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Courtship is dead; dating has never been better

My latest in the Guardian about those Women Today trend pieces, and how courtship hasn’t existed for several decades but dating is perhaps better than ever. A bit:

Change is always scary, and I am sure plenty of commentators throughout history whined that the warmth of fire wasn’t as satisfying as body heat, the flushing toilet less authentic than the chamber pot, the buggy not nearly as charming as the covered wagon. But alas, things change; humanity moves forward and adjusts. Young college students “pinning” their girlfriends in the 1950s was not exactly a centuries-old tradition. A more authentic marriage proposal – being sold into matrimony by your father, and taking few rights with you – is one that I’m sure most women are happy to leave behind.

I also kick men in the shins when they try to hold the door for me

Yesterday, I did a HuffPost Live segment on paying and dating — specifically, if you’re on a mixed-gender date, who should pick up the check? Back in the day paying was a dude’s responsibility, but now it’s less clear. So I got to be the crabby feminist talking about who I think should pay, and how to negotiate date payment. And as a response, my mug ended up on the homepage of AOL (awesome) with a caption that could have just as easily read, “Jill Filipovic, leader of the online castrati” (less awesome). You can watch the whole video here, but a basic summary of my points (and a bit of expansion on some of them):

The Matinee Cure: A 1st World Solution to Heartbreak

(I am working on a bigger piece for Feministe, but thought I would post a few of my favorites from my “other” kind of writing in the mean time, which is to warn you that these are creative stories about dating, parenting, and other Los Angeles adventures.)

[Trigger Warning: Sexual Content]

My child’s classmates regularly turn a year older, as kids are wont to do, and their parents throw elaborate parties, as they are wont to do. I’ll spare you the details of societal traditions and modern obligations of inviting everyone in the class. I suppose it’s the thought that counts, and it’s supposed to be fun. But, honestly? I really hate spending money on a kid that I don’t know, and that my own kid may not even like, and I really hate spending time at these events, because no one talks to me. Okay, to be fair, occasionally someone talks to me. And it goes like this:

Other Parent: “Blah blah blah MY HUSBAND blah blah blah REMODELING THE KITCHEN, blah blah blah JULIA ROBERT’S LANDSCAPER blah blah blah WE DRIVE A PRIUS”

Me: Gosh, it must be neat to have a husband; do you two make-out? I haven’t made out with anyone in years. Also, I’m thinking of getting a new tattoo.

Other Parent: “WELL, WE DRIVE A PRIUS”

My daughter was super excited about this party in particular because it had a Super Hero Theme. While I am very much against this new modern thing of making your kid the coolest version of yourself, dressing them in miniature hipster shirts from Amer-Appar and teaching them songs by the Pixies instead of, say, Raffi, I have to say: I feel pretty lucky to have a little girl who loves super heroes and comic books. She dressed as the red Power Ranger, insisting that red is just like pink. We buy a Batman Toy of some sort, wrap it in Avatar wrapping paper of some sort, and go to the party.

It’s a pretty great party. Members of the Justice League were in line for face painting, X-men were rocking the egg-toss, there were miniature Avengers stuffing their faces with cupcakes, and my daughter – the only girl to dress up, by the way – fit right in with the other Power Rangers in a jump house. They even had a real live adult Spider Man come and play games like pin-the-pumpkin on the Green Goblin.

I brought a cross-word puzzle with me and sat in a corner.

But I didn’t get a single box filled out, across or down, because—I’ll skip the details, except to say he was the father of the birthday boy—there was Bob. 130 lbs of punk rock single dad-ness. Chuck Taylor’s. White tee shirt. Tattoos.

And—I’ll skip more details, except to say that he asked for my number right in front of his girlfriend in the guise of a “play date,” and then broke up with her later that night—we had coffee. And by coffee I mean that he also came over for some beer and we made out. And it was awesome. But also, it was like, awesomely confusing.

Hanging out with another parent is a TRIP. He could ask me if I wanted more children on our very first date and it was no big deal! We could talk about our exes and it didn’t mean we weren’t ready to move on! We could talk about the trials and tribulations and love of our children without freaking the other person out that it meant we just wanted to settle down already. Because we are. Already. Settled down. So this was all much more intense than I anticipated.

This thing was totally happening, and I was so overwhelmed and excited because I wasn’t expecting it, but also I was so totally overwhelmed because I wasn’t expecting to feel so SCARED. I was looking at him, and he’s looking at me, and I know we’re both thinking the same thing: PUNK ROCK BRADY BUNCH.

