Baggage

baggage blog post

Have you noticed how many dating profiles mention baggage? Let’s explore this topic while enjoying quinoa salad with swiss chard and goat cheese.

When I first read the term baggage in a profile – usually in the context of “please don’t have any,” I thought of it as a mix of experience and memories. I wondered how a person could get through life without either one of these. Then I realized that these guys are referring to emotional baggage, defined by Merriam Webster as “intangible things (as feeling, circumstances, or beliefs) that get in the way.”

Urban Dictionary’s top definition of emotional baggage is “painful memories, mistrust and hurt carried around from past sexual or emotional rejection.” This personality characteristic is also, according to Urban Dictionary, an “excuse commonly used by Peter Pans and other immature men to avoid commitment yet maintain a sexual relationship….as in I don’t think I can handle a real relationship right now. I need some time to get over my emotional baggage.”

I’d like to propose a broader definition of emotional baggage so that it encompasses any life experience that hinders you from moving forward to enjoy life and love.

In my post-divorce dating years, I have encountered widowers who can’t move on enough to be in a relationship, bitter divorced men stuck in an anger cycle, as well as men who have had serious or difficult medical issues and a subsequent loss of self esteem that they can’t overcome.

And there’s no gender rule here — women can experience the same inability to move forward. Just like men, women may get stuck in a post-divorce cycle of anger and low self-esteem. They’re unhappy and unable to move forward from the “baggage” of their failed relationship.

Then there are other people – men and women – who have had serious issues such as the death of a child, yet somehow, are able to carry on with an open albeit grieving heart.

I accept that in my age range, men may not have “baggage” per se but they, like me will likely have some blips on their heart’s EKG. Fortunately the heart can survive a lot and with modern technological advances, recovery is possible.

I like to think my baggage is carry-on – easily stowed under my seat. With occasional turbulence, it might roll out…but I just stuff it back.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

 

 

 

Diary: A Week without Dating Apps

blog pix week without dating apps

Monday morning:

I deleted all of my dating apps and hid my profile on the dating sites I belong to. Feeling both free in a good way and strangely untethered in a bad way. To motivate myself, I made a schedule of activities for the week. The hope is that I will get out of the house more and possibly meet men in real life. Oh foolish heart.

While working on this blog’s social media pages, I experience what can only be described as online dating withdrawal.

I have various random thoughts and questions such as, “If there were no apps, would I ever have any dates?”

Wednesday morning:

I woke up from a strange dream in which I meet an attractive older man in a friend’s group house. The setting seems to be a mishmash of my early college and current days. I’m unsure about the meaning of the dream but I think it must have something to do with worry about a lack of romantic possibilities.

Yesterday I tweeted an article from Bustle about a young woman who has been app-less for a year. She recounted the things she missed about online and app dating. After two days, I could relate to all of them except the one where she longed for the ability to immediately ask out and meet a guy she matched with on a dating app.

Although some of my online encounters rapidly progressed from messaging to an in- person meeting, the man initiated them. Sometimes I gently pushed a guy toward a meeting, but I haven’t opened with, Hey you want to meet for a drink? Perhaps I should. Just to see what happens. My guess is that given her younger age, the writer of this piece has done better than I would if I went offline for a year.  She likely has a bigger “single” social circle and more professional connections compared to a single, retired woman of a certain age. But I’m just speculating.

With no apps or sites to check, no emails to write or respond to, I have more time for other things. I’m reading more and per usual I tend to read fiction about relationships and romance (not romance novels per se – though I enjoy them too). I discovered Laurie Colwin, a delightful writer who sadly died much too young. I devoured Happy All the Time and now I’m thoroughly enjoying Goodbye without Leaving. Of course, reading doesn’t get me out in the world…so perhaps I’ll finish the book at a café or coffee shop.

