Thought Catalog

Every Rehab Romance I’ve Had. In One Part.

Posted: 15 Oct 2016 10:53 PM PDT

Hazelden Center For Youth and Families is a single-story facility located on fifteen acres of forest along the north shore of Medicine Lake in Minnesota. It caters to addicted youth, ages 14-25, and in December of 1992 it caters to me, sixteen years old.

It's still unclear if I need treatment at this point. My only other option is to show up for class Monday morning after a Friday night of drunken behavior that included, among other things, having sex with my boyfriend in front of a larger portion of the student body from the crusty Blake Upper School, a school I've been attending for only a few months after two brief stints at other Twin Cities' private institutions that ended in kind "suggestions" of withdrawal. 

“You let your vagina cast your ballot.”

So I stumble out of bed and downstairs into my mother's office and tell her, Melody, a recovering alcoholic herself and–ironically–the author of a book called Codependent No More (along with a others about detaching from an alcoholic loved one), that I'm an alcoholic and need help and that I need it now. Like, before class starts. She's sympathetic to my case, and believes I may have a problem, one part owing to genetics–my father is also an alcoholic–the other that two years earlier my twelve-year-old brother, Shane, died in front of me in a skiing accident at Afton Alps. I pack my suitcase and a few hours later I'm in the admissions office of Hazelden Center For Youth and Families. I spend a mandatory and unnecessary three days in detox and when they finally let me out into normal rehab population it takes me all of three minutes to hone in on my future boyfriend, Anthony.

Anthony is 21 years old and a crackhead. He hails from a wealthy family in Boston, stands six-foot-two with blue eyes, black hair and a lengthy criminal history. I find him sitting at a table playing cards–Spades–and I march over to him, sit down, and ask him to teach me how to play.

“…I don't want to know the answers.”

We spend the next thirty-four days attempting to evade the prying eyes of the techs and counselors as we exchange long stares, pass notes (the subject of most: Anthony's 10-inch penis which he promises to show me as soon as we're on the outside), and make sure we are standing next to each other every time we have to pray (a lot) so that he can wrap his arms around my waist and grab my ass.  But the staff is hip to us and we're punished with a mutual "focus"–a disciplinary action that forbids either party to speak to the other.

Anthony gets out first, I leave shortly after, and a month later he and his 10-inch penis move to Minnesota to be near me. He gets arrested after three months. Possession of crack. I bail him out. It takes my dad three months and two days to put him on a plane (one way) back to where he came from.

11 years later, I visit Anthony in a prison in Concord, Massachusetts where he's serving an eight-year sentence for second-degree murder. He met a girl, another crackhead, and when they ran out of money Anthony came up with the genius idea to pimp her out to the male guests of a local motel. The idea that was clearly only plausible in theory, because as Anthony waited in the car while his girl was inside turning her first trick, an unforeseen rage set in and he went looking for her to put a stop to the whole thing. A few minutes later he caught a glimpse of her through the window, on her knees, mid-blow-job. He barreled into the motel room and beat the man to death.

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“I'll always be grateful for her, she was the first girl that let me do things to her that I'd only ever seen in x-rated movies. Things I'd fantasized about since I was a little girl stealing my dad's Playboys.”
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It’s five years after I got out of rehab, 1997, and I'm 21 years old and living in New York City. I'm more committed to booze and cocaine than ever before and things are darker, stakes are higher, and I don't remember the last day I didn't spend high or drunk. I fly to Los Angeles for the weekend where my mother now lives and agree to attend a black-tie Christmas party with a girl named Capri who had huge tits, a huge ass, and liked to have sex with me whenever I'd let her.

We take a limousine to the party and I finish off as much of the stocked liquor as I can. But before we arrive at the party I'm on the side of the road throwing up into a plastic bag that our driver, Tony, graciously holds open for me. "I can't do this anymore," I say over and over again to this kind man. He tells me I don't have to. I come to five hours later and realize I hadn't ever actually been asleep but in a black out. My crotch hurts and my tights are off so I exit at my mother's house without asking any questions because, really, I don't want to know the answers.

“Six years later, 2003, my dad is found beat to death in the basement of his house in South Minneapolis.”

I wake up the next morning and, much like five years earlier, I stumble downstairs into mother's office and tell her I need treatment. She puts me on a plane to Minnesota and I check in to HCYF for the second time in my short drinking career.  I'm sicker than before, in need of the treatment, and grateful for a vacation. I meet Christie my first night in detox. She and I are the only patients from New York City. Christie seventeen, four years younger, not quite legal, with smaller tits than Capri but she's tall like me and as wild as any girl I'd ever met. We dance around our mutual attraction, both of us too shy to come right out and admit it,– though we're not fooling anyone, as the techs and counselors deem us "an exclusive relationship" and–once again, I'm on a “focus,” only this time it's a "Christie Focus" for me and a  "Nichole Focus," for her. Each night we are required to announce our punishment to the entire unit, a punishment that only serves to bind us tighter. 

Christie gets out first but before she leaves she signs my book, "Nichole, We'll always have New York. Soon. I know you are going to do fine here. I'm going to miss you. I'll write you from my aftercare." And she does write me from aftercare, a halfway house in Southern Minnesota that she hates so much she boards a bus to New York a week after checking in. I return to New York and it takes us three weeks of beating around the bush before we are both naked on my couch. 

We'd continue to get naked on my couch, in her bed in her father's 86th Street apartment, in her mother's bed on 1st Avenue, on and off, for the next ten years. She'll never agree to be my girlfriend, though she did let me hold her hand a few times when we walked around her neighborhood in Williamsburg seven or eight years later. I also held her hand the day we buried her older sister, Heather, a mother of two who died of a drug overdose in her New Jersey bed next to her infant son. Christie and I were sober. I'll always be grateful for her, she was the first girl that let me do things to her that I'd only ever seen in x-rated movies. Things I'd fantasized about since I was a little girl stealing my dad's Playboys. The one that made my dreams come true.

Six years later, 2003, my dad is found beat to death in the basement of his house in South Minneapolis. I'm living in Los Angeles, the mother of two young sons, ages one and three, and nearly divorced from my husband. I pop pills with reckless abandon and my mothering leaves much to be desired. His death leads me to a bottom that lands me at a rehab center called Promises in Malibu, California.

“I think I'm going to die. ‘You're not that lucky,’ he tells me as he rubs my head. And I can feel the love in his hand.”

From their website: "Nestled in the picturesque Santa Monica Mountains with a gorgeous panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean, Promises Malibu… is the rehab facility of choice for anyone wanting the finest quality surroundings while experiencing the highest quality addiction treatment program." I'm there less than twenty-four hours when Lee stumbles out of a chauffeured SUV, drunk, onto the front lawn. He's beaten up and his pink, oversized button-down shirt is hanging by a thread. Only one of his braided leather sandals remains on his feet. "I could buy this whole place! In cash!" he yells as the techs struggle to get him to his feet.  I hate him.

