In Vulnerability, There Is Hope

Inspired by the ever-intuitive Rian over at Truth and Cake, I have been encouraged to jump off the proverbial bloggers’ bridge and be 100% vulnerable by sharing something deeply personal.  But before I do that, allow me to gather the courage share why I’m baring my heart and soul like this.

Rian’s post really made me think about what I want to achieve on Defining Wonderland.  It’s hard to just put a blog into a box and be completely sure of the messages you want your readers to take away from your posts.  I want my Wonderlings to be amused, inspired, encouraged, and comforted by the stories I share and the questions I pose.  Now, I doubt all of that will be accomplished in each and every post, but I hope to at least keep folks coming back for more.  I accept that some posts may be good, some may be great, and plenty others will probably bore you to tears, but that is the risk every writer must take.  It’s a rather solo endeavor, this blog-keeping, but I don’t feel as though I’m alone with all of you out there commenting and posting on your own blogs.  It’s encouraging and keeps me going when my creativity and motivation take a nosedive.

Ok, I think I’ve stalled long enough.  The truth is…

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10 Things I Hate About Facebook

Today has been one of those days that has reminded me of how much social networking is completely ruining human interaction and how irritating it can really be.  As a self-proclaimed Facebook addict, I am ready to get up on my soapbox and share with all the Wonderlings what drives me crazy about my favorite, irritation-inducing website.

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Expect Less, Enjoy More

I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who has had great expectations for something—be it a first date, a new movie, or a job interview—and has been let down when reality did not match up to our vision.  It can be hard to deal with and certainly disappointing when life just doesn’t go the way you expected it to.

So how can we deal with our own disenchantment and how can we prevent it from happening again?

We must expect less.

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Dumb It Down, Girl

Copyright: Mean Girls (2004)

You know the type.  Glazed-over eyes, often seen twirling hair around a finger and obnoxiously chomping on a gigantic piece of pink bubble gum.  And thinking that buffalo have wings.

The entertainment industry has given us countless examples of the “dumb girl.”  She’s everywhere in movies, sitcoms, and reality shows.  She’s usually bubbly, gullible, blonde (sorry all you girls with the golden hair), big-chested, often can’t spell or read, and relies on her looks to get her through life.  Movies and reality tv exaggerate these stereotypes and sadly, women in the world start exhibiting these characteristics because their favorite characters act a certain way. Continue reading

The Satisfaction Of Crying Your Eyes Out

Sobbing. Boo-hooing. Bawling. Weeping. Bursting into tears. Blubbering. Wailing. There are so many names for the act of salty drops of fluid flowing from one’s eyes as a response to an emotional state.

You may need these.

Crying has many monikers and is the result of a plethora of different feelings. Some are sad, others happy. Sometimes the result of a delirious state following a sleepless night with a sick baby. Other times the reaction to the pain dropping a television on one’s bare foot or the relief that a loved one is safe. Tears can form in times of stress, happiness, anger, hopelessness, excitement, panic, grief, frustration, loneliness, hilarity, pride, and about a thousand other emotions.

Your nose starts getting stuffed and then turns runny as your sinuses sense that something is about to be unleashed.  A lump forms in your throat as big as the jaw breaker you once tried to devour when you were six.  Eyes start to stare at objects in a fruitless attempt to ward off the excess moisture that is suddenly threatening to spill out over your lashes.  The muscles in your face tighten in order for your face to keep its composure.

And then you lose it. Continue reading

Rethinking Stranger Danger

If any of you out there had a protective mother like I did, you were taught from a very early age not to talk to people you didn’t know.  Those people were called strangers and they were very, very bad.

As the only child of a single mother, I was well-versed in what to say when someone I didn’t know came up to me and said, “Come here, little girl” (NO!) or “I work with your mommy and she asked me to pick you up from school today” (What’s the password?).  We spent hours role-playing and I’m pretty sure that I would have passed any of those hidden camera investigations Dateline produces about stranger danger.

Case in point: a story from my childhood.  Granted, I should forewarn you that I don’t remember this at all, but the story has been told many times over the years and I can attest that, in all likelihood, it did happen as it’s written.

Around the age of four or five, I went to the bank with my mom.  She had finished up and we were heading toward the exit, a rambunctious me skipping a little ahead.  When I reached the door, an older woman politely held the door open for me and uttered those famous last words: “Come here, little girl.”

