I know, it’s a hard job. There’s so much pressure, deadlines, producers; there used to be a whole summer rerun season to work on the next one and now who knows what the hell goes on. Well, maybe they do, that would make sense, but that doesn’t make it easier.

I know a lot of book authors, and they struggle with just slipping into tropes. There’s even less time to struggle with TV deadlines.

At one  point, The Mindy Project was one of my favorite shows. I was really pissed about what they did with the character of Danny when the show was still on network TV. They turned him from a doctor who happens to be a Catholic mama’s boy into a weird obsessive freak who would go so far as to manipulate Mindy and her surroundings to get her pregnant again right away without her consent. Against her expressed statement that she didn’t want to. Then the show got cancelled, to the surprise of no one watching.

Fortunately it got saved by Hulu, where the writers decided there was no saving Danny, and they split up. They fixed Jodie from a Southern stereotype into someone who is, in fact, rich & white & slightly racist, but wears regular clothes and fits in more with the really real world.

But while Doctor Mindy Leheri got back on track doing her job and looking much better, the new writing team has a constant need to get people together and break them up right away. Not learning her lesson about dating at work she nearly hooks up with Jodi while almost getting back together with Danny who’s marrying someone else. OK, whatever; annoying to me, but maybe other people find it hilarious. That’s not what bothers me.

They just broke her up with her latest boyfriend. No surprise, she was horrible to him the whole time. But you know, there were signs, if he’d paid attention.

On her doorstep one night in the beginning, he told her he knew that she was attracted to him, and her reaction was “What, no, gross”. Which he takes as a sign to kiss her, because nothing is sexier than ‘no’? I guess? But even more distressingly, she liked it.

So they start dating. She’s snobby about the fact that he lives in New Jersey, but he shamed her into being OK with it, and she was OK with that. Then in this last episode, he realizes that every time she introduces him, she can’t admit that he’s a nurse. They get into a discussion about how she’s always trying to change him, and he decides “…maybe *you’re* not good enough for *me*!”

Hmmm. Maybe next time someone responds to you with “eeewww, gross”, maybe walk away and wait for someone who DOESN’T react with disgust.

(quick hint for everyone out there – if you’re the type of person who always says the opposite of what you mean, you suck, and you shouldn’t act all butthurt when people walk away. And trust me, it’s not just women who do it.)

So far, it’s likely I’ll keep watching. They changed the new lady doc’s ‘thing’ from “tells it like it really is” to “has the affect of a robot and doesn’t particularly care if you like it”, which I don’t hate.

Another show that I kept watching was The Goldbergs, even through three seasons of teen stalking. Of course in a sitcom the popular teen girls have weird nerdy guys who have super-strong crushes on them. Nothing wrong with a crush. But one of them is the older Goldberg brother who has a crush on his sister’s hot friend, so I guess we’re supposed to WANT him to be happy. I didn’t hate the writing so much as I hate the fact that people get encouraged by TV and movies to continue their own bad hopeless behavior (I still hate Jerry McGuire to this day).

Of course he gets the girl. At least they didn’t make him immediately popular and hanging with the cool kids & stuff. He was still a weird unpopular dork, but with a hot girlfriend.

IMMEDIATELY after that, they start escalating the brother’s friend’s crush on the Goldberg sister with the hot friend. “Oh no”, I think. I was SO relieved when he started dating someone else, but it was spoiled by the sister first deciding that she really did like him all along. When she rushes to him and sees him with his new girl, I could just hear the cries of the unrequited the world over; “SEE? If only he’d waited A LITTLE LONGER, he’d have had his dream girl! I can’t give up now!”

So, of course, she spends most of a season stalking him and trying to break them up. He eventually sits her down and explains that it’s just not going to happen. Because, apparently, it only works for boys.

After that, the focus went back on the family, and we got to see more of the parent’s relationship as well. I adored the scene of the dad standing on the dance floor while his wife twirls around him. So cute. And yes, that counts in the really real world, I’d be totally happy if I could get a guy to go dancing; knowing how isn’t a requirement.

Some people seem to think that complaining about stuff like this is “political correctness” or whatever nonsense they’re complaining about now. But really, it’s common damn courtesy. If someone only likes you as a friend, that’s not being put in some weird other realm or zone, it’s just how they feel. That’s all.

