Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Dating and Parenting Are Not Mutually Exclusive

For the parents who love to use their children as a way to protect themselves from the "danger" of a relationship: quit it.  You’re only hurting yourself and preventing your children from having the opportunity to learn from another loving person.  I was raised by a single mom after my dad passed when I was little.  While I respect that my mother was able to handle it all on her own, she also missed the opportunity to be loved by a man and denied me the chance to have another father figure in my life.
“No one will want to date someone with (so many) kids.”
One, two or ten children, parents need love just as much as anyone else.  A friend of mine married a man with six children when she had none herself.  She delights in being a stepmother to his children, and finds fulfillment that she wouldn’t have with a non-parent.  Sure, blended families have their unique challenges, but that doesn’t mean that everyone isn’t better off for being together. My friend’s marriage just goes to show that just because you have children, even if you have lots of children, it doesn’t eliminate the opportunity for you to find true love.  If her husband had believed that, she never would have met him and found the happiness that they share.
“I’m worried my partner will try to raise my children for me.”
This might seem like a wise parenting decision, but it’s more an excuse not to put yourself at risk, rather than protecting your children.  Obviously, if you find yourself with a partner who wants to weigh in on your parenting, you should listen but remain in control of your decisions.  Another person’s input may actually be a good thing, especially if they’re coming from a place of love.  You hold the power to veto anything you don’t agree with, and set boundaries that your partner needs to respect. 
“I don’t want my children to be forced to share my attention with another person.”

This is a sticky one because while your children should be at the top of your priority list, they should also learn that you are human, and deserve to have a loving partner.  This excuse would never even come into play if you were in a nuclear family scenario.  Mommy and Daddy aren’t doing anything wrong by loving each other when baby comes along.  More importantly, no good comes from children who never know adversity of any kind, and frankly, if sharing your attention with another person is their greatest challenge, they’re doing great.  A balance between togetherness time with the children and alone-time needs to be a priority, so that the kids feel loved and nurtured, but so does your relationship with your partner.
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Thursday, August 27, 2015

3 Reasons You're Still Single

Here's few more reasons you've probably been telling yourself for why you're still single when you don't want to be.  
“I’m too shy to meet new people.”  
At one point, every person you know was someone new in your life.  Some relationships are easier to start than others (family members, for example) but you had to begin somewhere with all of your friends, co-workers and neighbors.  Remember when you were a kid and you saw another child playing on the slide and you’d just say “Hi! Want to be friends?” without a second thought? It was that easy then, and it still is!
Maybe that wasn’t your way of making friends as a kid, maybe you were the child who’d rather just sit on the swings alone, for fear of being made to feel inadequate by the other kids.  If that was the case, how’d that work out for you? You probably spent a lot of time feeling lonely, wishing you had a friend.  Now that you’re an adult, I’m sure it’s rather obvious that waiting for everyone else to come to you sure doesn’t work in the real world.  If you have ever had to go on a job interview, you know that staying silent simply won’t get you the job offer.  The same is true when it comes to dating.  I know it can be hard to put yourself out there when you’re really shy, but I assure you, it is the only way to make any change.  Overcoming your fears in the best way to conquer them and grow as an individual.  Shyness is a crutch that keeps you playing it safe and seldom winning, and you need to let go of your irrational fear that you will be chastised for sparking up a conversation with another person.  Moreover, you may not even realize that your shyness is evident to others, even when you say nothing.  Others can perceive your closed-off energy, and they probably mistake your shyness for snobbery or negativity.  While you’re worried that they don’t like you, you look like you don’t like them!
“I’ve been open to a relationship for years, but I’ve never met anyone.”
Well, that’s a flat-out lie.  No matter how much you think you’ve been passed over, there is no doubt you’ve met someone who would have been happy to date you if you hadn’t been closed off to the concept that someone else might find you attractive.  When you’re shy, low on self-confidence/self-worth or worried that you’ll be rejected, you appear to your potential "candidates" as being uninterested in dating, or worse, unimpressed by them in particular.  You unconsciously slammed the door shut on them before they ever had a chance to say hello.
“I get really nervous on dates and look like a psycho.”
Even the most confident among us still gets nervous.  No doubt every entertainer gets nervous before a show and being on stage in front of thousands is literally their job! Your date is nervous, too (even if they don’t show it).  I find nervousness to be a good thing and here’s why.  When you’re nervous, you’re stepping outside of your comfort zone.  You’re GROWING! You’re making progress.  Everything takes practice and apprehension is a normal first stage.  You will make it through that uncomfortable zone if you stick with it.  You have to keep trying to get better.  Also, if you're nervous, don't worry about letting your date see that.  The fact that you're nervous will likely alleviate some of their feelings too, and you can find common ground in the fact that dating is nerve-racking!

