I Don’t Belong Here

When I was dating in my youth, we didn’t have texting and online dating. We were rejected the old-fashioned way–in person. (And honestly, to call my social activity pre-marriage as dating is a stretch. Stalking may be more appropriate, but that’s not relevant here.) So, as my dear friend Christine pointed out, I’m not only diving back into the dating scene, I’ve had to adjust to a whole new pool.

On paper, online dating seems like a good idea. You can take your time crafting your profile and enhancing your pictures before releasing your bio to the world. And the beauty of the internet is the anonymity. Yes you are putting your picture and various details about yourself out there, but no one has to see your face in real time. No one has to hear your awkward laugh. You can seek companionship in your jammies or on your lunch break with no cover charge or loud music. (Old. Yes, I’m old.)

However, in moving online dating from idea to reality, we forgot about the DudeBros and the Good Ol boys. We did not account for the Thousand-dollar Millionaires or as they are known for the over 35 set, the Self-Employed. And we never even imagined there would exist the Delusionists who are 45 year-olds claiming to want to get married and have kids some day.

*Disclaimer* Obviously #notallmen ruin online dating.

So, if you’re a woman who feels like joining one of the many online sites or apps that promise to make dating easy and safe, let me save you some trouble deciphering the profiles of the men you may want to avoid. That way you can just focus on the ones who are genuine and kind. The men who are just as terrified as you to put their heart out there hoping for the best.

And if you’re a man working the Tinder scene, you’re welcome for this warning of what not to do.

Red Flags:

  • Hugging juggy women in their photos: Um, why are you chatting with me? Looks like you’re all set in the dating department.
  • Having a form of ‘Sexy’ in their profile name: Self-explanatory.
  • Gym Selfies: One or two is okay, especially if they look super uncomfortable in them as if they regret it. However, if there are 5 or more you’ve probably got yourself a DudeBro. If they are all of his stomach, and he’s making a tough-guy face while clearly wearing too much product in his fauxhawk, you’ve got their king.
  • Vote for Donald Trump filter on their picture: Maybe try to meet up with them to figure out if they are a bigot or a misogynist or both.
  • Over 40 and claiming to want to get married and have kids some day: It’s possible he just wants to ease the minds of single moms. He’s saying, “It’s cool, I’m totes not afraid of commitment. I just haven’t had one before now.” Maybe he just doesn’t understand the realities of fertility over the age of 35. But it’s also possible he’s only looking for a 25 year-old.
  • Occupation is listed as Entrepreneur: Again, this could be honest. It could also mean he hops from job to job as various friends claim to have these great money-making ideas. He may also live in his car.
  • Opening chat is, “Hey, you want to meet?”: I, for one, am much more likable in person. (Shut up. I am.) Maybe he’s feeling this way too? Maybe he needs an excuse to just get out of the house and give it a try. It’s also possible he wants something else that will be over in three minutes.

In addition, there are some standard profile descriptions you need to learn how to decode:

  • “No baggage” = “Once I date a girl and get what I want, I never see her again, so you’ll never have to worry about my exes. I don’t even remember their names.”
  • “Not looking for drama”=”I really can’t handle ’emotions’ or ‘needs’ or ‘women’.”
    • When women say this it means they don’t ever want to see a picture or name of another woman anywhere on your phone or that bitch will get cut.
  • “Love to travel”=”Everyone says this, so I’ll post these pics of that awesome Spring Break in Cabo and hope no one notices I was 19 at the time.”
  • “People say I’m kind and funny”=”People is a general term for my parents and the girls at work who I trap in the break room to ask for help with my social life.”
  • “I just want to have fun and see what happens.”=”I’m just here for sex.”

Don’t forget to tailor your profile to meet the most common desired stats of women being sought: adventurous (What does this mean? Are you asking me to compete on The Amazing Race? Because I’m in.), into fitness, and drama free. I’m pretty sure declaring yourself rich and available for bankrolling travel would help too.

For a while I thought this was my life path.

For a while I thought this was my life path.

Some other advice I can give you is to know yourself. If you think the NRA should be labeled a hate group, go ahead and skip the profiles of guys in camo holding a dead animal. It’s cool; he’s not for you. He’ll find his match. And so will you if you stick to what you know you need in your life. A wise friend advised, “Know what you expect out of this before you start.” It makes it much easier to decide if you’ll swipe right or swipe left. If it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t. If you’re just answering an email to be polite, don’t. Take care of your heart through the whole process and be brutally honest.