That was all it took.

I stopped dead in my tracks, looked up at her, and yelled, “NO!” just my mom and I had rehearsed dozens of times before.  I ran back to my mother and took her by the hand quite proud of the way I had handled the situation.  Afterall, she could have snatched me right then and there.

My mother, on the other hand, was horrified.  I guess her frequent warnings had stuck with me and now she was paying the humiliating price for it.

It was well into high school that I felt comfortable speaking with new people and that was mainly because I worked as a waitress and had to speak to them on a daily basis.  Despite the fact that most folks I know would classify me as a “people person,” I still have a hard time meeting others in a social setting.  Maybe deep down in my psyche, I’m still worried about being kidnapped.

I’m envious of guys like Hawkeye who, quite literally, makes friends wherever he goes.  Then again, maybe I could do the same.

In the last week, I have been contacted by several people I don’t know.  Strangers, if you will.  They have come in various forms: a bullied girl I once reached out to online, another who found my lack of inspiration inspirational, men seeking my affections in the world of online dating, and still others who I knew of, but did not know personally.  And I have learned something from these vastly different characters.  Each of them I might never met in “real life,” but if I hadn’t had the interactions I have had, my life would be missing something.

The thing is, even people you don’t know can have a positive impact on your life.  I am so glad to have shared even the briefest of sentences with these men and women.  I have been flattered, thanked, intrigued, encouraged, amused, and last but certainly not least, inspired.

You see, as I grew from a child into an adult, I learned that not all strangers are bad.  Some are welcome additions to our lives, while others are simply there to add a little color to our stories.  I once spent an unforgettable night exploring Las Vegas with an Irishman who stumbled into me at Planet Hollywood.  Would my life had been better if I had decided to walk away as he tried to converse with me?  I don’t know, but I do know I had an incredible evening seeing the Strip through the eyes of someone from another country.

While it may have once been pivotal to our safety, speaking to someone new does not necessarily mean you will be abducted from your parents and wind up a cautionary tale.  It can introduce you to wonderful experiences, ideas, and personalities that you may not have had the chance if someone didn’t make the first move to strike up a conversation.

Though I would hardly recommend throwing caution to the wind and encourage my readers to forget common sense and speak to everyone that comes their way, I would say that there is something amazing when strangers become friends.

After all, we were all strangers to each other once.

The Marrying Kind (Of Which I Am Not)

I recently had a conversation about the bride of a wedding I will soon be attending.  Before she was engaged, one of her friends announced that she would be getting married as her longtime boyfriend had finally proposed.  The bride was excited for her friend, but was sad when she told her boyfriend the happy news.  The boyfriend asked what was wrong and she replied, “It should have been me.”

It took all of my strength not to roll my eyes when I heard this, though I’m sure my forehead scrunched up in that familiar you’ve-got-to-be-freakin’-kidding-me look.  I just can’t help myself some times.

I could not believe that an intelligent, successful, beautiful woman in a loving relationship could find herself saddened by the good news of a dear friend.  I have never been able to understand why women put so much pressure on themselves to get married.

As a child, I was never that little girl who fantasized about her wedding day.  I didn’t have a color scheme picked out or favorite styles for rings and gowns or the perfect location or where I would go on my honeymoon.  In fact, the closest I ever came to thinking about marriage was telling my mother that someday I “would get married, have kids, get divorced and take the kids with me.”  Yes, I actually said that as a child.

Though my extensive chick flick collection has at least three films where “wedding” is in the title and countless others that feature a ceremony, I guess I’ve just never found the idea of marriage all that romantic.

Yes, I was one of the millions who woke up early last April 29th to watch Prince William take Kate Middleton as his bride, princess, and partner in life, but it was so much more than the wedding I wanted to see.  As with the Gene Simmons and Shannon Tweed-Simmons nuptials, I was eager to see two people who love each other share their feelings with the world.  Both of these couples had been together far longer than the average “starter marriage” lasts and it’s so clear when you look at them that there is genuine affection shared between man and woman.

I love the idea of a partnership built on trust, commitment, and love.  However, I do not believe that shelling out money for a piece of paper that legally binds two individuals and an extravagant ceremony that costs thousands and lasts hours is the end-all-be-all of life.  I have a hard time accepting that a couple who is legally “married” has a stronger relationship than a couple who choose not to have the State involved in their union.

