J. Awkward Prufrock Goes Back to School

Well, the good news is I’m 1/10 of the way through my master’s program! Gotta take what I can get.

But for the other 9/10, you can probably expect less frequent blog posts. I’m aiming for once a month. Turns out grad school is a lot of work. Who knew?

It’s weird to go back to school after a five-year hiatus. When I was in undergrad, I had all this energy, fueled by my starry-eyed dreams and desire to make memories. I didn’t only pull all-nighters to get work done; I pulled all-nighters just because. What?! And then I could simply brush my teeth, go to class, and be fine. Did I do the reading for class that day? Hell no! Who does the reading for class?

You know what you have to do in grad school? The reading for class. The professors acknowledge doing all of the reading is impossible, yet expected. How does that make any sense? Guys, I’m so tired.

Having been 27-years-old for nearly a week now, I can say…it’s an awful lot like being 26: if I don’t get at least 7 hours of sleep and eat some vegetables, I turn into the garbage that Oscar the Grouch sat on. A few people in my program are straight out of undergrad, and I look at the emails they send out at 1am and think, I was like you once. Ah, youth. I wonder where you disappeared to. Probably somewhere in all that time I was wishing it was the weekend. I accidentally made my life go 5 times faster.

I don’t want to complain too much. Philly is wonderful. Living with Marc is wonderful. The campus is wonderful. All of my classes are wonderful…and interesting and provocative and thoughtful…I think. I do take comfort in the fact that everyone around me looks just as confused as I feel. We’re all just trying to make it to May, merely cloaking ourselves in the scent of intellectualism (by Calvin Klein).

But the academics, I can handle. It’s tough, but I can (well…we’ll see what I say when I get my first paper back). What I’ve been the most worried about is making friends. It’s been a long time since I made a new friend. I’m a bit out of practice. And it’s so much easier when you live on campus and know you’re going to be spending the next four years with these people. This is a nine-month program and I live 30 minutes away and I don’t like to do things: all of these factors may work against me.

In these trying times, I find myself so much more aware of the things I say. Guys, that’s extremely aware. That’s beyond hyper-aware. That is a degree of awareness theoretical physicists haven’t dreamt of. Lately, after I say anything to anybody, I immediately say to myself, Everyone hates you now. Just last night, I found a potential friend in the ladies’ room. She was exiting while I was entering. Her look said that she was really chill, but not so chill that it made her superior. She had that friendly smell; of potato chips and freshly-soaped hands.

She looked at me and said, “Oh my God, I had to go to the bathroom so bad, but the professor wouldn’t stop talking.” She was paving the road for a friendship, slowly, with a small smile and open eyes.

I responded, “Yes, I know exactly what you mean.” She looked taken aback, hurt; she giggled unsurely, and darted out of the bathroom. And it dawned on me that, while my line was supposed to establish the common ground on which kinship wallows, she may have interpreted it as my telling her that her reaching out to me was preventing me from my own peeing. Everyone hates you now. 

My other friendship attempt happened in the university bookstore, where arguably the best friendships can happen. Books are sacred like that. I was at a table full of organizer journals, thinking about possibly buying one but then realizing that would prevent me from being able to tell myself that I don’t get anything done because I’m disorganized, when a girl walked over to browse. She clearly had no fear of organization and I thought maybe she could be the kind of person who would push me to be better throughout my master’s journey.

So I turned to her and cleverly said, “In the market for an organizer?”

She laughed and nodded, which I took as an affirmation that I totally should keep this act of an organizer salesperson going.

“Well you got your big ones, you small ones, your sparkly ones, your motivational sayings, animals doing animal things. Which do you find most appealing?”

At this point, I could tell that I had made it awkward. She looked confused. But for some reason, I thought that stopping at that point would make it more awkward, so I kept rambling on about the sales handles of various organizers until she walked off with one. I feel kind of bad. I’m not sure if it was the one she wanted or if she just wanted to get away from the weird girl who hangs out at the organizer table trying to make lifelong friends, or at least Facebook “happy birthday” acquaintances. We’ll never know!

