Monday, January 30, 2012

Much Too Much: How to Lose a Game Without Even Playing

In my second year of university, the boys who lived next door to us watched "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" on a frequent basis. (Either they REALLY liked the film, or it was their "go-to" movie to watch when they had a girl over. For the record, my friends "go-to" was Mighty Ducks---I mean how OBVIOUS IS THAT?) I'm pretty sure that, hearing it played through the wall over a dozen times in one month, I have the entire film memorized. (For those of you who haven't seen it, the story is that a playboy makes a bet with his friends that he can make a girl fall in love with him in two weeks and a girl is writing an article about the "don'ts" of a relationship and does everything wrong to "lose" him but since they're unknowingly paired with each other, a romantic comedy ensues.)

The premise of the film is interesting because when we first meet someone and get together with them, there are all of these "rules" on how we should play it, how we should or shouldn't act. We play these games for a while until the true colors of our personality come out but, by then, we hope that the person we're involved with likes us enough to overlook these idiosyncrasies that make us who we are. I've always been EXCELLENT at the initial meetings---luring someone into being interested in me is like second nature, and once I'm in a relationship, I'm also great: easy going, no games, relatively undemanding and a great person to date. But it's that in-between stage, the grey area that I, and a lot of others, seem to have trouble with. (I'm awkward and often times I do "the wrong thing" in this stage. I'm not going to get into anecdotes but if you've dated me, you know what I am referring to. However, I'm lucky, I tend to find guys who overlook my classic behavior, or seem to know that it's just a result of the insecurity that being in-limbo brings) We meet someone we like, so how do we go from the first spark to a relationship? Here are, in no particular order, some relationship killers.

1. Over Exposure: We're always told to leave one wanting more. But that is SO HARD when you are excited by someone. You want to hang out with them and talk to them as much as you can, because it's fun and it makes you feel butterflies. However, this is bad to do, because then the mystery starts to disappear, and things go from being exciting to being mundane.

2. Over Communicating: People are so different in the way they communicate, some are attached to their mobile device (me!) and some don't look at their phone for days. If two opposites meet then it's easy for things to go from delightful to dismal in the blink of an eye. I tend to message a lot, to everyone, and those who know me know that this is an intricate part of who I am, but when faced with a new person what do I do? Do I hold back and ease them into it? (That kind of feels like false advertising?) Or do I just be myself and potentially overwhelm someone? The "right" answer is the former, to pace oneself and "play it cool" ---the attractive person you met may lose sight of what they thought was great about you with your over-exuberant communicating. They'll go from being excited to hear from you to being annoyed, or worse, stalked.

3. Over Sharing: When you like someone, you want to know them and you want them to know you, but you can't just tell them everything, because where's the fun in that? As difficult as it may be to hold back on your life story and past, it is imperative to practice discretion. As the relationship progresses, these things will emerge take a deep breathe and save the tell-alls for your friends. Oh and, probably better to not share with them that you've told your mom/best friend/coworkers about them. (My NYC friends and I used to have a rule, which I probably shouldn't share but will anyway. The rule is: "It's ok to be crazy, but don't be crazy to the person you're crazy over. Act out to your friends. They already know and love you. plus, they can remind you that you're, BEING CRAZY")

4/4.5. Over Analyzing/Complicating: I think this is more of a female trait then men. Maybe it's because by definition, women are more complex and men tend to be simple (generalization) so we, as women, want to know what things MEAN. "He said he wants to hang out...does he really mean it?" "He said, 'sounds good', what does that mean?" Often times, it probably means: he wants to hang out with you or that it sounds good, but when we like someone, we lose sight of the rational and logical. I know I don't sit around trying to decode messages from my friends so why do it for a love interest? Doing so only drives us a bit insane, and results in more erratic behavior that can be perceived as crazy or annoying. We spend so much time analyzing that we forget to be ourselves, which is a shame, because who we are is what the person liked to begin with.

5. Over-Defining: While the initial first weeks of a new thing can be the most exciting they can also be the most stressful, because we want to know where the other person stands, if they're on the same page. There are several ways to do this: Ask (which will often scare the person) Play games (which will annoy the person and exhaust you) or nothing (and see what happens.) The last one is the best option for sure, but it's not really that easy, because if we really like someone, we want to know what they think of us, how they feel. So we try and define it to give us some sense of security and understanding, we devise ways to figure things out rather than just letting them happen, and enjoying it for what it is. Talking about feelings and what you are too soon will (most likely) RUIN the relationship. The fact is, if someone is into you, it's obvious. The way they interact and behave with you will demonstrate that. In fact, I think seeing how someone treats you is a much bigger indicator than hearing them tell you how much they like you. Resist the urge to get the definition, resist the urge to find out if they're dating/hooking up with other people. Chances are, if they like you, they're probably not, and all of this will be revealed in a more time appropriate moment, or it'll unfold naturally.

6. Over Inclusiveness: When I'm in a serious relationship, I tend to keep a lot of the details private. I believe, as we should, that relationships are between two people. This isn't saying that I never tell my friends anything, but for the most part, I value the sanctity of what's between me and this other person. However, in the "getting to know you" phase, friends are crucial, who else can we bounce ideas off of, or go to for advice? Since we don't know what's going on we turn to a third party to help decipher. Relying on friends is great, but should be done with caution. Our friends aren't really a part of the situation, and while they (should) have our best interests at heart, can lead us astray with presumptions and preconceived notions. This can really only be helpful if the friend knows both parties involved, but then it's unfair to put them in that position.

