There are times in a couple's life when the need to experience the dreaded long distance relationship (LDR) becomes inevitable. Ask any couple who have gone through it and how such an arrangement works, if it does work, or even what their experience was, and you will likely hear a lot of tales of woe and unfaithfulness and the deterioration of that relationship because maintaining it proved to be so hard.
I am not going to lie to you, it's not ideal and it's not easy. As a military spouse, I expect that at times in my marriage my husband will have to go far away from home and we will have to manage to keep our family running smooth, collaborate on bills while also keeping our romance and special love thriving despite the distance. We will have to learn new ways to keep that spark alive and find ways to ease the pain and lonely feelings that are going to plague us at some parts of the separation.
Karen, a friend of mine, tried to do a LDR when her boyfriend, a navy soldier, was deployed for six months. She was young and the relationship was only a year old when he left. With tears in both their eyes, they bid an emotional farewell and promised to send each other letters and communicate online whenever possible, and that the relationship would make it. Sadly, this proved to be the case only for the first two months of the time apart. All started out well but when the mailman started showing up less frequently and the phone calls that had grown stagnant and dull were just no longer coming, they knew that something was wrong. He began being emotionally distant and she began an affair thinking that he was having one. He came home after awhile and told her about being in the field and unable to connect with her and she, in turn, told him she was pregnant.
The guidelines were not laid out, the planning on how to manage was not there and communication was non-existent before the relationship was thrown to different corners of the earth. This could have been avoided. So what are some solutions that can set a LDR into a successful and actually beneficial experience for a couple? How can a loving relationship survive when there are just words on the screen and a disembodied voice on the phone? More importantly, what about the loneliness and the urge for sexual gratification?
The physical act of holding hands and hearing "I love you" while someone looks in your eyes can feed the heart and bond you and your partner in loving closeness and intimacy. This all flies out the window when there is a monitor or a phone line between you, but that does not need to end the connection of intimacy. Thanks to Skype and similar video programs and hundreds of other social apps, there is the ability to do both. Granted, touching your hands together might feel strange when there is a monitor, but touching can be a spiritual or a mental rather than a physical experience. As long as you're both able to transcend the physical demands of intimacy, you should be fine. That and the ability to use your imagination in the most satisfying way.
Sexual gratification on the other hand is trickier, but manageable, and certainly can be done with a bit of imagination and technological know-how, basically through webcam and sexting. Phone sex and flirting sprinkled with a bit of role-playing can also enhance a sexually stagnating relationship. Then there are the more unconventional things that strong couples can work out on that would gratify each other's physical needs in a mutually agreeable and safe way. I will not beat around the bush about this but it is not for everyone and the make-or-break ratio of the primary relationship is quite high.
Paul has to go on business meetings for his job as an executive in International Relations and his wife of four years knows that while he's gone, he entertains himself from sexual loneliness. She, on the other hand, has informed him that she has a boyfriend in town that keeps her “occupied” when he's gone. Both have opened up the communication and are honest about their agreed upon dalliances with others in a non-threatening, trusting way. They have no children yet and have discussed that at a later time when they do reproduce, this arrangement might not work. But for now, such recourse helps to keep their loving relationship flowing and healthy through the distance.
Having to be separated from each other is stressful, but it is not insurmountable if a relationship is strong and built on trust. The ability to articulate certain needs that must be fulfilled soothes the kind of wound caused by great distance.
Oh my, you see him across the room and he catches your eye and you just feel the warmth spread through your lower half and just want to melt right there. He looks straight ahead again and you see a tear roll down his cheek. Oh good, he's emotional too. Hot and emotional. He stands up and walks down the center of the room carrying flowers. Wow. Then he passes you without looking at you and lays the flowers in the casket. Reality slaps you back to realize exactly where you are in an instant and you feel ashamed. People are here to grieve and you are thinking fireworks in your mind with some random guy.
"I'm sorry for your loss. Want to make out?"
Is it really wrong, though? People meet every day and no one knows where that crush will begin, or even if it will go further, unless you give it a shot. Some places are just not socially appropriate to flirt in or initiate a romance. Funerals are for grieving and a certain decorum of respect is required, but what if there is a real possibility of never seeing that someone again? The idea may seem laughable to think of going up to someone and say, "Sorry for your loss, but would you like to go out sometime?" The impossible cannot become the possible without dropping a few social etiquette rules once in awhile.
