The Guy That Says Goodbye to You is Out of His Mind

There are guys that we break the rules for because he’s that guy. Not Mr. Right. Just that guy that we want to get to know, the one that we want to let us into their world, the one that we rationalize throwing the rulebook out the window for. Usually very attractive. Very mysterious. Very sexy. And in this case, very broken. Mr. Ninja was my “that guy”. We met on match.com over two years ago. We texted for just a couple days before we went out for the first time. We met at Starbucks and within about 20 minutes, I was in the passenger seat of his brand new, luxury car. See, already breaking the rules. He wanted to take me for a drive around the city… and I must admit, he had me at “hello”. It was so easy to say “yes”. He played amazing music in the background and while he drove us around Louisville, we talked. For hours. We stopped along the way to check out places in the city. He would point out spots I had never noticed before and I did my best to be a good tour guide. I found out quickly that he has a habit of going through the late-night drive-thru. It was after 1 in the morning when our exploration came to an end. But of course I wanted more. After all, he was that guy.

Mr. Ninja is a United States Marine (another weakness of mine). Mr. Ninja was so fit and so lean. A tall man with a handsome face, sculpted shoulders and arms but still very cut and trim. Muscles upon muscles. Rock solid abs. Several tattoos to give him that bad-boy edge. Looking at him without his shirt off could make you drool. He was skilled in martial arts and had been a personal trainer at some point. He would go rock climbing with just a rope. He could climb up poles and hang from rafters. Like a ninja. He even called himself that. One thing I think he was proud of. Scared me to death… He was somewhat of an adrenaline junkie, careless with his life, and I feared one day that he would end up hurting himself.

Mr. Ninja was stationed in Fort Knox. He was a training instructor and drove huge tanks. He showed me lots of pictures of the tanks he drove and things they would do on base. He also got the young guys in shape, screaming in their faces and pushing them to their physical limits. He worked out three or four times per day, sometimes more. He’d do a workout in the morning. He’d do a workout during the day with the Marines. He’d go for a run when he was off duty. And most days, he’d do another workout late at night. Mr. Ninja did not drink often. It seemed to me that he had very few friends on base. He was the kind of guy that kept to himself a lot. So late at night when he had nothing else to do, he’d go for another run. Plus, he had a hard time sleeping so why not.

When Mr. Ninja would come to see me, he was coming to get away from everything on base. I was like an escape for him. He’d text me sometime during the day, say something sweet, and let me know he was coming into Louisville. He had an apartment in the city but mostly just for his stuff. On those days, I knew I could expect a visit from him. He came to get away from everything else. And Mr. Ninja was like an escape for me too. I’d put everything else aside and focus on him. Just for that night. At the time, it was something we both needed. Intimacy. Not just in a physical way, but in a person-to-person kind of way. He needed someone feminine in his life, someone to talk to, someone who would listen, and someone to be there. And at the time, I wanted to be that girl who dropped everything to do just that. Sometimes he would come in to talk, about things on base or about his daughter who was hundreds of miles away, other times we would just relax and it was as if nothing needed to be said at all. He just needed an escape. And I won’t be so naïve as to think that there were possibly other girls that would have done the trick, but I know why he picked me. I gave him my attention. I was a good listener. We could sit in silence together. I was supportive. And I didn’t judge him. Our relationship was like this for about six months, seeing him as often as once a week or as little as once a month. Rarely did I ever need to contact him. I always knew it was just a matter of time until I’d be hearing from him again. I let him come to me. After all, he was that guy.

One night he came to Louisville on his yellow Harley Davidson. (Like I was saying, anything dangerous has his name written all over it.) On this particular night, it began to storm. He got caught in pouring down rain, thunder and lightning, and he was still quite a ways from my house. When I went to pick him up, he was soaking wet and exhausted but still offered to drive my car home so I wouldn’t have to drive through the mess. He treated me like I was special. Like I was a prize. But we both had no illusions about our relationship. It was never going to work out. I know from time to time I wondered “what if”. I will not lie; I was pretty smitten with him. But deep in my heart, I knew the relationship was not going anywhere. He was not my Mr. Right, and truthfully, I don’t know if Mr. Ninja will ever marry… again. He had gotten married several years before, prior to his first deployment. While he was gone, his wife had multiple affairs. With some of his friends even. Their marriage lasted less than a year. When I knew him, he still had not recovered. And maybe that’s another reason why he came to see me… he could trust me. He let me know in his way that he cared about me and would say sweet things or look at me a certain way to try and convey that to me. I think he was always scared of getting too close. To me or to anyone else. This post is named after the song he played for me, a song I will never forget. And it really is perfect for us.

I guess in a way Mr. Ninja did end up hurting himself. Unlike a tragic accident, when all the injuries happen at once, Mr. Ninja was slowing injuring his body. He was 30 years old and had been pushing himself to such physical extremes for years. His spine was taking the blow and he needed surgery, badly. And eventually, he decided it was time. His neck was where most of the damage had been done. When I saw him after the surgery, he was still having problems with movement and pain. One half of his body was limp. He was losing muscle tone because he couldn’t workout. He was having problems with his jaw and the muscles surrounding his mouth so he barely ate. There were times when the pain would get so bad in his neck that he would freeze up, unable to move. I could see the pain he was in but he didn’t like being doped up on drugs. He was on medical leave so he couldn’t do much on base. He was going through a rough patch and was questioning everything he was going to do in life from that moment forward. I didn’t know what do other than to be supportive and just listen. That’s what he came for I suppose. After I saw Mr. Ninja that night, just a couple weeks after his surgery, I never saw him again. It was only a matter of days before he got the news that he was being stationed on a base down south. There was never much closure, but then again, there was never really anything to talk about. After all, he was that guy.

Relationships like the one I had with Mr. Ninja are unique. Usually both people know that it’s not going to end anywhere but they know they want to do it anyway. We both needed it for some reason or another. The connection was there and it was almost like instantaneously we both chose to just go with it. I can’t say that I would ever go through that again for anyone else, but then again, I haven’t met anyone else like Mr. Ninja. Though a part of me loved Mr. Ninja for the person he was, these days I’m not settling for anything less than the full package and that’s just not something he could have given me. Things ended when they needed too. The closer we got, the harder it would have been to say goodbye. I don’t know where he is these days or what he’s doing, but I wish him all the best.

Our hearts and our minds sometimes lead us in different directions. My mind always knew that things with Mr. Ninja would never work but my heart was telling me to stay put. I would never say that seeing Mr. Ninja was a mistake but I was definitely making life harder for myself. Getting involved with someone that I knew deep down I had no future with was just setting myself up for emotional turmoil later. But it is through the tough times that we learn and we grow and though it may be tough, we hang on to the good moments, the happy memories that we play again and again in our minds, and we hold on to those forever.

Smile

*Warning: Be prepared for some seriousness today. We’re going back to the heart of it all. Maybe some of you can relate.

So am I really happy without love? Yes. I am. I’m happy with myself and where my life is going. I have faith that I will have love one day. I’m actually okay with being alone and doing things on my own. It’s nice to have that freedom to come and go as I please or do things on my own schedule. I don’t have to debate about whose friends to hangout with for the night or which movie to see. But I will be honest; there are times when I break down and times when I want so badly to be in a relationship. There are days when something awesome comes up, I’ll get this great idea to go do something or an opportunity will come my way, and I wish I had someone to share it with. Those are the hardest moments for me.

I know that I am completely capable of love, and I have no doubt that I will be a wonderful partner to someone, someday. Until then, I am improving myself and living each day to the fullest. As I work to become the best version of myself, I become closer and closer to the love that I want. The longer I have, the more time I’ll have to better myself and accomplish the things I want to do. When I find the right man for me, I’ll go into it knowing that I’m happy with myself and ready to share that with someone else.

That hasn’t always been my outlook on things. I have stayed in so many relationships because I didn’t want to change or I just kept thinking that maybe it’ll get better and we’ll make it through. In many cases, I simply didn’t want to be alone. I didn’t want to let him go because I was scared I wouldn’t find someone else. I liked the feeling of having someone to do things with, go out with on the weekends, and take to social gatherings. Loneliness is a scary thing. And as I feared losing a guy, I’d start holding on to him even tighter, and he would begin to drift away. After every relationship, I was ready to start the next one. How long am I going to have to be single? I was letting my romantic relationships take #1 priority in my life. I always had enough drive to take care of my education and career goals, but I sacrificed a lot for those I cared for. I worried too much about them and not enough about myself.