It’s so hard, but I think the fact that I’ve only had a handful of disastrous social instances is rather encouraging! And I’m on smile-and-hi level with lots of people. So who knows? Maybe there is hope for this life chapter yet. Onward and awkward.

Now, back to reading about jurisprudential challenges in private university governance. Whatever that is.

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J. Awkward Prufrock Learns to Cook!

Prepare for the most awkward cooking blog post ever, as, even though I vaguely planned this post, I did not take any pictures of my experiments. I never remember to take pictures of anything. I encourage you to use your imaginations as you accompany me on this culinary journey. I assure you none of them looked like their Pinterest pictures, if that helps.

Now, I have lived on my own before, but on those occasions, I was either kitchen-less or too afraid to really use the kitchen (because of the filth factor and because I live my life in fear). Also, I’m one of those people who is perfectly content to eat the same thing everyday and also perfectly content if that thing is a bag of frozen vegetables I can pop in the microwave.

But I live with my boyfriend now. And while he is a very smart man who has been feeding himself for years, my waspy ethnic origins are predominantly Irish and Italian, and thus I possess this unflappable stoicism that is only curbed by pictures of cute dogs and a need to feed others. It’s how I show I care. I’m also hoping that if I get good enough at cooking, he will be able to look past all the new neuroses he’s learning about now that we live together (Jillian, why do you keep all the closets open? Because someone might be in them. Obviously).

I love to eat, but I’m pretty health-conscious and like to keep things plant-based when I can. I also don’t really like the idea of handling meat (shut up, Freud). Now, the thing about cooking is it never looks or sounds that hard to do. And it isn’t, really, if you’re striving for edible, but boy does it take time. (Curses upon those Tasty videos that made it look like all cooking only takes 30 seconds!) Especially if you’re incredibly anal and insist on staring at everything the whole time to make sure it’s cooking the way it’s supposed to be…and yet, it still manages to be over or underdone at the end of it all.

So, here are some of the things I’ve made.

Day 1: Vegetarian French Dips
In this recipe, you use mushrooms instead of roast beef. It was pretty good and very easy to make. But this was the day I learned that even recipes labeled as “Healthy” on Pinterest can call for lots of olive oil and salt. Which makes me wonder, is anything really good for us?
Rating: 7.5/10
Recipe here: http://www.connoisseurusveg.com/vegan-french-dip-sandwiches

Day 2: Peach Mango Stir Fry
Ah, the joy of the stir fry! Proof that you can throw a bunch of things into a pan and it will probably come out alright. In this case, it was a bag of peppers and onions, a can of black beans, and peach/mango salsa. Added rice after. Above par, nutritious.
Rating: 8/10
Recipe: Whatever the hell is in your cabinets.

Day 3: Potato Mushroom Concoction
Peeling potatoes sucks.
Rating: 7/10
Recipe here: http://cooktoria.com/recipe/potatoes-with-mushrooms-2/

Day 4: Burgers and Black Bean Salad
I want to know why people think it’s so much better to cook on gas. Not only am I perpetually conscious of breathing when I’m around it, but it gets so hot! So fast! On this day, I thought I would give pan-frying burgers a try since we had some in the freezer and I know my boyfriend enjoys them. Bless his heart for eating these, which somehow managed to be burnt to a crisp on the outside and raw on the inside.
The black bean salad was fine. A bit vinegary. I also boiled him a hot dog. Amen to boiling hot dogs! I will boil hot dogs ‘til somebody stops me! What a low pressure meal.
Rating: 6.5/10
Recipe: Black bean salad consists of 1 can of black beans, peppers, onions, lime, corn, oil, balsamic vinegar, and the spices of your choice.

