The User Manual for Me

As a relationship newbie, I thought it might not be a bad idea to read a bit about other relationship types besides just monogamous relationships. I have several friends who have open or poly relationships and it seems to work quite well for them, and I will admit they intrigue me. Last week, I read a book titled “Eight Things I Wish I’d Known About Polyamory (before I tried it and frakked it up)” by Cunning Minx and one thing I gleaned from this book that can be applied even to monogamous relationships is the importance of communication in a relationship. One of the things the book suggests to aid communication is to write a user manual for yourself. This both requires a lot of self-awareness and examination and gives partners a great idea of how to interact with you. I thought I would try my hand at it and see what I can come up with, as I’m starting to venture into this wonderful and intriguing world of relationships.

Part A: Family Background/History

  • I’m the youngest of two children, with an 8 year age gap between me and my brother. Since we were both homeschooled, we grew up together and played together a lot. I don’t get to see him terribly often now, due to our work schedules and such, but we are still fairly close and I feel like I could tell him just about anything.
  • My childhood had a lot of good points and a lot of bad points. I was allowed to pursue my passions, including horses and piano, and pursue accelerated learning from an early age to match my learning style and speed. At the same time, I was raised in a home where expressing negative emotions wasn’t allowed. As a result, I struggle with feeling guilty whenever I am angry or upset with a loved one and it’s very difficult for me to put my emotions and reactions into words.
  • My family is crazy (mostly in a good way). We know how to joke around, and how to have a good time. Sarcasm and teasing runs in our genes, but we also know how to be serious when needed. Although there are some very dysfunctional aspects of our family, we all care for each other deeply. There is a strong family predisposition towards mental illness on my mother’s side, and that has definitely contributed to some of the dysfunction. It certainly was a contributing factor to my eating disorder (research shows there is a strong genetic component to these) and probably also contributes to my depression.
  • I’m supposed to say what word I use most often to describe myself, here, but I can’t find just one word. The two I use most often are intelligent and determined. I don’t say this to be conceited, but learning seems to come easily to me. I’m also extremely determined and, if I set my sights on a goal, nothing will stop me from sacrificing everything to achieve that goal. Some descriptions I’ve heard recently from others are “sweet, smart, and feisty,” as well as “brave, fierce, and sexy.” Oh, and we can’t forget “cheeky monkey of cuteness.”
  • I have abandonment issues. My father walked out on our family when I was 15, although he left us emotionally long before that. He accused my mother of emotional abuse, yet left me in her care and never made any attempt to gain custody of me to protect me. He was in and out of my life for the next 13 years (there was more “out” than “in”). One of the lasting effects I have from this is being terrified of being left by those whom I love and trust. It takes a lot in both words and deeds to help me get to a point where I can believe someone won’t leave me.
  • Something I value in a relationship is an open, honest and safe environment where I am respected even when our opinions don’t match up or when we are having a hard conversation. This isn’t something that I had at home. The strongest and most lasting relationships I’ve had are the ones where I felt like I could be real, transparent and vulnerable with the other person, without fear of retaliation or of that vulnerability being used against me (I’m going with friendships, here, since I have no dating/romantic experience!).

Part B: How to turn me on

Emotionally

  • Do little things to show me you care and you are thinking of me. Send me a text message when you wake up just to say “good morning.” Let me know you wish you were waking up next to me. If a meme or a quote or a song makes you think of me, tell me, even if it seems silly. This makes me feel valued and like you are thinking of me more than just when we are together.
  • Show your appreciation for the things that are important to me. I know you may not love horses and you may not know much about them. Take some time to learn a bit about them. Ask me questions about my horse and why I train him a certain way, or use a certain piece of equipment on him. He’s a huge part of my life and the closest thing to a child I will ever have. Learn about classical music and try to find at least some types that you can listen to with me. I want nothing more than for you to take me out for a night at the symphony or the opera and to be able to share my passion for music with you.
  • Share in my fandoms with me. I am passionate in my fangirling, let me know that you are enthusiastic, too. Quote my favorite movies to me at random times. Debate with me whether it’s a good thing that Disney bought out LucasFilms and tell me what your hopes and fears are for the new Star Wars movies. Watch an episode of Doctor Who with me as we cuddle on the couch. Tell me you love me in Sindarin or Quenya (or any of the other languages from Lord of the Rings!).
  • Take the initiative. If I’m always the one to text/call or if I’m always the one who asks when we can schedule a date, I will eventually assume that you aren’t that into me. An easy way to make me feel valued is to pursue me. Ask when you can see me again. Suggest a place to go, or an activity we could share together. If you’re going through a busy time, communicate that to me so I don’t feel left in the dark and wondering if you are losing interest.
  • Be there for me when I’m having mental health issues. Be willing to sit with me in silence, hold me as I cry (please ask for permission to touch me first, I can be very reactive to physical contact in this state), or ask if you can make/pick up my favorite food if I’m struggling to eat. One of the biggest gestures of trust I can make is to allow you to see me when I am at my most broken. In those moments, I’m afraid that I am too unlovable, too broken, too much of a burden. Remind me that you love me, that I am not a burden, and that you aren’t going to vanish into thin air and leave me. Be understanding if I do not feel well enough to fulfill any plans we might have had over the next few days- it can take time for me to recover, depending on the severity of the issue/trigger. Most of all, reassure me that you are there for me and that you aren’t going anywhere, and that I will be okay. These episodes don’t happen often, but when they do, they are a great opportunity to build trust with me.
  • Be willing to admit when you are wrong or when you have hurt me. Even if you didn’t mean to hurt me, acknowledge how your actions affected me. No one wants to be with someone who is always right. It’s far easier for me to forgive and move on if you own up to your error and give me a sincere apology. I will do the same for you, because heaven knows that I’m not perfect.
  • That leads into my next item – tell me if I’ve done something that hurt or upset you. Do it in a non-confrontational way and give me a concrete example of what I did and how that made you feel. If you can, give me constructive feedback on how I could have handled the situation better. I will be the first to admit that I am not perfect. I screw up. I hurt people. But I can’t fix what I don’t know is broken. Help me see how I can be a better partner for you and better fulfill your needs, because there is nothing I want more than that.