When I was younger, I struggled with anxiety and depression. I always worried about what other people thought about me and I was never satisfied about how I looked. I wanted to be thinner. I wanted to be prettier. I wanted to have better hair. The list went on… I think it all really started when I was in elementary school and the boy I had a huge crush on told me that I was fat. I can still remember that day vividly. At age 10, I wasn’t fat, but I was definitely thicker than most of my friends. I went through puberty young and was in that weird, awkward stage where I was thickening out and growing boobs. This was about the same time my parents were going through a divorce so times were tough. But after this particular day, things got about 10 times worse. Now I was constantly worried about my weight. I had never been that obsessed about how I looked before but now my insecurities were getting the best of me. I never got what I would classify as an eating disorder but I’m sure my eating habits weren’t healthy. There were times where I would skip meals but eat junk all day. Most of the time I ate for convenience and not nutrition. If I ate what I would have considered too much, I would feel guilty about it later. And the more I tried to stay away from food, the more appealing it became. I just didn’t know any better. It’s so sad that I was so young caring about my weight and caring so much about what some stupid boy thought of me. He was certainly not the last boy to make me feel this way either.

For a long time, I was unhappy. In high school, things got worse before they got better. I went to an all-girls Catholic school and suddenly I didn’t know many people, my close friends were going to school elsewhere, and I was no longer one of the “smart girls” (because everyone was smart). Not to mention, I was going to school with some of the prettiest girls in town. Naturally, I was questioning my worth. For awhile, I would come home from school and turn the music on in my room and fall asleep for hours. I’d have to get up and do my homework and then go back to bed. I’ve always loved my sleep but it was getting ridiculous. I’d even fall asleep at sleepovers with my friends while everyone was still up having fun. One of my good friends at the time went to our school counselor because she and others were becoming worried about me. I agreed to go see the counselor toward the end of my freshman year and got the help I needed. By my sophomore year I was exercising and losing weight. During my junior year, I got my first boyfriend, Mr. First-Love. A guy who was very popular at his school and I was proud to be on his arm. He made it known to everyone that we were dating and didn’t hesitate to invite to me everything. He was captain of the wrestling team and I wore his class ring and sweatshirt with pride.

My happiness level was at an all time high. But my happiness seemed to be wrapped up in Mr. First-Love. Not with my own life. I got along with most everyone but I didn’t have many close friends at my school. Most of my friends were girls I grew up with. I didn’t play sports or do any extracurricular activities. I had few hobbies at the time. So yes, Mr. First-Love was my life, along with the crowd we hung out with. We were together for over 3 years. A very good 3 years. We were that couple that all our friends talked about… how perfect and cute we were together. People thought we’d be together forever. As did I. And as did Mr. First-Love for awhile too. So when our relationship came to a devastating end, my happiness plummeted yet again. This story to be continued…

I don’t remember ever blaming other people for my problems. Mostly, I just blamed myself. It took a long time for things to get better for me. Even after I knew that I had overcome depression, my anxiety was still getting the best of me. I worried about a lot of things. About School. Looks. Love. Family. Job. Money. I was always stressed out about something. This continued through college when eventually I became medicated for anxiety. I was dating Mr. Law at the time. Our relationship did not help things in the slightest. The stress became so bad at times that it caused physical pain. My stomach would be so upset that I would double over in pain. I saw a general surgeon to have several tests run to see what the problem could be. Gallbladder? Gallstones? Celiac Disease? It was all inconclusive. My number one response from doctors was to get more sleep, reduce stress, and pay attention to what I ate.

After the breakup with Mr. Law, I stopped taking my anxiety medication. I no longer felt the need for it. My relationship was actually causing me that much stress that I felt better being alone and without my prescription. It was the stress of our relationship that was tipping things over the edge, as if I could handle everything else but that. I would never blame Mr. Law for our problems. We were both at very different places, pulling each other in opposite directions, and it was becoming tiring and unbearable. It was time to let go.

I have never gone back to any medication for anxiety or depression. I have never felt the need to do so. Though I still get stressed about certain things, I have learned to manage my stress much better. It’s healthy to have some stress. It motivates and keeps me on my toes, but my stress level is so much lower than it used to be and I’ve mellowed out with age. I no longer fear going back to that place of anxiety and depression. I’ve learned what I need to do to take care of myself. And after I started watching what I ate and finding some of the foods that were causing me problems, my stomach issues have gotten much better as well. Exercising has definitely helped me deal with stress too. There is always a root to the problem. Luckily, in time, I was able to figure out what some of those things were.

Those people who walk around with a negative attitude blaming others for their problems have yet to figure out that they have so many choices in life. We all do. I have found that keeping a positive attitude will help me to make the changes I seek and get me through those tough times. There have been bumps and hurdles to face in many of my experiences, but they were placed there for me to overcome and to learn from. In the end, they have only made me stronger, more capable, and the end prize so much more rewarding. It is hard to stay smiling when life throws curve-balls but I have the option to handle challenges gracefully or to let them bring me down. Wearing a frown and being negative doesn’t make life any better. It typically makes things worse and confidence plummets. So nowadays, I do my best to wear a smile and stay positive. I can’t say that I’m never in a bad mood or that I don’t have bad days, because I certainly have my bad moments, but over time, my outlook on life has greatly improved. There are still many hurdles to face, such is life, but being happy with myself and staying positive will allow me to overcome them so I can move on to the next challenge ahead.

So, by this point you may be wanting to slap me across the face for all the positivity, but I have good reasons for it. People spend years dating, wondering why they haven’t found anyone or why they aren’t in a relationship, when the answer may lie within them. A person must be truly happy with themselves before they can be happy with someone else. Sure, people have relationships all the time when they are unhappy, but how is that working out for their relationship? Insecurities and negative attitudes can kill a relationship like the plague. And if you’re working hard to have a relationship, I doubt you want to see it fall to pieces. Negative energy can turn potential suitors away while positive energy attracts others. Men are especially attracted to confident, happy women! They can sense insecurities and a negative attitude from a mile away. And let’s be honest, no one wants to date a person who is constantly down on themselves and acts like Debbie Downer or Negative Nancy. We’re all attracted to a positive attitude and a beautiful smile, so wear one!! Like I’ve said before, there are no do-overs on first impressions. Take pride in what you have to offer. Because when you’re happy with yourself and confident in who you are as a person, you are more likely to attract the type of person that you’ve been looking for.

Gosh… that was a lot for a Monday. I will do my best to lift our spirits next week! Until then, enjoy this awesome music video. It’s a personal favorite. A little cheesy, but happy and upbeat and perfect for today’s message! Click the link for another article from A New Mode about How to Be Happy.

Jenn_WC

Something’s Missing

Recently I talked with one of the men I went on a date with over two years ago. Mr. Music was #5 in the lineup. Mr. Music is a musician and plays out in town. He had gotten me tipsy on our first date with one too many lemon drop martinis. So many that I accidentally knocked one of the glasses off the table and it shattered into a dangerous, sticky mess all over the floor. Talk about mortifying. I still think of that night whenever I see him. Thankfully, Mr. Music was a super nice guy and he shrugged it off. Though things never got romantic, we’ve been friends ever since. (Another lesson learned that night: A 2 drink maximum. Fortunately, I don’t drink very much at all anymore… but Grace is not my middle name.)

Several weeks ago, Mr. Music and I had a little chat and he asked me, “Are you still giving the guys a hard time?” I simply gave a little chuckle to his question, but later I gave it some serious thought. I suppose the answer is yes, I do, but I have better reasons for it now than I did before. When I started online dating, I had never realized how tough I was being. My Wish List was pretty darn long and my search field got narrower and narrower. I wanted the obvious traits in a man: intelligence, sense of humor, affection. But I also wanted a man to have a college education, a job, Christian values, conservative background, non-smoker, family man but no kids, no roommates, never married, active, tall, physically fit, and the list went on and on. Let’s just say I was picky.

As time went on and I never found a man that fully fulfilled My Wish List, it was a bit disheartening. At the same time, it was a perfect way for me to learn what I actually needed to find in a partner. The hard way. Maybe some things didn’t matter like I thought they did. Maybe other things were more important to me than I expected them to be. With every date, I learned something new and I was introduced to someone completely different. My Wish List was evolving as time went on. After my first love came Mr. Law, and I never really had much of a chance to date around. I didn’t really know what I was looking for in a man. I knew what sounded appealing and what things were important in my own life, but I didn’t know what I needed to have in a partner. I was way too young and inexperienced and I thought I was ready for so much more than I actually was. Dating taught me a lot of this, and in the process, I learned so much about MYSELF too. It was time to make changes for me.

