There’s an undeniably perverse sex appeal to smoking that transcends rhyme or reason.
I know, I don’t like it either. It’s a bad penny that keeps showing up in your pocket, covered in grime, but somehow still works. I can’t help seeing it and thinking, “Yea, alright then. I’ll let it slide.” Somehow still ups the tally.
The guy from this week (yet to be named; I’m waiting to see if date two occurs) is a smoker. Said he’s quitting, but I suspect that’s a dating ploy. So many people list is as a dealbreaker, he’s probably adapted to social norms. I’d much rather people be unapologetic. The Mistake was a smoker, and didn’t claim otherwise; he simply made sure I had a full drink and was content before popping outside for a quick one. But unlike with him, this week I joined.
When a date smokes, I usually send them out on their own and amuse myself talking to the server/bartender/surrounding patrons. I’m perfectly comfortable taking care of myself, and I appreciate the added proof to the guy that I don’t need his constant presence to enjoy my night. I’m not clingy, and don’t require incessant attention. It’s monotonous.
Unless you smoke gross cigarettes. A coworker of mine smokes something nasty, and each time we talk after a break outside, I have to fight gagging. And these excursions occur every twenty minutes. I don’t know which poison of choice he carries, but the smell trails after him like a shadow of ash and odor. It’s awful.
Some don’t bother me; I think it’s the more natural tobacco. The scent triggers memories of college parties and nights with Big Bro’s friends in Philly or home. It’s basement shows and late-night rages, wandering South Street for pizza and following DJ sounds to a new dive. They’re good memories. And I smoke hookah anyway, so not all tobacco rubs me wrong. As a social smoker, I see the shared enjoyment of it. The communal moments circled around a shisha or ashtray. The particular intimacy of a shared cigarette, or leaning to accept someone’s offered flame. There is something illicit in such communion; it’s dark and alluring.
What does hit me wrong are the brands crafted solely for chain smokers. You can actually smell the addiction in the air. It’s all strained teeth, yellow skin, and cancer. It’s my aunt’s chemo, head scarves, and funeral. It’s the kids that barely survived our high school, and a few that didn’t. They smell of degenerates, death, and dumbasses. I might date smartasses, and a few jackasses– but I never date dumbasses. If a were ever out with a guy that smoked these, he would never reach date two. Kissing these smokers is like kissing an ashtray of disease. Just don’t do it. I don’t want all of my kisses to taste bad.
Thankfully, Mystery Man’s smoke doesn’t bother me. In fact, I switched it up and joined his breaks this week. He seemed a little more nervous than me, and relaxed more in his zone. Our bartender is an industry acquaintance, and was more than entertaining on the patio. Plus, it gave me the opportunity to ensure him that I don’t mind cigarettes, though I don’t personally partake. I mentioned hookah, and he perked up that he had never tried it but was curious. So I explained, and added that one of my goals during my time in the Middle East was to learn how to blow smoke rings. We compared notes on the easiest way to make them, and promised I’d show him a few great spots if he’d like. I think this is when the date turned to more comfortable level for us both. The chemistry ignited and caught fire.
So he’s an interesting one. He’s older (a topic to be discussed in my upcoming article, “What’s Your Number?”), taller (despite size not always mattering, I really do enjoy a 6″4 guy), and new to the area. I love new people. Showing them around, sharing the city as I know it… nothing beats it. Because they’re just as excited as I am; others who have lived here as long or longer than I are typically calmer or more jaded about our town. I prefer the excitement.
And he is subtly exciting. He’s old enough to know who he is, what he wants, but young enough to still want something new. He lives rather far out in suburbia, and deeply regrets it– something I find attractive. I only want to see people interested in being in the middle of it all. He is rather good at dropping the most interesting comments into conversation in the most quietly unassuming way. Instead of asking if I like Doctor Who, he mentions how our topic is like an episode. (And I fucking love Doctor Who– very geek chic.) While talking about how he didn’t start drinking until his later-20’s, he modestly credited it to having to be out on his own at age 17, being responsible with a full-time job instead of partying. In lieu of declaring the much-sought-after ability to keep rhythm and dance, he broke off mid-thought and said he loves the blues tune the band was playing, and the inspiration to dance was distracting him. He loves live music, but also likes to be able to hear the person he’s with? Alright, then– let’s move to the back bar, where it’s a little quieter. And hey, there’s even a real fire back there! (Both figuratively and literally.)
