Friday, June 30, 2006

Ah.... looooong weekend

The office is sooo quiet. We had a fun event in the morning. I think many people basically enjoyed the morning and took off. I hope not to stay for more than a couple hours. Since it's slow, I think I'll *try* to tidy my desk.

Midwest wrote back. Either he's lazy or in a rush because he constantly omits pronouns from his sentences and tends to have a word or two missing from sentences. His profile was well written which is why I find his more recent e-mails a little odd. Perhaps he's too overwhelmed with moving to care. I don't really think about him until I check my e-mail. I did reread his intro e-mail and noted to myself how it reads that he "would love to meet new people to help me explore the [area]."

Does it imply just looking for friends or casual dating and nothing more?

He gave me his phone number. We'll see if I'm in the mood to call... . I know it can't hurt, but I seem to have this problem with getting on the phone with someone who I don't know. Meeting in person is fine, but I can't explain why I don't like the phone with strangers.

Anyhow, it's going to be a relaxing and fun weekend. I have a concert tonight to attend with Chi and her siblings. Hopefully, I'll finish more of my travel blog and find a nice dress to wear to the wedding over the weekend.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hotel Food

I've been in a hotel conference room the past two days for a workshop. The presentations and group exercises worked well to help everyone focus. The only downside is that I gained two pounds in the process. Sitting for eight hours and being served rich and tasty foods is not a great combination. I was especially prone to the yummy taste of the potato salad.

Tim told me about a wedding he attended last weekend. There are seven friends who met in college. C was the one getting married. The other five people are all married or engaged. Because the five couples formed a table of ten, Tim was not seated with them (awww). Instead, he was put at another table with strangers from Illinois. He tried to make conversation but felt there was nothing in common to keep the conversation going. He felt lame and sad. No wonder older single people get married so fast, they don't want to be exiled at weddings.

I put myself on a dating website last week for a test run. The last time I posted a profile several years ago, I remember getting some 30+ e-mails within a few days. This time, I received about 10. Things have changed. Can it be the ratio of males and females has equilibrated?

Perhaps I didn't market myself well, but I really hate all the crap. Spelling out my entire life is not appropriate because then what's the point of getting to know me. I wrote what I thought was an honest paragraph or two about myself. There was nothing unique, but it demonstrated my curiosity and how I keep active with friends. I'd like to think the pictures I posted were attractive and real.

I responded to two guys. I tried very hard to be reasonable about the other people who contacted me but couldn't work up the energy to reply. Two men I immediately excused because they clearly did not read my profile and were not matches. The first guy was over 40, divorced, with a young child (the picture showed a toddler). Eeck! The second guy looked like a pudgy Mike Brady, peppered curly hair and mustache. He sent me an e-mail writing, "Hey, we're a match! Blah, blah, blah... ."

Yeah, sure, I matched YOUR search filter. My profile requests a man between 30-40... you're 46. Read more carefully!

The two prospects? From what I can tell...

1) Kq is likely a smart PhD geek. He didn't, however, start off with a good impression. His first e-mail was, "How was your weekend?" Not a conversationalist I presume. Gee Kq, you could have demonstrated a little more interest and help me understand why you want to communicate with me by commenting on things from my profile. I had to ask for a picture which turned out to be this semi-distant shot of a thin guy exercising in sweats. Eh. He's getting a second chance, I wrote him and asked about where he's lived and what books he's reading.

2) Midwest has just relocated from... the Midwest. He started a new job here and seems decently friendly (as far as one can determine from a couple e-mails). He's well traveled which is appealing. My only reservation is that since he just moved here, maybe he's really just looking for friends. Honestly, when you're new to a city why would want to start dating. I would think that a guy might want to sow his oats a bit first and live it up as a bachelor. Right? I know I shouldn't jump to conclusions, but I don't need another KT situation where I end up feeling used. Making a friend would be fine, but I'm not letting him meet any of mine.

I'll give these guys a couple weeks and see what happens. It's strange to want so much to find a good man and yet have such lack of enthusiasm about meeting men.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

H2GG: Episode 3

I was distracted trying to complete my vacation blog while watching "How to Get the Guy" last night. Posting pictures to blogs can be time consuming.

The previews for next week appear to give away the outcomes of the various gals' current relationships. There was some comment in a local article or newsclip hinting that the show was successful for one of them. My guess since the last show that if there is one woman who had found her man, I think it's Party Girl.

All the dates seemed like they went well. Nothing struck me as odd other than Michelle's dating staring at her ass. (That must have been a tv edit.) He seemed kind of odd on the first date so I was skeptical. They seemed to be having fun and it was nice to see her get a kiss out of it. Is it really appropriate to ask tell him that she knew he didn't want to date her at first and then ask him about it? Maybe I'd ask later in the relationship, but I don't think I could have been as bold about the second date.

Yoga girl had an amazing Valentine's date. I haven't had a romantic Valentine's in so long that it doesn't mean much to me. He was very impressive with the flowers and gift boxes. Overdone? It looks like one of those whirlwind relationship that burns hot and fast.

You have to wonder how much of the behavior you see during the dates reflect their personality in general. Maybe that's why it's hard for me to judge the dates; I don't know what these women are like at work or among friends. Let's face it, everyone's a little nervous and little more self-conscious on a date. My opinion this week was so-so. Definitely not as exciting as Hell's Kitchen or Treasure Hunters. I suppose I shouldn't complain though. I think they are more realistic and helpful than other dating shows like Elimidate and Blind Date. Gag... .

What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage - New York Times

A girlfriend forwarded this article. I thought it was hilarious. At the same time, I also was wishing there was a class from where I could learn some techniques. My communication skills are not the best which I attribute to cluelessness and a weak family structure.

My married girlfriends did agree that they have probably used these techniques. I love how C3 said, "Too bad there’s no training school you can enroll them in (like for animals) and then pick them up a few weeks later."

June 25, 2006
Modern Love
What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage - New York Times

AS I wash dishes at the kitchen sink, my husband paces behind me, irritated. "Have you seen my keys?" he snarls, then huffs out a loud sigh and stomps from the room with our dog, Dixie, at his heels, anxious over her favorite human's upset.

In the past I would have been right behind Dixie. I would have turned off the faucet and joined the hunt while trying to soothe my husband with bromides like, "Don't worry, they'll turn up." But that only made him angrier, and a simple case of missing keys soon would become a full-blown angst-ridden drama starring the two of us and our poor nervous dog.

Now, I focus on the wet dish in my hands. I don't turn around. I don't say a word. I'm using a technique I learned from a dolphin trainer.

I love my husband. He's well read, adventurous and does a hysterical rendition of a northern Vermont accent that still cracks me up after 12 years of marriage.

But he also tends to be forgetful, and is often tardy and mercurial. He hovers around me in the kitchen asking if I read this or that piece in The New Yorker when I'm trying to concentrate on the simmering pans. He leaves wadded tissues in his wake. He suffers from serious bouts of spousal deafness but never fails to hear me when I mutter to myself on the other side of the house. "What did you say?" he'll shout.

These minor annoyances are not the stuff of separation and divorce, but in sum they began to dull my love for Scott. I wanted — needed — to nudge him a little closer to perfect, to make him into a mate who might annoy me a little less, who wouldn't keep me waiting at restaurants, a mate who would be easier to love.

So, like many wives before me, I ignored a library of advice books and set about improving him. By nagging, of course, which only made his behavior worse: he'd drive faster instead of slower; shave less frequently, not more; and leave his reeking bike garb on the bedroom floor longer than ever.

We went to a counselor to smooth the edges off our marriage. She didn't understand what we were doing there and complimented us repeatedly on how well we communicated. I gave up. I guessed she was right — our union was better than most — and resigned myself to stretches of slow-boil resentment and occasional sarcasm.

Then something magical happened. For a book I was writing about a school for exotic animal trainers, I started commuting from Maine to California, where I spent my days watching students do the seemingly impossible: teaching hyenas to pirouette on command, cougars to offer their paws for a nail clipping, and baboons to skateboard.

I listened, rapt, as professional trainers explained how they taught dolphins to flip and elephants to paint. Eventually it hit me that the same techniques might work on that stubborn but lovable species, the American husband.

The central lesson I learned from exotic animal trainers is that I should reward behavior I like and ignore behavior I don't. After all, you don't get a sea lion to balance a ball on the end of its nose by nagging. The same goes for the American husband.

Back in Maine, I began thanking Scott if he threw one dirty shirt into the hamper. If he threw in two, I'd kiss him. Meanwhile, I would step over any soiled clothes on the floor without one sharp word, though I did sometimes kick them under the bed. But as he basked in my appreciation, the piles became smaller.

I was using what trainers call "approximations," rewarding the small steps toward learning a whole new behavior. You can't expect a baboon to learn to flip on command in one session, just as you can't expect an American husband to begin regularly picking up his dirty socks by praising him once for picking up a single sock. With the baboon you first reward a hop, then a bigger hop, then an even bigger hop. With Scott the husband, I began to praise every small act every time: if he drove just a mile an hour slower, tossed one pair of shorts into the hamper, or was on time for anything.

