My Personal Guide to Tinder, Part 3

IMG_2050

After reading Part 1 and Part 2 of my Tinder installments, I realized that the most interesting sections are the stories. Sure, the rules are entertaining to write and read about, but it’s more fun to see those guidelines in action. So, for this third installment, I’ll focus more on anecdotes from my Tinder experiences.

My personal Tinder guidelines (cont.)

Remember: Swipe left for NOPE, swipe right for LIKE.

  1. Swipe right if she has a cute puppy. (<-not a typo)
  2. If she’s holding a cigarette in a photo, swipe left.
  3. Blurry photo? Are you serious? This is 2015. Swipe left.
  4. If she looks like my brother’s girlfriend, hmm…
  5. If she looks like my brother’s girlfriend with a different skin pigment, screenshot and send to him. Swipe direction irrelevant.
  6. If she looks like an ex, swipe right because I have deep-seated issues.
  7. If there’s a photo that looks like it has a story behind it, swipe right. (My curiosity might get the best of me sometimes, so if this rule conflicts with a previous rule, the previous rule shall maintain precedence.)

Playing by the rules

I could claim that I stick to the guidelines I’ve laid out in these three installments. And most of the time, I do consider my “rules” before swiping. However, you know how it goes: Some rules are made to be broken

6. If she likes Weezer, investigate further.

You wouldn’t believe how many girls claim they love Weezer and that their favorite song is “Island in the Sun.” If that’s your favorite Weezer song, you haven’t heard enough Weezer.

17. If all of her photos feature the same pose, swipe left because she’s probably a statue or mannequin and there is literally no evidence to refute that.

Sometimes I swipe right just to comment on how every photo is the same. For example:

IMG_2052

For the record, she does always have headphones in.

18. If I can’t pronounce her name, swipe left.

I’m pretty sure I’ve swiped right for girls with no vowels in their names.

25. If she mentions faith and/or religion in her About Me section, swipe left because ain’t nobody got time for that.

Yesterday, I literally swiped left for an attractive girl solely because there was a crucifix in the background of her photo.

32. Swipe right if she has a cute puppy.

I swipe right all the time for girls I’m not even attracted to because of the possibility I’ll get to play with their dogs.

Pic or it didn’t happen

What’s a good story without some photographic evidence? In this section, you’ll find some of my favorite conversations that I thought were funny enough to screenshot and post on the Internet…

IMG_1991

$60 for a half hour?! What if I only need five minutes?

In the picture above, you’ll see my first encounter with a prostitute(?) on Tinder. I would love to say it’d be my only encounter, but that just wouldn’t be true. Turns out there are a ton of whores on Tinder, or at least girls/women who are looking to exchange sexual favors for money. (It’s fair to call them “whores,” right?)Berenice

Now, these girls differ from the elegant “Ellen” (pictured with headphones above), who just wanted to share her pornographic photos with me — I assume for free.

As I’ve encountered more and more of these girls, I’ve become deft at spotting them out before I even swipe. And if you know me, you know I’m swiping right almost every time to prove my hypothesis.

Usually, when I have a hunch that a girl is fake, I sabotage the conversation to see how far I can take it before she bails. Because if I’m not going to get a date out of it, I might as well get a decent story to tell my friends. Sometimes, these girls don’t answer and all but confirm their nonexistence. Other times, they either play along or are telling the truth and have actually moved from Germany recently (see Isabel screenshots below).IMG_2004IMG_2006

Strictly business

Like I said, I’m getting quite good at picking out which girls will probably have sex for money before I even swipe. I imagine that these accounts get a high volume of messages from guys who simply think the girl in the photo(s) is attractive. From that amount, I wonder what the success rate is for these entreprewhores. I mean, they’re operating their businesses in a marketplace where they already know exactly what the consumers want. So, targeting is not an issue because these accounts probably just swipe right for everybody to maximize their reach.

If a guy has $60-100 to spare, he can get — in one night — what would’ve taken him anywhere between three and five dates, as well as upwards of $100, to obtain. While I don’t want to judge anyone for being that desperate, and while I absolutely do not want to criticize somebody’s business (however illegal it may be), I do understand how and why it can be an effective use of the Tinder app.

Also, I basically just provided free advertisements for like three or four hookers. Happy dating!

IMG_2054

To be continued…?

I Wear Tighter Pants Now

“Something’s different about you,” she says, breaking eye contact. She doesn’t think people change. I agree.

“I just got a haircut the other day.” I step up onto a bench we’re passing.

“No, that’s not it.”

I jump down and stick the landing. “I wear tighter pants now.”

“Why do you do that?” Her eyes roll.

