Sex and Bipolar Mania

Today is the first full day of Spring, and I may have Spring Fever.  Or maybe I’m feeling flask_Whiskey_Frisky_pink_4_1024x1024a little manic.  I could be a little depressed.  Or just frisky. I don’t really know how I feel, I only know how I’m acting these days and the times in which I’ve acted like this before haven’t turned out so well.

I’ve written about by first big manic episode involving near-anonymous sex and out-of-control feelings.  I don’t feel like that right now, but I find myself with similar desires.  I very much want to have sex.  Lots of it.  Fortunately I want to be with men that I know and like instead of random dudes from Craigslist.  Still, I feel the same edge, the same need to connect physically that I experienced during mania.  And in order to smooth that edge I’m working towards having two lovers, which I’ve never done before in my right mind, so this is uncharted and slightly scary territory.

My quest for paramours began with Matt, to whom I’m very attracted but whom I’ve only seen twice.  Lately he’s been busy with his kids, work and seeing the other women that I’m aware are on his dating roster.  Though I’d like to have a sexual relationship with him, our schedules haven’t meshed in a while so I’ve had to seek other companionship.  Enter Mike, a friend of a friend that I met a few months ago and with whom I’ve had many conversations over time.  We’d talked about going out on a date and recently I took him up on his offer, meeting for dinner and then bringing him back to my place for the rest of the night.  We had fun, and we’ll do it again, but my desire for Matt has not been slaked which means that I’ll continue to see Mike and Matt at the same time.  I just hope that I don’t utter the wrong name at a crucial point in any crucial proceedings.

So why am I stressing about a simple decision to be non-monogamous?  Because it’s uncharacteristic.  At this stage in my life, I’m usually not about the change. I like doing things the same way over and over again, even if they don’t turn out well.  Particularly in relationships.  I find the guy who’s somewhat withholding, fall in monogamous love with him, get annoyed, get hurt, do it over again.  This time things are different.  So maybe Matt is a little withholding, or at least practically unavailable if not emotionally.  We’ll get together at some point.  Even if we don’t, I have Mike around for when I get antsy and need some company.  But it’s that antsy feeling that troubles me, and perhaps racking up simultaneous lovers to occupy myself with sex isn’t the best way to deal with it.

Sex is a complicated thing, or at least it is for me. I’m probably a typical woman in that I have better, more enjoyable sex when I have some kind of attachment.  And it means more to me than the physical enjoyment of the process.  I realized that I’m one of those women who gets validation from sex.  Way back in my teenaged years I was always the “just a friend” girl.  I always figured that guys wanted to just be friends with me because there was no attraction.  As an adult I know that sex can mean many things, and I’m confident in my ability to attract a man when I want one.  Still, part of me always views sex as a way to reinforce that I’m no longer that unattractive teenager.  It makes sense that sex was my go-to activity when I was emotionally unstable, providing me an emotional boost along with an endorphin rush.

If I’m honest with myself, I probably spend more time with Mike because Matt is unavailable, and part of me likes having two men around because of a lingering sense of rejection from my youth.  And though my rational self would never admit it, some part of me is still recovering from my last breakup and craves the excitement of male attention.  When I think about all of that, I might not be having my healthiest moment.  But I’m certainly not at my least healthy or least introspective.  So, for now, I’ll hang around with these guys that I like.  Maybe I’ll be physical with both of them.  I won’t say or do anything that I’ll regret later.  And I’ll be sure to keep tabs on my feelings should they slip back into mania or depression.

Dating While Bipolar: When to Trust Your Feelings

As you may have figured, Matt and I had another date this past weekend.  Again, it was Manic_Episode-2pretty good as far as dates go – there was talking and eating and kissing, all in satisfactory amounts.  After two enjoyable evenings, I’m starting to feel things for Matt.  Happy things.  Scary things.  Years of bad dates and rejection have made me distrust my feelings in the romantic realm.  Years of therapy have made me distrust my feelings and instincts in many realms.  So what am I supposed to do now?

I haven’t admitted this aloud yet but I really like Matt, or at least I think that I could like him a lot in the future, or maybe I just like having a man pay attention to me.  I can say that I like talking to him, I like that he does volunteer work, and I like the way he looks at me when he’s going to kiss me.  He also reads this blog, which couldn’t be a bigger turn-on. Even writing that confession fills me with something akin to guilt, which is a bizarre reaction.  How can one feel guilty about positive emotions?  Apparently it is possible because right after having a warm-fuzzy about Matt I generally feel like it’s wrong for me to feel that way.

That sense of wrongness has some basis in reality, at least for a somewhat cautious lover like me.  I’m very newly seeing Matt – you wouldn’t say that we’re in a relationship – and I don’t feel like it’s in my best interest to care so soon, before I know what he wants from me.  Also, I know that he’s only been interested in casual liaisons since his marriage ended, and while I’m interested in something casual I’ve always been a dating-for-a-serious-relationship girl.  I can’t say that I’ve pictured a future with Matt and me beyond the next date, but I miss some aspects of heavy relationships, like daily phone calls.  And I even feel needy and inappropriate for feeling and admitting that.

