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The Best Policy

Dear potential date:

Honesty is the best policy, they say, and after roughly six months of reading profiles and wading through opening lines that are thin variations on “hey, you have nice lips and I like your curves,” I am exhausted. Too much time has been spent on trying to highlight my assets and make my flaws sound fun and quirky, and it got me nowhere. And by the way, that picture is one of 47 I took that night in an effort to find an angle that hid my hips, the wobbly lipstick line, and the stray sock that always seems to be lurking on the floor. I am also sick to freaking death of reading about how you really love Foo Fighters and Shawshank Redemption (seriously, ALWAYS Shawshank Redemption!), and are searching for a woman who embodies every line of The Beach Boys’ California Girls while effortlessly looking like 1995’s Pamela Anderson and who accepts you just as you are.

Because really? Who are we kidding. This is not Melrose Place. If you’re old enough to get that reference without heading over to IMDB and are still (or again) on the market, there is at least some element of your profile that is equal to putting lipstick on a pig.

If I’m honest in my profile, it would read something like this:

I’m an acquired kind of pretty, which is the nice way of saying that an internet website identified my celebrity doppelganger as Philip Seymour Hoffman. I have generally decent hair, nice eyes, and freckles in the summer. I hope you’re a boob guy, because if you’re in it for a good booty, you aren’t gonna find it here.

My backstory will scare the crap outta you if you listen long enough: I grew up in a great family that was damaged by a dysfunctional church. I still have lots of friends there, so don’t bash it, but know that it screwed up my head. I took a long time to finish college and even longer to find out who I think I am. At the age of almost 34, I have seen way more heartache and trauma than most of my peers. I sometimes take meds to make my brain work properly. And the ringer: I’m an ex preacher.

There are good things – lots of them – if you are one of those fabulous men who knows that women are people. To start:
Most importantly, I am really good at loving people. Sometimes they make me insane, but I still love them. 
I can really cook.
I am exceptionally smart.
I am passably funny.
I won’t bug you with a million questions while you watch the hockey game, or demand that you stop watching it to do some stupid little chore because hello, I’ll be watching too.
When I sing with the radio or while I cook, I am fairly good at it.
I am low maintenance and pretty easy to please.
I am really good at being a friend.

There is more, but hopefully you get the picture.

There are things that will annoy you: I never eat all the grapes I buy, I leave socks and water glasses all over, and I text too much. I will gripe at you about your music being too loud and be supremely annoyed at the sound of you eating yogurt.

Here’s the thing, though: I am not asking for you to be Benedict Cumberbatch. God made one of him to prove to humanity that there is such a thing as perfection, and sadly, some pretty English lady got to him first. Since you are most likely as human as I am, I won’t ask you to spit polish the chrome on your hubcaps either. It doesn’t bother me at all if you’re going bald or are pudgy (uh, you’ve seen my hips, yeah?) or can’t make grilled cheese without a toaster. I don’t expect you to have a perfect past, but I do expect you’ll put effort into the present and future.

I’m not looking to be the newest Mrs. Anybody any time soon. Right now, I’d like a reason to put on a stupid dress once in a while, someone whose name makes me smile when I hear it, and is a steady make out buddy. That’s about it.
So if that works for you, let’s talk. But I’ll warn you now that I am the genuine kind of awkward when we start, and will sound like a total dweeb for the first eighteen months or so.

With complete honesty,
Cindy

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All the Same

I can’t stand when people (usually women) say that all men are alike. I hate it because it’s not true, and I wish it was.

There are rotten men. Men like my coworker’s boyfriend who lie, yell, belittle, drink too much, and intimidate and get away with it. Men like the creepy man who, after joking that he was old enough to be my father, leered at my chest and licked his lip while I got him his change at work tonight. Men who disappear after getting a woman pregnant, leaving her to fend for herself.

