Respect

I used to have this stepdad. He was ex-military and still looked the part: close-cut hair, bald eagle tattoo on his calf, and preferred to wear his correctional officer uniform even after he left the prison for the day. If not for his rounded, aging face and worsening posture, you’d think he just got back from basic training. He wanted to treat my brother and I like we were part of some sort of boot camp where periodic, unannounced room checks were the most annoying part of this weird role playing. And he liked to talk about “respect.” How he just wanted to earn our respect, how we were always disrespectful to him, how he respects us and our space but he just wanted the same respect in return.

And it was always bullshit. My brother and I talked back to this stepdad a lot, that much is true. But we were teenagers and we already had a dad who didn’t try to treat us like recruits so I’m not sure what this stepdad expected. My brother and I did not appreciate him coming into our lives and trying to change our routines, our lifestyle, our relationships. So we made that known to him, and he found it “disrespectful.”

This stepdad never actually did anything to earn our respect. He only tried to bribe us or win us over – and he failed. He would let us have something that mom wouldn’t, maybe, but then “our little secret” became a twisted form of double-sided blackmail. He tried to teach me how to drive, I think. He let me drive his truck on back roads before I had my permit. Unfortunately for him I’d been doing that with my actual dad since I was probably 10 or 11. I wasn’t impressed.

These things were supposed to make us like him, but they never worked and definitely didn’t make us respect him. If anything, we respected him less for trying to earn our trust in cheap, cliche, stereotypical stepdad ways. He didn’t respect us or our intelligence enough to understand that we knew what he was doing. Not only did we know what he was doing and why, but we exploited it as teenagers (especially those with divorced parents) tend to do. So when he yelled and screamed about how disrespectful we were, my brother and I just laughed and lost even more respect for him.

Long after this stepdad has gone from my life, I still have little respect for people who demand respect without earning it. Respect isn’t something you can just demand, like a child with a temper tantrum. Respect is earned, not handed out. Just because you got a promotion, just because you’re older than me, just because my mom decided to marry you – these things don’t mean I’m automatically going to give my respect. I might be polite, but respect takes time. And the more you demand undeserving respect the less polite I will become.

Impress me, and I’ll respect you. Help me when I need it; do something I can’t. Make possible the impossible. Give me your respect. You can’t treat me like some sort of object or inferior being and in the same breath whine about my lack of respect. Learn some manners. I can respect manners.

If you’re my “superior” that’s so deserving of respect, then why don’t you help me and answer my questions when I have them? The people I respect the most are the restaurant managers that help bus tables, or the prestigious university professor that’s willing to individually tutor a struggling student. The people who are willing to help people below them, even if it isn’t their job. Just because they know what’s needed, and they know what it’s like. The ones to get to the top just to be lazy and yell at other people to do their job? They’re the worst kind of people. I won’t respect those people.

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Dating Limbo

My choice on any given day after work is to keep drinking water and make sure I get my 7-8 glasses a day, or to drink some wine instead. This choice is both literal and metaphorical. Literally, I should drink 7-8 glasses of water a day and literally every day I really want to drink some wine. However, the metaphor can apply to my dating life. (I realized this with the help of a friend, so, thanks friend!)

See, I’ve been seeing this guy. We’ll call him Remy. So, Remy is my first…idk, “thing”, from Tinder. And really, he also happens to be my first “thing” not from my high school… because, as you may recall from a previous post, I dated the same person from my hometown during most of my time in college. I didn’t have any new relationships in college…. and now I’m out here in limbo trying to date and stuff in the adult world. And by the way, what are these adult dating rules? Why has no one written them down?

So Remy. Remy claims he isn’t sleeping with anyone but me. Remy has claimed he isn’t ‘quite single, but ya know, isn’t married or anything’ (well, good, right? But I get what he’s saying. Or do I?). He also calls me ‘bae’ or ‘babe’ or similar things on occasion. Which honestly could mean nothing. The owner of the fucking liquor store calls me ‘honey’, ‘dear’, and ‘baby’ on a regular basis, and I swear I’m not there often enough for that to be warranted. So this could mean nothing. Remy can read me incredibly well, seems to clearly be very very attracted to me and also realizes I’m an intelligent human being. But…. what is this? This “thing”? Am I in a relationship and not know it because I’m a moron when it comes to adult dating? Am I being led on in a way I don’t even realize? I turned down many a suitor after I met Remy (again, I deleted Tinder for this guy). I did this because I just felt like there was some insane connection between us… or is he just really charming? Right now, there are no points against Remy other than he cancels plans on me or just simply won’t return my texts on a semi-regular basis. But he’s busy, and of course I question everything: Why was he on Tinder in the first place – to meet a nice, intelligent girl like myself.. or to get laid? Also, why was I on there in the first place? Was I looking to get laid, or something else? Do any of these questions have real answers? Are all of my questions rhetorical? When will I stop?