I realize that a week without online dating is not enough to fully plan activities where I might meet someone organically. I signed up for an archery Meet-up that’s getting together Saturday but it looks like the members are in their 20s and 30s. It won’t lead to any romantic possibilities but that’s okay.

Wednesday evening:

I felt better this afternoon…but evening brings on feelings of loneliness. Where are the phone pings that someone winked at me or sent me a message?

Thursday morning:

Another weird dream night – nothing about men per se and now I can’t even remember the story…but obviously an app-less week is affecting my subconscious.

I receive an email from Hinge that someone likes me and his picture is not bad. I wonder if I should go back on Hinge briefly to check the guy’s profile and possibly respond to him. I ponder whether that would be cheating on my app-less week. Then I notice Hinge sent the email at 2 am. A late or middle of the night “like” is often a signal that the man lives in another time zone, possibly in another country. So I decide to “hold” for the moment and not break this online dating fast.

I receive another like from someone on OurTime. Notifications from this dating site don’t include photos of those who like or message you so I’m not tempted to go online. Holding fast to my fast.

I hope to make it to an art museum tour this afternoon. I’ve heard this can be a good way to meet people. At the least, I will increase my knowledge about art and get out of the house.

Friday morning:

I missed the tour so I ended up wandering around Georgetown and the waterfront. It was a beautiful, sunny day and it was good for my soul. I didn’t meet anyone but enjoyed the afternoon.

I confess that late last night, I semi-cheated (briefly) on my dating fast with a quick Tinder check related to a previous match with an attractive man. Although he lives 160 miles away, this guy visits his adult son who lives not too far from me.

The man said he would reach out next time he comes into town. Since it’s a holiday week, I thought I should reinstall Tinder just to see whether he had contacted me through the app. You guessed it (possibly): There was no message because he had unmatched me. After a couple of accidental super-likes, I delete the app again.

Saturday morning:

After seeing that the archery Meet-up is now filled with 7-to-10 year olds on spring break, I decide to cancel and go another time.

I’m looking forward to the end of this fast. I plan to go back online tomorrow rather than Monday as originally planned…still it’s a full 6 days without online dating.

You may be wondering about my rationale for breaking the fast one day short of a week. Sundays are typically the best days for connecting on the dating sites and holiday weekends also have more activity. Holidays bring out the urge to connect. A lot of people feel nostalgia for past celebrations and yearn to once again be part of a family or relationship “unit.”

Perhaps the lesson from my app-less week is that it’s okay to get back on the sites and apps since despite their problems, they give me hope. The key is to supplement the online world with real life activities and to check the apps less frequently.

Two years ago (I cringe as I think of how long I’ve been doing this), I tried to limit my online dating check-in frequency without much long-term success. I’m convinced that this April’s dating app “fast” is a better transition to healthier online dating behavior – similar to the way a food fast retrains your appetite so you are more satisfied with fewer calories.

At the same time, I plan on binging tomorrow.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

 

 

App-less April: Nadia Style

blog pix app-less April

 

Did you know this is App-less April?

For the second April in a row, Bustle, an online women’s magazine, is challenging readers and staff to delete their dating apps and meet people in real life.

It’s no surprise that online dating frustrates daters of all ages. Whether you’re using apps or websites, most singletons would prefer to meet people in real life.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know about my challenges – from finding men I like enough to date to revoking, ghosting, catfishing, breadcrumbing and just plain crummy behavior.

So, I’ve decided to embark on my own version of App-less April. Won’t you join me in a send-off meal of Tori Avey’s spice-broiled salmon with green apple salad?

This coming Monday morning, I will delete all of my apps and hide my dating profiles for a week (why lose out on the heavy Sunday activity?) After seven days, I will reassess this plan and decide whether I should continue.

Why this short trial period and not an extended detox? Despite its many problems, online dating gives me hope. Every couple of days there’s a new romantic possibility or two. The hope that one of these prospects will be “the one” keeps me going.

