Mother, Daughter, Pasta, Wine – Our Italian Getaway (Pre-Trip Interview)

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My mother and I leave for Italy in 3 days! While I am a seasoned traveler this will be my mom’s very first visit to another country. I can’t wait for her to see the Colosseum and drink Italian coffee.

I think that my mom will learn so much about me on this trip. She’s going to see me in a way she never has, communicating and maneuvering in a faraway land. If she hasn’t yet understood my desire to explore, I’m sure she soon will.

I decided to interview her before we leave to see how she’s feeling about her upcoming Birthday Trip. Here’s what she had to say:

Me: Why did you pick Italy?
Mom: Because you wouldn’t go to Israel with me. Just joking : ) I have always wanted to go to Tuscany, to take some cooking lessons. I used to love to cook (I still do just don’t have any time for it). When you kids were young I used to make you watch me cook and I would pretend I was on the Food Network. The only one really interested was your brother, Ronald.
Me: What are you most excited about?
Mom: On my birthday. November 2nd, we will be at a Farmhouse taking a cooking lesson in Tuscany, just like I’ve always wanted. I cannot wait for that. Also, I am a prayer. I love my time with God. I plan to bring my journal with me so that while I am there I can just sit somewhere, peaceful and beautiful and spend time with God and journal (probably early in the mornings while you are still asleep).
Me: Are you nervous about anything?
Mom: The only thing I am a little bit nervous about is flying over the Atlantic, but I have given my fears to God so I will be okay!
Me:This trip is going to expose you to a whole new culture. What are you hoping to learn?
Mom: I love people, no matter their sex, race or creed so I am looking forward to meeting new people and learning how they live, work and play. I want to see how different things are from what we are used to here in the states like the toilets, food and the different products that they use. I will be interesting to see how shopping, transportation and entertainment is different because I think we tend to have the mindset  that  everything is done exactly the we do things here at home.
There you have it, folks. She’s ready to go!
It’s not too late to donate to her Birthday Page before we’re off.
Ciao!

Why #ImWithHer

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton. This will not surprise most people that I know. I did not watch last night’s debates to be persuaded otherwise. I watched to hear my Candidate lay out her plans for my Country’s future.

I would like to state that, for me, this Presidential Election is not about Democrat/Republican or Man/Woman. I honestly believe that if Donald Trump had somehow managed to worm his way into achieving the Democratic Nomination, I’d be voting Republican.

The truth of the matter is that one of the two people who took the stage last night is going to hold the most powerful position in the world (you can vote Third Party but please understand the risk you are taking).

So supporting Hillary Clinton is more about me NOT supporting Donald Trump above anything else.

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For some reason, Donald Trump seems to be exempt from standards that we have held for every previous Male Candidate running for President.

For instance, if President Obama had called a woman a “Pig” or Mitt Romney had refused to release his Tax Returns neither would have had a shot in the last Presidential Election.

Trump is getting away with both of those things and so much more! What’s more, the fact that he’s getting away with it is spurring him on and inflating his ego to bigger proportions than ever before.

I feel like I am watching the equivalent of a Street Performer applying to be a Neurosurgeon. Everyone at the hospital knows he’s not qualified but they’re bored and don’t want to see the Juggling Acts in the Break Room to go away.

If we’re even going to try to lump Trump in with previous candidates then let’s begin.

Yes, all politicians lie.

They lie to bend the truth or skew the facts. Trump, however, seems to lie for the sake of lying.

Example: Back in July Trump said that the debate schedule was rigged (The presidential debate commission announced the dates for the 2016 debates September 2015) and the NFL reached out to him to complain. In fact, they sent him a letter. The NFL was quick to deny that any such interaction had occurred. Also, Trump has yet to produce said letter. This wasn’t just a lie, it was a fabrication produced out of thin air to help him prove a point. That’s scary.

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Sexism

I don’t think anyone has much of a case if they are trying to deny that Trump has a problem with women.

It is well documented.

In fact, he couldn’t resist bringing up comments he’s said about Rosie O’ Donnell and saying she deserved them, during a Presidential Debate.

Let me repeat that:

Donald Trump mentioned and defended mean, hurtful things he’s said about Rosie O’ Donnell DURING A PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE.

It may be perfectly acceptable for two entertainers to spar back and forth but I have higher standards for my Presidential Nominees.