Conversely, my parents had a friend named Amy, who met her husband at a wedding and they have been blissfully married twenty years this summer. How is a wedding inappropriate? Aren't weddings all about the loving atmosphere, where you bless the happy couple, and then dance and drink alcohol with other people? Certain relationships can begin at a wedding reception, either in the throes of inebriation for a quick fling or for the long-term. However, in this case, Amy's dream man was the groom on his wedding day. That one did have to wait a few years while a marriage sadly disintegrated, but without that first connection, it would not have ever been a dream come true for them to be with each other.
Working it at the workplace
I had my turn on the inappropriate roller coaster ride. In my early thirties, a recent divorcee, I obtained a job in an HVAC warehouse with 8 co-workers that were all male. My mind gave way to many imaginative thoughts when I should be concentrating on the latest rating for high efficiency units. One co-worker, in particular, set my internal thermometer rising frequently and despite the taboo of inter-office relations, we began flirting and sending naughty text messages and had a brief but fulfilling fling. It certainly made work interesting and we were fortunate that there was no bad feelings in the relationship to make our professional relationship unbearable.
When rules are put in place to protect people from the harsher effects of relationships, it can an adrenaline charged rush to go against the norm and attempt to beat the odds. The office policies of today are designed to diminish the real pressures of sexual advances in the workplace, but also to avoid having to maintain a working relationship with someone when a personal relationship goes south. While not a policy that is strictly adhered to, it involves having the maturity to handle when a relationship or fling is over.
Alcoholics Anonymous has an unwritten secret step known as the "13th Step", that is documented in the literature briefly, but not officially designated by number, nor included in the standard rules of the twelve-step program. That "step" recommends that anyone entering sobriety should avoid relationships or sexual couplings for the first year. Having been around the program myself, I know that in the social aspects of your club meetings, you will get asked if you have been 13th stepped yet which means that someone more seasoned is taking advantage of the new and vulnerable members. There are many successful relationships that have blossomed in a shared desire to stay sober, but it is considered taboo and truly depends on having a sense of what it means to your path to recovery.
Not everyone will have that romantic, electric-charged story of meeting on a romantic cruise or tropical sandy white beach. Some of the best success stories begin with a location that does not scream "happily ever after." If we all waited around for that perfect setting, we will have missed something that could have the potential to escalate our heartbeats into dizzying heights of joy and endorphin-based euphoria. Your dreamy-eyed love of a lifetime could be waiting in the grocery check-out, sitting two seats away during church or even waiting his or her turn at the unemployment office. Circumstance and location are not the obstacles to pay mind to, but the possibility of finding that person at the right time that you are meant to, wherever in the universe it may happen.
Sometimes you have to stop and ask, “How did people meet one another before the internet?” No matter how shy you are, what your social circle is like, or even where you live, you can now use the web to meet new friends and, in some cases, maybe even more. When it comes to flirting, the internet offers an unlimited amount of options to reach out to those that you are interested in. Most notably, people either choose dating websites or social media to message those that they think are cute or would like to get to know better. However, it’s important to note that there is a big difference between flirting on a dating website and flirting on social media. Here are some things to keep in mind when using either platform.
Do You Want To Pay To Play?
One of the first decisions that you’ll have to think about when looking to flirt with someone is whether or not you want to pay to do so. Over one billion people around the world have Facebook, and sites like Twitter and Instagram are continuing to grow in popularity. Luckily for those on a budget out there, it doesn’t cost any money to use these services, which means they can easily message anyone that they want without having to pay a price to do it. That being said, most social media sites aren’t dependent upon dating, so you certainly run the risk of looking like a massive creeper if you message someone who isn’t interested in you – but we’ll talk more about that later.
If you don’t mind paying a few bucks a month, then dating websites are the way to go when it comes to finding people to flirt with. The thing is, many people can’t determine whether or not paying for a dating website is worth it, especially if they try and flirt with people and get no love in return.