I also began to analyze my husband the way a trainer considers an exotic animal. Enlightened trainers learn all they can about a species, from anatomy to social structure, to understand how it thinks, what it likes and dislikes, what comes easily to it and what doesn't. For example, an elephant is a herd animal, so it responds to hierarchy. It cannot jump, but can stand on its head. It is a vegetarian.

The exotic animal known as Scott is a loner, but an alpha male. So hierarchy matters, but being in a group doesn't so much. He has the balance of a gymnast, but moves slowly, especially when getting dressed. Skiing comes naturally, but being on time does not. He's an omnivore, and what a trainer would call food-driven.

Once I started thinking this way, I couldn't stop. At the school in California, I'd be scribbling notes on how to walk an emu or have a wolf accept you as a pack member, but I'd be thinking, "I can't wait to try this on Scott."

On a field trip with the students, I listened to a professional trainer describe how he had taught African crested cranes to stop landing on his head and shoulders. He did this by training the leggy birds to land on mats on the ground. This, he explained, is what is called an "incompatible behavior," a simple but brilliant concept.

Rather than teach the cranes to stop landing on him, the trainer taught the birds something else, a behavior that would make the undesirable behavior impossible. The birds couldn't alight on the mats and his head simultaneously.

At home, I came up with incompatible behaviors for Scott to keep him from crowding me while I cooked. To lure him away from the stove, I piled up parsley for him to chop or cheese for him to grate at the other end of the kitchen island. Or I'd set out a bowl of chips and salsa across the room. Soon I'd done it: no more Scott hovering around me while I cooked.

I followed the students to SeaWorld San Diego, where a dolphin trainer introduced me to least reinforcing syndrome (L. R. S.). When a dolphin does something wrong, the trainer doesn't respond in any way. He stands still for a few beats, careful not to look at the dolphin, and then returns to work. The idea is that any response, positive or negative, fuels a behavior. If a behavior provokes no response, it typically dies away.

In the margins of my notes I wrote, "Try on Scott!"

It was only a matter of time before he was again tearing around the house searching for his keys, at which point I said nothing and kept at what I was doing. It took a lot of discipline to maintain my calm, but results were immediate and stunning. His temper fell far shy of its usual pitch and then waned like a fast-moving storm. I felt as if I should throw him a mackerel.
Now he's at it again; I hear him banging a closet door shut, rustling through papers on a chest in the front hall and thumping upstairs. At the sink, I hold steady. Then, sure enough, all goes quiet. A moment later, he walks into the kitchen, keys in hand, and says calmly, "Found them."
Without turning, I call out, "Great, see you later."

Off he goes with our much-calmed pup.

After two years of exotic animal training, my marriage is far smoother, my husband much easier to love. I used to take his faults personally; his dirty clothes on the floor were an affront, a symbol of how he didn't care enough about me. But thinking of my husband as an exotic species gave me the distance I needed to consider our differences more objectively.

I adopted the trainers' motto: "It's never the animal's fault." When my training attempts failed, I didn't blame Scott. Rather, I brainstormed new strategies, thought up more incompatible behaviors and used smaller approximations. I dissected my own behavior, considered how my actions might inadvertently fuel his. I also accepted that some behaviors were too entrenched, too instinctive to train away. You can't stop a badger from digging, and you can't stop my husband from losing his wallet and keys.

PROFESSIONALS talk of animals that understand training so well they eventually use it back on the trainer. My animal did the same. When the training techniques worked so beautifully, I couldn't resist telling my husband what I was up to. He wasn't offended, just amused. As I explained the techniques and terminology, he soaked it up. Far more than I realized.

Last fall, firmly in middle age, I learned that I needed braces. They were not only humiliating, but also excruciating. For weeks my gums, teeth, jaw and sinuses throbbed. I complained frequently and loudly. Scott assured me that I would become used to all the metal in my mouth. I did not.

One morning, as I launched into yet another tirade about how uncomfortable I was, Scott just looked at me blankly. He didn't say a word or acknowledge my rant in any way, not even with a nod.

I quickly ran out of steam and started to walk away. Then I realized what was happening, and I turned and asked, "Are you giving me an L. R. S.?" Silence. "You are, aren't you?"

He finally smiled, but his L. R. S. has already done the trick. He'd begun to train me, the American wife.

Amy Sutherland is the author of "Kicked, Bitten and Scratched: Life and Lessons at the Premier School for Exotic Animal Trainers" (Viking, June 2006). She lives in Boston and in Portland, Me.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Weekend therapy

It's very unlike me, but I spent time with friends every day this entire week, including the weekend. As fun as it can be, it also means sleep deprivation at some point. I stayed out until 2am Friday night, got up at 8:30am Saturday. Then I stayed up until 1:35am on Saturday night and had to get up for a 9:30am hike. Thank goodness it's a four-day weekend coming!

I attended a self-spa bridal shower on Saturday afternoon. We started with a lovely brunch and a tour of the new house. Pku seems very happy but busy these days with the wedding and setting up house. I admit I was jealous seeing her life come together.

The house was a huge find. The interior of the house needed a little paint but otherwise is relatively new. The bathrooms have new Corian shower walls and sinks. The plush berber carpet was installed last fall. The kitchen and windows were redone within the past two years. It's perfect since they will probably try to start a family soon after getting married.

After the shower, Hula and I went downtown to shop. I wanted to check out some of the major sales at the department stores for dresses. When you want selection, going to the city is the only option. We hit three department stores plus H&M and Anthropologie during our four-hour spree. Alas, I came away with nothing.

We got a good kick out of Hula's new handbag purchase. She purchased it from a shopping mall kiosk. The man said it was a copy of a Ferragamo. She paid $50. Of course, she was curious to know if it really passed as a Ferragamo. We spotted her bag in the Ferragamo store window. Since she was wearing the purse, however, we were too embarrassed to go inside. Luckily, the purse was also at Saks. We peaked at the price tag of a slightly smaller version and read $560. She wanted to tell Drummer how much she "saved."

Originally, I thought I'd be home in the late evening. Hula convinced me to stay and have dinner with her and Drummer. We walked over to a nice Italian place near 2nd St. The dinner conversation turned into what felt like a huge therapy session.

It started innocently enough just talking about dating in general. (I wonder if I must blame myself for taking that path since it's been on my mind.) After discussing the lessons from "How to Get a Guy" and online dating, the conversation turned towards our single male friends who make little attempt to date, namely Ig and Tim.

Drummer was pretty blunt in his questioning how they could go so long without sex. Isn't that why men date? We know they're interested in women... so what happened to the natural drive to procreate? I revealed to them a little about the dating experience Ig had last summer. The first weekend they spent together, she praised him, saying he was intelligent and how she saw him accomplishing great things in his career. His translation was that because she is a Wharton graduate she socializes with ambitious, business people and would expect him to make a significant salary. Based on the details I provided, Drummer's conclusion is that Ig is sabotaging himself before the relationship starts. I personally think he was uncomfortable from the indirect pressure her compliment implied. He felt that he would disappoint her. I'm not totally clear on why the relationship came apart, but you have to think that his attitude contributed to it.

Ig tends to spend a lot of his time with Suna and Sh since they live down the street. There is a running theory about Ig and Sh because they spend so much time together. When Sh fell asleep on his couch, he apparently just left her there until morning. Um, hello, wouldn't you want to wake the person so they could go home and sleep in their own bed. Many of us single women hang out with Ig, so Drummer calls us the harem. He believes that the comfort and ease of spending time with us makes him lazy about dating. There's always an activity made available to him so he never needs to plan. I shared my opinion that Ig does not feel ready to date until he accomplishes certain goals. The problem is that they aren't very important goals. For example, one of them is to rent a house and have 3-4 roommates. (Come on, you're 38 years old... that's a living situation for your twenties.) We all want to see Ig happy, but we just don't understand the logic behind his motivations.

From that topic, we moved to Tim (and me). I know Hula and Drummer have always been curious about us since they were the first to see us together. It's clear that Tim and I are close and get along well. Drummer asked if I would ever consider getting back together. I told him that it wasn't possible for several reasons (besides the fact that I don't feel that way):

- Tim would not believe me
- Tim would think I was just desperate to be married
- He would tease me about it all the time and it would upset me too much

I felt like the discussion was very clinical. They asked me why not get married. I felt like they forgot about having love and attraction in the marriage. Perhaps they felt that it would develop in time. I also told them how I felt it would be unfair to Tim to be married and not be able to love him the way he deserves. It was difficult to make this happily married couple see that the marrying Tim, at this point in time, would mean I was giving up my dream of a happy ending. Someday, maybe I'll see him as the right man, but I'm not going to try and convince myself; it has to happen on its own.

Drummer shared his own enlightenments on dating. Just before he met Hula, he and his buddies came up with some dating philosophies. The one he shared at dinner was that there you must commit to one of three types of approaches soon after you meet a woman and make it clear: 1) casual fun, 2) friendship, or 3) long-term potential. His thought is that this helps the guy to focus and not waste time.

