Posted in Catholicism, Dating, Lessons Learned

My Broken Road Part II: How I “know”


John’s first message to me says “I’m a bold man.” This, coupled with the fact that he has Catholic values and beliefs, intrigues me. My first meeting with him is at a restaurant that serves “diner food with a twist.” The first thing I notice about him is that he is a quick thinker and keeps me on my toes. We have a great conversation and I feel both interested and wondering if I can keep pace with him. He invites me for coffee after, which I take as a sign things are going well. And then, on our way to our cars, I say something like, “Oh, yeah, we must have parked in the same area. I’m down this way too.” And then, as we get to the end of the block, John finds his car and I realize that either A) my car was stolen, or B) I totally forgot where I parked. “Yeah, I’ll be in touch,” John says, in a tone which I assume means, “Wow, you can’t remember where you parked? How is that possible?! Goodbye.”

The next week, I receive an email from him about having a picnic in his living room. I am won over by the uniqueness of the plan, although my roommates caution me not to go to a guy’s home who I have only met once. I don’t listen to them 😦

John answers the door and seems – much more relaxed to be in his home. He has two friendly whippet dogs who greet me at the door. We sit out on his front porch, front porcheating crackers and cheese, sipping wine. Minutes into our conversation, John encourages me to go across the street with him to meet his new neighbors. We spend hours showing each other YouTube music videos and talking about our favorite music. I feel very comfortable and at ease and lose track of time.

At the end of the evening, he very simply says, “I really like you, and I want to see you again. So, um, what are you doing tomorrow?” He confesses that he doesn’t really know how to go about dating, but I am secretly very happy that he is so direct (and committal) about his interest, after so many previous experiences of unclear communication.

Going home that night, I feel a sudden lack of energy about going on dates with other guys, because I am now more interested in dating John and seeing where things go. I am not ready to admit this to anyone else, though.



“Did you have a sense that God had led you two together?” was a question I would habitually ask my engaged friends. And they always said, yes. Often they said things like, “God told me I was going to marry him.” Sometimes, the circumstances had been so unusual, serendipitous, or perfectly timed, and that was how they knew. “You’ll just know,” almost everyone said. “But how did you know?” I asked, like many people before me, looking for some kind of data, quantitative or qualitative, with which to measure.

Because these were questions that perplexed me, and because those answers felt so vague, I want to be really honest about how I “just know.”

don’t “just know.” I don’t have a deep feeling in my gut that John is “The One.” At least, not the way I thought it was going to be, like a deep primal recognition that my soul had met its mate.

But… our relationship feels different in some key ways:

  1. There’s an absence of anxiety in my stomach: peaceJohn and I talked about this once, laughingly. With every guy I’ve ever dated, I felt a nearly constant internal stress – stress about whether it was “right,” stress about if my friends liked him, stress about whether he or I would do the right things. There would be key moments in relationships where a sense of “weirdness” crept up in my gut. Once I was looking at wedding dress patterns with the guy I was dating, and then I had a strange feeling of, “This isn’t right.” With another guy I dated, I just couldn’t imagine a house where both of our possessions were lying side by side. I needed a lot of reassurance from friends about whether they liked us as a couple, etc. What feels different now is the lack of second-guessing, and the overall peace that has been a part of my relationship with John. Now, this might just be that I’m older, know myself and trust myself more. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that John share basic values and faith in common, so I don’t worry about whether we’re truly on the same page. I think it also has to do with John’s very upfront, honest nature, and the comfort I feel communicating with him about almost everything.
  2. The door is open. In other relationships, I found that my will often came up against circumstances. At the end of college, my college boyfriend wanted to get marriedopen door, but I was in turmoil about the fact that my mom disapproved of our relationship, and that I didn’t have a strong sense of what I wanted. I didn’t have enough internal peace to move forward. In my late 20s, I’d been dating a guy for nearly two years, but he became increasingly hesitant to talk about marriage, so in that case, too, the door wasn’t “open” to that possibility. With John, the door to marriage is “open”
    in the sense that 1. he proposed, 2. nothing, either internally or externally, is keeping me from saying yes. I’ve never experienced the door being truly open before, so the rareness of this state gives me a sense of peace in going forward.
  3. It works! Relationships in my past felt like they were constantly in need of a “fix-it-shop.” They’d run smoothly for a while, and then something would break down. We’d sort of fix it or patch it, but it would break down again. John is the first person I’ve dated wToast Slices Of Toast Toaster Eat White Bread Foodhere we’ve worked through things in a way that doesn’t disrupt the flow of our relationship. It’s not perfect, and it’s not bliss every day. But a disagreement or difference in opinion can usually be resolved in a few conversations, rather than needing to “take breaks” to re-evaluate.
  4. I feel comfortable with the fact that marriage is a choice. Christian communities often work hard to discount the idea of “happily ever after,” “fate” and “The One,” but sometimes they perpetuate a somewhat equally damaging view of “God’s Will:” i.e. don’t make a move until you know it’s GOD’S WILL. If God tells you he’s going to be your husband, that makes it all really clear and indisputable. But in my experience watching many Catholic friends, all very faithful, some friends experienced clear certainty when discerning a call to marriage. Many, like me, had to sift through questions, doubts, uncertainties.prayer Meanwhile, we wondered if, because we hadn’t “heard a voice,” and because it wasn’t revealed in a sign, it was God’s will. My best friend felt uncertain about her future husband, and the rightness of marrying him, until a friend encouraged her just to choose to love him for a while without trying so hard to “figure it out.”. This choice proved to be the essential ingredient that led her to peace in saying yes, when he proposed. There are good choices in spouses, and there are bad choices, of course, and keeping your eyes open is really important. But realizing (and giving myself permission) to make this choice, with this man, knowing that it was entirely possible that I could have chosen other people or life paths, has given me a lot of freedom and actually made it easier to trust God. I used to think God had a perfect plan and that it was up to me to “figure it out” or else. Now, I trust that God trusts me, and that if I ask for help, he will guide me, and that there are a variety of circumstances and choices with which he can work and create something beautiful, and this keeps me from being paralyzed in indecision.
Posted in Lessons Learned

