It all started at a resort in Cabo San Lucas. Tom and I were sitting at dinner overlooking the pool area, and we saw several kittens with their mama cat (whom we had affectionately dubbed “Fetty Cat” because she only had one eye). After spending an hour or so after dinner trying to pet one of the kitties, I realized: I really needed a cat.
Two weeks later, I found myself at the SPCA on a Sunday evening, judgmentally walking from cat condo to cat condo. I hadn’t thought TOO much ahead of time about what I was looking for—I was pretty sure I wanted a boy, and I was pretty sure I wanted him to be a year old (or less).
I was hoping that it’d be a ‘true love’ moment, and when I met the right kitty, I’d know.
I found myself immediately drawn to the tabby cats. Growing up with a brown and black tabby cat named Prince with the personality of a friendly puppy, I have a soft spot for tabbies. There were a few who caught my eye, but upon closer inspection, didn’t quite pass my kitty inspection. Some would hiss, some had skinny, awkward tails, some wouldn’t engage with me.
It occurred to me that I may not find a kitty whom I clicked with enough… until I spotted a tiny leopard climbing from level to level on a cat tree. He had such pretty markings, and his personality was obnoxious—he’d jump from bed to bed and sit on each cat, snuggle in, then eventually tire of that cat and move onto the next.
I found out he was a 10-month old male named Samoan.
But the SPCA was closing, and I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to make a definitive decision in time. I pet him, took a few obligatory Snapchats, and vowed to come back the next day after sleeping on it.
Naturally, I went home and couldn’t stop thinking about the little guy. I knew I needed to go back and get him—and I just hoped nobody else had gotten him in the meantime. I set up his litter box, bought a basketful of toys, some food, and a little scratching post.
I went back to the shelter and approached the front desk: “Is Samoan still here? I want to adopt him.”
After a few clicks on her computer, she confirmed Samoan was still in the back. I was so relieved and excited, and she sent back a volunteer to get him for me.
10 minutes passed. 15 minutes. Then 20. What was taking so long?
She finally came back, disheveled, with the cardboard white carrier. “He put up a good fight, but he’s finally in here.”
Hm, I thought, not a great sign.
Upon taking him home, I excitedly opened his box—in the middle of the apartment, apparently a big cat no-no when you first bring home a new kitty—and welcomed him to his new home. Immediately, he popped out and sprinted behind the dryer. Not exactly the homecoming I was hoping for, but I figured in a few hours he’d be out.
Oh, how naïve I was.
Sam spent the next two days behind the dryer.
I was concerned he wasn’t going to eat or use the litterbox, but the tell-tale signs of both were evident every morning (a slight relief, but still a concern).
I woke up on day 3 and checked behind the dryer on my way out to yoga. No kitty.
Hm, I thought, mildly panicked. Where could he be?
After a quick scan of the apartment, I realized I was going to be late and left, with my disappearing cat in the back of my mind.
I did a more thorough search before work, but to no avail.
Too concerned to focus at work, I went home at lunch and enlisted the help of my coworker Nick to help search.
We legitimately turned the apartment over. We flipped furniture. We took everything out of closets. Then we did it all over again. No cat.
“KG,” he stammered, “I hate to say this, but I really don’t think that cat is here. Could he have gotten out?”
Surprising even myself, I started to cry. I couldn’t believe that I already lost my cat after 48 hours. I am a horrible mom, I thought. “I don’t think I can go back to work,” I said, “I feel sick over this.”
I had to take Nick back to work, though, so I drove back to Southwest and sat in the parking lot and called my mom. She was (luckily) with my Papa John at the time, who told me to check under the cabinets.
“That’s ridiculous,” I dismissed. How could he have gotten in the cabinets? I opened every cabinet, I explained.
My grandpa then explained how there’s a small space between the baseboards and the cabinets that cats can crawl into—he had just gotten his neighbor’s cat out of theirs a few days earlier. I was skeptical (but desperate), and ultimately, my desperation won out.
After embarrassingly tearing up at work, my boss brought me his thermal heat hunting camera to scan the apartment, ‘in case he got into one of the walls.’
Was this what all cat owners dealt with? I couldn’t remember any antics of this scale from my childhood, and we constantly had cats. Had I selected a broken cat? Was I just a shitty pet parent? What was I supposed to do?
I got home after work and immediately headed for the corner cabinet with the infrared camera. Movement.
I breathed in sharply, steadying the angle of the camera. Ears. I could see ears.
I was so relieved I had found him, I started crying again (it was a very emotional day).
“Sam Cat!” I blurted, trying to coax him out. I stuck my phone into the hole to make sure he was OK in there, turning on the flash. And thus, the first #MoodFromTheCabinet was born:
It was at this point that I felt a strange mix of relief and confusion. I was so happy I had found him, but unsure of what to do next. What if he were stuck in there? What if he starves? What if he’s going to the bathroom in there?
Ultimately, I realized I had no choice but to leave him be. The next morning, I woke up and found his food gone and his litterbox full. So, he’s not stuck, I thought, moderately more willing to allow him to keep hanging out in the cabinet.
