Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All About You

Psychologists tell us that we have three identities: Who we think we are, who we really are, and who we are as other people see us. Sometimes we like the three “Whos,” and sometimes we don’t.  Trying to get to the bottom of these differences in personae has made psychiatrists rich for years. Having three distinct personal realities becomes even more complicated when we realize that everyone else is in the same boat. There’s a big difference between knowing about a person and really knowing that person. Our friends, partners, lovers, colleagues, and families may know that we love clog dancing, breakfast scrapple, the subtle comedy stylings of Andrew Dice Clay, and mud wrestling, but they only know these things because of who we are when we are with them. When you are by yourself, you may be an entirely different person.

Subconsciously, we all turn into someone else to adapt to the needs and demands of others in all of our associations.  In the case of a toxic relationship this becomes even more apparent as we do anything it takes to save the relationship or, in some extreme cases, survive.  We lose all three of our identities; we lose ourselves completely because, simply put, it is easier to be someone else.  When you finally leave the relationship, you can begin to regain your identity, your purpose, and your sense of self.  The partner in this toxic relationship will no longer recognize you, associating the person you became to exist peacefully with him or her as the person you really are, if that makes sense.  Basically, he or she never knew the real you. Oh, they probably did at first, at the beginning of the relationship … before you were forced to morph into an overly accommodating persona simply to retain your sanity. Affronted at your newfound “change” once you’re on your own, this person will in turn pass a false perception of you on to others, making it seem as if who you really are NOW is the fake face while who you WERE in the relationship is the truth.

This can be hurtful – or at the least, annoying – to the one who is now accused of being fake when he or she is simply returning to a sense of normalcy. Normalcy being the key word. The vengeful ex will ridicule your attempts to improve yourself as putting on some sort of show, never realizing that you gave up all of the hobbies and activities that you enjoyed pre-relationship simply to appease him or her.  The only reality about you that they know is the one they have built up in their heads; they don’t know the real you … the happy you.  They see you living your life and tell people, “That’s not at all like her.  Who is she trying to fool?”

With possibly some exceptions, the results of this aggravating situation carry over into any friends that you met while in the toxic relationship.  They have only met the personality that you had morphed into to keep the relationship steady and peaceful.  In turn, you begin to have a bit of shame and self-recrimination as you recall all of the things you did to keep up the false façade.  “What the hell was I thinking?  I hate watching Monday Night Football while doing Jagermeister shots!”  Well, the football part, anyway.

You would think that being with your family would be a release from the expectations of having to morph into someone else, but that’s not true, either, is it?  Although your family thinks they know you better than anyone else, they also have a biased perception, for better or worse.  Think of how often you have to bite your tongue and alter your behavior and views to keep peace during holiday dinners and family get-togethers.

The 21st century has added yet another dynamic in the search for true identities:  Social Media.  If you think you can be yourself online, think again.  How many times have you stopped yourself from posting a status because you are afraid of people’s perception of you changing?  The only opinion your cyber friends can make about you is based on your words as they appear on Facebook or messages through email or text.  Even posting videos, FaceTiming or Skype will not allow you to present the real you; would you appear in a video wearing your favorite flannel pajamas, hair uncombed, or for women, with no make-up on? This gets even more complicated with the advent of online dating.  You are both on your best behavior and acting or reacting in a way you think the other person would appreciate.  For women, especially single moms, you feel as if you are interviewing for the coveted position of “Girlfriend” in a large company.  The other person has created an image of you based not just on the information you present to them, but also their imagination and desires.  No matter how honest or upfront you try to be, eventually some aspect of your personality emerges that doesn’t fit in with the “you” they have imagined.  They feel hurt and betrayed, and rather than accept you at face value, they allow the relationship to end and continue forward in search of the next candidate.  While this happens to women all the time, I’m sure men can relate as well.

I know this has been a long and rambling post, and I hope that I’ve made a little bit of sense. There’s one truth to all of this and that is this: There is only one person qualified to say they know who you really are, and that is YOU. Don’t let someone else make judgments and certainly don’t critique yourself based on someone else’s opinion of you … because they don’t know the whole story of you.  Half the time, if I ask myself who I really am, I have no clue how to answer.  But that’s my right, and no one else’s.

