Everything in my life lately is a metaphor for dating and relationships.
I was recruited for a new job. I went on one interview. Then another. Then another. Between the second and third interviews I had trouble getting their attention to schedule a time (the third interview was at their request).
And then I heard nothing.
I reached out to the recruiter and asked if they had any insight. They said I should definitely hear by the next week. I followed up with the CEO of the organization. She confirmed they’d be in touch the following week.
And then I heard nothing.
Friday was my personal deadline to hear back from them before I withdrew my interest. My mom said, “If they call you a week later and offer you the job you’ll take it, though….” and I said, “No. I won’t.”
See, ’cause they way they treat you when you’re dating is supposed to be the BEST you’ll ever get with them. Once we settle into our routine, I’ll know what they’re really like, but in the beginning, I’m supposed to feel like they’ve as much interest in keeping tabs on me as I am in keeping tabs on them.
If someone I was dating had sent such mixed signals, they never would have made it to the third date. And, now having ghosted me for the second time…
I know my value enough to know that an employer who doesn’t contact me after two weeks after promising the world is an employer who makes empty promises, same as I would if some guy on OK Cupid showed tons of interest at first and then disappeared without so much of a “nice to meet you.”
A few months ago, when I thought I might lose access to my alternate Facebook account because they would not accept “Phi” as a name I am known by, there were hundreds of comments in the polyamory discussion groups lamenting the potential loss of my participation.
In the end, I was able to modify my name and continue participating. Everything was fine until a week or so ago, when someone posted something that I felt went against one of the group rules (no derisive comments against any relationship style, including monogamy). Despite my, and several other members’ protests, the group administrators allowed the post to remain unmodified.
I questioned whether or not to stay in the group and several people suggested it would be a shame to lose my voice in the group because I’ve helped so many people.
But I felt that with that post, the group administrators had taken a stand that said “your voice in this forum is not respected.”
I left the group and started my own, because a relationship in which there are agreements that are not upheld by those who set them is not a relationship that deserves my emotional labor.
Selling My House
I listed the house at a lower price, hoping to inspire multiple offers and incite a bidding war. I did get multiple offers, but they weren’t much higher than my original asking price. Meanwhile, the job thing fell through and I no longer had the pressing motivation to move beyond wanting a shorter commute to my existing job. But, hey – I’ve been making that commute for ten years. Another few months won’t kill me.
So I say I’m going to wait before countering, and the buyer’s agent says “Well, the buyer is on a strict timeline….”
Yeah…well, I’m not, champ. So if you’re on a strict timeline, that’s good for you, but I’m not going to take a hit on the sale of my house to accommodate your timeline.
The buyer threatened to pull their offer.
It’s been a week. They increased it. I’m countering today.
I know that the value of my house and my stress-level in packing up and moving out of there is incompatible with that of a buyer who is motivated to get me out, but no so much that he’s willing to pay a reasonable price. The fact that he made an offer isn’t enough doesn’t mean I have to accept it if I’m perfectly comfortable staying where I’m at. Same with the dating world, where the fact that someone shows more than a passing interest in you does not mean you have to drop everything to be with them, lest you find yourself all alone.
I’d rather live in my house than sell it to the wrong buyer.
And I’d rather be alone than in a relationship with the wrong partner.
My Current Employer
I’d told them I was interviewing and I might be leaving them soon. They freaked out a little and begged me to stay. I was honest with them – told them I wasn’t going to turn down the other position if it was offered to me, but that if it wasn’t – we could have a conversation about what it would take to stop looking.
Now that I’ve decided that other job isn’t in my best interest, it’s time to decide what to do with this one. I briefly spoke with my CFO about my concerns. She validated them and told me she agreed with me on many of them. She felt that what our organization is going through are growing pains and lots of organizations go through this, but that if we stick it out together, we’ll stand on the other side of this troubling time having grown both personally and professionally from the experience.
I told her we were in the “couples counseling” phase of our relationship. I was going to have to air my grievances, and they were going to have to validate and address them if we’re going to move forward – but that I have every intention of feeling fulfilled, appreciated, and acknolwedged for my contributions to my workplace, and if that’s not something that can happen here, I will seek it elsewhere.
Ever since I told people that I had given my employer a heads up that I was interviewing for another position, I’ve been counseled that it was a bad idea. Thing is, my employer needed to know that I was unhappy to the point of being willing to leave. I know my value as an employee …I know they wouldn’t be pleased to see me go. And now that they know I’m willing to walk away, I’m in the power seat during these negotiations. I can name my price (as long as it’s reasonable) and they will likely give it to me.