Over the next several days, I took “progress pictures” to illustrate Sam’s mood. Over the weeks, new toys would appear in the cabinet and disappear from the rest of the apartment. Please enjoy this #TBT:
After the third week, I was beginning to grow increasingly concerned that this was going to be the new normal. I was convinced I had adopted a malfunctioning cat. I called the SPCA, almost embarrassed to admit that I had yet to touch the pet I had adopted from them.
“He was rescued from a situation of extreme cruelty very young, so it’s probably going to take him a little while to socialize.” Although it broke my heart, it made me feel slightly better that he hadn’t come out yet—almost like it wasn't my fault. Still, I was confused, since he was so playful and happy at the shelter. What if he didn’t like me? What if I had a cat who isn’t going to like me?
I had visions of myself in 5 years from now, unable to move out of my apartment, because my 5-year-old cat who loathed me was still living in my cabinet. It was partly funny, but mostly genuinely concerning.
People reached out with the most well-meaning advice, and most people were of the opinion that we should plug the hole. Eventually, I tried it. He FREAKED out, and launched himself at the piece of Tupperware I had lodged in the opening to knock it free and then shoved his body into the hole. I felt so guilty that I never tried to plug it again.
Another popular suggestion was Feliway, a pheromone diffuser for cats who won’t stop spraying (ew) or are aggressive. It was supposed to make cats calmer. I was cynical: my cat wasn’t aggressive—he was terrified of me. Plus, the product was $40, and it seemed like the likelihood of it working was so slim that I’d be better off being patient.
Fast forward three more weeks. We had made minor (very minor) progress, but I still hadn’t made physical contact with him. As soon as he’d see me, he’d book it back to the cabinet. The most I saw of Sam was his backend while he scuttled back into the cabinet, increasingly slowly as he got bigger.
Another frustrating aspect of my hidey cat was that he was the messiest animal in the world. There was litter all over my apartment constantly, which barely made sense considering the cat was nowhere to be seen. I’d jokingly call him my ‘messy ghost kitty’ because unless you had seen the tracks of litter everywhere, you’d never know a cat lived in the apartment.
I had to vacuum every single day, and it was mildly annoying that I was spending all this time cleaning up after a cat whom I wasn’t even getting to do cat things with (pet, play, you know—the standard cat things). It occurred to me the litter might be the issue.
One Monday night, I was eating pizza and drinking wine with Ellie, while placing treats at the opening of the cabinet to get Sam to stick his paw out and grab them (this was the extent of our relationship, at this point—through-the-cabinet-hole scratches).
After two glasses of wine, I decided we should get a cat tree. We went to Petsmart, where I bought the cutest cat tree I could find and a couple more toys. I purchased a Blue Wilderness litter I had read about online that was made of pine and other natural materials, unlike the clay that most clumping litters are made of. The articles I read said that clay is sticky and can cling to the kitty’s paws and body, so when they jump out of the box, they take a lot of litter with them.
As I was finishing up, I spotted the Feliway at the endcap of an aisle. I slowly approached, reaching my threshold of patience and wondering if it were worth it. “It’s just $40,” the merlot I had consumed earlier whispered, “just try it.” [Sidebar: I found it on Amazon for $20, linked above.]
Feliway, cat tree, toys, and litter in tow, we made our way back home. Ellie bought a beta fish and named it Akon.
I unboxed and set up my kitty Glade Plug-In and put the cat tree by the window.
I shit you not, the very next night, Ellie and I were sitting in the living room when Sam Cat came out of the cabinet and started walking around.
It was shocking. I had never seen this much of his body before (at least not since we left the shelter). He was whipping his tail around, climbing on the counter, and, save for the fact he wasn’t coming near us, like a normal cat. It was almost unbelievable. I’m pretty sure my heart was beating twice as fast as usual for the full hour or so that he graced us with his existence.
The following night, I came home from teaching and found him outside of the hole again. I slowly filled up his food bowl, talking to him quietly. I approached him, one inch at a time, and tried to reach out and touch his back. He jerked away violently.
“It’s OK—it’s OK. Just let me pet you.” I said, reaching out again. He moved away. This cycle repeated five or six times, until finally, I touched his back. (This is where the video comes into play. Everyone remember, “We like the pets! These are the good pets!” Ah, the good old days.)
I “played” with him for about an hour, petting him and scratching him behind the ears. He was so sweet and kept purring, occasionally trying to bite my fingers. I was still in utter disbelief that—after a month and a half—my ghost cat was finally real.
The progress from this point forward was rapid. As I type this, he’s laying across my chest and smacking my hands with his paws when I type too quickly (if you find a typo in this blog, please direct your blame to Sam Cat).
I think there are a few morals to this story:
1. Love is patient. I was so afraid my kitty hated me and that I had picked a ‘broken cat,’ but I held out hope and spent countless nights sitting in front of the cabinet hole talking to him. Even when I was most frustrated, in the back of my mind I knew he was still better off in this apartment (a real home) rather than in a shelter.
