Jerel Says, ‘Eat the Uni’; Bumble

Sushi Banner

First or second date, I would always take a woman to a really good sushi bar and I would order uni. If she didn’t eat the uni, that relationship was pretty much over. If she’s immune to the charms of sea urchin row or unwilling to try it, there’s no hope.

-Anthony Bourdain on dating

We all have our dating quirks. Relational eccentricities that, beyond any real rhyme or reason, we still look for, or look to, in a person. Even though I’ve definitely changed, Relationship Testlearned a lot, and hopefully shifted some of my priorities and desires when it comes to relationships and the kind of person I want to be with and the reasons I would want to be with them for, I still have these dating ‘tests’ from before that I have used and will still probably always use when I’m dating someone new. Some of it makes sense to me, some of them are about matters of compatibility or the importance of sharing similar interests. Others are just there to help me feel better, more confident about a potential relationship. Now take these for what you will. Obviously I sometimes tend to speak in hyperbole. Would I really consider scrapping an entire potential relationship because a girl might ‘fail’ one or two of these tests? Of course not.

I mean…probably not.

But definitely, maybe.


Jerel’s New Relationship Dating Tests

THE SUSHI TEST

This is of course, inspired by my culinary and lifestyle role model, Anthony Bourdain. He Sushi Jumphas stated in numerous interviews and various episodes on No Reservations and Parts Unknown how important and integral sushi is to him not only in terms of food but in matters of the heart as well. I have always loved sushi, but I’ll admit I was a young naive ignorant fool compared to the master, Bourdain. I wasn’t even good enough to get a white belt in his dojo. But over the years and through extensive study and application *coughs*allyoucaneatsushibuffets*coughs* I too learned the secret ways. I learned that sushi is a finger food first and foremost. Or that sushi should be dipped fish side down into the soy sauce. And don’t you EVER, EVER, EVER let me catch you mixing the wasabi into your soy sauce. And that really great sushi is about the rice, not the fish. It’s 90% in the quality and attention and care to the type of rice and the preparation and seasoning of it.

So what’s the test? It’s part knowledge and part sense of adventure. I usually like to take a girl to a sushi restaurant on the third date. It’s a little more into the relationship than Bourdain, but then I don’t have Bourdain money, so I figure there could be other red flags worth noting before really investing in the sushi test. So by the third date, I’m Sushi Lovemaybe kind of already hoping it’s gonna work out alright. First off, it’s major negative points if I’m with someone who can look me straight in the eye and say ‘oh my god I love sushi’ and then order nothing but California rolls or shrimp tempura rolls or the absolute worst, deep fried sushi. First of all, there’s no way in hell if I want authentic genuine high quality sushi that I would take someone to a place that even has these on the menu. So if she’s searching for it when we order, I’m searching for the exit. While I would be absolutely thrilled and enamored if I found out the person I was with was just as into sushi and knew all the best pieces and ate them with confidence and style and all the right etiquette, I would be just as happy to see them at least interested and adventurous enough to try. Yes, uni would be on the menu. As well as squid, octopus, and raw scallop. Don’t lie about how much you know about sushi and at the very least be interested and open enough to try. Though I would also note, of all my past relationships, the worst have this in common: the girls did not like sushi. So yeah, it might be important that someone I want to spend a good portion of my life with should probably like my absolute favorite food.

Pass: Basic interest/knowledge in sushi or willingness to try/learn

Fail: Lying about their interest in sushi or not having any to begin with

Extra Credit: Orders the uni first and eats it all with her fingers

THE IKEA TEST

I was doing this before (500) Days of Summer! I never thought the deep dark secrets of my dating world would be plastered all over the big screen with Joseph Gordon Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. The Ikea Test comes after the sushi test. This girl is now more than Ikea Fail.gifjust someone I’ve seen a couple times and want to date. This is like, girlfriend territory waters we’re not dipping our big toe in. Like the way they test their furniture, I’m going to use Ikea to stress test this relationship. It’s gonna have to last longer than 1000 open and closes. We start at the Ikea Cafe, which to me is not celebrated nearly enough for the quality of the food and the price. Great Swedish meatballs with that rich creamy gravy and mashed potatoes, sweet and tart lingonberry jam, smoked salmon with mustard and dill, and some of the best fries. Crispy crunchy crusty surfaces with soft fluffy insides. But be honest. The moment I mentioned ‘we’re going to be eating at Ikea’, how did you really feel. Because that’s what I’m gonna want to find out about the girl I’m dating. Look, anyone can take anyone to a five-star top quality first class restaurant and have a great time and enjoy the food and the company. Now I’m not saying I’m taking someone to some unmarked shady hellhole of a restaurant. It’s a bright and well lit and clean cafe with practical, affordable, yet well made Swedish furniture. And the food is good. It really is. We can even get some soft serve ice cream on our way out. They have strawberry topping too if you’d like. The point is, life isn’t always going to be top of the tops. Anyone can enjoy that. I want someone who can see beyond that, to simpler and humbler things, and not only find joy in that, but add to it too.

Then we wander and walk off our meal on the Ikea showroom floor. And we get into conversations that honestly, I don’t know why so many people in relationships avoid. They think that those uncomfortable topics like, what kind of place do you want to live Ikea Datein, what kind of family would you want, where would you want to live, etc are taboo or that they’ll scare a partner. But let me tell you, even on first dates, it’s sometimes nice to break the barrier and get to those kinds of questions because you bond sooner and because really, who the hell wants to talk about the weather, or what they think of the city. No one ended up with their lifelong partner because they both liked the weather. In fact, a dating study found that when they forced couples on first dates to ask more ‘controversial’ topics (number of sexual partners, any history of STDs, if they’ve ever been broken hearted or broken someone’s heart) by the end of the date both the questioner and the replier felt closer and more satisfied with the other person. So here is this opportunity, in a very non-threatening, non-committal, and informal manner, to jokingly but also honestly imagine what a future would look like, and ask those questions responsible people should ask of each other.

Pass: She enjoys the Ikea date in good humor, and is comfortable with the ensuring showroom communication.

Fail: Her upturned nose poo-poos the Ikea date.

Extra Credit: Not only is she so familiar with the dishes she can order them in Swedish, but on the showroom floor she names the furniture she wants us to get.

THE MOVIE TEST

Oh this is way way waaay more than ‘Netflix and chill’. No self-respecting adult should Better Off Deadever utter that phrase unironically. Now it’s obvious I’m a huge cinephile. But this isn’t about finding another film nerd, or quizzing some poor girl on movie trivia. Even I wouldn’t enjoy that. As I’ve mentioned in the past, movies are portals for our emotions, and great movies awaken the Better Off Deaddeepest and most filling and profound expressions. So to save us years of having to dig to find moments of equal emotional depth, I figure I could just have us watch certain movies and see how we (she) will react. I’d like to see how compatible our senses of humor are. Would we be able to find humor in the same things. (Good god I don’t have much, if she doesn’t find me funny I’ve got even less.) Do we share the same outlook and opinion on things like love and relationships. Do we feel emotions on similar levels, is there that sense of empathy that could help us understand each other better. We would actually have to focus and you know, watch these movies, rather than just have it playing in the background and making out.

I love a thousand movies. And in the course of  my life I’ll probably love a thousand more. But two essential must watch films for me are Better Off Dead and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Both, interestingly enough, have breakups as the catalysts for the Eternal Sunshineplot. Obviously one is more humorous and the other more dramatic, but both are about how we deal with separation and how we move on in search of love and forever. They’re also both filled with absolutely stunning visuals. Eternal Sunshine has incredibly beautiful natural landscapes and scene-scapes, from the dramatic dismantling of the beach house scene to the wide beautiful sweeping shots of the beaches of Montauk and the frozen waters of the lake. The dream world scenes and the memory wipe scenes are beautiful and done so simply with minimal effects but lasting impression. Better Off Dead is visually overflowing with subplots, visual gags, and extra treats to unlock with further viewings. I remember the scene in Lane Meyer’s math class when his teacher asks everyone to take out their homework and there are a series of brief close up shots of various students bumbling about in their desks and bags. You’ve got one boy who is printing an entire thesis on an old dot-matrix printer, another girl has a metal accordion file that expands to like twenty sections of work. And you’ve got Lane (played by John Cusack) taking out a single folded piece of paper that’s stuck together with old gum and all it says is ‘do homework’. It’s visual gag overload, and there’s even a slightly creepy completely out of Eternal Sunshineleft field claymation scene with a Frankenstein-esque burger that freakishly comes to life and starts singing Van Halen. To me, both are excellent examples of their genre. Eternal Sunshine never fails to bring up these feelings of heartbreak and sadness but also nostalgia and optimism. And it evokes conversation about how we deal with loss, and what we view as the value of a relationship, regardless of it succeeds or not. Better Off Dead is so much more than just silly humor. It’s coming of age, it’s innocence, and it’s the joy and excitement of discovering new opportunities. It is also full of timeless cultural references, and I’ll always want my ‘two dollars!’

