Tindering My Dating Resignation (December 24, 2014)

For most of 2014, I’ve lived in self-imposed romantic exile. What began as a logical recovery period from an early December 2013 breakup, became a determination to reroute the dark serial monogamy patterns that left me lurching from one co-dependent mistake to the next.

Once I grew comfortable saying “No, thank you” or “Not now,” I was mortified to discover that while the decline ratio was up, my natural tendencies hadn’t changed a whit. Left to my own devices I was still drawn to the alcoholic, the emotional cripple or the one who could never understand or appreciate me. Without fail. Apparently some psychologically diseased part of me still loved to be hated, but I made the choice to stop indulging it.

As the year progressed, I recognized that my own company, or the community of friends and family, was infinitely preferable to awkward small talk with another strange man who would surely lead to some form of ruin (based on a near perfectly disastrous 35-year record). As the painfully funny comic, writer and actor Louis C.K. once observed: “How do women still go out with guys, when you consider that there is no greater threat to women than men? We’re the number one threat to women! Globally and historically, we’re the number one cause of injury and mayhem to women.”

It’s not that I’ve been a nun. There was a short fling with an informed Libertarian who inflamed my passions with a staunch belief in marriage equality. There was a brief interlude with a co-worker’s brother. But mostly, there was just me and the merry band of misfits I call my nearest and dearest. For the first time ever, that was enough.

In November, a relatively new friend of mine in her mid-20s asked me to give online dating one final shot. I had barely processed the offer, “Let me set you up with a Tinder profile,” before I found myself numbly agreeing. After all, 2014 has been the unofficial “Year of Yes.” What’s new and scary must be sampled, especially if it means cutting another tie with a repetitively agonizing past.

But Tinder? The notorious hookup app that bills itself as “How people meet. It’s like real life, but better.” Doesn’t that just sound like bullshit? Aisha did her best to reassure me. She vouched that the extra level of vetting provided by the application’s mutual “swipe” requirements would distill a better brand of suitor. In hindsight, I think the sweet girl was so invested in seeing me coupled, she would have said anything. She has a future in marketing – and a long tenure ahead as another one of my partners-in-crime.

I lasted 24 hours on Tinder, halfheartedly ignoring the New York Times and my treasured books to “play” the game. As I’m 36 years old, I didn’t need to be told to avoid the profiles featuring shirtless douchebags, inspirational quotes from Don Draper and other obvious rif-raff. Yet those offensive maneuvers were not nearly enough. My inbox became crammed with ingenious conversation starters such as:

“Hey sexy.”

“You’re hot. You don’t have kids, do you?”

“Oh I see. You’re into hot chocolate.”

The following morning, my Tinder experiment concluded, as did any lingering idea of meeting someone this calendar year. I was hardly pining for it, busy with holiday plans, work, theater, weight loss and the unfailingly satisfying time spent with loved ones. I preferred evenings in front of the Christmas tree with a glass of champagne and Frank Sinatra carols to the chase. I was done. See you in 2015 dating world – maybe.

It’s strange how important, game changing people can walk into our lives when least expected, or even desired. I was in the middle of a loud happy hour conversation (as though I’m capable of any other kind) with my colleague Duane when I felt the tap on my shoulder in a crowded bar. I wheeled around and found myself staring into the earnest, nervous face of an adorable young man with a soft looking beard. Wearily skeptical and more than a little intoxicated, I accepted Kurt’s offer to buy me a drink, figuring I could check momentary courtship from a recent college grad off my bucket list.

Instead the last few weeks have been one surprise after another. But this time, the amazements are pleasant and welcome: a synthesis between words and actions, physical chemistry and a growing mutual disregard for the generation that separates us in age. There is nothing recognizable about the unself-conscious honesty that has recently permeated my world, and as Martha Stewart famously said, “That’s a good thing.”

Maybe I was a bit hasty concluding there’s no one kind and interesting for me. Perhaps I haven’t let all the good ones slip my notice through a firm, lifelong commitment to self-defeat. Kurt recently gifted me with a book, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. It’s the memoir of a woman who survived a complicated and tough childhood. The inscription on the inside of the jacket read:

“Becky,

I know this is a little different than your normal literature, but the book reminded me of you. Let it be an inspiration to writing your own story.”

