Saturday, June 1, 2013

"Dating Advice"

So ... it's been over a year since I bothered to post anything. Most of my readers (family members) have probably long since given up hope. What has drawn me back? If I was more of the "normal" type of girl, it would probably be to gush about my upcoming wedding or to "introduce" readers to the groom ..., but I'm not one to gush. (Last night, at my family bridal shower, my younger sister Allysa remarked on how amazed she was just to hear me publicly state that I loved a not-related-to-me guy, let alone that I loved someone romantically!) No, this post is more serious than that, and though it is in some ways related to my relationship with Mike, it mostly isn't.

The bishop of my singles ward in Illinois has repeatedly praised the relationship between Mike and I (causing hidden blushes on my part, though I can't speak for Mike) because we have taken our time, really getting to know each other before moving onto the next stage of our increasingly invested relationship. We both began attending the ward in the spring of 2010 and we knew each other for almost two years before we started dating, first as acquaintances and then later as ... better acquaintances! ;) He served as my home teacher for about six months in 2011, which is when we really began to talk to each other in meaningful conversations. We would later date from February 2012 to late November before we seriously began discussing marriage (which may seem fast to those outside the LDS culture, but we were already hearing jokes about moving at glacier speed by September from friends within the church). Our engagement officially began after the winter holiday season, making ours a 6-month long engagement. The point is we both repeatedly discussed the pace of our relationship and respected each other's feelings on the matter in both word and deed. Open discussion has been one of the important factors in our relationship, in fact, along with honest recognition of our strengths and weaknesses as both individuals and as a couple.

Similar to the bishop, Mike has commented on our "example" as a couple, except Mike was joking. :) He likes to make fun of the people in the church who get engaged and suddenly become "experts" on dating and how to make a solid marriage relationship. He has said that the only advice he'd give to people who ask for it would be "do what works for you." And, honestly, I would agree ..., but then neither of us are experts.

Two nights ago, I was reading random posts from a book review blog I enjoy perusing. The authors and contributors primarily review romance novels and, as a reader of romances along with pretty much every other genre of book out there, I have fun reading what they have to say about the worst and the best of this particular genre. That night I was reading some of their "F" posts, books that are dismally and often laughably, horrifyingly bad. In one such review, the author mentioned, as a parenthetical note, that one of the character's behavior matched nearly perfectly the predator-warning signs mentioned in Gavin de Becker's book The Gift of Fear.

Curious, I clicked the link to go to Amazon to see how much the Kindle edition of The Gift of Fear cost.... I bought it immediately and began reading. It has thoroughly captured my attention. I've been reading it the past two days and have just a couple of chapters to go until I finish. When I was only 20% in, I was already recommending it to my sisters. Here's my recommendation to you, my readers. Read it. Read it and think about it and apply it and share it.

The book is well-written and relatively brief. The reason it has taken me almost 40 hours to finish it (we're talking about me here, the girl who can finish a 300-page book in 3-4 hours) is because it prompts thought and reflection. I've thought about my past dating experiences, and friends'. I have thought about how I reacted in situations where I was concerned or even afraid. I've thought about those times I've dealt with hostile students and, sometimes, their parents. I thought about all the things I did right, by instinct and not by conscious awareness. And I thought about all those girls and women out there that didn't and don't trust their instincts, and the men that are not taught to trust their instincts as well as the instincts of the women they care about.

This morning I have been thinking about, more specifically, how underprepared we are to date. This is the main point of this blog post, the point I have been leading to. As anyone familiar with LDS culture knows, in the church we are strongly encouraged to, if at all possible, form romantic relationships as adults (and part of me wants to put "adults" into air quotes) that lead directly to marriage. This isn't unique to those in the church (of course!), but the pressure to do so is particularly strong in our sub-culture. But we treat the issue as a discussion with one focus. As de Becker states, "Looking for Mr. Right has taken on far greater significance than getting rid of Mr. Wrong, so women are not taught how to get out of relationships."