Side note, and maybe really important: I kinda like this boy. I’m very attracted to him in more ways than one, he’s one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met, and we have a lot of similar interests. That last one sounds silly, but it’s more important than you would think.

This leaves me with my literal and metaphorical choice: drink the water, or drink the wine? I could drink more water. I know that’s a safe choice. It’s good for my health, my well-being, and my conscious will likely be clear if I choose water over wine, because I won’t know what I’m missing if I choose not to drink the wine. I could choose to just not think anything of this boy, let this “thing” run it’s course. Maybe even let him go completely, to be certain I won’t fall for the boy. But – the wine could be really good, worth choosing over the water. Drinking some wine and one fewer glass of water couldn’t kill me, right? I could get drunk off this boy. I could see what this wine is all about, what it’s made of and just drink the whole bottle, drink all night. That’s really the only way to try wine anyway, to drink the whole bottle. Drink it all in, to make sure each glass is as good as the next. In the morning I could see if I get a hangover off some cheap, sugary imitation or if it was the good stuff. I could wait and see if he’s the real deal. In a month, I could wake up with a hangover when I fall and he leaves – or I could wake up in a month and be rewarded with something real.

Let’s not over think it, shall we? I’ve always preferred wine over water, bacon over vegetables, and beer over exercise anyway. I’ve gone shot for shot with some of the worst/best alcoholics I know, so bring on the hangover if that’s the case. I’m done asking these rhetorical questions, done with the annoying inner monologue, and done trying to play it safe.

Fuck it. Let there be wine, she said.

Cautionary Tale – With Wine

This is a long read. So I’ve opened a bottle of wine. It’s pretty great – Malbec is my new favorite red. But if you’re someone with a short attention span – start at the quote and just read the few sentences after that.

I promised I would tell you how I got to this place, over 70 miles away from most my friends. “This place” happens to be a suburb of a bankrupt rust belt city. Not someplace I would have chosen ordinarily. It has it’s own kind and charm, but…my wanderlust seeks bigger and better and different things.

Once upon a time... no, that’s too much, let’s try again:

Once, I was in high school. Specifically, I was sorta-kinda-talking-to a boy in the winter of my senior year of high school and simultaneously trying to decide where to go to college at the same time. Being the intelligent, mature high schooler that I was at the time, I waited to officially date the boy and fall for the boy until I had made a decision on where to spend the next four years in college. I didn’t want this boy clouding my judgement.

As it turned out, I chose the school geographically closer to the boy and to our hometown, so I decided to fall for and date the boy. I didn’t think we’d date for very long, but then somehow we were still together when I graduated high school, and when I left for college. Three and a half years later we were still together. Then, we started making plans for after I graduated. I’d find a job and move somewhere near his seemingly permanent location, a suburb of a bankrupt rust belt city. Since I’d be living up there, it would just make financial sense for us to move in together.

Before we made it to the four year mark, he decided that just wasn’t going to work for him. He didn’t want to move in with me right away, he said. Then he decided he didn’t want to move in with anyone, ever, that it wasn’t my fault. Now it’s just a month and a half before I graduate college and I am “…” <— this close to landing a job. Near his bankrupt rust belt city no less. Then, he decides we shouldn’t be together, since he doesn’t think he can truly, fully commit to anyone, ever. It’s not my fault, of course. It’s all him. I’m just too nice or selfless or sweet or something. And he’s the asshole who doesn’t deserve me. Of course, he won’t ever change. Even for cute, sweet, selfless me. So I get this job near his godforsaken city because it’s the only place I looked for jobs. Suddenly, instead of looking for apartments that my boyfriend and our two incomes can afford, I’m grumpily looking for sad studio apartments in less exciting suburbs. The boy I have followed has left me. I’m just alone in this suburb of a city I never wanted to be a part of. I’m in a new state so I have to get a new driver’s license, my insurance goes up, and I can’t afford to get a dog. Which is really the one thing I wanted when I graduated and was living on my own.