The next day Lee's still full of scratches but he's cleaned up, showered, and wearing a lime-green oversized button-down shirt open to the naval, flip flops, and a lot of gold jewelry. He's tan–bronzed–with blonde, well-coifed hair. He's disgusting. He sits down next to me, crosses his legs, leans back and says, "One, you're an obnoxious liberal feminist. Two, you think Letterman is funnier than Leno. And three, you voted for Bill Clinton. If you even voted at all." He was right on all three accounts. "So what?" I ask him. I can't lie; this idiot intrigues me. "So you're the reason why women shouldn't be allowed to vote. You make decisions based on your feelings. You let your vagina cast your ballot. It's why Bill Clinton wound up president." I want to smack him. "Bill Clinton was a great president," I tell him. "Oh yeah? Tell me one great thing he did while he was in office. " He waits for me to answer him but the truth is I have no idea what he accomplished as president except that he looked great in a suit and stuck a cigar inside Monica Lewinsky. "Button up your shirt, Crockett," I answer. He laughs. He likes me, too. 

We spend the next thirty days lodging insults back and forth and in the subtext of our banter Lee and I both recognize so clearly, so deeply, in one another the same disease that had been slowly killing us both since long before we picked up our first drink. A connection so profound it transcends politics, sexism, and late-night comedians. A connection so intense that on the nineteenth day of my detox, when they wean me completely off the last of the benzodiazepines I'd ever take, my bones ache and I'd like to take a scalpel to my skin, I find Lee and break down in tears in his arms and tell him I think I'm going to die. "You're not that lucky," he tells me as he rubs my head. And I can feel the love in his hand. 

A few months later I repay his kindness. We're both out of rehab and driving home from a Promises Alumni meeting when I tell him to pull over. He does. I lean over the console in his hundred thousand dollar Mercedes and give him one of the best blowjobs of my life. He tells me he loves me. It makes me sick. I never speak to him again. The one that voted for George Bush. Twice. TC mark

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Water To Wine

Posted: 15 Oct 2016 10:34 PM PDT

I've heard little whispers and laughs about people who drank so much water they got drunk. Intoxication by water, I've got to say, doesn't sound very likely, but something about me wants to know things empirically. So I downed a glass and began my experiment.

It was boring and uncomfortable at first, just sipping away, waiting for something to happen. My stomach felt fat and angry; my body, lethargic. It wasn't the water that made the experiment feel silly, but I was laughing like an idiot. Why drink water to such discomfort? What about this needs to be tested?

After about four glasses of water I got very cold. I wasn't drinking chilled water, just regular tap water, but I got cold all the same. So I stoked up the fire and stood very near the stove. But very, very cold.

As a counselor last summer at a church camp, I had a camper who I believed by every definition, sense and all the way to my heart, was demon-possessed. Tormented by evil spirits. I'm not part of this perverse generation, these demons can be cast out through prayer and fasting. I read that passage that exact day. It looked so like a specific calling, a sign demanding faith.

When I believe something is possible, I try it out. Maybe I am gullible. So gullible that I believe in a Jesus that says we can cast out demons. Maybe I'm so gullible that I actually blame myself, my faith, for not being able to cast them out when I tried, because Jesus said we could if we believed enough. If I just believe…believe….

Around six glasses of wine I got very sleepy. Okay, sleepiness, I thought, that's feeling something. The water did this to me. I pulled out a garbage can in case I puked.

I gave Praying in Tongues an earnest effort. It was a revival where baptism in the spirit was supposed to take place. I did the research; sure enough it's in there, praying in tongues of angels. So this is a thing that happens—a thing Christians do. It's the sign of the baptism in the Spirit. Well, I don't want to stay a Second-Rate Christian, all not-full of the Spirit. I figured it was kind of like singing—that I'd have to open my mouth and let something come out, like I'm meeting the spirit halfway on this one. All of a sudden, look, I'm doing it, talking and it's sure not English.

So gullible that I've fasted, that I've prayed in tongues, that I've shouted over rooms and worship services, even in my own bedroom, that Satan has no power in this place, and in the name of Jesus, leave!

Did you see that? Did something change? There are spirits around you; do you feel that? The wall over there looks weird, up in the corner. It's big. Something is happening. Something is feeling. Help my unbelief.

Seven, eight and nine went down easy and fast. I started to feel loopy and very tall. I felt near the ceiling. Ten hit me hard. The first nine I drank in 45 minutes. Ten was the hump for me, though, because eleven and twelve slid down. My roomates laughed at me and told me how it was impossible, "you know that's a joke, don't you?" Like I was foolish, needing to learn something about people and lies. But I continued, thirteen, and refilled the glass again.

I was tall, like I was floating or stretching, and cold from the inside out. Is there something real here? Is there an experience or power? Maybe the boy had a thousand demons and I cast out one or two, or sixteen. Maybe Satan had to leave at my command but some little taunting demons got to stay behind to make me think it didn't work. Maybe those were tongues of angels falling from my lips, groanings of the Holy Spirit, like prayers for something I didn't know I wanted; answered prayers that I don't remember praying. Or maybe I just thought I experienced it.

Did I imagine? It felt so real, but in my memory, looks so fake. What does two gallons of water in an hour do to your body? Does it thin your blood? Does it get you high? Does it make you feel like you've put an awful lot of effort into this and God-damnit something happened. Didn't I pray? Didn't I command? Didn't I fast? Is this not faith? How's this for faith: I believe it really did work, only in a way that I can't perceive. If I squint, I believe.

All I know is what it feels like to think I got drunk on water, because it's actually impossible, and for the experiment of empiricism, I am left only with the option of faith. TC mark

image –jenny downing

The Truth About Why Every Introvert Secretly Hates Their Phone

Posted: 15 Oct 2016 07:15 PM PDT

Twenty20, @LariStreule
Twenty20, @LariStreule

1. These days, people seem to assess the strength of your feelings for them by the speed at which you respond to their texts or like their posts on social, which is totally unfair to those of us who sometimes wish to hibernate at length from every single form of communication.

2. If you don't respond in a timely fashion, people will actually start to think something's wrong and reach out to you AGAIN, adding to the intimidating backlog of messages lingering in the never-ending digital hellhole that is your smartphone.

3. It's virtually impossible to turn your phone off for more than an hour without alarming everyone close to you and thus inviting a slew of “u ok?!!!” texts.

4. Once you do muster the strength to ring a friend or family member, most of them think it's totally reasonable to request FaceTiming or Skyping instead of just chatting, as if you need to inject more face-to-face human contact into your already face-heavy day.

5. Group emails and group texts make the process of choosing a restaurant and/or activity and/or time to meet up sooooooo much more tedious than it needs to be.

