Monday, July 31, 2006
A couple of hours later, the club began to fill up with a young hipster crowd and the energy changed into something a little more Trying Hard to be Cool. Be happy you didn't have to bear witness to the crimes against fashion (leggings, ill-fitting shirts, oversize belts, ridiculous wedge shoes). Even more entertaining than the parade of bad outfits were the social interactions. There was the usual air of awkwardness that hangs over young people that try to cover hide their insecurities behind bored poses and/or manic body language. Girls slouched against the bar in pseudo-boredom or smiled a little too hard. Guys tried to flirt with a casual aloof air, but still oozed a concoction of shyness, discomfort, and misplaced cockiness. One girl, heavyset and hanging out of her dress, gestured too much and talked too loudly, seemingly unaware that the guy beside her was paying more attention to her petite friend in the polka dot tube top. One guy was stooped over, talking to no one, on the outskirts, looking glum. I wanted to go over to him and tell him that things would be better in a few years, when he grew into his skin and gained some self-assurance. Of course, there's no guarantee of that.
BF David and I watched these kids, verbalizing our observations.
"Look at Pony Tail Guy over there; he let his hair down hoping it would make Polka Dot Girl more interested. Too bad she's ignoring him."
We winced at the mostly inept displays of the mating ritual.
"I'm so glad I'm not young anymore," said BF David (though he's only in his mid-30's).
"Me too," I nodded, relieved that, even though I was in my late 20's, I'm no longer as clueless as I was in my early- or even mid-20's (key word being "as"; I certainly still have my clueless moments).
Don't get me wrong, some of the most fun I ever had was in my early 20's. Yet even though life is less frivolous today (more work, less play; more salads and exercise, less drugs and alcohol; more sucking it up, less indulging in every emotional whim), I wouldn't go back for anything. Navigating those treacherous social and romantic waters can be hellish, especially when experiencing a significant amount of independence for the first time. Throw some insecurities into the mix and a know-it-all attitude and you have a bewildered peer group that has about as much stability as a Jenga game played by drunk people. I can't even begin to count the mini-breakdowns I had in college and the several years following.
It's so bizarre; these kids were less than a decade younger than me, but I felt as if an entire generation separated us. I don't mean to come across as uppity. Lord knows I'm still growing into my identity. But seeing such bravado and gawkiness sheathed in a veneer of glamour was fascinating and comforting in that I no longer have to stumble through such stilted courtship and social rituals. I'm old enough that I'm not in a hurry to grow up and young enough that I don't dread growing old. It's nice to feel in synch with your life's stage.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
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Product reviews to come!
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
In high school, I had a best friend who I was insanely close with. She and I would talk on the phone five times a day and send each other letters and mix tapes in the mail (even though we only lived a couple of miles apart). We went to different high schools and would cut classes to go shopping for used tapes and CDs, or to visit each others' schools. When one of us went on vacation, we'd mourn the separation and make long list of conversation topics to discuss upon return. Though we initially bonded over our shared love for music, eventually our tastes diverted so much that we drifted apart.
In college, I had a bond with a friend that was so strong, it caused jealousy in some of the people around us (in retrospect, we were so much in our own little world that we probably did exclude people without meaning to). We took bartending lessons together (showing up to every lesson hungover), went clubbing together and enjoyed marathon video games sessions. Once, when no one else was home, we dropped acid, laughed for hours and hours on end, and went to the park early in the morning, running through the sprinklers and marveling at how huge the trees were and how strange the people looked. Sadly, drugs lured her a bit too much in the long run and that friendship fizzled, too. The disintegration of our relationship was painful on several levels, knowing that she was doing so much harm to herself and that there was nothing I could do to help.
A couple of years ago, I had a friendship with a girl that was so intense, it was almost like we were dating (except that it never got sexual). We saw each other several times a week and talked on the phone or IMed every day. We grew so used to spending every weekend together that it became unheard of for one of us to attend a party or any other kind of event without the other. We made up a ton of secret phrases and acronyms (hey, not unlike the PUAs!) that only we understood--or anyone we deemed worthy of knowing our codes. This friendship was the equivalent of a passionate fling: all-consuming and meaningful at the time, but quick to burn out. When we were both single, things were fine with us, but when I became romantically involved, her bitterness and cynicism grated on me to the point where we spending time together was too strained. The friendship lasted for less than six months, but ending it was as shocking and hurtful as some break-ups I have endured.