There are lots of resources with suggestions on how and where to meet men in real life. The big question is: Will I be able to do more than I am already doing (which apparently is not enough)?

When you rely on apps and dating sites, it’s easy to not push yourself to go out solo, or walk up to that cute stranger. Will knowing that I have no back-up plan waiting for me on my computer or phone motivate me to do more and take more risks? Tune in to future posts for the answer.

For inspiration, I’m ruminating over a recent online dating experience. Encounters like this are not unusual (although I find this one super weird) – and that’s the problem.

Mr. M., an interesting and quirky guy from Match, sends me a good first message. He clearly read my profile and his email points out what we have in common.

His message ends with:

“I am geographically close by to meet up for coffee some time. It would be a pleasure to meet you.”

I write back with an equally profile-specific email and comment that I’d like to meet for coffee (or wine) too and that I’m free this coming Tuesday.

I don’t hear back for a week but see that Mr. M. is online sporadically. I forget about him and conclude that Mr. M. is another non-responder who has lost interest.

Eight days later, he writes again:

“Sorry about missing the chance to meet with you this past Tuesday evening. No events. Just my own stupidity.

I would like to have the chance for us to meet. I am not a wine drinker. Coffee or hot tea is good by me. So. if you know of a place that serves both, we can both be pleased. 

I am free this Tuesday; but have a speech to hear on Monday, and a film on Wednesday.

I hope to hear back from you.” 

Since I’m a nice person, I decide to give Mr. M. another chance.  I write back noting that I am also free on Tuesday and suggest a place we could meet.

Once again, Mr. M. fails to respond to me. This time he is not online. One week goes, by, two weeks, and then three weeks. Still no response; and he is not online. I fear he is dead or hospitalized. With the few clues I have, I search for him online but I don’t know his last name or phone number (I planned to ask for the latter before meeting).

Then, out of the blue, I see that he viewed me. I’m curious as hell and want to know what happened. At the same time, I realize that the only way I would consider meeting him would be if he had an incredible excuse to end all excuses.

I write Mr. M.:

Hi, At this juncture, I’m curious about what happened to you since you never responded to me. Just trying to make sense of this crazy online dating world and an abundance of mixed messages.

As the more jaded of you have already guessed, he didn’t respond. He’s online frequently now.

What are your suspicions about Mr. M.? Pick one:

  1. Married?
  2. Girlfriend?
  3. Insane?
  4. Typical rude dater?
  5. All of the above?

None of these answers would be wrong. And that’s why I’m going App-less for 7 days.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

Update on Dating Sites and an Old School Breakup

blog post penguin love 2

There are dating sites and apps that I like (tolerate may be a better word), ones I used to like but now can’t stand, and sites that never worked for me (so I don’t like them).

Let’s review while munching on pasta primavera with grilled veggies.

OkCupid and Coffee Meets Bagel (CMB) are now in my “can’t stand” category. The reason? They are both overrun with catfishers and scammers. These sites worked for me when I first used them. I even had one of my 3-month relationships with a guy I met on OkCupid. But over time I noticed an increase in members with false or stolen profiles. It got to the point where almost no one I matched with on OkCupid was genuine. I’m not sure why this site above all others contains so many scammers (at least in my dating pool). Perhaps the idea of a free dating venue appeals to guys with less than honorable intentions.

Free may also be the problem with Coffee Meets Bagel. I miss my daily bagel from CMB but more often than not that bagel was bad. It must be a common problem since a number of people find their way to this blog by searching for Coffee Meets Bagel scammers.

I deleted both OkCupid and Coffee Meets Bagel and now spend less time deleting dishonorable daters and more time on general whining about dating.

An abundance of catfishers is not the only reason to dislike a dating site or app. EHarmony was not my cup of tea, coffee, or glass of wine. After filling out the endless Meyers-Briggs-like questionnaire, I ended up with a pool of boring and geographically incompatible matches. And the inability to search for matches on my own felt very paternalistic (though Coffee Meets Bagel also prohibits searching of members’ profiles).

