List, e-Harmony and others are reporting record sign-ups. The holiday season, paired with recession, apparently pushes us to seek companionship, support and encouragement, a sense of safety in the world. According to the dating industry, the week after New Years generally sees the highest number of new subscribers. With sign-ups already skyrocketing, I wonder what 2009 will bring!

So knowing that you might be writing your own personals ad soon, I propose the following dating resolutions to get the maximum results with the minimum rolled eyes from your dating efforts.

Resolution #1 – Don’t apologize, justify or act too-cool-for school!

For god’s sakes, don’t say things like “I can’t believe I am doing this” or “I don’t have any trouble meeting people in person” or “My dog made me sign up”. You are both there for the same exact purpose – you’re single and looking. It’s better to sound like an interesting person with a lot of interests and thus prove your confidence than to insert a dozen disclaimers that only prove that you DO have trouble meeting people in the “real world”!

Resolution #2 – Avoid beginning with a physical description

Please please don’t begin with a physical self-description (unless you’re posting to Craig’s List and then please DO). If you’re on one of the other sites, you’re probably also inserting a picture or generic description they prompt you for. If you ignore this resolution, a natural assumption of the reader is that you’re boring and have nothing interesting to say about yourself!

Resolution #3 – Post a recent, clear, solo picture of yourself

This goes for both genders – if you’re going to share a picture, please make it clear and recent. It’s nice that you were in great shape two years ago but what do you look like now? Most daters surveyed perceive inaccurate pictures as a deception that’s unforgivable. Why set yourself up? Oh and why post a picture with a hot member of the opposite sex (even if you try to crop them out of the picture we can tell!) I mean really, I can’t believe I have to even mention this common sense photo etiquette.

Resolution #4 – Avoid cliches

Before you post your ad, you might want to read some others posted in your gender and age category. Notice how many people “work hard and play hard”, “are just as comfortable in a pair of jeans as dressing up for a romantic evening out” or look for a “partner in crime” (last one ok if your name happens to be Bonnie or Clyde!) Please spare us.

Resolution #5 – Describe the person you’re looking for

And I don’t mean their bra or bicep size (unless you’re looking for a person who hopes to be found based on that particular attribute). It’s great to be open minded about whom you’d like to meet but not including any substantive desired qualities creates a perception that 1) you haven’t really given it much thought, or worse 2) you don’t know yourself well or what you’re looking for.

Resolution #6 – Don’t say you’re funny, BE funny!

Any idea how many people describe themselves as funny – how many do you think actually are? Right! SO rather than saying “I am a 30-year-old white funny wo/men looking for a wo/men to date” actually say something humorous (without offending them!) Incidentally, please spell woman / man with with an A unless you are actually a group looking for multiple partners . I know, some of you want to date multiple people but remember, it’s ONE person reading it and they are your “buyer” for the moment. Most don’t want to be lumped with 100 other people you’re emailing.

Resolution #7 – Keep the small violin and negativity to yourself

You may be recently out of a relationship, or lonely or bored or any other human condition you’re absolutely entitled to. You may feel that you’re the only good catch on the web. You may truly despise rainy days. Cool, no problem! But as soon as you start venting about it in your ad, the small print becomes “I am a whiny, negative person with a lousy attitude – can you imagine spending your life with me?” Of course, if you’re trying to attract a person displaying these characteristics, go right ahead.

Resolution #8 -Have fun with it!

I know quite a few people – ahem, self included – who have occasionally allowed the on-line dating process to get them down. You email someone you like and you never hear back. Or you go out with them and think you’ve met your soul mate and s/he disappears. Or you keep going out with duds and start thinking, “maybe there’s something wrong with ME.” Cyber-dating can be a weird experience so the only way to thrive in it is to blog… I mean decide to have fun with it! Go in with a healthy mix of optimism and realism and know that whatever “they” dish out, is about THEM and not you! Maintain a sense of humor about the whole thing and you’re sure to have fun, whatever happens.

So, what ARE your resolutions or intentions for the year? It’s important to put your vision out there – without getting married to it, no pun intended – and see what evolves. Whatever you desire personally or professionally, I hope 2009 exceeds even your wildest hopes, dreams and aspirations!!!