7/7.5. Over-Eagerness& Over-Planning: Being constantly available is a turn off, people like to feel like they've accomplished something, and if you don't make them work for it, they get bored. Most people enjoy a little bit of a challenge. I'm not suggesting that you intentionally blow someone off (that's rude) but making them a priority right away is never a good thing. Keep your life the same as it was before, but make room for them when there is. When first involved with someone, we do like to imagine certain scenarios with them: nights out, weekends away, trips etc but we shouldn't put too much weight or hope into these things. You can't meet someone and expect that in a month they'll want to go on a camping weekend with you. If, after a few weeks of hanging out, you then suggest it, they'll probably be more receptive, but if they're not then they're not. It's better to assume that they're not and be pleasantly surprised than hurt and disappointed. The latter is an irrational response and they're likely to be turned off by it and scared that things are moving too quickly/are too serious. If you have dinner plans with a friend but your person of interest asks you out, don't rearrange your friend time. Go to dinner. Don't spend the whole night texting. Having a life is sexy.

8. Over-Idealism: When liking someone, we see the good, we get our hopes up. I'm not saying that we should all be cynics because that negative vibe is easily picked up and not exactly compelling, but please be realistic. As stated above, if someone likes you, you'll know. They should make it fairly obvious. If you feel like you are the only one putting in effort or caring then you probably are. Be realistic, don't look at it over-analytically. A good trick is to pretend your circumstance is that of a friends, and imagine they are telling you about it. What advice would you give them? Ok good, now follow it.

9. Over-Reacting: We tend to be more hypersensitive regarding a love interest. We take what they say and do much more seriously than we should and what was probably intended by them. Our overreaction to basically nothing serves as a massive repellent. Relax, and ask yourself how you'd feel if the same thing came from a friend of yours. If you'd still be upset/freaked out/confused, then fair enough, act on it. If not, then weigh that heavily.

10. Over-Apathy: I know I've spent the past nine definitions saying that we're supposed to be normal and play it cool but there is an extent to that as well. We can't let the person feel like we're not interested or don't care. If we do that than any (normal) person will lose interest and stop contacting us. We have to make sure the person knows that we care and are into them, just without being overwhelming. Also, over-apathy sets precedents for other behavior. I have known people who told their love interest "I don't care if you see other people" but as time went on, started caring. Or they always cared, but wanted to seem cool but the other person didn't see it like that, they took it to mean that they actually didn't care. Don't say anything you don't mean (LYING IS BAD), don't purposely seem disinterested (there is a huge difference between genuinely busy and not interested) Find a balance of maintaining your life and sense of dignity but making the other person feel special and important.

The way you play it can make or break a connection. Though as I said, my awkwardness in the middle stages should've ruined a good thing but didn't. I guess the truth is, that if you really like someone, or see potential... these things really won't matter. Personally, I don't really like games, though there was a time I was a master at them. I stopped playing them a while ago, and have had great success relationship wise, but still though, I wonder if perhaps there's something to be said for them.

Oh and, drunk dials/texts/emails. Never good. Ever. Even in a committed relationship (I think every guy I've ever dated is screaming "HYPOCRITE!" right now, but really, I've gotten much better. My last boyfriend basically broke me of that habit, simply because I liked him enough to stop)

Authors Note: I've been writing a lot about relationships recently, which some of you have been a big fan of (yay) but some have sent me messages reminding me that this is a blog about Vietnam. To the latter, I see your point, kind of. However, my blog is about life, not only in Vietnam, but in general. While I do have things to write about (Christmas and New Years travels and Tet, which I will get to within the next few weeks) I can't keep writing about motorbike accidents or shock and awe that I encounter because, as I've said before, these things are ingrained in my daily life, they're as routine as say, going to the supermarket (which as we know in Vietnam is actually an adventure in its own right)

In fact, if one thing has been made so abundantly clear from all of my living experiences it's that human nature doesn't change. From the Queen of England to a street child in a tiny Cambodian village, we as people, have the same needs, and fundamentally the same wants. Aside from the obvious, food, shelter, health etc, people are driven by passion and emotion-whether it be for their job, their religion, their country, or another person-I haven't come across someone yet who doesn't covet something, who doesn't search for security and stability and want to love and be loved. As vast as the range of people are, it is humbling to remember that we are all basically the same.

So, while this isn't a relationship blog, I've been writing about relationships, because they're a big part of the my life, and big part of most peoples. I find them fascinating. For those of you who agree, I'm glad. For those who don't, just skip the posts about them and read the ones about Vietnam and travel (upcoming: different opportunities, Mui Ne, Saigon, Sri Lanka)

(Thanks DH for the conversation over disgusting instant noodles that resulted in the idea for this post.)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Check Mate: How to Spot A Coyote

*amended January 28th. **amended on January 29th ( Thanks to my fave coyote)

Like 90% of people out there, I broke my New Years resolution. I am disappointed because I usually have an iron will and strong resolve but even I slip up, especially if it is romantically. Try as I may, I am useless at ignoring the chance at a connection with someone.