Day 5: Pasta and Broccoli
I’m not a terribly gifted person but I can usually get pasta right. And the more the kitchen smells like garlic, the harder people think you worked!
Rating: 8/10
Recipe: Pasta and broccoli and stuff.

Day 6: Roasted Cauliflower and Chick Pea Salad
After a few days of hearty eating (weekends are for pizza. It’s in the bible), I thought we could cleanse ourselves with some kale and other vegetables. But roasting vegetables takes a lot of time and the ability to walk away from the oven. I do not have that capability.
The dressing called for tahini, which is hella expensive, so I thought I would improvise by combining every condiment in the fridge: a concoction my boyfriend kindly described as, “a lot of really good flavors that maybe shouldn’t be together.” Womp womp.
Also, why is salad never filling? We broke out the Ben & Jerry’s an hour later!
Rating: 6/10
Recipe here: https://www.budgetbytes.com/2017/02/roasted-cauliflower-salad-lemon-tahini-dressing/

Day 7: Enchilada Orzo Casserole Thingy
Oh, if I could only shake the hands of Mr. Crockpot himself! Seriously, what ingenuity. This was definitely the best of all the attempts so far. And to think, all I did was dump some stuff into a pot in the morning and by 6, we had dinner. The crockpot gets my full endorsement. I will die so crockpots can live.
Rating: 8.5/10
Recipe here: http://damndelicious.net/2014/12/01/slow-cooker-enchilada-orzo/

Does anyone have some easy recipes they want to share with me? Does anyone want to help me get over my fear of cooking meat or my CO woes (I don’t think it’s good to keep testing the detector…)? I would love to hear from you!

The History of J. Awkward Prufrock (as Told by Old Diary Entries)

A lot happens when you pack up your life. Like you find old underwear from when you were in the fifth grade; and even though they are ratty and full of holes, you put them on just to feel something. Then you lay on your floor and feel the weight of Wendy Darling’s famous line, “I have to grow up tomorrow.”

Plus if you’re a serial writer like I am, you find old notebooks you haven’t been able to part with, even though they are full of less-than-glamorous details about yourself.

Here are some of those details, spelling errors and all, for your reading pleasure!

Age 6, when I learned about stereotypes and poetry. 

Dear Diary,
I love my cat. Don’t tell anyone. I don’t want them to think I’m a cat lady.
Jillian (with a backwards J. I knew it was wrong; I was just being defiant).

The Story of Lizzy and Jackie
By Jillian Ports
Lizzy and Jackie grew up in an orphinage. They had two best friends named Tipi and Janie. They were really and I mean really were best friends. 

I think that’s the end, but I mean, pretty solid, right? I don’t think any questions are left unanswered.

Here is one of my untitled works:

The moon shines bright
People are walking
Stars twinkle through the night.
Yingyangs are floating through the sky!

I think this is one of those pieces that was inspired by a work of art. I had just gotten those bitching stamp markers. Picture below!

IMG_0901

Age 13-14, when I was the worst. 

Dear Diary,
My name is Jillian Ports. I am 13 going on 14. I just finished the eighth grade a few days ago. I’m trying this new thing with writing down my feelings so I won’t be confused all the time. So I’m gonna ramble and you’re gonna listen, got it? 

 I saw a sappy love movie today called THE NOTEBOOK. It was actually pretty good considering that I’m very anti-love. I’m more of a blood, guts, and gore kind of girl. Love is stupid and fleeting and the world will be better when everyone realizes that.

I hate happy songs too. I wish my friends would stop trying to get me to listen to happy music. I mean, what’s the point?
Jillian 

Well, 13-going-on-14 Jillian, one day this song called “Uptown Funk” is going to come out and you’re going to think differently. Also, cut the bullshit. You know you’ve cried your way through every movie you’ve ever seen.

Dear Diary,
Haven’t written in awhile. Nothing to write really. I’ve been depressed because my PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN fanfiction only received 3 reviews. Maybe I’m not cut out to be a writer.  

