Saturday, September 24, 2011

31 Dates in 31 Days: The Review (Anne)

For the first time in my life—and I hope not the last—I had the opportunity to read an advance reading copy of a book. “31 Dates in 31 Days” is the tale of Tamara Duricka Johnson's quest to make sense of the madness that is dating.

This is a hard review to write for two reasons. First, I felt a bit of jealousy that I didn't come up with the idea to date 31 guys in 31 days, blog about it, turn the blog into a book, and possibly sell the movie rights (it really would make a pretty decent movie, in the spirit of “Julie and Julia.”) Second, the book caused me to examine my own approach to dating and relationships—and it was somewhat uncomfortable.

I identified all too well with Johnson's admissions of relationship-killing fallacies: rushing past dating stage into full-blown relationship; compromising her interests in order to save a relationship; and the big one—believing that any relationship was better than none, and making it work was imperative, because no one else was going to come along. Luckily, Johnson doesn't disclose these admissions until half-way through the book, and by that time I was too invested in her experiment to stop reading.

I'm not going to discuss plot at all—you can check out the website for that—but I will say that as I read the book (hard to put down, by the way—took me about three hours) I was tired for her. I would not be able to keep up the frenetic schedule she did: a demanding full-time job (which I also have), plus a date every single night. And while she set a minimum time limit of 31 minutes for each date, it seemed that all of them lasted at least 2-3 hours.

If I wasn't still trying to heal from a breakup, I know I would have adored this book. And that's not to say I didn't enjoy it—I did. But some of her words hit just a tad too close to home and forced me to examine my own failed relationships through a different lens, a lens that I was simply unprepared to face.

As for Johnson's writing, it is typical of the genre—accessible, engaging, with flashes of humor. My only criticism is that many of her dates seemed to end with her extrapolating some lesson or moral to help develop her new approach to relationships. I'm not sure such epiphanies were completely integral to the story-telling aspect of her experiment. I enjoyed just reading about the dates and didn't need to read all of the lessons she learned; a handful would have sufficed.

That said, I spent the better part of the day trying to figure out how I might run a similar experiment. I wouldn't be able to do it every day, but there's really no reason why I couldn't find a way to have a date every weekend for a specified period of time. And the hallmark of any good book is if it compels the reader to act, to change behavior.

Johnson acknowledges in her book that she is Mormon, but doesn't explore how Mormon culture complicates dating and relationships. I assume part of that is so that she can reach a wider audience, and perhaps because she converted to the faith later in life and might not have been raised with some of the expectations and fears that I was.

But I'm glad she left that part out, because that's my book to write.

31 Dates in 31 Days is available at your regular book-shopping locales. According to Amazon, its official release date is September 27.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hope Springs Eternal...

No matter how hard I try to squash it down it's there. No matter how many times I swear - NEVER AGAIN! it's there. No matter how many times I tell myself let it go - have faith or it's never going to happen move on and do your own thing - it's there.

Sunshiney, bright and effervescent, send you into an instant diabetic coma with its rich sweetness, freaking hope.

I have once again signed up on one of those "sites." Don't judge - you know the ones and I'm willing to bet at least 90% of you have tried it even if only 20% of us will admit it.

So the profile has been up for a few days and has managed to catch the eye of one particular, seemingly sweet fellow who wrote me quite possibly the sweetest, most flattering note I've ever received from one of these would be suitors and darn it all to heck (I've Pollyanna'd what I'd really like to say...) I feel that feeling again. Hope!

But, if I'm completely honest it's not just hope - it's more like this...

"I shouldn't even bother. Yes he's sweet to have reached out and flattered me in this way, and yes I am looking and he's quite cute and seems to be all good things and have his life together but you're almost at the point where you can give up and not want to off yourself...
...but maybe this time it will be different. Maybe he's everything he says it is and my wait is finally over. I pause to gather my strength before really letting my imagination run away...

This is where it takes off and gets interesting...

"We'll have an outdoor wedding and a yellow house and 2 dogs and 3 kids and we'll take our family vacations in September and I wonder what side of the bed I want and I hope there's 2 closets in the master bedroom and..."

