Open Mic Friday! featuring Tina

Welcome, dear ones, to Open Mic Friday! Every week we have a featured “reading” in the body of this post. Applause and other feedback go in the comments, where you’re also welcome to share your own work. The comments are threaded, which means you can reply directly to each reader by hitting the “reply” button within that comment box.

Read, share, and converse!

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This week’s guest post comes from Tina, a dear friend from college who is beginning to write short stories. She would greatly appreciate comments, so step up y’all!

An Emerging Feminist’s Adventures in Online Dating by Tina

What drove me to enter the strange world of online dating was painfully intense
boredom. After moving to a new city and spending three weeks settling into my
apartment, I got tired of sitting alone indoors all day. For weeks, I went against my
inner administrative assistant in order to create the most inefficient shopping trips
possible just to maximize the number of interactions with cashiers. To my dismay,
these attempts to reach out to other human beings left me feeling unfulfilled. Our
conversations always seemed to devolve into whether I want to charge the purchase
as debit or credit. The breaking point came one morning when I was in the kitchen,
wearing an apron over my pajamas, organizing my tea bags. First, I placed them in
the tea box according to the bag’s color. Finding this result wholly unsatisfactory on
some visceral level, I dumped the blasted tea bags out on the counter and proceeded
to reorganize them into three piles: herbal, caffeinated, or medicinal. Fearful that my
neighbor across the alley would equate my behavior with a meth-induced episode, I
lowered the kitchen window blinds and continued with the shameful compulsion for
another 10 minutes. Admiring the neat little stacks but simultaneously upset at their
inharmonious color combinations forced me to admit that yes, I was lonely. Playing
emperor to two dozen small square subjects was not getting me any closer to much
needed human contact.

A good friend of mine, who is a 10-year veteran of online dating, suggested that I give
the free website OKCupid a try. Free was perfect for my financial circumstance since
I would not receive a paycheck from my new job for another month. And instinctively I
knew the love of my life would be just as cheap and scoff at the idea of spending $59.99
a month for eHarmony.

The beginning bold stride into online dating was to set up a personal profile. Since I
am a busy young professional, my profile was created to help the douche bags self-
select away from contacting me. The words “feminist”, “socially liberal,” and “tomboy”
were prominently featured as tell-tale signs for horny jerks to not even bother shaking
their man bits in my general direction. Despite all the time I devoted to neurotically
proofreading my profile page, whether a date comes to fruition depends almost entirely
on the profile pictures. The close-up picture of your face is the first impression you
make on these online dating sites. Its purpose is to intrigue potential suitors into
reading your profile. A flattering picture showing your figure from head to toe can help
them rest assured they will not be going out with only a pretty face. The final touch
was to include a picture of myself doing something fun to prove I have other interests
besides sitting in front of my computer desperately seeking a mate. My “fun picture”
shows me smiling broadly while a stray cat climbs all over my clothes leaving little dirty paw prints on my jeans. If the guy is allergic to cats, there is probably no way we can
ever have a sustained relationship.

For the sake of brevity, I will spare you the nuanced details of how to contact guys
through an online dating platform like OKCupid. Basically, it is best to be sincere, be
confident, and express interest without being too earnest. OKCupid recommends that
women take the initiative to contact men they would like to meet in person. The website
supposedly conducted a study that showed when women contact men first, they end up
dating more attractive men. That tiny slice of somewhat scientific information motivated
me to take the plunge head first.

There are several good guides that instruct women to use online dating while keeping
safety in mind. Many of these tips are common sense:

  • Avoid the guys with profile names like PeekingPervert or Crap_On_(insert the name of your city here).
  • Be suspicious of guys who do not provide a single clear photo of themselves. A blurry, up-close shot of their dog does not count as a proper profile picture.
  • Meet in a public place where witnesses can hear you scream and hopefully provide an accurate police report.
  • Don’t share your address or contact information until you can trust your date is actually who he claims to be and not an obsessive stalker, unless you like each phone call or knock on the door to come with a life-or-death thrill.

Why court danger when online dating is dramatic enough, and there’s already plenty
of unpredictability built into the game? If you are a sensitive person like me, who
reprimands herself for accidentally leaving cheese out of the fridge, you don’t need
additional stressors in your life.

Finally, the long anticipated day arrived— the first date. Putting on my favorite outfit
and a thin layer of make-up, I felt like a warrior donning his armor and war paint. I
did not know if I would return from this campaign whole or emotionally wounded, but
the hopeful possibilities pushed me through the fear. During the walk to the meeting
place, I made a hasty peace with whatever consequences would result from this initial
encounter. There were no more excuses or postponements to hide behind. The time
had come for my first date in almost a year.

