Gen Y Wanderers: An Interview with Dating Documentary Filmmakers Alicia & Megan

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A treat today – below is the interview posted on Wanderlust and Lipstick’s blog about Gen Y Wanderers. Questions are by the charming Alana Morgan, answers by me (A) and Megan (M). (Whoa, am I Gen Y? I always thought I was sort of XY…) In the words of Jen Friel, hit it Alana! 

Today’s interviewees have added a twist to trying to figure out your life through travel – they’re constantly dating while doing it. Alicia Ostarello, 30, and Megan Pratt, 23, have just been on a road trip across the continental U.S. questioning, filming and searching for love.  After being broken up with by a boy, Alicia realized she needed to do something different when it came to dating.  So, as you do, she set out to make a documentary, 50/50, going on a first date in all 50 states.  The documentary, set to release next summer/fall, studies dating in America but is also a look at the country through the lens of bachelors and bachelorettes in a very real way.  What is the same from Seattle to Savannah? What is different?

Here, both Alicia and Megan have shared their answers to the same questions to see where their perspectives meet and where they differ.

Where do you call ‘home’: 

Both of us call the East Bay home (in the San Francisco Bay Area).

Do you miss home?  What/why?

    • A: I definitely miss home. To be fair, I actually don’t have a home – my roommate moved out and put my stuff in storage, so in some sense I don’t really have a home to miss. When I started I really missed my familiar routine, but when we had a routine on the road (or the routine is no routine) I was actually okay. I do miss being involved with my friends’ daily lives and having adventures with them, but that’s sort of silly – I am missing moments that didn’t exist before I left, if that makes any sense. This will sound so cheesy, but I want to believe home is where you make it, regardless of actual location. I know Megan might disagree, but I want to be able to feel a sense of home no matter where I am. Still working on that…
    • M: I think you always miss home whenever you are on the road for a long period of time.  Besides my friends and family, I miss the food.  You get very used to eating a certain way, and when you can’t meet those desires, your body has a habit of freaking out a little bit.  Things are better now on the East Coast, but especially through the Mid West, I think both of us were sorely missing vegetables.

50/50's Honda Fit

Where has been your favorite stop and date so far?

    • A: Hmmm. My favorite stop was Nashville. Megs and I had a few hours to wander around the city and do some touring, and we saw things I had no idea existed, like Andrew Jackson’s home with a different interpretation of his history than we were taught in school in California, and a full scale replica of the Parthenon! Seriously! My favorite date…oh gosh, I can’t decide…
    • M: My favorite date was when we utilized our partnership with ZOZI to go on a plane flight over Chicago.  It was a stunning day with large fluffy clouds interspersed in a blue sky.  The date on that day was also a very nice guy.  Alicia was sort of freaked out because she hates flying, but as a filmmaker, watching her interactions with her airplane-loving date with such a stunning backdrop was fantastic.

How old were you when you made your first big trip or visited another country?

    • A: My parents took my brother and me on road trips every summer until we were teenagers – like, crazy long 4-8 week summer trips with lots of camping, historical monuments, national parks, and museums. We drove to Nova Scotia and back on our longest journey. So national travel has been ingrained in me. However, I didn’t leave the continent until two years ago, which is pretty weird in retrospect.
    • M: My family traveled a lot growing up, but I would point my wanderlust to a trip to Italy I took with my aunts when I was 12.  I still think that is a perfect age to take kids traveling.  They are old enough to know what they are looking at is special, but aren’t cynical about the world or what they’re seeing.

Where has been your favorite place to travel?

    • A: That whole Nashville thing. Or maybe Utah…I could not get over the beauty of Arches and Zion, and I’d give almost anything to go back and spend a few weeks there.
    • M: I really enjoyed Duluth, of all places.  As a Californian, I am not used to seeing the leaves change colors.  At home, if a tree turns red it would be a major sign that the tree needed to be cut down immediately.  But in Duluth, the trees turn a thousand different colors of yellow and red all the way to horizon.  I had a sudden affinity for the tree tourists who flock out of the cities to go look at the colors.  I really want to join them next year.

Alicia Ostrello and Megan Pratt

Least favorite?

    • A: I’ve liked everywhere. It’s impossible to compare any two places…well, that’s not true. It’s very possible, but it is silly. Every state is different. The landscape changes, the culture changes, the people change, and yet we all have a lot in common somehow. I think my least favorite food was Duluth, but that may definitely have been our own fault.
    • M: Indiana.  It felt like many people left the state to the wind.