Yeah. Have you ever wanted to step out of your body and slap your own face?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Chemistry and Timing (Anne)

On tonight's season premiere of “How I Met Your Mother,” the ever-hopeful Ted arrives at the frightening realization that he no longer has hope. Talking to his friend Robin, Ted grapples with the reality that all of his high school friends are married and have families, and he doesn't.

He says, “I've stopped believing...not in a way I even noticed...every day I believe a little less, and a little less, and a little less, and that sucks.”

The advice Robin gives? To believe again. And not to believe in destiny, but to believe in chemistry. She says, “If you have chemistry, you only need one other thing. Timing.”

And, she continues, “But timing's a...”

Well, this is a Mormon blog, so I'm going to leave out the expletive, but you get the point.

And then I started thinking about how mopey I've been lately. Just this morning, as I once again wished for the boy to call or text, I thought, “Would he even want to be with me again, seeing me like this?”

Probably not.

I lack chemistry right now. That spark, that flirtatiousness that makes people want to be around me. Heck, I don't even want to be around me some days lately. I need that chemistry back, and I do see flickers of it a couple of times a week, so I just need to fan it and stoke it a little, until it's back completely.

And then, it's timing. Timing sucks. Timing is the sole reason why I'm dealing with a breakup in the first place. The timing was not right for us. And there's not a lot I can do about timing, other than read conference talks about patience and re-read Captain Wentworth's letter in Persuasion. Talk about timing—that letter is all about timing.

One element in my control, one element in God's hands. I'm guessing if I expect God to come through on his part, I should be a little more active in doing something about mine.

Pity party over.

I'm out to find some kindling.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Day in the Life (Anne)

5:30 AM, my alarm goes off and I pray for the feeling of sadness and dread to go away.

7 AM, sitting at my desk, buried in papers and lesson plans, I take a deep breath and forget that I woke up with sadness, put on my happy face, and I get to work.

11:30 AM, eating lunch with my friends, I take out my iPod and catch up on Twitter and my RSS feed, focusing on my digital world as an escape.

3:45 PM, working with my newspaper staff to finish our first issue, they make me laugh and they make me think, and for a couple of hours, I feel like I am actually making a difference.

7:30 PM, running on the treadmill, I realize after 17 minutes that I am hollow, going through the motions, and the TV show playing in front of me is horribly romantic and the sadness returns.

10 PM, on my knees at my bedside, I pray for my friends, for my students, for my family. I pray that I'll sleep through the night and that somehow I will wake up feeling like I did last week—normal, happy, over him. And then I pray for two men. For the one who said goodbye, I pray that the miracle he desires will happen. For the one I've yet to meet, I pray that he is well, and on his way to me soon.

Yesterday over at Segullah, a woman posted about the concept of God closing doors and opening windows, and she presents the idea that God might not work that way, rather closed doors are somehow meant to transform us. In the past six weeks, with a door slammed in my face, I have seen tiny transformations in myself. I am feeling more dependent on God now than I was on my mission or in grad school.

That is a pretty good transformation to make, right?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Dreams (Stella)

Today is a special day. A day for reflection and evaluation. A day to remember our blessings and spend time with our loved ones. Today I pause to remember all the things this day means to me and I imagine to all of us. I remember those whose mortal journey ended 10 years ago and my heart goes out to their families and loved ones. Not only is it the day that changed our country forever but it is also my birthday. My birthday is an insignificant part of this post but I throw it in there because as I add another year to my time on the earth I ponder my life and pose a question.

I pause to remember that one of the ways we honor those whose sacrifice allow us to continue on is to in fact - continue on. I'm wondering if any of you have found yourself either now or in the past where I now find myself. Think back to that day you graduated from high school. Maybe it was 5, 10, 20, 25 or more years ago. Think about all of the dreams you had for yourself - where you would go, what you would do, see, experience. How many of those dreams have been realized?