P.S. Oh and speaking of resolutions, this woman in New York is creating a marketing buzz (literally – she is a professional!) by launching a website devoted to getting married by next New Years.  I say – both personally and professionally – you go girl!

P.P.S. I really liked this article about dating New Years Resolutions too!

You are HOW you eat?

Have you ever evaluated your date’s eating habits to determine how s/he might be as a lover? Just read a cool article suggesting there might be a connection. Although my own “sensuality correlation theory” has more to do with dance partnering than eating (I promise to share it with you soon) this eating thing makes perfect sense. People who eat with pleasure and delight, share and deliberately take their time to enjoy the food possess the qualities of sensuality and generosity that could very well translate to other areas. I suppose conversely not as much should be expected of people who don’t take time to savor their food or, worst of all, don’t like to share! Yeah, I can totally see it!

Consider the people you’ve dated and their relationship with food – any light bulb moments? I know I had a few. Remember Mo, my beastly Egyptian Gaston? I didn’t tell about you the food portion of the date as I greatly respect your time and attention span (who would have thought that one little date could produce so much material and food for thought – no pun intended!)

Prior to meeting later in the day Mo told me on the phone that he was “stuffed” as he spent most of the day at a holiday cookout. He felt terrible about it because he said he tries to be health-conscious. I figured we’d just have drinks and maybe an appetizer – after all, we didn’t meet until after 9pm. However, after much deliberation over the menu, Mo ordered a HUGE taco salad (the kind that comes in a big deep-fried shell with bits of nutritious iceberg lettuce overwhelmed by cheese, guacamole, sour cream, chicken and olives). To be fair, Mo generously offered me his olives (which I politely declined) before devouring the so-called-salad. At one point he confided in me that the reason he is eating so light (ahem) is because of all the food he had consumed earlier. With irony – he clearly missed – I asked what he’d order normally, to which he replied totally seriously “Oh, something a little heartier like steak”. Aha. Once again, with that level of self awareness (clearly consistent with his other behavior patterns), I am glad it didn’t get past hug one!

I’ve also thought about the eating habits of the last few boyfriends and have to say, the food correlation theory seems to be pretty accurate. Paired with other behavioral patterns you can quickly detect – ability to listen and ask good questions, solid hugging and even hand-shaking skills, connection on the dance floor (look gentlemen, you don’t have to be Mikhael Barishnikov, just hold the girl close and sway to the rhythm!)… you can tell a lot about a person in the first few dates (or hours) if you just pay attention.

So what correlations have you discovered / tested in your dating experience? I am curious to hear about your theories (certainly you’ve been hearing more than enough about mine 😉

Beauty and the Beastly Ego

Mo, Egypt (#3 in my quest for “18 dates around the world“)

When a man describes himself in the first email as “tall, dark and handsome”, includes an attractive picture and interesting facts about himself – eclectic educational background, interesting job and extensive travel experience – AND happens to have one of those amazingly deep, seductive voices on the phone, any red-blooded girl would be wondering 1) is he my dream man? and 2) what’s the catch?? I couldn’t wait to meet Mo to find out in which category he belonged. You know which I was rooting for… and I’ll give you one guess which it ended up being!

Before we met up we chatted on the phone to figure out all the logistics. Once again Mo’s sexy voice voice sent little shivers down my spine (hmm, this could be beginnings of a romance novel… or a fairy tale!) Just to be sure we’d recognize each other we described ourselves – I as wearing a red coat, and Mo as “tall, dark and handsome”. Whereas on email it sounded confident and promising, in person it seemed a bit strange because he said it completely seriously, without any trace of humor, playfulness or self-deprecation. Red flag – that perfectly matched my coat – made its first appearance.

Mo was waiting at the door and sure enough he was “tall, dark and handsome”. In fact VERY handsome and very tall and not just compared to my 5’3″ and a half”. I was quite predisposed to like him – especially since he gave me a great big hug (I am a sucker for good huggers!) Unfortunately, he made it quite difficult to maintain the positive first impression. My heart sank as soon as he started speaking. He had mannerisms of someone who despite constantly being told that he is “tall, dark and handsome” and likely “interesting and smart” harbors secret fears that he is, in fact, not good enough. Of course he has to mask this deeply-rooted self-loathing with an overtly superior and condescending attitude (which is not only directed towards people but also objects, including wine glasses, cutlery and nearby furniture).

