Thursday, May 31, 2007

Corporate love: How do they do it?

During the glorious Memorial Day weekend I met two girlfriends at a bar patio to lounge in the sun, sip beer and catch up. In time, the talk turned to men.

The two chicks work at the same huge company, but in different departments. After a brief discussion about the man the younger chick-- in her mid-20s -- has her eye on at the office, they began to map out strategy.

I had to set down my beer in amazement, because these two weren't kidding. They were talking about plausible reasons for the younger one to be on the guy's floor, near his office. They were talking about synchronizing lunch schedules and charting when this dude went to the cafeteria -- all with the goal of "bumping" into him.

I was impressed, but I was thinking this was sounding a little high school. Then I remembered those tactics worked then -- why wouldn't they work even better now, when we know about subtlety? But I still felt like I was missing an important piece of information.

"Why don't you just walk up to him and say hi?" I ventured. They both gave me pitying "oh, Deirdre" looks and responded in unison with a firm "NO."

I've worked for newspapers since college, so I've never really experienced the cultures of banking or other big businesses. My friends said their company is conservative, confining and more than a little dull. You can't just drop by a department where you don't have any business because it'll be obvious why you're there and you'll set tongues a' wagging. And while their cafeteria machinations might seem a bit much, how else will you get to see someone from another department, like, five floors down on a regular enough basis to decide if you might be interested? Besides, the plotting and planning is fun, a bright spot in what otherwise might be a "bleh" day.

Makes sense to me. That pre-dating dance we all do -- the one where we're circling each other, trying to figure out if we want to know more -- is difficult enough without the extra burden of a corporate culture hovering above it. And yet, people often find love at work, because that's where they spend most of their time.

So I'm curious. You single folks out there with careers in similar environments: How do you handle trying to date your co-workers?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Singles scene: Raleigh vs. Charlotte

I know what you’re thinking already: Alisha, you’re not single, so why are you writing on the singles scenes in Raleigh and Charlotte? Let’s just say I have some experience being single in both cities; I haven’t been married for forever, ya know!

I grew up in Raleigh (ages 6-18) and have lived in the Queen City area for the past nine years. To me – it’s been the best of both worlds because the cities vary in their offerings, from sports to business to apartment living to yes, even the singles scene.

According to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Raleigh ranks as one of the best cities for young singles. Are you surprised at this news? I’m not. Raleigh has the college-town feel cornered, and much like Charlotte, has completely revitalized a lot of its downtown area with night clubs and restaurants (I miss the old downtown Darryl’s off of Hillsborough Street). Charlotte seems to have a young business-professional feel to it, as though if you don’t work at a bank then you’re the odd man out. The Queen City has always felt more “adult” to me; wine in Charlotte, kegs in Raleigh.

I could sit here and debate the pros and cons of the singles scene in each city, but I’d much rather hear from readers who are single and have some experience in both regions. So, let’s hear it: Which city in your mind ranks the best for singles?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The power of the panty

I was catching up with one of my closest friends when I mentioned I've been feeling kinda blue lately, and not very attractive. After giving me a jaunty pep talk that made me giggle, she ended with some unexpected advice.

"Don't forget to wear good panties," she announced. "Because you always know when you're wearing good panties."

I laughed off her suggestion, but after we ended our phone conversation I thought about what she said. She was onto something.

Guys, I hate to break it to you, but you know that beautiful, or cute, or sexy or bawdy lingerie we have tucked into our dresser drawers? It's as much for us -- maybe even more so -- as it is for you. A nice pair of panties and matching bra can change a woman's whole outlook on an otherwise average day. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that we're doing something special for ourselves that no one else knows about. Or maybe it's the rush of wearing something delicate under beat-up sweats for a routine trip to Home Depot or the grocery store. Perhaps it's the knowledge that beneath an exterior of workplace propriety is a very naughty girl indeed, judging by her knickers.

Whatever the reason, good underwear can make a woman stand differently, move differently, treat people differently. She may catch herself smiling secret little smiles and twirling her hair around her fingers in a decidedly voluptuous manner. Or maybe she'll suddenly have the courage to ask for that raise, or that hot guy's phone number.

