Tag Archives: advice

Lessons in Love and Life from Jonathan Franzen

“There is no such thing as a person whose real self you like every particle of. This is why a world of liking is ultimately a lie. But there is such a thing as a person whose real self you love every particle of.”

Once again, there I was on metafilter when I stumbled across something interesting.  Go figure.  This time, it was an excerpt from a commencement speech at Kenyon College (printed in the opinion page of the NYT) written by author Jonathan Franzen (Freedom) about technology and narcissism and love and life.

Franzen talks about the “liking” phenomenon sweeping the world, thanks to Facebook.  We all want to “like” things, and we want people to “like” us.  “If you dedicate your existence to being likable, however, and if you adopt whatever cool persona is necessary to make it happen, it suggests that you’ve despaired of being loved for who you really are.”


Image by -= Bruce Berrien =- via Flickr

We want to be loved for who we are, and yet we rarely show our true selves to people, especially at the beginning of a romantic relationship.  We try to be perfect, to be who the person wants us to be, or who we think the person wants us to be.  We don’t lose our temper when someone cuts us off on the road.  We cook gourmet dinners.  We obviously don’t burp or fart or poop, because we don’t do any of those things. We don’t get upset or have a bad day and eat a pint of ice cream to ease the pain.  We exercise regularly and have a clean house.

The simple fact of the matter is that trying to be perfectly likable is incompatible with loving relationships. Sooner or later, for example, you’re going to find yourself in a hideous, screaming fight, and you’ll hear coming out of your mouth things that you yourself don’t like at all, things that shatter your self-image as a fair, kind, cool, attractive, in-control, funny, likable person. Something realer than likability has come out in you, and suddenly you’re having an actual life.

Suddenly there’s a real choice to be made, not a fake consumer choice between a BlackBerry and an iPhone, but a question: Do I love this person? And, for the other person, does this person love me?

There is no such thing as a person whose real self you like every particle of. This is why a world of liking is ultimately a lie. But there is such a thing as a person whose real self you love every particle of. And this is why love is such an existential threat to the techno-consumerist order: it exposes the lie.

This is not to say that love is only about fighting. Love is about bottomless empathy, born out of the heart’s revelation that another person is every bit as real as you are. And this is why love, as I understand it, is always specific. Trying to love all of humanity may be a worthy endeavor, but, in a funny way, it keeps the focus on the self, on the self’s own moral or spiritual well-being. Whereas, to love a specific person, and to identify with his or her struggles and joys as if they were your own, you have to surrender some of your self.

The big risk here, of course, is rejection. We can all handle being disliked now and then, because there’s such an infinitely big pool of potential likers. But to expose your whole self, not just the likable surface, and to have it rejected, can be catastrophically painful. The prospect of pain generally, the pain of loss, of breakup, of death, is what makes it so tempting to avoid love and stay safely in the world of liking.

And yet pain hurts but it doesn’t kill. When you consider the alternative — an anesthetized dream of self-sufficiency, abetted by technology — pain emerges as the natural product and natural indicator of being alive in a resistant world. To go through a life painlessly is to have not lived.

Read the rest of the opinion piece here.

Listen to the whole commencement speech here.

You’re blogging wrong!

I love my blog.  It’s kind of my baby.  I admit to getting a little thrill from seeing my words in print.  But more than that, my blog is my release.  It’s my therapy, my way of getting my emotions and thoughts out of my head.  I love if people read it.  I love if something I write touches someone, makes them think, makes them feel less lonely.  And I love it even more if someone comments on my blog.  It gives me some validation.

I wouldn’t say my blog is “successful.”  I get plenty of hits, most of them random, hitting posts that I happened to keyword well.  I’ve looked at all the ways to get more people to my blog, to get more hits, more regular readers, more comments, more publication.  I’ve read numerous articles on how to blog successfully, and I know what’s “good” and what’s “bad.”

Doesn’t mean I want to do it on mine, and it especially doesn’t mean I want to annoy people with the things that annoy me.

For instance:

I know that when linking, it’s best to have a parent link – that is, a link that opens a new window (like this).  This is best because it keeps people on your page.  If you have a blank link – one that opens in the same window (like this) – the reader has to use the back button to get back to your blog.  Obviously, you want to keep people on your page, not drive them away from it.  But it annoys me when that happens to me, so I rarely do it.  I evaluate each link, the likelihood of a reader clicking on it, of coming back to my blog, and I will do a parent link occasionally.  But usually, I don’t.