6. It’s as if most people just don’t understand that endless back-and-forth—even the remote kind that doesn't require speaking—is absolutely soul-crushing, not to mention physically draining.

7. But if you choose to spare yourself from participating in a thread (because you’d so much rather delete every message that pops up until a final decision is made regarding location, time, and place), you'll be branded a jerk or a reclusive slut or something.

8. There’s no way to unsubscribe from a group message or avoid providing at least one nugget of input without looking like an asshole and/or alienating all your friends.

9. Every humming vibration in your back pocket or handbag is a blaring reminder that you're one unanswered phone call or text away from distancing yourself from yet another person who cares enough to touch base regularly.

10. You’ll never comprehend why people are always adding others to the mix, as if getting accustomed to the idea of a meal with three friends instead of one doesn't require rewiring your brain for a few hours in advance of meeting up irl.

11. The mind-boggling phenomenon that is tagging others in social media posts against their will, which feels like a remote invasion of space.

12. The accidental CC (instead of BCC) and the reply all havoc it wreaks.

13. The fact that anyone is even able to hit a "reply all" button.

14. The stress induced by receiving a double or triple text that somehow radiates unsettling urgency, even if it’s just a friend asking “what’s up?”…”you out?”…”wanna hang?”

15. Is there such a thing as a non-traumatizing notification sound or ringtone??? Nope!

16. Sure, you can turn off the volume, but your phone still sits there accruing bold-faced, unread messages you eventually have to reply to—unless of course you’re ready to remove yourself from society altogether.

17. The angsty hesitation that precedes setting your phone on "do not disturb" mode, which basically advertises—via tiny faded half-moon—that you're an introvert who would rather not be talking to anyone ever.

18. Read receipts.

19. That ellipsis that outs you for being present, and probably typing, deleting, and retyping every single message before finally hitting send. TC mark

The Uninhibited Truth About What It Means To Be A Submissive In A BDSM Relationship

Posted: 15 Oct 2016 06:15 PM PDT


What I like in bed is directly related to the kind of relationships and life I want—and yes, I'm kinky to the core.

I was 7 or 8 years old. I remember spending large amounts of time in the evenings, especially during and after baths, imagining kidnapping scenes, pretending that my ravishers were watching me, taunting me. I offered deals, I pleaded, I cajoled… but nothing would make them waver from their goal—which was usually unimportant anyway. The only thing that mattered was that they held me, and wanted to keep me.

I would continue playing in my head when I went to bed, using shoelaces loosely tied around my white childhood bed frame. I remember the shoelaces: white with some red writing and logos on them, although of what I can't remember. I would tie one around one wrist, and then try the second—always too loose to stay, but maybe that was for the best, as otherwise I might have no hands to type with right now.

I sometimes used a headband, crossed in the middle, to simulate a pair of cuffs or rope around my wrists. I had conversations with my imaginary captors about what they wanted from me… always vague. What I could do to get free… nothing. But the endless play, pleading, and giving in to their will provided me with hours of quiet, satisfying solo play.

I also had a thing for magicians' shows on TV. I could watch for hours the lady stuffed in a box or tied in a cupboard. I would imagine myself being her, being in this box, helpless as the blade of the saw slid down middle of the box, or as the swords rammed through the cupboard at odd angles. The thought of potentially being sawn in two or impaled a dozen times, but coming out unscathed and beaming, held endless fascination for me.

My earliest memories of sexual desire, "feeling strange in my vagina", come from watching these beautiful women happily facing pain and danger, tied up and helpless, for the satisfaction of the man standing on stage and putting them through these scary-yet-exciting ordeals.

I’m just wired that way.

Is there any wonder then that as soon as I became sexual, I turned to BDSM?

When someone asks me how I got into kink, I simply say that I'm wired that way. I have known no other way to live. I have found nothing else to turn me on sexually. Vanilla sex bores me to tears.

I know there is a controversy around whether or not kink is a sexual orientation. I personally believe that kink exists on a spectrum, from totally vanilla to totally kinky, but also that people can be brought from being vanilla to enjoying at least some level of kink. In fact, a recent study made in Qu├ębec (my home province yay!) shows that so called "abnormal" behaviours and desires, or paraphilias, are actually a lot more common than previously thought.

So, anyone can be kinky, even though not everyone is. But the difference for me is that I can't not be kinky. I have the ability to have vanilla sex, sure, but I'd really rather not. Just like no sex at all, vanilla sex leaves me feeling frustrated and unfulfilled.

I would rather choose to have no sex than vanilla sex for the rest of my life.

And so, kink has become an essential component of my partner choice. The people I sleep with don't have to be full-on sadists, but they at least need to understand that I usually require pain and roughness to get turned on. I choose more sadistic and less sadistic partners—there's only so much bruising my ass can take—but don't ask me to make sweet romantic love. I'll be like,

I'm wired that way, and the sooner I and everyone else involved in my sex life know and accept this, the better everyone's sex will be.

But it’s not just about sex.

As I grow and deepen my understanding of sex, kink and submission, I realize that it's about so much more than just in bed. As a strong, independent and self-sufficient woman, I find an incredible release in becoming passive, in letting someone else make the decisions for me. I crave protocol, I fantasize about simply kneeling and serving my Dom/me a drink. I cherish the sweet cuddly moments after an intense and painful scene, where they stroke my skin and pet my hair.

For the right person, I could easily choose to live in a 24/7 TPE relationship. Although I don't look it, there is a deep craving in my heart and soul to live in the safety and connection of a Master/slave relationship. I like the idea of someone always looking out for me and protecting me and making sure certain needs are fulfilled, so I can be free to focus on my writing, on my professional path, on being a sex and kink educator. Being a slave isn't a hindrance to my development; on the contrary, it'd be a support and frame for it.

I haven't quite found the right person/situation for this to happen right now. But I know that this is what I ultimately seek. For now, I'm happy with multiple partners and wonderful lovers, with casual play (yes it happened, and no it wasn't that bad!) and friendly fun. But, as my relationship with N and R showed, even if for too short a time, I yearn for the spiritual depths of a long-term D/s commitment, something to free up my mind and make my soul soar.

It really isn't just about sex—for me, it's about freedom. TC mark

This Is Why Generation Y Fucking Hates Online Dating

Posted: 15 Oct 2016 05:15 PM PDT

I am Generation Y. Do not millennial me unless you'd like a kick in the teeth. I get that we're ambiguous. Too young to be Gen X, too old to be Millennials. One article found on The Atlantic can even be quoted as saying, "Generation Y is a fake, made-up thing. Do not worry about it." Dick.

I am generation Y. I was born in the very early 80s and if you need a unifying identifier that gathers us in unbreakable, non-millennial stature, here it is: We remember being teenagers without the internet, and we remember being teenagers, with it. We're it, the cusp. The crest of the wave. The forgotten, early 80s-born, un-entitled children of technology's greatest crossover.

