ciara’s rules for dating

i just linked to this dumb article on the “new york times” website on facebook:

it’s a modern love column, so duh, of course it’s stupid. but basically the upshot is that these two young people (in their 20s) were in a long-distance relationship & they decided not to have sex with each other for a whole year to try to make their love stronger or something. but then when they tried having sex again, it was just really awkward & then i think the dude joined a cult or something. i admit, i had kind of checked out by the end of the article. maybe they went to bali?

anyway, it made me think about how dumb these kids were. not that i am so old at the tender age of 34, but i do have a baby, & i have been with my partner for like six & a half years now. so i can tell you that being super-interested in having sex with your foxy personal companion really isn’t something that you should take for granted. particularly when you are young & unencumbered. strike while the iron is hot! because someday you are seriously going to consider just going to bed in the ratty old pajama pants your baby peed on earlier that day because a) the pee spot is probably dry by now, & b) opening the pajama drawer for a fresh pair is just too much effort.

it also made me think about all the dumb relationships i had when i was on my 20s just because i guess it didn’t really occur to me that i don’t have to date someone just because they like me. with some of these yahoos, i really don’t know what i was thinking. one of my first really serious relationships was with this guy who just saw me at work one day, walked up to me, & asked me out. i assumed he was a serial killer because i assumed that everyone was a serial killer, i guess. so i was like, “um. no.” but he was really persistent & was all, “give me a chance. just one date. come on. tonight. when do you get off work?” i didn’t get off work that night until 11pm & i told him so. & obviously i wasn’t going to do anywhere with a probable-serial killer at 11pm. but he was like, “great, i’ll meet you outside at 11pm.”

i worked at powell’s then, which is a super-giant bookstore with several exits, including secret employees-only exits. so i snuck out one of these & started to make my way home. but he saw me from around the corner or something & was like, “great! let’s get pizza! my treat!” & i agreed because, hey, free food.

he was not a serial killer in any way, but he was really boring. he was really into bicycle racing. he would enter these races that required him to ride bikes up & down mountains. i don’t really like bikes or mountains so this was all so boring for me. & he would do weird stuff like buy a new carbon fiber bike frame to reduce his drag or whatever & be like, “lift it! it’s really light!” so i’d lift it & it was really light, like seriously less than two pounds or something, & he’d say, “it’s so light even you can lift it!” like, hello. he met me at MY WORK, which required me to climb ladders while holding thirty pounds of books & push heavy carts weighing like three hundred pounds. not that i’m the incredible hulk, but obviously i can lift two pounds.

the whole time we were dating, i wanted to break up with him, because he was just not the dude for me & i knew it. for example, i guess his grandfather owned a screen door company, & he had this photo of his grandfather standing around the factory with one of the employees. the photo was taken in like 1974 & the employee was straight up wearing this enormous wide-brimmed purple hat with a peacock feather in it & a floor-length brocade jacket with fur collar & rhinestone sunglasses. i’m not sure how this look met OSHA safety standards, but whatever. maybe it was the guy’s day off. because yeah–it was a guy employee. AMAZING, right? & i was like, “what’s with this photo?” & Lame Boyfriend was like, “oh, that’s my grandfather with one his screen door factory employees,” & it was obvious immediately that the wicked old orville redenbacher-looking motherfucker was the grandpa but i decided to be funny & was like, “oh, i didn’t know your grandfather was a pimp.” & Lame Boyfriend was so offended by this that he cried.

anyway, the whole time i was dating Lame Boyfriend, i had this wicked crush on this other dude, but i am a woman of honor so i knew i had to do something about Lame Boyfriend before i could pursue Cool Dude. but i am just terrible at breaking up with people. i kept not doing it & not doing it, even though Lame Boyfriend gave me AMPLE OPPORTUNITIES with his non-stop Parade of Lame Behavior. like the time he bumped into someone he knew on the street & craftily did not introduce me & told me later that it was because my blue cardigan didn’t quite match the blue rhinestones on my dress. like, dude, i am wearing a RHINESTONE-ENCRUSTED DRESS, i hardly think the color of the cardigan is relevant!