To say I’ve never been involved with a coyote would be untrue, but the difference between me and some of my female counterparts is that I don’t thrive on the drama and games. Once I realize something is amiss, I’m out. I don’t want to hear apologies or explanations. Getting a chance with me is not an easy thing to do, blowing your chance with me is just plain idiotic, and I don’t have time for morons.

When I come across a coyote, I don’t usually get angry or sad. I don’t yell at them, because I see no point. They are completely and utterly not worth the time and effort. I become disgusted with their complete lack of propriety and disregard for considerate behavior. The problem with coyotes is that they can be difficult to spot. They are not actually the obvious playboys who brag about their conquests, those are easy to spot therefore not dangerous. I actually respect them for their honesty even if I don’t like their behavior. No, the bad coyotes are the ones who pretend to be something they’re not…who put on the face of someone kind and good. Who go through the necessary steps to make it look like they care just to get to their end goal, and are usually carrying on side lives.

They’re the worst kind of person, and while there are many varietals and different tricks I have identified some MAJOR INDICATORS to spot them:

1. There is a purse in their room and they say it’s their mothers. It’s highly probable that it’s not. (Same thing if you’re in a woman’s room and you find a man's watch, shoes etc)

2. They ask you to “not mention anything” to your friend who knows their friend or housemate. Chances are they are hiding your interaction for a reason, and the reason is NOT the allure of a clandestine affair.

3. When hearing that you plan to go to a major event/party at a certain venue, they suddenly claim to want to stay in, it’s likely that they don’t want to be SEEN THERE WITH YOU. Why? Because someone is there that they’re romancing.

4. They refuse to meet any of your friends.

5. They claim PDA makes them uncomfortable (what makes them uncomfortable is if they are seen by someone)

6. They leave the room to answer certain phone calls, despite taking some in front of you.

7. When it comes to spending time with you that won’t result in hooking up, they feign illness or another emergency. Whether it be explosive diarrhea, suddenly feeling dizzy or some other ridiculous ailment that showed no signs before and would probably disappear instantly if you started taking your clothes off.

8. They don’t want any photos of them taken.

9. They come up with convenient and believable excuses why they can’t hang out, like their family is in town. This is plausible initially, but when it becomes a pattern it’s pretty likely that it’s a lie. But how can one argue with that? No, it gives them the ability to be busy, not answer their phone, and spend time with the other people they are duping.

10. When you point blank ask them about the nature of your relationship, or their other dalliances they become evasive OR give you the answer you want to hear but then display abrupt changes in behavior. They’ll stop picking up their phone, answering texts, and the big one: they’ll only talk to you during the day. If they’re really good at being a despicable human being, they’ll throw you tidbits, like a thoughtful email, just so you don’t suspect anything major yet.

11. They only respond when you send them something suggestive.

12. You hear they are dating someone from multiple sources but they deny it and implore you to trust them and not believe everything you hear. They may even turn it around on you and ask you why you’re so negative, why you always assume the worst, thus making you feel like it’s your fault.

13. They don’t care if they haven’t seen or spoken to you in a while.

14. They change their statement of intentions based on your reaction.

15. They will sweet talk and make plans with you you over email, text, instant message, and these messages may even border risqué…however these plans never come to fruition.

*16. The morning after an encounter they usher you out of their place/leaves yours in a hurry citing that they need to get some "online banking" done. (Uh, don't you have a laptop?)

**17. They reference how YOU feel about them but never exactly tell you where they are

**18. They play you a cheesy song (example: "I will always love you") for you on their phone and proclaim this as an amazing song that they "really, really love" (This can only apply to men I think)

**19. They inform you about a life situation they are going through, making you feel feel compelled to help them through it and be there for them, but at the same time providing them the excuse to behave badly or erratically and blame it in something else.

**20. If they are a man they tell you they always wanted to be a fireman because they like to throw things over their shoulder.

These things SHOULD be obvious red flags but sometimes we over look them. My problem is that I am a good person, I care about people. I don’t misrepresent myself nor do I ever make my feelings or intentions difficult to interpret. So I make the mistake of assuming that others are like me, that they have common decency. I have also been blessed (or cursed, depending on how you look at it) by dating incredible men. Each more remarkable than the last. My last boyfriend was as close to perfect as someone can get (he hates when I say that, so if you’re reading this, I’m sorry but it’s true) and I’ve been spoilt. I’ve been exposed to wonderful, inherently good guys who treat me like I’m the most precious commodity in the world. They are the reason I believe in love, that I take chances, and why I see the world through idealistic rose colored glasses. They are behind my reasoning that good guys exist and that we can be in healthy and happy relationships with no games, no drama, no lies, no hurting. But they have also made me a bit naïve.

Luckily for me, I live in Asia so January 1st isn’t actually New Years. New Years was actually January 22nd…which means I get a whole other shot at this whole “time for myself” thing.

On a side note, this is not gender specific, some of the worst coyotes I know are women.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Two Years in Hanoi: The Little Things

January 14th marked two year anniversary in Vietnam, a milestone I can honestly say that I never envisioned occurring. It's funny how life works, we make all of these plans for ourselves, but it rarely plays out exactly how we see it.

