At Least I’ve Learned A Few Things

The Breakup Chronicles: Part 2

First off, y’all are wonderful.  Thank you for your outpouring of support.  Sometimes we write just needing to get it out, and forget that people will have things to say.  And what you did say to me meant more to me than I can express.  You didn’t have to take the time to say a word, but you did, and it helped me a lot.  Never double that your kind words in a tough time are doing so much for someone.

Things are still uncertain and who likes uncertainty?  Not this girl.  I had grand plans to talk to Francois about it – a little check in, if you will – but when we last chatted I was tired and worried that I wouldn’t be quite eloquent enough.  So here we are.  Breakup week the second, confusion week the second.

I’m determined not to text him (or, you know, at least until Saturday).  Do you know how hard it is not to text?  It’s like when you’ve had a drink or two, and you know you really shouldn’t drunk text but you do because it’s so fun!  You’re so funny!  People must love you!  And then in the midst of that fun, when you’re trying to tell Grace one thing, you get drunk digits and instead ask her to milk you.  You know. Awkward times. (For the record, I don’t remember what I meant to tell her, but it was most certainly not for her to milk me.)    Right. Where were we?  Oh yes… I’ve been getting mixed signals out the wazoo which feels great because it feeds that little bit of hope I have, but it’s crappy because it keeps him in my thoughts.  And at the back of my mind I know that 99% of the time this sort of thing isn’t going to work out but those mixed signals are very powerful.  You tell yourself that you might be the situation that works.  It could be you!  Which is all to say, if you see me with a cell in my hand this week, you have permission to yell, “KATE, STEP AWAY FROM THE PHONE.”

Here we are.  Day 9.   Here is what I’ve learned thus far:

When your bestie offers to drive in to see you?  Take her up on it.  Best friend therapy often can’t be topped and you’ll kick yourself for missing that needed time with her.  True, you will probably talk her ears off but she’s a doctor and can sew them back on.

Hang out with people, no matter how much you want to wallow or stay glued to Facebook checking for signs of activity.  (It’s unseemly the amount of time I’ve spent checking to see if he’s been active.  Someone save me.)  It’s very possible Francois will pull himself out of my life for good, but my friends aren’t leaving me anytime soon.  In times like these they are especially supportive and say the kind of thoughtful things that make you cry not because of sadness, but because you’re not sure how you got lucky enough to have them in your life.

Wine is delicious.

Pathetic walks by the lake aside, exercise is healthy.  Go on an extra long run but this time focus on overtaking the guy in front of you rather than checking the parking lots for signs of Francois.  Admire the runner’s calves as you approach.  Race past him.  Feel victorious when you leave him in the dust.  Round the corner so he can’t see you.  Walk.

Hug your cats.  I’m still missing the lazy mornings in bed with Francois but little furry gatos can be pretty comforting.  I will be not ashamed of my cat lady status.

Listen to your mother:

I hope for Francois’ sake he realizes he’s being a dick.  Because he is not going to find another Kate Hepburn.  Sometimes guys need a hammer to the head.  Just a little tap.

and later…

If things don’t work out, since you keep finding better and better guys, I think you should set your cap for…Prince Harry? Why not?

Also, two solid hours of dancing around in one’s underwear and lip syncing to Bruno Mars and Carole King is recommended.  Not that I have experience with such a thing.

-Kate

Where Have All the Love Letters Gone?

writing-letter

My workplace is limiting my email storage so I’ve been forced to look at emails I wrote back in the day.  It’s fun to see how unprofessional I was when I was a wee little Kate, making my foray into the business world.  Like the time I used 17 exclamation points in one message.  That was really cool.  I’m sure the Vice President who got my three-paragraph thank you email about lunch thought that was really cute.  But I digress. It was during this clean-up that I came across a rather large group of emails from my last official boyfriend in ::coughcough2007coughcough::. It would have been weird to go through them, re-read them, re-live my mindset from back then, so I quickly glanced at a couple then did a mass delete and it felt good.  But! I was reminded of something missing in my life and the lives of others.

Where have all the cowboys love letters gone? [It adds a little something if you sing it to the tune of that Paula Cole song.  Is it stuck in your head now?  You’re welcome.]