anyway, finally he broke up with me & the reason he gave was twofold. 1) i’m not jewish. did i ever say i was? what the fuck. 2) i’m not interested in physics. i mean, the heart wants what it wants & all. kudos to him for knowing what he really wanted in a long-term partner & deciding that a shiksa who never graduated high school & called his grandfather a pimp isn’t it.

but THEN i went on this month-long community organizing trip in montana & while i was there, he wrote me a 17-PAGE LETTER detailing exactly why he didn’t want to date me. it contained a really long “moby dick” metaphor that i wish i could remember because i bet it was both terrible & revealed the fact that he never actually read “moby dick”. & it spent a lot of time comparing me against his high school girlfriend, who was ultimately more what he was after because she had “feminine long hair” & was “deferential to the men in her life”. good thing he wrote that shit in a letter because saying it to my face would be grounds for a good old-fashioned face-punching, amirite?

anyway, generally i don’t like to talk smack on exes, & i don’t like it when other people do it, because, hello, you dated the person. if they are really so terrible, that kind of reflects poorly on you too, you know? & also, for all of my complaining about how jared squirrels tupperware away in his bag & has the audacity to commit such grievous crimes as not recycling his receipts in a prompt manner, he’s a pretty awesome dude, so anyone who came before him isn’t really worth mentioning. i certainly don’t care about any of his exes. (even though a few of them have caused me great drama.) & i definitely wouldn’t smile fondly upon him if he started ruthlessly trashing them.

but damn! i did make some poor dating choices when i was younger, & sometimes thinking about them is pretty funny. sometimes it’s just mortifying, like when i am thinking about things i actually did wrong. & i fully cop to doing a few things really, really wrong. i said/did some shit that i would legit like to apologize for, if it wasn’t for a) the weirdness of tracking down someone i dated ten years ago & being like, “hey, remember this thing that you probably totally forgot? sorry, dude.” & b) my worst behavior was inspired by even more terrible behavior on the part of the other person & i don’t see any apologies coming my way. not that two wrongs make a right, but you know.

sometimes i think about what life lessons i hope to pass on to ramona by the time she reaches adulthood, & i really hope i can teach her that it’s okay to bail out on a romantic relationship that just isn’t doing it for her. just get out! there are other fish in the sea! there’s no need to stick around with the totally lame fish who stood you up because he got black-out drunk with his roommates just because you feel bad for him. that’s not the foundation for a happy relationship. though maybe it’s the foundation for some funny stories once you get some hindsight in there. but even that kind of violates one of my Rules of Dating Etiquette:

1) talking shit on an ex might be fun & hilarious, but ultimately it just makes you look bad for dating such a joker/psycho/whatever.

2) any “i love you”s that are exchanged during the first three to six months are straight up emotional manipulation. get out!

3) if you want to have sex with someone, & they want to have sex with you, & everyone is of the age of consent…just do it.

4) all that shit about “you can’t date that person, that’s my ex” or whatever is bullshit. ignore it. date who you want. anyone who tries to pull rank on you is an asshole.

5) it’s easier to get mad than to feel sad, but it’s important to let yourself feel sad if that’s how you feel. you need to get that shit out or you’ll just carry it around forever. that is relevant to more than just dating, obviously.

6) sometimes it’s okay to go to bed mad. you probably won’t be as angry in the morning.

7) if you like someone…maybe just let them know. trying to be all cool & guess at what they might be into will probably not really work & you’ll just regret the fact that you weren’t straight with them. which i guess goes back to #5, & the point is basically, being vulnerable is scary but it beats a lifetime of regret.

8) if you feel like you need to monitor your partner’s cell phone/email/social media presence/whatever in order to make sure they’re not stepping out on you…just cut your losses & get out.

9) if your partner is monitoring your cell phone/email/social media presence/whatever, get out get out now for the love of god! i mean, maybe you really are a cad, but if that’s who you are in your heart, all the monitoring in the world isn’t going to stop you so just stop pretending & torturing this person who is taking such drastic steps to try to tie you down.

10) no pet names in public.

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

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