“Because they’re comfortable and more stylish.”

“No. You focus on the physical.” We continue to walk, with each other but not together.

I used to wear baggier pants, the kind that would drag behind my sneakers and rip, the kind whose bottom hems would wear away like a memory. Or a scar. I used to wear jeans that would get wet halfway up the leg just from stepping in a tiny rain puddle. My old pants had crotches that hung down much lower than a proper inseam.

I can barely fit both of my balls into some of my new pants. They’re snug. They aren’t too tight, but some pairs toe the line of skinnies. I can’t fit into real skinny jeans because they’re not made for guys with any type of muscle on their calves or thighs. But “slims” I can do. Slims make my butt look good, and I like that.

“Has it ever occurred to you that maybe people don’t care what you’re wearing?”

It’s funny how things like this work. When I was younger, clothes always had to be loose. Tight was bad, tight was uncomfortable, tight was gay. Then suddenly I wanted everything tight. Not too tight, but fitted. I basically woke up one morning and knew that none of my clothes fit me right. I’d like to think it was the morning after I watched Daniel Craig as James Bond for the first time. The man wears his suits better than most people wear their skin.

“You were always obsessed with appearance,” she continues.

I’m not sure if it’s just one of those things that comes with age, like I’ll fall back into the Loose Pants Club again when I reach my forties, or if it’s something more. Or less. They say “beauty is pain” or “pain is beauty” or something like that. Now, I don’t know if I agree with all of it, but I do know that comfort is overrated.

She reasons, “Just because you’ve changed your clothes or because you look different doesn’t mean you’re a different person.”

Pain is temporary. It either goes away or you can deal with it long enough to make it seem like it has. You get used to it — you get accustomed to it — so you stop noticing it’s there. But the same thing happens with beauty.

“You’ve always been concerned with what’s on the surface, and maybe that’s all you are. A surface encounter.”

Depth is definitely an issue. With tighter pants come smaller pockets. Jeez, baggy jeans used to have such deep pockets. Now, I’m lucky if I can slip my wallet into my front pocket. And don’t even get me started on my phone. Phones are strange, too. First, they were huge and inconvenient to carry around. Then the trend was to make them as small as possible, so brands made them smaller. Now, the trend is larger screens and companies are following suit. I imagine my pant preference will follow this type of viciously circular path.

“You’ve always refused to acknowledge your true feelings and communicate with people. That’s how you alienate yourself.”

I look her in the eyes and say, “Funny how things like this work, huh?”

She shakes her head. “Nice pants,” she says, turning away.

“Do you think people choose not to change, or that they’re just not capable of it altogether?” I don’t say this out loud, of course. But I think it.


Originally published in The Bigger Picture on Medium.

 

My Personal Guide to Tinder, Part 1

Obligatory introduction and customary rhetorical questioning

I recently re-downloaded the Tinder app after meeting my friend’s new girlfriend. He met her through Tinder — an app I deleted about a year ago after assuming it was just for random local hookups — and she happens to be a very nice girl. This threw me for a loop and forced me to reconsider this form of online dating as a potential solution to my perpetual loneliness.

Could Tinder really be a way of finding love? How could I be so wrong about something I refused to take seriously following my initial experimentation?

Tinder

Maybe it’s time for me to swipe right on the concept of online dating. (Photo/gotinder.com)

 

For those who aren’t familiar with the app, Tinder is a mobile application that allows users to see profiles of fellow nearby users, and then either swipe left (to pass) or swipe right (to “like”). This first step of the Tinder process is essentially the Hot or Not concept, a binary system of judgment — we either like a person or we don’t.

Profiles consist of several items, including photos, age, distance from the user, and an About Me section with a 500-character limit. Tinder also allows users to see what common interests they have, as well as mutual friends (since the info is pulled from Facebook).

Here's a quick look at the matchmaking app's user interface. (Photo/gotinder.com)

Here’s a quick look at the matchmaking app’s user interface. (Photo/gotinder.com)

There was another major reason I originally deleted the Tinder app. Simply put, I didn’t feel comfortable judging people solely based on looks. I mean, I do it in real life — we all do — but it’s different when I’m actively judging someone aesthetically. At a bar (or wherever everybody meets people), I’m swiping left or right in my head. It’s more of a passive behavior. On Tinder, I’m outwardly expressing my distaste of someone’s appearance, and for some reason the rejection feels more personal. And frankly, that makes me feel bad about myself.

I don’t like feeling bad about myself, so I deleted the app. Perhaps this is why I’m single.