Another option for those wanting to try dating websites is to use a free service. But before you jump at the chance, keep in mind that these sites come with caution. Because anyone can hop on these free sites, you are likely to come across a lot of internet trolls and probably quite a few fake profiles. Along with that, the quality of people that you might meet likely won’t be as good as it is for someone who is willing to pay for an online site. This isn’t to say that you can’t still meet some attractive and certainly flirt-worthy people on free dating sites; but if you grow tiresome of the limited amount of options, don’t forget that you can pay a bit and open yourself up to an entirely new world of people.
A Friend Of A Friend, Of A Friend
So maybe you’ve decided that you still want to use social media as a way to flirt and hook up with people. That’s not a problem. However, you’ll likely want to check to see what mutual friends the two of you have before you say anything crazy. If you do happen to write someone and he/she is friends with someone that you both know, you can bet that he/she’ll ask them more information about you. If you aren’t sure of what the person might say, your efforts might be shot down before you even get a chance to get in the game.
Luckily, online dating is the complete opposite. Everyone is there for a reason. Whether that reason is to date, flirt, hook up, or simply get attention from others, that’s up to them. But the point is, dating sites draw people in with the intention of knowing that they’ll get hit up with messages from others who want to flirt. The only weird part with messaging someone through online dating is that you might come across someone you know or, even worse, a family member.
So what’s a good approach?
The thing with making an initial message to flirt is that both social media and dating websites can be approached in the same way. For example, if you are on social media and see someone you want to hit up, you can start by liking a few of their photos, or posting or even commenting on them. With online dating, it works the same way. You can easily check out a few photos or read over the profile (although it may seem like nobody ever does this), and then message the person with some of the details that they have. Not only will this show that you actually read their profile, but you can also find something that you may have in common and it’ll help break the ice.
Whether you are looking to get your flirt on or take it to the next level, the internet is a great place to do it. But before you decide to go on Facebook or Instagram and start chatting up everyone you know, be cautious of how that might get around. That said, online dating websites are a place where people come with one thing in mind, which makes it free game to get your flirt on.
Are romantic comedies keeping me single?
As if I need help ruining my love life, studies actually prove all those sappy romantic comedies may be the culprit to my current single status. What’s worse is, looking at it, they may be right! I have one of those preconceived Cinderella complexes that just may keep me single. Sappy doe eyed Cinderella made us all believe that the Prince would fall in love with us and take us away from our rags so we could enjoy the riches of life.
If you are waiting for Prince charming to ride in on his horse with the golden slipper you may want to rethink your love life. The Cinderella story is repeated over and over in romantic comedies. Think Pretty Woman, Maid in Manhattan or even The Notebook. I’m not saying that income should never be a factor and that the occasional true life rich guys and gals don’t fall for us poor lovelorn souls. It’s just the likelihood of being a prostitute then being swept off my feet by a millionaire is just highly unlikely. I hate to put a damper on any of you working girls feelings, but it’s just not going to happen.
Are we predestined to find love? Do soul mates really exist? So Sara from Serendipity gets the guy in the end after she stupidly writes her number in a book that could have reached the hands of any unsavory character. There were a couple of times it was touch and go. You can’t expect in the real world that fate is enough to just bring you a partner. With a little technological help I think old Johnny boy could have found her a little sooner. My word of advice, instead of leaving this one to fate, try Facebook - you can find anyone on there!
You know this one - it's best played out when two people are clearly attracted to each other but they tend to fight over everything. As Seen in The Ugly Truth, Abby and Mike go at it like little kids insulting each other and somehow that leads them to fall head over heels thinking they are meant to be. I guess I’m single because all of the jerks I tend to argue with I usually tell I never want to see again. Besides that, emailing some stranger like in You’ve got Mail is like telling the Craigslist killer where to find you! And that is something I never try to do, which, going by the logic of these rom-coms, is why I remain romanceless.
So he tells you from the beginning that he never wants to get married or have kids. Maybe he doesn’t tell you but he never stops his womanizing ways. Ever feel like you can change him? Romantic comedies lead us to believe that we can change him right, just like Connor in Ghost of Girlfriends Past. Then there is The Proposal, a little blackmail goes a long way, doesn’t it? It’s called a lawsuit in the real world. If your boss hijacked your life for a weekend and she’s already a bitch, there is no way it could lead to love and affection let alone wedding bells.