The media reflects us, but the media can influence us if they want. So here’s what I personally think we should strive for, and maybe it will trickle into our art.

First – stop expecting people  to read your damn mind. Don’t answer the question “What did I do?” with “If you don’t know….” Because obviously they don’t, and you’re just being a dick. Stop thinking that your partner is going to automagically know that your stony silences mean “why don’t you ever ask me what *I* want to watch?” Or whatever it is. The fact that you don’t want to speak up is a separate issue from the fact that they can’t read your mind. Learn to communicate. And not from your friends, they’re probably doing the same thing.

Second, which is sort of in the same vein – say what you mean. Don’t say “I don’t care; whatever you want”, and then get mad if they choose something you don’t like. Don’t say “It’s fine” if it’s not. Don’t “play hard to get” — if you reject someone, don’t get mad if they stay gone and don’t chase you. They’re respecting your wishes and your boundaries. Dating shouldn’t be a game of manipulation, it should be two people getting to know each other.

Third – stop trying to avoid conflict. Some people justify “little white lies” far more than most … they can’t deal with people being mad at them, or maybe not liking them anymore, or when they cry. They’ll say anything to avoid that, thinking that they’re being “nice”. That’s why straight women never say “I’m just looking for a nice guy” anymore, they say they’re looking for a GOOD guy. Someone who will tell them how they feel, even if they don’t like it.

“Ghosting” is taking that to an extreme, but you know what it’s better than? Staying in a relationship you don’t want to be in, just because you don’t want to be the one to break up. These people usually start being more & more of an asshole, trying to get the other person to break up. And yes, I speak from experience, and I am really, really, really bad at taking hints. If you’re upset, I want to fix it for you. As much as I hate ghosting, if that’s what you want, at least you’ve removed yourself from my life and I don’t have to deal with your shit.

Fourth – learn to deal with unrequited feelings. Yes, something else I know from experiencing it. I’m currently experiencing it. And you know what? It’s not his problem. It’s 100% mine. Sometimes the stars don’t align. It’s OK to listen to songs that say “Why don’t you see that the perfect one is right in front of you?” because oh, why can’t they? But they can’t help *not* being attracted to you any more than you can help your feelings for them. That’s OK. That’s normal. And like the guy in The Goldbergs, when someone comes along that *does* feel the same way, you grab them because that’s so much better than someone you have to convince that you’re awesome. I know that for a fact as well, because this isn’t my first go-round. Yes, it doesn’t just happen to the young people. Sorry to be the bearer of that bad news, lol.

Five – stop thinking other people’s wishes should always be worth more than yours. This is hard for some people, but if you think you’re worthless, then why wouldn’t everyone else? The type of person who likes their partner to be a doormat and to always give in isn’t the type of person that’s good for you.

Finally – stop giving bad advice. It’s normal to ask your friends “How do I know when to kiss her?”, but your friends aren’t as good at it as they’re trying to pretend they are. There’s this myth that talking about romance kills it. But it doesn’t! Really! Say you’re at the end of a date, and you’re looking for a “sign” that she wants you to kiss her. Pro tip – most people are just standing there waiting to see what you’re going to do, not signalling. Most of us straight girls never get the memo that we’re SUPPOSED to be sending out signals!

So, just say “I really want to kiss you right now.” Lean in to do so. Does she move out of the way? Then she’s not into it, or you. Say goodnight. It’s OK, sometimes the stars just don’t align, there’s no spark, whatever the hell attraction is. No one knows, the only way to find it is trial and error. The less time you waste trying to “convince” someone you’re date material, or trying to “convert” someone you’re pretending to be friends with, the more time you’re out looking for that person who thinks you’re great just the way you are. I’ve seen a LOT of dorky, awkward people at conventions meet significant others, so I think there really is someone out there for everyone.

Back to the kiss – you’ve told them you want to and lean in … and so do they. Hooray, goodnight kiss! Wrap your arms around them! What you do next is up to your comfort level & theirs, but keep telling them what you want, and you just may get it. Or maybe a “not so soon”. But you can feel good because you don’t have to wonder what’s up, you know for a fact.

