You know it’s legit when you have to create a password for it

I had an interesting conversation with a friend over the past week (one of those ongoing email conversations that lasts several days…I love those) about online dating. I’ve been chewing on this topic for a long, long time, so I was surprised–and glad–when this friend brought it up, seemingly out of the blue. Sometimes I internalize things so much I can’t talk about them anymore. It’s good to be forced to bring certain thoughts out into the open, to give them some air as it were.

I have a knee-jerk reaction against online dating. Everything in me recoils at the very idea.

I have some (at least semi-) rational reasons for this:

  •  I hate feeding that 21st-century need to interpose a screen between myself and every new situation. We hunt for jobs online, we collect and keep friends online, we shop online,mustwe begin our romantic encounters there, too?
    • I think it also feeds the 21st-century insistence on immediacy. I want romance in my life and want it now. I’ll do an internet search and voila! It’s something we all do. Need an answer to a question? Want to know the weather? Buy a raincoat? Find a job? Discover a new hobby? Search for it online. It’s not all bad, I grant you, but there should be limits. In desperation I once punched into Google: ‘What should I do with my life.’ I’m not sure what was worse: the fact that I asked the question, or the plethora of answers it turned up (none of them relevant). The point is, we can’t use the internet for everything. We just can’t.
  • I rarely like people in person whom I met first online–especially if I like them online. No internet profile can tell you, “This person uses a peculiar laundry detergent and smells funny,” “He has bad breath,” or “He has this maddening habit of cracking his knuckles.” It doesn’t matter how well the guy writes, if the actual chemistry ain’t there, it ain’t there…and there’s no way to know that until you meet him. Which can only happen after you’ve been in touch and established some sort of emotional connection, however slight. Had you met said guy in person, you could’ve said off the bat, “Eh, not for me.” It just seems like a healthier way to go about it. Now I grant you, the emotional connection factor doesn’t seem to be as big a deal for guys, but it is a big deal for us ladies. Regardless of the level of physical attraction, a girlwill be somewhat dejected when the conversations suddenly come to an end: when she’s no longer being pursued. It’s a fact of our nature.
  • I’m extremely uncomfortable with the idea of creating my own profile. In particular, that awful “about me” section. It’s so one-dimensional. Let me tell you what I know about myself, so you and my self-image can decide if we’d actually get along.

I also have some admittedly not-so-rational reasons for my dislike:

  • What could be less romantic than meeting the love of your life via internet search? I’m not a sentimentalist by any means, but that goes so directly contrary to every good Jane Austen/L.M. Montgomery/Louisa Mae Alcott novel I was raised on, I just can’t stomach it.
  • Only people who can’t make friends in real-life situations date online. (Disclaimer: I know this to be patently untrue. Many very outgoing, fun, delightful people in my acquaintance happen to have profiles on online dating sites. But my gut reaction remains the same, and I have a hard time shaking it.)
  • I revolt against the intentionality of the dating website. This, I grant you, is a personal problem and one I’m trying to overcome.  Still, I think (especially for girls) there’s a very big difference between being open to new relationships in a general way, and being so open you create a profile for yourself and pay a monthly subscription to be pursued by like-minded men.

Those are some of my thoughts, in a rough and not-at-all-organized way, on online dating. I could post for days on this and related topics, and in fact I probably will.

Here’s what I’m not saying about online dating:

  • I do not see any necessarily moral problems with online dating, though of course there can be (as with all things).
  • I do not think online dating sites should be abolished, or that all people should get off said sites. Date away! More power to you! But I do think that those who date online have to be extra vigilant…and the ladies need to take special care to guard their hearts and emotions. “Do not stir up or awaken love until it please.” Knowing myself as I do, I know that online dating would be very bad for me emotionally, so I steer clear. Other women have more level heads than I, and don’t mind taking the pragmatic approach. (My lovely sister is a great example of this—and she even keeps  a blog about her online dating experiences, where she talks about the need to be practical and balanced in your approach. You should check it out…)

That said, what are your thoughts, oh readers? I’ve heard so many arguments for online dating, my head spins with them. I’m not really looking to be persuaded one way or the other, so please: no arguments, at least not here. We can duke it out in person. Here, I would like to hear your personal experience with the issue, whether you’ve dated online or opted not to, if you’re willing to share.

 

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Born what way, now?

As you can probably imagine, I’m not the biggest fan of Lady Gaga.

Okay, so the words “fan” and “Lady Gaga” don’t really even belong in the same sentence when referring to me.

Be that as it may, I ruminated for a little while this morning on her song “Born This Way,” and I couldn’t help but giggle at the mental picture it conjured up. Granted, maybe L.G. was born in 3-foot platform shoes, sunglasses, and a meat dress. Who am I to say she lies?

But the rest of us were born this way:

Last I checked, there was no groundswell movement to get any of us to stay that way, regardless of the facts that a) it wasn’t our fault, and b) we couldn’t help it. In fact, I don’t know about you, but they slapped me, pricked me, washed me, and wrapped me up in a white blanket with pink stripes before I had time to say I was perfectly happy with me just the way I was, thankyouverymuch.

