Friday, September 4, 2009

The only failed relationship is one you didn't learn anything from

I have a friend who is getting divorced from his wife after 20 years of what seemed to me and others to be bliss. He admits that the marriage was good. And it is ending somewhat amicably: There are still squabbles, but it is clear that the squabbles are minor and will get resolved without courtroom ugliness.

My friend said something that amazed me. He said he doesn't think of the failed marriage as a failure. He considers it a success.

The look on my face when he told me this spelled W, T, F in big bold letters.

He said first of all, the average marriage last less than ten years, so 20 is really quite exceptional. Secondly, he said 20 years, in absolute terms, is quite long. "I know a lot of people my age," John said. (He's in his mid to late 40s.) "I can't name one that has had a 20-year-long relationship with anybody."

My friend pointed out that the mere fact that you can point to a track record of having been able to sustain a day-to-day, live-together, eat-together, share-our-money relationship with someone for a period of 20 years is a testament to your own perseverance and patience, your willingness to dedicate yourself to a partnership with someone else in pursuit of common goals, and many other fine qualities. It basically proves you're capable of sustaining a relationship if it's a good one. We all think we can do that, but the point is, few people have proven they can do it.

So why did John get divorced? He shrugged and said "No one thing. It was a bunch of things. After 20 years, you become your own person and aren't willing or able to change any more. You find that you and your partner are standing on different boats. The boats, in our case, drifted apart."

Sounds like bullshit to me, but you know what? I'm not him. I wasn't there. I don't walk in his shoes and I don't know what he's seen. So I'm not going to slam the guy. Not for at least another 20 years.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Monitoring her every Tweet

So, I had a girlfriend for a while (a geeky type) who happened to be a pretty frequent blogger, Tweeter, and contributor of comments to other people's blogs. She was also a bit self-absorbed and attention-seeking. In fact, she insisted on obtaining constant attention and for a while this was a big issue in our relationship. Very early on, we had a bit of a heated discussion because she felt I wasn't paying proper attention to her daily online activities. She noticed that I wasn't reading her blog first thing in the morning. It irritated her. So I started reading it first thing in the morning (instead of whenever I happened to get to it). Then we were chatting once, online, and she said "Didn't you see my Tweet on this? I Tweeted about it already, I thought you knew that." I went and looked on Twitter; her Tweet was less than an hour old.

I very quickly got the picture: I am supposed to read her blog as soon as she posts it. Also I am supposed to follow her Tweets and know about them before initiating any kind of conversation with her (by phone or chat).

Like a trained monkey, I set up Google News alerts to alert me by e-mail of any new occurrence of her name online. (She has a fairly unique name. A Google search brings up mostly her.) I also wrote a script using Mozilla Jetpack to check once every 60 seconds for any new Tweets posted by her. If a new Tweet was detected by my polling script, I'd get a toaster popup in the lower right corner of my screen showing the text of the Tweet. The code for this is part of the example code that comes with Mozilla Jetpack and looks like this:
  1. var twitter = jetpack.lib.twitter
  2. var oldTweet = null;
  3. function getTweet(){
  4. twitter.getTwitLatestStatus( "osunick", function(tweet){
  5. var newTweet = tweet.text;
  6. if( oldTweet != newTweet ){
  7. newTweet );
  8. oldTweet = newTweet;
  9. }
  10. });
  11. }
  12. getTweet();
  13. setInterval( getTweet, 1000*60 );

Preparing for a phone call with her meant doing homework. First I had to check her blog (including comments to it), then I had to check her friends' blogs to see if she had left any new comments there. Then I had to check her latest Tweets. And finally I had to check out any Google News Alerts that might have come in about her.

Then I could call her.

This got to be a pain in the ass, of course. I should have seen it as the red flag that it was, because it later turned out that this person was seriously messed up in the head. She was constantly seeking attention, from me and others, online and offline, always flirting, always demanding worship and adoration, and viciously denouncing (behind their backs) people who didn't show her the worship she felt she needed. She became a demanding (and despotic) princess with me, requiring a constant shower of compliments. Eventually, she started accusing me of being egotistical and always talking only about myself and my own concerns. It was her way of saying there is no need to talk about anyone but her, so don't mention yourself, ever. Just talk about me.

We eventually had enough of each other. We broke off the relationship. What's funny is that we each told each other that the other was too egotistical!

The difference, though, is that I tried, consciously, to please her: I tried being more attentive (obsessively so, in fact) to her every Tweet, and I carefully avoided talking about myself, for about a week, to see if it made any difference. It didn't. She still accused me of talking about myself all the time.

