Thursday, October 14, 2010

Matchy Matchy?

This evening, I had to access my Gmail account, which I rarely ever use. And upon logging in, I found 280 profiles of men that eHarmony said would be a good match for me.

Yes, I have an eHarmony account. No, I am not a huge fan of online dating. And until tonight, I had forgotten that even had an active profile.

One week before I left for my European adventure, and one week after my 30th birthday, I decided that I needed to put myself out into the dating world, and a coupon-bargain price for eHarmony seemed like just the ticket. So late that Friday afternoon, I gathered my employees into my office, made them help me answer all of the questions, and within an hour, presto! I was live in the world of online dating, fresh with six “matches of compatibility.”

The next night I met a guy the old-fashioned way: at a party.

It’s the kind of universal karma I love: just when I feel the need to online date, the universe rewards me with not having to.

So we spent a wonderful Labor Day weekend together, and off I went to EuropeTraveling around romantic European locales while high on a new love interest can’t be beat. We texted, we chatted. It was fun and new and exciting. I came home and we had another fabulously wonderful weekend together.

And then we got to know each other a bit more. And turns out, we have very little in common. He is conservative, I am liberal. He is religious, I practice the dharma of “be nice to people.” He likes the suburbs, I live in the city. He’s up early, I sleep in.

But we have fun together, he holds my hand, and he makes me smile. And I kinda like him.

So as I logged on and quickly viewed a couple of the hundreds of Angeleno men who were “compatibility matched” for me by eHarmony – mostly liberal, “Other” religious, marathon runners - it made me wonder, “What really makes a good match for a relationship?” and, more importantly, “Is it better to date someone like you, or can opposites attract?”

Research tends to prove the former.

"People prefer their own kind," says J. Philippe Rushton, a psychologist at the University of Western Ontario. "Extroverts favor extroverts; traditionalists, traditionalists."

And in a recent study, researchers from Cornell University, Berkeley, and the University of Michigan concluded that, “Similarity is the rule and complimentarily is the exception.” They found that, “we are attracted to people who have similar attitudes and values because they validate what we believe, they are more likely to experience the same emotional reactions to the same situation, and they are more likely to react to the same situations in the same ways.”

And although one of the most expansive studies on the topic, performed at the University of Iowa and reported by the American Psychology Association, found that couples who had, “more in common personality-wise (agreeableness, anxiety levels, extroversion), as opposed to attitude-wise (religion, politics), were more likely to be very happy and satisfied with their marriages,” people generally tend to be with those who are “similar in attitudes, religion and values.” 

So where does that leave me? I have never dated someone with such opposing views. But I also think it could make things interesting (and for this, I would be in the majority: a recent article in the journal Evolutionary Psychology found that 85.7 percent of participants claim to want someone who has their opposite traits).

Outside of all of the academia, I think I tend to agree more with marriage and family therapist Isadora Alman’s position that the bigger question should be not “are we compatible?” but, “how good are you at negotiating?” and “how invested are you in always getting your own way?" These questions, she believes, are far better predictors of a happy time together. 

If both parties can respect the others’ views and be okay with the differences - then there is a good chance things could work out. And if not, then it would probably be too much of a challenge.

And I am an optimist - and he’s so very cute, and we do have a couple of other very important things in common, like country music, college football and … other things. So I in for giving it a whirl. And I will be sure to give him the space he needs to watch Fox News in private.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Risky Business

It is raining today and I love it.

I have a large bay window in my office and I am just staring out of it – listening to the raindrops and the busy Barham traffic sloshing through them.

Work seems to distract from my enjoyment of the rain, so instead I am getting caught up on my reading: The Chronicle of Philanthropy, a New York Times article about LinkedIn and my favorite blog, Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist. (For my job, this is considered working, but I always have a hard time justifying it).

I haven’t read Penelope’s blog for a while – I think she took a break from writing over the summer and I’ve been slow to catch up on her new posts. But she is an excellent writer and reading her blog inspires me to want to do the same. I have felt this way throughout my life: when I read something really good, it makes me want to write something really good. Which makes me think that I want to be a writer.

