Sometimes after telling a friend about my most recent flirty shenanigans, they ask how I get up the guts. How? Easy-peasy: I just do it. Seriously, it’s that simple.
You have an impulse struggling to break free from the prison you’ve locked it into in the back of your mind? Slip it the key. Or better yet: explosives, so it can bust outta confinement in style. Out with a BANG!
That’s how I’ve tried to liberate myself since moving to DC. I’m in a new city, new lifestyle, and trying all the lovely new things along with it. I’ve been outgoing and decidedly-Me for most of my life, but this is bringing it to a whole new level. I go out dancing half the week, soak up new friends like it’s my job [wouldn't that be cool if being social was my job??], and strive daily to do ‘carpe diem’ proud. Vulnerability can be a surprisingly delicious feeling.
Most often, this fun growing habit [addiction?] manifests itself in my dating life. I think the bartender that always finds a way to knock down my tab is cute? Well, last Friday, I left him my number on the check along with a note saying “in case you’d like to grab the drink I definitely owe you now”. [Note: this is at a bar my friends and I frequent often, so there is sure to be follow-up on this particular one.] Impulses like these are healthy, natural, and downright exciting as hell– so everyone should take some initiative spice up their own life.
Months ago, there was this boy who played an acoustic and sang outside the metro across from my restaurant. He was cute, obviously did it just for kicks, and had a variety of genres he’d jump around in. All summer and fall, I’d listen to him while getting the patio ready for dinner or waiting for my bus home, and we’d do that adorable smiling-at-each-other-from-afar thing. Sometimes he’d play this great Hank Williams song, and I one time shouted that was my favorite– after that, any time I walked by, he’d immediately switch over to that song. I don’t usually carry cash on me, and started kicking myself nights he was there. So, I did what any decent girl would do.
I dug through my purse for paper, and wrote him a note. “I always seem to only have bus fare home on me, but have listened to your music long enough that I figure I owe you a drink by now– here’s my number in case you’d like to take me up on it some night.”
He called the next day. Not a text, but a phone call. We talked a bit, and he said he didn’t know bars in the NW neighborhood area very well, but I said the Red Derby had great beer. We each brought a friend, had a great night of conversation, and that was mostly it. He still played my metro stop, and was adorable but a little too timid for me to date. But that’s not the point. We’d talk whenever running into each other, so I just made a cool neighborhood friend and an even greater story.
Don’t give me that “oh, but you’re so much more outgoing than me, Jules!” crap. I was a morbidly shy girl up through most of middle school, complete with bright red blushes and the inability to speak when it came to boys and bullies. Then I took to heart my mama’s best piece of life advice: you are who you want to be. Seriously, it’s that easy. You want to be the extroverted girl flirting in a circle of guys or walking up to a cute guy to buy him a drink? Then get over yourself and just do it. The only thing holding you back is you.
I know this is coming off as preachy, but it’s because this is what’s running through my head whenever I get into such situations. I like a guy at a party, bar, coffeeshop, or any other random place. There’s something I want to say to him. The introvert deep inside wants to just watch or run away, so I tell her to shuttup and walk over before I lose my nerve. I’m a recovering shy girl, it’s a daily struggle to overcome. But I decided early on that I didn’t like being quiet and overlooked, didn’t like being the cute-girl’s-best-friend, and definitely didn’t like that feeling of lost opportunity.
So here’s the deal: the end game for this kind of thing isn’t finding a boyfriend, or even a date. I do them because they make people smile. If the Cute Bartender never calls because he isn’t available, isn’t interested, or isn’t assertive enough to do it, that’s fine. I’m peachy keen without any response. Regardless of the outcome for me, everyone likes knowing they’re admired, and I know my note brightened his day. And isn’t that worth taking a few seconds of your time to express something as simple as “I think you’re cute”? Because it always makes them feel a little better, and it will definitely give you awesome butterflies that you will soon learn to crave. Just like me.
So just do it!
So my little sister and her friend Abigail shot me this video the other day, and it’s naturally been stuck in my head ever since. I think the ridiculously cute lyrics/video/everything about it are pretty appropriate here. So thanks, sis.