So, yeah. Every now and then, a woman needs to pull out the good panties, for no other reason than she feels like pampering herself, reveling in her womanness.

Am I wearing good panties today? I'm not tellin'.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

'Bachelor': Who am I kidding?

OK, I just watched the finale of "The Bachelor" again. And I while my last post was from my head, I realized I should have responded from my gut.

I think I was trying to justify why I watch the show with all that talk of microcosms and relatable situations and such. While all that stuff may be true, c'mon. It's not really why I, or other people, watch.

We want to see cat fights and bad cocktail dress choices and bikini-clad romps in hot tubs and awkward make-out sessions. We want to try to guess which of the chicks will put out (or won't, and get canned for it). We want to watch the trips home, and see the insides of other people's houses, how they dress, what they eat, if they drink liquor or not and if they have good manners.

I watched the "Bachelor" finale last night with five people, and we analyzed everything. We cursed the (brilliant) editing because from commercial break to commercial break, we bounced between "It's Bevin!" No, it's Tessa!" "No, dang, he's going with Bevin!" "No, it's gotta be Tessa!" I had a tension tummyache for most of the show and several of us threatened to cry. The final rose ceremony, where Andy had to send Bevin home, was so real and so awful, we could barely watch. She cried. He cried. She was so devastated she couldn't speak. We went silent with sympathy. When he picked Tessa, we squealed with glee. We sighed as they murmued "I love you!" to each other over and over, and he picked her up and swung her around.

It was an emotional roller coaster. And I loved it -- and I'll be watching the "After the Final Rose" show tonight.

You know what? At our cores, most of us are romantics. Even though logically we know better, we adore the "love at first sight, love conquers all, love between beautiful people that ends with gorgeous diamond engagement rings and happily ever after" fantasy. "The Bachelor" taps into that -- and I for one, eat it up with a big spoon.

There. I feel much better now.

This 'Bachelor's' love story one to savor

OMG -- did you guys see the "Bachelor" finale last night? Navy doc Andy chose social worker Tessa, then got down on one knee and proposed and she said yes. It was awesome.

I've always been fascinated by "The Bachelor," because it's a microcosm of the dating world. It's crazy concentrated -- the show is filmed over six weeks, and by the end, the bachelor has to narrow 25 chicks down to one -- and crazy edited (no lie, those folks should win Emmys), but it still has plenty to say about how we act in the different stages of romantic relationships. Watch and you might start questioning what you would do in such situations. How far are you willing to go to get -- and keep -- someone's attention? When you're pursuing a relationship, is it because you see it as a competition you want to win, or are you more concerned with if you two are compatible? How much of yourself are you willing to sacrifice to gain the affection of another? What if you really mean it when you say "it's not you, it's me"? How do you cope with rejection?

This particular bachelor, Andy Baldwin, might have been the best one yet, because he was so dang focused. Dude was in it to win it; he came in looking for a wife and left with a fiancee, so he's well on his way. (Many of the past Bachelors have said they were looking for love, but it was more like they were looking to get laid.)

And even though Andy seemed almost too good to be true -- smokin' hot doctor who wants to be an astronaut, lives in Hawaii, is goofy-fun, adorably geeky and loves kids -- throughout the series he was, for lack of a better word, remarkably real. He got nervous and tongue-tied. When he had to send women home he agonized over his decisions and was visibly upset when they left, often to the point of tears. Near the end, he told both Tessa and Bevin that he loved them .. and you believed him. (Yeah, it wasn't cool to tell a chick you're pretty sure you're gonna dump that you love her, but he seemed caught up in the moment ... and it was obvious he really did care about her.)

Tessa, the woman he chose, was also real. She had reservations about meeting the love of her life on a TV show, but she got to know Andy. By the end of the show she was in love and terrified of telling him, because she would allow herself to be vulnerable. And isn't that a recognizable struggle?

So, yeah, two people seem to have found love on reality TV. And I think viewers are rooting for them because we all love a good love story ... especially one with a happy ending.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007 -- who knew?