The biggest, most emotional part of the evening was talking about Chinese mothers. Hula mentioned how she hopes, someday, her brother and mother will talk again. Their relationship has been strained ever since he decided to marry a non-Chinese girl. She tried to tell him he was making a mistake, and he went through with it(duh). I don't know ML, but they said she is the sweetest woman in the world. It's all because he failed to meet their mother's expectations. Hula somehow felt better knowing that my own brother and mom are not on good terms as well. My brother's issues are a little different, nevertheless, it's about the clash of cultures and expectations.

We had a big discussion about the gap between American and Asian culture. Hula and I both have that inner sense that we will never make our mothers happy. There's always something to be disappointed about in our lives (she married a white guy and has forgotten much of her Chinese upbringing and I'm not married). No matter how we try, our mothers will always complain and want better. Neither side will ever fully accept the other's opinion or choices. It's a terrible balance to try and maintain. Drummer seems the same pattern among many of his Asian friends. There's no winner in this. You have to say to hell with it and live your life, but it's hard when human nature is to want your parents' love and approval.

It was really weird to get into such a lengthy conversation with them. So much for my personal privacy policy. I like talking too much about myself (sorry ;) ). I think I always hope that by explaining things, people will leave me alone. But what I've learned is that it often only creates more questions. Who knows... .

News: Men with older brothers more likely to be gay

Who knows how much merit this study has. I think this would be very difficult to predict. There are so many other environmental and genetic factors to take into account. In my own experience, I definitely feel the men I've dated who were the younger brother were perhaps more what we'd now label metrosexual but not gay. Then again, maybe I just attract the gentler ones.

Men with older brothers more likely to be gay
Prenatal effect hinted for some gay men
By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, AP Science Writer
Mon Jun 26, 6:27 PM ET

WASHINGTON - Men who have several older brothers have an increased chance of being gay — whether they were raised together or not — a finding researchers say adds weight to the idea that sexual orientation is based in biology.

The increase was seen in men with older brothers from the same mother, but not those who had stepbrothers or adopted brothers who were older.

"It's likely to be a prenatal effect," said Anthony F. Bogaert of Brock University in St. Catharines, Canada, who did the research. "This and other studies suggest that there is probably a biological basis" for homosexuality.

Bogaert studied four groups of Canadian men, a total of 944 people, analyzing the number of brothers and sisters each had, whether or not they lived with those siblings and whether the siblings were related by blood or adopted.

His findings are reported in a paper appearing in Tuesday's issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

S. Marc Breedlove, a professor in the neuroscience and psychology department of Michigan State University, said the finding "absolutely" confirms a physical basis.

"Anybody's first guess would have been that the older brothers were having an effect socially, but this data doesn't support that," Breedlove said in a telephone interview.

The only link between the brothers is the mother and so the effect has to be through the mother, especially since stepbrothers didn't have the effect, said Breedlove, who was not part of the research.

Tim Dailey, a senior fellow at the conservative Center for Marriage and Family Studies disagreed.

"We don't believe that there's any biological basis for homosexuality," Dailey said. "We feel the causes are complex but are deeply rooted in early childhood development."

There have been a number of attempts to establish a physical basis "and in every case the alleged findings have been severely challenged and questioned," he said.

"If it is indeed genetically based it is difficult to see how it could have survived in the gene pool over a period of time," Dailey added.

Bogaert said the increase can be detected with one older brother and becomes stronger with three or four or more.

But, he added, this needs to be looked at in context of the overall rate of homosexuality in men, which he suggested is about 3 percent. With several older brothers the rate may increase from 3 percent to 5 percent, he said, but that still means 95 percent of men with several older brothers are heterosexual.

The effect of birth order on male homosexuality has been reported previously but Bogaert's work is the first designed to rule out social or environmental effects.

Bogaert said he concluded the effect was biological by comparing men with biological brothers to those with brothers to whom they were not biologically related.

The increase in the likelihood of being gay was seen only in those whose brothers had the same mothers, whether they were raised together or not, he said.

Men raised with several older step- or adopted brothers do not have an increased chance of being gay.

"So what that means is that the environment a person is raised in really makes not much difference," he said.

What makes a difference, he said, is having older brothers who shared the same womb and gestational experience, suggesting the difference is because of "some sort of prenatal factor."

One possibility, he suggests, is a maternal immune response to succeeding male fetuses. The mother may react to a male fetus as foreign, but not to a female fetus because the mother is also female.

It might be like the maternal immune response that can occur when a mother has Rh-negative blood but her fetus has Rh-positive blood. Without treatment, the mother can develop antibodies that may attack the fetus during future pregnancies.

Whether that's what is happening remains to be seen, but it is a provocative hypothesis, said a commentary by Breedlove, David A. Puts and Cynthia L. Jordan, all of Michigan State.

The research was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Bowling circles galore

The ivy league bowling event went fine. There was no air conditioning in the place so everyone clung desperately to their ice cold drinks trying to hide all the sweat. (This heat wave needs to end.)

At first, I sensed I was in a sea of young people. I overheard one person ask if they were '06 too and another say she graduated four years ago. My thought was "wrong place for me." They all looked like pretty normal people, so I wasn't as apprehensive about impressing anyone. Even though I knew I could do it, I was too uncomfortable to walk up and join in a random conversation with people who I did not know. I'm always impressed by those who can work a room of strangers with ease.

Cat Hair came a bit late. Later, I found out she hadn't been feeling that well all day. I was relieved to see her. Neither of us recognized any of the twenty plus people mingling. Surprisingly, the ratio was probably four women to each man. This would have been a like a buffet for any single guy. You would have predicted the turnout be the other way around considering all the tech companies nearby. Is this a bad sign for single gals?

The crowd grew substantially by 8pm. Cat Hair looked over my shoulder and said she recognized a woman behind me. She guessed her name was Ae or El. I looked behind, spotted someone I recognized and corrected her by adding, "no, that's Organic." As we walked towards the woman, I realized that we had identified two different women standing next to each other. The funny thing is that they came together. I had just had dinner with Organic the previous night. Al works with Chi, the friend through whom I met Cat Hair. What a strange world that each of us knew one of them.

Later, another woman recognized me. I briefly met Fern at a company where I interned at during grad school. She also happens to be good friends with my old boss and a grad school friend of with a colleague of mine. When I introduced her to Organic, they had several friends in common.

Fern was not ivy league either but had been invited by the organizer, FrenchD, because they are friends. When she told FrenchD that I swing dance, he mentioned that he's learning and has a female friend who dances quite a bit. At first, I couldn't recognize the name he said, but his description of her made me realize that it might be Suna. Sure enough, twenty minutes later, Suna tapped me on the shoulder. People joked about how I seemed to know everyone at the happy hour. I suppose it was a good feeling to know that I have the ability to network if I try more.

Degrees of separation are always entertaining. The world feels a little smaller every time it happens.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Engaging myself

Out of curiosity, I tried logging into some of the newer, lesser known dating sites. It's going to be challenging for any of them to gain much traction against existing sites. My filter turned up one page of men unless I widened my prefences for multiple traits (especially ethnicity and religion). The market is saturated and the novelty of the premise has subsided. New companies must devise novel and convincing methods for making compatible matches. I still haven't gotten myself online. Putting up a profile is the easy part, psyching myself up to interact with men is another story. I'm skeptical, uncomfortable, scared, and untrusting - not the best mindset to have for online dating.

Tonight, I'm going... bowling. A friend of Chi's (from college), Cat Hair, is going to an alumni event and invited me to join her. It's an ivy league gathering. I know it shouldn't matter, but that intimidates me a bit. I'm not dumb, but I doubt I would have been accepted to one of those schools if I had applied. I'm scared I'll be totally unable to relate or contribute to the conversations.

This lends to a whole stream of thought about how inferior I feel to friends and acquaintances with whom I regularly interact. The conversation at dinner with a couple friends last night made me realize that I am not well-connected (networking) nor do I have a good sense of the variety of careers that I could pursue beyond my current job. I feel inadequate after reading some blogs or chatting with friends because I sense that I'm not well-read or as well-spoken. My friends are all incredibly intelligent people from prestigious institutions, so I presume I can't be that lame. I know that people value my logic, common sense (believe it or not), and practicality, but I don't feel like I have much high-level thought to offer. It's as if I'm five years (at least) behind where my mind should be at this age.

Of course, I'm going to be myself tonight and hope that I can meet some interesting people. It'll be good to put myself in a new situation. The keys will be to remember to listen, contribute relevant information to the conversation, and not interrupt people. I have to remember that it's about finding people who appreciate who I am not who I want to be. (Gosh, is this sounding like a self-help book or what?)

Absorbing the guilt trips

My mother called over the weekend about finding the right dress to wear to my brother's wedding. She's been shopping every weekend in hopes of finding a nice dress but keeps choosing dresses that her sister doesn't like. They're pretty dresses just not formal enough for the mother of the groom. It's sad to say, but she needs something more matronly. She asked me for suggestions. Heck, I can't even find a dress for myself that seems appropriate for the wedding. I told Mom that if she comes to visit me that I'd take her dress shopping. At least she understands that she may have to buy a dress at full-price.

