My life has been a bit of a mess as of late, so I decided to take myself out on a date.
The mess: my grandmother passed away last year around Christmas time, so entering the holiday season without her has been bringing out a lot of sadness and grief. A couple of my closer friends – not Bri who I wrote about a few posts ago – have entered questionable relationships with men, and while I love and support my friends, their choices have made me question whether it is possible to maintain my standards and sense of self within a patriarchal society that has doomed me to a co-dependent relationship with a mediocre man some things. I also went on a date with a unfortunately super physically attractive ugh nice guy who has been giving me mixed signals about the status of a second date.
The date: thanks to Thanksgiving break, I had a free evening to go into DC and treat myself to dinner and ice cream. We glorify dates with romantic partners in society, so why not put in the effort I would have put into a romantic date, just on myself? When I think about how people often conceptualize dates, I imagine: being really into whoever you’re on your date with, but also kinda being suspect about them and tryna figure out their limitations, and then envisioning whether you have a future with that person because we’re taught to always imagine ourselves as eventually married thanks to the capitalist patriarchy. I mean, maybe the second part about being suspect is just a me thing because I’m attracted to men and given the state of 2018 who wouldn’t be suspect of men. Either way, I applied that model to myself. I went into this date aiming to think about what I love about myself, what I want to work on about myself, and what I consider my future directions.
I first went to DC Noodles, a Thai place near the U Street metro stop in DC (I actually have no understanding of DC geography, I only know places by their proximity to metro stops.) While eating my chicken Pad Thai, drenched in soy sauce and with no bean sprouts, I thought about my strengths. My most obvious strength is my excellent taste in music, as evidenced by my intense obsession with Ariana Grande and my less intense yet still pretty intense obsession with BlackPink. Aside from my musical preferences, I like how I always strive to be compassionate, both in situations where it’s kinda expected (e.g., while being a therapist) and situations where it’s not as expected (e.g., mentoring undergrads, as no one really checks in on how you treat your academic advisees, which sucks). I appreciate how I always try to question societal norms (e.g., valuing yourself based on your work, using a romantic partner to complete yourself). I cherish how I have overcome trauma and mental illness to get to where I am today and how I recognize that healing is a lifelong process.
I then went to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, my favorite DC ice cream joint. I always justify my purchases there by thinking to myself that my money will somehow support Jennie from BlackPink, which literally makes no sense. Anyway, one good thing about being in a Psychology doctoral program where you provide therapy at least if it’s a decent program and you’re a decent enough person who has the capacity for self-reflection is that you learn things about yourself throughout the process. So, as I ate my Brown Butter Almond Brittle and Gooey Butter Cake ice cream, I reflected on my growth edges and where I can work to improve myself. I have learned that I can be pretty intense when it comes to needing to get tasks done and doing so in an organized, planned way (think a high J on the Myers-Briggs), so I can strive to be more flexible and spontaneous. Also, while I try to practice self-compassion, sometimes I minimize my own feelings and don’t validate my own emotions (e.g., grief surrounding losing my grandma, the frustration of losing feminist friendships to men in your 20’s, etc.), so I can aim to honor my feels more. Finally, I always have more work to do in terms of my social justice awareness and advocacy, such as spending more time learning and taking action about issues surrounding immigration, Native American civil rights, etc.
If you’re still reading this, you’re probably thinking, “Thomas, what is up with the excessive self-disclosure in this blog post? Why aren’t you throwing copies of Ariana Grande’s most recent album at random strangers in Target instead of writing this?” The answer, dear reader, is because I want to practice and to model what it looks like to have a healthy, deep, and committed relationship to yourself. As I wrote above, the final stage of the date involves thinking about the potential of a future with your date, and whether I like it or not I am stuck with myself. Patriarchy teaches us that we are incomplete without a romantic partner, as evidenced by the proliferation of romance across all forms of media (e.g., movies, music, TV) and the shaming that “single” people experience. Capitalism intertwines with patriarchy by providing benefits to those in romantic relationships, such as through tax breaks for married people, as well as by enmeshing all of us within the wedding industrial complex. Who out here is throwing a wedding where you marry yourself and celebrate all of the hard work you’ve put into cultivating self-love and self-worth irrespective of these patriarchal, capitalist norms?
I am not perfect. But as Brittany Spanos of Rolling Stone wrote about Ariana’s “thank u, next”, a truly iconic pop song, “sometimes it’s not about life getting better; it’s about wanting to better yourself.” I am not perfect, and, I do not need a man to complete me or teach me how to love myself, no matter what society dictates and no matter how many people in my life rely on male validation. This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for myself, for the self-compassion and energy I invest in improving myself. I can’t wait for many more dates with Thomas.
What are you thankful for about yourself? How does going on a date with yourself sound to you? Other general responses to this post? I have an outline for my next post in the works so I hope I can get to it soon, three posts in one month has set a record so, yay writing and yay November. Hope everyone reading this is well, sending love and strength!