Another idea romantic movies perpetuate is that a makeover gets you the guy. As if? So you want us to pretend to be something we are not and confuse everyone around us by pretending to be interested in anything the popular people find interesting giving up our wholesome persona to become a skank. Lindsay acted this one out in Mean Girls and then tried it in real life only to find out it wasn’t the best life choice.
'If he gets me pregnant we will get married.' This one may have worked in the days of old, where your father shows up with a shot gun to right the wrong that’s been done to his dear darling daughter. In modern times, a single mom is commonplace. Do I hear an episode of Maury in the making? So getting “Knocked Up” won’t help Mr. Right marry you. You’ll easily end up with Mr. Right now and a nice little baby bump.
Last but not least, making your ex jealous will bring him back to you. You try to make him jealous but you end up falling for the guy that you were using in the first place, just like in Drive me Crazy where Nicole and Chase actually make it work. They end up getting their ex back only to find that they really are attracted to each other.
Researchers found that after watching romantic comedies couples were less likely to communicate effectively. Romantic comedies alter your expectations of what a real relationship should be. This leads to a mind-crushing reality when your own relationships or attempts to have one don’t end in the fairy tale love story you see on the big screen.
Truth be told, I know that real relationships are not perfect and take a lot of work. I don’t let it sabotage my relationships but I can admit I may have some unrealistic expectations that are embedded in my psyche from watching these movies. The remedy: don’t take those movies too seriously!
In the song 'Bills, Bills, Bills', Beyoncé, backed by the rest of Destiny's Child, laments the sad state of her relationship with a freeloading man. At first, she and her man started out 'real cool', taking her places 'she ain't never been'. To her utter shock, this man started showing his true colors. In an exciting twist of the song's narrative, the guy started behaving disagreeably causing the foursome to stand united in sisterhood to protest what they deem as questionable dating behavior in a man. And it's all because of the arrival of bills: telephone, automo-bills, and, presumably, salon bills (because you just know Beyoncé has to have a salon allowance).
Unfortunately the song does not go deep enough to examine why such changes occurred in said man. We only know one thing for sure: the scrub wasn't Beyoncé's present husband, the millionaire rapper-mogul Jay-Z.
At the opposite end of the econo-romantic spectrum is Jennifer Lopez and the persona she inhabits in the song, 'Love Don't Cost a Thing'. In it, she 'sings' about her man keeping her 'iced' – a condition which we can only assume is characterized by being kept in a constant state of being heavily blinged. Whereas Beyonce and company were stressing over a man's lack of cash, Jenny from the block is with a man who lets her drive his Benz. Not only does she refuse to drive said Benz, she is resolute that her love does not have to cost her man a thing, even if he were broke (which he most certainly is not).
When dealing with the financial issues in a relationship, are you a Beyoncé or a J.Lo?
These seemingly men-dissing songs talk about the touchy issue of money within the context of a relationship. But beyond the pop trappings of these songs is a subject most of us grapple with but seldom talk about, or talk about but with a certain degree of ickiness. In a relationship, how should partners split the payables? The songs may be old (they were popular in the 90s until the early 00s) but the issue being discussed is timeless.
In a male-female relationship, it is safe to assume that the guy ought to at least pay for first dates, anniversaries, and special occasions. In this day and age it is not anymore imperative that men pay for everything – dinner, drinks, movie – but it probably won't ever seem right that a woman pay for a first date.
Since it's not 1918 anymore, women has already achieved economic power almost equaling that of men. It's still a long way to go before the gender pay divide is obliterated, but most societies are moving towards a future where women don't have to constantly battle discrimination when it comes to pay, among other things. It's a subject worthy of a blog post or dissertation all on its own but today we limit the discussion on the urgent issue of who should pay for the movie popcorn.