Sadly, the conversation took a wrong turn when she brought up the strained relationship the two of them have. Some day last week, my brother stayed up until 3am or 4am. On the drive to work (they carpool), he appeared to be rather drowsy.

"What time did you go to bed Mick?"

"Around 3am."

"You really shouldn't stay up so late. You need to go to bed earlier and get enough sleep."

[Not sure what other conversation transpired.]

"Shut up. I hate you... ." [My brother briefly lost control of the car in his angered state.]

This isn't anything new. During the past nine months my brother has lived at home, his temper and patience with my mother has disappeared. At Christmas, she was nagging him about looking for a job and he blew up. When I tried to talk to him, he yelled at me to stay away and not to talk to him. I went to my room and broke down over the incident. I couldn't believe that he could behave so rudely to both of us.

Mick must have heard me crying. Later, he came in and asked if I was okay and why I was upset. I told him it was because of the way he acted earlier. I don't think he suspected that he was the cause; he thought it was Mom. My brother went as far as not to eat dinner with us for the next few nights. My dad had a talk with him to get him to shape up. Basically, he and my mom never talked the whole time I visited home. It was one of the worst winter holidays I've ever had.

So in this call, my mother gave me a long rant about how we kids don't respect or love her. She feels like Dad gets treated well and doesn't understand why she gets kicked around like an unwanted animal. It was really difficult to listen to her because she started getting overly dramatic saying things like maybe she should forget about us and just spend all her retirement money. (And she should try to enjoy herself more.) She was crying the whole time. Ugh, what a guilt trip for me.

I didn't know what to do. I can't lie to her, she does get on our nerves. We're both adults, and yet she still feels she has the right to tell us what to do. It's okay to tell us to go to bed, to speak softer, how to spend our money, and to clean our rooms. I've tried to politely tell her that we're adults and need to take responsibility for ourselves. Because she is our mother, she thinks she has the right to say anything she wants because we *have* to listen to her for our own good. ARGH... how do you respond to this??? I suggested to her that she prioritize what's important to say and let go of the little things. We know she cares and wants the best for us, but the way in which it comes out of her mouth, it's insulting. She doesn't see that.

She blames our American upbringing for the lack of respect we have. Her opinion is that we expect her to treat us more like friends than children, something she doesn't know how to do. It's really difficult to blend our different cultural practices. It's always going to be a struggle.

I talked to my brother about it last night. He was very calm about it and didn't blame Mom for anything. He simply observed that he never used to be so angry. When I asked him to give Mom some slack and not yell at her, he just replied, "yeah." He seemed okay with things. He apologized for putting me in an awkward situation. I do hope he understands and will try harder. I'm thankful he respects my words to him. Ricer also is probably a good influence on him.

My family is not perfect. We lack some basic communication skills. I worry that this is why I have difficulty forming deep relationships. I worry that I will have similar problems if and when I have a family of my own. This is part of what my therapist is trying to make me learn to do better. I pray that I meet a man who is patient and will work with me to form a strong and healthy family.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Double Spring Year

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal printed an article called "Marry This Year" talking about how the zodiac and lunar calendars converge this year for a very lucky year. While the WSJ version is not available yet, I found a (likely unauthorized) version of it here.

When I first saw this article, I thought - "I wonder if my mom knows about this."

The next thought that went through my mind was - "Thank goodness my parents aren't superstitious."

[sigh] Well, I've pretty much missed every milestone I ever unofficially set for myself when it came to marriage and family:

- get engaged at 28-29
- get married by 30
- get married around the same age as my cousin, Chris (who was about to turn 32)
- get married by 35
- get married with my grandma present
- get married before my brother (technically possible and would lead to many a wild rumor)
- have my first child before 32
- have my first child by 34
- have three kids before 40 (okay, technically still possible but really crazy)
- if still single at 35, adopt from China (hmmm, somehow that came up a little too fast for me... I'll wait)

Needless to say, I try not to plan anymore.

It depressed me for about 30 minutes and then I let it go. I have a Chinese friend who is getting married next month and will probably start trying for a baby soon. I guess she'll fit this success story perfectly. :)

What I've heard is that the dog year is a lucky year for marriages. I've also recall mention of people scheduling their weddings so it occurs when the moon is waxing. I had no idea that having a pig baby was such a good omen. I certainly don't feel I'm lucky given that I'm a pig and am still single. But I suppose in other aspects of my life, I do well.

Asian, and particularly Chinese, superstition is entertaining. Sometimes it's fun to incorporate it if you can, but I think it's crazy to go out of your way to accommodate for it. Besides, those Chinese businesses will probably try and milk you for every cent if they know there's more demand than supply.

The Wall Street Journal
Marry This Year: In China, All Signs Point to Wedded Bliss
Zodiac and Lunar Calendar
Smile on Happy Couples;
'We Can Have a Pig Baby'

June 19, 2006; Page A1

SHANGHAI -- Sun Lidong and Liu Weijia had been dating for about 18 months when they first heard that this year would be an especially auspicious time to get married. They decided to take the plunge.

"Getting married at the right time will bring you more happiness and more luck in the future," says Ms. Liu, 24 years old, a customer-service manager. "It's very important."

(Liu Weijia and Sun Lidong, seen here in one of their wedding photos, believe that a 2006 union bodes well for a successful marriage. Photo:

Liu Weijia and Sun Lidong, seen here in one of their wedding photos, believe that a 2006 union bodes well for a successful marriage.

A rare quirk of the lunar calendar -- and its alignment with the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac -- has set off a wedding frenzy in China, as brides and grooms try to harness the forces of cosmic fortune to strengthen their marriages.

During the first three months of this lunar year, which began in late January, 44,000 couples registered their unions with the city authorities here. That is twice the number who registered during the same period in 2005. Couples often line up outside the city's marriage-registration centers on weekends and holidays by 5:30 a.m. so they can beat the rush when the doors open at 9.

The wedding mania is rippling across China and through the Chinese diaspora. Chris Chen, co-owner of wedding planner Dynasty Weddings in New York, which caters to the area's Chinese community, says his business has doubled from last year. "Everyone's just getting married like crazy," Mr. Chen says.

Yan Guiying is intent on finding a husband for her 27-year-old daughter. For more than two months, she has turned up every Saturday at People's Park in Shanghai for what is essentially a bustling market of parents trying to find mates for their children.

Clutching a hand-lettered sign with her daughter's vital statistics -- she's five-feet-three-inches tall, weighs 105 pounds, has white skin and earns $560 a month as a fashion designer for an Italian company -- Ms. Yan joined hundreds of other mothers and fathers trading their children's pictures and statistics.

"I'm very anxious," said Ms. Yan, a retired bank clerk. "Everyone wants their kids to get married this year."

Behind the boom: This lunar year, 4703 in the Chinese calendar, will last a longer-than-usual 385 days and contain two lunar springs. The advent of spring, or li chun, is considered especially propitious for starting a family. So, having two springs in a single year is doubly lucky.

[Yan Guiying (center, with glasses) is among the parents who gather at People's Park in downtown Shanghai hoping to find spouses for their children. Ms. Yan's sign touts the attributes of her daughter, a 27-year-old fashion designer.]

The extra-long year is a very uncommon event, tied to the complicated system used to keep lunar timekeeping roughly in sync with the solar calendar. The last one occurred in 1944, five years before the Communist Party took control of the country. People seem to have decided that the rarity will magnify the good fortune of the double spring.

Adding to the pressure, the years on either side of 2006 are considered exceptionally unlucky since they have no lunar spring. They are known as "widows' years." Many people believe women married in those years will lose their husbands at an early age. Marriage registrations in Shanghai were down nearly 20% last year.

Then there is the zodiac, which in Chinese culture holds that one's birth year helps determine his personality and prospects. This is the year of the dog, which is widely viewed as good for marriage. Next year is the year of the pig, which is seen as a time when fortune smiles on newborn babies.

The upshot of all the signs is that China is facing a demographic jolt as marriages that would have been spread over three years are being concentrated into one. At the same time, a significant spike in births is expected next year. Nielsen Media Research says it has already detected a surge in advertising for diapers and baby food on Chinese television and in magazines and newspapers.

"I've never seen anything like this," says veteran wedding planner Xu Hongliu, who has handled more than 100 weddings so far this year. "It's causing severe shortages" of everything from disc jockeys to photographers. Prices for roses and lilies have climbed as much as 30% in Shanghai's markets as demand has increased, she says.

Sociologists say that the wedding boom this year is part of a broader resurgence in traditional beliefs suppressed under Communist rule. They say it is fueled by the uncertainties of China's shift to a free market economy. "People feel like they are not in control," says Xu Anqi, a sociologist at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, and they "want to get help and blessings from [supernatural] forces for a good life."

Ms. Liu and Mr. Sun were married last month in a Shanghai hotel before hundreds of their friends and family members. In a short ceremony conducted by the DJ, the pair re-enacted their engagement -- with Mr. Sun on one knee -- before exchanging vows and rings. After Mr. Sun's boss made a toast, bubble machines were turned on as the DJ led the crowd in a rousing rendition of "If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands."

