Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Swamps Make for Awesome Analogies

On rare occasions, my friends will ask me for dating advice. On even rarer occasions, I'll spout something approaching wisdom. And so that brings us to a sunny day, a plate of Tex-Mex, and a boy with girl troubles.

My advice? "Not every personal swamp is there for you to wade into."

Once you're OK with how ungrammatical and obscure I'm being, it's a pretty good point. Dating is a reductive and nerve-wracking process, and sometimes you're better off cutting your losses and staying out of the muck. There's a point where you have to look at someone, decide that your flavors of crazy match up, and go for broke. Sometimes, however, you take a look, then you take a second look, and you run like hell.

I've done my share of running, when the dealbreakers became abundantly obvious and the relationship felt more project-oriented than it ought to be. And there have been times I've looked at the swamp and plunged on regardless, miring myself in the muck of yet another man's shortcomings. I've been talked down to, abandoned, failed, cheated and bullied. But I've come back each time as a slightly better version of myself.

I like to think I've learned something. And here's what it is: We've all got our swamps. Each of us is a bundle of raw emotions, childhood hurts, petty fears and impractical hope, and we're all doing the best we can with the emotional equipment we've been given. In the best cases, we're doing the best we can with the emotional equipment we've built for ourselves.

In the end, you have choose someone who doesn't drag you into their muck, because they have the strength to meet you halfway.

In the comments, tell me your dealbreakers. Or tell me how Clash of the Titans is the most awesome movie ever.


Brett said...

Aahaha dealbreakers! Here goes: pro-lifers and/or staunchly Catholic, poor grammar (esp. their/there/they're confusion), obsession with one philosophy or philosopher, alcoholics, not paying on the first date, emoticons, rudeness to servers, rudeness in general, unwillingness to try new things esp. foods, dishonesty in all forms, dislike of dogs (even though I own a cat), failure to understand that yes, I am a woman, and my yen to dress up has no reflection on what you should be wearing so don't feel so inadequate, Jason.

I could go on, but I need to save something for my next rant.

Dagny Taggart said...

First, I think you and LemonGloria should start a dating advice column.

Second, a dealbreaker of sorts. I now ask myself, when I first start dating someone, if they would make a good salesman or not. If so, I have to bid them goodbye. I don't do well with people who are preternaturally adept at telling people what they want to hear.

Shannon said...

Brett - Ha! I can't say I share most of those dealbreakers, since mine aren't quite that specific. I will say my biggest first date dealbreaker is if I get a sense the guy is seeing me as a project or a conquest, vs. getting to know me as a person.

Dagny - Dude, if LG was up for it, that would be awesome.

f.B said...

Dealbreaker = not being creative. Eventually, everything will fall apart if she's not creative. Write something, sing something, make up knock-knock jokes. Anything. Otherwise, I get bored, really fast.

Jamie said...

Clash of the Titans is the most awesome movie ever. The sound that medusa makes... shk shk shk shk shk... used to scare the hell out of me. And Ray Harryhausen's crappy stop-motion animated monsters are still better and scarier than the CGI in the new Star Wars movies.

Brando said...

If she doesn't agree that everything worth knowing in life can be learned in the film "Smokey and the Bandit" then it just can't work.

Shannon said...

f.B. - I haven't heard it put in those terms, but I do agree.

Jamie - And, really, what I'm looking for is a man to solve a riddle, tame a flying horse, cross the desert with a robotic owl, behead a Medusa and defeat the Kraken. I don't think that's too much to ask.

Brando - See my response to Jamie...everything you need to know can be found in Clash of the Titans.

bh said...

Lack of intelligence. Will. not. abide.

And serious body odor. But I think for everyone not dating a DC Cabby in the summer, that's a given.

Dmbosstone said...

Flirts drive me insane because I never know if they are for real.

Shannon said...

bh - Serious body odor? What about comedic body odor?

Dmbosstone - As one of DC's resident coquettes...it's never sincere. We're all lying to you.

J said...

We used to watch Clash of the Titans every year in Latin class. Those were the days...

As for dealbreakers? Not sure. Brett actually had a good start, though.