The best thing to do is have a limited RSS feed.  You give the reader a little sample, but force them to view the full page to read the full post.  Obviously, it is easier to get comments on a post if the person is on your page, rather than reading on a feed.  If they can read the full post on a feed, it takes extra effort to come to the blog and comment, so it has to be something they really want to comment on.  I get it.  But it annoys me when I can’t see the full post in a feed.  I’m actually less likely to come over to the blog.  So I don’t limit my feed.

Every “Blog Success” article I read says “Have a niche.”  SewingSouthern PeopleDatingMotherhoodLegal mattersPhotography.  And while at times my blog could be classified as a Dating Blog, it’s really not.  It’s my life.  It’s what I’m thinking now, today, about this, or that.  It’s how I feel, and more importantly, it’s how I think.   I admit, I’m scattered.  My brain is usually in twenty different places at once.  I sit down to meditate, and I’ll have words coming out of my mouth, but I’m thinking about what I saw on TV last night, and I’m wondering how the cat is doing and if his new food is working, and I’m conscious of the fact that the neighbor is doing laundry and there’s a stray cat walking by outside, and will my cat see him?

I saw something the other day that said most blogs fail because all you talk about is yourself.  But…that’s kind of the point, right?  I mean, yes, there are great blogs out there that are as informative as CNN, Wikipedia, and Youtube put together, with quality, usable information.  But the whole point of a blog is an online diary.  That’s kinda how it started.  This is my life.  Deal with it.  Of course I want you to read it, and obviously I expect you to enjoy certain posts more than others.  But I don’t want to “niche” myself, why would I “niche” my blog?  I don’t have a focus in my life, why would I have one on my blog?  Which, of course,  begs the observation, “Maybe if you had focus on your blog, you would have focus in your life.”  Yeah, whatever.  Bite me.  😉

Plenty Enough Suck to Go Around

Plenty Enough Suck to Go Around: A Memoir of Floods, Fires, Parades, and Plywood, by Cheryl Wagner

I was at the library one day, picking up some research material for the book I’m working on, and this book caught my eye. There I am, walking down the aisle, and this book was at the end of one row, facing out, and I stopped, backed up, and looked at it. (Score one for the importance of cover art.)

The title intrigued me – there’s certainly enough suck in this world. I flipped it over and read the back, and discovered it was about post-Katrina New Orleans. I shrugged – why not, it’s the library, it’s free.

I got 9 pages in while my car was being inspected. There’s a dog named Aunt Clotilde Robichaux. Author Cheryl Wagner and her boyfriend Jake would occasionally talk with their neighbor across a fence “a ‘crazy white family’ had erected in the sixties.” The author’s mother’s official name is Lizzie, not Elizabeth, possibly due to a case of “classic New Orleans ineptitude.” She talks about her widowed mom moving in with her aunt: “I like to think of these two in the late seventies and early eighties dancing down their front steps for the Krewe of Shut-Ins parade with us kids cheering them on. Old woman in a worn housecoat shaking her rump, showing the young mother how you wriggle free of life’s palls.”

After my car was inspected, I met a friend for a movie. I showed the book to her, read a couple of bits, and told her she would probably like it…especially since she knows New Orleans far better than I do. She was going to download a sample on her kindle.

I kept reading, through their evacuation, through a chapter of email exchanges that had me in tears, from the hope that maybe their Mid-City neighborhood was fine, to the anger and rage over the reports of the evacuation and response, to the disappointment of finding out their neighborhood was very much under water, to the worry of wondering how long the wiring can be submerged before it goes bad.

“The next ten days hurt. All the LSU hurricane doomsday guy’s dire prognostications were coming true. Fire, floods, floods on fire. The giant ball of floating ants arrived. Our governor and mayor were on the television with eyes red from crying.” They started getting reports from friends, of people stuck on balconies or roofs or dangling from trees, people laying dead on the sidewalk. “No one had ever called me to say things like that, much less so many people.” And there they were, stuck in Florida, unable to help, not knowing what was left of their house or their belongings or their neighborhood. Wagner started doing what she could, trying to get people rescued from wherever they were stuck by reposting posts from message boards onto the Coast Guard Rescue website. “It seemed inconceivable that this could help, yet also inconceivable that people were posting desperate SOSs on the Web that trapped relatives had phoned to them in the first place.” After one more piece of bad news, this time from her mom, Wagner seems to lose it. “What the fuck. If anybody was doing his damn job, this wouldn’t be going on so long. People’s minds are breaking.”