*****

So, why is this so important to me that I’d sit down and write a novel about it? Five decades of fending off guys who think that “I have a boyfriend” means “I do actually want it, I just have to put up a token resistance”. That was a big myth back then; that women really wanted sex, but weren’t “allowed” to say so; they had to pretend to fight you. How did you know that they wanted it? They’d signal!

One of the scariest days of my life was finding out about all these signals. My boyfriend was mad at me for “flirting”, and I didn’t know what the hell he meant. Apparently, in his social circle, if you were twirling your hair with your finger, that meant “I want sex”. Not “I’m trying to be cute so you ask me out”, like I always thought. Also, wearing ankle bracelets for some reason. There was this whole LIST of perfectly normal actions that men interpreted as “I want sex”.

Why is that terrifying? Because of the “If she changes her mind, it’s ok to do it anyway, because she’s being a tease.”

That’s right. If you’re twirling your hair, and you start making out, and then he starts taking off your clothes and you object, it’s OK to force himself on you because you’re being a tease. No man that does it considers that to be rape. That’s what they mean by “20 minutes of action”.

These are the possibilities that (mostly) women face when sizing up a potential date. Not respecting your wishes about your meal choices doesn’t bode well for respecting your wishes on more important matters. Men who have never physically overpowered a woman don’t seem to realize just how easy it is for them. Women who have never been overpowered feel the same way. Judges tell you to “just keep your knees together” because it’s always the victim’s fault for not stopping it. I watched a cop laugh at a male friend who’s wife beat the crap out of him with a baseball bat, waiting until he fell asleep on the couch, and hitting him in the face first. Even at 6′ 5″, that’s not really something that you can defend against; you’re in intense, horrid pain before you’re even awake. But it was still his fault, because he was so much bigger than she was.

If someone stops returning your calls or texts, you may have crossed one of their “I don’t think I can trust this person” boundaries. And yes, straight women, men have boundaries as well. Finding out what it was will NOT help you on your next date, because everyone is different. Very, very different. I have to refrain from punching people in the throat that tell me “Good girl!” like I was a dog, but yet I don’t care about being called “sweetheart”. People are weird, man, and you can’t take it personally – that’s right, I just said not to take having your person rejected personally. You can do it. It takes practice, like everything else. Stop texting them and start looking around you for someone else.

I was working the polls this election, and was telling some voter that I remember “growing up in the Mad Men era”. The young ladies I was working with didn’t know the show, so I explained to them that when I started working, it was “normal” for  a boss to pat the women at work on the rear while saying “good job!” If you made a fuss about it, you were a bitch, or were asked if you were on your period, or just fired because you’re not a “team player” or whatever. The look of horror on their faces reminded me that this was no longer considered normal, so things really do get better.

As for dating, I felt unlovable because no one ever asked me out. Well, no one my own age, older men weren’t shy about coming on to me, even at 14. Later on I’d run into people who I went to school with, and they’d say “I had such a crush on you!” This was supposed to be a compliment, but I was pissed off. Most of them were guys I’d have said “yes” to. Sure, I was built like a Barbie doll, but I wasn’t one of the popular kids at all. By that time I’d already latched on to the first guy who made me feel wanted, who actually asked me out; no surprise that he turned out to be an emotionally abusive, manipulative, gaslighting jerk that it took me nearly a decade to escape.

Some guys never ask girls out, saying “I just figure they know that I want them, and that they’ll come up to me”. Um. Most women, most people, even really hot ones, don’t go around just assuming that everyone wants them. Some women will try asking a guy out, but after a couple of times of being told that they don’t like “aggressive” women, the women give up. I have several women friends who have just stopped dating completely because it’s just too damn tiring.

Too long? Didn’t read? Too bad!

Ha, kidding. To sum up … don’t be a dick. Speak up for what you want, pay attention to what other people say they want, realize that what you want may not line up with what other people want, and know that that’s OK, even though it sucks. You can’t stop sometimes being sad, or angry, or frustrated, but there’s always a way to get your point across without being hateful or spiteful. Always. Find it. Leave the room for a while if you need some time. If you can afford a therapist, vent to them, that’s what they’re there for. You can’t control anyone else’s actions or attitudes, but you can damn well control your own, and that will make your own life better.