Sexually: Flirting

  • Tease me. I’ve often joked that I speak horse, music and sarcasm as my primary languages. There are few things that can make me feel more attracted to you than some witty banter and lighthearted teasing.
  • Quote my favorite movies/TV shows/books. Throw in subtle references when you can, this is pretty much guaranteed to make me smile.
  • Play with my hair. If you run your fingers through my hair just right, I may just melt in your arms.
  • Take me to dinner. It doesn’t need to be somewhere fancy, I’m accustomed to cooking for myself and any chance to go out is a treat. You get extra bonus points if we both dress up – as a former concert pianist, I have an entire closet full of dresses and not enough chances to wear them.
  • If your budget allows, take me to the opera or symphony. I’ve gone to these performances on my own for years, but I long to have someone to share the experience with. Put your arm around me, whisper in my ear some of the more tender lines from the libretto, and I may just swoon right then and there.
  • A few other date ideas: a long walk, coffee shops, a geeky board game, a Doctor Who evening, read a classic romance aloud, or a moonlight trail ride. It doesn’t need to be anything expensive, I really just want to spend time with you!

Sexually: Sex

  • Umm, yeah. I’ll have to get back to you on this section. 😛

Communication style

  • I’m not much of one for the “you MUST talk to me in some form every single day” style of communication, especially at the beginning of a relationship. Especially if I get a text or two first, then I get a message on social media or something else. If I’m not answering right away, it’s because I’m busy. Getting repeatedly messaged makes me feel like I’m being hounded and like my time isn’t respected. By the same token, I don’t get offended if it takes you a while to respond to me, or if you send me back a quick message to say that this isn’t a good time to chat.
  • Don’t take me too seriously. I tease a lot. For me, this is a sign of affection. This includes the occasional fake pouting or melodramatic attitude. Don’t take it seriously. If I’m truly upset with you over something, I will come straight out and tell you.
  • Be aware of the fact that I have a hard time expressing myself at times, particularly when I’m upset. If I’m struggling to find the words to say, you may have to sit and wait for me to put my thoughts into coherence for a few minutes. Don’t press me to hurry up and speak. I will end up feeling like I didn’t have enough time to figure out how to say what I wanted and being frustrated. Let me think it through. It will be a much more productive conversation, if you do!
  • I want to hear your constructive feedback on our relationship and on how I react to you, or to how I could be a better partner for you. I want to be the best partner that I can, and, especially as I’m still figuring out this whole dating thing right now, I need some guidance. And, if I know you will be open with me about what you need or want, I will find it easier to not worry constantly about if I’m doing something wrong.
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The Post-Purity Culture Learning Curve

Even after I chose to leave purity culture and its constraints behind, I found myself at a loss as to how to interact with the opposite sex. I had followed such an overly cautious, almost stand-offish approach to relationships with men that I had no idea how to have a normal relationship with them. I was so used to “guarding my emotions” that I didn’t know how to have a meaningful discussion with them, because that might lead to emotional vulnerability, which, according to purity culture, would inevitably lead to emotional entanglement and loss of emotional purity. Combating this idea has taken a lot of time and effort, especially when you add in a learned distrust of men that resulted from the abandonment issues I was left with by the very broken relationship I had with my father (I say “had” because I no longer have any relationship or contact with him, but that’s a story for another day).

Another source of consternation for me was the subject of sex. Sure, I had an idea of the mechanics of it, but I essentially had no sex-education when I was growing up. Being homeschooled meant that the only sex ed I got was from my mother and purity culture. My mother and purity culture alike essentially told me that I didn’t need to know anything other than the fact that sex was something to be saved for marriage, and that men want sex, whereas women really just want relationships and use sex as a means to that end. Consent was never even addressed or mentioned, nor was birth control or how to have safer sex. After all, according to purity culture, if you stay a virgin until you are married and marry another virgin (whom you can somehow guarantee will never cheat on you), STDs aren’t something you ever have to worry about. Birth control is a moot point, because once you are married, you should start popping out babies to help populate the Kingdom of Heaven (and evangelize the lost) as soon as possible.

I was stuck in a state of limbo for quite some time, not really knowing how to move forward and being too afraid to try something and fail or, worse, be laughed at for my utter lack of knowledge at my age. I started making some guy friends at work and online, but all of these relationships were pretty casual and superficial. Then I met B through a website that we both frequented. He was warm, funny and someone I felt pretty comfortable with from the beginning. We started flirting pretty shortly after meeting, though this was mainly because I somehow managed to have the mistaken impression that he was a woman for a few days. At this point, I was still in pretty serious denial over the fact that I am bi (to the point where I had never even considered it a possibility) and I told myself I was comfortable flirting with women because I knew it would never go anywhere. By the time I realized my mistake and that he was, in fact, male, I had grown accustomed to our playful banter and flirting, so it continued.

