Kat’s Adventures in Dating: The 6 out of 10

Five stars

I met Gary on OKCupid when I was living in Albuquerque. He was a pharmacist and a bodybuilder, and one of my friends knew him. 

“He’s got a real thick South Valley accent,” she told me, “but other than that, he’s cool.” 

We chatted back and forth on Google Chat for a while and went out on a date – dinner and drinks, probably. We had some chemistry but didn’t kiss goodnight. He even brought up his accent.

“I sound like a real mocho,” he said. 

(He did. I’m fine with accents. Generally like them, in fact.) 

I invited him to come to a movie at the Southwest Gay and Lesbian Film Fest with me, since I’d gotten free passes. He agreed.

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Kat’s Adventures in Dating: The Failures to Launch

As a veteran of the online dating scene, I am fully subscribed to the idea that you should meet in person as soon as you are able (and comfortable enough) to do so. A lot of my friends will spend weeks texting with someone on the app, not exchanging phone numbers or even last names, before they feel comfortable enough to set a time and date and see someone’s face in real life. This is, to me, the death of all possible chemistry. If we can’t meet within about a week of matching, it’s just never gonna’ work for me.

Every once in a while, I’ll match with someone on a dating site and plan to meet them, but something will stop that meeting from happening. And often it’s something the guy has done that makes me really just not want to meet up with them. Here are a few examples.

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Kat’s Adventures in Dating: The Bernese Mountain Dog

A Bernese Mountain Dog

When I lived in northern New Jersey in my youth, I’d go into the City (that’s New York City, generally Manhattan, for anyone who has never lived in that metropolitan area) often for grad school classes or to see friends. The train schedules and bus schedules were made more for daytime commuters than nighttime revelers (or students), so I’d drive my little red Mazda Miata and find parking on the street in the West Village. I only got towed once, and I was never late to class because of parking, so I was pretty lucky.

One buzzy Friday night I got dolled up and went into town to visit Theo, a guy I’d been seeing for a few weeks. We had gone to the same high school but didn’t know each other until we were both living in/around NYC. He was a grad student in philosophy (you’re right, that should have been a red flag) and he was also very emotionally volatile which, well, I was too. I have always had this insufferable fantasy about falling in love with a “hometown boy” that I had everything in common with but had gotten out to see the world like me, so he scratched some funny itch. He was also tall with broad shoulders and nice eyes, which helped. 

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Kat’s Adventures in Dating: The Absurd One

The Cabaret show flyer

I’ve decided to document some of my most memorable moments in dating, per a friend’s request. I’ve changed the names and am reusing the same five or six names, partly to hide people’s identities but also partly because I can’t remember half of their names anymore anyway. I hope you’ll find them as entertaining or interesting as I do… now that I’m past them.

John and I were talking exclusively on a dating app – we hadn’t exchanged phone numbers yet. But our chatting was going well and he threw me the hottest line a man can ever send me, on a dating app or otherwise:

“I have tickets to a show on Saturday night at 7pm. Wanna join?” 

SWOON.

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The Plagues of Texas

The LORD saw that Governor Abbott’s heart was hardened against social justice, the realities of climate change, the truth of health care and science, the murder of Texans by agents of the state in the name of “policing”, the murder of Texans by radicalized young men with unfettered access to weapons, inherent racism and misogyny in existing state laws, and the evils of cronyism and putting money before the lives of his constituents. Even though Governor Abbott claimed to pray to the LORD every day and seek His council, the Governor would not accept the truth before his eyes to help guide his policy and actions.

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Kat’s Holiday Gift Guide 2021

A Christmas Tree and Stockings

I love holiday gift guides. They make me feel fancy and wholesome at the same time, like I’ve got a lot of ideas on how to make people happy even if I don’t have the money to do it. 

I also like to promote local businesses, especially in the towns where I live, so this year, what with supply chains being what they are, I thought I’d push a few of my favorites from both my hometown of Albuquerque and my current city of Austin, plus a few other local businesses scattered around the country. Buy local! 

Instead of telling you exactly which gifts to buy, I listed places that have a variety of items or experiences so you can find just what you’re looking for this holiday season.

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The Story So Far

When I was very young, I learned that I did not make anyone’s life better.