“Rosie O’Donnell — I said very tough things to her, and I think everybody would agree that she deserves it and nobody feels sorry for her.” -Trump

Actually, I do feel sorry for her, Donald. Because she started this fight with a Millionaire Reality Star and it’s being continued by a Presidential Nominee.

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He’s A Bully

But he’s a methodical bully who teases the public with what he would have done or said.

He said this during the debate:

“I was going to say something extremely rough to Hillary, to her family and I said to myself ‘I can’t do it. I just can’t do it. It’s inappropriate. It’s not nice.”

And this after the debate:

“I’m really happy I was able to hold back on the indiscretions in respect to Bill Clinton. Because I have a lot of respect for Chelsea Clinton. Maybe I’ll tell you at the next debate. We’ll see. But I’m very happy.”

We can even go back to his response of the Democratic National Convention:

“I was going to hit one guy in particular, a very little guy. I was going to hit this guy so hard his head would spin, he wouldn’t know what the hell happened.”

You see how he’s managed to bully and insinuate by giving himself credit for not bullying? You see that, right?

I could go on and on with example after example as to why Donald Trump’s candidacy is a joke but I don’t have the energy.

I believe that this Presidential Race is different than any other in history. We can really fuck things up by playing Russian Roulette (pun intended) with ‘The Donald’.

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I am voting for Hillary.

If she doesn’t do what she says then I’ll try again in 4 years. Until then, I know that she is fully capable of keeping the country afloat*, but I truly believe that Donald Trump does not have the capacity to do the same.

*By afloat I mean:

– Maintain Foreign Relations

– Run our Military and Defense Programs

– Balance a National Budget

– Understand how laws and the government works

So the word “afloat” is a huge understatement.


 

 

A Tattoo Debut

I got a new Tattoo! Perhaps not a big deal since I have 6 others but this one has a pretty cool story behind it so bear with me.

My brooding tattoo look.
My brooding tattoo look.

Years ago I told my dad that when he died I’d get a tattoo in his honor. His response was, “Why not get it when I’m alive so I can see it?” Touché, Dad. Touché.

When I asked him about his first “piece” (cool lingo, eh?) he explained that he had gotten it when he was 16-years-old by a local artist named Jacci. It’s a Tweety Bird on his left shoulder. Jacci also inked a Parrot on his right shoulder years later (it has two hearts with me and my sister’s names in them). Both of these tattoos make perfect sense if you know that my dad’s nickname is “Bird”. He’s been called that since he was a kid and most people don’t even know his real name since he only ever introduces himself as such.

My dad's very first tattoo by Jacci Gresham in 1979.
My dad’s very first tattoo by Jacci Gresham in 1979.
My dad's second tattoo by Jacci Gresham in 1983-ish.
My dad’s second tattoo by Jacci Gresham in 1983-ish.

For this reason, I knew that I wanted a bird on my shoulder too and I wanted it done by Jacci. However, my dad got his last tattoo by her over 30 years ago so tracking her down now wasn’t going to be an easy feat.

Turns out it was pretty easy.

After a quick search of the Internets I found out that not only is she still around but she’s also kind of a badass. She moved to New Orleans in 1976 as a budding Tattoo Artist. Today, she owns the oldest Tattoo Shop in New Orleans and is recognized as being the first African American, female Tattoo Artist in the country.

You can read all about Jacci Gresham here.

I was planning a trip home and knew I had to schedule an appointment. Not only was this the woman that gave my dad his very first tattoo but she was also a living legend!

I called the shop and talked to a fella name “Chopper”.

Me: “I’m coming to town and want to schedule an appointment with Jacci. She gave my Dad his very first tattoo when he was 16.”

Chopper: “Honey, Jacci has given half of New Orleans their first tattoos.”

I liked Chopper.

We exchanged numbers and texted back and forth to pin down the details leading up to my appointment.

I always get nervous the day I’m getting a new tattoo. It’s a pretty long-term commitment. But my excitement outweighed my nervousness in spades this time because it has been something that I wanted for so long.

Jacci's Shot, Aart Accent 1041 N Rampart St, New Orleans)
Jacci’s Shop, Aart Accent 1041 N Rampart St, New Orleans

Her shop, Art Accent, is on N. Rampart Street and is as colorful as the rest of my beloved city. My dad was beaming as we entered. It was quite obvious that the 67-year-old woman sitting behind the counter ran the show. Her and my dad caught up by reminiscing about a mutual friend, Three-Eyed Johnny, as she checked out his shoulders, “They held up nicely,’ she says of her two works of art created over 30 years ago.