I have a great example of a successful marriage in my family.  My Aunt Carol and Uncle Mike have the longest-running marriage in our family and still seem to genuinely like one another after all that time.  They are friends as well as lovers and I think that is so important in the grand scheme of things.  Of course after all that time, they undoubtedly would love one another, but the fact that they still sneak kisses and loving embraces is something to be admired.

Their marriage has been the shining example for my siblings Darrin and Bree—we often joke that Bree married Uncle Mike as Orson is just like him and their marriage runs in parallel to our aunt and uncle’s—and they both acknowledge that they’ve looked up to the relationship Aunt Carol and Uncle Mike have.

I have as well, but my ideas on marriage have not changed.

I will admit, I look at engagement rings online and I have never been able to pick one that would be perfect for me.  I take that as a sign that even if I like diamonds and would prefer something larger than two carats—what girl wouldn’t—I am just not won over by a piece of jewelry.  To me it’s just that: jewelry.

The Fonz and I once discussed the matter of a proposal.

Fonz: I know you’ve said you don’t want to get married, but do you want to be proposed to?

Me: (long pause) You know, I think it would be really awkward.  How do you tell someone ‘no’ and continue to be together?  That would basically end a relationship right there.

Fonz: (looking stunned) Wow, I really didn’t expect to hear that, but you had no hesitation when you said it.  I thought deep down you would still want someone to ask.

The truth is, I would love love love to spend the rest of my life with someone.  To be two old fuddy-duddies on a porch tickling grandchildren and pinching each other’s bums is a fantasy.  I just don’t need the State to validate my relationship with someone or a ceremony where all eyes are on me.  I don’t need a license.  I don’t need a registry.  I don’t need attendants in matching dresses standing beside me.  I don’t need a reception.  I just need love.

And shouldn’t that be enough?

Orange Alert For Online Dating Weirdos

I can totally identify with the scene in As Good As It Gets where after dealing with the ornery Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt curses the heavens and declares, “Why can’t I just have a normal boyfriend?  Why?  Just a regular boyfriend who doesn’t go nuts on me!”

Where have all the normal guys gone???

After my latest almost-date with a guy who bordered on creepy, I sit and ponder if there really are any sane men out there schooled in the ways of Clark Gable and Cary Grant (with or without the gay rumors, the man was a man).  I’m talking strong, confident gentlemen here.  Doors opened, checks picked up, jackets draped over chilly shoulders, handkerchiefs extended to misty eyes.  Don’t guys get taught these things anymore?

Players are a dime a dozen.  I know that if I wanted to go out and get laid, I wouldn’t have a problem, but it’s just not me.  I’ve bypassed that stage of youthful indiscretions; I’m looking for something that lasts longer than an orgasm—which chances are, won’t happen the first time anyway.  I want someone who thinks with his brain, not his penis.  A tough find, I know.

Then there are the immature little boys who long for approval and strive to make everything perfect thereby putting on enough pressure to suffocate their significant others.  These are the types of guys who exhaust their friends by asking for feedback on every single thing they want to do with their partner.  “We’re fighting… how do I make it right?”  “What do I do for our two-month anniversary?”  “How come she’s mad about (insert given topic)?”  Grow up!  If I ever found out that every decision my guy ever made ran through his friends first for approval, I would be pulling my hair out.  Make your own decisions, boys!  Then you might have a shot of growing up into a warm-blooded man.  What a concept.

Let’s not rule out the ultra-clingy, weirdos.  This is the type of guy who wants to hang out 24/7 after meeting the week before.  Why wouldn’t anyone think that a relationship would result in marriage after one month of dating?  In the clinger category, this is the norm.  I am not one that deals well with co-dependent people, let alone co-dependent significant others, so I usually run for the hills at any sign of this you-are-my-everything-and-I-cannot-be-without-you type of behavior.

This last breed of ungentlemen is the one I have had the most recent interactions with.

Yesterday, I received an email inquiring about getting to know me based on my Match.com profile.  With time gladly running out on my account, I decided to give this guy a chance even though I wasn’t physically attracted.  He had a great job that he loved, was close to his family, and seemed to have his shit together.  I could grow to be attracted to someone like this.