Truth in Advertising

Somewhere in my internet excursions, I came across this little gem as a profile for an internet dating site:

The first thing I had to do was to check and see if I’ve been sleep-posting to dating sites again.  The second thing I needed to do was to install security cameras to catch whoever is spying on me, because really, this is just plain creepy.  The third thing I did was to ponder this poignant missive, and wonder why there is rarely any truth to online dating profiles.  As a service to you, my loyal readers and followers, I have decided to create a list of common dating profile phrases and define them for you.  You’re welcome in advance.

  • Average Body Type: This is a phrase that needs further clarification in so many ways
  • Must love pets: Crazy cat lady
  • Currently caring for parents: Lives at home
  • Friendly, outgoing personality: Starts bar room brawls at noon at the local saloon
  • People person: See above
  • Loves video games: Basement dweller
  • Occasional smoker: Closet chain-smoker
  • Investor: Buys scratch-off tickets at the local gas station
  • Loves working out: Loves working out what’s for dinner and whether to watch Maury or Dr. Phil
  • Loves hiking: Parks the car at the far end of Wal-Mart once weekly
  • Enjoys quiet afternoons antiquing: Hoarder
  • I enjoy fine wine by candlelight: Lush and possible arsonist
  • I’m laid back and easygoing: Neurosis still to be diagnosed
  • My friends say I’m fun: They have to, it’s what I’m paying them for
  • Seeking a partner in crime:   My last one is doing ten years because s/he didn’t run fast enough
  • Seeking a causal relationship: Married
  • Looking for friendship: See above
  • Love romantic dinners by candlelight: Will stick a candle in the napkin holder at McDonald’s
  • Very open minded: To my own ideas

Ok, I may seem a little harsh, but if you must know, my own online dating stories have been pretty much epic fails.  From the guy in the questionable hairpiece (I swear it was moving) to the one who claimed he was 6’4” and was actually a circus midget in real life (no really, he was in the circus, born and raised), I have been stalked, the recipient of highly inappropriate pictures (which I didn’t ask for, I’ll have you know), and otherwise disappointed to the point that I hardly even change out of sweatpants for dates anymore.  I have the escape text pre-programmed into my phone, and I carry mace in my purse.  Not the spray; an actual mace.

What if online profiles just said what they mean?  Read this one I recently posted on a dating site:

I’m just putting this profile up to get likes on the cute picture of me and my dog.  I hate to go anywhere, and doing things is usually too much of a bother.  My main profile picture is from eighty years ago when I was a cheerleader in high school.  I may have gained five, ten, a hundred and ninety pounds since then.  I hate people.  I especially hate people anywhere near me.  Ever.  I enjoy the quiet comfort of my couch and a healthy dinner of chocolate cake and Captain Crunch.  I snort when I laugh and have been known to belch at a funeral.  I think I look sexy in my fuzzy sweatshirt with the coffee stain on the sleeve.  Ok, on the sleeves.  Ok, on the sleeves and collar. I think I look sexy in my fuzzy sweatshirt covered in coffee stains and chocolate sauce. I really want to find someone who loves me unconditionally and gives me the attention I need while leaving me alone 99% of the time.  If you want to get back to me, that’s fine.  I don’t really care either way.  If we end up going on a date I’ll have to get dressed and leave the house, so it’s okay if you don’t contact me.  In fact, don’t bother. I’m kind of a bitch anyway. 

Still waiting on the right swipes to start rolling in. They’re coming though, any day now.

What if there was a dating site that matched you with pet profiles?  What do you think? Wow, I wasn’t even thinking THAT, you guys are sick.  Seriously. Ewww.

What I meant was, you could look at their profile and see their pets and connect through your love of animals.  They could call it Puppy Love, and the motto would be:

“Who cares about the owner, check out this adorable kitten.”