We live in an age where the love letter has been replaced with the email or the text message.  While some could use this as a platform to lament the use of the email or the text message, I will not.  You see, I actually like them quite a bit.  As opposed to a letter, they’re something you can get unexpectedly, any time of the day.*  That text message I got after a grueling meeting, the one from a date telling me he looks forward to seeing me tonight?  Yah, I’ll never object to it.

However, it’s the sheer volume of text messages and emails, and the obvious ease of sending them, which makes the love letter special, coveted, and missed.  It says something when your significant other takes the time to pull out the nice paper, a pen, and spend the time to come up with the perfect way to describe your golden locks or the way he goes all mushy when you tilt your head just so.  Or maybe he’s just letting you know how much he enjoyed the road trip to that one vineyard, and how he got to spend so much time with you.  I tear up just thinking about it!  Really.

Further, love letters provide the perfect opportunity for you to use your lover’s full name in a way that’s really sexy.  In romance novels, the heroine always notices when the hero uses her first name for the first time.  I don’t know about you, but seeing My Dearest Katharine** on the page would definitely make my lady parts quiver a little bit more than seeing plan ol’ Kate.  And that’s just the first few words!

Love letters are an acceptable place to describe that weird quirk about your lover that you never knew how to say in person.  Or maybe shouldn’t say.  Like the fact that in the mornings you like watching his nostrils flare while he’s still sleeping.  You think it’s cute.  But maybe that conversation is one that doesn’t go as smoothly in person.  The love letter, instead, lets you express these things and you get to avoid seeing the weird look on his face. But know that the weird look will probably turn into a blush and he’ll take a certain pride knowing his nostrils give you so much pleasure.

Love letters have an enduring and tangible aspect that just isn’t with an email or a text.  No digging through filed emails or trying to remember that sweet text message from five years ago.  The letters are there, in your hands, always available, and looking more loved and cherished over time.  Someday, your kids might even think they’d be great scrapbook material!

The road goes both ways on this one.  Men enjoy getting letters just as much as women.  Dare I say they even enjoy the well-thought letter even more than many women do?

How many of you get handwritten love letters on a regular basis?  Do tell!

-Kate

*But to that guy, who texted me at 11:30 P.M., telling me he only wanted me to sit next to him in bed and talk and “nothing more.”  Yah, you didn’t fool me.  Less than subtle and highly offensive.
**But while we’re on this topic, a note of caution; the love letter is not the place to test out that new “pumpkin cheeks” name you thought of when you saw your loved one bending over in the supermarket aisle to reach for that can of green beans.

The Hickey: A Plague! A Mythical Love Plague!

Iil_570xN.392181666_nxoln eighth grade, I knew a lot about kissing.

I hadn’t actually done a lot of kissing, mind you, but I’d heard expert advice on such matters. (Note: For a thirteen year-old Grace, those experts were Dawson’s Creek, the classic movie channels, and Ashley Lindsey from my US History class who made out with her boyfriend in the canyon behind school every afternoon.) In my mind, there were three absolute rules of kisses:

  1. The greatest one of all time had already happened, thanks to Wesley and Buttercup, so the pressure was off.
  2. Boys tasted like Doritos and rubber orthodontia bands.
  3. If you really made out with someone, you’d have to wear a turtleneck the next day.

Two of these things ended up being true. The third, however, was a load of hippopotamus vomit. Do you know how bloody impossible it is to give someone a hickey, kittens? In order to make that perfectly crimson blemish, a delicate balance of sucking and biting must occur. All of this must happen while making noises of make out delight and balancing atop your prey partner. So: biting, sucking, and balancing. These things do not go together seamlessly, unless you are a world-renowned lollipop gymnast. You’re not. You will bite too hard, or suck with too much effort. Unless your kissing partner is a masochist, such attempts shall result in high-pitched squeals of pain, not a hickey.

How did this become our visual shorthand for passionate encounters? Give me tousled hair! Give me beard burn! Instead, we’re left with rare painful welts. Kissing shouldn’t have so much in common with Ebola, friends. What’s next? Using Black Death-esque buboes as code for “We’re pregnant!”? Nothing says bundle-of-joy like massively swollen lymph glands!