Try to accept that nerves are a part of the growing process and you CAN overcome them, even though they might seem insurmountable.  Many of our deep-seated fears are simply illusions we must see as such and nervousness is no exception.  Don't worry: you're not a psycho, you're normal.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Eating Candy in Fat Prison

I used to be morbidly obese. I was what I would call mega fat. I mean, crazy, ridiculous, can-barely-move fat. It was an awful life. My body was became incarceration for my soul, rather than a vehicle to express it. My body was a prison made from fat that I could not escape. Just getting out of the recliner was a heavy-ho effort that often made my back and knees creak painfully. I was well over one hundred pounds overweight by my twenty seventh birthday and had the energy level of a terminally ill senior citizen. My life was miserable.

I went on a business trip when I was at my heaviest and the seat belt barely fit my belly. I was horrified. I am a nervous flyer and MUST HAVE my seat belt on for sanity’s sake. I kept it painfully buckled over my enormous lap, cutting into my stomach rather deeply for an eight hour flight. It was a wake up call that took almost another year for me to finally see as such. My denial was so strong that I actually blamed the design of the plane rather than accept the idea that I was getting too big to fit in an airplane seat as a short, twenty-something woman. I was fucking delusional but had no idea that I was.

I wasn’t overweight until after I lost my father at age seven. Emotional overeating is certainly a common way to deal with grief and I used that coping mechanism to my best advantage. I sought comfort in pizza and Mike 'N Ike's with reckless abandon. 

My family members were also overweight and so there wasn’t a good example of how to eat nutritiously as much as how to eat for optimal flavor. Our portions were huge, sweets and carbs were plentiful and fresh produce was rare. Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve gained and lost more than 300 pounds because my upbringing and the way I viewed food. My fat battle has raged on for decades because of long-held beliefs that were working against me. Several times over, I’ve steadily climbed up in weight, lost a bunch and then gained it back, with interest. It was infuriating. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just stay slim. It looked 
easy for other people, but I was hiking uphill all the time.

I started dieting in elementary school but couldn’t stick to it until high school. After going through my sophomore and junior years of high school at over 200 pounds on my five-foot-one frame, I wanted to get into better shape for my senior year. I knew that I wanted to have a fun, active lifestyle and the only way to do that was to start exercising. I lost seventy pounds that summer – by starting to jog a mile every day and eating only chips and salsa (bizarre choice, but they’re my favorite!). Oh, and I smoked two packs of Marlboros and put down a six pack of Diet Coke on the daily. When you’re seventeen, you care about being skinny, not being healthy.

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Creating an Attractive Online Dating Profile

You've finally decided it's time to put your worries aside and start dating online. Great!  Now, you probably already know what you're looking for in a partner, but you're having trouble figuring out how to advertise yourself without feeling like an egocentric lunatic.
Set aside the idea that you're being vane or conceited by creating a profile, and realize that the only way someone will find you is through your profile.  The better your profile, the more likely you'll be to attract the person you're interested in.
What makes a great online dating profile?
First and foremost, honesty.  If you're overweight, admit it.  Don't use a photo of you 50 pounds lighter from ten years ago.   Don't describe yourself as athletic if you haven't been to the gym in over a year. Remember that it will only cause you to appear deceitful if you're dishonest about how you look or how old you are.  You want to be seen for your authentic self, who you really are inside and out, because that's where true love lies.
Sometimes it is hard to see ourselves objectively and we get bogged down about how someone else is going to perceive us.  Don't worry about that.  Think about what your interests are, the things you're passionate about and the experiences you've had.  If you love kayaking, watching movies and metal bands, say so! There's no wrong answer.  Love World of Warcraft? Sweet - maybe you'll meet someone who feels the same way! 
If you're having trouble typing it up in sentence form on your profile, start with a list.  I like to write it down by hand, because somehow, it makes it easier to let the ideas flow.  Create your list of interests and then turn that into sentences.  For example:
My Interests
Health & Wellness 
Art - reading, writing, painting, drawing
Fashion, Beauty & Interior Design
Video games - Mario & Zelda fanatic
My profile could say:
I'm an active woman who likes to stay fit and eat well.  I value my health and take good care of myself.  With my free time, I enjoy reading and writing, drawing and painting.  My other interests include fashion, beauty and interior design.  I also love my Wii U video games.  My favorites are MarioKart and Zelda!
Don't worry about being too fancy.  Just be real, and for crying out loud, use proper grammar.  Your potential date shouldn't have to decipher your bizarre emoji prose.  Before you know it, you'll have a short but sweet blurb about yourself.  Avoid saying too much on your profile.  Save something to be discovered by conversing!

