Diary of a Solo Trip

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Day 1 (Monday):

I’m sitting at the JetBlue gate at Reagan National waiting for my flight to Tampa, Florida when I get a “like” and “comment” in support of my solo travel virgin post. I consider this a good omen! Update: my daughter couldn’t join me after all so this will truly be my first solo vacation trip (business trips do not count).

You’ll need fuel for this long post so have a generous helping of a yummy dish I made last night: baked cod with olives and limes .

solodiarycod

Finally on the plane, I stretch out in the exit row. It’s definitely worth the extra money to be able to extend my long legs. No one is sitting next to me — a rare luxury. Sadly, this also means there’s no chance I’ll be sitting next to an attractive male. I have no qualms about sitting in the exit row. I work out and swim and am capable of opening up the emergency door if needed. Good to feel empowered!

As the plane takes off, I give myself a silent reminder to lose my typical Resting Bitch Face expression for the duration of the trip. Let’s see how this goes!

Evening 1 (Monday):

After picking up my rental car at the Tampa Airport, I drive the 75 minutes or so to Bradenton Beach on Anna Maria Island.

I chose this area because of the beautiful Gulf Coast sand and clear water that I love so much and my impression of a laid back, casual town with enough restaurants, bars (with music), and shops to keep me mildly entertained.

As a solo traveler, I didn’t want a high end fancy resort populated by couples and families.

I picked my hotel for it’s “practically on the beach” location in the center of town. Hotel reviews promised a casual vibe and there is an on site restaurant/bar with nightly live music. As a bonus, my room has a full kitchen.

I arrive at the hotel about 6 pm. After the obligatory quick walk on the beach to check out the sand and surf, I decide that the best social option for dinner is to eat at the hotel bar.

Only a few people are sitting at the bar. It seems strange to plop myself next to them when there are so many empty seats so I pick a location at the end with a nice view of the beach and sunset across the street. I enjoy the ambiance and my well-made skinny margarita. I try to relax and not worry that I don’t have anyone to talk to.

After a short time, a group of 5 people arrive and sit next to me. Soon they engage me in their conversation. Lovely! One of the women and I talk about extroversion and reaching out proactively to talk to strangers. I am impressed by her confidence. She says she puts on a different persona when she travels. She’s more outgoing when she’s not in her hometown and is unafraid to initiate conversation with men.

After we finish our drinks and food, some of us decide to explore other nearby bars with music.

We find a lively bar with an engaging band and I even get up to dance solo, along with several other women. Note: I am typically a shy dancer who is most comfortable shaking it alone in my living room.

Day 2 (Tuesday):

It’s a beautiful morning and I stroll down the street to a dockside restaurant. I enjoy my standard egg white/veggie omelet outside by the water.

solodiarybreakfast

After breakfast, I drive to the local grocery store for provisions. While checking out, I get a text from one of my new “met at the bar” friends. She’s flying home today and asks if I’d like to meet the group for lunch in an hour. How nice to get the invite but the beach calls to me so I decline. A few hours later, I make plans to meet another group member, Ms. A, for dinner Wednesday night.

Finally – I’m on the beach. Once in the water, I swim confidently but the current carries me farther out than I intend. I’m in deep water and the shore seems far away. Plus I wore myself out and I’m tired. No family members or friends are keeping an eye on me and there’s no lifeguard. My swimming form degrades, as I try not to panic and do a toddler crawl to get toward shallower water. I’m soon back on the sand feeling silently chagrined (no one knows what happened) and remind myself of the ocean’s power – particularly when I’m alone.

Evening 2 (Tuesday):

I want to be pampered for dinner tonight so I head to the Beach House and ask for an outside table for one. It’s lovely to relax near the water as the sun sets. I’m sitting near a family with an infant and young children and another table of teenage gigglers enjoying a grown-up dinner. I’m happy to be past these life stages and savor my wine and grilled fish. After dinner, I stroll through the town and even though I’m pretty well stuffed I stop by a soft ice cream place for a vacation indulgence.

Day 3 (Wednesday):

Today the water is like glass (another reason to love the Gulf) and so clear I see a starfish on the ocean floor. Swimming is effortless today. A school of small fish decide to bump me on their way south. Later a huge manatee swims by as everyone on the beach strains to see. I practice my Spanish with a young family from Argentina and chat with a woman who moved here from Maryland. I think my Resting Bitch Face is on vacation.

