humor

The World’s Worst Buffet: Another Dating Fail

DISCLAIMER: Names changed because we already know people I go out with once like to read this blog and leave comments six years later.

“Oh wow, someone else just recommended that book to me,” Carl smiled. “You know when you hear something twice in one week, you’ve got to pay attention!”

I grinned and nodded, sipping my can of sparkling wine. The gas fire pit cast a faint glow across our faces.

“It’s the book that got me into hiking!” I went on.

The conversation meandered from food to family to the outdoors, just as it had done the night before, on our first date.

“You guys, I’m so, so sorry to do this,” a head popped out of the tent behind us. It was my friend, Sara. “I can hear everything you’re saying; I’m so sorry. But it’s 1am and I can’t sleep.”

Photographic evidence that I actually went camping again after this experience.

“Oh my god,” I whispered back, mouth agape. “I had no idea! I’m so sorry! We’ll wrap things up right now.”

I glanced at Carl, mortified.

“I seriously thought it was like 11,” I grimaced. “Do you know how to turn this thing off?” I gestured towards the gas fire pit, which was fastened to a large propane tank.

“I think so,” he said, leaning his long, lanky frame forward to unscrew the tank.

I got up and turned off the twinkle lights that another friend had set up in the surrounding trees. Oh man, I have to pee. What is this goodbye gonna look like? I wanted Carl to kiss me, but not here, in the middle of the woods, with five friends’ tents within earshot, my bladder bursting.

“Thanks so much for inviting me to come by,” Carl said sweetly as we walked over to his car, our phone flashlights illuminating the path. “Let’s hang out again this week.”

We hugged, much less awkwardly than when he’d first arrived that night. On our first date, the evening before, we’d realized we were camping in the same location the following night. It felt like Fate, so we seized the opportunity to meet up again for dinner at my campsite. He was clearly nervous, walking into a group of five strangers – and a blonde chick he’d just met.

When I’d handed him a plate full of homemade food, I had noticed his hands were shaking.

I get it. Vegan food sounds scary – except when my friends and I are behind it. (Pictured here: one of my famous sandwiches complete with homemade muhammara. You can find the recipe in the cookbook I wrote. #crossovermarketing)

I hadn’t been on a date in over a year, and found his timidity endearing and comforting. In fact, my last blog post was about how I prefer the long game, and Carl certainly seemed like a long game kind of guy, letting me take the lead and not making any swift moves. The only downside was that we’d met on a dating app.

Somehow, in between these two blog posts, I found myself on Bumble. Okay. I strategically placed myself on said app in the hopes that I would virtually ‘bump into’ my current crush and present him with an easy way to ask me out.

“Because that’s the kind of s%@& that can happen in a small town.” -Boca Betty

Instead, I matched with Carl. His profile and photos were positive and sweet and stood out amongst the men holding dead fish, looking for a ‘swing’ partner, and/or living in a van.

And better yet, my other single girlfriends hadn’t already been out with him. #smalltownwin

By day three on Bumble, my crush no where in sight, I was about to throw in the towel when Carl sent a follow up message. I realized I couldn’t find a single good reason not to meet up with him.

“I hope this doesn’t seem too forward,” I wrote. “But I don’t think I’ll last much longer on this app; do you want to meet up for a drink tomorrow or Thursday?” We settled on Thursday, and our first date then quickly became our second.

Feeling confident that “First Date Selfie” might lead to “Second Date Smoochie”

“Oh my god, I felt so bad,” Sara said first thing in the morning, as we all sleepily emerged from our tents.

“Me too!” another friend, Rachel, chimed in. “I was trying so hard not to eavesdrop, Jules, and then I remembered I had ear plugs!”

“Are you kidding?” I laughed. “This is a dream come true! Witnesses and firsthand feedback on a date!”

“[My partner] Dan kept gripping my arm,” Sara laughed. “It was like listening to a soap opera. He thought Carl was going to invite you back to his tent!”

“So how are you feeling about him now?” Rachel asked. “What else did you talk about?”

“Oh I can tell you!” Sara said with a smile. “There was a long part about kitchen appliances.”

“Yeah, it was another titilating conversation,” I chuckled. “But I think he’s really cute.”

And I’m not just saying that because I could talk about this blender all. night. long.

“And he said he wants to see you this week,” Rachel’s fiance, Tim, added. “The fact that he specified ‘this week’ is a good sign.”

“He’s definitely into you. I can’t believe he stayed until 1am!” everyone concluded.

When I got home, I kicked myself for metaphorically sitting by the phone, twirling the phone cord, waiting for a boy to call. I’d been down this road so many times; it was impossible not to count the hours between dates and texts.

On Monday, two days after our campfire marathon, Carl texted.

“How’d the rest of your weekend go?”

We entered into a painstakingly slow back-and-forth over the next couple of days, each waiting hours before replying to the other. When is he going to ask me out for this week?!

I texted a few softballs his way and he let them crash to the ground. I tried again. In response to his sadness over summer ending, I wrote:

“So what needs to happen on Carl’s list before he can part ways with summer in peace? ;)”

“Not really sure,” he replied. “I don’t plan things out more than a week at a time. Maybe another good hike or two and another weekend of camping. Then bike riding in the fall is always amazing.”

Really? We’re going with that response, Carl?

I slapped my forehead. Good god, Carl. Help me help you. Since I’d already dated a Carl, I knew what I needed to do. I waited until the next day and took a deep breath before texting:

“I feel like you’re forgetting something important on this list… Like, I dunno, ‘hanging out with a hot blonde’?”