With Mr. Law and with my previous boyfriend, I wanted to get married. I wanted the big puffy ball gown and I thought I was ready to walk down the aisle and say “I do.” I wanted babies and I wanted to start my life with someone… as soon as possible. I learned a lot more from Mr. Law than I ever gave him credit for. He wasn’t ready for marriage and he was constantly trying to slow me down. He knew we weren’t ready for a commitment like that. And he was right. I was immature and not willing to look at the full picture. People were constantly telling me to slow down and enjoy my 20s, that I’d be a completely different person by 25, by 30. I didn’t want to listen. But yet, so much changed for me after Mr. Law and I broke up… and as I was dating all of Match.com. I figured out who I was. And the person I am now would have never been happy in a relationship with Mr. Law or any of the men I had tried to rush into a relationship with. My Wish List changed and so did I. Even now at 24, I’m not the same girl. Oh the things I could tell her now….

After some unsuccessful dating experiences, I finally had my epiphany. In time, I realized what I wanted in life. Not only in a relationship, but for myself. I changed career paths, got a new job, started getting fit and eating healthy, found my spiritual self, and worked on finding the things I really enjoyed in life. With more education and experience, my political and religious views changed, as did my outlook on society and the community. I became much more open-minded and realized my calling in life truly is to help others. My relationships with friends became much stronger and I learned just how happy I could be with a life of my own. A life as an independent woman with my own ideas and my own beliefs. And I suddenly became aware of just how important that was for me to have before I got settled into a relationship. I needed to be my own person. I no longer had baby fever and working in child care taught me the responsibility of having children. And though I still dream of my big puffy ball gown, I’m not itching to walk down the aisle anytime soon. (Ok…at least not tomorrow.) It certainly didn’t happen overnight, but eventually I grew to love myself. Really love myself. I became proud of myself. I knew just how much I was possible of achieving. I knew my worth. And I still do. I had the self-awareness that I needed a change in life. It didn’t just hit me all at once, but instead I was making small steps toward change, in some instances before I even realized it was happening.

My question to you: What is missing in your life?

Is it related to your education? Your career? Is there a hobby you’ve always been interested in but never took the time to do? Are you religious or spiritual? Would you like to get more organized or just take time for yourself to relax? Maybe you’d benefit from learning about nutrition or taking some fitness classes? Should you go see your doctor or a therapist? Are your finances in order? Is it time to reconnect with loved ones or rebuild friendships? What is it that you need to feel good about yourself and where your life is headed? I recommend evaluating all aspects of your life to determine what it is that will increase your level of happiness. Things like these can cause us stress if they’re not in order, and they can make all the difference in our happiness if they are. Many people look at the flaws in others when they’re out in the dating world. They point out all the things wrong with the other person without taking a look at themselves. I’m guilty of this myself. It’s rude to point the finger at others when you may be struggling with similar issues. Everyone has flaws and everyone can make changes. Though we cannot change others, we can change ourselves for the better.

The main message to take today: Life is a constant journey of improvement…mind, body, and soul. Change is a good thing but nothing happens overnight. I’m not trying to tell people what to do or that everyone needs to go out and turn their world upside down. Think baby steps. There may be one or several things that you would like to work on. It seems overwhelming and the change can seem too big to handle. Believe me, I know. But there’s no time like the present! I was unhappy with life and didn’t even realize it. I had to take time to think about what I really wanted to have in my life. Who was the person I really wanted to be? What did I want long-term and how could I get there? Making changes to my diet, my lifestyle, my career, and my attitude….it all helped me. I want that for other women too. While I was waiting for Mr. Right to come knocking on my door and make me happy, I was missing out on all the opportunities to make my life a better place for me and for those around me. Eventually, I had to get up, stop waiting, and make myself happy. Now that I am happy with myself and I’ve really learned what I’m looking for in a partner, I’m not going to let myself get into any relationship unless it’s the right one for me.

I suggest that if you are unhappy with your life the way it is, that you access what it is you want to change and work towards making those changes. Small goals. Work on one thing at a time and evaluate what is most important for you to feel fulfilled. My first goal was to lose weight, then I focused more on changing career paths and my spiritual life. When I had worked towards achieving those goals, I went back to set new ones, such as eating healthier and saving money. Ask for help if you need it and hopefully one day you can give back by helping someone else. Every day I try to improve myself for the better. For the better of myself as well as the better of others. If I can help someone else in some way then I consider that a great success. I try my best to look on the bright side. It may have been a bad day, but what is something good that came from it? What did I learn? Did someone say something that made me smile? Did I reach out to someone in need? Did I take a step forward today? The little things can mean so much. And it is the small moments that make life a big adventure. Once you realize that you have the ability to change your life and create your own happiness, hopefully you’ll consider all the possibilities!

There are some great books out there about happiness but one of the books that I have found is entitled “The Nine Rooms of Happiness: Loving Yourself, Finding Your Purpose, and Getting Over Life’s Little Imperfections”. This book, written by Lucy Danzinger & Catherine Birndorf, M.D., takes you through the nine rooms of happiness helping you to create and achieve personal goals in order to find the joy in life.

Here are some inspirational videos to take a look at that play off of today’s topic. Maybe a little cheesy, maybe a little funny, but helpful nonetheless.

1. How YOU Can Be HAPPIER!

2. Get Happy in 5 Minutes

Float On

Recently I shared one of my most memorable dating experiences and suggested making a list of dating ideas that you’d like to try. Shortly after I had gone on Match.com, I read a few books and blogs about dating and finding a partner. Not only did I get lots of advice about dating, but several sources had suggested making lists of things I’d like to do. Making a list of date ideas, or just things I’d like to try in general, was a great tool for me. Not only have I used these lists in my dating life, I’ve used them in my everyday life as a single woman as well. These lists don’t have to be written down necessarily. They may just be mental notes, but for me it’s nice to have things written down so I can refer to them later or be reminded of suggestions from others. I’ll share with you all a portion of a list I wrote almost 2 years ago. Some of you may not be familiar with a few of the locations but you’ll get the idea. If you are in the area, here are some good date ideas!

1. Antique shopping (Joe Ley’s, Bardstown Road, NuLu, etc.)
2. Bike riding (Cherokee Park, Iroquois, Louisville Loop Trail, etc.)
3. Stroll through local museums or galleries
4. Hiking at Red River Gorge
5. Kentucky Bourbon Trail
6. Wine Tastings (Lover’s Leap, Forest Edge, Cedar Creek, Old 502, Brown County, etc.)
7. Day trip to Cincinnati or Indianapolis
8. Sporting events (UK game, pro football, baseball, etc.)
9. Day at Bernheim Forest
10. Canoeing, rafting, kayaking
11. Horseback riding
12. Visit Mammoth Cave or Marengo Caves
13. Day at Huber’s Farm (Wine tasting, pumpkin patch, strawberry picking, etc.)
14. Amusement park or water park
15. Picnic at the park

Though I still haven’t finished completing my list, I have checked several things off since then. One guy in particular has helped out quite a bit. Mr. Adventure and I emailed back and forth for weeks and weeks before deciding to meet. He lives in Indiana, in a town almost 2 hours away. It was hard for me to rationalize dating someone that far away, but after all of our conversation, I at least wanted to meet him. We had a great deal in common and seemed to want the same things out of life, so I could see the potential. Mr. Adventure and I had discussed at length the things we liked to do and the things we’d like the opportunity to do. We both mentioned that we loved the water. Being on the water, by the water, in the water. So for our first date, we decided to go canoeing.

I was really excited! Most people don’t think outdoorswoman when they meet me. I am undeniably a girly-girl. I always have makeup on and I have about 3 closets full of clothes and shoes. I’m typically overdressed for everything and I never leave the house in sweats. But yes, I love the outdoors. I was a Girl Scout, spent every summer at camp, went to conservation camp, and went camping in my own backyard as a kid. I spent many weekends at Red River Gorge and other state parks. I had once been a pro at canoeing, so I was ready to show off my skills on the date. A couple days before the outing, Mr. Adventure texted me to ask if a couple of his friends could join us. He had mentioned the canoe trip to some of his buddies, and they were interested in going too. The plan was that each couple would have their own canoe, so we’d have time to talk and get to know each other. Though I was a bit nervous about meeting him, along with several others, I was good with the new plan.