It’s impossible to be disappointed with the outcome of any date that included a fantastic pet encounter as well. Heck, I’d suffer through a bad date just to hang out with a kitten or pupper. You just can’t go wrong meeting a cute bundle of fluff. The guy (or gal) might be an asshole, but hey, at least you met a new doggo! Can you imagine the break-up? Yeah, so, I don’t think this is going to work. You’re an asshole. But I can still visit Caden the Corgi, right?  Right!?

A Brief History of Online Dating

I know I’ve been talking a lot about dating lately, but as I have ventured back into the scene over the past year, I find myself doing what I do with a lot of new subjects of interest – overanalyzing. Hey, what can I say? It’s what I do best.

So, anywho, speaking of dating, let’s take a look at a phenomenon that generates over $2.5 billion in revenue per year: online dating sites. Online dating sites are used by 15% of Americans (don’t ask me to prove those figures, but I swear, I found them somewhere, I didn’t just make them up).  Our society’s demands on our time make the opportunity of finding a dating partner or, heaven forbid, a mate, problematic. Dating sites have become the cattle calls of personal interaction. This is not, however, something that sprang from the loins of the Internet.  The concept has been around for a long time. In fact, for thousands of years. Here are some of the more notable sites from my vivid and bored imagination history, yeah of course, history.

Hemo-tab-ra’s Sphinx Sylphs – Giza, Plateau of Giza, Kingdom of Egypt – 2497 BC

Hemo-tab-ra, an enterprising naturalized Hittite, gained a lucrative contract from Pharaoh Khafre to provide the workers who had just finished The Sphinx, and were now hard at work on the pyramids, with women. For a jar of beer, a worker could attach a short note to the base of The Sphinx that described himself. Local women could peruse the ads for 30 minutes in exchange for a small basket of wheat.  They would take their chosen ad to Hemo-tab-ra, who would set up the meeting at sunset. Egyptologists have even found and translated one of the ads:

“Jaru-al-tep, I am NOT near death.  I have all my arms and legs

and most of my teeth.

 I have eighteen toes and eight and-a-half fingers.

Only three open sores.

I love small animals and crying.

Looking for a woman.  That’s it.  Just a woman. PLEASE!

Balderic’s Beauties – Château d’Ainay-le-Vieil, Cher, France – 1301

Balderic le Lubrique saw an incredible marketing opportunity when the local women complained about the lack of men due to the fact that they were still on their way back from the Third Crusade. For the sensible price of 6 Denier (the same amount you’d spend on a fat capon), village ladies could put up notices on the wall of the Château. For an extra 2 Denier, Balderic would attach a drawing of the lady. In reality, they looked more like French cave dwelling pictures of Mastodons being speared, but hey, whatever works…and this apparently worked. This ad was found in cellar of the Château during renovations.

Angélique la Salope: I am 22.

My parents are worried that I will never marry and remain an

old maid forever, thus draining their finances and patience.

Cuddling in front of the fireplace to read a book would be wonderful

except for the fact that I can’t read or write

since women cannot go to school in our village.

My parents want grandchildren…

As for me, I just want a man who will not relieve himself on the kitchen floor.

“Do You Want Your Ashes Hauled?” – Advertisement in the New York Tribune – 1912

“Hauling Ashes” was a post-Victorian euphemism for “doing the nasty.” This was the first co-ed dating site. Someone would place an ad and ask for a response to a Box at the newspaper…”serious inquiries only.” The New York Public Library Archives reportedly has this ad on file in their vast records:

Proper Gramercy Park woman, widow

seeking discreet gentleman adorned with stately head of hair for social intercourse.

I have my own home that features window shades, and my own Victrola.

I prefer afternoon or early evening tea-time “meetings.”

Of note – a meal of any sort should not be presumed

Only those gainfully employed and with clean finger nails need apply.

Of course, the internet has changed the game. Some modern dating sites require the completion of exhaustive questionnaires. You’re simply too tired to date afterwards…or at least you need a nap first. Others feature the convenient “swipe left or right” feature to secure a furtive assignation. Not that I’m dismissing the whole “swipe left or right” thing outright, but let’s just say spur of the moment decisions in the love arena have never exactly boded well for me. Well, except for that one time…oh, nevermind, I digress.

