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.