10 Things I Learned About Being Single

I’ve been divorced for a few years now, so I think it’s time to offer up some advice to those of you who may find yourselves newly single, especially if it’s been a while.  First of all, congratulations!  Secondly, don’t panic.  I’m here for you.  You’re going to be fine.

10 Things I Learned  About Being Single

Make your space your own. You’re probably on a budget, but that’s ok.  If you want to put up a Blade Runner poster in your dining room, no one can stop you.  Yes, I really do have a Blade Runner poster in my dining room. And also the one with the UFO that says,” I want to believe.”  Buy the bright purple sheets and the dishes that don’t match if they make you happy.  You may have no one to welcome you home but your teddy bear, so give him a place of honor so he can greet you properly.

Men expect to pay on dates.  Last time I was dating was college, and everyone was poor, so dates usually involved splitting the check. Since that time, I graduated (several times), took time off to raise children, and currently make a good deal less than most men do. So I’m not going to complain about a man picking up the check.  If you really want to pay your way, be prepared to offend your date.  He will take it as a sign you do not want to pursue the relationship.  But you should make bad dates pay, too, so at least you get dinner.  You can always reject them through text later. There may be some regional variation here.  Please let us know if everyone goes dutch where you live.

It’s ok to do things by yourself.  If you’ve never been to a movie or a decent restaurant by yourself, it’s time to indulge.  It won’t be as awkward as you think it will be.  Everyone else will be minding their own business, and you won’t have to share the popcorn.

While you’re at it, take a trip by yourself.  Even if it’s just a mini vacation.  Take the opportunity to speak to strangers on motorcycles with frightening tattoos  and sleep in the very middle of the hotel’s King Size bed (or the biker’s bed; I won’t judge). Wear something slinky to the hotel bar and your pajamas to breakfast the next morning.

Men are not condom savvy. What is up with that, guys?  It would be nice if men took care of this little detail on their own so they got the brand and size they like, but don’t count on it.  Prepare to pack your own and to speak up and ask him to wear one. Practice in front of the mirror.  “Sheath it or shove it.”

Do you remember when you first left home and you got to eat oreos and cheese out of the can for dinner and no one would know?  You can still do that! Only now it’s better because you can also have tequila.

Go out on dates with men who don’t seem right for you.  Last time you chose for yourself, you sucked, didn’t you? So give the guy who is too young or too old or too short or drives a Gremlin a shot at showing you a good time.  Unless you want to stay home with Mr. Fluffernutter.  You can always stay home with Mr. Fluffernutter.

There are things you loved that you gave up  when you were partnered. This is the nature of compromise, but you don’t have to compromise anymore, so take some time to remember what those things were and reincorporate them into your life.  For me it was the color green, loud synthpop, and rotel.  You can (and should) put rotel in everything.  It even goes with oreos and cheez whiz. And tequila.

Meeting men is really hard.  You probably don’t want to hang out where single men hang out (I still don’t know where that is), so concentrate on making friends who you like and let them set you up.  Also, try online dating.  See A Year of Online Dating PinkDogDem Style. 

Parking is way better than when you were 16.  And seriously, what is the cop going to do if you get caught, call your Dad? He’s not going to ground you from Florida.

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Crime Against Humanity: Blood on Your Hands

In the movie Blade Runner (and also in the Philip K. Dick novel on which it was based), professional replicant hunter, Rick Deckard, administers a test called the Voight-Kampff.  The Voight-Kampff is a machine that measures minute changes in the pupil in response to various hypothetical situations. To fail this test is to be declared less than human, merely a replicant of a human.

This machine, it turns out, did actually exist at one time.  Only instead of determining if you were a replicant, it was designed (and not very well) to determine your sexual orientation.  It was called, I kid you not, the Fruit Machine, and was used during the McCarthy-era Lavender Scare.

Like a replicant, the fruit machine has been retired.  It is no longer an acceptable practice to strap people to chairs and show them sexually explicit pictures like in Clockwork Orange.  Maybe it is not surprising that over 90% of LGBTQ adults in a Pew Research study say society has become more accepting of them in the past decade and they anticipate it will continue to become more so.

Do not congratulate yourself.

In this same study, nearly 40% of respondents reported being rejected by a close friend or family member because of their sexual orientation.  These families are more likely to be Southern, and they’re more likely to be religious, and their children are more likely to commit suicide.

As many as 40% of LGBTQ youth have been reported to attempt suicide.  And the reported number is certainly low.  Let that sink in.  Four out of every 10 LGBTQ youth attempt to end their own lives.  So no, do not congratulate yourself.