I am not going to write a blog about the magic of Hanoi and how it has managed to lure me in, making it seemingly impossible to leave. I, and many others, have done that before. I'm also not going to talk about the little restaurants I enjoy discovering or the friends I've made. I admit I am not as in awe of the city that I used to be, not because it isn't completely enlightening and wonderful, but because it is my home, and things feel normal and every day for me now. (I like this)

Although Vietnam life has become routine for me (I am no longer shocked by things such as four people and two chickens on a motorbike, and I am only mildly disgusted when I see a man hack up a massive ball of phlegm and spit it on the street) there are certain little things that occur here that have the most remarkable affect on me; things I find awesome and annoying at the same time.


Annoying: It's crazy. There is no rhyme or reason. People burst out from tiny alley ways, they drive on the wrong side of the road, they don't stop at red lights. It's every man for itself.

Awesome: I got my provisional license when I was 15 years old, and the whole system was so regimented that I couldn't help but want to break out and do something crazy. Hit the car in front of me, drive down a no car zone...and now I can. The streets here can be confusing, and sometimes they do turn into one ways or say not to turn, but to follow those rules would mean a) getting lost or b) adding 10 minutes onto your journey. I love that I can (and do) just ignore the rules if they don't apply to my particular journey. And driving on the side walk is exhilarating. (I really hope my parents aren't reading this)


Annoying: Someone comes to the door unexpected. Never on the same day, never at the same time. The doorbell rings (15 times) and then I am told I owe X amount for Y bill. I rarely have cash on me so this can be slightly inconvenient.

Awesome: This is a lazy persons dream. You don't have to do anything. Yes, in the age of online bill pay all you have to do is click a button. You can even sign up for automatic bill pay. But for those who don't do automatic bill pay (like me, because I never know what my balance is) it just makes it THAT much less work. No logging on, clicking anything, verifying (has anyone ever paid an online bill for Time Warner Cable, they ask you to verify your identity so many times....I wanted to be like "I'm PAYING you money, why are you giving me the 5th degree?") just a simple and quick transaction and you're set.


Annoying: If I have a whole day of shopping to do then it takes me ges because, unless I want to spend a lot of money at somewhere like Vincom, I have to run around town to ten different places to get my errands done. It's exhausting.

Awesome: Almost everything I could possibly want is available in Hanoi. Not only that but I have an abundance of options. Not only do I have all of these options but I don't have to spend a lot of time shopping around for the same product. The reason why? Because all of the stores carrying this product are next to each other. I can hop from shop to shop comparing prices and products, bargaining (if that's allowed) and it actually makes me a smarter shopper When I bought a new computer (in the US) my father and I drove to three different places to compare, each place was about 45 minutes away from each other, it made me feel impulsive, like I wanted to buy the first one I saw just to avoid the hassle of traveling all day. However when I bought my new camera in Hanoi I went to just as many shops and looked at dozens of cameras but the whole process took an hour.


Annoying: I spoke about this in a previous post.It aggravates me when people cut in line. Since my post though, I followed the advice of people and started being firm when someone got in front of me. Never rude, but just taking back my rightful place. Is it annoying that I have to do that? Kind of, but generally I am grumpy anyway because I hate waiting in line.

Awesome: I am a bit embarrassed to admit it but I have been known to be one of those line cutters. Actually this only happens when I am at the Viettel store (the only bill that I can't pay at home.) I basically walk in, stand in front of the counter, and allow myself to be seen right away.


Annoying: Why can't things just be one price? Why do Vietnamese get one rate and foreigners get another? A day of shopping in the market is exhausting---and you return home with zero energy and only a handful of purchases.

Awesome: It's the culture here, and it's part of the fun. I love the feeling of bantering back and forth and sealing a good deal...being able to tell my friends, "Look what I got, and it was only X." Some people view it as trying to exploit the foreigners for more money, but bargaining is a major way of living for Vietnamese as well, and let's be serious, what good business person isn't going to try and get the most for their product?

I am not one of these expatriates that believes in complaining that things are different, or that I don't like certain attitudes or elements of the culture. I can't tell you how incredibly angry it makes me when I hear someone insult the people or the country here. I think they should go home. That may be a bold statement, but it's true. It's deplorable. As an expatriate, we CHOOSE to live in another country, and yes, things are going to be challenging, and out comfort zones tested. That's part of what makes the world so wonderful, is that there is such diversity in existence. If you don't like it then move back to where you came from.

Of course there are times that I get annoyed or frustrated but that would be anywhere. These little quirks are part of what make the Hanoi experience so special, they are part of the reason I didn't leave after my planned five months. Hanoi is unlike anywhere I have been in the world, it has similarities to other places in SE Asia, but a certain buzz, a feel to it that separates it from other cities. It is like any other relationship, one with real life and soul-it invigorates, challenges, frustrates and humbles.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Rules of Attraction: My Relationship Definition Handbook

**amended January 17th (I am expecting a few more, especially as I have yet to chat with one of the most LEGENDARY people I know who has some suggestions. You know who you are ;) )
*amended January 12th

-----This was so popular an required so many amendments and additions that I compiled a second handbook, which can be found here.----

Last night, during a conversation with my housemate, the focus shifted to relationships of the romantic kind. She and I are similiar in SO many ways but the relationship forefront we couldn't be any more different. For example: I can't remember the last time I was truly single. Single meaning not involved in any way. I think it was when I was 15, as I started dating my "first real boyfriend", two days before my 16th birthday (and it lasted two and a half years) She, on the other hand, hasn't had a boyfriend since she was 18. She likes it that way. We make for an interesting mix and perspective.