Being Real

I learn a lot from kids. And not just the usual, “Kids are so full of innocence and wonder,” blah, blah, etcetera (although it’s true, they are).

What I learn are often strange things.

One of my students walked into her lesson one morning seeming distracted and sad. “How are you?” I asked, preparing for the automatic “Good.”

“Not so good,” she said. “My parents are fighting.”

From that, I thought, Why am I always keeping things safe? Why is everything always, ‘awesome,’ ‘great,’ or other? Why am I afraid to talk about the unsafe feelings – sadness, difficulties, or other things? I am actually glad this girl shared with me something real she was feeling and struggling with that day. She gave me the chance to react and respond to the real her.

One student of mine has taught me something just by being himself. He has always been an “easy student”: mild-mannered, pleasant, a hard-worker. He’s in an in-between age right now, almost a teenager. I ask him, “How would you like to learn this piece?” He says, “Sure.” “What music do you like?” “Oh, I don’t know,” he says. “I like lots of things.” He is really willing to go along with things I suggest. But it’s gotten to a point that I really kind of want to see him express anger, or frustration, or annoyance at me, just one time – so that I know what’s really going on. I want him to give me a chance to know him better.

And that’s when I reflect and see that, in many ways, I am just like him.

I will open up to people, and show what’s really going on, if they either express what I’m feeling first, to me, or if I know that who I am – in all my various forms – will be acceptable to them.

For instance, I’m a committed Catholic, and more conservative person in terms of politics. Most of my time is spent with people who I know lean more left, and who mistrust Catholicism. So, voila – I hide that part of myself. I don’t pretend otherwise, but I certainly don’t talk about it, either. I’ve already heard what they think of people who think like me (because they probably have no idea that they’re talking about me in my presence), and I guess I’m afraid that they will close their hearts to me if they know. Isn’t that funny and ridiculous?

But I have learned from my students, that I am just so happy when they share their funny, crazy, interesting, personal and unique thoughts. One girl looked at me and said, “Why are you always smiling?” See, I love that, because a person slightly older would have learned not to say what they were thinking, and I got to hear what she was thinking.

My students have taught me the most unique ways to teach piano. Just the other day, one girl said she was tired of the old “Good Boys Deserve Fudge Always.” She said, “How about ‘Grandma Betsy Didn’t Forget Always?”

Another student had a piece with the V7 chord in it all the time, and she said, “Let’s call it the Big Friendly Giant because it has B, F and G in it.” That’s awesome.

One girl came this morning and shared with me that she had been hoping to go to a soccer game this morning (soccer is her first love) but her parents had made her go to piano instead. She cried. I was thankful that she trusted me enough to tell me what was really going on.

So, I am thankful to my students for what they taught me this week, and hoping for more courage to share the real me with more people.