What’s more, if my kissing partner ever actually marked me in such a way, I’d be enraged. Deigning to make out with someone does not make you theirs to mark! If you want to tell the world you like me, buy some damned flowers. Roses speak of affection more efficiently than scabs. If Professor McGregor broke skin during our canoodling, I’d have grave concerns about his mortality. Have you encountered anyone who sparkles lately, love? Is your skin turning to ash in the sun?

We brand cattle, not romantic partners. If you’ve practiced giving hickeys enough to actually be able to pull them off, please put your free time to better use. You’d, no doubt, be good at imitating a blowfish. Perhaps join a circus as The Human Sea Porcupine? Whatever you do, don’t hickey any more unsuspecting souls. That’s how these ridiculous tropes get started. Now, if you’d share what you’ve learned here today with Those Construction Workers Who Whistle at Women Pedestrians, it would save me ever so much time.

So, am I the only one who’s never displayed this ultimate sign of passion? Tell me true, love hamsters. Hickeys: fact or fiction?

- Grace

Hello, Big Boy: Pornography and Feminism

On Saturdays, We Talk About Sex is a new series in which the Spinsters talk about sex, sexual politics, and sexy things. On Saturdays. If you’re related to one of the Spinsters, or would prefer to never think of Grace/Kate/Mae mid-bedsport, this may not be the series for you. We recommend watching This ABBA video, instead of reading ahead. Everyone else, let’s talk about sex (on a Saturday).

04eMen watch pornography. It’s a bit of an expected thing, in this day and age. Teenage boys, given thirty seconds and relaxed Google settings, will find some people doing it. Boys will be boys, you know. Teenage girls, on the other hand, are expected to be horrified by porn, pretend it doesn’t exist, and spend all their time on Pinterest instead. This socially expected discrepancy will eventually play out in the following scenario:

A party of guys/girls. The first winter break of college.

Guys: We’re so free and adult now! We can talk about sex in front of girls!
Girls: We shall hint about our newfound sexual adventures, because it’s college and we’re no longer automatically slutty, if we’ve seen a penis!
Guys: Oh my god. The girls are ALSO talking about sex.
Girls: Sex, sex, sex! We are so empowered!
Guys: You know would be awesome, group of friends we’re really excited to be talking about real things with? Watching porn.
Girls: But no! We’ve never seen such a thing! Our eyes, our eyes!
Guys: Porn it is!
Girls: Oh My GOD! PEOPLE ARE HAVING THE SEX AND BEING NAKED! BRING US OUR PEARLS, FOR WE MUST CLUTCH THEM!

I know this scenario happens, because I’ve been there. An eighteen year-old Grace quite vocally insisted that she had never, not ever, seen pornography and why would anyone want to watch such a thing and, also, gross! Of course, I had seen porn. I was a teenager with an internet connection. It was “off limits”, so I’d switched off my safe settings and gone traversing the great, wide world of people doing it on camera. Being a virgin at the time, it was also super enlightening to have visuals of acts that seemed somewhat mechanically questionable. They weren’t my regular internet haunts, by any means, but I’d seen some P put into some V quite a few times.

So, why the feelings of shame? The guys weren’t embarrassed, but I would have bathed in warm garlic mayonnaise, before admitting to any virtual voyeurism. It was, of course, fear. If I’d spoken up and asked what the big deal was, my friends might have thought me—terror of terrors!—slutty. Good girls don’t watch porn. Good girls can be in touch with their sexuality, but only to the extent that they sometimes have monogamous heterosexual sex without hurling. To not only enjoy it, but actively seek it out? Unthinkable. Boys were the ones super interested in sex, while girls simply gave into it. As porn served chiefly to aid self-arousal, porn was off limits.

Now, here’s the thing—I am not pro-pornography. I think there are a lot of problems, for women specifically, when it comes to modern internet porn. In many ways, it has radically changed the way my generation looks at normal sex and sexuality. The most tangible example is in our grooming habits: well over 80% of women under thirty completely wax their pubic regions. While we say it’s for our own hygiene or for the guys we love, it has roots in a trend started in 80’s pornography, with the goal of better camera shots. That a standard beauty practice for young women has direct roots in pornography and the resulting look of pre-pubescence should cause anyone to pause. As a feminist, such pervasive and quick changes to the expectations of womanhood make me uncomfortable. Moreover, it’s just the beginning. We’re only just now starting to understand all the ways porn has changed the bedroom politics of America.

