An Open Letter to the Next Guy I Date:
You’ll be one in a series of guys that I date in my mid-20s. You may be the guy I meet on a double-date and hit it off with (it’ll help that you’ll be a model from Paris). You may be the guy on OkCupid whose broad and tattooed shoulders and clever banter warrant a second date. You may be a one-night stand turned a quite-a-few-nights stand. Whether it lasts for less than a month or a better part of a season, you will be a part of my life in an increasingly intimate way, and there are some things you should know about me.
- I’m recently 25. I’m a quarter of a century old, and I oscillate between being proud of my age (it shows my life experiences in numerical form) and terrified by it (didn’t I just get my first job out of college?) You can be a bit older or a bit younger, but making me feel older than you (by calling me a cougar) or younger than you (by asking me if I really haven’t had a serious relationship since college) is not going to earn you any points.
- I’m a teacher. That means I love my students with a fierce passion that can be understood by watching any number of YouTube videos of mama bears protecting their cubs. I would do anything for them, and this means working 80+ hours a week while earning my Masters in education. But I’m a teacher, which also means that I am going to complain incessantly about my kids and my parents and the education system and I have every right to. But you don’t get to. Just me. Because they’re my beautiful, wonderful, adorable pains.
- I have a cat. Just one. Named Jackson. I didn’t name him after any Jackson in particular, but the first Jackson you think of will tell me a lot about you. He will cover your black pea-coat with white hair, and he will climb into your shoes once you take them off.
- I work out. It’s a decision I made this past year to take care of my health and my body. I don’t do it for you (i.e. I don’t do yoga so you can imagine me in spandex doing downward dog), and I’m not particularly interested in going to the gym with you. Even if you consider yourself a fitness aficionado, you may not offer advice on my diet or fitness regimen unless I ask. To give unsolicited advice to a woman on her body is a dick move. Don’t do it.
- I’m an introvert who performs extroversion. Plug: just do yourself a favor and read Quiet: The Power of Silence in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. It’s supremely well-written, and whether you identify as an extrovert or an introvert, it will help you understand and respect the people around you. Here’s a run-down: A: I’m introverted, which means I need time to myself to recharge. B: I perform extroversion: this means that being personable and interacting with others is something I do well, but it costs me effort and energy. I do best in one-on-one situations and small groups of people I know, and highly-stimulating environments wear me out quickly. When I cancel plans in order to spend some time with Jackson it’s not because I don’t want to see you, it’s that I’m out of extroversion juice and need to recharge.
- I like to pay for my own things. I work damn hard and it feels good to be able to take care of myself. That being said, I’m never going to see you holding the door or offering to pay as an insult. As long as you don’t mind me returning the favor. Yes, equality!
- I will sometimes not shave my legs. Or calm the frizzy atmosphere surrounding my hair. Or wear anything but yoga pants and an old t-shirt. And you get to make zero comments. Rupi Kaur, a favorite feminist poet, puts it perfectly. She says, “Remind that boy your body is not his home. He is a guest. Warn him to never outstep his welcome again.” Translation: say nothing unless it is body positive and empowering.
- I am human; I do all the human body things that all humans do. I burp and I fart and I sweat and I do other gross things. Good. Glad we cleared that up.
- I like sex. Surprise! A lady who likes good sex probably as much as you do! Here are the things that make it good First, we’re both safe. We get tested regularly after each new partner and we use protection! Second, we communicate openly about our likes and dislikes. I tell you that I like getting picked up and massages, and you tell me that you like somethingreallysexythatcan’tbeinthisarticle. Great! We’re on the same page! Third, don’t send me dick picks while I’m at work. Or ever, really. But definitely not while I’m at work.
- I love to laugh. If you can make me lose my breath and turn pink, you’ve got me.
- I I do not tolerate sexism, racism, xenophobia, or classism of any kind. It’s not okay regardless of where you come from (I’m from rural Wisconsin), it’s not okay as a “harmless joke,” and it’s not okay if you’re just repeating something you heard. Don’t drunkenly yell into my ear at the bar that “Whites don’t do that” while pointing to a person of color. Don’t scold me for burning our grilled cheese sandwiches and laugh about how my mother must not have taught me well. Don’t make rape jokes. Ever.
- I have a family and friends. This seems obvious, but it cannot be overstated. You’re new. You’re exciting. I think your abs should be plastered across highway billboards. But when it comes to my family and friends, they always come first. Always. If my best friend is surprising me by coming to the city for the weekend, I’m going to spend every waking moment with her, even if that means we have to reschedule our picnic.
- I’ve got some baggage. Just like every other person you meet, I’m struggling with something. Keep this in mind and be patient, understanding, and above all, kind.
- I say these things not because I’m overly confident, self-centered, or high-maintenance: I say them because I’m an individual. Every person comes with their own beautiful peculiarities, their painful baggage, and their most intricate desires. We are all brilliantly shaped and shaded; to smooth our edges and mute our colors to make us more easily consumed is to lie to ourselves and our partners. This is me, being honest with and about myself, and recognizing that my value does not change, regardless of my relationship status.
Theresa Pfister wrote this article for Flux, an online forum for those of us encountering adulthood. She lives and teaches in Brooklyn, NY, and is currently deciding whether or not to reactivate her OkCupid profile.