Feeling wrong about my feelings also comes from having negative thoughts and the emotions that they engender. Years of depressive thinking have worn a negative rut into my brain, so I’ve learned not to trust my first emotional reaction.  It has taken years of therapy and some nice psychotropic drugs to get out of the negative thinking habit, but not out of the habit of second-guessing myself.  The last time that I used my therapy to solve a relationship problem, it turns out that my first instinct was right. I thought I’d done something to push away my boyfriend at the time because my behavior was pretty unsettling.  I’d gone through some emotion regulation and cognitive behavioral therapy exercises to get a more rational hold on my feelings, only to learn that the boyfriend was cheating on me.

Basically I don’t know how I feel sometimes, and I usually need some time to process my feelings until I can make sense of them.  Which probably means that I need to be less angsty about my feelings for Matt for another week or two.  And regardless of how I feel about Matt, it would be a good idea for me to keep striving toward emotional awareness. Which should be easier without a cheating boyfriend.

Dating While Bipolar : To Sex or No To Sex

As Matt and I near the day of our second date, we’ve begin to explore the layers of our Sex-Positions-Silhouettesrelationship, particularly the onset of a sexual relationship.  You might think that the time between dates number one and two is too early to bring up sex.  Like many things, I’m of two minds about this.  Matt and I have a very strong attraction for each other and agree that we anticipate a strong sexual compatibility.  Also, we’ve both been with numerous partners, he’s divorced and I got out of a serious relationship at about the same time his marriage ended.  Essentially, we’re grown and we can do whatever we want, with whomever we want, whenever we want.  But in spite of my sexual freedom and desire, pursuing a more intimate relationship has as much of an effect on my mind as my body.

My previous, and first, hospitalization was due to a manic episode that plummeted me into a deep, unsettled depression.  My mania had been undiagnosed until that point, and characterized by the typical periods of euphoria and risky behavior.  Sex was my risky behavior of choice.  I was in my mid-30s and I felt the increase in sexual appetite and empowerment that women typically experience at that age.  I was a feminist, and I knew that I didn’t need to be in a relationship to have sex.  I’d also dated a series of men who were unsatisfying in bed and I felt like I needed to go ahead and get mine!  In search carnal satisfaction I went to Craigslist, which was all we had to arrange a rendezvous in the dark days before Tinder and mobile apps.  I picked up a few guys in bars.  And I went to a few sex clubs, none of which were as appealing as I’d hoped.  I don’t quite remember how many men I slept with in those days, but I do remember feeling simultaneously out of control and woefully unsatisfied.

Once the bottom fell out of my own personal orgy and I got healthier, I decided to abstain from sex.  I knew that during my manic episode, I’d engaged in the kind of sex that wouldn’t have interested me if I’d been healthy: mostly anonymous, fairly indiscriminate and outside of any sort of relationship.  I learned that I also sought emotional fulfillment from those manic dalliances, even though I set them up specifically to avoid any kind of connection.  Avoiding sex during my recovery was my way to eliminate that tension and to possibly avoid a damaging relapse.

Now, I find myself in a somewhat similar situation. I’m recovering from a hospitalized episode, and a breakup, and in need of some physical attention. Matt and I have discussed what we want from our relationship and even though my brain and my body have given the go-ahead, my heart still sorta thinks one step into a non-committed sexual relationship will send me into relapse.  If I’m honest with myself, I can admit that I do become attached after becoming intimate, at least I have in the past.  If I’m rational, I can admit that my heart has a fair amount of fear.  It also holds the hurt of past relationships in which I got rejected after making love.  But events in my past don’t have to predict my present.

The fact that I’ve both lived and blogged through my undesirable sexual past – and the unfortunate emotional consequences – puts me ahead of where I was a few years ago, or at least I think it does. There’s a possibility that I can enjoy a sexual relationship with Matt absent a commitment.  And doing so can be enjoyable for me rather than traumatic, mainly because I’m aware of both my practical and emotional expectations. But also because I’m considering a physical endeavor with someone with whom I feel comfortable sharing my thoughts and feelings.  And at the end of the day, sharing my thoughts and feelings will yield a healthy relationship of any nature.

I guess I’ll let you all know if the sex is any good.

Dating While Bipolar: Messed Up Expectations

I’ve mentioned to you before that I hate dating.  I’m not talking about being in a relationship with someone, but public outings with someone you don’t know well which involve some manner of getting to know each other better, usually through talking.  These pre-arranged outings a deux send my heart into palpitations and are the only activities other than exercise which make my hands sweat.

expectations21So in spite of my hatred, I actually went on a date last night.  His name was Matt.  And it was pretty good.  We talked and laughed enjoyably, we ate and drank, we shared a good-night kiss and he asked for another date.  At least I believe this to be a good time as I think these things go.  I’ve gone on so few good dates in my 30 year dating history that sometimes it’s hard for me to tell.

In fact, talking to Matt last night reminded me of my dreadful romantic past.  While Matt and I recounted our histories I remembered my very first date, one where I’d asked out a boy and he’d brought along his best friend.  And my senior prom which, because I never dated in high school, I attended with a boy that – unbeknownst to me – was actually dating my friend Kate.

