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.


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.


“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.


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.


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.



Then I jumped out of the car and ran.


Separate Checks Please: An Online Dating Revue

I am so pleased to present this guest post! Please enjoy this delightful excerpt from the forthcoming memoir, Separate Checks Please by the incomparable Davina Faust.

Remember when online dating was something to be embarrassed about?  Like, if anyone found out you had a profile, they’d give you that reassuring nod that screams, “I’m sorry you’re not capable of a real life connection.”  Now, it seems that every time I whine about singledom, a friend offers the same generic, “Have you tried *this dating app*?  This girl I know met her fiancé on it!!!”

Why, yes.  Yes, I have tried that app.  I’ve also tried the 14 others that you’re thinking of, too.

Here’s a little backstory before we get juicy.  I was raised in a small town where I grew up with all of my eligible bachelors.  Being the chubby girl in class, those guys either bullied me or friend zoned me early on.  I then went to an equally small college to study theatre. This means that 96% of the men in my everyday life were indeed homosexuals.  So, in 2013, I moved to Manhattan with dreams of changing my life.  Aside from my work endeavors, I was pretty stoked to be a young, single, new-fit-bodied woman with millions of men to pursue.  ONE of them had to be my other half, right?!  I’d meet him in a coffee shop, we’d talk for hours, we’d move in together within a year.

Or maybe I’d crawl out of my cave and just try online dating already.

After almost four years of being a Gotham girl, I have yet to step off of the bachelorette merry-go-round.  But, the good news is, I have spent some energy on virtually every dating app that you’ve considered.  So, if you find yourself spending another lonely (and probably tipsy) evening debating your Seamless-for-Dating options, I’m here for you, sister.

Here are the top dating apps and my personal experiences with them.


*duration used: on and off for one year*

Bumble: a place for men of higher caliber who have zero true desire to pursue you.  Seriously, everyone on this app works as a lawyer, banker, or doctor.  Regardless of their 401K, they will all treat you equally: they won’t respond.  At least on Tinder, we’re all pretty aware that most men are only looking for sex.  On Bumble, they’re all claiming to be seeking someone special… but really only have the available time for a hookup.  On the other hand, this app taught me the importance of being a standout icebreaker, which is really just a stroke to my writing ego.  Everyone claims to despise “Hey, what’s up?” messages.  In my own profile, I boldly promised, “Swipe right and you’ll get a haiku!”  I’ve had many swipe rights and I (a woman of my word) have offered many custom-written Japanese poems.  The only one I remember vividly was one about a hot athletic nerd guitarist because I knew it had to be THE BEST ONE I HAVE EVER WRITTEN.  But, even in flexing my creative peacock feathers, the match expired after 24 hours.  In fact, only two men in all of the NYC Metro area have appreciated their personalized haikus.  The rest were either confused, robots, or dead.  If you can’t appreciate my 5-7-5, then you don’t deserve my forever vows.

Coffee Meets Bagel

*duration used: less than 3 months*  

The “Candy Crush” of dating apps.  Seriously, why do I have to collect coffee beans in order to talk to someone?  I only went on one date from this app, in which he asked me, “So, how is this going?” about 30 minutes in.  If you have to ask how it’s going, it’s probably not going well.  I also can’t even think about this app without craving a f*cking bagel.  So for the sake of my carb intake & the time it takes to find someone worth spending “beans” on, I’ll pass.


*duration used: 3-6 months*

You know the old guy who is in every commercial, the creator of this site?  Well, what you don’t know is that he’s also the website developer.  He sat down at his Windows 95 desktop, created the platform once, and said, “This is great and shall never be altered!” as grandpas stubbornly do.  But seriously.  The website does not appear to have been updated since the “You’ve Got Mail!” era.  It’s hideous to my millennial palette and also very crappy in function.  Every time I’d log in to having “New messages!” it was just the same message that I’d had for a week that wouldn’t mark itself as “read.”  Every time a match came up & I was disinterested, that profile would somehow still pop up on my “suggested matches” for DAYS.  When I canceled my account, the representative pleaded, “Most people find their true love in 6 months!!” I bluntly responded, “Well, sir, that’s because it takes 6 months to actually receive new matches.”  Also a fair warning to my fellow urbanites:  if you live in Manhattan, your “true love” will live approximately 3 hours away in That Little Town off of Amtrak, NJ.  Not that there’s anything wrong with TLTooA, but I certainly don’t have time to haul ass there every week.

I will say I did appreciate how comprehensive the introductory questions were.  It made me feel like, “Whoa.  eHarmony really DOES try to understand who you are so you can find the perfect fit for you!”  But, not much later, the investment seemed like a total waste.  I could probably find an equally accurate personality quiz on Buzzfeed FO FREE.  Take my advice:  do not trust your money to a random old billionaire matchmaker.  Just have your Nana set you up with her friend Belinda’s grandson.  Maybe Bingo will be awkward for them if you guys don’t work out, but at least you’ll save $60 a month.

Gym People Meet

*duration used: less than 3 months*

As a member of the #fitfam, this app was the first one I have been excited over in a LONG time.  You mean, I can find someone who doesn’t think exercising on the first date is bizarre?!?  Sign me up!!!  I eagerly composed my profile, using photos of me clearly being active as I described my 50-lb weight loss and my current regimen.  I searched for matches within 20 miles. “There are no matches.”  Odd… I’ll try again later.  I kept attempting about once a day for a week.  My first match finally surfaced… and he was from Pittsburgh.  COME ON, BRO. Whether it be poor advertising efforts or lack of bachelors truly wanting to meet me at the gym, this app tanks.  Only about 4 men use this app, and most of them were scattered around the US.  Sigh.  Guess I’ll keep eating my cheat meals alone…..