After a total of two emails, he asked for my number so that we could text instead of email.  I personally think this is actually a more horrible way of communicating than email, but I gave him my number and told him that I was at work and may not get back to his messages in a prompt manner.  He texted me almost immediately and was lucky enough to catch me on my way to lunch when I had the time to sit and respond to his messages.

After exchanging pictures, he started asking me about my body shape and telling me that he thought a big butt (which I have always possessed) is really sexy.  He asked for pictures of my figure which I didn’t have on my phone, but were available on my profile.  I got busy with work and when I didn’t respond to a text after 20 minutes, he asked where I had gone.  Hello?  This is the first day I’ve ever communicated with you… you have no right to question where I went after I specifically told you I was at work and may not be able to respond.

When I got home last night, I received another text.  This time, he asked me to come over and hang out with him.  He lives at least 45 minutes away from me and we had already talked about meeting on Friday.  I said maybe some other time, but he wanted to know when.  What the hell?  What kind of woman would drive almost an hour away from her home to hang out with a guy that she had met online?  Sounds like making for an episode of 48 Hours Mystery.  No thank you.

I was already started to get a little weirded out.  I’m no prude, but this kind of behavior was either 1) overly enthusiastic about making my acquaintance 2) completely psychotic or 3) incredibly desperate.  None of which were very compelling choices to keep me interested for long.  The freak flag was flying and I was becoming aware that we were on two different levels here.

After a few exchanges this evening that started with a “Hadn’t heard from you today” text from him, I finally told him that I could no longer tell if these texts were all good fun or if he was just coming on too strong for my tastes.  I told him I wanted to be honest and that I wanted to give him a chance.

He thought I was “too serious.”

I can accept that assumption.  I can be incredibly on guard when interacting with people I do not know whose behavior makes me uncomfortable.  Who wouldn’t be?

We decided not to meet.  He thought I was too serious and I thought he was too creepy.  I really have no intention of being assaulted on a first date by a guy who is so clearly in need of a woman’s affection that he smothers her before even meeting her.  At least I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt to which he so easily brushed off.  Oh well.

Que sera sera.

Get ‘Ur Creep On… Just Don’t Tell Others

I have always enjoyed research, even more so of the non-academic type.  My friends have marvelled at how easily and quickly I can discover information about any given subject, especially when it comes to people.  With little more than a first name and location, I can usually uncover more about a person in a few hours than most people can in a year.  The internet makes it incredibly easy to find anything you’re looking for and even what you’re not.

That’s how I found out that Ares was cheating on me.

During one lonely night in college, I was browsing though the photos of a club I knew that he went to.  Never having been to a club since I wasn’t 21 at the time, I was curious to see what they were like.  To my surprise and complete horror, I found a familiar face with a very unfamiliar face—and body—wrapped all around him.  My heart raced, my breath quickened, and my palms began to sweat.  I tried to ignore what was right in front of me and I did until a friend finally decided to be honest with me.  I eventually confronted him and our relationship was never the same.

Needless to say, my unfortunate stumble has resulted in private investigator-like levels of information gathering.  It’s complete second nature to me to scope out any and all information and as the years go by, my skills are only getting better.  Or the internet is making things that much easier to find.

Like many others, I have exhibited my fair share of stalker-esque behavior—no, I’m not physically following people and scoping out where they live and hang out because that would be weird, even for me—that usually results in a humorous story.  Eventually, that is.

With the advent of internet dating and crazies like the Craigslist Killer, it has made it imperative to know who you are meeting up with and to do so in a well-lit, public place.  With a limited amount of superficial data, I have discovered

    • last names,
    • workplace locations,
    • ex-girlfriends/current girlfriends,
    • family information, and
    • many more trivial details that one usually learns within the first few dates long before I meet them in person.

And then comes the fun of having to pretend you don’t know that your date has two brothers and a sister, went on a great vacation to Costa Rica last summer, just bought a house, lied on their profile, or just broke up with someone.  Do not under any circumstances act like you know anything that they haven’t already told you.  If you are bad at separating what has been discussed from what you have learned in your research, I suggest you halt Googling until you can differentiate between the two.  There is a reason why dating experts will tell you not to research your date beforehand, but I prefer to get as many cards out on the table as I can before I get my heart involved.

One of the keys to being a successful “investigator,” is to not allow your subject to know what you’ve been up to.  Unfortunately, that’s getting harder and harder.

