Tag Archives: relationships

Old and Alone With Cats

There have been several incidents in my life that have led me to believe I will end up old and alone with cats.

Why I Will End Up Old and Alone: Three Explanations 

  1. CATSI am highly cynical. I view the world through the eyes of a grumpy old man. I even judge babies: “That one’s going to end up in prison. He looks like a drug dealer.” 
  2. My parents ruined me by telling me that I’m so smart and beautiful, I’m obviously going to find someone else who is also a 10.  Sigh… if only God made other human beings as amazing as myself… And how am I going to find him in this bargain basement of sevens? 
  3. A fortune teller told me so. I was sitting with a friend while she received her fortune (setting: strip mall in Orange County, so it’s obviously legit). In the middle of her little ritual, the fortune teller paused, looked at me, and told me that I was too stuck up and would end up old and alone. For serious. Apparently I look like a lost cause.

But honestly, it’s not just me. At least I have a handful of friends who will also be headed down the old-and-alone path with me. And you know what? It’s for good reason too.

Why No One Should Even Consider Dating Us: Three Reasons

  1. We are selfish. Our careers come first. Even if we hate our careers. And really, our uber-rationality leads us to a short-only investment strategy. We think: why spend so much time and energy on someone with marginal returns right now? I know someone who described an ex fondly, saying, “Cost-benefit wise, it just wasn’t worth it.” 
  2. 04ivy2_650We’re huge snobs. We sincerely believe that 90% of people in this world have at least one of three damning characteristics: too lazy, too stupid, or too asymmetric. I have one friend who will only date Ivy Leaguers (excluding Brown and Cornell)… because obviously, all graduates from the Ivory Tower are hard-working, smart, and enormously attractive. 
  3. There’s an icebox where our hearts used to be. In response to a friend’s semi-breakup, another highly sympathetic friend (the one who will only date Ivy Leaguers) wrote, “it’s use and abuse. that’s how we roll. on with the next.”

Maybe one day we’ll change (see standards graph below).  But honestly, ending up old and alone is likely just a foregone conclusion. The question now is: with or without cats?

STANDARDS1

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An Argument for High Standards

A few weeks ago, I accompanied a friend to visit her fortune teller. After reading my friend’s fortune with a deck of cards, the old woman turned to me and offered some unsolicited thoughts: “You are going to have trouble,” she said. “With men… you are too stuck-up.”

Nice to meet you, too.

Of course, I immediately discounted the fortune teller’s reading; after all, if one could truly predict the future, I doubt one would do so in the food court of a strip mall, which is where we were. Then again, it’s true that I am an incredibly picky person: although instead of “stuck up”, I’d prefer to say that I have “high standards”.

Having high standards is both a blessing and a curse. On the plus side, it means that you’re not a man-chasing, Tara Reid- channeling, (choose your favorite promiscuous-female-profanity here). On the negative side, sticking stubbornly by your high standards may be unrealistic–either because there is nobody in the world who is tall, dark, handsome, and not an asshole… or because even if you do meet the “perfect” person, your standard-loving neurotic self may not meet their standards.

In the end, dating someone is kind of like buying a couch. You want to get the best couch available, in the price range you want, with all the right features. It should have a good background, ideally coming from a legit place (eg. not Craigslist). You wouldn’t just settle for a couch without doing some research first. No defects. No pleather. No La-Z-Boys. And you probably wouldn’t want to buy the display couch, which is too worn, although you may not want a couch covered in plastic either. After the initial look-over, you also want a couch that is warm, funny, and sensitive: a couch that can carry a meaningful conversation, make you laugh, and share your same values. A couch that you can grow old with. The kind that you never want to put out in a yard sale…

So what’s wrong with holding out for a Corinthian leather luxury sofa? I’d rather have folding chairs in my living room than a second-rate, substandard, Sarah Palin flannel couch. (Unfortunately it’s rather difficult to maintain high standards in politics). Maybe in the future I’d consider settling for microfiber. But as for now, I’ll accept the fortune teller’s prognosis–I’m not going to budge on those high standards, and I’m fine with the prospect of living the single life with cats… After all, cats are hell on couches.