I recently had some conflict with one of my oldest friends, Clarissa. She and I have had the Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger of friendships: periods of closeness marked by periods of tension and/or estrangement. When things were good, they were very very good; when they were bad, they were horrid. Up until the last week or so, they were at their worst, to the point where I thought Clarissa wouldn't invite me to her fall wedding and we'd stop being friends entirely. We had a lot of issues, some of which were valid (I've been avoidant and quick to overreact, she's been a bit too harsh in some contexts) and some of which were misunderstandings (she was under the impression that I lied about her interest in Broody Artist all those years ago in order to hook up with him, which is ridiculous). It took a lot of emailing to smooth things out, but things are finally cool between us again.
Something I've been learning this year, again and again, is how much work it takes to keep a relationship going, whether platonic or romantic. This is something I foolishly took for granted in the past, assuming things would naturally work themselves out, continue running smoothly, and if they didn't, then it wasn't meant to be. That fatalistic attitude paired with a general laziness at maintenance (whether keeping in touch or addressing specific conflicts) has made for some short runs for friends and boyfriends. Not in every case, but enough to realize that if I want to keep the people in my life around for a while, it's going to take some real effort when things get difficult.
Of course, as with romances, some things really aren't meant to be. One good friend lived her life too much on the surface and her poseur attitude and pretension became too much to bear. Another friend revealed herself to be a deeply selfish and self-pitying girl who used everyone around her. Those are not relationships worth nurturing.
But the one with Clarissa is. I'm just glad we both conceded our dumb behavior and worked things out in time for me to attend her wedding later this year. Aside from being one of the most important days of her life, it will also mark something important to me. Ten years ago this September, I met a girl in a semi-dive bar that served to underage college kids and was populated with transvestites. We spent hours chatting by the pool table. I don't remember everything we talked about, but I knew from that first conversation that we'd be friends. We were. We still are.
Monday, July 24, 2006
Which would be okay if I was still single. I'd take my celibacy in stride, and maybe even be relieved by it (being single and horny can lead to some bad judgment calls). But since I share a bed with someone I love several nights out of the week, this lack of desire doesn't just affect me. I've tried to "take one for the team" but it's even worse to try to fake that kind of enthusiasm.
I know I haven't been the best girlfriend lately. I've been moody and tense and hating the world. I've tried to be better behaved with BF David, but have still picked fights and taken my craziness out on him when I had no right to. And it would be one thing if I was being a bitch and still putting out, but for me to be cranky and asexual? Unacceptable.
Oh, and over the weekend I had a dream in which I made out with another guy. I cheated on BF David in my sleep!
I am a bad girlfriend.
I'm working on fixing that. Exercise and eating well always helps my sex drive, so I'm making that a priority. I'm also trying to generally be nicer and more patient and leave work stress at work. I wish I didn't feel so overwhelmed at juggling my job, my writing, and my social and familial obligations.
BF David has been sweet and understanding about all of this, which, if anything, makes me feel even more guilty for my mini-tantrums and low sex drive.
I know, I know, these things happen. Life worries get in the way. Besides, we have a box of goodies on the way that is practically guaranteed to get rid of our dry spell. And at least we're aware when we're being temperamental with each other. Even so, I still feel like a jerk. I'm sure I'll find a way to make it up to him.
Friday, July 21, 2006
Normally I dread doctors and avoid them at all costs. In this case, I wanted to have peace of mind that my girl parts were running normally and, it turns out, my new gyno is really cool. She's Asian and looks like she's in her early 30's (though she's probably older), really smart, upbeat and friendly, and put me at ease so much that I spoke freely about my sex life and didn't feel the least bit uncomfortable when she was prodding my girly bits. Apart from that, she also has the same music taste I do, which makes me trust her all the more.