*duration used: less than 3 months*

This app also had a lot of promise as it was kind of like network marketing for online dating.  It skims your Facebook friends’ mutual friends to see if anyone wants to be more than friends.  Great idea!  My parents met at a wedding, after all, so who’s to say my college RA doesn’t have a hot distant cousin living in my city?  Well, much like Bumble, I have yet to encounter anyone who responds.

You’re better off selling makeup and leggings to sixth degree friends than you are to get a date.


*duration used: 3 months*

Another attempt at a paid service as a means to “uplevel.”  I figured, maybe all of the guys I’m meeting suck because I’m not recognizing my own worth?  If a man is willing to drop a few dollars on a quality woman, then maybe I should advertise myself as a quality woman.

In the Match vs eHarmony wrestlemania, Match wins all of the rounds.  Great filters, easy-to-read profiles, and pretty accurate in only presenting you with people that you’d be interested in.  I will say, though, that a lot of guys are lazy in completing their profiles and Match is just really good at being their hypeman.  So if you’re a nonsmoker who doesn’t want to date a smoker, that may be the only thing you have in common with this NEW FANTASTIC SOON-TO-BE-YOUR HUSBAND MATCH!!

Also, this site is BOMBARDED with men who have done a 30 day free trial to no longer log in again.  At one point, I had between 6 and 10 unread sent messages collecting dust in my outbox.  Not because the dudes were uninterested, but because I’ll never know.  They hadn’t logged in for over 3 weeks.  There were maybe one or two nice guys, but I was discouraged by my otherwise shitty response rate.  Maybe my free apps are dumpster diving, but at least I’d actually meet people on them.

My other problem with Match is that, even though I’ve said sayonara, I still get emails from them even after unsubscribing.  And if you open the emails, Match claims to NOW have men who are 100% compatible to you.  How do you know that if I’m not even logged in, Match…….?

Plenty of Fish

*duration used: about 3-6 months*

This was my first attempt at online dating.  I saw an ad for it on MySpace.  LOL.

Notice how POF has now kind of died?  I mean, it’s still out there and existing, but compared to the competition, POF went into retirement along with the rapper Ja Rule.  I’m sure as I’m typing this, my algorithms are stalking me and I’ll see a POF ad every 5 minutes.  Anyway…. this site was pretty bottom-of-the-barrel for me.  I went on a date with a guy who didn’t really speak at all.  Not exaggerating.  But, I must give credit to this endangered dating site.  One of my best friends has met her soulmate on this site, and he’s a great guy.  Some people hit jackpots, while others (ME) bid $1 thinking it’s the smart move.


*duration used: collectively, one year*

I’ll keep it simple, with (surprise) a haiku:

Reputation’s true.
Men want booty calls only.
No husbands on here.


*duration used: less than 3 days*

This was another one that was heavily advertised in the early internet days.  I tried it and immediately thought, “Wait, why am I trying this?”  I don’t really remember anything about it.  My takeaways were that I never exchanged messages with anyone, and that the font/colors of the platform reminded me of the 90s board game “Mall Madness.”

And, finally. The mother of them all (for me, at least)….


*duration used: on-and-off for 3 years*

I think this site, by far, is the most frustrating to me.  I’ve met several people who have found their forevers on this site.  I’ve even held substantial relationships with two or three guys myself (shocking, right?).  As the other apps are 87% terrible, OkCupid just knows how to offer that, “What if this time works?” appeal.

I will also compliment OKC for improving over time.  The filters have become more accurate so you can search for men of a certain age, distance, height, and “what you’re looking for” preference.  There are probably 8 million personality questions you can answer to find someone with a pretty accurate match.  There’s also a beautiful feature known as the “filtered inbox.”  Basically, anyone who you determine to be a waste of time gets thrown into the chum bucket.  Personally, I filtered out men 40+, from anywhere more than 2 hours away, who had a “match percentage” of less than 50%.

Because all of these weirdos were all in one place, sometimes I only left my dating profile active BECAUSE of the filtered inbox.  It’s beyond entertaining.
[Here’s a shameless plug for my Instagram account @separatechecksplease, where I screenshot my most ridiculous online dating message requests.]

I’ve mentioned the 2-3 guys that had enough longevity to be significant in my life, but not enough to turn FB official.  What I haven’t mentioned are the CRAZIES.  Guys who don’t wear deodorant, guys with sweaty ponytails, and guys who sell themselves as “lazy.”  I’ve been pursued by a guy who strongly believes that humans were created by aliens, another guy who sleeps on an earthing mat (Google it), and even a guy who yelled at me on the phone 10 minutes before our date was going to be happening.  And let’s not forget the reason why I’ve taken an indefinite leave of absence from dating altogether: the stalker.  Even though I’ve told him to “move the f*ck on” multiple times, there’s still a guy in Jersey City who likes to find me on different social media platforms and probably kisses my OKC user photo every night.  Luckily, I’m social media stealthy, so I have obtained enough information should a lawyer be my next step.  Given the amount of years I’ve wasted in searching online for “the one,” I guess it was time to have my personal well-being threatened.