When the day came, I drove about an hour to meet him and the crew. He had found a place about halfway between us both. I showed up really early, which is unlike me, and I sat around getting more and more nervous about meeting him and all his friends. Eventually they made it. A group of 5 piled out of his car with coolers and gear and alcoholic beverages. They were ready for a party… I brought a bikini and suntan lotion. I knew I was in for a ride.

Unfortunately our original plan did not work out. Since we came in a group and the place was so busy, they chose to put us in a raft instead of 3 separate canoes. My first date with Mr. Adventure was now an official group outing. The 6 of us were going to be stuck together in a raft for several hours as we made it down the 7 mile stretch. Luckily all of our personalities melded together well. His friends were great and Mr. Adventure had a wonderful sense of humor. I had such an awesome day, and he and I still got our time together. After we made it back to shore and cleaned up, Mr. Adventure took me to a seafood restaurant where we had an excellent meal and great conversation overlooking the river.

In the weeks that followed, Mr. Adventure and I had several more adventures together. He drove to Louisville a few times to see me and I did my best to show him the city. I took him to a few of my favorite restaurants and we made plans for more outings. On one afternoon, we drove to a cave in Indiana where we spent the day and during another weekend, we did some bar hopping around town. Things were going well with us, so Mr. Adventure invited me to spend the weekend with him up in Indiana before he left for Germany. He had been talking about this business trip for weeks, as he had been one of the only engineers to get approved to go, and he wanted a chance to see me before he left. I accepted the invitation and drove there on a Saturday morning, ready to spend a relaxing day at the lake on his boat. Again, we were spending the day with some of his friends, which was fine by me. I was glad others were there when the boat wouldn’t start…. Oh boy, was he embarrassed!

It didn’t take long before the guys had it up and running, and we did have a terrific, relaxing day on the water. Afterwards, all of us went out to dinner. I was beginning to feel like a part of the group and they really welcomed me in. Mr. Adventure’s buddy and his wife invited us out to hear some live music at a local jazz bar. I was totally down, so we got cleaned up and joined them out. I was really beginning to feel his interest in me. He was very affectionate, running his fingers through my hair, kissing me in public, and asking me to join him for a dance. I love those kinds of displays of affection, and I was comfortable with him doing that, but he took it a bit too far…

I guess he took it the wrong way. When we got back to his place, he was ready to get intimate. I’m sure all the alcohol he had consumed that day was beginning to take its toll. And he didn’t want to leave for his business trip out of the country without sealing the deal…if you know what I mean. He soon found out that it wasn’t going to happen. Things were going well but I wasn’t ready for that yet. Plus, I really liked this guy and I didn’t want to give it up too soon. Like most men probably would have assumed in his case, he thought we were ready to go all the way. I guess he was a bit disappointed. Anyway, I stayed the night with him and he cooked me a big breakfast in the morning. Again, a sweet gesture that I liked and it was delicious too! He has quite a bit of property so we sat on his patio and enjoyed the beginning of the day in the sun. He cuddled with me for awhile, watched me get ready to leave, and kissed me goodbye. I never heard from him again after I left.

I’ll probably never know what happened with Mr. Adventure. I handled myself well and that’s all that really matters. I don’t have any regrets from our time together. This kind of thing happens all the time; unfortunately it has happened to me more than I would like to admit. But the way I look at it, it’s a blessing in disguise. There’s no way I can be with everyone and at least they’re saving me some time and energy. Those guys who disappear may not leave me with any closure, but at least I know that I deserve better than that and I can continue looking for Mr. Right. As long as I am satisfied with my words and actions, there is nothing for me to worry about it. Though Mr. Adventure and I had some fun times together, our adventures were over. About a year later, I saw him at a bar in Louisville with his new girlfriend. I smiled at him from across the room and went on my way. No regrets.

There have been many guys who have taken me on some great adventures, but these days, I don’t wait around for anyone. If there’s something I want to do, I go for it. Just this summer, I traveled out of state to a state park where I stayed in a cabin in the woods for a week by myself, relaxing and enjoying nature. I went hiking and kayaking and read books by the lake. At the end of the week, I drove to a music festival nearby up in the mountains. Some of my favorite artists were there and it was amazing to hear their music live and listen to them tell jokes and stories. I took my nice camera with me and took pictures every chance I got. I would be driving down a country road and see something picture-worthy and would have to stop the car to get out and take a photo. The whole week was an amazing experience and though I met people along the way, I did it by myself and it felt really good. I’ve never been so happy in my entire life. And it taught me something… I will continue to take my little adventures until there is someone in my life worth sharing them with. Until then, I’m not waiting around to enjoy life.

**Here is an article from YourTango.com for those of you who may have a hard time with guys doing the disappearing act – What To Do When He Disappears: 10 Steps to Moving On. Mr. Adventure and I weren’t in a committed relationship so it wasn’t hard for me to bounce back, but I guarantee if things had gotten a little more serious, I would have had a tough time. Unfortunately, men like to play the disappearing act quite a bit…for all kinds of reasons. Before you start blaming yourself, I hope you’ll read this article and find it helpful.

No Scrubs

During the summer last year, I spent a lot of time with friends on the river, soaking up the sun. Early on, I met a man I’ll call Mr. Hippie. Mr. Hippie and I spent some time on the river, enjoying our friend’s boat. We met through a mutual friend, and though Mr. Hippie and I did not meet through online dating, we did find out that we were both members to the same dating site. Small world. Mr. Hippie and I shared some great conversation and chemistry from day one. After our first weekend hanging out, Mr. Hippie invited me to a concert. When he picked me up, he was dressed hip and trendy and I liked his style. I had been very excited for our date. I could tell Mr. Hippie was a smart guy, laidback and a great conversationalist. He took me downtown to one of my favorite restaurants (He remembered! Major points!), and it was right by the theatre. Dinner was great. Wine was fantastic. And the concert was intimate yet fun. I had a really good time, and I guess he did too, because we made plans for a second date (A comedy show… Another favorite of mine! More points! This guy was good!).

In the meantime, my best friend and I decided to go out one night during the following week. We were celebrating my acceptance into a new graduate program. While we were at the bar, my friend began talking to a couple guys, making small talk. She approached them, finding them attractive, only to discover that they had some major character flaws. Not only were they bragging about the nice houses they lived in and all the possessions they owned, they were in their 30s, still living with their parents, employed at dead end jobs. And here they were sitting at the bar on a weeknight trying to de-stress…sounds to me that they didn’t have much to worry about. They tried to pick up my friend but she just walked away.

Well I found this story to be very funny. So funny, that when Mr. Hippie picked me up for our second date, I used this story to start off conversation on the drive downtown. Since we had both experienced the online dating life, we had discussed some of the experiences we had been through. It was not the first time we had casually discussed bad pick up lines or bad dates. He already had an idea of what I was looking for so I didn’t find this story to be any big deal. After I finished retelling my tale about the dead-beats from the bar, I could tell there was something wrong, but he didn’t speak up right away. I knew that Mr. Hippie was employed with a good job (something that he was great at), but what I didn’t know was that Mr. Hippie was in his 30s still living with his parents. When it came up in conversation later that evening, Mr. Hippie also divulged that he had some financial difficulties and spending issues in the past and was now dealing with the aftermath. He told me it took him a long time to grow up and even now, he had a hard time with his money. As Mr. Hippie tried to climb his way out of debt and continue training for his job, he was staying with the parents to save some cash.

I felt like a jerk. I know Mr. Hippie had to have been embarrassed. I could feel the mood shift as he spoke. I hadn’t intended on making him feel bad. I just assumed that he had it together. He had never hinted at any of this before in our previous conversations. And though I completely understood Mr. Hippie’s predicament and appreciated his honesty, I also knew that I couldn’t be with someone who was still trying to overcome these types of issues in his 30s.

The other deal-breaker….Mr. Hippie was also a pothead. Imagine that. Completely functional pothead but a pothead nonetheless. I have never smoked weed in my life. It’s not something I get into. I have friends who do it on occasion and it’s not something that bothers me…but Mr. Hippie, he took this stuff seriously. He knew about different kinds of pot, data and facts, and he was ready to get me involved. He even mentioned experimenting with things way beyond pot…. That’s just not my cup of tea. It may work for him and others but it doesn’t work for me. I said “No” to the weed, and “Good-bye” to Mr. Hippie.

Mr. Hippie is a great guy and we got along really well. Its men like Mr. Hippie that makes women start the “If” game. “Well if he would just change this…” or “If he would just do that…” It’s not realistic. Dating is not about changing people to make them the way you want them to be. Dating is about finding someone that can add to your happiness just the way they are. Sometimes, we just have to walk away from those that don’t fit into our lives. It takes a realization to say instead, “I deserve better” or “This isn’t going to work for me”.

