The Love Doctor is In: 5 Tips to Being With the Right Person

As someone who’s had a total of two, count them, two boyfriends, I know tons about dating and relationships. But being with someone for this past year has taught me a lot more about finding and knowing if you’re with the right person.

The world of dating and relationships is filled with questions (which I know because I’ve Googled them all):

How do I know he/she likes me?

When will I find the right person?

How do I know if he/she is the one for me?

Will I ever find someone who likes Cheetos as much as I do?

Before I started dating my current boyfriend, I remember having all the questions and none of the answers (because Yahoo! Answers is worthless). But in this past year of girlfriendom I’ve relationship-ed my way to the answers I was looking for. Some of the answers turned out to be a lot simpler and more obvious than I thought they’d be. Others I never thought I’d find the answers to, but here I am, sharing my wisdom (you’re welcome). So for those currently Googling “How do I know my boyfriend/girlfriend is right for me?” while their significant other is in the bathroom and for others reading an article in Cosmopolitan titled ’12 Ways to Tell If He’s Into You”, take peace – the expert is in.

First, let me state that most importantly – you are a strong, independent woman (or man) that don’t need no man.

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Sometimes I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be in relationships, to be with the right partner, to be coupled. Sometimes we see our friends or peers in relationships and we start to think, “What’s wrong with me?” But the answer is nothing. Regardless of what magazines, movies, books, tv shows, and your mother say, being in a relationship really isn’t that important. What’s important is you: understanding you, knowing who you are and what you need, being with you, loving (or at least liking) you. Because at the end of the day, when everyone is gone, you’re left with you. And if you don’t like being with you, how will you convince someone else to? We’re all messes regardless but before you start looking for someone to mesh their mess with yours, learn to love your messiness first, which can take a while, but that’s okay. It’s cool to wait!

Just kidding. Waiting is the worst. I’ve spent plenty of nights alone eating animal crackers and watching Law and Order in my bed. And I’ve kissed dozens of frogs (not that all of you boys were frogs, some of you were lovely). But it wasn’t always fun and sometimes it felt lonely. But I waited. I kissed frogs. And then a prince showed up and all that waiting was worth it. All the waiting and complaining and crying and listening to friends say, “I can’t believe you’re not dating anyone yet, you’re like PERFECT!” was over. And that will come for you, which I can only say because I know it will, because it happened to me when I was convinced it wouldn’t.

And it’s thanks to the guy who came along that I’ve learned these five things to look for while trying to find someone to be with or when trying to figure out if you’re with the right person.

Find/stay with someone who:

1. Loves your quirks – My boyfriend thinks it’s cute that I have an obsession with eating ice cubes (did I ever mention I have an obsession with eating ice cubes?). Most people think it’s weird. I think it’s weird. But he accepts it. Because he accepts me. And along the accepting lines, find/stay with someone who…

2. Loves the things you’re insecure about – I always thought I had weird thighs. For a while, my legs reminded me of tree trunks. And not like long, Rihanna leg tree trunks. More like stumps. That is until my boyfriend gave me a little perspective: “They’re perfect set-ups for your butt. And I like that butt. But you couldn’t have that butt without those legs.” Okay, while completely true, that’s a fairly silly example…wait, here’s a better one:

I have vitiligo on my lips that I developed when I was 14. And I hated it. I thought it made me ugly. I did everything I could to hide or get rid of it. But it wouldn’t go away. Sometimes I would look in the mirror and feel miserable because of it. One day, I mentioned that I was ashamed of my lips, that I hated the way they looked. And all my boyfriend said was, “I like them.” “Really?” I asked. “Yes. They’re different. They remind me of a calico cat. And I like calicos.” And he smiled at me. And every so often, when I’d take off my lip color, he’d say, “You don’t have to hide them you know. I like them.” Over and over. “I like them. I like them. I love them.” And now, my lips are no longer a feature I’m ashamed of. I don’t try as hard to cover them up. I go to school with no lip color on. I run errands. Because someone said that they loved something that I struggled to love myself.

And while these are fairly superficial examples, the principle for any insecurity is the same. It’s important to be with someone who will embrace the things you’re insecure about and who won’t just gloss over your insecurities with a compliment or a “Don’t be silly”, but will do their best to help you see yourself in a brighter light and help you learn to love the things you’re insecure of until you can get to the point where you say, “You know what? This thing I was insecure about isn’t that bad. And I do like this about me.”