The entire experience was wonderful. To be there with my 52-year-old dad, getting a tattoo by the same person who gave him his first one at 16 was such a special moment for me.

Jacci was thoughtful, gracious and a pleasure to be around. The same goes for her employees.

For something that I had looked forward to for so long, it was everything I had hoped for. I feel like I got to know my dad a little better that day. Listening to stories of his youth as I got my tattoo honoring him is something I’ll never forget.

My dad and Jacci Gresham.
My dad and Jacci Gresham.

I can’t imagine any future tattoo topping this one. At least not until me and Liam Hemsworth get matching hearts on our asses…….

Healed quite nicely!

P.S. – Shout out to my buddy, Jamal, for drawing up my tattoo for me. He’s an awesome artist and you can check out his work on Instagram.

P.P.S. – My mom also got her first tattoo by Jacci when she was 15-years-old. It was “Bird” in script on her left shoulder. She got it covered up after her and my Dad made an appearance on Jerry Springer where my dad revealed that our Miniature Pig, Darling, didn’t go to live on a farm but was lost in a rousing game of poker. He added insult to injury when he said he didn’t like her Chicken and Dumplings. It has since been replaced with a Butterfly.

 

Dragon Con 2016

I decided to trek into Downtown Atlanta and check out the Dragon Con Festivities this year. While I’ve lived in this city since 2008, I’ve never ventured into this particular event before. I’ve always figured that it wasn’t my thing.

However, I quickly realized that Dragon Con can be enjoyed by everyone. While I didn’t recognize many of the characters, it was cool seeing how passionate people were about dressing up. It was kind of like Pop Culture-themed Halloween. I especially loved seeing how excited the kids were to see there favorite Super Heroes walking down Peachtree Street. IMG_9542

If I Die Tomorrow – A How To Guide

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I grew up in a church that spewed fire and brimstone week after week. We were taught that the world was going to end soon. Jesus was coming for a very specific people and while I tried so hard to be a good “Christian”, I wasn’t confident that I’d be one of the chosen. The thought of condemning homosexuality put a knot in my stomach and I was constantly being reprimanded for something. The odds were not in my favor.

I spent the majority of my early teen years bargaining with God. I begged him not to end the world before I was old enough to get my Drivers License. When that milestone passed, I graciously asked him to hold off until I had kissed a boy. For some reason, I thought that the ‘Good Lord Above’ was concerned about my social life.

Anyway, the point of revealing these details of my life is this: I didn’t see myself living into my 20’s, much less my 30’s. Yet, here I am at 33 (drivers license and all) and have thought about death way more than I would ever have liked.

When people die everyone seems to make decisions to the best of their ability with, “It’s what they would have wanted.” so I’m going to take the guesswork out of my death the best I can. Here we go!

First of all, I want to share a little about my beliefs. I believe in God and Heaven because I want to. To be a bit broader, I believe in Deity’s and an afterlife. I want there to be something greater than me, I want their to be a place of peace to pass into once this life is over. However, I also believe that if there is a God, He (or she) gives zero shits about whether or not I believe in them. God isn’t some egotistical maniac kicking people out because they hurt his feelings. He’s not Donald Trump (Boom! How you like that Trump? You just got burned!)

Anyway, I recognize and respect everyone’s deity and perception of what Heaven is.

For me, heaven is about believing. I think of it this way: If you don’t believe in Disney Land there is no way you can ever go. People can tell you about it, you can see pictures of it, but if you are not open to the idea of it existing then how will you ever experience it?

I feel like religion has a place in my life because my Mom and Aunt have shown unwavering faith through the years and I truly believe that on their deathbeds they won’t be scared. That’s what religion is, it’s a way to cope with the anxiety of the unknown and if that’s all it is then I’m fine with that.

Now, for those of you who use religion to discriminate and justify being mean or who dare tell my loved one’s that I’m in a bad place because I didn’t subscribe to your brand of religion; shut up.

On to the next thing, my funeral:

I’m not going to be one of those people who say, “Don’t be sad because I died, be happy because I lived.” No. Be sad. I was awesome and me being dead is a real bummer. However, let’s try to make this whole Shindig as un-funerally as possible, shall we?

