Monday, July 29, 2013

Some observations from the world of online dating

[Alternate (pessimistic) title: People and the Internet are Horrible]

In late March, I ventured into the world of online dating. I've met some genuinely awesome people as a result, but this post is not about them. It's been an alternately curious, terrifying, hilarious, WTF glimpse into what humanity does when it doesn't have to talk to someone face to face. It's also been an interesting psychological experiment on myself.

Here's some things I've learned:
  • Venturing back into the dating scene when you're six weeks out from completing graduate school and about to take the biggest exam of your life is either the best or the worst idea ever. I haven't decided yet. 
  • Taking their dating profiles at face value, I should believe that approximately 99.9% of straight male Portlanders ages 28-33 are "laidback and easygoing." Way to not be a cliche, dudes.
  • Asking a dark-skinned man who messaged you whether he enjoys hiking or camping (since he never mentions it in his profile or has any pictures of said activities) can result in him accusing you of racism.
  • I feel the need to shower after finding out that a 58-year-old with a Pomeranian in his profile picture has viewed my profile. 
  • The vast majority of acquaintances who learn that I am meeting people online seem to require some kind of justification for my actions, and to be confused as to why I would be driven to such a desperate means of finding a man. To the point that I feel the need to give an explanation before they even ask. As in, I work (and went to school) in female-dominated fields, all of my friends are paired off so I don't often meet new people through them, and I sure as hell don't go to bars to meet guys (do people actually do that at my age?), so my venues for meeting someone organically are limited. In this day and age, I think meeting people through a website is a perfectly acceptable way to find dating partners, and I don't feel any shame in it. In fact, I think I kind of prefer it. You get the chance to screen out people based on issues that might not come up till much later in a non-online-meeting scenario.
  • Oddly, at least half of the guys whose profiles I have viewed seem to feel this same shame of being online, with taglines such as "I won't tell anyone we met online" or "We can say we met at the park."
  • A good rule is to only go on dates with guys who can spell and use punctuation properly.
  • If you're on a date and the guy starts vocally judging you for how long it took you to get back into dating after your last breakup, it's acceptable (actually, it's recommended) that you ditch him and go home to watch The Big Bang Theory and drink wine. 
Questions I have for guys on online dating sites:
  • What, exactly, compelled you to make your username Stud_Beefpile?
  • Do you honestly think that messaging a girl with the one-liner "Let's make a baby" is going to get you anywhere? 
  • Same goes for "hi just at work being bored lol :)"
  • Ditto "I bet you read National Geographic to look at pictures of naked tribesmen, and then claim you're just reading the articles." What the f***? (I'm looking at you, Stud_Beefpile)
  • What possible reason could you have for casually mentioning on your otherwise sane profile that you think racist jokes are the funniest ones? 
Yes, online dating can bring out the worst (and weirdest) in people, but it's getting more and more common and I know many people who have married someone they met this way. So it gives me hope. Also it gives me the opportunity to engage in messaging exchanges like this:

Guy: "When did you go to New Zealand? I have been there twice."
Me: "I was there from fall of 2010 to spring of 2011."
Guy: "Wow, we overlapped! I was there in the spring of 2010 and again in December 2011."

The powers of deductive reasoning are not strong with this one.

There are many excellent blog posts out there about the horrors of online dating. This blog (WARNING: a bit graphic!) made me realize that the worst messages I've gotten are Shakespearean sonnets in the scheme of things. This Buzzfeed post just cracked me up.

Friday, July 26, 2013

In which I buy something I can't afford and it's totally worth it

Last week I spent $450 on a camera.

That might not be much in the scheme of things, nor much in the world of fancy cameras, but in my current scheme of things, it's a pretty hefty chunk of money. The kind of chunk of money that ended up being put on a credit card.

I'm really good at living on a shoestring. I've been poor pretty much forever, although I am now on the cusp of a career where I can make enough money to actually have savings. So throughout graduate school and since, I've tried to keep my spending very limited. I currently make enough money to pay the rent, feed myself, pay a tiny chunk towards my student loans every month or two, and go out for drinks occasionally. But that's about it. I've been avoiding large purchases of any kind, focusing on needs instead of wants (apart from the drinks...).

So when, several months ago, I had to give back the lovely camera that had been loaned to me for 3 years (which I used all through the New Zealand trip), I bought a basic point-and-shoot camera for less than $100 and figured I would get by without a nicer one until I got a better job. It didn't work out like that.

This is basically a story of "having something taken away from you makes you realize how much you love it." I knew I really liked using a good quality camera, and I very much appreciated the quality of the photos it took. I know next to nothing about photography, but I caught the bug of documenting things using photos, finding cool angles and lighting, neat candid shots, and trying to capture the wonder of the cool places I was seeing. It just wasn't the same with a cheap camera. The quality of the photos began to feel fake to me, like I wasn't capturing the full essence of things. I didn't feel the same. I missed the heft of a big camera in my hands, twisting the lens to zoom, the weight on the strap around my neck. Not to mention the ability to mess with multiple settings to get the picture just right. Over the last month or so, I began to realize that having a good quality camera is actually a boon to my mental health. Weird as that sounds. There is a profound form of satisfaction that I get from taking nice pictures (even if it's the camera doing most of the work), and living without that was getting extremely hard, and making me feel restless.

