The Lost Art of Communication

In this world of dry texting, monosyllabic chat, and single emojis that drop into our social media comments, text messages, DMs, and even video chats, does true communication even exist anymore? When the most you can hope for is short terse answers to questions that run through your mind, answers with no tone, and plenty of room for supposition, how do you get to truly know someone? Have we lost the art of communication?

It’s even more of a disaster in the dating world at my age, as people think answering a like, DM, text or even a phone call should be immediate. If a message isn’t responded to in a timely manner of a day or two, I understand, maybe that person doesn’t want to talk to you.

However, the number of people my age, who think a message should be replied to instantaneously stunned me. People, let’s play nice and work on our patience.

The number of fellas who have liked my dating profile in the last two months, only to ignore me because I didn’t respond immediately, 24. Twenty-four, hopefully, nice guys didn’t have the patience for me to reply to a text until after I got off work. They couldn’t wait 8 hours, not even a whole day. And it wasn’t even a real conversation. I do not get it. I don’t mean to sound crass, but it’s their loss. And really would I want to be with someone who has the attention span of a gnat? Probably not.

Being a creative type adds another layer of complication to communication altogether. When inspiration strikes you must strike with it, otherwise it just disappears, like dust in the wind. I’m not saying I’m losing it or anything, just some days the creative process can be like a squirrel on crack, I can be all over the place at once. I know it is that way for a lot of creative people.

Usually, when I feel something resonate with me and the gears start to spin, I will have a vision in my head of what something could be and I can’t let it go until I do something with it. It can be pen to paper, graphic design, paint to canvas, fire to wood, or thread to material, it’s a motivating force. An artist friend told me, he couldn’t get the noise in his head to stop until he created what he was thinking. I wish I had approached my art that way more often when I was younger.

Creativity can also be an isolating force. Most people don’t understand the sudden lack of attention (I am generally a detail-oriented person) or see the shift in focus when an idea is spinning in the creative process. That alone can make a relationship hard to maintain and this is where communication is key, I had to learn to tell people that I was going to be unavailable.

Most people say they understand the creative process until I don’t answer the text, the phone, or the email because the music is up and I am dancing around barefoot with a paintbrush in my hand, or humming along while I sew, or building something with power tools. They don’t understand that I have to get the vision out into the world, or like grapes, it dies on the vine and becomes a thorn in my side.

All they see is me ignoring them when that’s not the case at all. Eventually, I have to come up for air and focus back on the real world. I once again long for real connection and communication. My love languages are Quality Time, Touch, and Words of Affirmation, but those are hard to give or to get when no one can communicate. It’s like the 80s song by the Buggies, Video Killed the Radio Star, except I think, Text Messaging has Killed the Conversation.

I would like to think that in my years as a graphic designer listening to a customer’s vision and creating it, or my time in the newspaper business listening to an interview to get the story I’ve become a better communicator. Or maybe it is just me getting older and I call it as I see it. I try to say what I mean, let people know what I need, and clarify if needed. Someone told me I was intimidating and I couldn’t help but laugh, the last thing I wanted to do is intimidate anyone. Still, I am amazed at the people who don’t know how to ask for what they need, or even say what they really mean. In the long run, aren’t they just hurting themselves?

The art of conversation is a rare gift. When you have it treasure it. Good conversation is a balm to the soul. It creates a connection and is the building block for any type of good relationship. Connection isn’t just about the words, it’s when you can sit across the table and look into someone’s eyes and see if they are sincere in what they are saying, or see their eyes smile even when their face doesn’t, and read their body language, there is subtext and nuance no text message will ever have. A good conversation invites you in, gets you comfortable, and puts you at ease, there is give and take, it’s a two-way street. And when it’s done, both people walk away feeling understood, like someone actually heard what they had to say. That’s a beautiful thing.

You would think that post-pandemic, we would all be longing for real conversations, not ones related to the screens in our hands, but I just don’t see that happening and it breaks my heart a little.