I included a couple of smirking emojis at the end. Less than an hour later, he replied.

“Well I would like to spend more time with you. Definitely good company to be around!”

I stared at my phone, wearing the same expression as when watching people in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Is that a bathing suit bottom or actual shorts? Before I had more than a moment to consider my reply, he sent another text.

“Although I should be upfront and say I’m not sure I feel a romantic connection between us. If being friends works for you, then great… if not I understand.”

Tears pricked my eyes and I closed them, feeling that old familiar nausea pool around my stomach. The One-Two Sucker Punch. I knew it well. I laid down in bed and let it sink in. How in the ever loving chipmunks did I -and five of my good friends- read this guy SO wrong?

I decided to share the news sooner rather than later. After unmatching him on Bumble and archiving his message thread so I didn’t have to see it in my text feed, I sent a screenshot of Carl’s final messages to several girlfriends.

“Oh thank god,” Sara wrote back. “Now I can finally say it. THAT GUY WAS SO BORING, JULES. That’s why I kept saying, ‘Yeah….but do YOU like HIM?'”

“I just told Tim and he was like, ‘Wait, HE said that to JULES?'” Rachel added.

Thank god for friends. (What? You have questions about my shirt? That’s weird.)

Two days later, I deleted Bumble, not caring that I left several people hanging. I immediately felt re-centered and relieved. I can’t help but think that the gamification of dating, the endless carousel of two-dimensional profiles that we can dismiss with the flick of an index finger, created this entire experience – along with so many similar ones for so many people.

Thanks to technology, we treat dating like a crappy buffet, wading through one disappointing dish after another. We don’t stop and savor. We don’t wonder what’s behind each ingredient. And why would we? Every second there’s another tray wandering by, and we don’t even care that it’s turning our tastebuds numb.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Do you think dating apps are the devil’s work? Discuss.

*~*~*~*~

humor

Your Clutter is in My Way

“You just need to open yourself up more.”

“You’re too guarded.”

“You’ve gotta put yourself out there.”

Over the past few years, it’s fair to say I’ve heard it all when it comes to dating advice. The well-meaning words of friends and family members rattles around as I walk my dog, drive to the grocery store, and shave my legs.

Just kidding. I don’t shave my legs. #twohairysingles (Yachats, OR, June 2021)

After coming out of a 10+ year long marriage in 2014, I experimented with everything from “All the dates!” to “Imma go hide under a blanket, thank you very much!” I had married my first boyfriend, so the dating world was a shock to the system.

And not the good kind of shock. (Charles Schulz Museum, July 2021)

I started a cycle not unlike yo-yo dieting: Put self on dating app. Engage in series of ultimately disappointing experiences. Swear off dating. Repeat.

As an introvert with stage fright, dating -especially online dating- was torture. It felt like an endless series of performances that always left me anxious and drained, often making unhealthy decisions to cope with the stress. “There has GOT to be a better way,” I’d say to myself after each exhausting date, peeling off my too-tight jeans and scrubbing away my waterproof mascara.

“Oh, he’s cute, you need to give him a chance,” some friends would urge after I’d describe another lackluster date.

Have you met me? I’d always want to respond. Since when does a guy without a box spring or a hairbrush who waits two weeks to get in touch sound like someone I’d want to pursue? I’d then inevitably spiral. I’m a snob. Uptight. Prudish. Close-minded. And worst of all: Maybe I don’t deserve better.

Someone please pray for me, I’m about to go on another date. (Sonoma Botanical Garden, July 2021)

I’d watch my pretty, extroverted, single friends meet guy after guy, rebounding quickly from any letdowns. Maybe they’re right. Maybe I need to change. What would it be like to have a one-night stand? As each thought would pop up, my stomach would tighten.

By 2019, I’d quit my corporate job and moved 3,000 miles away to a new town, sight unseen. At 37, I had finally plucked up the courage to live a life that was uniquely my own. It was terrifying. Uncertain. Magnificent.

I tried dating in this new setting, only to meet similar results. By then, it had already occurred to me that the better part of my life had been spent following footsteps down a path I didn’t want to be on in the first place. I was making the same choices as everyone around me, overlooking one critical detail: I didn’t want anyone else’s life.

And that’s something to celebrate. (My cookbook launch party, Bend, OR, July 2021)

That’s why, when I hear even the kindest and most well-intentioned, “You need to open up [to dating/men] more,” my extremely sensitive self hears (and sometimes cries in public from hearing):

“You need to change.”

“You’re missing out on the best life has to offer because of the way you inherently are.”

“All of your life experience, self-reflection, and years of therapy isn’t enough for you to know what’s best for you.”

“You will never be whole without a romantic partner.”

Interestingly, the advice almost always comes from fellow singles. Married friends are far more likely to applaud my independent streak and passion/career focus. “There’s always time for relationships. Being part of a couple isn’t the be all, end all,” many of my married friends say.

Perhaps because I started young in the marriage department, I’m excited to fill my time with other things. After a vacation this month, I couldn’t wait to get back to work on my new business. Especially as an introvert, my energy is a very finite thing, and I’ve learned to carefully protect it.

There’s a season for everything, as they say. (Yachats, OR, June 2021)

When we protect ourselves in this way, others sometimes interpret it as a kind of shutting down. We retreat to a place known only to us, and our loved ones may not understand this sacred practice. I also think it scares people when we unapologetically go against the grain. Like quitting a stable job. Going vegan. Declaring that you genuinely enjoy being alone.

