26 September 2008

"We're doing worst first dates."

I win! Ok, it was a minor league hockey game. He brought his brother, and when I went to the bathroom, the game ended and they forgot about me.
(Pam, "The Client", Season Two of The Office)

I work in an office full of many single people. We spend a lot of time talking about dating. This is really unique to BYU, I know, but what can you do? That potentially awful time of life where you're in a feast or a famine - it starts to feel a lot like clothes shopping to me. You go into the store with an idea of what you would like, but you grab lots of clothes anyway if they look like they might work/are the right price, and then you try them on in front of a mirror. Sometimes you get an opinion. If you're me you put them all back. Some people buy a ton. I don't know. Maybe the metaphor is flawed. But I've been thinking about what makes a good first date - and here's my list.

1. Short. I don't think there's much reason at all for a first date to go beyond an hour or so. It's really all you need. A nice event (ie, dinner) that involves talking to one another. Something that is planned but not over planned. I don't think it's fair for guys to put so much pressure on themselves to come up with WAY CREATIVE first dates. It puts undue pressure on the girl to say yes again and it takes too much effort on the part of the guy. Besides - after about an hour or so, you more or less know if you're interested in seeing that person again.

2. Promptness: This is the situation that inspired the post in the first place. Hypothetical Guy asks Hypothetical Girl out on a date. Girl says yes. Guy does not call girl for more than a month. Guy calls girl on a Wednesday for the following Friday. Girl says yes. Guy says that he will call girl on Thursday after he figures out what they are doing and that Girl should plan on something around 7:00 Friday. Girl does not hear from Guy until approximately 4:30 the following Friday. Girl not so cleverly tells Guy that she has other things to do. See - here's the thing. Maybe this is picky, but I don't really think so. If a guy is interested in the girl and he asks for her number - he has about a week (maybe two) of grace period with which to use the number. This doesn't mean that he has to take her out in that oneish week - but some kind of contact to let the girl know he is still interested would be nice. Furthermore, dates should be planned before calling to schedule, and the guy should followup. It's courteous. Not to mention that the girl needs to know how to dress/if she should eat/what time she will be back, etc. If this is me being anal, then so be it. But for a first date or so - spontaneous activities don't so much fly.

3. Groups are nice: I'm a big fan of first dates in groups, generally speaking. It takes pressure off everyone involved and kind of relaxes you into behaving more like yourself. At least it does for me. I always feel a little bit too much under the magnifying glass on a first date alone with someone I don't know all that well. If you've known the person longer, it wouldn't be a big deal.

4. Planned in advance: I mentioned this already in number two, but have something in mind already. Maybe even a few things. One of the nicest things a guy ever did for me on a first date proposal was options. He had two equally great (and unique but not over the top) ideas in mind and he let me choose. It was probably the best first date I ever went on.

5. Post date - if you're interested in going out again - you've got that two weekish grace period back. And say thank you, even if you aren't interested in going out again. I like it when I hear my roommates calling to thank their dates for taking time for them. Again - this is kind of picky, but it's about courtesy.

Long story short: It's all about courtesy on that first impression. So, sorry to the (Not so) Hypothetical Guy that I'm ditching on tonight. But I've got a paper due on Monday and about 300 pages of reading to do and. . . I'm not going to wait around for you to remember me.

17 September 2008

"I saw it. I saw it with my own eyes."

I return from my several week hiatus of blogging rather exhausted from the first few weeks of a new semester, but also rather happy to be back in school. Aside from one very monotonous class where I listen to a man tangent for two hours twice a week, my classes are quite satisfactory. They are also quite time consuming, hence the lack of blogging. I return a conquering hero having not completed all my homework for the night, but enough that I can afford a small break.

As part of the scholarship I won for creative writing I am required to take a creative writing class. Shocking, I know. I had signed up to take a class from a professor I haven't studied under before but I walked into class on the first day and she said something to the effect of "if you are here to write anything other than poetry, this isn't the class for you." Well. I have no desire to write poetry any more than she would have the desire to read it. Poetry is not, has never been, and never will be my forte. I just don't appreciate it as much. No big deal. The world has many poets.

So I've managed to get myself into a creative non-fiction writing class taught by the same professor who led my study abroad to England last year. Much of this class feels like it's starting over for me on things I don't really need, simply because I've been writing creative non-fiction for long enough now that I don't really need the introduction. So I've been using much of the class time to just work on my own stuff.

Much of that is because some of the discussions in the class have started driving me a bit mad. (Prepare yourself, I'm about to sound elitist and snobbish.) One discussion in particular that was frustrating to me is one that we had last week about exactly what creative non-fiction means. Because even though it is marked as "non-fiction", there really isn't such a thing as absolute truth in memory. It doesn't exist. Our "earliest memories" may or may not be real. The way we tell an experience may be different than exactly what happened. We consciously and subconsciously re-write the past all the time.

This makes some of them feel dishonest. Because the past has to have some kind of existence somewhere, right? Everything is present before the Lord - if nothing else, He has to have a record of the absolute real truth.

But does that matter for me? As a writer, does it matter if I tell the exact absolute truth as I saw it with my own eyes or is it more important to try and capture some other "essence" of my "memories"?

The funny thing is that when I try and write about the conflict in what truth is absolute and what truth I construct for myself - it frustrates me. I can't really define it. All I can really say is that when I write, if something feels honest to me, then I run with it. Even if I know that it isn't exactly true. Take my England essays for example - there were times when I would downplay or exaggerate certain elements of a story in order to bring out other more important points. The point of an essay isn't to put a stamp on this inanimate thing you have in your head - to put words to something that is wordless - it's the same as adapting a book to film. You have these two different mediums - mind and word - and you have to find a way to reconcile the two.

It makes me wonder, though, whether God will take into account, somehow, what our memories tell us. I'm sure there are several stories in my mind that are somehow not right thanks to time and space and perspective shifts - but does that matter?

The longer I think about the word 'truth' the more I feel that there aren't many 'truths' out there that are 'absolute' in the conventional connotation of the word.