Everything in my life lately is a metaphor for dating and relationships

Everything in my life lately is a metaphor for dating and relationships.

New Job

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’m out.

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.”

Discussion Groups

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.

She agreed.

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:

Self Worth.

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.

Watching a “bad” Dom in action

Warning: This post is about Dancing With the Stars, and while it does not include spoilers on who was eliminated this week, it does describe the dynamics between two of the couples on the show through this week’s performance.

Derek was my favorite. I was glad when he was back because I love his choreography, and I love the way he moves, and I love the way he always wins.

But this time, Derek didn’t get paired with the same kind of partner. He’s frequently paired with partners you might consider a challenge, like the heavier ones, or the ones with a disability you’d think would make it impossible for them to dance; but then their confidence and tenacity and drive are amazing and they make it far in the competition.

But this time he got paired with someone who is challenging in her own way.

She doesn’t believe in herself.

They’re doing something new this season; or at least, something I don’t remember them doing in past seasons. During the results shows, they’re showing more of the behind-the-scenes stuff, including stuff said that didn’t make the show edit – like the stuff caught on live mics during the dances or right after that are usually muted out during the live shows.

And I’m seeing a side of Derek with Marilu that is making me think that he’s a bad Dom.

He blames her when things go wrong. She’s a 64 year-old actress who has trained all of SEVEN WEEKS to work with a highly-acclaimed, award-winning professional dancer who’s been training his whole life.

In these last few episodes, they’re showing him being a bit of a douchebag to her, like losing his patience and outright blaming her for a low score. Last week, she had a fall and when you watch the footage, it looks like he pushed her pretty hard. Then in this week’s package, she says she felt like she was pushed.

It almost seemed like he’s trying to sabotage their scores because he wants out of the losing team, as though dancing with someone who isn’t showing improvement is going to ruin his reputation.

But here’s the thing – the way he keeps undermining her confidence is the REASON she’s not improving. What really struck me this week is how they showed him talking about his plan to build her confidence up. All he did was tell her that none of her mistakes mattered.

That’s not how to help someone improve! When someone you’re collaborating with makes mistakes, you find constructive ways on working with them to improve their performance. Telling them their mistakes don’t matter anymore is a signal that you’ve let your frustration build up to the point where you’ve given up on them. That their improvement is no longer a priority for you.

This week another pro, Val, got emotional when he expressed his pride over his partner Laurie’s pure joy, passion, and olympian-level drive to soak up the knowledge of dance he’s spent his own life learning. To see the big, bad-ass Russian cry the way he did came off very much with a sense of the deep, paternal-like love he seems to have developed for his young partner.

A week or two ago, they had a moment where he was pushing her really hard and she pushed back. He was getting frustrated and she called him out, reminded him that she’s doing her best and yelling at her when she doesn’t get something right away doesn’t help her learn it faster. He calmed down, apologized and they went on to nail their performance.

So this week, when he hides his face with a hat for a while while the cameras are on him and he’s really breaking into the cry, there’s no question that he feels exposed in showing his own vulnerability within this relationship. I think it’s beautiful. Their performance brought tears to my eyes, as it did the judges.

I know it’s just a silly dancing show and it has nothing to do with kink. But very frequently as I’ve been watching this season, I’ve noticed parallels to BDSM with these two couples. Derek and Marilu’s relationship seems toxic and unfulfilling. She’s trying so hard to please him, and his displeasure is palpable; whereas Val and Laurie’s relationship seems very much like the “daddy” types here (non-sexually speaking) in the way that he shows vulnerability, emotion, and pride and even awe in her progress.

But here’s the thing – in seasons past, when Derek has been with the winning type and Val has been with the challenging member of the cast, their attitudes were reversed. I always thought Val was the asshole and Derek was the shining star.

Which just goes to show that the problem in some relationships may not be the individuals within them, but the pairing itself.

Two final thoughts:

In googling Marilu Henner to ensure I was spelling her name correctly, i saw an article in which Derek defends himself by saying that the editing has been doing him a disservice this season; that in fact, he and his partner had a deep heart-to-heart talk where they aired out some things and hugged it out, but that wasn’t shown. I know that editing plays a big role in perceptions of things, so all of this is really based on what I’ve seen on the show and not what the reality probably is.

And secondly: this was my favorite dance of the night, and it’s sexy – so even if you don’t watch the show, watch this:

Professional confidence trumps mascara

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.

Addendum to the self-improvement manual

Are you trying to make a change in your life?  Acknowledged some bad habits and are doing the work to address their sources and make adjustments to overcome them?

There’s something that’s not in the “self-improvement” manual that I think you should know.