Ah, the promised details on an actual guy I’m seeing– yes, folks, step right up! See the guy-wonder that has survived more than three dates with yours truly! [Well, you can't actually see him, since this is a nominally-anonymous blog. Sorry Charlie, no bananas.]
So here’s the scoop: boy-meets-girl, boy-and-girl-go-for-jazz-and-beer, boy-kisses-girl-good-night-and-therefore-misses-last-metro-home, girl-spends-next-5-out-of-7-days-on-various-exploits-with-boy. Textbook, right?
Ok, ok, I know it’s not. I rarely make it to a third date with a guy, let alone introduce him to friends and invest that much time. Half of my chalks it up to a slow work week and high boredom level, but the other half has to be honest– he’s a truly great guy. He’s sincere, he’s attractive, he’s intelligent and funny. Like I’ve said before: he’s the genuine article. Everything about him screams all kinds of wonderful, desirable things like ‘well-adjusted’, ‘stable’, and ‘STD/addiction-free’. The biggest aspiration woven into every fiber of his subconscious being, though: ‘boyfriend’.
Which has me promptly wanting to turn-tail in the opposite direction for my first run since grade school gym class. [Yes, I'm aware of the absurdity of my reactions.] No, I’m not actually writing him off, and I’m certainly not running away. For full disclosure, I thought to be honest and include this gut response. At this point in my life, someone as emotionally mature as myself apparently freaks me out a little bit.. Now I understand why I sometimes make other guys back-pedal.
Date one: drinks at my favorite blues spot, Madam’s Organ. There was an amazing soul band playing, one of my favorite, crass bartenders working, and plenty of space on a Sunday night to talk without having to shout over drunken morons. We talked well past the time I should have cut him off to catch the metro, and the conversation was amazing. Everything from general background and music/books/etc tastes to aspirations and past intense experiences [getting jumped, moving from home, etc]. The good-night kiss outside the metro was memorable, and resulted in him missing the last train out of the city [he had to take a bus that took an extra hour, it was very romantic-comedy-esque]. An all around impressive, relaxed, and exhilarating first date.
Date two: coffee on my work break the next afternoon. I know, the next day? Already? Went to another personal favorite, Tryst Coffeehouse, and talked for hours. Again, hopping from jokes and society to deep personal stories. Even the heaviest topics weren’t conversation downers, though, just examples of real-life experience. It was liberating sharing that part of me without someone cringing because they don’t understand and pull away from knowing how to handle it. I don’t think I’ve told most of my new friends in DC even half of those major life events I shared with him.
Date three: I attended an event at the White House halfway through the week, and we met up on the National Mall after to stretch out in the sun and enjoy the weather. My first sunburn of 2012 was soaked in showing him hidden spots around the memorials. He asked where my favorite place is, so I showed him: I call it the Duck Pond. [It's technically called Constitution Gardens Pond, but I prefer my name.] It’s a gorgeous spot by the WWII memorial with an island jutting into the water with a few willow trees and cherry blossoms. We walked out there, sat under a willow tree, and watched the ducklings learn to swim. [After a bunch of them fell asleep, he charged in a very 5-year-old manner that I still smile to remember.] It was all quite sweet and idyllic. The romantic-comedy trend persists.
What he doesn’t know is that for years, this is the place I’ve thought to eventually have my wedding ceremony. Since middle school, I’ve told my family that I’m going to get married on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial– everyone wants to have some epic nuptial scene, and I’m pretty damn sure that tops the best of them. After deliberating more recently, I don’t want a bunch of dumbass tourons wandering through my ceremony. Then I fell more in love with my Duck Pond. The island is a perfectly picturesque spot to say our vows, and then go take legendary wedding party pics on the Lincoln steps. [If I find out ANY of you take this dream from me, I will hunt you down and ruin the rest of your life. DON'T FUCK WITH MY UNIQUE WEDDING.]