3. Who is nice to you – Now this one seems obvious but it needs to be said. I have seen too many individuals, myself included, forget that one of the most fundamental qualities in a partner should be that they’re actually nice to you. Somewhere along the line, we started to allow not responding to text messages and acting uninterested and being disrespectful to be acceptable. “That’s just how guys are now,” or “Maybe it’s me,” or “She’s just playing the game” started to become our excuses. And when something nice was done for us, we immediately think the person doing it is weird or clingy (God FORBID someone wants to talk to or even hang out with you) as opposed to thinking, “Hey, maybe this is how I’m supposed to be treated”.

Fun story: During the time when my boyfriend and I first started hanging out, there was an instance where I was texting him about my day, which had been a rough one – long and tiring. After getting home late that night, I walked into my room and saw a bouquet of flowers on one of my pillows. And I started bawling. Literally. On the floor, crying.

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It was then that one of my best friend’s greatest lines was uttered in the doorway to my bedroom: “You know, most girls would be thrilled to have flowers brought to them after a rough day. You’re on the floor crying.” To which I responded by half-crying/half-yelling, “WHY IS HE SO NICE?” I couldn’t even compute it. After being so used to being used or manipulated or ignored or forgotten, someone genuinely showing, not only that they’re interested, but that they cared about me, literally fried my circuits.

Looking back on that day from where I am now, happily in a relationship with the guy who brought me flowers that made me cry, it’s hilarious to think that at one point, a boy being nice to me was such a crazy idea to me. Because, duh, I deserve someone who’s nice. I deserve someone who wants to brighten my day when I’m having a rough time. I deserve someone who wants to be around me and wants to talk to me. I deserve someone who will treat me like they cherish me. And so do you. And the best thing about dating someone who’s nice to you from the get-go: they stay nice to you. You can tell when someone is just being nice to get what they want out of you or to keep you around. But you can also tell when someone genuinely cares and wants to treat you the right way because they want to be with you. And those guys/girls don’t change.

4. Makes you better – Relationships aren’t just about having someone to steal french fries and blankets from (although those are pretty important too). The best partner is one that accepts you for who you are but wants to see you be even better. The best partner  wants to see you achieve your goals and wants to help you achieve them. They want to see you make choices that will better you as a person. They want to see you succeed. And they’ll be there when you feel like you can’t do something or when school is too hard or when work is getting you down and they’ll pick you up because they know you have it in you to keep going. They believe in your ability to be amazing, to be the best you can be. And that’s what they want. They believe in you.

5. Makes 365 days go by in a blur – Or makes a day go by in a blur, or an hour go by in a blur, because you’re too busy living in the moment with them to keep track of the time. When you’re with someone who you love or are head over heels for, you can’t believe how quickly the time passes. One minute you’re taking a walk in the park at noon, the next thing you know the sun is setting. (One day, he’s giving you a ride home, the next, you’ve been in a relationship for a year.) And at the same time, a day without them, without hearing from them or seeing them, feels like a week because all you want is to be with them.

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As I stated previously, I know all of these things are true because I’m practically a relationship expert. But I also know they’re true because, after a long time being in the dark, feeling my way through the dungeons of dating and douchebags, I found a light at the end of the tunnel. And he’s been my light for the past year. And I never thought I’d find him. Which is why I decided to write this post, as a reminder to those with people to cherish and as a hope for those who are  feeling their way through the dating dungeon and hook-up catacombs. I never thought I’d find someone like the one I did. I thought I was destined to be discouraged and dangled on strings forever. But here I am, happier with someone than I’ve ever been.

It’s achievable.

It’s worth it.

And if you hang on long enough and find it, it’s absolutely wonderful.

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You’ve Got Something On Your Thigh…

Quick Survey:
What’s wrong with these two pictures?:

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Stumped?
I’ll give you a hint!
Peep those crotches.

Target is getting lots of heat over their spectacular photoshopping job, done with the intent of giving the model a “thigh gap”. Assuming that you, the reader, don’t have a tumblr account, here’s an FYI: a thigh gap is gap or space that is visible between the thighs when a person is standing with both of their knees touching. “What’s the point of that?” I hear you and a brood of mothers asking. Answer: there isn’t one. The popularity of and obsession with the thigh gap was, for a long time, banished to deeper parts of tumblr where teenage girls reblogged black and white picture after black and white picture of thigh gaps. But the thigh gap has been creeping its way into more of the mainstream through models in magazines, hipster blogs, and now, Target advertisements.

