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

 

 

 

Repeated Exposure

blog-pix-people-talking

I spent most of last week on jury duty – my first experience performing this civic duty. It was a difficult case unrelated to the topic of this blog…but it got me thinking about the issue of repeated exposure as it relates to forming relationships.

Baby, it’s cold outside, so enjoy some creamy vegetable soup while we chat about this issue.

As a jury, we were a group of 14 (two alternates) disparate people thrown together by random computer selection. Over the course of four days, many of us started to talk to each other during lunch and the endless breaks (I object, your honor; may I approach the bench, your honor; the jury is excused while we discuss a point of law, etc., etc.).

On the last day, after a sleepless night precipitated by a stalemate in the deliberations, I connected with one of the male jurors, an attractive man about my age. Let’s call him Mr. C for cute. I had talked to other jurors but only smiled/acknowledged this particular man. We had a good and easy conversation that was interrupted when we got called into the courtroom. Then, surprisingly, when the jury returned to deliberations, all were in agreement.

After the foreman read the not guilty verdict, the jury was excused. We rushed out – our lives had been on hold for four days and all were anxious to resume them.

Mr. C and I entered the crowded elevator. No one spoke. We were all drained. Mr. C was the first to exit – several floors before mine. I said goodbye just as the door shut.

We hadn’t exchanged names. In order to preserve anonymity, the judge called us by our assigned numbers. I don’t even know if Mr. C was married.

But the experience triggered a flashback to college and early career days. It was so much easier to forge relationships when you could do so slowly and over a common bond.

In school, it was natural to bitch about the crazy English professor or the schedule of finals, or the cafeteria food.

On the job, you could bitch about your difficult boss, the poor work environment, or the cafeteria food.

Ladies and gentleman of the non-jury, I submit that having a common topic to bitch about can be the glue that binds. (Yes, I’m in the mood for clichés.)

When you have to encounter other people on a daily basis, you work a little harder to make conversation – even if they are not obvious “friend” or “romantic interest” material. There’s often a readily available topic to discuss and if the chat goes flat one day, well, you’ll have tomorrow to start over. Slowly, you may find that you really like and bond with some of these people.

It doesn’t happen that way in the online dating world. If you keep seeing the same prospects over and over, you tend to get bored. There’s no in-person forced interaction to move you away from boredom. I guess you could say good morning to the 5,000 people that are online when you log in, but it might be a little time consuming.

The rule of repeated exposure also applies to forming friendships. How much easier was it to make new girlfriends and keep those you had when you saw them every day at school? Can you imagine having the time now to talk ON THE PHONE to your friends every day?

Yes, there are adult workarounds. If you have friends in the office, you may get to chat in person every day. Or, if you live in a friendly neighborhood or condo/apartment and are on a schedule that is similar to your neighbors, you may form real connections with the people living on your block or floor.

If you belong to a temple or church, you can go to regular services or gatherings. If you are a member of a meet-up that you attend regularly, you’ll have the opportunity for repeated exposure. Ditto for a regular class at the gym or participation in a sports team or a music group.

The operative word is “regular,” a stand-in for “repeated.” 

Let’s take stock. Other than jury duty, how have I been doing with this practice of repeated exposure when it comes to creating opportunities for romance or friendships?

Work: Retired so N/A. Still connect with former colleagues.

Religion: No formal affiliation/attendance.

Gym: Attendance but no classes

Meet-ups: Attendance is random, not regular

Sports team: Nada. Swimming but no team.

Neighborhood: Maintaining connections but not forging new ones

I see some room for improvement. How about you? Are you pushing the replay button enough in order to create new bonds? Let me know.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

Selective Hearing, Avoidance, and Fear

blog-post-giraffe

What scares you?

It’s almost Halloween…a good time to think about what scares you in life and in relationships.

And you thought I was going to talk about ghosting. Been there, done that. Tired of that topic. Let’s ghost ghosting.

We’ve talked about fear before but I’d like to probe how fear changes behavior. And while we’re talking, let’s eat some aubergine (eggplant) lasagna – much better for you than candy.