And how scary is that? It's scary for me because it is so, so true. Girls and women are taught by our society to "let guys down softly," for instance. What does that mean, and turn into, when guys refuse (or are incapable) of taking the hint? Even as someone who hasn't dated all that much, comparatively, since I turned 16 (the typical age that LDS girls begin dating; leaders in the LDS Church advise against dating earlier than that), I have experienced the struggle "to get out of relationships." But for all the discussions and formal instruction I have had about "how to find and recognize Mr. Right," I have never received any formal instruction or participated in any well-informed discussion on how to deal with not just "Mr. Wrong," but even "Mr. Not-Right-for-Me."

For those women that grew up in the church and participated in the Young Women's program, how many times did you participate in lessons, activities, and firesides that talked about dating? And how many of those lessons, activities, and firesides talked about how to say "No" and stick to it come hell, high water, and hurt feelings? I'm truly curious. For my part, I have zero recollection of such a discussion. It never took place.

Luckily, I'm stubborn and confident in my decisions and feelings, which meant that even when one of my ex-boyfriends pressured me to resume dating him, even when he seemed to be making up excuses to interact with me after I broke up with him, even when he pushed me to continue in some form of a relationship with him, even (and especially) when I felt anxious and annoyed and frustrated by his blind perseverance, I didn't give in. I followed, unknowingly, the advice de Becker gives women in such circumstances. I detached myself thoroughly, even though that meant contacting the Elders Quorum president in my ward and requesting a change in my home teachers (the ex was using his home teaching route as an excuse for continued contact, contact that I felt increasingly uncomfortable with), even though that meant ignoring his resulting text message about how I had "betrayed" him through my request, even though that meant choosing not to respond to his inflammatory emails that practically begged me to bite back at him. I was lucky because I was strong enough to stick to my guns and eventually he left me alone.

But how many of our "sisters" are not that lucky, that confident, that strong in this regard?

And how many of our "brethren" are taught that such behavior is unacceptable? Mike, in talking about the dating woes of one our friends, has said that sometimes when girls say "no" they don't really mean "no." Though I agree that we are societally encouraged in many ways to send mixed signals, like "playing hard to get," I adamantly suggest that women should be taught not to do so and men should be taught to ignore any "game-playing" and determine to always hear "no" when "no" is said. So what if the girl (no matter her age) really intends to send the message "not right now" or "try harder" when she uses the word "no." Guys should be taught to refuse to play that game and maybe she'll eventually learn that if she means "yes" or "maybe" or "convince me" that those are the words she'll need to use instead of "no." Because nothing is worse for a girl or a woman who says "no," means "no," and doesn't get heard.

Please read the book, whether you are a woman or a man, a girl or a boy. Think about it and apply it and teach its principles to others.

P.S. I was discussing this with my mom and telling her how I want to get my Stake Young Women, Young Men, and Relief Society organizations to think about addressing this topic more formally in a fireside or something. She told me that she came across a similar book a few years ago by a LDS author; she bought multiple copies and shared them with many in her ward, too. The book is Unsteady: What Every Parent Should Know about Teenage Romance by JeaNette G. Smith, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist; she has since come out with a companion book for teenagers themselves: UNSteady Dating: Resisting the Rush to Romance. They are now in my TBR pile.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ewww. No, really, ewww!

I thought of many ways to write this post on my drive home from church today (a good solid-hour-plus of time). Here are two.... Forgive me; they are silly.

Friday, March 23, the year of our Lord 2012 -- approx. 1300 hours

Dear Journal,

The beasts are becoming more comfortable with me in our artificial environment. They approach without the incentive of extra credit, or, better expressed, the hope of it, as it has been my policy lo these many semesters to offer no such hand-feeding treat in fear of wild hollers and aggressive attacks if I am unable or unwilling to dispense said surplus provisions on a constant basis to those who fail to earn their grades the usual route, i.e. class assignments.

I have long hoped for this day to come, but I find the results are not so harmonious after all. They, it is true, are comfortable, but I find curiously enough that I am not. True, these wild yet timid animals seem to have adopted me as, if not one of their own, a mentor nonetheless--the hope of any professional in my field, surely. However, there are consequences.... Drastic consequences....