Look, we know that models and celebrities are constantly photoshopped on magazine covers and storefront posters. Is it unfortunate? Yes. Is it a contributor to our obsession with perfection and a driver of our need to hold up to an ideal beauty standard? Totally. But at least other magazines try to fool us by not doing a crappy job of pretending that Taylor Swift has no back rolls in this dress and that you could balance a dinner plate on her collar bones:

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It’s one thing to know you’re being lied to by a glossy magazine ad, but it’s another thing to see a blatant attempt gone bad. Because it’s that ad-gone-bad that takes the problem out of the back of your head and puts it in front of your eyes: there’s a standard for what beauty or attractiveness is and try as you might to forget it, designers and clothing companies will try their hardest (or not their hardest) to remind you. “This is beautiful and this is what goes on magazines. Not your totally normal thighs that are the right size for your body shape. These thighs with this thigh gap that’s SO REALISTIC, we had to photoshop it onto a model who also doesn’t have it. She’s probably 5’10, 125 pounds. And we STILL had to give her one. So you TOTALLY have a chance. And when you achieve that thigh gap, then you can be sexy in these (actually pretty ugly) bathing suits.”

But maybe that’s where the silver bikini lining lies in this whole thing (and I don’t apologize for that pun). Maybe we needed to see this 8th grade level photoshop job to remind us that people are trying to pull wool over our eyes, to remind us that we live in a time of war against our bodies. We’re living in a society where beauty is only skin deep and if you want to be beautiful, you have to look the way society says you should, even if you can’t achieve it. But the problem is that we still try. We starve ourselves and run for days on end hoping for a result that might never come because some things just can’t. But we’ll push and we’ll push and depress ourselves, hoping to reach a standard that isn’t even a realistic one. And for what? To look like a picture? A picture that doesn’t have the capabilities that our bodies have – the ability to give birth, the ability to move gracefully, the ability to rock a mini skirt at a bar!

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We all have our body struggles. But this can be good for us. What I hope the public, especially teen girls and young adults, take away from this snafu is the reminder that perfection isn’t a real thing. That even some of the most “perfect” bodies in the world aren’t perfect enough to be in magazines and need to be chopped up in Microsoft Paint to meet the standards society’s decided on. I hope these Target ads are one of the last straws for girls and women struggling with the perception of their bodies, girls and women who pull at the skin on their bones, wishing it would disappear. I hope they look at these and say, “You know what? I’m sick of being sold perfection. It’s time for real to be beautiful.” I hope they walk around in their bathing suits, thigh gap or no thigh gap, jiggle or no jiggle, and I hope they march through the streets, thighs swinging and confidence high. It’s time to put an end to the influence that crummy photoshops and ridiculous body expectations.

It’s time to take a step towards embracing ourselves and the amazing bodies we walk around in.
Because have you seen some of the bodies walking around lately? They’re spectacular. They’re thick, they’re thin. They’re lean, they’re petite. They’re different and unique and are as good as anyone else’s as long as they think so. And it’s taking us women and girls too long to realize that. I know it took me too long but I’m here and I’ve realized and others should too. The time to realize it is now. The time to stand for our beauty is now – on our own two thighs.

And you know what, I might save these Target photos for the day my daughter comes to me and says, “Mom, why don’t my legs look like the girls in the magazine’s?” And I’ll pull out these photos and show them to her and say, “Because you’re a real person who’s supposed to have thighs like you have. And you’re supposed to have crotch where these two girls don’t.”

The Loss of Youth

“Is it the loss of youth, or the cultivation of wisdom?”

When I was eleven, I received the worst news I’ve ever heard. The words came from my mother but the lesson came from somewhere else…

Eleven is a weird age.
You’re not exactly old enough to be told the brutal truth but you’re too old to be coddled and rocked to sleep when the truth you’re told stops your world from turning.
You’re just old enough to stop believing in super heroes but you’re not yet old enough to stop idolizing one.
You’re old enough to know that pets and Pop Pops and Grandmamas die, but innocent enough to think that’s the only way it works.

But it’s not.
That’s not the only way it works.
And I only know this because I learned it, at eleven, when my brother died.

Here is where some child therapists and psychologists would say was the loss of my youth – the end of my childhood – the instance where I learned that life isn’t a safe bubble where the people around me that I love and cherish are around for as long as I am, the instance where I learned that anyone can go at any time. Mothers can lose their sons and can suffer for days. Fathers can watch their wives struggle and sometimes have to pick up the pieces. Rooms where you played and laughed in can fall silent and become empty. Children can become hollow shells…

“She needs to play,” one therapist told my mother. “She’s just a child and has been thrust into adulthood. She needs to remember she’s a child.”