2. Feliway pheromones are magic. I swear, 48 hours of this stuff diffusing in my apartment and it was like I had a completely different cat. His personality is hilarious—he’s so playful, happy, and sweet, even though the whole ‘clawing and nibbling’ phase is a little painful. If you’re going to get a cat or have multiple cats who don’t get along, get this stuff. I know it seems hokey, but I think Sam Cat is proof that it can turn around the worst cases.
3. The natural litters are way cleaner than the clumping ones. I like this one from Blue Wilderness; it doesn’t smell like regular kitty litter but it still somehow manages to cover up the smell of kitty doo-doo. I don’t have to replace it as frequently, either, because half of it isn’t ending up all over the floor every time Sam Cat uses the bathroom.
4. Sometimes humor and community can make sad situations easier. When I was the most worried about the #CabinetCat situation, it was nice to have the support of (sometimes random) people offering advice, cracking jokes, and assuring me it’d be OK. I received a lot of cat pictures over those six weeks with anecdotes of others’ hidey cats. Although silly, this is a good case study of people rallying behind a little unlikely furry hero.
Now my biggest issue with Sam is that he scratches up everything I own, most recently my comforter. He hasn’t destroyed anything valuable, but it’s definitely helping me let go a little bit of my obsession with perfection in my space. His little personality and liveliness makes my day every time I walk in the house.
Thanks to everyone who followed along with the Sam Cat saga. Hopefully this answers any remaining questions you may have had about my bizarre Cabinet Cat.
Happy Sunday! Thanks for reading.
My “28 days of solitude,” as I dubbed it, was an unintentional social experiment I entered into nervously and unwillingly. Immediately preceding, I felt a little like I do whenever I’m about to get blood drawn—reluctant, and embarrassed at my fear of such a minimally invasive yet still technically painful experience.
Allow me to explain.
I got my official full-time job offer literally 30 minutes before the end of the last day of my internship on September 1. As a result, I knew I’d have some time off before my start date to account for new-hire paperwork, background checks, and the like.
It just so happened that the last day of my internship coincided with the beginning of Phil and Wendy’s Mexican vacation, leaving me alone in their (already too-big-for-its-inhabitants) home for the first 10 days of September. My apartment move-in was scheduled for September 10, but my roommate Rob won’t be arriving until September 28. And alas, there you have it: the framework for my 28 days of solitude.
People who live alone are probably a little unimpressed, and I admit this premise would lose most of its significance if I had been working this entire time. But my lack of daily occupation rendered this four-week period a vast, unpunctuated expanse of time helplessly subject to whatever exploits I filled it with.
It was a verifiable crash-course in autonomy.
I move into my first “real” apartment (made real by the fact that I’m paying for it) almost entirely alone, save for the help of my moving crew, and then assembled all of my bargain-priced Amazon furniture equipped with only a borrowed screwdriver and shallow patience. (If only you could have heard the self-talk during the day and a half I spent building all my furniture.)
While setting up utilities, moving in, and buying groceries kept me fairly busy for the first week or so of the month, after I got settled in I had the sickening realization that I had nothing else to do.
Freedom is weird. Most of us spend so much time complaining about our jobs and working for the weekend—but being buried in free time is a little terrifying.
I found myself inventing tasks. I’d go to the store to replenish groceries that were only half-gone in anticipation of running out, as if I wouldn’t have time to replace them once they were actually gone. I’d work out in the morning and at night, just to give myself two solid bookends for the day. I’d wake up at 7 a.m. only to realize I didn’t really have anything pressing to do and sink back under the covers feeling simultaneously relieved and guilty.
I’ve always been a little restless. I find great value and fulfillment in productivity. A handful of people were shocked and disgusted that I wasn’t using this time to travel, but come on—paying for plane tickets now feels unjustifiable, and besides, I had just dumped thousands of dollars into this new apartment. I was not about to (what feels like) waste another several hundred on something that had been and will continue to be free to me in a few weeks.
Not wanting to squander the gift of true alone time, I decided to fill it doing all the things I enjoy doing on my ideal Saturday—wake up early, get iced coffee, run, read, relax—but with a more intentional twist.
I went to Half Price Books, picked up a few hardbacks that looked interesting, and Googled “coffee shops near me.” I made a list of all the non-chain coffee shops in Dallas and picked one per day, where I’d sit and read for hours.
Is this sounding cliché yet? Let’s exacerbate that!
I journaled nearly every day, chronicling my mood in a scientific-adjacent manner. I’d write about my weird concerns, inflated by the amount of time I had to overthink and analyze every passing thought, and then play my own therapist to dissect why I felt that way until I reached a satisfactory conclusion.
It’s not that I didn’t see friends, but my time with them was mostly limited to the weekends and for a couple hours on weeknights.
Oddly enough, I was out one Saturday night when I had a strange realization—I was actually craving the comfort and silence of my new bedroom, a place where I could lay in bed, watch Real Housewives, eat Nutella toast, and avoid meaningless small talk.
I had just spent nearly four days alone in my apartment, venturing out to run the Katy Trail or aimlessly wander the aisles of Target, and there I sat in a crowded bar wishing I was alone. (I warned you I was going to exacerbate the cliché.)
