Friday, July 30, 2010

I'm Just Not That Into Him

One downside of getting away from my routines is that my housework falls by the wayside. I seem to need a strict list of chores and tasks that are done on a certain day at a certain time in order to keep up with everything. I may try to catch up with some of that today and this weekend. Meanwhile, I'm almost through the huge stack of reference books I picked up the other day. Some of them were mostly pictures and will require further perusal, but I seem to have really made a dent in the rest. After this batch, I think I'm down to a few more, plus some novels, and most of those I can get at my neighborhood library and via Project Gutenberg (in fact, some of them I can only get via Project Gutenberg because they've been out of print for a century).

While I was digging through reference books yesterday, I found a fun movie on Turner Classic Movies that I'd never heard of. It was a William Powell/Myrna Loy movie called I Love You Again. It's about a former con man who has gone straight -- to an extreme. He's now a teatotaling stuffed shirt who belongs to every civic organization in town and is the ultimate upright citizen. While returning home from a trip, he gets a whack on the head and develops amnesia so that he reverts to his old self and doesn't remember anything at all about his reformed life. A dig through his possessions and papers tells him that he can now pull the ultimate con -- on himself. By sticking with this identity, he can get his own money, con the rest of the town, and then make a break for it. His plan is somewhat complicated when he meets his wife -- who's divorcing him for being such a stuffed shirt. It was a really clever premise with some truly hilarious moments as this con man crook tries to fake his way through being Mr. Upright Citizen and finds that he actually enjoys some of it (like leading a scout troop) while trying to woo his own wife.

I mentioned in my review of the movie He's Just Not That Into You that I had developed my own relationship "rules." I suppose I could try to put these into a book and then see if I could sell it, since I'm at least as qualified as the guy who wrote He's Just Not That Into You to give relationship advice. Unfortunately, I'm not a writer for a hit TV show, so I don't have the same level of "platform" for promoting such a book.

Most of it boils down to having my own life so that I'm not waiting for anyone to call. If I don't hear from someone I've dated within a couple of weeks, then it's pretty much over, depending on the context and circumstances. I can appreciate needing to fall off the face of the earth for a while, but just let me know. Oddly, I don't think I've ever run into the "I'll call you" as a brushoff after a first date. What I'm more likely to have happen is a first date that goes really well, then a second date that we spend discussing things we could do, going as far as to plan the next date down to everything but the specific day/time and logistics, then the farewell being about being in touch soon to set it all up, and then I never hear from him again, not even in response to contact from me. Then there was my last serious boyfriend, who had a bad habit of disappearing for weeks at a time with no warning, though he usually had some kind of excuse when he came back. I should have written him off the first time, since he ultimately vanished for good. If he could vanish for weeks without a word, then he either didn't care whether I'd still be there when he got back, or he was a self-centered, inconsiderate jerk, and either way, why would I want to date him?

It seems like the whole "He's just not that into you" thing was about not dating people who aren't into you. My big realization was that I don't have to date men I'm not into. This sounds like a no-brainer, but I'm basically nice and optimistic, so I would say that the majority of men I've dated were men I wasn't all that interested in. A lot of them were set-ups by people who said things like "you would be great together!" (translation: "you're the only two single people I know, so I have to hook you up") or "you have so much in common!" (translation: "you're both single and breathing"). The initial introduction was generally made in a group or on a double date, which fell totally flat, and then the person doing the set-up would call and say something like, "I don't know what was up with him, he's usually not like that, but I'm sure that now that he's met you, he'd be a lot more fun. Can I give him your number?" And then I'd be hopeful enough to say yes. Or worse, it would be something like, "He just needs a confidence boost, and going out with a great girl like you would be good for him." And then I'd feel guilted into saying yes. Or else someone I knew through an organization or met at some event would ask me out, and even though I wasn't all that interested, I would feel like I should give him a chance.

But then I had a huge epiphany after yet another one of those mercy dates, in which I realized three key things:
1) I've never been pleasantly surprised in one of these situations. No matter how optimistic I try to be, it's never worked out. Whenever I've agreed to go out with someone I wasn't all that interested in, it's been a pretty miserable experience. Worse, it creates additional awkwardness because after I've agreed to go out once, the guy usually assumes then that we're "dating" and I either have to act like a guy and be "busy" until he gets the message or I have to tell him I'm not interested -- doing an actual, official break-up after one date. Most of the time, it turns out my gut instinct was very right, and the guy turns out to be kind of weird, so that he gets pushy and intrusive and starts demanding an accounting of my whereabouts after one date. I figure I've got plenty of evidence that not going out with men I'm not initially into isn't closing myself off to possibilities.
2) It's not my job to boost other people's self-confidence. If I'm such a great girl, then I deserve to go out with someone who's great for me, not someone I'm made to feel obligated to go out with.
3) I'm not doing anyone any favors when I agree to go out with him in spite of my misgivings. If he has self-confidence issues, I'm sure it doesn't help when I go out with him once and then refuse to go out with him again. He deserves to go out with someone who's interested in him just as much as I deserve to go out with someone I'm interested in.

I've realized that when someone asks me out, my reaction is either "Oh boy! Yay!" or a kind of inward flinch/cringe. My rule is that I only agree to go out when my response is "Oh boy! Yay!" If it's a flinch/cringe, I say no from the start. If I'm busy in spite of being interested (because I do have a full life), I will say so ("I'd love to, but some other time"). If I'm not interested, I just say no thank you, period. I don't give reasons or excuses. I just say no.

I have had another tricky issue come up in the last few years since I've become semi-famous in certain circles and have been doing public appearances in author mode, especially since a lot of my public appearances are in the science fiction realm where social skills aren't necessarily fully developed among everyone (trying to put that as nicely as I can). I seem to run into a lot of men who mistake my professional friendliness that goes with being an author guest dealing with the public for personal interest, and then they start asking me out. Although my inclination is to be nice, I've had to develop a policy of just ignoring unsolicited personal propositions that come through my fan mail e-mail address or my blog. I may not be movie-star famous, but I figure that most people in the public eye don't respond when random strangers they've had contact with only in a public capacity ask them out. If I meet someone at a convention and want to pursue a relationship, I'll make that clear and will provide contact info or will ask for contact info.

Yeah, my dating life pretty much ground to a halt when I gave up going out with people I wasn't into, so I guess I'm pretty picky, but I don't have any regrets or second thoughts about anyone I've said no to. In fact, I suspect that's salvaged a few friendships. But I'm not the kind of person who has to be dating someone to be happy. I'm happy single, so I have no need to date someone unless I really want to be with that person.

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