But getting that going often seems like a huge challenge – and counterintuitive to my nature.

Writing is risky. Ideas go from inside your head and out into the world. People read them and may judge you, or not agree with you, or know too much about you. You may spend hours on something that never finds the light of day. You may spend a weekend on something that no one likes. You might miss the window of relevance because you needed to prepare for the staff-wide business development meeting.

Writing also takes a lot of self-discipline. In order to be good at something, one must practice it again and again – and usually on some kind of regular basis. In theory, the idea of a prescribed writing agenda sounds really good to me - but something else usually comes along to throw it off: dinner plans, a much-needed Spin class, The Closer.

So suffice it to say: I am not a huge risk-taker and I have a very hard time practicing self-discipline. But I would really like to capture both of these ideals… as we all know, there is little reward without risk and few results without a little self-discipline.

Penelope has recently written about both of these challenges. In last week's, How to Take Intelligent Risks, she concludes that trying something new isn’t really all that risky since humans are quite adept at positively rationalizing an outcome - even if it’s not the one we expected. And that taking risks comes with only a small emotional cost: others are so concerned about what’s going on with them that they have little time to worry about whether or not you are suceeding.

For a year Penelope also wrote extensively about what makes people happy. Interestingly, having self-discipline tops the list. But its elusiveness can also drive people mad. So her advice is to “find an easy re-entry point” and to give up on perfectionism, “the enemy of self-discipline.” For a Virgo, this line of thinking is also very risky. But this astrological attribute also comes with a gift for making plans and outlining beautiful to-do lists, which for me is a starting point for any project.

Based on circular logic, this all means that writing will help me take risks, realize self-discipline and achieve maximum happiness. Not a bad gig! So with my writing tool box packed with a finely crafted road map, a fantastic skill for rationalizing, and an impeccable to-do list, I will give it a whirl.

And if it doesn’t work out, I will find a really great way to tell you why. And then make a list for how to achieve my next venture.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Holiday Part One: Paris

I am enjoying a holiday in Paris - and I was basically forced to come here.

Nine months ago I was seriously considering moving out of LA. My life was lacking a some joie de vivre and I was feeling pretty ... blah.

Work is the same! No decent men to date! I'll never be able to buy a house - much less a condo!

I needed a change. And moving to Portland was the best one I could come up with. 

I thought about it for weeks (I knew it was serious when I subscribed to Portland Monthly) and then shared my grand plan with those who knew me best. In return I was given plenty of feedback, most of which translated to: bad idea.

You're just running away! Your business is in LA! Do you know it rains all year in Oregon?! 

Most understood my need for change, but they suggested that, perhaps, it wasn't the city that was the issue (couldn't possibly be me?!) and that I should search for other avenues for significant change. I was given three palpable gems of advice for how to shake things up:
  • Take a long vacation
  • Get a new apartment
  • Find a hobby (thanks, C!)
So here I sit in a Parisian cafe drinking wine, eating cheese and writing - and I totally see that they were right (and I was wrong?!). 

In Paris, things are a little different ... Lunch is a bigger deal than dinner, wine is cheaper than water, peeing in toilettes on the corner is normal, and long breaks from work is totally the norm (if not required by law).

So I think the French - and my business partner Bob - are definitely on to something: time away from the regular ebb and flow of life is somewhat of a necessity in order to avoid completely burning out.

I've never taken two weeks off of work - and not because I wasn't encouraged to do so. It was mostly because I thought there was some kind of honor in being continuously available to the needs of my business... Not checking email? Blasphemous! The office function without me? Doubtful! Business travel surely counts as getting away?!

But as I prepared to exit the country and leave my workload with my colleagues, I felt a wonderful sense of freedom. Unplugging from email, voicemail, payroll, billpay and client needs- and allowing others to take care of those things (or at least prep well enough so their work was minimal)- felt like a luxury. The idea of traveling abroad was almost secondary. I finally understood the idea du jour of needing time away from the daily grind, and appreciated the art of letting others provide support. Two life lessons in one two-week trip!