Vol-4 erotism-lingerie  (12)I’m not here to make value judgment on porn, but instead on the way we deal with it. Anytime something is a labeled a “man thing,” my hackles start twitching upwards. What exactly makes porn an exclusively male domain, World? Well, Grace darling, it’s because men are base creatures driven by their sexual desires and they’re going to masturbate themselves blind anyway, so we should let them have an outlet. Women, on the other hand, are delicate flowers who aren’t as in to sex and certainly don’t want the kind of dirty, lewd things featured in internet pornography. Unless they’re slutty, of course. That’s where porn really comes from: sluts.

Yeah, okay, see that’s all reeks-of-sexism bullshit. Women are told, subtlety and constantly every day, that we shouldn’t like sex. When we make jokes about wives having headaches or thinking of England, we’re reinforcing the notion of appropriate, gendered sexuality standards. Bullshit! Some dudes don’t have super excitable sex drives, while some women want it all the damn time. What’s more, how many women enjoy sex a whole bunch, but don’t feel comfortable voicing that enjoyment? How many men are made uncomfortable by the impersonal nature of porn, but must pretend otherwise to their buddies?

We’re doing everyone a disservice with these Victorian notions of what’s appropriate for whom. How will we ever talk about actual problems pornography may foster, if we can’t openly discuss who’s watching it and what’s happening in it? World, teenage boys are not the only young people watching pornography. Your daughters are seeing it too. What’s more, it’s quickly becoming the way all teenagers truly learn about sex. We need to address what that means for us as a society and we need to do it honestly. Let’s stop pretending men are all hypersexual semen monsters and that women are all innocence and light. Neither gender is that simple.

Men are watching porn. Women are watching porn. Instead of treating it as the flesh-colored elephant in the bedroom, let’s treat it like what it is: our modern sexual reality. How you choose to deal with that is the next question.

- Grace

Send Me No Flowers, Only Dead Mice

il_570xN.337775143The stuffed bears cometh. They sneak in the night, armed with heart-shaped boxes of bad chocolate, taking up residence in grocery store aisles and college dorm rooms. According to the media, the proper Valentine’s Day gift involves: pink things, hearts, stuffed animals, chocolate, and flowers. I disagree. Professor McGregor, all I really want for Valentine’s Day is you.

And an ethically taxidermied mouse dressed as King Henry VIII.

Unlike many other things I say, this is not actually a joke. I for real real want a costumed mouse. Preferably one dressed as a historical figure. Just think how adorably macabre Marie Antoinratte would look on my dresser, with her wee feathered wig, or Lucrezia Boursin armed with a mini bottle of poison.  Maybe it’s because I’m deeply twisted or that I’ve decided to base all of my life choices on Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, but either way: dead mice for Valentine’s Day. This is what my soul wants!

Which brings me to my point: the Valentine’s Day industry is lying. Do not fall for their tricks, friends. The commercials tell us that women want flowers and hearts and extravagant gestures. She doesn’t. Or she might. Honestly, I don’t know what your wife/girlfriend/inamorata wants for Valentine’s Day, because I don’t know her. Maybe the thought of jewelry bores her, because all she wants is a tour of a sewage treatment plant! Or, perhaps, she just wants you to leave the house for three hours, so she can watch the Rockets game in peace. I do not know the innermost workings of her mind! Neither do the ad executives.

It could be that she doesn’t even want to celebrate Valentine’s Day, because she believes that it’s an invented holiday to shill pajamagrams and mediocre boxes of candy to the bumbling masses. She could very well think that even mentioning Valentine’s Day is giving it more power, like creating little verbal horcruxes of consumerism, and she’d rather pretend it doesn’t exist. Or maybe that’s all a ruse, concocted by her clever mind to see how much you really love her, so you better show up with daffodils or else. I don’t know!

Valentine’s Day is complicated, because—surprise!— people are complicated. Sometimes they want flowers and sometimes they want dead animals in Victorian garb. It’s a toss up. Good luck, you zany kids!

- Grace

I Really Like You and That’s Okay(ish)

Professor McGregor, we need to talk.