The profile picture is crucial.  We might be superficial but the reality is that we all want someone who is attractive to us.  Your potential date can't tell if they're attracted to you unless you show them your shining face.  Here's some tips for choosing an appropriate and flattering photo.
You need to be the only subject of the photo.  Its too confusing if they are other people in your pictures.  This is where you're supposed to be reflecting YOU, not your bestie or your neighbor.
Your main picture ought to be one in which the viewer can easily see your eyes.  I like the mystique of a good old sunglasses selfie, but you shouldn't use that as your main photo.  Pick a photo that is flattering, but shows your face clearly.

A head shot works best for your main picture, as full-body shots usually make it more difficult to see your face.  Far perspective action shots are cool and a favorite among men.  They do have their place on your profile.  It's really awesome to see you riding your motorcycle/jet-ski/surfboard from a far, but it doesn't differentiate you from another rider/jet-skier/surfer.  Selecting a main picture of you sitting on your bike or board where your face can be easily seen would work much better for your main profile photo.  However, there's nothing wrong with including some photos of you doing things that you enjoy, and in fact, it shows how active and fun a person you are. Just be sure to show YOU, not your toys.

Liked this article? Stay tuned for more excerpts from Perpetually Single: How to Get Out of Your Own Way to Find Love, which launches Fall 2015. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Perpetually Single? Part Two

If you're single, you've probably uttered one of these reasons why you're not dating.  If so, you might want to reconsider your train of thought.  Check it out.
"Online dating is desperate."
This is a huge hot button for me because I found the love of my life online and two of my best friends found glorious, loving relationships through online dating as well.  Sure, there's a possibility that you might not find what you're looking for, but the same is true of the Target clearance shelf and you still investigate it nonetheless.  Sometimes, you have to wade through the weeds to the find the fruit.
Many are ready and willing to date but don't know how to go about meeting other singles.  Where might these people turn to find lots of other like-minded individuals?  The internet, of course!  This is where the vast majority of relationships start, even if some couples think its taboo to admit to having met online. Putting up a modest profile (with an honest but flattering photo) on most any site gives you the opportunity to start looking for a good match.  Online dating enables you to select someone based on qualifications like age, location, shared hobbies or career aspirations. You are choosing your ideal match from the catalog of candidates. Brilliant.
"Online dating is dangerous."
So is driving a car.  Get over it.  Being savvy about who you engage with comes with practice and experience.  Be smart about who you meet and how.  Always make sure someone else knows your plans and always meet in public.
"Online dating is expensive."
This is true of several of the more popular dating sites.  Let's first note that its not near as high as what you're spending on lattes in a month, but it is an unnecessary expense, nonetheless.  You don't have to use a pay site to find a good match, though paying for the service of a dating site seems to denote commitment to the concept of finding a real relationship for both parties.  However, that's a blanket assumption that idea doesn't take into account that a "relationship" is defined very differently by each individual, and what one calls a serious committed relationship another might say is just a casual fling.  Your commitment to finding a compatible match is what matters.  Ultimately, you'll know if someone is looking for the real thing and if they're not.
"Online daters are just looking for sex."
Yes. And so are you!  Sex is a huge part of the joy of a relationship, and there's nothing wrong with wanting to find that connection with another.  Thinking that it's taboo to want to find a sexual partner is just backward when it's literally an instinctual drive of our being.  Sure, there are plenty of players who are just looking for their next conquest.  It's your job to figure out which ones are just trolling. You'll know if someone is being authentic and serious about looking for a relationship or whether they're just looking for some hanky-panky.  The dead give away of the latter is when your communication includes the topic of sex really quickly.  Red flag.  A respectful, potential mate will not violate such a rigid boundary immediately.  You wouldn't meet a stranger and then start speaking completely candidly about sex as part of your first conversation.  The same is true of online dating.  
"No one will be interested in me."
The universe has a magnificent duality about it.  It always balances out the light and dark, the yen and yang.  Whatever you are, however you look, I assure you that there is someone out there searching for just that.  Let them find you and appreciate you as you are.  Don't worry about being rejected.  Instead, focus on what you can bring to a relationship.  Why would they want to spend their time with you? Because you're freakin' awesome. You are already a work of art as is, so showcase it! (Watch for Creating an Attractive Online Dating Profile coming next week for more tips on how to show off your fabulous self online!)