He’s comfortable with who he is. He admitted the first thing he drank was a period of Rumplemints (of which he had to get the bartender to hit me a shot, since my lack-of-girly-drinking had never had it). So maybe he actually is unapologetic in personality; he laughed enough at himself for it, and maintains it’s a delicious liquor. He mentions his experiences being single in DC in a relaxed way, and has no problem with questions. He asks some on his own, too. By the end of the night, he offered to drive me home. We parked outside my house to finish a conversation long enough to make me wonder if I should kiss him. But I refrained; I made the first move twice with him already. First, in contacting him; second, in asking him out. I know he’s older, but he needs to make the next move. I need him to make the next move.
When I mentioned earlier in the night that I usually go to Madam’s on Thursdays for salsa and karaoke, he looked thoughtful and said he could probably make it. So I texted him yesterday that my friends are definitely going; he has an early flight Friday, and said maybe. Today, I texted that I promise the roof patio will be open to smoke this time, and I promise I won’t make him do birthday cake shots with the bartender again. He wrote back laughing. I understand flights and late nights don’t mix, but I can’t help hanging on the suspense if he’ll put in the effort. (And therefore judging a possible lack of it if he doesn’t show.) He’s attractive, tall, older, interesting– and fuck me, he looked hot smoking those damned cigarettes.
I don’t know if his smoke is hiding mirrors or if this is a genuine and sustainable interest, but color me intrigued.
It’s all fine and dandy for advice columnists to write about “putting yourself out there” romantically, or “staying positive” on the job hunt. That’d be just peachy, if I had picked up your article to save on a psychiatric bill– but I’m not here for my mental health, I’m here to figure how to get results. I don’t need your feel-good platitudes, I need a damn job.
What I realize more and more each day is that, for most people in this world, you only get what you want if you barrel into an obstacle with the bull-headed determination to refuse anything other than success. [Trust fund babies can politely bite me.] You might smash half the china shop, but at least it’s progress– right? You sure as hell won’t get anywhere sitting on your ass, unless you’re looking for obesity and a cardiac trip to the ER. So walk up to the cute person at the party, introduce yourself, and show some damn initiative.
Clearly, I’m in a feisty mood this week. [Or maybe it’s just frustration? I’ll go with both; they tend to go hand-in-hand with me.] My restaurant is closed for the next few months for renovations, and I’m left not only looking for a real job, but without the measly paycheck I’ve subsisted on the past year to support my fanatic career hunt. This is a terrifying time, folks. I have a three-digit bank balance and bills due in two weeks. My conclusion: I need to up my game, pronto. Evidently, the 100+ applications I send out a week aren’t cutting it, and the two staffing agencies I’m a candidate for haven’t helped. At most, they get my hopes up for a day or two a week, only to promptly smash them with a “the client chose someone with more relevant experience”. Which, to me, only says: “Hey, Jules, another employer thinks you’re irrelevant!” Well, fuck you kindly, too. I didn’t want to process your advertising information anyway.
Drastic times call for drastic measures. A friend told me that one of his buddies got a job last year by walking her resume straight in to HR. The ad only specified no calls. So I’m compiling a list today of places to drop in for mild harassment next week! Hey, it’ll be lovely: “You asked for no calls, but said nothing about walk-ins, so I thought I would hand it in personally and say hello.” That’s charming, right? Right??