Anyway, I told her about my horrible experience with the Pill. She said there are birth control pills with lower doses of estrogen available, and mentioned the mini-pill which is progesterone only, but warned that I might still experience certain side effects like depression. Considering how tenuous my moods can be on a day to day basis, and how I now even have to pay for a night of hard drinking with a consecutive day of anxiety and depression, I don't think putting more hormones into my body is a good idea.
I mentioned the option of getting an IUD (Intra Uterine Device). This is something that's recommended more for women who have already given birth, since it requires dilating the cervix. Also, there's a risk of developing Pelvic Inflammatory Disease and a small chance it could even cause sterility. Since I am fairly sure I want to have kids some day, I'm not going to gamble with my fertility like that.
My doctor also gave me some information on the diaphragm. It's funny, but there's something kind of old fashioned about diaphragms to me. I don't know any women who use them and it seems to be a less popular method of birth control. Maybe it has something to do with the ick factor. I mean, it's bad enough we have to deal with tampons, but the prospect of inserting something that looks like a miniature UFO every time you want to get funky is not very appealing. Also, condoms have become so ubiquitous nowadays that they have easily become incorporated into the ritual of having sex, but diaphragms? Not so much ("Ooh baby, you are really turning me on. Where's your... diaphragm?" Ugh, the word alone invokes instant unhorniness). Also, if a woman's weight fluctuates by more than ten pounds (and mine certainly does), she needs to be fitted for a new one. And did I mention it has to be kept in for six hours after intercourse? Too much muss, too much fuss.
So it looks like I am sticking with condoms. Which is fine; they don't really bother me, and they don't bother BF David, either. Plus, I am about to get some very special condoms...
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
I had to find a way to shake off the sleep deprivation. It would be one thing if I was just in for another day of speakers, but I also had to be switched on for Cliff's film crew. I was going to be interviewed for the DVD that afternoon. Having been interviewed for a documentary on the seduction community the previous day, I wasn't worried about being comfortable in front of the camera, but I was concerned about yawning mid-sentence.
PUA Logan and I had to get an early start because he was one of the first scheduled speakers. Also, after hearing about how controversial David Shade's talk was going to be (the film crew allegedly threatened to turn of the cameras), I didn't want to miss that, either.
Once again, there was a dichotomy between the speakers who focused on self-improvement and those who gave quick-fix strategies on attracting a woman. I noticed that the men who seemed to have a genuine respect for females referred to them as "women" in their speeches, while the more questionable ones called them "girls". Again, I was baffled that a couple of these guys used their time on stage to show off their big personalities, but had little-to-no practical tips to offer. But then you had presenters like Doc: eloquent, intelligent, and thought-provoking. His talk on how to expand your social network was one of the highlights of the conference for me.
Lunch started out quietly, as I sat down alone in the hotel bar. Within twenty minutes, I was surrounded by presenters. We chatted about our impressions of the event, the community, etc.
(I'm leaving out some of the anecdotes, because I think I've written enough about the convention in the blog.)
I managed to injest enough caffeine to be reasonable well-spoken during my interview for the DVD set, which Cliff was kind enough to expand from 15 minutes to half an hour.
A few hours and several speakers later, Logan and I were on the road. As much as I regretted missing T's party that night and getting to know more community guys, I was a bit worn out and ready to go home.
An hour from my house, I called BF David.
"I have so much to tell you..."
Friday, July 14, 2006
So there I was, wearing a microphone headset that was very much not for the purpose of singing Britney Spears songs. Instead, I gave a fifteen minute talk on day game and places other than bars, clubs, and the internet where men could--and should--approach women (because really, how tiresome is the whole bar/online dating scene, anyway?). I was pretty comfortable up on stage because a lot of work went into my speech and I knew that, if nothing else, I was well prepared.
I didn't know what to expect when I was done, but the response to my presentation was very positive. I left the convention room and as soon as I stepped across the threshold into the adjoining room, I was surrounded by men, congratulating me, confirming what I spoke about, and asking a plethora of questions.
"You went up there and told the truth," said one man.
"Thank you for coming here and reminding us that women actually want to be approached," said another.
"I'm sick of bars, too, and I find that the women I meet outside bars and clubs are of a much higher caliber, anyway," said a third.
There was such a commotion that one of the Cliff's assistants asked us to move further away, because the noise could be heard in the convention hall.