We remember when MTV's The Real World had purpose, when it respected itself. To us, Wayne's World is more movie than SNL sketch. We recorded Pearl Jam onto cassette tapes when they came on the radio. We listened to the radio.

But we were not single in the 90s.

We were just kids. Most of our sexually formative years involved in-person activity, but don't think we weren't on the front lines of the first chatrooms in existence dabbling in what you now call sexting, apparently an entirely normal part of the current dating process even though you conveniently leave it out when you tell stories about the new guy you're seeing to your companions at brunch.

There was no Tinder in the 90s. No smartphones, no face swiping apps allowing us to thumb through pictures of human beings like shirts on a clothing rack at Marshall's. If you were old enough to be dating in the 90s, there were phone calls and answering machine messages and blind dates and a sense that if you met someone, you should ask them out, rather than settling into some sense of creepy comfort that you could stalk them on Instagram later.

That's what we were watching. Those were the items written into television and movies being played out by older siblings and cousins. We figured we'd just meet someone the way they met people, because why in the hell would that ever change? It hadn't changed before. At least not since the heyday of the matchmaking yenta.

I pity my generation. We learned about life in one way, and then had to go and live it in another.

Today's teens, those just tiptoeing into the shallow end of attraction and romance, they know what a dating app is. They know that that's how you meet someone to date. It will have never felt weird to them. Quite the opposite, that's what will feel normal to them. A phone call from an admirer would make them soil their underwear from Target. I still remember getting looks of horror the first time I told someone I was trying "online dating." They just assumed they'd read about me dead in a newspaper within the month.

It was gross back then. It was weird. It was desperate. "Why can't you just meet someone the normal way?" Now, when someone finds out I'm single it's always "why don't you try online dating?" And isn't that just the tits?

I am a living, breathing tipping point that was both shamed for online dating and encouraged to do it, all within the timespan of my singledom. Is this a joke?

"Shani, why do you save all this stuff?"

This is why.

I was forbidden to call boys. When I lived under my mother's roof, I could not call a person with a penis. If one called me, fine. But I was not allowed. Boys were for older girls. They were not for me. They were a distraction. When of course they were all I thought about. Dating was always the thing you did "after you've got your career." And this wasn't a mild suggestion, it was a command. My mother was raised that girls get married, and she was determined not to raise her daughter the same way. I was raised knowing that girls get jobs. Naturally, a man you'd want to date doesn't magically appear once "you've got your career," he isn't issued to you like a Christmas bonus, there's no more likelihood you'll find him then than you would have at 16, but Mom meant well.

The way I learned about boys was in what I would call the "normal" way. They way it has existed for all time until now. As children, teasing. As teens, awkward flirting usually preceded by friendship. In college, alcohol-fueled sex that gave us some illusion we knew what we were doing. All the ways I interacted with the opposite sex were in person. They were real. And then when I got my career, when it was time to go out and really use the wealth of knowledge I'd built up, the game changed entirely.

People stopped meeting in person. Suddenly we were all too "busy" to meet someone during the natural course of life that literally every couple since the dawn of time had used to meet their partners before us. Not us, no. We're too busy. We're special.

The internet is nothing if not a business opportunity, and someone decided to monetize love.

I signed up for my first online dating app in law school, in 2005. I've always been an early adopter of technology (late bloomer in literally every other way), but in reality online dating had existed for 10 years by then. was created in 1995. Sounds strange, doesn't it? To think of online dating in the 90s. That's how long it took for people to be okay with it. To not be horrified by it, for it to become the norm. I was still "weird" for setting up an online dating profile 10 years after the invention of online dating, but I was horribly late to the party when I waited two weeks to download Pokemon Go. That tells me a lot, the slowness of humanity to warm to online dating. It speaks to the unnatural nature of it. To its oddity.

Why would people do this? Why indeed.

But boys didn't like me. They never really did. I spent the whole of the 90s watching girls in high school have "boyfriends" they "dated" for two weeks and then broke up with in some very intense way. But it never happened to me, I wasn't a girl boys paid attention to, and it never bothered me because I was scared shitless of them anyway. This has been the general rule my entire life, the un-appeal of me. I just took this as truth, until law school, when I suddenly realized I was kind of a grown up, and this shit wasn't going to fly anymore.

I didn't know anyone else who was dating online. It felt icky. It felt like there was something wrong with me because I "had to" resort to online dating. This was still the general opinion of online dating at the time. No one in law school was truly interested in me (of course they weren't), and I was watching other people connect with their future spouses left and right. And that isn't an estimation. These people are married with kids now. They're very happy, I know. I have Facebook.

Overall, I have spent a total of nine years online dating. Nine years trying every app, website, and method imaginable. I have never once, not once had a relationship result from this practice. Countless first dates. Fewer than 50 second dates, maybe a handful third dates, and plenty of one night stands as consolation prizes. But not one boyfriend. That is the fucking truth.

Poor suckers.

Odds alone, I should have had a boyfriend this way. I've been out in the ether for so many years how is it not possible that one man who wants me around for longer than a Tic Tac has found and pursued me? I've pursued plenty by the way, to absolutely no avail.

I do not suffer from self pity or doubt, I know I'm a love-worthy person. I am not terrible looking, I'm smart, moderately funny, and I know I'm kind. I try very hard at that. I can imagine that eventually someone might like to spend some time with me, I can see that as a realistic outcome. Conversely, my ego is not inflated. I know I have a lot to work on. Confidence-wise I hover somewhere in the middle to keep myself at a good pH balance.

So why then, no boyfriend? The confusion you might be feeling, the confusion I now have as a building block of my psyche, has been this cloud of mystery hanging over my late twenties and early thirties that exists, almost like a living, breathing thing in my day to day life, that no one can explain. That everyone thinks requires explanation, because I'm alone. Because nobody likes fruitless effort without some kind of cause or lesson learned. We're programmed to get something for our money.

How is this not working? What does "working" even mean? I think it means meeting at least one person via online dating in nine years who wants to hold your hand. But I haven't. I'm not entirely sure I've met that many hands I want to hold, either. But by now, by this time, shouldn't I have had a little success, even by accident at this point? Why is this so hard for me?

You know the answer, just as I do.

I'm not good at this. This isn't for me. This isn't how I'm going to meet someone. It's not the way.

And why is that surprising? The world groomed me, my entire youth, to meet a man as humans do. In life. Among friends. Comfortably. Genuinely. I learned that people enter circles of other people's lives naturally, perhaps with Fate's help, with the tides of life bring people together. It's all I ever knew, because it was literally all that had ever happened before.

And then I started dating, and dating changed.

Everything changed. But everything I wanted stayed the same. I wanted to develop a friendship with someone before I dated them. I wanted to marry a best friend. I wanted to look back at how we met with fondness.

