Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Relationships

Wish I May, Wish I Might

I’ve been going down the rabbit hole in the archives of Captain Awkward and Ask A Manager, and I recently realized it’s because they’re my version of soap operas. I don’t mean that in a denigrating way because there are real people writing those letters and real people commenting. I mean it in the sense of watching the communities interact is fascinating from a psychological perspective, and it’s now my joke if only to myself that it’s time to hush up because my stories are on. In addition, it’s interesting to feel like I have a handle on someone’s personality just by reading a lot of their comments, at least the regulars–and it’s always exciting to spot a crossover. It’s reached the point where I can read a comment and think, “I bet so-and-so wrote this” and usually be right. This is both the plus and minus of having a dedicated community–and the reason I usually move on from a website after a few years. I’ve moved on and they haven’t, but that’s another post for another day.

The Awkward Army (the self-given name for the Captain Awkward commentariat) is aces in supporting someone who is in a bad relationship. They are mindful of reasons why she (and it’s usually a she) may not be ready/be able to leave, but they’re supportive of her as a person. They remind her not to let her partner gaslight her or point out the strengths they see in her from the letter she’s written (or even just the fact that she wrote the letter in the first place), and if I ever needed to break up with someone, they would be the first online community I would seek.

However, one thing that bothers me is this. Oftentimes, the letter writer (LW) will say something like, “This is the only person who will tolerate/love me because I’m so weird.” They will rush in to reassure her that of course this isn’t the only person who’ll love her and offer stories of how they once thought that way and now are with the loves of their lives. Once in a while, someone will say, “Even if you don’t find someone, it’s better to be alone that with someone who makes you feel like shit all the time” which I really appreciate because well-meaning or not, the constant reassurance of you’ll find someone else is bullshit. For many people, this is true. But, for some, it isn’t.

I am one of those people. I’ve been in several relationships in my life, and I have not yet found someone who will tolerate/love me for the weird, fucked-up person I am, and it’s been five or six years since I’ve dated someone. There are a whole host of reasons for that, but I’m not sanguine that if I started dating again, I’d find someone whose luggage was complementary to mine (thanks, BFF for that description!). I don’t want to fall into Geek Relationship Fallacy (#5), but it’s hard not to feel with my particular combination of likes/dislikes, wants/do not wants, hobbies, etc., the chance of me finding a long-term partner is slim.

Continue Reading

Love in the Time of Stubbornness

I’ve been thinking lately a lot about dating. Why? I don’t really know, but I’ve discussed it with friends to try to puzzle out my feelings. I’ve written before about how I realized in my early twenties that I didn’t want children. That’s also roughly the same time I realized I was sexually attracted to women as well as men. In my late twenties, early thirties, I decided I didn’t want to get married. It’s only recently that I’ve questioned whether I want to be an a monogamous dyad relationship or not. I’ve been in an open relationship before, but it was more because that’s what my boyfriend wanted than because we both agreed, so I don’t really count it when calculating my metrics about what I want from a relationship. I also realized in my mid-twenties that I was more comfortable with casual sex  than are many women, but I didn’t really know what to do with it.

Now, I’m questioning whether I want a traditional romantic relationship or not. I’ve been reading a shit-ton of Captain Awkward, and I must admit that the letters she gets makes me very disinclined to date. Intellectually, I understand that she’s seeing the worst of the worst because you don’t write to an advice columnist if your relationship is peachy keen. However, the steady stream of women (let’s face it. A vast majority of the emotional labor done in a heteronormative relationship is done by the woman) writing in with horror stories that curl the very straight Asian hairs on the back of my neck confirm my bias for just snuggling down on the couch with a good book, a mug of tea, and my cat instead of venturing into the dating world.

I hate dating. I always have. I know most people don’t love it, but I hate it to the point of revulsion. I don’t like making small talk with people I know, let alone people I don’t, and there’s the possibility of rejection constantly hovering in the back of my mind. It’s hard to not feel as if I’m auditioning for the role of girlfriend, and it’s only recently that I’ve realized I have veto rights in a relationship, too. In other words, I’m not just auditioning for them–they’re doing the same for me. Even so, the thought of having awkward  conversation with someone while sipping coffee makes me cringe. When I used to meet people online for dating (read, sex) purposes, I was very comfortable with the emailing portion of the ‘courting’. I’m a writer, and my strength is in my words. I can be witty, vibrant, intelligent, and fearless in my writing. It’s quite different when I actually open my mouth. It’s the same with me and my Twitter persona. No, I’m not being someone different, but I’m being a more confident, more brash me. I’m sure if people on Twitter met me in real life, they would be slightly (or not so slightly) disappointed that I wasn’t as dynamic as I am online. Also weird–I swear way more in writing than I do in real life.

