Juicy Olive

The quest for “the good life” should never be complete but it should definitely begin now.

Relationship Request – DENIED! August 19, 2009

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The Claudias and I were talking the other day over a lovely bottle of vinho verde. As the summer sun warmed our faces, we swaped stories of life’s recent highlights. As these conversations go, travel, food, work and fun certainly rank among our favorite conversation topics. But without fail, we always return to that time-honored analysis of the opposite sex.This naturally leads to dating, which may forever confuse us all.  One woman had finally come to grips with the fact that he was NEVER going to leave his wife – ever. Another was mending a broken heart, as her sweetie had decided to relocate – and not take her with him. Still another, years after standing proudly in Singledom following a complicated divorce, had decided to enter the dating world again. For my part, I had decided to part ways with Paul after picking up far to many signals that he wasn’t that into me and finally realizing I wasn’t that into him either.

So there we were, slightly buzzed, cheeks pink from the sun, our voices rising as we lamented just how complicated the dating world had become. And much like a scene from a recent movie, when Drew Barrymore complains about how the technological aspects of romance were exhausting her, our conversation was saturated in perjorative mentions of Facebook, Twitter, texting and email.

How is it that this has become the de facto way to court and be courted? And yet, it’s true. Take, for example, non-committal Fred. He was terrified of being in a relationship because, for whatever reason, he wasn’t “ready” for one yet. Understandable and perfectly respectable. However, he had no problem to committing to sending perfectly inane emails day after day. Even when Claudia told him that, to her, an email did not a relationship make, she continued to receive messages from him. This would be fun and a nice way to get to know each other while still taking things slowly, except Fred’s emails consisted of things like, “just had an apple from the farmer’s market – wasn’t as good as I hoped,” or “the sun today is intense – lots of sunscreen for me.”

How is it that this pseudo relationship had boiled itself down to a series of status updates? And how is it that poor Fred thought that was actually a means of connecting? By the umpteenth useless email or text from Fred, Claudia had had it. She simply stopped responding, and Fred eventually got the picture. It wasn’t Claudia’s proudest moment, but how do you reach someone who has clearly no ability to connect on a personal level?

Is this what technology has brought us? Hope not.

It’s not all Fred’s fault, though. I heard from one Claudia that her main squeeze had become so into Twitter that when he broke up with her – OVER EMAIL – the entire Dear John letter was just shy of 140 characters! It barely made sense, but Claudia was clear that courtship was finished. Or what about Keith, who texted “miss u babe – talk later” to someone else while he was out with my friend? Stupidly, he sent it to my friend by accident. One friend has never actually talked to her boyfriend on the phone – they only text. How about the moron who invited a gal to be his Facebook friend; while he had neglected to tell her about his girlfriend the night before, she was able to learn he was “in a relationship” as soon as they e-connected. And while less-than-confident guys are hiding behind these tools as a way to still be in touch, ultra-paranoid girls have been known to cyber-stalk their suitors. They’ll figure out what bands a gentleman likes, where he’s been on vacation and try to determine if he’s dating others — all in a few keystrokes. Even worse, there are people who are perfectly comfortable conducting their relationship via these applications. How often have you read one person’s passive-aggressive G-chat status (“sigh”), only to later read his S.O.’s equally obtuse Facebook post (“where do broken hearts go?”) to realize there’s trouble in paradise?

e-date 2

Anyone who knows me understands that I’m a huge proponent of experimenting with all of the new, fun technical applications out there. But none of these tools can become a replacement to human interaction, especially when you’re trying to form an intimate bond with someone.  Abusing the information available to you is futile – you’re either going to connect with this person or not. But, like the Claudias and I were saying, you’ll never be able to test that chemistry if you’re getting status updates from Fred. We’re thrilled that he “likes gelato – yum” but really need to know if he likes us.

 

Setting the Bar High May 12, 2009

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Here’s a conversation I recently overheard between a couple-friend of mine:

Lindsay: “Ooh – that cupcake looks awesome. Should we split it, honey?”
Ryan: “nope.”

I took such delight in that exchange, because it typifies what I admire about couples: sharing and honesty. Lindsay and Ryan are a generous, devoted and happy twosome. Yet both of them have retained their individual personalities and priorities. Granted, it’s a simple discussion about a simple dessert, but the balance of care and candor is what most people strive for in a relationship.