"Of course, this is a good year. It's a year of the dog and a double spring," said Mr. Sun. "It's even better that we can have a pig baby" -- since 2007 is a year of the pig. Explained Ms. Liu: "Pigs are fat, they live a comfortable life. My pig friends are all doing quite well."

Seated to one side was Rei Wang, 25, and his new wife, Eva Chu, also 25, who were married on May 1. "I wanted to hold off for a couple of years," confided Mr. Wang. But, he said, "Our parents ordered us to get married this year."

The aunt of Ms. Liu, the bride, however, said she didn't understand what all the fuss was about. Weng Xiuzheng, 64, spent her career in the People's Liberation Army and didn't consider lucky dates when she got married in 1962.

"When the army decided it was OK, we moved to be together" in the barracks at a military hospital, she said. "People didn't worry too much about the timing in the old days, and we're all still doing OK."

Many young Chinese aren't taking any chances. Tang Yihuan and his then-fiancée, Cheng Ting, were all set to get hitched last year. The couple bought an apartment and filled it with furniture. They picked out rings and hired a photographer. Then, they found out about "the widows' year," and preparations screeched to a halt.

The wedding was put on hold until this past March. In the meantime, the couple lived with Ms. Cheng's parents to "keep everything new," says Mr. Tang. "If we got married last year, it would have been a disaster," he says.

Mr. Tang says the delay is already paying off. Shortly after his wedding, he says, he was offered a new job, with higher pay, at a public-relations company that handles big multinational clients.

That's the kind of story that inspires parents. "I want my son to get married this year," says Zhang Yongfang, who started coming to the People's Park matchmaking gatherings in February.

But, she says, she's worried. It's already June and she hasn't found any takers so far. She holds out photos of her 27-year-old son in a green vinyl portfolio. "We are running out of time," says Ms. Zhang. "He can't get married next year. That would be horrible. He'll have to wait until the year after that."

--Ellen Zhu contributed to this article.


No li chun ("widow" year, or not good for marriage): 1956, 1959, 1962, 1964, 1967, 1970, 1972, 1975, 1978, 1981, 1983, 1986, 1989, 1991, 1994, 1997, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2008, 2010, 2013

Two li chun (good for marriage): 1995, 1957, 1960, 1963, 1966, 1968, 1971, 1974, 1976, 1979, 1982, 1984, 1987, 1990, 1993, 1995, 1998, 2001, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2012, 2014

Dog years with li chun: 1958, 1982, 1994, 2006

Astrologers warn people not to take these dates too seriously, because there are a number of other factors, including feng shui, zodiac compatibility, and element compatibility, that are considered when making matches; they also say those married in widow years should not think that all marriages in those years are doomed.

H2GG: Episode 2

So I watched another episode of "How to Get the Guy" last night. I have to say it was at least a little more entertaining this week. The two things that stood out for me were the advice about "have an exit strategy" for online dating and the dating blind experiment they created for the four women.

There's the attorney, Michelle, whom they labeled as the picky one. So far, if I had identify with someone, I'd guess my personality is closest to her (or the least dissimilar) among the bunch. They sat down with her and signed her up for this dating service called Engage.

(And surprise, surprise, the Engage website was jammed all night. How much did they pay to get their name in the show? Because it worked! Funny how quickly people hop online these days. I read up a little on this new company. The site is still in beta mode and the number of profiles is small. The dating model relies on people using their friends as "matchmakers" to serve as a go between to give the other person assistance in determining whether the two people will be a good match. I'm still not sure how well this concept will work. Here's one article I found about it.)

Tim was over because we still need to figure out who owes who what from our Europe trip. I got him hooked on Hell's Kitchen. Sidetracking... he also found the dating blind rather entertaining. The women and their two dates literally were forced to wear blindfolds as they ate dinner. Some of the pairs hit it off very well. In fact, I was surprised at how tactile the introductions got. They fumbled to feed each other appetizers and to drink their wine. It was quite amusing.

Alissa's date with Joey showed the most instant chemistry. I thought the guy looked rather attractive from the side view. Tim commented that he didn't look as good once they showed his full face, and I agreed. They were having a lot of fun together from the clips shown. Joey kept commenting on how great she looked (and we couldn't help think what was really going on in his head - "Wow, she's hot, sex, cute, sexy, yoga, flexible, bed, hot, sex...")

Michelle seemed to be the one woman who struck out that evening. I felt bad for her. She seems like a nice person, but her attitude comes across too strong on dates. The more I watched her interact, the more I worried whether I behave like that. I asked Tim and at first he said, "no, you're problem is more that you interrupt people." But then he paused and added, "well maybe a little." Does this come from being too independent and career-minded?

The more I think about it, the more I'm leaning towards putting myself out there, even if just as an experiment to improve my social skills rather than find a date. A couple of these dating websites allow you to sign-up for a week free. That might be a good way to get my feet wet.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Hot Summer Days

Man, is blogger not working again?

During the summer, every weekend should be 3 days long. There's just too much to do! :)

Saturday was a mellow day. My patio received a long-needed sweeping. I went to Anthropologie in hopes of buying a couple things on sale which I saw online. Alas, the sizes just weren't available for me (and paying for shipping often defeats the point of buying on sale).

Then, I headed over to Macy's to find a wedding gift. Towels seem like a rather boring gift. There was one cooking item left that I asked the sales person to check for using her register. The computer showed one in stock. The pause in her voice prompted me to ask if this was likely a display piece and she nodded. I thought about it and asked her if I could look at it anyway. I was pleasantly surprised to see it was in a box! I expressed my doubt it was the correct item, but comparing bar codes, it matched the registry list. The amazing thing was that it was originally $120 (but how often do you pay full price), marked down to $59.99 on the bridal registry, and rang up at $29.99. Score!

But to be fair, I purchased a couple small utensils she requested to bring the total amount above $50. Part of me wants to be cheap and just let her think I spent the $60 on the pan, but that wouldn't be right. I always have this conflict about how much to spend on gifts versus what they are perceived to be worth since I buy **everything** on sale. I wonder how much couples think about what their friends spent on gifts. I probably don't think about what people spend unless I think they're being cheap.

Next, I went home and waited for my Craigslist buyer to come. I decided on Friday to sell my beloved digital piano. I bought it over a year ago thinking I would practice piano once a week. Well, I've touched it maybe three times in the last year. I need to unclutter my office space and decided that I didn't deserve to keep it. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed playing it in the last hours I owned it Saturday. I was almost wishing the guy would flake. On the other hand, I'm glad it will now be appreciated by someone who will play it regularly.

Other than that, it was a quiet night. I sat home and read my travel book and a magazine.


Sunday was a long day. I went fruit picking some 80+ miles from home with friends. Yum! I can finally say I've picked fresh cherries off a tree. So fun! The peaches were so ripe they'd start dripping with juice the second you ripped them from the tree. I have almost 5 pounds of Rainier and Bing cherries in the refrigerator along with 7 pounds of white peaches and nectarines and a large tray of ollalaberries. (I'm so fruit sugared right now that I had to buy Cheetos from the vending machine.)

After a speed nap, I went out with Chi to her brother's party. He rents a bedroom from a married couple who just bought a house with a pool. (I think he was roommates with the guy at least a year before the couple married and they're all good friends.) There was a pool and a grill. Another group sat inside watching the NBA playoffs. In the garage, they were playing Guitar Hero and karaoke. There were many kids around and a ton of food (they'll be eating into next week). It was a slightly younger crowd, but it was good for me to observe a different crowd of people.

Blown up copies of the couplt's wedding invitations were the most awesome thing in the house. Their theme was movies, so they created eight different versions of their wedding invitation based on various famous movies. They copied the exact poses from movies such as "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," "Top Gun," "Casablanca," "Lord of the Rings," etc. and altered the titles to hint at the wedding. The larger versions of the unique invitations were framed and hung on the walls. I was really impressed by their creativity. I don't have many art-related friends, and I liked stepping into this other world. Photography and art have a strong appeal for me but it's something I've never made any effort to pursue.

I didn't meet anyone per se, but I enjoyed watching people. It reminded me that there are many interesting people in the world to meet. I love my friends, but we all seem so similar. I also looked at the men in the room. I admit there were many guys there whom I wouldn't have given a second thought based on initial looks, but seeing some of them interact made me think that I'm too judgmental and need to work on being more open-minded. There are so many intricacies to relationships that I fear I don't understand nor know how to handle. Am I really ready? Would the man I think I want truly be a good partner in life?

Lost comment

For some reason I had a comment posted about "How to Get the Guy" but only the poster's name showed up: (and now it appears the problem has resolved itself)

"Stay true to your heart, and keep looking for the needle. xo, Michelle "

I would appear that one of the women from the show was browsing around to see what people think of it. Kind of cool if it's genuine.

It would be interesting to be able to hear more from these women once the show is over and they're allowed to share their true experiences and feelings from the show. It's probably more interesting to talk to them than watch the show. Man, I wish I lived near the city so I could attend the event in North Beach tonight. (Maybe that's why she posted her comment.)