It’s recently come to my attention that I like you. A lot. In my standard dating life, I struggle to get past the initial attraction phase. Something will happen – an untimely burp, the revelation of a whack-a-doodle political opinion, the donning of a pirate costume – that clicks the emotional lever in my brain from He’s so dreamy! to Please don’t kiss me. Ever. It’s quick and irreversible, like I have a wee guillotine in my heart, where other people have sunshine and rainbows.

And yet…here we are. It’s been two months, neither of which was really-just-an-extended-weekend February. We’ve been to concerts, eaten lots of Mexican food, and spent an inordinate amount of time making out on your couch. By all rights, I should be less excited about everything now. Kissing you should be old hat. Instead, I’m somehow more thrilled with your every glance. For example: last Sunday night when you kissed the top of my head during that movie we both didn’t like? I almost swooned. From a head peck! My dear professor, you have done a number on me.

This – surprise! – completely freaks me out. I’m suddenly way too attached to my iPhone and have caught myself daydreaming at inopportune moments. Worse, I’ve also crossed over into that magical place called The Land of Emotional Vulnerability and Increased Potential For Heartbreak. Professor darling, I do not enjoy this place. This is not somewhere I want to spend an extended holiday! Here there be dragons and bears and self-doubt.

This is exactly why I’ve never understood serial monogamists. How do people stand doing this over and over again? It’s like having your heart pounced upon by wolf cubs, torn to shreds, then promptly volunteering to adopt a baby lion. Surely it would be safer to stay away from beclawed creatures for a time, right?! As you well know by now, I am a danger-avoiding soul. I do not jump from cliffs into murky water or taste cookie batter. So, even though I’ve never been attacked by baby lions before, those micro-claws still make me nervous. Biology dictates they won’t stay small and cute forever! Eventually they will be killing machines! Do not purchase baby lions!

Oh, crap. My analogy has jumped the shark a bit, it seems. Moral of the story: all of this scares me to death. Anything could happen, Professor. You could decide to become a monk or I could get an offer to move to Djibouti. I’ve passed the point where a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and a weekend of moping will make those things okay. If this goes sour, I’m going to be really, legitimately, end-of-Atonement-style-sobbing upset. That’s terrifying. However, even worse would be not seeing this thing through.

So, here it goes: I really like you and that’s okay. I’ll try not to be such a coward, if you promise not to sic tiny lions on my heart.

- Grace

The Dating Bed: Politics of a Sleepover

Readers, I slept with him.

Hold on. That’s misleading. Let’s try this again, shall we? Readers, I literally fell asleep in a bed alongside Professor McGregor. We’ve only been dating two months and, while I’m a modern empowered woman, I’m not quite ready for that other totally-not-involving-slumber meaning of “sleeping.” I’m saving that until I know more pertinent facts about him, like his sexual history and favorite Ninja Turtle. (Raphael is the correct answer, obviously. Brooding testudines for the win!)

I have, however, slept over. Thrice. Part of this is borne of convenience. Thanks to our geographic incompatibility, visiting the dear professor requires a 100-mile drive up a stretch of I-35 known for its traffic and speed traps. After a week of early surgery call times, the last thing I want to do is drive three-hours round trip for dinner. Seeing him is worth it, but why spend two hours with a hot academic, when I could spend twelve? Sleeping over is the obvious, if complicated, solution.

Maybe it’s just me, but the logistics of staying at a new guy’s house had me all aflutter. There were so many things to consider! Sides of the bed, proper attire, morning rituals. The (sometimes odd, yes) mind reels. Especially when one is only sleeping and not sleeping with someone, guidelines must be set in place.