Eventually, that flirting migrated over to private messages and B hinted that he would be open to more than just flirting. Normally something like that would have been enough to send me running, but it was a subtle hint and afterwards he left the subject alone, so it didn’t make me uncomfortable. Despite all the flirting that had gone on up until that point and continued after that, he was always respectful of me in a way that made me feel safe around him. After a few days, I found myself considering taking him up on the invitation. After all, I liked him and, with no risk of STDs or pregnancy, cybersex seemed like a relatively safe way to explore a bit (sure, he could have turned out to be a crazy stalker, but I had reasons why I was pretty sure he wasn’t one). If my new set of ethics centered around a) consent and b) not causing harm to either party, this seemed perfectly permissible. I decided I was just going to see where things went and that I was open to more, as well.

The next time that some flirting started up, I broke about a million of the purity culture rules I had left behind and took the next step to move it beyond the playful banter. It was both thrilling and a little scary at the same time, but it ended up being a very positive experience and an enjoyable evening (and, yes, a bit educational, too). I had wondered if I would end up feeling guilty about breaking so many purity culture rules when I initially started considering going beyond some simple flirting with him, but instead I felt empowered and emboldened. I started to think that perhaps I could actually learn to move beyond the years of purity culture indoctrination and enjoy spending time with the opposite sex.

What I had originally thought would be a one-time experiment turned into quite a few evenings spent together online over the course of several months. Aside from the obvious enjoyment I got from the time I spent with B, these times also presented good opportunities for me to recognize how some of the ideas of purity culture were s*-.till sneaking in and affecting me and to work on moving beyond them. One of the biggest things I learned was the concept of consent. This is a subject that never gets addressed by purity culture (because PATRIARCHY! And marriage = consent for your husband for whatever he wants, whenever he wants *roll eyes*) and I really didn’t have the slightest idea about how it worked. While it was never something that we discussed, communication is obviously a big component of cybering and I learned that communication can be downright sexy and really add to the experience.

I also learned that I have the right to call a halt to anything that ever makes me uncomfortable and that any request to stop should be honored immediately. There was an incident fairly early on where B unknowingly triggered flashbacks to when I was sexually abused as a child and I didn’t know how to react or to call for a halt. Instead, I excused myself as soon as I could to have my meltdown in private. It was late enough at night that there was no one else awake for me to talk to, though, so I ended up going back and checking to see if he was still online a short time later. After he calmed me down enough that I could type semi-coherently (seriously, try texting on an iPhone while shaking uncontrollably. It doesn’t work!), he listened to me and talked with me for over an hour until I was calm enough to sleep.

Part of my personality that has helped me process through my reactions and make a departure from purity culture is my analytical nature. The next morning, my analytical side kicked in and I considered how I could have better handled the night before and how I should handle any future issues that might crop up. As I thought about it, I realized I should have simply told B I wanted to stop the instant the flashbacks started. I already knew by then that he would have shown enough respect to halt immediately and without complaint or prying for a reason. Especially for someone who wasn’t given the chance to say “no” in the past, the realization that I could say no know was a huge revelation. Knowing that I had the ultimate control to say what could and could not happen, and knowing that I had a partner who would respect my wishes, helped me feel safe and in control in a way that I hadn’t felt for a very long time. The next time we spent some time together online, I told him exactly what I needed to feel safe and rebuild my slightly shaky confidence. Not only did B follow my requests, he even went a step further to insure my comfort. I learned from that whole experience that a) I needed to communicate to my partner if I am ever uncomfortable or don’t like something and b) I have every right to tell a partner what I need to feel safe and that I should expect those requests to be honored.

I am still struck with the stark contrast between this idea of consent and the picture that is painted by purity culture. How many stories did I grow up reading where a young woman was pressured or cajoled into giving her virginity to a manipulative boyfriend? I can’t even begin to count them all (and I burned the books I would need if I wanted to make an accurate count. Ahh, that was a fun bonfire!). In purity culture, the girl is blamed for giving in to her boyfriend, while the boyfriend usually gets off the hook (after all, purity culture implies that men are sex-hungry beasts and it is a woman’s job to hold them at bay with modest clothing and strict boundaries. So it’s her fault for tempting him in the first place and then not stopping him from taking advantage of her. *roll eyes*). Purity culture never addresses the clear lack of consent that is present in all of their scare stories. If anything, it teaches women to expect that their boundaries and lack of consent will be ignored and that this is normal. It’s as if “No means no” is nothing more than empty words in the eyes of purity culture. Now, I look at these stories and I’m appalled by the lack of respect for boundaries and disregard for the importance of enthusiastic and continuing consent that is present in them. I look at these boyfriends and their repeated attempts at pushing past the boundaries and I no longer see this as the norm and something to be expected, but as a completely unacceptable practice.

I’ve often wondered how some of the dates I’ve had since I joined OkCupid would have gone if I hadn’t learned the importance of consent from B and that I have a right to set boundaries and expect them to be honored. I’m pretty sure I would have given in to C’s repeated requests for me to go over to his place if I hadn’t learned to expect my boundaries to be honored from the first time I said no and told him I wasn’t comfortable going to his place. And, if he couldn’t respect a simple boundary of me not going over to his place (within days of meeting him, too!), I have little confidence that any other boundaries I tried to set would have been honored once I was there and alone with him. When I went out with R, he said something that was essentially asking if I would like a hug at the end of our first date. A year ago, I would have endured a hug, despite my aversion to being hugged by anyone whom I don’t know well and trust, rather than risking offending him. Instead, I calmly stated that I don’t particularly like being hugged by people I’ve just met, and we parted with a handshake, instead. If I had permitted him to hug me, I probably would have been made uncomfortable enough that I wouldn’t have gone out on a second date with him.