Let me start this with my goal for 2012, my "New Years Resolution" if you will, is to be single. Maybe not for the entire year, but to engage in some strict "me" time, no distractions from the opposite sex. I wouldn't say I am co-dependent, in fact I don't think I am at all, I just like being in a relationship, I love falling in love, and am a sucker for attention :) But I digress, this isn't about my personal's about what transpired during this conversation.

This conversation resulted in my inventing of a new relationship terminology handbook. The terms may sound familiar, but the definitions are my own, and I think they're pretty logical and should be adopted and followed by all. This list came about because Karen (my housemate) was asking me to explain what I wanted. (uhhh...what?) The first thing I did was list a lot of things I didn't want, and as we explored each thing I began labeling them, and we refined it into this list that I have just written out for all.

Some people may think these are stupid. "Why do I need to define what is going on?" they may ask. Maybe they don't. But I do. I am a control freak, I have to have a direction, and understanding. I don't like the grey area, "not knowing" drives me CRAZY. Literally it leaves me feeling a bit unhinged. I am, by all accounts, relatively laid back and stable, unless I am in undefined territory.

The list may grow and develop new phrases but this is what I've got for now, though receptive to input:

**Friend: Why did I ever leave this one out? I guess it seemed arbitrary to include. Do I even need to define what a friend is? Probably not, but I'll attach an addendum that states that the relationship remains strictly platonic always. There is no romantic attraction between these two people and nothing ever "happens." Those around you will always inquire if you've ever thought about it, why you don't like that person, do you think that person is into you. They may even have some kind of wager that "one night" something will. But really, it won't.

*No Fly Zone (NFZ): This is someone that we want but absolutely categorically can not have. Not because they're "out of our league" (does that even exist?) but because it is morally wrong to get involved with them. It could be as simple as the sister of your ex girlfriend, or your good friends ex boyfriend (though speaking from experience, I have had several of my good friends date my exes and I was ok with it) or it could be something more complicated like your boss, your professor, your friends recently divorced but very attractive parent, or the VERY BAD level meaning someones boyfriend/girlfriend/fiance/e/husband/wife. The fact that you can't have this person makes you want them all the more, it consumes you. You try and justify ways that it could work, how you could be together. Logic escapes you, as does the fact that not only would this never actually work out but your object of affection (in most cases) has absolutely zero interest in you. Hopefully you are relatively normal (apart from your terrible taste in men/women) and that you keep your lustful yearnings to yourself, broadcasting them will just result in disaster...your ego will be crushed and everyone will hate you.

**Unrequited Love (UL): Ah the age old anguish of the Unrequited Love. Person A (The Adoree) is in love with Person B (The Adored) and Person B does not return the affection. We have all probably had a thing for someone who didn't share our sentiments (what an idiot they are!) but what do you do if this person is a good friend? It happens often. Two friends, one looking at the other as their soulmate while the other will never see them as anything other than a friend. Usually the adored is aware of their friends misplaced affection and it can create some uncomfortable situations. The Adored will try their best to extinguish the burning candle while remaining kind and trying to stay friends. The Adoree will either eventually find someone else (but always hold out hope) or cut off contact because it's too difficult to contain their emotions. (Personally, I believe that the big part of UL is the chase. The Adoree has built up this ideal of the Adored and has them on this unrealistic, unnatural pedestal. If a romantic relationship developed, The Adored could never live up to the expectations and The Adoree would be disappointed.)

One night stand (ONS): Not that anyone needs to know, but I've never done this. But I am compelled to include it in my handbook as many people I know do (hello, backpackers!) a ONS is someone you meet out that night (or day I guess) and go home with, hook up with and never see or speak to again. Unless you awkwardly live in a small city and run into them. (From what I'm told, it's better to pick someone from out of town) A ONS is not necessarily someone you've only hooked up with once, but rather hooked up with the first night you met and never hung out again. If you're friends with someone or have a pre-existing relationship with them and you hook up, even if it's only once, then it's not a one night stand. That's just "Yeah, we hooked up once."

**Casual Encounter (CE): You're at a bar/club/party and you run into someone. You kind of know each other, you always found them to be attractive. One thing lead to another and you're leaving together. You either leave after hooking up or sleep over, it doesn't really matter. When you say goodbye it's friendly and casual. A few weeks later you run into them again and the same thing happens. You never call them or text them. You don't make plans to be at the same place, nor do you really even think about them often. It just happens when it happens. You may not even know their last name. This can also be known as an Occasional Shag.

Booty call (BC): Someone you call only to hook up. You call this person for one reason and one reason only. There is no pretense, no dinner drinks or coffee. There's usually not even breakfast the next day because chances are, a sleepover won't happen. The only exception is 1. if you are out late and tell them to meet you at a bar, have one drink and go home or 2. you pass out after hooking up. Though the respectable thing to do is crawl out of bed as dawn hits, no goodbyes necessary.