More men kept coming up to me. One, a fellow presenter, was keen to promote his product and himself, though he was still very friendly. I was paraded in front of a couple of other speakers, ones who didn't get a chance to hear my talk.
"Oh, it's too bad you missed it," they were told, as I was introduced in a flurry of exchanged business cards.
I had an immense natural high going and wanted to go downstairs to the ladies room for a moment, where it was usually empty (since there were maybe six women at the whole conference) and quiet. It took me 45 minutes to get there, because of all the men stopping me along the way to chat. It was awesome.
Eventually I went back upstairs and heard the remaining speakers.
One thing about the event that was a bit draining was how long the days were. The first person went on at 9:00am and the last wasn't done until after 8:00pm. Even with all the breaks, by the end of the day I was pretty tired. Part of the reason was the number of speakers scheduled (nearly thirty). However, I don't think some of them needed nearly as much time as they took. Some of the speakers who were up there for 30-60 minutes could have easily made their point in 15 or less. I'll be honest, there was certainly some superfluous and repetitive chatter. As well as some, shall we say, exceedingly confident presenters that seemed to rely more on conveying their persona than dispensing actual wisdom or particularly useful and practical advice and techniques. Yet these guys still got huge audience reactions. Actually, I was a little disheartened that the men who spoke about inner game and stressed developing yourself as a person instead of relying so much on tricks and techniques did not get very good responses. But hey, at least the attendees were getting a range of philosophies. If they choose hollow tactics to attract a woman without having something of substance to back it up, they'll only get so far, anyway.
That night was pretty low key. PUA Logan and I had dinner with David Shade, a sex guru of sorts. We talked shop pretty much the whole time, except for when David analyzed my handwriting and read my palm (I love all that "chick crack"). He seemed disappointed to discover that I wasn't bisexual. I don't know if he was flirting with me, but when I started talking about just how happy and fulfilled I was with BF David, he got the point. Not that he ever made me uncomfortable; he was always courteous. Very intelligent man and great to talk with, too.
After dinner, Logan and I were going to find a bar somewhere and ended up walking around in the rain for ages. When he stopped to flirt with some girl outside for an extended amount of time, I decided it was time to call it a night (I had no umbrella and besides, he didn't seem to need my help). I hailed a taxi and went back to the hotel, managing to barely five hours of sleep before getting an early start the next day, wistfully thinking about the extended nap I would get to take on the ride back to New York.
(to be continued, when work and this stupid cold aren't monopolizing my time...)
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
In the very near future I will describe the rest of my weekend at Cliff's Convention, defend my role in the PUA community and touch upon my speech (though I can't post a transcript; that's what the DVDs will be there for). In the meantime, I need to curl up under a blanket and pass out.
Friday, July 07, 2006
I almost chickened out.
From the moment that Cliff invited me to speak at the conference, I was a little baffled. Since when was I any kind of authority when it came to dating, pickup, and seduction? (Never mind that I have spend the last decade of my life going on hundreds of dates, entering in countless relationships, flings, and one night stands.)
I didn't think I'd have the guts to go, especially when it looked like BF David wouldn't be able to join me. I was even going to use him as an excuse to back out, citing his nonexistent jealousy. The truth was, he was behind me all the way and had no worries at all about my attending an event chock full of pick-up artists.
Then I used money as an excuse. I'm still paying off my Europe trip and my credit cards couldn't take further strain. (Though let's face it, an excuse is an excuse.)
Along came PUA Logan, who invited me to join his new company, Project Manhattan, as a visiting instructor and wingwoman. He had business cards made up for me and in a display of even grander generosity, offered to sponsor me on the trip.
I had a ride and accomodations; now all I needed was a speech. Shouldn't be too hard to fill fifteen minutes, right?
The problem was that I had no clue as to what I wanted to talk about. I had a few ideas, but nothing was coalescing into a real presentation. I made some notes and when I read a partial rough draft of a speech to BF David, he tactfully told me that it sounded like I wasn't sure what my topic was. He was right.
I had so much doubt in the weeks leading up to the conference and almost called it off several times. To say I was nervous about the trip was an understatement. I didn't think I could do it. I didn't think anything I had to say would possibly have the substance and wisdom of the more experienced speakers.