At the same time, knowing that I have the power to say no and have the expectation that it will be honored has helped me to not be made uncomfortable on the occasions when I’ve hugged A. When he went to hug me the first time, I definitely thought about saying no for a second. But then I made a conscious decision to allow it, which took me from a person who tolerated being hugged to someone who actually welcomed and participated in it. I’m not going to lie, I’m still a bit surprised that it didn’t make me at least a little bit uncomfortable. It’s as if the act of choosing to trust someone and welcoming their touch takes away the extreme discomfort I’ve always experienced from being hugged by anyone but the closest of my friends.

I still may not know how to initiate a kiss or holding hands, but hey, at least I know how to give consent if and when a date tries to take that step with me. I will readily admit that I still have a lot to learn (and to unlearn), and I’m sure the learning curve will be sharp at times, but at least now I feel like I can adapt and I can learn. And I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where things go from here.

Adventures in Dating Sites, Part 4

There have definitely been a lot of adventures since I last updated this series! Some of the messages I’ve gotten have left me laughing, shaking my head, or just wanting to bash my head against my keyboard a few times. A few of the best and worst:

-Abs Guy was interesting. His profile pic is nothing but a shot of his abs (which really aren’t anything to write home about). His opening message was “Hey you are gorgeous and seem really cool. We should get to know each other”. After checking his profile and seeing that he’s looking for casual sex, I messaged him back and let him know I’m not interested in a casual relationship/casual sex. His response? “I understand. Would you be at all interested in cybersex? Not right away but after we have gotten to know each other.” It took about 5 minutes for me to pick my jaw up off the ground and stop sputtering at the nerve it took to send me that when I had stated I wasn’t interested in him and actually answer with a resounding “NO!”

-Then there was Lawyer Boy. His opening message was “Whats up beautiful?” and he hadn’t filled out any of his profile information beyond just the basic questions you have to answer to open an account. I won’t spend time on someone who hasn’t even given information on their profile so I can get an idea of if I might like them or not. Plus, as I was checking his profile and typing my reply to him, he sent me another message, “Lets work on getting your name out of my profile visits and into my inbox”. If I hadn’t been interested already, this would have been enough to chase me off, as it came across as fairly creepy. I resisted the urge to make a snarky comment about grammar and punctuation, but I resisted and sent him a polite, “Thanks, but I’m not interested.” When he made the mistake of sending me a reply to demand to know why I wouldn’t give him a chance, I gave in to snark and told him that if a lady politely says no, he should take the answer or else be prepared to be subject to a not-so-polite response, then told him exactly why I wasn’t interested (lack of punctuation/proper grammar, he wast too young, smoked, and hadn’t bothered to fill out his profile).

That was when things got REALLY fun. He replied back with a very insulting message about how he was going to law school and was clearly far more intelligent than I could ever imagine and no one on a dating site cares about grammar, plus threw in a few insults and told me I’m not a lady. I was thoroughly annoyed by this time, but I decided it wasn’t worth giving him a real response, at that point. So, I corrected all of the grammar and punctuation errors in his message and sent it back to him with the addition of “#BLOCKED” at the end (followed by actually blocking him, of course).

I’m pretty sure he responded by reporting me, because my account stopped functioning for a full week, after that. It appeared to everyone who had been messaging me that I had deleted my account. No one was getting my messages or my profile views for the next week and a half. I’ve been criticized for responding to his demand to know why I wouldn’t give him a chance, but this is out of line, in my opinion. I tried to be polite and he wouldn’t take no for an answer, so I was more forceful with my “no.” Okay, so maybe the last message was unnecessary, but he had it coming.

There were a couple of other mildly annoying or rude messages, but those were the worst.

As far as actual dates go, P asked me out on a second date and I was looking forward to getting to know him better, but then he backed out on me twice in a row. Neither were for earth shattering reasons, either. I decided he clearly wasn’t that interested and stopped messaging him, at that point. I haven’t heard from him since then, so I guess I was right about him not being terribly interested!

Things got really interested when three different gentlemen asked me out within a matter of days. I wasn’t sure how to handle having multiple requests and if it would be in bad taste to have multiple first or possibly second dates with multiple guys, but one of my friends whom I’ve asked for advice assured me that this is fairly normal for online dating, so I agreed to three different dates.

I went out with A first. I was intrigued by him from the moment I read his profile. He was very honest and open in it, which was a very refreshing change from many of the other profiles I’d been browsing. I discovered that he was a fellow bibliophile, Les Miserables fan and that we shared a number of fandoms. I sent him a message after I discovered that he had already “liked” me and we hit it off pretty quickly. After about three weeks after we started talking, he slipped in a very subtle invitation for a first date when I was teasing him about how I was wondering how badly he was mispronouncing my name, since he had never heard it. His comeback was, “Well, I’ve settled on Aubrey until we can have coffee and you can tell me how to say it correctly.” We settled on a date and found ourselves chatting over coffee just a few days later.

Of all the first dates I’ve had so far, this one was the best by far. Something about him put me at ease almost immediately (which is pretty impressive, if you’ve read On Purity Culture and Fearing Men) and the conversation flowed easily. We share a lot of fandoms and he’s a fascinating person with a huge range of experiences in his past. He’s also a good bit older than me, but I’ve noticed that I definitely tend to prefer older men. We kept the first date short, but parted after expressing a mutual interest in meeting again. If I hadn’t been headed straight to work and, therefore dressed in business attire and sporting some wicked heels, I probably would have skipped to my car.

We continued chatting for about the next week until I finally I got up the nerve to ask him if he wanted to meet up for lunch. I was pretty proud of myself for taking the initiative and asking, because that definitely wasn’t an easy thing for me to do, and is very counter to purity culture, where the man should always initiate! Alas, the morning dawned and he sent me a message saying that he had to cancel due to a major plumbing crisis that had to be dealt with immediately. He quickly apologized and asked if we could reschedule. When we actually got to have lunch a few days later, I was far more nervous about seeing him again. He is the first person to ever make it to a second date! It took me a little while to relax, but once I finally did, it was a very pleasant afternoon.