And there you have it.  I’m just here in NYC, trying to make my love life as fabulous as Carrie Bradshaw’s like every other twentysomething woman I know.  But, for me, it’s without the uncomfortable heels, bitchy friends, and expensive wardrobe.  And since I actually have to hustle to survive here, I don’t have time to meet fabulous people just by knowing other fabulous people.

As I conclude this, once again getting bored with my life, I’m contemplating activating this OkCupid nonsense for the 384th time.

What if this time works?

Davina Faust is New York City based and, professionally speaking, “does what she wants.” While maintaining a job as a receptionist, she is currently building multiple streams of income as a creative entrepreneur. She pursues work in the voiceover industry, operating under the name Davina Speaks, and is currently finalizing the audiobook for the novel “Pure Fyre” by KristaLyn Vetovich. After maintaining a 50 lb weightloss for years, Davina recognized her potential to pay it forward as a health coach. She is passionate in empowering women who struggle with emotional eating and other stress-related disorders; guiding them to use healthy habits as a tool to live in their happiest skin. She is an AFAA-certified PiYo Live instructor, currently pursuing a certification with Precision Nutrition, and an active celebrant of dancing like a dork on “Feel Good Friday.” And, finally, she is diving into the memoir-writing world as the author of the upcoming “Separate Checks Please,” because her love life is too chaotic NOT to share.

Davina is incredibly active on social media for all of her pursuits.
Davina Speaks – IG: @davinaspeaks,,
Flab to Fierce – IG: @flabtofierce,,
Separate Checks Please – IG: @separatechecksplease, in progress!

An Open Letter to the Boy I Thought Had Ruined My Life

Recently, I found a letter I had written to a boy I dated about five years ago. He had just broken up with me, and I had never been more devastated. I walked around my college campus in zombie-like state, with puffy, red, wet eyes for days. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I thought I had lost the love of my life and there was no coming back from the pain. I think the letter may have served as a cathartic means to get all of the bad feelings out, but man, is it a doozie.

The thing is I was essentially thanking him for breaking my heart. Not in a self-empowered, I’m-better-off way, but, like, thanking him for his time. Thanking him for stooping so low as to spend three months in a relationship with me. Thanking him for “loving me.” I talk about enclosed gifts that I don’t remember buying, but I’m pretty sure I also never sent them. In the past, I’ve had a habit of buying gifts for the guys who dump me. I’m not sure what I’ve meant by them. Maybe it was a reward, maybe it was a, “See, look how great I can be! You sure are missing out.” No matter what, the gift had a whispered undertone of, “I have low self-esteem.”

They were usually pretty nice gifts, though. Don’t tell my boyfriend.

It’s kind of funny because I remember the breakup itself and the post-breakup madness pretty well. I even vaguely remember writing the letter. But I don’t really remember anything about him.

I remember his name, what he looked like, a couple of the things we did together. I have one vivid memory of him drunkenly screaming at a picture of Kel Mitchell and then throwing up everywhere. And the dick pics. Oh, the dick pics. He had a real affinity for those. A calling. A passion. I was too young and inexperienced at the time to question it, though I remember not being particularly fond of them. To me, they all had the personality of a student athlete who is having trouble balancing his schoolwork, love life, and his sport. And when he really can’t handle the pressure, he has to yell, “Believe in yourself!” into the mirror over and over through his tears.

I do not remember what we talked about or what we had in common or why I liked him so much. As I squeegee all my brain folds, I cannot, for the life of me, recall an attractive quality about this individual, the great thing that separated him from all of the other ones who had dumped me. The letter does not mention anything like that either. It’s a thank-you note mixed with elegant pleading, embalmed in nonsense that I’m sure I thought sounded poetic at the time.

He broke up with me over the phone, while I was sitting in my car. He’d actually made the official breakup statement while I was on my way to the car, but I waited until I was comfortably seated inside to scream every profanity I knew. (The conversation actually ended with him saying, “You’re making me feel really bad. I’m going to have to hang up.”)

Here are the various reasons he gave to me as to why he wanted to end things: 1) He wanted to be able to fraternize with the fairer sex to his heart’s content while he was on vacation. Enjoy the herpes, buddy. 2) I was neither “spunky” nor “athletic” enough for his liking. I’m not sure what he meant by spunky but I have a feeling in his mind, it was a girl who enjoys unsolicited pictures of male genitalia. As for the athletic thing, well, we played tennis together once, so obviously this was extremely important. Oddly enough, this is not the first time a suitor has been surprised by my lack of athleticism. I don’t understand it, and if you saw what a struggle it is for me to walk three steps in a straight line without falling, you wouldn’t understand either. 3) I had gained weight.

And so on.

Essentially, I was given a laundry list of all the things about me that were unattractive. I guess it’s nice that he put so much thought into it. You can see why I missed him so much.

Then the words, “I just don’t think you’re good enough for me,” came out.

And I think that’s what did it, in the midst of all this ridiculousness. This one phrase. This phrase that ate away at my psyche. The phrase that put me in therapy. Because this pet rock of a human being thought I didn’t deserve love. And I believed it. That much was clear. The letter said that, the gifts said that. And that was the way I felt, for a very long time.

So, it is rather exhilarating to look back at this letter and laugh so hard, think, “Oh God, I said that? I thought that?” To shake my head at how stupid I was five years ago, as I attempt to reflect on why I thought this was a problem worthy of a second thought.

And it is perhaps even more exhilarating to write this letter…

Dear Boy Who I Thought Ruined My Life,

Who are you, again?