Popular shows such as Sex & the City and Girls and movies such as Brides Maids and The Proposal have been trying to sell us the idea that women can be just as raunchy, sex-starved, and financially capable as men. Even if our lives are universes away from the lives of the characters that populate these excellent entertainment, we have no trouble believing that the modern woman is highly capable of paying for her own dinner and cab fare, and that women today are unlike what Edith Wharton novels would have you believe: delicate, meek and must be extremely marry-able.
But how about in gay relationships?
With gays, such an issue should be fairly easy to resolve. It's hard to imagine a time in 1896 when the issue of bill splitting was a cause of great concern. What worked for same-sex partners in the 50s ought to work for couples in the current times. But this sort of thinking is likely exclusively conjured by those born anywhere between 1985-1990. Is it really that simple for homosexuals? The agreeable answer is no. Same-sex relationships, like any relationship in the animal kingdom, can also be a lot more complicated than is imagined. If there are no gender issues to deal with, what do gay couples then consider?
Age probably, or most definitely, is one. The older person in a couple is usually the one most inclined to pay, but it's not always the case, and this perception is not a wholly welcome one.
Economic power is another factor. A lesbian couple of the same age could both be working for a prestigious investment firm, but the other one might be a novice who pays for her own mounting debts and bills, while the other is a senior partner whose family owns 15% of Caesars Entertainment Corp. This is such a simplistic illustration but in similar situations where each partner's socio-economic status is easily distinguishable, decisions over who should pay for things shouldn't have to be debated at length.
There is ultimately no clear cut rules on splitting bills. No one ought to lose his head thinking about who should be shelling out cash more. Online forums have been put up to discuss this predicament and although the people who post in these avenues of enlightenment may be no experts, practical and sensible ideas abound. One such piece of sage advice is that the person who invites should be the one to pay.
Also a sensible rule to follow is to Go Dutch as often as possible. Awkward situations may arise in certain situations as a result of individual expectations. But Miss Lopez, despite her limited vocal and songwriting skills, sang the truth when she openly declared her preference in being treated right over being given things that only money can buy.
A date or a relationship becomes a soaring success when a couple is mentally, emotionally, and sexually compatible. These days, being economically compatible certainly never hurts.
Being back in the dating scene after a considerable number of years being married has been interesting. I used to see my single friends use Tinder, so I made an account as soon as I could. Setting up my profile wasn’t hard; it was just a matter of choosing a few good pictures from my Facebook profile. After several minutes of vigorous swiping left and right, I got notifications that I had matches! Yippie!
Oh disappointment, you know no bounds. The men either went straight to the point after the initial niceties as in, ‘Wanna come over and have sex?’. Either that or they were just dormant matches too stuck up to say hi. I made the move, I said 'Hi, hello, how are you?' but received no reply. Uhm, hello?! Why did you swipe then, idiot?
Eventually it gets better, because when I was bored I Tindered. And I get bored often. So let's say I had 100 matches: 50 were just dormant, 25 were creepy, 25 said hi. Out of those 25, 5 were able to carry on a nice conversation and bingo, I had two dates for the coming weekend.
On Thursday, this seemingly hot-in-pictures guy kept messaging me and asking me to go over to his place to meet up even though I had already agreed to have a date with him on Friday. My Thursday night-out had to be cut short because of the curfew, so I thought, why not go to his place? I took two of my friends and headed over, and told him I was coming with my posse. He didn’t mind too much, and joked about how I was playing safe. Heck yeah, I was! He came down to bring us all up to his condo. He was a little shorter than I had expected, but cute. As the night progressed I saw he was really making an effort with my friends, and made us feel at home as possible, which I thought was sweet. I was definitely seeing him on Friday.
Friday evening, I met him at the soi of the lounge we were headed to, and from the moment I got out of the cab, he didn’t take his eyes off me. He complimented me, and said he felt under-dressed because he was only wearing a tee while I was wearing a nice little dress. Wow, this was a proper date, I thought. As we started walking, he gave me his arms and off we went.
The date was fun! While I was in the middle of a breezy conversation with him, he kissed me. This was nice, I thought. It's been a while, but I remember what a good date felt like. So we got in a cab headed to his condo and... I threw up. As if throwing up in the cab wasn't enough, I threw up some more at his place. But he was there throughout.