It’s going to be okay; there are nice people you connect with out there. They just may be in a different pool.

Like Riding A Bike

Part of the cliché of being 43 and divorced is reinvention. I am currently reinventing myself as a healthy person who occasionally has a whole loaf of garlic bread for dinner and skips runs when she is too tired. It’s a unique persona to be sure. To this end, I was recently lured into a gym with promises of low rates and a six-day free trial. We shall henceforth call this gym Eternity Fitness. My friend Tabatha offered to take a class with me, and we chose a spin-type class. Tabatha is great, and she’s been there through my divorce alternately holding my hand and kicking my butt. But, mark my words, she will be the reason I die in some fitness mishap.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of a spin class, it is a class where a room full of people ride stationary bikes while the instructor yells helpful mottos like, “You are a warrior!” from his or her own stationary bike at the front of the room.

When we arrived I was ready to fitness. I love fitness. I am fitness. Also, I can ride a bike, so I was sure this would work out better than pilates which is an exercise for people who know where all their core muscles are and can engage them at will and for sustained periods of time. I have core muscles, but we are not at a point in our relationship where we can get engaged.

Luckily, we arrived early, so we had the chance to get a good spot and make sure I could indeed still ride a bike. I was alarmed at the sheer number of towels placed on each bike as my friend had already advised me to grab one before we got in the room. I can make it through a run with one shirt used as a towel. What did 5 or 6 towels mean? I went with it. Doesn’t sweating mean your body is efficiently working and in good shape? Wow, this class would totally make me fitness.

Our next task was to adjust the height of the seat and the distance away from the command panel. It was weird; no amount of adjustment made the seat comfortable. See I learned to ride a bike on a sweet pink Huffy with a puffy bread-loaf-shaped seat. It was like biking on clouds. This spin-class seat was like biking on marbles.

In my day we rode our bikes to school. Uphill both ways while being chased by rabid dogs.

In my day we rode our bikes to school, uphill both ways while being chased by rabid dogs.

I was feeling okay about my chances of survival in this class. I mean, 30 minutes? I could probably do something physically difficult for that long.

When the instructor arrived, he focused on me right away because I must have been giving off a helpless aura. He told me I needed cages for the pedals. Of course, Cages. I was totally about to do that. After first trying to use two left cages, I was all set with cages on my pedals to keep my lame non-biking sneakers in place during class. I just needed to actually get my feet in them while on the bike seat. This required help from the instructor and Tabatha and Jesus.

The class wasn’t too full, and no one was really close to me except Tab, so if I accidentally cussed, it would be okay. The instructor, let’s call him Brad because of reasons, got on his bike, cranked some music, and turned down the lights. Alright Brad, this was totally my jam. Pretending I’m dancing at a nightclub? Yes please.

The music was unfamiliar to me but laid enough base for me to follow the rhythm. Except I was already behind. Brad was up front talking about heart rates and zones and levels on the bike which could be adjusted. I tried to make sense of it all, but honestly I was just spinning the little dial at the front of my bike when everyone else did. I think I was supposed to be in a certain range with those numbers depending on what Brad told us to do with the dial. Maybe the dial thingy adjusted tension in the spinny thing in the wheel? Hard to say. I decided that since it was my first time I would just focus on being in motion the whole time. It wouldn’t matter how fast I went or what level my bike was set at.

I was happy at first. Duh, riding a bike right? Then we were told to raise up out of the seat. I’ve seen enough commercials for Eternity Gym to know what was expected of me. Ass in the air, feet spinning like crazy, and warrior face on. But I was unable to perform this maneuver. I’m not saying it was hard to sustain, or I couldn’t raise very high; I’m saying my butt was glued to the seat for the first three times Brad called for it. When I finally did get out of the saddle, the wheels either stopped or I wobbled half out of my stirrups. I guess these bikes don’t work like normal bikes or maybe I lost my balance in the divorce.

I didn’t give up though. Momma didn’t raise a quitter. Plus I was unable to get fully disentangled from the foot cages and was therefore stuck. I kept at it and eventually got my body and the bike to work together so that my rear was in the air a tiny bit. At this point I was light-headed but super fitnessing.