My personal Tinder guidelines

As I’ve started using the app again, I’ve established certain rules to ensure that I take it more seriously this time around. While some of these habits I’ve developed are designed to broaden my Tinder horizons, others are without a doubt designed to weed out specific types of girls. (I know: “Beggars can’t be choosers,” but I’m not taking what I can get if all I get is a night I won’t remember and a rash that won’t go away.)

Remember: Swipe left for NOPE, swipe right for LIKE.

  1. Swipe right for anybody named Chelsea.
  2. If it takes me more than two photos to figure out which girl she is, swipe left.
  3. If she has no photos of just her, swipe left.
  4. If there is any mention of EDM, Chipotle, or “friends with 420” in her About Me section, swipe left.
  5. If she quotes Marilyn Monroe in her About Me section, swipe left.
  6. If she likes Weezer, investigate further.
  7. If she looks younger than 18 years old but claims to be 22, think about it really hard before swiping left. (Read: swipe right.)
  8. Swipe right for attractive non-Caucasian girls because I am an equal opportunity Tinderer, eradicating racism one swipe at a time.
  9. If she isn’t the most attractive girl in the photo, swipe left. I don’t want any problems.
  10. If she’s throwing up the middle finger in a photo, swipe left.
  11. If she’s throwing up in a photo, period, swipe left.
  12. If she’s taking a bottle of alcohol to the face in a photo, swipe left.
  13. If all of the girl’s photos feature said girl in her underwear or swimwear, admire for a few moments and then swipe left. She’s clearly too advanced for me sexually. I can only assume that she’d be looking to get right down to business while I’d be asking her if she’s seen Gone Girl yet.
  14. If she includes her Instagram account information in her profile, assume nothing is off-limits. Swipe accordingly.
  15. If she looks like Taylor Swift, swipe right.
  16. If she’s 5’10 like T-Swift, swipe left. I’m not the type of guy to shy away from a girl who’s taller than me, but most tall girls don’t want to date shorter guys. I understand that, so I’m not going to waste anybody’s time — including mine.
  17. If all of her photos feature the same pose, swipe left because she’s probably a statue or mannequin and there is literally no evidence to refute that.

Suggestions for Tinder users

As a general rule, you should try to have a clear photo of your face in your first photo, then a full body shot somewhere, then any other cool photos that make you look good. This way, other people will get a good idea of what they’re dealing with. A lot of Tinder users — both girls and guys (I’ve been told) — have a deceptively attractive photo as their first picture. Then the rest of the photos make you wonder where the person in the first one went. Lighting and angles can be misleading. Don’t be one of the people who abuse this fact.

And here’s a Tinder anecdote for you…

I came across a girl on Tinder whose first photo contained two females. I found only one of the girls attractive, so I clicked her profile to see exactly whose profile it was. The second photo confirmed that it was, indeed, the “hot” one — a picture of her holding a baby. Immediately, I wondered: Is that baby hers?

So, I scrolled down to read her About Me section. Lo and behold:

Yes, the baby is mine. Single mama 💪

My first thought was, Well, I’m good with kids. Swipe right.

To be continued…?

Why I Don’t Keep My Promises

Promises are interesting phenomena. We all make promises — to our children, to our parents, to our significant others, to our friends, even to ourselves — and sometimes (maybe more often for some of us), we break them. We can’t, realistically speaking, keep every single promise we make. The only surefire way to avoid breaking promises is to refrain from making them altogether.

So, why do so many of the promises make end up broken?

In her Huffington Post article mentions that some people continue to break their promises because “saying you are going to do something feels just as good as actually doing it.”

I consider myself a man of my word. I’d like to think most people know that when I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it. This is probably because of the conviction with which I assert things. If I declare with confidence that I’m going to do something and it sounds legitimate, why not believe it’s going to get done?

That being said, I can’t count how many times I’ve told myself I’m going to go for a run today and simply haven’t done it. A lot of times, I even mention to coworkers how I’m going to run later to try to solidify my plans, but I always end up looking like a lazy, Oreo-guzzling piece of shit when they ask me about my “run” the next day.

Now, going for a run is a small-scale example; it doesn’t affect anyone but me if I do or don’t exercise, and it really doesn’t even affect me that much. Come to think of it, most of the promises I break only affect me, small and large-scale.

This is why I want to focus on the promises I make to myself. These are the ones that affect only me by design — the ones that, if broken, disappoint me and only me because others hardly ever know I make them. These are the promises made on a bigger scale, or at least they seem that way. Perhaps I put more weight into them because they are that much more important to me than going for a run.

I’m talking about the promises I make to myself that truly challenge me as a person. I’m talking about the ones that are hard to keep not because they’re impossible but because I know myself too well.