Date four: a movie night in. On a Friday. Just us at my house. Here’s the deal, my dear readers. Up until the past month or so, I had spent less than a dozen weekend nights at home since moving here nearly a year ago. Those few nights were mostly due to insane work weeks, low funds, or intense illness– and even THAT rarely stopped me from going out with friends. I don’t stay in on weekends, and I definitely don’t do it to play house with a guy. So this is new. And it was wonderful. We ordered Thai, ate it in bed, shared music, and watched an off-genre zombie spinoff that blew my mind. [Thank you, Canada, Pontypool is absolutely brilliant.] We cuddled, and kissed, and again kept him well past the last train home. Whoops! So he stayed over for a DETERMINEDLY shenanigans-less sleepover. Yes, it was tough, but I didn’t regret it.
Date five: drinks and games with my friends at the bar. Went to a frequented local bar, The Red Derby, for beer, Jenga, and Pictionary. They liked him, he liked them, and it was another successful night. This sleepover was decidedly less-determined than the previous one, but also not regretted. I refer you to my RADD update on intimacy and attention spans. Since then, I’ve spent a full week of Me Time, including less-accessible contact with my Genuine Article. [Date six: He did come with me to see Hunger Games with a friend and her guy last night, though.]
Yes, I consciously acknowledge that I was distancing myself over the past week. No, I’m not entirely sure why. I’m mildly concerned this is a (500) Days of Summer situation. We really like each other, we’re both attractive and have a lot in common, but I just don’t think I’m interested in the same romantic lifestyle that he’s looking for. He’s always holding my hand, and had his hand on my leg or knee the entire movie. [I'm watching the HUNGER GAMES, sweetheart, I don't want to play fucking footsies while some of my all-time favorite literary characters slaughter each other on screen. I'd like to get lost in the story, thankyouverymuch.]
Like I said in Chemistry Class, there should be way more sparks flying in the first few weeks, and far less windows into the casually affectionate future of a long-term relationship. I have a sneaking suspicious that he’s a border-line Serial Dater. I know, I know– that’s no bueno, guys. Not just because they need a girlfriend to feel whole, but more-so because I simply cannot relate to it. I’ve mostly been a single girl my entire life, and can’t grasp the idea of only feeling whole when with someone else. I’m whole all by myself. He usually has a year between relationships, apparently, but he still acts like my Serial Dater friends. But who knows, maybe he’s acting like a boyfriend not because he doesn’t know how to act single, but because he wants to act like a boyfriend with me. Scary thought.
So a month or so ago, I’d thought that I was open to finding a boyfriend [or letting him find me]. But maybe I’m not. Attribute it to the uneasiness of still being on the job-hunt, but I think being single suits my current life much better. It’s nice to have the consistency of this Genuine Article, and I like practicing my girlfriendly arts– but I doubt this will lead down any monogamous paths. Maybe it’s because he isn’t the right guy for that job; maybe it’s my the point in my life; maybe it’s just who I am. Who knows?
When I first watched (500) Days of Summer and this totally damn adorable montage from it, I gushed to myself that I wanted a guy that felt that way about me. But that’s only half of it, right? I want a guy that is tapping his toes in anticipation to see me, sure– but I want to act this way about a guy, too. Because it ends the way it does because the love in their relationship was one-sided, and no one wants that. I think I identified with the movie way more than I thought. This blog about my life isn’t a love story– it’s a story about love. And it isn’t over ’till it’s over.
My friends and I were ‘those kids’ in chem class that rushed into the lab, turned our Bunsen on high, half-read the directions, and ended up with foam everywhere or frightening/ awesome balls of fire shooting from our station.
It’s not that we were idiots (well, not all of us); a number of us went to the best schools in the country. The hyper-intelligent can screw around in experiments with the best of the morons, thankyouverymuch. No, we just wanted to mix this with that, and see if it goes BOOM! [Yes, more often than not, something did explode.] I’m convinced we learned just as much from the negative trials as we did from the positive ones.
Sometimes I talk about my dating life as a series of experiments, but I should clarify. They aren’t only to see how certain guys will react to me, but also how I react to them. Chemistry goes two ways, and I’m still learning all my properties.