I like meeting people in person, but not just in person, over time. I like repeated exposure. I think it's what allows attraction between two people to steep. Of all the lessons online dating has taught me, the most unignorable truth is that I don't make a very good impression in two hours. I think you have to spend more time with me. You need to see how I am, see how I interact with people other than you. And you're never going to get that if we meet for coffee or drinks or some other safe first meeting activity.

And that's another thing. They're not dates. First dates, if they result from online dating, are not dates. I'm a linguistics fan so let's please call them what they are. They're meetings. They're two strangers saying hello for the first time. There is no romance there, there are no butterflies. He's a total stranger I've texted with for 15 minutes. We do not know each other, and yet the premise of online dating is that in that first meeting we're supposed to develop enough attraction to each other to want to see each other again. To want to make the effort to see each other again.

It won't happen naturally, we're not in friend circles where we'd see each other at a BBQ by accident a week later, as a pleasant surprise. No, we have to meet, spend a brief time conversing, and in that time develop enough interest on both sides of the table the one of us is going to make effort to ask the other out again, and that person is going to say yes.

Am I the only person who thinks online dating is illogically setting us up to fail? I mean am I?

What's going to happen is that it's going to fizzle out. Neither will put forth any effort toward a second meeting. "Yeah, he/she was nice I guess, but they didn't 'wow' me, you know?" We're all waiting to be wowed. Wowed! No pressure or anything, you've got two hours and two glasses of Sauvignon Blanc: Go!

What we ignore is that wow is an accumulation of moments over time. They don't all hit at once. The internet has made everything instant, even our assumptions of how quickly we should be attracted to people. We'd take a slow-cooked boeuf bourguignon at a French restaurant over a microwaved burrito any day but the person we're going to spend the rest of our lives with better convince us of their worth, instantly. Such logic. Such sense. Wow.

Can you imagine the strength of the lightning strike you'd need to meet a stranger for the very first time and actually begin to develop real feelings for them? Online dating is a giant pool of people, there are literally millions of individuals involved. Millions! Do we really think that "matching" with one of them carries any real potential for attraction? What does matching even mean? He looked good in his groomsman suit and I wore a very low cut dress in two of my pictures. There. You matched. Good luck you two, off you go.

And yes, we all know someone, or several someones, who met their spouses via online dating. Mazel tov to them and their families. But assuming that is the rule, rather than the exception, is ignorant. Yes, every now and then a couple will meet, fall in love, and marry as a result of online dating. But you're not looking at the success rate. Millions of online daters and you know two couples. Two couples who got married that way. I know three. Your neighbor's old roommate. A former colleague. Your cousin's best friend. Good. Good for them. What about the millions of the rest of us?

The only real boyfriends I've ever had, and there aren't many, I've met in person. Not only have I met them in person, but I haven't lifted a finger. “He saw her from across the room…" that old chestnut, has proven true for me, every time. If a man is interested in me, he will make it clear, and if I am interested back, there will be a wonderful connection, a new person in my life. But these people are rare, few and light years between and I have to be patient. You could write "date me" in the dust of my patience right now.

I don't think this works, online dating. Not for my generation. Not the generation that learned how to date in one way, and actually had to date in another.

It's the cruelest bait and switch. And we're the only generation it has happened to. We are Generation Y, the generation the world jilted.

Today's teens will find it odd to meet their spouse at a birthday party at a friend's apartment. The question won't be "how did you meet," but instead, " which app did you use?" And I don't scoff at that, I don't see anything wrong with that. It's what they've got. It's what they're learning. It's what they'll use. I don't really foresee the internet ceasing to exist when the graduating class of 2026 begins to couple.

They might actually find it more comfortable to "stalk" someone's Instagram from across the room at a party or event before they speak to them face-to-face. Because we're comfortable doing what we've always done, what we've learned. We wouldn't dare take away the phones of Generation Z just as they start to date, the poor things would be terrified. Yet there was no problem at all tossing Generation Y into the deep end of app dating without swimming lessons.

I've been robbed. I've been robbed of the dating future I was groomed to have. I thought dating was just that, dating. I thought that's what people did, what I would do. I looked to the future and and journeyed in that general direction and then arrived someplace completely different. A Willy Wonka rowboat ride. And I'm angry. I didn't learn this, I didn't prepare for it, I'm learning as I go. And a 19-year-old learning these things and making her mistakes has a lot more time to make mistakes than someone who is 34.

On behalf of my generation's single women, on this page, and on many others, allow me to say what we're all thinking, what we're all sick of participating in, failing at, slogging through. Allow me to clarify for anyone who doesn't understand why some people don't have success at online dating, as if that's even something numbers and logic suggest we should have. Let me tell you why the people of the forgotten Generation Y aren't natural, easy, thrilled participants in online dating.

This isn't how we we were raised. This isn't right for us.

This is bullshit. TC mark

Why I’m Not Afraid Of Never Loving Someone As Much As I Loved You

Posted: 15 Oct 2016 04:15 PM PDT


Some days I wonder if I'll ever have a love like ours again.

I write a lot of things about the love you deserve, about self-love, and about the hope of the right relationship coming along. I believe in these things in a passionate way. However, there are some days where the nagging question in the back of my mind slithers its way to the surface, whispering softly but in an unmistakable voice that I hear all too clearly.

"What if I never find that kind of love again?"

I mean if I'm honest, I never loved someone as much as I loved you. I had never loved anyone before I met you, and after we went our separate ways I found myself afraid to love that much again. I had barely managed to put myself back together when we ended, and I just wasn't certain that I could put myself back again a second time. On some days, I'm still not certain.

Yet I still remember how it felt to love you. How I was head-over-heels and had built a permanent residence on cloud nine. You and I, we were something unexpected, yet also something wonderful. We had a relationship that a lot of people told me they wish they had. I know I wasn't your first love, but I also know you loved me deeply. We always supported each other, we stood up for each other, and we fought our battles head on and hand in hand. I trusted you in a way that I never trusted anyone else. It was complete, it was safe, and it was like home.

You were like home.

Of course, we obviously didn't make it. The home we built caught fire and we just didn't know how to put it out. It burned us in a way that left no choice but to walk away. That time definitely closed the door, and I truly have no desire to want you and me back together again. Those days have long passed. However, it's been years now, and although I've had relationships, none of them were like what you and I had. I haven't fallen in love in such a complete way and it doesn't feel like anyone else has loved me the way you did. You were the lucky one of us two, and you did find someone who loves you. My heart is happy for you, and for her as well, because I know you love her too.

Yet I thought by now that I also would have found someone who loved me in that way. I was certain that by now I would have stumbled upon another great big love like what we had, yet that was magic in its own way. I was hoping by now I would have found it, and on my worst days I question if I ever will. The fear still haunts of me of, "What if that was it? What if that was your greatest love, and it died?"

Yet despite all of that, I still hold onto hope.

I still believe that eventually I will have another love that is so incredible that I'll want it around for the rest of my life.