I don’t know where or how or from whom I learned this. There’s no “aha” moment in my memory that I can point to. It could have been the Southern Baptist Church’s teaching that you are literally worthless without God. Or just the small T “trauma” of growing up as a highly sensitive person in a house overrun by three girls under four years old (two of them twins!).

But somewhere along the line, I came upon the belief that not only did I not improve the lives of people I interacted with, but I actively made them worse.

This became more potent in my young adulthood, when I lost my faith (and thus the one thing that would render me not worthless), and felt like a major disappointment to my parents, and went to a college where I never really felt I fit in.

I never felt that I could be close to anyone, not really. I couldn’t be vulnerable. They’d hate me if they knew me. So I’d do things, unconsciously, to prove that they didn’t mean anything to me, because I knew I couldn’t mean anything to them. I would push people away, quietly usually, but sometimes loudly and irreparably, because I could not communicate the utter turmoil that was going on in my heart and lungs.

Then when I was 20 years old I fell in love with a man who had a terminal illness. And the first year we were together, he got better. Whereas, before me, he would normally need to be hospitalized every six months to take IV antibiotics, he didn’t need them for a full nine months after we got together. Suddenly, there was someone for whom life was actually better with me in it.

This was all an illusion of course; no one with a truly terminal illness “gets better”. The long march toward their death may be temporarily slowed or their symptoms alleviated briefly, but the terminality persists.

So when he went back to being sicker, a little switch in my brain said, “Ah, see, that wasn’t true. That was a fluke. You do not make his life better.”

And there I was again, engaging in self-sabotage as a maladapted method of self-protection. I was a cheater. I ran away. Even though I loved him more than breathing, I couldn’t handle it.

We split up.

And then when I was 24, my best friend hanged himself. Deep down I knew it was because he had developed schizophrenia. But the part of my brain that looked for the hurt I caused also made a list of how our relationship had changed in the year or two before he’d died. He’d hated me for cheating on my boyfriend. He’d hated that I was depressed when he was working so hard to get out of his own sadness. He’d stopped responding to my text messages. He’d quit asking if I might consider officiating his wedding.

These major events cemented in my mind that I was, in fact, worthless, unloveable, unwantable, and just a burden. There was proof! Fickle as that proof may be, it existed for me.

And because nothing is as isolating as grief, I was further isolated from any proof to the contrary.

In fact, every iota of my life became part of the proof: every job I left with my tail between my legs; every man I dated who stopped calling me back; every milestone I missed that my sisters attained with ease; all my losses and failures were my just deserts. It solidified the narrative further.

Ten years later, I met and married a man who actually told me I was “a nightmare”. He complained that I wasn’t fun; that I talked too much around other people and bored them; that I was getting fat because I had no self control, and that he “couldn’t help what he was attracted to”; that I slept too much; that I cared too much about money; that I needed to wear tighter clothing (even as he criticized the size that my body was becoming)…

Overall, he just let me know in ways big and small that I just wasn’t worth it. I wasn’t worth doing what he said he would do, from something as small as unloading the dishwasher to something as big as taking care of things for a day when I got out of surgery. I wasn’t worth being on time for. I wasn’t worth buying flowers for. I wasn’t worth listening to. I wasn’t worth therapy.

He had his own issues and his own insecurities, and those devolved into alcoholism and self destruction of his own. And I was not a nice person to him, because he had one job for me: further proof that I was worthless. When he fulfilled that purpose, I needed to get away from him, and the only way I knew to do that was by kicking and spitting and screaming.

But something was changing. The pandemic, probably, and the civil unrest around protests and politics all woke something inside of me. I started to do things to take care of me. I saw a nutritionist and got my weight under control. I started running more. I cashed in a retirement fund for a down payment on a house. I got a full-time job with good benefits and excellent pay so that I had some security. I took care of things.

So when he spent $600 on sex videos from cam girls and sex workers in the three weeks after my last major surgery and went back to drinking, I had an inkling of some flicker of self worth. I kicked him out. I filed for divorce. I let him stay on my insurance so he could go to rehab, and then I cut him off.

In the 10 months since I kicked him out, I’ve gone through an enormous transformation, mostly just of realization.