I'll be watching from home to see what the lesson du jour is.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Thinking three steps ahead

Honestly, I'm just in a bad mood. I don't like myself, and I need to get over it. Thank goodness it's almost the weekend.


My horoscope said I'd have a break through. This week I have observed signs of what people may be most annoyed with about me. My therapist seemed to agree.

When I trained to be a college orientation counselor, we did this great exercise in groups of three. One person was the observer. The other two people sat back to back. The goal was to construct a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Included in the exercise were two slices of bread on a plate, a knife, a little package of jelly, and a large scoop of peanut butter in a Dixie cup. The challenge was that the person building the sandwich was to follow the instructions of the other person *literally*, as if they knew nothing of making a sandwich. Sitting back to back prevent the instructor from providing any hand gestures and observing the progress of the sandwich maker. The exercise demonstrated how many assumptions we make in talking to others.

The results? I recall that maybe one or two teams came close to creating the correct sandwich. There were the various odd creations like having the jelly in one corner and the peanut butter lumped in the center. The best creation was one where the "instructor" had said, "put the peanut butter on the bread." The literal interpretation the partner made was to pick up the Dixie cup of peanut butter and place it on top of a slice of bread. Not only had steps about the knife been skipped, but the choice of verbs played a role.

I always felt I learned an important insight from this. Unfortunately, I think I still skip steps all the time and unintentionally annoy people. Basically, I make decisions for others based on weighing the facts I have and make a choice without consulting them. It's not that I don't care for their input, it's that I assume I already know what is best. Or, I explain a reason or conclusion I've made which doesn't make sense because I've failed to show the logical steps leading up to my comment.

A case in point is the netting I installed on my balcony. As I mentioned, Blondie looked a bit disturbed over my actions. During the conversation, she assume the netting was a stiff wire. I had her touch it to show it was a thin mesh. She had thought the rigid wire screen would be dangerous to the cats. My opinion was that actually that would have been safer, but the hardware store man said that it would be more expensive and more difficult to install. Then, she asked why I couldn't install the mesh on the inside of the balcony so that her cats could still climb. I told her I had thought about that but realized that stapling the mesh to the balcony floor was not effective and probably less sturdy. She paused and agreed. Every time she questioned me, I demonstrated that I had already made an effort to think through my plan. I hope that it proved to her that I wasn't being careless or thoughtless. Maybe I could have save us both some concern if I had walked her through all this ahead of time.

This is probably only one example of how I interact with people. Other times it's probably more subtle. For example, I'll leave people off of an e-mail about an event because I know they're not interested in the topic or they'll be out of town. My thought is not to litter their e-mail inbox with unwanted items, but others may think I am excluding them or forgot them. I can only wonder.

My mind processes too fast for its own good. It bothers me to know that I'm not communicating effectively. [sigh] I wish I could freeze time for five seconds each time before I speak so I can hear myself talk first and make sure it will make sense when it exits my mouth. There are too many habits I need to monitor myself for and I can't catch myself fast enough.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Cute versus pretty

Tim, Chi, and I met up on Sunday to finalize the plan for Yellowstone. I reviewed the lodging plans and walked them through my thinking on our rough itinerary. I miss planning trips. The last few years, I've had a general idea of what I was doing on my vacations but left a lot up to other people with whom I traveled.

The last time I planned out an entire trip in detail was when I took my cousin to France. I had all the details planned out train schedules, hotels, tickets. I also outlined a list of things we could do each day with an estimate of how many hours each activity might last. My cousin and her dad joked that I had the vacation planned down to the hour. It's not true, I know not to be *that* rigid. I just wanted to make sure I was realistic about options each day. I also learned from missing out in the past because I forgot that a museum was closed on a Tuesday.

Anyhow, later that day, I asked Tim for his impressions of Chi. He's heard of her for the past couple months. I was curious to hear his opinion.

"So what do you think of Chi?"

"Yeah, she's nice."

"Do you think she's pretty?"

"Yeah, she's pretty, not particularly pretty or anything."

"But, I mean, she's more attractive than say me or Sh, right?" (And no, I wasn't trying to put him in an awkward situation. I was honestly curious.)

"Well, you and Sh I'd say are cute... . Everyone has their preferences."

"So you wouldn't necessarily always go for the pretty girl?"

"It depends... ."

I thought that was a very interesting distinction. I wasn't at all surprised by Tim's comment. I would never label myself as pretty or beautiful, but I could envision cute.

So what is cute and what is pretty? Maybe it's something about the amount of cheek or forehead surface area. There's definitely an element of personality involved. In my mind, I would define a cute girl as someone who probably has a more rounded face or kid-like. A pretty girl tends to have an oval or elongated face. This is my oversimplified way to describe how I picture the two groups. The other stratification could simply be level of attractiveness - cute, pretty, beautiful (does handsome fit in here somewhere?).

As I sorted through the women I know, I could easily categorize most of my friends as cute or pretty. Most fell clearly into one category over the other, though a couple people I had a tough time labeling as I could see them being either depending on who you ask. In the end, beauty is in the eye of the beholder right?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

My Internet dating policies

I went browsing Match last night. I was curious to see what kind of men (and women) are actively looking. Varying my selection criteria definitely showed me how I can easily expand my options. Venturing outside of "Asian" is something I'm still very much on the fence about. When I see the profiles of white men, I feel nothing special. However, white men with whom I've interacted at work or during recreational activities make me think I'd be open to the right guy.

I'm trying to remember the few rules I've established for myself when it comes to Internet dating. I know everyone has their own comfort levels and things may vary once you meet the person, but I think this is a good starting point.

1) Take the time to read and respond thoughtfully to each other

2) Don't let e-mailing go on longer than three weeks without speaking to the person on the phone or meeting person

3) For the first meeting, set up a coffee date in a public location away from your normal hangouts

4) Keep meetings in public places for at least the first three dates (unless you've established they're character through friends in common)

Deal breakers:

1) No interest in having children
2) Someone who smokes, even just occasionally
3) If he indicates he is strongly religious
4) He lies about himself (age, occupation, etc.)
5) A man who is extremely overweight (I'm no health fanatic (I enjoy my tater tots), but I want someone who is relatively healthy)

Of course, I could go on and on, but I thought this was the list of key factors. It's easy to put down every little dislike and like, but prioritizing is important to avoid being overly picky.

[twiddling my fingers] Not yet ready to set things in motion... .

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

"Getting the guy" tips

I caught most of the show last night. So what did they "teach" last night?

- "Dropping the hanky" meaning eye contact and making a connection

As one of the women put it, they've been told that guys are dense and you have to layer it on. Can I say UGH!!! I don't know that I completely agree with this. I think it definitely is true of some guys, especially more geeky guys. I know that I definitely have a hard time looking men in the eye.

I'm still waiting for someone to explain how you balance showing interest and not looking desperate. I guess I've never felt comfortable being forward about a guy I'm interested in because I've grown up with the perception that being too forward will make guys think you're easy.

- Dating outside your circle of friends (being open)

Tough one. It's easy to be picky these days with all the criteria these dating sites allow you to specify. I think it does cause people to hold out thinking they can find the perfect person. I've tried being open, like dating a divorced person, but my one experience was a nightmare. (I know, you should not generalize from one person but ack!) It's definitely important to go outside your comfort zone but not too far. ;)

I will admit this is why it's important to go to parties where you can meet new people. That's what I'm trying to do these days. They're making this look too easy. I can't count how many parties I've been too, but I can count how many dates I've gotten out of them... 2? This is going back as far as 1996 (and now I'm embarrassed).

- "Volume dating" because you need to kiss many frogs to find your prince

I've been told this philosophy before. Finding a guy to date is like looking for a job. You send your resume out to hundreds of companies, get a handful of preliminary interviews, and maybe end up with a job offer or two. So I suppose you could say that I'm not dating since I'm not trying very hard to put myself out there. It's true, I don't deny it.

Frankly, the volume dating segment was pathetic. Clearly they only showed the geeky, creepy, loser footage. Come on, why scare people like that? Mix it up, demonstrate that a little bit of everything is out there.

On the ABC news following the program, they interviewed a couple women from the show. The brunette woman's last comment captured my attention. She said she had a really good experience and that she used to think dating was a chore but once you work at it you meet some really great people.

Overall... it was okay but nothing that interesting. This is television after all and the truth is skewed so that the network can attract viewers and make money. I probably was more entertained by the fact that I recognized so many of the neighborhoods and streets they filmed. For me, I suppose the good thing about watching this is that it reminds me that I need to get myself out there and to have a good dating attitude.

Monday, June 12, 2006

ABC show tonight - How to get the guy

For weeks I've seen this ABC commercial for a new show which starts tonight - How to Get the Guy - Season Premiere. The premise is that four single women in San Francisco, who are in their 30s, are given advice about how to find THE guy for them.

The hosts promoted the show on a local radio program this morning. I am curious. It could be amusing, it could be lame, it could teach me some things. It sounds like they will be trying to change ways of thinking (like being unrealistically picky) and teach some good habits. I must admit I certainly feel like I fit the profile of the women who will be on the show (but where's the techie gal?).