Of course, that will mean having to continue to prove that I will be worth whatever it is I ask for. In this case, it’s not so much about the pay rate as it is about the authority and autonomy over my department, and a seat a the table during the executive meetings.
But I’ll take a little more money, too.
Yes, on the surface – all of these situations are easily compared to some of the broader aspects of dating and relationship building. But there’s a deeper connection they all have that is what dating and relationship building really boils down to:
I finally learned to set my own value rather than allow others to set it for me.
Whatever happens with this house or this job or the next one, I know my worth. Since reaching this epiphany, I’ve noticed I spend far less time pining for the attention of those who would not give it enthusiastically, and more time cultivating relationships (be they romantic, platonic, or professional) with people who value me as highly as I value them.
I want to find a Daddy.
I want to find a Mistress.
I just want to find single, sexy, bisexual unicorn to date my spouse and me.
I want to find a job.
Okay, only that last one was me. Up until yesterday, that’s what I was saying. I want to find a job. But, up until yesterday, I’d only applied to one with a position description similar to what I do now, and I’d not done any followup to determine if my candidacy was being considered.
Then somebody in a relationship advice forum posed a question. She said that even though she identified as polyamorous, and even though her prior marriage(s) had failed spectacularly, she still sometimes felt like she’d rather do the monogamous, marriage, white picket fence thing but without feeling trapped. She wanted to know if others struggled with similar contradictions.
Plenty of people pointed out that being married and poly was not an inherent contradiction. But, as I responded to her, I kind of came to a little epiphany. Here’s what I said to her:
I think what might be going on is that you’ve been sold a bill of goods of what “marriage” is supposed to be and your marriage didn’t look like that. You’re longing for the bliss of fitting into the pattern that society’s PR campaign has laid out for us.
We’ve been sold on the idea that marriage equals love, equals security, equals happily ever after and romantic shmoopiewibbles. Marriage means that that you’re both on a team and nothing can tear you apart. But life happens and ruts happen and stress happens and shit. just. happens.
It seems really anti-romantic to say that marriage is a financial arrangement; but the most romantic way to view marriage (in my book) is as a financial arrangement. The idea that whether or not we have government-sanctioned love, the love is real makes the marriage part irrelevant.
When I married my husband I knew that I never would have left him if we hadn’t. Our marriage did not change anything in our relationship except…financially. It made things a lot simpler when he passed away unexpectedly to deal with our mutual assets.
Well, and also…the sex stopped. But that wasn’t because we were married. That was illness.
I guess what I’m saying is that when you’re longing for the marriage, then the marriage is the destination. But when you’re focused on your relationship, then the marriage may just be part of the journey.
The epiphany happened after that. When I thought about another commonly pointed out difference I’ve noticed in ways people “do poly.” Some people seem to always be looking for someone new, or they have a very specific slot to fill in their lives that they struggle to find the right fit for. Others are just open to making connections with people that may fit into their lives in unexpected ways.
I started my career in nonprofit by accident. I was placed in a nonprofit by a temp agency when my entire career goal was “don’t end up working for my parents.”
But I loved it. I felt like my work mattered – even though i was just a receptionist. Now, I’m in a rut. Top of my department, but there is no more upward mobility. My organization fears change to the point where I cannot gain the type of experience I need to make my next move. My career is in stagnant water and the mosquitoes are everywhere.
My employment is nothing but a financial arrangement. There’s no love there anymore. It’s a marriage gone sour.
Yesterday I said I wanted to “find” a job, but I’d not put much effort into doing so. Today, I want to be more precise. Today, I’m saying I want to find a position that again lets me feel that what I do matters, and where my time and talent are appreciated. I want to feel motivated and excited by my work. I want to be the right candidate for them, yes – but I also want them to be the right fit for me.
I want to grow.
In order for that to happen, I have to take my own advice, and open myself up to unexpected possibilities.
I recently made the acquaintance of a young woman at an introductory rope event. She’d watched the instructor perform an exercise by tying a single column tie around my wrist and then spending the next two minutes wrapping the rope around me without knots. The purpose of the exercise was to allow for more free-form and feeling in the tie, rather than the strict following of a specific pattern. After some encouragement, the young woman agreed to try doing it herself. I was offered up as the bottom for her to work with.
This young woman was what a very high percentage of the population would call “hot.” I couldn’t describe her to you in detail now if I tried, but to say that she had long straight hair, a young, lithe figure, and big soulful eyes. She was a very attractive person.
She could not stop apologizing.