Not having dated in college, my first tryst after graduation included my companion getting sick in the bathroom because he tried to impress me by eating extra-hot Indian food.  He wanted to kiss me after that.  I impolitely declined.   After business school, there was the man who showed up 4 hours late and thought we should have sex on my living room floor.  Then there’s Eggbert, the guy that I think had Aspergers but who didn’t think to mention it at any point during our date.

This litany of craptastic encounters would be enough to send a fully healthy person into permanent singledom.  If you add a touch of bipolar and chronic debilitating depression, you can understand why I’ve been single for more years than not during my dating life.  My brain doesn’t process individual romantic failures as unique instances, but rather it turns them into a trend for which I am solely to blame.  It tells me over and over again that I’m not worth of love and companionship.  And it probably sabotages dates that could be good by telling me to be clingy or jealous or just plain odd.

For now, I’m going to keep taking my meds and try to turn off the voices of doubt so that I can get to know Matt better.  In the process, perhaps I can get to know myself better, the self that connects with others and can form new, healthy relationships.  Whether or not it works out, I’m sure there’ll at least be one story for the blog.

Dating While Bipolar: What I’ve Learned While Waiting for Love

So, it has been a long time since I’ve treated my readers to a glimpse inside my head.  I’ve been busy, y’all, but my busy-ness has been put to good use.

First, I’m the new Relationships and Mental Illness blogger on HealthyPlace.  Check it out every Thursday for brief pearls of wisdom from yours truly, plus a few videos if you want to see what I look like.  Having to post every week for them (and getting paid for it, thank you very much) has taken up a bit of my writing time and writing brain, but it’s for the grand cause of helping increase awareness and decrease stigma around mental illness.  I’m incredibly honored that they asked me to participate, so go on over there and have a look around.

While the Gods of Blogging and Mental Health took notice of my talents, I can’t say the same for the Gods of Getting Off the Couch and Getting a Damn Life.  After a few months of hanging around with my cat every Saturday night I decided to take charge of myself and start going out.  My new mottos are: Go Where You’re Invited and Make Your Own Fun.

When People Invite You, They Usually Want You to Show Up

Accepting all invitations was actually hard for me, since I think I have a touch of social anxiety.  When invited into a new situation, I’m generally very nervous about meeting new people and I often believe that I won’t have any fun.  But I reminded myself that my friends are pretty cool, and most of their friends are probably like-minded, and I’m not a social reject.  Also, if you show up for someone’s event, they’re generally happy to see you so there’s no cause for fearing rejection.  Over the course of a month, I went to a few new restaurants, a few birthday parties, a comedy show, a wine tasting and a couple of bars.  I spent time with my classmates, friends passing through town on business, and my cousins that I don’t get to see as often as I’d like.  I laughed a whole lot, got closer to people I didn’t know that well and rekindled friendships that had fallen by the wayside.  Challenging my comfort zone has been refreshing, and entertaining.  Sometimes it really isn’t, but I’m sort of a walking party.  At the comedy club, I heckled the acts that nobody liked and made the audience laugh.  So, basically even if an evening is a total bust – like that awful internet date I went on earlier this year – I can at least amuse myself.

Party in My Head and You’re Invited

Which brings me to making your own fun.  Single people have no business complaining about being single if they, like me, alternate their time between working and napping on the sofa with the cat.  Whether you have a mental illness or not, there’s tons of fun to be had going out with your family, friends, whomever makes you feel good instead of waiting for your mate to walk into your house and sweep you off your feet (you know it ain’t gonna happen like that, right?)  The good news is that if you plan the fun without worrying about what other people think of you, you’ll probably have a good time and others will vibe off your vibe.  Misery may love company, but happiness also likes a party and is a better host than pity.

Speaking of parties, my new roomie and I are planning one, complete with helium balloons and signature cocktails because that’s just how I roll.  My most recent foray into fun and frivolity with friends led me to a 63rd birthday for my best gay boyfriend (every girl needs one) at an unknown gay bar in midtown Manhattan.  Your average single gal approaching 40 might not want to venture forth into that space because of the lack of eligible “targets”.  In truth, I’d recently cut down on my time with my gays because I’d been concentrating on meeting a man;  how could I find a boyfriend surrounded by men who wanted to date each other?  Fair enough, but my BEING fun and going everywhere edicts were about getting out of the house NOT about desperately seeking male companionship.

Of course, I had an amazing time at the party with fun people.  I did my share of making jokes and dancing, which are two of my favorite things in the world because I can enjoy myself while encouraging fun in others.  I also met a guy that I’d like to date. Yes, he’s straight.  Which brings me to what I’ve learned during my most recent involuntary dating hiatus.

Emotion Regulation and Burgeoning Relationships

I may have just jinxed myself by using the term “burgeoning relationship”, but I’m going to use it in terms of the guy I met at the gay bar on Friday.  Actually, I met him several months ago and thought he was cute, but had no occasion to see him again until last week.  He flirted with me and laughed at my jokes.  He paid me sincere compliments; I looked at him like he was on drugs but kept dancing and telling jokes.  We hit it off famously.  Onlookers told me that it was painfully obvious that he was hitting on me.  We left the bar together and, yadda, yadda, yadda,…we were both very tired the next morning.  In a very PG-13 way, of course.  We parted amicably, not needing to exchange numbers because we have each other’s work information.  I should mention that his company works with mine, but that we don’t actually work together.  I made no declarative comments about seeing him again (CURSES!) but he did friend me on Facebook.  Isn’t that a requirement for dating these days?