I felt good. It was nice that I actually met a sweet French guy on Tinder with whom I had a wonderful date, even though I was completely unable to hold my liquor. And oh, we had great sex. I stayed over, as he insisted, and went home happy the next morning. I didn’t care if I heard from him again or not. I felt good about how he was such a gentleman, not to mention, great in the sack. He even made a sad face when I left.
What I didn’t expect was him wanting to see me again on Saturday night. As it happens, I had a date with a Thai guy I met on Tinder, also on Saturday night. The date was at 8, and French guy wanted to see me after 10, so I thought I could make it work.
I met my second date at a nice pub and he had a table outside since we both smoke. We ordered drinks and chatted. My Thai guy was funny and it turned out we had a lot in common. But here's the thing, he was really short and looked like a baby. I knew this wasn’t going to go anywhere other than how it was fun being in each other's company. So I had been texting my French guy as soon as it was 10 and we decided to meet at the lobby of his condo.
I told my Thai guy I had to meet friends and he was fine with that. This was my first date with a Thai but I didn’t think he expected anything more than a few hours of laughs and drinks. He put me in a cab and off I went to my French man. He came down to the lobby and from the looks of it, he made an effort to dress up. That amused me quite a bit. Again, he complimented me on how I looked and asked if I wanted to go party or wanted a more relaxed outing. I really didn’t want to party and so he said he’d take me someplace where ‘I’d fall in love’ with him. At that point, I was just getting even more amused and was asking myself, “What is going on here?”.
He took me to a breathtaking rooftop bar which was quite lovely – there was a little garden gate that led up to a steep narrow stairway with an arch covered in plastic vines that lead to the highest level of the bar. The stairway was extremely romantic, and he was holding my hand as he led me up the stairs. The bar had a great view, the weather was lovely, and a few people were dancing to the DJ's nice tunes. I was in heaven.
As soon as our drinks were finished, we were ready to go back to his place. We kissed on the stairway, because I asked him to. The view was practically begging for us to make out. Another night of great sex and sleepover, what more could I ask for? Tinder turned out to be quite useful.
Then I heard from him two days later. He asked why I hadn't been texting in the last 2 days, and told me he didn’t want to be my ‘weekend fuck’. I explained that I had no idea what our thing was and that I wasn’t sure of what he expected, to which he sardonically replied that iMessaging was free and that he needs more attention. I was very intrigued as well as amused by this sudden outburst. And then the messages got a bit aggressive and judgmental, like I had betrayed him somehow and made him feel bad.
At that point I was really confused and a little upset. That’s when I was convinced I needed to clarify that I was looking for nothing more than just a few laughs. He replied that between French and English, somehow, the messages had sounded worse than how he had meant it. He clarified that he was not in love with me but that he liked me. He added that he didn’t fancy bringing different girls home and just wanted some attention from me.
I started thinking, I was still on Tinder, matching with people, and still excited about it. I didn’t want to limit myself to the only guy I had met who happened to like me as well. So I said nothing. The next morning, I decided to text him ‘Good morning’ and immediately got a reply saying, ‘Hahaha, you made an effort’. And so my little French romance continued. Excellent work, Tinder!
Something about meeting the parents takes me right back to being a teenager when I’d phone my then-boyfriend’s house and recite my little written down speech to his mum who’d always answer, ‘Hello Mrs Cole, it’s Gaby, Dan’s friend. Can I speak to Dan please?’ Even though it was short and simple, I would write it down each time because boyfriend’s mums terrify me.
Last year was the first time I met a serious boyfriend’s mum. My last serious boyfriend didn’t have a mum, and meeting the dad is much easier for a woman, I believe. I barely remember even being nervous about it. I just made sure I looked good and was polite (he was Greek and didn’t speak any English, so I just smiled a lot).
But last year, I met my current boyfriend’s mum for the first time. She’s Thai and doesn’t speak any English. I speak some Thai, but I’m not confident with it. As is my boyfriend’s style, he gave me approximately ten minutes notice before I met her, so I was entirely unprepared (I didn’t even have time to change). It was a quick meeting and she told him I was cute and we’d have lovely babies. So I guess it went well. His niece has also asked me directly (in front of his mum) when I am going to marry her uncle. We’d been dating two months. It was awkward.