Posted in Dating, Lessons Learned

Dating Tales from a Veteran: shy library guys and the yet-again-proved-book-cover proverb

My first year in the big city, my heart would beat rapidly at the thought of all of the libraries within close proximity. Not just one! That winter, as my schedule was not completely full with lessons yet, I quelled bouts of homesickness with books and pilgrimages to libraries. 3373551962_89e8ab04bc_m

One one such trip, I had discovered a new treasure: Melanie Benjamin’s Mrs. Tom Thumb. I was eagerly reading the jacket, when a man walked by me, lightly brushing my arm. “Hello,” he said, shyly. I smiled.

As I read, I felt aware that there was someone directly across from me in the next stack, and realized it was the same man. He was Kenyan, dressed nicely in khakis, and a blue and white plaid cotton shirt. Polite, unassuming, modest. It seemed like the sojourn through his aisle was mirroring mine, and I hoped this was accidental. But then, suddenly, he showed up in my aisle.

99129170_7d542023a6_m.jpg“How are you today?” he asked.

“I’m good, thanks. How are you?”

“Oh, very well, thank you. Would you… like to go next door and get a coffee?”

“Ummm…” I hesitated. I felt a little weird. No one (except in romantic comedies) walks up to you at a library and asks you out. And although while watching said comedies, you may have wistfully wished for something similar to happen (running into a man dressed as a bottle of ketchup in the street, maybe?), when it actually happens, it feels like – What are you doing? I was minding my business in my introvert bubble. Are you a weirdo? 

“You see,” he said, “I just moved to the country, and I don’t know many people yet.” Oh, he’s lonely! Maybe this wouldn’t be weird. And I was lonely too. I knew how it was to be somewhere you didn’t have any roots. I said no to the coffee, but gave him my phone number with the promise of getting to know him better, and then “seeing from there.”


He called – not too often, but often enough that I knew he was interested. He was slightly flirtatious, but never obnoxious. Always polite and tasteful. Finally, I felt safe enough to say yes to a dinner date, in public. We decided on 6:30 at a burger place.

The day of, he said work was detaining him. Could we meet at 8 instead? Sure, why not? I said.

We met. It was a nice date. He was thoughtful, pulling out my chair for me. We had an interesting conversation. He told me about Kenya, and his mom and family, and a little about work. I talked about my friends, the band I was in, my faith. He said he was Catholic, too.

Dinner was going well, so we walked down the street for a drink. Somehow, age came up.  He joked about being “old for me,” and I said something like, “I don’t think so. Is it rude to ask your age?”. I do remember him saying, “I am….35?” in a slightly questioning way, which I interpreted as him testing me to see if I thought that was ancient. And I laughed. I suggested walking by the river, but he said that, since it was late and the riverside was more secluded, he wanted to make sure I was staying safe. How thoughtful of him!

I had an Adoration hour at midnight that night (which made me feel a little like Cinderella, having to dash before the clock struck 12!) As I entered the chapel, I felt queasy. It didn’t make sense. The date had been fun. It had all been good. So, what was this feeling?

It just so happened that I couldn’t sleep that night, so I turned to the modern version of the Magic 8 Ball, Google. 5408186048_3223c00e17_mI typed in “Gut feeling,” and got a variety of responses, most from a site called tinybuddha, saying why it’s so important to trust your gut.

Google is also like a rabbit-hole (the metaphors are endless!), and somehow, I ended up thinking that maybe I should Google this guy to see if I could set my mind at ease. All I had was a first name (had I learned nothing in all my years of dating?) and a phone number. But the phone number kept pulling up a white woman in her forties with a foreign-sounding last name, who was associated with good works, charities, and prayer chains. This didn’t make sense. But then, eventually, her name and his appeared to be linked. And then, I found a website where they were written about as a husband and wife team doing charitable things all over the world. And that wasn’t all. It said that this guy was 44. And there was more. On Facebook, I saw a cute picture of him, his wife, and a daughter who looked like a student I might teach, all smiling contentedly at the camera.

It seemed I had my answer, but I couldn’t believe it was true. As I thought through the date, I realized that I’d felt uncomfortable because he did not share anything about any people in his life. He made it sound like he went to work, and then came home to an empty apartment each day. 15161734_39ed84dda3_mHe shared things about his distant past, but nothing about his life here. And somewhere in there, my intuition started crying foul.

So the next day, he texted something like, “Hello, hotness!” Well, I wanted to just disappear. I felt embarrassed and ashamed for going on a date with this apparently sweet woman’s husband, even if I didn’t know. But I decided it couldn’t hurt to question him on it. So, I texted back, “Are you married?”

There was no reply, for hours and hours. The next day, my phone buzzed, and I saw it was from him: “I was going to bring that up. Why?”