Good book recommendation to read while traveling: 

    • M: My suggestion for a good travel book is anything that involves traveling as well.  On this trip we listened to the full cast recording of American Gods by Neil Gaiman.  There is something very enjoyable about having an amazing story read to you, as you pass through the very towns its set in.
    • A: Totally what Megan said. I’ve been working on Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley myself, and the same thing applies. Interesting story and observations about the country, and it’s fun to see where I totally agree with him on the American landscape, and where I totally differ. Totally. We also listened to Gaiman’s Neverwhere in one sitting from Dallas to El Paso, which was a treat.

Why do you think it’s important for our generation to travel?

    • A: I think the experience of realizing we are all in this together (this being life, being on Earth, being in America) is really powerful. We met a man in Virginia who was so opposed to California in general, and I wondered how someone could so easily want to dismiss me based on where I lived. At the same time, the man was congenial and welcoming. Travel makes me want to help people more, to connect with them and understand them and share that experience. If the only way you see other places is through a screen on a TV or an iPad, you don’t actually know what’s going on…you just get the producer’s version.
    • M: I think its important to for everyone to travel.  Meeting knew people challenges your point of view and forces you to step outside your comfort zone.

Do you think the idea that Millennials are lazy/slackers/commitment-phobes is true?  Why or why not?

    • A:  I think there is a cultural shift going on in what is important to us as people, what is important in life, and how we want to live. The Baby-Boomers were raised by people who survived the Great Depression, and thus were instilled with the value of working hard and long, joy aside. The Baby-Boomers thus made a lot of money but weren’t happy, and passed a concept of “do what you love” to Millennials because they weren’t always able to engage in that. And now the Millennials are seeing “Do what you love” becoming the ultimate trainwreck (which I imagine will lead to raising our kids with stronger work ethics).  Are Millennials as a whole slackers/lazy/commitment-phobes? No – they’re a product of the culture that raised them. I think the issue here isn’t to point fingers at our parents though, but to look around and say “okay, so how do we fix this mess.” And I see every day that 20- and 30-somethings are looking for work/life balance in unique and interesting ways. Making films about dating in America, founding start-ups, working two jobs to make ends meet, volunteering in their communities, voting. Just because Millennials are placing a premium on balance and happiness doesn’t make us lazy. Just because we’re openly exploring concepts like polyamory or open relationships doesn’t make us commitment-phobes. And just because we’re refusing to work for people who treat us poorly doesn’t make us slackers. I think if everyone could look at the cultural context of how this is all working, they’d have a better understanding of why older generations think we’re flailing, and we’d understand why we’re baffled by the older generations.
    • M: This is something that I think gets lobbed around a lot by those older at the early 20’s age group.  I actually see it moreso in those who are in their early thirties.  People my age have grown up under a country at war, and one of the worst economic collapses in 70 years.  I think any dream we as a group had about things being handed to us died in 2008 when we saw our futures fall at our feet at the age of 19.

One travel tip:

    • A: Carry real maps (just in case) and don’t be afraid to ask for directions. And always have extra water. I’m apparently bad at one tip.
    • M: Always have snacks and eat real meals whenever possible.  Food might not be readily available whenever you want to eat and just carrying power bars will make you feel that much better.

What’s something you wish you had known before you started 50/50?

    • M: Bring snacks!
    • A: That Megan drives really fast. 🙂 Honestly…hm. I guess I wish I had known that I was going to want to spend more time everywhere. I didn’t realize I would be so enamored with each place and desire to get off the beaten path and see more. It can be really frustrating to know there’s so much I’m missing, and that makes it hard to be in the moment.

What is the most important thing travel has taught you?

    • M: Simply being polite will get you through most situations.  Also, don’t be afraid to leave if you don’t feel safe or don’t want to be with those people. You are mostly likely never going to see these people again, so don’t be afraid to move on.
    • A: So right on about politeness. That goes for the people you meet regardless of how much time you spend with them, people whose floor you are staying on, or the people you are traveling with. I think Megs and I work well together on the road because we strive for politeness in the little things and not taking one another for granted. I also think travel continues to teach me we are all human. Everyone is flawed – from me, to my mom to strangers on the street. If we can approach each other with compassion for humanity, I think interactions in general go a lot better.

Where's Waldo?Where is the world is….

What do you think you’d be doing right now if you weren’t traveling?