As far as the online dating world is concerned, it’s a hot mess out there. The men who want to sext you up and haven’t even met you, aren’t worth your time, ladies. If I’m going to engage with someone, I at least want to look them in the eye, is that too much to ask? Personally, I find that I am a sapiosexual, and find intelligence sexy, so give me great conversations that make me think and get my gears turning any day.

Thanks for reading and stay safe out there, it’s a crazy, wild world.

Is That A Big Fish…

Or are you just happy to see me?

Dating at any age isn’t easy, it’s always just a little bit awkward. But dating at a certain age is a whole new fresh hell.

I guess this is where I put out the disclaimer that if you are one of my more straight-laced readers, you might want to skim past this one. I am going to throw some shade and lay down some hard-won wisdom. I am by no means an expert and I still have questions of my own, but things are weird out there.

As many of you know, I lost my husband over 2 years ago, and last year I got back out on the dating scene. At this moment, I’m not sure why it seemed like the thing to do? Since I am a student of life I thought I’d share, maybe you will learn from my mistakes. I’ve also made some fascinating observations, I will keep it PG, but there will be some mild subtext.

Back in the day, you met people out and about, while you were living life, doing what you liked, and you had a conversation. You hit it off and then dating happened along with all the awkwardness, exploration, and testing that ensued. That doesn’t happen anymore. It’s all text conversations, apps, scams, and catfishing.

Now my observations are strictly from the female perspective, but I am sure that some of these go both ways. Let’s face it, there are plenty of ladies out there who aren’t what they say they are, either. All I can say is, ask a lot of questions. Questions are your friend.

But I digress, let’s get to a few things to be aware of:

If they seem too good to be true, they probably are. If they look like a supermodel with washboard abs and you look like the StayPuff Marshmallow Man with bedhead in pajamas, they are scamming you. (No disrespect, ladies, I’m fluffy and fine with it, but I know when something just doesn’t feel right.)

If they immediately are in love with you, they are a scammer. (I’m awesome, but I don’t want anyone telling me they love me during my first text conversation.)

If they immediately try to get you off whatever your choice dating app is and ask you to download Snapchat, WhatsApp, Google Text, or whatever, you need to rethink and ask a BUNCH of questions about them. (I once asked a guy if he would take a selfie of himself holding his driver’s license so he could prove he was who he said he was. He couldn’t. I was ok with it.)

If they refuse to call you, facetime, video chat, or meet up, chances are they are not who they say they are.

Just be careful out there and when in doubt, talk to your friends about whoever you may be chatting up. They will want to give you love life advice anyway, and this way they can live vicariously through you. LOL!

Now onto the fun part, the observations.

My first observation has to be that 99% of the men have photos with really BIG fish. In my mind, this has to be compensation of some kind. I mean, it’s not the size of the fish, it’s the motion of the ocean, right? Are they showing me I won’t starve if the zombie apocalypse comes? Personally, I don’t find fish sexy, but maybe that’s just me.

The next observation was how many men wanted to go on hikes in the wilderness for a first date. Ladies, I don’t know about you, but I do not want to go off into the wilderness with some guy I met over a text message. Something about that just screams AX MURDERER. Dude, take her out for coffee, I know you hate to pay $5 for a Starbucks if it isn’t going to go somewhere, but you will live, I promise, and more importantly, she will. And, you might get a second date that includes a hike.

Observation number three, images may not be as they appear. There are SO many aspects to this observation. I do not know why, as a culture, we are so obsessed with filters. Just be real. Take a bath, wear clothes (more about this later), comb your hair (if you have any), and for God’s sake, SMILE. Get yourself out in some nice natural light and take a photo, or better yet, have a friend take your photo. I know you will be tempted to put a filter on it, just don’t. When you show up at the coffee shop she will actually be able to pick you out of the line at the counter to say hello. Otherwise, what happens…you walk in looking like a dried apple that is nothing like the photos, and she is going to be disappointed, and probably go to the bathroom and never come back. It’s false advertising. It’s wrong.