Oh, yeah, whoops. Sorry, it slipped my mind! I am married. What’s the issue?

I decided it was best just not to reply ever again. So, I didn’t.



Posted in Dating, Lessons Learned

Dating Tales from A Veteran: Regrettable Things Said or Heard on a Date

One of the best things about going on a bad date is being able to talk about it with one’s friends later. Some of my favorite dating stories are not my own.

Here’s a few winners from my album of awkward dating discussions had by my friends and I, on their dates.

Surprise Me!2168425462_cb66c0b55e_m

Girl and Guy are out to eat at a restaurant, on a second date, looking at their menus.

Girl: “So, what are you going to have?”

Guy: “I don’t know. How about you surprise me?”

Girl studies the menu, sees a couple of interesting options, one of which being the tongue tacos.

Girl: “I could surprise you with tongue!” (guy blanches, she realizes how this sounded) “….But maybe that would be weird.”

Creative License

A friend of mine starts attending a weekly creative writing class.  A guy in his 40s also attends the class, and says they should hang out sometime. They exchange emails. She thinks about it, and writes him a polite email, stating that she isn’t interested in anything romantic, only coffee and friendship, just to be clear with him from the start.

They meet for coffee sometime after this. Throughout the conversation, the man reveals that he is a model. “Oh, that’s cool!” she says. “Yeah, here’s a photo of one of my shoots.” He shows her a picture from his wallet. In the process, she sees several pictures of children.

42723650_b92429a7d6_m.jpg“Oh, are those your kids?” she asks. “They’re really cute!”

He says, “Yeah. I’ve got kids.”

“Yeah? How many?”

“Oh, four – – or five.”

“Four or five? You don’t know?” she teases him. “Were you married?”

“Yeah, I was married.”

“Oh, so do your kids live with you part of the time now, then?”

“Yeah, they live with me part of the time.”

“That’s nice. Their mom must live close, so that it works out that easily. I know other couples where it’s not that easy to share custody.”

“Yeah. We live pretty close…Actually, we live in the same house.”

“Really? Wait – are you still married?”

“Well, I guess yeah, you could put it that way.”

Nothing Happened: Don’t judge a guy by his plaid8228774782_d07786a91c_m.jpg

I am on a date with someone I met at my 30th-birthday celebration. My friend encouraged me to “live it up!” and “try new things!” so she encouraged a guy who paid me a compliment to come and sit at our table at the restaurant. And now, a week later, we are on a date.

He wears the kind of generic plaid-patterned cotton shirt that codes “I have a decent job and I could afford the white picket fence if you want one,” rather than my usual type, whose tattered, ironic or ciphered clothing often says, “I defy society’s standards and live passionately for my art.” I decide it’s time to live by the plaid model, and realize how comforting it is to date a person with a 9-5, steady job – the responsible, hard-working American man. Maybe it is good to try new things, I’m thinking.

Twenty minutes in, my plastered grin begins to ache on my face (he’s doing most of the talking). He says something about his friend who “used to be a good time” but now he’s “started going to AA and only wants to convert me.” “What do you mean?” I say laughingly, but the truth is, I have a high respect for AA and what it does, so I’m trying to understand his hostility.

“Well, this one time, we walked up to the top of this parking garage with a bunch of beers, and after we got a little wasted, we started to throw the bottles down below. 8997773481_d2abbc5e33_m.jpgMy buddy threw his bottle down at this van, and completely obliterated the rear window.”

“Oh, my gosh! What happened next?” (I’m thinking, did the cops come? How did the friend pay for his mistake? Is that how he decided to go to AA? Were you horrified that your drinking adventures had led you to the point where you were damaging property?)

“Oh, nothing happened. We didn’t get caught.” End of story.

That’s when I realized that I had somehow equated plaid-button-down-shirts with virtuous manhood, and that this was only a pitiable myth in my mind. So thus my new rule: A guy of awesomeness might wear a plaid shirt, but a plaid shirt does not necessarily mean that the man wearing it is awesome.

I learned another dating principle from this encounter. People always say, “Make a good first impression.” But I realized, it’s not that people mean to be judgmental and want to think poorly of people from the beginning. It’s just that when you first know a person, you know maybe two things about them. Each thing you know equates to 50% of your knowledge about that person. 1367356779_71e5690709_m.jpg

So, if within the first twenty minutes of being on a date, one of the four things I know is, “He got drunk, smashed a van window, and feels cool about it because he didn’t get caught,” that’s 25% of my information about this guy (the other information being, he has a job, he wears a plaid shirt, and I met him at a bar) – it’s not that I am judging him based on “one little thing.” It’s more that that one thing is 25% of what I know, and that’s a pretty high percentage. So, I guess to me, this is why you want to be careful what information you share right away, not with the intention of being false, but because you don’t want a yucky incident from the past to be 25% of what a person knows about you. That’s not lying, it’s just a good marketing strategy.