Pass: She enjoys the movies in much the same way, and I can tell we share the same sense of humor and outlook on relationships.

Fail: She falls asleep or doesn’t laugh/feel anything.

Extra Credit: She brings her own blu-ray copies.


Relationship Test 2So yeah, these are three of the relationship tests. Don’t know when my next chance to do them will be, but there they are waiting for the next soul. How did you do? Would you have passed some of these, or even gotten the extra credit? And do you have your own innocent little ‘tests’ when you date someone? I’d love to know!

Jerel says, ‘eat the uni’.

Day 364: The Man and ‘The Big Sick’; ‘Jangle’

My friends don’t understand why it is I’ve always been so obsessed with relationships and romance and love. And I used to always tell them that once they were finally in a relationship, they’d understand. They’d see everything for how much brighter and more colorful and more vibrant they become when they’re with someone. I just got out of the movies, and rushed home, to start writing this very late post, because I think I got that illuminating ‘a-ha’ moment wrong all this time.

I was a kid living and watching through the golden age of cheesy romances. Many were, WhileYouWereSleeping.jpgand still remain, some of my favorite movies of all time. If You’ve Got Mail is playing on TV it doesn’t matter what time it is or what I’m doing, I will stay glued to that TV to finish it out. I happily sing along to the  energy and fervor of Moulin Rouge. I remember watching While You Were Sleeping with my mother during the day, and how for a span of like, three months she used to have Leap Year on endless loop playing in the family room. Who could forget the Titanic marathons women would subject themselves to, watching this movie over and over in theatres. I swear, if the sheer demand didn’t keep it in cinemas, Kleenex certainly would have. And all these movies, for as wonderful and cheesy and heartfelt as they are, they all have this one thing in common that I thought was the end all be all for love and romance. They all built worlds and stories and characters around just that one moment where two people fall in love and…end. Credits. Every time. And what waaays they ended up together though. Oh, the heart melts. Who can forget Meg Ryan looking tearfully at Tom Hanks, saying ‘I wanted it to be you. I wanted it to be you so badly’. It YouveGotMail.gifwas always about two people realizing they should be together and then just being together and then credits roll to Hollywood happiness. And because of that, for the longest time I thought the most important part of a relationship, the part you learn the most from, was the getting together. That that must have been the hardest part in the entire process. Two people finding each other in the chaos and randomness of the world and being each other’s soulmates and the search was the obstacle and the soulmate and the life of ease and comfort was the reward. If you weren’t lovesick, it just meant you hadn’t found the right person, and it would just take the finding and the being to make a lifelong convert.

But that’s not exactly true, is it? In fact, it’s not even remotely true. It is the complete Summeropposite, the antithesis. And over time, people began to realize that. We had, or have, the rise of the ‘anti-romcom’. Smart, witty, deliberate attempts at subverting the romcom tropes we grew up with. And I’ve seen so many this past year. Don Jon was a self-aware movie that purposefully poked holes not only in the ridiculousness and excessiveness of pornography but also in the unreasonable expectations and demands of romcom relationships. I’ll admit it wasn’t this year I saw it for the first time but it was this past year that had me constantly revisiting and reexamining (500) Days of Summer first as life model, then source of hope and optimism, muse for love and relationships, but most importantly, a reminder of Swiss Army Manwhat it is I’m actually supposed to be looking for. Swiss Army Man caught me by surprise because it did such an incredible job of masking its actual identity of a romance and love film with all the nonsense and distraction of a farting, shooting, Daniel Radcliffe corpse. The Way Way Back was one of the first movies I saw last summer that really made a lasting and important impression on me for its own much more mature and yet lighthearted take on pure, young love. And now, to add to the list of these new wave of intelligent romantic comedies, there is the semi-autobiographical but fully humorous, entertaining, and heartwarming The Big Sick.

I didn’t really know much about this movie, or that in particular it was actually based on the true circumstances of the first year of Kumail Nanjiani’s relationship with his now-wife. Is that a spoiler alert? She’s fine, everyone. She gets out of the coma. I saw an interview of Kumail on ‘The Late Show with Stephen Colbert’ and they showed that clip of him in the hospital cafeteria with his girlfriend’s parents when he’s asked about 9/11 and I just knew I had to see the whole damn thing. And I’m so glad I did, and I definitely think if you have the opportunity you should as well. It’s a limited release movie so it isn’t showing in nearly as many theatres as it should, but seeing as it is an Amazon production, I imagine it’ll be on Stream soon enough. (What what get that Amazon Prime y’all.) There are such great moments of comedy and they’re written with such sharp wit and they’re delivered with perfect timing and pacing that it’s hard not to find yourself lost in laughter. And there’s certainly a lot to say about the particular skill not only in writing but in acting and perceiving to take what I don’t doubt was a scary and stressful time and reaching beyond that to the humor and heart that makes it a story worth sharing. It is a funny movie. And it’s a real story of real love. And there’s risks taken and hearts to be won and obstacles to overcome. But even the old guard, those 90s and early 2000s throwbacks, could have that and make us want to laugh. It’s these newer ones that have something else in common that to me, make them more ‘authentic’, more ‘relatable’, more ‘real’. They make you cry.

There’s this misconception in high school English classes all over the country (and maybe the world) that we read Shakespeare and Hemingway and Twain and Joyce and whatnot because we want them to know about Hamlet or fishing or the deep south or Ireland. And I would always tell my students that I don’t care if in ten years from now they remember what Hamlet’s father said to him or the symbolism of his soliloquy. I barely cared in the moment about how much they could recognize metaphors and references to southern politics and society in Twain’s depiction in Huck Finn. We read these novels because they are supplements to knowledge we don’t yet have. I want them to read Othello because a classroom and fictional characters are safe environments for young minds to develop mature attitudes towards loyalty and friendship and envy. They know so little when they’re young of great and significant issues and we use literature as tools to exercise and hypothesize and figure out slowly and gradually the kinds of people we are or want to become. And to me, movies are the same way when it comes to emotions. Great movies that are the golden standards of their genres are such because of how they awaken emotions in us that we might not normally feel. Good horrors scare us to the bone, they make us question everyday objects and feel a primal, instinctual, survival type of fear. Great dramas show us just how deeply we can feel for others, constantly pulling on our hearts to greater depths and unlocking levels of humanity and understanding. Action movies make us feel nobler and braver and stronger than we are, inspiring some of us to be heroes. And great romances, real, true, authentic romances, take us way beyond just that sheer ecstasy of the beginning. It shows us past that illusion into what really tells us why love is so important, why we search for it, why we crave it. It shows us loss.

I’ve cried more in movies this past year than I think I ever have. Way Way Back, Swiss Army Man, Big Sick, Kubo, La La Land, even Guardians 2. (Hey I never said they’d all make sense. Sometimes I’m just an emotional mess.) But the romances, the Way Way Backs and the Swiss Army Mans of them all, I was glad to have them to make me cry. Those were tears I think only people who’ve felt love and lost love could cry. You know for as happy as I’ve been this past year, I don’t think anything ever has made me as happy as losing love has made me sad. And sometimes I am afraid of that. And it’s for that reason that sometimes I feel bad for people who have never dated not because they don’t know that relationship lovesick happiness, but because they don’t know that soul crushing yet soul affirming depth of sadness of love loss. A lot of things can make me happy. And a lot of those are not dating or relationships or love. I can find it much easier and in equal or greater portions in so many other things. But nothing like love can make me feel as human as its sadness. I love these newer modern romances because the good ones add that loss. Some, like Swiss Army Man, are even brave enough to stop it at that loss. But I don’t blame most for still wanting to give us that happy ending. It’s there for everyone to have and to relate to. But those scenes of loss, of reflection, of appreciation, those are for the ones who’ve known heartbreak. To feel it again. To remember.

I look back at this year, and I think, I’m glad I had those sad days. I’m glad I could feel how big my heart is and could be, by reaching out and touching the empty expanse of where I wanted my love to be. It’s a measure some people just don’t get to know. I don’t want everyone to go through heartbreak, mind you. If a good enough movie or song or book or piece of art can get you to understand that loss, all the better. I just don’t want to see so many people never appreciate or understand their love because they’ve never had it or because they’ve forgotten what it feels like to be without it.  I still enjoy my cheesy romances, but they stay strictly in the movie world. I’ve had my fill of happy endings and stories that ended at the beginning. I like the romance movies that can make me laugh and cry. That poke and prod at the sore spots to remind me not of the hurt, but of the fact that they are there. I don’t keep pursuing love because of the happy happy joy joy mushy gushy stuff. I can get that. I can do that.  I do it because I know how much my heart misses it. Oh how happy am I that I could ever afford to have been so sad.