Boca Betty says, “Always remembah: Othah people’s advice has everything tuh do wit them and very little tuh do wit yous.”

Still, I often wonder if all of my conviction about singlehood is rooted in defensiveness and stubbornness. A fear of getting hurt (again). All fair points I’ve extensively mined, always returning to this notion that I should only take steps that lead to the results I uniquely desire.

The path I’m carving is full of face-to-face connection, pursuing passions, friendships, and shared laughter, and what may look like guardedness towards men or strangers is often just energy preservation. When it comes to dating, I’ve intentionally chosen a quieter path. I’ve chosen the long game. This is very different from saying, “I’m closed off to love.”

I prefer to think of my decision to put dating on a back burner as a kind of decluttering. Just like I can’t relax or think straight when my tables are piled high with junk, I can’t ground myself emotionally when I let too many other opinions or too many competing priorities stack up inside of me. When I feel myself wobble from the extra noise, I’m grateful for this blog as a way to stabilize my thoughts, standing both open and firm as I share my voice.

May you always find your path through the clutter,

~*~*~*~*~*~

How do you “declutter”? What has been the hardest advice to process?

~*~*~*~*~*~

humor

I Lasted 48 Hours on Tinder

“We met on Tinder!”

“…And now we’re engaged!”

“It’s really not just a hook-up app anymore.”

In recent years, I’d heard testimonials trumpeting Tinder as, “No Longer the One Night Stand Dating App You Used to Love to Hate.” Nevertheless, given that I wasn’t a big fan of dating apps (or, let’s be honest, dating), I’d steered clear.

Two years ago, when I moved to Oregon from New Jersey, I’d been single for two years. Free from marriage, Corporate America, and east coast humidity, I decided it was time to fire up Bumble (a dating app similar to Tinder in its swiping, but where only women have the power to send the first message). Let’s see if the scene is any different now that I live 3,000 miles away from my hometown.

Arguably, it was far worse in my new, small town (as the story linked above will prove). In New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the U.S., you could go weeks without bumping into a familiar face. The likelihood of running into an ex or bad first date in Bend, Oregon, however: 113%. (Give or take.)

I quickly gave up and resumed my usual lifestyle: Friends, food, fur babies.

If only I could date him. Side note: My fur baby is famous now.

There was always the nagging thought that perhaps I’d “given up” versus consciously deciding to bow out of the dating scene.

“You’ve gotta put yourself out there!”

“It takes time to meet the right person.”

“Give him a chance!”

Despite honing my gut instinct over the past 38 years, the din of the masses still got to me. Maybe “they” all knew something I didn’t. Maybe everything I thought was right for me was just a way of protecting myself from getting hurt. Maybe I was going to DIE ALONE OH MY GOD I DON’T WANT TO DIE ALONE.

And that’s how I got sucked in -AGAIN- to downloading a dating app on my phone last week. This time, I bit the bullet and chose the infamous Tinder. I swiped right, I swiped left, and I periodically put down my phone to hide under a blanket.

As matches and messages trickled in, my heart raced. Not in the good way. More in the clammy, “it puts the lotion in the basket,” low-level dread kind of way. Okay, Jules. Maybe you’re just talking yourself out of a good thing. Maybe you need to just get a post-COVID date out of the way. Break the seal.

I fired back a couple of overly clever replies to two men. Ugh. No. I can’t do this! I don’t want to meet any of these people! Who knows who they really are?!

I’d been on enough online dates to know that, no matter how many photos and phone calls you exchange before the first meeting, you’re still going on a blind date. And does anyone really want to go on an endless series of blind dates?

NO. BECAUSE IT’S WORSE THAN SYPHILIS. Or so I’ve heard. From a friend.

Let me put it this way. The best online date pales in comparison to Netflix and pasta. And involves far more prep time.

Do you think this just happens?!

Within 48 hours, and long before I could exchange more than two short messages with anyone, I deleted my Tinder account. I briefly entertained the fantasy that some of my matches fell to their knees, shaking their fists at the heavens, crying, “WHERE DID SHE GO? WHERE?!?!?!”

A few nights later, I shared drinks with a couple of girlfriends, and the conversation turned to our exes.

“I just got this random Facebook message from my ex’s new girlfriend. Look.”

She showed us her phone, which displayed a long string of messages: “I hope you don’t mind me reaching out. I know you dated [him] a while ago and I just have to know… did you experience anything like this? He’s gotten really emotionally and verbally abusive, accusing me of cheating and calling me all of these names and I just don’t know what to do.”

My friend was too afraid to say much in response for fear that this ex had created a fake account and was in fact the one messaging her. “Oh my god he’s been doing that to me!” the new girlfriend wrote. “Creating fake accounts…stalking me…”

“I still fear for my life from one of my exes,” I chimed in. “Everyone knows who to arrest if I go missing.”

Hint: It’s not Uncle Jesse. Even though I know he’s still plotting his revenge after this haircut.

“Yes!” my friend exclaimed. “Every woman I’ve talked to has a story like this!”

A familiar feeling rose in my chest. A mix of nausea, compassion, and curiosity. All of the “scary ex” stories always made me think, “What are we [as a society] doing wrong? This can’t be the result of testosterone overload. If our male counterparts could express hurt, sadness, and fear freely, would any of this happen?”