    • A: Hmmm. Probably just working on my start-ups, Copy Muse and Vow Muse (writing businesses). And be dating a lot, just locally.
    • M: I would be working on films or commercials in the SF Bay Area.

Want to learn more about Alicia’s dating experiences?  Check out 50/50 on Facebook and Twitter.

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Flaunting My Flaws in Savannah

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Remember in the last post how I mentioned that a few of my own flaws flared up and reared their ugly heads like angry stallions during the Georgia date? Yeah, I was hoping I’d forget too, but I didn’t. Let’s discuss!

My Flaws, 1: Communication 

Visible even with strangers, my ability to communicate unfavorable information is not good. I know Yossi had his feather ruffled about the stipulations of our date. like complete spontaneity is off limits. Other stipulations that a few guys, Yossi included, have been irked about is time and location (like not going home with anyone). It hasn’t gone over well to explain this all to a lot of guys, so yes, I shy away from it. Understandably, my dates are annoyed by this. Not just because I’m not going to be sexing them up (I kid, I kid) but because his project is a little different than normal first dating circumstances based on the fact that I leave town, which makes people more apt to want to hang out longer. “Their once chance to make an impression” (words from dates themselves, not mine).*

My Flaws, 2: Overpromising 

I hate letting people down. I can’t let clients/friends/strangers down in my real life without feeling like I’ve reached into my own spine, pulled it out of alignment, twisted it 180 degrees, and shoved it back in place. Yes, that’s what it feels like. No, it’s not healthy. This goes double for dating. I told Yossi to call me if he felt better once I knew he was going to need some time alone with his stomach, and I knew Megs needed to detox and not be on a date with me. Was I expecting Yossi to feel better less than thirty minutes later, while Megan and I were not even sitting down to see Perks of Being a Wallflower?*** Nope. I told him I’d try to hang out with him later, not sure how this was all going to play out or if I’d be able to really meet him.

Later came, I realized I simply didn’t have time to reconnect with Yossi. I suppose I could have not taken care of what Megan needed and not listened to her when she said clearly “I really want X to make feel better” (golly, not X the drug, X as a placeholder!) and potentially ruined our trust and friendship for the rest of the trip. Or I could let down Yossi.

My Flaws, 3: A Return to the Infamous Kristin and Eric Conversation

Back at our hotel on the outskirts of Savannah, and I took a phone call from Yossi, who was not pleased. At all. And he was right – I had tried to promise too much, couldn’t deliver, and he was annoyed. Not to mention, it sounded like he’d had some bad luck with people flaking on him recently, and I felt like the needle that broke his haystack’s back (that’s how the saying goes, right?). So I listened, empathized, and felt more and more like a horrible human being. I was busy being sweet instead of strong because that’s what I thought Yossi needed, because I was worried that he couldn’t handle it if I said, “Look, I understand you’re disappointed but this is hard on me too and I really need you to take this all in stride right now because this is how it is and it’s a lot harder on me when you act this way.” I apologized, apologized again, and listened some more. Why didn’t I just trust him to be an adult? He hadn’t given me a reason not to.

Am I destined to be my flaws? It’s hard to confront these same flaws again and again on this trip, seeing them front and center, and 40+ dates in I’m not like, “Hey I’ve got a handle on this!” And there’s part of me that does not want to change at all…because if I am my flaws, at least I’m me. And I kinda like myself, flaws and all.

Being different is hard.

Whee! Being a mature adult is funnnnnnn! 

* I would never go to a first date’s home in my regular life, and thus I don’t do this during 50/50. In fact, it’s unlikely I would make definite plans to stick around with a first date for more than a couple hours so as to uphold with my “low-stakes, low-pressure” dating environment (as much for me as for them).**
**Unless I was prepared for them to be expecting some sort of sexual healing.
***Nowhere near as good as the book; to be fair, if you don’t have the book half memorized (I’ve read it a lot) you probably would really enjoy the flick. 

When Everything Goes Kaput in Georgia

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When the system of making a dating documentary goes kaput, and your date’s stomach goes kaput, the entire date kinda goes kaput. My date in Georgia was a glorious conglomeration of kaputness, though the guy himself, Yossi, was a fun first date. And hey, I managed to learn a few things about myself and my flaws as a date in the process. Not all was lost!

Before the date went all wonky (and not in a Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory fun way) though, the date was rather enjoyable and had the makings of a romantic comedy written all over it. Yossi reminded me of a meerkat – eager and friendly, a desire to make people happy and be liked. Everywhere we went he ran into people he knew and I watched him charm strangers into being friends, too. We’d decided to be Halloweeny, as our date took place on October 31, and carve pumpkins in the park.

