Saying goodbye to Martha, her soulful scratches and all
I was driving back from the smog check, and I felt myself fighting just the slightest tears. I felt that lump in my throat, knowing, yes, I have reached the point of no return. I’m paying $50 for a smog check and that means this is it, after much resistance, I am selling Martha, my 2007 Toyota Corolla, a solid presence in my life since 2008 when I bought her pre-owned.
Martha. Yes, she has a name. Do all owners give their cars names, like they give their pets names? Do all car owners get so attached to their cars? I don’t have a pet, or a child, but I named my car. Why would I be crying for 2,800 pounds of metal, steel, and plastic? My friend Liz told me I should write about Martha because I way I talk about her, like she is a person in my life. So I am.
First, some basic facts: who is Martha and why am I getting rid of her? Martha was my first car. I bought Martha when I was 34, relatively old to buy a first. I bought Martha during a period of big change in my life, when I went from writer to Silicon Valley product manager. I made more money and needed a car. Having a car felt like a luxury, a big step up the economic ladder. The name Martha just came to me. I wanted a sturdy, reliable car and Martha felt like a sturdy, reliable name.
Since then my life changed. I left Silicon Valley and I’ve spent three of the last eight years in South America writing, coaching/consulting, and dancing tango. I’ve held on to Martha for all these years, having friends drive her paying the insurance while I’m away, because I loved having Martha to come home to when I would be back in the Bay Area, sometimes as long as a year and a half. Recently I committed to living in Argentina to write a second draft of my memoir. Rationally it doesn’t make sense anymore to keep paying the registration and maintenance. It’s time to let go.
Even so, there is clinging to the past. To Martha! We say change is good but change is also hard. If we are honest, we are to some degree ambivalent about most things. Most things have good and bad in them. Change means giving up some things while you gain others. There’s the job you hate but the paycheck you love. The spouse you love and the spouse you can’t live with. There is a grieving process for most changes whether it’s leaving a place, a job, a person, or an object. Objects too have so many memories and emotions attached to them.
Liz told me Martha was replaceable, “She’s a white Corolla. You can get another white Corolla when you come back. It’s not an uncommon car.” I say, “No, those other cars won’t have Martha’s bumps and scratches. Those particularities.” Liz says, “We can dent the new car with golf balls and scratch it to replicate the damage.” I laugh, “OK, we can do that.”
There is soul in the history of an object, in the meanings we give our things over the years. The history is in those imperfections. I put the dent on the car in the first year when I was clumsy parking in a tight garage in San Francisco. At first I was ashamed that I had messed up my car so quickly. Then I decided the dents and scratches made my car unique. I could recognize her in a parking lot easily. That was an important revelation that made me feel better about my own dents and scratches.
I keep thinking of Liz’s implicit question, why does this car mean so much to me? She was more than a car to me. Martha and I had a long-term relationship of eight years, and a long-distance relationship for three of those years. For three of those years I was in South America. She was okay with me leaving and coming back, she never broke down when I went away. The car was an anchor. It’s the mobility, the status, but also the constancy: Perhaps Martha was one of my rocks. She gave me the freedom to roam and always welcomed me back with open arms.
When it finally came time to post the ad, and start showing Martha to buyers, I was nervous to show her. What if people felt different about her than I did? I posted realistic photos on Craigslist and got 30 emails, I showed her to four people and two out of four her wanted her. There’s nothing like having your car be wanted.
The lucky buyer was Jan, a mom buying the car for her twentysomething son Joaquin. I met Jan and Joaquin on a Friday afternoon to complete the transaction. It was time to hand over the keys.
I told Joaquin, “The car is special, so take good care of her. She is very soulful and she has a lot of care-taking qualities. Her name is Martha.” His eyes widened either impressed or freaked out but his mom Jan seemed taken with the name. “Like George and Martha Washington,” she said, as if this had some meaning to them. Yes.
We walked outside and I passed the key to Joaquin, the official handoff. I said to Jan, “I feel like I’m giving away my baby.”
She said, “We would call Family Services if you were selling your baby for $6600.”
I felt a little embarrassed and said, “I know, but it’s emotional.”
She said, “I know what you mean. When I sold my car I felt choked up too.”