There is this one guy on Match that has literally looked at my profile at least once a day for the last month (as a paid subscriber, you can see who’s checking out your profile).  He has never once made contact with me and I have stopped myself from sending him a “Why the hell do you keep looking at my profile if you’re not going to email me?” message.  I am so curious to know what keeps him coming to my profile and not making strides to meet me, but since I’m not interested in him, it’s really not worth the effort to pursue an answer.

Then there is the friendly creeper.  I received a text from Fez yesterday telling me that he saw me in my spinning class on Monday and that I was doing really well.  I called him out immediately.  If we’re “friends” like he and I try miserably to be, why not come up and say “hi” or at least message me that night.  What is the point of waiting five days to inform me that I was being watched at the gym?  The last thing I need is to think that I’m being monitored while I’m working up a sweat.  It would have been much better if he hadn’t said anything.  Now, I’m going to be self-conscious when I should be focused on the building up the nerve to talk to the cute new guy in the class.  And boy is he cute!

Yes, I know I sound like a lunatic, but the point to remember is this: do not tell your subject what you have been up to.  It will make you look like a complete freak/weirdo/crazy person/psycho.

Say it with me now, “I will not confess to internet stalking.  I will not confess to internet stalking.  I will not confess to internet stalking.”

Relationship Therapy, Session 1

Ok, I know I talk about relationships a lot, but it’s because I am bombarded by them on a daily basis.  I am the go-to-gal when it comes to doling out relationship advice with an unbiased and honest opinion.  If people with relationships were Charlie Brown, I would be Lucy at her psychiatric help booth.  Except I don’t charge  5¢ a session.

I happen to enjoy listening to people’s problems and helping them come up with solutions that will probably never be used because let’s face it, sometimes people just like to complain for complaining’s sake.  And that’s alright with me.  I am a great listener and because of my previously discussed analytical mind, I am fairly good at identifying a problem within someone else’s relationship.

When it comes to my own, I’m clueless.

Today, Popeye was grumbling about a situation with Olive that occurred last night.  As he often does, he was looking for someone to take his side and declare her to be in wrong.  One email turned into dozens, multiple people were involved, and many other issues were discussed.  In the end, it was decided that the girls (myself and Wilma) are only looking out for our friends’ best interests and that our advice is on target most of the time.

So there you have it: women are more logical than men when it comes to relationships.  At least, the two of us are.

In one of the many emails, I was called out for being “realistic” by a guy who is a self-proclaimed “feeler.”  I can accept that.  I am a realist when it comes to relationships; my head is much more involved than I allow my heart to be.  As much as I love a romantic comedy and happy ending, it doesn’t always work out that way and I will be the first one to tell you that.  There is no sense in convincing someone they’re happy when they aren’t.  You have to know your audience in order to give the best advice.

For example, Popeye is a very traditional-minded husband who wants his marriage to work.  For him, my advice centered on communication, compromise, and counseling in order to find a way to make the marriage successful.  Other people are more the love-them-and-leave-them type.  I would tell them “there are more fish in the sea.”  The same advice does not work for every person and every situation, which is why a non-biased party should be involved to offer solutions.  I have nothing to lose if Popeye and Olive divorce.  Any breakdown of their relationship would in no way affect me, but I still wish both of them happiness whether that means they stay together or part ways.

One of the reasons I think people repeatedly pull up a chair and vent to me is that I can take in their emotional burden and shed light on larger issues.  For the most part, when a person bitches about a particular situation, they are almost always truly upset about something else.

In my relationship with Ares, I would constantly get upset whenever he called me “cute.”  I took it as an insult because he said I was cute and not hot and he always defined his ex as hot, a chick I was convinced he was still in love with and was just waiting for another shot with her.  I believed that given the chance, I would be dropped like yesterday’s garbage and he would pick up with her again because that was the one he really wanted.  Who wants the “cute” chick when you can have the “hot” one?  It didn’t help that he had cheated on me early on in our relationship (with a girl I considered “hot”) and I no longer trusted him.  So whenever he called me “cute,” I took it as a put-down and that, in his eyes, I wasn’t good enough.

It’s like the old iceberg poster.  You know the one, where it shows that the majority of the iceberg is underneath the part you can see.  Same goes for relationship issues.

In the end, I may not be able to solve the problem, but I revel in the thought that I might have made some kind of a positive impact on someone’s life.

Now, if only I could write prescriptions.