Everything in my life lately is a metaphor for dating and relationships

Everything in my life lately is a metaphor for dating and relationships.

New Job

I was recruited for a new job. I went on one interview. Then another. Then another. Between the second and third interviews I had trouble getting their attention to schedule a time (the third interview was at their request).

And then I heard nothing.

I reached out to the recruiter and asked if they had any insight. They said I should definitely hear by the next week. I followed up with the CEO of the organization. She confirmed they’d be in touch the following week.

And then I heard nothing.

Friday was my personal deadline to hear back from them before I withdrew my interest. My mom said, “If they call you a week later and offer you the job you’ll take it, though….” and I said, “No. I won’t.”

See, ’cause they way they treat you when you’re​ dating is supposed to be the BEST you’ll ever get with them. Once we settle into our routine, I’ll know what they’re really like, but in the beginning, I’m supposed to feel like they’ve as much interest in keeping tabs on me as I am in keeping tabs on them.

If someone I was dating had sent such mixed signals, they never would have made it to the third date. And, now having ghosted me for the second time…

I’m out.

I know my value enough to know that an employer who doesn’t contact me after two weeks after promising the world is an employer who makes empty promises, same as I would if some guy on OK Cupid showed tons of interest at first and then disappeared without so much of a “nice to meet you.”

Discussion Groups

A few months ago, when I thought I might lose access to my alternate Facebook account because they would not accept “Phi” as a name I am known​ by, there were hundreds of comments in the polyamory discussion groups lamenting the potential loss of my participation.

In the end, I was able to modify my name and continue participating. Everything was fine until a week or so ago, when someone posted something that I felt went against one of the group rules (no derisive comments against any relationship style, including monogamy). Despite my, and several other members’ protests, the group administrators allowed the post to remain unmodified.

I questioned whether or not to stay in the group and several people suggested it would be a shame to lose my voice in the group because I’ve helped so many people.

But I felt that with that post, the group administrators had taken a stand that said “your voice in this forum is not respected.”

I left the group and started my own, because a relationship in which there are agreements that are not upheld by those who set them is not a relationship that deserves my emotional labor.

Selling My House

I listed the house at a lower price, hoping to inspire multiple offers and incite a bidding war. I did get multiple offers, but they weren’t much higher than my original asking price. Meanwhile, the job thing fell through and I no longer had the pressing motivation to move beyond wanting a shorter commute to my existing job. But, hey – I’ve been making that commute for ten years. Another few months won’t kill me.

So I say I’m going to wait before countering, and the buyer’s agent says “Well, the buyer is on a strict timeline….”

Yeah…well, I’m not, champ. So if you’re on a strict timeline, that’s good for you, but I’m not going to take a hit on the sale of my house to accommodate your timeline.

The buyer threatened to pull their offer.

It’s been a week. They increased it. I’m countering today.

I know that the value of my house and my stress-level in packing up and moving out of there is incompatible with that of a buyer who is motivated to get me out, but no so much that he’s willing to pay a reasonable price. The fact that he made an offer isn’t enough doesn’t mean I have to accept it if I’m perfectly comfortable staying where I’m at. Same with the dating world, where the fact that someone shows more than a passing interest in you does not mean you have to drop everything to be with them, lest you find yourself all alone.

I’d rather live in my house than sell it to the wrong buyer.

And I’d rather be alone than in a relationship with the wrong partner.

My Current Employer

I’d told them I was interviewing and I might be leaving them soon. They freaked out a little and begged me to stay. I was honest with them – told them I wasn’t going to turn down the other position if it was offered to me, but that if it wasn’t – we could have a conversation about what it would take to stop looking.

Now that I’ve decided that other job isn’t in my best interest, it’s time to decide what to do with this one. I briefly spoke with my CFO about my concerns. She validated them and told me she agreed with me on many of them. She felt that what our organization is going through are growing pains and lots of organizations go through this, but that if we stick it out together, we’ll stand on the other side of this troubling time having grown both personally and professionally from the experience.