Finally, Wagner and her boyfriend Jake couldn’t take it anymore. They were determined to get back into the city, to check on their house, to start the cleanup, to keep the thieves away, and to HELP. Since New Orleans was under Martial Law, they were afraid they would have to sneak in, hiking along River Road or impersonating medical personnel. Wagner was able to get press passes, they got Hep and Tetanus shots, and finally got back into the city. It looked like the set of a zombie movie – there was no one there. They dumped some dog food when they saw stray dogs, dropped some water off with stray people. When they finally got to their house, they found plants turned to goo, a swollen front door, a soup-filled van, swollen moldy furniture, and mud everywhere. They had rented a too-small storage unit, the only one available, and had planned to take anything they could salvage there. When they saw the house, they realized the unit would be too big.

The chapter the book was named after, “Plenty Enough Suck to Go Around,” really got me. Wagner talks about how the unflooded people started coming back, now that there was electricity and hot water. “Jake and I would overhear them at the drugstore bitterly complaining. They hated the curfew. They were upset about their manicurist being displaced, their favorite restaurant not reopening, and all the stores still being closed.”

“There was a trite mantra I found myself having to say out loud to myself – everyone’s loss is big to them – to keep from hating people…

“The weird thing was that this little bon mot of trite was actually true. People had lost their faith. Our city was in ruin….I was not interested in sifting and weighing suck on a bunch of tiny scales. Suck was too hard to quantify. There was plenty enough suck to go around. Sitting around measuring it wasn’t going to fix anything.

“Flooded people started to grumble that unflooded people were SPOILED. And some days I was one of them. But in my unbitter, unflooded heart I didn’t believe people should be happy they had just lost their jobs or all their life plans. If unflooded people were spoiled for being rattled that their city and security had been shredded around them, then I should be thrilled that ‘at least I had an upstairs.’ And I really was. But I also wasn’t.”

I had made it 100 pages in, and I was hooked. I laughed out loud more times than I know, cried quite a bit, and nodded my head at the inalienable truths. Most importantly, I was reminded of something I already knew: everyone has their own version of loss, their own version of suck. Everyone is dealing with something.

Photo by geauxgirl

Photo by geauxgirl



Now THIS is how you write a match.com email

As a followup to a crappy email I got the other day (be sure to read the comments for the full story on that one), I received a FABULOUS email yesterday.

I initiated contact with this guy by sending him an email.  His profile made me laugh about 5 times, not in a slapstick way, just in a goofball way.  I thought it was cute.  So my email to him went a little something like this (paraphrased, trying to protect a little anonymity):

“Thanks for making me laugh, so refreshing!  Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be a good teammate in [sport he mentioned in profile], but hiking, eating, and going to the beach I can do.  Tell you what – you teach me how to play [sport] and I can teach you how to [do something I can do] – how does that sound?

“Where did you do [action mentioned in his profile]?  I’m trying to think of the places I know and can’t figure out how you did it. I do [that action] occasionally myself, in fact I did it last year at [Festival].  My friends were very impressed.”

His return email was PERFECT, or as near as you can get:

“Thanks for emailing me.  Thanks for emailing me.  I know, I said that twice, the first time I was just saying thanks, the second time was after I read your profile and saw how much we had in common. ” (how cute is that?!)

He went on to address the questions in my email, responded to 5 different comments I made in my email about myself, and commented on 3 different things from my profile.

Now THAT is a good email.  I have no doubt that he read my profile and is interested in getting to know me further.

Emotional Math

Lots of future posts floating around in my head right now.  I’ll organize my thoughts and get to them all sooner or later.  In the meantime, I just read a wonderful post by IzzieDarling:

  • Just because … I can’t see doesn’t mean I don’t want to. Often times, we are irritated and impatient with others when we believe they are beating a dead horse, not moving fast enough, lazy, playing the victim. Guilty. Add compassion.
  • Just because … you find yourself “lost” does not mean you will not be “found”. Subtract despair, multiply hope.
  • Just because … you face the unknown on all fronts does not mean anything other than you may be at the doorstep of the best life you’ve ever known. Negative thinking is easy. Divide it into smithereens, erase, and add amazing possibilities to each and every half empty glass in your possession.

