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Katie Heaney and Friends

With a night focusing on “the total agony and creeping insanity of dating,” you know it’s gonna be good.

And indeed, this was one of the most hilarious literary events I’ve ever been to. Five fantastic storytellers gathered at Housing Works on Wednesday to celebrate the publication of Kate Heaney’s recent memoir, NEVER HAVE I EVER, about her life (so far) as a singleton. Chiara Atik, author of the rather excellent MODERN DATING: A FIELD GUIDE, moderated.

In order, here are the highlights:

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vali-dating

So, I spent the wee hours of my Saturday morning not hungover in bed like the rest of the city but enthusiastically cruising the internet for some inspiration like the shameless nerd that I am. I love HowAboutWe.com (and in a dreamworld, will write for them when I move to NYC later this year). Well, today I stumbled across one of their articles that piqued my interest mostly because I know so many people who fall victim to the phenomenon: vali-dating. According to them, vali-dating occurs when you start seeing someone just so you can mentally fist-pump yourself and whisper “I still got it!” AKA your invested interest in the other person is minimal and disingenuous. You are leading them on for the sake of your own ego.

However, HowAboutWe discusses vali-dating within the context of boosting our cred by hooking up with hot people. I’m going to take it one step further and suggest that we don’t just vali-date to cushion our sexual histories with smokeshows that make us transitively more attractive, but that we vali-date for, well, actual validation (sad).

Regardless of how fiercely you defend your single status, there’s something so gratifying about entering the weekend on someone’s arm, even if just for a couple weeks. Often the mere prospect of having someone shields you from all their actual flaws and incompatibilities: you’re just thankful to take a break from being the token single friend, even if for a few damn days. Once this person has been paraded around your group of friends, you’ll no longer vali-date them because they’ve served their purpose: you’ve proven to the outside world (and also the dark, insecure crevices of your heart) that you’ve still got it and you’re a commodity, damn-it!

It is cruel and incredibly self-serving to use another individual for our own personal gain. However, I think relying on the object of our affections for validation is more common than we’d like to admit (re: any committed person who endures a relationship way past its expiration date for fear of being alone AKA my biggest pet peeve ever and a whole other blog entry). So like HowAboutWe, I don’t condone vali-dating but acknowledge it as being “out there,”  if nothing else than to raise awareness so that the next time sexy-neighbor-guy dates you for three fast weeks during football season in order to show you off at tailgates in front of the ex-girlfriend who he still loves, you’ll immediately recognize that he’s vali-dating you. Now you’ll know better.

howaboutwe.com
HowAboutWe: Why Women Look More Like "Girlfriend Material" In The Fall

Maybe it’s because women just look… smarter in the fall. Look, everyone – men and women – seems dumb as hell in the summer – drunk on shitty beer in the afternoon, wearing flip flops, shirtless or in tube tops, holding a frisbee, and singing the new Pitbull jam at the top of their lungs. Summer is the season of stupidity. When it’s back to school time, women’s style of dress has a more academic leaning. A be-scarfed and be-blazered woman makes me think, “One game of Scrabble will not be enough with this one. We’ll need many games of Scrabble over a series of lazy Sundays in order to understand the nuances of each other’s love of language.“

ain't nothin but mammals

At the Plex, we talk about “pheromones” way too often to be considered normal. When discussing the guys we like, we often have a difficult time articulating what it is that makes us want to jump their particular bones as bad as we do. So we chalk most of that “je ne sais quoi” up to, well, pheromones. When it doubt, default to biology, right?

Apparently the invention of female Viagra was a massive failure because, as it turns out, it takes more than a simple topical gel to arouse a thing as complicated and ambiguous as the female sex drive. A). Duh? and B). A gel? Really? But putting the pheromones generalization aside and really trying to evaluate what it is about men that gets us all fired up, it becomes quite clear how specific libidos are to each girl. Howaboutwe.com agrees, yet asserts that a love potion of “musical talent, pine needle, gentleness around children, and smoldering eye contact” is a good start.

Along the same lines, the Plex brainstormed a rough list of what exactly gloms us on to you guys (think baser instincts, not relationshippy crap) and we were able to agree on some things: 

  • Old Spice
  • “Blue collar labor”
  • The holding of babies
  • Understated chivalry (re: protect your woman)
  • Flannel
  • ~60/40 balance of hair-pulling/hair-stroking (interpret this as you will)
  • Scent of firewood
  • Brawn (re: the Brawny guy)

This was about as far as we got, ultimately showing that we just can’t resist an occasionally-sensitive alpha-male along the vein of “lumberjack.” We also realize that at the end of the day, it’s not only impossible to verbalize what it is that turns us on, but it’s different for all of us. Whereas one girl might get her rocks off over a stock broker in a power-suit, another might totally dig a dirty guy in a beanie (aka, me). But it’s not even about “types;” it honestly comes down to those good ol' pheromones. A guy can be straight fire in the looks department as well as incredibly charismatic and successful, but if he doesn’t have that thing, it’s not gonna happen.

Are guys’ libidos this difficult to understand? Something tells me, no.

here's the thing.

I recently perused another piece on HowAboutWe.com about “things.” They claim that we all have the one thing, one neurosis that serves as our primary social defect, simultaneously annoying our friends while driving any potential love prospects over the hills and far, far away. Well, I sent an e-mail out to my girlfriends requesting that they shoot me straight: what is my thing. Their answers didn’t shock me in the slightest and can be summarized with something along the lines of:

  • Self-sabotage 
  • Pushing guys away and being emotionally unavailable even if they really like you and you like them too

HOWEVER, one friend in particular had a more in-depth interpretation of my thing:

  • You need answers immediately..and if they don’t have a response you become panicked to show ‘that side of you’ that you like to keep to yourself.  With your family and friends everyone looks up to you and respects your opinion. In someways your the ringleader. So with men, when they don’t let you be in control (ie not gettin in touch when they said they would, not following thru) it makes you feel out of control which is unnatural for you. You’ve been the boss since you were 3 lovey. The thing about boys……. They like to be the boss too. 

Soo what you guys are saying is that I’m an unreachable, self-fulfilling prophecy of a person who likes to be in control at all times. I’d say it’s pretty spot on, if nothing else judging by the titles of some unfinished blog entries I recently stumbled across including “How To Self-Sabotage & Destroy Everything” as well as “Think It’s Too Good to Be True? You’re Right.” Yikes.

We all have our things and while mine may be darker and twistier than a simple “you wear too much perfume and that’s why you’re single,” I’d say I’m in pretty good shape because these revelations are nothing I didn’t already know about myself. I own my thing (and I’m motioning the “you go girl” snaps).

I’d even go so far as to say that our things are what make us endearing to the people who love us. They are the noticeable quirks that set us apart from the crowd and while they can be problematic at times, it’s our partners’ acceptance of those things (and perhaps even an effort to work through them) that solidifies a healthy, evolving relationship.

So I don’t know. Maybe our things aren’t so bad as long as we develop some awareness around them. Didn’t Drake say, “You say you got baggage? Well I’m packed too.” We’ve all got 'em so as long as yours isn’t a Patrick Bateman-esque propensity towards a hideously terrifying double life, I’d say it’s cool to relax a little bit about it.