 

Awhile back, I promised myself I would write more frequently. But, because I’m lazy, uninspired, and afraid of publishing anything less than “perfect” (in my eyes), I have been writing sporadically at best. To shed some light on this point, I started this post about promises over two months ago.

According to Robert Wicklund and Peter Gollwitzer’s Self-Completion Theory (1982), we engage in behaviors that reinforce specific identity goals to which we are committed. So, I want to write more frequently because I consider myself a “writer” and the only way to prove to myself and others that I am a writer is to write.

A few months ago, I made a “25 Before 25” list with some coworkers, detailing twenty-five goals I want to accomplish before I reach the quarter-century mark. I may have completed several of the things on that list already, but I don’t expect to accomplish much more. The worst part is that I knew I wouldn’t do some of these things when I made the list. In fact, I only added certain items to the list to pad my stats, so to speak. I essentially filled a bucket list with things I had already done to make it look like I’d accomplished something in my life. After all, I can’t break a promise I’ve already followed through with.

My best and most recent example of a broken promise is my vow to stay positive. Unlike my “25 Before 25” list, which I only shared with my coworkers, and my personal pledge to write more, I publicized this commitment to positivity to any close friends and family members willing to listen. (So, like three people total.)

It took me a lot longer to break this promise than I thought it would. I’m not sure if it had to do with the scope of the pledge, but for a few good weeks, I was committed to being positive. Or at least I thought I was.

See, what I mistook for positivity turned out to be a neutrality that was uncharacteristic in and of itself, but — when compared to my usual pessimism — seemed groundbreaking. So, rather than displaying true positivity for this span, I was fooling myself with my lack of negativity.

While vowing to stay positive sounds beneficial on the surface, I made the biggest mistake any of us can make when I made that promise. I did it for the wrong reasons.

I can try to explain why I break promises I make to myself and others through psychological terms and thirty-year-old theories, but the real reason is plain and simple. When I make a promise for the wrong reasons, I am extremely unlikely to keep it. And this is probably true for all of us.

I compiled that “25 Before 25” list to give myself something to reach for, and I self-sabotaged my chance for growth. I tried to write more often because I believed it was something I needed to do to maintain my identity, and I found myself with nothing to write about. And I decided to try on my positivity hat for a few weeks because I thought I could trick myself into being happy. Perhaps that was my worst mistake.

I viewed happiness as a goal rather than a state of being. This is dangerous because: 1. I classified my well-being as a temporary goal and 2. How can we measure the success of an objective that is completely intangible? What is the metric for happiness?

Earlier in this article, I mention that the only way not to break a promise is not to make it in the first place. But after analyzing all of the recent broken promises I’ve made to myself, I’ve realized that the best way to avoid breaking promises — and maybe the only way — is to make them for the right reasons.

The Lies — WHEN WILL THEY STOP???

A few of my coworkers laughed at me when I told them I’ve never cheated on a girl and have never been cheated on before. They thought I was joking. It came as a shock to them that in a world inundated with infidelity and disloyalty, I’ve managed to avoid the drama that seems to plague a majority of my generation. In a time period when “hookup” culture appears to have completely replaced the classic idea of romance, I’ve realized that my inexperience with unfaithfulness might actually put me in the minority.

That’s a good thing, I guess… For me, at least.

But why does cheating seem so much more common today than it was back when my parents were growing up? The most obvious place to look is all of the technology we now enjoy that seemed like merely a pipe dream several decades ago. While all of these technological advancements help us stay in touch with one another, they can also be detrimental to the idea of romantic relationships all together. Modern technology makes it much easier to maintain a long-distance relationship, but it also makes it a hell of a lot easier to find that horny, newly-single chick within a five-mile radius who’s “down for anything.”

Like all things in life, technology has both its pros and cons. One of the major negatives just happens to be the temptation and ease it provides for people looking to make like a tree and branch out from their relationships. However, while technology makes it very easy to meet someone new or find someone else and sneak around, it also makes it extremely easy to get caught/catch our cheating partners in the act. Now, a lot of people are — for lack of a better term — pretty dumb. So, combine this general incompetence with a relentless sex drive and a smartphone, and we’ve got ourselves a cheater asking to be caught red-handed. This idea holds true for emotional cheating as well (especially if partners know each other’s cellphone and email passwords).

I’m not sure if this only became commonplace in the last decade or so, but I know that some individuals even use cheating to as a way out of their relationships. In other words, a person may physically cheat on his/her significant other to catalyze the end of their relationship — consciously or unconsciously causing the partner to break up with said individual, or at least leading to a talk resulting in a “mutual” breakup. I’m sure not everybody who cheats does it for this specific reason, but I have no respect for individuals who use infidelity to avoid having legitimate, honest conversations with people who care about them. (I have very little respect for people who cheat to begin with.)