Oh right. The daily prompt. Jangle. Like, what in the fuck even is that?!

Day 364

Man: 331 Loneliness: 33

Day 363: The Man and the Impostor; ‘Quill’

Oh No Baby

There is Man, there is Me, and then there is the Impostor. He’s a fairly new identity, and Impostorhe only comes out in one very particular circumstance and situation, and I don’t really like him, and for as much as I feel the end of the year and opening up my blog to friends and family and opening up my personal life more to the blog will create new opportunities, I also feel like this might be one of the last few times I get to talk about this.

Particularly because it has to do with a friend of mine. And I mean, who knows. Maybe no one I know will be interested enough to read all of this, but maybe they will, and I won’t have that comfortable mask of anonymity anymore. But I still feel like there’s so much more to gain from opening up than there is to keep this all private and closed for just one reason, one person.

I’ve mentioned before that my incurable addiction to love has in the past alienated pretty much all of the friends I had who were women. Either by dating them or not dating themSick and losing interest or trying and making it well you know, awkward, I really don’t have many female friends. That is to say, save for just one now. (That I regularly spend time with and see, as one of my best friends lives in Montreal with her husband so I don’t get to see her or them as much.)

But I’ve known this particular friend since college, when we met in our Public Speaking class (so much fun, I love to make people listen to me) and we went to the same clubs (Chinese Student Association and, for a time, fencing). So we’ve known each other for almost a decade now. Since then we’ve both gone through relationships and heartbreak, we’ve grown and changed, started careers, changed careers, we’ve traveled together in groups, had plenty of late night conversations about families and dating, and turned to each other for advice and guidance. We share much of the same interests and hobbies. If I need a second for a night of drinking, I know it couldn’t be any one of my friends but her. Exciting new restaurant that I want to share with someone who can talk ‘food’, her. Movies, constantly going out to watch new ones and sharing what our ‘must watch’ lists are and meeting up for the ones we both want to see. Aside from me she has the second highest sense of adventure and willingness to go beyond comfort zones in our group of friends. Recently I’ve been spending more time with her and her family, getting fairly comfortable and familiar with her brother and her mother, as we’ve gone out to see Cirque shows in the area altogether. Ever since college she and I have had this tradition at her expense. Whenever we go to a new restaurant, I always sneak away to tell the staff it’s her birthday. She gets so embarrassed having an entire restaurant sing to her, and I love watching her reactions. It’s made for some great photo opportunities.

So yeah…I think you know where this is going.

And I don’t want it to go that way.

This is maybe one of the first major decisions I make as Me, and not as Man. This isn’t about an experiment or blinders. It’s about not wanting to lose a friend. It’s about putting Chicken Runto work, in practice, what I’ve been so passionately and eloquently putting to quill and paper. And so I’ve had to do something so uncharacteristic. Yes, I’ll admit, more recently I’ve been thinking of her more. But for the first time I’m really trying not to do anything. Calmer, cooler, heads should prevail and for the most part, there is a huge part of me that knows nothing good can come of this, or more specifically, knowing her, and knowing me, nothing can come of it, period. Let’s just say her past relationship history will prove I’m really not her type. Not knowing really how to handle this, I don’t like the person I am sometimes when I am with her and others. I get jealous more easily, and unlike John Lennon, I’m not ‘just a jealous guy’. Jell-O doesn’t get jealous. It’s such a stupid and childish feeling in my opinion. And yet…we went to karaoke, and I got so jealous of how much she liked someone else’s song choices and wanted to sing with them. (I get a small sense of pride whenever she asks about a new song I’m listening to because she wants it as well.) In silly things like talking about ‘who can eat the most noodles’ I get jealous when she picks someone else. (In truth, I don’t think anyone wins at those.) When she messages me about seeing a movie together I get excited, and then disappointed and jealous when I see another one of her friends shows up as well. But then, I know there was no promise or indication otherwise. This wasn’t anything more than just going to see a movie. Yet I feel indignant, and I make myself distant and moody. I’ll sit purposely away from them because ‘I want to sit closer to the screen’. I’m trying soHorrible Person hard to deny these thoughts that a lot of times I have to make myself think of all her shortcomings and focus on those more. She’s honestly very terrible with time. But then, as a Filipino, so am I. Yet I know I am sometimes curt and brusque with her when she arrives. I have to calm and cool myself, but in the time it takes, I know I can feel myself sending off these harsh negative vibes. I create unnecessary tension that she, in her patience, lets me dissolve and bring it all back with some jokes. We’ve never actually missed anything because of her. I don’t like how I am when I’m trying not to like her. This isn’t me. And unlike when I am with someone I am attracted to and actually want to attract them, I often lack self-confidence, I feel like less than I am. I never feel less than when I feel myself in her eyes. Maybe again as a defense mechanism, that I focus on my own shortcomings as much as I try to focus on hers.

I can handle being a terrible person. I’ve been that before. But there is something about all this that doesn’t sit well, that unsettles me. And it’s that at times…I feel like a liar. An Officeimpostor. I didn’t write about this when it happened, but I did speak about it to my cousin, who I’ve shared a great deal with this past year. During the holidays my friend invited me to be her +1 to her company’s Christmas party.  Of course, I was more than happy to attend, and that wasn’t just because of the free food and open bar. I knew this was just two friends at a party, one there to help make the other feel less awkward. But I also knew in the context, that I could ‘pretend’ a bit more than usual. For the first time in all the years I’ve known her, I got to see her in a dress. She looked incredible.  At the party, I had more than  just a little bit of fun pretending to be her actual date, and sometimes I relished the joke for more than what  it was worth. There was a photo booth where you could take pics with different props and costumes, and I had fun posing there, with my arm around her, pretending. Around her coworkers and her supervisors I did my best to make her look good, being the fun and attentive date. I chatted up her group and got them laughing with my usual party self,  I’d always very cheekily enjoy getting another drink for her when hers was empty. ‘Oh no dear, you keep mingling  with your friends, I’ll get you another, boo.’ On the surface it was all just in good fun, but there was a part of me that did enjoy living that impostor’s life for a moment, but I knew I was lying, to myself and to her. I don’t like that feeling of always finding something when I know there isn’t anything there. I don’t want to always look, like this is some really badly written romance. I’ve mentioned that this month I’ll be going to the Eastern Traditional Archery PugRendezvous, and I’m very excited about that.  And I’ve off-handedly mentioned it to my friend, as we are both into archery, that she might want to attend and we could go for the weekend. I know I’d have a great time just going with a friend to make it easier and less awkward and at least I’d have someone to talk to before making new friends and trying to find new groups. But…is there a part of  me that sees more than just that in this opportunity? And am I not a liar for hiding that.  Don’t get me wrong. I am a decent and good human being.  I’d never take advantage or take some  opportunity that wasn’t afforded to me.  But just knowing I have these feelings to wrestle with, and knowing there is nothing to make her think such, and yet putting us in those situations, I feel like a liar.

The best thing I can say I’ve learned this past year to apply to this situation is that the previous me would have been foolish and brash, saying ‘you can’t pass this up, what if she’s the one!’ Knowing now that, there are plenty of ones out there. I know that there must be plenty of women out  there with the same or similar interests and backgrounds. I know that I could be equally happy with a great number of other people. And more recently I know that even then, there’s no guaranteeing that this type, this particular sort, would have led to anything more or less significant. I’m not fooling myself with delusions of destiny or fate. And a very practical voice is telling me a lifelong friendship is better than a brief glimpse of love. And for however much difficulty I may have in convincing myself not to feel for one person, I know it would be equally easier to find someone else to feel for. I just have to keep working this new muscle until it gets easier. And as I do, I hope I don’t keep hating the person I am in the process.

But man…she’s great. Hahah.

Day 363

Man: 330 Loneliness: 33

 

Day 362: The Man and the Ship of Theseus; ‘Tether’

First, I would like to introduce to you the paradox known as the ‘Ship of Theseus’.

The ship, wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned from Crete, had thirty oars and was preserved by the Athenians down even to the time of Demetrius, for they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their place. So much so that this ship became an example among the philosophers for the logical question of things that grow: one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same.

-Plutarch, Theseus

It basically comes down to this. Is an object that has had every single part of it replaced, Theseusstill the same object? It’s a classic paradox since ancient Greek times that has been used in various forms in philosophy, politics, literature, religion, and even pop culture. I don’t even recall exactly when or where I first heard of the ‘ship of Theseus’ but of course I was intrigued to see if maybe it could be used in relationships as well. Relationships change and grow, just like, or really even more so than, boats. There are so many moving and changing parts, yet so often we feel like somehow we’re just caught in a loop. We fall for the same people, our relationships encounter the same pitfalls. In the endless infinite number of people there are in the world, we keep repeating. Why is that? What is it about finding something so different that they all end up…the same?