What is best for you? If you are currently dating or trying to reexamine your relationship, I suggest that you make a list of all the qualities that you are searching for in a partner. Start with a whole sheet of paper. Write everything down that sounds good to you. It could be anything from job to height, religion to education, hobbies, smile, intelligence, age, income, weight, etc. Write it ALL down but be serious about this. When you’re done, number from 1-10 the most important qualities, with 1 being most important. These will be your Must-Haves in a partner, and the top 5 are your Non-Negotiables. Non-Negotiables are things that you MUST have in a partner to be satisfied. If a guy comes your way without one of these, it would be wise to turn him away. There’s no changing him. He doesn’t have what you need so keep searching!

This exercise was presented to me in the book Become Your Own Matchmaker: 8 Steps to Attracting Your Perfect Mate by Patti Stanger. Some of you may know who Patti Stanger is but for those of you who do not, Patti is a matchmaker for the wealthy and had her own show on Bravo. Patti has a high success rate as a matchmaker and in this book, she gives some great information to those who are trying to find their perfect mate. Not everyone likes Patti Stanger or finds her to be an expert on relationships, but I must admit, that this is a wonderful exercise to do for yourself. She is not the only one who suggests doing this either. Matchmakers and relationship experts suggest exercises like this one to anyone who is serious about looking for a mate. It’s important to know what you really want in a partner so you can go out there and search for it or recognize it when you see it. Not only does this let you see what things you’re really looking for in a partner, it also lets you see what qualities or quirks you can live with. Some things are not as important as they seem… For those of you who do like Patti, I suggest reading this book. I found it to be very entertaining…as well as helpful. She has some great insights though not everything she suggests will be right for everyone. The website, A New Mode, has also suggested writing down non-negotiables. This is a great website for relationship advice. Their “Ask a Guy” column is helpful for women who want answers to all of those tough questions on dating and relationships.

As a guide, I will share with you my 10 Must-Haves and 5 Non-Negotiables so you can get an idea of what I’m talking about.

1. Intelligent
2. Good Communicator
3. Trustworthy
4. Affectionate
5. Physically Active
6. Respectful Gentleman
7. Ambitious
8. Positive Attitude
9. Family Man
10. Masculine

Everyone’s list will be different. Some may choose to get a little more descriptive but I suggest being as clear and concise as possible. You may want to consider spiritual, physical, emotional, intellectual, and financial aspects. Some categories may be more significant for you than others. If you are currently dating and looking for a serious relationship, this will act almost as a mental checklist when you meet someone. Just because he’s cute, doesn’t mean he’s relationship material. As great as some of these men may be, you can’t be with all of them and not all of them are going to have what you are looking for. That doesn’t mean they are bad guys or deserve to be criticized, there just isn’t any potential for a long-term, committed relationship. If you aren’t quite ready for a relationship and enjoy the dating scene, just make sure you know your boundaries. Don’t get too close.

Another great exercise is to write down the pros and cons of the relationships you’ve had in the past. What was so great about John? Why did we stay in it so long? What led to the end? You may start to notice a pattern among your past relationships. If he couldn’t manage his money and that really bothered you (con), then maybe financial stability is important to you. If he didn’t hold your hand or kiss you in public (con) and that’s something you like, then affection may be something you’re looking for. Maybe John loved going on adventures with you and that kept your relationship exciting (pro). Adventurous may be on your list too. Help yourself choose the best partner for you. If you’re dating someone and start to notice one of those cons that is going to bother you long-term and potentially get in the way of a happy relationship, it may be wise for you to cut it off before you get too involved. Enjoy your dating life but don’t waste your time. If it’s clear he’s not measuring up, let him go and move on.

**Here is an article from YourTango.com about different types of men to stay clear of when dating online. I hope it is helpful to those of you in the online dating scene.

Ridin’ Solo

Being the only single one among my friends has been rough at times. I’ve often been the third wheel…or the ninth wheel. Many of my friends have families of their own and are now busy with kids or extended families. When we see each other, it’s at group outings, birthday parties, or the holidays. As I get older, I enjoy staying in and doing things at home but I still enjoy going out on the weekends and I love to dance. Occasionally my girlfriends are interested in coming out but not all the time. I got to a point where I was fine going out by myself. I would go out to the movies by myself, out to dinner, shopping, hiking, and even out to the bars. I still do. If I want to do something, I try not to let my single status interfere. To some, it’s no big deal to do these things alone. To others, they’d never dream about going solo. To me, this is the only time I’ll get to do it. This is my time for freedom. To do whatever I want, however I want, without others interfering.

Just this year, I took a month of Muay Thai kickboxing at a local martial arts school. I got back into painting. I have signed up for a photography class as well as a month of boot camp classes. I’m very interested in joining a rock climbing gym. Just to try something new. I changed up my workout routine and have tried to help others get active as well. I began a new recycling program at my school and learned how to start my own compost pile at home. In the last few months, I’ve tried out a couple new churches in my community. I discovered a new chocolate bistro close by and have taken pleasure in going there multiple times to indulge (best desserts and coffee in town!). I go out to dinner or lunch with good friends and family. I have been going to concerts and am constantly seeking out the next show. I love seeing live music. I’ll be traveling to a music festival very soon that I am super pumped about! And now I have started this blog because it was something I had thought about doing for months as I was dating and meeting all of these men. I am enjoying my time as a single lady and using it as a time to do all the things I’ve always thought about trying.

As I go about the world and discover those things I like, the restaurants that were excellent, the desserts that were divine, bands I’d love to see again, beautiful parks and scenic drives…all the things that I would love to share with someone else one day, I write them down. One day, there will be someone in my life to share those days with. Now, as I am exploring my city and myself, I learn about so much that I can share with someone else in time. When he comes around and asks, “What would you like to do today?”, I’ll have a whole arsenal of possibilities!

This is my suggestion to you: Start writing things down. I am a big fan of lists. I have lists everywhere. Of everything. A list of restaurants I love. A list of restaurants I’d love to try. A list of places to get dessert. A list of movies I want to see. A list of date ideas. A list of places I want to go in the city. A list of places I want to travel to. A list of bands I want to see. The possibilities are endless. You don’t have to write them all down if you can make mental notes, but I suggest getting it down on paper so you don’t forget it. When a date asks you what you’d like to do or where you’d like to go, you’ll be ready with several different options. Throw something out there. If he’s not up for it, throw out another one. You’re bound to agree on something…hopefully sooner than later. And this is not just for the singles out there. Those in relationships and marriages are still debating date night. It can be fun to mark things off your list together.

If any of you are in the Louisville area and would like some great date ideas, I would be more than happy to provide you with a short list of possibilities. Maybe you would enjoy some antique shopping, a wine tasting, hiking, horseback riding, a walk through the park, a day at the zoo or a local farm, live music, the theatre, an amusement park…I could go on all day. Let’s get creative!

Man #7 came up with one of the most memorable dates. Mr. Bachelor arranged a very romantic first date starting at a local winery in downtown Louisville. We had wonderful conversation over a cheese tray and two wine tastings (each!). As the evening went on, we pretty much had the place to ourselves, so we did a little exploring of the building. We went upstairs to the winery’s banquet hall to take a look around. There, we shared our first kiss as we looked out the picturesque windows to see a beautiful view of the city. Sounds nice, huh? The date was not nearly over. Mr. Bachelor had wine glasses chilling in his car and an ice bucket ready for the 2 bottles of wine that he purchased at the winery. I followed him to the waterfront where we opened a bottle and sipped wine as we strolled along through the park. No one else in sight. Just the two of us. It was a chilly evening so he gave me his jacket to wear. Mr. Bachelor was a big, buff guy and 6 ‘7’’ so needless to say, his jacket was plenty big…and plenty warm. It was a sweet gesture that made me feel protected and safe and well taken care of.

Mr. Bachelor is a very ambitious man. He has a great job as well as being the part-owner of a couple small businesses in town, one of them being a gym. So on our first date, we ended up at his gym which was definitely something I never expected on a first date. (I needed to use the ladies room.) It was after hours so we had the place to ourselves. There was no workout that evening but he was very knowledgeable about health and fitness and in the short time I knew him, he taught me a great deal. I’ve never met a man more fit and healthy. (These are the moments when I wish I could share pictures of just how fit he really is….) He was very complimentary of me and supportive of my fitness and health goals. Mr. Bachelor and I saw each other several more times over the months that followed. Though he was about 10 years older than me, he was not looking to settle down any time soon. He enjoyed being a bachelor. Since he didn’t want a serious relationship, or kids, eventually we stopped seeing each other. He was definitely open to a casual, more sexual relationship, but that was not what I was interested in and he completely understood that. It was nice that we were both very open about what we wanted and did not try to push one another to go against that. In fact, he was sweet enough to tell me what a great wife and mother I would be someday. He knew I was meant to do just that.