But maybe I’m asking the wrong question here. Is cheating actually more common today? Perhaps cheating was just as common when my parents were growing up, and nowadays people just get caught more often.

This, again, can be attributed to the vast discrepancy in available technology between the two generations. Assuming people still found ways to cheat on their significant others back in the 70s and 80s, the absence of cellphones and social media made it a little more difficult to discover their unfaithfulness. And maybe a lot of these significant others didn’t even want to know about their partners’ misdeeds. After all, victims of infidelity in 2014 don’t always have the option of looking the other way — it’s sort of difficult not to catch a significant other who is cheating when people post everything they do onto Facebook and Twitter. So, maybe (and hopefully) my generation doesn’t lack the morals of my parents’ generation; maybe my parents’ generation simply lacked the technology we have today.

The aspect of this entire problem that worries me most is a matter of discretion. Does my generation care? Is the higher prominence of infidelity simply because of the technological revolution we’re living in, or is it a direct result of our lack of commitment to anything?

According to Forbes, sixty-percent of millennials change jobs every three years, and many Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers consider this statistic a major red flag when hiring. Similarly, if somebody has cheated on a significant other in the past, how can we be sure this person won’t do the same to us? (“Once a cheater, always a cheater.”) This is why I am so confused when Guy 1 cheats on Girl 1 for months with Girl 2 and then leaves Girl 1 for Girl 2, and Girl 2 is dumbfounded when it happens all over again and she catches him with Girl 3.

Though I don’t have any firsthand experience with any of this and consequently may not understand the concept of cheating all together, I can say with conviction that I care.

And when I say “I’ve never cheated on a girl and have never been cheated on,” I mean I’ve never cheated on a girl and have never been cheated on to my knowledge. As far as I know — again, all we “know” is what we think we know — every girl I’ve dated has remained faithful. And as much as I’d love to contact each girl and confirm this presumption, I’d rather keep in tact this illusion that I’m immune to the same disease that’s been the ruination of so many of my peers’ relationships. I guess the fact that I’d rather not know with 100% certainty helps demonstrate the notion that cheating can be prevalent without being conspicuous, and therefore we can’t necessarily assume it is more common today than it was several decades ago.

#SingleBecause

One way or another, writing about relationships has become somewhat of a calling for me. From getting one of my posts “published” on Thought Catalog to actually getting paid to give relationship advice on Lifehack to receiving an extremely kind shout-out from a popular singles life coach, I guess you can say I’m qualified (maybe?). I mean, she did say this:

Even at 23 he gets women better than most.”

Nicer and truer words have never been posted on the interwebs. Now, when I sit down to write, I very rarely want to write about relationships. But I do know that if I write about the subject and spit the truth, people will actually read it because they know I’m being real. I don’t know what it is, but people enjoy reading about love and relationships, and they even care about what I have to say. Surely, becoming some sort of “relationship guru” was never something I intended, but sometimes you just have to go with it. (Like in that movie.)

I’ve been told I’m “quite the catch” (source unconfirmed), so why is it that I’m more single than an individually-wrapped slice of Kraft American cheese (terrible joke aside)? Let’s solve this mystery together, shall we? From what I can surmise after countless long, lonely nights of self analysis, here are some of the top reasons believe I am single:

10. I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day…

The problem with this is that the single girls are the ones I should be going after. But because I find the people who complain about being single on Valentine’s Day so unbearable, it’s safe to say that every V-Day ends the same for me…

9. Online dating doesn’t work for me.

How about we... don't get arrested?

How about we… don’t get arrested?

I’ll just get this one out of the way now. Various people have told me, “Oh, you should try online dating! I have a buddy who met his wife that way. They have like 3 kids now.” Sure, while others might have success in the online dating world, I just don’t think I’m built for it. Part of me believes I’d be able to meet an amazing girl online, but the other part of me believes that first part is drunk and should go home.

8. Also, I’m just really bad at online dating.

This has happened on multiple occasions.

This has happened on multiple occasions.

I don’t know what it is, but I can’t seem to take online dating seriously. The concept of meeting somebody and communicating only through what is basically email until both parties deem each other in-person material because they’ve convinced each other they’re not murderers is just silly to me.

7. I’m confident but, at the same time, a bit self-conscious.

I think very highly of myself; I hold myself to a standard that is sometimes impossible to meet. Because of this, I tend to get a bit down on myself sometimes…

I also tend to place too much emphasis on things that aren’t important, ie. appearance. And in this case, I’m talking about my own appearance — both physical and virtual. What do I mean by virtual? I mean that I spend too much time crafting this “online persona,” and although there may be parts of the genuine me shining through this screen of social media accounts I’ve constructed, the screen does exist. And its sole purpose is to make people think I’m cool–

…er…

…to show people I’m cool. Yeah.