I'm grateful to say that I set some big dreams for myself and was raised to believe that I could and would accomplish them all if I worked hard enough. Though it took me a while and wasn't easy, I'm happy to say that I've accomplished every single one that I had for myself except one. I've finished my education, traveled the world, am well ensconced in my career, bought a little house with 2 recliner chairs and a big TV just like I imagined as a teenager dreaming of her own space and through it all have become someone I really like.

In spite of these blessings however, I have one dream that for the foreseeable future remains out of my grasp. Unfortunately attached to this one dream are countless others that would take me through old age and without the first one happening the others are like fine mist that get dimmer and dimmer as the years go on. It seems to me that if I'm going to make it to my next birthday without going completely crazy I need some new dreams.

What are your dreams? Maybe I could borrow one for a little while until I find some of my own. Please keep in mind that I'm a bit fearless - I'll jump out of it, off of it, or on to it. I'll save for years to get there, give up sleep to accomplish it, and anything short of sacrificing my moral or value system will give all to attain it. I only speak English fluently but have never let that stop me and thanks to an impulsive personality will only think it through after I've already done it.

I'm looking to find something to wake up for - that sounds pathetic and a wee bit sad but it is what it is. When you choose to live life only for yourself life is pretty meaningless but when you live life for yourself because you haven't been given any other choices it's down right painful. I spend my life serving others - every single day I help and love and lift and support. While that keeps me going and blesses my life in countless ways I still go home each night to an empty house and an emptier heart. I want to rediscover the girl I used to be who was hopefully waiting & diligently searching for her sweetheart while tearing up the world around her and I think a new dream or two is just what the doctor ordered.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

He's NOT the One!!! (Marnie)

Have you ever gone on a date with a guy that you knew you had NO intention of ever going out with again? So why did you say yes in the first place? maybe he caught you off guard or it was a pity date. Or it was just nice to go out on a date. If you weren't interested even MORE after the 2nd date - for whatever reasons - did he ask you out again? Of course he did! It’s almost like clockwork. Why does that happen? Because you weren’t that interested! They sense that and men do love a good chase. I’ve seen it time and again with me and with my friends. For me, I try to let my date know I'm not interested by acting completely like myself, like I don’t care what I say or do, and even try to remain a bit standoffish - yet they STILL ask for a 2nd date. That behavior is like a perfume they can't resist. They still go hunting and try to get another date. They love it especially when the prey isn't interested and even running away…it’s in their nature.

If only we could do that with the men we ARE interested in! If I'm interested in a guy and he has several qualities I'm looking for - he may even be on my "potentials list" for a future husband - I act completely different. Instead of disinterest, I'm very interested in what he says and does, I try to act just perfectly, very attentive and oh so willing to be flexible and helpful in any way - probably too much. What is the result? Well, usually, he sees I'm interested and suddenly he isn't...there's no chase.

It's just the way it is...

Well, I just read an article by Holly Sidell that had a great point – you should really date guys believing they're NOT "the one!" (You know, the man you've been dreaming of.) Holly's coach told her that "the one" doesn't exist. There is no perfect person for you, just the person you marry. That isn't the romantic dream we all have about our future spouse, but Holly believes this is a good philosophy! If you are able to get "the one" thought out of your head and think of the guy as just another date, you'll keep yourself from investing too much in him and take the pressure off the date. She says we often attach too many emotions and stories into our heads of what we want to happen. (So TRUE!) And another great reason: it makes you look a little disinterested - if he even remotely likes you, he’ll chase you!

I know it seems impossible to do – NOT comparing the guy in front of you to what “you want” and wondering how he would be as a husband and father to your future children. And if he is a really great guy and you two really do click, you start making your mental list of what you are looking for and start thinking things like, "he could be the one" - you've fallen into that trap! But as the article says, you should instead think, “that’s a trait I would like in my future husband.” That way you still are identifying his good points but keeping him out of the your temple marriage mental picture. If he really is a guy you should marry, you’ll get there! How many friends of yours dated a guy they had no intention of getting serious with and then ended up marrying with the common comment of, “I had no real interest at first and he didn’t seem my type at all!”