– Try to stay out of a stuffy Funeral Home as much as possible. If there is an open casket and you just have to see my gorgeous face one more time, do it quick then get the hell out of there! Have a Crawfish Boil in my mom’s backyard or a picnic in the park. Those are much better places to reminisce about how badass I was.

– Don’t wear black. Wear something that makes you feel beautiful, powerful and/or special. If that Little Black Dress you wear for Lady’s Night is it then fine, you can wear black. Otherwise, wear your Prom Dress, Football Jersey, whatever makes you smile because you feel like the best version of you. Don’t be stuffy.

– Love everyone. Recognize that everyone attending had a place in my life. I genuinely want my ex-husband and my boyfriend to find common ground on that day. I’m not saying they have to join a Softball League together  afterwards but know that the other is grieving for their own reasons and respect that. For everyone in attendance, no snide remarks or digging up that past. I’m sure Becky is sorry for giving me shade in Kroger last year. Today, just let her be sad with everyone else. Capisce?

– I was a master at the Selfie. Seriously, I gave Kim K a run for her money. Use them freely. Do not pass up 300 perfectly mastered Selfie’s to get to the one picture of me eating a Chicken Wing in my pajamas. Just don’t.

– Let my niece’s and nephew’s (aka “My Babies”) pick out the music. This mean’s there will be Flo Rida’s “Welcome To My House”, Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” featuring Bruno Mars and many more awesome tunes. However, do be sure to play Sugarland’s “Stuck Like Glue” because I have fond memories of singing that with them.

My Gravesite

– My parents can bury me wherever they’d like. Whichever place they feel the most peaceful with.

– Ideally, I’d like to have a statue of Jesus winking and smiling with his arm stretched to where people can get under it for photo ops. I think this will make people smile and laugh and be happy. It will remind them not to take anything too seriously, even death.

– I’d like a bench at my grave with a plaque that says the following:

“You. Yes, you. I’m sure that at this moment you are very aware of the fact that life is fleeting. It goes by pretty quick. Trust me. So take a moment to sit with the person you’re with (I assume you’re not walking through a cemetery alone. That’s creepy and depressing. If this is the case, leave immediately and come back when you have a buddy) and share a story and a laugh. Enjoy being alive. It won’t last forever.”

Miscellaneous:

– If there is any money please split it between My Babies. It won’t be a lot but maybe it can help buy their first car.

– If anyone ever wants to do anything “in my name” such as a foundation or charity I’d like for it to help fund underprivileged teenagers to go on their first trip abroad. Ideally, it’ll be in some educational setting. I was afforded that opportunity and it changed my life.

– I want my clothing rack to go to my little sister, Jessica. All fashion items including accessories & shoes should be split up between my nieces, little sister, mom, nanny, Misty and Katie. I trust you ladies won’t let this be an issue.

-Remember that I was kind and a good person. I tried very hard to be a good and thoughtful friend. I was happy. So very happy.

– I’ve done more than I ever thought I would and pinched myself everyday.

– I was funny and it made me feel awesome if I was ever the reason for a laugh.

Just for fun, here are some very plausible ways in which I may end up dying:

  • I spotted a Cockroach; slipped and broke my neck trying to escape its impending attack.
  • I gave the man robbing me while walking alone at night (sorry Mom) “attitude”.
  • I finally tried a Hard Drug and immediately died of a Panic Attack.
  • Sitting too close to the T.V. and listening to loud music finally caught up with me and I just keeled over just like my PawPaw said would happen.

I’m sure I’ll add to this so stay tuned because I have absolutely no intention on dying tomorrow. However, if I do then please recognize that I deserve at the very least, a National Headline and at the very most, a 20/20 Special about my life.

P.S. If you doubt my Mad Selfie Skills then check out my Instagram. That can’t be taught.

 

 

 

Let’s Not Close Our Hearts (and minds) To Syrian Refugees

Me as a baby. My parents were teenagers and we didn't have much of anything but damn was I lucky to be born in the United States of America through no fault of my own. Pure luck.
Me as a baby. My parents were teenagers and we didn’t have much of anything but damn was I lucky to be born in the United States of America through no fault of my own. Pure luck.

If you are an American and you’re reading this then there’s a good chance that at some point in the past your ancestors made a brave journey to a new land. Some of them were welcome and some were not. For many, it was an easy transition but for most it was probably very difficult to start a new life in an unfamiliar land with people who did not welcome them. Either way, you can call yourself an American today because of the decisions made way back when.  Let me reiterate; you’re able to sit on your couch and yell at your TV about recent events because people you never met made decisions you had nothing to do with yet you’ve been reaping the benefits ever since.