I’d come to believe that the romantic section of my autobiography had been figuratively copy edited and typeset. But maybe it’s just getting started, because I’ve finally fixed my compass so it points toward promise and away from learned helplessness. I think I’ll hold onto that resignation a little while longer.

Why Are We Debating the Civil Rights Act in 2010? (July 27, 2010)

Ronald Reagan

I have a close friend, whom I will call David for the purposes of this post, who presents me with an intellectual challenge. David is a well-informed 26 year-old African American man, and an unrepentant capitalist, Libertarian and disciple of Tea Party guru Ayn Rand.

Though David is a Libertarian in the philosophy’s purest form, i.e. a believer in equality and opportunity for all who supports gay marriage, and applauds female momentum in the workplace, he also finds himself in agreement with the likes of Rand Paul, a Tea Party candidate for the Kentucky Senate, who once mentioned that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 represented the continual overreach of the Federal government. Now I am a very opinionated person, as you may have noticed, but I am not fond of surrounding myself with homogenous head nodders. My quest, as it always has been, is to learn and discuss. Obviously, my friendship with David is fertile ground for this mission.

Over lunch one day, I asked, incredulously, how on Earth a black man could stand in opposition to the Civil Rights Act?! His response, as logically explained as it was subversive, took on a decidedly Bill Cosby slant. His complaint was that an attempt to equalize opportunity for the African American community has instead enfeebled it, viewing as David does, that the Civil Rights Act is the parent of the current welfare system. Now one can take issue with that position, as I certainly did, but one of the things I like most about David is not only his fearless individualism, but the well researched way in which he defends his beliefs.

At one point in our tete a tete, I flatly asked David the following question: “If Tea Partiers are Libertarians, lovers of personal freedom and deregulation, shouldn’t they be foursquare behind the gay community, as it continues its fight to participate in legal marriage?” David, who is quick to dissociate himself from the Tea Party Express, claiming with certainty that its members “don’t understand their own ideology,” agreed and pronounced furthermore, much as the NAACP did several weeks back, that the populist group should also disown the patently racist elements within its own ranks.

Much later, as I mulled over the content of this calmly spoken, but contentious personal debate, I found myself returning again and again to Shirley Sherrod. By now, most of us are aware of the tragic hatchet job performed on the tireless senior member of the USDA. Conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart embarked, two weeks ago, on a disingenuous exercise in “gotcha journalism,” an attempt to defend the Tea Party from accusations of racism that instead only underscored the malevolent underbelly of the movement. This suspect and utterly partisan “news source” was able to single handedly humiliate an innocent woman, along with the entire White House and our national media apparatus, as though the latter isn’t already doing that well enough on its own. I will never forget, much to my chagrin, that I first heard the “story” of Sherrod’s supposedly racist remarks at an NAACP event, from Anderson Cooper.

My quest here is not to vilify pop culture’s lazy detection skills. Plenty of pundits, bloggers and journalists are already handling that. Instead my question, as relates to my conversation with David, is to wonder if we would have ever completely grasped the depths of injustice meted out to Shirley Sherrod WITHOUT the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s? As author Joan Walsh writes in her essay, “The Civil Rights Heroism of Charles Sherrod:”

“People who care about civil rights and racial reconciliation may eventually thank Andrew Breitbart for bringing Shirley Sherrod the global attention she deserves. Really. Her message of racial healing, her insight that the forces of wealth and injustice have always pit ‘the haves and the have-nots’ against each other, whatever their race, is exactly what’s missing in today’s Beltway debates about race.”

Point taken, Ms. Walsh. It is quite ironic that Breitbart set his smear in motion, using one of the few everyday American citizens who can point to a formidable historical record in her defense. And without the Civil Rights Act of 1964, would Mrs. Sherrod have ever held her position at the USDA in the first place, let alone be able to fearlessly defend it?

I haven’t posed these questions to David yet, but I will. I am not wholesale opposed to Libertarian values, and in fact, there is much to be admired in a vision of unlimited personal freedom. But I think that the economic collapse of 2008, the following automaker bailout, and the current BP Gulf disaster have gone a long way toward demonstrating that unchecked liberty, at least on he corporate level, is less than ideal. I don’t think it’s a great leap in logic to extend this view to the human condition. It is only because of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that an African American man and a Caucasian woman can openly debate Tea Party politics at a sidewalk cafe.