Anyway, Erik – not his real name – now has an open line of communication to me and vice versa.  I made a pithy comment about breaking a lamp in my bedroom (yeah, we’re hot like that), to which he responded. I’ve also invited him to aforementioned balloon-and-signature-cocktail party.  And because Facebook is the purview of psycho stalkers and obsessive relationship rejects of all kinds, I check the event listing for my soiree at least 10 times a day to see if he’s RSVP’d.  I also check Erik’s Facebook page to see if he’s commented on anyone else’s wall or had any modicum of contact with another woman since he left me on Saturday afternoon.

Yeah, obsessive.

I may not be able to control my internal monologue about not giving away milk for free or stop kicking myself internally about not saying “we should do this again” or something like that. I can, however, control my behavior towards other people.  I WILL NOT initiate further communication with Erik because nothing I do can or will make him respond to me if he doesn’t want to.  I also cannot make him like me if he doesn’t, but I will succeed in making him think I’m ridiculous if I (publicly) cyber-stalk him.  Also, the whole “we sort of work together” issue is politically charged, since Erik’s boss is on Facebook and they follow each other.  I have the common sense to tell my boss that he’s not allowed to friend me on Facebook, Twitter or any social media vehicle other than LinkedIn;  he has graciously complied.

The work issue notwithstanding, I could easily communicate with Erik via phone, text, email or carrier pigeon since Facebook is too public.  In the past I would have done all of the above in an attempt to wrest control of the uncontrollable:  other people’s feelings and behaviors.  Now I know how pointless that is because it not only makes me look desperate, it also causes me undue stress and reinforces my control issues.  I may have said these words before, but I’ve never actually followed my own advice, so I fully expect you all to applaud my self-awareness.

This Friday, I’m going to a Halloween party.  Instead of looking around the room to see what single-looking men are there, I’m going to pour my energies into enjoying the people who invited me.  I’m going to wear a funny costume, laugh a lot and be thankful for friends who desire the pleasure of my company.  If Erik isn’t going to be one such person, I won’t put him into the big “unfriend” pile.  After all, friends are really important to a single girl.

The Friend Boy Chronicles: Wallowing in freakish misery

I’m feeling some kind of way.

All up in my feelings.

One of the characters from Golden Girls called it “magenta”.

What is this feeling?  The short answer is jealousy.  The long answer is like a Facebook relationship status:  its complicated.

Here’s what happened.  One of my classmates went on a date with a guy I used to be interested in.  Right now everyone reading this is groaning and yelling at the screen, “what do you mean USED to be?  You obviously still like him.”  And when I got that strange “magenta” feeling after learning of said date, I agreed with you.  However I’m not concerned about carrying a torch, necessarily, if that’s what it is.  I’m preoccupied with my preoccupation with actually KNOWING about a burgeoning relationship between a girlfriend and the guy formerly known as “Friend Boy”.

Watching someone I used to like get interested in someone else must be some kind of aversion therapy. It makes me feel so odd and uncomfortable that I have to keep doing it to prove a point.  Like, I don’t know, I’m a masochist and I like to wallow in my own misery?  Like feeling uneasy makes me feel alive or some shit?  Apparently it does because I find myself going out of my way to be the virtual third wheel with Friend Boy and a friend I’ll call “Class Girl”.

It so happens that I had plans to have dinner with Class Girl and some other friends the same week that she and Friend Boy were going out on their first date.  I knew something was going on because Friend Boy told me about her and I felt simultaneously empty and envious.  Empty because I believed I was over Friend Boy, and envious because…I don’t really know exactly, but it didn’t feel nice.  Cue positive self-talk:  “Friend Boy was unreliable in our friendship which showed me that he was unworthy of my romantic interest.”  “I am too wonderful a person to spend time worrying about those who are not worth my time.”  “I deserve to be with someone who wants to be with me and wants to pay attention to me.”  See, my rational mind is as much an overachiever as my intellectual mind.   But it’s very hard for me to toe the therapeutic line when I see a man I wanted to date, or used to date, being the person he never was with me.

Believe it when I say that the force is strong with my self-saboteur and she is hard to vanquish.  I’ve gotten to the point that my emotional mind has nearly been silenced, but it asserts itself most frequently when I confront my romantic shortcomings.  When I make a misstep at work, instead of crumbling amidst self-doubt, my brain effectively repeats, “What I do for a living is not what I am,” and all is well.  Not so in the face of an ex-boyfriend or – in the case of Friend Boy – an unrequited love.  My first, emotional reaction is a ping of envy and, thanks to 8 years of therapy, I acknowledge my negative feelings then accept their existence.  My second reaction is rational, the aforementioned self-talk reminding me not to wallow, and I congratulate myself for being so well-adjusted.  At this point I should disengage, walk away, get out of dangerous territory while the getting is good.  Instead, I overcompensate by getting all wrapped up in the ex-boyfriend’s love life.  In the case of Friend Boy, I ask him what he thinks of his new love interest.  I text him about her for 30 minutes as if to prove how well I’m handling my shit.  Then I start talking to Class Girl about the date like I never carried a torch for this man.  All is fine until she shows me the sweet, cute texts he sends her and I’m right in magenta territory.