In perhaps the most cheaply symbolic move of all, I bought a book called Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own which I read in public with the book jacket removed so as not to alert the other people around me of my impending insanity.
The book’s thesis was eerily parallel to the micro-life I had made for myself in my little Solo September, in that its author, a feminist theorist, discussed what it’s like for an adult woman to elect to stay single and live alone.
To make a 300-page discourse short, her argument centers around the opening line: “Whom to marry, and when will it happen—these two questions define every woman’s existence, regardless of where she was raised or what religion she does or doesn’t practice.” It’s funny, too, because she rattles off the “maintenance” young women undergo to ensure they’re ready to be picked like the shiniest apple in the organic fruit bin when Mr. Right wanders into the produce section: manicures, pedicures, blow-outs, facials.
I realized—humiliated—that I absolutely belonged in that camp.
She goes on to note that this same question does not govern the lives of men.
To men, marriage is something much more abstract. A choice to be made, rather than a central theme around which to arrange a life. Call it internalization of cultural norms, but I definitely consider marriage to be one of—if not the—most consequential thing I’ll ever do.
In a lot of ways, I think women feel like everything they do up until meeting “the one” is just biding their time; occupying the days until their “real” lives start. The author, Kate Bolick, is intelligent, gorgeous, humorous, independent, and ambitious, and is unmarried by choice in her forties. Obviously, she lives alone.
I wonder if I could live alone like this forever, I’d wonder, glancing around my room taking inventory of all my inanimate companions. I wondered what it would feel like to come home from work every night for the next 40 years to an empty apartment (except for a few cats, obviously). Would I be content, or would I be mind-numbingly lonely? I really don’t know.
I do know, however, that this little exercise in solitude reinforced one thing for me: to be a functioning adult, you must learn how to be alone without being lonely.
And not just “alone” in the temporary, fleeting sense with the promise of companionship just around the corner: alone in the grander sense, as if this is all there is and all there will be. If you were going to be alone for the rest of your life, would that change how you spend your time now?
When I was young, I remember getting really bored in the summers and whining to my dad. He’d chuckle and tell me I needed to learn how to entertain myself. What wise advice to be serving up to an 8-year-old on a continuous sugar high.
Maybe it’s a little counter-cultural and silly to read one book about the spinster lifestyle and devolve into a panic that I’m not cut out for long-term solitude. After all, marriage is around for a reason. People need companionship. But the notion that maybe it isn’t the most important thing and your choices as a woman shouldn’t revolve around whom you’ll marry and when is an interesting, paradigm-altering concept.
At the very least, it’s good to be aware of who’s in the driver’s seat of your psyche and what impulses are controlling your decisions. Learning to be comfortable and happy alone is more or less a requirement of life today, one that some are able to put off longer than others.
But honestly, now I really do want a cat.
As a single twenty-something who just signed a 2BR-2BA lease with one of her best friends, the idea of “living together” with a significant other is not something I think about regularly. In fact, I had always figured that sort of living arrangement was, at a minimum, five years off—given the fact that I don’t foresee myself getting married anytime soon.
Still, I like to consider myself a reasonable individual with a decent gauge of common sense. Growing up Catholic, I was always told that you simply don’t live with someone before you’re married (among other things). As I got older and marriage became less of a far distant vision and more of something that would likely occur in the next decade, I began to question how realistic that suggestion really was.
Sensibly speaking, it would seem that you should pilot your living situation before you legally bind yourself to another individual until death do you part. Although the following analogy is usually used in reference to pre-marital sex (rather than pre-marital cohabitation), you wouldn’t buy a car without test-driving it, would you?
Most major decisions in life are made with a lot of forethought, testing, research, and planning. It seems a little counterintuitive, then, to make a major life commitment—arguably the decision that will affect your entire life more dramatically than any other choice you make—on the assumption that it’ll work out.
But this car metaphor feels a little misguided and incomplete. What if the dealership offered to let you have the car indefinitely, no strings attached, and you could decide to buy it at any point. Would you be in any hurry to fork over $40,000 for the car and commit to it? If this car now lives in your garage 24/7 and is available to drive at any time, would you feel any urgency to buy it? Or would you feel like you had more time to continue your indefinite test-drive?
Sidebar: Why do so many of my "love" posts feature automotive metaphors?
I recently stumbled upon some research that very persuasively suggests cohabitation has the opposite of its intended effect. And, I have to be honest here: It has me nervously second-guessing a lot of things within the relationship realm that I considered “reasonable common sense.”
Now, in the sake of full disclosure, I did not read all of the original studies in their entirety. Rather, I read a synthesis of multiple studies that was performed and written by a psychologist who focuses her research and practice on individuals in their 20s.
My perception is based on her interpretation of the research, which, to be fair, is not necessarily logically sound—but I’m too lazy to read all the original studies and her 152-page synthesis was satisfactory enough for me, so consider your source, buckle up, and read on.
To summarize, the studies suggest that living together has the potential to become a sort of “sliding, not deciding” stage where two people see the benefits of cohabitation (easier access to one another, cheaper rent, etc.) without making a serious, conscious commitment to approximating one another’s potential for marriage and following through.