Then I got fancy. I tried to get my foot more comfortable in the cage. And then I got hurt. I can’t say exactly what happened, but let’s just say I had to pretend I was purposely getting of the bike for a restroom break. Tab told me where it was, and I escaped into the brightly lit free weight section of the gym. It was too bright, and my leg was throbbing right at the achilles tendon area along with a burning sensation radiating up my calf. Casually checking for blood in the mirror, I thought I saw the bathroom on the other side of the gym. I decided I’d go in there and tend to my wounds.

I circled that area like three times before I realized I was never going to find the bathroom. I womaned up and went back to the spin class. Lights were still off and Brad was still empowering us. I had secretly hoped I’d been gone long enough for it to be over. It was at about minute 39, and it hit me that this was a fucking one-hour class. Death to Tabatha.

So I continued my version of spinning until the end of class. Tab kept asking me how I was doing, and I said fine and thought I smiled. Hard to say though because I was concentrating on doing 30 things at once including, but not limited to, not falling again.

And then it was over. Brad turned off his mic and the music. Lights came back on. Without the pressure to keep the wheels moving it was a bit easier to get the cages off my shoes. I stood on firm ground ready to get the hell out of there. But walking was not pleasant. In fact, I would have preferred to be left on the floor to die. My legs were a strange combination of jelly and brick with my lady bits complaining about the damage done by not getting myself out of the seat enough. I was hurt. Badly. In a way running around my neighborhood never left me.

Needless to say the thought of ever looking at a spin bike again was horrifying, and I did not join the gym. But I did do one good thing that day. When I saw Brad leaving the gym, I did not run him over with my car. You’re welcome Brad.

Summers Off

Sunday night sadness has plagued me since I was in middle school. The dread, the worry, the fear. And I’m not the only one. This very night many of you sit on the couch wondering where the weekend went and how much work will be thrown your way tomorrow. Work that is in addition to the to-do list you didn’t complete last week.

But on this glorious Sunday, I have very little angst for the week ahead. (I always have some angst; I am me after all.) Tonight the work demons rest because I am on summer break. Summer break is glorious, and I’m not afraid to say it.

Well, I’m a little afraid because it makes you hate me.

Summer break is the deal-breaker when people try to have sympathy for teachers. They get so close–low pay, no respect, being forced to teach to the test–but then they can’t shake that one perk–having all summer off. But it’s not really a full three months we yell! I do professional development during the summer! It’s not a time for me to put my feet up and chill!

Except it is.

But you know why I deserve it? I deserve it because every year I take on upwards of 130 new souls. Every year I meet over 130 new students. But it’s not just that I meet them. It is my sincere goal to get to know all of them. To give them as personalized an education as one woman can give 130 different minds. To give them chance after chance to do their best. To bring out the writer hiding inside them. To combat a previous teacher who told them they weren’t good enough. To show them how awesome the power of words is.

Yes, I chose this job, and yes, I knew it would be a lot of work. Having loved so many teachers in my school years, I knew what it would take to be a good one. What it takes is a passion for the subject. It takes expertise in the teacher’s chosen subject. The teachers who do the job with success want students to get just a small spark of the fire of knowledge. All it takes for a good teacher is a tiny flame. That teacher can turn that into a fire before the kid even knows what hits them. Real teachers want students to feel noticed. Their actions tell each and every kid, “I see you. You matter.”

And this kind of dedication takes its toll on a person. I feel the hearts of 130 kids join my heartbeat every year. I worry about them when I get home. I ask other teachers for advice on how to get through to them. I frantically change lesson plans before class starts knowing after grading yesterday’s work that they need something other than what I planned.

I don’t dump these kids after the school year either. I hold them in my heart, and they still take up space in my worry cabinet (okay, it’s a whole room, a room of worries). Once you’re one of my kids, you’re one of my kids.

Listen, I’m not saying my job is the hardest one in the world. I think what I face is a concern for anyone whose ‘product’ is people. (Remind me later to rant and cuss about people who compare business practices to teaching practices.) Caring for people requires so much energy that sometimes I don’t believe I can do it. Sometimes I want to just not care, but I can’t. It’s not who I am as a teacher.

Yeah, I get summers off, and tonight is the least stressful one I’ve had in months. But trust me, you want me to get this rest. You want me ready to take on the new souls who need me next year because every school year ends with me spent, empty of my gift.

But summer, glorious summer, fills me up again, makes me want to take on my new challenges. So please, let me have this time. It’s more important than you can ever know.

My Work Squad

My Work Squad