- Any devotion to religion that requires a suspension of logic or a the blatant disregard of facts sort of worries me. Thankfully, I don't run into this *too* much..
- People unwilling to try new things are kind of annoying sometimes, but it has to be pretty pervasive before I worry about it (but I can definitely think of one girl I know like this).

Now, here's my biggie that I find pops up way too often:
- Girls with low standards. Maybe that's not the best way to describe it, but have you ever gone out with a girl, had no chemistry whatsoever, and she attempts to sleep with you anyway? It's happened to me on more than one occasion, and the stated reason typically can be reduced to "Well, I liked you because you weren't an asshole." I'd prefer to be liked for who I am, not because I'm a warm body who doesn't mistreat women..

I had something else about extreme arrogance, but am somehow incapable of being eloquent this morning (long story short: when I was cocky, it usually worked pretty well for me; I like cocky on girls; where to draw the line? not sure; a touch of humility is required, at the very least, and perhaps a fair dose of self-awareness)

Brett said...

in response to J's comment, I also don't understand the pursuit of sex despite lack of chemistry. I've also seen this in guys who continue to try and date me -perhaps bed me- even though I want to slam my head into the wall repeatedly during every conversation, if only to alleviate the boredom. I've had guys for whom I've felt NOTHING tell me they thought we "really had something." Isn't chemistry a two-way street? Are they living in another dimension?

Shannon said...

J - I'm with you on the 'biggie' - nothing is less appealing to me than feeling like I'm just some interchangeable girlfriend unit. Especially since someone who sees you as interchangeable also sees you as someone they can change to suit their needs.

Brett - Well, you could slam your head into the wall, or you could slam your...uh...into...the....hrmmmm...which might end the conversation. Unless, of course, he's a dirty talker.

Brando said...

On a side note, it sounds like Brett had a bad experience dating Mel Gibson...

Just A Girl said...

A guy who not only doesn't have a job, he doesn't particularly *want* one. I can understand being unemployed, especially these days, but to not even try? No. My ex and my sister's current are both like that. They're 28 year old men who mooch off their mothers. Just...no.

Someone who can't DISCUSS politics. Someone who has to argue and berate and call names when they talk about it - that's a huge dealbreaker.

A guy who doesn't respect other people - like Brett said, things like being rude to servers? That's not ok.

Hating dogs, because I will always have at least one, preferably more.

Shannon said...

Brando - I would pay cash money to see Brett go on a date with Mel Gibson - he'd be a dead man before the appetizers even arrived. Though I do bet he'd pick up the check.

JAG - I agree with you on politics - for me, it's more about when to let an issue drop. I hate endless drawn out debates on politics - there's a time to live and let live!

Marissa said...

I really don't understand people who date people they don't like. Or understand when people equate dating to work of some sort. I guess maybe I've just been lucky, but I've never dated someone I didn't have fun with. In fact, I've never even had a bad date. I'm a freak.

J said...


Well, it's usually pretty easy, I think. If you don't like someone, don't go out with them repeatedly. I mean, I've gone on second dates that were questionable, but that's more of trying to give someone another chance (as I've occasionally wanted myself, from time to time).

But I definitely know what you mean. I've seen girls do it repeatedly. In fact, I had one friend who would do nothing about complain about her "boyfriend". It was obvious she liked him. Upon pressing, it turned out he was very nice and, uh, subservient, apparently. Kind of like a puppy dog, she would often say. When I pressed her even more, as I knew she wasn't really into puppy dogs, she did reveal he was in the 10-12" department. And I'm not referring to his shoe size.

Well, actually, I probably am.

But yeah, until 2008 I was kind of a freak, too. I'd had the occasional lacklustre date, but nothing too awful. Then 2008 was my year of freaks. Like the girl who straight up told me she was trying to get me drunk so that I would put out. Or the girl who wore goggles and, uh, insisted she pay the check on our first date, because I was (supposedly) going to put out for her.

But yeah, before that, all was okay. Even that time I hit the internet dating jackpot and ended up on a date with a tranny, it wasn't really an awful time. Just, you know, an awkward way to end the evening..

J said...

For reference, the girl who insisted on paying the check was the one who later lowered the classy level of a hooters by yelling "Couch fucker!" across it repeatedly.

It takes skill to debase a place where the staff wears neon orange booty shorts.

Lisa said...

Absolutely I would be up for it! How fun would that be?!