I'm sure that this vacation will not completely cure my addiction to working - when I get back I will still feel mildly guilty about taking a day off or asking for help with my workload - I am a career- driven American after all! - but I do think my mentality will be changed. And surely my job will not seem so much like "work" when a long vacation is the reward for a solid year of productivity.

So, basically, I almost have my life figured out ... or I'm at least two-thirds of the way there (I also moved into a new apartment that I love). So once I find that much-needed hobby (possibly on my next stop in Italy?), I will be completely on track. 

Here's to hoping the hobbies don't include daily wine drinking at noon or peeing in public.

Au Revoir!

** Note: I am now home, but due to the lack of free wi-fi in Europe, I couldn't actually post these blogs while I was traveling!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

View from the Clouds

I tend to blog a lot when I travel. I think this is because I am most inspired when I'm away from the office and my "regular life."

I am a very routined person, so of course I have my own personal travel rules that I adhere to for each trip: carry on bags only, bring a sweater, a bottle of water and a Lara bar, sit as close to the front of the plane as possible, and ALWAYS choose a window seat.

The window seat - not generally known as the best seat in the house - is my most important frequent flier staple, as I tend to have the best moments of inspiration and creativity while staring out the window of a commercial jetliner.

From this seat I have launched a new business, developed a book idea, resolved relationships and found clarity on personal goals. Also from this alternative viewpoint I have seen much of America: the Grand Canyon, the winding Mississippi River, the Colorado Rockies, sunsets that last for hours and impending weather patterns that will be featured in the next day's news. I've imagined the people who live on the perfectly circumferenced farmland I can see throughout the midwest, whose lives must be so amazingly different from mine.

It is truly remarkable how different the world looks from 37,000 miles up- and this noticeable change in perspective is necessary from time to time.

Many people see air travel as a means to an end: a vehicle to take them to their destination. But I see it as more of a haven: a place to unplug, catch up on reading, write, be creative. And my window seat is a sure bet into this unlikely Mecca.

Written from seat 20F, United Airlines flight 116 from Los Angeles to Chicago.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I Heart New York. And Portland and LA...

I was going to write today about the dissolution of the marriage between Al & Tipper Gore, a story which fascinates me to no end because they were a very interesting couple who were married for forty years - and now they are parting in a super amicable way that is quite modern (and surely beneficial for them both).

But then I arrived, for business, in New York City – to beautiful weather and an exciting vibe in the air – and I was reminded of how much I love it here.

This visit, I decided to stay in a different part of town (Soho/Greenwich Village) – and so far, this decision has paid off in spades.

There is a vibe to this city like none other that I have visited: everyone is always moving with purpose, June weather can’t be beat, and no matter where you go, even on a Wednesday, there is some kind of interesting action.

I had an amazing meal – three courses at Casa Mono, a Mario Batali Spanish Tapas joint - and also enjoyed a fun conversation there (only half in English) with a family visiting from Venezuela; and then proceeded to have a wonderfully interesting chat with a Bulgarian/San Francisco implant at the outdoor bar at my hotel. 

I’m sure I could live here and would love it. But I’ve had this epiphany in other cities as well...

A few months ago, I seriously considered moving to Portland (Oregon), an appealing city that features a significantly lower cost of living, slower pace of life, public transportation and clever city planning, and a food scene that can’t be beat – and most importantly, a community of people whom I love: my sister, my best friend from college, my ex, a business mentor, and a few former Angelino friends.

And I just came from a wonderful visit to San Antonio, where a fun encounter made me think that this sleepy Texas town could offer a way of life much different than what I have now.

But as much as I love my visits to New York and Portland and San Antonio – and the myriad of cities in between - I truly love LA and my life there, and I know that I will probably be living in the City of Angeles for a while.