And that the other person will feel the same way. I know, even if I don't have a love quite like yours again, I will have another love that will be exactly what I need. I'll find a home in someone else, one that won't burn down this time. I'm starting to realize that I don't need a love like yours again, because I don't believe what you and I had could be repeated even if we tried. Honestly, it's probably for the best that it isn't; some things truly are meant to only happen once.

I know that I don't need another love like yours again, because I will find something better.

Maybe, even tomorrow, I will find something better. TC mark

Why The ‘Rules Of Dating’ Are Actually Completely Screwing Us All Over

Posted: 15 Oct 2016 03:15 PM PDT

Drew Wilson
Drew Wilson

There's this quote by Albert Einstein:

"You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else."

This quote has been my personal motto for years, because it's applicable in almost every situation. Know the rules. Figure out the game. Work your ass off. Win. Repeat.

It's how I stood out in college, made an impression as an unpaid intern, and navigated the workforce during my first few years out of school. I figured out what was expected, what was particularly appreciated, what was frowned upon, and wasn't tolerated under any circumstance. I learned the culture, developed my strategy, and then made it happen. Once you learned the formula for success, it's as simple as checking off the boxes.

But when it comes to being a successful modern woman in today's society, there are too many rules, too many boxes, for you to check off. Learning them isn't hard. We already know them. But playing better than anyone else? Good luck with that.

Don't believe me?

Here are the rules for the modern millennial woman:

On any given day, the modern millennial woman is expected to wake up at 5 AM for her daily jog and/or strength training routine. After her workout, she showers, shaves, exfoliates, and then spends an hour drying and styling her hair, applying mascara, and filling in her eyebrows. She gets dressed in the latest fashion, remembering to accessorize. She grabs a pre-made smoothie in a mason jar before driving to work in her environmentally friendly car while listening to self-development podcasts.

And that's just assuming she doesn't have a partner or 2.5 children and a Goldendoodle, as is so commonly expected in today's society. In that case, keep the above routine exactly the same and add in an hour of breastfeeding, cloth diaper changing, and spending some quality one-on-one time with her partner. Oh, and of course, feeding the dog his raw, organic food and taking him for a walk around the neighborhood. And if the kids are a little older, don't forget to coordinate daycare and school drop-offs with a side of small talk while sipping almond milk lattes with the rest of the Moms.

After a day of working hard at the office, stopping only to eat an organic salad from Whole Foods and LaCroix water, the modern millennial woman swings by the afterschool day care program at the Montessori school- a program that costs $1,500 a month- to pick up her lovely children. After hosting a playdate, cleaning the house from top to bottom, taking the Goldendoodle for yet another walk, and driving the kids to soccer practice, she decides to cook a vegetarian dinner from scratch while helping her oldest conjugate Spanish verbs. She remembers to take a quick picture of this typical family moment before updating it to Instagram, applying the necessary filter and captioning it #Blessed. When her husband comes home, she gives him a kiss, asks him about his day, quizzes her son on the meaning of the word tocar, and sets the table using one of the pre-designed templates in Real Simple. After a lovely family dinner, the millennial woman relaxes with a glass of red wine and adult coloring books and proceeds to have a panic attack over all the ways she is not living up to her duties as a mother, a wife, a woman, etc.

It's bullshit, but it's true.

Those are the rules. That's what we're taught to do. That's who we're taught to be. Perfect. Professional. Skinny. Creative. Loving. Social. That's the name of the game. Those are the expectations. Smile all day at work. Make vegan dinners. Brainstorm nursery decor on Pinterest. Stay a size 6. Go to happy hour. Send out Christmas cards. Be a supportive wife/partner. Take up a hobby. Have a perfectly kept home. Document it all on three-four social media platforms.

It's not possible. No one can do all those things. But we try. Goddamn, do we try. We try so unbearably hard to play the game and make it look effortless. And the worst part is, we're actually fooling each other. Which is awful, because now we all secretly feel like we're doing it wrong, like we can't measure up, like there's something wrong with us because we don't have time to make dinner, or have an overflowing laundry basket, or haven't seen the inside of a gym in over a month.

The rules of the game? They're killing us. They are driving us batshit crazy. And for what? Who are we trying to impress? What are we after, anyway? What is the point of all this effort?

What if we all decided we were done?

What if we, collectively as a generation, let the stupid Christmas cards go? Or maybe the Pinterest nursery thing? Maybe we could all stop Instagramming our vegan dinners and just decide to eat something without documenting it? What if we just decided to remove the pressure and just did what felt right to us, without the fear of backlash?

It doesn't benefit anyone when we continue to play by these rules and act like it's easy. We're stressing ourselves out, depleting our energy, limiting our potential. We are playing a game that has no end. There's no way we can win. The game is rigged.

I'm ready to opt out. I'm done with trying to be the perfect millennial woman. I don't have it all together, and I'm reminding myself that there's nothing wrong with that. I'm going to be more intentional about dropping the curtain, about letting my true feelings be heard. I'm going to stop playing and start being real. Life's hard enough without the added pressure of making it look easy. TC mark

This Is What It’s Like To Sleep With Anxiety And Depression Every Night

Posted: 15 Oct 2016 02:15 PM PDT

I am lying down in bed with depression, anxiety, and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). Each day is different for me – I am either doing well; acting "normal"; or the day is endless.

I sleep with depression the most out of the three. Depression does not hit me as a wave of sadness would. Instead, I have no interest in life – I think to myself, "Wake up. Take a shower. Get the day started." Then a feeling of dread stirs up in me and my thoughts are, "If I get out of bed, then I'll have to choose what to change into. If I get the day started then that means I'll have to decide what to eat for breakfast and seriously, that does not sound appealing at all." Life loses its zest, beauty, and all colors for me. I lie in bed, not planning to get out of it, when I feel my anxiety coming on because I start thinking about how I am disappointing everyone by not getting out of bed.

Anxiety hits me hard in the gut and chest. I begin to have a panic attack. I hate this. Anxiety is the WORST. I sleep with anxiety almost 24/7. It eats me alive from the inside out. I feel my chest pinching, making it hard to breathe. I sit up in bed and begin hyperventilating, hoping that doing so will make it easier for me to breathe again. I want to run or do something physical to make all the nervous energy disappear, but my depression keeps me from leaving the room, let alone the bed. Soon, my thoughts intervene, making it so LOUD and impossible for me to calm down. This is when my ADHD hits.

When I sleep with ADHD, it affects my thoughts and actions. I am unable to calm down and clear my head – on the contrary, I am moody, restless, and unreachable. I freak out. My ADHD is telling me that everything is boring or stupid or not worth it. That life is not worth it.

Enough is enough. I decide to take action by telling myself I am worth it. It does not work. How do I get through this? I want out of my own skin. I feel so uncomfortable, ugly, gross, and worthless. I cannot stop thinking about ending my life and how peaceful and easy it would be. I start crying because I feel bad about who I am.