Not only that but every attempt at conversation turned into a debate. Although I debated semi-professionally in college – and clearly have appreciation for it under appropriate circumstances – I was exhausted ten minutes into the date. Even when we were in complete agreement, Mo found a way to make it sound like I was actually arguing with him. Our conversation went something like this:

Mo: So, what color do you think is this red wine?
Me: I believe this wine is red.
Mo: On the contrary my dear, this wine is the most truest red there could be. It’s because it comes from a rare grape in France that is harvested at its peak in order to produce this truly superb red color. So you see, this wine is perfectly red and for a reason!
Me: Umm, ok (SCREAM inside my head)

As he was talking – or building a case, not sure for what – I kept tuning Mo out. In addition to it probably being some sort of a self-preservation mechanism, it was bugging me that Mo reminded me of someone I couldn’t quite place. It was driving me crazy as I generally have an excellent memory for people (which is only matched by my complete inability to recall trivia and numbers). I was starting to give up when EURECA – it suddenly struck me whom Mo resembled! Phew, I could now fall asleep at night! Except it was suddenly near impossible to refrain from laughing. The resemblance – both physical and particularly attitudinal – was uncanny! Mo reminded me of none other than Gaston, Belle’s unfortunate suitor in the Disney version of Beauty in the Beast. In case you are not familiar with Gaston, take a look http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDMfpbdbHWg&feature=related.

So now imagine being on a date; the guy is talking – well actually having a deeply self-involved monologue – and all you can do is imagine silly Disney scenes in your head! At least it made the evening more entertaining!

Well, another day, another blog-worthy date. Although I theoretically have 15 more to go I am hoping that it will only be maybe 2 or at most 4 before I find someone worth giving up the rest of ’em for! Till then, enjoy my mid-adventures!  If you’ve ever dated someone who reminded you of a movie, cartoon or book character (in a good or a funny way), I’d love to hear from you!

Let’s NOT get Catty!

As verified by my friend Liz – who by the way owns a cat – men with cats are not to be trusted! Especially if you’re someone whom cats don’t like in general. Enter Dean…

Dean, China / US / Greece (#2 in my quest for “18 dates around the world“)

I go into all blind dates with a mix of healthy realism (translation: pessimism based on previous experiences) and a secret hope that he will be THE one. When I met Dean, I did a happy little dance inside my head. Not only is he gorgeous and funny, Dean is also one of those intriguing people you want to keep talking to (and did I mention, he is gorgeous??) Half-American-half-Chinese, Dean was brought up in Greece; speaks several languages; has traveled all over; owns a business and is environmentally conscious. And delightfully-surprising, the chemistry between us was electric! We were talking and laughing and flirting for over an hour – including mentions of subsequent dates and only-half-jokingly joint travels – when SHE entered the coversation…

SHE being Athena, Dean’s cherished cat (yes, cat’s name was changed too to protect the not-so-innocent creature!) I froze, trying to figure out how to handle this situation. Inside my head, the little happy dance was replaced with the dreadful crash scene along with the SPLAT sound a date makes when you stumble on a deal breaker! I’ll spare you stories of ex-cats leaping at me in the middle of the night, death stares and frightening sounds each time I was kissed by their staff member (I mean owner), and devilish-looking claws reaching under intentionally-closed doors in freaky attempts to open them! It was always them or me and judging by the fact that I am still single, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about who won! So keeping in mind that each of my cat experiences was more traumatic than the last, I’ve become convinced that the only thing worse than dating man with a cat is dating a man who lives with his ex-wife or mom (along with a cat!)