Being the chipper chap he was, I sponged off Yossi’s energy as I’m sure most who come in contact with him do. Bouncing along past a stunning fountain and some transients, I suggested we direct each other in what we’d have to carve into our bright orange squash.

His challenge to me: an evil horse.
My challenge to him: Mr. Potato Head.

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Megs set us up, ambled away, and Yossi and I got to the brass tacks of carvation. I’m all about purpose on a first date. When it comes to strangers, tasks are good as it helps a natural flow of conversation, plus gives perspective to your date that isn’t merely what they choose to present verbally. Like me, though, Yossi was communicative and tangential, so our conversation bounced about.

Within minutes, Yossi sliced himself with a carving knife and I texted Megs to come back with a first-aid kit. She returned, bandaged my wounded date, and then left again. We went on with carving, scraping, and my favorite part – pulling the seeds out! (Gooey squash feels like some sort of bizarre skin-care substance.) Quickly though, Yossi seemed to get restless and wanted to run about, show off on the slackline some nearby hippies had set up, or just prowl the park.

Unfortunately, when you’re mic’d and filming a documentary on a budget, some things can’t just happen. Getting on a slack line with mics that might break that we can’t replace easily? Bad idea. Leaving cameras unattended? Bad idea. Before we could change locations, I needed to get ahold of Meg and confer. Yossi didn’t like this limitation, nor did he get it per say. I understood his frustration because I’m sure I felt that early on during the trip. But this is the game, and these are the rules. These are the tacit terms that perhaps I should have expressed more clearly.

I texted Megs, and called her when I didn’t get an answer. Finally, she said she needed a minute and she’d be back. I told Yossi it was totally fine to go talk to the slack-liners but I needed to stay put, and no, in no way did our insurance allow him to touch the cameras and move them with us, many apologies. He was frustrated but handling it reasonably well when Megs showed up, not looking like her usual, perky, filming self.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll mention it again: due to the nature of what we do, and due to my nature in general, it’s impossible for me to ignore when Megs is obviously distressed. My priorities in life are to Megan first and dates second. Which is weird, right? But I mean, the same holds true if I was on a first date without a camera and not across the country. If one of my friends texted me in a tizzy, or if I came across one of them having a really hard moment, I would focus on them, not my date. Sorry, dates of the past and dates to come: I just met you. This is how it is. To prioritize a mostly stranger over a friend is both very junior high and very demonstrating of bad judgement.

However, Megs is a professional, and despite looking like she was having tea with Mr. Darcy (before we discover Darcy is a reasonably okay dude), she persevered in filming the date. Yossi and I decided to go to bar and perhaps purchase beverages and walk outside. Savannah has open-container laws which are unique to Californians like me. Why not drink a gin and tonic whilst ambling the waterway? We entered the bar and Megan said she’d be back. Atypical behavior indeed.

Yossi and I sat down on a couch and I fretted about Megs, wondering to my date what I might do to ease her unhappiness and pondering my next move. Keep the date going, or nix it all? Yossi listened politely, gave me his two cents, and the started looking miserable. Was he really that upset that I was leaning toward bidding him adieu?

No, he wasn’t. He really was just coming down with food poisoning and feeling like death on toast.

Everything happened in fast-forward motion. Megan was collected, we all were outside, Megs and I got into Huckleberry Fit, and Yossi walked away from his car and toward the parking lot. I pulled away, asking Megan if she’d like to see a movie, getting directions to the theater, and trying not to get lost (because darn it, I hate missing previews). Fifteen minutes later, Yossi let me know he’d emptied the contents of his stomach and was ready to hang out again.

Crikey. Now what?

South Carolina!

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Charleston, South Carolina, is wildly gorgeous. It sits on “an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean formed by the confluence of the Ashley and Cooper rivers.” Yes, I attempted to find a different way to describe that, but upon looking at two maps, one random online article, and consulting an outside source, I found no better way. That’s literally where it is. Antebellum houses line one end of King Street, chic stores the middle, and a strange “outer boroughs” industrial area the top. Megs and I spent hours wandering this one strip, drinking coffee, buying Topsiders, and snapping photos of architecture, strangers and the sunset. Very quickly I felt at home. Then this conversation ensued:

Me: I could definitely live here.
Megan: Yeah, minus the inherent racism, it’s perfect.
(Touche, Megs.)