It only gets worse and worse.

FINALLY I work up the courage to say to myself, "STOP. YOU CAN DO THIS. HANDLE IT. YOU ARE BETTER THAN THIS."

It is then that I begin to feel better. I abruptly stop crying, I breathe easier, and my thoughts quiet. I let myself feel. This is better. As much as it hurts, it is nothing I cannot handle. I realize I must attack all three at once; not separately.

The most important thing: I am NOT my mental illnesses. They are a part of me, but they do not make me WHO I AM. I am strong, beautiful, smart, funny, kind, loving, generous, and worth it. I am here and alive because I can handle whatever life throws at me. After all, life is to be treasured. TC mark

30 Things I Learned By Age 30

Posted: 15 Oct 2016 01:15 PM PDT

Raul Felix Instagram
Raul Felix Instagram

This year I hit the big Three-O, which means I'm no longer an overeager twenty-something who is trying to figure it all out to prevent becoming a failure in life. I am now a thirty-something who realizes he doesn't need to have it all figured out to get the most out of life. This year I followed my standard operating procedure: worked, wrote, read books, worked out, chased after women, traveled, partied hard, and attempted to become a better version of myself than I was last year. Consequently, a few life lessons worked their way into my twisted thought process.


Solitude is a powerful tool for gaining control of your life. It allows you to traverse down that rabbit hole that is your mind and reflect on the events that molded you. During that long process, you will slowly and painfully begin to gain insight. What you do with that insight is what will determine the course of your life.


Whenever you seek advice, be fully aware of whom you're seeking it from. Does the person whose counsel you're taking into account have any practical experience in the matter? Or are their opinions formed from theory and an unrealistic idea of how things should or might be, not how they are?


When a woman is truly into you, she will find out everything she can about you on social media. She'll look through your old statuses and photo albums. She'll check out your exes if they're still tagged in your photos. She'll stalk every single female who comments or likes your updates. She may never let on that she does that, but she does. You do it, too; don't lie.


The world of art is quite daunting. The task of creating something out of nothing is so tough that many stop themselves before they truly begin. The thing is that you have your experiences, your skills, the events that created you, all the lessons that you learned, and the conversations you endlessly analyzed in your mind. You own everything that you have done and has happened to you; use and embrace them.


Most traditional artistic education that is offered at universities is overrated. Those who attend such institutions are seeking permission to pursue their artistic endeavor from an authority figure more than anything else. One question I get asked often about my craft is if I went to school for it and I respond with a disgusted, "Fuck no." I'm still working my way upwards in this art form, but through self-education and discipline I've accomplished more than most creative writing majors I've met.


Charlatans appear in all forms in this world. Beware those with grandiose promises of riches for little hard work or those who demand an unreasonable amount of handiwork for little reward. Both are a form of exploitation—one by taking advantage of your laziness and gullibility, and the other by taking advantage of your work ethic and ideals.


Staying in shape is simple. Not easy, but simple. Don't try to overcomplicate it. Pick an exercise routine, do it right, push yourself, don't always eat like a pig, and keep showing up for an extended period of time and it will get you somewhere.


Women have it easier when it comes to getting laid, but not in terms of finding a quality mate. A lot of guys fail at the most basic fundamentals of being a man. If you're able to achieve those fundamentals, then you'll be the kind of man women want to fuck.


If you want to do something extraordinary, don't worry too much about the opinions of the ordinary folk.


Yet remember to remain humble about your accomplishments and respectful of those who have accomplished less than you. You are, after all, just another human being among billions.


Extremists of any sort have a disproportionate amount of pull. That's because most people are moderate by nature, so they can't be bothered to care about a certain issue until it becomes critical. There are bills to be paid and life to be lived, after all.


One day you or those close to you will die. It could be after you finish reading this or sixty years from now. The best way keep honoring those who have fallen before you is to live your life to the best of your ability.


Haters are gonna hate. I've lost friends, jobs, and potential lovers because of the words I write. I've been told I have no talent, that I should quit, that I should kill myself, that I should shut the fuck up, and that I need to keep my ideas to myself. These comments are usually left by emotional cowards who don't even use their real names. It takes an uncommon amount of mental toughness to endure these slings and arrows launched by the trollish hordes. Yet I'm still here writing and most of those fuckers are forgotten. No one builds monuments for critics; only those who dare greatly earn their place in history.


You can still learn from your critics. Let your ego take constructive advice and apply it where you're able. One of the most valuable skills you can learn in life is the ability to distinguish between genuine criticism and blind hatred spilled out by malicious mouth-breathers with a skewed perspective on life.


What is more gratifying than waking up next to a beautiful woman you deeply love naked in your arms each morning? Nothing.


Just because someone is famous doesn't mean they're smarter, better, or even more interesting than you are. I'll indulge in the reality-TV junk food on occasion. I often can't believe how many punk-ass bitch excuses of human beings make it on these shows. They'll make a significant emotional event out of something that most normal human beings will brush off with a laugh.


Writing never gets easier. If you're writing something worth a damn, then it requires you to constantly dig deep, trudging in order to find that moment of raw humanity. When you do, you'll forget how hard it was until you have to search for that next moment.


The person who talks the most usually has the least to say.


Running up the steep hills of Ithaca, New York gave me a lot of time to think. One of my best epiphanies came to me during a particular run. As I was running through the campus of Cornell, I analyzed the faces and movements of the students as I passed them. They lacked awareness of their environment, eyes glued to their phones, bits of gossipy chitchat in that nasally tone of voice only college kids seem to have, and slumped postures as they went about their day. I thought to myself, "You motherfuckers aren't smarter than me." That doesn't imply that I know everything, because I don't. It means that you don't need an elite education to be educated like an elite person.


You know how you get people to like you at your workplace? Work hard, make their job easier, and be cool.


Some friendships aren't made to last forever. You will drift apart from some of the people who knew you best at a certain point in life. Your priorities and interests will change; so will theirs. There is no need to be resentful about it; just be grateful you had those friendships when you did.


The ability to shut the fuck up is very underrated.


Narrow-mindedness comes in many forms. Some of the most unaccepting and condescending people I've met in my life have been open-minded free-thinkers who believe you must think as they do or you're an *insert term that discredits your opinions in an educated manner*. Some of the most accepting and welcoming people I've met have been those with a more traditional belief set.


Not every single chick is going to be into you. I wasted so much time and energy obsessing over why X or Y girl wasn't into me when I felt I had all the qualities she should find attractive in a man—so much that I overlooked the chicks who were into me. No matter how high a caliber of a man you become, the chick whose bikini pictures you've been jerking off to from Facebook may still not pay you any attention because you're not her type. Fuck it; move on without throwing a temper tantrum. There are over 3.5 billion women in the world; I'm sure a few million will dig you.