Answer: Growth rings. High-rise condos. Light-rail transit.

Question: What are hot topics related to the Charlotte-area boom in population during the past decade?

With the explosion of people comes more flirting. You got it – flirting. There are tons of single folks who are buying up the 800-square foot lofts and who are spending more than an hour a day driving up I-77 or down I-85. And the dating Web site is banking on those single commuters who love to flash a smile at the cutie in the Honda Accord in the next lane.

I had never heard of the site until a couple weeks ago, when I saw a sticker on the rear window of a girl’s Ford Explorer in rush-hour traffic. The sticker, strikingly similar to the OBX and LKN oval ones that are ubiquitous throughout Charlotte, had an ID code and the Web site listing. Curiosity got the best of me because as soon as I got to work, I logged on to the site, and I immediately thought, “Wow! Why didn’t I think of this?”

The concept is elementary. Sign up for a sticker ID by submitting your zip code online, order it for $4.99 or print out your own for free, slap it on your car, drive down the highway, bat your eyelashes and hope someone logs on to send you a message.

“The idea and the site are really catching on,” said Nikki Brash, a media representative for “We might cater to singles but the site also attracts people who just want to meet friends to meet up for coffee.”

Brash said the site, a venture started a year ago, has approximately 15,000 users. Because the only required field on the online registration is zip code, the only stat relevant to our region that she could provide was that about 2,000 users between North and South Carolina are currently registered. The site attracts the most users from California, with 6,000 people logging on.

I’m not entirely convinced this is the best way to meet your future spouse, but you have to admit it’s not much different than buying a gal a drink at the bar and hoping she’ll come over and talk to you. This way, you’re just hoping to get an e-mail instead of a hangover.

The best part about the site: Not only can you add a photo of yourself to your profile, but you can also upload that close-up shot of your car!

Why didn’t I think of this?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

My friend's a mom now. Wow.

This is a special Mother's Day for me, because I got to send a present to one of my friends.

Sure, I know people who have kids, but this is the first year one of my close girlfriends, one of my "Sex and the City"-type girlfriends, has become a mother. And she -- I'll call her Madre -- has taken on a challenge that I think is scary, yet awesome: She's in the final stages of adopting a foster child.

Many of my friends want to have kids, but they're waiting until they're in a committed relationship or married to do so. And Madre, who's a couple years older than me, used to feel the same way. But she really wanted a child, and although she dated energetically and with purpose, she just wasn't meeting the right guy. After much consideration, she started the process of adopting a child through the California foster care system. Almost two years later, she now has an adorable 9-month-old girl.

Madre called me recently while she and her daughter were out for a walk. I could hear the baby cooing in the background. The joy in Madre's voice brought tears to my eyes ... and pain to my heart, because I'm not there to be one of the baby's many doting "aunts." I also want to be there for Madre because what she has undertaken won't be easy. The baby was born to drug addicts, so she had cocaine and pot in her system. Madre said when she first put her daughter on the floor, the baby didn't know what to do; Madre suspects that the previous foster parents, with four other kids in their care, never let her crawl around. Add to that the extra stress of being a busy professional who is also a single mom.

But if anyone can handle it all with good sense, patience and humor, it's Madre. I admire her for starting parenthood when she was ready, and for not letting the prospect of raising a child alone stop her. That baby girl is going to have one of the most fun, most loving, most well-rounded upbringings a kid could have.

As one of the doting aunts I've started doing my part. My Mother's Day gift to Madre? The CD "Rockabye Baby! Lullaby Renditions of Metallica." Like me, Madre's got a little headbanger in her. Might as well start the kid off right!

Friday, May 11, 2007

OK to break up via e-mail?

