Monthly Archives: December 2009

The Role of Alcohol in Social Interactions

(This is cross-posted at BlogHer.)

On Christmas Day, while spending time with family in the central Virginia county where I grew up, I was caught off guard when one of my family members expressed concern for the amount of alcohol I consume (not that day in particular — I wasn’t drinking — but in general). It turns out that this person, who is also a Facebook friend, tends to take note when I update my status saying that I’m going to a bar, or to a party with friends.

The question bothered me a little bit, but only because I don’t want this person thinking I have a problem. I’m proud of the fact that I take care of myself and I like to think that I do a pretty good job. I eat right, I’m at a healthy weight, I exercise, I pay my bills on time, and there are a fair amount of people who enjoy spending time with me. I think those are all things to be proud of.

The question came up because I happened to mention that I’d had a few drinks at my mom’s house the night before. “I’m glad you brought that up,” the family member said. “I’ve been meaning to tell you that I notice you have an awful lot of status updates about going out drinking. I think you drink too much.”

“I don’t have a drinking problem,” I said.

“That’s what anyone would say if they were confronted.”

“Maybe so,” I answered. “But in this case, you’ll just have to believe that I’m telling the truth.”

What is the truth? The truth is that, yes, alcohol does play a role in my social interactions. When I meet new people through online dating, bars are a common meeting place. When I go out with friends or co-workers after work and on weekends, we tend to consume alcohol.

However, just for the fun of it, I’m going to run through some reasons why I know I don’t have a drinking problem (all of which I could — and should — have listed in person the other day, but I tend to form more coherent thoughts when I’m writing rather than speaking).

1) I don’t drink every day, and just because I go to a bar doesn’t mean I’m getting hammered. I do have self control; I can stop at one or two.

2) I very rarely have a drink when I’m at home by myself (maybe once every few months).

3) I’ve never woken up and not known where I was, or gone home with someone because I was too drunk to know what I was doing — hell, I don’t think I’ve ever made-out in a bar with someone I’ve just met.

4) I have the same drink most of the time (rum and diet coke), because I know how much I can handle, and how I feel when I’ve had enough.

Do I think I’d know if I had a problem? Yes, I’m pretty sure I would. I imagine that all of the things I listed above would be the complete opposite — that I would lose control, that I would drink for the hell of it and not just because I was having fun. I appreciate that this family member cares enough about me to bring up a concern, but I also hope he realizes that I’m not the kind of person who would enjoy relinquishing control.

What kind of role does alcohol play in your social interactions?

Related Reading:

Telegraph: Professional women ‘more likely to be heavy drinkers than those in other jobs’

AV Flox on BlogHer: Drunk on You: Alcohol Disinhibits, But At What Cost?

Crazy Sexy Life: One of Terri’s recommendations to reduce family stress over the holiday season is to “know when to say when” to your alcohol consumption.

Banned in Hollywood: 10 More Signs You Drank Too Much (humor)

Five Things I’m Proud Of (From 2009)

(This is cross-posted at BlogHer.)

When I was first approached with the topic of this post, it was a really awesome feeling that I was able to think of all five things right off the top of my head. 2009 has been a great year. A number of big things have happened, including things that are widely accepted as being life-changing, like taking a new job and preparing to move to a new location. Because these things are so memorable, most of them have already come up in posts I’ve written during the last twelve months — but here they are, all at once. Five things I’m proud of from 2009:

1. I’m proud of my new job

In September, I left the place where I’d been working for over two years and accepted a job with a new company. It was the absolute best choice for me and I’m very happy that I made the switch.

I got this job through “unintentional networking,” which means I heard about it through a friend who knew I was looking. (The same friend, in fact, that I’ll mention again in #5.) The whole process of applying, interviewing, and training for this new job was extremely easy and seamless, which makes me feel like it was meant to be and it’s where I will be for the foreseeable future.

2. I’m proud of my new apartment

I haven’t moved in yet, but the date is set for early January. I have the address, I’ve paid the deposit, and I bought a sofa and chair from Craigslist. I’ll be living on my own again, which I’m very excited about — not that there’s anything wrong with living with a roommate, but I’ll be turning 30 in six months and sometimes you just reach a point where you know you need to be on your own. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I don’t plan to have a roommate again unless it’s — well, you know, a dude that I’m more-than-friends with.

I’m proud of my apartment because I made the decision that I wanted to move, I did the research, I chose the place, I’ll be the one to pack up all my belongings (and arrange to have people help me move the really heavy stuff), and I’ll be paying the bills. It feels good.