Have you ever been talking to your significant other/partner and heard or observed something unsettling but didn’t want to address it directly because you were afraid of the resulting discussion? Perhaps the topic raised a question and you were afraid of the answer. Instead of communicating, you entered into a fear-based behavior: avoidance. It’s related to selective hearing.

Just like a child can selectively NOT hear a parent telling her to stop watching TV and do homework, I know there have been times when I did not “hear” what a man said because I knew it would make me angry and I didn’t want to be angry at that moment or I suspected it would force me to deal with an issue I did not want to deal with.

So, I tuned out and pretended I never heard that, or he didn’t say it.

It’s easy to bury anger or confusion when the real emotion is fear: fear of what might happen if there is a real conversation. You wonder whether you’ll be hurt emotionally or if the relationship will be irreparably damaged. Perhaps you fear an unsettling truth that will be impossible to swallow.

You know the end to this story…eventually you have to address whatever it is. It might be examined in an open discussion or you might address it by leaving the relationship without fully probing the issue(s).

I’d like to make a case for being fully in the moment…ditching that selective hearing and dealing with the issue or comment immediately: head on, feet first (and whatever other clichés apply). I’m not talking about something minor that you can let slide. It’s the bigger issues that need to be addressed in a timely fashion.

Soapbox suggestion: Cultivate awareness. Be present in the moment. That way when you hear something that needs to be dealt with you can immediately tamp down fear and tackle that difficult issue.

So step away from that cell phone, look your man in the eye, and face whatever it is.

Let me know what happens.

If you liked this post or others, subscribe to get the latest post delivered to your mailbox.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

 

Relationships/Dating Versus Cooking: Compare and Contrast

blog cooking compare and contrast

The other day as I prepared a new recipe and substituted several key ingredients, I realized that dating and romantic relationships have a lot in common with cooking.

Let’s cook some yummy grilled avocado halves with cumin-spiced quinoa and black bean salad on this holiday weekend and make a few substitutions. See if you agree with the premise of this post.

Compare and contrast cooking and relationships/dating:

*Substituting ingredients: Let’s say you want a man with a sense of humor, who loves to read, engages in witty banter, appreciates music and travel, is tall and fit, and enjoys the outdoors. Yes, this is my wish list. However, you open the refrigerator door (think cache of romantic partners) and find that there is no WITTY BANTER in the egg drawer and TALL is not on the shelf. However, there is a quart of jazz/blues/rock mix that will work nicely in your stew.

You make do with what you have because you’re too tired to go to the store, aka dating site, matchmaker, or bar.

Much to your surprise, the stew is delightful even though a few ingredients have been changed.

The bottom line of this example is that it’s not always possible to have all the “right” ingredients in a person or a recipe. But sometimes, despite the necessary revisions, the relationship and the dish work.

Rating: Similar

*Making something out of nothing: How many times have you declared, “There is nothing to eat in this house?” and yet, you manage to cobble something together out of a few leftovers and skimpy ingredients.

Similarly, do you recall fighting over the most absurd nothing with your romantic partner? The next day, you can’t remember what the fight was about. Like the improvised meal, you have made a fight out of nothing.

Rating: Similar

*Cooking like royalty on a pauper’s budget: If your goal is to make a lobster pot pie but you can only afford tilapia, there might be trouble in River City.

If you buy that lobster on credit – and add the charge to a long list of expensive ingredients – your partner may get angry.

A mismatch of taste and budget can eat away (sorry) at a relationship.

Financial worries lead not only to tilapia pie but they also often cause relationship stress.

Rating: Similar 

*Slow cooking versus stir-fry: See a past post for a look at these two cooking – and dating – techniques and their relative merits.

Rating: Not Similar 

*Cooking together or flying solo:

Some couples like to cook together. I find this can be a fun – and sensuous activity with your partner (it may get derailed due to frisky behavior). Other people want to cook solo and they find it stressful to share a kitchen.