Alisha: I was listening to morning talk radio a few weeks ago, and the station had a female caller who said she received a "break-up text message" from her boyfriend. The radio hosts couldn't believe the boyfriend was so insensitive.
Deirdre: I'm totally with them on that one. Important relationship info delivered via e-mail or text is one of my triggers. It makes me furious.
Alisha: Why does this upset you? Ever happened to you before? ... Oh, and I disagree to an extent. Breaking up via IM/text or e-mail is suitable in certain situations.
Deirdre: No, it's never happened to me, but I believe e-mail is often used as a crutch, or as an easy way to get out of dealing with a difficult situation. It's a route often taken by cowards, in other words. But let's discuss those situations you mentioned.
Alisha: If you've only been out on a couple of dates, and the relationship never progressed past a movie and dinner, then there's no harm in sending an e-mail to say, "Hey, there just isn't any attraction."
Deirdre: I disagree. In a situation like that there should be a phone call. You communicated before the dates and you saw each other on those dates, so an actual phone discussion is not too much to ask for. It's common courtesy.
Alisha: You're too old-fashioned. It all depends on the status of the relationship. I would never suggest using text messaging or e-mail as a medium of communication for a committed relationship. But, geez, if you don't even know the fella's last name, then sending him a text message to say "Adios amigo," is not that big a deal.
Deirdre: I'm OK with being old-fashioned in this case, because I'm all about treating each other with respect. Now, if all you did was e-mail and IM and you met once and didn't click, sure, a text would be fine. But if you normally talk and see each other and then you send a "Dear John/Jane" e-mail to say "I'm just not that into you," it's insulting.
Alisha: What if it's warranted? What if the partner cheated; so then is it OK to e-mail?
Deirdre: HA! Are you kidding? That calls for a confrontation of "Dynasty"-like proportions! If you're gonna send an e-mail, I suggest it be along the lines of, "I know what you did, so don't bother coming home -- the locks have been changed. And here's my lawyer's number."
Alisha: Sometimes I think an e-mail, an IM or a text message can take some of the pressure off. Again, this is all situational. Ending a marriage by text message? Whoever does that should have to answer to his or her maker.
Deirdre: Speaking of situational: I actually ended a close friendship via e-mail. We were so emotional, we couldn't talk without yelling or crying. We're both writers, so we were able to say what we needed to in e-mails. But we weren't sleeping together and didn't have kids, OK? A friendship is way different from a relationship. Write the e-mails if you need to say your piece. But when it's time to end it, look each other in the eye.
Alisha: In the past, when my husband and I bitterly disagreed on something, we wrote each other because like you, we're both prone to communicate our feelings through prose. But I still stick by the fact it's A-OK to text message a break-up - for the most part!
Deirdre: And I say if you're an adult, act like one. See them. Call.

All right, readers, what do you think?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Expanding on the pre-marriage wish list

Marriage isn’t easy, but it’s definitely one of the most fulfilling and gratifying things I’ve done so far in my young life. You just can’t beat having your best friend there by your side through thick and thin.

But, there are a few pearls of wisdom I wish I had been privy to before getting hitched. I’m not sure these tidbits of information would have altered any of my actions or decisions, but it is fun to come up with a wish list, right? Hindsight, as they say, is 20-20.

So here’s my list of things I wish I had known before getting married:

· If you have a joint checking account, when your partner buys you a birthday gift, you’re actually buying your own gift. Sometimes it’s easier to cut out the middle man and just go buy what you want.

· Women and men recall the same events differently. “I swear honey, I don’t remember you saying that!”

· Splitting up holidays among family and friends is a chore – one you’re thankful for because you have them in your life, but a chore nonetheless.

· Make sure your home has two bathrooms, one for each of you. It's the smartest move you can make.

· There’s an expectation that you can read the other’s mind.

· Both sets of parents want grandchildren, and they want them now.

· The small things, such as him buying your favorite wine or her mowing the lawn, mean more when you’re married than when you’re just dating.

· You can fall in love all over again, on numerous occasions.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Wachovia Championship is great for singles

I attended the Wachovia Championship on Sunday. First time I've been on a golf course. I expected to be there for a couple hours, just to satisfy my curiosity.

And you know what? I was there all day. It was that much fun.