Which bring me to this week’s problème d’amour: if I need to up my game professionally, a large majority of this city needs to step up personally. Washington needs to take its professional motivation and translate it into social life. Grow a pair, initiate, and follow through. Why doesn’t anyone walk up to the guy/ girl they’re into and say, “Hi, I think your cute/ interesting/ cooler than dinosaurs, want to go out/ dance/ jump in a fountain with me sometime?” Because honestly, those sort of straightforward shenanigans are just about all that I want. Chalk it up to being a budding adrenaline junkie. Nothing makes me smile like those butterfly whirlwinds that speed out of your stomach and overwhelm the whole body. What can I say? That’s what I want. To feel like crazed little butterflies are electrocuting my nervous system.
But hell, it seems like no one does it anymore– walk right up to someone pretty and say hello. So, to chase down the possibility of this idea, I went to the Offline Society’s inaugural event for DC singles last week, and was blown away. It was a remarkable collection of incredibly attractive, active, and interesting individuals. The ladies of the Society put together a superior event of classy cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and first-rate characters. I saw some sparks fly, and later recognized several connections made at the party continuing their night together at Wonderland Bar. Success? I think so. Common for DC? I think not. What made the event– and concept as a whole– so wonderful is the sad rarity of such behavior. Men and women were walking right up to each other to introduce themselves and take a leap. The Offline ladies did a fantastic job of getting everyone pumped up for putting themselves out there, and there was constant evidence of their skill in each stranger’s approach. But how is this sad?
Because it just doesn’t happen like that often. Sure, guys approach hot girls at the bar, maybe to offer a drink, though more often than not it’s just a solicitation to rub bodies on the dance floor. And of course, at house parties, new people meet and talk. But while clubs are meant for the carnal alcohol, parties are more platonic social. We go to parties with either someone [or two] in mind for the end-goal, or for a night out with a crew of friends. Even if you meet someone new and interesting, you’re out with a group and it’s a bit difficult– or sometimes embarrassing– to throw out some game with friends looking on. So we pull back and act more reserved under the limelight. [Yes, even me. For the most part, I’ve no problem with it, but we all have shy days!]
Once you get past that first hello, first date, or even first kiss, people around here still seem to have a problem with courage. I know the whole world isn’t keen on actual communication, especially when it involves emotion– but grow up. I’m very clear with what I want out of life, relationships, and even simple hook-ups. So figure out what you want [even if it’s that you don’t know], and be up-front about it. At the very least, it’ll earn you less social confusion. I was talking with a friend recently, and he agrees. If he likes someone, he asks her out and he doesn’t waffle over the details. It’s a question of “this-day-this-time-this-place, you in?” Cole’s definitely on to something there, because it shows both initiative and follow through. It’s honest, assertive, and endearing; what could be better?
Right now, I want something real. I want to have an affair of uninhibited passion, where it’s no one’s damn business what’s going on but our own. I want to stop wanting to do something, and having to tell myself ‘no’ because it’ll come off as too intense. We’re all comfortable with publicly showing our driven ambition here in DC, so why not allow that same freedom in our dating world? I’m tired of restraining myself for fear of scaring a guy into thinking I want to settle down and be exclusive. That’s not on my mind right now. I just want the freedom to feel what I’m feeling, and that involves a heaping dose of passion. I want the freedom to be me.
When someone kisses me and tells me they’re interested, after I tell them when I want, this is what I DON’T expect to happen: not hearing from them again until the next time we’re out with mutual friends. It happens to the best of us—and we all know the best includes me! Apparently I need to make myself even clearer: I don’t play those games, so don’t fuck with me. Each time something like this happens, Sally and I discuss the many ways that people suck over a bottle of wine [it’s wonderfully cliché, you should try it]. What constantly happens is her exasperated, “What is wrong with men?”, and my immediate, “These aren’t men—they’re boys.” When this weak or wishy-washy behavior happens, you’re clearly dealing with a Peter Pan of some sort who needs to grow a pair. So move on, Wendy, and find a man who knows what he wants, or at least wants to figure it out.
So if I tell this to someone I’ve sparked with, and he says he wants it, that communicates a green light to me. Because when other people talk, I actually listen. If you tell me something, I’m going to take you at your word. Being genuine might come naturally, but honesty takes some serious backbone. Saying what you mean isn’t always easy, or comfortable, or expedient. This isn’t naïveté, it’s a solid expectation. An expectation that you aren’t a liar with your fingers crossed behind your back, or a wimp that will later bitch out on the follow-through. I don’t use my words just because they feel right in that moment, or because it’ll get me what I want for the night– I speak because it’s true.