  1. Avoid Pirate Cats – In movies, girls always wear super cute things to bed, usually involving lace or sexy little shorts. As far as I can tell, this is just a Hollywood fantasy, like Joseph Gordon Levitt. Left to my own devices, my nighttime uniform is all college t-shirts and novelty pajama pants. My most beloved pair is for Halloween, patterned with pirate cats on pirate cat ships saying things like “Y’arr! Hand over your tuna!” and flying fish bone Jolly Rogers. They’re adorable. And exceedingly embarrassing. Professor McGregor doesn’t get the pleasure of seeing these for at least six months. For now, it’s black nightgowns or yoga pants.
  2. Pack an Extra Toothbrush – One should be ever vigilant against morning breath. Honestly, I feel like this is just a good rule for life, but it applies doubly in this situation. I cannot say this enough: make sure you bring a toothbrush. I’m a big fan of packing one in my toiletry bag, then – just in case a horrible perfume tragedy befalls that one – slipping an unopened one in my purse. Every human has less-than-awesome breath in the morning, as it’s a side effect of being host to trillions of bacteria, but that’s not a conversation for this early in a relationship. Just pack an extra, so you can happily kiss him good morning.
  3. Bring Your Own Sugar, Sugar – Fun fact: other people’s kitchens may not be as well-stocked as yours. Some people, say attractive professors who seem totally normal in every other way, may not have any sugar whatsoever, not even brown sugar left over from an ill-fated baking episode. So, when you say yes to coffee in the morning, you’re stuck grimacing every time you sip, because OH MY GOD IT IS SO BITTER, HOW CAN YOU DRINK THIS? If you’re dependent on sugar in your morning brew, like a normal person who does not have a tongue made of steel, pack some of your own. Because you never know. (Seriously. No sugar at all. How is that possible?)
  4. Leave a Little Early For Work – Not only may there be extra traffic on his side of town/the state, but you may experience romantic flashbacks during your commute. If the night went especially well and his goodbye kiss had you a bit weak in the knees, you may find yourself daydreaming. This is fine, but it could cause you to make a wrong turn on the way out of his neighborhood and accidentally add a half-hour to your drive, as you yell at your iPhone for not knowing where you are either. Not that I know from experience, mind you. Though, seriously, Google Maps can you perhaps update your information on Waco, TX? There are dead ends you do not know of.

With these rules in place, the sleepovers are starting not to stress me out too much. Though, not going to lie, I’m excited that this weekend there are plans for fun in my town. The pirate cats may yet sail again.

- Grace

Typecasting: The Myth of My Ideal Man

If there were some fancy genetic program, in which your friends could design your perfect man, wrap him with a festive bow, and have a deliveryman place him gently on your front porch, I would receive twenty identical guys. My type is specific and well known.

Take one exotically handsome man, add healthy doses of arrogance, expensive shoes, and sophistication. If you have a jar of raised-in-a-foreign-country lying around, so much the better. Mix it all together and – voila! – an instant Grace boyfriend. Those accented sweater-wearing men get me every time.

Except, apparently, this time.

Y’all remember Professor McGregor, I trust? He of the super hot beard and major spark? The dear professor is, if possible, the polar opposite of my supposed type. He’s a dark strawberry blond, of Irish & Scottish descent, who regularly wears cowboy boots. He doesn’t tower over me or speak Spanish so well that it sends shivers down my spine. His wardrobe shows no signs of argyle sweaters or thick-framed glasses.

Honestly, I hadn’t given his lack of type adherence much thought. I’m crazy attracted to him and he makes me laugh, so why does it matter?  The only reason I registered this discrepancy is because I ran across a picture of his ex. Imagine everything you know about me, friends: blonde, a bit ridiculous, intelligent, but given to waxing poetic about sweaters and retro underwear. If someone were to play me in a movie, it would be Alicia Silverstone. There is literally no other option. Once, while participating in one of those God-awful Facebook memes, I exchanged my profile picture for one of Silverstone. Some people who have actually seen me thought I was just all “gussied up.” Interesting, exotic beauty, thy name is not Grace.

Meanwhile, if someone were to play his ex in Professor McGregor’s Magical Monogamy Tour? It would be Angeline Jolie. She’s willowy, brunette, and has the kind of look that screams “I play video games really well, but am also totally comfortable with my sexuality. Oh, and, world peace legitimately concerns me every day.” We could not be more different, kittens. She wears vintage band t-shirts that her dad probably saved from 1978 and I share a closet with Zooey Deschanel.

Upon seeing her picture, I immediately sent a panicked text message to Mae. Why the hell is he dating me, when that’s the girl he loved for so long? When he kisses me, does he wish I were smaller? Does he long for dark, mysterious tresses, instead of my incessantly cheery blonde hair? Y’all, I like who I am. I have no desire to change myself. It’s lovely to always have Alice in Wonderland as a back-up Halloween costume.