It turns out that golf is like hockey: mind-numbingly boring on TV, but fascinating live. The downside is that watching live golf is a crap-shoot. I have co-workers who attended the tournament on earlier days; one came back pink from roasting in 90-degree temps and another came to work still shivering from that day's rain and cold. On Sunday the spectators were incredibly lucky -- for most of the day we had gorgeous, bright blue skies, a happy, temperate sun and plenty of cooling breezes. See that photo? I was chillin' like that by the lake, only closer to the action.

I'm mentioning the Wachovia for single folks, tho, because it can be one huge singles bar, if you want it to be. Thousands of people of all ages are strolling the course, lining up to see famous golfers tee off (look at that golf term I just used! I learned lots), or lolling in the grass, sipping beer and chatting. I was so fascinated by all the hot golfers -- you can get ridiculously close to them, and at one point I could've grabbed Tiger Woods and escaped in the lake ... if I could swim -- that it took me awhile to start noticing there were some hot guys in the crowd as well. And plenty of nubile young things in sundresses and flip-flips. And an overflow of well-off men and women of a certain age wearing designer golf gear, lookin' single and ready to mingle. It's easy to start conversations with the people near you; I spent so much time talking to the people next to me at the lake that we almost hugged when it was time to say goodbye.

When the Wachovia rolls around again next year, check it out. You could make a love connection on the back nine. (Golf term!)

Friday, May 04, 2007

I can't date like this

So ... I'm not in the best of spirits.

I got a nasty shock earlier this week. I ordered some pants online in a brand and size I normally wear. I excitedly pulled them on when they arrived.

And ... they were too tight. Not a "little" too tight, but "you-need-to-go-a-size-larger-because-your-gut-is-about-to-bust-the-zipper" too tight. I ordered the pants in the size I thought I was now, which is the largest size I have ever worn. So that means I am a size (or two?) larger than I've ever been in my life.

The next day I had to drag myself into work. I was discussing my predicament with a sympathetic co-worker when, without even thinking, I said:

I can't date like this.

I stopped, stunned, because I had encapsulated all my anxiety in that sentence.

Dating is about taking chances and putting yourself out there. You have to be comfortable enough with yourself to make yourself available to others. And if you don't feel your best, or you don't feel as though you are worthy of someone else's attention, you're gonna shut down. And let's face it, a big part of what makes us feel good about ourselves is how we look. How can we expect someone else to be attracted to us if we don't find ourselves attractive?

Also, a big part of romantic relationships is physical intimacy. And I'm not talking about sex, per se, but hugging, sitting close, the hand at the other's waist, the nuzzles and the playful, gentle touches. If you're always thinking, "Ooooh, I hope they didn't feel that fat roll," how can you relax and enjoy such gestures? How can you keep your body language from screaming, "DON'T TOUCH ME?"

And if you don't feel attractive, you'll do less to make yourself attractive. When I'm feeling good, I take extra care with my appearance. I wear my favorite outfits and I make sure my hair is cute. I'm not much for makeup, but I'll brush on powder and apply lip gloss. The past few weeks? It's been haphazard outfits, quick comb-throughs and ChapStick.

So the incident with the too-tight pants was, in fact, inevitable. I've known for months my weight has been creeping up, but I've done a great job of living in denial. Who wants to face that they've become a sloth? So I've put off trying on my summer clothes. Gone to bed early instead of going out on weekends. Felt the sludgy drag of my inactive body.

I'm just a ray of sunshine today, aren't I?

Well, I'm trying to change, but if you've ever struggled with your weight, you know the hardest part is the start. Last week I gave up candy. This week I cut back on cokes and paid attention to what I ate. Next week I (gulp!) go back to the gym.

I can't date like this. But hopefully, I won't be like this for much longer.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

To the best friends I've never met

The first step toward recovery is admitting you have a problem.

Ladies and gentleman, I have a problem.

I, Alisha, am an Internet junkie. I crave breaking news alerts. I drool over wi-fi hot spots. I have over 10 e-mail addresses. The World Wide Web has been my little escape since 1995, back when America Online dialup was the only Internet.