Best, Jillian

Two Average American Singles Walk Into a Bar

I was going to post about something else today, but my brother’s girlfriend encouraged me to tell this story instead. I will post all of my best 80s rock band puns another time (just kidding…kind of).

The story is as such: I have a male friend who is having a hard time meeting a nice lady. He has tried nearly every online dating site, but has had no luck. He was ranting about this one day as we were walking back from the gym, so I started to suggest other places he could go to meet people. He’s a stand-up, so I said why not try an improv class? He said it’s too expensive. Okay, well, he likes to work out, how about the gym? He said girls don’t want to be hit on at the gym.

Which, of course, prompted me to say, “Where do you think girls want to get hit on?”

His response? “I don’t know…a bar?”

Dear men everywhere, if you ever find yourself with the ingenious idea that girls want to be hit on in bars, I would like for you to reach up and shatter that epiphanic light bulb before it gets too bright.

For many reasons, a bar might perhaps be the single worst place to try and meet anyone…because at an improv class, they’d just be having fun and would probably feel very open and full of good energy. At the gym, they might be on an endorphin high or flattered that someone took notice of their sweaty self. Women are not going into those places thinking, “Man, I really hope no one hits on me today.”

In fact, the only place they might walk into while thinking such a thought is a bar.

Whenever I go to a bar, it’s because I want to have some fun over a few drinks with friends and eat greasy food. Some people go to bars because they are looking for a one-night stand. If you don’t plan to go beyond the physical, it’s not necessarily a bad option. But a bar is not a place for meaningful connections to happen.

Here’s why:

  • The Setting—poor lighting and loud music. Combine that with the booze and you can think you went home with an author named Todd and then be woken up by the police in an apartment that isn’t his because it turns out he’s a robber named Tom. How do you know if you want to make it to a second date if you can’t even really see them or ask them how they feel about fish tacos? Fish taco feelings are easily the most imperative make-it-or-break-it topic when scouting suitors. You can find absolutely no common ground in a bar other than that you and your friends have nowhere else to go on a Saturday and you both kind of like beer.
  • Our Guards Are Up—If women go into the bar with the attitude that all of these douchebags are going to try to get them into bed, they are going to walk around with eagle eyes and iron shields. To the point where a guy could innocently bump into a girl and she’ll say, “Sorry, no. I’m just here with my friends.” One time, I went to a gay night at a bar with my friends and I ordered a glass of wine. A guy who was sitting near me asked what kind of wine I was drinking, and I automatically said, “Sorry, I have a boyfriend.” Then his boyfriend came up behind him and kissed him on the head and both just looked at me and laughed awkwardly. Even though I knew the entire time that, in all likelihood, he was just a friendly, gay man making conversation, I had to instinctually dagger him with a response. It’s The Bar Effect (trademark coming soon).
  • Alcohol—Some may argue that alcohol makes them feel more confident. That’s great for you. Alcohol does not have this effect on me. Sure, it makes me a little louder, a little more talkative, puts a little boogie in me, but alcohol does not do anything to improve my self-consciousness. Alcohol keeps me at my normal level of self-consciousness but makes me less able to filter it. And alcohol also makes that little voice in the back of your head that says, “Oh, yeah, do that. That will be soooooo funny,” a lot more prominent. So I do the thing and then everyone looks at me and says, “That was weird. Why did you do that?” And I very honestly reply, “I thought it would be funnyyyyyyyy,” but I’ve forgotten how to form consonants. And they go, “What?!” And then I start smelling my hair.

To all of you who think alcohol makes a good ice breaker, sit down and have a good, long think about how many people you’ve met who are more attractive when they’re drunk. Also, think about your desire to have your life-mate’s first impression of you be drunk you. I know that thought terrifies me. But I’m also sloppy and don’t get hit on much anywhere because I have mastered a facial expression combination between frightened and dismissive. Perhaps everything I’ve said so far should be disregarded.

Anyhow, for all of you looking for a mate out there, find someone who treats you like a Queen and will KISS you and bring you Guns ‘N Roses and let you call him Loverboy. And when he says, “I love you,” you can say, “U2.” (Well, there goes next week’s post.) Maybe you will find him in a bar, but remember that may muddle the advantage of common ground you can find elsewhere.

Also, I have this friend…

Romantic Comedies Ruin Lives

I work in book publishing, and if there is one thing I’ve learned from it, it’s that everyone has their preferred genres, and sometimes those genres are odd or oddly specific. Go check out some reviewers’ websites and see how many times you see something along the lines of, “I don’t accept westerns, unless it is a western romance with paranormal elements.”

And me? I freaking love romantic comedies. And character-driven police procedurals with an idiosyncratic lead sleuth, but that’s well beside the point, unless you have something cool to recommend or, I mean, ya know…Christmas is coming ;).

I love romantic comedies for many reasons. They’re cute, they’re funny, they’re mindless, and their predictability is refreshing and relaxing. The characters will more than likely end up together, with a nice, big ol’ sloppy kiss following some grand romantic gesture, and we let out a sigh and a smile and a tear as we down the last sip of wine. We start wishing our lives were like the movies. We think that’s what we want. We think that’s how you fall in love. We are conditioned to believe that anything less than a passionate speech in a crowded airport about how much we deserve such a love is “settling.”

It’s okay. Dare to dream. I’m guilty of it myself. Whoever you are, I guarantee you deserve the happiness that those two characters are feeling in that moment. The problem is that romantic comedies need to stop being praised as being true to life, because this is simply not so, and the fact that they are not true to life is a good thing.