However, a big part of liking myself is wanting other people to like me this way too. I don’t want to worry about whether he’d prefer kissing a lithe brunette. Plenty of guys would be super happy kissing me, just as I am. Luckily, before I’d ascribed any nefarious motivations to Professor McGregor, I heard from Mae. Her exact response:

Think back on your past boyfriends…does the professor look like any of them to you? (Pssst. I know the answer and it’s no).

It’s nice to have such a logical friend. Because, yeah, she’s totally right. If we’re doing that whole casting a movie thing, he’d be Ewan McGregor (of course) and my coterie of past boyfriends would be Sendhil Ramamurthy. There is no comparison. They are too different to even judge against one another. But who’s comparing anyway? Despite how much I claim to have a type, it didn’t occur to me once that I shouldn’t be attracted to the professor. He’s brilliant, funny, and super cute.

When it comes down to it, the idea of a type is ridiculous. There’s no predicting attraction or applying logic to emotion. Much as it pains my scientist’s heart, there is no formula to finding my person. That is, I suppose, what makes the (often anxiety-inducing) search worth it. Also, I think we can all agree that there should totally be a movie of my life…if only so we can watch Ewan and Sendhil fight over Cher Horowitz. At the moment, I’m rabidly curious to find out who wins.

- Grace

Guilt and the Single Girl

Sex.

Three little letters, one natural act, and – if you’re a twenty-something – the potential for a lifetime of guilt. Wait. That’s not right, is it? This is sex we’re talking about, the thing that is supposed to be so much fun that it’s all newlyweds, teenagers, and rabbits would do, if they didn’t have to pause for food. Sex is so great we’ve dedicated most of the internet to watching it and most of high school to giggling about it. Yet, if sex is the be-all-end-all pleasure of human existence, why do so many of us have issues with it?

Oh, right, guilt. ALL THE BUCKETS AND BUCKETS OF GUILT. If we’re not worried we’re going to Hell for doing it before marriage, we’re freaking out that our oral sex technique is sub-par, or that sleeping with one more person will make us Head Slut of the Whore Brigade. I’m sure there are perfectly well-adjusted people out there – those who’ve never felt guilty about having sex or worried about being bad at sex. Well, that’s awesome, but I don’t know any of them. Most of the people I’m friends with have, at one time or another, been totally freaked out about sex.

In the South, it’s easy to blame overwhelmingly conservative society values. In my own Texan teenage years, we were bombarded with the message that sex is only for happy, married heterosexual people, because of Sin and Disease and Children Out of Wedlock. How could any teenage girl agree that she’s dishonoring her family and her god by screwing her boyfriend, then happily screw said boyfriend with minimal conscience tugs? The human brain isn’t outfitted with a magic sex lightbulb. You don’t wake up one morning and think “Today, I feel like sex is a-okay and natural. I should discover what I like and not worry that I’m doing something wrong!” All too often, after years of associating sex with negative emotions, I watch friends get married, obtain that blessed circle of gold, and retain their shame. Sex is something their husbands want or that will give them children, but not something they enjoy.

Here’s the thing, though. I don’t think this is just a southern thing or a Christian thing or even a girl thing. Despite our generation’s supposed sexual freedom and hook-up culture, the American party line on sex remains all too static. Anyone who’s grown up with a sibling of the opposite sex has seen this difference. Girls are encouraged to wait for the “right time,” not be pressured by their boyfriends, and remain ever vigilant against penises. Most guys of my acquaintance? They were told to wear a condom, then patted on the head with a “boys will be boys.” This does such a disservice to both sexes. If a guy’s not ready, does that make him less of a man? If a girl initiates sex, without any male cajoling, is she a slut? I call bullshit on the whole thing. These same damn ideas screw up relationship after relationship.

The idea that guys want one thing and one thing only – raunchy, porny sex – does just as much damage as the idea that girls want the babies and security, not the pleasure. Outside of warning teenage boys to wear condoms, we don’t give them any real guidance. All too many boys are left to learn about sex from their friends or, worse, porn. I think we can all agree neither of these are best case scenarios. Misinformation runs rampant amongst teenagers and porn is not even close to an accurate, healthy portrayal of sex. (I’m not anti-porn, but come on! Two actors worried about camera angles and properly sexy sounds are not even comparable to a real couple.) If guys must rely on porn to form their sexual identities and girls must rely on guys to introduce them to sexual norms, is it any wonder we’re all a little bit messed up?