The next few times I met his mum, I opted for mute and smiley to avoid uncomfortable conversation, which seemed to work okay until the third time, when my boyfriend told me his mum had said I should start trying to speak to them soon. Apparently she said it very nicely but, of course, it terrified me.
She sounds like a really scary, but brilliant woman. I know she has ordered my boyfriend to get colonic irrigation because she thinks he’s getting fat (“Gaby, you know that thing where they put a hose pipe up your arsehole for a detox? My mum says I have to do that”), she’s also bought him detox tablets and some gym equipment. My boyfriend works at the family business and only gets two days off a month. When he asked for January 1st off, she was silent on the subject all day. I messaged him about it and he told me she was ‘like a stone’ on the subject. Eventually she refused. She’s a frightening woman who I have great respect for.
So, you can imagine that if she’s this no-nonsense with her son, she could be a little intimidating to a potential daughter in law. Twice now she’s told boyfriend off because I didn’t wai (Thai greeting) her properly. I am now petrified of speaking to her in a less-than-polite way.
Despite all this, I think she likes me. She often buys me gifts like Cornflakes or huge bags of oranges and other foodie gifts, puts her arm around me in a protective way when we cross roads and once told me I have the perfect figure and I look like a doll. Anyone who buys me food and compliments me is ok by me. I think she’s struck the perfect balance; I like her, I want to impress her but I have a healthy fear of her and her power over my boyfriend.
Before I became a gym bunny, I had no idea about how much etiquette was involved in every aspect. For instance, everyone has their own ‘spot’ in classes they attend regularly, and it really doesn’t go down well when someone pinches it. There’s also etiquette with regards to equipment; you don’t hog the equipment for ages while you sit on it and Whatsapp your friends. You don’t sweat all over the place and leave it for the next person to sit in. These are rules most people pick up fairly quickly.
There’s another area of gym etiquette which many people – even those guys who hit the gym every day – are less familiar with, and that’s your behaviour when it comes to picking up in the gym. It’s shocking to see how some people go about it.
Of course, in an environment when people are wearing tight clothing, flaunting hot bodies, glistening with sweat and showing feats of strength and flexibility, there’s bound to be some sexual tension.
In my gym, I get to hear great stories of hook-ups among the guys in the men’s shower rooms. It seems as though, among some guys, it’s quite ok to grab at people’s genitalia in the sauna. Of course, being a woman, I am not privy to exactly what happens in there, but I know it has an entirely different etiquette so I’ll just focus on what I know about; men hitting on women in the gym.
There are a lot of mirrors in gyms, usually. While this is excellent for checking your form and taking selfies, it’s also a great tool for some covert perving. I know because I often take advantages of mirrors myself; a little glimpse of a taut thigh mid squat, or a flash of midriff tensed during a crunch. I think I am fairly discreet about it. Mirrors are brilliant for that; you can wonder whether someone is checking you out, but it’s difficult to be sure.
But what’s not cool is following people around the gym. I’ve had two gym stalkers during my two and a half years at my gym. If I’m using kettlebells, they’ll coincidentally be using the TRX next to me. If I’m squatting, they’ll be benching behind me. If I decide to go to a class, they’ll shuffle in behind me. It’s irritating and creepy. There’s no way I will start conversation with you if you’re following me; I am more likely to carry a can of mace with me on my way home, though.
What’s less creepy but just as irritating is guys at the gym showing you how to use equipment. I like to hit the weights room and I am often the only woman in there. However, the fact that I have a vagina does not mean I have less idea how to use weights. Your cock and balls do not hold the secrets to great form when deadlifting. However, when a guy comes to have a friendly chat with me, he’ll nearly always throw in a few tidbits of unwarranted advice. My favourite time was when a guy, Brendan, came over when I was bench pressing. “You’re doing that wrong”, he said. I just replied “please piss off”. He’d already bored me daily with his tips for fat loss (I hadn’t asked) and told me he used to be a personal trainer in Australia. He also showed me his abs three times in conversation, which was just awkward. I didn’t bother telling him that I’m also a certified personal trainer and know exactly how to bench press and am not remotely moved by his pasty six pack, thank you very much. Tip: trying to make someone feel stupid/ fat isn’t a good way to hit on someone. If I want advice, I’ll ask someone.