If we look at most romantic comedies closely, we will see two emotionally stunted terrible communicators who have no common ground besides their very prominent flaws and who probably really shouldn’t be together.

Let’s draft our own, shall we? Pan in on our female lead. We will call her something quirky and exotic, like Nadia. Nadia is fun, creative, care-free, and a bit clumsy. She was on the fast-track to becoming a vet, but abruptly dropped out of school when her fiance dumped her for someone more “serious” and she couldn’t handle seeing him everyday. Now she works in a pet store in New York City. One sunny, yet chilly day, Nadia decides to go get a hot chocolate with extra whipped cream because she just lovesss whipped cream. As she exits the coffee shop, she cutely spreads whipped cream on her face to make a whipped cream mustache and is just so excited to sip her hot chocolate, when Rick comes trudging down the road. Rick wears suits and talks on a Bluetooth. He is a no-nonsense stodgy businessman with commitment issues. Rick is talking loudly on his phone and not paying attention and runs into Nadia, spilling her hot chocolate all over both of them. Rick is less than apologetic, more concerned about his suit than about her well-being, and is abundantly rude about her whipped cream mustache, and Nadia, being a fragile and sensitive creature, chides Rick for being a jerk. The two instantly hate each other. They are everything the other despises in a human being. Nadia storms off back to the pet shop.

When Nadia returns, she greets all of her puppy, kitty, and turtle friends individually. She goes to get her spare shirt out of her employee locker, still in a huff about her encounter with Rick. However, as she is sliding her new shirt on, it gets stuck on her engagement ring (she can’t bring herself to take it off). Nadia flops around, shouting for help with her bra exposed. Suddenly a pair of arms is around her and her shirt is safely on. She turns to see Rick and gasps in shock. She finds out Rick’s big company has bought out the pet store and intends to franchise it. He is her new boss.

Nadia and Rick have a rocky start, to say the least. Nadia is supposed to teach him the ropes of working in the pet store, but Rick is not cooperating. Then one day, their hands touch as they both go to feed the fish and they look at each other, giggle, and blush. The incident is observed by Nadia’s loud, wise-cracking, slightly overweight best friend, who pulls Nadia aside to say, “OMG you’re totally falling for Rick.” Nadia denies everything, but then looks at him longingly and a montage begins of them having cute banter, fish food fights, and prolonged gazes. Their love comes to a screeching halt, however, when they get into a screaming match over who has to feed the tarantula. Nadia quits on the spot and flees back to her apartment that is entirely too elaborate for someone who works in a pet store.

As Nadia cries to her mother on the phone, her doorbell rings. Much to her surprise, it’s Rick. He has a puppy in his hands and, as the puppy, begs Nadia to come back to the pet store. Nadia laughs the two of them start fiercely making out (Nadia forgot to hang up the phone and her mother is hilariously saying, “Hello? Nadia? Hello?” as her daughter engages in intense foreplay) and they fall into bed together. Afterward, Rick brushes a hand over her face and admits he is afraid of spiders, and he chokes up a little bit because he feels like it’s the first time he’s really opened up to someone. The two of them decide to try and make a relationship work even though Rick has never had a successful relationship in his life and Nadia still wears her old engagement ring.

They go on their first date and something ridiculous happens like Nadia accidentally eats spinach and spinach gives her terrible gas, and she manages to hide the fact from Rick for the whole night despite her stomach getting comically bigger. Another montage ensues of them sometimes fighting and sometimes kissing. On one good day when they haven’t fought yet (because it’s the morning), Nadia wakes up in Rick’s bed to find three spiders on the floor. She decides to collect the spiders in a water glass so that Rick doesn’t have to see them, but she trips as Rick walks into the room, and it looks like she is releasing spiders into his room. Rick asks her how she could do such a thing. She stammers in response, unable to form a coherent argument despite her very reasonable excuse for her actions. Rick admits he’s cheated on her twice, she admits she’s not over her ex. Rick makes Nadia leave. He flies off to China to fulfill his dream of becoming a silk painter. Maybe there’s a flashback of Rick’s alcoholic father telling him to become a businessman as he throws Rick’s silk in the trash.

Months go by. Nadia is back in vet school. She encounters her ex there and realizes he’s a terrible person (even though he’s kind of a lot like Rick if you really think about it). She throws the ring at him and goes off to a bar, where she meets Bill Murray. Bill asks why she is crying and she tells him the chronicles of Rick-ick. In his sage drunkenness, Bill convinces her to go find Rick in China. She hops on the next plane.

Meanwhile, in China, Rick’s silk-painting mentor, a wise, old Chinese man, realizes the root of Rick’s pain and why it is blocking his silk-painting capabilities. He tries to explain it to Rick in metaphors, but Rick doesn’t get it, so his mentor takes him by the shoulders and says something like, “Go get her,” and Rick hops on a plane to New York.

Insert a heartfelt scene on the phone when they realize they both flew across the world to find each other, and still ended up on opposite sides of the world (perhaps they should take a hint from this). Nadia flies back to New York and finds Rick in Central Park with a flash mob of puppies dancing to Shut Up and Dance. Rick professes his love for Nadia. They kiss, and we can only assume everything is okay from there.

Puppy Love. Coming soon to theatres.