So I walked home four blocks, saying goodbye to Martha, and also, hello to an unknown future. Having grieved already I felt more ready for the new chapter, come what may, whether that includes a future car or not. I felt lighter for having been courageous enough to let go. I felt free.
Goodbye to All that is a nod to Joan Didion’s landmark 1967 essay about leaving New York, “Goodbye to All That.”
It is surprising that anything surprises me when it comes to dating and relationships. I have twenty years of dating, relationship, and being single experience, I have written a book about being single and dating, I coach women and men about dating, communication, boundaries, sex, boundaries, self-worth, and love, and I’ve talked my friends through everything (polyamory, sexual exploration, sex while parenting young children, etc.). I find it surprising that I can still be surprised. Yet with technology making our world so incredibly new I can.
what a brilliant image for this book . . .
My latest discovery is the Whatsapp relationship, aka the “exclusive texting” relationship. Beware it.
Whatsapp is a “cross-platform mobile messaging app”: Think texting if you never used it. My ex and I broke up a few months ago, and since then I have been dipping back in the dating pool, mostly in Buenos Aires. In my last few months of reaching out sporadically through OkCupid or Tinder (which people do use in Argentina, Tinder more than OKCupid), I have found a pattern. We start messaging, and then, the other person asks for my Whatsapp to communicate.
This story starts with a man I met a man on Tinder. (Although Tinder has a reputation as a “hookup” application, I find it’s also possible to meet interesting people for dating and friendship. The interface is so simple, it’s a lot like real life if you quickly move to have an in-person meeting. If you are an intuitive person, you can tell a lot from a face. )
We started messaging and it was delightful. He asked beautiful questions. The kinds of questions that I dream of men asking, because really, I think all we want in a relationship is to be known. To be seen. To be cared about, yes, loved. He would send questions late into the night, and each question brought an exciting ding. So this was fun, it almost felt like we were falling in love like that famous promise that you can accelerate intimacy by asking and answering the right questions, and then, you will fall in love. But that idea presupposes eye contact. After a couple weeks, I realized I was the only one trying to make the virtual actual. Dates, we would call them. In-person meetings. Isn’t that what we are aiming for? Getting to know each other in the flesh?
Although we did meet three times and had a great time on each occasion, I was the only one initiating the dates. And it became increasingly impossible to meet in person. It was very strange. He didn’t seem to have a girlfriend or wife, which would be the obvious explanation. Gay? Just not that into me? Only into online/texting relationships at this moment of his life? I never could tell. Honestly the whole thing is a mystery to me still.
I met a new friend from Singapore for dinner and shared my bewilderment. She confessed something similar had happened to her. She met a man, an American who often traveled for work, and she saw him three times in the course of a year. For a whole year, they sent messages every day. He would text “Good morning!” every day and send photos of what he was eating. She felt they were in a relationship. A friend intervened after a year and she woke up to realize, This is not a relationship. She told him she didn’t want to carry on like this anymore and he disappeared.
My now ex-boyfriend (a real person who likes real meeetings! I need to find another man like him!) gave me a thoughtful birthday present: Modern Romance, a book by the standup comedian Aziz Ansari. Ansari, like me, likes to observe and analyze how technology is changing our dating and romance patterns. Ansari teamed with my friend Eric Klinenberg, the NYU sociologist who wrote Going Solo (and interviewed me about Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics for that book) to write a well-researched book on the agonies and ecstasies of dating in the age of technology.
My eyes were glued to the page when I read their chapter on dating in Buenos Aires. As part of their study of dating in Buenos Aires they found that men were often carrying on several text conversations with women, and women were doing the same. Everyone was hedging their bets, including people in relationships, flirting via Whatsapp to keep their options open. They also found they found that men chase, and women are trained to say no first to show that they are not “easy” to get. They call this “hysterico” behavior in Argentina, playing hot and cold. I’ve heard the word “hysterico” so many times while I have lived in Argentina.
The portrait the book paints is one of low-commitment game-playing enabled by texting. For the most part it seemed chillingly and accurately described. (I will say, in Buenos Aires’ defense, there are also sweet, sensitive Buenos Aires men who are devoted and highly therapized.)
The situation is extreme, but the situation is extreme in many places. Really, isn’t this a global problem, a symptom of our love affair with our phones?