I'll never act like a freakin' trained monkey again. Don't you do it, either.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My heart goes out to all my followers

I have to say, I'm overwhelmed by the response to the other day's post about laughing gas as a cure for heartache. That post sent this blog's traffic into the stratosphere. Almost ten thousand visits to that post, so far, from 68 countries -- it must've gotten huge word-of-mouth (and word-of-gmail) circulation. THANK YOU for telling your friends about this blog, it means a lot to me.

In answer to your questions, yes, I'm a real guy, yes the things I talk about are real, and no, dammit, the nitrous oxide thing was not made-up. The laughing-gas matter is no laughing matter. Sure it could be placebo effect. Any goddam thing can be placebo effect. If you've ever had a serious nitrous experience at the dentist's office, you know damn well that the effects of ntrious oxide are very subtle and hard to describe, to say nothing of the fact that they vary tremendously from person to person. For me, if I get too much nitrous (and btw, that takes a LOT of gas, for a long time) I start to feel numb in my fingers and can start slurring my speech. Of course, sometimes it's just the Budweiser.

Anyway, I heart my followers, all y'all who read this blog. That means you. Thank you. And please tell your friends.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What it means when she (or he) hangs up on you

I had a bitch of a girlfriend whose "arguing style" included a most annoying trait. When she was unable to handle hearing an alternative point of view on something, she would quickly escalate to a rage-state and eventually just hang up the phone (or abruptly, without warning, log off of chat). This was such a frequent behavior, even in cases of relatively minor disagreements, that it got me thinking about what might be behind it.

Mind you, I'm no psychologist. But I think I have it figured out.

Consider the consequences of a hang-up for the hanger-upper. The act of hanging up is a control act. The hanger-upper asserts immediate control over the conversation and the other person. This is important. Your partner may not admit to being a control freak. But this is a telltale clue.

Another important benefit for the hanger-upper is that disconnecting automatically, instantaneously, removes a painful negative stimulus. From an operant conditioning point of view, this is a self-reinforcing behavior.

So it's a double-whammy for the hanger-upper. By hanging up, she achieves a feeling of power while simultaneously eliminating a painful negative stimulus. What could be better?

But what about the hanger-uppee? What are the consequences for the person who's being hung up on?

Well of course, first of all you feel like you've been distanced. It's an awful silence on the other end of the line.

But mostly it's a feeling of abandonment. It's certainly an act of abandonment by the person who hangs up.

What are the emotions felt by someone who is abandoned by a loved one?
  • Powerlessness: You are unable, even in theory, to continue the conversation with the other person. You have no control at all over your situation. You've been robbed of any power, any influence.
  • Hopelessness: There's no hope of winning the argument or bringing the other person back. They've already left.
  • Loneliness: You have gone from a two-person interaction to one person. You're by yourself.
In short, your partner has punished you by making you impotent -- powerless. At the same time, she (or he) has reclaimed power and obtained a strong (if short-lived) "high" from the act of hanging up. At the very moment of disconnecting, the hanger-upper feels a rush, a hugely satisfying feeling of empowerment. This satisfaction is very short-lived, though, like the buzz from your first morning cigaret. In fact, if the person in question has any kind of conscience at all, it's followed some time later (maybe minutes or hours, but more likely days) by feelings of guilt. The person will come to you the next day and try to make up. She will try to explain her behavior as an "overreaction" or an impulse, or unintentional, or a momentary lapse of judgment. It was none of those things. In fact, when you hear that kind of explanation, you are not hearing an apology (or even an explanation), but an excuse. It means "I know what I did was wrong, but it felt good at the time and I'll do it again in the future."

I dug deeper into my girl's background, and here's what I found.

At a formative age (adolescent), her father left her mother. The father now dates one of the daughter's former high school teachers. Father and daughter occasionally talk on the phone, but daughter now hates father (even today, at age 32), and she frequently ends phone conversations by hanging up on her father.

My (ex)girlfriend loves her mom, defends her as a saint. She hates her dad, castigates him as a selfish, cruel person.

It all makes sense now. When her father left her mother, my girlfriend's dad was engaging in an act of abandonment -- a type of hanging up. My girlfriend was young at the time and keenly felt the sense of powerlessness imposed on her and her mother. They were powerless to bring the man back. Powerless even to plead for reconsideration. Powerless in the most fundamental sense of not having the ability (even in theory) to be heard.

My girlfriend learned from this experience, at an early age, that the way to gain power over a man -- and punish him for his insolence and disrespect for you (because after all, when you feel powerless and disrespected, you seek power and respect constantly, you make a fetish out of it) -- is to hang up on him. Abandon him. The way you were abandoned.

I feel sorry for someone like that. They're truly damaged goods. And they're going to go through life imposing their own psychological damage on others.