 My next entry might be more exciting. Be prepared!

 With love from my many hearts,
Jillian
PS: VANITY FAIR was virtually the WORST movie I’ve ever seen. 

I wasn’t a complete idiot. Vanity Fair did suck.

Here is the next entry—the exciting one I promised.

Dear Diary,
Nothing has happened in the last month. School is cool and drama club is going to start soon. I hope I get a part! 

 I’ve come to the realization that I don’t need a boy to make me happy (Well, obviously, Jillian. You’re anti-love!). I want to be a free person. Independent. I can think of lots of guys who are cute and stuff and all I’ve really wanted out of life is for someone to love me in that special way (What?). But then the tears come to pass. What am I to do? AND I have a bio test tomorrow. School is evil. 

With love from a confused heart,
Jillian
PS: LOVE SUCKS! 

I am woman.

Age 19, when I had feelings. 

 I’m so very tired of wondering. 

 I am so very tired of having my thoughts pounding on the sides of my skull, waiting to be released from their shell. 

 Some wish to flee through my lips, but they may not, for I might appear weak.

 Some wish to seep into my heart, but they may not, for then I’d be doomed to be weak. 

 I lay down and press to keep them in, but I am only so powerful. 

 If there is one thing I have learned from love, it’s that your soul has no bounds, you mind has no limits, and your heart never knows what it’s capable of. 

 And fear. Fear comes in all shapes, sizes, and sounds, including relentless pounding in your head—the pounding telling me that I’m about to lose. That I need to let go.

 At least I have control over the letting go. 

 I am so very afraid of falling in love. I am so very afraid of letting someone know—of letting him know. I’m so afraid of the future, not because of career uncertainty, but because I may never see him again. Because even if I weren’t afraid of falling, I never had the chance to.

And knowing that I could have fallen will bring less sleep than simply having done so.

 Yeesh, no wonder I was so tired all the time.

Dare I write it down? Dare I make it real? Dare I open up what I fight to keep closed?

 I dare. Because it is my life. Because I am mortal. Because I have a story.

 The problem with you is that I know what you are. My mind repeats it, my mouth repeats it. I am totally and completely enveloped in the truth of you. But I don’t like it. Don’t want it. 

 So my heart fantasizes. It paints a picture of thoughts and feelings that go unsaid. It whispers not truth, but possibility. Possibility is where heartache is born. My feelings were conceived out of wedlock, a fraternal twin of heartache, borne of truth and possibility.

 The possibility is what I’ve fallen in love with. The truth is what I accept.

 The worse thing is the truth of you is better than the truth of me. In many ways, you’ve lied less.

 Me? I’m whoever you want me to be.

 And we? We are nothing.

I really wish I could remember who this was about…

Ah, youth. Maybe it is best to leave it behind.

When Awkward Met Awkward

A long, long time ago (July 12, 2015), at a writers conference far, far away (Long Island, where I live), one girl (me) would defy the odds and not totally screw up a first date.

The first time I saw my boyfriend, I thought he was hitting on the girl next to me. I found myself mildly jealous, and reacted normally by going back to my room and googling him.

The second time I saw my boyfriend, I was helping myself to approximately four tacos and was heading over to the dessert table. I picked up a cookie and turned around to see his face, giving me a small smile. I reacted normally by holding my cookie up, aggressively proclaiming, “You gotta have a cookie!” And ran away as fast as I could.

The third time I saw my boyfriend, I was reading outside and saw him talking to someone inside a nearby building. I reacted normally and decided I would take the (very) long way back to my room, in the hopes that maybe I would get a bit of his attention, despite the lack of cookie in my hands. I went inside the building and (as casually as I could manage) walked by him. It was pretty anti-climactic. I exited convinced that he hadn’t seen me and headed toward my room, thinking the evening ahead of me would be filled with sales reports and a few episodes of Bob’s Burgers.