The psychologist explains that, when you’re just living together but not financially intertwined, paying a mortgage, or trying to get pregnant (i.e., some of the biggest stressors early in a marriage), you aren’t experiencing an accurate calculation of what married life with this person would truly be like. Instead, you’re “committing” to something that appears to have an easier exit strategy (e.g., terminating your lease and going your separate ways) with the expectation that marriage will be the natural next step if things work out.
She explains that, statistically speaking, this is not so. As with many things in life, there are unforeseen consequences and collateral that result from the mindset one typically adopts when making the decision to move in with a significant other.
An important call-out to make here is that this “cohabitation effect” is technically a “pre-engagement cohabitation effect.” In other words, if you’ve already publicly declared your intention to marry this person (therefore making the decision that you’ll be with them forever) and THEN you move in together, your marriage is statistically no more likely to falter than that of two people who didn’t live together after getting engaged. Those at risk in these studies were couples who moved in together prior to an engagement.
The logic presented here actually aligned with my own common sense notions. To quote directly, “A life built on ‘Maybe We Will’ simply may not feel as consciously committed as a life built on top of the ‘I Do’ of marriage or ‘We Are’ of engagement.” I can understand the argument here just as clearly as I can see a case for testing living together before marriage.
Psychology posits the reason cohabitation (pre-engagement) can be dangerous is because it seems like a low-risk commitment, when, in reality, it’s actually very limiting. There’s this theory in behavioral economics called “lock-in” she references that postulates once you start investing heavily in a relationship (like moving in together), you’re far less likely to explore other options even if things are going poorly.
The line of thinking is this: “This isn’t going as well as I’d hoped, but maybe once we get married things will fall into place. We’ve already moved in together—it’s too late to start over.”
The good news in all this is that most of these secondhand consequences of living together can be alleviated by discussing on the frontend what the intentions of both parties are. She makes it clear that the research’s primary implications are that cohabitation out of convenience usually ends in settling and resentment, while cohabitation in a conscious, clearly communicated step toward marriage is less likely to implode.
I cannot stress enough that I do not intend to exercise any judgment or subjective bias here—as I stated, I’m single. I’m not considering moving in with someone. I don’t have a staunch opinion on this subject, beyond how my previous perceptions have been altered by the studies and research I’ve recently come across.
I would LOVE to hear your perspective on this if you’re currently living with your significant other or are now married to someone who you moved in with first. Did you enter into cohabitation with the conscious awareness that marriage would come next? Were you trying to pilot the relationship for the long term? Did you just want cheaper rent? Are you still together, or did you break up? I’m truly interested in anecdotal support or rejection of the research presented in this psychologist’s report. Shoot me a message if you’re open to discussing.
And please, don’t leave me any anonymous nasty comments needlessly defending your choices—because as we’ve learned, I’ll track your IP address and sign you up for some undetermined breed of undesirable junk mail.
Thanks for reading.
My senior year of college, I took a very directed, hyper-conscious look inward. I had just left Southwest to go back to school, an experience that left me feeling more impassioned, self-sufficient, and capable than just about any other I can recall in recent memory.
I’ve written about this a few times now, so I’ll spare you the details, but you know the highpoints: overcame my fear of flying and replaced it with a love of travel, discovered yoga (and my triceps), committed whole-heartedly to pursuing a meaningful career at Southwest. You know, some real “eat pray love” sh*t.
But that was the first time I can remember caring more about my own interests—my own life and sense of self—than someone else. Whether that be a friend or love interest, I always looked for fulfillment in other people (and sometimes, when I lose sight of my own path, I still do).
Let’s fast-forward to this week.
A few major developments came down the pipeline for me in the past few days, not the least of which was an unexpected conversation.
I had the chance to catch up with someone I hadn’t seen in a little bit—a friend who, by all interpretations of the word, is fiercely independent. I had always admired that about him, and I told him that.
We started talking about dependency and clinginess; how people learn dependency early in life. His theory was that it starts in your family life—relying on your parents or your extended families for happiness (that’s a point where we diverged; I don’t think there’s anything wrong with finding happiness in your parents since they can’t really dump you).
But I can’t stop replaying one key piece of the conversation over and over again, and I’ll do my best to not completely misappropriate his sentiments: “I think there’s a direct correlation between people who are dependent in relationships and people who don’t have any hobbies.”
What are your hobbies?
I love to do yoga. I love to run and go for walks. I love to read, write, read some more, and feel inspired by whatever the hell it is that's written on the page in front of me (whether I wrote it or someone else). I love to organize and clean, and I love to make spreadsheets to categorize every minute detail of my life (#OPTIMIZATION). I love to listen to podcasts and watch Netflix documentaries and standup comedy specials.
When you have to fill out those annoying icebreaker questionnaires at new jobs and school orientations, do you stare at the blank line debating whether or not “Chick-Fil-A” is a hobby?
I remember, for the longest time, I used to write, “Hanging out with friends” as my primary hobby. I hate to break it to you (me), but that ain’t no hobby.