I arrived in Hollywood eight years ago this month, one week after I graduated college from the University of Oregon and with my then actor-boyfriend. And truly, I've had a wonderfully full experience: I've started two businesses here, met wonderful people – many of whom will be life-long friends- fell in love with a stray cat, had my heart broken, experienced some crazy nights, seen more sports games, concerts and events to count, and helped shape the course of a young professionals board for a local non-profit organization.

So for better or for worse, Los Angeles is home. And really, it’s not a bad place to be.

So tonight, rather than plot my course for moving to a new place, I raise a glass to the wonderful cities I’ve been able to visit in the in-between.

Thank god for travel. And New York City.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Let's Hear it for the Boys

Tonight I had dinner and drinks with a guy I’ve know for a while – and in a couple different incarnations - who is a solid human being and really great friend. On the drive home, I had a moment of realization: I am so lucky to have such strong, intelligent and caring men in my life.

So often, women (myself included) kvetch over the negative attributes that men bring into our lives: we cry and complain and curse and contemplate. We bond over their ability to cause us pain, frustration and general confusion. But in this moment, I am truly grateful for the wonderful men who make up a big part of my life; not only providing comfort and companionship, but also entertainment and general handiness.

From my best friend who is one of the most talented and charismatic men I have ever met; whom I speak with daily, inspires me often, and allows me to experience a more leisurely, yet exhilarating way of life that is so contrary to my natural state.

To my business partner and our superstar employee – both men and, for the record, in their 20’s and 30’s respectively – who keep me endlessly entertained and supported at work.

From my ex, a brilliant creative, who at one time, both drove me crazy and taught me the meaning of love, and now keeps residence as a permanent member of my “family.”

To my actual male family members - my dad and young brothers - who are far away but so present in my heart and a significant part of who I am.

From the comfortable, handsome intellectual who is so uncomplicated, but is always there when I need something a little more.

To the mild affair I could never have, but nevertheless remains a supportive presence.

These men are remarkably different in so many ways, but they share the similarity of being a part of my community and my heart. They have provided me an amazingly well-rounded education in the ways of the opposite sex, and have enriched my life in more ways than I can express.

I often have trouble sharing my deep affection for those closest to me, but tonight, in the most public way I know possible, I say thank you and much love.

I don’t know if these deep connections with great men are a commonality for most women, but for the good of all, I truly hope this is the case.

Let’s hear it for the boys.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Jury Duty!

I am writing this blog post from the jury room at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in downtown Los Angeles. I am waiting with about 200 other people to see if I will be selected on to uphold the 6th Amendment.

The packed room includes a very diverse group of people: many cultures, several languages, businesspeople, students, retirees, “homemakers” (why is this term still relevant?) and even a familiar face: a fellow board member of LA’s BEST. It intrigues me that so people from such different walks of life have been mandated to gather at the same place on the same day.

Yet most people are bitching about being here.

Which I understand because I have been hearing from people all week about what I can do to get out of this “situation” – just don’t go, lie when they ask you questions, tell them you are racist. Really? Is that what society (or perhaps just my social circle?) has come to: being dishonest to dodge a process that was founded to ensure that each person is provided due process?! If we were in the same place, wouldn’t we want the best possible people listening to our case?

Now don’t get me wrong, I understand the inconvenience of serving jury duty. At this moment, I have several active events happening at work and my business partner is on maternity leave. But I hardly think that I am so important that a couple days out of the office will materially affect the course of my business. And, unlike others in the room, I will still pull a paycheck if I actually have to sit on an active case.

Having said that, I still have my fingers crossed that I will be released at the end of the day, thus fulfilling my responsibility for an entire year. Because although I know I would be an excellent juror and would find the process very interesting, I am really not that virtuous (or crazy) that I am hoping to be selected - it would be a nuisance to be out of the office for an extended period of time, and God forbid the BDI team be left to their own devices for too long in beautiful summertime weather!