Most likely it will teach some very simple, common sense ideas. The appeal is seeing people apply it, which is very different from simply reading about it in a book.

Chi's been pushing me to try harder to meet men. She's trying a different Internet dating site and wants me to try as well. [Sigh] I know it's about volume... I'm just so tired of it. It's sad that dating feels more like a chore these days than a fun thing to do.

Fences and neighbors

I can't help wonder if I'm now the bitch neighbor.

Blondie saw that I had put up the netting and came to talk. She was upset about the cats potentially getting caught in the netting as they climb my balcony to access her bedroom (which I don't really appreciate but they're cats). I had already considered this possibility. It's not like I want to see them get hurt. I showed her how I made the netting as taut as possible to make sure they don't get ensnared.

After describing the leavings to her, it sounds like the droppings on my balcony are just large hairballs. I know cats have these, but I can't believe how large and long they can be. Yuck.

She was clearly disturbed by my actions. Granted, I could have tried talking to her, but I'm really bad at confrontation. I suppose I knew that the conversation would not get us far. I told her that the netting is to discourage both cats and squirrels from disturbing the planters I'm planning to put up there. She didn't really protest too much since she knows her cats poop in people's yards and can't offer a solution.

She doesn't seem to understand why I find her cats such a nuisance. Though I like playing with animals, I'm not a pet person. I *do* mind finding cat hair everywhere. I *do* mind cats climbing on my roof and balcony at 3am in the morning because they wake me up. Blondie said she didn't think it was a big deal because she's gotten used to the noise. That's nice... but I don't think I should have to too.

It wasn't as bad as I feared to talk with her. We were civil. She offered her phone number in case the cats get stuck and also if I ever need to ask her to turn down the sound (her tv vibrates my wall when they watch movies). I told her that as long as the sound is down by 11:30pm (why didn't I say 10:30pm), I'm okay with it. I checked to see if my after 11pm dishwasher runs were a problem. She said she's never really heard much noise from me.

The interesting and maybe odd conversation was about her previous neighbor, the people who owned my place.

"Did you ever meet the people who you bought this place from?"

"No, I briefly met the young woman who lived here, but there were two names on the deed. I think her brother lived here with his wife."

"Yeah, I didn't like them. The fellow was okay, but his wife... she was a bitch."

Shurgging my shoulders

"They were just awful. [This is where I tuned out for a moment as she gave an example.] ... I remember when he had his bachelor party here. My daughter and I were home, and I think they had a prostitute there. We didn't want to see what was going on."

She did appear rather horrified at revisiting that event. Part of me couldn't help wonder if she was telling me how much she disliked them because my behavior makes her think I'm like them.

I know the cats don't understand; I blame her. Clearly, she knows her cats are pooping in other people's yards. I'm annoyed that she doesn't do anything about it. I don't want the cats to get hurt, but I want to make sure they learn that it's not okay to knock over plants and leave hairballs and poop behind in my yard.

Ah, the beginnings of the mean old lady personality... ;)

Friday, June 09, 2006

Am I really jealous?

I received a few e-mails today from friends who lead rather busy lives. It seems they have an activity scheduled virtually every day of the week. When I'm aware of their busy lives, I feel a bit left out and perhaps jealous. My mind weaves this crazy web of doubt about:

- whether people like me [yes, because people have been hanging around with me for years for no good reason]

- why I'm not invited [and then I'd probably complain about spending tons of money for things I'm lukewarm about]

- if I should be calling people more often (a skill I failed to develop as a teenager - my parents don't realize how lucky they were) [I always think I'm bothering people to call without purpose]

- what social skill they have that I lack, etc. [since everyone seems to be better than me]

- why I don't feel I bond as closely with people as what I see between others

Just now, however, I stopped and asked myself if I should be jealous. Is that what I really want given the choice? While I like going out, I relish having quiet time at home to read, write, or watch tv. I like being independent. It means I can come and go at will. So then why should I make myself miserable by comparing myself to others? Sure, there are times I would like to be more social or attend certain activities, but I'm not them. I have to find my own path, the balance of time spent that keeps me happy and healthy. The point is to be inspired by the actions of others, not to need to be them.

Now let's see if can remember this...

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Brewing random thoughts

Not going fruit picking is a disappointment easily remedied because I can simply go to the lovely farmers' market, stroll past dozens of yummy stands, and take home a lovely pre-picked basket of goodies. Minimal gas expenses, avoidance of heat and dirt, and a savings of hours of driving all while still getting to eat sweet summer fruit.

Besides, it's more interesting planning my vacation to Yellowstone. :)


I have a dreaded cat issue I really need to take care of. It would seem my neighbor's cat has decided that my upstairs balcony is a good place to leave his droppings - YUCK! So I'm headed down to the local hardware store this weekend for bird netting and I'm going to staple it to the fence and balcony pillars so that those pesky cats can no longer antagonize me (or less at least?). The yard poop was annoying enough but a wood balcony, really now. (Don't get me wrong, I think cats can be very nice, but these guys have turned me into a cranky and mean old lady.


I've been thinking more lately that I need to R E L A X. (Yeah, my friends would laugh at me if they heard this because that sounds like an impossible feat. It's not me.) It's hard because it means consciously breaking many habits and pretending to be someone else. That probably sounds weird and maybe a little wrong, but we'll see. I need to meditate on these items a little more to figure out a strategy.

- Be more mindful of what I say. That is, don't complain about others and don't offer as much personal information about myself. (Kind of the Jennifer Aniston policy.)

- Be positive. (Okay, this is my blog, I'm allowed to complain here... just not in front of people.) Unless it's serious, I need to keep the negativity to myself. It'll require a lot of pretending at first, but perhaps it will be a self-fulfilling thing in the long run if I can keep at it.

- Stop judging people (including myself). (Ooo, that's a hard one.) I can be a very critical person - great for work, but not at home.

- Add new friends. Spend less time with my current friends. Think "what would I do if I had just moved here?

- Listen more, talk less. (Again, that's a tough one considering how much I talk to myself [thinking out loud].)

These aren't for sure yet, just some stuff I've been boucing around in my head. I need to find a good tree to climb and throw away my remote so I meditate on this.

Derailed weekend

Planning activities for groups can be so frustrating at times. I can understand why many people prefer to simply be followers. I like doing things, but I tend to get frustrated when things don't come together after I invest my time.

Last year, we had a fun group that met up at Jew's house. From there we had about an hour's drive to the various orchards. With our bellies full and boxes of fruit in the trunk, we enjoyed a potluck lunch at Jew's. Everyone said they had a good time.

Since late May, I've been hoping to organize a group to go fruit picking. Naturally, many people expressed interest when I sent out a feeler e-mail. Unfortunately, the warm winter and heavy spring rains delayed the fruit. Only in the past week have the local growers opened for picking.

People schedules seem to fill up earlier every year. I exchanged e-mails with Jew and determined that the only day available until the end of the month would be this Sunday. I verified with her that the date worked and that she was willing to host again. She wrote it was okay and I sent out an invitation to 20-some people.

Within a couple hours, I had two e-mails. The first one I opened was from EC.


Are you having your picking at the same time as the Kch birthday event?"

It took me a second to realize the merging of two last names. Oh... I thought to myself. I wasn't aware of this double birthday event for Sh and Wand... it would seem I wasn't invited. The other e-mail was from Jew herself, apologizing for the mixup and verifying that there was a birthday event going on at the same time. Naturally I couldn't help wonder why I wasn't invited. Do they not like me that much? (Isn't that a common way to react? Okay, maybe just mine. This is where people would be nice and say I'm imagining things.) I can't say anything because that's their choice and that's fine. As my therapist reassured me, I'm right that I can't complain, but I have a right to feel hurt. I know them both... though granted I've only really seen much of Wand in the past year. Maybe it's only for the folks who live over there?

Jew, or course, tried to find a solution to the situation, saying she'd e-mail them to ask if they wanted to include fruit picking as part of the celebration. I didn't say anything, but I figured that it would be too overwhelming to add such an activity to the day. She's so nice and tries to accomodate people.

Later that day, Suna sent out an e-mail about having a birthday dinner for Sh next week. Hmmm, so a different gathering... with the locals. I relayed the situation to Tim. He was not aware of either event and did a little of his own whining. His theory is that the weekend party must consist primarily of Wand's friends which explains why neither of us is invited. I suppose that makes sense. (Trying to be mature about this and not make a big deal out of nothing... )

This whole thing, however, makes me think about how awkward invitations can be. Did EC and Jew know that I am not included for the party? It's one of these unfortunate, unintended situations people get put into. I was the offender once with TJ. I was trying to convince Ig to go to a party once with a bunch of us. Without thinking, I brought up the subject in front of TJ, who I didn't invite because he had started dating someone at the time. At the time, the whole effort was to get Ig to meet single girls. Unfortunately, I didn't think through the situation and TJ was angry that I had excluded him. He has a history of feeling like female friends are sometimes unwilling to introduce him to their friends (and admittedly some of us would think that way for good reason though he's better now and committed). TJ's such a social butterfly we'd never think he needed any help. Anyhow, this whole situation just makes me realize how important it is to think before acting or talking.