I feel pity. But not forgiveness. People who hang up on me might deserve all the pity in the world, but you know what? Rude assholes can go fvck themselves, I don't care how good a blowjob they give.

Monday, August 31, 2009

How to stop pining over lost love: the nitrous oxide cure

I wrote before about my recent breakup with the Russian geek-chick. A spectacular chick. A spectacular breakup. Spectacular heartache afterwards.

I was, if I tell you the truth, nearly incapacitated with heartache for days. I couldn't think, I couldn't eat, I couldn't work. Memories of Her intruded upon my every thought. I couldn't listen to a song without thinking of her. She was on my mind when I went to bed at night, and when I woke up. I was utterly unable to stop thinking about her, completely overtaken with memories of her, and unable to stop the terrible, gut-wrenching, never-ending heartache.

I discovered two things that helped, one of which was pharmacological, one of which wasn't. Let's go with the non-pharma thing first, because it's important. The non-drug thing that helped was to find a friend who had had a similar experience, and talk it out with him. We talked it to death, then put it aside. It was cathartic as hell, I have to admit. It felt good to know that someone I trusted (someone with a lot more "love experience" than myself, actually) had been through a very similar experience. And he knew everything I was going through. He knew just the right things to say.

But I also did some online (Web) research to see what I could find out about drugs or herbs that might be able to disrupt and/or end the painful pining-away that I was experiencing. I was pining for my lost Russian lover constantly, and it was exhausting! I couldn't get any work done. Something had to give. Suicide was not an option. But losing my job seemed like a definite possibility, if I didn't get my act in order, quickly.

In my Web research, what I found out was that "pining" is correlated to a certain part of the brain involved in alcohol addiction (and other addictions). It's near the amygdala.

I also found a couple of animal studies (with rats) that showed an unmistakable ameliorating effect for nitrous oxide on certain chemical responses in this part of the brain involving dopamine metabolism and addiction pathways.

Putting two and two together, I hypothesized that breathing nitrous oxide might "break the vicious cycle" of pining, by breaking the addiction pathway in the part of my brain responsible for pining.

I decided to do a little experiment of my own.

But where can you get nitrous oxide on short notice? I didn't want to take a trip to the dentist (OMG are you fking kidding??), or invest hundreds of bucks in a NOS-system for my car.

Well, it turns out that nitrous oxide is used as an aerosol propellent in two common products, but only those two. Nitrous is too expensive and too flammable to use as an aerosol propellent in ordinary spray products. So don't go looking for nitrous in just any spray product.

The two places you *will* find nitrous are

1. Vegetable-oil cooking spray (Pam).
2. Aerosol whipped cream.

Nitrous is used in these for its foaming effect. It turns out other gases cause whipped toppings to "fall flat" when dispensed by aerosol; nitrous is extremely soluble in dairy products and causes super-foaming to occur when depressurized.

And by the way, if you've ever sprayed Pam on a hot open-flame BBQ grill and been startled as f*ck by the vicious fireball that erupts when you aim the blast at the grill, now you know why. Nitrous oxide is a potent oxidizer. It's used in some rocket engines. (Remember that airplane-looking thing that Burt Rutan built, that went into space carrying some 50-year-old dude who thought he was hot shit but almost went out of control? That was a nitrous-oxide engine.)

My experiment involved buying a can of whipped topping, and obtaining a large plastic freezer bag (a large Baggie). No no no, I did not stick my head in the bag. It wouldn't fit anyway! The bag is way too small to put your head in, unless you're a goddam mutant.

What I did was stick the nozzle of the spray can deep into the bag, place the bag over my nose and mouth as best I could (with the rest of the can still sticking out), and shoot a blast of whipped cream into the bag while inhaling deeply. The cream fell to the bottom. I breathed the vapors. And I held my breath for a while (at least 15 seconds), to make sure the gases got trapped in my blood.

Verdict: Son of a gun if it didn't actually work! Within 15 seconds, when I opened my eyes and exhaled, I could feel the heartache fade and my heretofore dreamy, idyllic perception of the Russian devil-bitch fade into the daylight of calm rationality.

I took a total of just two more "hits" from the bag (with fresh blasts of cream, to get fresh propellent). Again, each time, I held my breath for about 10 to 15 seconds. When I started breathing again, I felt incredibly better: sober, awake, focused. I had "snapped out of" pining mode.

I worried that maybe I'd snap back into pining mode when the nitrous oxide wore off (as it does, after a few minutes). Not a problem at all. The amazing thing is, once you get your mind out of pining-mode, you can continue the momentum on your own, particularly if you genuinely do have work to do. (I did have work to do. I had fallen behind on my job because of the Russian.) All you really need to do is break the cycle of addiction. The rest is easy.