U Owe Me a Kiss71805821_730ea4e28d_m

Technically, this regrettable thing was said before the date even happened, the end result being that there was no date.

Me, and the guy in question, had set up a date over text. It was getting late, we’d arranged when and where to meet. I turned off the light and went to sleep.

Twenty minutes later, my phone buzzed. “Oh, and u owe me a kiss if you’re late!” said my prospective date.

I felt a tiny rumble of weirdness, but decided it might be just my stomach.

The next morning, as I’m teaching my early lessons, I hear a ping from my phone again. When I check my messages, there’s another one from prospective date. “Rule for before u meet me: u must think of me fondly two times today before we meet later.”


I call in my sister and my friend for backup, texting them, “I’m getting these weird texts from the guy I’m supposed to meet for a date later. Is it acceptable to call it off before it happens?”

Yes, each chimed in.

As politely as I could, I tried to frame a text that could get the message across. “You know, I’ve decided that I’d rather not meet. I wish you all the best.”

“Why?” he wrote back. “Am I not allowed to make a joke?”






Posted in Dating, Lessons Learned

Dating Tales From a Veteran (yes, I think I deserve this title): Awkward Encounters in Coffee Shops

If I was Julie Andrews, singing “My Favorite Things,” several of those things would be coffee. And just like that statistic that you’re more likely to get in a car accident close to home (because duh, you’re going to be driving close to home the greatest percentage of the time): statistically, a great percentage of my romantic encounters have occurred in coffee shops, because I practically live in them.

So, these are a few things that have happened in coffee shops.

Case 1: At Caribou Coffee – Earrings, Dead Dogs, and How Not To Be Assertive

I love to journal and read at Caribou Coffee. It’s a great place to unwind, to be around people, but yet unknown. So, I sit down with my mocha, journal and books. A guy next to me smiles. I smile back, and then start reading.

Guy: You have really pretty earrings. 8190080577_ca35307796_m

Me: Thank you. (smile) (read)

Guy: What are you reading?

Me: (So, it’s a book about a nun… I’m just not sure how to talk about this with a stranger). Oh, just something for reflection.

Guy: Yeah. I like reading too. You coming from church?

Me: Yep. (Trying to convey by not much eye contact that I’m not here to talk)

Guy: Oh. Where do you go?

Me: [name of Catholic church]

Guy: Oh, yeah. I’m Jewish. I guess you wouldn’t be interested in a guy like me, then.

Me: (nervous giggle – I mean, what do you say? I turn back to my book. A few seconds of silence. I relax a little bit. Maybe he’s done now).

Guy: So, I had to put my dog down today.

Just to be clear – this is not the real picture of the dead dog. That would be weird.

Me: (Okay, is he playing me, or is this for real?) Oh, I’m so sorry.

Guy: This is a picture of her (shows me on his phone). It’s just rough, you know. Had her for 12 years.

Me: Yeah, that’s terrible. I’m sorry.  (smiling sympathetically, turn back to my book).

Guy: Would you go out with me?

Me: No! (and then, to my horror, I start laughing).

Guy: Why not?

Me: Because I met you at a coffee shop!

Guy: (waits for a few seconds). You could be making the mistake of your life.

Me: That’s a chance I’m going to have to take.

Guy: What are you researching? (I’m on my phone now)

Me: … Can I… just…do my work? (smiling sheepishly)

Guy: Oh, yeah! Oh, yeah. No problem. Sure.

After a while, he finally leaves. I think I overhear on his way out, he is peddling his dog story to another victim sympathetic ear.

A girl leans over and whispers in sympathy, “I’m so sorry. I heard the whole thing.”

Case 2: Too-Long Conversations with the Lord of the Dance 2726713673_b9983495ea_m

I love coffee so much that I take on a summer job as a barista. The coffee shop where I work is in a “rough area of town,” let’s just say. It’s quiet, most of the time with one or two people besides me. My first week there, my purse is stolen by a guy who comes in to use the bathroom. So, you get the idea.

A guy starts coming in for the tap water that we furnish on the sidebar. This must be exquisite stuff, because he starts coming in at least twice a week just for that. On his way to get the water (which is free) he stops to say hello.

Lord of the Dance: Nice place. How long has it been here?

Me: About a year and a half.