While drying out in the warm sun, I play with my dating apps. There are certainly more potential matches in Florida compared to the DC area. This is another reason to go on solo trips. I chat online with two Bumble matches. One sends me his cell number and I use my premium whitepages account to get his name. Further searching pulls up his photo on mugshots.com. Sigh! No more dates with ex-cons (a post for another day).

The other Bumble match is either a fiction writer or I’m way out of his league. After I challenge him and he unmatches me, I wonder if I’m jaded and overly suspicious. Have I rejected a good prospect? Details to be provided in a future post.

Evening 3 (Wednesday):

I drive across a bridge to the tiny waterfront town of Cortez where I meet Ms. A at a dockside restaurant/fish market. Tonight’s dinner was swimming in the Gulf a few hours ago.

Ms. A and I get to know each other. I’m impressed with her sense of adventure. She’s another example of a woman starting over and making a new life after a marriage ends.

Day 4 (Thursday):

Another perfect beach day with water like glass. No daytime adventures other than reading a good “beach romance.”

Evening 4 (Thursday):

Mood check: So far I feel okay on this trip. I am wondering, however, if I’ll meet more people. If I’m to gain confidence with solo traveling, I need to feel that my Monday night socializing was not a fluke.

I’ll have my chance to find out tonight when I return to the restaurant/bar under my hotel.

I arrive about 6 pm. The bar is fairly empty and I find a seat with a view of the ocean. It’s clear that I’m a creature of habit as I order a skinny margarita.

I look around and notice an attractive man sitting alone across the bar. As I assess him, I conclude he is too young and too short for me. Still I know I should smile at him but can’t seem to do so. This is something I need to work on. I remind myself that a smile is not necessarily a come-on but it boils down to being a shy ambivert and fearing rejection. I can handle online rejection but it’s harder for me to contemplate an in-person snub.

While I’m inwardly berating myself, a couple in their 70s walks in and sits next to me. At that moment, my fish n’ chips arrives. “Good choice,” says the man in a British accent. I laugh and ask if that’s his real accent. It’s real and I learn that the couple lives just outside of London. We have a delightful conversation about their trips to the US, my trips to Europe, our respective children, their grandchildren, etc. At one point, I notice the man across the bar has left. After dinner, I say goodbye to the couple and go for an evening walk on the beach. I feel a little lonely as I watch couples and family groups strolling by.

As if on cue, my daughter calls to see how I’m doing; I instantly feel better.

Day and evening 5 (Friday): 

It’s perfect weather for my last day at the beach. Mood check: I am feeling a little lonely.

A planned dinner with Ms. A is cancelled when her mother has a health crisis. I opt for another dinner at my hotel bar. No connections are made tonight and I only talk to the bar staff. It’s time to go home.

Day 6 (Saturday):

I head to a gas station near the airport to fill up before returning the rental car. Tampa Airport is well organized with good signage and soon I’m having a leisurely pre-flight lunch with a glass of wine at…yes, you guessed it…an airport bar/restaurant.

Mood check: I’m feeling very competent at the moment. I enjoyed my first solo vacation and made some connections. Although I had a few lonely moments, I have those at home too.

Considering a solo trip? Some insights/lessons learned:

*A beach trip can be a good first solo vacation. Days are easy and with the right town, nights can be fun.

*Pick a relaxed friendly beach town with enough bars, restaurants, and shops so you have options for things to do. Three to four full days and nights (two travel days) is a good length for a first solo trip.

*Read solo travel blogs for travel tips.

*Pick a hotel with a bar/restaurant or one that has nearby bars/restaurants so you have built-in and nearby dining options.

*Eat dinner at the bar if you want to socialize. There’s a good chance people will initiate conversation and you can practice being proactive.

*Be friendly and talk to as many people as you can – people near you on the beach, people swimming, staff at bars and restaurants, and shopkeepers. Even if you don’t make a friend, you’ll feel less lonely.

*Call, text, and email family and friends to feel connected and especially if you’re feeling lonely.

*Visit any dating sites and apps you belong to for a new crop of potentials. If you’re lucky, you might even meet someone in person. As always, use due diligence to vet anyone you meet.