Did I become addicted to "the bag"? Hell no. A hit now and then would take the edge off, as needed, and a phone call to my friend would do the rest.

Oh, and a few nights after I discovered the NO2 cure? I called whats-her-face on the phone, told her what a heartless cold messed-up psycho bitch-who-can-never-hold-onto-a-man she was, and hung up while delivering an ancient Anglo-Saxon invective with gusto.

Haven't pined over the little mofo since.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Broken Up

It's terrible, what has happened.

My Russian friend and I have broken up. After 18 weeks of bliss (or so I thought), including a romantic trip to a faraway coast, the whole thing is now kaput.

I'll spare you the awful details, but basically, I failed to show her proper respect on her birthday. For this, she sent me away -- permanently.

But was it really only for that? No, of course not. She would have dumped me anyway, for whatever reason, at some point. It's because she actually got tired of me weeks ago and didn't tell me. In the meantime, we fought over silly things, things I had no idea someone would fight over, for two weeks before her birthday. Then finally, on her birthday, I demanded to know why we were fighting. That, in itself, caused a fight (which in turn led to her sending me a "get lost and don't come back" note).

I'm glad it's over. It was a learning experience of substantial proportions. Maybe I'll enumerate the things-learned in another post. But if you'll excuse me, first I have some moping to do.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


My girlfriend-of-3-months and I communicate by IM (chat) a lot. We also talk on the phone, of course. We're still learning each other's vocabulary. When I say "girlfriend," I mean one thing but she thinks another. When she says "serious relationship" she thinks one thing, I think another. We often find ourselves taking apart words and phrases, fussing over semantics. I call this the over-parsing problem.

A great example is just the phrase "in love." What does it mean? Does it mean an infatuation that keeps on growing? Does it imply a serious relationship, or a commitment of some kind? Is it a phrase you should use (at all) in the first weeks of a relationship? Is there even such a thing as true love? Etc. etc.

Here's the solution -- the way to get past the over-parsing nonsense. IMHO.

Focus on actions rather than words. Make sure your partner understands that you don't really care about vocabulary -- you care about actions, deeds, behavior. Because let's face it, you really can't tell if someone is in love with you just by what comes out of their mouth. Mouths lie. Actions do not. You can tell, by certain patterns of behavior, whether someone is loyal or not loyal, needy of your attention or not needy, physically attracted to you or not, and so on.

I'll give you a quick example. My girl denies that she needs me. "I may want you," she always says, adamantly, "but I do not need you." Bear in mind this is coming from a recently (if two years ago can be called recently) divorced 30-year-old who is living alone and making a good (very good) living working for a large enterprise software company.

Her behavior tells a different story. We talk either via IM or phone every day and have done so for 3 months. (We live 500 miles apart.) It is rare that we don't spend at least two hours (minimum) per day talking or chatting. In fact I would say the average is more like 3 hours a day. Now here's the interesting part. If I don't get in touch with her within a given 18 hour span, she contacts me, always, even if we've had a bad fight the night before. And (here's the telling part), she says every day, sometimes several times during the day and at night, that she misses me. "If I don't talk to you, I really start to miss you," she explains.

So the point, though, is: She would never say "I need you to talk to every day." But the fact is -- her behavior says -- that she does need to talk to me, regularly, frequently, without fail, every day, or else she starts to pine for me. That, to me, is need, not want.

But I long ago learned not to parse phrases like "I need you" versus "I want you," because eventually the other person's actions will make it clear what the score really is.

Words are cheap. They're overloaded and squishy. Don't rely on them. My advice? Observe your partner's behavior. It will unfailingly tell you what you need to know.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

How to know if your girl is seeing someone on the side

There may come a time when you suspect something. Maybe you've had a fight. Maybe an old boyfriend is in town. Maybe your love interest has begun acting a little less interested. For whatever reason, you may suspect that she's seeing someone on the sly. (And yes, I'm writing this specifically from the Guy's p.o.v., because I'm a guy, and I've been through this. Ladies reading this may want to stop right now.)

Let's leave aside, for now, the whole debate over whether you should or shouldn't be jealous, should or shouldn't get mad if your lady is seeing someone else, and so on. Those are legit topics for another day. Right now let's concentrate on more practical matters. Let's talk about how you can know whether she's getting a little extra attention on the side.

Obviously, if she's "away" a lot or is ignoring your calls and spending much less time with you, that's a warning sign, but let's take that as a given.

Here are the things that have tipped me off in the past. (Yes, I am talking from actual experience now.)

Look in her car for trinkets, gifts, love offerings of a seemingly trivial nature but that sure as hell didn't come from you.