Our third date was this past weekend. I sent him a link of me performing “Diva’s Lament” from Spamalot on an April Fool’s concert, a few years ago. He quickly said that we would have to go Karaoke together, at some point, to which I eagerly agreed (a fellow nerd who shares my love of Doctor Who, Star Wars, AND Karaoke?! Hell yes!). It was a really fun evening and it was great to meet some of his friends, most of whom also embrace nerd culture and are part of the many fandoms I know and love so well.

I took another decisive step away from purity culture when A moved to hug me when he arrived at the pub. We hadn’t hugged or really even had any physical contact, prior to that. To be honest, I have a very difficult time with hugging most people. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is largely related to being sexually abused as a child – I developed an aversion to letting anyone but my most trusted friends touch me in any intimate way. Depending on who is hugging me and if they surprise me with a hug, my reaction is typically to feel anywhere between distinctly uncomfortable and totally freaked out. It’s not unusual for my skin to crawl for hours afterwards, especially if I felt like I had no way to get out of the unwanted hug. Add on to that the fact that hugging men is pretty much banned in purity culture and is strictly limited to quick side-hugs whenever they can’t be avoided altogether, and I can be very skittish when it comes to this sort of thing.

I’m incredibly proud of myself to be able to say that, despite considering declining his hug for a sliver of a second, I decided to go for it. Not only did I give him a hug without feeling the least bit discomfited by it, I also gave him a full hug instead of the side hug that is such a reflex for me. We spent a good portion of the evening sitting pretty close together, far more closely than purity culture would have ever allowed. The best part about it was that it felt natural and comfortable, even when he briefly put a hand on my shoulder or when I leaned in to the table to hear someone over the noise of the music and brushed up against him. As little as a year ago, I would have flinched away from even that innocent contact. Being able to not worry about it and simply enjoy talking, laughing, singing, and having heated debates about various aspects of nerd culture (e.g. whether or not the new Star Trek movies are blasphemous or genius, or who really died in the finale of Game of Thrones) was quite fantastic. It was almost two in the morning when we called it a night and headed out from the pub, parting with another very comfortable hug and a “we should do this again soon.”

Upon arriving home, I promptly deactivated my OkCupid account. I’ve found someone I’m really comfortable with, yet very attracted to, and who shares my love of the nerd life and my faith. I’m not sure where exactly this is going to go, but I’m ready to start a new in dating by spending time getting to know A and seeing where things lead. Whatever the end result, I have a feeling it’s going to be a lot of fun.

When Purity Culture-Based Reactions Turn Out To Be True (but not for purity culture reasons)

Not that long ago, I wrote a post titled “On Purity Culture and Fearing Men” that discussed how purity culture has tainted how I relate to men and how it affected my brief acquaintance with C. Over the last few days, I discovered that the assumption that C was a jerk actually wasn’t that far off, but not for the reasons I originally thought.

Let me back up to earlier in the week. I was curled up in bed, scrolling through potential matches on the OkCupid app on my phone. I had taken out my contacts already, and my eyes do really weird things to focus when I don’t have them in. My spatial perception is fairly non-existent without contacts, and I attempted to click on the profile of a guy who I wanted to check out and missed. Instead, I clicked on the profile next to it, which was C’s profile.

In case you aren’t familiar with OkCupid, there is a function where you can see everyone who has viewed your profile. I thought of this at the time, but since I told him I wouldn’t initiate any further contact with him, I decided I would just hope he missed the profile view rather than messaging him a “sorry, it was an accident.”

Of course, I couldn’t be so lucky. A day or two after, he texted me and asked why I visited his page. I apologized and explained it was a mistake. A few texts later, he said he wanted to see me. I was pretty torn on how to answer that. I really did like him. I also messed up pretty badly, before. But I apologized and asked if he wanted to give it another try, and he didn’t answer me, so I learned from my mistake and moved on. After thinking about it, I hesitantly agreed and suggested meeting over coffee, figuring that coffee allows for a quick getaway or possibly for a longer conversation, if things went well.

His response was unbelievable. “I’ve been driving around all day. Come over here and hang out.”

Keep in mind that the entire fight we had last time was based on this sequence of events: he told me he wanted me to go over and have sex with him. I said no and told him I wasn’t even comfortable going over to his hotel. He asked me to go over and listen to the rain with him, the next night. I said no again, then proceeded to email him on OkCupid and chew him out royally for not respecting my boundaries of “no, I’m not having sex with you” and “I’m not coming over to your hotel.” He responded by telling me I was out of line and he hadn’t been trying to get me to go over again just so he could sleep with me, that he honestly just wanted to hang out and get to know me better.

Keeping in mind the lesson I learned previously that I shouldn’t just assume he was asking over to try and get me to have sex with him, I calmly replied, “I have said before that I’m not comfortable coming over to your hotel. If you want to get coffee on a day when you aren’t tired from running around all day, we can do that. Please do not ask me to come over to your hotel again, though.”

This time, he did acknowledge my message, but only with a “K.”

I was feeling fairly ambivalent about seeing him again, after that. I decided to wait and see if he decided to try and set up a time to meet for coffee. I had a lunch date with A the next day (more on that in a future post) and heard my phone go off while we were chatting, but I didn’t want to be rude, so I ignored it. I was quite glad that I hadn’t looked at it during my date, when I finally had time to read it later. It was pretty much one long rant. “Get over yourself and stop making me out to be some kind of creeper,” “What is your fricking deal??” and “I don’t need to hang out with you that bad, believe me!”