It's easy to overestimate what you can accomplish in a day or week but underestimate what you can accomplish in a few years. At the age of 25, I decided I wanted to be a writer. I knew it was going to be tough as fuck, but I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't quit no matter what. There have been times that I have slacked, and it showed in my professional progress, but quitting never entered my mind. I have explored different styles of writing and have had successes and failures, but with each piece I struggled through I learned and gained more insight into this art form. I'm not a big name, but you can bet your ass that nearly everyone who knows me recognizes that I am a writer and a damned good one at that.


We humans have a tendency to glamorize our past. Veterans often look back on our military days as our glory years. We were a part of something bigger than ourselves and took part in history. We forget how overworked our bodies were, our nearly nonexistent social life, the lack of autonomy we had over our lives, the petty feuds we had with some cocksucker from our platoon, and how we couldn't wait to get the fuck out. The past was tough; if it wasn't, we wouldn't take any pride in it.


They say time heals all emotional wounds, but some of them will leave scars as permanent reminders.


Common sense is not common.


Whether you love them or hate them, your family gave you the base foundation of who you are. I've been lucky to be blessed with such an amazing family that has supported me in whatever I decided to do, whether they understood my reasons or not. You may not see them for months or years, but the best gift you can give them is to make something productive out of yourself.


The artistic path is not linear. It requires a lot of suffering, loneliness, hopelessness, stagnation, and frustration. It requires others and yourself questioning your progress. It requires the constant feeling of failure. It requires you constantly doing the work. It's a path that gives you countless opportunities to quit and no one will blame you for doing so. It's one whose rewards are few and far apart. It's a path without a destination, where scattered throughout will be the remnants of your heart and soul. TC mark

10 Things That Happened When I Swore Off Dating For A Year

Posted: 15 Oct 2016 12:45 PM PDT

Unsplash Brooke Cagle
Unsplash Brooke Cagle

On New Year's Day 2015, I made the only New Year's resolution I have ever kept: I swore off men for an entire year. That meant no flirting, no kissing, no dating, no hookups – I wouldn't even dance with guys at bars. Nothing. Nada.

What my friends jokingly called my Man Boycott or Penis Embargo of 2015 was my kneejerk reaction to having spent the previous four months in a relationship with one of the biggest jackasses I have ever met in my life. I was living in a city I had moved to for work where I didn't know a soul, and I was desperately lonely – key word being desperate – when I met him. He was tall, gorgeous, had a badass job and wanted to spend every waking moment with me, and before I knew it I was practically living with a guy I barely knew (and as it turned out, barely liked, either).

So on New Year's Eve 2014, I pretended to be sick so that I didn't have to spend it with him, and the following day I broke up with him and vowed to spend the next year on my own, reevaluating my priorities and repairing the damage that had been done to my psyche. Here's what happened in the ensuing 365 days of my life:

1. My confidence skyrocketed.

There is something very liberating about not feeling the pressure to look good for another person for an entire year. If I decided to put in the effort to get all dolled up and wear something sexy when I went out with my friends, it was to make myself feel good, not to impress anyone else. Similarly, if I didn't feel like wearing makeup or shaving my legs for a week I didn't have to worry about anyone making a smartass comment. And I would save some money on shaving cream – win-win.

2. My friendships became stronger.

This has to be the greatest perk to being single. No matter how independent you are in your relationships, they take up time and emotional energy. Not only did I spend more time with the friends I was already close to, but I was also able to reconnect with other friends who I had lost touch with over the years. I also went on a few spontaneous weekend road trips to visit people, because why not?

3. I saved a sh*t ton of money on food.

Dating is expensive. Whether it's trying new restaurants together or ordering Chinese food for a lazy night in, you spend a lot of money on food. Also, men eat a lot – especially when they're almost 7 feet tall and basically workout for a living. My monthly grocery bill was practically cut in half when I no longer had a Neanderthal of a man living with me 5 days out of the week.

4. My career took off.

Half-way into my Man Boycott of 2015 I took a new job and moved back to the DC area. With my priorities back in order I have been killing it at work, traveling around the country for speaking engagements and earning my first significant promotion. Not saying this couldn't have been done had I been dating, but the lack of distractions has certainly made it easier to focus.

5. I learned that a good vibrator is invaluable.

Amirite, ladies?

6. Going out to bars actually became more fun.

My senior year of college I was newly single, and I'm not going to lie to you guys, I went a little boy crazy. Going out to bars became more about finding some random guy to flirt with as opposed to simply having a good time with my friends. While I had a lot of fun (and saved a lot of money on drinks) it pains me a little to look back on my last year of college and think of how many potential memories with my friends I traded for memories with guys who meant nothing more to me than a momentary ego boost (sorry, guys).

While I am no longer swearing off men entirely, I have learned that I have a lot more fun when I go out with the sole purpose of having fun with my friends rather than looking for someone to flirt with. Meghan Trainor's song "No" has kind of become my personal weekend anthem, and I'm okay with that.

7. When I did start dating again, I was so much pickier.

I would love to tell you that I was so fantastically independent come 2016 that I remained completely aloof when it came to dating, but that would be a lie – I immediately and without shame jumped on the Bumble bandwagon, and for about a month was going on dates with 2-3 different guys every week. And that was a lot of fun, but I wasn't interested in any of them.

One of my former coworkers (who also happens to be a shrink) kept imploring me to give these guys a second chance; she put me on her metaphorical therapist's couch and told me that I have "built walls so high around [my] heart that no guy stands a chance." Nah, I'm just picky as f*ck.

There's nothing like being alone for a year (and loving every minute of it) to make you raise your standards. I would so much rather be alone than date someone who isn't right for me.

8. Being rejected no longer feels like the end of the world.

I was recently ghosted for the first time. I went on two dates with this guy who seemed like a total catch, and who also seemed to be pretty into me. He was supposed to go with me on a pirate ship booze cruise when I got home from a week-long work trip to Orlando, but when I got back, poof – he had disappeared. (I guess he wasn't that into me after all.)

To this day the only thing I am salty about is that I paid $16 for his ticket.

9. I started to appreciate other women more.

Like most women, I have often fallen into the trap of seeking male attention for personal validation. Sh*t happens. Not recently, though; the longer I spent holding men at arms-length, the more I found myself being pulled closer to other women – not in a romantic way, but rather in a very kumbaya we're-all-in-this-together sisterhood kind of way. It's kind of corny, but I love it.

10. I fell back in love with myself.

I have one tattoo: it's on my wrist, and it says "love yourself." I got the tattoo a couple of years before the start of my whole celibacy pledge – and the original meaning behind it has nothing whatsoever to do with dating and relationships – yet sometime during my year of solitude I found new meaning to add to it. To paraphrase Fisher Amelie, I have rediscovered why I am important, and never again will I settle for anyone who doesn't completely agree. TC mark