Whenever I went to see him we’d play video games during sessions. I always picked Mortal Kombat (I always wonder if he jotted that choice down in his notes).

I stopped seeing him though (I guess my mother didn’t feel like paying deductibles for video game tournaments). Instead I saw other therapist after therapist, most of whom I never really liked. This one was too nice. That one was mean. This one said I was angry. That one said I needed to be on medication, but sir, I’m 12; that sounds terrifying. And of course, the inevitable: this one was too expensive…One thing they could always agree on, however: the loss of my brother was the loss of my innocence, the loss of my youth.

As for what the actual patient had to say, the answer was often nothing. I didn’t know what to say or do. I receded into myself. And in doing so, I learned. I learned how to wear masks for the benefit of others. I learned how to put myself last. I learned what unbearable pain was. I learned what the edge of one’s mind was. I learned what wanting to give up was, what a craving for the end was. I learned things you shouldn’t have to learn when you’re eleven.

But as I stand on the other side of those lessons I learned, I stand, no longer a wounded child, but a wiser, worldier youth. I learned things that I would never want a child that age to have to learn. I will shield my children from learning those things for as long as I can. But it’s those lessons, that loss of a life of innocence, that pushed me into the lessons that bloomed me into what I am right now. Those lessons, that loss, shaped me into a person with more experience than you might expect from a sapling like me – my experiences outweigh the number of rings I may have but it is that that makes me more sensitive to the suffering of those like me, younger or older. I’ve seen things and felt things beyond my years that make me able to reach out my arms to those who need them with an understanding that others might not have because they didn’t have to learn that understanding. My loss planted the seed to later wisdom, to empathy, and to a need to be selfless for the sake of others, so they don’t feel alone and don’t have to become a shell.

I would never want a child to have to lose their youth earlier than they are ready but if it happens, all I pray for is a seed of wisdom to blow in and quietly settle sometime during the storm to bloom when the sun comes in.

Age 4; age 12

Age 4; age 12

*inspired by this writing challenge.

In Defense of Being a Negative Nancy

I don’t like a lot of things.

I don’t like deli sandwiches.
I don’t like small talk.
I don’t like salad dressing.
And I don’t like people.

I hate people as a matter of fact. They’re terrible, infuriating, often sh#@!y sacks of skin that meander through your day with the sole purpose of making you miserable and frustrated (of course, I don’t mean you, beloved reader. I bet you’re great).

I can see you now, however, thinking to yourself, “Frenchie, that sounds a little extreme, don’t you think? That’s no way to live.” But let me explain:

Hating things (particularly people) gets such a bad rap, but the truth is: it’s completely normal, if not evolutionarily necessary! Consider this example:

You’re a caveman/woman, living in Stone Age. There are, like, eight other cavemen/women for you to hang out with. Most of them are pretty cool, have sweet drawings decorating their caves, do a pretty good job at hunting – top shelf cavepeople. But amongst this tribe of cavepeople are two or three cavepeople who don’t bother hunt because they figure they’ll just grab some of your sabertooth tiger meat, and don’t bother learn any skills like hunting or gathering, things that would benefit them or their tribe, because they’re too busy picking leaves off of trees and eating them, trying to find the ones that make them feel like they’re flying. If caveman-you hung out with them, you’d probably be dead before the end of the Stone Age, most likely from being ripped to shreds by hyenas because the lot of you were too stupid to learn how to make weapons and protect your cave, which you even more stupidly left meat outside of, because you all were stupid.

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Mmm, idiots.

See? Survival of the fittest involves the company you keep too. The surviving cavemen/women made it to the next round of natural selection probably because they were like, “Oh my GOD, I hate Oolga so much. She never helps us gather berries and she’s always too busy staring at herself in the river. Eww, she’s coming over to talk to me, no thank you. Tell her I’m not here.” And they got to live to see the next Stone Age.

Now, I’m not saying you should go through life hating everyone you make eye contact with. You’ll miss out on a lot of awesome new friends and experiences that way. Everyone you meet has the potential to add something enriching to your life, has something to teach you, something to show you. And everyone you meet has the potential to be someone you don’t want to live without.

And I’m definitely not saying that you should hate someone for prejudicial, judgmental, or words-that-end-in-ist reasons (I mean this is a blog run by a girl who also wrote about not wearing underpants to bed, people. I’d pity the person trying to justify racism with this post…).