I looked at this when I got to my car, before I headed home from my lunch date. One of the surest ways to make me angry is to make me feel attacked or threatened when I’m trying to set a reasonable boundary, and I was absolutely furious. I had to wait a few minutes to leave the parking lot so I was calm enough to drive. On the way home, though, the years of purity culture indoctrination tried to kick back in, again. “See? You were right to be frightened by him asking you to go over to his hotel, the first time around! He clearly has no respect for you as a person or for your boundaries! If he doesn’t respect your boundaries, that means he’s going to try to take advantage of you!”

This time around, though, I could see that his message had nothing to do with the fear that purity culture has instilled in me. This wasn’t about him trying to subtly pressure me into having sex with him. This was a result of him not understanding that when I say “I’m not comfortable with coming over to your hotel,” it’s not a comment on him as a person, it’s a comment on the years of purity culture indoctrination that I’m still trying to overcome. It’s a comment on how I was told that it was never appropriate for a woman to be alone with a man until after their wedding, that even a public meeting required a chaperone in order for it to be appropriate.

Simply joining OkCupid and chatting with men was a bit of a challenge for me, at first. Under the same rules of purity culture that I grew up with, private correspondence with men wasn’t allowed. Choosing my own suitors wasn’t allowed. Walking into a coffee shop or restaurant to meet them for the first time took a huge amount of willpower. I had to expend a considerable amount of effort to keep myself from shutting down and going into total introvert mode. I had to consciously work to stay engaged in conversation and not let the discomfort that nagged at me get the better of me. I’ve made some good improvement in that area, but I’m still nowhere near being ready to allow a man into my home or for me to go over to his. That’s going to take time, building some trust with a gentleman, and getting to where I can stop fighting with purity culture indoctrination and be relaxed around him in public.

I wrote back to C and explained this to him. Once again, he has chosen not to answer me. At this point, I’m not going to agree to meet with him, even if he does message me at a later date. I need to feel like I can set the boundaries I need to be able to function and be marginally comfortable without worrying about how the other person is going to react. I have every right to expect this and any gentleman who is interested in me has the right to choose whether or not he is willing to go along with this. I totally understand that there may be some men out there who walk away as soon as they find this out. That’s fine with me and I’m not going to complain or try to vilify them for that. It has become pretty clear that C isn’t going to be able to build an environment of safety with me, one where I feel like I can freely voice what I am and am not comfortable with and where we can build on what I am comfortable with at a pace that works for me. Honestly, if I simply feel like I will be supported and respected if I ever say “this is too much for me, I need to take a step back,” I think I’ll be able to work through a lot of these issues in a relatively short amount of time. Any gentleman or lady who is truly interested in me will be willing to be patient with me and understanding as I work through these things.

Looking back at my original post about C, I feel like it would be easy for me to look at the conversation I had with him this week and think “But, see! This just proves that purity culture is right, I really should be afraid of men! They don’t respect boundaries!” It makes me very proud of myself to be able to look at this and say, “No, purity culture is still wrong, and I still don’t need to be afraid of men. Just because C turned out to be a bit of a jerk doesn’t validate purity culture teachings.”

I’m eager to move forward with some of my other budding relationships, at this point. I know there is someone out there who will be understanding and supportive as I work through things. And I know that will be a great time of discovery, challenges and learning for me. I’m looking forward to finding someone with whom I can grow in this way.

Adventures in Dating Sites, Part 3

The last week has been full of interesting conversations on OkCupid. Some have been great, some interesting and some… well, let’s just say some have been rather lacking. There have been a few rather arrogant messages (like guy who replied to my question about how important having kids to him is with “Very. I want at least one child of my own blood. I have good genetics and a lot of things to teach another generation.” It was all I could do to not tell him that my genetics are incompatible with arrogance), a few guys who don’t understand that a bi woman isn’t going to be interested in dating them if they are against marriage equality (this is a question that can be answered on the site to help determine who would be a good match for you), plus a handful of long-distance inquirers who don’t seem to understand a simple, “thanks, but I’m not interested in any sort of long distance relationship.” I’ve had a few more messages from couples who were just looking for a lady for a threesome, but at least these are always very courteous when I decline and don’t push me.

It’s been a very busy week on the dating front; I had three(!) first dates over the span of four days!

S was the first to ask me out.  She and I had been chatting quite a lot for over a week and were hitting it off quite well. When she asked for my phone number so we could text, I was so excited that I mistakenly gave her my real number, instead of the number I give out for the texting app that I am using. After a few days of chatting and flirting over text, she asked me what I thought would be a perfect first date. After giving her a tongue-in-cheek answer of “I would have to say April 25, because it’s not too hot, not too cold. All you need is a light jacket!” (Miss Congeniality, anyone?), I told her I thought a walk at the lake or chatting over coffee at a bookstore would be ideal. She followed up by asking if I would be interested in doing either with her, so we set up a date.

I was pretty nervous about the date, I won’t lie. Not only was it only the second time I had ever gone out with anyone, it was the first time I ever went out with another woman. We had decided to meet at a lake and go for a walk, and she volunteered to stop and pick up hot chocolate. The morning of our date, things started going downhill. She texted me and let me know she was running late (which wasn’t a big deal to me). Although I had specified which entrance to the lake we would meet at, she ended up at the right one and it took over twenty minutes for her to find the correct one. Still, I was nonplussed and enjoyed goofing off on the swingset like the child that I am while I awaited her.

When she eventually got to the correct place, we headed off on a stroll around the lake and chatted about our families, the sports we each enjoy, our jobs and educations, and our interests. She was very nice and I enjoyed chatting with her, but whatever chemistry we have online/over text didn’t translate into real life at all. I wouldn’t be against meeting her again just to see if it needed time to develop in person, but we’ve both had a very busy week and haven’t even gotten to correspond too much over text. I’m pretty sure that’s as far as that date will ever go, but I’m okay with that.