One thing that has definitely changed over the years is the move away from simple facts and requests, and more towards flowery mendacity.  I mean, I know we all live for the moment when we enter the coffee shop to meet our online date, only to hear them chuckle and say, “Oh, I guess you can tell that my profile picture was taken about 20 years ago. When I was sober. And had hair. And showering was more of a thing.”

Hemo-tab-ra!  Where are you when we need you?

 

Dating Games

Most of us haven’t been lucky enough in love to have found our soulmate while we were playing in the sand box during recess in Kindergarten. How nice would it have been to cross off “Find the One” on our list of Life Goals back before we could read? No, for 99% of us, we weren’t so fortunate. We didn’t find “the one” before getting a driver’s license. We weren’t flaunting our promise ring at pep rallies.

As much as we’ve tried to fight it, most of us regular folk have had to wade through the dreaded social purgatory known as dating. Some of us have been thrown back into the dating pool more than once. As you are probably aware, the entire process of dating is a very difficult and often scary endeavor.

Meeting up with someone you hardly know? Terrifying. What if the date goes poorly right from the start? What if he shows up drunk? What if he makes a stupid joke? What if his breath stinks? Hell, what if HE stinks? What if he’s an ax murderer? There are so many valid fears that can flood the brain as you walk through the doors of the restaurant/café/zoo/bookstore to meet your date.

Nowadays, we have online dating. It’s supposed to make everything easier, but in fact it comes with its own series of perils. Getting to “know” someone online is so much different than meeting face-to-face. (“Know” is in quotations because the anonymity of the internet doesn’t really allow two people to get that close physically or emotionally. So how well can you actually get to “know” someone online? I mean, it’s all predicated on the parties being honest, and well, in this day and age, we all know how that can go.)

In some cases, having that digital distance between yourself and your suitor can be a good thing. I personally find it easier to speak my mind when I have a little time to formulate a reply to questions. My written responses have more depth to them and I represent who I am better in the written word. In person, there’s always the chance that nerves and anxiety will get the best of me and I’ll blurt out the first thing that comes into my head, and that’s not always a good thing, trust me. Such is the life of a raging introvert.

Those of you who are familiar with the online dating process know that in most cases there are only two roads to go down when you’ve identified someone you might want to get to know better. Option #1: Either you or the person you’re corresponding with loses interest after a while and—POOF—one day they’re gone. No explanation. No reasoning. Just gone. Try not to take it personally. It happens to all of us. Option #2: The dreaded meet-up. Now, this is where it gets tricky.

Everyone gets nervous before a first date, but I’ve found that the things we’re scared of are usually completely different depending on one’s gender.  Men are often afraid they’ll show up and find that the woman sitting across from them looks nothing like their pictures. Yes, the chance that she might be 20 or even 30 pounds heavier than she claimed to be is usually the biggest fear that keeps many men up at night. Or so I’ve been told by the men I’ve discussed this topic with (yes, I did my research).

In fact, in what seemed like a moment of kismet, just as I was finishing up drafting this entry the other day, a member of a group I belong to on Facebook posted about the anxiety he was feeling over getting the number of a woman at work – apparently a colleague of his thought that he and this female coworker would hit it off. Well, since the colleague couldn’t describe this woman to his satisfaction (or else, he didn’t trust the description), he asked said colleague to surreptitiously take a photo of her and text it to him, you know so he could see that she didn’t resemble “large Marge,” a character from Pee -Wee’s Big Adventure. Only then would he be interested in even getting her number. I’ll leave it to ya’ll who don’t know the character to Google it.

Women, on the other hand, are mostly afraid they got suckered into a date with an ax murderer itching to use the new tools he has stashed in his trunk, and that their body will be dumped into a garbage can before the night is through.

Dating games. Aren’t they fun?