A hobby, we decided, was something you could do completely on your own. Something that required nobody else and provided you with a sense of happiness and fulfillment. What comes to mind for you?
He mentioned friends who would get homesick and said he never wanted to be the person who needed other people to be content—that he wanted to “be his own home.”
While that sounds a little lone wolf-y, I think that’s an incredibly wise goal.
Hobbies are a safe investment of your time and energy because their satisfaction isn’t contingent upon someone else’s behavior—and I think we all know that, a lot of times, we let other people control our moods.
It’s funny, though, because I see it so much more in young women than young men.
I’ll give you an example. The other night, I went to dinner with three of my girl friends. At one point, I realized I was telling a story and all three of them were staring at their phones texting. I was literally talking to nobody, because all of them were half-listening. Do you know why they were half-listening? Because they were texting or Snapchatting their significant others.
(And for the record, so I don’t look like I’m sub-blogging passive aggressively, I later joked about this with one of them, and she agreed that it’s an issue. She also noted that she knows when her boyfriend is hanging out with his friends or busy doing something, he doesn’t text her back at all.)
But you know what? I’m just as guilty of it.
I’ve been paying more attention recently to the amount of time I spend doing things by myself, for myself. I think most of my senior year was spent with a similar goal, but moving cities can be a bit jarring and I think I lost focus a little bit in the midst of work, finding an apartment, and trying to build a solid network of friends.
And, if we’re being honest, I think I felt myself make so much progress that I became complacent (almost like a “mission accomplished, don’t have to work at that anymore!” feeling).
But I think we all have to work at it. We all have to work at finding things we love to do that make us love ourselves enough to let go of bad situations in favor of better ones.
If you can’t spend a Saturday alone entertaining yourself without pulling your hair out, it might be time to reconsider how you spend your free time and if you’re investing in anything beyond work and going out (unless going out is your hobby, in which case, I pray for your wallet and liver).
I hope I don’t sound preachy; I certainly don't mean to. It’s just something that’s been on my mind a lot now that I’m around my girl friends more and spend 40 hours a week at work with more limited downtime. It’s not always easy for some of us extroverts to love being alone and spend time doing things where the only tangible ROI is personal satisfaction (maybe that’s why we document everything we do via Snapchat Stories and Tweets?).
I will say, however, that even if it is a little uncomfortable at first, learning how to enjoy being alone usually results in a strange clarity in your other relationships—you hold higher standards for the people you invest time in, because you know your time could be more valuably spent elsewhere (like Chick-Fil-A).
My first goal when I moved to Dallas was to do something with someone every single day. To plunge headfirst into my new social life and establish as many meaningful friendships as possible.
I think my new goal is to do something every single day for myself, by myself, with myself. Me, myself, and I. KG cubed.
Be your own home.
Compatibility is traditionally treated like the biggest X factor of life. It’s something that you can’t quite pinpoint, but you know it when you feel it. We’ve all heard the phrase, “When you know, you know,” as if it’s a feeling that happens passively and randomly—bestowed upon only the exact right people at the exact right time.
But… what if it isn’t?
After an interesting online dating experience in which Amy copy/pasted her professional resume into her dating profile to test the algorithms—listing her favorite hobby as “monetization”—she realized there was some powerful logic involved in love. After all, she still “matched” with men who wanted to take her on dates, but she felt horribly incompatible with all of them. How can I optimize this process? She thought, probably whilst coding a website for fun or playing World of Warcraft.
So she sat down and listed 72 factors against which to judge her potential suitors, ranging in importance. 72 unique data points to plot her perfect man. Steamy.
These ranged from the big compatibility checkpoints, like religion and quality of life, to things as seemingly insignificant as “must be willing to force our child to begin piano lessons at age 3.” She assigned each a value and determined a point system that would prescribe her behavior. If someone couldn’t crack the 900-point barrier, she wouldn’t even consider a date.
I’m sure you’re all reading this thinking this woman is absolutely nuts. I would argue she’s absolutely brilliant.
She makes the point, in her TED Talk, that most people have a handful of qualities they’re looking for a in a mate but “grocery lists that are three pages long.” If you’re attempting to find a partner, why would you enter that metaphoric grocery store blind and uninformed? (Or, alternatively, you can take my approach and head straight for the candy aisle.)
Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about Excel or algorithms to auto-populate my perfect match. But I do think there’s value in being intentional about the way you date.
Let’s pick Amy’s story back up and see what happened…
So Amy hit a bit of a roadblock in her data-driven quest for love. She found her perfect man (his username was JewishDoc75) and decided she had, in fact, cracked the code. She had formulated the perfect strategy for finding your soulmate.
Her conclusion proved false when she realized he did not like her back.
*Cue gasps.* For most women—nay, most PEOPLE—this is the most common tragic ending. You find someone marvelous, beautiful, talented, fabulous, only to realize that they don’t feel the same way about you. And isn’t that the real challenge, after all? To find someone who you’re amazed by, who just so happens to be amazed by you, too?