Dear English II Students:

I write to tell you that I now understand your rather curious point of view of those on the other side of the great academic divide, the chasm between student and teacher, and to concede that you had the right of it. For some years now I have been baffled, even frustrated, by your seemingly boorish lack of consideration of the very obvious, it would appear to most, fact that I--and other professors like me--are, well, human. Mortal. Made of flesh and bone, with all the bodily functions that you too share.

I saw signs of this obliviousness in many things: Your shock at crossing my path at a grocery store. Your astonishment to find me eating during my office hours. Your alarm when I'd be disinclined to engage in the conversation you sought in the hallways as I went forth from my office or classroom to get a drink from the water fountain. Your pure amazement at my request to speak with me about such & such during my office hours rather than in the ten-minute gap between my back-to-back classes, as I rather needed a bathroom break and your fellow students had already held me in the room for the previous seven minutes after the end of your class. And, of course, your utter distress upon learning that I do not like spending my weekends grading your work. 

Truly, I could not understand why you would distance yourselves so from the realization that I am but a living soul inside a living body. 

Oh, how little I understood the necessity for such a wall between us!

Now I have seen you behaving in such a way as to indicate your own bodily needs ... and I so wish I had not. Alas, some images can never be erased, and some feelings can never be forgotten, especially that certain feeling one gets when trying to talk around a quiet but intense gag reflex acting up. Please, please, let's go back to those days where, in your minds, I had no need for food, water, bathrooms, or rest ... and those days where I had no mental pictures of you picking your noses and eating what you found there as I delivered my lecture on writing with style and no flashbacks to you scratching at and adjusting your crotches as you stood next to me discussing your introductory paragraphs. Please. Please? Please

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Read Away, Lizzie!

So, Lizard-breath requested a new post--I can't imagine why she felt the need to prompt me into doing it.... Maybe it has something to do with the title of my last post, which includes "Part I," indicating my intention to write, at the very least, a "Part II" in the series ... which began back in, oh, August of last year. :) Yeah, that probably has something to do with it.

News: I never did apply to a PhD program last fall, though I retook the GRE general exam and did an awesome job on it. (Thank you, thank you. Please saving your clapping for the end of today's program.) I'm still planning on doing so this fall, but there are very few guarantees in life, and this is not one of them.

My book-writing also stalled (ashamedly fast) when I got caught up in teaching four summer classes and then never got back around to working on it. The ideas are still there. Maybe this summer.... I'll only be teaching two courses and just might have some time to spare....

Then again, in other news, I was called as the Relief Society president in my Young Single Adults ward, so I find myself absurdly busy on my weekends now. Who knows what I may end up doing with my "free" time in the summer months! :)

Partly to facilitate my efforts in my new calling, I will be making efforts to move closer to my ward building in June, when Head and her family move to Colorado. I'll then be an hour's drive from work, but only plan on having to be on campus Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday anyway, so that's nice. And maybe when I live 30 or minutes away from the church, rather than 80, I'll be more inclined to attend FHE and institute during the week. That'll be good!

Oh, and I seem to have turned into an adult. I have been making use of my "financial planner" (the air quotes aren't because she's not actually a financial planner--she is--but because I still cannot believe I have one, so the air quotes make it feel a little less ridiculous, almost like an eye roll) and setting up long-term investments and retirement funds for myself. Weird.

As far as significant happenings in my life, that seems to be it ... besides a planned week-long trip to Ireland this summer, as a sort of "Sunderland-study-abroad-students reunion/celebrate-Maria's-wedding hurrah." Can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to that, despite the pricy plane ticket.

Oh, and I currently have some illness that's been wreaking havoc on my throat since Monday, but I can't say this is a completely bad thing, since it gave me a legitimate reason to call in sick today (canceling my 8AM to 5PM obligations that I have on Wednesdays this semester) and to push back paper due dates to next week and the week after Spring Break, making for a low-stress weekend this week. Huzzah for the peasants, huzzah for the teachers, huzzah for the students terrorizing the countryside! And, I suppose, huzzah for the germs terrorizing my throat!

Erm, yes. Moving on....

Favorite quote today, from the film Sliding Doors: "Jerry, I'm a woman! We don't say what we want! But we reserve the right to be pissed off if we don't get it. That's what makes us so fascinating ... and not a little bit scary." So true!