Sounds a bit ridiculous, doesn’t it? In what world is this okay? But seriously, how many times have you seen this movie?!?! And how many times have you wished such a movie was your life?! I know, for me, it used to be countless times, because I spend my life wishing fiction were reality, and well, they were in love, right? That’s what we all want, right? To feel loved and accepted and to love and accept another, despite how terrible we are? I went out trying to force meet-cutes to happen, dating guys who I knew were wrong for me, because it made a great story.

But when you breakdown the story, what do Rick and Nadia have in common? Both run away from problems, both easily give up on dreams, both jump to conclusions and are unreasonable when confronted, one clings to her past and the other shies away from connection. Having these things, and only these things, as a relationship foundation is a recipe for disaster even though it makes good entertainment. And even though the climax is something grand and romantic, we’ve seen the exact same situation in the several montages that were provided us on a lesser scale: they fight and then they shake it off with hugs and kisses. They never change. They never accept. They bicker. It is completely unhealthy.

And still, we think that’s real love. I went out of my way to find guys who only understood the bad things about me, because that was all we had to go on, and it resulted in us just getting angry and calling each other out on our bullshit, and I would tell people about it, and they would always tell me it was an epic love story, which was exactly what I wanted to hear.

We rarely get to see what’s beyond that last kiss. Some movies have dared to be different like (500) Days of Summer or Annie Hall, where at the end, the girls realize these guys are not right for them and the guys realize the girls are horrible people and they really need to think about their taste in women. Hats off to them.

I think I want to make a movie where two people meet because one gets up the courage to say, “Hi,” and then we flash forward to a year later, where they’ve both put on a little weight and she’s given up on shaving her legs and they’re hanging out in their pajamas on a Saturday night. They eat spinach even though they both know it gives her gas. She steps on the spiders. They don’t necessarily say much, but they’re clearly very okay with who they are and who the other is. As my friend once very cleverly said, I don’t want Love, Actually. Give me Love, Anyway.

On second thought, that movie sounds pretty boring. Let’s stick with Puppy Love. Just needs Katherine Heigl, Patrick Dempsey, Melissa McCarthy, and a bunch of cute dogs, and we’re talking box office gold.


J. Awkward Prufrock’s Breakup Survival Guide

It is safe to assume that, at one point or another, you will get dumped. That is not a testament to your personality or how pretty your face is. That is statistics rearing its ugly head. There are only so many people in the world. You will only date or try to date so many of them. And with most of the people you date, there will be a breakup. And it probably won’t be fun. I feel like bad relationships and ugly breakups are such a frequent occurrence that I could walk up to any woman on the subway and say, “He was an asshole and you deserved better,” and she will start crying and nodding and thank me.
Breakups are hard regardless of whether or not you were the dumper or the dumped. Mostly because it means a change in your life will occur, and that is a difficult thing. Even if your relationship was bad, it is still what you were used to. This is precisely why I have personally been dumped more times than I have dumped on others (read that however you want to). I am too apathetic to bother making changes in my life. And like most people, I rarely stop to think about whether or not I’m actually happy. I’m too busy imagining unicorns fighting narwhals and what if that narwhal had a mustache? Or wondering if that guy’s backpack has a bomb in it and what would be my best exit strategy. This is what most people think about, right? RIGHT?!

I cannot begin to tell you how many times I’ve been dumped (though I do describe some of my more awkward rejections here), but I can tell you that they say it takes 10 years to become an expert at something, and I have spent the last ten years moping about boys. I know absolutely nothing about relationships, but I do know a thing or two about the sudden lack thereof. And even when you weren’t feeling good about it anymore, even when it was the best thing that could have happened to both of you, it…still…sucks.

So here I present to you my comprehensive, step-by-step guide to getting through a breakup. Please note this is not a female empowerment post. This isn’t telling you to buck up and be strong, sister. This is getting down to the bottom line: you’re upset. Stop the upset. You may say many of the steps are clichés. I have never claimed to be an original thinker, and also I think clichés exist to save space in our brain. Which is helpful to me, as now the unicorn is wearing a top hat.

Step 1: Cry

So, you’ve been dumped. Nixed. 86ed. Hurts, dunnit? Doesn’t matter how much you loved or didn’t love them. Doesn’t matter what their good or bad qualities were. Doesn’t matter if you got the, “It’s not you, it’s me,” speech or the, “Nah, it’s definitely you,” speech. It just hurts. It feels like someone took your heart and squeezed it like a cow utter. Or maybe like they kicked it around during an elaborate Mexican Hat Dance. When you find this to be the case, I highly recommend getting the crying out of the way immediately. Emotions are a lot like vomit. Holding it in won’t stop it from happening. It will just come out with a vengeance.

Remember to choose your cry carefully. Sure you can let out a little sniffle with elegant tears running down your cheeks like you’re watching Sarah McLachlan talk about the ASPCA, but is that really an effective use of your crying window? That’s like taking only one bite of pizza when you’re starving and then wrapping up the rest for later. What does it solve? And also what kind of sick, self-controlling monster are you that you can only take one bite of pizza when it is hot and cheesy and immediately available to you?

The most appropriate cry would most likely be the ugly blubber. The kind that makes your roommates wonder how you got a baby elephant in your room. The kind that feels like you are trapped under something heavy. The kind that makes your face so red and your hair so messy and your eyes so puffy that when you finally get a gander in the mirror, you wonder who brought the zombie to your room and what is he having an allergic reaction to. This cry will get you off the floor and safely into Step 2.