Maybe I’ll write a song about it.

It probably ruined my life.

Texas is messing with me.

Texas is about to steal a second sister from me.

Granted, it did give me an awesome roommate (but she came direct from Italy, so I like to leave credit there).

Now I know everything happens for a reason, and I’m pretty excited for sister #2 (moving to Houston to take a job in pediatric nursing). But still. Really? Texas, was that really necessary?

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Life without chocolate

I like to be comfortable. I mean, who doesn’t? I like my soft bed, my temperature-controlled living and working environments, my three square meals per day, my chocolate, my morning coffee, my warm showers, my sweatpants, my living room couch, my nice-smelling candles, my gentle music…I seek comfort. I get resentful, panicky, or sad when I learn that one of my pet comforts may not be available to me on a given day…and heaven forbid any one of them should ever be taken away altogether. (Would life actually be worth living without chocolate? It bears thinking about.)

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought this week, because–you guessed it–Lent is just around the corner. I’m beginning the mental preparation process now: pep talks, stern warnings, scoldings, that sort of thing. (A lifetime without chocolate probably wouldn’t be all that worthwhile, but I can make it 40 days. Right?) I used to think I’d be really good at Lent when I got older. I’d be holier then, that’s what I thought. But somehow or other Lent actually gets harder every year. I get more and more entrenched in my silly little creature comforts, to the point that giving them up feels like invasive surgery.

Here’s a rough sketch of what your humble blogger looks like on Ash Wednesday:


It’s not pretty.

But praise God for his mercy. In the midst of my dread (and I’m embarrassed to admit this, but it’s real dread. Lent: the season of discomfort, and worse than that, the humiliation that inevitably follows on being brought nose-to-nose with all my weaknesses and bad tendencies. You mean I’m not perfect yet?? What more can I possibly have to do?), he gives me such hope. And today as I reflected and prayed about Lent, about what I should give up, about how I can possibly work on being a saint when the idea of 40 days without chocolate has me in the fetal position, he gave me a clear answer, contained in three words: Duc in altum.

Put out into the deep.

Just get into the boat and shove off. Let go of the shoreline. It’s so easy to climb into the boat after him while it’s still tied up at the dock: as soon as things get unpleasant (those wooden seats are so hard…I’m feeling a little seasick…I have to go to the bathroom…) or scary (big waves…sharks…) I can get out, go back to land, get comfortable again. Maybe, if it’s a really nice day, we can go for a little sail, within sight of the beach of course, as long as we don’t go too far. But that’s not enough. It’s only half an answer to his invitation. He doesn’t want us to sit at the dock, but to embark on the full voyage.

Put out into the deep.

That’s what Lent is for: letting go of that safe, comfortable shoreline, sitting tight in the boat, and casting off. And doing it with joy. As St. Jose Maria Escriva writes, “Put out into deep water! Throw aside the pessimism that makes a coward of you.” That’s my prayer this Lent, for all of us: that we might follow Christ to Calvary, and discover the mysterious and awful joy of the cross that has won our salvation.

 

On the 14th of February…

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day: the day we celebrate our squishy emotions for other people. I’ve always enjoyed Valentine’s Day, believe it or not–granted, I’ve always been single, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get chocolate (from friends or from Mom), or cards, or even on occasion flowers. What’s not to love? But the approach of this holiday has gotten me thinking about emotions.

I am always surprised–and impressed–by people who can express their emotions. People who are okay with crying in front of others, or who can look you in the face and say, “I am so grateful to have you in my life” without being awkward, or who gasp and smile at beautiful things (a sunset, for instance) and want to share their enthusiasm with those around them. I’m even impressed when people get angry and let others see it. After all, what good does it really do to smile and pretend everything’s hunky-dory when you’re seething with rage? Of course there is something to be said for governing your emotions, and I’ll be the first to advocate for that; but it’s just as important to know how to be open about them in a healthy way.

Now I like to think I’m a pretty open person. “I have no secrets,” I often say, and it’s true. If you know me, you know basically everything there is to know about me (with a few exceptions, of course–every life has to have its veils, and I think that’s a good thing). When it comes to what I think and what I do, yes: I’m pretty open. But I am not at all open about what I feel. I’ve realized this pretty starkly in this past year, especially after moving in with a roommate who’s so beautifully open with her emotions. She doesn’t mind saying, “I love you!” or urging you to look out the car window at a beautiful scene, or even crying when she recounts a truly moving moment in her life.

Of course, in a big way this comes down to personality differences, and that’s okay. But it’s good to know where your own personality could use some toning, like a muscle. I remember making the conscious decision to start saying “I love you” to my family members when I was a junior in high school. It took months before the words would come out naturally, and a good year before I could say it without blushing or stammering or feeling a little queasy. Then I had to get over the hump of saying the same thing to my dear friends.

After all, it’s a big part of generosity to be willing to share with those around you…especially, to let them know what they mean in your life. And I don’t mean cheesiness or sentimentality, both of which tend to come across as insincere and downright annoying. But people need to know they have value; people need to know they are loved, appreciated, admired. And how will they know that unless those who love, appreciate, and admire them tell them so?