6. I’m too picky.

I do place a lot of emphasis on certain qualities of other people as well. Perhaps too much emphasis sometimes.

I have this tendency to say “I want” this and “I want” that…

But the truth is simple: I don’t know what the hell I want. Nobody knows what they want until they have it.

5. I can’t seem to throw the scent off the gay trail.

No matter what I do…

It just follows me everywhere I go…

4. I’m a bit of a skeptic.

When it comes to relationships, when it comes to love, when it comes to basically anything in life — I treat it all the same. Call me a pessimist, call me a cynic. I like to call myself a realist. And it’s not that I’m a negative person — I just think depressing things are funny. Which brings me to my next point…

3. Most girls don’t understand me.

Jared Text

I also have a, uh… unique relationship with my brother.

I can basically get along with anyone for a limited period of time, but if I’m going to truly be myself, I guess I’m sort of an acquired taste. I think a lot of things are funny when others don’t seem to agree. I make jokes at — let’s call them — “inappropriate” times, usually to lighten the mood or at least get somebody to crack a smile during a tense moment. Since I joke around so much, it’s difficult for people to know when to take me seriously.

2. Maybe I want to be single?

Perhaps this is only true for me, but I don’t want to be in a relationship just for the sake of being in a relationship. I want it to mean something. I want it to be with somebody I actually care about. I know plenty of people who feel like they constantly need to be in some type of relationship because they are afraid of being alone. All that means is these people are afraid of being left alone with themselves. Their true fear is having the time to think introspectively and learning about their true selves. What if they don’t like the person they get to know?

1. Clearly, I think too much.

And that’s obvious.*

 

*Read like Chris D’Elia. If you don’t know who that is or don’t understand the joke, that’s fine. Please refer to point #3.

Death As We Know It

My grandmother passed away recently, making both of my parents orphans, in turn leaving my brother and me grandparentless. She was my father’s mother; his father passed away early last year. I never had the pleasure of knowing my mother’s father because he died months before I was born. And we lost my other grandmother in 2010 — she was better known as “Nanny.”

Fortunately, my parents never had to explain death to my brother or me when we were young. Nanny was really our first loss of somebody very close to us, and my brother and I were fifteen and nineteen years old at that point, respectively. I’ll say again that these circumstances are certainly fortunate, but I feel that they also contributed to my parents skipping an extremely important conversation with their children.

From what I recall, my first real experience with death — that is, attending a wake and/or funeral — was in third or fourth grade. One of my classmates had lost a brother who suffered from a crippling medical condition since birth. I remember hearing it was a relief, in a way, because my friend’s family didn’t have to watch their loved one in pain anymore. They no longer had to witness him being subjected to that type of lifestyle, clinging onto the withering hope that his condition would improve. Since we were in a Catholic school, the entire class attended the funeral mass and sat in the back of the church out of respect for our classmate and his family.

I would say my parents laid the proper foundation for my brother and me to understand the concept of death, but we never got the chance to have that talk about what death is — what it actually means when somebody dies. Perhaps it’s easier that way, allowing kids to formulate their own conceptions of life and death.

Of course, there is no way to know for sure what happens when we die, but this doesn’t stop kids from being curious, from asking questions. It shouldn’t stop us from being curious either, nor should it stop us from trying to comprehend what death truly means — and through experiencing death, comprehending what it truly means to live.

I have a five-year-old cousin who has much more experience with death than I did when I was her age. But still, I don’t believe she genuinely understands it. (Do we genuinely understand anything at the age of five?) To my knowledge, this upcoming wake and funeral will be (at least) her second experience of the sort. She was present at our grandfather’s wake and funeral last year, even though she didn’t have a relationship with him. However, my cousin had a very close relationship with our grandmother, which makes this situation particularly delicate.

Does she feel sad? Does she know to feel sad? A five-year-old is going to ask questions about her grandmother, and yes — it’s important how we answer them.

Is it right to tell my cousin that Grandma fell asleep and is never going to wake up? Wouldn’t that make her afraid to fall asleep? We can’t tell her: “Everybody dies, and someday you’re going to die, too.” That would traumatize her, however true it may be.

So, what do we say to a five-year-old?

Do we lie? Do we involve our religious beliefs and tell her that Grandma went up to heaven and is now an angel watching over her? Isn’t that just a way for people to avoid accepting death’s permanence?

How do we clarify that death is permanent? We can’t just tell a five-year-old she’s never going to see her grandmother again. Can we?