Step 2: Get Angry

If you’re an insomniac like me, chances are you didn’t sleep a wink the night of the breakup, and instead paced around your room, tapping your fingertips together, and plotting your revenge. Plotting revenge is great. Plotting revenge is important. Executing revenge is not for the faint of heart. Truly the best revenge you can get is to not give them the satisfaction of your revenge. Real revenge takes time and careful planning and acquiring implements of destruction. I highly doubt they’re worth it. If you must do something with your hands, however, I find there’s no harm in grabbing some felt, crafting a doll, and sticking some pins in it.

It is important to address that this is most likely the phase where you’re going to want to text them. You’re going to want to tell them off, let them know what they’re missing out on, maybe bargain with them a little. I implore you, do not. DO NOT! HEY, PUT THAT PHONE DOWN! PUT IT DOWN RIGHT NOW! I WILL SLAP THAT PHONE RIGHT OUT OF YOUR HAND! There is nothing less appealing than an endless strand of nonsensical text messages sent by a grumpy zombie at 3 in the morning. Chances are they do not want to hear from you.

I do recommend breaking something. Nothing valuable. Remember, the key is to get rid of the upset. This does not mean engage in regretful behavior. If anything, that will prolong the upset. Go into the kitchen, break an old plate or an ugly mug, sweep it up to feel like you’re accomplishing something, and then pour yourself a glass of wine.

 Step 3: Wallow in Self-Pity

This is my favorite step. Possibly because it is how I’d like to live my life most of the time, minus the self-pity. The clearest way to explain this is to break it down into sub-steps.

 3a: Choose Your Wallow Ensemble

I find the best wallow ensemble is a soft pair of sweatpants and a hoodie just baggy and stained enough that people might wonder if you’re a vagrant. Also, commando. Always commando. Both top and bottom.

3b: Choose a Venue to Show Off Your New Look

Supermarkets work well. Especially given step 3c. They’re highly public, which gives you many chances to scowl at people who give you a condoling look. While it’s never nice to be on the receiving end, there is something so oddly cathartic about being a dick for no reason.

3c: Eat Senselessly

Use your newfound not-giving-a-shit attitude to eat the things you always crave. Here is an example a solid Wallow Meal: a) appetizers: honey mustard and onion pretzels, potato chips, onion dip; b) main course: a steak burrito with extra sour cream, cheddar bacon fries, a bottle of wine; c) dessert: 4 scoops of different kinds of ice cream over a warm brownie with the following toppings—Oreos, sprinkles, peanut butter, hot fudge, Reese’s Pieces, M&Ms, heath bar, whipped cream. A suitable alternative is a roll of raw cookie dough. Heck, have both.

3d: Watch a Romantic Movie

Whilst you feast like a starving lion, put on a nice flick. Love stories are best. Note: not love stories like 500 Days of Summer about someone getting over someone. Watch a movie about two people who are passionately and hopelessly in love. For one, it will get the rest of the crying out. Also, it’s all part of the wallowing process to watch people obtain something you want and be pissed off that you don’t have it.

3e: Take a Long Walk

Go outside and get some fresh air and take note of the fact that the world is much bigger than you. And then go back inside and stop caring.

3f: Talk to Someone

Once you haven’t washed your hair for a few days and you’ve listened to Skinny Love enough times, it may be a good time to find a confidante. What kind of confidante is up to you: could be a great listener with a lot of sympathy or someone who is going to slap you real hard across the face and tell you to get your life back. Perhaps the best solution is somewhere in between.

Step 4: Become a Productive Human

 Turn your feelings into something you can use to your advantage. Write a book, learn to scuba dive, take a Improv class, turn what used to be Netflix and Chill time into Oh My God Do Something, You Useless Thing time. This will be short-lived. You will always go back to watching Scrubs in its entirety for a 8th time. But hey, maybe you’ll learn something.

 Step 5: Fuhget About It

 It takes time, and that’s all. A few months later, when you’re about to go on another date, the old Ex will cross your mind and you’ll think, “Oh yeah, that happened,” and then you’ll fix your hair in the mirror and not think about it again for an even longer while.

The Casualties of Staying Casual

Is there anyone out there who is good at keeping it casual? I’m not talking about one-night stands here. I’m talking about having someone consistently in your life whom you enjoy hanging out with, whom you care about, and with whom you occasionally engage in the sexy times. A “fuck buddy,” if you will: a person who is able to reap all the benefits of being your boyfriend/girlfriend without the actual label or “responsibilities” (the responsibilities usually having to do with the only getting to sleep with one person part). If you have an example of any time in history in which this kind of relationship didn’t end in a giant monsoon of hurt feelings and confusion, I want to hear from you, because I want to be able to understand it.

I’m a serial monogamist. I never feel a need to stray from the person I am with at that time. How do you keep your stories straight? How do you keep them all interested? How can you spend all your time with one person and not have feelings about their feelings? I’m a feelings machine. When I totaled my car two years ago, I cried for days because I thought it was so noble of the car to sacrifice itself for me. I get flushed with nostalgia whenever I check out of a hotel room. So to ask me to let you be in my life but to keep my feelings in check the entire time is a lot. However, because I am slightly masochistic, this has not stopped me from trying it out!

I was once entangled in a so-called casual affair for about a year. A year. And here we have the first complication of keeping it casual: how do you end something that didn’t start? That isn’t real? You can try to let it fizzle, but if you genuinely like the person and they’ve been in your life for a while, the fizzling becomes nearly impossible. Also we as humans are naturally attracted to routine. And so both of you get so used to your arrangement that you don’t realize at least one of you is miserable.