Favorite food, currently: all-natural apple sauce and cheap popsicles that have funky flavors. I never thought I'd say this, but thank you, Aldi. (Aldi and I were, at best, frenemies in Sunderland; it was, by far, the closest store to our flat, but offered nothing worth buying ... the worst taunt ever!)

Favorite past-time since early Monday morning: not showering. 

Favorite haircut: super, pixi-style short, since it lets me get away with not showering for days on end, when the thought of all that work is simply exhausting rather than relaxing, as it should be. I'd hate to make showering a traumatic experience for myself, ... so best let it be for now. ;) Oh, come on! This is the perk of living alone in an apartment, surrounded by people who don't know you and therefore have no reason to come knocking unexpectedly on your door, and living at least 75 minutes away from anyone else who might be tempted to try it. And I bought all my groceries yesterday, when it still wasn't obvious that I'm an unclean mess.

Well, I don't think this "update-on-Jenny's-life" post could get any more random, so ... resume clapping now. That's all, folks!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

NASSR 2011: Part I (The Confusion)

For me, the NASSR (North American Society for Studies in Romanticism) conference, though not quite over yet, has culminated into one big, fat question mark: a PhD--to be, or not to be?

This is a question I've been contemplating (fairer to say, struggling with) the past few months in particular. My first year teaching community college concluded, I have a pretty good idea of how I'd feel teaching composition classes for the remainder of my professional life.... Yeah, not so happy, ultimately. I do enjoy teaching and I even enjoy teaching composition to some extent, but I don't love the workload (oh, the grading! 5-6 courses per semester, 25 students per course, 3-4 papers per student, an average of 10 minutes per paper ... you do the math ... no, I'll be kind and do it for you--proving English majors can do simple multiplication at least--that's approximately 100 hours of grading alone per semester, not including revisions) and, in the words of one of my professors from BYU, the workload/salary ratio is "extortion." But what else can one expect nowadays? I chose, in many respects, a unprofitable field. And I knew it, but my passion for literature made it worthwhile to me. But now I'm not involved with literature, so ... I'm left with little monetary return for my intellectually demanding work and little involvement with "my love."

Based on those thoughts, it seems a simple decision: I should go to graduate school and earn a PhD in English so I can teach literature on the college/university level, where I'd not only be paid more, but also be involved in my beloved area of study.

But it's not that simple (to my everlasting regret), especially in days like these. There is absolutely no guarantee that I would get that job where I could earn money and teach lit classes after the 4-5 years it would take to earn the PhD (yes, even with the master's degree). Furthermore, in this time of high unemployment rates, I somehow managed to land a stable, full-time job with benefits and a flexible schedule (which I love) coming straight out of graduate school last year (an utter miracle). It feels recklessly irresponsible (this is redundant, but the phrase provides the emphasis I seek) to throw that job away in order to pursue something that might not work out well. Do I trade 4-5 years of pretty-good-for-a-single-person-lifestyle salary and stability for 4-5 years of receiving barely-enough-to-break-even fellowship money as I do graduate school work? And, nope, I can't have both. PhD programs are designed in such a way that the universities maximize from the cheap labor force that the grad students represent; you must commit full-time to the program, which involves coursework, oral examinations, teaching requirements, and the dissertation.

Sorry, this post is really a thinking "out loud" exercise (as well as an explanation to those of you who have queried my career goals for the future). What a rotten dilemma, though, right?

As I indicated in the beginning of this post, the conference I'm attending has added to the confusion. I'm reminded why I went into this field in the first place and my desire to participate in it has grown. My ideas regarding my master's thesis work have also grown and developed, as has my excitement to continue exploring those ideas in a meaningful way. But I've also seen the challenges of a life in academia, not the least of which is the very real uncertainty of professional development and success, post-PhD.

I am utterly torn.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Blog Update in Sixty Seconds or Less (Everyone Should Try It)

I'm currently making pumpkin chocolate chip bread and the smell of it is tricking my mind into thinking it's done: I performed the toothpick test; it's not. I'm also contemplating the notion of beginning to grade the 31 speech analysis papers waiting for me in their plastic tupperware box. I reject the notion.