So though Mr. Bachelor and I did not end up together, he took me on one of the most memorable dates. Simple yet thoughtful. Good company, good conversation, and good atmosphere. It is an experience that I’ll remember my whole life. Most of the dates that I have been on have been wonderful experiences and I am so grateful that I took the chance to meet every single one of these men. I’ve been on some wonderful dates, gotten to do some fun things, and met some great men. I’ve gone antique shopping, rafting, hiking, mountain biking, boating, ice skating, through caves and to other cities. The whole experience will never be forgotten. Today, I look forward to the time when I will be able to share some of these same activities with my partner. We’re going to be busy checking things off the list. Whoever he is, I hope he is ready for one big adventure!

What You Thought You Need

A few days ago, I promised you a story of one of my first disasters. It was April and I was meeting Man #12. I had seen this guy on Match for a couple months. He would wink. I would wink. He’d wink again. And I’d wink back. His profile was intriguing and his pictures were adorable. So out of the blue one day, he messages me, and I must admit, I was quite excited. Immediately, he asked to be friends on Facebook, saying that he had a free trial for only a few days and had been wanting to talk to me for weeks. This was getting good….

That very night, Mr. Prince and I met for drinks. As we’re sitting in the restaurant sipping margaritas, I knew things were going well when he invited me to play tennis with him one afternoon. Mr. Prince was friendly and charming and when he smiled at me, I got butterflies. As the night went on and things got even better, we decided to go to a park close by and take a walk. Soon we were hand-in-hand as we danced along the path and he twirled me around, bringing me close for our first kiss. I’m sure we looked like a pair of love birds to passerbyers. My heart certainly had wings that night…but it was short-lived.

It started to get late and the park closed at dusk. As we walked back to our cars, we spotted the police car in the parking lot with its lights on. They were searching for us. The police officer asked for our IDs. Unfortunately for Mr. Prince, he had two DUIs on his record from a few years back. He had been a bartender downtown a few years back and had gone home on one too many drinks, one too many times. Though we obviously were not drunk, the officer told me that I needed to take my date home or else he risked another DUI. The cop sat in the parking lot and watched us leave. There was no going back that night so I had no other choice but to take Mr. Prince home and let him find a ride back in the morning.

Though Mr. Prince and I had a little hiccup, he apologized for the inconvenience, explained the multiple DUIs, and asked me to consider another date the next evening. He had been a gentleman and from what I could tell, now had his life under control. Everyone makes mistakes they’re not proud of. I agreed to another date and from that night on, we saw each other every day. After day 3, he wanted to make it official…I mean Facebook official. And like a dumbass, I did. I was hesitant to do it so fast, since we had only known each other a few days, but I gave in. Mr. Prince was beginning to seem like Prince Charming and wanted the world to know that he was mine. His latest post read, “I’m off the market!” with a picture of us together. The next morning, I had multiple text messages from all the other guys I had been seeing who saw my new status on Facebook. They had some questions…and some comments to make. And I thought to myself, Man, that was a bad move to make on my part. Again, I was moving too fast and this time, the guy wanted to move faster than I did. That was a spot I had never been in before.

After trying to explain myself to several men, I realized that I had not only confused many of them, I had hurt some feelings too. One man in particular was very sore and it made me feel horrible to upset such a good man. To this day, I think about him and the relationship I was never able to repair. I liked Mr. Prince a lot but I should have waited until I knew it was the real deal.

In the weeks that followed, Mr. Prince and I began to talk about all the things we would love to do together. One afternoon, he brought me a card and a present. The card was a sweet reminder of our first week together and how he hoped there would be many more weeks and months and years to come for us to have adventures together. In the gift bag was a new notepad for us to start writing down lists of all the things we had talked about doing together. (Yes, he was very sentimental and very thoughtful. Too much? We shall see…) The lists grew and grew every day. We wrote lists of things to do in the city and places we wanted to travel to. Mr. Prince is in the hospitality industry and could get great deals anywhere we decided to go. He had also gotten an offer to travel to France in the upcoming year and within the first 2 weeks we were together, he made special arrangements for me to go with him when the time came. We would be sightseeing through Nice and Paris. I genuinely think he wanted to make my dreams come true. Seem too good to last? Of course!

By week 3, I felt like I was being suffocated. Mr. Prince was sweet and thoughtful. He bought me flowers and cards and brought me my favorite coffee while I studied. He would sit by my side as I wrote papers and did my schoolwork. We went out some nights and stayed home watching movies on others. We walked around the park and made our own little messes in the kitchen. I took him to church with me one weekend and he spent Easter with my family. We did everything that I thought a couple should do. Plus my family and friends liked him. My mom even liked him, which was kind of a miracle. She has never been fond of any of my boyfriends. But he did help her make cupcakes one day so that has to be major bonus points. Every day Mr. Prince and I spent together. If we weren’t at work or school, we were together. And it was becoming too much for me. I didn’t have time to myself and I realized quickly those things I wouldn’t be able to handle long term. At the end of week 3, I sat Mr. Prince down for a talk and ended our relationship. The first time I had ever initiated a breakup.

Mr. Prince took it hard. I never imagined there would be so much devastation written all over his face. I didn’t know I could do that to someone. I didn’t want to, but it was for the best. And I knew I had to do it before it got too far. I was afraid the “L” word was about to pop up and I just wouldn’t know how to react if I couldn’t say it back. Plus, Mr. Prince’s parents were coming to the States to visit from South America and they were eager to meet me. Yes, Mr. Prince’s parents lived in Brazil and Mr. Prince spent a lot of his childhood in South America. His mother is from Venezuela, whom he is very close with and speaks to on a daily basis, so he has some Latin American roots and speaks fluent Spanish. I could see the influence in his brother’s appearance more than Mr. Prince, but Mr. Prince is definitely a very handsome guy. I loved to sit and look at him. Anyway, if things went well with our first meeting, his parents would have flown Mr. Prince and me down to Brazil the following year to stay with them. There was so much talk of the future and things were going so fast, I think my head was spinning…

So you may be thinking, “Jennifer, are you crazy? How could you give up such a sweet, attractive guy? And all the great opportunities?” It was hard. Honestly, for awhile I thought this was everything I had always wanted in a relationship. Everything I thought I needed. But the answer is, I realized that as sweet as his gestures were, there are things more important than flowers and trips to France. Mr. Prince was still young and immature. He still had something to prove and a lot of growing up to do. I didn’t know it quite yet, but I was looking for a man. Someone who would take his time to get to know me, to learn about the things I love and not rush me into anything serious too fast. The type of man who brings flowers to the woman he loves because he wants to make her happy, not because he’s trying to win her over.

Within a month, Mr. Prince was dating someone else…it was Facebook official. I, on the other hand, was meeting new guys on Match.com since most of the ones I was seeing before, were probably still laughing at my minuscule relationship, or were still upset with me for it. But a couple of them actually stuck around… mostly because I don’t think they noticed that anything had even happened, or maybe they just didn’t care.

Did I learn any lessons? Heck yes I did. Many. 1. Don’t move too fast even if Prince Charming is knocking at my door. 2. Be respectful of the other people I am dating. Don’t make them find out the hard way. 3. Sometimes the things I think I WANT are not really what I NEED. 4. Be careful of what I put on Facebook! 5. Give myself the space I need. Distance makes the heart grow fonder.

I could probably continue my list but these are the biggies. Mr. Prince made me reevaluate what I really wanted…and what I needed. And though I thought I had done this already, I needed to do it again. Mr. Prince seemed to have all of the traits I was looking for…on the surface, but it didn’t take me long to realize that there were just some qualities that I couldn’t look past. Being an only child and an independent woman, I need my space! I loved Mr. Prince’s thoughtfulness, the way he made me feel wanted and beautiful, and that he couldn’t wait to see me again, but it almost felt forced or unnatural. I could never put my finger on what the real problem was. It just didn’t feel right.