So, what to do?  They say admitting you have a problem is the first step, so my name is Deltra and I’m a Picker.  That is, I pick at emotional wounds so they don’t scab over and heal.  Or, I act like they’re healed because I’m annoyed to be sitting with feelings that I can’t control.  Maybe I did harbor some hope in the back of my mind that Friend Boy would be interested in me.  Maybe every rejection by a man stings more than any other rejection (and no, I don’t have Daddy issues).  Perhaps I feel unworthy of male companionship, or ugly, or emotionally broken so much so that I’ve got to stick myself in the middle of someone else’s happiness to realize how unhappy I still am.

Wait, was that a breakthrough?  I certainly hope so, because I have no intention of stalking Class Girl’s and Friend Boy’s Facebook pages to find out how their date went.

Addiction, Mental Illness and Disrespect in American Culture

Yesterday,  Amy Winehouse died.  Her death was probably drug related since the singer suffered a long-term addiction to various substances – heroin, crack/cocaine, crystal meth and alcohol if I remember correctly.  But I’m too sad to Google it.  Not because I knew Amy and feel the grief of a lost loved one.  Rather, I’m sad about how our society views addiction and, similarly, mental illness.

courtesy of

It’s very easy to criticize people from the comfort of your right mind.  Winehouse‘s death reminds us of her arrests, her bedraggled appearance, her inappropriate public behavior, and we unilaterally judge all of those things as though they’re purposeful.  American culture doesn’t accept anything other than Manifest Destiny, that people are sometimes powerless to control themselves in extenuating circumstances.  So, “it was the drugs”, or “addiction is a terrible disease” don’t really sit well with our bootstraps society.  Similarly, we don’t really understand or accept the trauma or pain that often drive people to drug use in the first place.

I’ll admit that I’m not an addict, or at least I’m not addicted to chemical substances other than the ones prescribed to me by my friendly neighborhood psychiatrist.  But I understand the pain behind the addict’s behavior, the inability to regulate difficult emotions to the point of just wanting them to go away.  I’ve met plenty of addicts in “Double Trouble” meetings, where mental illness and substance abuse intersect.  Some attendees sought out drugs and alcohol to escape abuse or poverty – tangibly horrible circumstances.  Others I met started using because their brains just couldn’t process garden-variety horribleness (yeah, I know that’s not a real word) like rejection or loneliness and needed a little something to take the edge off.

The inability to handle, to control our feelings and behavior is antithetical to living in the United States:  here we learn that effort is always rewarded with success; that tired, poor, huddled masses can attain freedom; that self-determination is the greatest of all values.  America disdains anything less than absolute self-regulation and relegates lack of self-possession as shameful and inappropriate.  The fact that we’re all really hiding something, or hiding from something for fear of being judged as “less than” feeds our obsession with watching addicts crumble.  Well, at least addicts who are famous.  Only through impersonal lens of celebrity and the external comforts it brings can we level the unbridled criticism we’d like to heap on ourselves.  We look at addicts like Winehouse and Whitney Houston and wonder how ordinary people with such extraordinary talent can fall so far so fast.  We don’t understand how people with money, comfort, careers could possibly be unhappy enough to escape from reality.  And we hold tight to a secret fear: if the material success that I want doesn’t lead to happiness, what’s going to happen to me?

Witnessing the ravages of mental illness brings out the same covert fear in people.  I don’t mean really seeing what mental illness does to a family or an individual because that’s real shit.  I mean witnessing the behaviors that mental illness engenders:  anger, social withdrawal, crying jags, self-injury, unpredictability, irritability, depression, homicide, suicide.  We judge people like Charlie Sheen, or Maia Campbell (who I’ve written about here) because their behavior doesn’t make sense to us, doesn’t square with the American Dream of fame and fortune that we think cures all.  We can’t see the internal struggle so we pass off the behavior as intentionally “bad” and dismiss the perpetrators as “crazy”.  They can’t hold their shit together, they must be weak or lazy – how very un-American.  Then the comedians, the talking heads, the social media voices jump on the bandwagon and we build a culture that holds actual, suffering humans at arm’s length.  No wonder I write this blog under a pseudonym.

So today, I’m hoping and praying for people wrestling with their demons – be they chemical or psychological or even material – to find some peace.  And for the rest of you to find some compassion.

Dating While Bipolar: Internet dating is for lunatics

That’s it, folks, I’m quitting the Internet. Not for social media or interracial porn, but for dating.

Yes, I’ve said before that dating websites have given me all manner of losers along the spectra of social competency and appropriateness. However, on of my subscriptions auto-renewed before I could cancel it, so I decided to use the extra months to edit my profile and take some social chances. Hell, I’d paid for it, right?

Wrong. If someone ever uses the phrase “social chances” within earshot, scream and run. If you even think it at some desperate point in your existence, stick a sharp pencil into your ear in an attempt to scrub your brain of ill-fated ideas. Trust me, I know.