Until next time, happy travels and dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

 

 

 

The Lost Art of Smiling

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I was searching for a parking space in the lot of a wine store last weekend when a man walked by on the way to his car. He looked directly at me and smiled in an appreciative way – a good and true smile that included his eyes. I smiled back noting his attractiveness. Several cars followed me so I quickly turned into the next lane to land a parking space. By the time I had parked, there was no sign of the smiling stranger.

I wished I had arrived at the store 20 minutes earlier. Perhaps the stranger and I would have met in the Italy or New Zealand aisle. It’s not as exotic as meeting in another country but at least we would live in the same country.

This brief encounter – not really an encounter – struck me as unusual. Why? Because it seems that a lot of the men I pass on the street, or in the gym, or in the grocery store, or at the pool are suffering from the male equivalent of resting bitch face or RBF.

Let’s explore this while eating the Barefoot Contessa’s lobster potato salad.

I rarely encounter a man who purposefully smiles at me. Now admittedly sometimes a male stranger might catch me in resting bitch face mode and would not consider smiling at my unhappy looking countenance. However, even when my facial expression is truly neutral and not intimidating, my quotient of smile receipts is fairly minimal.

I seek more chance smiling/eyes meeting encounters where a bold person might even initiate conversation. Why are these encounters so rare? Part of the problem – and you probably guessed it – is that everyone is looking at their phones or texting or talking on them. So, men are not tuned into their surroundings, which might include a tall woman of a certain age who has specifically put on make-up and skinny jeans to run a boring errand in hopes of having a meet cute.

Two other reasons: Like women, men are both stressed out and in a hurry. They’re often overscheduled and run from work to the gym to happy hour to home and so on. So they forget to stop and smell the lilac perfume of that same woman walking confidently down the street.

Back to the resting bitch face issue. As mentioned above, despite the word bitch, men also suffer from this affliction. One writer describes the male version as resting dick face (RDF), which I find hilarious and a great term. Scientists have found that a “resting bitch or dick face” shows minute signs of contempt even though the affected individuals are not feeling contempt. If you observe a person in the RBF or RDF mode, you will likely feel uncomfortable and my guess is you won’t smile at that person.

So what can we single ladies do about this phenomenon? As I have written before, we can make a concerted effort to get out of RBF and smile. And how should we handle an encounter with a man with RDF who is not looking at, texting, or speaking on his mobile? Consider accidentally bumping into him (unless you’re driving) and apologize profusely while smiling. It just might lead to a meet cute.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

 

 

 

 

 

The Meet-Cute

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About a year ago I had what could be described as a meet-cute encounter. I had been working to control my resting bitch face in hopes of meeting men in the wild and so when a meet-cute opportunity presented itself, I grabbed it.

In honor of the first day of spring, let’s have some pasta primavera while I share my story.

I was walking home one late afternoon after a stroll in the park. As I approached a basketball court in typical full man-watching mode, I noticed a tall grey-topped specimen with diminishing plumage who was shooting hoops. I walked by just as he scored. Remembering my resolve to be open to all opportunities, I smiled and gave him a thumbs up. Mr. B (for basketball) looked at me, grinned, and threw me the ball. We shot hoops for about 20 minutes.

During this time I learned that my new friend was a teacher at the local community college, had survived a heavy recreational drug-using period during his youth, and was now practicing some kind of “higher power” philosophy that related to him having two first names. I also learned that he had a former girlfriend who had been living out of the country and texted him while we were shooting hoops to say she was in town.

When it was time for me to leave, we exchanged first names (two first names for him) but no numbers. As I continued my walk home, I thought about Mr. B and decided he was mildly attractive (too sweaty to get a full read on this) but had a couple of red flags. He had a somewhat flaky persona typical of former heavy pot smokers and he practiced the mysterious higher power philosophy.

Despite these reservations and the fact that I didn’t even know if he was single, I wandered back to the basketball court several times over the next few months. I never saw Mr. B again.

Had we exchanged contact information and actually dated, this would have been a perfect meet-cute.

Although the term meet-cute has been around since the 1940s, I had not heard of it until a friend used it to describe my basketball encounter.

According to the Urban Dictionary, meet-cute is a “scenario in which two individuals are brought together in some unlikely, zany, destined-to-fall-in-love-and-be-together-forever sort of way (the more unusual, the better). The way the characters meet in “Serendipity” or “When Harry Met Sally” or at least half the romantic comedies out there.”

I’ve always been a hopeful romantic so I love the idea of a meet-cute relationship launch.

I have a number of meet-cute fantasies. Here’s a sample.