Let’s be clear. The high suicide rate among LGBTQ teens is not caused by homosexuality.  The high suicide rate is caused by homophobia.   It is because our children have been harassed, physically threatened, taunted, and beaten.  It’s because they are kicked out of their homes and lose their jobs.  It’s because they face obstacles marrying their partners or adopting children.  And here in the South, it’s because this is all considered acceptable behavior in the Christian Church.

Not all Christians believe this of course.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu called homophobia a “crime against humanity.”

“We treat them” he said of gays and lesbians,   “as pariahs and push them outside our communities.  We make them doubt that they too are children of God—and this must be nearly the ultimate blasphemy.”

This is quite a contrast to those of you who consider homosexuality an abomination, considering you all claim to get your morals from the same God and the same book.  I know there are also some who try to take the middle ground, who are content to let God sort out the fags, who profess to hate the sin and love the sinner.  You would never lift a finger against a gay person and even refrain from the playground level slurs the LGBTQ community must endure every day. Then you sit in church and nod as your preacher condemns your neighbors, your friends, your children for how they were born.

That’s not good enough.  That’s not nearly good enough.

If you support a church that preaches hate, and you do not stand up in some way to object, there is blood on your hands. Period.  Every one of the more than 10,000 annual suicides by gay youth, they’re on you.  Because you have declared a human to be less than human.  I hope your God can forgive you because I will not.

If you are a young person dealing with the pressures of a non-conforming gender identity, it’s ok to ask for help.  Visit the Trevor Project or call 1-866-488-7386.

Sexual Assault-What’s your Number?

According to the Center for Disease Control, nearly one in five American women are victims of rape or attempted rape in their lifetimes.  One in five.  Does that shock you?  I’m guessing if you are a woman, it doesn’t.  I’m guessing if you are a woman who is one of the four, you consider yourself lucky because you know it could have been you. Men have told you so a hundred times in a hundred different ways.

Statistics for sexual assault, which include any unwanted touching of a sexual nature, are harder to come by, but if a woman told me this had never happened to her, I’d suspect she really didn’t know what sexual assault was or she had led a sheltered life indeed.

The truth is, I don’t think sexual assault is under-reported just because women are afraid to come forward or afraid the authorities will do nothing or afraid that no one will believe them. I think women don’t report because it’s such a part of our day to day existence that we just don’t bother.

I am going to share my personal story with you not because it is special.  I am going to share because it is not at all special.  Between the time I was 15 and 24, the age range when most sexual assaults take place, I was sexually assaulted eight times. The thing is I don’t know if this is a lot because this isn’t something I have really talked about with anyone, not even my girlfriends.  I just know it’s more than it should be.

I have a number.  And that number is eight.  Eight times a man used his physical strength against me to take something he wanted.

I’d love to be able to tell you that older women do not get assaulted, but this is of course not true.  That’s a different blog.  I will tell you however, that in my over-forty online dating experiences, which you can read about here, I have not had any problems. That said, being young and being a woman are the two primary risk factors for sexual assault.

Other than those factors, I don’t think I was especially a high risk.  The truth is, I was a bit of a homebody.  I never waited tables.  My personal style of dress is on the conservative side.  I went to parties, but I didn’t go to frat parties because that’s where girls got raped. I did not walk alone after dark or invite a lot of men over to my dorm.

The third biggest predictor, at least on college campuses, in alcohol.  Other predictors of sexual violence are being in a sorority and being attractive.  I was never in a sorority. I have no idea if I was attractive enough in my 20’s to increase my risk.  I’d say I was pretty average, but then again I was busty and an early bloomer.  I have seen no research that correlates bust size with risk of sexual assault. But you’ve got to wonder.

I was sober during each of those eight occasions, and so was my abuser to the best of my knowledge.  All eight transpired in public places with people around.  Only once did another person come to my defense. Two were on dates, which considering how seldom I dated when I was young, is a really crappy record.  Once was at school in front of the vending machine.  Once was at work.  And once was at a club.  The last three all took place the summer I lived in Spain in the middle of the day in the middle of the street. WTF Spain?  Get it together. I realize different cultures are different but I assume even Spanish men know better or they wouldn’t run off afterwards.

If eight seems like a lot (and unfortunately, for some of you it’s a drop in the bucket), it’s only because we don’t talk about it. I didn’t report any of those men.  It didn’t occur to me.  I might have been momentarily frightened, but everything was over quickly, and then I was just annoyed. That’s not ok.  It’s not ok that it happened; it’s not ok that they got away with it; and it’s not ok that I never talked about it.  I want us all to talk about it.  I want you to shout out your number, and if it is not zero, I want you to be pissed about it.  I want you to ask your girlfriends and your daughters and your wives ”what’s your number?”  I want you to listen to a hundred one minute stories of autonomy stolen, of boundaries breached, of trust violated.  Then I want you to get angry.  And I want you to ask, “What can I do?”