Recently I was swiping on Tinder back in San Francisco and I noticed a man wrote in his profile, “Only if you want to meet. No text buddies please.” I suspect the texting-with-few-meetings relationship is a new kind of ephemeral relationship in the globalized world. Maybe these relationships persist over time because it’s all the attention that some individuals want to give relationships. It’s a fast-food way to flirt without risking vulnerability.
We are all spinning tops now, spinning with email, social media, phone notifications, and the world is spinning so fast, where does it all lead? When the world keeps spinning faster, what happens to our basic human needs for authentic connection, help, and love?
Will a percentage of the population just go for these false-intimacy, buzzing-dinging relationships that provide a dopamine hit of excitement but never a hug? Are these just the virtual frogs we have to kiss on the diligent search for something real, substantial, live and in the flesh, built on time and love?
It’s all far too reminiscent of the movie Her, where Joaquin Phoenix gets sucked into love with an Operating System (Scarlett Johanssen). I shared this story with a friend who is also dating, and she asked, “In the future are we all going to be trading texts with computer algorithms that know just what we need to hear? That give perfect textual satisfaction…and nothing else?”
In my recent story, I found it so bizarre that this man was texting me all the time with questions, and yet, he lived about a mile away. This was not a long-distance relationship that required texting. For about a month I found his messages thrilling, but also unhealthy to have my body get so revved up by the addictive dings, with no bodily contact to soothe, ground, connect us.
I learned something very valuable years ago: You want the people who want you. I need more from a man than Whatsapp. A lot more.
A female Argentine friend and I reached the conclusion that we need to carefully screen. We don’t waste time with people who are only interested in virtual relationships. Like the guy in his Tinder profile said, no text buddies please. While I am part of a few online communities that are important to me, and those relationships are meaningful, when it comes to my closest friendships, family relationships, and my partner, I know those relationships all take time and energy to cultivate in person, on the phone, or via Skype (somehow seeing the face does make a big difference).
We who want authentic connection should be careful to not waste the time and energy on an illusion built through addictive dings on our phones.
Buenos Aires is not just for WhatsApp, it’s also for tango! Join us for the next Tango Adventure in Buenos Aires to reconnect to yourself and your sensuality whether you are single or partnered. Equal-opportunity sensuality can be found through tango!
Want help with dating and relationships? Check out the private coaching page.
If Armistead Maupin had lived in the era of Airbnb, then this might be a tale of the city . . .
Oh, tales of urban living. Tales of renting out my apartment on Airbnb while I go away on writing retreats this fall. Tales of living in a world that is changing so fast every ten years many facets of how we live are barely recognizable. Especially in the Bay Area, where rents have climbed from my $333 a month days when I first rented a room in 1997 to Q1 of 2014 when the median rent for a San Francisco apartment is now $3,200.
I have been renting out my one-bedroom apartment three or five days at a time while I go up north to write. My guests have been lovely. Sheryl left homemade jam in the fridge, Himoko from Japan was sweet, and the others have been entirely respectful and gracious that I have opened my home to them.
Enter Rick. Rick made a request when he inquired about the apartment. He wanted a pot and pan since he would be here for five days. I said, OK, I will get you a pot and pan. (If I could go back in time, I would say “Sorry buddy, no special treatment for you.”) (The backstory: I have celiac disease, which means I need to be super careful about gluten; this is a medical issue, not a preference. I put away pots and pans when guests come because I can’t expect they will read every ingredient label to be sure they are not using gluten.)
On the day of Rick’s arrival, in addition to arranging for the professional cleaners to come and make the place oh-so-spotless and shoving all my random belongings (bills, dirty laundry, etc.) in the closet, I went out looking for a pot and pan. I found a gleaming new pot and couldn’t find a suitable pan at the local hardware store, and decided, I’ll let him use one of my pans and replace it later.
Rick arrives. He is in his mid-twenties, from New York, here on furniture business. He is no-nonsense, no-pleasantries. When I say, “How are you?” he responds very quickly “fine” and doesn’t ask how are you back. I give him the keys, and I’m off.
An hour and a half later the phone rings. I answer while driving up north.
It’s Ethan from Airbnb. Never before have a I gotten a call from Airbnb. If guests had questions or concerns, they just wrote me directly.
“I want to get your side of the story,” Ethan says.