Let that sink in. You’re a lucky son of a bitch. Whether you make minimum wage or a six -figure income. Whether you’re in need of government assistance or  you can afford college without taking out hefty loans.. You have been born with a certain amount of social status in the world class system simply by being born in the United States of America.

When people are publicly announcing that Syrian refugees are not welcome in our country it saddens me because our knee-jerk reaction should not be to isolate an entire group of people without taking a moment to see if there are other options that might be more beneficial for everyone involved.

Some people are saying,” I’m looking out for me and mine. Better safe than sorry.” but what if that was the sentiment when your ancestors were looking for a place to settle? If we do have another terrorist attack on U.S. soil it will not be because we legally and thoughtfully allowed those seeking refuge a safe place to call home.

During our country’s heyday of immigration there was still war, famine and extremists but we sent out a message: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

These terrorist groups want us to turn our backs to those in need because then they can pounce on their desperation. If Syrian refugees have no safe places to go then ISIS and Al Qaeda suddenly become viable options as a way to provide for their families. It can cause them to detest the Western world. These extremists want these refugees to wander because once they see that there is no other place for them anywhere else they’ll have no choice but to go back to their war torn homes and submit to those who destroyed their lives in the first place.

But what if the world opened their hearts to those who so desperately need it. What if we said, “We are more happy to do our part and take some of you, not all but some. We want to help.” The load shouldn’t be one country or economic system but everyone place has room for some.

Jack Markell, the Governor of Delaware has gone against the grain and let it be known that he will not shut his borders to those in need. Instead, he has a legal and attainable plan that can make a difference in some people’s lives. Read it and decide it it sounds unreasonable to you. Let it put things in perspective. What if his sentiment was the status quo. How would America be seen? Probably as a country of people who are grateful for the opportunities that have been afforded to them and wants to repay the blessing is some small way.

One day we’re going to have to be OK with the decisions we made in the past. We turned away Jews during the Nazi Germany era. We imprisoned over 120,000 Japanese-Americans during WWII. Do we really want to look back and see that history has once again repeated itself in a negative way? Was our reputations for compassion so fleeting?

You can call me naive and stupid for what I’ve written but let me point out that I fully understand why people want to close the borders. I don’t think you’re stupid, I think you’re scared.

I just want to encourage people to take a step back and look at the situation from a different perspective. That is all.

Dear 15-Year-Old Me

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I learned about the Dear 15 Me movement today and while I don’t usually jump on these type of bandwagons this particular cause had me thinking about 15-year-old me. Honestly, if I had the confidence that I do today when I was 15 I would have been unstoppable.

Sure, there have been a lot of experiences that have gotten me to the “I give zero fucks about what people think about me’ attitude that I have today but why couldn’t I have this sentiment back then? LIfe would have been so much easier if I had the ability to  hold my head high, set my own trends, speak up without having a tremor in my voice, etc.

I guess everyone has to go through the angst of being 15 but maybe this movement will help fast track some of these young ladies towards their inevitable greatness.

So here are a few things I wish I could tell 15-year-old me:

  1. The problems you have at 15 will not be problems forever

Believe me, you’ll have a whole set of other problems but those things that seem like the biggest deal ever won’t even be a blip on your radar. I promise. 

2. Your classmates, you’ll never see them again

And are you relieved? Seriously, most of those kids were total shit heads!  You may run into them from time to time in the grocery store when you’re home for a visit but those people who seemed so significant back then are irrelevant. High school was a class system that only mattered for that short period and doesn’t go beyond graduation. I don’t remember if that girl buying a bag of lemons was a cheerleader or not. All I know is that today she has three kids and better not try to  cut me off in the express lane.

3. Boys are nice but they’re just boys

Don’t get tied up in caring too much about what they think about you. They are nice to look at and there is no avoiding this “boy-crazy” phase but don’t get hung up on them. The good thing about boys is that there’s a million of them and they’re not going anywhere. Don’t daydream about spending the rest of your life with the dweeb that sits next to you in Algebra. Be selfish and think about you and only you for a while. There’s so many potential crushes waiting for you out there.

4. Be a kid

Go Trick-or-Treating. Let your mom throw you a birthday party with hats and a piñata. Those are privileges that you’ll only have for a short time. You don’t need a job and checkbook just yet. Trust me.