PersonTo me, this comes down to really a question of identity. After all, to answer this paradox we have to answer what we think the ‘ship’ actually is. Is a ship’s identity its individual parts, or is it the form of it? So we have two separate entities. The ‘parts’ and the ‘form’. For Relationshipme, that means I have to separate the ‘person’ and the ‘relationship’. Since the question for me is, does the person make the relationship or does the relationship determine the person?

Let’s take the person first, for example. Often times when we imagine the kind of person we’d like to date, we like to think up a certain persona, our ‘type’. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that.  We all have our certain particular attractions, things we look for, our own way of measuring up a romantic interest. It My Type.gifcould be anything from physical (we like them tall, short, long hair, short hair, fit, lean, curvy, etc.) to the more personal (tomboys vs super feminine, good guys vs bad boys, partiers, readers, playboys, or poets). I’ll be the first to admit that I have a type as well, but I have noticed that over time my ‘type’ has changed, differed, evolved. Personally, I think I’m on the cusp of another ‘type’ shift as I think about dating again in the future and who I might want to be with. But is there any credence to ‘types’? Can we trust this blanket general assumption? How closely can we correlate the success or failure of a relationship to the type of person in it? I mean, if we think of it this way, up until the very final moment that we actually end up with the person we end up with, up until that ultimate, final, most successful relationship, haven’t most of us always gone after our ‘types’? So, mathematically speaking, what’s the success rate of going after types? I don’t think I’ve ever dated someone I didn’t think was my type so that makes my own personal success rate, oh…0%? Let’s say 0 for 7. Ish. It’s interesting to me to see that often we attribute relationship success to seeking our ‘type’ and yet, despite the fact thatAddams.gif we meet failure more often than success, we never think to apply the same logic to saying maybe juuust maybe a certain ‘type’ can lead to a certain outcome, that being of failure and sadness and heartbreak.  And yet, the most important statistic, the one that sticks out, isn’t the six times we went after someone we thought we’d like and it didn’t work out. The most important is the one time we did and it was incredibleLife-changingLasting. So really, who’s to say in this sense? Can we safely and reliably predict the result of a relationship based on the person, and if that’s the case, for so long as we keep going after the same type of person, do we then also assume it’s going to be the same relationship?

And let’s talk about that relationship for a second. Because some of us don’t have types. PortlandiaBut most of us have an idea of the kind of relationship we want. We might not know, or have, the individual ‘parts’ just yet (the person) but we certainly have in mind the ‘form’ (relationship) we want it to take up. So is this more or less important, more or less reliable as an indicator of any sort of success or failure? We want a relationship that is stable, loyal, satisfying, in whatever ways and measures and metrics we’ve decided are important to us. Indeed in conversations with some of my friends, I know that at least some of them have given little thought to the person they might end up with. It’s almost as if ‘who’ the person is, is of little importance compared to ‘how’ they fit into this form. New or old planks, original or renovated, as long as it is the same form, it is the same ideal. The thing of it is, as humans, I think we’re naturally designed to never be quite satisfied enough. It’s that itching, nervous twitch in the back of our mind that constantly asks us ‘is this enough’ that drives us either to great success, or to go mad. Some of us use it to continually grow and develop, to adapt and achieve great results. Others become paranoid, self-destructive, our own saboteurs, uncomfortable with happiness or satisfaction. So what is there to guarantee that once we find the person who fits this ‘form’ that we are going to be happy, with no regard for ‘who’ the person is?

The only truth we can safely arrive at, is that there is no answer to this. That’s why the ‘ship of Theseus’ is a paradox and not just a pub trivia question. To whatever aspect of Jeannot's Knifeour life we find the ship to be relevant to, we’re not meant to arrive at a conclusion. We’re meant to reflect and ruminate, to ponder with patience and perseverance. It keeps us aware, mentally and physically, and tethers us to reality. I’m no more ready to completely disregard types as I am to simply walk around with a cookie cutter and see who fits into it. And if I ever get tired of thinking about relationships (perish the thought), the ‘ship of Theseus’ has become such an important philosophical conundrum that I can find examples of it everywhere. In France there is the proverb of ‘Jeannot’s knife’, basically if the handle and the blade of a knife are replaced, is it the same knife? In movies, animation, and comics, the Japanese title Ghost in the Shell often wrestles with matters of humanity and soul when humans,Shrine.gif almost completely replaced with cybernetic enhancements and prosthetics, wonder where their humanity actually lies. In Japan, Shinto shrines have a very beautiful and sacred symbolic ritual wherein the entire shrine is dismantled and, on the same foundation, it is rebuilt with entirely new wood. This is meant to symbolize a cycle of renewal and rebirth, yet it remains, in spirit, the same shrine, built with wood from the same sacred woods. In 2013, the Ise Grand Shrine, one of the most famous and notable Shinto shrines, was rebuilt for the 62nd time.

I am anxious to ensure that I don’t just fall  back into old habits, or continue to pursue the same relationships with the same results. I will keep these thoughts and lessons in mind, and hopefully if at least the Man is different, the path will be as well.

Day 362

Man: 329 Loneliness: 33

Day 356: The Man and the Soulmate’s Identity Crisis; ‘Magnet’

My cousin and I were chatting the other night when she excitedly told me about a riveting new book she was reading that was about modern love and romance titled, surprise surprise, Modern Romance, by comedian Aziz Ansari. Setting aside the bitter burning jealousy I may or may not feel about a celebrity having the resources and clout to gather his own private team of historians, sociologists, psychologists, and ghost writers to publish his own musings and reflections on the idiosyncrasies of modern dating while I try to collect and gather my own thoughts with naught but Google and a library of personal failures, a few of the excerpts she read to me really did speak to the unique obstacles and problems of modern  love. In that honest yet humorous style characteristic of a talented comedian and actor, the book of course delves into the common stand up fodder of dating. Not knowing when it is appropriate to text, call, or, as the book says, ‘when to just drop everything, stand outside someone’s window, and serenade them with your favorite nineties R&B tune’. He also has this to say about bowling that, in the context of a stand-up routine I’m sure gets plenty of chuckles but, as a big proponent of the advantages of a bowling date, I think is just contrarian for the sake of being contrary.

It is fairly common knowledge that nothing gets a girl more turned on than a bowling lounge. Between watching fat guys tossing bowling balls and the dulcet tones of The Simpsons arcade game, I can’t imagine those encounters not ending in a marathon boning session.

-Aziz Ansari, Modern Romance

First of all, I wonder when the last time was that he stepped foot in a bowling alley. There are plenty of nicer ones nowadays with decent menus and good bars playing the same music you might hear in dance clubs with the same modern interiors and lighting. Bowlers themselves are far more diverse than just ‘fat guys tossing bowling balls’ and while it may not always end in a ‘marathon boning session’, I do still really like bowling or mini-golf or any sort of fun, low-stakes, cheesy corny yet slightly competitive environment for dates, especially those important few first dates. (There are plenty of studies that show that competition and rivalry under friendly terms are proven effective in creating bonds of companionship and romance. They’re also great for playing games of ‘truth or dare’.) If modern dating consists solely of chic boutique coffee shops with judgey ‘baristas’ and $15 craft beers at rooftop bars, I might just stick a magnet in my brain and dive headfirst into scrap metal.

But there are bits in there that do get the ol’ noggin turning. Like the ever-relevant Jerry.gifgenerational question of, ‘is love better or worse now than it once was’? See I think we often have this dual, contradictory, at times paradoxical view of ‘old love’ and ‘old romance’. On the one hand we modern day lovers want to pride ourselves in our passion and amorous adventurousness, the modern reemergence of pure, romantic love compared to the dry, chaste, almost ‘practical’ image we have of ‘traditional, old world’ love. Yet it is that traditional, old world love that sets the standard for loyalty, longevity, and legacy that our modern, often fleeting relationships, lack. We want to think our relationships now are more love driven and open and passionate and ‘happy’ yet for all our dating apps and sites and tools, we lack the strongest indications of successful relationships, that of lasting satisfaction and contentment. And I think it boils down to a case of a strong identity crisis.

Marriage was an economic institution in which you were given a partnership for life in terms of children and social status and succession and companionship. But now we want our partner to still give us all these things, but in addition I want you to be my best friend and my trusted confidant and my passionate lover to boot, and we live twice as long. So we come to one person, and we basically are asking them to give us what once an entire village used to provide: Give me belonging, give me identity, give me continuity, but give me transcendence and mystery and awe all in one. Give me comfort, give me edge. Give me novelty, give me familiarity. Give me predictability, give me surprise. And we think it’s a given, and toys and lingerie are going to save us with that. Ideally, though, we’re lucky, and we find our soul mate and enjoy that life-changing mother lode of happiness. But a soul mate is a very hard thing to find.