I told her we were in the “couples counseling” phase of our relationship. I was going to have to air my grievances, and they were going to have to validate and address them if we’re going to move forward – but that I have every intention of feeling fulfilled, appreciated, and acknolwedged for my contributions to my workplace, and if that’s not something that can happen here, I will seek it elsewhere.

She agreed.

Ever since I told people that I had given my employer a heads up that I was interviewing for another position, I’ve been counseled that it was a bad idea. Thing is, my employer needed to know that I was unhappy to the point of being willing to leave. I know my value as an employee …I know they wouldn’t be pleased to see me go. And now that they know I’m willing to walk away, I’m in the power seat during these negotiations. I can name my price (as long as it’s reasonable) and they will likely give it to me.

Of course, that will mean having to continue to prove that I will be worth whatever it is I ask for. In this case, it’s not so much about the pay rate as it is about the authority and autonomy over my department, and a seat a the table during the executive meetings.

But I’ll take a little more money, too.



Yes, on the surface – all of these situations are easily compared to some of the broader aspects of dating and relationship building. But there’s a deeper connection they all have that is what dating and relationship building really boils down to:

Self Worth.

I finally learned to set my own value rather than allow others to set it for me.

Whatever happens with this house or this job or the next one, I know my worth. Since reaching this epiphany, I’ve noticed I spend far less time pining for the attention of those who would not give it enthusiastically, and more time cultivating relationships (be they romantic, platonic, or professional) with people who value me as highly as I value them.

On Compliments

I won’t have been the first person to write this, nor will I likely be the last. I, like so many others, am just one of the many who – in shedding some of the (perhaps unintentional) burdens laid upon my psyche by the patriarchal system that dominates our society – has come to regard the “compliment” with unease.

More plain English?

Some compliments by some people make me feel uncomfortable.

Now, in a world unencumbered by the patriarchal system I’ve already alluded to, I wouldn’t need to say more than that. I should be able to say “X makes me feel Y” and “Y” should be accepted, respected, and boom.

And if, for example, someone were concerned about their “X” making me feel “Y” they might be driven to ask “but, why?”

And… you know what? That’s a valid question. It’s a question that does not dismiss my feeling of “Y”, but seeks to understand it. It may also be an attempt to validate it; but it certainly does not come from the position of denying its existence.

But that’s not what we get when we say things like “Your doing of X makes me feel Y,” where “Y” is not a positive thing.

What we get is “No, you’re wrong.” Or “Jeez, take a compliment.” Or “Fuckin’ feminists….”

What we get, frequently, is an invalidation of our feelings. So you know what we do?

We say nothing. A lot. We say nothing so many times.

We say plenty to the people who are willing to listen. We say plenty to the people who say “Oh, I know,” or even those who ask “But, why?” but until we know you’re one of those people, we just say nothing.

So, I’m going to publicly answer the ‘why’ for me. Why it sometimes makes me feel uncomfortable.

This is a society that has placed a high value on the way women look and act and behave, but predominantly it’s about how we look.

I can say “I feel like shit today, I’m so tired….” and someone’s response might easily be, “But you look beautiful.”

Like that’s going to make the shit-and-tired feeling go away, or make it feel less shitty or tired. Every time Erin Andrews, the host on Dancing With the Stars talks about how beautiful one of the female contestants looks I cringe. So often it was “Well, the judges didn’t score you very well, but you look HOT.”

When I was ten years old I started begging my mom to let me wear makeup. She told me I couldn’t – not until I was thirteen. On my thirteenth birthday, I asked if I could wear makeup. She said not until I’m sixteen. I said, “But wait! You said I could wear it when I’m thirteen!” She responded, “I didn’t think thirteen would come so soon!”

For years I wore makeup every day. All of it – the foundation and the powder and the gloss and mascara and the liner. And then, it was an uncle actually who asked me “why?” And I said it was so I could look pretty, and he said “you are beautiful without it. It doesn’t make you prettier. You don’t need it every day. Save it for the days you want people to say ‘wow!'”

It took me a little while, because at this point I was pretty darned pimpley and I really felt like I needed it.