3. I’m proud that I’ve learned to enjoy being social

I’ve had good friends throughout my entire life, but it’s just been the past few years where I feel like I’ve made an effort to get out and meet new people on a regular basis — and I genuinely enjoy it. I attribute a big part of this change to online dating (referenced in a post I wrote in August after I passed the one-year mark of my membership with an online dating site).

There were a few weeks in 2009 where I literally had plans of some sort every day for a week — I believe my record was eight days in a row. It can be tiring sometimes, but I’d rather be tired and happy than well-rested and bored.

4. I’m proud that I’m blogging differently than I used to, and I’m okay with that

I blog when I want to, if I want to. I reached a point this year where I don’t feel like discussing all the minutiae of my life anymore. I still do that to an extent, but now I do it on Facebook — a place where I can limit my audience to people I know, and where I can talk about what I’m doing in a few lines rather than writing it out in paragraph form. It takes a lot less time and I find that once I’ve said it, I usually don’t feel the need to bring it up later (in extended form) on my blog.

One of the things I’ve held onto is the writing I do for BlogHer, and I do that because I’m proud of it, too. I’ve met a lot of really fantastic women through being associated with that site, and I’m not ready to give it up yet.

5. I’m proud of this one friendship in particular…

The vast majority of the guys I’ve been good friends with through the years are men I’m not physically attracted to (and so far, I’ve never had a situation where I started out not-at-all attracted to a male friend and we mutually decided at a later point that we wanted to be more than friends — you know, like you sometimes see in the movies). This makes sense, though. After all, isn’t it much easier to be friends with someone you’re not attracted to?

I’m proud that someone I started dating at the beginning of 2009 has transitioned to being a really good friend. After we stopped dating, there were a few strange months that sometimes required conversations about “where we stood,” but for the past 4-5 months I can tell we’ve reached a really good place. We date other people, but we spend time together pretty often and we’ve had the opportunity to do nice things for each other. (For instance, he helped me move the living room furniture I bought a few weeks ago, and I served as a character reference for him — which required me to talk to an interviewer face-to-face — when he applied for a job that required it.)

Something that helps with the whole transition to being just-friends? You can’t be “friends with benefits.” (Well, at least I can’t.) It’s difficult to get used to in the beginning, but if you stick it out you’ll find that you can spend multiple hours together, alone, and you don’t have to worry about anything happening.

I care a lot about this person, but it’s nice to have reached a place where I no longer feel like I’m waiting for him to change his mind and suddenly decide he wants to date me. He’s played a big role in my life this year and I have a feeling that he’s someone I will know for a long time. And that’s a really great feeling.

What are you proud of that happened in 2009?

Related Reading:

Liz Rizzo on BlogHer wrote a post called Makes Friends with Exes. Even though me and the guy that I just mentioned were never officially a couple, I can identify with some of the feelings she wrote about in her post.

Ashley Reading is proud that she set up her own website this year, and she’s currently working on her second.

Jill recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of her blog, something that she’s very proud of.

Dating During the Holidays? There’s No Need to Stress

(This is cross-posted at BlogHer.)

Should we handle dating around the holidays any differently than we would at any other time of year? I’m sure there are some people who might, but I don’t. I do the same thing I always do: I sign in to my dating site if I feel like it (which means I might sign in every-other day, or maybe wait a few weeks between visits, depending on my mood). I answer emails from new people if they strike me the right way, otherwise I delete them. I might meet 2-3 people in one week, or maybe I’ll go a month without meeting someone new. I’d have no problem meeting someone new on Christmas Eve, as long as I didn’t have anything else planned. Who cares?

I found a Holiday Dating Do’s and Don’ts article that recommends not logging into your dating account over the holidays at all. Umm…WHY NOT? I understand not logging in on a Friday or Saturday night (when you’re supposed to give off the impression that you’re away from home because you’re too popular and desirable to spend a weekend night alone). But refraining from signing-in at all is just silly.

I met a guy online in December of last year, shortly before Christmas, but because of the holidays and our conflicting schedules we didn’t actually meet in person until after January 1st. However, we were exchanging text messages on Christmas Day. Did I think I was breaking some kind of boundary or maybe giving him the impression that I was a loser? Not at all. A text takes a short time to send; it was harmless.