-Aziz Ansari, Modern Romance

Now I’ve mentioned this before in previous posts, and maybe I just can’t say it often enough, but I think the most dangerous contribution to modern romance is our obsession with ‘soulmates’. It isn’t even that I debate whether or not a soulmate for us actually exists or that we wouldn’t in fact be quite happy indeed were we lucky enough to find our soulmate. No, my big thing is that a) we are ill-advised to spend our time obsessing over finding our one true ‘soulmate’ and that b) we’ve done no justice to the world and to love by failing to give ‘soulmate’ a proper definition.

In an ideal world, at the end of what I can only hope would be a long, fulfilling, and Choose.gifultimately satisfying life, I would hope to be able to look back and reflect on a great many signs of success and a good use of my time. Not the least of which would be to reflect back on the love and devotion and passion of a life shared with someone special who I can say I loved with all my heart and who loved me back equally. In an ideal world, I would look back and know that I had spent my life loving one who was deserving of everything. Yet at the same time, in an ideal and practical and very real world, I would also know, and be comfortable with knowing, that if I didn’t have that one person, another would have probably, definitely, sufficed. The sheer number of people in the world now, before, and in the future, make the odds of finding our ‘one true soulmate’ near impossible. And to think that something as simple as ‘going to the same high school’ or as trite as ‘having compatible online dating profiles’ would find us our ‘one true Comics soulmate’ after just a few tries in the scope of eternity, is really wishful thinking. The truth is, and I think one of the things old marriage and old relationships had to their benefit, is that nowadays we have become so spoiled for choice that we have become too comfortable, too obsessed, with choosing. Back then we didn’t have the world at our fingertips to swipe left or right  endlessly, tirelessly, expecting love and romance and successful relationships to come to us in preformed prepackaged human beings. We’re rarely barely good enough as it is for ourselves, let alone trying to be perfect for someone else. Yet we are expected to be so now just to even get our foot in the door.

It reminds me of a comic song by comedian Tim Milchin, ‘If I Didn’t Have You’. I really strongly encourage you to listen to it below. You see, I don’t think the reality that we very well may not end up with our perfect ideal soulmate isn’t discouraging or takes away from the magic of a real love that we can have and share in our life. In fact, I think it further empowers it. It removes the idea of fate and destiny and places the success (yes and failure) directly in our own hands. How we grow and foster and care for one another and for the love we share. It becomes less about ‘it was going to be only you’ to ‘it was about choosing and making it about only you’. It encourages us to be open to life and romance and opportunities and, when we face obstacles or ultimately separation, it comforts us to know that outside of our soulmate, of the rest of the 99.999% of the world, we are bound to find something that is, and this is important, equally as good.

My other objection to ‘soulmates’ that I think makes it harder and harder for us to find lasting love is that if you ask one hundred people, you could very well get one hundred different answers for what a soulmate actually is. I mean good god, if I showed an object to a hundred people and a hundred people called it a hundred different things, I wouldn’t  think the object had something wrong with it, I’d think it was the people. Take Pluto for example. It takes Pluto 248 years to make one orbit around the sun. Between now and its first discovery, Pluto has yet to complete one full orbit yet it’s undergone two name changes. At less than one Pluto year old, it has gone from celestial body to planet to not a planet to dwarf planet. And in all that time, Pluto has done nothing different. It Pluto.gifdidn’t suddenly change orbit or size or characteristic. What changed was our definition because when we came up with the idea of ‘planet’ we didn’t know any better, or know of the infinite number of variables, and for the longest time we pushed forward with our original definition even though it got harder and harder to classify what we’ve found. We’ve wanted ‘soulmates’ for so long yet we struggle to really figure out what it means to have one. We want to believe ‘soulmates’ are predetermined predestined preprogrammed perfect fits for our own unique personalities. It is appealing because it takes all the impetus for change and effort and growth off of us and onto them. But what of the countless successful marriages and relationships  who have become so because of hard work, communication, growth, and sharing. Are they lesser because they weren’t soulmates, and are we to believe that despite the immense happiness they have built and shared together, they’d be immediately and automatically happier the moment they met their soulmate? Is this why wandering eyes and hearts are such a problem these days? Why we are disloyal and prone to infidelity or self-doubt or so afraid to commit? Are we so convinced that there is something so much better on the horizon that we never try to see what is right in front of us? We might never find our soulmate not because we didn’t actually find them but because our definition fails us in so many ways that we’ll never notice them when they are there. But even worse, notice the very real opportunity for love with 99.999 percent of someone because that .001 percent just isn’t soulmate material.

Ultimately, at the end of the day I’m not looking for my soulmate. I want happiness and romance and passion and love and understanding and compassion and all those things, but I know more than one person can give me each of those things and that each of those things can be found altogether in more than just one example of a person. Whether or not there is a soulmate out there for me or for anyone is not going to deter me from looking for someone who I can be incredibly happy with and who I would want to spend my one life, one love, with.  That she might not be my soulmate does not take away from the very real possibility that through commitment, communication, dedication, understanding, compassion, and empathy I will have found someone, but moreover made something, worth feeling like it was one in a billion.

Day 356

Man: 323 Loneliness: 33

 

Day 348: The Man and the Blinders; ‘Loop’

For  those of you not mathematically inclined, 365-348 is 17. That’s three weeks. Now that might not mean much to you, but for me, it’s a milestone so incredible not because I didn’t think I’d make it, but because a year ago I never even knew I’d be setting it for myself to begin with. I was honestly floundering after the breakup. I was making do, doing the same thing I always did, piecing things back together the only way I knew how.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.

Forty-nine weeks ago, I didn’t know what to do or how to go about it, but I did know that the usual way wasn’t going to work for me anymore and I had to break out of this heartbreak loop. I’m not entirely convinced I’ve figured out what does, but I think I’ve got a better idea of what doesn’t, aside from just ‘everything I did before’. So a lot of readers, when they first come across my blog, ask about the numbers or what I’m counting up to or down from. When they find out, the usual question, and one that has popped up the most often, is ‘what happens after day  365’.

Over the course of the past year, the purpose of this blog has changed and shifted. A very Countdown.gifearly question was ‘can I be happy alone and not looking vs alone and always looking’. And I think I answered that really early on as I discovered new interests and hobbies and delved back into old ones. I’ve picked up archery, switched martial arts schools to one that is more satisfying, and started going out to more social events to meet new people. But I also spent a lot of time by myself allowing myself to live the life I thought I would reserve to share with someone else. I took the dream vacation to Canada I’d been planning in my head since I first went to Toronto. Started a new career, knocked off a lot of firsts, and made damn sure that when I did finally meet the woman I would be with, whoever and wherever she may be, I’d have plenty of  stories to tell, because I have to think during all this time, she’s been doing the same.

I thought a lot of this was supposed to be about answering questions.  ‘Can I be alone’, ‘can I be happy’, ‘what am I looking for’. I’ve done a lot of thinking and reflection, and I’ve learned a lot also not just from my own thoughts, but from the conversations and dialogues I’ve had with people as well. Whether here as Man, or in real life as Me, I’ve wanted to learn from and talk to as many people as possible. I’ve realized though, answers can’t come when the questions aren’t clear.

So while I’m not entirely sure the whole world is going to change in three weeks, I do know three things will.

  1. My friends and family will be made aware of the existence of this blog and what I’ve been up to this past year. I made the decision when I started all this a long time ago that I didn’t want to involve anyone who knew me personally. At least, not until the end. Part of it was the appeal of having this blank state and presenting myself and my thoughts and problems in a completely unbiased way. I didn’t want people automatically on my side or echoing my own thoughts. Who knows, maybe a forum of strangers were going to reveal to me that I’m actually a jackass and really need to change. I don’t see this being a big deal, except for maybe a few people who will be surprised that I write. But I’m hoping it’ll spark new conversation also, and for that I’m excited.
  2. Part of this melding of the two worlds, Man and Me, is while my friends and family discover Man, my blogging world will get to know more about Me. I don’t entirely know what that means yet, but I do know it means whenever relevant I will show my face and stories will be much more personal. I won’t be including names or whatnot of others obviously out of respect, but what I’m hoping it does mean is that personal stories or reflections etc might be shared more often. Different kinds of posts, and maybe some new projects. So yeah. Face pics.
  3. The blinders will be lifted.

And that’s the big one. The one that’s really got me thinking and gets me all excited and anxious like a giddy little schoolboy all over again. You know there was that whole ‘noRejected.gif dating for a year’ thing and I was realistic, I knew this didn’t mean I’d be batting away and rejecting proposals left and right. Really what it meant is that I couldn’t be doing anything to try and date. So after 365 it doesn’t mean the flood gates will be open and suddenly I’ll be fielding requests in waves. It means I’m not going to have this blog, this purpose, as a buffer against dating anymore. So far, when I’ve met women I might be interested in or been tempted to go back to some online dating sites or go out with friends to bars or parties and see these crowds of women, I’ve barred myself not for lack of interest, but because I just…couldn’t. Had the blog to think about. Had the journey and the experiment. Now it’s going to be all over.