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Perpetually Single? Read this.

I have several friends who continually struggle in the area of dating and relationships.  It's unfathomable how so many wonderful, loving people can't find or maintain romantic relationships.  Granted, we've all had our hearts broken, but some of my dearest friends seem to be completely imprisoned by their fear of being hurt.  Or, conversely, they jump into relationships that aren't right for them, just to avoid being single.  It seems like a viscous cycle of loneliness and shame I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.
Sure, these folks (not all of them women) have compelling reasons for why they make the choices they do, whether they're overtly aware of them or not.  Unfortunately, many are completely clueless about why they can't seem to find a good match.  I have been researching this topic recently, and I have a few theories about what's really happening.  I've put together a few reasons why many of us are having such a hard time finding a good mate.
For the Perpetually Single Bachelor/ette who's got a million reasons for their discontented lifestyle, I'm calling you out.  You're full of it.  Admitting it is the first step towards change.
Here are a few reasons why you're not in a relationship (also to be continued):
"I'm better off alone."
Many folks stay single for YEARS of their prime, all the while wishing they'd find their mate, though they may claim otherwise - c'mon, who doesn't want to be loved?  Humans are meant to connect with each other in all ways - mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically.  They're not single because that's what's best for them.  Affection and love is what is best for them, as with all of us.  A newborn who is not held will not thrive.  Everyone need hugs and cuddles just as much to be happy and healthy.  The cat/dog/kid you're snuggling is better off for it, and so are you.
"There's no one I'm interested in."
Really? Seven billion people on this planet and not one of them looks good enough to you?
You've shut yourself down.  Your perception has narrowed entirely.  You're not in the dating market, anymore.  You'll never sell your house if you keep the secret that it's for sale.   You'll never fill the position if you don't put out the Help Wanted ad.  You'll never get a customer if you don't flip the sign to OPEN.  So let it be known that you're available and interested in dating.  There is no shame in it.  Admitting that you're interested in finding love will lead to opening your perspective to see the potential mates that are literally all around you everyday of your life.  The cutie across the coffee shop was totally checking you out while you were focused on your phone, making yourself look too busy to be approached.  Damnit.
"I'm waiting to be pursued by someone who's interested in me."
Now, let's talk about our over-idealized and often totally unrealistic concept of how relationships start. For many of us ladies, romantic comedies have given us the idea that the girl that gets the boy is the one who's just doing her own thing, running her own life.  She's standoffish and aloof at first.  Though it seems to work like a charm in Hollywood, this coy behavior is a major turn-off and will keep you single.  The chase is meant to be fun.  If you want to be chased, you must GIVE CHASE.  You need to seem interested in playing the game, otherwise, there's no point.  Aloof behavior gives off the opposite impression, which is all too much discouragement for the timid potential suitor.  So, while you're hoping and waiting for someone to approach you, you're acting unapproachable and completely undermining yourself in the process.
"I won't chase a date."
Many are endlessly single because they simply lack the confidence to go after what they want. Though it seems like the enviable position to be the object of desire, taking on the role of the chaser can be just as rewarding.  Many women are put off by the concept of pursuing the person they're crushing on.  I can understand preferring the passive, but appealing, notion that if so-and-so is interested, they'll come to you.  However, if they don't know you exist, how is that going to happen?  Taking the initiative to introduce yourself will make a huge difference in the likelihood that one of your new acquaintances, which you have selected as attractive, will come forward to pursue you.  Hiding your identity and dating eligibility from others makes it impossible for potential mates to find you!  Though it might seem tough at first, once you get the hang of a casual introduction, you'll see that it's the actually the easiest part of the courtship process.  Mustering up a "hello, my name is..." is a hell of a lot easier than deciding where to go on a first date, and what to talk about for hours.  Start small.  Say hi.  You can do it!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Queen of Everything