Regardless, we were both enamoured with the cityscape, so much so that we were almost late to meet my date, Jeff. You know the term “Southern Gentleman?” Yes, it’s old fashioned and brings to mind gents in tails sipping mint juleps, but let’s start there. Subtract tails, add modern day collared shirt. Subtract julep, add Maker’s Mark. Subtract old fashioned, add…superb manners. Jeff was remarkably polite: he held doors open. He insisted I walk ahead of him when it came time to move single file. He didn’t swear. I’m not sure I’d seen such chivalrousness since the midwest, and Jeff was definitely giving those guys a run for their money.

And it felt nice. A little alarming, actually. But nice.*

We sat down for drinks and salad (don’t judge, I heart me some veggies on a date, and they pair well with a dirty Shirley or whatever mix beverage I ordered) and of course, conversation. I’d tell you what we talked about, except that would take away from what happened next: he paid for dinner. Like, all of it, and would have no other way. Part of the premise of 50/50 includes paying for dates (so they wouldn’t feel like we were mooching off of them and to try and keep a level playing field), and even after explaining this, Jeff said no. Rather than start an altercation, I rebuked his offer twice, then accepted gracefully, as any good Southern lady would. (I think? Gah, shoot. I bet Southern ladies would never have offered to pay.)

Post dinner, we scurried downtown for a Ghost Tour, or as he put it, the “Dead Children Tour.” Basically, it was a creepy tour through multiple haunted locations, murder scenes, and our guide told tale after tale of kids who had died in the past 200 years. Jeff and I were probably the weird kids in the back who laughed when the guide wasn’t trying to make jokes, were being sarcastic and silly instead of stoic, but all in all, we were also probably having the most amount of fun.**

Date: two thumbs up.
_
*I blame my West Coast sensibilities for this reaction as I’m used to “too cool for school” dudes who think not making an impression makes an impression.
** The pre-teen who got too scared and had to leave the tour was definitely at the bottom of the “most amount of fun” list.

Reblog: Let’s Start Being Honest About What We Want

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Two nights ago, a friend and I were having a conversation about what we’ve learned from our vastly different dating experiences (mine in going on a lot of dates, his on taking a break from the datingverse for a few months). He noted one big takeaway had been to be honest, regardless of outcomes. To remove himself from the equation, open his mouth, and let honesty out, come hell or high water (though hopefully, come neither…but since when has honesty brought that about?). Then, this popped up in Thought Catalog the next day. Enjoy.

Let’s Start Being Honest About What We Want

JAN. 30, 2013

Shutterstock

Shutterstock

Like most things, this starts with a story. It starts with a moustache.

Some Random Thoughts on Insecurity in the Datingverse

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This post should probably be about South Carolina and the date I had there. In fact, I’ve been noodling around with drafts of that post for longer than most people spend doing their taxes and making fun of lumberjacks. But the truth is, I have other fish frying up in my head at the moment, about the breeding nature of insecurity.

A friend of mine recently sashayed into the online datingverse and we’ve started the process of talking online-dating with one another, which in girl-land means we forward weird messages we receive in hopes of landing clarification and moral support.* Which led me to think about the first truly bizarre message I got online back in 2007. I had a photo of me leaping through ocean waves on my favorite holiday, Martin Luther King’s birthday, in a bikini. The guy wrote a note about how he enjoyed my profile, I had a great smile, and “what appears to be a pot-belly, too!”

In retrospect, it was easy to see the biggest issue was the man’s bad judgement, and he probably meant it in a sweet way because had just listed two compliments. Insecurity is a trickster though, clouding judgement and rational thought. I know I’m not bad to look at, but trust me…even pondering wearing a bikini has been less fun ever since.

Insecurity has other games to play these day, since she knows I’m confident in how I look (two piece suits aside). She’s a siren-tongued, smooth operator whose voice rises at the most inconvenient times. Like when I start to think about life and dating after 50/50.

What if no one wants to date the girl who went on 50 dates? she whispers knowingly, as though she herself has experienced fifty first dates and lived to tell the after-tale. Or what if all you’re good at are first dates? You just might not be relationship material. Can you accept who someone actually is rather than who they seem? Can they accept the real you vs their fantasy of who you appear to be? 

Insecurity seems to know which buttons to push in my brain that will keep me awake at night when all I meant to do was get up for a drink of water. She’s a good snuggler, so talking her down means feeling lonesome for a spell. Except…I know that by bitch-smacking her away from me, what I’m actually doing is making room for an actual person to be my companion rather than an inanimate, manipulator who exists only in my mind.