If you refrain from meeting anyone new around the holiday season, you’re putting too much pressure on dating. The purpose of dating is to have fun and meet new people – if you’re worried about whether you should buy someone a gift because you’ve only been dating a few weeks, you’re taking the fun out of it.

If I’d been on a few dates with someone in the weeks leading up to Christmas, there are a few things I might do: If we went out for a drink or dinner, I might grab the check and pay for everything, saying “Merry Christmas!” as I signed the check. Or I could hand him a bag of homemade cookies with a “Here, these are for you! Happy holidays!” Basically, I have no problem spending a little bit of money or a little bit of time, but I wouldn’t hand over a gift that was all wrapped-up, no matter how much it cost (even if the gift cost less than his dinner). I’m sure there are other good ways that people handle this situation, but that’s what I would do.

Are you dating during the holiday season? Pretend it’s spring, summer, or fall. Unless, of course, you feel like stressing yourself out unnecessarily — if that’s the case, have at it. As for me, I’ll be out having fun.

Related Reading:

Misadventures in Atlanta: Single-ish During the Holidays

The Frisky: Dating Don’ts: Dealing With Holiday Hell

StyleCaster: Unattached? 5 Reasons You’ll Be Thankful You’re Single During the Holidays

Moving: The Decision Has Been Made

(This is cross-posted at BlogHer.)

After several months of personal research and public discussion, I’ve finally located a new place to live. It meets the specifications I had in mind and I happen to be incredibly excited about my choice. I knew that if I moved, I wanted it to be something that I really liked and looked forward to moving into — I found it, and I’ll be moving in early next month. (Brrrr! A January move! I guess we’ll be okay, though, as long as it’s not snowing.)

I had given some thought to moving into DC, but it just never felt like the right thing to do. Either the places I liked were too expensive, or they were affordable but not in an area where I wanted to live. Or maybe they were in a pretty good area, and affordable, but I would have had to pay Big Bucks to park my car in off-street parking. (I’ve never had to pay Big Bucks for parking before, so I’m kind of opposed to that option, if you can’t tell.)

So I’m staying in Virginia, and I’m okay with that, because I was born in Virginia and I’ve lived in the state most of my life. Virginia is awesome.

I’ll be living by myself (which means I’ll be able to decorate any way I want!), in a building that I really like, and I’ll have my own balcony — which was really high up on the list of things I wanted if I moved to a new place. I’ll be living closer to a Metro stop, which was also an important consideration. I’ve been walking a mile one-way to the Metro almost every day for the past few years. It’s good exercise, yes, but the distance can be prohibitive when I’m making shorter trips into the city. I’m also looking forward to cutting some time off my daily commute to work.

I’m not going to say where I’m moving or which Metro stop I’ll be living close to, because I promised my parents I wouldn’t. It seems I’ve spent the last two years telling everyone that I live in Old Town Alexandria, a mile from the King Street Metro, along with other personally-identifiable details about my location. They’ve asked me to keep this information off the internet in the future, so I promised them I would. (And hey, they’ve been divorced for quite a few years, so it’s not like they tag-teamed me. They requested this separately and of their own accord, so I figured it would be nice of me to comply.)

I bought a sofa and chair from Craigslist yesterday, and I rented a U-Haul to pick them up (I’ll be keeping the furniture in my current apartment for the next few weeks until I move; luckily the living room is pretty large). I’d never rented a truck before, but it was surprisingly easy and painless. I even drove it myself, which was a little nerve-wracking but not too bad once I got used to it. Luckily I had a friend riding in the passenger seat with me, so he helped to calm my nerves a bit (I wanted to be the one driving the truck yesterday since I’d be returning it by myself later). Now that I’ve purchased the major furniture pieces that I needed, I can concentrate on smaller things, like a television stand and coffee table.

Speaking of friends, I love how they come out of the woodwork when something needs to be done. I had two male friends come over to my place yesterday to carry the furniture up to my second-floor apartment, and a number of people have volunteered to be at my disposal next month for the larger-scale move to the new place. (And lucky for us, the new building has an elevator — large pieces of furniture won’t have to be maneuvered up and around a staircase anymore.)

I’m really excited about this move. I know it will be good for me. I’ve already been thinking about when I should have a housewarming party. It will be the only large get-together I’ve ever hosted, and the only unfortunate part is that I’ve waited so long. But that’s okay. I’m getting started now, and that’s all that matters.

Related Reading:

At BlogHer, Liz Rizzo talked about the advantages of living on her own.