Around this time, I was preparing to finish my final semester of college and go to Northern Ireland with a research team from the psychology department of the university. I had a lot on my plate and I had a lot of time to myself….a lot of space that I was definitely in need of. So I didn’t worry too much about Match.com for awhile and let the men be while I experienced a very different journey. I had time to think, time to learn about myself (because we can never do too much of that!), and I had time to have fun! I even had time to meet a couple, nice Irish boys… 

When I came home, it didn’t take me long before I was back in the dating game. I had actually gotten a couple emails from one man in particular and I was excited to meet him. As I started off again, I approached things with a new caution. Mr. Prince had taught me that though things appeared wonderful on the surface, everyone has their flaws. My new goal was to really get to know these men. That meant fewer dates with multiple men and more time with the guys I really liked. I was ready to get down to business…while staying out of the fast lane!

Gone, Gone, Gone

I became a pro at meeting men. I’d come in just a couple minutes late (I preferred to let him get to the destination first, pick out a table, get settled, etc.) and I’d make my entrance, all dolled up. I like to look very nice for my dates. Of course I like to accentuate my assets, but I think it is important to dress like a lady. There’s a famous quote by Edith Head that reads, “Your dresses should be tight enough to show you’re a woman and loose enough to show you’re a lady.” One of my favorites. There are no do-overs on first impressions. It’s always better to be overdressed than under-dressed for the occasion, in my opinion. I’m typically overdressed for everything. Most people have come to expect that from me. But I just love to get dressed up! It makes me feel good about myself and gives me the confidence I need when I walk into a room. And confidence I gained as my dating life picked up. I could tell that many of these men were nervous when meeting for the first time. For several of them, I was the first woman that they had ever met on a dating site. The idea of dating online is a weird concept to most men. I had some even tell me that if I ever met any of their friends or family that we’d have to lie about how we met. I’ve never been ashamed about going on a dating site. One in five relationships start online, according to Match.com. Times have changed and as long as people protect themselves online, I see nothing wrong with this possibility. For a long time I didn’t tell my parents about online dating only because I’m an only child and they worry about me…a lot! So when I finally broke the news, I reassured them that I was playing it safe, letting people know where I was headed and with who, and I had my mace in my purse just in case.

As I went out on dates, I was cautious when meeting someone for the first time. I lived with roommates in the beginning of all this, and I always tried to let someone know where I was going and who I was with. If there was no one around when I left, I’d text the info to one of my stepsisters or to a friend. I’d often text when I arrived at my destination to let them know that things were going well and I hadn’t gotten stuck with a creep! My roommates knew that if they didn’t see me come home at night, to call for a search party in the morning. Hey, crazier things have happened. You never know what these men are like and it’s certainly better to play it safe than sorry. For those of you interested in online dating, always meet in a public place on the first couple dates and do not let him pick you up. In case it goes all wrong, you do not want him to know where you live! I suggest becoming Facebook friends with these guys first to get a feel for who they are and what their life is like. Of course people lie, put up fake profiles, and post what they want others to see about them but use what you have available to you. It’s better than nothing and you can always delete them later. After emailing on Match for several days, I’d usually add them on Facebook and/or get their email address so we could talk back and forth with ease. Eventually, they’d ask for the phone number. Sometimes that even came straightaway. Be careful with this step, because once you give it out, you can’t take it back.

I never had to use the mace and nothing horrible ever happened. In the year and a half that I was on Match, only one date went wrong. Out of the 24 men, he was also the only one who didn’t follow up with me or ask me out on a second date. I think he knew the answer would be a BIG, FAT “NO!” I didn’t write him down in my little pink book either. I wanted no memory of our meeting. When Mr. Out-of-Towner emailed me for the first time, I was reluctant to email him back because he was 12 or 13 years older than me. I had met plenty of older men but my cutoff had been 10 years and I wasn’t sure how comfortable I was going past that. But I figured I would give it a shot. This man was attractive and successful and seemed like he had it together. If I was uncomfortable with the age difference, then I’d know for the future and set a hard limit for age.

Mr. Out-of-Towner was in the process of moving to Louisville for his job so I let him pick the bar. He was not yet familiar with many areas of the city. I didn’t recognize the name of the bar when he gave me the info, so when I plugged it into my GPS, I was horrified. And the place was even worse when I arrived. He picked a biker bar in one of the worst parts of town. I was almost 30 minutes late because I couldn’t find the place….even with my GPS. It was that small and that awful that I passed it up several times thinking that could not possibly be it. I finally made it…but yes, it got even worse. Mr. Out-of-Towner was a liar! He was not 12 or 13 years older than me….try 20. He was much older and it was obvious…if it wasn’t the gray hair that gave it away, it was probably the wrinkles. My face must have said it all, and as much as I tried to remain calm and go on with the date, I could tell that he was embarrassed. Here I was, 22 years old, in a biker bar, dressed to the 9’s, and there’s old men sitting around me in their ripped t-shirts and leather, only a few teeth still hanging on. I had one drink, played one game of pool, and talked with him on the patio for less than an hour before I made a comment about being cold. He got it. I said my goodbyes. Thanked him for the drink. And I was gone. I never heard from Mr. Out-of-Towner again.

It’s wonderful stepping outside your comfort zone and challenging yourself to do something you never thought you would do. Putting yourself out there can be scary, especially in circumstances like these. In my situation with Mr. Out-of-Towner, I was uncomfortable to the point where I knew I needed to get out of the situation. Only you know your limits. Sometimes you have to have a bad experience to know what those limits are but stay true to yourself. If you know something isn’t right for you, stay away from it. Stepping out of your comfort zone is good for you, it builds character and makes us feel pride when we accomplish something unexpected, but making yourself too uncomfortable and nervous for your own safety is too much. I probably should have left the bar the moment I pulled in the parking lot. It would have been easy for Mr. Out-of-Towner to follow me to a different bar in a safer part of town. I didn’t do that. But now I know better. As time went on, I set my own limits and I set my own rule book. And I never let anything like this happen to me again.

It’s Raining Men

In respect for the men that I’ve met, I will keep their anonymity. Though there have been good and bad dates, each one of these men has taught me something and I’m grateful for the lessons learned. They deserve my respect so I will give all of them a nickname, and their identity will be known to me alone.

My first date from Match, with Mr. Neighbor, was at a hole-in-the-wall bar right by my house for drinks. I knew the guy lived nearby so I chose somewhere close to us both. Little did I know how close… As I was leaving my neighborhood, he was pulling out of his driveway and we passed each other on the way to the bar. I didn’t know it until he pulled up next to me in the parking lot, but I recognized his truck as the one I had just seen a moment before, just two streets over from my house. Talk about a small world. In the whole world of online dating, he was seriously a stone’s throw away. Turns out, Mr. Neighbor not only lived in my neighborhood, he also lived in my good friend’s neighborhood growing up. He lived with my best friend’s cousin. He went to school with my friend’s husband. And get this….now works with my dad!! The connections were endless. We ended up knowing many of the same people from high school, though he was a couple years older than me. In the Catholic school community of Louisville, there are so many connections; you’re bound to know somebody. Needless to say, there was plenty for us to talk about and many stories to tell.

Mr. Neighbor and I only went out once more after that night and would hangout if we saw each other out on the town. I never felt the romantic connection between us. He sat far away from me and barely made eye contact….We were better off as friends. As my first date experience, however, it went very well. It was nice to meet someone who I had so much in common with. As we talked about our childhood and background, we realized all the connections we shared. It was a wonderful way to start off my online dating life. I was somewhat eased into the process because it almost felt like I just bumped into him, a friend of a friend and apparently my neighbor too!

I started learning from my first date with Mr. Neighbor. Already I knew that the physical distance he put between us made me feel awkward. I could tell that he was really nervous, and I wanted to see a little more confidence in him. Yes, it can get a little uncomfortable at times, but I’d like to find a man who is comfortable in his own skin, someone who could deal with these situations with more ease. On my second date with Mr. Neighbor, he was still distant and uncomfortable. Damn it, I didn’t have the plaque and I usually smell pretty good. He barely made eye contact with me the whole night and yet he still wanted to hangout again. I was not getting it. I wanted affection and to know that a guy was into me. I appreciate a gentleman so that doesn’t mean I wanted his hands all over me, but I wanted to see the interest. Some things just aren’t meant to be. Yes, I have definitely learned that!

On a positive note, Mr. Neighbor may have been a bit shy, but he was well-liked by everyone. It was clear to me that he was a good man and held the respect of his peers. He was an ambitious guy with many goals for himself and I respected that a great deal. I have always been attracted to intelligence and ambition. That he had. And one day, Mr. Neighbor will find a great girl that appreciates those things too. It’s just not me.