Do we make it a dialogue and say, “Haley, what do you want to know about Grandma?” Do we answer all of her questions candidly, even if it means responding “I don’t know”? Would she accept “I don’t know” as an answer and understand that sometimes there’s no way of knowing something for sure?

Or do we avoid the situation altogether? I know my family is good at that, so should this conversation wait until my cousin is older and more mature?

Maybe I’m asking the wrong questions here. Maybe instead of wondering how should we, I should be thinking how could we. If we don’t even know what happens when and after we die, how could we explain the concept of death to a child? What knowledge about death could we possibly have that makes us more qualified than a five-year-old to field existential questions?

What we know about death (pertaining to life as we know it) is limited to the fact that 1. it is inevitable and 2. it is permanent. All of the other details — the ones kids tend to ask about — get a bit fuzzy after that.

So, unless we want to explain how to organize a funeral or how to purchase a coffin or how to close bank accounts or how to write an obituary, maybe we should just stop trying to explain death to our children. Maybe we should just let them ask their own questions and form their own beliefs. And the way we do that is by simply answering honestly: “I don’t know.”

These are some great resources I found about this subject (obviously, every situation and every child is different, but it doesn’t make these any less useful):

Explaining death to a child – The Washington Post

Talking to children about death – National Institutes of Health

In Experience

[Courtesy: movieclips.com]

I’ve been reading articles and stories and books by comedians and writers — ordinary people who use their own past experiences to convey a message or express an idea to readers. Every time I close up a book for the night, I think to myself: I can do this. I then go to bed confident in myself and hopeful for my future, knowing that I can make my living writing someday.

I wake up the next morning asking myself why I haven’t written that book yet, why I haven’t gathered a bunch of my articles into a memoir of some sort. I wonder why people aren’t holding a book with my name on the cover, reading my stories, and learning from my experiences.

I know I can help people. I’m pretty sure I have in the past, and I’m certain I have even helped myself through my writing. There’s always a lesson to learn, so why not use my experiences to communicate that message/those messages to the masses?

Simply put, I’ve been putting the cart before the horse. I cannot expect to just write these stories and impart all of this great wisdom onto people without first experiencing the events during which I learn the lessons. Basically, I don’t have enough wisdom to do any of it yet. And that has been my biggest issue lately.

I find myself itching to write something meaningful, but I can never find the inspiration. Perhaps this is because I’m spending my time waiting for something meaningful to happen, when in reality, lessons are learned on the fly. The most meaningful experiences aren’t ones we sit around waiting for… Drama — now that’s the stuff that changes our lives.

Falling in love, falling out of love, ending relationships, embarking on new ones. Regret, apologies. Death. Adversity. True happiness. We cannot learn from living in a stagnant environment because then we’re not really living, are we? We’re pretty much just waiting to die.

Despite the dreary perspective of the previous sentence, this post’s purpose is to encourage everyone to maintain a positive outlook on life — myself included (especially myself).

We cannot learn from writing about an experience immediately after experiencing it. That is when life lessons are forced and it becomes obvious that we are waiting around more so than living. We need to give the experience time to sink in, time to show us what the lesson is, and we must give ourselves time to actually learn that lesson.

I’m not sure if this is true for everybody, but I find that the stories I tell best are ones that happened years ago. Stories I’ve had time to think about and let fester in my mind, stories whose details I’ve mulled over and decided which were vital to the progressions and outcomes. At the time of some of these experiences, I had no idea they’d be this important to me. But sure enough, after awhile, these experiences all prove to be essential pieces to my puzzle. And while I may never be able to see the finished product, I might as well enjoy the process of putting it together.

So, I will leave everybody with my newly-adopted life motto:

Ex-Sex Etiquette

Have you ever had relations with an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend? Whether you answered “yes” or “no,” it remains a hard “no” for me. Like, really hard.

Awhile back, I received a text message from an ex-girlfriend of mine. Yes, we still talk sometimes because we’re still “friends” because I’m an idiot. Anyway, it was a Friday night and she asked what I was doing. I didn’t have any plans (clearly, this says a lot about me), so we decided it’d be cool to get together. We agreed that we didn’t really want to go out and that we would watch a movie and split a bottle of wine at her house. In other words, this shit was going down.

I quickly showered and got dressed, patting on some cologne to get the feeling right. I stole/borrowed two — count ’em, two! — condoms from my brother because I’m a #wildcard like that.

Side note: I had to take them from my brother because 1. the girls I have sex with don’t make me wear condoms because 2. these girls exist only in my head.