Imagine my surprise when, about ¾ of the way through my journey, I heard a panting noise and turned around to see him, out of breath, clutching his knees, and in the most gentle, sincere way, he said, “I followed you.”

So the first thing I learned about him was that he has the lightest footsteps in the entire universe and the first thing he learned about me is that I’m a really fast walker. I still constantly look around when we are walking together to make sure he’s still there.

We talked for an hour after that, just standing outside on the sidewalk. It was the most effortless conversation I’ve ever had. I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t trying to be aloof or flirtatious or appealing. I wasn’t anything. I was just having a blast. We had inside jokes within minutes. We went to the beach and talked until nearly 2am. We made out in his car as Gypsy punk music played in the background. It was magical.

And even though a lot of crap has happened over the past couple of years (theses and job searches and career changes and health scares), I can say it has been magical ever since.

They say opposites attract. Maybe that’s true for some. I kind of think it’s a cliché used to get people to go see Rom Coms. All I can really say is that, after a string of romances one might refer to as a comedy of errors, it’s been wholly serene to be with someone who understands me. I don’t have to worry about the weird things I do or say; I don’t have to be self-conscious (of course, I will be, but that’s beside the point). We can say things to each other like, “Do you ever worry that gravity is just going to stop working?” And the other will confirm that is a perfectly reasonable thing to worry about.

I’m not perfect. Neither is he. We get stressed out and have bad days. But we have a contract that we will always be nice to each other, no matter what. After the experiences I’ve had, his strict adherence to this agreement still shocks me, and I often find myself saying, “You’re so nice to me.” And he always responds, “Of course.”

Even though I just poo-pooed the “opposites attract” cliché, I will say this to you, awkward-teers, if you’re struggling with this portion of the vast, deep, rich life you’re leading: love is out there, you deserve it (every bit of it), and it will probably happen when you least expect it. I also poo-pooed these clichés for a long time, but came around to realizing you can’t deny the facts. If an awkward, self-loathing curmudgeon like me can reel in a keeper with lines like, “You gotta have a cookie,” anything is possible.

And to you, Marc, happy anniversary. You’re the best ram gagger this side of Nevada and there is no one in this universe I’d rather be weird or worried about gravity with.

As Alain de Botton says in The Course of Love, “We don’t need to be constantly reasonable in order to have good relationships; all we need to have mastered is the occasional capacity to acknowledge with good grace that we may, in one or two areas, be somewhat insane.”

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J. Awkward Prufrock and the Journey to Hogwarts

Harry Potter turned 20 this week! My how time flies. I’ll admit sometimes, even to this day, after school lets out for the summer, I find myself confused about why I still have to get up early and where my class schedule is.

Summer always fills me with that tremendous Harry Potter feeling, you know? That feeling of total wonder and excitement. I always make sure to re-read at least one of the books every summer, starting on July 31st: the date I spent every year, from ages 11-17, staring with unblinking alertness at the sky, waiting for my Hogwarts letter to come.

I was skeptical of Harry Potter at first. Even at age 7, I always found myself distrusting the majority. But I picked up the first book when I was around 10 or so, and after that, I totally understood the hype. Like millions of other kids, those books were my childhood.

However, there is one thing about the Harry Potter books that I simply cannot get behind. And that is the house system.

So, when students get to Hogwarts at age 11, they are sorted into four “houses” based on core personality traits.

To review:
You might belong in Gryffindor, where dwell the brave at heart,
their daring nerve and chivalry set Gryffindor apart.

You might belong in Hufflepuff, where they are just and loyal,
those patient Hufflepuffs are true and unafraid of toil.

Or yet in wise, old Ravenclaw, if you’ve a ready mind,
where those of wit and learning will always find their kind.

Or perhaps in Slytherin, you’ll make your real friends.
Those cunning folks use any means to achieve their ends.

(Yes, I did type that from memory. And later today, I’ll have no idea where I put my car keys.)