A much more effective chat-up line that someone used on me was to ask me if I was entering the local physique competition the next month. Even though I am far from looking like a fitness competitor, it was flattering and we soon organised a ‘training day’, which is also an excellent way to get closer to someone in the gym. Every time I saw him he would seem impressed at my deadlift, ask me what I was training that day and, when I moaned about my butt never getting smaller, he told me round butts were what every girl wanted to achieve. That’s how to do it; he never overtly showed off his strength or put me down. Instead, he made me feel good and, believe me, I noticed his strength and six pack by sneakily watching him in the mirrors – not because he flaunted it.
I’ve adopted his technique when I see a hot guy in the gym. I just make polite, gym related conversation. “What are you training today?” is a great way to start. See? You don’t have to be patronising OR lecherous.
I’m an English girl and I’ve never seriously dated a guy with English as their first language - there was a Sri Lankan, a Greek and now a Thai man - so, I am used to a little culture clash. I enjoy it. I am used to having to use the translation app mid-conversation to clarify the odd word and to celebrate festivals and events I was never aware of before.
So far, my Thai boyfriend and I haven’t had any serious culture clashes but there are certainly a few difficulties I haven’t experienced in a relationship before. For example, there’s the looks we get in the street every single day – I guess a tall blonde girl with a slight Thai Chinese man is vaguely unusual (though it really winds me up that people gawp open-mouthed at us and don’t bat an eyelash at the old sexpats with Thai teen girls on their arms). He gets a little paranoid that, when we go shopping, people might think I am paying for all his bags and bags of clothes (he really likes to shop). He also stands away from me when I am getting cash out of the ATM. I always tell him he’s ridiculously paranoid but it seems to settle his mind to wander away a little, so I let him get on with it even though it makes me a bit sad. The reality is, of course, he pays for his own things and I pay for mine – he has his own business and does very well, but he has it in his head that people who don’t know us want to find something fishy about the set-up, despite our similar ages and incomes.
Other small problems we’ve encountered are that his friends, family and acquaintances often comment on my weight. Last week I heard his chef friend telling him that I’d put on weight (I haven’t, actually). I told my boyfriend I didn’t want to eat in his restaurant anymore and he got angry, saying that I just didn’t understand the Thai way and that commenting on my physique wasn’t a slight but an observation. The next day we had another mild altercation when I wanted to meet a (straight male) friend who I have known (platonically) for years for drinks. My boyfriend was moody all day about it, even though I invited him to come. My Thai friends tell me it is just ‘Thai style’ and I should be flattered. I’m not flattered – just mildly irritated, but thankfully, I think my boyfriend knows it’s unreasonable so, even though he is moody about me being friends with men, he denies it. I think he’ll just have to get on board with my way of thinking in this case, just as I will have to get on board with the Thai way of regular and unwanted body criticisms. It’s all about compromise, after all.
Some cultural differences are less stressful and just funny. My favourite cultural differences are the little ones. I like that when we go to get breakfast together, he’ll tuck in to rice soup with congealed blood floating in it while I have muesli fruit and yoghurt (which he thinks is bird food). When I got some Angel Delight (a milk-based pudding) from the UK he flat refused to try it, and he left the cupcake I bought him to go stale in the fridge; though he’ll happily eat pig’s ears and beef entrails. He really tried to embrace Christmas, but he hated mince pies, his chocolate advent calendar, mulled wine, turkey and everything else I tried to tempt him with. We had noodles for Christmas dinner and ice cream for dessert in the end, which kept us both happy. When you boil down most of the cultural differences, they tend to be quite small issues. I’ve already learnt that he doesn’t like me to pay for meals out (fine by me) while he has realised that I will be moody for the entire day if he ‘jokes’ about me being fat. I suppose all relationships have a few wrinkles and, although cultural ones are sometimes harder to iron out that others, there’s usually a compromise that can be reached if it means enough to you both.
xkcd.com on how to deal with whiny, self-entitled guys that complain about being unable to get a date due to being too much of a 'nice' guy: