Tuesday, March 18, 2014

All in Good Timing

... Florida? He lives in Florida?

This, of course, being my reaction to a Facebook-stalking session of an ex, myself pretentiously gasping out loud while dressed in sweatpants and cupping a Manhattan on a Tuesday night. The guy I'm referencing, you see, was always the snobbish type -- nothing could be taken at face value, and everything was cliche. Florida? Pft, that's reserved for two-dimensional 65-year-olds in Boca Raton, I can imagine him telling me. Snottily. Jokingly, too -- with a smile that would make it sound endearing, even. But still snotty. Like, "mucus everywhere" levels of snotty. Hence, why we're not holding hands and slurping a spaghetti noodle from opposite ends of the table under the moonlight.

And now, there he is. One big ol' pompous queen gracing the clear-water beaches of America's beacon locale of retirement. And the funny thing? I love Florida.

If I'd brought up the fantastical prospect of living there four years ago, he would have ... well, to be quite honest, I just wouldn't have brought it up. I'd have scoffed at the notion, too. Not because I felt the same way, but because I was a placating, self-conscious twat who knew zilch about what it meant to be in a relationship, date, etc. (Not to discredit everything I've blogged about during that time -- we'll pretend all of that was right on point, y'all.)

My point being that time changes people. The truth is that I wouldn't lie about that now. And apparently, he wouldn't deny it either: Florida is kind of awesome. Disney World? Hello, nostalgia! South Beach? Salutations, beach bodies of the world! Universal Studios? Fucking rad, yo. Stripped of all of his hauteur, I can't think of a single thing that would have kept me away from him. (OK, so there was a slight body odor -- but that's workable.) I could have -- gulp -- actually been with this man.

Though my whiskey burns particularly strong at the thought, I'm inclined to believe that some things really are that simple.

I know, I know: I'm not saying anything new here. Timing is everything. That's a staple of the post-break-up, friend-consoling roundtable. But it also happens to be pretty goddamn accurate. Of the handful of men I've dated, I can point to each one and, without hesitation, say that the timing of each either made them more attractive to me than they would be now or, as is possible with Florida Guy, completely doomed the relationship from the moment my foot kicked dirt up from the starting line.

Is there a moral to be found here? Yes, and no. The long and short of it, is that the odds of finding someone on a parallel timeline as you are pretty doggone slim. I'd have an easier time trying to find real jewelry on QVC. But if you can -- in your inevitable trajectory of Tuesday-night drinking and Facebook-creeping -- point to someone you've since lost touch with (and interest in), and muse to yourself if it just might have worked today, then rejoice. Pal, there's hope for you yet. But also don't kid yourself during your next date when you chalk up a bad personality to bad timing: Be whoever the hell you want to be in a relationship, and dictate your love life by the merits of character first and foremost. Timing changes circumstance, not compatibility.

Meanwhile, I'm stuck with the harsh reality that as I'm here soaking up the bitterness of my Manhattan, he's off sunbathing in the saccharine sanctitude of his Miami. In which case, Father Time's got one helluva sense of humor.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Sound and the First-Date Fury

 An at-a-glance observation of one first date in the City of Brotherly Love.

Flushed red and flashing a nervous smile, he approached his date with an overeager, high-pitched greeting before she had time to even take in her surroundings. Instantly realizing the awkwardness of the first encounter, he whipped out his wallet to spot her cup of coffee as a sort of first-date reboot attempt, appearing to have temporarily breathed life back into the already endangered first-time gathering.

Standing by the shop’s counter and ordering her coffee with him gasping uncomfortably heavy breaths just behind her, he handed the barista a wad of one-dollar-bills and tossed an extra George Washington in a duct-tape-labeled “tip cup” so as to – as can be said almost for certain – impress his new debutante by demonstrating not just his chivalry on first dates, but his super-savvy skills as a coffee customer.

Five minutes later, the two had settled into a table by the window – a wise choice for anyone looking for extra opportunities to make conversation – and began the to-be-expected first date conversation fodder. Talks of hometowns, how they like their neighborhoods, and what their jobs are like ensued for a solid five-to-ten minutes before getting into the real nitty-gritty of the meeting.

To be sure, the guy was a more experienced dater than his black sundress-donning, wavy-haired, hot mess female companion, having clearly mastered the “interview process” of coffee dates and the appropriate tones for asking personal questions. His voice fluctuated almost poetically, as if he intended to mesmerize her not with what was coming out of his mouth, but how it was coming out. He rarely offered-up information about himself willingly, but when he did, it was noteworthy and prompted a response. A bigger pro than his initial nervousness would have implied.

The girl, meanwhile, did a wonderful job of flaunting her strong points – namely her face, hair, and chest. As she moved through conversation, she waved her hands artfully as if conducting an orchestra, before pulling them back behind her head yawn-style, simultaneously perking up her breasts to eye level with her date. As she finished her sentences, her hands brushed through her hair in slow motion, which indicated either a nervous tick or an impressive, conscious attempt to allow herself to be perceived as enchanting or – possibly – sexy.

Sadly, her language skills and overall substance were not nearly as eloquent or endearing as her date’s. Every other word involved the word “like,” and her counter-response questions were lightweight and less enthusiastic than her body language would otherwise have her date believe. It wasn't entirely unlike watching Sarah Palin in a debate. She touched vaguely on what could be viewed as endless topics of family and post-college life, insecurely leaving conversation topics just when they were supposed to get interesting.

This continued for thirty minutes or so, which in the moment might translate to an hour or more depending on how much (or if) either of them actually enjoyed the date. Not much of topical significance had occurred in the meantime, minus a strangely brief and seemingly blasee mention of sadism and masochism that left more than a little something to be desired.

And then, at last signaling his disinterest, he tossed out the “It was nice meeting you” line that effectively draws the line in the sand. The two barely spent ten seconds walking away from the table and scurrying out of the shop, going their separate ways and effectively re-instating their status as strangers evermore.

Do you have tips for a successful first date? Have an experience you'd like to share? Connect with 'Brotherly Love' by following @BrotherlyLover on Twitter.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Five Surefire Signs Your Date is a 'Phlake'

On my on-going hunt for the perfect stud, I've encountered many a flake in this fair city of ours, indicating that I either attract all of the wrong people, or that -- as is more likely the case -- you are in eminent danger of being approached by one of these malignant, yet strangely seductive creatures.

The Philly flake.

But no worries, consider me your Spider-Man (or Batman, depending on which summer blockbuster you're currently stanning for), ready to shoot-out my white, sticky string and take down your flake with one shot. (That sounds much more sexual than actually intended, I promise.)

Or, perhaps more realistically, I can offer you a few tips on identifying this elusive being and picking a guy or gal who won't leave you standing at the altar or, just as bad, sitting alone in the coffee shop with two already-bought iced coffees and damaged spirits.

  1. He/she leaves out the specifics. All too commonly, people make plans for a date, but fail to rein-in the specifics. Going for coffee? Great, now find out where. Going for a walk in the park with some ice cream? Sounds fantastically corny, but which park? Which ice cream joint? These are simple questions that somehow are frequently left unanswered for one reason or another, but if you notice the other person becoming particularly hesitant when asked to provide details or offer recommendations, odds are the person is more attracted to the chase of scoring a date than actually fulfilling the dating obligations. Ambiguity is the enemy.
  2. An inconsistent rate of texting. Texting is one of the biggest (and easiest) ways to uncover a flake. If the person you've planned a date with fails to respond to your text message within an hour (particularly during the morning or early evening), their level of commitment is probably fairly low. It might sound harsh, but if someone is excited about a date with you, it will show in their language and willingness to respond to your messages. Don't lie to yourself and believe his/her phone died and your text hasn't been read, or that they've just been too busy to respond. Typing a response takes all of ten seconds even with the most irksome of phones; they know you're there, they just don't care.
  3. Unusual circumstances of meeting. I'm constantly baffled by those who meet someone at a bar on a Tuesday afternoon and are shocked when they finally realize they're either a flake or, frankly, a loser. Add context to how your date came to be; if the person bailed on friends to come talk to you, that probably doesn't bode well for when you're out on your date and suddenly find yourself drinking alone as he/she mingles with other people.
  4. "Yeah, maybe." The M-word: "Maybe." My advice for this one is simple and straightforward: Avoid this person at all costs. You don't want to date a "maybe" kind of person, you want someone self-assured and able to provide you with definitive answers that don't leave you feeling insecure or confused. In this sense, their uncertainty should work to your benefit.
  5. They have a demanding job. Although understandable, those with time-intensive and unconventional jobs are common, unfortunate criminals of flaking. To their defense, it can't be helped -- being a worker-bee isn't a crime, but consciously leading people on and squeezing them into a daily schedule right after their morning meeting with their boss and immediately before a flight to Tokyo is.
Have some of your own tips for identifying a "phlake"? Send them to @BrotherlyLover on Twitter or to brandon.baker@temple.edu

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Flying to dangerous heights

Let me preface the oncoming story with these thoughts: I like a guy with bravura, a guy who can take life by the balls and translate that bad-boy moxie into a rush of sexual chemistry. It's dangerous, it's adventurous, it's sexy. But what isn't sexy, is a bloke who puts on the facade of "daring" while holding his inner bat-shit hostage until sex.

This, ladies and gentleman, is a tale of great journeys. A tale of finding yourself, and discovering your inner courage. It's a tale of love, lust, loss, and an all-consuming heartbreak devastating enough to last a lifetime.

...Just kidding, it's actually about the worst sex I've ever had.


There are moments in life when I find myself in-between dating cycles and solidly staking my turf in the land of cat ladies. For the most part, these moments are my favorite - I'm not "hung up" on any particular person, there's no one I'm desperately (and pathetically) yearning for, and I feel confident in solely existing with me, myself, and my iPad.

But that don't mean a boy doesn't dream.

In these moments, I fantasize about the types of men that "could be," but never seem to become a reality. The typical fare come to mind - the erotic heroism of police officers and firemen, the "come meet my parents and propose right in front of them" doctors and lawyers, and the hip club-owners everyone wants to bang when they're out and about but don't because it seems dangerous in the "I don't want Chlamydia" kind of way. Now, I generally accept that most of these dream men won't walk into my life and move on with my rom-com marathon accordingly; but when one does, you'd better bet that I'm all over him like a gay fem-bot on Beyonce.

Thus, when I stumbled upon an airline pilot - the profession that ranks pretty low on my list, but is there nonetheless - I wasted very little time before throwing on my best undies and attempting to make a landing even Cap'n Sully would be envious of.

Sadly, aside from holding a profession I found sexually alluring, Pilot Guy wasn't the dream man I had anticipated. His apartment, while quaint, was subject to an annoying beeping sound from an alarm setup that consumed me with "Tell-Tale Heart"-esque neurotic annoyance. The apartment itself, meanwhile, was disappointingly decorated with predictable airplane memorabilia and plain furniture that would make Martha Stewart cringe and Beaver Cleaver's mom jump for joy.

And sitting next to him on the couch, striking conversation and trying to compete by exuding the best "I'm interesting too" persona I could muster, I could suddenly see tumbleweed roll by as he delved into soporific discussion about an insurance plan with his new airline and a rant about his former writing ambitions. Out of all the stories that could have been told by a pilot who soars the skies every day and travels to faraway places as frequently as the average American orders a Big Mac, I got stories about insurance plans and his failed attempt as a writer. The Fates have a catty sense of humor.

And, most horrific of all, the man served me coconut-flavored beer. Coconut. He could have been boasting a burly lumberjack outfit and chest hair that would make any "Bike Stop" frequent drool, and he still would have seemed emasculated to me in that moment.

But even as his pilot charm was slowly wearing off, I was determined to fulfill at least one fantasy.

I don't generally kiss and tell (erotic details), but the short-lived experience that came next was one that still makes me queasy when I happen to pass by the building. A pilot is supposed to be good at steering to a destination, but this guy was off by miles. I might also add that I'll never understand the appeal of shouting random derogatory comments during sex as if you've just been diagnosed with a crippling case of turrets - but perhaps, like coconut, it's just not my flavor.

My walk of shame home moments later was just that: a walk of shame. "Two hours of my life I'll never get back," I thought, recounting the night's events.

But all the same, I learned an invaluable lesson about fantasies I won't soon forget and hope to pass on: The journey really is better than the destination.

Monday, May 28, 2012

In Memoriam: The Ghosts of Dating Past

Someday, somehow, I envision there being a giant, stone tablet memorial located in the heart of Philadelphia with the names of all the duds I’ve dated etched into the wall. There will be flowers sitting below the names commemorating their painful existence, and attendees will treat the wall’s presence like that of a funeral, donning black attire and holding calla lilies in mourning of my love life. Princess Diana’s memorial would look like a road-side car accident shrine by comparison.

And then I hit reality.

The truth of it all, is that my dating life isn’t really that horrid. In fact, just last week I experienced a pleasant date full of good conversation and coffee – the "double-C" combo that makes my heart continue to swoon and makes my dating life worth living. But alas, that third "C" – “chemistry” – was distinctly lacking from the event, landing me back to square-one as if I’d just stepped onto the “pass go” space on Monopoly.

And so the dating ferris wheel spins ‘round and ‘round.

I don’t actually have many friends or family members who served in the military, so my logical conclusion for honoring the battle-weary men and women of the world on Memorial Day is to reflect on the worn but honorable men and women who really deal with the biggest bombs and stabs to the chest in life: Philadelphia singles.

Strolling down the rugged terrain of my own dating memory lane, I’m confronted with visions of the guy who had the nerve to refer to Carrie Bradshaw only as a “horse” on our first date (poor thing clearly hadn’t read my blog to know that was a taboo move), the young man from out of town who looked around his uncharted Philadelphian surroundings and said with disdain, “They call this a city?” and, most depressingly, the dandruff-laden fellow who chain-smoked five cigarettes on a park bench during our first date and proceeded to gleefully tell the tale of when he shouted “cunt” at his Swedish university’s dean of students and, oh-so-shockingly, got expelled for it. Charming, truly.

But the date that takes the wedding cake, and continues to deepen my cynical wounds, happened just last week when I did something so unthinkable, so naïve, that even I had to sit back and smoke a cigarette afterward to take it all in.

I let someone sleep over on the first date.

Sometimes, when I feel really pessimistic about dating, I decide to break my own rules. Occasionally that means meeting someone somewhere other than a coffee shop or a park, or opening the ex-file prematurely for the sake of “transparency.” But this particular rule I had yet to break, and now know will never be broken again.

It's like buying a mystery bag of goods on the Internet and hoping it will arrive with a million dollars inside. Nice in theory, but disastrous when the bag comes and all you have is a box of Goobers and a shoddy pair of faded jeans to show for it.

For starters, this man thought 777 was the ideal place to live. I apologize in advance for the off-topic rant, but my idea of a luxury condominium does not involve overpriced, smoke-free apartments across from a McDonald’s and a Popeye’s in the middle of Philthadelphia. It’s Boca Raton or nothing at all for me, folks. And when I offered my opinion, I got a smile and a nod in return.

But that leads into the primary problem I had with this person and most dates in general: What in the hell is wrong with dates who are capable of nothing more than nodding their head in agreement and phony-laughing at every bad joke I make? Perhaps it’s a matter of taste, but I don’t want to date someone who wants to appease and agree with everything that comes out of my mouth – if I wanted that, I’d date a Furby.

Allow me to be perfectly clear and succinct about this particular ghost of dating past, and all of those like him who I'm sure you all have encountered at one point or another:

1. If you ask someone on a date, expect to pay for them. Male, female, trans, alien from Mars in stilettos – I don’t care what or who you are, come prepared with cold-hard cash when you ask someone on a date, specifically when you ask them to dinner. I don’t care that your roommate didn’t give you his half of the rent today like you’d expected, or that you had a slow week at work; credit cards exist for a reason. At least plan to pay your own way, even if it means going all Tony Soprano on someone to make that happen.

2. “Oh, I’ll cover it next time.” Jumping off of the preceding point, don’t be so presumptuous as to safely assume there will be a “next time.” I’m sad to say that, as much as it pains my wallet to pay for a pizza, it’s not worth it to go on another date for the sake of making up the difference. I’ll take my pizza and go, thanks.