Look in her car and (if possible) her apartment for custom-burned love-song CDs created by a new "friend." Check her iTunes playlist to see if her musical tastes have suddenly darted off into the weeds. Have her car radio stations changed? Does she listen to different kinds of music now than she liked before? Don't laugh. I've found this to be a very interesting clue as to who's screwing with who.

If you have access to her phone bill, take a look at the incoming and outcoming calls. Are there lots of calls to a new number?

Caller ID on the cell phone -- same thing. Check and see who's been calling who.

The next time you come to her apartment, immediately excuse yourself and head to the bathroom. Is the toilet seat already up?

Does she take a particular day or night of the week off (and not want to see you that day), that she never took off before? Does she go out for lunch or go out shopping or [whatever] on one specific day of the week now? That's probably His day off.

Does she suddenly favor a new perfume? (Sure, women change favorite fragrances all the time, but you have to consider this in the context of the other indicators given here. By itself, it may mean nothing. But in conjunction with other signs of trouble, it could be quite meaningful.)

I know this is gross, but: Find the dirty-clothes hamper. Smell her undergarments. (You know what to smell for. Do I have to spell it out?)

Check her car odometer. Friday night if she says she's going to the mall with her best friend Sue, and you know that the mall is 5 miles away, but she comes home with 35 extra miles on the odometer and sticks to her mall-and-back story, you know something doesn't add up. Literally.

Oh, and one more thing: Try just asking her, straight out, to her face. Sometimes that can be the most effective way to get the information you're looking for -- even if she says nothing back.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A sneaky way to grab her interest

I accidentally discovered a sneaky way to grab a girl's interest. If you're trying to pique a woman's curiosity about you, this will do it.

Of course, you have to use discretion in how you play this card. Don't be an ass. Don't be a braggart, a loudmouth, a conversation-hog, or obnoxious in any way. To the contrary, be shy, demure, reticent, almost unwilling to talk. This is very sensitive stuff. She'll understand that.

So here's what I discovered. I was chatting on the phone with my new love-interest recently. We aren't exactly in a relationship (yet), although that's where we're headed. I very much want to accelerate that process, but she is still pretending it's never going to happen. It's a tug of war. Anyway, she knows that I was recently in a longterm relationship that broke off. I never bring that relationship up in conversation, by the way. She asks about it. That's the only reason it ever comes up.

But when she recently asked me how I was dealing with the emotional trauma of breaking up after that many years with someone, I said something like "Oh I'm fine. It's fine." Then I waited a precious few seconds, and gave up a sad-looking little laugh. I said: "It's ironic, though."

Naturally, she said: "What's ironic?"

I pretended to be very embarrassed for a moment, then nervously admitted "Just before we broke up, we had the best sex we ever had."

I apologized for being so explicit and told her I didn't mean to expose her to details about my past relationship(s). She feigned understanding.

And then a funny thing happened. Female curiosity kicked in. After a few seconds, she couldn't stand it any more. She just had to ask. "So," she said, "what was so good about it?"

I feigned surprise. "What? Oh, you mean the sex?" (At this point I pretended to get flustered. You have to play the "shy" act a little bit here. Don't come off cocky, that's not what you want. Not at all. Be careful. You're on thin ice now!) I collected my composure and finally said: "Well... it's kind of a long story. Are you sure you want to hear it?"

Of course, that only heightened her curiosity. It was like fanning a bed of hot coals with a leafblower that leaks gasoline.

"Well," I said, "we told each other our fantasies. And it turned out we each had the same sexual fantasy. And we got very excited at the idea of making it real. We talked all about every detail of it. It was intense."

Again, fanning the flames.

I went on to describe a "fantasy" involving my ex- plus me plus another guy. But I made sure to point out that the only reason I would consider such a thing was that I was seriously in love with my partner and wanted to please her. (Of course, I painted my partner as a bit of an insatiable sex maniac.) I said that my girl was oversexed, and when she got turned on, she really did need extra stimulation. And I said that at that point in our relationship, my ex- and I had total trust in each other, and I was so in love, I would have done anything to please her. (This makes me sound like a real hero, naturally. What woman wouldn't want a guy that's that good to her?)

"But," she interrupted me, "wouldn't you be jealous if you saw another guy doing your girlfriend right in front of you?"

At this point I made up some bullshit answer like: "Well, at this point in my life I just do not find something like this threatening to my ego. And I'm very non-possessive. I figure, if she really wants me, and if we trust each other, then she'll still want me even if another guy has briefly been in the picture." (All total bullshit. All totally designed to make me sound like an unbelievably self-confident, unselfish, loyal, considerate, yet sexually accommodating, male. A total turn-on for a woman.)