But those things being said…
some people, after you get to know them, you’ll find, are actually awful human beings that you want nothing to do with. And that’s okay too. Don’t let the Polly Positives and Libby Love-Everyones of the world make you feel bad about it. We’re not going to jazz with everyone we hang out with; we just aren’t. Can you imagine if we did? All of our birthday parties would be scores of people large. So, really, not only is hating people evolutionarily necessary…it’s also just more economical, but I digress.

Look, I’m not advocating putting poison in peoples’ drinks or spitting on them when they walk by — You can still not like someone one but be nice to them – then they can’t hate you back because you’re rad — you’re welcome *wink*. I’m just saying that maybe we should cut feelings of intense dislike a little slack. Everyone feels them. Why do we demonize the act of not liking things? It’s a feeling. We feel feelings and that’s one of them. (Although, pro tip…don’t let your hatred consume you. Nothing good comes out of that one…I’m pretty sure that’s almost murderer territory so let’s keep you out of jail). You (the person reading this) are an awesome person. And if something inside you says that so-and-so sucks then fine. Maybe you have a reason for it that just makes sense to you. That’s cool. And if you don’t have a reason, well maybe reconsider that one. Or at least keep an open mind. Maybe at some point so-and-so will suck a little less and you can be cool with them then. People change – whether it’s them or it’s you. Or maybe not and so-and-so is destined to be an ass their whole life. In that case, good riddance!

All I’m saying is, you don’t have to be friends with everyone; you don’t have to like everyone, and you certainly don’t have to feel bad about it. You are entitled to hating people or things and I promise you aren’t the spawn of Satan for doing so.

I know.
I hate plenty of people and my parents aren’t Satan at all.

40 Days and 40 Nights

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I may not do Lent the way I was raised as a little girl, all dolled up in a church dress with strappy shoes and a big white bow. Then I put a quarter in a little cardboard pamphlet every day. When I got a little older I gave up things like the cookies I’d eat during lunch at school and would give the money as an offering on Sundays. One time my parents suggested I give up french fries. I laughed heartily. And the idea still makes me chuckle.

I don’t go to church anymore (backsliding Pastor’s Daughter on the loose) but I still think there’s merit and reward in taking a step back every year and looking at yourself and asking who am I? What’s holding me back? What are my crutches? What are things I can do to be a better person, for the world and for myself? What about myself can I change for the better? Even if you aren’t the most religious person in the world, I think there is self-awareness that comes in giving up something for 40 days, or even a week or two. Whether you give up television (or just a tv show for the less motivated) or go without ice cream stop using facebook, whatever you do, you’re giving yourself a chance to see yourself differently. Even if it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, you get a glimpse of yourself “If I didn’t do this” or “If I didn’t have that” or “If I did this instead.” In high school, cookies cost $1. But at the end of one school week I had $5. By the end of 40 days I had over $30 to give to my church, or to a charity, as I did in later years. These things add up. Money adds up, time to think to yourself (instead of watching Project Runway) adds up. When you give up something, you make room for something better to take its place or to happen.

That being said, I thought this year: what can I give up? What can I let go of for forty days? My friend Emilie suggested french fries, and I”ll tell you: that joke is just as funny as the first time I heard it.

So I thought some more: What’s something that would challenge me? Something that would really push me? Then, admittedly reluctantly, I figured it out: I, Frenchie Augustin, will go forty days without cursing.

I don’t know if it’s endearing that I’m going to try not to curse for forty days or not so endearing that I curse so much that I’m considering giving it up, but that’s beside the point. And I realize that I could probably give up something more important and introspective, like, not being so negative all the time (but whatever, life’s difficult), or not allowing myself to say “I can’t do this” for forty days (which is impossible, I couldn’t do that). As a matter of fact when I write it out it kinds of sounds childish…but somewhere deep down, I feel like this can be something of merit.

I curse so often that it’s practically my second language. It flows out of me, almost elegantly. If I’m to avoid cursing, I can’t just haphazardly let my mouth run while my brain turns off. I’ll have to think about my words, about what I say or will say, what I want to say. Now that I think about it, maybe I can keep myself from telling myself that I can’t do something or I can tell myself to stop being negative. Perhaps this exercise will give me new control over not only my mouth and what comes out of it, but control over my mind and the messages it sends to my mouth and understanding of the power of thoughts becoming words. Maybe I’m not giving up cursing for Lent – rather I’m picking up control.

And who knows, maybe I’ll be enlightened by the end of it (if I make it to the end). So enlightened, I could write a fucking book about it.

…that one didn’t count.