3. Make a f**king decision. I like that someone wants to give me the freedom to choose something, but not all of the time. I spent way too much time trying to decide on a pizza place for the two of us, and by the time we’d decided to just settle for Domino’s take-out, he pulled the, “Oh, I’ll eat anything – get whatever you want!” card when asked what pizza he wanted. That’s not an answer, that’s a cop-out.

4. Don’t be surprised when you get sent to the futon to sleep. Cuddling is not a consolation prize for a bad date– if I don’t like you, you’re getting sent to the futon. It’s as plain and simple as the pizza we chose. Cuddling is great when you’re with someone you actually like, but otherwise it’s like snuggling with a Tickle-Me-Elmo that won’t shut up when you’re really craving your soft, quiet and gentle teddy bear. To quote Kelly Clarkson, “You know the bed feels warmer sleeping here alone.”

5. Talking about your ex implies there’s something wrong with you. I don’t care how nicely you say the relationship ended, the fact that you’re talking about it at all sends a pretty strong message on a first date. What’s worse? This bloke still lives with his ex. No wonder he didn’t pay the rent.

They say the best way to get rid of a ghost is to release it. I say the best way to get rid of a ghost is to tell him you’ll text him and then block his number.

Whatever gets the job done, really.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Rules of Party Attraction

Anyone who's anyone knows the game of party-hopping on a Saturday night, and anyone with a condom in their pocket or a yearning heart has their sights set on the night's crowd, seeking the time of their life. Lights, camera, dry hump on the dancefloor: Don't let your perfectly groomed hair and snazzy clubbin' get-up go to waste.

To the dismay of single folk everywhere, making the most of a party is a multi-step process more laborious than your mind might realize as you click "Attend" to RSVP on Facebook for the shindig you've been obsessing over. Beyond the surprisingly hefty amount of time spent preparing for a party (hair, outfits, make-up, cocktail hour beforehand - the whole sixty-nine yards), the checklist of matters to take care of upon walking into a party seems almost endless: Greet your gracious host, say a brief hello to those few people you recognize ("Oh, it's simply been too long!"), check your things in, and then assimilate into the crowd to get your groove on before you're quickly branded as the loser standing alone in a corner grinding against the wall.

From there, it's a matter of sex smarts and plastering enough smiles and sultry eye glances on your face to permanently fixate your expressions in one position for the entire night.

The simple goal here? Don't look like a goober.

What I've recently come to realize, is that there's a legitimate reason why the popular phrase "catch of the day" exists in the [gay] dating world. At some point in your party experience - and it's normally very early on in your time at the party - you're going to inevitably find yourself escaping into a corner that gives you a panoramic view of the selections of the night, and you're going to scout the lake for the biggest fish, the smelliest one, the ugliest one and, if you're fortunate enough, the tasty, mouth-watering one.

And at this point, it's a matter of casting your line, and reeling it in.

As a result of some fruitful, enlightening discussion with one of my fellow party-goers, I've come to a (somewhat) life-changing realization that there are, in fact, four types of people you will encounter during your "fishing trip":

1. The guy who's just not that into you. Sadly, you will be incredibly and inexplicably attracted to this person, but their sights are set on someone else. Perhaps it's the lighting, or perhaps you just look like shit that night, but it's not going to happen - no matter how many drinks you grab for them or how many buttons you unhook down the line of your shirt. It's best to realize who this person is early on, so as to not waste valuable time on those who you don't actually stand a chance with. Get over it.

2. The second guy who's just not that into you. It shouldn't come as a surprise that there are more than one of these characters in existence at a party. If you run into this person twice in a row, your stroke of luck has probably ditched you for another party. But if you happen to casually stumble upon this person and acknowledge that they're going after another person fairly quickly, there might still be a chance for your sexual fortune.

3. The guy who's really into you, but makes you want to projectile vomit your cosmo. No, it's not a bad batch of cosmos or spoiled lime juice, it's that guy who won't stop staring at you while you're drunkenly grinding on your best friend. The easy way to tackle this, is to run to the other side of the crowd in hopes that they won't follow suit or will stumble upon a different dud stud to be infatuated with. Otherwise, you might try to hook them up yourself; or if you're suave enough, intentionally talk to them and make yourself seem about as appealing as Charlie Sheen on Twitter.