Unfortunately, I had no Internet Dating Fairy Godmother to warn me about making stupid choices just to get some male companionship. Therefore, I posted new pictures on Yes, I’m naming names, because the public should be made aware of the dating mishegas that gets perpetrated when people look for love online. Yeah, I know that everyone has a story about how their neighbor’s coworker’s niece met her husband online. My business school roommate met her husband on; 2 kids, 2 moves and a few home renovations later, they’re incredibly happy. Another friend met his live-in girlfriend through random digital means. They’ve been together for about 5 years, and he’s dutifully requested a family ring for the engagement; I predict a wedding within 18 months. So it does happen, and those couples on the TV commercials aren’t lying. However, there’s a seedy – or at least unseemly – underbelly to Internet dating, and I’m exposing yet another facet.

Dig if you will a picture of a young(ish), attractive, smart, wicked funny, gainfully-employed woman seated at the Mac Book, perusing photos and profiles. I came across a not unattractive guy with all his teeth, a job (apparently) and a decent command of the English language. I did what any 35+ woman would do in a similar situation. I sent him a message expressing my interest.

Don’t judge me!

As is wont to happen in the world of 1′s and 0′s, dude – let’s call him “Anthony” – didn’t respond. I forgot about him and moved to the next round of losers until a month later, Anthony responded with a plausible explanation for his silence. He hadn’t paid for the full subscription (read: I’m either to broke/cheap to spare $20 or you’re not hot enough for me to pay for a conversation with you). No matter, I was still heartened by the response and I rationalized: just because folks don’t commit to paying for dating on the innanets doesn’t mean they’re horrible people. Uh, actually it means you should run away from them if you’re the paying kind, but I was being all hopeful and optimistic with Anthony, so I wrote back.

Don’t judge me!

Later that same day, Anthony asked me for my email address to communicate outside the parameters of the paid Chemistry subscription.  I sent it to him, or rather I sent him my anonymous email address, the one I only use for internet dating and not for work or my friends or even for this blog.  The next time I checked my email, I had an email from Anthony asking a series of questions about my upbringing.  There was something a bit odd about the flow, the syntax of Anthony’s message.  It wasn’t necessarily grammatically incorrect or misspelled, but I felt like if he’d been talking to me in a manner similar to his writing style, I’d be plotting a way to walk away from him.  Also, he’d cc’d another woman on the email.  That’s right.  This creep sent me and another woman the same email!

Of course, I wasn’t offended that Anthony was communicating with someone else. Certainly you have to cast your net rather wide in the dating pond to catch a fish you actually want to keep (see what I did there?).  However, I was annoyed that dude wasn’t at least conscientious enough to bcc me and “Cathy”, Ms. Carbon Copy, so we didn’t know about each other.  Anthony’s sloppiness made me dislike him even more, so I sent him the following note, copying Cathy as well:

“Hi Anthony,
Thanks for getting back to me, though this email was addressed to someone else. Perhaps you’ve got a lot of irons in the fire, which is cool, but I can only pursue one person at a time; it’s just less confusing that way.
Good luck to you and Cathy Smith.”
I’m a bad-ass like that.  Of course, Cathy emailed me right away, thanking me for putting Anthony on blast, and admitting that she thought he was a little weird as well and had broken off communication separately.  Apparently both Cathy and I know that things look kind of weird when a dude copies a bunch of chicks on the same email, and we rightly want to actually be with someone who’s at least interested enough in getting to know us and not just playing the numbers.  She and I exchanged a few emails about the perils of internet dating and had a few laughs.  In the back of my mind, and out loud, I laughed about the situation and got on the phone to share with my girlfriends. Then Alex emailed me back, apologizing for the mix-up and asking if I “would like to continue this great relationship that we are about to build?”
*spit take*
Um, since when is a 2-email communication a “relationship”, especially when one of those emails consists of one party blowing the other off?  I decided to have some fun and forward the latest response to Cathy.  Guess what?  ANTHONY SENT CATHY THE SAME EMAIL HE SENT ME!!!  AGAIN!!!!  Complete with inappropriate relationship-level-jumping, awkward language, and lies about what each of us had told him.  Once again, I wasn’t offended at being two-timed, rather confused and dumbfounded that an adult would comport themselves as Anthony had.  There I was, thinking that people everywhere have standards similar to mine, and expecting people to be intelligent and think the same of me.  Call me optimistic that way.
In case there are any men reading this blog, I have a piece of advice:  assume that women talk about you behind your back because you’re not as cool as you think you are.  Assume twice the amount of gossip if you’re a dork, have no game and are trying to date two women at the same time.  Even if you do have game, trust that the world is small and that the females you juggle will meet each other – in real life or in virtual life.  These days, you cannot try to run some yang on multiple women – especially when you know they know about each other, stupid ass Anthony – and think that they won’t compare notes even if they’re both in love with you.  When the two women you’re trying to game barely know you, expect even more female bonding about your sorry ass and the dumb shit you do.
A tangent – I mistakenly dated a man who was newly single, or so he said.  I knew his “ex”, actually liked her, and we all lived in the same state.  Turns out the woman was less “ex” than I though and we both expected we were dating this man exclusively.  Eventually he told us both the truth.  We both cussed him out and stopped seeing him.  I ran into the woman a few months later, in another state, at a convention attended by thousands of other people.  We compared notes.  We both hate the man who tried to date us both at once, but like each other a whole lot.
As for Anthony, he sent me a few more emails that I sent to Cathy, which she shared with a few of her friends and we had many a disbelieving laugh.  Cathy is seeing a few other people, though none seriously.  And I’m swearing off internet dating at least until I’m 60 and desperate enough to believe all the shit I read.