For example: how could I know if I like dating a hip-hop dancer unless I try it? Result: it was damn fun. And how would I react to someone wanting to introduce me to his family after two weeks? Outcome: negative. But you can’t truly know how you would react unless you have experienced something– and that’s what your 20′s are about. Experiencing anything and everything life has to offer, in order to better learn who you are as a person and what you want out of life. [Ok, or maybe just have fun.] It’s like a chem lab where you have several containers of the same sample, and add different materials to see how they react together.
Me + questionable sexuality guy = ambiguity confuses me
Me + guys exactly my age = thinking that my little sister would looove them
So I’ve learned a lot about myself over the past few months. I’ve experimented and experienced, and have ruled out certain traits that don’t mix well with moi. It’s not them, but it’s also not me– we just don’t work well together. I’d say it’s a fair conclusion. But the toughest realization to accept is when two people work well together, are a stable combination, but it still doesn’t do what you want [yes, I'm referring to the Genuine Article again; more tba]. There’s no fizzle, no spark, no eyebrow-singeing explosion of fireworks and hormones. I don’t want a stable, flat compound– I want CHEMISTRY. So, I must experiment on with my life.
I blame my fiendish experimental inclinations on the Muppets Lab. Beaker always WAS my second-favorite [after Miss Piggy, of course].
“DC is like dating in Grand Central Station– everyone is coming and going and moving too fast to really see,” he tells us between sips of beer and over the music and noise of Marvin’s.
How to get guys to talk about their feelings: get them very drunk.
The other night at the bar, with most of the group respectably intoxicated, conversation swung over to our District dating world. I only knew the romantic backgrounds of two of the guys [one at the 'interested but decidedly not committed' level, and the other mixed-signals-confused], but then another of them [let's call him Peter] pipes up with that line and floored me. Brilliantly put, my friend.
He threw his hands in the air dismissively and asked, “What’s the point?” With everyone coming and going so often, the city’s in a constant upheaval and no one stays put. Everything is always changing, which means when you do fall into a relationship– more by chance than anything else– it has to continually adapt to new surroundings. New friends, new places, new activities. We’re a city forever in transition, and our relationships follow suit.
He says we’re a city full of very attractive, very intelligent people– and I had to interject my addition of ‘very ambitious’– so it gets overwhelming. Maybe it’s just our personality differences, but those are the exact reasons why I do love dating in DC. The endless new people and captivating conversations have utterly fascinated me. I fully admit that it might be my newness playing a part in that– Peter and the guys have been here for years, whereas I’m still coming up on my first anniversary [I expect a big celebration, Washington!]. And yes, for once I’ll grant that my age might also have a hand in it– though I prefer to refuse the entire age premise.
One of the concerns for singles today is how long to hold out for 3rd base, and what that wait implies. Protest too much, and you’re a prude; immediate gratification makes you easy. A recent relationship developed swiftly [let's call him the Genuine Article, more details to come], and he told me our intimacy didn’t take away from his interest or opinion of me– he won’t become bored. My gut response was to think to myself, “Who said it was YOUR attention I was worried about losing?”
After a week of seeing this truly great guy nearly every day [and loving every minute of it], I was a bit burned out this week and needed Me Time. The result was this romantic malaise whenever I thought of him– am I bored already? Do I only want something that I can’t have [or just don't have yet]? Our quick level of comfortable intimacy is just a little too committed-feeling. Is there something wrong with me? It reminds me of my ex, and how everything felt more like a habit than a desire– that is no good. The start of connection should be all fire and longing. I’m an intensely passionate person; casual affection will not keep me interested.
So there it is. Hi, I’m Jules, and I have Relationship-Attention Deficit Disorder. [It's RADD!] Maybe even R-ADHD, because my high-energy lifestyle is definitely hyperactive. It’s not stress-related, stemming from some PTSD break-up baggage. I don’t have commitment phobia. It’s not environmental, because I’m up to my ears in commited couple friends. Everyone has a significant other this spring.