I see now that the quiet little tape recording of my worthlessness informs a lot of what I do or don’t do. It makes me anxious when I’m not invited to parties, rather than wondering if I actually like the people throwing the parties. It makes me seek out flaws in potential romantic partners so that I can justify dumping them, or to settle on those who can’t give me what I need so that I can fulfill the narrative of my own worthlessness. It makes me turn to comfort food when I am uncomfortable, rather than sitting with the feelings and finding ways to confront them. It makes me choose the escape of sleep rather than the reality of feeling joy at finishing the things I need to do.

As the seasons change and I deal with summing up a year that could serve as a very fine proofpoint of my worthlessness — a divorce (the only one in my family); weight gain; debt; endless dates with men I haven’t been interested in; a messy house that may or may not be falling apart; months of putting in the bare minimum at work and relationships — I am confronted with changing the narrative again.

I don’t quite have the tools to do it. I don’t know how to ask for help, either, because I don’t even know what I need. When people make suggestions, I resent them for criticizing me (even though they’re not; it’s just my worthlessness tape recording coming into play).

It may be that months of solitude are in order, although that’s an extreme that could do more damage than just sitting in the middle ground, grieving for my losses without assigning them as my own fault. There is no fault. There’s responsibility to deal with them, but that’s all.

And when I find myself listing the proof that everyone would be better off without me, I can just see the list for a moment. And maybe think it’s true. Or maybe just let it be another list, like the things I need to do today or the groceries I need to buy. Lists are meant for checking off and then moving on.

Le Loup-Garou Pt 3

A wolf with something in its mouth running through a dark forest

The drive home was a complete blur, except for how he felt, which was vindicated and energized in his righteousness. When he parked in front of his house, it occurred to him that he might be covered in blood or wearing shredded clothing. What if his wife saw him that way? But in examining his hands he didn’t see any evidence of blood or guts or gore. And, he realized, his hands were back to human form — no claws, no wiry gray fur on his knuckles. His Browns sweatshirt wasn’t shredded. There was no evidence, from what he could tell; it could all have been a dream.

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Le Loup-Garou pt 2

A wolf with something in its mouth running through a dark forest

Doug didn’t remember going to bed, and he figured the entire event was just a frenzied dream when he awoke before dawn fully refreshed. There was no cigarette ash on the kitchen table when he went downstairs to make coffee. Perhaps he’d talk with Pastor Bob about dreaming of meetings with the devil, as well as the idea of renouncing one’s faith to save children. It was strange, to say the least. 

The only thing out of the ordinary was how energized he felt. Even before the coffee was finished brewing, he found himself doing squats, lunges, and pushups in the living room. He considered going for a run, which he hadn’t done all year. He was in a very, very good mood. Maybe the dream had reminded him of his purpose in life. 

When he opened the door to the medicine cabinet to start his daily shaving routine, though, he saw the vial from the devil’s pocket standing front and center. Its amber color seemed to glow in the low light of the bathroom cabinet. Doug didn’t touch it and quickly got out his shaving soap and razor and closed the cabinet door. He had a long day ahead of him at the VA, with a stacked schedule of clients in need of therapy for their PTSD, anxiety, and depression.

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Le Loup Garou pt 1

A wolf with something in its mouth running through a dark forest

Pastor Doug was laden with basketballs as he brought up the rear of the youth group on their way back to the church from the public court at the end of the street. He was yards behind the slowest kids, but could see all 17 of them as they sauntered back into the small church for Wednesday night devotional. The early autumn sun was setting and there was some time before youth devotional was set to start, so the kids who weren’t really interested in basketball weren’t quite showing up yet.

He put the net bag full of basketballs away in the youth group locker in the side room next to the main sanctuary. When he came out, he saw the group of 8th-grade-girls standing in the corner giggling over a cell phone. This was not an unusual occurrence, and Pastor Doug was sure he’d see something funny from Facebook or Instagram — a kitten riding a robotic vacuum or a pig rolling down a hill. These almost-14-year-olds were just old enough to have accounts on these social media per their terms and conditions, although many parents pushed to keep their young girls off the stuff until high school.

What was unusual was that as Pastor Doug approached, the girls hushed and the girl in the center, Stacie, hid the phone from his view.

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