Perqs of being a black woman: Why Psychology Today can suck it

A few weeks ago my roommate and I were watching one of those Kardashian shows on E! (don’t judge us!).  We got to talking about how pretty women just get stuff because of how they look, and how it must be for Kim K. getting dick thrown at her all day, every day.  You’ve seen her, you know what I mean.  During this conversation with the roomie, I admitted that while I in no way approach the pulchritude of the Kardashian ass, I do get hit on at least once a day and it gets old, doesn’t she know what I’m talking about.  Apparently, she doesn’t.

Me: (incredulously) You mean, you don’t get a “hey beautiful” or a lip smack from the guys walking down Lenox Avenue?

Roomie:  (flatly) No

Well, I’ll be.  Because brothas are ALWAYS trynna holla, and that’s one of the coolest things about being a Black woman.

In defense of my roommate who is not ugly or deformed or in any way unappealing, I’ll say that she mostly looks like a boy.  Not a man, a little boy:  she’s 5″ 2′, wears jeans and sneakers, some kind of hat, has a short natural, and doesn’t wear make-up so she looks like a kid.  Brothas may always be trynna holla, but they ain’t trying to holla at the elementary school set.

But back to the daily, random proclamations of beauty bestowed upon Black women by our men.  Sometimes its the aforementioned “hey beautiful” by a passing stranger.  Sometimes the guy next to you on the subway says he likes your shoes or your pedicure and winks at you.  And at least 2 cab drivers every year can’t believe a beautiful woman like me is still single, after which they pledge undying love and companionship. Granted, I don’t get as much of the latter since I left Brooklyn, but I still turn a few heads a day.

The thing is, if you’re a Black woman over 18, bearing some semblance of put-together-ness (i.e., you look like you bathe and/or put some thought into your outfit) you will surely receive a compliment.  Let’s say you know you look good today, and you’ve got that “I’m fine” sashay, or you just wake up in a good mood and smiling for no reason. Brother on the corner will confirm and affirm what you already know: today you are ON!   On the flip side, if you’re dragging your tired self up the subway stairs after a long day, the brothers are there again with a “smile, beautiful” or other encouragement to make you feel better. (We’ll temporarily forget my issue with the fact that I’m always supposed to be smiling in somebody’s face)

And it’s not just Black men doling out the compliments, it’s Black women too.  One day, a sister walked up to me and said, “You are WEARING that dress!”  My ex-boyfriend called that particular ensemble my “look at me” dress because I elicited that kind of commentary whenever I wore said dress.  I’ll post a photo of me in said dress later, so you can treat yourself to my ravishing beauty.  I’m not kidding:  I looked HOT in that dress.

Right, so if I look so amazing, and other people believe it, how is Psychology Today trying to tell me that everyone thinks I’m ugly?  For those of you who don’t know, yesterday Psychology Today blogger Satoshi Kanazawa posted an article called “Why are Black Women Rated Less Physically Attractive than Other Women, but Black Men are Rated Better Looking than Other Men?”   Psychology Today has taken the article off the website, thanks to #MahoganyTwitter, though it has been reprinted in its entirety at AOL Black Voices.   Let me sum it up for you, in case you’re not into bar graphs and specious science.

The article is based on Add Health , a longitudinal study of adolescent health, behavior and psychology at the University if North Carolina.   The respondents in Add Health are purportedly racially and ethnically diverse, and are of high school age.  While Add Health uses the responses to study and predict health outcomes for children, Mr. Kanazawa uses the data to derive an “objective”, statistical measurement of attractiveness (why this is an important use of scientific research, I’ll never know).  Apparently this measurement “proved” that Black women are rated less attractive than all people, except by Black women ourselves which, obviously, means that we have an over-inflated sense of self.

[Insert Bill the Cat gagging noise here]

Then Kanazawa twists his little mind hither and yon to figure out why everyone thinks Black women are so ugly. Is it because we’re fatter than average?  Nope, apparently he controlled for that in his “statistical analysis”.  Maybe it’s because we’re not as intelligent?  Again, the stats controlled for that “fact” as well.  Finally, Kanazawa comes up with a last-ditch empirical explanation for Black female unattractiveness – testosterone level!  So, we’re fat, dim-witted and look like men and, therefore, nobody thinks we’re pretty.

So, to the multitudes of men who love a Black woman, too bad your lady looks like a dude.  To the brothers on the corner of 134th and Lenox who hit on the sisters regularly, you must like ’em dumb if you’re attracted to a Black woman. And to the Greek owner of my lunch place who tells me how beautiful my smile is every day, I’m sorry that we can’t date;  I wouldn’t want the world at large to question your judgement for being seen with an empirically hideous creature such as myself.