“My side of the story?”Read More
It’s like a love story. I remember that moment when we first met in July 2013 when my friend Jon held his phone up to me and told me about Tinder. We were sitting on the grassy hill by the farmer’s market eating tamales and drinking coffee on a Saturday morning.
is less more in “mobile” dating?
”I’m surprised you don’t know about it,” Jon said. “It’s basically the straight version of Grinder.” Grinder is a gay mobile dating application. And yes Jon was right. Tinder was super-popular and I didn’t even know yet. I count on Jon to inform me of the latest trends.
If you have not been in the dating pool, or you’re not into the latest app, or you live under a rock, then maybe you have not heard about Tinder. Tinder’s premise is simple. The app shows you photos of people near you and you can like or not. Snap judgments: Hot or not. If you both swipe yes, you can communicate. We looked at Tinder on Jon’s phone, we swiped through the photos dissecting trends. We asked, Why are there so many girls wearing fake moustaches? Why are there so many men standing in front of Machu Picchu? Is that the ultimate signifier of adventure?
Of course I thought Tinder was absurd. Vapid. An app for bubbleheads. Not a way to find love or anyone of substance. Certainly this would not be an application for anyone mature to use. Well, I must be a bubblehead because I was sucked in quickly. That afternoon after leaving Jon I found myself lying on my couch staring at the phone for fifteen minutes at a time. I killed a whole hour in a swiping haze.
Sometimes I would swipe right based on looks. Sometimes based on shared interests or friends (Tinder exposes shared friends from Facebook). Sometimes because of a clever comment in the “tagline.” I was generous with my swipes. Jon told me later I am too generous. Like most men, he looked only at the photos.
Simple = addictive. Simple is the hardest to do.
I could tell that Tinder was on to something because it is so addictive. I’ve worked in the social media industry, and I know that simple is addictive and simple is the hardest thing to do. Tinder is crazy simple. You say yes or no based on gut instinct. I saw married friends in the pool. They told me they were on the app for research. The Tinder UI (user interface) is so addictive anyone who works in or around social media needs to understand it.
Tinder had become an app that many women like and use, but I found out months later that the Tinder founders were being accused of sexual harassment and discrimination by a female co-founder and marketing Vice President Whitney Wolfe. Wolfe alleged that the other founders called her a “whore” and stripped her of her title, because as the app grew in popularity, having a “24-year-old girl” as a co-founder would not help the company’s profile.
That suit has not been settled, having worked in the tech industry, I know sexism is rampant in that brogrammer world. The rest of this piece is not a swipe-right on Tinder, but rather, an exploration of the design of their application, and how we approach dating in this driveby world.
Hey, Tinderella, can I be your magic humpkin?
Most people think Tinder is a hookup app for sex. That’s what I assumed it must be. And it is. It’s also an ego boost app. Clearly the app is just as much about finding out who thinks you are cute as it is about meeting anyone. It’s all of that, and more. The app surprised me.
Certainly I have received preposterous messages like: “Hey, Fancy a bit of consensual sexual acrobatics this fine evening?” or “Hey, Tinderella, can I be your magic humpkin?” Or much hotter, “I want to eat you like a mango.” That one I actually found to be a turn-on. Later the guy apologized and said the mango message was a drunken message and when I asked him how many women he sent it to, he said “about twenty.”
But I can tell you that for at least one user—me—Tinder is not just a hookup app. I have formed two thingamabobs you could call relationships through Tinder. I’ve also made friends with women and been invited to book groups.
My experience was actually quite deep. After six months of using Tinder, I had met an array of people, even if we only chatted on the app and never met in person. I met another woman who had worked in user experience and technology for drinks for deep conversation and technology and life. I fell in love with someone in Atlanta and talked to him through the nights for an entire month. (That’s another story.) I met a TV writer from LA who had written for the West Wing and many other dramas. He was in the Bay Area for the weekend. We had a sociologist friend in common. Tinder exposes your common Facebook friends, which creates an easy stepping-stone in conversation. I’ve learned about social history and tango. I’ve learned about strange male fetishes. Yes it has been an adventure, this Tinder thing. Much more of an adventure, incidentally, than OKCupid and Match.com, by the way.