Our five-hour date ended with mutual sighs of relief because the meeting went better
than either of us had anticipated. We both expressed interest in hanging out again.
Floating through my apartment’s front door on Cloud 9, my spirit was reaffirmed for I
was accepted for just being me. The few sweet hours of bliss were quickly cut short
by stabbing pains of doubt. I logged back into OKCupid to gaze longingly at his picture when I noticed he was also signed on and editing his profile. After such an amazing
date, how could he be online actively seeking other women? Granted, I did not know
exactly what he was doing online, but my sticky, hot insecurities assumed the worse.
I ran my hands over my waist and asked if I was thin enough. Staring into the mirror,
I fixated on the acne scars on my face that never healed properly and my Asian nose
that looked too broad. Perhaps I scared him off because over dinner I spoke adamantly
about my concern for socially progressive issues. He must have thought I am too
opinionated, for a woman. That night, I went to bed sullen with the knowledge that in a competition against countless gold diggers whose only life goal is to land a financially successful, well-educated white man like him, I could never win.

The following week was spent salvaging my self-esteem through wise counsel from my
mother and friends, solitary walks through the park, and uplifting words from feminist
authors. At the age of 27 and with four long-term romantic relationships buried in the
graveyard of my heart, I am intimately aware of my lack of readiness to love fully. I
have been the abused and the abuser. My path to love, which begins with the stones
laid by a community of friends, requires my commitment to continue paving the rest.
Such an important task as completing the foundation for my happiness could not and
should never be placed in the hands of one man. Emma Goldman, famous anarchist,
birth control advocate, and feminist rightly stated that, “Woman’s development, her
freedom, her independence, must come from and through herself.” By leading an active
life, I am following Goldman’s advice of becoming a complete person in my own right.
Through exercise, I feel the strength and beauty of my body. While writing and crafting,
I am joyful in knowing the wondrous workings of my mind. The acts of cooking and
doing laundry are ways in which I nurture myself. Slowly but surely, I am becoming the
person I want as my romantic partner. I actually feel kind of sorry for the poor schmuck
who wants to date me now that my standards are set higher. Opening jars of spaghetti
sauce and killing the occasional spider that walks into my apartment are no longer going
to impress me. I can do all that on my own and more!

My Facebook profile page contains this inspirational quote from noted 19th century
feminist Margaret Fuller: “I would have her free from compromise, from complaisance,
from helplessness, because I would have her good enough and strong enough to love
one and all beings from the fullness, not the poverty, of being.” Fuller encourages me
to make self-love into the light that shines upon and nourishes the relationships in my
life. And when my self-love feels diminished, I know how to reinvigorate it without the
help of a boyfriend. The cultivation of self-love will come from gaining insights through
developing new skills and engaging in new experiences. An entire wall in my living
room is now converted into my own personal hall of fame. The seven-foot long stretch of space is covered with postcards from friends, birthday cards from my parents, letters
of appreciation from mentors, pictures I took during my travels through China, and
favorite quotes from social justice advocates. It reminds me every day that I am well
traveled, well loved, and an idealist to the core. The blank portions of this wall dare
me to fill the expansive potential of my life so they too can have the honor of holding a
precious artifact.

Now when I check my email and find messages from guys on OKCupid or the hot dude
I went on a date with, I am empowered to strike from a position of strength. The second
wave feminist movement’s rallying cry of “the personal is political” applies perfectly to
romantic relationships. My personal decisions of who to date and how I will interact with
my partner are political acts. The prolific African American feminist author bell hooks
wrote in her book All About Love how we erroneously believe “we lack choice and
decision when choosing a partner because when the chemistry is present, when the
click is there, it just happens— it overwhelms— it takes control.” My plan to counteract
the feelings of “I must have this man or die” is simple. When I feel a crush coming on,
I am going to tell my vagina to shut its yapping and let my mind evaluate the virtues of
the young man: Can he construct an entire sentence through email that does not have
spelling or grammatical errors? Does he share my passion for social justice? Will he
be able to grow with me?

bell hooks also advocates for us to understand that, “Satisfying friendships in which
we share mutual love provide a guide for behavior in other relationships, including
romantic ones.” When romantic love is preceded by friendship, we are breaking the
patriarchal order of domination and subordination. Friendship is important because
inevitably the person of our heart’s desire will see us with puffy eyes after a good cry
or smell our silent but deadly fart. Friendship compels us to see our beloved not as an
accessory, a meal ticket, a sex object, or a panacea but as a fellow human being. One
day, the push-up bra will come off and the privilege gained from patriarchy will slough
away, and we will have to face one another as free women and free men. It is then,
in the vulnerability of our nakedness and in the ecstasy of our souls’ communion that
we banish ugliness from this world. If there is one force that can free humanity from
sexism, racism, class, and all other human-made oppressions, true love would be it.

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Thank you for sharing so openly, Tina!

And now — the comments are open. Give Tina your feedback, or share your own work! Go to it!

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