Fling: This occurs when you have a very short amount of time with someone. It's not a ONS because you hook up repeatedly and it's not a BC or HUB/FWB because it's not sustainable. It usually occurs on holiday, either you're both on holiday and meet, or one person is on holiday in your city. You enjoy each other for however long you can, both on a personal and physical level but there is no question that the fling itself will end when the time is up. Flings aren't necessarily meaningless, you can develop friendships after, and in the rare occasion it can develop into something more serious, but usually it is what it is.

Hook-up buddy (HUB): It was previously F-buddy, but that sounds so crass, and frankly, I still blush when I talk about these things. A hook up buddy is someone you hang out with soley for the intention of hooking up. You think they're (kind of) cool but really your main focus is sleeping with them. You'll do things like go out for drinks or a meal, but after these activities you always-ALWAYS-go home together and hook up. Sleepovers usually occur, but more as a pretense to make it look like no one is being used (although really, they are) Once the physical side of the relationship ends, so do the hang out sessions. You would not be friends without it.

Friends-with-Benefits (FWB): We hear this phrase a lot but what does it really mean? For me, it's just that...a FRIEND that you hook up with. They key ingredient to this is actually being friends with the person, legitimate friends. You genuinely enjoy their company and spending time with them. Some time, after the friendship is established, you start hooking up, however you don't hook up every time you hang out. If it happens, it happens-if it doesn't then that's cool too. The most important thing is to keep the friendship exactly the same, you don't stop going to lunch or watching movies together just because you're hooking up. You keep everything as is, the only difference is that sometimes you end up in bed together. You don't discuss this, or feelings. However, honesty is important. Lines can get blurred easily and if you feel like you're developing "feelings" for your FWB you have to tell them, so that it can stop. It may get a little weird for a while but they're your friend, so it'll be fine. (People say this is one of the most difficult relationships to pull off. I'm not sure I agree. I think people allow themselves to get too freaked out about what it means or how it's affecting the friendship rather than just leaving well enough alone and going with it. Things are only weird if you allow them to be.)

*Inevitable Friendship Slip (IFS): There is an old saying that men and women can't be just friends, and I think that's ridiculous. Of course men and women can be completely platonic. However, sometimes things happen, you're out with your friend, you're partying, you're drinking (hopefully) and one thing leads to another and you wake up in their apartment with a pounding headache and sickness in your stomach. You've never even THOUGHT about them in "that" way. You swear to yourself that it will "never happen again" (a promise that you'll actually keep) You will most likely spend a significant part of that morning and following weeks being extremely uncomfortable around your friend aka "the mistake"...wondering if you've ruined the friendship, if the other person has been secretly into you all this time, or if they're just as weirded out as you are. I think this the INS is a pretty common scenario and it's sad that friendships are ruined over it, because they don't have to be. Yes, things will feel a bit uncomfortable for a while but that will pass. The trick is not to force anything...unlike FWB you shouldn't pretend like everything is the same. Hope that you were drunk (though a lame excuse because if alcohol were really an excuse we'd be hooking up with everyone whenever we were drunk) Acknowledge the situation, laugh awkwardly, and then spend some time being very busy. The next time you catch up, things will be fine. Just don't, you know, repeat your mistake. Or tell them they were a mistake. That's just mean.

**The Distraction (TD): The Distraction is someone you take into your life because you need them to distract you from a much larger issue. TD's presence in your life makes you focus on them instead of whats really bothering you. Usually when you first meet them, you convince yourself that they're some kind of wonderful but it's usually just part of the overall denial you're engaging in. In fact, if you were really honest with yourself you would realize that you don't even really like TD, but you just keep a hyper focus on them anyway as it's easier than being miserable about something else.

Casual Monogamy (CM): Karen laughed out loud at this one. She said, "There's no such thing." I think she is forgetting that this is MY dictionary so if I want this to exist then it will. I'll admit it sounds a little weird, but just work with me on this one. Casual monogamy is another term for "exclusively hooking up"...but without any of the drama that feelings and a relationship can bring. This kind of relationship occurs with someone that you like, you're interested in as more than a friend but you don't want them to be your "significant other." You spend time together, talk about real things, and hook up but just not have it be serious. Maybe it's because you aren't ready for commitment or maybe there are circumstances keeping a serious relationship from occurring, either way this is low key and relaxed, however you are not ok with them hooking up with other people.

Dating: I have always felt like there is a big difference between dating someone and having them be my boyfriend. Dating is just that, meeting someone you like, and going on dates with them. Usually you are into them and exploring the option of a future so won't do anything stupid like hook up with them too early on. Dating is being interested enough and also receptive to the possibility of a real committed relationship. Feelings develop. On a side note: dating is not exclusive. While you are "dating" someone you are perfectly within your rights to go on dates with other people as this is just an exploratory activity to see if you WANT to be with the person. I wouldn't advertise it but I wouldn't lie about it either. (This is also why it's good not to hook up with people you're dating, because it can get gross of you're juggling) Once you and the person you're dating decide to "make it exclusive" then you're in a committed relationship. I'm sorry, people, but it's true. I know many of you (especially men) have issues with the label "boyfriend" but GET OVER IT...if you're into someone enough to only see them, then that's what you are. It's only scary if you let it be. (On a personal note, dating freaks me out. It feels so formal and contrived. Going on a date for me is totally nerve-wrecking. My last boyfriend tricked me into dating him by not asking me out, just saying things like, "I'm hungry, want to get lunch?" he did this for a while before taking me on a "real date", one that I turned him down for until he explained, "We've been dating for a while, this is no different." which didn't ease my nerves at all.)

