Squee; I’m so excited! Over the next week and a half, I will be travelling to three Northern areas of the U.S. I’ve never visited before. So if you’re in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, or Sacramento…this is your chance to come see me do a reading/speechy-thingy and/or get your copy of The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness signed (personally addressed, even! I love writing little special notes/doodles in copies of the book. I like to shake things up).
Dates and times are now up on the Upcoming Events page. I’m gonna be all over the place…several Fox Cities Book Festival venues in WI (a university, a couple of libraries), speaking to an awesome-youth-changing-the-world group (California Coalition for Youth) in Sacramento and marching with them to a rally at the State Capitol, and in Pennsylvania I’ll be at the Meeting the Challenge: Educating Homeless Children conference in Harrisburg.
It’s gonna be awesome. I am SO stoked. Come hang out with me :)
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OK, a little bit of juicy news in exchange/apology for being in absentia for so long.
I get a lot of people writing very kind letters to me expressing solidarity and asking how stuff is going for me, romantically speaking. Seeing as how, if you read the book, it could be considered to have ended on something of a bum note (depending how you look at it). I also get a lot of readers telling me their own stories of failed/dramatic/abusive relationships and betrayal. Which actually makes me feel less alone, and less stupid overall. Because you know what? That’s something that’s quite common among individuals who come from abusive/fundamentalist backgrounds. You aren’t experienced at real life, relationships, and boundaries. You don’t know what’s considered healthy or normal. You’re likely to fall in love with the first person (or several people) who show you the slightest modicum of interest. You’re vulnerable to unhealthy romantic relationships, more so than most. So all you can do is sort of learn how to do better, bit by bit.
A blogger called “NimbyGirl” recently wrote a great, detailed analysis of feminism and chauvinism in The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness. I was elated that someone GOT IT. That she picked up on all those more subtle topics, and that the book wasn’t just about being homeless, but about trying to figure out and conquer all of these really socially advanced concepts, having come from a socially stunted background.
I really appreciated her last sentence: ”She can do a lot better…and she will”. THAT is exactly what I want to tell every person who has ever written me with his/her own story of love gone terribly wrong.
So this brings me to the juicy news. I guess you could say that I’ve “done better”.
See, after the fiasco that was my last relationship, I decided not to date for a really long time. And I stuck to my guns. For two years, I focused on holding down my job, getting an apartment, spending time with good friends, reading a lot of books, and getting to know myself better. Getting to the point where I felt comfortable and happy just being alone. It was great to realize that I didn’t need to be with someone to feel complete. Maybe I would meet someone, maybe I wouldn’t. Either way, it was OK. I now firmly believe that to be essential, no matter who you are.
Four months ago, I met somebody. We’ll call him J. I’m not going to give out his full name, so as to retain his privacy, and I probably won’t talk much or at all about our relationship on this blog again, so as to keep from jinxing our personal business, but here are the things that I can tell you:
I wasn’t looking to date. Neither was he. Neither of us had dated anybody in quite a while and were comfortable with that. A mutual friend invited us and five or six other people to dinner. It wasn’t a set up a blind date, but we sort of shyly noticed one another and ended up hitting it off. The main thing we had in common, right off the bat, was that we were both raised Jehovah’s Witnesses, and we had both left around the same time. He was actually a former Bethelite (volunteer at the Watchtower Society’s headquarters…tangential note here: oh, the irony. If my sister could see me now. She always thought SHE would be the one to date a Bethelite, haha. It’s a stupid prestige thing for the JWs…often titles mean a lot more to them than personalities. You can be a terrible person, but if you’re an “elder”, “pioneer”, or “Bethelite”, the women will be racing to marry you; guaranteed).
A week later, he emailed and asked me out for coffee. We took things slow, and are still taking them slow. We seem to understand one another well due to our similar upbringings and share quite a few personality traits. My experience with him has been that he is kind, patient, funny, talented, stable, and gregarious. He is also a feminist (yay!) Thus far, things seem to remain on an even keel…no unequal power balance, neither person is doing all of the heavy lifting, etc. I’m increasingly feeling that this is the way things should be.
J. found out early on that I wrote a book, but at my request, he held off reading it until we got to know one another better. I wanted him to get to know me as I am now, before having to take on all of my past baggage all at once. When he did finally read it, and the book did not change his opinion of me, I knew that he cares about me for who I am, the good and the bad. Sometimes I’m still nervous or insecure, due to my former experiences in personal relationships (both family and romantic). He has been unfailingly understanding and reassuring, so the insecurity lessens day by day. Learning to trust again, and all that.
We’ve had enough of the bigger conversations to know that we share very similar life goals as well as some of the same interests/and hobbies…though not all of them. Which is awesome, actually. We retain our individuality, our own circles of friends and our time to pursue our separate interests. We hold a lot of the same positions on politics and social issues…but now all of them. Every now and then we disagree, and I love that we can. It’s never a big deal; we can discuss and debate this stuff amiably.
Who knows what will happen down the road. Maybe things will work out and we’ll end up together. Maybe not (always a possibility. Always. I don’t care who you are or who you’re with or how great things seem on their face). But the best I can hope for is that if they don’t work, at least they not-work in a way that is, for lack of a better word, standard. Healthier and less destructive. It’s early days, but there has not been the slightest sign of any bizarrely gothic skeletons in J.’s closet, no secret girlfriends, and definitely no secret babies (we’re both child-free by choice), no bodies in the attic, etc. Early days, but my experience with him has been, thus far that he’s unilaterally a wonderful person, and very bookish/low-key like me. So we seem to suit one another. And I feel that I can be reasonably secure in stating that no matter what happens with us as a couple, it will not end up with police pulling me out of a snowdrift this time ;)
So there you have it. If you’ve had bad romantic experiences like I have, I hope some of this helps somewhat. Look for someone who respects you, who doesn’t manipulate you (even in small ways…what can seem like small and subtle manipulations are often the sign of much deeper problems looming on the horizon). Look for someone who wants enough of the same things you do to base the foundation of a relationship on, but not so many similarities that you fall victim to the dreaded two-headed-person syndrome and lose all sense of individuality.
Better yet, don’t look for anyone, for a while. Know yourself inside and out. Realize that couplehood is nice and all, but you don’t need a man/woman to save you or make you complete. Only you can do that. Just have a good time for a while. The world is an awesome and fascinating place. Be a good person, do good things, make a difference, make new friends, get to know the friends that you already have even better. Go to therapy and figure your shit out if that’s something you feel would be helpful. Stop placing your expectations for happiness and a good life on romance (it’s twee and cliché to do that, anyway. This isn’t Jerry Maguire. Nobody’s gonna “complete you”).
Don’t expect happiness to equate to constant euphoria. You’re still gonna have the same mundane everyday crap to deal with that we all do, and probably sometimes even more than that – more than your fair share. But you’ll realize that you’re more practiced and better equipped at dealing with them. You’ll know that, despite the problems we all have, you like and respect yourself. Then you’ll be ready for a functional, healthy adult relationship if/when it does come. And it will only add to the happiness that you already discovered was within you all along, right there for the taking.
J. and I are having a lovely time together. He makes me so happy. But it’s all the more meaningful because I spent a lot of time re-evaluating my definition of happiness, and then inching closer to obtaining it as an individual, before we ever met.