Tonight, I got to be a pastor again, for a moment. A woman came to the counter at about 9:00 PM with a hot cocoa, two donuts, and two king-sized Almond Snickers. A general “hey, how are ya?” opened the floodgates: she owns her own company and today, one employee was on vacation and the other called in sick, leaving her totally on her own. She asked her husband to come help out in the evening, and he said no and stayed home, giving her a 16-hour day. She hadn’t eaten or even drank anything all day. She was headed home, finally, and he was wondering what she was going to make for dinner. She looked at me and said “I am going to eat these huge candy bars – his favorite – for dinner. I don’t care what he does for dinner.” She was so weary. It made my heart ache to see how overlooked and unimportant she felt. I wished her a better evening and she left.

But not all men are the same. There are good men. I like to think most men are good, and it’s just the pricks that get all the attention.

There was a couple in tonight to buy lotto tickets. He handed her the money to give to me because she was at the counter, and when I handed back the change, she absentmindedly put it in her purse. He joked that that’s how things go, and she handed it back.

“He has his change, but I still keep the tickets, so that might be OK anyways!” she said.

“Yeah, but more than that, she’s got my heart, so who cares if she’s got my money, too?” he answered.

She blushed. And giggled.

As they left, an older man, probably in his late sixties or early seventies commented on how nice that was to see. I agreed.

Last night, after a really long day, I checked the conversation between me, BobbyJeff, Timothy, and Cameron. While I was at work, they had a ridiculous conversation that was fun to go back and read. I said I’d missed them, and they asked about and listened to me go on about my day. I was so glad to have them. I thought about how often Brandon listens and says the right things. And about how when my day was so rotten last week, David was the first to ask about it. I remembered how often Colin and the men in my tribe are quick to encourage and build people up. I think of Kenyon, and his desire to have an impeccable character, and how even when we disagree, he doesn’t get mean or lessen our friendship because of it.

I wish that all men were like the latter bunch I described. I wish all men were kind. Funny. Empathic. Respectful.

Of course, a parallel post could be written about women, too. I can think of more than a couple examples of women who could act a whole lot better.

Tonight, though, I’m just really thankful for the guys who set such good examples, the ones I point to when people say, in a derogatory way, “all men are the same.” It makes my heart quite glad to say “no, they aren’t. Want to hear about some of the good ones? I’ve got plenty of examples.”

Adventures in (Not) Dating

I’ve written about being fat, rape, resigning from my professional ministry career, my family, a broken heart, my anxiety disorder… and yet, this post seems really scary, and incredibly personal. Like the rest of those posts, though, the words demand to be written, and so I find myself sitting at the computer, asking the universe to be kind.

In high school, when everyone else was dating, I had a weird, intimate relationship with a guy for three and a half years, so I didn’t date anyone else. In college, I was working and taking too many credit hours, so I didn’t have time to date, though my insecurities and anxiety kept me under the radar most of the time anyways. Then, for years, I was in seminary and a full-time minister, and I don’t think that there is better man-repellent than being a fat, nerdy minister. A little more than a year ago, something weird started with someone, and after about a year, I found myself brokenhearted, stuck in Iowa where I knew no one outside of coworkers and clients, and I gave in to peer pressure from my dearest friends and decided to try online dating. It had worked for Ange and James, Jerry and Jessica, Brandon and Nick, so why shouldn’t I give it a shot? After all, it’s not like I was likely to meet men anywhere else in that tiny little town.

It has been two and a half months, and oh my God has it been everything I feared it would be.

First, there’s the weird job of setting up your own profile, trying to answer questions honestly, even if none of the options really fit, and even if you aren’t sure how to do it, you have to write something in a few hundred characters that will catch someone’s attention. I’m a whole person, not just a few pithy lines about how I like football, sparkles, and and thunderstorms. What if one word, or one line is included or excluded and that makes all the difference in my impression and I don’t know that? I’m supposed to put pictures, but since all my friends live forever away, all I have are recent selfies and old pictures from when I was much fatter. How many selfies can I post before I just look lonely and bored (no matter how lonely and bored I actually may be here in another town where the only people I know are my parents).