But over time, I did lay off all the heavy makeup. I started really getting used to seeing my face without it. And you know what started to happen?

My mom started telling me to go put on some makeup.

Because it made me prettier.

And that was really important. Hell, just the other day she kept harping on how I had to do my makeup “really nice, like you used to do it – i know you know how” for my job interview. She even asked me for a photo as proof that I did it right.

Over the past few years, I’ve done a lot of work overcoming my addiction to validation. So many of us have this addiction – and it’s no wonder. We’re infused with doses of it from day one of our existence, and it only gets more prominent as we start to blossom. We crave that validation.

And it’s like, in order to wean ourselves off of it, we feel like we have to go in totally the opposite direction. Like, we purposely try to dress unsexy and let our armpit hair grow and behave in the most unladylike fashion we can. Quitting validation sometimes felt like quitting femininity.

But then something else happened. I realized that trying to hide my beauty in response to the patriarchy’s unwelcome valuation of it still gives my control over it to someone other than myself.

I started to see the power and in owning my own looks. Now, here’s the thing. I value them. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that being pretty isn’t something I am aware of or something I’m not appreciative of – but what I resent is that it makes a difference in how others perceive me. I like looking like me. I like that my partner likes the way I look.

But I hate that it has any bearing on whether I am qualified for a job or my family’s love or a stranger’s respect. I don’t look at other people and “rate” their looks or treat them differently to how I treat other people….

….unless I’m flirting with them.

Which brings me back to those compliments.

When someone who is not sexually interested in me (any gender) tells me that I am beautiful, it feels like a compliment.

When someone who is sexually interested in me (any gender) tells me that I am beautiful, it feels like a down payment.

Maybe it’s not intended that way. Holy shit it probably isn’t intended that way! But that’s the system we live in. That’s how it works, and that’s how I interpret it.

I get that there are people with crushes out there on people who do not reciprocate those crushes. I get that it can feel awkward and weird to have a crush on someone who doesn’t crush back on you. I’m not saying don’t talk to them, or don’t compliment them…

…I’m saying that when it comes to me, anyway, understand that a compliment on my level of attractiveness to you can make me feel uncomfortable. I might say “thank you,” if I don’t think there’s any ulterior motive…but if I feel like a response might be leading you to think that I’ve accepted the down payment and we’re now negotiating terms?

I’ll probably just say nothing.

One final thought: If you think this is about you or something you’ve said to me in the past, don’t worry about trying to apologize or explain that your motives are not disingenuous. I’m not holding any grudges and I’m not angry with anybody. Just let this message percolate and keep it in mind the next time we have an interaction.

1000: Even deeper than I thought I’d go

I began blogging on FetLife (a kinky social media site) close to three years ago. Today I reached the milestone of my 1000th post there (many of which began crossing over to this blog about a year ago). That’s the context you need to have the post make sense.  Carry on. 


When I first started writing on Fet, it was in the wake of heartbreak and renewed hope. When my writings first started getting noticed on fet, it was in the wake of even more heartbreak and lost hope.

The more I exposed my pain and vulnerability, the more tenderly I was received. It was a light in a dark tunnel, and I followed it through.

But there came a time when I realized I was perhaps exposing too much. I don’t exactly recall how I came to this conclusion – but, it was (at first) a suggestion made by someone else.

That someone turned out not to be compatible for friendship, but nonetheless – their suggestion remained present in my mind. I was able, eventually, to recognize there were some unfortunate consequences to my oversharing, but they ran deeper than the ones I’d been warned about.

I’m not having a good day.

In fact, I’ve not had a good couple of days.

Relax: I can handle it. It’s okay for me to have bad days. But, it’s been a while since I’ve felt so low. I am experiencing emotional doomsday feelings where my mind travels to the worst places, and drag up memories of the most helpless moments of my life. I am also experiencing physical manifestations of the anxiety that has been dragged upward – the choke-sobbing fits and the acidic ache in my chest and knotted pains in my belly that won’t seem to pass.