My woman-friend listened in rapt astonishment as I explained the whole male-male-female 3-way fantasy scenario in great detail. After 15 minutes, she was nearly speechless with amazement -- and desire. The very next weekend, she booked us for 3 days at a fancy beach resort where we borked our brains out -- and she paid for the whole thing. (I bought her dinner on the second night.) I swear to you I am not making this up.

So there it is, a technique that I discovered by accident in the course of a casual conversation with a new lady-friend that, until that point, I had been pursuing very hard without much success. Telling her a few sexual fantasies in the utterly safe, non-threatening context of a former relationship that I was very much done with, turned out to be magical. It swiveled her head. She looked at me anew. It surprised both of us.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Figuring out the hidden subtext

I've been having this ongoing sidebar conversation with my new not-yet-but-soon-to-be girlfriend, who spends two hours a day (on average) chatting with me by IM (mostly) or phone. She insists we're not in a relationship and never will be -- which is already ludicrous, because first of all, you don't spend two hours a day talking to the same guy (and signing off your IM chats with hugs and kisses: xoxoxox) unless there's something more than friendship going on, and second of all you don't spend all night in bed hugging someone (although there was no sex) without at least something going on. But she is adamant that we certainly are not in a relationship. I know she's wrong, however, based on some interesting word choices she has made in chats.

She has consistently said (rarely, but consistently) that she is "afraid" of me. This is a surprising statement coming from a hard-driving, successful, aggressive professional woman (age 30) -- a superstar in the professional services arm of the software giant she works for -- who is almost never afraid of anything. I can't even imagine her being afraid of any human being in the world. It's ludicrous. Why would she say she's afraid of me? I'm the most non-threatening geek ever.

The short answer is, she has nothing to fear from me except involvement (in a serious relationship). That's absolutely the only thing she fears.

Something else she likes to say a lot is that "We're doomed." Now bear in mind, this is a lady who has consistently told me she does not need me, although she likes me. We've never even come close to making a commitment (of any kind) to each other, and she won't admit that we're more than just friends. I said to her once, when we were kissing (with her tongue down my throat), "Let's be a couple." She immediately drew back. "No," she said. "Let's not."

So why would she say "We're doomed"? What's doomed? Our non-relationship? The relationship that (according to her) we don't have is doomed?

Consider two people who really, really like each other's (online) company and like to chat at all hours. Maybe that's the essence of the relationship and it's just a friendship. According to my lady-friend, that's exactly what we have. Well, do you refer (in future tense) to that kind of friendship as "doomed"? Because of what, exactly? Doomed how? Why?

The only thing that can be doomed is the love affair that she is pretending won't' develop between us. She is scared spitless of that -- of falling in love, losing control. She is afraid of becoming emotionally invested in a relationship. For one reason or another, she imagines that it might fail and she'll get hurt. Therefore "we're doomed."

These word choices, "afraid" and "doomed", are very telling. They're orthogonal (semantically) to ordinary notions of friendship. They only make sense in a context of commitment and emotional investment. The fact that she chose those words means she has strong feelings, positive feelings, about us -- and she's afraid of what that may mean. She knows she could be falling in love. She knows this is about more than casual conversations and online chats. This is real. It's a real relationship forming.

So I guess the point is, consider the subtext. Don't ever expect a woman to say what she means and only what she means, because there's always a deeper meaning underneath the surface meaning of the words. The choice of words can tell you a lot about motivations and inner conflict. My girl is conflicted. But clearly it's for good reasons. She knows what she's afraid to say out loud: I might be The One.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

2nd-Best Weight Loss Plan in the World

I have determined that the second-best weight loss plan in the world is (of course) falling too much in love, too quickly, with a person who is just too beautiful, too smart, and too geeky. The harder you fall, the more weight loss you can expect (at least initially). For added effectiveness, might I suggest that you make sure your plan also includes geographic remoteness. My gal is 500 miles away. We stay in touch by chat and phone, with the occasional lip-to-lip visit.

I fell in love with this girl a little faster (not by much, though) than she fell in love with me, and so in the early weeks I built up a bit of a "longing debt," made all the worse when she went overseas for 3 weeks to visit family in eastern Europe. I started to pine. Really pine.

I forgot about food for a while, or at least it didn't interest me as much. Maybe that's because I took to smoking cigarets, to cut the pain. I was nervous, agitated, couldn't sleep.

Oddly enough, I was losing one pound per week even though I started consuming beer heavily. The beer not only didn't show up on my belly, my belly actually shrank.

I've had this whole experience happen once before, when I fell in love with a certain southern belle whose beauty and charm so captivated me that I had to force myself to eat when we went out to dinner. Food didn't interest me when we were together. I always had knots and butterflies in my stomach.