You take classes with your house, you dorm with your house, you eat meals with your house, you sit with them at Quidditch games. Your house is your family. And you are pitted against other houses with a points system that, granted, promotes good study habits and behavior, but also promotes rivalry against those who are unlike you.

The history of this is supposedly the four Hogwarts founders couldn’t decide which types of students they would admit, so they decided they would take them all. But while they were there, they would ensure students would stick to their own kind.

How irresponsible!

So these students are supposed to spend some of their most formative years only hanging out with people who are like them? That seems like a really good way to stunt their brain growth. They say there wasn’t a witch or wizard who went bad who wasn’t in Slytherin. Gee! I wonder why! That’s never happened when you’ve put a bunch of capitalists in one room. With sorting comes judgment, marginalizing, fascism. Maybe that’s why Voldemort went bad. Because he never had to talk to a Hufflepuff.

Also, who’s to say a Gryffindor at age 11 is still going to be a Gryffindor at age 17? When I first took the Pottermore test at age 21, I was sorted into Gryffindor. I took it again about a year ago when I made a new account, and I was sorted into Hufflepuff. But I’m fundamentally a bookish introvert. Does that make me a Ravenclaw? I identify with all the houses. Every time someone has asked me about my Hogwarts house, I legitimately do not know the answer. Which can make me feel even more out of place than I already feel.

And I know, I know: people are always going to have their differences. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were hardly the same on many levels. And the hat takes your choice into account and yada yada. A recent Atlantic article just discussed a study being done about how people were more likely to get Pottermore-sorted into the house they wanted to be in. But is that self-awareness, self-aspiration, or a testament to the malleability of the quiz? Quizzes are easily manipulated. The hat, seemingly, not so much.

Plus, what if you get into your house and it’s awful and you don’t get along with your housemates? Are you allowed to transfer houses the way you’d be allowed to transfer roommates at a university?  How are you supposed to bond with a whole group of people based solely on the fact that you’re “brave”? It doesn’t even seem like you’d be able to transfer schools without running into the same issue, as Ilvermorny, for example, uses the same system. Though that could be your standard U.S./British thing.

Maybe it’s best I didn’t go to Hogwarts. This is a lot of social pressure. Imagine those poor wizard kids losing sleep over whether or not they will make it into their family house, forcing them to adopt unnecessary personality traits. Or maybe, with a family like the Weasleys, the hat just throws them into Gryffindor for the sake of not having to think about it too hard. What are the implications of that? What does it do to the system?

J.K. Rowling, I adore you. You are my queen. You gave me the most precious gift I’ve ever been given, and I truly believe my love for Harry Potter has helped define me as a fierce proponent of storytelling. But this system is potentially hazardous to the youth of this fictional wizarding world. You can take that feedback all the way to the bank!

J. Awkward Prufrock’s Next Adventure

Well, after a few weeks of apartment hunting, work retreats, and health nonsense, I’m back, baby!

Whether or not I will be able to post more frequently in the future remains to be seen. I do have other writing projects sitting on my desktop. I would ultimately have time to do both if I didn’t keep looking at Reddit theories on who killed Sister Cathy. But if I’m being honest with myself…

There are A LOT of changes happening in my life right now. Big ones. My boyfriend and I are moving to Philadelphia in a few weeks. I’ll be starting my MSEd program in Higher Education Administration at the University of Pennsylvania shortly thereafter. With the exception of my brief stint in New York City, I’ve been living a comfortable suburban existence mooching off of my parents since I graduated college in 2012. This is all fairly new to me. And scary. Change is weird.

Bear with me as I write all of this out. Making all of these decisions has been hard work and I need to put a timeline and logical flow to my thought process.

I always knew I wanted to pursue a master’s degree, and I’ve virtually spent the past five years trying to decide what the heck to get a master’s in. I even had a deposit down for an MFA program four years ago. Then I got into a bad car accident and decided the world was too much for me and I was just going to drink wine on my parents’ deck forever.