So, after a bit of thought and debate, I began to make the decision to spend money I didn't have in order to get that feeling of satisfaction back. I got the final bit of validation I needed from my very wise friend Lydia. When I explained the situation to her, she said this: "Well, you can wait until you're 60 and have the money, or you can buy it now and enjoy it when you actually want to enjoy it." Exactly.

I am now the owner of a Nikon D3100 digital SLR camera, and I'm completely in love.

It's a bottom-of-the-line camera in terms of dSLRs, but it's a million times better than any camera I've ever used. Such that I can only claim a small percentage of the credit for photos like these:

I still know next to nothing about how to really use a camera, what changes in aperture and shutter speed mean, and those kinds of things. A photography class is on my list of things to accomplish this year, and there's a good one coming up this fall at a community arts center, which focuses on learning to use a dSLR as well as general photography skills.

At some point in the last three years, I caught the photography bug, and it's not going away. I can feel it becoming as vital to me as writing is, to process my feelings and experiences. This is a good reminder to me that while wants often masquerade as needs, the opposite is also true. And that sometimes it's solidly worth it to put yourself in the red a little bit to satisfy those needs.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What I've Been Up To

Here's a bit of what I've been doing over the last month or so:

Enjoying the great outdoors, per the usual.

Gallivanting around Seattle and Bellingham with Laurel, and making flavored salts....

...a trip which included a visit to one of my very favorite stores.

Eating obscene amounts of fresh green salad from my garden, usually topped with cantaloupe and blue cheese.

Taking in numerous free concerts in Portland's city parks with good friends.

Reading many wonderful things. (I also recommend anything by Ron Rash)

Spending many happy hours here.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Different Direction

So here's the deal. 

I've never really written much about personal things on this blog. It's all been practical things, cooking or knitting or gardening, or else travel stories, with very little about my thoughts on love and tragedy and life--and who I'm trying to be in mine. Maybe I've touched on those things in a general sense, but I've been feeling these last few months that I want to share more of these things in a way that doesn't impose them on people, and this blog provides me with a venue to do that. While I am still living quite simply, my life is very different now than it was a year ago, and I have been writing in a different way in my journal, and I've decided I want to reflect that here. So I'm going to transition Frolics From Scratch from being a simple living blog to being a blog about an (almost) 29-year-old woman finding her way in the world while trying not to be afraid to do the things that scare her but will probably actually be very rewarding.

If you've been reading here for the simple living stuff, I'm sure there will still be plenty of that, but there will also be stories of the other parts of my life: my adventures (and misadventures) in the online dating world, how I finally stuck to a set of New Years resolutions (in the form of a bucket list for the year), and the various ludicrous scrapes I get myself into (for instance: the other day on the way to work I rode my bike over some poppers left over from July 4th. I almost had a heart attack. Then I laughed so hard I almost fell off my bike). I might also write about my feelings on certain social issues or current events that I can't get out of my head. But I probably won't do that part quite as much.

There might be more swearing. Hopefully there will be more humor. Maybe I'll get savvy enough to figure out how to post videos and make my layout a little nicer. But don't hold your breath :)

I'm not going to try and write every day, or on a particular schedule (attempting to escape silly self-imposed pressure to post by certain standards set by other blogs. This one is mine, dammit!). When I want to share something, or feel compelled to post, I will. When I don't, I won't, and I'll be okay with that. 

I guess this form of blogging is egocentric by nature, since I write partly to express my own thoughts and process things for myself, and partly because writing is just part of my nature and must be done in some form in order for me to keep functioning properly. But it is my hope that the occasional reader will find something entertaining, useful, or (dare I say it?) inspirational.

Here's to new beginnings. And sunshine. Lots and lots of sunshine. This summer is shaping up to be one of the most fun of my adult life, and I look forward to sharing it with you.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

New URL, finally!

I'm such a Luddite. The interwebs intimidate me most of the time, and I didn't realize how easy it was to reassign my blog to a URL that actually matched the name of the blog. I finally did it! Hopefully without, as my dad would say, a hitch in the gitalong.

More changes soon!

UPDATE: Apparently blogger dropped my sidebar of favorite blogs when I changed the address. I guess that would be the hitch...

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

On Holiday

As you may have noticed, I ended up taking a bit of a break from the blog these last few weeks. For a combination of reasons, I am not feeling particularly inspired to write at the moment, at least about simple living-related stuff. I've been doing more writing for myself than for public consumption, and feel like I need a few things to fall into place before I can really get back into the blogging groove. This summer, post-graduation, is turning out to be an interesting combination of career-related limbo, soul-searching, and getting to know myself a lot better due to living alone with way more free time than I'm used to and limited discretionary funds (result: doing much better at partaking of free forms of entertainment and being proactive about making social things happen).

I'm going to continue taking a break from it all, focus on job searching and enjoying my summer and various weekend trips, while I ponder taking a different sort of direction with this blog. I'll definitely be back, but I'm not sure when. In the meantime, make the most of your summer (northern hemisphere folks) or your winter (southern hemisphere folks)!