It’s not that I’m in any great rush to start dating again. I haven’t been itching and scratching at the door just waiting for it to finally open. I think that’s one of the big changes. I’m not so ‘feeling incomplete’ anymore. Really it’s that now, if an opportunity comes up, if a person comes my way, I’m not going to have an arbitrary reason to say no, Belly Flop.gifbut I’m going to have to really think more about if, and when, and how, and why, to say yes. See I’m hoping that after all this time, I’ve learned not to look for answers, or to think of any relationship or person as one. I’m hoping the questions have gotten better, clearer, more purposeful. I’m hoping that as I now meet people and reconsider relationships and romance, I’m going to ask better questions of myself and of her than I used to. I think, in the past, the only question I’ve ever asked is ‘is she into me’. Hahah. A previous reader commented in my last post that there’s this certain point where being single goes from ‘by choice’ to ‘by fear’. And I think that point is right around where how good a person is at being able to discern for themselves an opportunity when it presents itself. Herself. Himself. Whatever. I’m not so single and content to not remember or realize how much I still want to be with someone. I’m not so much wanting to be with someone that I’ve forgotten the value of solitude and contentment. I’m not yet so suspicious or paranoid to ask too many questions, but not so naive as to ask none (but I certainly used to be). But I mean talk is cheap. Actions speak louder. I’ve got no excuses anymore, and so the big change isn’t that I’m jumping back in, because for the most part I always knew how to swim. It’s that now I know to check the water first.

Day 348

Man: 315  Loneliness: 33

Day 347: The Man and the Deal with Exes; ‘Meddle’

In my best Jerry Seinfeld impression…‘whaaat’s the deal with exes?’

In all honesty though, what do we do with exes? I don’t think we ever firmly established any sort of groundwork or code of conduct. No treatise signed, no coda created. Exes are a miserable, messy, miasmic byproduct of relationships. There are always questions related to exes. Is it possible to stay friends. What do you do with friends you made as a couple. Could it ever work out again. I don’t know, for the most part a ‘scorched earth’ approach seems to be a pretty effective catch-all. You can’t worry about handling any sort of complex emotional or relational problems if you burn every constant reminder and connection.

Of course, it’s harder to burn a digital network. And so one of the most tragic ironies is Headlights.gifthat the generation with the most advanced social connection technology, the same generation responsible for ‘Tinder’, ‘ghosting’, and the overall decline of relational maturity, is also the generation who has to handle the most persistent presence of exes and ex interaction. Like a ‘six degrees of Kevin Bacon’ game from hell, you may unfriend an ex, but chances are somewhere down the data family tree, is someone else who is friends with someone else who is still friends with her and then…boom…there’s a post of them together on a vacation, or a comment on a photo with a profile pic of the happy couple. And that’s the biggest question left unanswered for me. The one thing I just can’t seem to make sense of or process.

How do we feel about our exes in new relationships?

For context, no this is not ‘THE’ ex. A different one, just one of many. This ex didn’t sting. It was the reason for the breakup, and the nature of the relationship, that did. See, she was in college at the time in DC, and of course I was living and working in NJ. Working my first year of teaching, a highly stressful and emotional job that maybe just maybe did take me away emotionally and mentally from the relationship at times. And here was a young college girl experiencing life away from home for the very first time and exploring all her opportunities and one of those happened to be a fellow classmate who ‘ had a better body, had more money, and was also Chinese (like her)’; her words, not mine. Getting over her was pretty easy. Getting over the newfound insecurity, not so much. But, there she was, years and years and…counting on my fingers…yeah, years after, and there’s her in a vacation pic with friends of friends of friends, but there’s her profile picture and god almighty the two are still together.

It wasn’t jealousy that ran through my veins. Not even anger. No, it was something more akin to…disbelief. Here I am, after the two of us broke up, having had more relationships, more breakups, more failures, and there she was, with the same guy this entire time. I can’t believe after everything, I’m the one who couldn’t get his shit together well enough to conjure up a relationship that could’ve at least lasted half as long as hers has.

What do we do with exes in relationships? And before you worry, I don’t mean actually ‘do’. I wouldn’t stoop so low ever as to meddle in these people’s lives. I just mean…where do we store that information in our heads and how are we supposed to feel about it.

First, there’s the person to consider. Could this reaction be in someway caused by lingering feelings? Perhaps. I could see in some cases this happening. It’s hard, when you care about someone, to be happy for them when what makes them happy isn’t you. Best thing for anyone in this case is to just acknowledge those feelings and then move on. After all, jealousy doesn’t look good on anyone. And then there’s the relationship. Sometimes, it isn’t about the person. This could be the most toxic, noxious, incompatible boob you’ve ever been with. But when you’re in that vulnerable state where you’re just feeling that uber-loneliness and wondering why you can’t find someone, seeing someone you were with, with someone else, makes you feel like the biggest failure.

These are honest, human, emotional reactions. I would never fault anyone for finding themselves feeling like that at least a couple times in their lives. I get that. But they’re about dealing with certain people or with our own attitude towards relationships. I’m talking about, as a functioning human adult, mature and well adjusted, how does one deal with seeing an ex in a relationship.

Calmer, better, gentler, and overall more noble and honorable ones of us will tell me that it’s of no matter, and perhaps the most admirable of us could even feasibly muster the decency to be genuinely happy for the other person. But the truth is, having no feelings towards this person, and no current desire for a relationship or concern for not being in one, I genuinely hated seeing that picture of these two people. That’s, like, really not healthy right? I don’t think I have it in me to be happy for these people. I’m not stopping them, but I’ll eternally hope that if loneliness doesn’t find them, then the bleakness of a mediocre subpar relationship does. No one is denying that sounds messed up. I’m not denying it sounds messed up. But yes, maybe I do tell myself that these two deserve each other because they’ve got the emotional depth of a kiddie pool. It sounds harsh, and I doubt it makes me the better man. But we are all human, and we are all entitled to our faults and vices. I guess this one is gonna be mine for a while, maybe always. Some of you are much, much better people than me in this regard. I applaud and admire and respect that. But for me, if the scorched earth doesn’t burn away every last remnant, there’s probably gonna be a little bit of bitterness. Now, considering this blog, this reflection, is in a major part about the pursuit of growth and improvement, could I move beyond this?

It Won't.gif

Day 347

Man: 314 Loneliness: 33

Day 236: The Man and the ‘I’m too angry at this ridiculous dating service to come up with a clever title because, like, SERIOUSLY?!’; ‘Hesitate’

Chan Picture.jpg

If I did videos…if I was a vlogger…I’d be jumping up and down pacing the room with my arms doing wild and erratic undulations foaming at the mouth. But I’m not so I have to figure out how to distill the…shock…disbelief…utter bewilderment…and frustration that is more likely to process its way to my fingertips in the form of hands thrown up in the air in utter surrender into cohesive thoughts. In other words, I’m having a hard time typing because every single time my mind starts to really process this, I basically look like this Jackie Chan meme.

chan-meme

So what has me so riled up?! Of all things, an online dating app. Specifically, a rather new entry aimed at an Asian demographic, eastmeeteast.

eastmeeteast

It’s no surprise that the data spies over at Facebook decided to flood my sidebar with ads for this new dating service. I started seeing them pop up last month but didn’t really pay much attention to it aside from the occasional pictures of some very beautiful Asian women. The ads became more persistent recently and also more…objectionable…so I decided to look into their service a bit more. I did not like what I saw.

The motivation behind the service seemed to be noble enough. When its founder, Mariko Image result for jdateTokioka came up with the idea, it was because she ‘wanted to meet someone who shared [her] culture and language, and could talk to [her] parents’. She went on to say that ‘it was very hard on existing dating sites because they tend to group all Asians together’. And I get that. I can relate to that. I have always dated Asian women because of that convenience and connection of shared cultural experiences and perspectives. It is nice to start off from a very similar background and build off of that, and I do have to agree that when I did use online dating to help me find someone, while there was an option to either specify that you either were Asian or looking for an Asian, you couldn’t really specify any further than that. So you were taking a very large and complicated and diverse geographical, cultural, and ethnic Image result for blackpeoplemeetcategory and reducing it to one and the same. I mean hey, I would love to be able to date a Filipina, but I’ve never been able to just search or at least prioritize being matched up with Filipinas. In much the same way that there is jdate for Jewish singles, BlackPeopleMeet for black singles, why shouldn’t, or rather couldn’t, there be an app or site or service designed specifically to help Asian singles? Noble intentions or pragmatic approaches aside, Mariko was very sensibly and practically addressing a need that was there to be filled.