I feel, at any moment, like I could give in to the bubbling emotions just beneath the surface and go into a full blown anxiety attack. And for teetering moments at that edge, I almost want to do it – if only so I can let it all out and find myself in a state of dulled emotional capacity on the other side.

Though it has been some time since I’ve been in this state, it is one with which I am familiar. Reverse back a few years, and this is a shadow of what I used to experience on a near weekly, if not daily, basis.

I know what this is.

I also know why it’s here. Not just the obvious catalyst for its arrival, nor even the underlying essential motivations, but deeper down to the fathoms of my existential being, – the stuff I think most people don’t access on a regular basis – I do. I’ve got my number.

1,000 posts ago I’d have shared those details. I’d have given you, the anonymous reader, all of the data: the catalyst, the motivations. I might have, by the end of the essay, drawn a line toward my existential conclusion.

And the reason I’d have done that? I’d have painted you a word-picture of my pitiful state for the purpose of gaining your tender support. It’s a form of manipulation, but not in a nefarious way. After all, writing and story-telling of any kind is a form of emotional manipulation.

So yes, I’d have explained the who, what, when, where, and why of my despair and swam in the soothing elixir of your concern.

It’s what I needed then. But, over time, I became dependent on it. It became a crutch without which my emotional limp would heal but never reach maximum strength.

Now, 1000 posts later, you’re not so anonymous. I know who many of you are on some level.

I also have, for perhaps the first time in my life, an understanding of who I am independent of my relationship to anybody else, (including family, friends, lovers, husbands, stepchildren, or colleagues).

I exist as a person on my own. The people in my life closest to me that inspire love and affection provide an enrichment that I’d never want to take for granted, nor mistake for the emotional equivalence of oxygen.

What’s this got to do with my bad day?

Well, that’s just it. It’s my bad day. I know why it’s here and what caused it, and I’m well aware that it will be fleeting.

So, while I feel the urge to tell you all about it – to dive into the details of the why and how I’m feeling the way I feel – I also now know that the resulting concerned feedback does not help to achieve my purpose.

I just want to share. I just want to to share my truth. I want to illuminate that even one with a charmed life can sometimes struggle – not for the purpose of eliciting your pity, but in an attempt to narrow the chasms that sometimes separate us.

We all suffer, in varying degrees and for different reasons – but we all suffer.

I don’t want to feel separated from humanity. My current (and admittedly temporary) state of despair should not serve to isolate me when, in fact, it has so much potential (and history) of doing the exact opposite.

I want to tell you that you’re not alone, because – in doing so – I remind myself that I am not either.

Addendum to the self-improvement manual

Are you trying to make a change in your life?  Acknowledged some bad habits and are doing the work to address their sources and make adjustments to overcome them?

There’s something that’s not in the “self-improvement” manual that I think you should know.

There are people in your periphery who are going to be hard-pressed to acknowledge that you’ve changed. I’m not talking about those closest to you who are witnessing your efforts, cheering you on, and providing support along the way…

…I mean the ones that you call “friends” but are really more like acquaintances.  These are people in your life you would not call upon if your car broke down at 3am, but you would have a conversation with them at a party.

They took a mental picture of you back when you first met, and filed it away in a folder with your name on it. That is who you are to them – no nuance, no complexity.  You may be a three dimensional object but you are static, not dynamic.

This is a normal thing.  You do it to people all the time. There was a woman when I was in my 20s who was in her late 30s that didn’t realize I’d overheard her when she said to a mutual friend “I don’t want phi to tag along, She’ll take all the attention away from us” when we were making plans to go out dancing in a group.  Later that afternoon, she feigned a migraine and told me our plans were cancelled. I filed her away as “jealous, petty, insecure, lying bitch.”

I’ve not seen nor heard from her in 20 years.  In that time she might have changed completely and become the sweetest, most charitable, and kind-hearted grandmama you’d ever meet – but I wouldn’t know it.  If I were to run into her today I still think of her as the woman who lied to me because she’d created a competition in her mind that wasn’t there.

“Ok, so people won’t believe I’ve changed.  Who cares? I don’t care what they think.”