Committed relationship (aka boyfriend/girlfriend/partner): These are by far my favorite. The definition is pretty straightforward...a committed relationship is when you like someone enough that you want to be with just them. You adore being in their presence and exploring the world with them. You find them interesting, funny, attractive...they bring out a side in you that makes you feel better and be nicer. You make plans with them, meet their family, and actually do things like picture a future. Maybe there won't be a future but still, you start to factor them into your decisions. You let them see the real you, you fight, you cry, you fall in love. You're faithful. You're honest. Within them you discover new things about yourself without losing who you were in the past (maintaining independence is really important---time and time again I see people go from being awesome to being lame because they're in a committed relationship. I understand that priorities change, that you have to balance more than you used to but it IS possible. I had a boyfriend for four years, we lived together, yet we maintained our own lives. I don't think our friends could complain that they didn't see us. We had "us time" but we also had "me" time. You had a life before, so why give it up?) It's no secret I am happiest in this kind of situation, it mellows me out but it's only a positive experience if both people are equally committed and have the same views. Once it goes awry it's best to walk away.)

**BF-EX: Sometimes two incredible people date, and despite being wonderful individuals, simply can not make a romantic relationship work. It's odd how that happens, how you can like everything about someone but yet once you're with them it just...fails. A BF-EX is someone you used to be romantically involved with, who you have nothing bad to say about (despite breaking up) so are now considered among your closest comrades. These make for the most phenomenal people to have in your life because they know you on a level that very few can. They've seen you at your most endearing and at your failures, which means they can not only offer you great love-life advice, but they're also a fantastic support system. They understand you, and genuinely care about you (as you do them) Things don't feel awkward or taboo with them, and inhibitions are pretty much non existent. When you're with them, you have worlds of fun. Sometimes you may find yourself wondering what it would be like to get back together with them, but you like them too much to ever risk it. (Side note: I'm really good at these)

*Ex-Factor: This is pretty obvious. We break up with a significant other but continue hooking up with them for whatever reason. Exes are rarely exes anymore, are they? Whether you share mutual friends or a passion for sleeping with one another, it's more commonplace these days that exes are a part of our lives. Hooking up with an ex is never a smart idea, even if "we're totally over them" because in actuality, if we're sleeping with them then we're not. Some women I know use their exes as "BCs" because "they don't want to add a number" (I think that's pathetic-does anyone ever care about that anymore?) My primary issues with Ex-Hookups are: a) there are deep rooted feelings somewhere and b) engaging in such activity is giving your ex some kind of power, like they can still have you, and I don't like that. (This might be my own personal neurosis) but then again the Ex has a lot of appeal---we feel comfortable with them, we know their likes and dislikes, we are aware of what we're getting ourselves into (nothing worse than a disappointing hook up session) While we might lack the emotional connection that was once there, it is replaced with some kind of raw animalistic nature that gives us the uninhibitness of a ONS with the stability of a committed relationship. Just be warned: this is never sustainable. Someone will get hurt, usually when the other decides to stop this game.

Engaged: I shouldn't have to explain this one so I won't.

Married: Again. It should be obvious. That being said, my personal view is that: a) it's something I want eventually b) I believe in the sanctity of it c) it should be for life. (unless there are circumstances such as domestic abuse) I could go on about how I believe a marriage should be but I am not qualified yet to discuss it. My views would be idealistic and perhaps not practical.

That being said, this is all hypothetical, since I'm, you know, staying single for 2012. Just thought there should be an across the board even playing field for all.

*Thanks to everyone who has messaged me about this blog, it was great to read all of your comments and hear your thoughts. I'm also glad that my interest in the way relationships work seem to resonate with others. One thing I didn't touch on (which I was asked about) was how to upgrade from one relationship to another (ex: FWB to Committed Relationship) the reason I didn't discuss that is because I have no idea Believe me, I wish I did, but I tend to stumble through a series of repeated errors in my own relationships. I can identify, that's about it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2011: Happy New Year, but Happy Old Year too

Usually when the end of the year approaches I incredulously ask myself where the time has gone. I think it can't be possible that another 365 days has passed. I used to think that this was a good thing, that it meant time was flying because of how great life is. I am not dispelling that notion, however, I am going to say that my year this year felt different.In some ways it feels like time stood still but in others it flew by.

2011 was a benchmark year for me in so many ways and I can't even begin to measure the amount I learned, grew, and accomplished. I started out the year working at an all Vietnamese PR firm, a move that was disastrous in some ways but also provided me with a great learning experience. I hate when people say that actually, it seems obligatory and cliche to say when something wasn't great... but I did actually learn. I learned about Vietnamese culture, I learned about the different ways to approach people. I also learned that I wanted to work for a foreign owned and run company. I started my current job (which is both) and I spend every day doing something different and challenging.