For everything. From the moment she began tying the single column tie on my wrist until the timer went off after 2 minutes it was a constant sea of “I’m sorry. Sorry. Oh. Sorry.” After two or three times of telling her she had nothing to be sorry about I gave up.
I could tell she was really bright. Like, there was plenty going on underneath the remarkably pretty surface, but it was masked so much by insecurity. I asked her why she wanted to learn to tie, thinking if I could understand her motivation, I might be able to adapt my bottoming technique to make it easier for her to achieve her goal.
Her answer was that she just liked to learn things.
Of all the reasons I’ve heard riggers talk about why they tie, that’d previously not been one of them. There are elements of control, connection, creativity, exploration, expression…. but not just “I wanted to learn for the sake of learning.”
It’s not a wrong answer by any means, but I realized that as a bottom, there was nothing more I could do for her. She could as easily have the experience by tying the leg of a dining room chair, and she’d be less likely to continually apologize to it.
This was a little while back now, and over the few weeks that followed that evening, I thought of her a few times. Truth be told, I think of her in terms of “girl” because she so didn’t yet embody what “woman” means to me.
What made me think of her today was a different woman.
Having finally gotten fed up with the jerk-around Home Depot has been giving me with regard to my appliances purchased the week before Thanksgiving and now delayed for delivery TWICE, I decided to show them my cards. I don’t like being one of those customers that threatens to cancel an order unless I mean it…
…so I went to Best Buy. There were two associates working in the appliance department, but one seemed rather newish and the other was handling three different customers at once. Once I stated my business, the newish one asked me if I could wait because it’d have to be be the other one (department manager, as it turns out) to help me.
I’ve already waited over a month with the Home Depot clowns, so I figured I could give Best Buy a little leeway here. When the department manager finally was able to help me, I was really floored, and very pleased, with her level of professionalism and knowledge about the products and procedures on how to price match my order. She knew her way around that Point of Sale system like I know my Doxy in the dark.
I couldn’t tell you how old she is. She mentioned having a granddaughter, but honestly, she looked way too young for that. I’d have pegged her at about my age.
She did not have the most fortunate genetics when it came to physical appearance. She was overweight with quite a bit of dark facial hair, oily skin, and stained teeth.
But this woman had confidence, at least in this environment. She was good at her job – even managed to upsell me on a dishwasher and cooktop while saving me money on the range hood. The whole time, she was answering questions from her colleagues on everything from how to swap the way the door swings open on a washing machine, to how high a pedestal had to be for a dryer, to how to run a price check for a warehouse only item. I began to relax and trust that my needs would be met and my wants would be addressed. She made me feel comfortable, like I was in good, capable hands.
It’s the way I want to feel when I’m being tied.
Bottom line – looks matter for shit when you want to feel safe. Or something like that.
I received an impromptu invitation this morning to attend a dinner hosted by a former colleague (from almost 20 years ago) who is now a CEO and mover and shaker in my industry. The location? A swanky Beverly Hills award-winning restaurant. We’ll be joined by two of his colleagues, one I’ve met before.
I was thrilled to accept the invitation. I haven’t seen him in over a decade at least. And he is very connected in my industry. His name is one of the ones that appears on my list of references, based on my being a receptionist at the nonprofit where he was, at the time, an executive assistant. We’ve kept in touch, and even back then, he has always encouraged me to believe in my abilities and what I bring to the table no matter what my position on the hierarchy.
The problem? I left for work this morning thinking that it wouldn’t matter who I saw today and dressed accordingly. There is no time to go home and change.
The good news is that, since I’ve started going to the gym, there have been a couple instances in which I’ve accumulated clothes in the trunk of my car that I’ve been too lazy to remove. I found a pair of dark wash skinny jeans and a relatively flattering top that didn’t require any ironing. I even had two pairs of shoes that would appropriately replace the flip flops I had worn out of the house this morning.
In my dungeon bag I found a pair of earrings and a necklace that I’d removed before a rope scene months ago.
All I needed was makeup.
I mean, I look tired.
But…I am tired. I’d considered heading over to a nearby department store and seeing if I could get someone at one of the makeup counters to just apply a little glow. In the end, I decided to see what just adding a little bit of red lip gloss would do…
Y’know what? I look fine. I look more than fine.
Without a stitch of mascara or blush or tinted moisturizer, and my hair air-dried with visible roots, I look fucking fantastic.
It has nothing to do with my face or my skin or my clothes or the lipstick.
It has everything to do with confidence. Tonight I’m having dinner with one of the first people that ever made me feel confident professionally. What I wear doesn’t matter.
What I bring to the table does.