But about that dessert: did I mention that Jonathan baked those cupcakes (and a sheet cake too!) for Bridget for her birthday!? I mean, seriously, he baked them! By himself! For his wife! Because he loves her! Adorable. (EXCLAMATION POINT!)

I’m thrilled to know that I have such great friends whose romances with their mates set really high and happy standards for we single gals. Whether it’s witnessing a humorous negotiation about a cupcake, observing a devoted and mature parenting style or seeing how they resolve conflict carefully, I take comfort in how healthy my friends’ relationships are. I also take comfort in knowing that some day, someone will potentially bake me a cake. Heck, a cake isn’t even necessary – feed me chocolate, fan me with palms and provide me with an endless fountain of champagne and I’ll be fine…simple needs, really.

The lesson here is simple: never settle. That harmonious partnership is out there. And when we find that person, we’ll be giving and getting what we want.

And for Ryan, that meant the whole cupcake – way to stand up for your needs, buddy.

 

Claudia on Manners April 23, 2009

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When we last met Claudia (our anonymous single gal making her way in the dating world), she was walking around in amazed stupor from her date with the guy who told her about “his first time” on their first date. Needless to say, she’s decided to leave that guy in the dusty trail she created while sprinting away from that evening.

Over the years, Claudia has had some zinger dates, and one of them was with Jeremy. They met via an online dating sight and after several email exchanges, agreed to meet at a local pub for a drink. Up until this point, Jeremy seemed very promising – up…until…that…point. In short, it wasn’t a good date and Jeremy was NOT a match, despite what the website would lead them to believe. The evening was a reminder to Claudia of how important basic manners were and why she was so grateful to have these core values:

  • Be on time: Even though Jeremy suggested meeting at 6:30, he showed up at 7:15
  • Be courteous: Jeremy called Claudia to let her know he’d be late…20 minutes late
  • Don’t chomp gum: Jeremy mouthed on a huge wad of spearmint gum the entire time 
  • Ask questions as part of conversation: Jeremy tried his hardest to make the whole discussion about himself
  • Don’t be rude: Jeremy made a whole host of racist and homophobic comments – not wise in an era of increasing diversity
  • Leave the money talk at home: not only did Jeremy provide Claudia with the exact details of his W-4, he also asked Claudia about her own income and said he was weirded out by women that made a lot of money

The list of lessons we could learn the hard way from Jeremy goes on. When Claudia shared this story with me, we were dumbfounded: it’s reasonable to assume that a knuckleheaded bigot like Jeremy hasn’t won any hearts recently, but where are the good matches?

One thing is for certain: Claudia has the right idea, and I’m proud of her for sticking with it. She knows who she is, what her values are and what she wants to achieve. She surrounds herself with people who share those values, and eventually she’ll find a winner.

Until then, we can be entertained by her neverending tales of modern courting…up next, Claudia’s date has a rap sheet!

 

Names Have Been Changed to Protect the Innocent April 9, 2009

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I’m single. No man has won my heart recently. And while there are days that it really gets under my skin that Prince Charming is eluding me, for the most part I have a very healthy outlook on it. Part of what makes it fun is that my single friends and I get to swap tales of our ridiculous dates and (every so often) the ones that make us weak in the knees.

So many of our dating stories are too good not to share. But it’s not fair to rant in this public forum about a bad date on the off chance that it falls into the wrong hands and feelings get hurt. (That would be a very UN-JuicyOlive move.) How do I share my and my other gal-pals stories without causing men to fear they’ll wind up the laughing stock of my ever-growing readership?

Enter Claudia. A fun-loving city gal, Claudia is the culmination of all of us. She is smart, sophisticated and has a great sense of humor about her dating life. Am I Claudia? Sometimes. But sometimes she’s my colleague down the hall. Or another day she may be one of my college friends from the West Coast.

To put it simply, Claudia is your megaphone for every wacko dating story. Whisper the tale in my ear, and Claudia will tell it to the world…no one will be the wiser, but you’ll feel liberated for having shared it!

So, shall we begin?

Claudia was set up by a friend of hers recently. The friend knew this gal whose brother-in-law – Peter – lived in Chicago too! Claudia’s friend gave a proper caveat that she had only met Peter once, but that he seemed nice, was cute in a dorky way and evidently had a big network of friends in the city. Everyone got everyone’s info, and within a week the date was lined up.