So you have a product with some real potential to be a valuable and profitable service in EastAd1.jpgthe world. There’s a large audience for it, you just need to make sure you are marketing it properly. And this is the first part that really missed the mark and got me wondering what exactly these people were thinking. Suddenly if I was on Facebook at work and an eastmeeteast ad would appear on my feed I’d have to very quickly and furtively scroll past it lest wandering eyes catch a glimpse and wonder what the hell I was doing. A service meant for Asian singles to meet with Asian singles started to pose itself like those mysteriously vague massage parlor ads you see on the back of bad local newspapers. This is not the kind of picture you want associated with your service and it’s also not the kind of membership you want to advertise having. Suddenly I had to question whether or not this service was even legitimate or if I was being asked to join some sort of strange escort service and the FBI would be knocking on my door. If you have real members who EastAd4.jpgare honestly and genuinely interested in finding a partner, why not highlight them? Instead I feel like they are reducing themselves to the very basest and simplistic stereotypes of ‘yellow fever’. Speaking of which, can an Asian even have ‘yellow fever’ being, you know, ‘yellow’ himself? I feel uncomfortable looking at these ads and considering what kind of service they might actually provide. And it isn’t even a one-off thing. These ads were taken directly off of eastmeeteast’s official Twitter account. These are their ads. This is how they want you to perceive them. I’m even extra careful writing this right now at work because I don’t want people to see the pictures on my page as I type. Again, ugh, what the hell guys? What’s your marketing goal here? When it comes to Asians and especially dating Asians, there are enough stereotypes to have to battle. Pictures like these just continue to eastad2perpetuate them and create unrealistic expectations and depictions on both sides. I want to date an Asian women because of the cultural background, similar experiences and interests, and because in general, I just want to. It really shouldn’t have to go beyond that. I don’t need to be tricked into thinking about those awful and outdated stereotypes of the shy, meek, submissive Asian girl and god help you if you’re trying to convince women that’s what we want either. It does no good especially for a service that is supposed to be even more connected and relevant to this particular community. I also think there’s a very fine difference between being self-aware and being self-defeating. So flat attempts at meta-racial humor like this aren’t funny or show some sort of higher level of awareness. I think it shows that this is a company so far-removed from its intended audience that it mistakes hyperbole and exaggeration for poignancy. This wasn’t cool when Mickey Rooney did it. It’s especially not cool when we’re doing it to ourselves. Again, seriously, I have to remind you that all of these pictures are taken from eastmeeteast itself. I don’t mind the name, eastmeeteast, as it correctly and accuralte depicts the intended seekers and potential matches. I understand, just as anyone else who comes across the app, what it is for. But beyond that, I just want it to be treated like any other dating app, and me to be treated like any other person hoping to find love or at least a connection. Once within the confines of the eastmeeteast world all I would want to expect is a smart, sleek, convenient way of meeting people. Yes they would be Asian and but the matching process should be the same. What are my likes. My dislikes. What do I do for fun. I feel like if I were to sign up it’d gauge my matches based on chopstick skills.

I think the worst thing about the service though is that it continues to perpetuate, profit on, and portray a message about dating Asians that we should really be trying to dissolve or disassociate with. Apparently, female members who sign up for the service can join for free, but men are charged $30 per month. Well let’s ask the owner and founder what she thinks. And I quote, ‘statistically Asian women are wanted more [by men of other ethnicities], but Asian men are not so much desired’.

parks-and-rec

YOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. WHAT?! Did the Asian owner of an Asian dating app just say that?! I’m about to start angry pacing up in here again! Honestly, this isn’t even a statistic I want to prove or disprove. It’s a perceived fact based on cultural stereotypes that I want the person in charge of helping me potentially find love to not even consider.

I’ve had to deal with this assumption my entire life. It’s become such a seemingly subtle and deceptively harmless facet of everyday racism towards Asians that even I’ve limited eastad3myself sometimes because I convinced myself that no one outside of my own race would ever be attracted to me. I’ve been attracted to people of all different ethnicities and races, but I tend to always hesitate because I think I don’t possess the right qualities to appeal to someone beyond my own cultural scope. Asian men are often depicted as not masculine enough, not tough enough, assertive enough, or confident enough to go out there. Filipinos tend to be pretty short and often have much softer facial features. I happen to be six feet tall and big but still I often feel less than ‘manly’ enough. This is a damaging stereotype that hurts people’s confidence and prevents a lot of people from taking more chances. Now I’m not saying I expect eastmeeteast to deny this or rewrite history or change people’s expectations. I expected them to rise above it by not even addressing it. I believe that the truth is nowadays people are looking beyond appearances and stereotypes. Dating nowadays is such a global and interconnected phenomenon that one cannot help but become much more diverse in choices, preferences, and attractions. But eastmeeteast is very clearly trying to get across the message to Asian men that we are at a natural eastad5disadvantage in the real world. We are unwanted outside of our limited groups. Be wary, Asian man, for Asian women can go anywhere and get picked up by anyone, and you will be left alone. They are profiting by continuing this destructive belief. Asian men should be happy and willing to pay a monthly fee because by doing so you are getting access to an exclusive collection of Asian women who still might actually want an Asian man. What kind of crazy backwards self-defeatist thinking is this? Why are we seriously trying to capitalize on a message we should be trying our best not to spread? That’s what really got me the most. There is a history of racial profiling in online dating apps and the mainstream media portrayal of Asian men has always been less than favorable. Why are we now doing it to ourselves to control and intimidate Asian singles? I’ve done a lot, and still am doing a lot, to help improve myself not only as an individual but as a future potential partner. I keep myself healthy and fit with regular exercise. I’ve taught myself to cook. I’ve developed a well-rounded and diverse personality with many interests, hobbies, and activities. I didn’t do them to supplement some unnatural genetic or ethnic disadvantage. I did it because I wanted to be viewed as an individual for my individual qualities and traits.

Again, don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against the idea of a site that is aimed primarily to help Asian singles meet other Asian singles. But I don’t need the site to further depict or decide what being Asian means or is about and how we should be portrayed. I know from personal experience how hard it can be sometimes to find someone specific in a seemingly endless sea of ever-increasing fish. A little assistance is never a bad thing. But there’s something seriously messed up and slightly sinister behind eastmeeteast. I just think it’s way too off and there’s something wrong with how it’s presented itself. It depicts Asian women as these goddesses, sirens to be desired and dominated. It preys on the cultural stereotype of unattractive Asian men who must be willing to do anything to meet someone. The whole thing makes me feel uncomfortable. Confused. Shocked. I guess I’ll look somewhere else when the time comes.

Day 236

Man: 203 Loneliness: 33

 

Day 227: The Man and the Half-Baked Mentality; ‘Glitter’

Over the weekend I ran into not one, but two girls from my past. They weren’t exes or anything, but these were people I used to know backmorning-face in high school who I may have flirted with every now and then. They were underclassmen and we were in the same clubs so we’d see each other every other weekend whenever we were doing club activities. Funnily enough I saw them on separate occasions, one on Saturday and the other on Sunday. From having not seen them in like ten years to back to back in the same weekend. On Saturday I had just gotten out of practice and was going to buy a new video game to feed my obsession. But this meant I was smelly, in sweaty post-exercise clothes, and also hadn’t shaved yet. Ugh. And on Sunday I was cooking for my family who had just gotten back from the Philippines (and brought this lovely cold I now have as a souvenir) when I needed to run out to our local Asian market for some last minute ingredients. Jeans, a house shirt with some silly Filipino pun on it, my ‘no one is going to see me’ glasses (I don’t wear my contacts at home), and a wildly unkempt head of hair. So, yeah. Talk about feeling unprepared.

But I gotta tell you, you know, it wasn’t feeling physically unprepared to see them that bothered me. I’ve seen, and been seen in, worse. But mentally, mentally I was so unready for that. The one on Saturday, she saw me first so there was nowhere to run or hide. So I had to grin and bear it and do the catching-up small talk expected of productive normal members of society. On Sunday I saw her first and was so mentally not at ease with the situation that I ducked and hid between aisles as I furtively grabbed whatever it was I needed and tunnel-visioned at the register. Didn’t look left or right lest a wandering eye might fall on her and hers on mine.

That really took me by surprise; I didn’t think I’d be running and hiding like a shy little ramsay-rawschoolboy with a schoolyard crush. Here I am, working towards bettering myself, talking about these big ideals and plans and self-realizing and reflecting and all that jazz, and this ‘opporunity’ if not for love at least for interaction comes my way and I avoid it like the plague. I couldn’t shake the feeling of being ‘unfinished’. That’s what kept coming up in my mind whenever I was thinking about those interactions. I was an ‘unfinished’ product. Like taking something out of the oven too soon. It’s ruined if you rush it.

I guess that just kind of comes with the territory of having to admit to yourself that you may have a problem. I had a problem with love and relationships and being secure with myself to be okay either in or out of one, and because I set out to fix it, until it is, I began to see myself as someone ‘under construction’. I’m not the kind of person to broadcast my intentions or plans, really. I think I’ve mentioned that before on here. I much prefer to keep all that to myself and only talk about it once it’s done and I am successful. I don’t need the encouragement or seek the validation and I don’t like to post ‘progress’ or set myself up for that kind of accountability and potential for failure by getting everyone involved. That’s why almost no one in my actual private personal circle knows about this blog or what it is I’m trying to do. I want to just emerge from the year a better, wiser, stronger person and let people know what I’ve done and how I’ve done it, after I’ve done it.

bread-baking

Of course, this also means that during the process I might not be able to shake this ‘half-baked’ mentality and will feel even worse when I run into people. I’m suddenly scared and insecure in the face of possibility or potential before finishing this process. At the same time though, I wonder what exactly is supposed to happen at the end of the year. Do I dare be so bold as to say ‘I’ve done it, I’ve completed the task, I am finished‘? Will I at the very least feel completed enough to be confident enough to look a woman in the eye when I’m interested. Will I feel like enough of who I want to be to think of being who someone else might want also.

I will admit, I feel lonely. It’s not a bad thing per se. I am living a completely satisfactory life and I am, to a certain extent, content. Currently I am working on improving myself, stick-a-forkmy career, and my interests (like writing). They keep me busy and engaged throughout the day but still leave me time to relax, reflect, unwind, and indulge. But at a certain point, I would really like to have someone to be with. I just feel unfinished, unprepared, and unable at this point to be able to pursue that. I didn’t think I would feel this way. I thought during the year I’d simply turn it off, like a switch, and go about my day. It was just a somewhat humbling shocker to have these sudden chance encounters and realize that you can’t turn that desire, that want, off. You remove yourself from it, try to prepare for it, but life is unpredictable and you never know who you’ll run into at a grocery store. I’m not saying that at the end of the year I’ll be all wrapped up with a pretty bow and glitter will burst out when you open me up, but I’d like to think, hope to think, that at the end of it all I will be more confident again, more prepared, more willing. Come see me again and I’ll still try and chat you up in shorts, flip-flops, and a torn shirt. Hahah.

Day 227

Man: 194 Loneliness: 33

Day 222: The Man and the Benched for the Season; ‘Expectation’

So…I actually legitimately forgot it was Valentine’s Day today. Hahah. I had a completely different post lined up for today (yes I schedule and plan these out in advance). It was going to be another cooking post actually, something I made over the weekend. But that’ll be tomorrow because I feel like a blog with this particular focus and origin story should probably speak about something on what is supposed to be the most romantic holiday of the year.

Whatever that means.

ugh-valentineI actually do like Valentine’s Day. Yeah sorry, the world couldn’t make me cynical enough to not care. I know it’s a cheesy, overly capitalist consumerist holiday filled with earwax flavored powdered chalk hearts, assorted chocolate boxes that really only have two worth eating, impractically large stuffed bears, and overpriced prix fixe menus but it’s my cheesy, over capitalist consumerist holiday. Whatever little sense of competition and competitiveness I do have is usually reserved for things like this and I feel like not only am I competing against every other boyfriend in the world, most of all I’m competing against myself. Trying to make each year better and bigger than the last and ‘win’ at cramming as much love and sentiment and all that jazz into one day as possible. Ahahah.

For the most part, I think I’ve done a pretty good job. I remember my first real Valentine’s Day was in high school. I had to have my parents pick up my date because I wasn’t old enough to drive yet. We went to this Taiwanese restaurant that my family and I would always go to and they would give us little freebies. An appetizer, some bubble tea, simple things just as a sign of gratitude and appreciation for our continued and frequent patronage. She was Chinese and it was fun watching her order in Mandarin and we had these dishes that I guess had always been on the menu but my family never knew or thought to order. I gave her a Zune. She got me a mandolin slicer. Zunes ended up being a flop and I sliced off my finger pad with the slicer the first time I used it. Hahah. My first Valentine’s with Beautiful, we went to Build a Bear and made Big [My name] together. He’s sadly lost forever in some dump somewhere most likely. Last year, I took her to Philly for the weekend and we recreated our first visit and she got roses at every stop. I don’t need to tell you how that ended up.

I feel old and irrelevant. Like a former high school athlete who petered out and has dazed-and-confusednothing better to do than wear his old varsity jacket and hang around the local bowling alley. I worry all I have now are stories of the past. When I first started writing, my fear was that I would be haunted by the ghosts of my past forever, and that the reminders that surrounded me would eventually weigh me down so much I wouldn’t be able to pick myself up. Writing was this therapeutic way of bringing these ghosts back into physical form and letting them live on somewhere else other than just my memory. They became stories and lessons and things I could actually weave together into something productive, useful. Now I wonder if I’ve beaten a dead horse too much. If I’ve run out. There’s a fine line between nostalgia for the past and obsession for it.

At the same time though I also feel like I have all this pent up energy. Like I’ve still got so much to do and so much I could be capable of and it’s the last quarter and my team is down but my coach has benched me for the season. Yesterday as I was having lunch in our lounge area I heard some coworkers from other departments talking about their Valentine’s plans. ‘Oh we have a restaurant.com gift card to use up so we’ll probably go somewhere that’ll take it,’ said one woman. Another commented, ‘we usually just buy our own gifts since he doesn’t ever really know what to get’. The sole male member of their group was actually quite confident when he said ‘I have an app that remembers holidays and it just sends flowers and chocolates to be delivered home. It’s great and it’s so easy to use’. I physically cringed.

If anything, I feel this call to action because I don’t want to see the sorry sad state modern-day romance seems to be in. I’m not saying we need to go back to such old and im-batmanoutdated notions like a guy throwing his coat onto the ground so she doesn’t step in a puddle. But you know, let’s actually take the time and effort to plan dates and know what to get for gifts. Let’s open doors and pay for meals. It’s kind of worrying when around the holidays and Valentine’s there are so many online forum posts and questions about ‘how do I get her to tell me what she wants as a gift’ or ‘top 10 easy, universal gift ideas that’ll keep her happy’. At the same time though, I still find those overly-public and attention-seeking grand gestures too exaggerated and impersonal. Everyone wants to ooh and aah but I don’t know…I find it desperate, insisting upon itself. So I come off cynical. It’s funny. I have this die-hard romantic side of me that’s been kept bottled up now for going on two-third of a year, which is about as long as some of these new people I work with have known me. They never saw me with Beautiful. Or with any of the other girls. I’m not as close with them as I was in my old job at my old place. They know very little, outside of what I give them, and they supplement that with your standard modern-day twenty-something single male stereotypes. They joke that since I am usually very frugal and good with money that I must make the girl pay or I suggest we split everything when we go out. They tell me I better find a girl because I’m too quiet and uptight. That if I’m single too long I’ll go hungry (they don’t know I cook). They have this very depressing view on me, that either I must be sad because I’m alone or that I must be undateable. Hahah. I could say something, show something, but I don’t have the energy nor the will nor the care really to do so. I’m not dating or will date any of them, so what have I got to prove? It’s just really stifling, feeling like a superhero in a world that has no need for, or belief in, one.

What keeps me sane through all this is the meshing together of these two thoughts. On the one hand, I know I am prone to, and enjoy, the larger than life displays and romantic gestures. On the other hand, that I am still putting myself in a position of waiting and analyzing. See because one helps me to realize that no matter how big or small the gesture, it doesn’t really do much to contribute to the overall success or failure of a relationship. There are people far happier than me who have done less and people who are alone and yet may have done even more. What I did for these women, they were never contracts or agreements. I did them because I wanted to. And they left because well, they wanted to also. I like the memories. I think they were sweet and I was happy in them. I’m still happy, but maybe just not so sweet. Hahah. But I’m not relegated to these reminders of the past. Because…point two, I know I am still very much able and capable and overall wanting, to be that person again. I never gave up on love or hope of love. I think if I’m really honest, a lot of times in the past the gesture came first, the person second. Meaning to say, I wanted to be this romance god and had this idea of what to do and I just projected that onto whoever I was with. But if the relationship is about the gesture, it’s not the best or even strongest foundation. Now, I’m still very much the same person but I want to find someone first. Spend the time to find someone really special. Important. Then, I want to figure out what they want, are looking for. Pour all this energy and drive into defying and surpassing all expectation and do something that speaks straight to the heart of that one person. Universal plans are nice, and I still have them. But I want to find someone and be with someone who inspires me to do things deeply personal and unique. I think she and I could create some real great things. And then I’d still be winning anyways. Hahah.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Day 222

Man: 190 Loneliness: 32