The real me is low-key to the point of inertia. I have low energy, and it takes a great deal for me to do something that it outside my norm. Take going out dancing with my bestie, for example (when she used to live here). We would set a day to go to First Ave. I’d be up for it when we set the date. Then, when the day arrived, I would think, “I don’t want to get dressed and leave the house. I have to drive to bestie’s house, which, ugh. Then, I have to dance around people I don’t know and maybe fend off unwanted advances. Then, I’d have to drive home again in the wee hours of the night.” I didn’t want to do any of it in the moment, and I’d have to force myself step by step. I had a great time when I went, and I love spending time with my bestie, but my depression makes it seem like going out is a mountain when it’s really a molehill.


Continue Reading

Memories Are Sometimes Best Left Remembered

I’m on a mission to winnow out my mounds of books, and I started weeding through them today. It can be a strange thing to look at a bunch of books that I labeled my favorites and realize that I’ve moved past many of them. There are others that I still think of fondly, but many of them I put in the give away pile. The unofficial ratio seems to be one book kept for every eight or nine I’m giving away. One bad thing about books is that they were made with cheap material back in the day, so they can get moldy or grimy and feel tacky.

Anyway, I was going through a box of books, and I came across a few cards from an ex. I scanned them, and they were filled with billing and cooing, and I felt…nothing. That’s not exactly true. I felt a bit of regret, disgust, and shame. The regret wasn’t that we had broken up, though, but that we had hooked up in the first place. We were both messed up, and we were friends first. We shouldn’t have gotten together, but there’s nothing I can do about that now. In addition, because I was with him, there was a path not taken that I deeply regret. I was musing about it on Twitter last night because, well, sit back and grab a cold beverage. This is going to be unwieldy because that’s the way my brain works.

I was waxing poetic about how Mike Ness from Social Distortion would have terrified the 22-year old me, but that’s he’s insanely hot. It reminded me of a bartender I had met while I lived in the East Bay who looked a lot like Mike Ness with tats and nipple piercings to match. He was one of the hottest guys I’d ever met in my life. We hit it off, and he asked me out. Unfortunately, I was dating the aforementioned ex, and while we were technically open*, we had to talk about it before doing it. I turned the Mike Ness lookalike down with deep regrets, and I was tweeting about how one of my biggest regrets was that I never fucked him. The bartender, I mean. Mike Ness, too, but that was never an option. We probably wouldn’t have lasted, but my god, he was so fucking hot.


Continue Reading

Romance? Bah, Humbug!

I’ve been thinking a lot about romantic relationships lately, in part because I’ve been reading a shit-ton of the Captain Awkward’s archives, and it’s not surprising that she focuses heavily on fucked-up romantic relationships. She’s a woman, and most of the people who write in are women. I see myself in many of the letter writers, and who among us has not found herself in a relationship thinking, “What the fuck am I doing here?” And, even acknowledging how fucked-up it is, have stayed? I’m sure most of us can relate to this, and it’s the bulk of Captain Awkward’s letters. Sure, there are some letter writers who truly have incompatibilities with their partners, but it’s mostly that they’re in a toxic relationship and are trying to either convince themselves that they are bad partners who just need to work harder/grow up/be more generous, etc., or they’re trying to convince themselves to leave. The latest letter on fucked-up relationships hits Captain Awkward BINGO, and it’s fucking depressing. She thinks she needs to work harder? B! She thinks she needs to grow up? I! He treats her with disdain (‘accidentally’ giving away her clothing when he was donating his is the most egregious example)? N! He controls her to a ridiculous degree and makes her feel like she’s the controlling one? G! Is she sneaking around in secret to do her laundry? O–wait a fucking minute. She’s sneaking around to do her laundry in secret because he gets mad. Not that she’s not doing his, but that she doesn’t wait until he deigns to do hers (and ruins it when he does it which is just short of never). That’s B-I-N-Get the hell-Out of there!

Captain Awkward is wonderful as an advice columnist. She gets right to the point, but she shows endless compassion for the letter writers. She gives great scripts for difficult situations, and her GIF game is on point. I know she gets burned out from all the shittiness she reads (understandably), but she doesn’t let it show in her answers. One thing she’s pushing  back on is the idea that relationships take work. Or rather, the kind of work they take. In another letter, the letter writer (LW) details all the recent problems and how her girlfriends are like, “At least you have a boyfriend”, when it’s clear that he’s just not into her any longer, and Captain Awkward said this:

There’s this Hollywood & Glossy Magazine narrative we have that privileges having a (heterosexual) relationship over being alone (no matter the quality of the relationship) and that puts it on the woman to do the emotional work of keeping the relationship together by having the big serious talks and speaking up about feelings and stuff. And I use the word “work” on purpose. We hear that “relationships take work” and what they mean is “women’s work” – the work of reading magazine quizzes and carrying the emotional water and looking pretty all the time and finding ways to “drive him wild” in bed and cooking new recipes and making excuses.