In the spirit of overanalysis, I am wondering about the dinner next week. Tim is missing from the invited list. Suna did comment that she may have forgotten some people. I'm debating asking her to add him. Since they took dance lessons together and we all watch tv together, I would think Sh would like to have him there. My lame dilemna... that it will look like *I* want him there. That whole stupid conversation with Sh about him makes me rethink things. Tim doesn't seem to care. He does not think he was forgotten so much as not wanted.

As for the fruit picking, I've cancelled this Sunday's plan. I really didn't get much response from those who aren't invited to the other party. A few people have asked if I will set up another date, but I don't know that I have the time available or the desire to deal with more confusion.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Wedding weekend

My trip over to the Atlantic coast was good. The weather reports I had looked at beforehand, fortunately, did not come true. The only pouring rain and thunder happened the night I arrived. Other than that, Mother Nature produced a lovely, mild weekend. No sweltering heat for me - thank goodness!

Pisces looked exactly as I have always pictured her. Her hair style has changed very little over the past, say, 5+ years. She's always had a simple bob. Its length might vary by an inch, but nothing else. As with many of my friends, her hair has darkened over the years from dark wheat blonde to an ash brown.

The wedding was lovely. It was a complete Catholic ceremony in a beautiful church off I-495. Behind the altar was a gorgeous stained glass window that stretched from floor to high ceiling. It reminded me a little of a Chagall painting. Afterwards, the reception was held in the loft of a converted barn a couple cities over. Everyone drank, ate, and chatted as we waited for the wedding party to take pictures and make their entrance.

A couple of the conversations I had included:

Just outside of the church, Kata and I approached some of Pisces grad school friends who are now all professors. I introduced myself to MSM. Her name sounded familiar though neither of us recalled ever meeting. We covered the expected "how do you know Pisces" and other general information.

She and her husband now live in New Hampshire. The conversation started getting a little contentious when...

"I always knew my time in California was temporary."

"Oh, why is that? Too expensive?"

"No, actually the housing is not that bad. More so because I never really thought it was a good place to be an adult. Californians are so..."

"Laid back?"

"Not exactly... I'd say they're not very serious, somewhat selfish, and distracted with all the activities there are to do."

"What do you mean by selfish?"

"I don't see how you can work, be married, and raise a family properly with everything that goes on. It's not conducive to behaving like a grown up. Maybe someday when the kids are grown up we can go back there."

Naturally, I moved the conversation elsewhere. Everyone has a right to their opinion, but hers seemed particularly harsh. She made it sound like it's wrong to have fun. And she said it in a most non-chalant, matter-of-fact manner. I chalked it up to being an academic.


I caught up with an old high-school chum, Epis. He is now married and was proudly holding his six-month old son throughout the evening. It's fascinating seeing this side of guys. I've never known him that well. When Pisces first learned she was moving East, she thought maybe they'd date. That idea died the minute she learned that he had converted to Catholicism in college after feeling that his local Protestant congregation was too liberal. He went to college in a fairly liberal region of the country, couldn't it have just been the environment versus the church?


I had been told by Pisces family that Kata and I would be seated with her cousin, Walt. He was this medium height guy, about four-years younger than me. He's a computer programmer up in the Northwest.

Later, Pisces' sister encouraged me to dance. I kind of shrugged my shoulders. Then she said that Walt would like to dance with me but was too shy to ask. I said it was fine but pointed out that there were few people dancing. She grabbed Walt and her husband. The four of us danced for a few songs.

I talked with Walt while we danced. We also probably chatted for more than 30 minutes while we ate wedding cake. It was all just small talk and chat about the family. Nothing particularly memorable.

I was surprised Monday, at lunch, when Pisces mom seemed to be sniffing around as to whether I had a boyfriend and adding that Walt would be in my area in July. Pisces' sister also commented that he's nerdy but a really nice guy.

Wha, what? Is there something going on here that I should know about? First, it would be weird to date my good friend's cousin. Second, he lives some 500 miles away, not really a good setup. Third, he's four years younger... that shouldn't affect things too much, but realistically guys usually prefer dating younger women at this age.


The rest of the wedding was good. The dinner was buffet style and included vegetarian lasagna, salmon, and chicken. The cake was a yummy yellow cake with custard and almonds.

I was surprised at her choice of a raspberry/fuschia color for the bridal party and reception. She has always expressed her dislike of pale pinks and red. I thought it funny she chose a color in that hue since we all know she LOVES navy blue. But considering the barn loft was dim, it was a nice accent to the room.

She looked like she was having a fun time dancing with the kids. They purposely played all the participatory wedding songs upfront - Chicken dance, Hokey Pokey, Electric Slide, and Macarena. I really enjoyed seeing her happy. I couldn't help think that it's true, every bride is beautiful.

Having kids around was quite entertaining. There were actually three girls who were similar in age (4-6?). They had a blast running around together and dancing. Pisces' brother-in-law took dozens of pictures of the girls hugging each other. I especially liked how they all kept visiting the cake table during dinner to stare at the four-tired, white frosted cake. Pisces' friend, El, brought her boys along. The youngest *really* liked to dance. He told me that he learned from watching the Disney channel. So cute.

And, I did get to see Pisces on Monday. I'm glad that at the end of the wedding, she asked Kata and I to check in with her on Sunday night. We could meet up with her and the family for an outing at the science museum. (Where else do you go when you have small nieces? ;) ) We each were able to have few minutes of one-on-one conversation with her as we strolled through the museum. At lunch, we sat next to her and Peter so we got a little feel for his personality. He is a smart man with a gentle personality. It should be a good fit for her.

Yup, a good weekend. And now... there's a hell of a lot at work and at home to catch up on!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

First wedding of the year

Tomorrow I'm headed out to attend my good friend's wedding. Pisces and I have been friends since junior high school. We attended different universities, and then she moved nearby when she came to grad school. In fact, Pisces is the reason I have many of the friends I spend time with today. Everyone always enjoyed her witty perspective and blunt remarks. She has etiquette but won't take anyone's crap.

We've seen each other go through a lot. I've learned how she felt below myself and other classmates who lived in the "richer" neighborhood back in high school. These revelations always surprised me because I never considered my family to be better off and always considered her neighborhood about the same. From my perspective, I always felt like the inferior student because I wasn't white and knew I'd always be picked second to her for club leadership roles. We've been through plenty of relationship ups and downs.

She moved away about three years ago, oh, maybe almost four now. It was her first time living outside of California. I felt like to kept in touch pretty regularly while we lived in the same place. The first year she moved to the East Coast I enjoyed hearing her regular tales of the culture shock and challenges of the brutal winters she endured.

Frankly, and sadly, I feel like we've grown apart the past few years. I can't sense what she thinks of me. Although Pisces will share details of her life with me, and I don't have a very good sense of what emotions she's dealing with. There's no drama (okay, that's not a bad thing but everyone has something right?). Last year, she all but disappeared in the spring. Over five-month period, she failed to respond to two phone calls and three e-mails. I had to express serious concern before she took a moment to respond. She had just been so busy with her new condo that she had neglected to tell me (and others of us in CA)? I know we can all be bad about disappearing, but that just seemed odd. We still meet up every Christmas for lunch while visiting our folks. I wonder if that will change now. Still, she will always be a good friend.

She is marrying a fellow she met through Hrmny more than two years ago. Peter sounds like a good guy from what she's told me, but I've never met him. I'm not even sure I could tell you what Pisces' attitude was towards dating in general when she first met him. I'm anxious to see him in person.

I sense her attitude towards dating and marriage has changed in the past five years. Her heart was broken by Vintage just before she moved away. I know she believed in her heart they'd get married. While she loves Peter, her attitude seems a bit reserved. I would best describe her explanations as practical.

As much as Pisces adores her nieces, she's not sure she wants children. As an academic, I think she feels somewhat constrained by her career in her ability to live where she wants and have a family. Medically speaking, pregnancy could also be complicated for her for reasons I won't go into. Plus, Peter had testicular cancer when he was younger. He's not sure he can produce children. I just don't get the sense from her that they're interested in finding or exploring solutions. Maybe she's fine rather than resigned. Sometimes find her attitude too nonchalant. Perhaps she's made her peace with the situation. It's just that growing up, I wouldn't have guess this choice from her.

It's going to be a small wedding, predominantly family. I'm happy that I'll be there to share in her joy.

Uh... just one little dilemna. Originally, Pisces had stated that she and Peter will be around for the week after the wedding and implied that she would spend time with folks staying extra days. My ticket currently has me flying back on Monday evening, but now there are flights for Sunday evening that I could switch to without penalty.

Earlier this week, Pisces let me know that Sunday is out. Monday is a maybe. Frankly, if I don't get to see her, I'd rather not spend a day of vacation away from home. Besides, I have a tight project timeline and really could use that additional day at work. But what am I to do? I can't force her to commit, certainly the relatives come first. I have no other friends to visit while I'm there. Part of me just wants to come back since there's no guarantee I will see her. Am I being selfish? Is spending maybe a few hours with Pisces worth it?