It starts off all well and good–pretty typically, actually. You make time for one another. Your heart still skips a beat and you can’t help but smile when you see you got a text. You feel yourselves lost in an expanding bubble of silly puppy love and it-just-doesn’t-get-any-better-than-thisitis. But then you get the 4th or 5th date and you start having questions. It looks like a relationship, it feels like a relationship, it smells like a relationship…but is it, though?

The thing is it’s going well. You’re happy. So why ruin it with the R word, with the talk, when things are fine just the way they are? Besides, how differently could he be feeling? You’ll get your answers eventually. Probably soon.

And then one day, a few dates later, when you walk into the bar to find him chatting up another girl, you get a pat on the head and a, “I just love how cool you are about this.”


One of the many problems here is that you are still slightly flattered by this comment. Like, “Yeah, that’s right. I can be cool. I’m a cool girl. I’m cool like dat. I’m not upset or hurt or angry or anything. Chill like dill, mofo.” The thing is now your bubble is popped. And so there is the first casualty of your casual relationship. Your bubble is popped and replaced by the bit of rage that’s starting to flow through you like mercury in a thermometer.

But you still continue in spite of your rage because there’s always that possibility, that glimmer of hope, that this particular guy, in a vast ocean of all the guys out there who would date you, will fall in love with you and have babies with you, because, to quote the most almighty quotable being, Albus Dumbledore, “Humans have a knack for choosing precisely the things that are worst for them.”

The guy I was with was incredible at the whole casual thing. Made an art form out of it, really: long gaps between messages, being non-committal about hanging out, keeping me very separate from the rest of his life. However, as I mentioned before, I am a serial monogamist, so perhaps the biggest problem was my inability to be casual back. How does one casually express that I just want to make you muffins and maybe cuddle a bit? So one day, I decided to change that. And don’t worry guys, I won’t suspend you in mystery: it was a terrible idea.

We decided we were going to do a local trivia night. A typical activity for us. I love a good, ol’-fashioned trivia night. Useless knowledge is my favorite (and perhaps only) kind of knowledge. However, why play with a team of just two when you can go up to four? Do you see where I’m going here? Do you see the disaster that is about to unfold?

While I can’t say that it happened purposely, we both kind of brought other dates.

Yup. The old your date brought another date awkward moment.

I can’t say I meant for the friend I brought to be a date per se. It’s just that I knew he was bringing a female friend of his and he was being so very laid-back about the whole thing, and I wanted to be the cool girl, and the cool girl probably has lots of good-looking male friends who she just chills with, the same way she just chills with her concubine. I can’t say I meant for it to turn into a blood bath. Truly at first, I was trying so very hard to be the cool girl. So naturally, as an awkward person trying to be cool, I was failing miserably, and in turn breeding more awkward. It was still civil enough…but the thing is about two rounds into trivia, she started sensually rubbing her foot on his leg… and she challenged me on the theme song to Murder, She Wrote.

I’m not normally the jealous type, and the truth is I had no right to be, in this situation. But we’d had several bottles of wine and you do not contradict drunk Jillian on classic TV trivia. You just don’t.

And that’s the problem with casual arrangements. Not only was I having feelings, they were feelings I wasn’t allowed to be having, which means they had spent the last couple of months fermenting inside me and getting ready to explode. It was one of the uglier nights of my life. I was slurring out insults and making drama, I was stumbling around and not making sense, she was calling me sloppy, he was calling me crazy, my “date” thought he’d help the situation by trying to hit on the other girl. It was the least and yet most myself I had felt the entire time we had been together. The good news we were on Long Island, so the whole debacle looked pretty normal to passersby.

So the lesson here is, if there is one, don’t bring a date to your date. You will end up drunk crying on your bedroom floor at 2am, texting your friends and asking them if you’ll ever be worthy. Of course you’re worthy, ya whackjob. Pull yourself together.

And I kept seeing him. Told you I’m a masochist.

There were times when I’d try to pull away, when I would try to end things, moments like when guys would ask me out or if I had a boyfriend and I never knew what to say. And he would say something sweet that would suck me right back in. Then there were times when he’d start to get attached, and he’d say it was over, only to call me again a week later. We both had our fair share of times when we thought it would be healthiest to stop, but we were inexorably drawn to one another. He’d tell me he really cared about me, but that he couldn’t be in a relationship. I’d say I understood. And I did. That didn’t make it the right thing for either one of us.

Then the day before he left for a month-long business trip, he told me he loved me. I told him I loved him, too. And that meant something to me. Those aren’t words I believe should be thrown around like a Frisbee. He said he’d talk to me when he got back. And I naively thought this was a game-changer. But I’d had no confirmation. Always get it in writing, ladies.

I guess it was when I saw the Facebook pictures of him kissing another girl was when I finally got my head on straight. I confronted him about it, very calmly. And he responded, very calmly, reminding me that we weren’t in a relationship, that he had told me repeatedly that he had never wanted anything serious, and he was right. And that’s when I felt my stomach fall out of my ass like a sea cucumber (that’s right, sea cucumbers can digest major organs! Told you I’m good for the fun facts). This moment was when I was finally able to sever the ties between my physical and emotional feelings for this man.

The whole shellacking turned me off to dating and men for a good amount of time after that. Until I realized it is just stupid to accept anything less thn what makes you feel happy and right in that time in your life. But I feel like crazy dating choices are a rite of passage for all of us…my quota is just, like, triple that of the average person.