What Kanazawa’s article fails to point out, which you’ve hopefully realized, is that Add Health measures perception not reality.  Perhaps Black women are portrayed by popular culture as prostitutes, toothless crackheads, and loud emasculating bitches.  Perhaps those portrayals, which are the only contact with Black women many Americans have, are what’s so unappealing to adolescents of all races.   Hell, if the only Black women I saw were on Real Housewives of Atlanta  or were Tyler Perry, Martin Lawrence or Keenan Thompson in a dress, I’d feel differently about us too.

Good thing I’m smart enough to know that race is a social construct that describes our perceptions and behavior and not a genetically determined fact.  To bad Mr. Satoshi Kanazawa and the editors of Psychology Today don’t realize such.

Pardon me while I polish my diploma, fix my makeup, and tell a little Black girl how beautiful she is.

The Single Supplement, or What I Learned on Spring Break

When I first decided to take a vacation, being single annoyed me.  My reasoning was, if I had a husband or boyfriend, I’d have a built-in travel companion to share the experience and the expenses.  If I was part of a couple, I rationalized, my $1500 vacation budget might stretch to $3000 with better destinations, fancier lodging and someone to share the wine at dinner (hey, everyone knows a bottle is a better value than buying by the glass).  I hemmed and hawed and bitched and moaned about having to fork up over a grand for some time away until I realized how fortunate I was to be able to pay for a solo excursion.  I said a prayer of thanks then proceeded to the travel agent to book a cruise.

Shipboard travel wasn’t my first choice, but it’s really the most convenient, most economical way to visit multiple destinations in a short period of time.  A cruise can be less expensive than the same amount of time at a hotel, the latter of which won’t include food and traveling around town to get it.  Also, given the safety concerns of a single woman traveling solo, a cruise means that almost everyone you come in contact with has been checked by Homeland Security or TSA.  Anchors away, indeed!

After convincing myself that I’d made the best, most rational vacation choice I imagined the peace of sitting alone in my stateroom with a book, or stealing away to the ship’s library to work on this blog.  No phones, no emails to answer, nobody asking me for shit, it all seemed so peaceful and…lonely.  Which brings me back to my original problem with solo travel, the problem of being surrounded by groups and couple having fun while I’m sitting alone reading a book.  While I definitely needed to recharge my batteries with some hard-earned R & R, spending 7 days without significant social interaction is my 7th circle of Hell.  So I did what any self-respecting yet exhausted extrovert would do:  I vowed to make new friends on vacation.

Wait a minute, I haven’t been completely honest with you.  When I said “make new friends” I secretly wished I’d make a “special” friend on my cruise.  You know, sitting at the bar watching the NCAA tournament or on my snorkeling excursion, I hoped to catch the eye of a cute, single man traveling with his buddies or his Nana-and-them. We’d commiserate about all the happy couples, or the perils of traveling with a big family. We’d share a tropical drink on the Lido deck, a dinner at the teppanyaki restaurant, a dance at the erstwhile disco. Then we’d park our beach chairs together for a few days, have a few smooches onboard and resolve to keep in touch after disembarkation.

Let’s just say that my social enterprises didn’t go according to plan.  Instead of meeting a potential suitor to share meals I ate by myself.  At the buffet, at the sushi bar, at the fancy dinner during which I read a book and stared at couples of all ages paired off romantically.  For a while, I felt forlorn.  Everyone knows that single people don’t go to restaurants alone because we eat at home over the kitchen sink or in front of the TV.  Solo dining practically screams, “I have nobody to be with right now”, so doing it on a cruise says “I’m here alone because I AM alone.”  For a while it made me uncomfortable, especially when I got bad buffet seating because I had nobody to save a good table.  Then I really started paying attention to the interactions of older couples.  Gramma and Grampy are really grumpy after having spent the last 40 years up in each others’ faces.  Most of the octogenarians were sitting together at breakfast, staring at their stewed prunes in complete silence.  Plenty of couples sat around together reading their respective novels, which I’m assuming were more interesting than the prospect of conversation.  Still other marrieds were on the incompatibility plan, with one member of the couple chatting up any and everyone in close proximity while their mate looked angry and bored.  Now I ask you, if you look angry and bored on vacation, how in the world do you look in the rest of your life?

So, if my cruise observations were any indication, marriage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Or most of the people I saw on vacation were in bad marriages at least from my perspective.  The way I saw it, being single on vacation didn’t put me at a disadvantage after all.  I met plenty of people, talking to couples (who, it seems, didn’t want to talk to each other) and groups of women in equal turn.  I ate with folks if I chose, read my book when I wanted to be alone, and had plenty of fun whenever I wanted it.  Perhaps I was better off than the couples around me: I pretty much always agreed with myself about when to eat, when to nap and how many cocktails I could have each night AND I could always find someone to talk to because I’m just that much fun to be around.

Mostly, my vacation taught me that I’m a pretty fun person, and that I should probably get off the Internets and interact with the humans in real life.  Because I can.  Also, I’ve learned that I’m sorta hiding in the online dating space, letting it stifle my ability to meet the kinds of people I want.  You know, the kind that can carry on a conversation without a computer screen.  One can only use for so long (and watch The Social Network so  many times) to realize that Internet socializing is hiding behind the 1s and 0s unless you already know someone in the flesh.

So, dear friends, as soon as my internet dating profiles expire (damn those auto-renewals), I’m plotting my foray into the real world.  And I’m probably going to book another vacation alone, just for fun!