Observation number four, clothes, wear them. Ladies, I don’t know about you, but I like to unwrap a package. A nice form-fitting shirt and jeans, or a suit. Yes, please. I like it when there is something left to the imagination. Unless you look like Jason Momoa, The Rock, Chris Evans, or whatever heartthrob is on the cover without his shirt on, keep your clothes on. And for all that is holy, please don’t take a selfie of yourself lying in bed. Creepy. Most women I’ve talked to said that is a hard pass, we don’t want to see it. Also, don’t take a selfie of yourself looking down at the camera, you look like a Shar Pei who needs time at the groomer. It is never going to be your best look.

Observation number five, be who you say you are. Just be honest. Do you really want to start a relationship based on some false interpretation of who you are? That is a recipe for failure. Both parties in a relationship deserve honesty. I’m sorry, I am unapologetically who I am. If you don’t like me for who I am, how could I ever like you for who you are?

Trust me everything is better when you can be comfortable in your own skin. I have had a few great dates, that ended in new friends and nothing more and that’s ok. I know what I want, and more importantly, what I don’t want, and I’m not afraid to share that information. I am not unkind, but I am honest.

Oh, and yes, there have been bad dates as well. All I can say is don’t take things too personally or let them rob you of your peace. I appreciate honesty. I much prefer a straight-up conversation, but that doesn’t mean you get to belittle me. I won’t stand for anything less than respect. Passive-aggressive doesn’t play well, just say what you mean, and don’t manipulate me. I believe you get what you give. If you don’t respect me, don’t expect me to respect you.

I have learned that life is too short for drama and chaos. Many people mistake drama for passion and that is sad to me. Once you learn that passion can exist without drama, your whole world opens up. There is so much passion in art, in music, in everyday life but it is often overlooked, it’s the little things. Pay attention to the little things.

That old saying that you have to love yourself before others can love you, rings true. Right now, that’s where I am. I like my own company. If I can’t stand myself, who else will? I love who I am. I’m a sassy, outgoing, straightforward, funny, clumsy, independent woman, and definitely a work in progress. The progress is where the fun comes in. Be happy being you.

I hope my ramblings have been helpful or at least entertaining. I will close with the chorus from one of my favorite Keb Mo songs:

But if nobody loves you
and you feel like dust on an empty shelf
just remember
you can love yourself

Thanks for reading.

Dancing with Green-Teeth

By Charmin Foth

Flickr: sean-b

As our 20th-anniversary approaches, I am reminded of a skinny cowboy propping up the wall. My dear husband and I met twenty-two years ago on December 9th.

At the time, I didn’t want a relationship. I didn’t want to date, I was pretty much over romance all-together. I had been in an abusive marriage for seven years and couldn’t believe the person I had become in that time.

I had lost my self-esteem and my sense of who I was, or what I wanted out of life. I was burned-out, struggling with my faith and feeling like a failure. Years of being treated badly had led me to believe I deserved such treatment. I was just beginning to figure myself out again, thanks to the help of some great girlfriends, who dragged me out of the house and into the world again. They took me to line dancing classes at the local skating rink and concerts, and weekend trips, keeping me from drowning in a pool of self-pity.

On December 9th, my friend Beth, did exactly that, she drug me out of the house. Living in Nashville, there was always an opportunity for musical entertainment. On that night David Lee Murphy was playing at the Wild Horse Saloon, one of Nashville’s hot, touristy spots on 2nd Avenue, Beth suggested we go and try out our new line-dancing skills. So, rather than sitting at home on a Friday night eating fish sticks and tater tots, I agreed.

When we got there, we found a table and ordered Diet Cokes. Not my usual fare, I’m more a Mountain Dew connoisseur (diet – now that I’m older). I know you thought I was going to say something else, but alcohol was never a vice for me. I preferred to abuse myself with bad relationships.

So, I am truly a wild woman hanging out at a saloon drinking Diet Coke. Beth and I had fun people-watching and dancing. The wonderful thing about line-dancing is it doesn’t require you to have a date, and no one has to be in your personal space. Both of which appealed to me at the time, since I had sworn off relationships with men. I had a strict rule, I never slow danced with anyone. PERIOD. That was WAYtoo close for me.