Read more here:  Just Because: Do the Math.

Dating in the Workplace

In general, I think that dating in the workplace is a bad idea. A very bad idea. That’s not to say I haven’t done it – I have. But I haven’t done it in over ten years now. Because when things go bad, they can go really bad.

Where I work, there are many, many couples. Just within my department, I can count 12 people off the top of my head who are married to or dating someone else within the company.

I’ve used the “I don’t date people I work with” excuse multiple times in the past. It’s a handy excuse, especially for when you simply are not interested in the person. Earlier this year, I found out this very, very sweet man I work with was interested in me. He’s a very nice guy, and he’s not unattractive, but I was simply not interested. I kept giving my “I don’t date people I work with” excuse. He was nice and understood.

Recently, I’ve started getting to know this other guy. We kept running into each other in the hall, and he kept looking at me like he knew me, and we would exchange pleasantries. Then, a couple of weeks ago, he emailed me (I had left a note on the soda machine that it ate my money, and he was commenting on that), and we’ve been emailing each other about once a day since then, just random chit chat, getting to know each other.

I don’t know if he’s flirting or just being friendly. I asked one of my coworkers about it, and she said he’s just really nice and is just being friendly. I had another coworker read a couple of the emails, and she thinks he’s flirting.

The other day, he said that maybe we could go grab some lunch one day after he gets back from his business trip next week.


It’s so silly, because if this were a woman, I wouldn’t think twice about it, and neither would anyone else in the company. But because it’s a man, I have to wonder if this is “just coworkers having lunch,” or if it’s a date. And, regardless of what it is, gossip at work would definitely be of the more lascivious version.

All that being said…I could see the possibility of me being interested in this guy. I’m not sure why – he’s totally not my type. But there’s something about him. Some sort of pull, from before I even knew his name, from just those hallway smiles and hellos.

So if this has been him flirting, and if this lunch is more date-like, what am I going to do about it? I still don’t think dating in the workplace is a good idea, even though he and I never deal with each other.

How about this for an idea: I stop f-ing thinking about it and not worry about it until it actually happens, which it very well may not. That’s me, always thinking too far ahead and trying to sort it out in my head before it even happens. What’s the phrase? Borrowing trouble?

What about you – What are your views on workplace relationships? And, any advice on dealing with this guy if he has, in fact, been flirting?

Blog post in Haiku:

Your opinion: 

Dating in the workplace- 

Good idea or bad?

Do I LOOK like a gynecologist?

You know those completely innocent comments that end up sounding not-so-innocent?

I was with some friends the other night, and I had a question.

“I’m going to ask this question, and I know it’s going to sound odd, but there’s a reason behind it.”

Everyone paused and looked at me, eyes wide, already half-laughing in apprehension.

“Do you have a speculum-like tool I can use?”

Silence. Then, “I’ll ask. What would you need something like that for?”

“Well, I need to…” Then I thought about the words that were about to come out of my mouth, and how they would make the prior request sound even worse, and I doubled over in laughter. “I need…” Laughter. “I need…” Laughter. “I need…” Laughter.

Finally, after several minutes, I was able to compose myself just slightly. “I need to get a ball inside a rubber hose.”

See, here’s the full story. I bought a Pilates bar, which has stretchy rubber hose-like bands to create tension. Well, me being as short as I am, the bands are too long for me, so I thought I’d cut some of the length off. The bands have balls in the ends of them to stop them from coming off the bar. It seems simple enough to me to simply remove the balls from the bands (which I’ve already done), cut some length off (done), then reinsert the balls. Except, I can’t get the balls back in. So I’m trying to somehow “MacGyver” it.

I have to get the ball into this rubber hose, which requires stretching the hose wide enough to get the ball in, and getting the ball deep enough so it won’t slide back out. (And, WOW, that sounds bad.) Someone came up with the idea of greasing the ball and the hose (lubing it, if you will – might as well go all out), but my thought is, won’t it then just slip out?

Anyone have any thoughts? (Or a speculum-like tool?)