Somehow, miraculously, I decided on a solid topic and the speech came together. BF David listened to me run through it several times and showed near-supernatural amounts of support and encouragement.
"You're an expert," he urged me on.
I didn't think experts were allowed to question themselves and their knowledge, but I couldn't help it. However, as I finetuned my presentation, I grew more confident and started believing I had something worthwhile to say, that I could really help men by offering my perspective.
It wasn't until I walked into the convention hall that I really believed I could do it. By the time I got up on stage, I didn't need to fake my poise and self-assurance; it was a genuine part of me.
I guess I wanted to say all of the above to let people know that even though I was perfectly at ease during my presentation and with at the conference itself, there were some bumpy, unsure moments leading up to it. I would have never been able to do it if the men I mentioned didn't believe in me enough to invite me to Montreal, get me there, and help me prepare along the way and I am extremely grateful to Cliff, PUA Logan, and BF David.
What I went through is not unlike what a lot of men go through when it comes to dating. You might look at soemone who's a supposed natural with the opposite sex and think they never doubt themselves, that their self-esteem never suffers. But in every case, that confidence came from some kind of personal success or external support. And I think that's the role I want to provide men in the pickup community: a source of support and reassurance, until it's replaced with direct success and self-assurance.
It's amazing what we can accomplish when others believe in us. Before long, we start believing in ourselves just as strongly.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
* To be surrounded by an absurd amount of pick-up artists.
* To be hit on.
* To be somewhat conspicuous as the only scheduled female speaker.
* To see very little of Montreal itself.
* To be hit on some more.
* To get very little sleep (listening to presentations all day and going out at night).
What I did not expect from Cliff's Convention:
* To have my ATM card unknowingly expire the day before the trip.
* To be driven to a foreign country in a car with a broken speedometer.
* To hear enthusiasm at the Canadian age of consent (14. I won't name names and, yeah, ew).
* To have PUA Logan be such an easygoing travel companion.
* To go the full weekend without a single alcoholic beverage.
* To meet so many intelligent, polite, and friendly men (guests and speakers alike).
Logan and I didn't get to the Marriott until that morning, missing the first day of speakers. One of the members of the Montreal lair, T, approached us as we entered the hotel, introduced himself, and showed us to the convention room (everything you've heard about how friendly the Canadians are? Totally true.).
"How's it going in there?" I asked.
"There seems to be a more holistic approach going on," T replied, "It's a whole new wave of pickup."
I was intrigued.
We entered the gathering room outside the convention hall, where Logan and I registered.
"Are you Dolly?" An Asian man with a hip haircut asked.
(I would quickly get used to hearing that question.) "Yes."
"I'm Asian Playboy. Good to meet a fellow blogger."
We got our passes and entered the convention room.
My first reaction was surprise, at just how nice the set-up was. There were rows of banquet tables with fresh linen, on which sat pitchers of water, glasses, pads, pencils, and bowls of candy. The chairs were cushioned and comfortable, neither folding nor plastic. I settled in at a table in the back, instantly relaxed and ready to spend a full day listening to speakers. Not to mention doing my own presentation that afternoon. As soon as I had a look around and noticed the tasteful stage set and backdrop, my nervousness evaporated. I could do this. Even with the two film crews recording every minute of the proceedings.
My next surprise came at the speakers and contents of their discussions. Where I was expecting to hear variations on the Mystery Method or David D's Cocky/Funny tactic, there was a range of wisdom and advice shared, much of it deeply introspective and highly insightful. I was starting to understand what T meant about the new wave, the holistic approach.
Logan went to take a nap before my talk, so I went to the hotel bar for lunch alone. I ended up talking shop with Asian Playboy (who had also been the subject of an article, for a Dallas paper) for the duration of the meal, and also met Lance Mason (Mr. PickUp101).
"Dolly!" Lance greeted me warmly. "I feel like everyone has met you except for me."
We briefly chatted about our discussion topics and mentioned the possibility of meeting up in NYC next time he and his girlfriend were in town (I had drinks with two of his instructors, who were a blast, months earlier, so I knew anyone related to PickUp101 would be fun to hang out with).