Last weekend, my neighbor was having a garage sale.  She asked me to put out a few things I'd like to sell, which I decided was a great idea.  While I was setting up, we had some early customers.  I didn't pay much attention to them as I was focused on the task of presenting my things in an appealing way.
A woman of similar age to me, approached me and instantly knew my name.  "JoAnna?" She asked. Admittedly, I was surprised that she knew me, because at first, I didn't recognize her.  I am usually able to remember names, regardless of how long ago or how brief the interaction.  It's a "skill" left over from being a salesperson, where every person you meet could be your next client.
I took a closer look at her face and discovered I did know her after all.  "Katie*?" I asked, realizing that the woman in front of me was a high school classmate, and the daughter of a rather-disliked former employer.  Lovely.  
Katie had gained a lot of weight since I'd last seen her, and her long skirt and matronly shoes made her appear much older upon initial inspection, which explained why I didn't see who she was when I glanced in her direction.   My last impression of Katie was when I heard she had slept with my best friend's boyfriend in our early twenties.  In high school, she seemed to think that she was the Queen of Everything in her tight jeans.  We weren't friends, only ever acquaintances.  Also, I worked for her dad for 18 months after high school, and found out just what an abusive jerk he was.  But I figured, first impressions, our parents bad choices and rumors from 15 years ago shouldn't be held against us now that we're adults.  That's just juvenile.
I strive to be cordial and polite in all social situations, and this was especially true then, as she was holding a few of my things in her arms when she approached me.  I felt our interaction should be that of a buyer and a seller, and at most, former acquaintances because really, that's all we were.  Apparently, Katie thought otherwise.
My neighbor teased me for being a social butterfly who seems to know everyone, and we all shared a laugh.  I asked how Katie was doing, as is the customary thing to do, and boy, did she answer.
This poor gal has had quite a rough past ten years, as she told me, at length.  She spent the better part of half an hour telling me all about her rather-serious health issues, her dad's affair and her parents' subsequent divorce, her kids' struggles.  Good Grief! She has had quite a go of it.  
I shared a few updates, like "My daughter is ten, and my stepdaughter is fourteen.  We bought this house four years ago.  I got divorced from my daughter's father seven years ago and it was for the best because I am much happier with my current relationship of the past six years." Suddenly, I'm wondering if I'm the one acting like I'm the Queen of Everything.  Should I fuss about my ailing grandparents or my massive student debt, just to be on her level?
I didn't make comment to her appearance, but she mentioned that I looked great, which was kind of her.  I told her I am a committed exerciser, but struggle with my diet.  Katie complained about her inability to exercise because of her illness, but admitted she knows it would be beneficial.  The cycle of too tired to get fit is quite a hurdle, as well I know.  I was very heavy in my twenties.  Katie knew this about me, and was obviously impressed that I had changed to a much fitter physique.  This situation reminded me that I shouldn't be constantly scolding myself for gravitating toward a higher weight than I've previously attained.  I should be grateful I'm 30 pounds from ideal, and not 130 pounds from ideal anymore.  
I felt somewhat guilty because I suddenly realized that though I struggle in many ways, my life has apparently taken a very different arc than hers.  The gap between us was unusually wide.  I know we are all prone to complaining about out lives, but this interaction gave me a truly different perspective.  I am so grateful I am able to lead such a happy life.  I am also grateful to know that it is within my power to create my life the way I want it.  I wondered what made me different from Katie?
I don't have all the stars I'm reaching for yet, but I certainly haven't been circling the drain like some  of my peers.  Whether by our own choices or purely circumstance, shit happens.  I see clearly now that life is what you make of it.  I once found myself 130+ pounds overweight, in an unhealthy marriage, struggling in every regard of life, and still, crawled back out of that existence into a body with a resting heart rate of 50 beats per minute, a deep and constantly blossoming love, smart and funny kids, and a circle of dear friends and family who I adore.  My journey molded me into a strong and capable woman who makes the most of what she has.  I hope Katie finds a way to do the same.
Regardless of where I have been, I am truly grateful for the life I'm leading, and the chance to make today even better than yesterday.  If that makes me the Queen of Everything, so be it. 

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of others.