The commentariat is all over it, saying it shouldn’t be work in the ‘I hate my job and have to do it’ kind of way, and it should be work that both partners participate in.

Continue Reading

Emotional Labor and Why I’m Resigning

I’ve been thinking lately about romantic relationships and why I’m terrible at them. This is not me being too hard on me–this is objectively true. I haven’t been in one in six years, but I doubt I’ve changed that much in the meantime. Actually, I have changed quite a bit, but it’s still my bugaboo. Here are some of the major things I’ve put up with:

  1. Being lied to by an ex who said he had broken up with his last partner before I came into the picture. When I found out it wasn’t true and confronted the ex, he said he had opened the relationship, even though the other woman wasn’t happy about it. I’m not sure it was open except in his mind, but even so, it’s not the good way to do polyamory. Even later, I discovered that this person suggested opening the relationship specifically to date me, which made it even more suspect as he had been my best friend up until that point. We broke up and got back together more than once. He wanted to date me and his ‘ex’ at the same time, but then put his foot down when I started dating someone else. We ended up monogamous, but I’m pretty sure he was messing around with the ‘ex’ on the side.
  2. Being told by another ex that he wanted to open the relationship, and then he freaked out when I became interested in someone else. Dumped me because he wanted to be open and I didn’t (in the end), and then found out from reading his LiveJournal that he found my love ‘so tiring’ which was never mentioned once in the four years together. I got the last laugh, though, when he wanted to be monogamous with their next girlfriend, and she dumped him for the other guy she was dating.
  3. This one is complicated. I became involved with a couple. He went abroad, and she and I started dating. She had a problem with alcohol, and I had to drag her out of the Gay 90’s (sic) (gay club) because she was acting so obnoxious, one guy told me to get her out before she got herself in trouble. I dragged her to my car, and she started fumbling with the door as I was driving. I screeched to a halt, and she puked (thankfully, after opening the door). When we got to her apartment, I dragged her upstairs and deposited her on the couch and sat with her for half an hour. I made sure she was breathing before leaving. In addition, she stopped the sex once she started feeling guilty (though she and her boyfriend were open), but then would tease about what she would love to do to me even though she wouldn’t do it.
  4. Emotional abuse and the very real fear of physical abuse with a healthy side dish of gaslighting.

Any of those should have been deal-breakers, but they weren’t. At the core, it was about the fact that I had absorbed the idea that I should be with someone at any cost, that I was not worthy of someone better, and that I should be grateful that someone, anyone would want to date me.


Continue Reading

I Hate Change

I hate change.

I don’t think I can overstate how resistant I am to change, and, yes, I know it’s not a good trait.

I’m a creature of habit, and living alone, I can usually do what I want when I want where I want. All of this has been thrown out the window by having my parents here. I get up a few hours after they do, and by the time I’m up, they have a list of things a mile long they want to talk to me about. As I’ve said before, I’m barely coherent before my first swig of Coke Zero, and my brain refuses to comprehend what is being jabbered at it in the wee hours of the morning*.

Yesterday, Saturday, I was so discombobulated, I checked my social media without even thinking about it. One of the reasons I set myself a rigorous schedule is because it helps me cope with the vagaries of life. I only looked at my mentions and my notifications, and once I realized what I was doing, I stopped. I didn’t check the rest of the day, but I felt bad about it, anyway. I’ve been doing it long enough that it should be a habit by now, but because everything else is topsy-turvy, I slipped back to my old habits.

It’s hard to watch your parents decline mentally and physically. It’s even harder when I only see them once a year at the most so the changes are stark. My mom is holding up pretty well because she takes really good care of herself, but my father is going downhill fast. He’s been having a lot of physical problems, and worse, he doesn’t do what he should to rectify them. It’s difficult to be completely sympathetic because he’s been a hypochondriac all his life. He sees doctors constantly, and there’s always something wrong with him. When we went to the doctor this time, he had a litany of complaints. The doctor was great, but he also said, “You are in good physical shape for your age.” In other words, the litany of complaints are quality of life questions rather than actual crises.

It’s not to say there aren’t actual problems and that he’s not in actual pain. I’m sure he is. However, it’s hard to know how much of it is real and how much is exaggeration.

Anyway, my parents have a rhythm they’ve perfected over the years, and as dysfunctional as it is, it works for them. To an outsider, it looks bizarre–and it is–but if they’re both happy in it, there’s not much anyone can do about it. My mom isn’t as happy as she pretends to be, but that’s not the point of this post.