J and I had our rescheduled date yesterday, since he had to cancel at the last minute the week before, due to taking his mother to the hospital. In the time between the originally scheduled date and our reschedule, I had started to get the idea that this guy wasn’t going to be someone I was interested in, but I didn’t know how to get out of the date without insulting him. His need for constant communication annoyed me, particularly when he texted me several times over the course of a few hours and then went back to OkCupid to message me when I didn’t respond (I was busy and tired and peopled-out).

At this point, I almost wish I had backed out. I spent an hour over dinner trying to maintain a conversation with him when there really wasn’t anything of real consequence to talk about. We apparently don’t share any interests, nor does he have any goals or dreams that we could share (as far as I could tell, he doesn’t particularly have much of any dreams or ambitions at all). I tried to make small talk about our jobs, family, etc., but it felt very forced, to me. As dinner was winding down, he asked if I was interested in doing anything else for the evening. I excused myself to go work my second job and quickly fled to my car.

He texted me several times today, despite me telling him I was going to be doing Maid of Honor type things with my best friend all day in preparation for her wedding. Even if I had been considering seeing him again, his texts would have been enough to put an end to that idea. Once I had a spare moment, I texted him back and let him know as gently as I could that, while he seemed like a nice guy and thanked him for the time he has spent getting to know me, I’m not interested in continuing to see him and wished him luck in his search for the right lady. I have to say, writing my first “not interested” text after meeting someone wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it might be. I still fretted over my wording, wanting to tell him as kindly as I could, but it wasn’t that hard.

My final first date of the week got off to a rather inauspicious start when he had to call me because he couldn’t find the coffee shop we had agreed on. As soon as P arrived, though, things started looking up. We were both a bit shy at first, but once we got talking, the conversation was fun and engaging. He grew up in Europe, is fluent in French and English and speaks German, as well (I do love a man with a talented tongue! And, yes, you can read that with all the innuendo you want). He moved here six years ago to care for an uncle who was in a serious car accident, then ended up going to college, getting his Master’s and finding a great job in IT. We chatted about music (he’s also a classical fan), family, traveling and a variety of other topics, and he marveled at the fact that I’m still single.

At one point, he asked whether or not I had met anyone else from OkCupid and then asked what I liked and disliked about my previous meet-ups. He shared his experience, as well. We’ve both met three other people, though he’s the only one who has gone farther than just one date. He asked a very interesting follow-up question to me mentioning that I had gone out with a lady earlier in the week. He said, “So, if you like men and women, if you marry a man, are you going to fall for a woman later and cheat on him?” I was a bit surprised by his question and countered, “No, it’s no different than it would be for a straight couple. Would you cheat on your wife, just because you were attracted to another woman?” He said that it is different bisexuals, and no, he would never cheat. I didn’t feel like getting into whether or not bisexuals really are promiscuous and more prone to cheating, so I simply told him that I have a very strong set of ethics that guide my sexual choices and that I, personally, would never cheat. I illustrated with my story about Cheater and my refusal to even consider permitting him to cheat with me, which he seemed to accept.

I’m not put-off by the exchange or by his idea that bisexuals are more likely to cheat and sleep around. I’ve quickly learned that this seems to be a fairly common misconception, and he was open to my correction of it, at least as it applied to me. It was interesting to have a point of mild contention during a first date, though, and see how it was discussed and resolved on both sides, though.

In the end, we both enjoyed each others company and he expressed interest in continuing to talk to me. Instead of being reserved, as I was with equestrian gentleman who was my first date, I agreed that I enjoyed our chat and would like to continue our dialogue. We agreed to continue texting over the weekend and made tentative plans to go out for sushi on Monday evening. I’m interested to see where things go with him, as he seems to be a very nice, intelligent gentleman.

My overall thoughts on this week of dating is that I am definitely getting more comfortable with dating, already. I’m starting to recognize some of my purity culture thought patterns and head them off a bit sooner and without letting them have a negative impact on my interaction with my dates or my perception of them. I’m not saying I’m completely over it all, because I know I’m not! It’s getting better, though.

I have another coffee invitation pending from another gentleman, as well, so it would seem there will be at least one more first date coming up before long. I’m really not sure what to do with all of this interest! I never thought I would be running into scheduling issues and such!

On Purity Culture and Fearing Men

Yesterday I came face to face with the ugly truth of how much purity culture has warped how I interact with men and my ability to trust them.

Let me start at the beginning. One of the first gentlemen to message me was a highly intelligent, successful guy. He fit the description of what I’ve always hoped I would find to a T: he loves music in general, has a deep appreciation for classical music, and can hold a fairly in-depth conversation on the topic. He is also into horses and has forged a very successful career for himself as a trainer in the hunter/jumper world. And he’s a Christian. Did I mention he’s quite good looking, too? When he started messaging me, I was immediately drawn to his conversational skills and personality.

He was the first one to ask me out, and I was both elated and incredibly nervous for my first real date. He got off work quite late, so we met at a restaurant downtown that was open late. I was enjoying his conversation so much that I was shocked to get a message from my friend, checking to see if I was okay because it was well after midnight and I hadn’t checked in with her. When we parted after chatting for over two hours, he said he would like to see me again, but would let me think about it. It was everything I could do to not tell him then and there that I wanted to see him again, but I didn’t want to seem too over-eager and kept quiet.