Sidebar: I have this theory that the only relationships that work are the ones in which both people think the other person is a little out of their league. I know this is in direct contradiction to the popular How I Met Your Mother theory, in which there’s a “reacher” and a “settler” in every relationship, but I think the only time when someone decides to settle down is when they think, “Sh*t, I’m not going to do better than this.” That’s why when someone says, “I just don’t want a relationship right now,” what they’re really saying is, “I think I can do better than you.”
Anyway, TI-82 in hand, Amy was not discouraged. She plugged on, deciding she’d have to do a competitive audit of the eligible bachelorettes on the site to figure out where she ranked. You know, some standard market research. Checks out, right?
After clicking through a few profiles of women who described themselves as “silly” and “nice,” she realized she need not consider these women who varied so significantly from her. She needed only compare herself to the competition who would also want to marry the men she wanted to marry.
It’s at this point in her story that I become a little confused; she somehow came to the conclusion that, in her self-defined subgroup, she was the “most popular” woman. I’m not sure if she hacked Match.com or merely collected some vanity data from others’ profiles, but regardless, she felt assured that she was a competitive player and moved on.
She met a second man. He accumulated 900 points by the time she had scrolled to the bottom of his profile. The date was on, people!
They talked for 14 hours, dated for the next year, and now they’re married.
This was the first person she dated after developing her list. She cracked the code.
To me, Amy’s story begs a really interesting question.
Are we approaching dating in a fundamentally wrong way?
I’ve lost count of the amount of hours I’ve spent contemplating my career path, perfecting my resume and strategizing my way into my dream company, because my career is important to me.
I spend at least half an hour daily exercising because my health and my body are important to me.
I carve out time to see my friends during the work week because our friendships impact my life positively—I’ve also given serious consideration to the people I’ve cut ties with, because they weren’t.
In short, I devote time, energy and forethought to the important things in my life. And I’m sure you do, too.
Why do we treat dating like it’s such a radically different process? Is it because we’re afraid being analytical will spoil the magic?
Your lifelong partner arguably affects your life more than any other singular decision you’ll ever make, short of having children, but—surprise!—they’re directly tied to that one, too.
Why are we so comfortable leaving it up to chance? Why are we so passive about it?
Maybe that aphorism, “When you know, you know,” is wrong (not to mention semantically null).
After all, the aphorism that states “opposites attract” is incredibly wrong. Social psychologists have been trying to prove or disprove this one for years, and it turns out there’s absolutely no data that suggests this to be true. In fact, in studies where they showed men and women false profiles of other people they could choose to date, almost all the people chose the option that was most like them. In short, you want to date yourself. As you should, because you’re awesome.
Anyway, I’m not suggesting you hire a data scientist or learn how to code (although, you probably should still do that for your own economic vitality). All I’m saying is, know what the heck you want before you start looking. If you shuffle through men or women waiting for some “feeling” to strike you dead before you jump on it, you’ll probably pass up a lot of great people. Or worse, settle for the wrong one.
And what is that “feeling,” anyway? Some scientists who study the brain chemistry behind love believe that the “butterflies” feeling is actually just a vestige of our primal instincts that is cued when we’re in unpredictable (read: dangerous) situations. If you’re with someone who’s exciting and thrilling and you feel those ‘butterflies,’ it’s likely just your caveman nervous system saying, “I don't know what to expect right now in this situation because you're a wildcard and that's scary.”
(I’m way oversimplifying here, but you get the point.)
Most of us have these lists (or “love maps,” as biological anthropologist and chief scientific adviser to Match.com, Dr. Helen Fisher, calls them) on some subconscious level. But many of us don’t employ them at large.
Her anthropological research was interesting to me, because it suggested that energetic, creative people tend to be attracted to people like themselves. They find their own qualities to be compatible. She found the same about people with traditional values.
But she did find, interestingly enough, two cases in which opposites attracted. People who are analytical, direct and decisive typically find the opposite qualities to be attractive: People who are imaginative with good verbal and people skills. Conversely, people who are imaginative and sociable tend to be attracted to the analytical, direct qualities.
While this contradicts social psychology, I suppose it makes sense. In some ways, you're looking for your complement. Maybe that's why I find people who are good at math to be so impressive, because I always found it so difficult. Perhaps there's a component of respect or admiration at play.
I’m fascinated by these questions because of their basis in science. It’s easy to rattle off stupid aphorisms you’re told your whole life about love and compatibility—a lot of which are in frustrating direct contradiction—but there’s no substance behind their familiarity.
But data and science? That makes it real. That makes love something you can actually understand and, eventually, find for yourself. You can be like Amy and work smarter, not harder, to find your perfect match.
I hope I’ve sufficiently confused you. Happy Tuesday! :)
I’ve always been tempted to post my thoughts about relationships on my blog. And to be fair, I guess sometimes I have—please see my moderately aggressive and definitely controversial “don’t get married young” post here.
Most of the time, however, I’ve refrained from making love and relationships the emphasis of any one post; partially because I’ve technically been single since early 2015 (so who am I to expound upon the best practices of relationships anyway?) and my dad reads my blog, so, you know, that’s awkward. Beyond that, I’ve always been one to (maybe hypocritically) believe that taking up any sort of interest in relationships as a young woman makes you weak and insecure. We’re off to a great start, huh?