She does have one thing worth thinking about, though: what if 50 first dates was really a way to escape having to let someone actually know me (and thus potentially face an even more heart-breaking rejection)…or what if 50 first dates was really a way to escape having to actually know someone else?**

*By sashayed I actually mean went in kind of unwillingly but also open to the possibilities.

**At moments like this, I kind of preferred being 19 and underexperienced with dating and relationships. The worries felt simpler and though they felt far more profound, they were actually far less.

 

 

 

You’re Not in California Anymore

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As promised, some thoughts on the mindset that makes us American. Back in Virginia, a gun-toting, law-abiding citizen claimed California couldn’t be part of any union he wanted to or agreed to belong to. I’ll get back to this in a hot second. First, let’s consider:

In Nashville, Megs and I toured the home of Andrew Jackson, in which his history as a slave owner and director of the Trail of Tears was glossed over. And in one of the Carolinas, we stopped in at the Museum of the Confederacy, where the slavery issue was literally almost exclusively ignored and other reasons for the war between the states were addressed. In Georgia, we visited a plantation where slavery was discussed unapologetically. Oh, and Montana? Yeah, that there was Custer’s Last Stand, in which Custer goes down as a hero despite what he’d intended to do, which was slaughter a lot of Native Americans for what seems to me to be no actual reason (good or bad).* All these places tell the sort of tale that screams to me, “Don’t admit to your Americanness right now! Pretend to be someone else, from somewhere else!” Much in the same way it seems California’s gun control laws screamed to the man in Virginia.

Needless to say, though I’m saying it anyway: I get where he’s coming from.

There are things I don’t absolutely love about the history of this country, and there are decisions made by lawmakers and civilians alike in the present that I’m not stoked about. To be fair, there are choices and thoughts made by guys I date and friends I have. I guess my reaction isn’t to secede from friendships, relationships or a country. Don’t get me wrong: there have been times in my younger years when I have thought about moving to Canada. But running away doesn’t create change (and truth be told, everywhere has issues. It’s a bit like thinking taking a road trip will be what eases a broken heart). So what’s a girl from California and a guy from Virginia to do?

My thought? Continue the conversation.

That’s a weird resolution to come to, but at this moment, that’s what seems to be what makes us American – our ability to talk about the issues, to form opinions, to argue peacefully, and to think critically. Throwing our arms up and walking away…that’s defeat. That’s immature. In datingverse terms, that a total manchild move. However, my relationship with this country is more like that of family than an intimate relationship, at least for me. I didn’t choose America – that was luck of the draw on where I was born. But I choose how I function within America, how I relate and react, and the decisions I make based on location. Do I look at what I consider blemishes on our landscape, squeeze my eyes shut and wish them away? Or do I politely interact with them, try to understand them, and remain civil even when I really don’t want to?

Like any family, we’re never all going to agree. We can resist one another, but we are still connected. Yeah, this is rah-rah-rah speak and probably too touchy-feely, even for the likes of me. I’m sort of predispositioned to compassion though, maybe inspite of myself.

So what makes us American? Well, we’re all here. That’s reason enough for me.

*When I was little, I definitely thought his name was Custard, and he was who they named the dessert after. I liked the telling of Custer back then about as much as I like it now, and for that reason I have always avoided custard. In other dessert/political related news, I always thought neapolitan ice cream was actually Napoleon ice cream. However, when I was little I didn’t really get who Napoleon was or what he was about, and I kind of thought he was a righteous dude, so I ate neapolitan with jubilee.

Ah Yes, North Carolina Tears. That Happened.

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Why the tears, lass? Megan said something of the sort, interrupting herself in between simultaneously giving me directions to our homestay and interviewing me about North Carolina Mike. While likely concerned about my ability to drive unfamiliar highways through a flash flood in my eyes, she was also genuinely concerned and a bit lost. Didn’t you like him? I did, certainly. But the conversation NC Mike and I had about the ramifications of intuition didn’t just strike a chord – it played a freaking symphony on my emotions. Violins, French horns, timpani, and even a wind chime for good measure.