But if I am selected to serve, I will suck it up, be honest and perform to the best of my ability; not only it is a basic tenet of a democratic society, but it is also an importance practice of the Golden Rule. And certainly if I were on trial, I would hope that everyone does the same for me. 

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I'd Rather Work than Date?

Since my last serious relationship three years ago – and a rough, quick heartbreak shortly after – I have truly been more interested in working and having a fun single life than I was in looking for a mate. I loosely dated here and there, but never anything too serious, and without expending too much effort.

And then, like biological clockwork, I recently realized that I was ready to be in a relationship again – perhaps settle down a bit and really invest some time with a significant other. And, in the most timely way possible with very little patience necessary, I met someone who was actually a great catch: smart, attractive, interesting, listened to NPR! And was thinking he was ready to settle down too. Man, I just love it when that happens!

So we went on a first date. And another and some more. And talked. And kissed. And it was fun and exciting and hopeful.

And now, a few weeks and a touch of an emotional investment later, he’s back with his ex. And that my friends, is dating! I totally forgot that’s how it goes.

What I have been more accustomed to in recent years are the rules of running a business. Make a to-do list; cross things off. Target new business prospects; fulfill their needs. Hire worthy employees; give them projects. Enter bills; invoice clients.

Of course in business, there is still some heartbreak and disillusionment, but it is much more measured and anticipated. Surely you cannot expect to land every client you pursue. Not all employees you hire will be superstars. There are times of financial uncertainty. Clearly there are good days and bad. But all in all, there are rules of engagement – and to me, it all makes sense and follows a generally predictable pattern.

So really, right now, I’d rather work than date. It’s easier - and there is a greater chance of success.

But there was a time, not long ago, when running my business was not so easy. It was unfamiliar and hard and forced me to learn new skills and new ways of doing things. I messed up and felt out of place and wasn’t always sure what I was doing. I cried and bitched and questioned my decisions.

Which kind of sounds like how I feel when I’m … dating.

So maybe finding a mate isn’t much unlike running a business after all (many self-help authors have often made this claim). Maybe it's more likely that I am just at a different stage of the dating game than I am in the sport of business. Not that there aren’t still bad days and tough losses; but at least now I understand where it’s coming from and recognize that it’s par for the course. And I have the knowledge that one day, it just clicked and I found my groove.

And I guess that is wherein the hope lies. As with building a company, there should be a day – hopefully in the not so distant future – when the rituals of dating will become easier and more familiar. That the bumps will become more tolerable and better navigated. That I will be as successful at it as I am in business.

Luckily, I’m a very fast learner.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Is Marriage Still Relevant?

Marriage has been on my mind in recent months. Not sure why since the news has been filled with reports of cheating politicians (and Tiger), voters refusing to extend the right to gays and lesbians, and a personal understanding of the affects of divorce.

And yet, the thoughts persist. Which is shocking news to me, as for most of my adult life I haven’t had much interest in joining the ranks of the blissfully bound.

Marriage is an institution that dates back to medieval times as a way to ensure the connection of well-to-do families. It also comes in handy for raising children – as two, bonded human adults can better care and provide for their offspring. And there was a time – not too long ago – where getting married was the epitome of success for young women in America.

More modern times have seen marriage provide tax benefits, a big party where friends and family buy you gifts you specifically request, and also, according to Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and her most recent tome on marriage, Committed, “a giant sack of expectations” of your partner including, “best friend, romantic partner, someone who inspires you everyday, helps your career, co-parents with you, etc.”

So with all of these risks and expectations and outdated models of pair-bonding, why is it that all of a sudden the idea of marriage suddenly appeals to me? Perhaps that now, on the eve of my thirties, I am getting more settled, more interested in long-term planning and commitment. Maybe it represents a life that is more familiar to me as most of my friends are now married and having babies. Or maybe it’s a novelty that I have yet to experience.

As for whether or not marriage is still relevant … the answer to that varies by individual and context. For society? Perhaps. Married people tend to be happier, healthier and more successful in life that us singletons. But for me does it provide a “significant and demonstrable bearing on the matter at hand”? Not really.