But I honestly have no problem whatsoever that I am not one of them– I rather enjoy this RADD lifestyle of meeting multiple new people in a short amount of time. The city’s always full of them coming and going, with wild stories to tell about their travels and experiences. Each new acquaintance for me is like giving sugar to a five year old [okay, maybe it's just like giving sugar to me; the effect is the same].
Isn’t that the charm of Washington? Peter’s right about the Grand Central chaos– going out in DC has you on perpetual social sensory overload. There are too many trains pulling in and out of the station going to wild, new places, and I can’t bring myself to narrow my possibilities by going in just one direction. I enjoy who I am, I enjoy meeting new people, and I really do enjoy dating. Maybe that’s why this is the perfect city for me. Only Washington is ever-shifting enough to keep me captivated with its constant influx of fascinating new people to meet and play with.
I’m not writing off this Genuine Article; we’ll see how this unfolds. But if it does turn out that I just get bored and disinterested, I don’t think it means there’s something wrong with me. I just don’t think it’ll turn out that he’s what I’m looking for, or that the lifestyle his relationship offers is right for me.
NYC restaurants are staffed by budding actors and LA is crawling with wannabe models, all starving for both carbs and attention. It’s a classic story: a waitress carries headshots in her apron, just waiting for her chance to lay it on a producer’s table, right next to his filet mignon. She’ll say “I’m not a waitress, I’m actually an actress—this is just my day job until I get my big break.”
[I wrote this a week ago, and haven’t had the heart to post something that’s so down. But, in an effort for full disclosure and to accurately represent what a 20-something’s life deals with in DC, I’ve decided it’s something that needs covering. Read through to the epilogue: there is a light at the end of the tunnel.]
It might surprise you, but DC is much the same way. I don’t think it’s possible to throw a rock without hitting some aspiring politico or journalist barely eking out an existence on an internship stipend or restaurant tips. We have countless accounts on Idealist, Devex, Indeed, Monster, and, of course, LinkedIn. Our MacBooks are filled with multiple resumes catered to different job descriptions, which we incessantly update and occasionally completely trash to start from the beginning. Maybe it just needs a new look? I bet that’s why I haven’t gotten any calls—I should have put my personal information in the top right-hand corner instead of centered in the middle! DUH.
We all talk the big talk about our areas of expertise and future professional brilliance, but each day laughs at us as we tie on our Starbucks apron strings or hostess nametags.
It wasn’t so bad, right at the beginning. When I moved here nearly a year ago (my god… a year??), I had just graduated and had no problem hosting while I job hunted and acclimated to my new city. It gave me the time to decompress and evaluate this new post-college world. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted a job in non-profits, or did I want to pursue my West Wing dream and break into political life? When the eventual “so, what do you do?” question arose, I’d laugh and say “I eat free hummus and boss my servers around in Arabic”. The world was my oyster, and all that. I’d graduated high school early at sixteen and was already ahead of schedule, no need to rush! Then I would talk on about one unpaid internship after another, increasingly clinging to the shred of intellectual legitimacy my free labor offered me among actual young professionals.
Because that’s all I am: an aspiring young professional. As if the term isn’t condescending enough, I have to add that I’m not even at the bottom of Washington’s food chain yet. I’m lower than that—my existence is subterranean.
I feel like a cliché—I am that actress/waitress. [Or is it waitress/actress?] I could have volunteered abroad. I could have pushed myself to find a job somewhere else, like Lebanon or Jordan. I should have taken the Foreign Service Exam last year, so that I could re-take it and actually pass this year. I could have been studying for the GRE’s this whole time, or knuckling down and focusing on working towards Arabic fluency. It’s stupid to say ‘I should have done this’ or ‘why didn’t I do that?’ It’s a waste of times and I don’t like regrets. But I can’t help it. When I talk about my job difficulty, people always have something to say.
“Have you tried USAJOBS.com?”
“The Senate and House post openings on their websites!”
“You’ve graduated into the worst job climate since the Great Depression, you know.”
Gee thanks, asshat. I have a degree from a well-respected university, but needed your condescension to clear that up for me! I hadn’t the foggiest before now.