I took some graduate courses after that, did some more rounds of applications for different programs (thanks to the theatre professor who wrote me a recommendation every single time!). It was a very slow process. Finally, about a year ago, I decided I just had to pick something. All the time I’d had on my parents’ deck (coupled with a lot of therapy) allowed me to conclude that your career is just one part of you. What you do for money and who you are as a whole and complex human being simply do not equate. The American Dream is kind of warped in that way, since it preaches that they are, in fact, the same thing. What a stressful way of thinking.

The funny thing is, when I was 17 and all throughout my undergraduate education, I felt like I had to defend why I was majoring in theatre. Ever since I graduated and have dabbled in a few different career paths, I feel like I have to defend why I didn’t (and won’t) pursue theatre. People constantly ask me why I’m not acting (though I’ve never seen anyone ask a history major, “Why aren’t you historying?”). What can I say? I fell out of love with it. If someone offered me a job acting 9-5, Monday-Friday, with a decent salary and full benefits, would I do it? Maybe. I don’t know. Probably not. If someone offered me a job writing 9-5, Monday-Friday, yes, absolutely, without question. But I can write any time, in the comfort of my own home, without a crowd of people watching my every move. And in the meantime, I will just continue pledging my loyalty to the arts and dedicating my life to sealing its place as a necessary piece of community, culture, and therapy. I don’t want to act. I want to wake people up.

An MSEd is just a step toward keeping my promise to the arts. And after that, who knows? Maybe a PhD or an MFA. I really really like school.

I’ll admit, moving to a city I barely know is rather daunting. When I first went to college, in a small town called Center Valley, PA, was the first time I understood the true definition of, “New Yorker.” Philly is, of course, a major city and I’m not expecting nearly as much of a culture shock. And if New York didn’t want people to leave home, it would lower its taxes. But it’s new and it’s different and I’ve never been that savvy at urban living. I’m bad at finding “scenes.” Unless that scene is panning in on me, my antagonist, sitting in a dark room, because time has gone by since I started sitting in silence, and I don’t feel like getting up and putting on the lights.

Moving in with my boyfriend, in contrast, is one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made. On top of his many endearing qualities, he rubs my feet without my having to ask, so he’s pretty much a necessity.

Frankly, I’m most terrified of learning how to cook. And keeping neighborhood ne’er-do-wells at bay. Don’t mess with me! I will cry!

And what can I say? Even though all of these changes have and will continue to stress me out, even though I spend hours on end questioning everything I’ve ever known about myself and living my life, even though I have no idea what the fuck I’m doing…I’m really freaking excited.

My Top 3 Most Awkward First Date Moments

I’m a bit of a perfectionist.

Dating was important to me from a fairly young age, because I thought that being in love would fix all of my problems, from my glaring emotional insecurities to why pants never fit me right. So when the time came around for me to date, I wanted to do it correctly.

The problem was that I was growing up during the dawn of the internet and a golden age of romantic comedies, and while young me hoped this would provide answers, it only created a crowded and ambiguous thought bubble full of questions. Questions that I still have to this very day.

And so, here we are.

1.


From my pre-teen years onward, I always thought it was kind of weird that men were expected to pay for everything on dates, based on what I had observed and read. I understood where the idea came from, but now that we were living in a time in which women earned their own money and forged their own independent paths, it didn’t make sense to me. I also feel horribly uncomfortable whenever anyone does anything for me. If I ever broke my leg, I would still limp my way to the kitchen for a glass of water to avoid inconveniencing anyone.

Of course as an uptight, angry teen, I thought the idea of a woman paying was highly progressive and that my cause would contribute to the betterment of humanity. To the point that I was pretty militant about it. Any guy who offered to pay got a hard no (it, of course, never occurred to me that the money I spent usually came from my father’s wallet since I had no pennies to speak of at the time).