The very next morning, I woke up to a ‘New Blog Comment’ alert. Someone from Match.com, with whom I went on one date six years ago, had commented on a blog post from 2015. I had written a post about our first (and only) date and… apparently it didn’t land well with him.

He also took the time to create a fake email address and website to leave this comment.

I scratched my head. How did he even FIND this? I don’t think I ever mentioned that I had a blog, I always change or omit names, and I try REALLY hard not to say anything seemingly cruel… In fact, I had intentionally framed the post as, “This bizarre thing happened on a first date: what would you do to handle it?” to avoid coming across like I was maligning the man.

(In a nutshell: After our first date, this fella started sending me a cappella karaoke clips he’d recorded on his phone, and some other things I wasn’t quite sure how to react to, like a LinkedIn connection request and an article he’d written many years earlier [which he copied and pasted, in its entirety, into a single text message].)

After rereading the story several times, I definitively concluded that the post was funny – and harmless. Also, half the reason I’ve suffered through dating is for the stories.

PLEASE DON’T TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME.

Still, I cringed. I’m sure it can’t be fun to stumble on a blog post about you, even if it’s innocuous (…and six years old). More than that, though, I felt that same swirling concern. Why? Why do we exist in a world where hurt and pain (or simply bruised egos) become violence, cruelty, stalking, and aggression?

Here’s a situation where I spent a few hours with someone -a perfect stranger- six years ago, never saw him again, and now I feel unsafe. Perhaps the most disturbing part is that my inner monologue shouts, “Well. You blogged about him. YOU’RE ASKING FOR IT.”

Sigh. If anyone wants a pasta and Season 4 “Breaking Bad” binge, hit me up.

Ah. That’s more like it.

~*~*~*~*~

I almost don’t want to ask this, but: Any similar stories or concerns you’d like to share? Or, what do you think we can each do to create a safer, kinder world?

~*~*~*~*~

Dating, humor, PSAs

My (Un)Funny Little Valentine

Go Jules Go Unfunny Valentine Title Graphic 12FEB20

“Tee hee!”

I glanced down. A long, white finger pressed into the soft flesh around my stomach.

“You say it!”

After a confused moment, I heard myself utter in a high-pitched voice, “Tee hee…”

My new boyfriend -the first I’d ever had, apart from the man I married (and, ten years later, divorced)- chuckled under his breath.

Frank and I were on our way to Chicago to celebrate my 32nd birthday. Living on opposite sides of the country meant a very creative “second” date, requiring several plane trips between the two of us.

eHarmony-Frank-jet
And when I say plane…

“I’m trying to decide what dress to wear.”

My mind flashed back to a month earlier, when I’d confidently stepped out of the Whidbey Island, Washington hotel bathroom in underwear and pantyhose. I was the thinnest I’d ever been in my adult life, and the future seemed to span before me like the winking promise I’d always heard it could be.

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Whidbey Island or the Isle of Misguided Dreams? You be the judge.

Frank’s eyes swept over me, a frown accentuating his already elongated face. He held up one of the padded bras that had been in my suitcase.

“I think these should be illegal. It’s false advertising.” 

“I just…don’t like having ‘the headlights on,'” I swallowed thickly and retreated into the bathroom, taken aback by the venom in his voice. I stared at my stocking-clad figure. I looked…sexy…right? I suddenly felt ridiculous. Who even wears pantyhose anymore?

On the drive to dinner that night, having decided to don my single-digit-sized new green dress, Frank told me about a recent trip to L.A. with one of his Navy buddies.

“I could never live there. The women at the bars wouldn’t even talk to us. Such snots.”

I stared out of the window.

At dinner, Frank assured me I could “go ahead and order whatever I wanted,” adding, in case I’d missed the inference, “Don’t worry about the cost.” 

eHarmony-Frank-candlelit-dinner

I smiled tightly. I’d recently been laid off from my well-paying corporate job thanks to “merger redundancies.” This was good. A guy like this never would have dated me before. You know, when I was…the F word. I mean, just last week he saw an old picture of me and said exactly that!

“Ouch!” I cried, putting a hand to my face.

“You had a chin hair,” Frank said casually, leaning back into his window seat.

My cheeks burned, the unforgiving sunlight streaming through the airplane window. First I was the Pilsbury dough boy and now I’m Tom Hanks in Castaway? I blinked back tears.

“What’s the big deal?” Frank demanded, seeing my watery eyes.

A month later, he dumped me. Via email.

~*~*~*~*~

This Valentine’s Day, I was going to make light of all of my bad dating experiences in a post entitled, “If My Actual Dating Life Were Valentines.”

I took silly photos and even joked with friends about what a gold mine this was. On Monday night, I sat down to write my brilliant Valentine quips, staring at the crimson hearts on the screen. Before long, my own heart sank. It…wasn’t funny.

Go Jules Go REAL Valentine
…Okay, it’s a little funny.

I imagined all of the other hearts out there, smiling shyly in their stockings, exposed and vulnerable. I thought of every person rationalizing shitty situations because feelings of “less than” ate away their confidence. Smart, funny, kind people who might also entertain the truly insane idea that some jackass in aviator sunglasses was tied to their wellbeing.

eHarmony-Frank-duck-tour
What a quack of sh*t.

Despite what you might believe after reading this, I love Valentine’s Day. I don’t love the commercialization or the temptation to feel lonely, I just love love, and choose to embrace any excuse to celebrate it.