I ran downstairs and grabbed my keys, noticeably ecstatic. My mom caught me before I left and asked where I was going. “GONNA HAVE EX-SEX!” was my response. I made sure I got the cheapest wine I could find: a bottle of cabernet sauvignon out of my parents’ liquor cabinet for a total of $0.00.

I made it to my ex-girlfriend’s house in record time, sporting a stupid fucking grin on my face for the duration of the drive. After giving my little buddy a quick pep talk, I approached her house and knocked on the door.

Her family was happy to see me, and I talked to her mother and father for a little bit before we descended into the basement, soon to become a sanctuary for the refugee that was my sex life. My ex-girlfriend and I chatted a smidgen, and then we chose a movie to watch. We were both on the same page, not wanting anything too serious or scary, so we decided on a lighthearted comedy that we had both already seen.

Before we knew it, the wine was finished and the movie was over. The night had unfolded according to plan… Except our clothes were still on. And she was talking about how she was still in love with her ex-boyfriend (the one immediately after me). And my grin was gone.

Turns out we weren’t on the same page after all. We were in two completely different books — hers ending with tears and “You’re a good guy, Ryan,” and mine ending with… Well, still tears but “I forgot how average you were, Ryan.”

After I deemed the torture too much to bear, I realized she was in the same situation I was in a few years back. But now she was me and this other guy was her. And I didn’t feel bad at all.

“It just sucks when you still feel a certain way about somebody and they don’t even care,” she said.

“Weird. I wouldn’t know what that’s like,” I replied.

Needless to say, my brother got his two condoms back. Stella got her groove back. And, although I didn’t get the chance to get my hate-****ing on, I feel like I got my mojo back that night.

10 Reasons You Shouldn’t Read Lists

We all crave information, but we are too lazy and/or impatient to obtain it ourselves. We skim articles for the main points, we skip to the last pages of books, and we formulate judgments prior to examining all of the facts about a subject. Resources such as SparkNotes, CliffsNotes, and Wikipedia are useful tools, but have they taken away one of the best aspects of reading and discovering? When all of the important details are spelled out for us, our ability to separate the essential parts of a story from the superfluous parts becomes duller than a majority of the posts on Thought Catalog.

Not to take shots at sites like those, but – you know what, yes – I’m going to take shots at sites like those. Go onto Thought Catalog or BuzzFeed or Flavorwire or Cracked (oh god, Cracked) right now. I am willing to bet that roughly 50% of the posts featured on their main pages consist of lists – lists that require no talent or effort to write, and likewise, no talent or effort to read. These lists often contain information that is beyond unnecessary, and they are usually meant to be diversions from whatever mundane task we are completing at work.

I’m here to explain why these lists are damaging to the integrity of writing as a profession, as well as degrading to the hobby of reading as a means of learning.

1. They rarely stay on topic.

Most of the time, the author fails to think of x number of points and begins to let his/her mind wander. Sometimes, the author will even fill in the last few points with ridiculous memes and GIFs.

2. The information is useless.

I would say that roughly 95% of the information in the lists on those websites has no value – educational, comedic, nor entertainment.

3. They are wrong.

So many articles try to show things you won’t believe or things that are going to blow your mind. I do believe some of those things, and they don’t blow my mind. Sorry.

4. They contradict each other.

Why would any site want to simultaneously destroy my faith in humanity and restore my faith in humanity? The only thing destroying my faith in humanity is the fact that these types of articles consume the Interwebs and people eat that shit up. And the only thing restoring my faith in humanity is the fact that I can look at cute puppies and kittens instead.*

5. What’s with the cats and puppies?

Okay, I’m kidding. I actually love those sometimes.

6. They purposely make you paranoid.

Telltale signs that you are _________  /  Ways to tell if you are __________

I’ll make it a whole lot easier for you: If you click on whatever the article is, then it’s a safe bet that you are _________. And if you laughed and blew air out of your nose while reading that last sentence, then you are definitely ________.

7. They like to dwell on the past.

Things you probably forgot existed

That’s like bringing up a friend’s ex when he/she is trying to have a good time. There is probably a good reason we all forgot those things existed. Those things suck.

8. They are completely subjective but disguise themselves as objective.

That’s lying, babe. Nobody should be distinguishing the best from the worst, regardless of the topic and regardless of how condescendingly the author writes. You aren’t an “expert” on anything just because your aunt got you a job at Flavorwire.

9. Because.

10. They try to tell you what you should/shouldn’t do.

Why are you going to listen to somebody who writes for Thought Catalog or BuzzFeed? All that you need to write one of those list articles is access to Google and the absence of a soul. Why are you even listening to me? You shouldn’t be.

*I never had much faith in humanity to begin with.