This goes for anybody, whatever their state in life, but of course (as always), I’m speaking especially to and about single people. We don’t always have those built in structures for letting the people closest to us know we care about them, or for hearing it for ourselves. But it’s so important to tell ’em anyway. As someone who likes to keep a tight lid on her feelings until she’s stopped feeling them…or at least until she’s had a few weeks to shape them into cohesive sentences, to rationalize them into something comfortable and manageable…I know this is crazy hard. We want our relationships to be natural and spontaneous, but the simple fact is we don’t always have that luxury. Now I’m not advocating for people to go running off to every friend they’ve got, sobbing about their undying love. (Even that mental image makes me squirm.) But here and there, offer a token–a gesture, a word, a note–that goes deeper than the surface level jokes and fun, that lets the other person know “I value you as a person, and I’m grateful for your presence in my life.”

It’ll take me years to master this art, but I think it’s one worth mastering. And for now there are cheesy holidays like Valentine’s Day that offer great opportunities for practice.

 

A weakness for bullet points

The problem with “to-do” lists is that they never go away.

Ever.

They get longer and the items get more complicated and/or expensive, but they cling stubbornly to life.

I got distracted this afternoon at work, thinking about my current to-do list:

  • Finish ironing. (Half my clothes have been hanging in the laundry room for nearly a month, waiting for me to take the time to run an iron over them. I’m just making do with what’s in my closet still…and doesn’t need to be ironed.)
  • Come up with an armchair for my bedroom. (Once I finally acquire an affordable–or even better: free–chair, I will, I keep telling myself, set up a good schedule for writing in the evenings and praying in the mornings. For now, sans comfy chair, I haven’t come anywhere near such a schedule. What will be my excuse once I do have a chair? That’s the question.)
  • Get car washed, inside and out. (I can almost write my name in the dust on my dashboard. And let’s not talk about the exterior…)
  • Take same car in for 15k-mile checkup. (If I get it in for the 15k checkup before we hit 20,000 miles, I’ll be doing well.)
  • Go to the grocery store. (I like to push it to the point of ridiculous. We’re not quite there yet. I still have: uncooked pizza dough, half a jar of tomato sauce, some pasta, oatmeal, four eggs, half an onion, enough lettuce for one salad, and some cheese. I should be good to go, really, for another week.)
  • TAXES.
  • Learn new software. (Which I will be able to do much more effectively once I purchase said software.)
  • Sell old laptop. (I’ve been meaning to sell that old laptop for two years.)
  • Finish blanket for bed. (Started five months ago. Folded up and put in basket two months ago. I haven’t touched it since.)
  • Fix items of clothing that have been hanging unwearable in closet for the past two years either due to stains, tears, or size problems.
  • In same vein, look into seamstress to re-style old bridesmaid dresses.
  • Sell shoes I’ve never worn and probably never will. (Long story.)
  • Purchase rain boots.
  • Bring up remaining books from parents’ house.
  • Re-set living room clock (which never “fell back” in November…and will, at this point, probably just wait until it’s right again in the spring).
  • Rearrange bedroom furniture.

It goes on. And on. I won’t bore you with the rest of it, I’ll just continue to be distracted by it. Maybe it’s just part of the human condition. Or maybe it’s a sign that I need to stop making lists and start focusing on the task in front of me. Back to work…

Disquiet

“I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that you stir not up nor awaken love until it please” (Song of Songs 8:4).

I’ve been chewing on this verse of late. I’ve always taken a lot of comfort in it–it helps me breathe easy again on those days when I start to feel a little bit guilty for still being single and liking it. “It’s okay,” I tell myself, “love hasn’t awakened in me yet. There’s nothing wrong with it. The Bible says so.”

But how do you know when “it please”? This disquieting thought has begun to intrude on my comfort. Should I be doing anything differently? In my insistence on not “stirring up love” am I stifling it? How does one know the difference?

This particular reflection has been stirred, I think, by my upcoming birthday. For the first time in my life, I’m actually just a little bit uncomfortable with that looming date. Not afraid of it or annoyed with it, or even intent on hiding my age (I’ll be twenty-six)…just mildly uncomfortable, because I can’t help but be aware of the fact that twenty-six is on the “descending side” of the twenties…the side of the arc that slopes into thirty. And, well, that’s a thought that gives a girl a slight chill now and then. Especially when her heart remains very much intact and very much her own.

There’s a lot more to life than this, isn’t there? I see it all around me, but it’s like a game other people play, and I’ve never had the chance to learn.

For now, I’ll let love continue to sleep in me. I just hope it makes itself very apparent when at last “it please.” Because I’m pretty sure I don’t know anything about it.

A Thursday Song

I haven’t had much to say–or a whole lot of time in which to say it–this week, so please pardon the dearth of posts.

But to augment your afternoon, I give you the song that’s been stuck in my head all day. Oren Lavie’s “A Dream within a Dream.” In case I’ve never mentioned it before, I’m head over heels in love with this artist and all his work.

That is all.