Well, to an extent, yeah.  Except for a lot of us, our self-worth and self-acceptance is wrapped up in how others treat us. Many of us are programmed to seek validation from others in order to feel secure about ourselves.  What happens when there are a bunch of people who still treat you like you’re the town drunk when you’ve been six months sober?

You start to feel like that hard work you’ve put into self-improvement has no payoff.

THAT’S what’s not in the manual.

The idea of self-validating *is* in the manual; at least, it was in mine.  I was given that piece of information early on by someone who was a friend and is now in my periphery.  He said I had to learn to stop seeking external validation.

I didn’t understand why, or how to do it – but I did know that it was part of the changes I would have to make.  What I didn’t know is that nearly every one of my successes now can be traced back to my learning to self-validate.  To disassociate my self worth from the value set OTHERS placed on me.

It’s not the same as saying “I don’t care what people think.”  I do care. I take it into consideration when I look at myself and ask “are they right?”

If I believe they are, then I ask “am I okay with that?”

And if I’m not, then I’ve got a new challenge to take on.

Critical Thinking

Yesterday, NPR reposted a story to their facebook page from 2014. The article title was: Why doesn’t America read anymore?

If you clicked through to read the article, it wished you a happy April Fool’s Day and explained that they wanted to see how many people actually read the stories vs how many people just commented based on the title alone.

It asked that the people who clicked through not mention it in the comments. And of course, the post had been filled with comments from people arguing with the title of the post, as if it were true.

The person who reposted it on my feed said something along the lines of “April 1st, the one day of the year that people look at every news article critically before believing it.”

In my third attempt at college, I had to take an English course called “Critical Thinking.” It taught us logical fallacies and explained that you can’t just take everything you read for granted. That’s the class where you have to write a lot of argumentative and persuasive essays

And, despite my never having actually finished my degree in creative writing, I can say that I probably took more away from that class than any other in my very long and unfinished college career.

I think very critically whenever I read or hear anything. I don’t mean “critically” in the sense of “negatively”…I mean it in the sense of wondering what the authors’ bias or purpose is, trying to asses any logical fallacies, and engaging my ability to question things and form my own opinions, rather using “chameleon thinking” and automagically buying everything I read.

We’re taught how to do this from a young age. We’re told not to talk to strangers. We learn about heroes who affected positive social change in the world by questioning authority. Especially here in “America,” where we are spoon fed the ideals of critical thinking as soon as we are taught the words “We, the people.”

It’s no wonder that I read so many accounts of people here and in “real” life who say they have trouble accepting a compliment. “I don’t know what to say,” say some. “I don’t think of myself that way,” say others.

It’s taking “critical” thinking and turning it into “self-critical” thinking.

I get this. I used to feel like being paid a compliment was like accepting charity. You tell me I look gorgeous and I might tell you that it’s hair dye, makeup, and a little photo editing, or camera angles and great support undergarments.

What I’m doing might seem like I’m trying to deny that I’m anything special because I don’t want you to feel obligated to compliment me.

But, I make my bread and butter asking people to give to charity. I don’t want them to feelobligated to give. I want them to feel like they are privileged to be part of something great.

When I deny a donor the opportunity to fund research that might help cure their husband or wife, what I’m really doing is taking away their option to do something they want to do.

I’ve worked with friends in the past and have heard many more who have been practicing on saying “thank you,” upon receiving a compliment. Just “thank you.” No rationalizations. No excuses. Just gratitude.

I was speaking with a friend about this recently. “What do you say when he tells you you’re gorgeous?” I asked.

“I’ve been working on just saying ‘thank you,'” she answered.

“Are you ready to level up?” I asked.

Because I’ve taken this whole accepting a compliment thing to the next level.

Are you ready for it?

When someone you love, when the person in your life that makes your nether bits react tells you something flattering, try setting that self-critical thinking aside and say this:

I believe you.

I’ve been doing it. He can tell you that I do it. When he tells me he loves me or that I’m beautiful or that he enjoys spending time with me.

I believe you.

It’s only a matter of time before you might start believing it in yourself.