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Don’t Invite Her to the Wedding… She’s Just a Serf

Most people would agree with what Thomas Jefferson wrote over 200 years ago: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” But what T-Jeffs left out (besides women), was a disclaimer: that although all men may be created equal, the “we are all equal” statement holds little weight from person to person. There will always be a social hierarchy: we each form judgments about who we like and don’t like, and the way we treat these people is anything but “equal”.

jeffersonBecause individuals still have these biases and prejudices, a we-love-everyone-equally Pleasantville is an impossibility… and it’s so far-fetched that even the prospect of living in such a world is frightening. But this historical digression leads us to our relationships today, and how complex our personal caste systems have become. Today, we have levels upon levels of relationships, even amongst people we like. We have best friends, good friends, semi-good friends, friends we like to party with but can’t trust, friends we can trust but are kind of boring, friends we haven’t seen in years, friends we’ve seen last week… all types of friends.

So, how do we manage all these relationships, especially as impending weddings force us so stratify our friends even more? Instead of taking the “I like everyone equally” route, we can find a few lessons from history to classify our friends…

So, for this purpose, imagine yourself as an all-powerful despot circa the Middle Ages:

serfSerfs (unfree peasants under feudalism): You know those people that you call “friends” but are really glorified acquaintances? These are serfs. You don’t really pay attention to serfs: you can’t remember their names, occasionally forget what they look like, and get them confused with other serfs. The serf is the middle child, the forgotten Ninja Turtle (Rafael), and the guy you squint at on the subway because you think he looks vaguely familiar. We all have our serfs, and we all are serfs… sans the hard labor and bondage (for most of us).

Peasants (agricultural workers living on small plots of land): Peasanthood is what you strive to achieve when you’re a lowly serf… that level of friendship where at least there’s mutual recognition. Peasants are people you associate with a venue: an English class, a student organization, a volunteer event, work. They’re usually one degree of separation away (friends of friends, or friends of family). They are the friends you’d actually stop to have a conversation with on the street (versus doing the quick-wave or head-bop), and friends who you’d wish happy birthday for… through Facebook.

feudalMerchants (the medieval businessmen you’d lend money to): These are the people you’d consider good friends… They are the friends you went out with every now and then, have some fun stories about, and could incriminate with photographical evidence of less-than-stellar moments. They’re a step above peasants, but not the friends that you would necessarily confide in with all your deep dark secrets. They are the friends that you wish you got to know better, but for some reason, you never did. Perhaps they were just too busy selling opium to children.

Nobles (the landowners who you invite to your extravagant dinner parties while the serfs and peasants starve): These are your really good friends. These are the friends you always go out with, the ones who know you well enough to take you home before you make a bad life decision. They are the friends who you keep up with often and genuinely care about. They know your quirks, your pet peeves, and your weird habits. Even though they may not be your “best” friend, they’re the Phoebe to your Rachel and Monica. They are a part of your “crew” and know all your inside jokes… and who will definitely be at your wedding, if not in it.

The Court (the friends that you let live in your palace…your medieval entourage): These are your best friends. These are the friends who will take you home AND make sure the trash can is angled directly under your head. These are the friends who will listen to you ramble on for hours about your alien theories, and then gently convince you that scientology really is crazy. These are your friends who you’ll call on the toilet, and they’ll know it even before you flush. Even your dad knows the names of these friends. They’ve seen you angry. They’ve seen you cry. They’ve made you laugh when you were upset. They know all your embarrassing stories, and you know theirs… and you know the secrets will stay untold. You know you can trust them with anything, without fear of judgment. They are the ones who you’ll call at 3 am for no good reason at all, if only to sing a few verses of Bleeding Love, burp into the phone, and say “I love you.”

Ultimately, we have few nobles and even fewer members of the court in our lives: the majority of the people we know are merchants, peasants, and serfs. But we can’t be landowners in everyone’s feudal system. It’s hard to climb that ladder, and the designation of nobility is sacred; too many nobles can dilute their importance, and then we often must discern between our good friends and peasants/serfs in disguise.

This exercise–and squeezing the most we can out of this analogy–may seem like a vain attempt to label something (friendship) that transcends categorization. However, like everything else, not all friendships are created equal in the eyes of individuals: we all have to figure out a way to pare down the wedding invite list. So yes, invoking the feudal system to describe modern-day relationships would make Jefferson recoil… but hey, sometimes history repeats itself.

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