Before I could even admonish myself for being so catist, Dean’s description of Athena confirmed my worst fears. She was a temperamental, unpredictable, jealous creature who scared the living bejeazus out of his friends and neighbors. Except he said it in a way that clearly implied he thought it was cute and funny. Unfortunately, this was the moment I stopped thinking that Dean is cute or funny. To be fair, I believe the feeling was mutual, because he suddenly stopped flirting and planning our joint trip around the world. Our chemistry evaporated as magically and mysteriously as it materialized – POOF! As you might imagine, the date ended abruptly and awkwardly right then and there.

How strange that something seemingly innocuous like a – granted, evil – cat could destroy chemistry that instantaneously! Has that ever happened to you? You are getting along with your date, perhaps you’re practicing writing your names together on wedding invitations, and all of the sudden it’s GONE! More importantly, have you ever had a pet ruin your relationship? I’d love to hear your stories, as always!

As for me, I am still feeling confident that my globe-trotting, dog-loving, non-fruit-fly-obsessed ONE is out there! Off I go to find him!

Of Flies and Men

You may remember my last not-so-hot date with a guy who had an open fly and a shrill bark (so wish I were kidding!) Thankfully my latest date kept his pants zipped up. But alas, this story once again involves flies… this time of the insect variety.

Jay, Haiti ( #1 in my quest for “18 dates around the world“)

From first email Jay was VERY enthusiastic, quirky and entertaining. Jay is a scientist at the National Institute of Health and cute according to a very smiley picture. Entertaining, cute and smart – great combination, at least for one date, I thought. I couldn’t have quite predicted the direction our date would take, but I have to say my instinct were right on! I had a ball meeting Jay – just not the Cinderella kind of a ball.

Jay emailed me earlier in the day to ask how to get to the airport from DC since he was new in town. He was apparently going to a conference in Seattle. There was only one glitch – his plane wasn’t leaving until 6 am the NEXT day! He was planning to camp out at the airport all night to save himself an admittedly expensive taxi ride from Maryland. I was a little worried, aside from the ex-murderer joke he slipped in for good measure in the same email. At least I hoped it was a joke!

A person who greeted me at the restaurant had a huge smile plastered on his face and was dragging along a HUGE backpack and his energy was just… HUGE! I had always considered myself an enthusiastic person, but interacting with Jay made me feel positively introverted. Jay’s LOUD voice filled the little restaurant and my quest for privacy was suddenly endangered, “Lillie? Finally we meet!!! Rock & roll dude!!!” He really does talk like that (which goes right along with his youthful appearance – 30ish going on 13. I am sure he’ll be grateful for it in 10 years or so.)

I didn’t want to damper Jay’s enthusiasm and decided to be subtle (not a strong suit here!) Instead of asking him to speak quietly, I lowered my own tone, hoping he’d follow cue. He didn’t and I finally resigned myself to the fact that everyone in the restaurant will know more about my date than they probably cared to. AND about Jay’s greatest passion in life… Fruit Flies!

Jay is a geneticist and the conference in WA was all about fruit flies. That’s right, there are enough people in this world wildly enamored with the subject to actually have an entire conference devoted to it! Did you know that there are over 1500 types of fruit flies? I found this out in the first few minutes of sitting down (along with other fascinating fruit fly facts I did not retain). Since our relationship was becoming purely insectual anyway, I decided to seize the opportunity to resolve something that has been bugging me for years (what can I say, not only do I seem to be prone to puns, I also have geeky tendencies!) But seriously, haven’t you ever wondered, if matter can’t be created or destroyed, where do those pesky fruit flies come from when your produce ripens?? Curious minds want to know (and finally found out!)

I can’t describe the look of pure joy on his face when I assured Jay that I am indeed sincerely interested in fruit fly procreation. It was like he had found a long lost fly-mate. In an exhilarated voice that made it seem like he was discussing his latest sky diving or surfing expedition (dude!) Jay enlightened me about the reproductive habits of fruit flies. I have to say, it was way more entertaining than I could have hoped for. In fact, the rest of our conversations were also super-fun. Jay is one of those people who is so excited about life that even his complaints come across as the biggest adventures EVER!

Time flies when you’re having fun (no pun intended!) I dropped Jay off at the airport knowing we’re not a match, but delighted to have met someone so full of life, excitement AND useful information. I sure hope he finds what and who he is searching for. As for me, I am off on international date #2. Stay tuned!