Not Married, But Attached

I know I’ve written many times before about the weird and wild world of online dating. I’ve written about the “stranger danger” Spidey sense that hits when you decide to meet a stranger in person for the first time. I’ve written about the unflattering photos of men way past their prime flaunting their topless torsos when they really shouldn’t be (in fact, no one should be). I thought I’d seen everything. I thought there was nothing else shocking left. Oh, how utterly naïve of me. The Internet has come through, yet again, and shown me that just when I think I’ve seen it all, there’s another new whacked-out layer to discover.

We all pretty much know the basics of how online dating works, right? You write some things about yourself. You post some of your best pictures. You scroll through other people’s profiles. You swap emails. If you find someone you get along with, you meet and see where it goes from there. Pretty simple.

Recently, I was going through the motions. I was scrolling through the available men out there. I saw a man who seemed to be not a serial killer and decided to check him out. His profile was pretty normal (which is not the case a shockingly high number of times), so I move to the pictures. Picture #1, fine. Picture #2, fine. Then I get to picture #3. It’s a photo of him, at his wedding, feeding cake to his bride. There are plenty of couples who have profiles looking for a third person to add to the relationship. It’s not really for me – I don’t play well with others — but I have no problem with that. To each their own, I say. Every relationship is different. I just didn’t remember reading anything in this guy’s profile saying he and his wife were looking for someone.

So, I read his profile again.

It becomes very clear to me after another read-through that this guy is NOT married. At all. He is definitely single, as in divorced. The woman in that picture is his ex-wife. That’s when the bizarreness hit a whole new level. He actually posted a picture from his wedding—probably the happiest day of his life at that point—to a DATING SITE! I know it’s good to provide pictures showing that you know how to have fun, and yes, it sure looks like he’s having a friggin’ blast, but why in the world did he think it was a good idea to use a friggin’ wedding photo to attract other women??? Is it to prove his lack of a fear of commitment? To show he cleans up well in a tux? I almost messaged him just to ask if he could guide me through his thought process when he was choosing pictures to use…I mean, I’m really curious.

Maybe, just maybe, in his warped perception of determining what women want, he thinks that by showing that he has the ability to commit and look good in a tux, he’ll seem more desirable. If that’s the case he is sorely mistaken. All it shows me is that he is clearly still attached to his ex. Or, has no sense. Either way, it’s a no go.

I didn’t think this was something I would ever have to advise, but as a general rule of online dating, whether male or female, I don’t care how great the lighting was or how flattering the pose, DON’T use pictures from a time you legally bound your life to another person. Guess what…it’s a turn off.  I can’t be alone in this way of thinking, right?

Personal Shopper

So, I was at a grocery store in my old stomping grounds the other day – it should be noted that said stomping grounds are not much higher in the suburban hierarchy than the rural area where I currently reside. But apparently they a have a bolder dating pool.

Now, normally, bulletin boards at the grocery store tend to advertise pretty benign services. Dog walking. Child care. Art workshops. Yoga classes. You know, typical fare for shoppers with bags teeming with fresh fruit and dinner fixings.

Or so I thought.

When I was leaving the store I saw this gem of a posting on the board.

 

 

At first I was a little taken aback, but after really studying Eric’s honest attempt at finding a real connection with someone, it’s really not that bad. Humor me for a minute here, folks.

He makes it pretty obvious that nutrition is important to him. That’s nice. He gives options on how to reach him in case a phone call right off the bat is too personal. Nice again. He gets right to the point and doesn’t brag about himself. Okay. Best of all? No picture of him shirtless that I didn’t ask to see in the first place. Thank God.

By and large, this index card is better than what I currently see when I dip my toe into online dating. But, let me be clear, it’s not THAT much better. It’s still weird. Trust me, that hasn’t escaped my attention. His random use of capitalized letters is off-putting. The handwriting that looks like it was scribbled by a 5-year-old is odd. And I don’t even know what to think about the smiley face and “oil too” because for the life of me I don’t know what that means! Not only is it incomplete sentence structure, but I don’t think I even want to know the underlying implication.

So, don’t worry, I will not be getting in touch with this fine gentleman. But perhaps some “sexy woman” will. And if so, I hope they hit it off. Or at the very least that she returns home safely.