I expect better from the people I spend my time with. It isn’t a standard I will ever lower; it’s a deal-breaker. It might come off as the cause of many-a-sticky-situation, but really it’s very straightforward. Say what you mean, mean what you say– or get the hell out of my way. It’s that simple. Whether it’s balls or ovaries, we all need to man- and woman-up and grow a pair.
I have the audacity to go for what I want. Do you?
And because the lyrics crack me up so perfectly, I have to include your Ke$ha dose for the month. It’s true– when you grow a pair, you can call me back.
It’s just one of those ubiquitous childhood lessons, no matter where, when, and how you’re born. Sure, Sesame Street had a heavy hand in the wording for my generation, but it’s taught everywhere. And it doesn’t get old—no matter what age you are, the truth stays strong, in every type of relationship. Especially romantic ones.
It takes many forms in relationships, though I’m not talking about sharing partners for the most part [polyamory is seeing a rationalized comeback, but not a part of my personal lifestyle]. No, I’m talking more about sharing yourself. Being open and receptive. It’s tough to be an open book; it takes a lot of trust in the reader, and this is just a harsh world to trust new people sometimes.
When I look at the people around me, and hear about their romantic woes and failures, it all comes down to trusting yourself and another. It’s a damn vulnerable feeling, laying yourself bare to another’s scrutiny, but it’s also one of the most liberating phenomena in the human experience.
Some people only want to share parts of themselves with others—they are serial daters. Not monogamists, but daters. They hop from person to person like a bee bouncing around the wallflowers, content to enjoy the activity for a time before going back to their hive without keeping anyone special in mind. There’s nothing wrong with the lifestyle [and for the most part is my own life of choice, for now], because these bees are perfectly happy on their adventures, knowing their home is sweet enough without needing anyone else there. I have a blast going on dates with new people all the time, even if several aren’t repeated, because I am happy with myself. I don’t date to fill a void, I date to meet new and exciting people, and share my life with others. I don’t have any one special person in particular because I haven’t met the right person yet, but that’s peachy keen with me. I’d rather be awesome and single than settling for someone that doesn’t quite fit—we’re still young, this is the time to explore.
What I’ve noticed, between my friends and these various suitors, is that a lot of people don’t trust the dating game. We’ve grown to become quite the cynical generation. Raised on Disney fairy tales, fed the belief in love-at-first-sight and dreams-come-true, but experiencing the reality of an ever-increasing divorce rate and the nightmare of nasty break-ups. It’s tough to trust your dreams when it seems like they’re only real in cartoons—even MTV only airs the failed romances. If beautiful, awesome people like Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore can’t make it, how can we expect to?
We all have our preconceived notions and ‘ideal mate’ daydreams, but are too protective of it and ourselves to share with potential realities. It’s almost as if we’re hoarding our dreams, because admitting them to someone risks the chance of it happening. Like a birthday wish—you can’t TELL anyone what you wish when you blow out your birthday candles, because then it won’t happen!
So we make lists. Get clinical, and you feel less absurd. Come up with dealbreakers to explain the breakup before it happens, rather than admit the relationships fail because you were too terrified to commit and give it your all. Cobble together all the attractive qualities from various celebrities you fantasize about, and convince yourself the result is out there somewhere. It’s a twisted arts’n’crafts collage setting us all up for disaster. And when the end comes, we tell ourselves ‘I told you so’ as if that takes the sting out of loneliness.
Love is an all-or-nothing bet. You can’t ask everything of someone else if you refuse to open up. We’ve all heard it, the ‘two-way street’ bit, and all. You know the sayings—your mama told you them often enough as a kid. They’re clichés for a reason, you know.
So take a leap—sharing is caring. If you want someone to care about you, then you have to SHARE you. Sometimes it really is just that easy.