Apartment Therapy: 5 Confessions of a New Renter

Kristin Burleigh just moved out of a third-floor apartment and vows to never live above the first floor again (unless the building has an elevator!).

Law Girl takes us on a photo tour of her new apartment.

Me, Thinking About Writing a Memoir? I Must Be Crazy.

(This is cross-posted at BlogHer.)

When I think about people who write memoirs, the first word that comes to mind is exposed. Even though you have the option to disclose as little or as much as you want, there’s still a certain amount of exposure involved. In an article for the Huffington Post, author Rebecca Walker (daughter of Alice Walker) asked, Why Write Memoir When Fiction is So Much More Respectable? Apparently, after Rebecca wrote her first memoir several people in her life disowned her.

After USA Today called [my first memoir] “stunningly honest,” people told me how much they loved the book, how it changed their lives, how gorgeous it is and so on. I heard all of that, I really did, but I also heard what they didn’t say. Like, how they would never write a book like mine. They would never describe their first blowjob to the world in thrilling detail, or admit to shoplifting from JC Penney. While they benefit from me doing it and pity the exorbitant price I paid, at the end of the day I don’t think they really respect me for it. And neither do my colleagues and critics.

Since then, people have recommended that she write fiction instead. When she hears this advice, Ms. Walker says that she’s “amazed anyone would think an artist can switch easily from one form to another, from first person to third.”

I completely agree. Other than the stories I wrote when I was young (up to age 10 or so), I’ve never been a fiction writer. And with very few exceptions, most of the books I read are nonfiction. I’m not saying that I read heavy, dry tomes of history and philosophy or anything like that — I prefer to read memoirs.

I like memoirs because they’re real. These stories and situations actually happened to someone. Sometimes these stories read like fiction because it’s hard to believe that someone could climb to the top of a forbidding mountain or survive a year living in disastrous foreign conditions. But that’s exactly why they’re so interesting to me.

I’ve given some thought to writing a memoir. And yes, of course I know what you’re thinking. What do I, at age 29.5, have to say that other people might be interested in reading? What have I done or experienced that I feel I’d like to share? The thing is, since I’ve read a fair amount of memoirs I’ve realized that you don’t necessarily have to write about an exciting or heroic event — it’s primarily about how you tell the story.

The realization that I might have material for a memoir came to me a few months back when I rediscovered a ton of notes that I wrote over the course of a year. Honestly, since I wrote them over such a long period of time, I had no idea that I’d captured so much detailed information.

I made these notes during a time in my life that was filled with quite a bit of drama — too much drama, actually, since I prefer for my life to be fun rather than crazy. And I certainly didn’t write them because I ever had a smidgen of thought that I might want to write a book one day. I guess I just realized that the situation was pretty intense and it made sense to keep some kind of record.

However, although I think I have a story to tell, I haven’t started any kind of formal writing plan. There are a lot of factors holding me back, one of the biggest ones being time. I understand that we make time for the things we really want to do, but there’s still a lot of doubt in my mind. The doubtful voice tells me, “What if you spend all of these multiple-multiple-multiple hours writing something and it turns out to be crap? You would have wasted your time.” And if there’s one thing I hate, it’s the thought that I’ve wasted my time.

The other factor is what Rebecca Walker said in her article: If you write a memoir, you’re inviting scrutiny. And you have to be ready and willing to accept scrutiny from anyone who reads your words.

To answer Rebecca’s original question, I would say that in most cases, a memoir is definitely less respectable than fiction. Why? Because with very few exceptions, memoir authors can’t help but disclose something about themselves that they never thought they would — some weakness, some embarrassment, something they did that they’re not proud of. Even if people think your book is awesome, they’re also likely to think to themselves, “Wow. I never knew that about her before.”

I don’t know what I’m going to do. Maybe I’ll never get around to it. Maybe I’ll wait a few years before I start. Or maybe, one of these days, I’ll just sit down and start writing.

Related Reading:

Miss Move Abroad tells us about Sandy Shaw, who has lived in Costa Rica for over 20 years: “She pared away from her life all but the essential, so that she might, for a year, concentrate on writing the book she knew she was meant to write.”

On Writing Forward, Deborah Prutzman gives advice for writing a memoir with a partner.

At ADDer World, Bryan Hutchinson has 10 Simple Tips on Writing a Memoir.

The Rejectionist helps us out with Memoir Topics That Are Not, In Fact, of Inherent Interest, And Do Require Some Effort On Your Part In Order to Constitute A Successful Book.