I think they may have something…

So that’s my goal…the next cool guy that asks me out, I will repeat over and over and over in my head during the date, “He’s not the one.” I only hope I can pull it off! In the end, I think it will save me a lot of grief.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Seeking: Flat Stomach & Tight Tush (Stella)

I have a dear, sweet, beautiful friend who made the unfortunate choice to do a little cyber surfing for blogs of LDS single men. Unfortunately...she found a few. She called me and I have never once in the 15 years I've known her heard such hurt and loss of hope in her voice. I wish I could tell you that she found a blog or two of single men discussing their struggles in finding a virtuous woman but as you might imagine she found instead the ramblings of Victoria Secret soaked frontal lobes spinning fabulous tales of how they have every right to a "hot" woman and will settle for nothing else. Then they went on to describe what "hot" is and proved that their yardstick of worthiness is about as minimalistic as their thinking.

We've all known men and women who approach their quest for a companion with "hot" as their only criteria and if you're in my business you've seen the fruit of some of those conquests. What can I say? You get what you ask for and that's not always a good thing.

My sweet friend has the same human frailties that you and I do and suffers the consequences of those frailties. She, like many of us at one time or another, has been fighting a battle with her weight which seems to settle upon her in leaps and bounds - even if she's just sucking an ice cube. With that weight gain comes sadness, which brings more food to feel better, which = a vicious circle that's hard to get out of. She has come to believe that is what has kept the blessings of marriage from her and unfortunately she found a burden of proof in the words of those who should probably have a life coach following them around 24/7.

I believe that we all have the right to our version of attractive and I believe we all have the right to our version of unattractive. I'm a tall girl who loves high heels and I have always had a problem dating men shorter then me. It makes me feel like an amazon and while those who are chest high don't seem to mind it makes me feel ginormous and makes hugs awkward. I try really hard not to use that as a measurement of a man's worth and have dated many a shorter guy so I could get to know them better. Now granted I realize that a person's height is outside of their control and that a person's weight in most cases very much is. I also realize that being overweight may send others unintended messages of laziness, unadventurous or even slovenly, unmotivated or unhealthy. As adults though we should be able to look past this and see the person - their character, their worth, their value, and their contributions - then we decide if all of those things (coupled with attraction of course) is someone who makes you want to be a better person and who would be a wonderful addition to your life.

As I talked with my friend it occurred to me that these individuals - whether they be men or women - who solely use flat stomachs and tight tush's as their companion seeking criteria are really no one that any of us needs to be all that concerned with. While the current definition of beauty in our society is well defined by entities such as the media and Hollywood you don't have to go too far back in history to see very different definitions where a plus size woman would have been drooled over for her softness and ample self.

My point is that these particular individuals who wrote these particular blogs and hold these particular ideals are going to find their unrighteous desires no matter what labels we are talking about. They are going to find their excuses (and the fruits thereof) about why they are not following the counsel of the Prophets and I say we give them as much credit and attention as if they were saying they would only marry a woman with a huge stomach and saggy tush. Acknowledge it for the crazy thing that it is and move on with life. Just like they are going to lose the opportunity with a virtuous, beautiful woman like my sweet friend they are also going to lose the virtuous, beautiful, tight tushed girl who knows she is more then a tight tush and deserves better then the rants of the deranged.

I'm all for beautifying ourselves. Look your best, keep yourself active and healthy, explore the world and all your possibilities - not because your quest ends in a tight tush but because it ends in becoming the ruby talked about in Proverbs 31. A life where we magnify our mission on the earth and ultimately honor and glorify our Heavenly Father with the lives that we live. In the Lord's time after our sweethearts and ourselves have been made ready He will bring us together.

In the meantime to the authors of those vile writings that momentarily crushed the spirits of my sweet friend I have one (highly edited) thing to say:
Unless it was in one of those books that was lost I have no memory of the scriptures defining a beautiful, virtuous son or daughter of God, who can access the heavens and eternities, by how good he or she looks laid out spread eagle in a worldly catalog. And just in case it is in one of those lost books I think we've discovered why the Lord "hid it up." Get a clue....and a life coach.