Lord Of The Dance: Too bad, because I’m moving out of the neighborhood today. I’m just here to study while I do my laundry.

Me: Oh, cool. What are you studying?

Lord Of The Dance: Physics. It’s for this summer course.

Me: Oh, that’s neat!

Lord Of The Dance: You look like you’re doing some studying too. What is it?

Me: (So it happens that it’s a book about a nun – is it weird that this is a theme? So I say): Oh, it’s a religious book. 15890616244_5f92692fe5_m

Lord Of The Dance: Oh, yeah, what religion?

Me: Catholic.

Lord Of The Dance: You probably don’t want to hear this, but I’m an atheist.

(We have a long conversation about faith, atheism, and how he arrived at this, and his favorite thinkers, and Nietsche, and how he had “worn out his welcome” with other baristas, and other things. The conversation is interesting, but after a while, I am starting to feel like it’s probably been a few hours, and I would like to politely exit the conversation, but don’t know how, and this guy doesn’t seem to be aware of his laundry next door. There haven’t been any other customers except for this drunk guy who also comes in frequently for the free water and the not-technically-free-but-offered-for-free ice. This fellow makes a comment to LOTD that he seems to be monopolizing me, and then leaves. I remember, with relief, that some friends of mine are coming by for a book discussion, and one of the friends is a theology and philosophy double-major. I (is this stupid or not?) invite LOTD to stay. I’m thankful to turn this conversation into a group thing.

After the discussion ends, it’s closing time. I close up, and the group makes plans to meet up at a bar nearby. I don’t know what to do, so I invite LOTD to join us, and he agrees (in retrospect, this might not have been a good idea).

At the bar. We’re sitting at the table, talking.

Lord Of The Dance: (looking at me) Do you like to dance?

Me: Um… (I know he’s trying to figure out if I want to dance with him. The truth is, that I do like to dance. But I do not want to dance with him). No, it’s not really my thing.

Lord Of The Dance: I love dancing. I take lessons at this place near me. Would you ever like to take lessons?

Me: (The truth is, that maybe I would like to take a dance lesson sometime, but not with this guy). Ah, maybe, but right now, I don’t have any plans to do that.

My two other friends and I start looking over at the bar, trying to figure out what’s on tap. Out of the corner of my eye, I see that Lord Of The Dance seems to be making some interesting sprinkler-like dance moves with his arms. These moves are slightly silly, and I don’t want to embarrass him by drawing attention to it, so I pretend I do not see. Somehow the night ends. 409393571_3efa51eed5_m

Lord Of The Dance is back the next time I’m at work. He starts a conversation. This time, I want to be clear that I’m just not in the mood to have a long conversation this time, so I make my responses short, and turn away. (This has been my question – how do you politely tell someone that you do not want to have a conversation with them?)  He has brought me a moleskine journal for my upcoming Europe trip. Well, that was nice. But now I feel like I owe him something for the gesture. But I stand my ground. I’m just a barista, after all! The modern-day equivalent to a girl in a tower, trapped and unable to leave, whether visited by a prince or a dragon. Friendliness, it seems, can be one’s own worst enemy. I keep my responses smiling, but short.  After a few monosyllabic replies, he goes and sits down in a chair that is eye-level to me. I start to read, work, do anything but look his way.

But peripheral vision tells me that he is reading, and fidgeting with his phone, and just in general, twitchy. After about 20 minutes, I see – oh, no… he’s breaking out the nerdy dance moves again. His fists are pumping around in circles that are reminiscent of the ’90s. There is no music on. It is only the two of us in this store. His rhythm is not turning me on, and I force myself not to look his way. I read the same sentence about 18 times, trying really hard not to laugh or engage this in any way.

After a few minutes, he packs it all up, shoots me a little wave, and is out the door in a flash. I never see him again.

What I learned from these experiences:

  1. I felt I had to ask Caribou Guy’s permission to exit the conversation. Eww! I did NOT need his permission.
  2. In both cases, I felt trapped into these conversations. At first, I blamed the men for “trapping” me. But later, I realized that I was feeling trapped because of my need to be nice. Part of the difficulty was the difference between the text, and the subtext. When a guy approaches me and says, “I like your earrings,” the text is plainly about earrings, but I know right away that the subtext is romantic interest. I often feel trapped by the need to respond to the text because the subtext isn’t acknowledged until way later, and I don’t want to assume. It always seems strange to shut down what seems like an innocent conversation. In the second case, it was a conversation about atheism and Nietzsche, both things that are interesting to me, and which I enjoy talking about. But I knew immediately that the guy wasn’t hanging around to talk about Nietzsche. He was hoping to get my romantic attention, and had he been upfront, I could have told him no in the first two minutes. The problem came in when he thought he could win me over to him romantically in a conversation, while I could only go on the fact that he apparently wanted to talk about Nietzsche. What I wanted was a sort of a script – something like – “Here’s what you say when a guy tries to talk to you about other things (like their dead dogs) but you know they really just want to hit on you.” And the only things out there to say seem rude and hurtful, and incongruous with the conversation: “My dog died.” “I’m sorry, I’m just not interested in you romantically.”
  3. So, moral of the story is, I had more questions than answers after these happenings, and secondly, I would like to experience living in a place that isn’t known for being “Minnesota nice.” Maybe they have more answers on how to deal with this sort of thing efficiently.