And, deep down, sure, maybe I knew that the coolest suburban fantasy to ever rock Silver Lake was possibly blinding us a little from reality, but in the moment, I was thrilled.

It all seemed too good to be true.

A few days later, very uninteresting, albeit technologically advanced, exchanges were had via “instant messenger.” I said I wanted to see him. “I would like to see you again.” He responded, seconds later. “Me too.” And so on, and so forth. A face to face meeting occurred . We had coffee. And this time, by “coffee,” I mean we exchanged real intimate vulnerabilities, and by THAT, I mean we had sex all night. It was fantastic.

Clarification: the sex was not fantastic. The light was on, and while I am not generally the hide-under-the-covers-kind-of-girl, I hadn’t expected the night to take such turns. I wasn’t shaved! I wasn’t waxed! And…his penis was too…big. (It IS possible.) But it was fantastic to be HAVING SEX with someone who UNDERSTOOD ME. Who I UNDERSTOOD. It was all happening.

We jumped up together at dawn and had coffee–real coffee this time–he had to get home and get his kids to school, I had to get my own kid to school, we talked briefly about play dates, homework and child custody, and then he kissed me on the forehead and zipped away, leaving me exhausted but blissful.

A few hours later, at 7:50 AM, while I was driving my daughter to school (the same school that she attended with Bob’s kids!), I received this text message: “Eve, for reasons I will not explain, I can no longer continue seeing you.”

So…that was that.

Man oh MAN. I was so shocked. I thought girls were only dumped after a night of sex in old 90210 episodes and in the Christian morality books my mom gave me when I got my period. Not in real life! And I was angry. And embarrassed (Was it the lights? Was it because I didn’t shave? Was my vagina too small?!) And hurt. And offended. And sad. And, like, so pissed. I mean, A TEXT MESSAGE?! And dumping ME?!?! I held it together while I dropped my daughter off, and then parked around the corner. Sitting in my car, I cried a little, and when that felt okay, I cried a whole lot, which felt even better. When I could catch my breath, I called a good friend, who is really more of a mentor. “What you need is the matinee cure.”

In between sniffles and gulps, I whimpered, “The matinee cure?”

“Oh, honey. Every girl needs to know the Matinee Cure.”

The Matinee Cure: A Sure-Fire Treatment for Dealing with Tragedy

1.Choose an early showing of a movie that demands your attention. Foreign films with subtitles are best, Wes Anderson coming in at a close second. Stay away from blockbusters like “The Expendables 2.”
2.To stash in purse: Non-Junk Food; protein and starch, for energy and dopamine. Water for hydration.
3.Call 5 good friends, and leave the following message: “I can’t talk right now, but I need some love later.” (If they answer, make it quick; avoid details.)
4.Turn your phone OFF and leave it in your car.
5.Park at least 5 blocks away. The walk will do you some good before having to face the box office.

Goddamit if she wasn’t right. Driving home, I could see my feelings for what they were, and see the Text Message Incident for what it was. There is no excuse for his method—I mean, really, WHO does that?—but it sure did answer questions about the unknown, about Bob’s character. And, really, it was mostly painless. Our relationship was only days old, so I had very little over which to reminisce, and he didn’t know anything about me. Not really. He knew about being a parent, that connection wasn’t unreal, but he didn’t know ME.

My favorite color is orange, and I love olive sandwiches. I love “Star Trek the Next Generation.” I take long baths, and I cry at movie trailers that I watch habitually on I have been through a lot in my life, including a childhood in an evangelical Christian home and the death of a sibling. The best year of my life was spent in France. I believe accidentally getting pregnant in college saved my life. I love dancing, and my dancing is terrible. He didn’t know ANY of that. He had nothing of me. My ego was bruised, but my heart wasn’t broken. I have a box of secrets, in which one will find that I am afraid of growing old alone, and I would love for someone to come take care of me. The Text Dumping Incident was a one-two punch. After the movie, though, it was easier to realize that although the wind was knocked out of me, I was alive and could fully stand up again. And I had—count them—five voicemails reminding me of how loved, and how NOT alone, I truly am.

I wish there was a matinee cure for everything, and I wish crises only happened during Oscar season. The movie, “Pineapple Express” (which may not have been as cerebrally challenging as one might hope but was good enough) helped me escape my Dark Dwelling Place for just long enough to remember what is important, and who I really am, instead of just how I feel. Yes, I was really dumped with a text message, but I am really better off without him, I am loved by amazing friends, and I can always bring a cross-word puzzle to the parties.