JDate is another site that never worked for me – and I tried it twice. I wasn’t attracted to anyone in my dating pool. It might be worth trying JDate again since new people are always joining dating sites.  Unless a site is poorly constructed, I will usually consider a second or third membership in a site.

Our Time is now on my “good” list after an unsuccessful first round 18 months ago. I classify a site as good if there are a reasonable number of appealing matches who reach out to me or respond to my outreach and I actually go on dates with some of them.

I like OurTime despite a recent “old school” breakup with a match — if you can call it a breakup after two dates. I’m still confused by it and that’s not atypical in the online dating world. You may never know the real reason why someone doesn’t want to see you again. In this case, at least the man gets points for phoning me to tell me he didn’t think we were a “fit.” The only reason he actually cited was the 1-hour geographic distance between our homes. I was surprised by the break-up – first of all because he had the decency to phone me but also since he appeared to be fairly smitten. Perhaps I’ll probe this interaction more in a future post…and after I have completed a wonderful online class on how to be a human lie detector.

My other go-to dating staples at the moment are Zoosk, Plenty of Fish, Match, and Bumble.

I’m less enthusiastic about Tinder, JSwipe, Hinge, and Fitness Singles but hold out hope that one of these venues might be worthwhile. The Clover app, on the other hand, is almost worthless as a source of reasonable matches and I’ll probably delete it soon.

You may think I’m on too many dating sites/apps. However, I look at online dating as a numbers game and the more times I present myself to eligible men, the more likely I’ll find Mr. Right. In the meantime, I’m also putting myself in “real life” situations and activities that not only interest me but also have the potential to expand my romantic horizons.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

Extreme Motivators for Exercise

blog post exercise

Exercise is important to me and for inspiration, I rely on a number of motivators and role models. I also have some unusual extreme motivators. Why do I call them extreme? Because the imagined scenarios that encourage me to exercise reflect extreme situations.

Confused? Let’s enjoy some herby barley salad with mushrooms while I explain.

First, let’s talk about typical motivators. Whether you’re in a relationship or not, one of the strongest incentives for exercise is looking good. Improved health is another top reason to engage in physical activity. Related to this, you may have a particular medical condition or issue that responds well to exercise. Activity can make you feel better, relieve stiffness and pain (love those endorphins), sleep better, improve your sex life, and even encourage you to eat better.

All of these benefits inspire me to move. If I need extra inspiration, I might think about 80-year-old bodybuilder Ernestine Shepherd. I like the fact that she started exercising at the not so tender age of 56 and worked hard enough to make it into the 2011 Guinness book of world records as the world’s oldest competitive female bodybuilder. Just check out her impressive physique and you’ll find it hard to slouch away from the gym when you’re due for a workout.

Then there’s 66-year-old pole dancer Greta Pontarelli who is a five-time world pole art master’s champion and a former competitor on America Ninja Warriors. And no, it’s not that kind of pole dancing. Check it out.

As Pontarelli says on her Facebook page, she wants to use her art form “to empower others to believe in themselves and to become the best that they can become…and to not let age or any limitation stand in the way of our dreams.”

All fine and good, you’re thinking, but what are the extreme motivators? Dear readers, these are the worst-case scenarios you see in movies and might experience in real life.

For example, after watching a film in which the main character is hanging on to the edge of a building by the sheer strength of his upper body, I vowed to work on pull-ups. This can be a hard exercise for women so I’m focusing on baby steps. I just “hang out” so to speak for a few seconds from a pull-up bar. Eventually I hope to actually pull my body weight up. Because you never know when you might need to hang from a building in order to escape a bad guy or a fire.

And what if you’re in a boat that capsizes? This worst-case scenario was one of the reasons I started taking swimming lessons. Some might be motivated to improve their swimming technique in order to outswim sharks.