I’m quite certain that I can have a committed relationship, good health and myriad of success without matrimony. But some days, depending on the outcome of a date, the tug of my biological clock and/or the frequency with which I hang out with my married friends, it feels to be more significant than others.

So while my mind is now open to the idea of nuptials, my heart knows that it isn’t a necessary course of action to define my relationship, prove my place in life or secure the course of my future. We’ll see what happens... have several steps to go before walking down the aisle: like finding a man who I could possibly tolerate spending “the rest of my life” with. And good luck with that!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Dating in the Meantime

I recently re-watched one of my favorite movies of 2009: 500 Days of Summer. It just came out on DVD and is a must see for anyone who is a member of the modern dating world.

The movie is non-chronological telling of the number of days spent between beautiful, independent Summer and disillusioned, love-struck Tom. But more importantly, it’s a spot-on look at the makings, breakings and intimacies of what I call a “meantime relationship.”

This is a situation I understand well: I’m pretty sure I’ve spent more time in a meantime relationship than in a proper one – and on both sides. But what the movie clarified for me is something that I have known all along, but sometimes forget: when things are indefinable for an extended period of time, a long-term relationship does not follow.

A “meantime relationship,” as chronicled in 500 Days has several markers of a regular relationship – a real connection, physical attraction, a solid friendship, invested feelings, intimate relations. But what it generally lacks is one side being invested enough to make it a full-fledged, let’s give this a whirl, venture.

And it usually begins by one saying to the other, “I’m not looking for anything serious."

One may wonder why these relations are pursued when they are founded on such lackluster beginnings. I think it’s because there is a genuine affection, some seratonin kicks in, and it’s nice to have to have someone to hang out with - surely there must be the possibility of something more?! Even though the pieces don't add up to the whole, there’s still enough good in the situation to stick around and see what could happen.

But eventually – somewhere around Day 80 - frustration sets in. In the movie, an uncertain Tom asks Summer what they “are” – friends or a couple? And, she responds, “Why do you feel a need to put a label on things?”

Which is what people say when they know that their label won't correlate to your label. Because for the most part, we revolve around universally understood levels of relationships, generally fitting into one of the following categories:

  • Platonic Friends: Men who fall into this category include husbands and boyfriends of your girlfriends, co-workers, gay men and other males with whom you have absolutely no attraction, but still enjoy their company.
  • A Crush: You are interested in him, or he in you, but one of you is absolutely not interested in pursuing the relationship further, and it ends there. Unless, you move into…
  • Friends with Benefits: A ritual as old as time and a sure bet when certain needs must be met. Both parties are physically attracted to each other, but for whatever reason, neither has any intentions to take things to the next level. Note: this category ONLY works if you truly don’t have urges to be properly….
  • Dating: Both parties are physically attracted to each other and want to pursue things further, which is made clear to each other and the world by monogamous behavior, regular patterns of meals and outings, shared intimacy, plus communicated feelings that both parties may one day be interested in having a….
  • Committed Relationship: This serious, long-term venture often involves living together and the assumption that one day marriage and/or family could be possible (or has already taken place).

Meantime relationships fall somewhere between friends with benefits and dating, and have the distinct characteristic of one person understanding the relationship to be within one category, while the other sees it as another. While navigating this modern dating world, it may take a while to fully understand which category your relationship falls within - or to realize that the one you’re in isn’t where you want to be.

At the end of the movie, Tom asks Summer how she knew her new guy was the one for her. She quietly replied, “I woke up and knew… what I was never sure of with you.”

Ouch. The sold-out Arclight crowd literally gasped in pain. But for me, it verbalized in one sentence what I have intuitively known, and have occasionally tried to ignore: most of the time, you just aren’t “the one.”

And that's okay - at one time or another, most people won't be until they are. And there are lots of things to be learned in the meantime. The trick is to learn before too much is invested.

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