Even now I’m not sure how to describe where my mind flew, why it was impossible to hold myself together. Sure, some of my tears were likely just stress induced, remnants of losing my footing in Virginia, though to say that was more than a fraction of the issue would be balls out lying.* There was the realization that the suffering I’ve felt when I know someone is pulling away in relationships back home, that the anxiety and stress I had due to my ex waffling on wanting to be with me but not able to articulate it wasn’t all in my head. That I had felt in most every relationship before, from short-term datingships to longer pieces which involved me being the break-upee, something that wasn’t paranoia but instead simply what was (even if the other person wasn’t able to tell me). There was wondering if this outcome was how it’d always be, and if I’d be able to make peace with how I understand other people and not blame them for their indecision or myself for not letting go. There was thinking about how I’d felt that someone back home who I’d grown close to while gone was pulling away.

And then, there was the overarching questions that I think plague anyone in the datingverse, particularly when you’re out meeting a lot potential partners: What if I can’t change enough to be with someone?, What if no one wants to be with me?, What if I’m single forever?, and finally, What if I’m alone? Megs scoffed at this last one, saying I’d not wind up alone, what with friends and family. Sure, I might be single and never have tender touching, but I wouldn’t be alone.***

Yeah, yeah. I knew that. And I know that now as I write this, but it doesn’t mean the worry sits better with me. I suppose that’s one of those bridges you cross if you come to it, or maybe it’s one of those bridges you never cross. I just know that the longer I’m solo, the harder it becomes to go all duet. Like…I’m more and more used to taking care of myself, and really uncomfortable (though not displeased) when someone wants to take care of me. I’m perplexed when pondering what it would look like to have to tell someone where I’ll be and when I’ll be home. Maybe the issue isn’t worrying about being single forever because no one will want to be with me, but wondering if I’ll adapt so much to the single life that I can’t fathom living with someone else?

Which feels like a very natural segue into non-traditional relationships and comforting words about how “one person, forever!” might be a strange notion and I’m not a failure if I am not in a relationship that conforms to societal expectations. Except despite knowing all that and believing all that, I guess at the end of the day what I want for myself is pretty standard.

*Tetherballs, Mom. Not any other kind of balls. I wouldn’t know anything about those.**
** (Think she believes me?!)
*** Mom, this in no way refers to sex and only refers to hand holding and very short hugs.

Finishing Up North Carolina the Date

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Folks, for part 1 of North Carolina (the adrenaline part), check out yesterday’s post. Otherwise, we’re jumping right in as though you know what’s up.

At a cozy coffee house, one where the kids of the owners pranced through occasionally, the lighting inspired snuggling and smiles, and the coffee was hot, Mike and I sat down to continue our date. The switch from rolicking laughter fueled by adrenaline to a serene state didn’t faze either of us, and conversation evolved from the constant bouts of laughter to more thoughtful tones.

We discussed the sort of lifestyle we live, dabbled in previous relationship talk, and then moved onto our work. I brought up Vow Muse, my small business in which I write custom wedding vows and ceremonies, where we specialize in crafting these deeply personal sentiments to sound like the client themselves wrote them. Mike was surprised I pulled this off successfully, commenting, “You must have really good intuition.”

Shrugging off the comment, I said no, but he brought it up again, insisting that an ability to write wedding vows for strangers after an hour of talking to them was a sign of good of being able to read people. Since he was playing the role of a tiger who wanted to hang onto a squeaky chew toy (aka, a topic), I asked him to expand. He said he had figured out that he was good at reading people, and it had taken a while to understand not everyone was on his page when it came to this. He pressed me to note something else I had read into recently, and though I felt a bit like I was being asked to read palms without the ability to read palms, I mentioned that I had realized my friend halfway around the world had broken up with her boyfriend based on the content of her Facebook status updates. No, they didn’t explicitly state that she was single…more just, using “I” when she used to use “we.”

“See,” Mike said. “Most people wouldn’t have even noticed.”

As I pondered his statement, he went on to say that it’s a weird ability to have. That people have a hard time reading him because he’s usually too busy reading them. We continued to chat casually about intuition until I said, “Okay. Maybe you’re right. But I feel like this comes into play most often in relationships. Like, I can tell when someone is going to break up with me months before they do. Or I can feel when they’re pulling away. And it’s frustrating and heartbreaking in the moment, but I always feel trapped in that situation. So…what do you do when you know something before the other person even knows?”

Mike smiled. “Saying something doesn’t usually help. It confuses them. Unfortunately, you can really only wait for them to figure it out.”

“But I know. And I’m always right. And it sucks,” I replied. “I run myself in circles trying to change the outcome, and I can’t. I just want them to admit to me what’s going on when it starts happening so I can avoid weeks or months of being upset.”