So I bite my tongue. I know everyone’s simply trying to help; they feel like they have to say something. And just as there is no good way to break up, there’s also no good way to respond to someone’s job woes unless you can offer them one. Going off the handle on well-meaning people is no way to behave; it’s ungrateful. So I swallow my frustration and grind my teeth into a smile.
“Yes, thank you—I’m well aware of all that. It just isn’t that simple. In DC, you have to know people. You need to be practically related to half of the staff to even receive a phone call, let alone gain an interview. And before you suggest it, no, you cannot walk into an office on the Hill and hand-deliver a resume or inquire for a job. That severely pisses them off. Yes, same goes for phone calls. No, I haven’t been interviewed anywhere yet. Yes, I mean anywhere. I haven’t had a single interview since moving to this seemingly godforsaken city. No, I have no idea why—I’m obviously awesome.”
Without college to guide me or an internship to structure my life, it feels like I’m left with nothing. Some weeks, I’m borderline nocturnal. I fight it to retain some sense of normalcy, but my late restaurant hours mix with sleepless predispositions, and next thing I know it’s 4:30 a.m. and I’m just getting ready for bed. I’ve always been a night owl, and definitely struggled with insomnia in college, but this is ridiculous. Sometimes I swear those red numbers glare at me tauntingly in the dark, ticking my life by painfully. I try to get my ass back on a normal, healthy schedule, but it’s a daily struggle. I’m going through the motions, but not getting to live the actual life. And all those bottled-up retorts to job advice have been building my internal pressure for months. I’ve officially reached my breaking point.
I think today is the first day I have actually hated it here. It was bound to happen eventually, I suppose, but I didn’t expect it to hit me quite like this. Suddenly, I feel like the city around me is cold and patronizing. I hate being sad. I hate worrying about making rent. Most of all, though, I hate hating DC….because I love DC. This is where I’m meant to be, I know it. I belong here, even if Washington disdains to recognize it yet. I think one of the best things about dating so much here is the distraction of it all. Romantic rejection is so superficial that sure, it stings, but deep down I don’t really give a shit. There are always other guys, and they’re likely cuter, smarter, and funnier. But my employment abandonment hurts far deeper. This radio silence on the job front is just breaking my heart.
Some days, all a girl can do is sit on a park bench, call her mom, and cry. So I did.
Epilogue: Like I said, that was a week ago. I actually did cry to my mom over the phone, and definitely got some glances from the few people walking their dogs in the mostly-abandoned park near my restaurant. I didn’t really care—it felt good to finally let it out. I’m not the kind of girl that cries, well… ever, really [except when I watch the movie Up; you don’t have a soul if you manage that opening montage dry-eyed]. But I also have no shame in admitting the times I do cry, and it’s definitely a part of coping with the job-hunt struggle.
Since then, my mom came for a day visit. She brought my family’s new puppy and ordered in from my favorite pho restaurant. We spent the entire rainy afternoon reworking my resume and cover letter, and I began to feel much more confident. [Cuddle time with a three-month old puppy definitely helps.] As I explained the confusing way the House and Senate job bulletins are constructed [most of the time, you don’t even know which state you’re applying for—only their partisan orientation], she asked me to pull an example up.
I brought up the Senate Employment Bulletin, and right at the top were two openings for one of my own Senators. I’ve wanted to work for my home state here in DC since I was in middle school, and email their offices every few months. They ‘have my resume on file’, but I don’t trust that. Needless to say, we both freaked out for a hot minute at the kismet of it all before knuckling down to write a stellar cover letter. Then I pulled up the emails with one of his staff from the fall, and replied to her again in addition to the general Senate email listed. Both shot back the generic ‘only applicants selected for interview will be contacted’ automated response.
The next day, I also received an email from a girl I went to grade school with and ran into months ago– she works for his office, too, and asked for my resume if interested. The fact that she remembered me and put in the effort to reach out genuinely made my week infinitely brighter. Now I have hope that I might at least be called, if not become an actual candidate for the job. Now all I can do it wait and pray with all my fingers and toes crossed.