I started to believe that Tinder is an adventure because in its simplicity, it mirrors life.Now, I am not your average person. I will engage in conversation when many people would not. I am intensely curious, and I live by the idea that we learn about the world and ourselves through people. So for me, Tinder has not necessarily been just a way to meet my soul mate (or a hookup), but it’s been a way to bump up against and meet the world.
With online dating, is less more?
With Tinder, I started to wonder, when online dating, is less more?
I have used OKCupid off and on for years when I discovered Tinder. I long believed it was good advice to write a detailed profile about who you are and what you are looking for. Sure that can work. Anything can work. I gave the advice that writing a detailed, long, specific profile is a good idea and even gave that advice on this Commonwealth Club panel on the state of sex and dating in San Francisco. Weed people out by saying exactly what you want. Get to know yourself. Call in “the one” with your specific words about what you want. It’s a great theory and it definitely works for some, and it could work for me. But I found that reading uber-long soliloquies could be more draining than invigorating. I got messages, but very few seemed to be from men who would be compatible with me or met my “requirements”–and if they did, I didn’t feel attracted to them.
Tinder on the other hand provides so little information. Tinder mirrors real life. More like meeting someone in a café. When we see someone in a bar, café or on the street, we don’t know the “self-summary” or the “six things they could never do without.” We don’t know his 500 favorite books, or his vision of the ideal relationship. We go on intuition.
Maybe it’s the posture, maybe it’s the eyes, maybe it’s the smell (one thing technology can’t yet give us). But we have a sense. An intuitive sense about whether we want to talk to them. With the guy in Atlanta that I fell in love with, it was definitely his eyes–they laughed in a way that very few people’s eyes do. With Tinder, I started to believe less information is more.
The two ways to date: directed vs. intuitive
When I started to use Tinder, I could see there are two kinds of ways to online date (for those who are not lucky to meet their partner immediately on the first date!).
First, directed online dating. These are the people who are very ready to meet a partner. I’ve met people who go out on 20 dates in a month, or multiple dates in a day. Heaven help these people. I’ve talked to people for whom this online dating marathon strategy has worked. They keep their spirits up, stay optimistic, know themselves and what they want more with each week. They keep at it. More serious sites like Match, Eharmony, or even OKCupid are a good match for these people. I have respect for that. I’ve tried that. But I don’t have the endurance to go on that many dates. Yes, I want a deep, awesome long-term committed relationship. But in the process of finding that person, I kinda just wanna have fun. For me, it would kill my spirit to go out on dozens of dates.
Then there is mysterious intuitive dating where you learn from each person you meet, even if the person is not “partner material.” Tinder, whether it’s a hookup, dating, or friendship app, or some combination of all of the above, falls into the second category. I could meet my partner via Tinder just as I could meet my partner at the gym or at the dentist. Tinder has been like life. A way to have fun along the way and value the whole experience. To converse with people who were not going to be my partner and learn from them too. I’ve learned in some way from each one at a deeper level than I would have thought.
The epidemic of disappearance
There are things about Tinder that I gravely dislike. I used Tinder for about six months, and then I got sick of it. Maybe I will go back in the future if I find myself single and wanting to date. What I dislike most about Tinder is that it exacerbates the trend of “disposable dating.” The disposability and disappearance.
People are not taught communication skills in this world of instant messaging and when people are done with a relationship, or the sexual part of a relationship, they don’t have the skills or courage to speak about it or transition to the possibility of friendship. Everyone could stand to take a communication class or two (these are skills I teach in my classes and coaching), in nonviolent communication or other class. I have polled men and women. Both men and women, and especially men, are guilty of disappearing without a word in dating. Disappearing is okay after a date or two but not so OK after you have shared intimacy, and I don’t mean just sexual intimacy, I mean emotional intimacy. They are not horrible people. They just don’t know how to have a difficult conversation or be honest.
Tinder makes it so easy to hop on your phone and move on to find someone new. Discard the old person, find someone else. It’s OK to move on, but it is far better to not disappear. Far better to send a text at the least! A call is even better! A conversation! Disappearances happened to me twice in this fast-to-be-intimate-fast-to-disappear-Twitter-world with the men I met through Tinder—the Southerner and the Indian man. They were both very hurtful, so I’m more cautious now. I’m slowing things down. That’s my commitment to myself. I don’t blame Tinder so much for those disappearing acts because that could happen anyway. My commitment to myself now is to slow down and pace things more slowly.