So in my case, right now as I write this, it's been 10 weeks since I met this particular geeky gal (who is a U.S.-based services rep for a very large European enterprise-software firm). And I have lost exactly 10 pounds. Mind you, I graduated high school at 153 pounds, and ballooned up to 178 over a period of ten years or so. I am now at 168. And still dropping, after almost 3 months. I really love that girl.

At this point you're probably wondering what the first-best weight loss program in the world would be (aside from being convicted of a capital crime). The most effective weight loss program is to be dumped by a woman you're seriously in love with. It's hard to eat solid food in the fetal position.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Why does she ask me what I see in her?

Sometimes in this blog I write about what I know (from experience), other times I write about what I don't know (but want to learn about, from others). This time it's both.

My lady-friend of 3+ months has, on quite a few occasions, usually while we're chatting (via GTalk), since we live 500 miles apart, but also sometimes by phone, and even a couple times in person, asks me what I ever saw in her t hat attracted me to her in the first place.

I have to admit that my initial reaction to such a question is one of astonishment. It leaves me speechless. (Which, of course, is not a good answer to the question!) It's almost like a lack-of-trust issue, to me. It's like, Hey, give me some credit, I chose you because I really, really like you, does the reason really matter so much?

Of course it matters. A woman wants to be sure it's not all based on bullshit. Guys come, guys go. They want different things, say different things. I understand that.

So I tell her things like "I knew when I first saw you that I had to learn more about you, and the more I learned, the more I found that was exciting. I mean, where do I begin? There's no one like you. You're super-intelligent; that excites the heck out of me. You're attractive. You have a beautiful smile. You value the important things in life -- people, relationships, small mammals. Well, maybe the small mammals aren't that important. We can talk about it later..."

I prattle on like that until she gets tired of listening to me, basically. But the hard part is this: We're separated by hundreds of miles. For the first two months, we chatted (IM) without having seen each other in person. When you're talking to someone you haven't met in person or even spoken to on the phone, how do you explain what attracted you?

In my case, I wasn't planning on any of this happening. It was all accidental, or feels that way. I got into a Twitter exchange with this person. Then I started following her blog. I liked her picture, but not that much, really. What I liked about it was her smile. Her overall look was not screaming at me "You've got to have this woman, she's a knockout, she's beautiful," etc. (Not that I go chasing after every woman who has a pretty face anyway.)

But as I saw more and more pictures of her, I realized that in every picture, she was smiling with that infectious smile that leaps out at you, right off the screen. I finally IM'd her and asked her about it. "How come you've got that smile in every picture I see of you?"

She answered back something coy like "It's the outcome of a carefully planned succession of happy moments." (via chat)

And (via chat) I replied something like: "Ah yes. The Successive Happy Moments Pattern. I think I read about it in the Gang-of-Four book."

One thing led to another. Literally every time I found out a new fact about her, I was blown away. She has an amazing resume, an amazing mind, some huge career accomplishments, a huge network of amazing friends and colleagues, she's well liked by everyone who has ever come in contact with her, and yes, she's pretty. I've come to see her as beautiful now, truth be told.

But how do you explain all that in a few words? "Choosing" her was not based on some catalog of characteristics that I saw up front. It's not like buying a car. My "choosing" her was actually a somewhat lengthy and organically evolving process that happened to lead me to where I am now -- which is to say, thoroughly in love (although she is lagging a few steps behind).

She still asks once in a while why I chose her. I don't think she asks because she's insecure. She's a very strong, confident person, and she knows how I feel about her. I think she's either testing me, or trying to tell me "You don't know everything you need to know about me; be sure you know what you're getting into; be sure you want me for the right reasons."

It'll all become clear eventually, of course.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Flowers can backfire

In yesterday's post I was talking about how I sent flowers to my new lady friend after finding her address on my own (through some online research) since I knew she didn't give out her address to strangers -- particularly ones she meets online -- and anyway, I didn't want to spoil the surprise by alerting her to the fact that I might be sending her something.

Well, it kinda backfired on me. And it became a bit of a learning experience. No major harm done, but I learned a couple of things nonetheless.

If you'll recall, my girl has a vanity domain name, and all I had to do to get her physical address was do a "whois" style lookup. Her registrar had the complete physical address including the apartment number.

I happened to know (from a comment she made in a long-ago chat) that my lady friend likes sunflowers. So I decided to send her sunflowers as a surprise. Except, it wouldn't really be a surprise.

Allow me to explain.

The week prior to this, my lady friend and I met in person for the first time (after weeks of GTalk conversation) at a professional show (convention, conference) in California, and as luck would have it, that F2F meeting went unexpectedly well. One night, during the week-long convention, I left a sunflower in a water-filled ice bucket outside her hotel-room door while she was out to dinner with some friends. She was thrilled to find it when she came back from dinner. The rest, I'll tell some other time.