In a relationship, there are many activities you might choose to engage in with your partner and others you might prefer to do alone. Some couples even choose to live or vacation separately.

Rating: Surprisingly similar

*Adventurous cooking:

Have you ever been in a cooking rut? Perhaps you have the same spinach salad with tuna every single night (particularly when you are cooking for yourself).

Relationships and dating can go stale too.

It’s important to experiment with new recipes (see my blog for ideas) and to engage in new activities with your date or partner.

Rating: Similar

*Clean up as you go:

When you cook, do you like to clean up as you go? Or, do you wait until after dinner to tackle the now huge mess?

When you are dating or in a relationship with someone, it is wise to deal with problems as they come up. Otherwise, the pile of grievances, hurt, and anger can seem insurmountable (just like the huge pile of dishes).

Rating: Similar

*Cooking gluten-free

Whether for yourself or for your guests, you may find yourself learning to cook without gluten. This can be both challenging and creative.

Cooking gluten-free has absolutely nothing in common with a relationship or dating. I just needed to identify a cooking behavior with no similarities to dating.

Rating: Not similar

CALLING ALL DATERS:

Before I say good-bye, I would like to invite all readers who are daters to participate in an anonymous written interview about dating. The goal is to share experiences, tips, pet peeves, and funny dates. We can learn from each other and get support as well.

The questions and answers would be considered for publication in future blog posts and might be minimally edited for length or clarity.

To participate and get the questions, write me at contact@lunchtalk60sdating.com. You may use your real name if you prefer, but as you know, I am fine with anonymity.

If you enjoyed this post or any past ones, subscribe to get regular e-mail delivery. Follow me on social media too:

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Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Not Waterboarding, Just a Few Friendly Questions

couple talking

Although I don’t advocate CIA-style interrogation of a date, sometimes the right question or two or three can illuminate a potential partner’s suitability.

It’s important to be creative when designing questions for your love interest. One option is to use The 36 Questions, but those are geared to establishing intimacy. Today I’m interested in questions designed to find out if you and Mr. XO are compatible and whether he will make you happy.

My inspiration comes in part from a recent article in Fortune magazine that reported on challenging job interview questions. The out-of-the- box questions collected by the Five O’ Clock Club run the gamut from “How much should you charge to wash all of the windows in Seattle?” to “Describe the color yellow to somebody who’s blind.”

You can see where I’m going with this, can’t you? The wheels are turning. To keep us energized as we brainstorm, let’s have some broccoli quinoa salad with buttermilk dressing.

Some basic advice: don’t ask more than 1 or 2 of these questions per date and try to weave them into the conversation so you don’t arouse suspicion. And don’t ask them while strapping your date down and dripping a cup of water onto his face.

Questions to Ask Your Love Interest:

#1:

What did you have for dinner last night?

The correct answer: Baby kale salad with roasted apples and pomegranate seeds, bouillabaisse, home baked French bread, chocolate orange soufflé for dessert.

Relationship/compatibility subtext: You need a man who can hold his own in the kitchen – even if you’re an accomplished home chef. Not only will this make cooking together a viable fun activity or competition for you both (think Throwdown with Bobby Flay), he can comfort you with a home cooked meal when you are down.

#2:

If you had enough money to outsource one household chore, what would you pick?

The correct answer: Whatever chore you hate the most.

Relationship/compatibility subtext: The correct answer will show you whether he has listened to your complaints about your most detested household duty. It is important to find a partner who really listens and takes action to help you.

#3:

You go to the pound to pick out a puppy. The person in charge tells you they have a new pilot program. You may take home a new puppy every week for life or adopt one puppy,

The correct answer: Adopt one puppy.

Relationship/compatibility subtext: You want a one-woman man. 

#4:

You are on your way to work and running late to an important meeting. You encounter an adorable little puppy (O.K., I love puppies) who is obviously lost, confused, thirsty, and hungry. You know your significant other is making a presentation at work today, what do you do?

The correct answer: “I would take this puppy to work with me even if I was fired.”