On this Valentine’s Day, in a brand new decade, wherever you are and in whatever circumstances you find yourself, I hope you’ll accept this embarrassingly sincere post as a tiny token of my love for you.

And if anyone so much as lays a g.d. FINGER on your chin hair, so help me baby Jesus Tom Hanks, you have my permission to bludgeon them with a jumbo-sized tube of Pilsbury crescent rolls.

Aunty Go Jules Go Valentine

~*~*~*~*~

Blogging

A Slice of Life Pie

Go Jules Go Title Graphic A Slice of Life Pie_5NOV2019

Oh man, chipmunks.

I am STUFFED.

How long has it been since we talked? …Three weeks?!

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Well, this is awkward…

I’m so sorry. My pie plate hath spilleth over lately.

Go Jules Go Life Pie

Between training for a half marathon, flying to NJ to surprise Babs for her birthday, dating, job interviews (…hang on, are those last two redundant?), helping throw Bend’s first Vegan Holiday Bazaar, filming for The Vegan Dollar, and getting ready to move to a new apartment…

…this poor little blog has been left to collect dust.

And after all we’ve been through…

This flurry of recent activity has me thinking about that third date where, instead of kissing me, he gave me part of a giant zucchini to take home “life’s inflection points,” as one of my friends calls it. Those crossroads we all hit and know -sometimes with certainty, oftentimes not- our next move could change the course of our entire lives.

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Know what I’m saying?

Six years ago, almost exactly, I made the painful decision to get a divorce from the only man I’d ever dated. At the same time, I was laid off and selling my home; everything I thought I wanted dissolved seemingly overnight. What I couldn’t know at the time was that that difficult choice laid the foundation for a life filled with authenticity, genuine connections, and endless compassion.

Doing something that went against the grain awoke the fiercely independent thinker I didn’t realize had been lulled into complacency. Over the following years, I made dozens of other eyebrow-raising decisions, each one uncovering The Real Jules.

Six years ago, I never could have imagined that that one tough decision would ultimately lead to living my dream life – a life designed by listening to that oh-so-quiet, but ever persistent, inner nudging that says, “Remember who you are.”

Now who’s ready for some pie?!

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Just like in life, first you gotta do the dirty work.

~*~*~*~*~*~

What would you consider your “life’s inflection points”? Did you recognize them at the time?

~*~*~*~*~*~

Dating, PSAs

I’ve Hit the Shallow End

DISCLAIMER: Names have been changed because this is a very, very small town.

Go Jules Go title graphic_Ive hit the shallow end_21AUG2019

What’s that? How’s my dating life going, you ask?

Well, after the guy who yelled at me and the guy who scarred my friend for life, things started looking up. A few days ago, I attended a community event and an attractive man looked very familiar. Had he been there last month? Was he someone I might have briefly met through an acquaintance?

“Hey Carrie,” I whispered to my friend. “Who is that guy? I swear I know him. Oh my god, wait, I think he just ‘liked’ me last week on my dating app!”

What were the chances? Maybe this small town thing could work for me after all! The fact that we were at the same event meant we already had a few key things in common. Score!

Carrie, in typical Carrie fashion, smiled demurely and said between her teeth, “I’ll tell you about him later.” Her eyes widened by a fraction of an inch and I nodded conspiratorially.

I kept my distance and Carrie texted me after the night ended, including a link to a social media frenzy.

Turns out my latest prospect was suspected of first degree murder.

Go Jules Go Title Graphic Dodged a Bullet Possibly Literally_31JUL2019
Oregon is a lot bigger than New Jersey, from where I just moved. The dating options, however, ah, well, may not reflect this.

“Make sure you text all of your friends before you go on any dates!” Carrie reminded me warmly.

Thankfully, I’ve been too tied up with visiting friends and family to fraternize with Oregon’s Most Wanted.

I thought back to the prior week, when I’d invited another dating app fellow, Adam, to join me for happy hour with a few friends. He had been visiting to see if he’d like to move here, and we had all regaled him with our own Relocating Success Stories. Adam had been smart, laughed at my jokes, had had an adorable rescue dog, and looked like Darren Criss.

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For those of you who are new here, I’ve been blogging about my Darren Criss obsession infatuation totally healthy crush since 2011.

Adam had texted a few times afterwards, but I’d suspected wasn’t going to move here. Would I ever meet someone swoon-worthy who actually lived in my town? Or did I just keep upping my sidewalk chalk game with the neighbors?

This picture really doesn’t do us justice.

Then there was the Australian gentleman who bought my groceries for me this weekend when my debit card acted up. Yes, that’s a thing that happens here, because I live in Shangri-La. Unfortunately, he was my father’s age.

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And I’ve had enough therapy for one lifetime.

So what’s my next move? Well, considering I signed a year lease, it won’t involve another physical move.

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And seriously. Who the f&@* would ever leave this place?

You know what? I think I’m just gonna hold out until Darren Criss gets a divorce.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Has your dating life ever been so rife with the criminal element? That, much like, “Are you, grooming facility, accepting new dog clients?” is a question I never thought I’d ask until I moved to central Oregon.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Dating

I Dodged a Bullet. Possibly Literally.

DISCLAIMER: Names and identifying features have been altered or hidden to protect… ME. TO PROTECT *ME*! ME, okay?!

Go Jules Go Title Graphic Dodged a Bullet Possibly Literally_31JUL2019

“It was the best first date I’ve ever been on. …Not that that’s saying much,” I shouted in my friend’s ear.

Sara turned away from the stage and grinned at me.