5.Moisturize

And generally take care of yourself. You only get one skin so be good to it.

6. Be  Nice

Don’t let school politics dictate who sits next to you at lunch. Carry this throughout your life. If you’re genuinely nice to people then you’ll be happy and everyone will love you. 

7. Recognize how big the world is

Seriously, it’s huge. Make plans to see as much of it as you possibly can.

I was not the popular kid in high school. I was in Chorus and Drama (keep in mind that we didn’t have Glee and Pitch Perfect back then, that shit was NOT cool). I didn’t get asked out ONCE and I’m pretty sure no one knew I existed most of the time. I thought that version of me was who I was destined to be forever but I was so wrong. Today, I’m pretty fucking awesome. I am confident and funny and have more friends who love me than I know what to do with. Who would have thought!

The Weird New World of Dating

Photo by Kelly Blackmon Photography.

I’m sitting at my local bar in Atlanta. One of the waitresses just got off and she sits on the stool next to me. We’re enjoying banter with the bartenders and the topic of conversation gradually shifts to relationships, or more specifically, our longest relationships. Everyone shares their number; the average is three years. Tommy finishes wiping down the bar, throws the towel over his shoulder and looks at me, “What’s the longest relationship you’ve been in, Ashley?” I was hoping to stay out of this one, but I answer honestly, “About 14 years.” His jaw drops. We’re all about the same age yet my longest relationship easily trumps everyone’s collective dating history.

Without getting into the gritty details, I found a boy I decided I could love forever when I was 15-years-old. I married him when I was 21 and thought I pretty much had life all figured out. By doing so, I figured I had avoided the whole heartbreak thing for good. But about a year ago, he decided he wanted out and I quickly realized that you can’t force anyone to be in a relationship if they don’t want to be. Hello, Broken Heart, nice to meet ya.

So here I am, new to my 30s and single for the first time in my entire adult life. I remember freaking out about turning 30, the fear of wrinkles and mom jeans slowly working their way into my life and taking over. However, those fears quickly fell to the wayside when I found myself faced with an entirely different future than the one I had invested in. All of a sudden, mom jeans were the last of my worries (however, if you ever see me donning shapeless, high-waisted denim please intervene immediately).

So I’ve made new friends; single friends. I had a lot to learn and needed people who could show me the ropes. Two of my newfound companions, Autumn and Sarah, have become pretty constant fixtures in my life. We group text about dates (sometimes in the middle of said date) and give each other pep talks.

We’re like the Southern version of “Sex In The City.” We drink beer instead of cosmopolitans and would balk at the price of Manolo Blahniks. They are more than happy to help me maneuver this weird world of dating I have found myself thrown into and I love them for it.

Ah, dating. My first real date was at 17 (by real date I mean my mother didn’t insist on tagging along). We went to McDonald’s for dinner and saw the movie Joe Dirt in the theater. We didn’t have cell phones or laptops. Fast forward 14 years and there’s Tinder and Hinge and OkCupid; oh, my!

I can only handle one dating app at a time and for me that’s Tinder. Tinder feels like I’m window-shopping for humans. People post their best photos, and in the South that often consists of holding guns or a variety of dead animals and posting a shout out to your favorite college football team. Every attempt is made to try and be witty in an effort to get that elusive Right Swipe. If both parties swipe right then you’re a match, yay! That means that you have the option to completely ignore each other, awkwardly message for several days without it ever going anywhere or agree to meet in person.

Tinder can be hit or miss (I’d calculate 10% hit, 90% miss). Someone catches your eye; they’re good looking, seem to have a good job and that picture of them with their grandma is adorable. You swipe right and it’s a match! You send a few messages back and forth; “Where are you from?” “What do you do?” Things are jiving so you exchange numbers. The first text you get is, “So, what are you wearing?” Ugh, back to the drawing board.

Of course, Tinder isn’t my only source of finding dates. I can snag a few the good ole’ fashioned way. The same problems persist, however. You just can’t possibly know how creepy someone is during that initial meeting. Sometimes you have to put in the time and effort to discover that they collect rabbit foot key chains and live off their aunt’s unemployment checks.

I’m discovering that dating is both fun and frustrating. It’s exciting to get dressed up and meet someone new.  However, when you feel like you’re really hitting it off with someone yet never hear from them again it makes you question everything. All of a sudden, you’ve become this weird version of yourself that is constantly checking your phone for text messages and jumping towards it every time it dings. I don’t like being that person.