Relationship/compatibility subtext: Depending on your age and life situation, Mr. XO’s answer provides clues as to whether he can sustain an egalitarian relationship. How would he juggle caring for your and his aging parents when you are both working? How might he handle parenting duties in a two-career household? What would Mr. XO do if you had a sick child, the babysitter had the plague, you were completing a crucial project at work and he had an important deadline to meet? Can this man step up to the plate and sacrifice his career if needed in support of your own?

#5:

You are stranded on an island with one other person who happens to be a woman. Thanks to a small island lake there is plenty of water but food is scarce. One afternoon, you are foraging for food by yourself when you unexpectedly encounter a plantain tree with one lone plantain on it. Do you eat it before you return or bring it back to camp to share?

The correct answer: Bring it back to share and offer the first bites to the woman.

Relationship/compatibility subtext: Mr. XO’s answer provides a clue to his generosity in the bedroom and whether he subscribes to the crucial philosophy of She Comes First.

#6:

Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a spouse or girlfriend. How was it resolved?

The correct answer: Apologize – regardless of the conflict or who is actually at fault.

Relationship/compatibility subtext: The simple act of apology demonstrates skills in conflict resolution and the reality-based truism that the woman is always right.

#7:

Why should I date you?

The correct answer: I have all the qualities you’re seeking according to your OkCupid profile and I think you are brilliant, beautiful, interesting, and everything I am looking for in a woman.

Relationship/compatibility subtext: Use your gut to determine his sincerity. Is the correct answer accompanied by gazing into your eyes? Is he a good kisser? Are you comfortable with Mr. XO and at the same time, do you have butterflies before you see him? The answer to this question must be weighed in the context of his entire package. No. Pun. Intended.

#8:

If you woke up and had 1,000 emails from matches on a dating site and could only answer 100, how would you choose which ones to respond to?

The correct answer: “Even though I could only answer 100, I would answer 5 and see what happens. If I find a good match, I don’t need to keep exploring and searching.”

Relationship/compatibility subtext: See above re: finding a one-woman man

#9:

What are 3 positive things an ex would say about you?

The correct answer: “She would say I was fun to be with, a great listener, and I was a terrific supporter of her and of women’s rights.”

Relationship/compatibility subtext: This is a perfect opportunity for your love interest to reimagine history. Most likely he will think back to a kinder, gentler time in a previous relationship and use his best spin technology to present himself in a good light. Use your woman’s intuition to determine if there’s even a shred of truth in his list of three.

#10:

You are on a road trip in unfamiliar territory and appear to be lost. The GPS is not working. What do you do?

The correct answer: Stop and ask for directions.

Relationship/compatibility subtext: Is Mr. XO a team player? Will he work with you to solve the problems of life or will he drive alone aimlessly while he runs out of gas and you run out of patience?

Can you add to my list of questions? Let me know! Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

Running Off at the Mouth, Dating Style

man and woman with laptops for blog

It’s our second date and we’re sitting outside at a lobster shack on a sunny August morning. Mr. N continues to talk about his job, his family, his ex- girlfriends, his childhood friends, and his dog. I’m nodding and listening, wondering if he’ll take a breath so I can comment, let alone interject, something – anything — about my life.

Now Mr. N is chatting up the waiter, telling him about the way HE prepares lobster at home. I can tell the waiter wants to get to his other customers. But I chill for the moment because the day is beautiful and the lobster is good…so good that I take a too big chew and start to choke.

Mr. N is so wrapped up in the details of his cooking story that he doesn’t notice my dilemma. I start to have trouble breathing. I’m struggling, kicking the legs of Mr. N’s chair. It’s so noisy midst the din of the busy restaurant, and Mr. N is so intent on his conversation, that he doesn’t notice the kicking. I start to lose consciousness as I hear, “Only then do you add melted butter.”

Gasping for breath, I suddenly sit up – in bed – and realize I just had a nightmare. The cause: an endless stream of dates with conversational narcissists. The cure: To Be Determined.