Somewhere during the year I had an epiphany with what I wanted to do with my life. I've always felt a little lost, like I was kind of stumbling around, going through the motions but never really knew what I was working towards. Never really felt inspired. I really didn't like the feeling of having no direction and was unsuccessful in finding one by just thinking about it. I guess thinking about things too much can result in more confusion and discontent. The answer came to me when i wasn't even asking the question, when I was just being...I realized that my lifestyle, the people I enjoy being around, the things that evoke passion all lead to one thing and before I knew it I had decided that I wanted to go back to university and study International Relations. I want to work in Foreign Services. It is such an obvious choice, and one that I perhaps avoided considering due to my upbringing. Maybe I should just accept that I'm exactly like my father and that it's ok to be. :)

2011 was also a year of extreme emotional growth.

I have spent so much time building this wall around myself, making it impossible to get close. I am, for all accounts, obsessed with appearances, with not looking like I failed. With seeming invincible. The truth is, that I didn't allow anyone close enough to break me. I come off like I am open and receptive but always stopped just short of really handing myself over. I didn't want to because I was scared. I am known for over-analzying, for anticipating the worst, for needing control of a situation. (such great qualities haha) You can't enjoy life that way not to mention it's impossible. I have an amazing network of friends-pillars really-who have shown me the definition of loyalty and being there for someone. Who have been supportive and my strength when I didn't have any. Who care about me and who I care about as well. I feel safe in my relationships, like we all want what's best for the other. There is no rat race competition or backstabbing. There aren't frenemies, just teammates. My close relationships are geniune and solid.

I can't really talk about 2011 without mentioning my romantic relationship, which spanned across nine months of the year. I have avoided speaking or writing about it because I don't really have the right words to define what it meant to me. It was something I fell into, completely unexpected and quite frankly, unwanted (at the time) but I had no idea how much this one person would impact my life. I got a lot of grief from people about it, they thought us being together something comical. I never really felt the need to justify or explain it, I never viewed it as anyones business and I still don't. However, my year was shaped and marked by this person, not just my year... but my life.

My relationship surprised me in every level imaginable. I could recite of list of adjectives describing him or tell some anecdotes but I don't see the point. What matters is how he made me feel, how he came into my world and made it beautiful in degrees I didn't realize it could be. With his "let it be" approach, he asked me to relinquish control, to stop needing all of the answers but just go with the rhythm of life... he made me willing to unapologetically go all in for a CHANCE of something that could've paid off. If it didn't work, at least I gave it my best shot. Being someone who guarded my heart too much, he gave me the courage and nerve to love as if there was no tomorrow. I knew that by exposing everything that I was was opening myself up to heartache but he made me willing risk that. I think there is something beautiful in that.

He, by just being himself, allowed me to want more for myself. Against all of my resistances, he made me fall and made me incredibly vulnerable. With him, I began to feel. I stopped running away and stopped closing myself off. He coaxed me into this way of being despite my fighting him the whole way, he showed me that it was ok. From day one, I knew it wasn't going to work out. People asked me all the time, why I would be with someone that I knew I had no future with. Why I'd set myself up for hurt. I didn't know how to really answer, I knew we wouldn't really last... circumstances made it impossible, but I didn't care. I didn't care because for the first time in my life I was with someone who made me feel all the things I always dreamed of feeling but didn't realize were actually possible. I had always had this vision in my head of how I wanted a relationship to be, but was never able to get it quite right. There was always something lacking, until this one who showed me that it was possible to have it all. Even if it was temporary, I wouldn't trade our time together for anything in the world.

I'm not going to pretend like it was perfect. It wasn't. Elements were frustrating and stressful. I also found myself feeling angry and hurt a lot, mainly towards the end, and there is still some residual left from that, but for the most part, I couldn't believe my luck. While I knew I'd have to give him up, the mere concept that someone like him exists restored my faith in life and love. And when we ended things just shy of nine months I was broken. Not because it was a surprise, and not because it wasn't mutual (we had one of these rare experiences where we both saw the writing on the wall and both wanted to leave and did so as amicably as one can) and not because I thought we'd get married, but because it was the end of a rare and idealistic romance. A fairytale really.

Sometimes I break down and cry about it. I don't really know how to explain why. The relationship ran its course, we are not supposed to be together and I don't want to get back together. So I don't understand why I am crying. I shouldn't cry because the truth is, despite whatever hurt or anger or frustration I felt or still feel, I got so much out of our relationship, I evolved. I guess I cry for what was, and for losing what we had and I worry that maybe I am a failure, that I can't keep a good thing, or that, because of the anguish I feel at times, that maybe it wasn't real after all.

My emotional development, these changes and enlightenments, are not solely contributed to him, and haven't just affected how I am in a romantic relationship but how I am in life. I am now the kind of person that talks about her feelings to people. Who cries in public. (ok maybe that's not good) Who doesn't care if she looks stupid. I say what I think, how I feel, what I want. I have been taught that strength is not keeping people out, but by letting myself be open. That as scary as it is to expose your heart and feelings it makes you a force to be reckoned with, and that only the weak hide behind pretense. I hate when I start to cry and sob, and I hate feeling so helpless and hurt sometimes, but I love that I am now able to express myself.

So 2011 was a year where I figured out what i want to do with my life, found a great job but also discovered a new kind of strength and faith. I began to trust people, REALLY trust people. And I also began to trust myself, believe in myself again. I have started accepting people for who they are at face value. I've stopped assuming that the world is out to get me. I've stopped anticipating hurt. Hurt may come but I know I can handle it. I, for the first time in for as long as I can remember.... have faith. Now all I need to do is stop over-analyzing.