But, perhaps most importantly, my blogs are inspired by my own life and interactions. It hardly seems appropriate to blog about relationships when they’re (more or less) obviously inspired by people who (most likely) have access to these posts. It feels a little meta and a lot creepy.
Recently, however, I’ve begun rethinking this decision, mostly because I realized I spend way too much time contemplating what relationships mean—in the context of my daily life and otherwise—to hold back some of the revelations I’ve come to.
I was talking to a male friend several months ago about a particular relationship truth I was questioning (clearly it wasn’t overly important since I can’t recall it now) but I remember going on for several minutes weighing the pros, cons and caveats of this one (particularly minor) discussion point.
“Wow,” he said, sitting back a little, “You really do think about this a lot, don’t you?”
Ouch. Immediately on the defensive, I started backtracking.
But it was too late. The train had left the station. I had let my “Crazy 8” show, as my friend Brandon calls it.
For clarification’s sake, a “Crazy 8” is what Brandon calls a girl who is an “8” on the hot scale as well as an “8” on the crazy scale. This is, by the standards of his ridiculous and subjective measurement system, acceptable—but essentially the equivalent of someone saying you’re just barely attractive enough to compensate for your neuroticism. Check and mate, Brandon.
Anyhow, after scrambling to justify my interest in this particular topic, I realized it was no use. I do think about these things a lot. I journal about them a lot. I discuss them a lot. It’s just who I am, and you can’t help what interests you—even if what interests you is the way people who are romantically interested in one another interact.
You know who else found this topic incredibly interesting? My dear friend in an alternate reality, Aziz Ansari. He wrote an entire book about it called Modern Romance. Check it out here if you're a weirdo who likes dating books like me, or just read the New York Times review.
So, my friends, without further ado: I bring to you my (semi)-first relationship blog.
One minor point I feel that’s important to call out: Part of me feels that any romantic situation that makes you feel you need to research your way through it is probably not a situation that is going to work out. That said, knowledge is power, so keep reading, pals.
It only feels appropriate that this post pertains to the shift between college dating and post-grad dating. What do I do with my hands? What do I normally do with my hands?
The biggest difference I've observed (as a self-identified love anthropologist in the wild tropical landscape of Dallas, Texas) is that post-grad dating is far more casual and sporadic than college dating.
In college, two people would meet at a bar, a party, in class or your friendly neighborhood fraternity house, they'd hit it off, and typically start seeing each other pretty frequently. It wasn't unusual to not know someone existed one week and then be hanging out with them nearly every day the next.
Post-grad? Not so much. Because the corporate megalords own our souls for 40 hours a week, we barely have the time for adult kickball leagues and coworker happy hours—let alone attractive strangers. The reality is, your time is far more valuable in the real world, which means you're probably not going to start investing tons of it in someone you barely know.
My first few experiences with "real world dating" left me feeling like the person wasn't all that interested because he wasn't trying to see me every 20 minutes.
Perhaps the more difficult reality of post-grad dating, especially in a place like Dallas where all the women are off-the-Richter-scale hot (mixed metaphor, I apologize), is that there's this overwhelming pressure for men to "keep their options open" and not settle down with any one woman.
I realize this is a reality everywhere, not just Dallas. But as I currently inhabit the land of the blonde and home of the tan, this can be a bit of a confidence killer when it feels like someone is interested in you—just not interested enough to forgo the other thousands of beautiful women in the next city block.
This, my friends, is why self-esteem is an absolutely crucial first step in entering the dating world. You have to know your own worth so when someone else doesn’t see it, you can think, Wow, what a fat L you’re taking right now!
Sure, it still sucks to have someone throw you in the discard pile, but I'd argue it's much easier to bounce back when you know you've got it goin' on (and if you don't got it goin' on, well...go get it).
The analogy I love to use is this: Pretend you're a Tesla. You meet an interested driver. They'd like to take you out for a test drive, perhaps to dinner or drinks. They're interested in buying (naturally, you're a freakin' Tesla). However, a few other cars have caught their eye as well. Let's say they go for a few test drives with you, then stop calling the dealership. Are you sad you've lost this potential buyer? Perhaps someone you were really interested in? Sure. But, you're a Tesla. You know there are plenty of other qualified drivers who'd love to take you out.
(That was a little weird. I'm sorry. Let's move on.)
Nothing about love is sequential, orderly or logical. You must be right for them at the exact same time they're right for you. When it's right, it's like two people are "winning the lottery at the same time." The timing is nearly impossible to nail.
But the beautiful and painful thing about timing is that, no matter how hard you try, you can’t change it—so trying to fight it is worse than futile. For a control freak like me, that's oddly liberating: Because when it works out, there's nothing you can do to stop it.
And remember: Anyone who thinks of you as an "option" should immediately be denied the privilege of being able to choose you.
Are there relationship topics on which you'd like to hear my neurotic musings? Well, you're in luck, because I have a lot of opinions. Comment below or send a message anytime with requests.
I'm probably just as confused as you are: my thoughts on love and relationships.