And the swamp is an absolutely perfect analogy. As you said, we are all amalgams of all our past triumphs and setbacks - just depends on what matches with you and what you can handle.

It took me too long to figure out that mean was a dealbreaker.

Shannon said...

Marissa - Well, work is pretty much a requirement of any long-term relationship...the question is whether it's worth it to you.

J - "Couch fucker" has made it onto the blog! My lifelong dream has come true.

Lisa - Y'all heard it here first! Lisa, email me and we'll figure out some details.

Also, it took me a long time to figure out, "goes nuclear to win an argument" was the mother of all dealbreakers.

Brett said...

Oh my god, these comments are awesome. COUCH FUCKER?!

Also, no, I have not dated Mel Gibson... that just made me choke on my iced tea though

Rachel said...

There are quite a few deal breakers on my list, but two stand head and shoulders above the rest.

1) Not being a reader. If you don't enjoy reading, we will not get along. Ever. I once dated a guy who said he just "didn't get books." How do you not GET books? That was over pretty fast.

2) Not liking or not wanting children (I mean, not even entertaining the idea of having kids). I know not everyone wants them, but there will be no future with me if you don't like kids.

Of course, being nice to people and not being a douchebag are crucial too, but those two are pretty specific to me as an individual and I think pretty indicative of someone's general personality too. I also have serious issues with someone that always defers to me when making a decision: if I ask you where you want to go for dinner, don't say, "wherever you want to go." If I wanted to go someplace in particular, I wouldn't have asked you!! Ugh, sorry. Ranting now :)

Also, love the blog :)

J said...


One day I will tell you what exactly was meant by that. Hint: condiments were involved. Not condoms, condiments :)


For your enjoyment: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=site%3Awww.okcupid.com+%22i+don%27t+read+books%22&aq=f&oq=&aqi=

Also: I desperately have to run to work so I only saw your first blog entry, but I did the 900 Michigan Ave NE trip a few months ago before moving. KEEP ALL THE PAPERWORK. I'm sure I'm just unlucky, but I have a documented proof of a *positive* balance with Comcast and they still have a collection agency after me *even after repeatedly acknowledging* this fact. The woman who has supposedly fixed this does not answer her phone nor return voicemail as promised.

Sorry. Comcast really grinds my gears. A lot. So many stories...

Rachel said...

OMG that search link is amazing. And only confirms my thought that people that don't read books are douchebags.

I'm holding my breathe on the Comcast thing. So far so good, but we'll see.

Kelsey said...

Let's see:

1. Strong pessimism. Pessimism on a longer time-frame, like "we're going to be screwed by global warming" is okay, but I am a very positive person on a daily/weekly/yearly scale, and I find it difficult to be with someone else who is not.

2. Lack of interest in the rest of the world. I love to travel and, having now lived abroad, would love to live abroad again if circumstances allow. Anybody who would not be okay with living abroad or who doesn't like to travel outside the US is out.

3. Conservatives. I really can't get in their head.

4. Having a problem with guns. I'm a reenactor and thus have quite a collection of guns - all made 1952 or before - and if they are uncomfortable around someone who has guns at home, it's not going to last long.

5. Making fun of my reenacting hobby. I've been doing it for 14 years and I will drop a guy who mocks it like a hot potato. I arrange my *jobs* around this hobby, and I most certainly arrange my love life around it.

6. Making fun on artists constantly. I'm an artist. I come from two artist parents. I was raised, essentially, in an artist colony and went to an artsy-fartsy college. I don't mind the occasional joke, but snide remarks are not acceptable, and if you think that art isn't a "real profession", you won't even get in the door.

Suburban Sweetheart said...

- Racist jokes, homophobic slurs, "family values" that involve hating on others' families
- Being too religious, even of my own religion. I'm Jewish, but I don't want to date someone whose primary focus is religiosity. Freaks me out. I can has an agnostic, please?
- Bad teeth. If your mouth looks like a steel trap, I'm out.
- Sex stuff that freaks me out. These shall remain unmentioned for now, but suffice it to say, there are a few things that have totally sent me running.
- Being shorter than me. It's just a thing.

There are more. Are my standards too high? Maybe. Would I rather be single than lower them? Absolutely. :)

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