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I swear. There’s live music EVERY. NIGHT. in this town.

“Let me see his picture!”

I hesitated. “They don’t really do him justice… He’s REALLY cute. And tall! And has great teeth.”

I thought back to the previous evening. I had walked into a popular restaurant, the usual butterflies-or-is-that-just-dread filling my stomach, and a handsome guy had grinned at me expectantly.

Nope. Wrong color hair. Not him. …Shoot.

Further down, I had spotted a familiar face.

“Jules, hi!” the man had greeted.

I had been pleasantly surprised by his, well, everything.

“So you just moved here?” he had begun, and the conversation had flowed from there.

I had been in shock. A tall, attractive man, in his 30s like me, financially and hygienically sound, AND he had known how to ask questions? Well, I’ll be. A normal first date!

I had had to shake off the memory of my only other first date in my new hometown. Maybe the Oregon dating pool really would put New Jersey’s to shame! Please don’t do anything weird, please don’t do anything weird

The date had lasted a record-breaking four hours, and ended on the promising note of future hang-outs.

“But my gut is still saying no,” I had texted to a few friends. “It was like hugging my brother goodbye.”

I had wanted to slap myself. What was wrong with me? Over the next 24 hours, I wrestled with whether or not to text him. He had left the ball in my court, and the decision to reach out felt like trying to decide between Oreos or Nutter Butters.

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Don’t make me choose my own Fate! DON’T MAKE ME CHOOSE MY OWN FATE!

“Come on, show me his picture!” Sara insisted.

I reluctantly pulled out my phone and found his online dating profile, holding it out to her.

“JULES. OH MY GOD. NO. NO!” she shouted, staring at me with wide eyes.

“What. What?!” I replied, my heart stopping.

“THIS IS THE GUY I TOLD YOU ABOUT,” she said. “HE’S. CRAZY.”

Sara started recounting details – details fresh in my mind because she had indeed told me the tale several weeks earlier when we’d first met and exchanged dating war stories.

Yup. She too had been out with my tall, handsome, “normal” guy.

“He’s the rage-a-holic who told me to buy Magnum condoms and badmouthed his ex the ENTIRE TIME! MY WORSE DATE EVER! ”

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I found this while walking home from another local concert. Apparently I’m not going to need it.

I scooped my jaw off the floor. “Oh my god! I’m showing you every photo from now on! Jesus. This IS a small town.”

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“What? Are you kidding? HE HAS GUNS. You saved me!”

Her face crumpled a little more.

“I’m so sorry that was your best first date!”

I burst out laughing. “I told you it wasn’t saying much.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

What do you think? Should I give him another shot (pun, um, actually NOT intended, but now that it’s out there…)?

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Dating, humor, PSAs

I Swore I Wouldn’t Do This.

Go Jules Go I Swore I Wouldn't Do This title graphic 17JUL2019

“I love you!”

My heart skipped a beat. It was another perfect, sunny summer day in Bend, Oregon. Around every corner of my new Pacific Northwest home, I seemed to find magic.

Instant friendships…

…Google Pixel 3 camera porn…

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Gourmet vegan food

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And now this? The L bomb? The only thing missing in my life?

When I arrived in Oregon four weeks ago, I was still on the fence about dating. And not just because I publicly denounced it earlier this year.

More because of this memory. And this one. And this one. And this one. And this one…okay I’ll stop now.

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Aw, but we were having so much fun!

Nevertheless, after 2+ years on the No Dating bandwagon, the temptation to peek at what was out there, 3,000 miles from the men with whom I’d repeatedly failed (please refer to links 1 to 1,373 listed above), proved too much to resist.

“All riiiiiight,” I groaned on the phone to my friend, Shawna. “I’ll try Bumble. AGAIN.”

And thus, with a trembling index finger, I downloaded a dreaded dating app on my hitherto untainted phone.

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Did I mention I love this phone? (It took this photo of Mt. Bachelor from the now-nearby Green Lakes trail.)

This time, though, I decided I’d cut right to the chase. “If you want to meet for coffee or beer sometime, let me know!” my initial messages read. (In the Bumble world, the women always make the first move.)

If the Bend, Oregon Bumble selection were an ocean filled with fish… No. I can’t even finish that metaphor. Because we are not talking “ocean.” We are talking lake. No. Still not right. Pond. Teeny, tiny pond.

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What I’m trying to say is…there weren’t a lot of fish. Hmm. Maybe I should try Plenty of Fish.

I didn’t have a lot of time to dive in because almost as soon as I got to Oregon, I was off to Boot Camp. I returned to a message from “Dave” that made me laugh. (And if there’s one thing I promised myself, were I to ever dip a toe in the treacherous dating waters again, it was: He gots to bring it with the ha-ha’s.)

I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I scrolled through his photos again. F my life. I read his message again. I laughed again. OKAY FINE.

Two days later, I pulled into a brewery parking lot right on time and saw a guy leaning on the fence. That might be him

I sent a text, “Just got here!”

The guy in question looked down at his phone, so I hopped out of my car and walked over with a wide smile and outstretched hand. Something immediately felt off, but I followed him inside.

“I’m excited to try this place!” I offered.

“Yeah yeah yeah, they have some good stuff! I always get the Sweet Ass.”

I snorted, spotting a sign that read, “Sweet As! Pacific Ale.”

He talked quickly and didn’t make eye contact, but offered to buy my beer. We were well within the happy hour timeframe, so I thanked him and we took our selections outside, where there was an impressively grassy outdoor area and live music revving up.