In this day of constant connectivity, I’m fascinated by the interpersonal relationships formed through tiny cable wires and global satellites.

I have people who I’ve been chatting with via instant messenger for more than 10 years, and I've never met them or talked to them over the phone. I consider some of them to be my closest friends. Gosh, just typing that makes me feel funny. It’s like “friends” are supposed to be people you go shopping with, or who you call to say you’re gonna be late to the bar that night; they’re not supposed to be the people who send you birthday cards via e-mail or who make you smile by finding and posting the craziest YouTube links.

The proliferation of social unity sites and numerous e-mail hosts have made keeping up with family and friends easier than driving to the post office to buy a stamp (psssst, you can print off stamps at home now).

It might sound cheesy, but I’m thankful for the Internet and for my web addiction. Without it, I wouldn’t have received e-mails from my Grandmother in Michigan or Snapfish links to my friend’s vacation photos or IMs from my own husband while we’re working.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

My time with Trouble

We've been discussing friendships here lately, so it really shouldn't have surprised me when this thought strayed across my mind:

I wonder whatever happened to Trouble?

Trouble is the nickname I've given a particular friend for blog purposes, since that's what she seemed born to cause.

Trouble was the night clerk at my first newspaper job right out of college. At 19, she was what you'd call a "wild child." Trouble was big all over: Tall and big-boned, with a big bust, a big mane of dyed blonde hair, big brown eyes, a big, beautiful smile and she was big on charm. We were a study in opposites, not only physically -- light and dark -- but personality-wise: She was an extrovert to my introvert, she was promiscuous where I was chaste; she was a rebel while I always followed the rules. Opposites really do attract. We became inseparable.

The characteristic Trouble and I did share was a love of partying. Thursday (and sometimes Wednesday) through Sunday we hit the clubs and bars. We lived 90 miles from New Orleans and were there often. When we went out, Trouble usually wore what I called her "club uniform": black micro-miniskirt, black blazer with no shirt underneath (the better to show off the black or red lace bras she preferred), and black you-know-what pumps. In my jeans and more conservative miniskirts, I looked like a nun.

In some ways, Trouble was good for me. I was 21 and old before my time. With Trouble, I became more adventurous and spontaneous. I slowly stopped worrying about what other people thought and got over my hangups about dancing in public. Who would look at me when Trouble was doing her thing right beside me? I became more comfortable with chatting up guys and flirting. We got tattoos together (this was before everyone and their grandmother had them) and I have great stories I could tell you: Trouble and me, front row at a Tina Turner concert. Trouble and me and male strippers (we became connoisseurs). Trouble and me in Panama City, Fla., during spring break.

But in more ways, Trouble was bad for me. We went on shopping sprees that put me in debt, mainly because I never even bothered to open the credit card bills. My work started to suffer; I would stumble into the office hungover, and once I wrote a story at 3 a.m., drunk. The partying we were doing every weekend? That's now called "binge drinking." We were often reckless; the end of a usual night for us was that the girl least drunk drove home. Thank goodness no one was ever hurt when we were on the road.

And Trouble? She was floating through life with no real ambition. Her night clerk job was part-time so she could attend school (she never went) and she lived with her doting grandmother, who existed in a cloud of denial. I would defend Trouble to my other friends, who were legitimately worried about me.

The truth? We were both messes.

After two years of skating around trouble with Trouble, my sense of self-preservation kicked in. I had repeatedly tried to reason with her about her destructive ways -- procrastinating about her education, foolhardy when it came to men, rarely sleeping, eating crap -- to no avail. I worried about my career and I was drinking too much. I changed jobs and moved away.

Trouble and I stayed in touch for years after. During one of her visits when I lived in Wilmington, she met her future husband while we were partying with Marines from nearby Camp Lejuene. Last I heard, they were still together and had two kids. When I left Wilmington for California, we grew apart and lost touch.

I'm not a particularly religious person, but whenever I look back on my time with Trouble, I literally thank God for keeping us alive and out of jail. We were young and foolish.

Some people are meant to be in our lives forever. And others are just ... Trouble.