We exchanged a few messages the next day, and he sweetly asked when he could see me again. I nearly melted on the spot when he replied to my suggestion of the weekend with, “The weekend? That is a long time from now.” I proposed lunch a few days later, instead.

The next day was when it all fell apart. He messaged me part way through the day and said he wanted to see me when I got off work at midnight and wanted to spend all night with me. Every single alarm bell in my head went off. “See? This guy just wants to have sex with you. This is just what you were warned about, growing up. This is why you aren’t supposed to date! Men will just try to use you! You knew all along that he’s too good for you and couldn’t possibly be interested in you, as a person.” Still, I tried to silence the alarms and give him the benefit of the doubt, so I asked what he had in mind. His response confirmed my interpretation of his message. I was torn somewhere between being thrilled that this man, whom I find quite attractive, wanted me in that way and being frozen with fear.

If there is one common theme in purity culture books, it’s that men are predators who just want sex. Nearly book that I have ever read featured cautionary tales about how men lured, cajoled, or otherwise badgered their girlfriends into bed. Inevitably, the girlfriend either got pregnant or having sex somehow ruined their relationship and they ended up breaking up a short time later (never mind that the breakup probably had more to do with the woman being pushed into sex before they were ready). Women have to guard themselves against the marauding men who seek to steal their virginity, which is portrayed as their most important possession.

I abandoned the idea that a woman’s worth is determined by whether or not she reaches her marriage bed with her hymen intact some time ago. I didn’t realize how deeply rooted the more subtle insinuation that all men are sex-hungry monsters had become, though. Add in a broken home with a father who abandoned me to an emotionally abusive mother, did everything he could to avoid paying child support, and never made any attempt at upholding the court declared visitation, and you get a recipe for male trust issues the size of the second Death Star.

When I finally unfroze enough to think, I let him know that, while I enjoyed our dinner together, he was moving too fast and I wasn’t comfortable going to his hotel. I suggested coffee in a public location, instead. His lack of response registered only having one possible meaning: the only thing he wanted from me was sex and he was now ignoring me because I declined. It didn’t help that this opinion was repeated by one of my coworkers, who happened to be there when I got his text inviting me over and saw my reaction.

After that, I didn’t expect to hear from him again. When I finally got off work that night, I went home hurt and angry. Hurt that he had lead me on and made me believe that he was interested in me when he apparently just wanted to sleep with me (after all, this is what purity culture says all men try to do!). Angry that my first date went from being a wonderful experience to a horrible one in the space of two text messages. I seriously considered deleting my account on the dating website. Between Cheater, the explicit messages and this experience, I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep trying.

I was more than a little shocked to get a nonchalant “Hi! How are you?” the next evening. My coworker knew without me telling her who the message was from, and made snide remarks about him being an ass who just wanted to get in my pants. Against her recommendation, I messaged him after work, wanting to believe that maybe the night before had been some sort of misunderstanding. When I commented that I was enjoying listening to the rain that was falling, he quickly responded with “You should come here so we can listen to the rain together!”

My brain registered his invitation as a thinly veiled attempt to get me in bed and, like a frightened animal that feels cornered and threatened, I lashed out. I told him I felt he was disrespecting me by attempting to push me past the boundary I had set by saying I wasn’t comfortable going to his hotel. I jumped to every conclusion that purity culture taught me to and threw them all in his face in a very ungracious manner. He said nothing, which only served to confirm his guilt in my mind.

It turns out that I upset him enough that he couldn’t write a response until last night. He was trying to respect my boundary that he interpreted simply as me not being willing to have sex with him, at this point, and find a way to spend some time with me before he has to go out of town on Monday. With my extra late work schedule due to training, it’s hard to find anywhere to go out so late at night, and he didn’t realize I was saying I wasn’t comfortable going to his hotel, period. I took what was meant as an straightforward suggestion that we spend some time together and interpreted it as a late night booty call.

I’ve apologized and owned up to being an ass, and he was gracious enough to forgive me, but the damage is done. I don’t expect I will be hearing from him again. I can’t say that I blame him. Yes, he shares some of the blame for the situation for not realizing that his second request could be misconstrued in the light of his previous invitation.

I’ve been told by several people that my reaction was understandable, in the context of his previous message. But I am struck with how I would have never had a problem with his second request if it had come from one of the women I have been chatting with. Why? Because, according to purity culture, women want relationships, not sex. And it’s also not the only time I’ve overreacted to a gentleman. J, who has been nothing but respectful and with whom I have a date tonight, jokingly suggested I come over and cuddle after we had both agreed that the weather was quite conducive to cuddling and Netflix. While I didn’t go off on him, I did make it fairly clear that I don’t jump straight into that sort of thing. One of the ladies made the exact same suggestion the next day and I didn’t even bat an eyelash. J asked me for a picture yesterday and I automatically assumed he was asking for a nude. I played dumb and sent him a fully clothed picture, but I fully expected him to come back and blatantly ask for a boob pic (which never happened). I automatically assume the worst any time a gentleman says something that could remotely be misconstrued. A lady could ask the same thing without raising a single flag in my mind.

I know that I’ve made a lot of progress in undoing the indoctrination of purity culture, so far, but the last few days have been a very painful reminder of how far I have to go. There are ways that it affects my thinking and reactions that I haven’t even begun to recognize, yet. Between purity culture programming and the issues with my father, I know that this particular issue is going to take a very concerted effort to overcome, especially if I want to find the balance between being distrusting and totally naive.

I’m suddenly feeling extremely unenthusiastic about the date I have scheduled with J, tonight. I suppose this is as good a time as any to start addressing these purity culture thought patterns, though. I keep trying to remind myself that I was heavily into purity culture for 16 years, and I’m not going to be able to break free of those chains overnight. It’s not always easy, though.