There are people in your periphery who are going to be hard-pressed to acknowledge that you’ve changed. I’m not talking about those closest to you who are witnessing your efforts, cheering you on, and providing support along the way…

…I mean the ones that you call “friends” but are really more like acquaintances.  These are people in your life you would not call upon if your car broke down at 3am, but you would have a conversation with them at a party.

They took a mental picture of you back when you first met, and filed it away in a folder with your name on it. That is who you are to them – no nuance, no complexity.  You may be a three dimensional object but you are static, not dynamic.

This is a normal thing.  You do it to people all the time. There was a woman when I was in my 20s who was in her late 30s that didn’t realize I’d overheard her when she said to a mutual friend “I don’t want phi to tag along, She’ll take all the attention away from us” when we were making plans to go out dancing in a group.  Later that afternoon, she feigned a migraine and told me our plans were cancelled. I filed her away as “jealous, petty, insecure, lying bitch.”

I’ve not seen nor heard from her in 20 years.  In that time she might have changed completely and become the sweetest, most charitable, and kind-hearted grandmama you’d ever meet – but I wouldn’t know it.  If I were to run into her today I still think of her as the woman who lied to me because she’d created a competition in her mind that wasn’t there.

“Ok, so people won’t believe I’ve changed.  Who cares? I don’t care what they think.”

Well, to an extent, yeah.  Except for a lot of us, our self-worth and self-acceptance is wrapped up in how others treat us. Many of us are programmed to seek validation from others in order to feel secure about ourselves.  What happens when there are a bunch of people who still treat you like you’re the town drunk when you’ve been six months sober?

You start to feel like that hard work you’ve put into self-improvement has no payoff.

THAT’S what’s not in the manual.

The idea of self-validating *is* in the manual; at least, it was in mine.  I was given that piece of information early on by someone who was a friend and is now in my periphery.  He said I had to learn to stop seeking external validation.

I didn’t understand why, or how to do it – but I did know that it was part of the changes I would have to make.  What I didn’t know is that nearly every one of my successes now can be traced back to my learning to self-validate.  To disassociate my self worth from the value set OTHERS placed on me.

It’s not the same as saying “I don’t care what people think.”  I do care. I take it into consideration when I look at myself and ask “are they right?”

If I believe they are, then I ask “am I okay with that?”

And if I’m not, then I’ve got a new challenge to take on.

Critical Thinking

Yesterday, NPR reposted a story to their facebook page from 2014. The article title was: Why doesn’t America read anymore?

If you clicked through to read the article, it wished you a happy April Fool’s Day and explained that they wanted to see how many people actually read the stories vs how many people just commented based on the title alone.

It asked that the people who clicked through not mention it in the comments. And of course, the post had been filled with comments from people arguing with the title of the post, as if it were true.

The person who reposted it on my feed said something along the lines of “April 1st, the one day of the year that people look at every news article critically before believing it.”

In my third attempt at college, I had to take an English course called “Critical Thinking.” It taught us logical fallacies and explained that you can’t just take everything you read for granted. That’s the class where you have to write a lot of argumentative and persuasive essays

And, despite my never having actually finished my degree in creative writing, I can say that I probably took more away from that class than any other in my very long and unfinished college career.

I think very critically whenever I read or hear anything. I don’t mean “critically” in the sense of “negatively”…I mean it in the sense of wondering what the authors’ bias or purpose is, trying to asses any logical fallacies, and engaging my ability to question things and form my own opinions, rather using “chameleon thinking” and automagically buying everything I read.

We’re taught how to do this from a young age. We’re told not to talk to strangers. We learn about heroes who affected positive social change in the world by questioning authority. Especially here in “America,” where we are spoon fed the ideals of critical thinking as soon as we are taught the words “We, the people.”

It’s no wonder that I read so many accounts of people here and in “real” life who say they have trouble accepting a compliment. “I don’t know what to say,” say some. “I don’t think of myself that way,” say others.

It’s taking “critical” thinking and turning it into “self-critical” thinking.

I get this. I used to feel like being paid a compliment was like accepting charity. You tell me I look gorgeous and I might tell you that it’s hair dye, makeup, and a little photo editing, or camera angles and great support undergarments.

What I’m doing might seem like I’m trying to deny that I’m anything special because I don’t want you to feel obligated to compliment me.

But, I make my bread and butter asking people to give to charity. I don’t want them to feelobligated to give. I want them to feel like they are privileged to be part of something great.

When I deny a donor the opportunity to fund research that might help cure their husband or wife, what I’m really doing is taking away their option to do something they want to do.