Photo by Kelly Blackmon Photography.

I meet my friend, Claire, for coffee to vent on occasion, “I don’t get it. We had such a great time. He said it was one of the best dates he’s been on yet it’s been a week and he hasn’t contacted me.” Claire reaches for my arm, “Welcome to dating, sweetheart. This has been my life for years now.” A wild look in her eyes as if she’s excited that I’m finally part of her world. For years, she’d share her dating woes and I just couldn’t relate. Now, I’m in the trenches right beside her.

I’ve found a way to cope with this particular problem, however. Now when I go on a seemingly successful date and never hear from the guy again I assume he died tragically immediately after parting ways with me. I say a silent prayer for his family and move on. It’s how I cope.

I’m convinced that dating in the South is a special kind of dating. Guys here seem to be looking for that demure, soft-spoken Southern Belle. I am neither of these things.

First off, I’m probably going to be taller than you. The average height for the American male is 5’10. I am also 5’10 and heels are my friend. Many men don’t like having a woman tower over them. I’ve actually had guys ask if I can wear flats on our next date (which typically ensures that there is no second date). I go round and round with my sister about this via FaceTime:

Her: That’s what you’re wearing?

Me: Yeah.

Her: It’s cute but do you have to wear three-inch wedges? You know that’ll probably make you taller than him. Guys don’t like that.

Me: But they make my legs look amazing.

Her: This is true.

Next, I’m stubborn. I understand that Southern boys were raised by their mamas to open doors and pull out chairs but I am capable of doing all these things myself and cringe a little inside when people do it for me. Now, I’m not going to say a peep if you happen to open my door on our first date but in return, I’m going to need you to not freak out when I do the same thing. I have long legs, which makes it very likely that I’ll get to the door before you. Get over it. One of my biggest pet peeves is when I open the door and the guy stops and takes it from me so I can walk through first. Walk through the fucking door, dude!

I also would rather pay my own bill on the first date. There’s always a back and forth, them waving my hand away, “I got this.” Many times the waiter will totally disregard me and take they guys card. I put my wallet away, defeated.

Maybe because I’ve never dated as an adult until now but I just don’t feel the sense of entitlement that comes with first dates. I didn’t do anything to deserve my car door being opened or my meal being paid for. You don’t even know me. We’ll probably never see each other again, yet you’ve had to make all these grand gestures because you’re the guy and I’m the girl? This perplexes me greatly.

When I express these opinions to my girlfriends they gasp. “Oh, I will never call a guy back if he doesn’t open my car door. This is the South, we have standards,” they say.

Finally, I have a big personality. I don’t giggle, I laugh heartily. I’m usually the loudest, most boisterous person in the room. I have an overwhelming urge to know everything about everyone all the time. I talk to strangers on the train and am Facebook friends with everyone at my local Starbucks. I’m say that I’m not shy is an understatement. I don’t even know how to pretend to be shy. This can be overwhelming for guys. “Has anyone ever told you that you’re quite intimidating?” is something I’ve heard on more than one occasion.

Combine these qualities (yes, qualities!) and I can see how I can be intimidating to guys.  Sure, I can try to be quiet and unassuming but it would be so out of character for me and wouldn’t last long so why bother. I don’t see a need to change anything about me because one day I’ll find a guy who sees this weird combination and is like, “Yes, finally!” Until then, I’ll put on my heels and meet new people and cringe when they pull out my seat.

And just a few things I’ve learned during my short time dating:

1. No one talks on the phone. Ever. All communication is done via messaging and texting.

2. As much as I’d like to, you can’t discount a guy just because he uses “LOL.” If you did you’d never meet anyone.

3. Guys take just as many selfies as girls.

4. You really can tell if it’s going to be a successful date within the first 30 seconds.

5. Never say never, one day I just may date a guy who clips his phone to his belt.

This story originally appears on eidemagazine.com.

Parisian Christmas Markets – A Photo Gallery

Paris during Christmas is a whimsical place. Holiday markets dot the streets peddling sweets, mulled wine and pretty much any other food you can imagine. At night, the city twinkles with millions of lights. Top it off with ferris wheels, carousals and, of course, the Eiffel Tower and it’s quite clear why Paris the perfect city to explore during the holidays.