Online Dating – Clothing Optional

Online dating is fraught with hazards and humor (mostly hazards). I’ve written about it before. For instance, my previous post about the ads I’ve seen on Craigslist, the ones where guys post—shall we say “intimate”—photos of themselves for all to see. And they’re trying to be serious! (Well, as serious one can be on Craigslist).

Today I’d like to address the “fancier,” the “nicer,” and the more “reputable” online dating sites. I’ll admit it, I check out these sites. Not for the normal reasons, though. Even though I’m on my own these days, I’m not looking too hard to change that. These online ads are sometimes just so funny and so sad at the same time. I’m not bashing online dating in general. I can easily get on board with that. I’m more talking about some of the profiles that are out there…in public…with no shame at all. It’s both hilarious and depressing.

During my periodic excursions into the wild world of online dating, I’ve noticed that many of the photo albums on these more upscale sites aren’t very different from what I’ve seen on Craigslist. They’re just more PG than MA. Whenever I see a “provocative” picture of a guy in some state of undress on these sites, the same question pops in my head. That question, of course, is WTF? Then, the second question: If you (the guy) are trying to find a significant other on one of these dating sites—or God help all involved, Craigslist—is posting a sexually suggestive picture really the right way to go?

is THAT what I think it is!?

Is THAT what I think it is!?

Maybe these guys have nothing left to lose. I’ve noticed that most of the men posting these embarrassingly lewd pictures are usually somewhat older in age. They write that they are looking for romance, an open-mind, and a companion to embark on a long-term relationship with – but no drama! As if no one out there has a backstory. Yet they follow that up with a sexually suggestive photo. Do they think that’s really going to intrigue someone who is looking for the same thing (by same thing, I mean a loving, committed, long-term relationship)? I would think that posting lurid photos would give entirely the wrong impression. But hey, that’s just me.

The latest trend I’ve noticed is that the guy’s main profile photo is one of him shirtless. He’s maybe at the beach, at the pool, on his Harley (although personally, topless motorcycle riding seems a little dangerous, don’t you think?), reclining on a deck chair, or leaning suggestively against a fence in the yard (I know, I know, but they’re out there!).  All well and good, but these guys are getting on in the years and it’s not like they’re keeping it together like Robert Downey Jr., Keanu Reeves, or Denzel Washington. Nor have they somehow defied the calendar and still have the body of a 25-year-old Calvin Klein underwear model. Oh no. They’re in their 50’s or 60’s, and have all the signs that they’ve lived a decadent life that somehow hasn’t involved a lot of time at the gym. And that’s putting it nicely. Some of ‘em have got a sort of werewolf hybrid deal going on. Lots of hair. Lots and lots of hair. I’m sorry. But it’s true. Do these men actually think a photo of them bare-chested as their main profile picture, mind you, is actually going to attract a woman? This is how they chose to introduce themselves? No build up. No “hi how do you do?” Just, BAM, chest hair in your face.

No, no, I MUST have him!

Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Maaaaaaybe they want to make sure that the sight of their bare-chestedness isn’t going to turn the woman off. I suppose that could be a possibility, right? I mean, there has to be some logic at play here. It’s not as if these guys would show up to a first date at a nice restaurant or coffee shop without a shirt on. Then again, maybe some would! Who the hell knows these days? The dating scene seems to be much, much different than it once was.

I understand trying to prove you are who you say you are, or rather, how you must make yourself stand out in this crazy new cyber-dating world. But can’t regular pictures do the same job? Believe me, I’m not a prude (ackk! I just choked on my drink on that one). I like to see skin as much as the next person, but posting these sorts of pictures on sites that are geared towards forming long-term relationships and finding the love of your life? Um…not so much. It’s not Tinder, folks.

What’s even sadder is that the women don’t really have it much better. If you don’t offer up a swimsuit photo somewhere in your cache of selfies, many men probably just move on to the next profile. Because knowing, or rather seeing, every intimate detail before you even go on the first date is apparently a must these days, whether you want to or not.