Mr. Neighbor is just 1 of 24 men that I met from online dating, not to mention the countless other dates that I went on that were either setups from friends and family or just random men that I had met out in the city. I began keeping them in a little pink book. I wrote down their name, age, phone number, how we met and when. After our dates, I would write down what we did and a little more background information about each guy so I could keep them all straight. I got very good at keeping them all separate and calling them by the right name. When it came to texting, I had to be careful. There were times when I was juggling 5 men at time, maybe more. I wasn’t sleeping with them and typically, they all remained casual dating so I didn’t feel like I was cheating or doing them wrong. I tried to focus on one at a time but if I got a good offer, I was going for it. It was no easy feat. Dating in general is rough. Dates I got… but it was love I was searching for. I was having a wonderful time meeting new people, seeing new places, and having new experiences, and for awhile I was satisfied with that, but it wasn’t long before I stumbled and landed myself in a big mess! That story to come…

In February of 2011 I went on my first date with Mr. Neighbor and by April, I was on Man #12. I wasn’t wasting any time. Not only had I gone on 12 first dates, I had gone out with some of these men multiple times. I was a busy gal and these men were showing me a fabulous time. I was dating some of them a little more seriously than others, but mostly things remained casual. It became clear to me in several of these relationships that sex was very important. More important than getting to know ME in some cases. In others, they were ready to jump into something serious and have the type of relationship that I had been seeking with Mr. Law. Unfortunately for all of them, I wasn’t interested in any of these offers. Those guys who wanted sex were a bit disappointed and those who wanted a relationship never hit the mark. So I continued to look while pushing some away but still holding onto a few contenders. The next story, the guy who had me running for the hills….

Are you wondering about the music videos? Each one of my posts will be named after a song. Just for a little fun. I love music and wanted to come up with a way to incorporate that. I’ll try to relate the songs to the posts as best as I can. Some will be funny, others more serious. I couldn’t resist the clip from Magic Mike. Channing Tatum is a personal favorite :)

Who Dat Girl

I was 21 years old when I signed onto Match.com for the first time. Having just gone through a break up and multiple flings that went nowhere…fast, I was determined to get back into a relationship as soon as possible. I had been with Mr. Law for over a year, thinking that one day we would get married. Mr. Law was ambitious, intelligent, and funny. He was in law school when we met and doing very well. We met through a mutual friend and I was soon welcomed into his own circle of friends. I thought I was happy in this relationship. As many women do, as things got more serious in our relationship, I started pressing him for a bigger commitment. I was only 20 years old!! And moving way too fast. At the time, I thought he was going along at a snail’s pace. Mr. Law was older, as were his friends, and they were all getting married and having babies. And this was not my first serious relationship. Before Mr. Law, I had been in a relationship for over 3 years which almost had me walking down the aisle. Devastating end but that’s a story for another time.

So Mr. Law and I were in two weddings together during our relationship and attended a few more, and with every engagement and every wedding, my want to get married got greater. To me it was only natural that he should want to marry me. All of his friends were doing it, as were some of my own. They were all in wedded bliss. And I was a great girl. I tried my best to make him happy. I could barely get him to discuss our relationship, let alone talk about moving in together. It took him 10 months to say “I love you”, which to me was torture! After 10 months of waiting around, I couldn’t contain myself any longer. One night, after an evening out with friends and almost 2 bottles of wine, I burst into tears and professed my love. His response was, “Oh I thought you might. I was going to write it in your Christmas card.” What?! Let’s just say this relationship was no fairy tale and nothing like any of the dreams I had for myself.

Essentially, I was settling. I didn’t see it that way at the time, but that’s what I was doing. Mr. Law had many of the qualities I wanted but I was still unhappy with how our relationship was headed. Mr. Law was intelligent and ambitious but I could sense that his career meant more to him than I did. I wanted to feel loved and wanted. I wanted affection. I didn’t get much of that. No one in my family really cared for him. Why I constantly pressed him for marriage and commitment I still don’t know. My guess…I wanted to be wanted. To be loved. And live like the couples we spent time with. I was hoping one day, everything would just ‘click’ into place. I was young and moving way too fast without paying attention to what I REALLY NEEDED.

Our break-up was mutual. After a year and a half together, we both knew it was time to move on, though parting was hard. Mr. Law and I genuinely cared about one another, but we obviously wanted different things out of life, and I think we were both still learning what some of those things were. We learned a lot from each other, good times and bad, and after we broke up, I started a journey that would teach me so much more than I ever expected.

I remember sitting down with one of my best friends, a woman who knew Mr. Law well, and asking her how long it would be until I was in another relationship. As you get older, how long does it usually take for people to bounce back? A few weeks? A few months? She was already married and settled but she told me that it had usually taken her about 6 months to get back into a serious relationship after a break-up. For others, it took longer. I didn’t like the sound of that. I was in a hurry to find Mr. Right, right now and I didn’t want to wait around that long! It seemed like such a long time to be single. A state of being that I was not comfortable with. So I aimed to be back in a relationship within six months…hopefully sooner. But that time came and went and six months later, in January of the new year, I was still single and ready to start online dating.

I received a free trial for Match.com and took full advantage. In the first couple weeks, I had dates lined up almost every other night. I was loving all the emails coming in and looked forward to checking my inbox every day. I’ve always liked dating older guys and there were plenty to choose from! Every night I would sit and skim through dozens of profiles. I sent winks and the occasional emails, but mostly I let the guys come to me. And they did… which was great! I must admit, I enjoyed the attention.

So why did I turn to online dating? Well, like you’ll soon find out, I did not want to be alone. I thought I had exhausted all my resources already so I was ready to find another source for bringing men into my life. My friends had already set me up with those they thought would be good matches. My family members had done as much as they could. I wasn’t finding anyone in my classes at college. My good friends were in relationships or married so many of them were not going out on the weekends with me as my wing-woman. I was not finding quality men at the bars anyhow. And it wasn’t my style to accidentally bump into guys in the gym, the grocery, or the library….though I was constantly on the lookout. So I turned to online dating. I tried eHarmony, Zoosk and a couple others but none of them offered what Match did. And Match.com is much more user-friendly, in my opinion. Match also offered a free trial which was appealing. As a college student, I did not have the means to shell out a bunch of money for this. There are many dating sites that are free but as the saying goes…. “You get what you pay for”. The free sites are definitely not as nice. Same goes for the clientele. I’m sure you can notice a difference yourself.

When I joined Match.com, I set up my profile, much like a Facebook account. At first, I described myself to potential suitors in too much detail. I listed paragraph after paragraph of all the things I love to do and where I’ve been and what I look like. I learned to keep the profile descriptive but length to a minimum. If there’s a guy who is interested in the majority of what you have to say along with your pictures, most likely you will get your chance to tell him all about yourself through emails back and forth…or possibly in person! Keep things to talk about on those first dates. When it came to pictures, I tried to pick photos that were recent, like within the last year or so. I didn’t want anyone to meet me and say, “Hey, you look a lot different in person.” I also cut others out of my pictures. My friends are not signing up for online dating. I am. And there’s no need to post up pictures of all my friends if it’s not necessary. A few more helpful tips: Leave out pictures with alcohol, personal information, your children or family members, and risqué outfits. Yes, you may drink, but you don’t want to give people the wrong impression. Yes, you have a nice body, but if you’re looking for a relationship, act like a lady. There’s a way to look sexy without looking like a slut, or saying, “I’m in this for sex.” Yes, you may have kids and you probably should share that information, but there’s no need to post pictures of your child online to strangers. As for the personal information, that may even include your car (license plate), house, or your workplace. It’s better to be safe than sorry. There are crazy people out there!

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. I could go on all night about online dating but first, let me take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Jennifer. I am a graduate student, enrolled in a Masters program for education at a local university in Louisville, KY. I am also working as the assistant director of a child development center in the area. I am now 24 years old. I have everything in life that I could possibly want. I have a healthy mind and a healthy body. I am fit and attractive. I have a good education, direction in life, and a job that I love. I have plans and goals to accomplish. I have wonderful, supportive parents that have not only given me life, they have supported me every step of the way. I have fantastic family and friends that I spend time with regularly. I live in a cute little house and I drive a nice car that runs. I have many hobbies and interests and a life of my own. I am happy with myself. I have all of this but there is just one thing missing…. LOVE.

My goal is to not only share some of my dating history, the dating stories of disaster and success, but to also share some of the tips I’ve picked up along the way, the do’s and don’ts, and what I’ve learned from dating. Whether you’re looking for dating help or just a laugh, I hope you can take something away from my writing.