Please note – It’s probably best continue to employ CRITICAL thinking (not self-critical thinking) when you are establishing a relationship with someone new. We all know there are people out there who are not as intimately associated with honesty as others. But, once you have decided to trust someone….

Trust them.

A Superficial but Relevant Take on Self-Love: (Or, How My Mom Mommy-Dommed Me Into Loving Myself)

I had a conversation with a coworker in the bathroom yesterday at work.  Yes, women talk in the bathroom at work.

Coworker: Wow, your hair is getting really long.  Do you dye it yourself?
Phi: No, I go get it done professionally. That was one of my mom’s mandates after Tony died.
Coworker: To get your hair dyed?
Phi: To take care of myself.  Get my hair dyed. Get my nails done. Get waxed.
Coworker:  And does she pay for it?
Phi: Nope. I do. She made me promise to budget for it.

The point of this post is inspired by @Innermind’s reminder of the importance of self-love, and I don’t mean masturbating which we all know I’m a big fan of anyway.

My mom might be a little bit superficial, but she wasn’t wrong. I’d let myself go. I didn’t care enough to maintain the standard of caring for myself that I’d had before life got shitty.  I’d gained eighty pounds, I was self-dying my hair and it showed, and I wore unflattering jeans and leggings all the time because I couldn’t be bothered to groom my legs.

Frankly, I’d just stopped caring.

She paid for my first visit to the hairdresser the day after the funeral. It was $200. As she pulled out her credit card to pay for it, she gave me the lecture.

“No more boxes from the drugstore. You go find a hairdresser you trust and you budget for this. No more shaving. You go to the waxing center and you get your brows and legs taken care of.  No more chipped polish and calloused feet. You go to the nail salon and get your mani/pedi every two weeks. You make room for this in your budget. You make this a priority.”

She knew this was something I had to be forced to recognize as a priority, because living as the codependent caregiver for a depressed hoarder, I’d not been one for a long, long time.

Later on, when we were going through my expenses trying to get a handle on my budget, my dad suggested I could afford to keep cable television and home phone and take on a new car lease.

“No,” I said. “That goes. That’s my pampering budget.”

My mom was so proud.

It’s been over a year now.  I have no idea what’s happened on any of the TV shows I used to watch regularly, but I take care of myself in all the ways my mom suggested.  Not only do I do those things, but I’ve also lost the weight and then some, and treat myself to occasional massages and frequent bubble baths.  If she’d been paying for it, I’d have been doing it for her.  If I were doing it for the sole purpose of attracting a man, I’d be doing it for him.

It’s because of my Mom-Dom that I found a way to do this for myself.  In the process of doing something so seemingly superficial, I relearned to value myself on on a much deeper level.

Harsh Light

The guest bathroom I’m using here doesn’t have any windows. The lighting in there isn’t the friendliest ever. Back home, I’m used to getting ready in ample natural light. Once the tinted moisturizer goes on, my face is all glowy; mascara applied and my eyes are all poppy, and a touch of some lip balm and I’m ready to go.

But in this bathroom, I put on the moisturizer and I could still see shadows and bags and …WTF, WRINKLES? I put on the mascara and I could see smudges and spots. I put on lip balm and all I can see is that I really should not have cancelled that waxing appointment.

I don’t have my hair products and my normally stick straight hair is a little dry and frizzy. My skin is dry, too, and I don’t know where the hell those bruises on my cleavage came from but I can blame one of three people (insert icy stare with raised eyebrow here).

When I look at my reflection in my parents’ house and I am not seeing the me I’m used to seeing reflected back at me.

And that’s how it goes, doesn’t it? I’m hiding who I really am when I’m here. I grew up wearing a mask, but now that I’ve been on my own for so long – putting the mask back on for three days on is uncomfortable.

I love my family. I’ve had a great life. I’m not trying to sound ungrateful for everything I’ve had – I am grateful.

I have to find a way to reconcile that this is a bathroom with no windows and harsh light, and once I step out into the natural light I’ll probably look just fine.

I guess what I’m saying is that sometimes you have to look at yourself in the harsh light and still find a way to like what you see.