Was everybody going to be personable and easy to talk to? Coming from New York City, it's somewhat disconcerting. Also, being a woman at a pickup convention, shouldn't I be treated with suspicion for crashing their boy's club? Would this congenial vibe continue throughout the weekend?
There wasn't time to think about that. I had to practice my speech a couple of more times before going on in front of a room full of (predominantly male) strangers and cameras. I ignored the flutter in my stomach, found a quiet corner, and took out my notecards.
Less than two hours later, I was being fitted with a microphone headset. Before I knew it, the MC was calling my name and I was walking to the stage, in a haze of dry ice and applause...
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
In the meantime, I am collecting my thoughts about the past weekend and trying to parse out what to write on the blog, in my book proposal, etc. Bear with me, there's a lot to process...
Sunday, July 02, 2006
Logan and I started for Canada yesterday, in the early afternoonn. Apart from some heavy traffic when first setting out, it was a smooth drive with pretty views of upstate New York (mountains! horses! sunset!) and lots of Madonna on the stereo. We didn`t reach our hotel until close to 11:00pm, but that didn`t stop us from going out that night.
In a brilliant display of irony, the crowded bar-filled street we chose to explore was Montreal`s answer to Christopher Street; in other words, the gay neighborhood. Still, I had to be a good wingwoman, so I didn`t laugh. Much.
Logan still saw the potential of hitting up a gay club for the straight female patrons, so we ended up at a giant, multi-floored club that had a drag show in progress on the ground level. There was a cover charge to get into certain parts of the club, but we managed to navigate it in such a way that we saw most of the dance floors without getting caught. Stealth clubbing, gotta love it.
It was a beautiful venue replete with luxurious roof deck (containing a jacuzzi and pool) and numerous dance floors. And numerous gay men dancing.
Logan did manage to open one set of young girls, but nothing came of it, so we ventured farther. We asked a couple of attractive gay men to point us in the direction of a straight club.
`Inferno has a mixed crowd,` one recommended (grr, I can`t figure out how to use quotation marks on this keyboard).
We doubled back two blocks and ended up outside the downstairs club. A girl in a fishnets and baby pink corset with fuchsia hair was smoking a cigarette.
`Is this place any good,`asked Logan (double grr, I can`t get to the question mark either).
`It`s very good,` she answered, examining his white t-shirt and jeans, `But you`ll need to take your shirt off or they won`t let you in.` She glanced at my head-to-toe black ensemble. `You`ll be fine to get in.`
Down we went, into a small club painted entirely black, with industrial music playing and tiered stages for dancing and various S&M activity. Turns out we were there for 4Play, the club`s regular fetish night.
It was a tiny bit intimidating at first, with all the pretty, shiny PVC clothing on display and bondage in action. Elaborate rope play was going on in one corner of the stage, and several people were bent over racks in other parts of the room. There was a whole lot of spanking going on.
Logan seemed a bit out of his element, whereas I`ve had some peripheral contact with this scene, so I tried to put him at ease and point out women he should approach. I found one standing by herself and encouraged him to go talk to her.
No fetish night would be complete without an overweight guy in a thong, and this club did not disappoint. In fact, there was also an overweight man in a white wrestling leotard as well. The music was great, but there`s only so much flogging and foot worship a girl can watch (I sat at a small table set up at the foot of the stage for the voyeurs). As much as I support a place like this for people to play and explore parts of their sexuality, last night cemented just how much the fetish scene is not one I could fully inhabit. Still, it was a very cool and respectful crowd and a great venue.
And Logan ended up getting a threesome out of it because of me, so I`m pretty sure he enjoyed himself. Turns out the girl had a boyfriend (dressed in a military uniform; nice!) and wanted all three of them to go back to their place. Logan debated the issue, but I convinced him to go. The girl`s boyfriend was kind enough to offer to `take care of me` but I said no thank you, that I wasn`t available, and had the taxi drop me off at the hotel.
This morning was my first day at the convention. I was sleep-deprived, but excited to be talking that afternoon.
The conference was not what I expected, but I`ll have to go into that more next time. Suffice it to say that I`m really pleased with how my talk went and really glad I made the trip...