While Beth and I were people-watching, I had noticed a cowboy in a fringed jacket, Resistol cowboy hat pulled low over his eyes, Wrangler jeans and boots leaning up against the wall. He was cute, in that lone-wolf kind of way.

The place was packed with people and we were lucky to have a table with a good view of everything. They were having a beauty contest before the concert so the dances were spread out between the contest events. The place was crawling with very pretty, scantily-clad girls and all types of guys, trying to get their attention.

When the guys couldn’t get the time of day from the pretty girls, they would begin to look around and ask the rest of us to dance. I wasn’t particularly looking for a dance partner, but this nice looking young man came up to me and asked me to dance. Since it was a “Boot Scoot Boogie” it wasn’t as if I had to get too close to the guy, so I said, “yes.”

It wasn’t until he got on the dance floor, and started smiling at me, that I realized he had horrible green teeth. When he got close enough to where I could actually hear what he was trying to say, I realized he had horrible green breath to go along with it. This is exactly the reason I was against dating. UGGH!

Beth and I laughed over the green teeth once I got back to the table, and I marked another notch in the list of THINGS I DON’T WANT. But, I was still keeping an eye on the cowboy holding up the wall across the way. Beth and I may have made a few comments amongst ourselves about him too.

The beauty contest continued for a little while and then they played a slow love song.  Beth and I were talking and minding our own business when I looked up and saw “green teeth” headed straight for our table. The cowboy holding up the wall must have seen the look of sheer terror come across my face, because just before “green teeth” stepped up to ask me to dance, the cowboy stepped in front of “green teeth” and asked me to dance.

In that moment, the cowboy rescued me from certain awkwardness, and left “green teeth” standing there looking dazed and confused.

Much to my surprise, when the cowboy asked me to slow dance, I said, “YES!”

“Green teeth” did not look happy, but I was so relieved the cowboy was taking me in the opposite direction, I didn’t care. It wasn’t until I was on the dance floor I realized I had broken my own rule. Here I was dancing close to a tall cowboy with a buzz cut. Oh, this could be trouble!

Not wanting to waste time I figured I’d find out exactly what was wrong with this guy and then get back to the table and enjoy the rest of my evening. We exchanged names, I told him I didn’t usually slow dance and apologized if I stepped on his feet. He told me if a horse could step on his feet, then me stepping on his feet wasn’t anything to worry about. I had a snarky comment about the horse thing, but I kept it to myself.

As we made small talk I found out he was a soldier at Fort Campbell, looking for a tourist to “date.” We had a lot in common, he was coming out of a bad relationship too.

I asked him at least twenty questions during the dance. I was determined not to repeat the bad relationships of my past. So I had this checklist in my head and on the first wrong answer, this guy was going to be history. The only problem was, he was getting all the answers right, and from the way he answered, he seemed to be pretty honest. That was different. He was different.

I asked him if he did drugs? No. Did he drink a lot? Mountain Dew (Hmm, that’s what I drink). Drugs and alcohol abuse were the big deal breakers, I had been around those guys, and wasn’t going down that road again. He passed the first two big tests. Time to just hit him with the big list of WHAT I DON’T WANT.

I asked him if he knew how to read? What was the name of the last book he read? You name it, I was straightforward, to  the point and more than a little obnoxious. I was sure I had put this guy off. He would never look my way again.

When the song ended, he followed me back to my table. He made me laugh and spent the rest of the evening at the table with Beth and I. He ordered a Coke (they didn’t serve Mountain Dew). I told him he was free to order a beer if he liked, he didn’t have to drink Coke just because we were.

He replied, “I’ve been holding this same beer all night.” One-half of a beer ALL NIGHT, what strange world was this?

He got his soda and we talked until they closed. He still got all the answers right. I was amazed. As he walked me to my car, he asked me out for the next night. The rest is history.

The first date is another story. 🙂

It’s hard to believe I have been with that cowboy all these years and I love him more every passing day. Amazingly, I owe it all to a guy with green teeth.

It’s strange how God works in ways we could never imagine. Be open to the possibilities, but never settle for less than what God has for you.

Thanks for reading.