“Yeah so you just moved here, huh? Yeah?” he said as we sat down.

I eyed him closely. Coke. It’s gotta be coke. Or is he just that nervous?! The next two hours were filled with frenetic conversation, me asking question after question. He talked about his Aunt. A lot. And a former tenant of his garage apartment.

“Wow, so the guy just left after that?!” I asked.

“Let me finish the story!” he said in a tone so scathing I put a hand to my heart.

“I’m so sorry!” I gasped, completely thrown.

“No worries,” he gulped his beer and carried on.

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Annnnd more good hair: WASTED.

When the two hour Suffer Fest was over, I pulled into my driveway, debating whether or not I should try to still salvage the night. Just then, someone came running up from the house next door, bouncing around the side of my car until she could give me a hug.

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I love you, too, Audrey.

I decided to stay right where I was.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Any advice, or can I finally marry my dog?

~*~*~*~*~*~

Blogging, Dating, PSAs

Why I’m Never Dating Again

DISCLAIMER: Names changed because it’s fun to rename people you’ve never met.

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“I don’t have a lot of experience with girls. I mean, like, verrry little.”

Looking back, I probably should have dropped my fork and run. But he was so funny. And had great hair.

It was late March 2015, and Adam was the ninth person I’d met during my 10 first dates in 10 weeks online dating phase. I never made it to the tenth. Our first date lasted nearly six hours, over dinner and drinks at a local gastro pub. (And by gastro pub I mean restaurant that features 117 kinds of beer, dramatically mustachioed waiters and duck confit sliders.)

At 35, Adam was a few years older than I was, animated and full of fun stories. When a position in the arts failed to cover the bills, he settled for manual labor alongside his father, work he described with hilarious disdain. If I had had to guess, I’d have said he’d probably just moved out of his parents’ basement within the past year.

“Next time we’re going to have to go to [the notoriously cheap local Mexican restaurant],” he said after I ordered my third drink (I did mention we were there for six hours, right?).

“Why?”

“I won’t be able to afford your hollow leg!”

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Well I need SOMETHING to drown out the memory of first dates #1-8.

At the end of the night, I insisted on paying, knowing I’d racked up an impressive tab with my multiple martinis and tuna tartare compared to his two beers and burger. As with most first dates, I left feeling both energized and drained, and still very much on the fence.

We texted incessantly, and by the end of our second date, I found myself saying, “I reallllly like you” before kissing him. He had been so nervous, I was surprised by how naturally he reacted.

On our third date, we got lost in the subway.

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Sign you don’t want to see when you’re supposed to be IN Manhattan.

Still, I wrestled with my resolve to keep dating. Meeting strangers and immediately auditioning them for Future Life Partner, or at the very least, Tonsil Hockey Teammate, seemed…WEIRD to me. Maybe because my dating life didn’t begin in earnest until 31 – after my divorce. I had married my first real boyfriend, someone I’d known through work for almost two years before we’d started dating, and we had been together for over ten years.

Nevertheless, in early 2014, newly single, I dove headfirst into two back-to-back relationships via eHarmony, eventually burned and defeated by both. “Gotta get back in the game!” was the conventional wisdom, and since I’d yet to become the baller, independent thinker you see before you today, I went with it. “10 First Dates in 10 Weeks,” I called it.

Big mistake.

Really big.

Just…no.

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I cannot believe how many pictures I have from this phase that never before made it on this blog.

After that, I entered one more relationship courtesy Match.com that was nice, but not right for me. It was mid-2017 by then and I realized I needed a break. I needed to finish grad school and focus on my passions. I dove headfirst into my thesis, met amazing new people, and lined up an exciting array of adventures for 2019 (heh, stay tuned).

Is that the reason I’m glad I’m single this Valentine’s Day? …Kind of. Have I noticed that I haven’t gone on a date in almost two years? …Sorta. Am I EVER going to date again?

…No.

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And not just because I want to mainline leftover french fries in peace.

That’s right. You heard me. At some point in 2018 it occurred to me that I wasn’t getting the results I wanted because I was following someone else’s rules. No wonder I was burnt out, frustrated, confused. I thought I just hadn’t found the right app, or tried hard enough, when in fact I was simply looking in all the wrong places. It was so obvious I couldn’t believe I’d missed it:

The only men I’d ever loved were friends first. Including my ex-husband.

Real friends. Friends for the sake of being friends. We weren’t trying each other on to see if we fit. We weren’t grilling each other over craft beer with sweaty palms and sky-high stakes.

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Or to get a blog post out of it. (…Who, me?)

We connected over shared laughs, common interests and similar goals. Our paths crossed naturally, and over time, we confided in each other, deepened our trust and developed genuine love. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about.

So did Adam become a real friend? No. But he certainly was the closest to one I found during my 10 9 First Dates in 10 Weeks, and he reminded me of what I really wanted. He reminded me that I need to see someone’s heart and soul before I feel comfortable sharing my most vulnerable self.

I admire those who can bare it all sooner, who can meet new people and embrace the uncertainty. I have girlfriends who relish getting to a new city and firing up Bumble. To them, it’s fun and exciting. For me, it’s a fate worse than death a chipmunk-less world.

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Wait, what?

The choice to never date again probably sounds dramatic and sad to those folks. When I made the decision last year? I’d never felt more relieved.

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Meet my Valentine’s Day plans.

~*~*~*~*~

How do you feel about dating? About being single (or not) this Valentine’s Day?