Posted in Dating, Lessons Learned

Dating Tales from A Veteran (Yes, I think I deserve this title): Pretzel Guy (or a serial killer??)

Some things people say about me make me squeamish: “You go on so many dates!” “Got any new dating stories?” “Who’s the new guy?” Every time, a flash of the movie Runaway Bride goes through my head, as well as a song feature7510486320_a949072edd_md in the movie: “Oh, there she goes. Watch out boys, she’ll chew you up. Oh, there she goes… she’s a man eater!”

But… the truth remains. I have been on a lot of interesting, cringe-worthy, awkward dates. Many, many. And although I’m dating someone really awesome now, I’ve realized that each one of my painful, awkward encounters is a funny story now, and has taught me something. So, here’s a gem from my dating histories.

The Story of Pretzel Guy 

(This is not Pretzel Guy, just Pretzel Guy’s “type”)

This story dates back to my college days. He was a nice, good looking boy from my church, an “older man” at 23 to my 19. We knew each other from a few big group get togethers, and as I recall, his asking me out went like this:




Him: How have you been lately?

Me. Oh , a little busy and tired, lately. 

Him: You know what makes me feel better after a stressful week? Homemade pretzels. 

Me: Oh, yeah? That’s cool. 

Him: Would you like to make some homemade pretzels here? (at the church)

Me. Oh, sure, that sounds fun. 

Him: How about 5 or so?

Me: Yeah, that would work.

Him: Well, actually, that’s dinner time, and you’ll be hungry. What about coming to my apartment and I can make you dinner? I could even pick you up.

Smooth, Pretzel Guy. So, as I remember, I said sure, and then went home, feeling a little awkward about the fact that I’d agreed to go to this guy’s home, and didn’t even know his last name or anything about him, other than that he liked homemade pretzels, which we would no longer be making.

He picked me up in a beat-up tan Volvo. As we drove, he told me that his apartment was in a “rough side of town.” He was clean-cut, polite, and a psychology grad student. “What do you mean by ‘rough?’ I asked, to make conversation. “Actually, someone in my building just got stabbed last week,” he said, chuckling nervously (Awkwardly? Excitedly?) My first thought was, ‘It was him!’ Suddenly I had concocted visions of Norman and the Bates Motel in my mind. The car was inching closer and closer to our destination, and I thought quickly about how I might use my backpack as a weapon should the need arise.

He had Mexican votive candles all over his apartment, which caused the fears of stabbing to subside a bit, but I still made sure I knew where the knives were.

We started cooking. I was following a recipe that called for milk. I opened the fridge and found a jug. As I opened it, I noticed that the cap and lid were ringed with something black and sticky, resembling tar. I recoiled. Pretzel guy looked quite red.

“Ah, so yeah. So, since I live alone, sometimes I want chocolate milk, but not enough to pour a whole glass of it. So I just pour the chocolate sauce in my mouth, and drink right from the jug…?”

I don’t remember how I responded, but after that, the date went okay. He suggested watching a movie after dinner, and I agreed, but felt wary as it got darker, and darker, and darker. Finally, at the end of the movie, I asked to be taken home.

Pretzel Guy turned out to be a perfectly nice, respectable guy that I didn’t have romantic interest in. He moved on to live happily ever after, and so did I.

My Lessons Learned (at age 19): 

  1. Don’t go to someone’s house on a date unless you know their last name.
  2. Be wary of a date who mentions stabbing in the first 10 minutes of the date.