The man that I’m seeing now I met at a café. Through the eyes. The real-life Tinder is even better than Tinder itself.
It’s great to be back in quirky-movement-building mode in a new way teaching these classes GetQuirky and Quirkytogether 101. An energy builds within the class and then there are ripple effects as “graduates” take this quirky-positive spirit out into the world.
Here are two awesome things that two women from our recent quirkytogether class are doing and one event I’ll be participating in this weekend in California:
— First off, I’ll be speaking on a panel at Litquake this Sunday in Palo Alto. Litquake is San Francisco’s legendary literary festival. There will be talks with authors like Daniel Handler, Jane Smiley, and Andrew Sean Greer and I’ll be on a panel called “What’s Love Got to Do With It? Finding Your Way in the New Sex and Romance Landscape” representing this quirkys (alones and togethers)! It’s all free! Check out this Facebook page for the event and see you in Palo Alto.
— Over there in Gainesville, Florida, Barbara is organizing a MeetUp group for quirkyalones and quirkytogethers. Her vision: “to create a community of like-minded people that enjoy and thrive in being single while at the same time remain open to a partnership with a mutually independent and quirky person.” Check out Barbara’s QA/QT MeetUp group here. If you live near Gainesville, join her. If you don’t live in Gainesville, let this be an inspiration to create your own group on MeetUp.
I may even create a meetup group here in the Bay Area. Stay tuned!
— In both of my online classes: GetQuirky and Quirkytogether 101 we identify and celebrate our quirks. Katie who was in the QT101 class wants a practice to keep embracing her quirks. . . so she is doing #30daysofquirks on Twitter. She tweets out one quirk a day. By quirk, we mean something special and unique to you, and maybe even something that you have not celebrated about yourself. My favorite one of Katie’s quirks so far is: “I am absolutely fascinated with asparagus pee. Kind of gross, but always a surprise. ALWAYS. #30daysofquirks #quirkyalone”
Follow Katie at @bohemianonrye here.
Thanks for staying connected and for being part of our movement!
P.S. GetQuirky, 21 days to celebrate the quirky in you, will be open for registration in a few short weeks.
Valerie Bosselait, a small business owner in Amherst, Massachusetts, who participated in the beta GetQuirky describes what she got out of it: “No matter what your age or gender, GetQuirky is an interactive and very real experience that will surprise and enrich you. Sasha unflinchingly shares her own life experience, and is a knowing and kind guide who will suggest a direction but point you towards making your own choices.
GetQuirky helped me get to a place where I could begin to love myself, flaws, fears, and all. During the course I noticed, as I went about doing all the things necessary to keep life on track, that I had a bouncier step. Instead of being merely “efficient,” I became happier in the world.”
For more information on GetQuirky and to sign up for updates, click HERE.
Courtesy of Mamzel*D on Flickr, licensed through Creative Commons
Profound thought while walking across the street on a beautiful, sunny afternoon in San Francisco, checking my email on my iPhone: Are we ever really alone anymore?
Taking long walks alone is something that I cherished in my pre-cell phone days, and something I lauded in Quirkyalone as a source of creative inspiration. Long walks alone are when we allow thoughts to form, to see where thoughts lead us. Before I even uttered “quirkyalone,”¬¨‚Ä† I had the image of a woman walking alone, a mix of pride, melancholy, and contentment.
Now my walks alone are punctuated by my thumb punching “check email” on my phone, when suddenly, though no one is physically present, they may as well be. Mobile technology can be so seductive and addictive, the ability to constantly check messages and feel the presence of the world swarming around us in a million little missives. But at the end of the day, we don’t feel nearly as much alone. And I think in many ways that can also harm our ability to be together.
Granted, there are, gasp, people who don’t own cell phones. But we are going mobile, where everything will be checkable. In this era of “ambient knowledge” (everything my 362 Facebook friends “know” about me that I don’t remember sharing)¬¨‚Ä† and camera phones (where every moment is sharable), cutting the cord from the Internets–and being alone–takes ever more willpower.¬¨‚Ä† Of course, I am the one who hits “check email” directly after a movie, when I could be luxuriating in the closing music over the credits. There’s no question that I’m addicted to the “new,” to the sense that someone cares enough to reach out and touch me, whether through email, text, voice, tagged note!