Guys are worried they can’t give automatic orgasms, like James Deen, and girls are worried they don’t have magical, hairless vaginas like those from that video they’re embarrassed about looking up. We all start off fumbling and awkward and are under the impression we should go from total innocents to porn royalty with one sexual encounter. We shouldn’t have sex until marriage, but if we do, we need to be really good at it. We shouldn’t be prudes about sex, but we shouldn’t have too many lovers either. We should please our partner, but we’re not taught how to do that. They should please us, but if they can’t right away, it’s somehow our fault. We should all eventually feel sexually empowered, whether on our wedding nights or when we decide “it’s the right time,” but no one tells us what exactly that empowerment looks like.

Is sex positive education the way to go? Is it all just a symptom of the human condition, destined to play out over and over throughout time? Have milliennia of ingrained stigma and shame doomed us all? I have no clue. All I know is that I wish it didn’t take most of us so long to feel completely normal about sex. I wish we could all be responsible and well-informed and hurt a minimum number of people on the way to our general empowerment. Maybe I just wish I lived in France?

- Grace

Dumb Things I Say on Dates

I’m smart.

This isn’t conceit, it’s just something y’all need to know upfront. After you read this post, you’re going to have some doubts. She says she’s smart, but did you read that thing about hurricanes? Surely, she’s had some traumatic brain injury. A tragic backstory must account for such idiocy!

Unfortunately, I have no such excuse for what follows. I am a girl who is completing her fourth degree this year, always wins at Scrabble, and regularly reads The Economist. I can sew a dress without reading the instructions and know all the South American capitals. I also say the stupidest shit ever on dates.

Poor Professor McGregor has now suffered through three such dates with me. Either he is completely charmed by ditzy girls or my kisses have some sort of memory erasing power. I don’t know if it’s his own intellect that makes my brain go blank or just a bad case of nerves, but here’s a sampling of Recent Dumb Things I’ve Said on Dates:

  • “You look very Boondock Saints in sunglasses.” Excellent, Grace. Tell him he looks like two slightly crazed renegade murderers, whom you can’t even recall wearing sunglasses, so what the hell? His silence is obviously just stunned pride about how hot he looks. No, you shouldn’t have just told him he looked good. That would be too normal.
  • “But Tampa doesn’t even get hit by hurricanes!” Y’all, I said this not two weeks ago and – as I type – Hurricane Isaac is unleashing a deluge on poor Tampa. I’m a weather dork, so I’ve seen every hurricane documentary ever played on The Weather Channel. I’m well aware that hurricanes can curve back into Florida. What’s worse, I was actually born in Fort Lauderdale! And yet…this came out of my mouth.
  • “I write an anonymous dating blog with Kate and Mae!” – This one was especially bright, Grace. Inform the attractive man you just finished making out with that he could end up in a blog post. To make it even better, why don’t you forget to reassure him that you only write about your own personal crazy and you’ve given all victims guys nicknames? He’s totally going to ask you out again. Guys love being gossiped about on les interwebs!
  • “I don’t see any John Hughes movies,” said while literally staring at a shelf brimming with them. This one I’m going to blame on my poor eyesight, but still. I know every movie Hughes ever wrote and directed. I have watched so many making-of Ferris Beuller shows, it’s sick. But stare at a shelf with them for five minutes? I won’t pick a single one out, apparently.
  • “You should have a medal made of eggs.” Don’t even ask.

Add to that all the discussions of philosophy that I can in no way contribute to and this is going really well, kittens. Why do gruesome disease outbreaks or weird parasites never come up over dinner? I could talk for hours about the various plague epidemics in Europe. Just thinking about the Candiru, a carnivorous fish which lives in the Amazon and lodges itself in unsuspecting swimmers’ urethrae, gets me chatty. Perhaps we can debate the value of the Oxford comma? Someone throw me a (somewhat twisted and nerdy) bone here. Without one, I’m probably going to pull a Cher Horowitz and start referencing the Hait-i-ans.

- Grace