I’ve worked with friends in the past and have heard many more who have been practicing on saying “thank you,” upon receiving a compliment. Just “thank you.” No rationalizations. No excuses. Just gratitude.

I was speaking with a friend about this recently. “What do you say when he tells you you’re gorgeous?” I asked.

“I’ve been working on just saying ‘thank you,'” she answered.

“Are you ready to level up?” I asked.

Because I’ve taken this whole accepting a compliment thing to the next level.

Are you ready for it?

When someone you love, when the person in your life that makes your nether bits react tells you something flattering, try setting that self-critical thinking aside and say this:

I believe you.

I’ve been doing it. He can tell you that I do it. When he tells me he loves me or that I’m beautiful or that he enjoys spending time with me.

I believe you.

It’s only a matter of time before you might start believing it in yourself.


Please note – It’s probably best continue to employ CRITICAL thinking (not self-critical thinking) when you are establishing a relationship with someone new. We all know there are people out there who are not as intimately associated with honesty as others. But, once you have decided to trust someone….

Trust them.

Shards of Glass

There’s a quote on the white board in the office break room by Carl Jung:

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.

I mean, I kinda raised an eyebrow when I read that this morning as I filled my coffee cup for the third time. What was the office manager trying to say, that we annoy her?  That we annoy each other?

Was it passive aggressive commentary about our boss?  (Probably).

But, it’s true.  The thing about what annoys us about others really being about us.  About our own issues, hangups, insecurities. It’s probably why I’m nonplussed about trolls in my comments. They don’t bother me ’cause I don’t require everyone to agree with me in order to feel confident about my opinion being my own.

Like yesterday when someone decided that I’d “settled” because I’m dating somebody poly.

Whatevs, dude. I know me and I know my partner and I know that neither of us feels like we’ve “settled” on anything. The opinion of a stranger who knows neither of us isn’t enough to make me feel insecure enough to get into a shouting match with him.  Let him think I’ve settled. What’s it to me?

(This is probably why I don’t really get many trolls in my posts.  I starve them.)

But if it *had* annoyed me, if it had enraged me that someone would think (or publicly say) such a thing about me, then what it’s really saying is that I either A) am not as confident about my relationship as I claim to be, or B) am not as self-reliant on validation as I’ve worked so hard to become.

And I certainly don’t need a “personal army” of fetlifers to come to my rescue when someone says something mean about me.

Anyway, that’s not the point of this blog.  The point of this blog is to share a metaphor about introspection and self-work that I came up with this morning that tickled me in the clever place.

It’s about identifying when something is about *you* and doing the work to make positive changes in your life, rather than continuing to exhibit negative behaviors in response to things that annoy you.

For context, it was in response to someone seeking advice on how to overcome the negative behaviors associated with their self-acknowledged distrust/jealousy/and control issues.

Here was my metaphor:

The more you dig into the cause of your distrust/jealousy/controlling impulses, the closer you’ll get to overcoming it. It’s kinda like….let’s say you have foot pain. Like, it’s bugging you. Severe, effing, foot pain. You can complain about it and you can walk around limping, or hopping, or constantly try to relieve the foot pain by soaking it in epsom salts.

Or you can investigate the source of the foot pain. Find that you have a tiny shard of glass stuck in the bottom of your heel. Your skin has calloused over it so it’s tough to reach, but that’s why every step you take hurts.

With enough exfoliation, and maybe a pair of pointy tweezers or a needle, you can get that shard out. And, while the relief won’t be instantaneous (it’ll be sore for a while), there will be some relief and the more you carry on without that shard the better it gets.

Sometimes my metaphors run away from me. What I’m trying to say is, when you find the source of your jealousy/insecurity, you can start doing the work to address why you behave the way you do, rather than behaving the way you do to address the insecurity itself.

Earlier today a fet friend of mine wrote something about a step she’s taken in her journey to overcome self-hatred.  She said that where she once felt very free with using the word “hate” in connection with her feelings about herself, she’s now finding that she no longer wants to hate herself.

I told her that was a huge step.  She’s not only identified that there’s a shard of glass embedded in her heel, she’s also decided that she no longer wants to live with the glass in there.

The only thing left is to start doing the work to get it out; but, much like they say in AA that acceptance is the first step – I feel like deciding to *do* something about it is a great leap forward.

I’m a big advocate for personal growth. The term used to have such a new-age-crunchy-granola-bar-eye-rolling connotation to me, but now that I’ve actually experienced it for myself; I think what personal growth really means is self empowerment.

No more limping.

Finding the source of your pain is one thing.  Deciding you want to start living without it is everything.