Pilates Bar

This ball needs go inside this rubber hose

So it looks like this

Advice to Men regarding Online Dating

I’m sure the men this is aimed at don’t care enough to do any research on online dating profiles. The ones that do care have already cleaned up their profile so that it’s not so offensive. But I can always hope to help a few people.

First, a question for the men. If a woman on a dating site emailed you and gave you constructive criticism about your profile, in an effort to help you out, what would you think? What would your reaction be? I always want to email some of these guys, but I have a feeling it wouldn’t be welcomed, no matter how well-intended it is.

First, let’s talk about pictures.

  • Your main picture should be you by yourself, with a shirt on, without sunglasses. I’ll allow you the hat.
  • Pictures taken in the mirror are not good. Period. 5 pictures taken in the mirror are even worse. Get a friend to take a picture of you. Set the self-timer on the camera. There are ways around this.
  • Unless you are doing something that actually requires your shirt to be off, I don’t want to see you with your shirt off. Acceptable: swimming, playing a sport…that may be it. If it’s obviously a pose, I don’t want to see it. If it is you in your natural element, then by all means, post it. The point is, the picture should tell who you are (a person who enjoys water sports), not what you are (egotistical).
  • A few pictures of you in a group of people is fine. If all the pictures are you in a group of people, I have a hard time figuring out which one is you. In fact, you run the risk of me thinking your friend is MUCH cuter, and asking you if he’s available.
  • Pictures of you with a woman can be misconstrued as you WITH a woman. Especially if your hand is anywhere near her breasts. Cropping your ex out is also kind of a turn off. I know she’s there. I saw one profile that got around this really well – he put “sister” with an arrow drawn to the woman, and “nephew” with an arrow drawn to a kid. I appreciated that he realized what it might look like otherwise (his girlfriend, his kid). And, it made me giggle – and a man who can make me giggle gets bonus points.
  • I don’t want to see pictures of sunsets. I can take a picture of a sunset, too. One or two “pretty” pictures is fine. Twenty is not.

Moving on…

  • do not forget to use caps and punctuation when appropriate and for god’s sake capitalize the pronoun i
  • Proofread!! I can overlook a couple of spelling errors, but more than about 3 and I’m done. I realize Match doesn’t have spell check. There’s a really easy way around this: use MS Word to type out your profile, run spell check, then copy-paste into Match. Even after that – be sure to re-read it and proofread it again.
  • Do not start off your profile (or use as your headline), “I can’t believe I’m doing this,” or anything similar. You are essentially saying that only losers use online dating, and therefore implying that I am a loser. Let go of the idea that online dating is for the desperate. That’s obviously not the case anymore.
  • Shoot for more than 500 characters in your profile. I would personally like to see more than 1000. I want to know about you. You cannot tell me about you in less than 500 characters. Match allows you 4000. Man up.
  • The more information you fill in, the better. I’ll tell you why – if you don’t fill in any of the extra information, and only put the very basics, you are either uninteresting or lazy. Either way, I’m not interested.
  • In “Last Read,” do not put “I don’t read.” I’m going to take you at your word and assume you are illiterate. Surely you’ve read something – news on the internet, the feeder at the bottom of CNN or ESPN, the tabloid headlines at the supermarket. A little hint – I’m going to be more likely to forgive some other sins in your profile if you make me laugh with something like, “I just read that John Wayne was an alien! Man, The Enquirer gets the scoop on ALL the good stuff!”
  • Do not bring your past pain into your profile. Phrases like “no liars,” “no drama-queens,” and, my favorite, “no baggage,” written in all caps with 5 exclamation points simply scream out that you have baggage. We all do, the only difference is if it’s a backpack, a carryon, or a steamer trunk. Listing them out in this way lets me know that I am going to be compared to your ex from the beginning, and I’m not interested in that.

Regarding emails:

  • I repeat – use punctuation and capitalization correctly, and try to spell most of the words right.
  • Show me why you’re interested in me. Show me that you read my profile. You will need more than one sentence to accomplish this.
  • Do not give me your phone number or email address in the first email. In fact, don’t give me your phone number at all. After two or three emails, say something like, “I’d love to put a voice to your words. Can we talk on the phone? Give me your number, and I’ll call you.” Or, “I’d love to get to know you more. Can I have your phone number?”