~*~*~*~*~

Blogging, Dating

I Love You, But I’m Not In Love With You

DISCLAIMER: Names changed to protect the innocent guilty.

Go Jules Go title graphic I love you but I'm not in love with you_6FEB2019

I was 18 years old when my life began.

One balmy summer day, after all the Y2K dust had finally settled, a young, auburn-haired woman walked into the local bookstore where I worked. Meg. The new hire. Her sundress flapped against ivory legs as she took the new hardcovers to the front of the shop.

We were fast friends, chatting in between placing orders and ringing up customers.

“You were maaaade for retail,” she teased, quoting one of our most recent patrons while I rolled my eyes.

I’d gotten the full-time job the same year I’d earned my GED. By the time I met Meg, I was taking classes at the local community college, my sights set on screenwriting. Bullied for glasses, braces and a few spare chins, I had eventually been homeschooled. I sometimes wondered if old soul really meant late bloomer.

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Just because I CHOSE to spend Date Night at our store’s Friday night book signings doesn’t mean I…never mind.

Meg regaled me with sordid tales of her past: running away from home, men calling in the middle of the night begging for forgiveness, operatic dreams dashed, sex, drugs and rock and roll.

“You need a little fun in your life,” she said one night as we sipped Sangria at a local bar. She was five years older than I and seemed to know all the places with lenient carding policies.

In March, one month before my 19th birthday, Meg and I took our shoes off in the mud room of her parents’ colonial and walked into the small, dated kitchen, just like we’d done countless times before. Blue painted cabinets and faded wallpaper enveloped us. Despite its age, everything in the house was spotless.

And there he was.

“Gem,” he greeted. (“Meg” spelled backward.) His deep voice rumbled with affection.

The figure sitting at the small round table, munching away on carrot and celery sticks, shared Meg’s fair skin and smile, but had much darker brown hair and eyes. Goodbye Justin Timberlake, hello…

“Ben, this is Jules. Jules, Ben.”

Meg’s twin brother. The apple of her eye. He grinned widely, eyes sparkling.

In addition to sharing physical similarities with his twin, Ben also shared Meg’s intelligence, musical ability and sense of humor. He’d graduated college two years earlier with a degree in psychology, but his true passion was film, giving us plenty in common. He had a serious girlfriend, but she didn’t like his friends, which meant every time I saw him, he was alone.

And suddenly he was everywhere.

The next time we met, we talked for over an hour. The third time, he sprung up and gave me a giant bear hug. His solid frame pressed against me and I lost my breath. I’d never been held like that.

That same night he stopped me from leaving by saying, “That Train CD you gave Meg is really awesome.”

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YES, MY BEST STORIES INVOLVE A TIME WHEN WE STILL LISTENED TO ACTUAL COMPACT DISCS. F*#%.

We stood in the laundry room of a friend’s house, in a holding pattern between the door out, for me, and the door back in, for him. We chatted for a few minutes about music.

“Well…goodnight,” I said eventually.

He stepped forward and this time I was ready for it. I lifted my arms so his were forced to circle my waist.

“You give good hugs,” I murmured.

He gave a throaty chuckle and squeezed me even more tightly.

Over the following months, the conversations and hugs grew longer. And longer. But he never made a pass, and I was sure I was imagining things.

Finally, in November, buoyed by quitting a toxic babysitting job, I emailed Ben. “I think there’s something between us,” I wrote, heart racing. “You’re completely amazing, and I wish you all the best life has to offer,” I went on. “I’m just afraid -and my ultimate point lies here- that you won’t realize when it’s being offered to you.”

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The face I make every time I remember this email.

That was Thursday. On Sunday, Ben replied. It was the longest three days of my life. He explained that his lack of response indicated “slight discomfort” because, while he enjoyed my company just as much, it was in “a different way.” He ended by saying he hoped that we could “continue to chill.”

I was devastated. Humiliated. Yet some part of me wasn’t willing to accept his words. And because of that, our friendship deepened. I was sure if I waited long enough, and tried hard enough, I’d get the thing I wanted most.

Six months later, at 3:00am one May, standing outside his parents’ house, Ben kissed me.

“I thought it was all in my head,” I breathed.

“It’s not,” he replied, brown eyes blazing. He held me and stared deep into my eyes, like he always did.

“I tried to figure out if I just wasn’t pretty enough or smart enough or funny enough,” I gushed. The words were out before I could censor them. I didn’t care.

“That’s ridiculous,” he reassured me.

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Right?

The following year was speckled with a few more kisses, a couple of midnight confessions, and an endless series of marathon hugs. He loved me, and said I was one of his best friends, but he was never ready to leave his girlfriend and accept all I was willing to give.

Before I knew it, I was 21, tipsy, and begging Ben not to leave a party. He did.

And that was the moment.

The moment I decided to let myself fall in love with someone else. Someone I’d known a long time. Someone who, as it turns out, loved me back.

Meg once told me, when I finally confessed how I felt about her brother, “Your loving Ben has a purpose, if only to make you see how much you deserve in love.”

And she was right. Without Ben, I never would have known how to appreciate that love that’s meant for you is easy. Simple. Happy.

Any time someone talks about “Most Embarrassing Moments,” I think of that email I sent to Ben 17 years ago. I cringe. I blush. I bury my head in my hands. But actually, I love that girl. She put it all out there, fear be damned.

And guess what?

I’m still the same girl.

~*~*~*~*~*~