4. The guy who is "just right." OK, so it's not quite as romantic or ideal as the tale of Goldie Locks, but spotting this catch is the moment you should really whip out the net and dive it into the water. And contrary to what some might advise, "playing it safe" with this person is the absolute worst tactic you can employ. Instead of striking up conversation about what they do, talk about who they do. Instead of discussion about their day, talk about the events of the party. That doesn't mean appeasing them, per se, but do be politically affluent enough to know when you're being a kiss-ass. Just like a job interview, emphasize your skills.

As you strut your way into your next party, do try to be conscious of the four-person rule, and for the love of God, don't stand in a corner by yourself the entire night. Bring your fishing rod, and be prepared to get in the game - no matter how long you may end up waiting for a bite.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Mind over Matter, Love over Logic

I've spent enough time and energy on dating to know how the long-winded search for love works. You trudge through the first date, working your charm and presenting yourself as if interviewing for a job - if you want the job badly enough, your mind nervously goes into overdrive and exaggerates everything you do and say. If you don't really want the job, but you feel like you still might want it as a fallback, you still state your best qualities, but take on a demeanor that is relaxed and relatively uninvested, leaving the person on the other end of the "interview" either thoroughly impressed by your attitude or completely turned off. Afterward, you follow through with the text treatment - or the "follow-up" - for a few short weeks, and continue dating until one person either takes a step forward or waves their white flag and runs in the opposite direction.

As it turns out, I'm normally the one waving the white flag in surrender.

Relationships, to the dismay of many delusional hopeful, optimistic rom-com lovers, take work. It's a process that begins to feel like a second job (or perhaps a third or fourth, depending on your lifestyle), leading to a more disillusioned perspective on love than your 5-year-old, Cinderella-watching self would know what to do with. And as a result, we're utterly dumbfounded when we finally encounter a person who accomplishes something so mind-boggling, so absolutely unthinkable that we're stopped in our tracks: the realization of finally feeling "the zsa zsa zsu."

The saying goes that "opposites attract," and if that is in fact the case, then why are so many people surprised when they go through date after date seeking a manufactured connection with someone? The feeling of love is, inherently, an inexplicable emotional phenomenon. So vague, so ambiguous a concept, that the world's greatest creators of fine literature have spent their entire lives deciphering its meaning and its role in life and its everyday events. Such an intriguing thought, that bloggers like myself dedicate a wall in their bedroom to post-it notes questioning how relationships work (or perhaps that's just me?).

Finding myself in a head-scratching situation of my own, I can't help but question one thought-provoking idea about our lovers: Can you love someone you have nothing in common with?

Like any other chronic dater, I have a checklist of sorts laid out for when I meet someone. By my fantastical standard, they need to be effortlessly charming, alluring in the way that they speak, headed in a forward-moving direction in their life, and they need to have a grasp on my admittedly dry sense of humor. It's human nature - especially today - to put on the table all of your romantic requirements. Otherwise, by contemporary logic, it's like trying to run a brand-new, high-tech video game on a 1995 Macintosh computer: it just won't work.

But what happens, when you find someone who catches you by surprise; what happens when you discover a person who manages to make you smile and laugh, while all-at-once failing the system performance test you've put every other prospect through with the utmost caution? Is it possible, with all of today's neurotic dating tendencies, to leave your head in the dust, and act with your heart?

We've become so consumed by the idea of flawlessness in today's world that we sometimes forget to stop and consider what happiness really means to us; moreover, what it means to "settle" versus what it means to accept what we actually want. Does a person really fail to meet our ideals, or do they fail to meet the standards of the other players in your game of life? Sometimes, embracing love and all of its joys, means tossing your checklist in the trash with the rest of the waste.

Don't let others - or the pessimistic voices in your mind - tell you that you can't love someone. More often than not, those that walk through life alone are the same people who try to take control of love as if it is a horse that can be taken by the reins.

The next time your stomach flips and your heart races, consider one crucial thing: "Do I love this person based on my criteria, or someone elses'?"

If the answer is the former, then hold on tight, and for the sake of your own happiness, never let go.

Questions? Comments? Post below or send a tweet to @BrotherlyLover