Present-Day Reflections (Will not tell you how old I am now):

  1. I obviously didn’t have much dating experience at the time. I look back and commend this guy for asking me out in person (not over text, which wasn’t invented at the time), and called to confirm the date, volunteered to pick me up, and was a real gentleman. Unfortunately, it feels like times have changed! This kind of behavior would be thought “very chivalrous” now, as opposed to a reasonable expectation, which makes me sad 😦







Posted in Lessons Learned

What my bad day taught me

A few days ago, I locked myself out of my bedroom, bathroom, closet and office by mistake. I live in one of those sturdy old houses – meaning, in effect, that the hinges were so well-made and tight that I could not remove them, and the door handle also was not removable from my side of the door. It was late enough that I had no desire to call a locksmith. So, I was stuck outside of my room overnight.15136260663_30259e9dbb_o

I was cranky. I wanted the world to know of this grave injustice. A bunch of routines I never really thought about were disrupted – my clothes for the next day were behind that door, as well as my makeup, toothbrush, my bed for sleeping in, my phone charger (with a phone about to die). I thought about showing up to my school the next morning, disheveled, in yesterday’s clothes. How awful.

It took me until the next day to appreciate: The fact of my frustration alone was a privilege, because I have already been given so many gifts. I could worry about this and be annoyed by this because there were hundreds of bigger things that had been taken care of for me already.

For instance:

I got to sleep in my warm house, not the cold outside.

I had a roommate who responded generously and lent me a change of clothes for the next day, as well as use of her phone alarm.

There was a spare futon in the basement, with sheets on it! I still had a comfortable place to sleep.

I could afford to call a locksmith the next morning.

Recognizing this, it was easier to laugh at myself and the circumstance, and to be grateful and receptive to the moment I found myself in.

Do we often recognize the thousands of things that had to go right in order to have an “ordinary” day?

– If I drove anywhere and got there safely, it’s miraculous that all of the drivers on the road were paying attention, and stayed safe.4452373616_8aaffb83c1_o.jpg

-If I ate food, it’s miraculous, the number of processes that brought this food into my hands, and the fact that I had enough money for it, as well as the fact that I didn’t spill any food on my clothes.

-If none of my many appliances, light fixtures, electronic devices broke down today, that’s a pretty good day. 6866327_f6e75cd4a7_o.jpg

-If I was able to walk, not worry about some health issue, then that’s a pretty miraculous day.

-If I didn’t need to think about friends or family members who had died or were suffering, my day was miraculous.

-If I knew where I’d be sleeping tonight, that’s a miraculous day.

I could go on for many more bullet points. The thing is, there are thousands of ways I can think of that my needs are met each day, that I seldom ever think about.

This is what my locked bedroom-office-bathroom-closet door taught me.









Posted in Family, Lessons Learned

A lesson for posterity from my farting grandma

My grandma, I later learned, went to college in her 70s, learned Spanish, and went on a trip to Spain where she translated for the other tourists. My grandma, raised on a North Dakota farm, passionately against ever farming herself, married a farmer, raised 5 children, but also taught at a local school.

But the first lesson my grandma taught me was about farting.

I was about 8 when Grandma had her first stroke. It left her forgetful, fuzzy, less spicy. The strict grandma who sat with us while we played piano and made ugrandmas pillboxs go over that trouble spot seventeen times, disappeared inside someone I secretly associated with Winnie the Pooh – same voice, same comfy shape, same unassuming manner. Grandma’s stroke became the reason I knew about pillboxes. Grandma used toothpaste to hang up our crayon scribbles on her walls. Grandma became somebody who straight-facedly asked of my newborn brother, “So, what are you going to name the little Adam Joseph?”

My siblings loved our grandma, and we also chuckled because we now remembered more, saw more, and thought maybe even we knew a little more.

And one day, on a visit, grandma walked over to see me, farting her way through the living room like a little-engine-that-could-almost-go-no-more. My throat ached and my cheeks nearly burst with concealed laughter at my funny, tooting grandma.

I couldn’t believe the unconcerned, serene look on my grandma’s face.

“Oh, I guess I’m just feeling a little woozy today,” she said, just like one might say, “Oh, I guess we might see a little sun today, maybe.” It was a fact. Farts are facts. The fact of one’s farting is nothing special, nothing to laugh at, nothing to be embarrassed over.

It’s funny how my grandmother’s little 15-foot walk could be one of the memories that emerges in the vastly accumulating archives of a 30-something life.

It reminds me too, of her son, my dad, walking through Cabela’s with me and taking a look at little deer-hunting camoflauge baby outfits for my youngest sister. Miscalculating, he tipped over half the contents of the rack onto the floor. At 15, I felt mortified on his behalf, and waited to see his embarrassed reaction, his profuse apologies or attempts to hide what had just happened.

Instead, Dad calmly bent over, picked up the several garments, and quietly replaced them. No harm done. Farts are facts.

I am still learning how to be more comfortable farting in public.