My childhood was chaos littered with unreliable narrators. I never knew what was real and what wasn’t, and as a result, I have an excruciating need for the truth. Not only do I need the truth, I need to verify it five or six times before I’ll ultimately accept it. It’s also why I need my routines. It’s part of my OCD traits, and it’s comforting to me to know I’m going to do the same things in the same order until the end of time.


Continue Reading

A Tale of Two Best Friends

I met my bestie when we were both working at Katahdin (now extinct), me as a counselor in a day treatment program for juvenile delinquents*, and her as the administrative assistant. We were the only oddballs in the place, and we started talking during the annual Christmas lunch or some such. She had a tattoo (this was before I had mine), and she had been an English major in college. We really clicked, and we started hanging out outside of work. She did all the work in the beginning because I was deeply depressed and had a multitude of low-esteem issues. I couldn’t fathom she’d want me to bother her, and it took her asking me a year after we became friends if I wanted her to keep calling me to realize that she actually wanted to be friends. This was before Facebook, Twitter, and email were a daily thing with me, so I couldn’t even like one of her posts to let her know I was thinking of her.

We’ve seen each other through some difficult times, and we’ve seen how the other has grown in the past twenty-two years. I’ve called her the yang to my yin, the positive to my negative. She has a kid and gray hair now, and I have a cat and white streaks in my hair. When she lived here, we went out every few months, but it was comforting to know I *could* see her if I needed to in fifteen minutes or less.

One of our favorite things was to go out drinking** and dancing, and I vividly remember a time when we were both pretty sloshed and hungry after hours of dancing. We went to White Castle to get some sliders because that’s what you do when you’re drunk and need something to eat at two in the morning when everything else is closed. We took our sliders to the lake*** and walked on the shore as we ate. Suddenly, we both had to pee, and of course, there were no restrooms around. There was no on around, and it was dark, so we both found a semi-private spot and did our business. I accidentally peed on my foot, which struck me as hilarious.

I bring it up because I never would have done that without Kat, my partner in crime. She’s way more spontaneous than I am, and she can push me out of my comfort zone with little effort. She doesn’t live in state any longer, and we have to make a more conscious effort to keep in touch offline. We talk once every few months, and it’s as if we’ve never stopped talking. She is one of those people with whom it doesn’t matter how much time has passed–talking is as easy if not easier than when we first became friends.


Continue Reading

Looking for the Cracks in the Perfection

all glass can be broken.
The colors of love.

Today, I read a piece in the NYT by a dying woman, Amy Krouse, Rosenthal, called You May Want to Marry My Husband, and it’s a personal/love letter for/to her husband. It’s a lovely piece, and I think most people will be stirred by it. Those of you who know me well can probably tell that I’m speaking in a very measured tone, which should alert you to the fact that I’m about to add a ‘but’ to that statement. Really, it should be expected because it’s not much of a post if I’m just going to gush how great this piece is. So, those of you who don’t want a somewhat grumpy post about love and relationships, you probably want to turn away now. Consider yourself forewarned.

But.

As I was reading, I found myself wondering about his flaws. He didn’t seem like a real person to me from the post, and no, I did not want to marry her husband. One, because I’m not the marrying type, but two, because I never believe the advertisement for a product. That sounds incredibly harsh, and I don’t really mean it that way. It’s just that when you read personals, you know that the person is putting their best foot forward. When I tried the personals, I would emphasize my love of literature, my tats, my nontraditional outlook on life. And sex. How much I love sex. Which is a lot. I was witty and funny and my words sparkled.

What I didn’t mention was that I was severely depressed and barely moved from the couch for days on end. I’m alternately clingy and cold, and I can hold a grudge like nobody’s business. While I endeavor to be understanding and empathetic, I can be judgmental as hell on the inside. I don’t like people in general, and I can only take people in very little doses. In addition, I’m a slob with a tendency towards inertia, and sometimes, I have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, from my house. I’m generous, but I keep tabs in my head of the favors I do. I bottle up my emotions until I explode, and then I scorch the earth with my fury. I’m passive-aggressive, and I’m conflict-avoidant to an unhealthy degree, though I’m getting better at being more direct. I’m moody, and overly-sensitive in taking offense, and I sulk way more than is seemly for a woman my age. All of these things are important for someone interested in dating me to know.

Back to the piece. As I was reading it, I couldn’t help but wonder, “What would he do if I refused to talk to him for hours?” “What happens when I want sex for the third day in a row, and he’s just too tired*?” “How will he react if I push him to do a chore he doesn’t want to do?” In other words, tell me about his flaws. Tell me what I’ll see when I peel back the layers and get past the superficial. Tell me what he’s like when he’s sick or cranky or just not feeling tiptop. Does he leave two squares on the toilet roll and not replace it? Is he short with the kids when he’s feeling tense?

Continue Reading