I get that online dating pretty much sucks. You have to dig through a lot of stuff, suffer a lot of rejection, before you get to someone and something good. It can be time consuming and tiring. It can get old really fast. But if you want to impress a girl, you have to put forth the effort.

I say it all the time – your profile is the first impression you make on someone. What do you want that first impression to be?

(As a public service, if you would like me to take a look at your profile, you can email it to me – allthingsdelightful at hotmail. If you’re on Match, you can send me your username, and I will take a look. I will give you honest feedback and advice. I want you to find someone – we all deserve that.)

Match.com Etiquette

I joined Match.com.  Again.  Something I was hoping to never do again, but what can you do.

I always have this dilemma with online dating.  Actually, two. 

  • I know that there are some great men out there, but they may not appear attractive to me in their pictures.  I also know that a person can be better looking or worse looking, based on their personality.  So, do I give the ones I wouldn’t normally be interested in a chance? 
  • I always respond to a wink or an email, even if it’s just with a “No Thanks.”  I feel it’s impolite to completely ignore someone.  But now I’m not sure how to handle a particular issue.  I’ve exchanged several emails with a couple of guys that were kind of “meh” to begin with, and I really don’t feel interested in.  What do I do at this point?  Send them an email that says, essentially, “I’m sorry, I think you’re boring”?  Ignore them?  I hate doing that, but I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.  Maybe I’m giving myself too much credit, to think that I might hurt someone’s feelings by not being interested in them after a few emails. 

What would Emily Post say?  What do you, Reader, think?

I found this interesting forum post online here – an interesting read, but I’ll sum up, as it’s rather long.  This man signed up for Match for one month, made an extensive and very thorough list of women he wanted to contact, based on their profiles and Match’s “match” qualifications, with little emphasis on photos, and more emphasis on his actual likes and dislikes and what he wanted from a woman and a relationship.  He began systematically emailing them, taking the time to specifically mention things from their profile (IOW, not a generic email).  He emailed several women a day, and by the end of the month, he had emailed 94 women.  Out of those 94 women, 81 had read the email.  Only 9 women read his profile (the others didn’t even bother to look at his profile).  He got 4 “No Thanks” replies (which is a simple one button option).  No one emailed him back.

I was absolutely FLOORED by this.  He had a 5% respond rate, and a 0% interest rate.  I always read the profile, and I am very big on reading the full profile before flipping through any pictures (although, of course, the main picture is hard to avoid).  I have ignored gorgeous men who write crappy profiles.  I have a harder time with great profiles when the pictures are…less than attractive, or when it’s someone I know I won’t be physically attracted to.  The only exception to this is men who are listed as “currently separated.”  The second I see that, I say “No Thanks,” and I always have.  Guys, you are married.  I don’t care that NC divorce laws are stupid and require you to be separated for a year before filing for divorce.  You are still MARRIED.  I don’t want to be a part of that. 

My favorite part of this whole forum post is this:

I have to question the quality of breeding among the women on MATCH.COM. Basic common decency dictates that in an environment like on-line dating that one gives a response to all serious inquires. MATCH has convenience of a “No Thanks” button right beside the message for the recipients to use. Yet, the overwhelming majority of the women who actually read the mail do not exhibit the courtesy of giving any response. Men, do you really want a woman who is not going to thank you when you give help? Is going to be rude to your family? That’s is the kind of women you are likely to find on MATCH.COM. To be quite honest, I think I have dodged a bullet by not having these women respond to me.

(Shoop Shoop)

You know, itneverrainsinseattle made a comment on my Ain’t Too Proud To Beg post, listing “It’s In His Kiss” as a great song with awful advice.  I got a good giggle out of that, and ended up singing the song for a couple of days afterwards.  Is it really in his kiss? Can you trust his kiss more than his eyes, his sighs, his warm embrace?  Not really.  Can you trust his kiss more than the way he acts?  No, I don’t think so.  A kiss can show you how he really feels, but it can also be…just a kiss. 

I think the way he acts is really more significant than his kiss.  And I think the way he acts should be in line with what he says.  Talk is cheap.  Actions speak louder than words.

But wait, if actions speak louder than words, maybe it really is in his kiss. 

Hmm.  What do you think?  How do you know that he loves you so?  Is it in his kiss?  Or is it in something else?