Even worse – I’ve always had wanderlust. I grew up in various parts of the Midwest, went to college in the Midwest… I wanted to get out of the fucking Midwest! Don’t get me wrong, the Midwest can be spectacular. But I just wanted a chance to get out, even just for a minute, while I still can.

I used to be unapologetic. I used to be unrelentingly independent and opinionated. There was a time when I wouldn’t even think of allowing another person (especially a boy) telling me what I could and couldn’t do. Where I could live. Yet, I let this one boy do just that. For some reason, I thought the ‘happily ever after’ would justify everything. I thought, sure, I could sacrifice this one small thing for him. Because no, I don’t have a reason to live anywhere else, I just really want to leave the Midwest. He has aging parents and other “reasons” for staying in his home state. I thought…I don’t know, I thought I was done dating forever and I was sort of cool with that. So I tried to quiet my wanderlust.

But, turns out, I’m not done dating. Turns out, he’s just a medium-sized blimp in my long-ish dating history. Maybe he’s a fairly important footnote, but still just a footnote in the overall text. Now I’m in “this place” and I wish I had sacrificed less, whether we ended up together or not. Now that I’m no longer with him, I realize I lost a part of myself in that relationship. Mostly, I lost four years of my life. Was it truly a complete waste? No, probably not. I did learn a lot about myself. Mostly I learned some of what I ultimately want and deserve in my next relationship(s). I also learned and realized I need to return to being unapologetic. Also importantly, I’m starting to figure out what I want out of the person I ultimately decide (if I decide) to marry. Between the failed relationships and all of my Tinder/dating experiences since this relationship, that list is starting to become a weird collection of things. If nothing else, it’s at least one step forward in answering the question ‘what do I want?’ in one small facet of my life.

So – bottom line – ladies and men alike… don’t give all you have to a significant other. Or a friend, or family member for that matter (maybe kids are an exception, I’m the opposite of an expert on that topic). It’s just not going to be good for you in the end. Especially if the other person won’t do the same for you. Compromising to make you both happy is one thing…pretending to be something you just aren’t is another thing entirely. I gave so much time and effort into a relationship and to a person who…who knows, maybe he did care and just sucked at showing it, but either way wasn’t willing to make any sacrifices for me while I was making plenty for him. He didn’t care enough, and not to the extent I expect and deserve. As my grandfather, a wise old man, would say:

You gotta look out for number 1, because number 2 won’t.

Look out for yourself. Do what’s going to be good for you, not for them. Be a little hedonistic from time to time and do what makes you happy. Because, ultimately – who else is going to look out for you, if not yourself?

A Special Kind of Limbo

I’m going to start with this disclaimer: I’ve never been very good at blogging.

I used to love writing and maybe even got good at it for awhile, but I usually can’t keep up with the same topic for long. Similarly, I could never get through the whole month of NaNoWriMo and actually end up with a novel. At best I’d have a very detailed outline, a beginning, and some short stories. But no novel.

So why the hell am I doing this? Well, in a sentence: I have to do something.

I’m 23 and just graduated with a business degree. I’m one of the few lucky unicorns to find a job out of school. This all sounds great, except I live over 70 miles away from most of my friends. (why would I do such a thing? we’ll talk about it in a later post, I promise). What I’m doing for my job is fine, but it’s certainly not my dream job, if there is such a thing. So I go to work where I’m basically a glorified intern with benefits, go back to my 495 sq ft apartment, and watch Netflix until I fall asleep. Sometimes I go to the gym or try to eat a vegetable or two. Sometimes I go on dates. Sometimes I just wander around my new city.

Ultimately, I imagine some of you are in the same weird place I am. Maybe the limbo you’re in is your current dating situation, your career, a general question of “who am I?” or something else entirely. Maybe the limbo is all three.

I’m going to ramble and rant and maybe make you feel less alone. I’ll probably swear a lot and make some grammar mistakes (if I haven’t already. And for the record – not because I don’t know the grammar, but because I believe voice is important in a blog). I have a weird and wide collection of interests from reading and soccer to economics and travel. I’m also a bit of a feminist and incredibly sarcastic so that’s bound to show up. I’ll try to break up the text with pictures of my tiny apartment, cooking experiments, and corgis.

I won’t tell you what you’re thinking, but I know what I’m thinking: “shit, I’m just another millennial kid with a blog, super original.” Who knows. Maybe it doesn’t have to be original, maybe all the original blogs are taken. Maybe as I figure out what makes me original, I can start to figure out what I really want, and even get out of this limbo. Maybe.