When I was about 19, I was talking to an ex-boyfriend and he casually mentioned that while he supported my viewpoint, if someone wants to treat you, sometimes it’s polite to just let them treat you. So when another guy pulled up to my house for our first date, saying he was going to treat me to miniature golf, I decided I was going to try and be treated. What could be so bad about a treat?

When we arrived at the mini golf course, I started to panic. The idea of letting him pay made me feel so…dependent, powerless, weak. I was coming around to understanding that’s not always how the treat-er sees it, but the helplessness that started to take over my body was uncomfortable and making me feel sick. So when he was about to walk over to pay for our mini golf outing, I knew it was going to happen.

But that didn’t mean I had to see it happen.

“I…uh….” I stammered.

“You okay?”

“Yeah, all good, I just uh…” Think, Jillian, think! What is a good excuse? His beautiful face is staring, waiting.

“I’m just…gonna stand over here.” Yes, that makes sense.

“What?”

“I’m just gonna stand over here for a minute.”

“Do you need me to…stay with you?”

“No! No…that’s alright. You go over there. I’m just gonna stay here.”

He raised one eyebrow at me, but he did listen. And he did date me for a little while after this. Bless him.

I then proceeded to hide behind the bathroom building and let the transaction happen at a distance.

It occurs to me all these years later that I could have just said I had to go to the bathroom. That’s probably a more normal thing to do, right? Oh, well.

2.


Because I, like many, was a walking bucket of contradictions (still am, just different contradictions), even though I felt I was pursuing a great feminist plight financially, I also still really wanted boys to like me. This combined with a total lack of social and self-awareness at the time really made some weird science happen.

I used to be a lot more preoccupied with physical appearance than I am now. I think being healthy and feeling your best is important, but back in my teenage years, my warped brain was downright obsessed with keeping my weight low and making sure nobody knew that I ate.

Which proved tough. Because I can eat, friends. Like, really eat. I have no sense of fullness. Only a sense of sickness and self-loathing.

But I thought that showing off this talent would be unattractive to the opposite sex. This started to be a sort of problem when I entered the “getting asked to dinner” phase.

Once for a first date, a guy took me to a nice pub with a small menu, mostly consisting of burgers, wings, and other messy foods that I could chew loudly and get all over myself as I licked the plate clean. Also, he had already said he insisted on paying, and if I was going to allow that, you could bet your arse I was going to get something real cheap. I perused the menu for something that would make me seem dainty and low-maintenance (even though I am neither). I settled on a stuffed mushroom appetizer, knowing how impressed he’d be by my teensy appetite.

“Are you sure that’s what you want for your meal?” The waiter asked. “It’s kind of small.”

“Oh, yes, that sounds perfect,” I responded as my stomach growled at me.

“You girls always eat like birds,” my date said through a small smile (see! It wasn’t just me! We all had them fooled).

Turns out “kind of small” meant one mushroom, stuffed with breadcrumbs and cheese, in the middle of a white plate.

Now I didn’t want to eat too quickly and appear gluttonous or make him feel like he had to eat his actual, normal meal quickly, so I decided to cut the mushroom into crumb-size pieces, fit for the delicate birdie-ness I was emanating, and ate them at a very slow, calculated pace. I think I actually finished after he did.

Then I went home and made myself nachos and he never called me again.

3.


This story, while awkward, is also about effective techniques one can adopt in the face of douchery. It is about survival.

I went on a first date and it was going well. Pretty low-pressure stuff: fruit smoothies, a walk around town. He seemed nice.

Of course it turned out, for this man, a date that’s going well means he’s totes gonna get laid after.

So, as we pulled into my driveway, I leaned in to give him a tame kiss on the lips, and he took my face in his hands and forced my mouth open with his tongue. I pulled myself away because, ew, gross.

“What are you doing?”

“You, hopefully,” he responded with a smugness so potent, I wanted to throw acid on it.

He started leaning in again. His face was mere centimeters from mine.

“I’M OVULATING!”

“What?”

Then I jumped out of the car and ran.