Monday, September 26, 2011

A Piece of Advice

I was flipping through American Girl's new book, A Smart Girl's Guide to Knowing What to Say, and came across a section about being supportive to someone who is grieving or going through a very difficult time.  It gave examples of helpful and unhelpful things to say, and one of the unhelpful things was to compliment the grieving person on being strong and saying that you couldn't handle the situation as well as they are handling it.  This is unhelpful because:

1. The person may seem okay on the outside when they're broken inside, and complimenting them on being strong may make them feel like they need to act like they're okay when they're not.
2. This compliment may be appropriate for a person who chose to do something challenging, but it's not appropriate (and a little insensitive) to say to someone who is going through something horrible that they never would have chosen.

This is what I thought all along. Kind of nice to see it in print.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Being Yourself on the First Date

I've always felt a little uncomfortable when I read suggestions on what to do on a first date. Not because I was afraid of doing what was recommended, but because it would have been false advertising for me to do a lot of the behaviors suggested; I would not have been being myself.  Now that I'm in a relationship, I can already see problems ahead for people who follow that early-stage advice blindly, without giving consideration to whether or not the suggested behaviors would be an accurate reflection of who they are every day.

Take this example: Cosmopolitan magazine once said that a good way for a girl to impress a guy is to show that she is laid-back. They gave the example of getting the wrong order in a restaurant and eating it anyway.  Well, that's fine if that's what you would normally do, but what about those of us who aren't laid-back? Those of us who wouldn't eat something we didn't order? Is it really fair to the other person to behave differently around them?

Some time later, a woman wrote into Cosmo asking for advice. She said that guys like her at first because she acts chill, but once she reveals that she's actually high maintenance, they don't like her anymore. Instead of telling her to be herself from the start, Cosmo suggested that she solve the problem by trying to be more chill so guys would like her. That was the end of my subscription.

But what's silly about this situation is that the woman may have gotten into that mess by taking Cosmo's advice in the first place by trying to act chill.  It's a common problem in relationships that people start to act differently as time goes on, especially after marriage. It's like, they were behaving a certain way to attract each other, but once they knew they had each other, they could go back to normal. But I don't think the problem here is that people stop what they were doing at the beginning; the problem is that they ever started something that they didn't really want to continue.  We're told we need to do A, B, and C to attract someone, but what if those are things that we just wouldn't normally do? There's no point in getting someone to like you on your special dating behavior if you're not like that in everyday life.

My first date with my boyfriend Eric was a walk in the woods. It didn't have the pressures of a normal first date because we hadn't officially called it a date. We didn't know each very well back then, so there wasn't as much at stake. We were able to speak normally, like friends. I was a bit revealing on that first date; I had my suspicions about whether anyone would really want to date me, so I gave Eric a taste of what someone might not like about me. Not your typical first-date behavior.

Well, it's been almost a year since that first walk in the woods, and my boyfriend and I are madly in love. Eric supports me in everything and we can talk about anything - it's so weird to think about what I was once afraid to reveal.

So, my dating advice? Act naturally. Because you will attract people who like you as you are, not as you happen to be acting on that first date.