So. Given the prior week's events, I decided it was not necessary to include a note with the sunflowers that I was having delivered to her physical home address. I knew that she would know immediately who the flowers were from.

As it turns out, she did figure it out pretty quickly. She got in touch by IM and scolded me about the flowers.

"What, you don't like them?" I asked, innocently.

"First of all," she said, "don't ever send flowers without a note. That's just a bad idea all the way around. Plus, you should know that I've had boyfriends in the recent past. They all know that I like sunflowers. If it hadn't been for our week in California, I would've been left guessing who the real sunflower-sender was."

I could see her point. Yes, that's true. A girl might very well be left wondering which ex-boyfriend is suddenly sending flowers, and why.

But there was more.

"For what it's worth," she said, continuing to scold me, "you should know that the address you sent the flowers to is my ex-husband's address. I lived there when I registered my domain name, but I've since moved. When the flowers came, my ex- was not home but his girlfriend was, and she thought they were for her."

Ouch. I hurt some strange woman's feelings by not including a note. How thoughtless. And I was too stupid even to consider that it might not only be an out-of-date address -- but her ex-husband's address! Double ouch.

So I learned a few things. Mostly I learned not to be cocky and trigger-happy when it comes to sending love-offerings. Things can backfire in funny ways, even when you're sure you've done something good.

Let my ouch be your gain, my friend.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sending flowers when you don't know her address

I had an interesting problem recently. I wanted to send my new love flowers, but she lives hundreds of miles away and I don't know her address, and she's a very private person (to the point of paranoia, frankly), and our relationship is very new, so I didn't want to rock the boat (or spoil the surprise) by asking her for her address.

I considered my options.
  • Ask her employer for her address -- a no-no. Definitely not a good idea, and it would be unprofessional, frankly, for her employer to give me her address. (She works at home, incidentally.)
  • Ask a mutual friend. Not possible: I don't know anyone who has her address.
  • Do a reverse phone lookup? I only had her cell phone number. (That's all she has. No landline.) And with a reverse lookup on a cell phone, address info doesn't come free. You have to pay for it. It's only $5 in many cases, but still -- why pay $5 if you don't have to? (Actually, I did go this route -- and got an address that was years out of date.)
  • I could ask her directly. But I didn't want to do this. It would raise suspicion -- and spoil the surprise. I wanted the flowers to come as a surprise. That was the whole point.
I hit upon a brilliant solution. My web-savvy love interest, it turns out, has her own vanity domain name (e.g., Knowing her, I knew it would be a genuine domain name (not an alias), registered with a real domain-name registrar. (And I was right.) And I knew that her address would be on file with the registrar -- because it's required. You have to give an address when you take out a domain name. I did a WHOIS search and found out that her vanity domain name was indeed registered to her -- and there was her address! The registration information was two years old, but I knew she was probably still at the same address, because she had told me once that she hates nothing more than moving.

Sure enough, I sent flowers and they arrived at the right address. Mission accomplished!

But the mission didn't go entirely well. More about that in my next post.

Friday, June 19, 2009

My least favorite arguing antipattern

My least favorite thing to have happen in the middle of an argument is for the other person to just shut me out and run away (whether figuratively or literally). I don't mind someone saying (or screaming) "I don't want to talk about it any more right now." That's fine. But don't walk out the door, or hang up the phone on me, or just abruptly stop talking and go about your business. That's infantile. It's how a child acts. It is literally tantrum-like. And it's not helpful.

It's very simple: All couples argue. Sooner or later everyone has arguments. The couples that succeed in having a longterm relationship are those that "make it through" the arguments intact. Couples who know how to argue win out over couples who don't, it's as simple as that.

Nothing guarantees failure in an argument as much as total, willful communication breakdown. If one person's style of arguing is to stop talking and run away, and shut the other person out, that's a guaranteed recipe for failure. The relationship is doomed right there. It's a North Korean bargaining style that just does not work.

So when I'm in a new relationship and it's one that I want to last, I look carefully at how my partner argues. Is she a screamer? Is she prone to violent rages? Does she get physical? Does she name-call? Does she bring logic to bear in an argument? Or when the going gets tough, does she simply get in her car, leave without saying good-bye, and disappear for days without returning phone calls?

Running away is bullshit. Shutting someone out is bullshit. Tantrums and deliberate unwillingness to engage in conversation are bullshit.

I've tried the 10-Day Bullsht Diet Plan before, and I can tell you, it does work great for losing weight. But I'm not going on that plan again any time soon. I can guarantee you that.