First impressions: for many reasons, Claudia didn’t feel a spark with Peter.  But sometimes sparks come later, so she kept chatting it up.  Several times while talking, Peter mentioned that Claudia reminded him of someone she knew, but he just couldn’t put his finger on it. At last, however, it came to him. Peter said he needed to give a little background to have it make sense. And this is it:

“You know how the first time for people is sometimes a disappointment? Well, for me, it wasn’t. The first girl I ever had sex with was Katie. We met on New Year’s Eve and kissed at midnight. Then, on Valentine’s Day I asked her to prom. I told her then and there that on prom night I’d make love to her. And I did. And it was magical. There were fireworks going off. But summer rolled around and my friend Mary had a party. And Susan Jones attended it. And I ended up getting together with Susan behind Katie’s back. We didn’t do it – you know what I mean? But we did know each other orally – you know what I mean? Oh, and by the way, you remind me of Susan! [laugh] So, anyway, my fling with Susan subsides and New Year’s Eve rolls around the following year. Wouldn’t you know it, both Katie and Susan end up being at the party, and Katie finds out. She broke up with me before I ever got to kiss her at midnight. [sigh] The following summer, I dated a girl named Nancy who ended up cheating on me. And, you know, Karma’s a bitch. So, I wanted to tell you this so you’d know that I’ll never, ever cheat on you.”

During this entire monologue, Claudia didn’t speak. She did, however, down a cocktail and make it partway through the next. She was stunned. She kept looking around for the hidden camera to reveal she’s secretly on a spoof TV show. What 39-year old man talks about sex he had more than 20 years ago on his first date with someone he barely knows? What made him think it was appropriate or even interesting for that matter? Couldn’t he have said, “you remind me of a girl I knew in high school?”

Claudia rushed through the last cocktail and found a way to politely close the conversation. Upon leaving, Peter offered to walk Claudia to her corner. Reluctantly, she agreed. But she wanted to get this evening over with, so she walked quickly…in very high heels…and then she fell…on her face. Peter rushed to help her, but Claudia didn’t care. She promptly gave him a quick hug and raced off. Her Calvin Klein pumps where scuffed, and her pride was barely in tact, but at least Claudia was still going home a complete person…without Peter.  

I hear from Claudia that later in the evening, Peter called her three times and texted her twice. She didn’t reply. She did, however, call me that night and give me the full briefing, which I’m happily sharing with you.

When we next visit Claudia, we’ll hear about her date with the racist, drunk doctor…fun times.

 

Excuse me…probably not. April 5, 2009

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Tonight I had dinner with Lindsay at Adesso – a neighborhood BYOB joint with homemade pastas and a funky local vibe. I grabbed a bottle of Kokomo wine, which paired perfectly with our short rib arrancini, rosemary frites, butternut squash risotto and pasta arrabiata. As the bottle of wine whittled, we ventured back to Chez Anderson where we relieved Ryan (fab husband of Lindsay) of Daddy Duties and cracked another bottle of rouge.

After a couple of glasses of wine, girls can talk. After a couple more, we can really get into it. Tonight’s main topics: relationships.

Recently I met a guy who seems to have it all…EXCEPT the ability to properly date a gal. A few dates in, I’m realizing I need to hire him a coach in order to get him to call me back, make a move, pay a compliment or – in general – make it worthwhile. I told Lindsay that I took a while to reach this conclusion. At first, I wondered if it was me. Am I too busy? Too fat? Too forward? Too silly? Is my hair too curly? My smile too toothy?

At least I was able to pay her back during my musings; Lindsay was wrestling with her own struggles – a friend who recently made a comment that felt less offhand and more slap-you-in-the-face. Was she feeling too sensitive? Too annoyed? Too avoidant?

It doesn’t matter if my feelings or Lindsay’s were too anything. At the end of the day, they were ours. I needed to remember an adage my mother once shared with me: whatever someone is feeling at that time – at that moment, it’s the biggest thing they know.

At the end of the day, our feelings were legitimate. In your eyes, I may be strange for being annoyed with Mister Lame, and Lindsay may be silly for being sensitive about Miss Insensitive’s comments, but it doesn’t matter. We feel what we feel. And by not making excuses for those sentiments, we’re stronger for knowing ourselves and being honest about the repercussions of relating with us.

I’m proud to know that for all I ask of this world – health, human kindness, flexibility, love, friendship – it’s rare I need to make excuses for myself. I’m proud to have chosen friends who equally don’t need to make excuses. We are smart and interesting and unique – and I’ll not stand for anyone to require an explanation for that.

THAT would be inexcusable.