Another scenario: attempted mugging or assault. It’s important to know how to punch and in fact, one of my favorite exercises is boxing. I haven’t done it in awhile but it’s not only good for self defense but it’s also a terrific workout and stress reliever. I’ve never tried kickboxing but I think it would work equally as well.

What if you’re in a situation where a harmful gas is released? That aerobic capacity you’ve acquired from swimming could give you enough breath holding power to get out of the vicinity of the toxic fumes.

Tornado coming? Use those strong arms to pull up the door to the underground safe room.

Is the plane you’re on about to make an emergency landing? If you like to sit in the emergency exit row, prepare to use your upper body strength to open the door.

Forced to walk a tightrope by an evil time-traveling sorcerer? Practice those balancing exercises.

Encounter a sketchy drunk who starts following you? Engage those lower body exercise-enhanced and super strong quads to run like the wind.

You get the idea. Just don’t start getting paranoid that all of these worst-case scenarios are going to actually happen. To excel at extreme motivation, you have to walk a fine line between motivation and crippling fear. I know you can do it if you want to.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating and maybe, happy extreme motivation exercising.

XXXOOO

Nadia

Top 10 Dating Obstacles

dating obstacles

If you follow Olympics-related news, you likely read that obstacle course racing may become an Olympic sport.

Coincidentally – and despite having some romance possibilities — I have recently been thinking about dating obstacles.

Let’s ponder this issue while indulging in a lunch fit for an athlete or dater in training.

To appreciate the variety of dating obstacles, it’s worth a quick review of obstacle course racing (OCR).

According to Wikipedia, OCR is “a sport in which a competitor, traveling on foot, must overcome various physical challenges that are in the form of obstacles. Mud and trail runs are combined and the races are designed to result in mental and physical collapse.”

Note the reference to mental and physical collapse, which I bolded. I find this is a good analogy for the mental burnout that can result from the trials of modern dating.

Listed below, for your reading pleasure, sympathy, and empathy are the top 10 online and app dating obstacles:

*Finding someone you like and are attracted to

To do so, you must wade through a series of profiles with awful photos, poor to nonexistent writing skills, and such descriptors as “married” and “God-fearing.”

*Finding someone who also likes you

Hopefully your retooled, now excellent profile and carefully chosen photos serve you well.

*Connecting

Perhaps you view Mr. Z’s profile. Mr. Z then views your profile and photos. Does he write to you? Do you write to him? If neither one of you reaches out – even if someone has “favorited” or “winked” at the other person, call it a lost cause.

*Moving beyond the emails and texts

If you start corresponding with someone, will you get beyond this form of communication? Will you speak on the phone or arrange to meet? Or, will he or you just stop writing?

*Having a phone call

If you end up having a phone conversation, will it be good and balanced or will one of you indulge in a monologue?

*Moving beyond the phone call

Assuming you have a phone conversation, does he initiate an in-person meeting? Do you want to meet him or did he say something that turned you off?

*Scheduling

If an in-person meeting/date is proposed, can you find a day and time to meet? Does he live an hour away? Can you both find a convenient time and location?

*Follow-through and waiting

Perhaps you have a tentative date scheduled but lately he’s been online quite a bit and you start to wonder if the date will be finalized. You worry that he’s window-shopping for his best option (as he sees it).

Do you hang in, keep busy, and keep looking (the old “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” cliché)? This is a particularly challenging obstacle. With any luck, your date will be confirmed and finalized.

*In-person meeting

If you are finally on an in-person meeting/date, is there chemistry and connection? Does he look like his photos? Do you? Is there give and take during the conversation? Flirting? Real listening?

What’s his body language like? Does he dive into inappropriate topics such as the terms of his divorce, previous relationships, or recent surgeries?

Do you want to kiss him? Is he a decent kisser?

*Second date

Was there enough good in the first date to consider a second one? Does he text you after date #1? When/if will he ask you out? Will you go out with him again?

If everything fizzles at this point, and there is no second date, sit down and rest. You may be exhausted from running and leaping over obstacles. But don’t give up. Keep at it.

Eventually (and it might be a long eventually), you’ll ace this almost Olympic event and go on that second, third, fourth, and fifth date….

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

 

 

 

The Great American Dating Profile

Woman writing her dating profile

Many writers dream that one day they’ll write the great American novel. I dream about writing the great American dating profile. And why not? I have a few writing chops. The question is: Can I translate those skills into the greatest dating profile of all time? Sit with me and let’s discuss over some crostini with pea pesto ricotta spread. Pair with a crisp pinot grigio.

A couple of weeks ago I realized my dating profile needed retooling. I’ve written 4 or 5 different versions of my profile since I started online dating. In some cases, I approached the task as a profile tear down, building it back up in a new way; at other times I did a modest renovation. I like to think that the latest one is always the best so far.

Side note: More minute changes such as updating “last book read” should be done biweekly or monthly. I know from personal experience that when I make a tiny change in my profile (sometimes just changing a comma to a semicolon), the dating bots highlight my effort to their male subscribers and I get an uptick in views and messages. Try it and see if you notice an increase in interest.

I decided it was time for a tear down followed by all new construction. As with most challenges, I began with some quiet thinking time. I asked myself, what are the most important qualities that I seek in a man? I then thought about my attributes. Both inquiries turned into lists. I then reviewed a dating profile of a 60-something woman who had great success with online dating.

It was time for research and my friend Google. You can easily pull up between 5 and 7 million hits by searching for how to write a great dating profile or how to write a great dating profile for a woman.

One of my best resources was actually a scientific study published in 2015 in the British Medical Journal. This study was a meta-analysis, a study of studies, on online dating. My favorite part of the paper, other than the findings, was the Acknowledgements section: The authors would like to thank the potential dates who turned down one of us repeatedly, encouraging us to think about the effectiveness of online dating.

Ha! You’ve got to love scientists with a sense of humor.

This study, combined with several articles, and some reflection on articles and books I’d read in the last couple of years led me to identify some principles of the written portion of good profiles that I wanted to capture in my new version.

Second side note: I’m not focusing on dating profile photos in this blog post, but they are critically important to your dating success. Make sure your main pictures are current and consider having a professional photographer. Read about my photo shoot.

Good Dating Profiles (for women):

*Use a playful, positive screen name. Try to make it similar to the screen names of men you find attractive.

*Pick a screen name that starts with a letter early in the alphabet so it pops up earlier in a dating site search.

*Choose simple language for your headline.

*Your profile should be 70% about you and 30% about your ideal match.

*Emphasize character traits and hobbies that are people and value-centric. Focus on likeability, not academic achievement. (As I had to tell one guy, this is a dating site, not LinkedIn.)

*Use words such as romance, heart, and love (even if love is in reference to an activity you enjoy).

*Show emotional availability.

*Show your passion and what excites you.

*Make your first few sentences stand out.

*I like to have a theme for each profile (e.g., music, cooking, outdoor activities, etc.).

*Men prefer women whose physical fitness activities are yoga, aerobics, and the gym. (Scratch that reference to power lifting – but continue to power lift since men will love the result.)

After internalizing all of these principles, I crafted a new profile and screen name and rotated my primary photo from my last professional shoot.

I’m on several sites so I’ve been working my way through each of them, deleting the old profile and inserting the new one. The sites always take a little time to approve any revisions so each time I update my profile, I patiently wait for my “rebirth.”

The result of my effort? I have received more views and more emails. Unfortunately, it’s not a magic fix.

The key is to have that new and great profile available online when the “one” joins the site or happens to be searching and finds me.

I’m ready to be found.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

Resources:

The Daily Beast

British Medical Journal

DoctorNerdLove

Match

Zoosk

Business Insider

Huffington Post

Practical Happiness