Then, there’s the even weirder job of sorting through others’ profiles. Do I have a height range? What about eye color or income? Excuse me, am I looking for a person or sorting through possible specs on an automobile? If I have no parameters, I look too desperate and have to sort through too many people who really don’t fit the bill. I’ve noticed I have weird trends, a “type” that I didn’t really think about before. I usually skip over blonds, and short men (anyone under 5’10”) seem to get a “meh” from me. I’m OK with men six or seven years older, but more than two years younger and I feel like Mrs. Robinson. Little things in their descriptions can make me cringe and are sometimes speedbumps that I have to think twice about (passed one up because he’s a Packers stakeholder: gag). I skipped one profile completely because he looks too much like a friend’s brother-in-law whom we all dislike. This guy might be perfectly delightful, but I could only think “eeeek! NOOOO!”

But beyond that, I hate, hate, hate the weird, fake, uncomfortable way that communication happens, or doesn’t happen, and how it makes me feel about myself. Online not-dating has been hell on my anxiety, complicated by my stupidly romantic heart. I am never comfortable making the first move. I do it because as much as it terrifies me, if I want something – or think I want something – I have to give it a shot, because otherwise, I will be haunted by what might have been. So I look through profile after profile, trying to figure out if it’s worth the risk, and I’ve decided to take the risk more often than I would have thought I would. And it has fallen flat every time. Most of the time, I’m ignored. Sometimes, I’ll have a few exchanges with a guy and then he just stops talking. Mid conversation, never says another word. Sometimes, it seems like less of a risk: there was one guy who stalked my profile for two weeks, “winked” at me, and then when I said hi, there was no response and he never looked at my profile again. Another guy looked over and over, liked every photo, favorited me, and then again, as soon as I said hi, he disappeared.

The few who have contacted me first have been worse: yesterday, a man messaged me to tell me he’d let me sleep with him since he’s bored with his fat, lazy-in-bed wife, as long as I drove to Wisconsin when his wife and kids are gone. Another guy, barely old enough to get a tattoo, said he’d get to the point: he wants an experienced woman to teach him. And there have been a few who are old enough not only to be my father, but my grandfather, too! GROSS.

Reading profiles has become kind of ridiculous, because they almost all say the same thing: they want a light-hearted, outgoing, skinny woman. Perhaps using slightly different language, but it’s a lot of the same thing. Sometimes, I read them and I can see how we’d get along in everything mentioned, except for that one little phrase that makes it clear that he only wants thin women. Even guys who are 75 pounds overweight themselves are only interested in thin women. sigh. I’m kind of in that in-between stage, where I’m the size of an average American woman, which means I’m not so very gigantic anymore, but I still am losing (seven more pounds lost this month!), with more hips than I like, but pretty decent boobs that balance it out. Average, though, is still fatter than they want. Even taking my weight out of it, I don’t fit into what they describe. I’m not light-hearted. I’m not outgoing. I’m funny, but not in a way that translates well into profile-writing. I am really smart, but to say so makes me sound arrogant. I’m a really loyal and honest friend, but that’s something that plays out in time, not in 45 seconds of reading. I think I’m a pretty good person, but then again, it’s not like anyone would advertise themselves as an asshole, you know?

So two and a half months later, I find myself in the same position. Well, not brokenhearted anymore, but still bored. It’s hard to be ignored all the time and not feel like there’s just something fundamentally unattractive about me. Some invisible force that stretches even into the internet. Poor BobbyJeff, Melissa, Brandon, and Ange have listened to me whine about it and have been kind enough to not tell me to shut up.

I keep saying that I am done with it, but since I have another few weeks on my subscription, I still check it. Every so often, I find myself talking to someone for a day or two, even though they always disappear. It’s a weird sort of masochism, I think, being a romantic. Because no matter how often I end up bummed out by being ignored, there is that little voice that says “but it worked for Ange… look at how happy Jerry is…” I suppose it’s the price I am paying for not being too jaded. The price to pay for hoping, however tenderly, that it’s possible that there’s someone who will see past my hips and inability to write my own catalog entry and see that I have pretty eyes, brilliant brain, and that eternally damned “great personality.”