“The thing is, people aren’t malicious. They just don’t even know themselves. They’re not really in tune with what’s going on, and they’re indecisive. You can point it out to them but they won’t get it. You can walk away from them but they’ll be hurt because they don’t know themselves. It’s never a good situation, and it’s definitely difficult to know something is afoot.” Mike made sense. I didn’t necessarily like it, but he made sense.

We had to part ways soon after, and both of us did so grudgingly. It was very interesting to meet someone who seemed to *get* me and understood my exact frustrations and challenges in a way that no one else has ever been able to articulate or explain before. Not to mention, his whole mellow demeanor and way of rolling with the punches all afternoon with me, how quick he was to laugh, how conversation just ran away with us once we were talking.

Strange, how he became more and more attractive to me the more we talked. How my first impression of him not being for me had been incredibly wrong. And how he texted me to say the same thing.

Back in Huckleberry Fit, Megan started turning on cameras and was asking her usual, “So, what did you think of him?” questions.

I turned on the GPS, pulled the car onto the freeway, and started crying.

 

Date 41 – North Carolina – Part One

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Holy. Smokes. This is date 41. Admittedly not state 41 due to a few doubling up, but seriously. 41 dates!! This one’s a two parter too. 

North Carolina Mike, as I affectionately titled him in my phone after we started corresponding via text was a mere 61% match (and 32% my enemy) according to the seemingly omni-knowing love algorithm of OkCupid. But, he was cute, had trusting eyes, and seemed very “typical guy.” Besides, the point of this project is partly to prove you can go on a date with anyone, and have a reasonably enjoyable time. So I asked him out, and he said, “Sure.” Then, I asked him if he’d like to hit the go-kart track and he said, “Sure.” Then I mentioned I was really bad at go-karting having only done it once before (back in Missouri on this trip, actually). He didn’t say “Sure,” to this, instead saying, “How about like any real date, if we have fun we’ll grab a drink after?”*

It’s funny, at first handshake I don’t think I was much to Mike’s liking and truth be told, he was not my usual taste. We fumbled through chit-chat. When you don’t know the rhythm of another person’s speech, you stumble over on another, break each other’s cadence and engage in a lot of false starts. It’s a weird sociological study in who wins the right the speak (and how they do it) while being exceptionally awkward because you’re making a first impression. Eventually, it was time to sit down and watch a training video about how to go-kart safely.

This video is where the whole mood of the date shifted. We sat down and started making jokes, though I was also absorbing instructions as I’m wont to do. When the video finished, I started commenting on what we’d just learned, and Mike just laughed that I had paid such strict attention, leading me out to gear up in a helmet.** I selected mine based on color (pink!) and quickly realized it was the wrong size, meaning Mike got to witness helmet hair before we’d even driven anywhere. More laughing ensued as we buckled in to the karts. And then, we were off!

While in the throes of helmet selection, I mentioned to Mike that I am very bad at go-karting. As in, the last time I had karted I had not realized we were supposed to be racing, and while I got that point now, it might not do much to change my speed, and he should feel no remorse squealing his tires as he passed me by. So when I say, “we were off” I mean, Mike, Megan, and the other karters were off. I putt-putted politely and tried not to run into any bumpers.

I mention this because it came to my surprise after my first lap that someone was trailing me. They were right behind me and not passing me by. I used my real-driver hand gesture of waving, hoping to okay the pass, and still they waited. Pressing my brakes even more, I attempted to encourage them to zip off (this resulted in them bumping into me). Finally I gave up and kept driving, watching Megs whiz about, screech her go-kart at crazy angles, fly into a full stop, take video, and keep moving all before I had gone twenty feet. Flags waved and yellow lights flashed, and all drivers returned our cars single file, like books loading onto a shelf. One look to my right and the mystery tailgater: yeah, that was Mike. Though I pressed him for the answer as to why he hadn’t passed me, he just shrugged and smiled.***

“Want to get a cup of coffee?” Mike asked. That initial nervousness and awkward-boundary was gone. Without hesitation, I agreed.


* Rad statement. No miscommunication, no expectations, low stakes, and good intention.

**I know, helmets for go-karts sounds weird, right? But these were turbo-charged beasts that could go 45 miles an hour.

***Later pressing resulted in him saying he thought it was charming just how bad at driving I was, and enjoyed sitting back. Megan’s theory: He was being uber polite (which scored him points whichever is true in her book).