I can’t claim ownership of this apt term. Sociologist Charles Derber described the condition in which a self-oriented person repeatedly seeks to turn attention to himself in The Pursuit of Attention: Power and Ego in Everyday Life. I just downloaded the kindle version of Derber’s book and a quick scan already produced some relevant research.

Derber’s studies of dinner conversations found that “drawing others out is a special skill associated with nurturance and mothering.” He writes, “It is also part of a feminine style which holds and attracts men. Most conversational studies suggest that listening is an essentially female skill.”

Speaking of dinner conversation, I’m reminded we haven’t had lunch. Let’s have an October treat: pumpkin risotto.

I think many women would agree that members of their own sex are better than men at both listening and drawing others out. I’d like to know if there are more recent studies that address this. (Derber’s book was first published in 1983 with a second edition in 2000.)

What has been your experience in conversations with the opposite sex? Have you been subjected to conversational narcissistic behavior in your dating life?

Of course, conversational narcissists are everywhere, not just in romantic encounters. They’re in the workplace, in your posse of girlfriends, in your latest Meetup group. They’re the people – men AND women — who don’t breathe between sentences. There’s no break between thoughts/words…just a constant stream of…. not consciousness but perhaps obliviousness – to other people’s needs. And they don’t seem to want to get to know you. Or why wouldn’t they ask some questions and give you an opportunity to talk?

As I review my dating history, it is clear that I have gone out with more than my fair share of members of this charming group. Most recently, I went out with Mr. B, a tall IT guy. During our pre-meeting phone chat, Mr. B told me about his family history, career trajectory, food allergies, and some medical issues.

During our first meeting, Mr. B revisited many of these topics. A menu review led to an in-depth discussion of his food allergies. On the second and last date, he provided excruciating detail about his former girlfriend’s mental instability. When he eventually diverged into a recap of his career and noted an interest in technical writing, I attempted to talk about my own writing. At that moment, Mr. B chose to check his phone. When his gaze returned to me, his eyes were glazed over. That was all I needed to confirm my first impression. Check please.

Perhaps the most egregious example of conversational narcissism that I encountered was with Mr. J, a budding or perhaps full-fledged alcoholic. I did not realize this was his problem at first. I thought he was just thirsty. For water. The afternoon of the day after binge drinking.

After a promising although lopsided phone conversation (75% about him), we met for a Sunday afternoon date. The venue: a cute indoor shopping complex (not a mall) in a historic Maryland town. Chemistry assessment: 100%. We strolled through the antique and tchotchke shops with Mr. J stealing kisses throughout the afternoon. When we sat down for an afternoon snack (and he gulped down tons of water – see above), we talked about our lives, but again the conversation was lopsided: 75% about him. Still, there was that chemistry/connection to counter it and the date lasted a good 5 hours.

A bizarre ‘monologue’ conversation late the next night turned ugly. It was clear Mr. J had been drinking. I spoke up about my concerns regarding the skewed conversation and he took immediate offense, went on a harangue, and ended up hanging up on me.

Over the next two days, there was a bizarre exchange of emails with Mr. J angrily demonstrating arrogance, meanness, and a whopping dose of narcissism. I noticed a correlation between his long-winded conversations and long-winded emails. All this after 1 date!

Since that extreme, unpleasant, and unusual episode almost a year ago, I have briefly dated a number of conversational narcissists. I haven’t said, “Look I can’t date you because you talk too much about yourself” but I am tempted. I’m searching for the right language to tell these guys about their problem. I wonder if they would be shocked. Would they believe my assessment? Would they change?

My brother told me one hopeful story of a woman who said to her date, “I like you but I don’t want to date someone who doesn’t seem to be interested in me.” He replied, “ I don’t want to be that guy,” and took her words to heart. They’re married now.

Maybe the answer is, if you really like a man and what he stands for, and you have good chemistry, speak up about his conversational narcissism. Unless he has a drinking problem, there’s a chance your words might be heard.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating!

XXXOOO

Nadia