Fall In Love

I’m not into spectator sports but a date at a Washington Capitals game revealed a hockey loving audience of tall, hunky guys.

In this meet-cute fantasy, I’m trying to navigate the bleachers to find my seat when I stumble and land in the lap of a particularly handsome fan. Think Claudette Colbert when the bus swerves and she falls into Clark Gable’s lap in It Happened One Night. We both laugh and after I apologize and stand up, my soft landing partner asks for my number.

Double Uber

It’s been a long day and after a late happy hour I don’t feel like taking the subway home. I decide to treat myself to an Uber ride. As I approach the car and confirm that the license plate and vehicle match the message on my phone, I see that a sophisticated looking gentleman is approaching my ride. Just as I’m about to open the car door, he says in a lovely British accent, “Pardon me, but I think this is the car I ordered.” “I don’t think so,” I say and show him the message on my phone. He has the same confirmation on his phone. We laugh and decide to share the ride.

Dogtopia

As a favor to my daughter, I bring my grand-dog Rover to the dog park. Rover encounters Lucy, a sprightly golden retriever, and the two fall madly in love. They engage in tail wagging, lots of sniffing, and even kissing. Lucy’s owner, an age appropriate athletic-looking guy, and I have a great conversation. We plan a double play date for the dogs and for us.

Given the right circumstances and the attitude to move things forward, these meet-cutes could happen.

Do you have a meet-cute story you can share? Write me!

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Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

 

Overcoming My Resting Bitch Face: A Work in Progress

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It was the last straw and I’ll explain why in a bit. Only an hour previously, I had been commiserating with a single friend about our unhappy looking resting bitch faces or RBF as the defined phenomenon is called. (See I’m not Mad. That’s Just my Resting Bitch Face.)

The dilemma: Women are strolling through life with a non-smiling face. This RBF is often accompanied by a failure to interact with strangers at opportune moments.

“Why is this the case?” I wondered.

Before I get too far on this rant, let’s have an appropriately sourced recipe of grilled trout from the Angry Trout Café in Minnesota.

My theory about the origin of RBF is based on the trials and tribulations of adolescence. As a young teenager, I found RBF an effective defense mechanism against cat calling by obnoxious alpha male teens. As I matured, RBF continued to be my go-to expression in public at a time when unwanted vocal male attention was more the norm. Today you’re more likely to get a sext from a stranger…but that’s another story.

So now that I’m in the 6th decade of life – and as a single woman, seeking male attention – my RBF is unfortunately fully ingrained.

Instead of a resting expression that invites smiling and flirting, I have an expression that says, “What’s your problem?”

Which brings me back to the last straw – see lead paragraph. The Epiphany of the Last Straw happened after attending an outdoor concert with a friend and talking about our mutual affliction of RBF.

After the concert, as I walked back to the parking lot by myself, thinking about RBF and the fact that it was a dateless Friday night, I was vaguely aware of a lone tall male presence carrying his porta-chair to the same lot. We each approached side-by-side parking pay-on-foot machines. For some reason, my normally competent pay-on-foot skills failed and I fought with the machine to accept my money. During this interlude, I felt my face in full RBF. Meanwhile, the dude was processing his ticket.

Did I ask for help? Did I turn off my full RBF and smile fetchingly while asking him for help? NO.

Instead, I kept reinserting my credit card until the parking gods decided to let me win. By then, Mr. Stranger was already walking to his car and my damsel in distress moment had passed.

“Shit,” I said to myself. “Here was a perfect flirt opportunity and I blew it…thanks to an RBF attitude.” Because function follows form or some such thing… basically when your face and body are closed off, your mind is following suit and you are not in flirt ready mode (FRM to coin a term).

So, my epiphany was the realization of my too frequent RBF. This revelation was accompanied by a resolve to bury it through a concerted effort of awareness and motivation.

My pledge: During every waking moment I am in public (wait – I am usually awake in public), I promise to be aware of my facial expression and smile or at least exhibit a pleasant face. Should there be an opportunity to flirt, I will make the most of it and I resolve to always be in flirt ready mode.

Before there can be behavior change, there must be awareness. So I’m definitely aware and working on the behavior change. I went solo to a happy hour at a bar the other night and actually smiled at strangers a couple of times. Like the headline says – a work in progress.

If you have cured your RBF, please write to me and let me know it can be done.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia