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Recent Work By Meghan Hunt

I’ve started dating again, after a full year of being as far removed from the scene as I could be without being on a different planet. Two dates in and a third around the corner and do you know what I’ve come to realize?

I hate dating.

I wished, once, for a time machine. I was instead gifted with the present. . .and no return receipt.

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Like a lot of writers – hell, like a lot of people – I spend a good amount of time in my head, wading through thoughts and worries and ideas and concerns. I imagine a smaller, miniature, version of me in fishing waders with a fly rod trying to catch hold of the things slipping by.

On a daily basis, about fifty questions speed through my brain so quickly I barely have time to recognize I’m even mentally asking them.

I think about these things almost always. My subconscious has become so clogged with questions that it’s started solving the puzzles and riddles while I’m asleep. My dreams have recently featured math quizzes from junior high, where I had a minute to solve as many multiplication problems as I could before my teacher would come by and snatch the paper off my desk.

My memory works best when it can associate times and places with the music played. Like how I remember the first time I danced with a boy because the song that played was ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ and Tiffanie became embedded in my brain alongside the awkwardness of having my arms wrapped around the neck of a boy who was a good six inches taller than me at the time.

This is generic advice, aimed at no one in particular (except a few older men I work with who won’t ever have the opportunity to read it). I’ve been mostly single my whole dating career – a few three to four month interludes throughout the years – and I’ve only recently come to terms with it. Throughout those years, though, some things are constant.

1. Always (always, always, always) think before you open your mouth. This is especially true when conversing with a single woman nearing 30. So, if you find yourself in a situation where you’re not quite sure if what you’re about to say is going to offend me, take a few seconds to consider just how awful your own foot might taste when it’s stuffed into your mouth.

2. Don’t worry that there’s something wrong with me because I’m approaching 30 and haven’t yet had a stable, long-term relationship. It’s like Deborah Kerr said – “Personally, I think if a woman hasn’t met the right man by the time she’s 24, she may be lucky.”

3. Stop telling Cat Lady jokes. Seriously, just stop.

4. Just because I’m happy without a romantic relationship in my life, doesn’t mean I’m prepared to walk into a room full of couples by myself. Bravery is one thing, but stupidity is a whole other. Cosmo Magazine would never tell you, but that’s why gazelles travel in groups – because it makes it harder for the lions to pick one out for dinner.

5. 99.9% of the people who are in loving, wonderful relationships are the EXCEPTION. I think it’s wonderful that you met your husband or wife by chance while choosing melons at the local market, but stop telling me that I need to shop for melons on a daily basis so I can meet the love of my life. I don’t even like melons.

6. Please stop telling me that it will happen when I’m no longer looking. The reasoning here is twofold: first, because I’ve stopped looking and it’s still not happening and second, because if this statement applies to dating then shouldn’t it apply to most other things? For instance, if I’m constantly looking for a bus and it doesn’t appear, then the minute I stop looking for a bus one will show up…and most likely run me over. This seems unpleasant.

7. Hollywood: STOP MAKING ROMANTIC COMEDIES. They’re not funny, they cause damage to one’s self-esteem, and they create unachievable goals in a world already filled to the brim with broken hearts. See here.

8. Not everyone gets a “happy” ending. Some people get the ending that makes them happy.

9. Do not (I repeat: DO NOT) suggest online dating to me when I complain about how difficult it is to meet men in this day and age. I won’t even say anything. I’ll just throw something at you (most likely something soft…maybe). Just let me bitch and moan and then tell me to suck it up and eat a cupcake.

10. Don’t worry so much. Life happens at a pace it sets for itself. You’ll be the first to know when I’m head-over-heels in love. Until then, let me be. I have a wonderful group of friends and for now, they keep me sane.

The 6 month sabbatical was supposed to end this month. I don’t think it will, at least not officially. I’m not saying that if some approximation of my better half pops up in front of me and asks me to dinner I’m going to say no. I’m just saying I need some more time to figure it out…whatever the hell “it” is.

You know the rant I gave a couple months ago about the horrible things romantic comedies do to single girls? I still stand by everything I said, but I need to make a small amendment. I learned a valuable pearl of wisdom from a romantic comedy a few years ago and it’s stuck with me ever since.

Jilly and I occasionally have these very heartfelt conversations about relationships. I usually feel lighter afterwards, like I’ve shaken off a few hundred pounds of expectations and ideals and other such annoying things. We talk about the men we’ve dated, the men we’ve wanted to date, and the men we see ourselves eventually ending up with when it’s all said and done.

It always happens this way.

I’m wandering along, content with my life, when I happen across a romantic comedy on tv and I, being the slow learner that I am at times, sit down to watch it because gee, I could really use a laugh.

I’ve given up dating.

Well, kind of. I’ve stopped dating. Not forever…I think. Just for a short while, just until the most recent gaping wound heals over and I can finally figure out what I want.

It’s a question of long term vs. short term. Should be easy, right?

Wrong.

So far, it’s the hardest thing I’ve done in recent years, this introspective cave I’ve entered. It’s a self-imposed retreat from the dating world for the next six months. I’m supposed to sit down and occasionally drink a beer (or something harder) and figure out what I want from the next relationship I find myself in (or not in, as the case might be).

I suppose that if it was easy, everyone would do it. We’d all take a six month break between relationships and re-evaluate the states of our lives. If it was really and truly easy, the people who have it all figured out already would be there, waiting for us, ready to dole out great pieces of advice and cupcakes so it would all seem a little less painful.

There have been no great pieces of advice as of yet.

Nor have there been cupcakes.

(I’m far more upset about the cupcakes, which may speak to the level of committment I’ve made to this self-improvement project.)

The lack of cupcakes and advice aside, it’s the questions that I’m struggling with right now, the questions about what I want for my future self.

Do I want marriage and children and a white picket fence?

Do I want the comfort and stability of a marriage without the hassle of a wedding?

Do I want to spend the rest of my life alone, drifting from one man to the next in pursuit of some happiness I’m not even sure I understand?

These are the questions I hope to answer in six months, these and others. The goal is to be a little more put together by Thanksgiving, to have a better understanding of my place in this world and what it means to be a single woman approaching 30.

(The first person to make an old maid crack, gets it.)

I have a feeling there’s a storm of epic proportions waiting for me down the road, sitting idle in the weeks approaching my birthday in August. Hurricane Deal-With-Your-Shit-And-Move-On could be a category 4 if 29 doesn’t go as well as I hope.

My father has this way of saying something without actually saying it. It’s about facial expressions, the way his glasses will slip down his nose. When either my brother or I would complain about the difficulty of a situation, the expression on his face would change.

His jaw would set and his chin would jut out.

His glasses – big glasses that cover his eyes and the top halves of his cheeks – would slip down ever so slightly.

And his mouth would quirk in this strange half smile that was too soft to be a smirk but too sarcastic to be loving.

It was an expression that said volumes. It said that if it was supposed to be easy, it wouldn’t be hard (there was always an implied ‘dumbass’ in that expression, typically reserved for our particularly whiny moments).

Sometimes you have to work hard for the easy answers. I’ll guess we’ll just have to see if he’s right.

I’ve discovered, by traveling at the holidays, that people in general are not a particularly nice bunch of bipeds. Especially at Christmas. They’re greedy, self-centered, bitter, and not above running you over for a better parking space. By the time I leave Maryland for the Great White North of New Hampshire and my family’s Christmas traditions, I’m so sick of humanity that I want to bitch slap it into the New Year.

I grew up in a small village on the Connecticut River in northern New Hampshire. There were more trees and cows than there were people and up until I was a surly teenager, I loved it.

Then puberty hit and I despised my little hamlet. Outside of my family, there wasn’t a single reason to stay and every day brought me closer to college and escape.

Now I’m 10 years past that day and 4 years past the day I left New England completely behind and every fall my heart hurts. It’s like the ache you associate with an old injury, the kind of pain cold weather and rainy days bring.

Leaving New England was like breaking up with a childhood romance.

I often wonder if I’ll ever get over it completely.


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I love the fall. I love the colors and the smells and the cold air that insinuates itself into the shadows, lengthening everything, changing the way the sun filters through windows. I’d love to live in a place that experiences fall weather year round.

Maryland is not that place. The summers are long and hot, lasting well into October. Winter is basically non-existent. Only spring obeys the rules and brings warming temperatures and bright green leaves with it. But fall in Maryland is a strange bird, arriving late in October and staying through early November. It doesn’t coordinate itself with my New England calendar. I find myself often angry with it for taking so long to arrive, but then forgive it for staying so late.

I’ve never craved a New England fall like I have this year. From late August right up until this very second all I’ve wanted is to walk through the White Mountains and listen to the leaves fall down around me. I want apple cider from Ellie’s in Northfield, Vermont and warm donuts from Cold Hollow in Stowe. I want to watch a Norwich football game, bundled up in sweaters and scarves and spend a day outside when it’s so cold I can see my breath well into the afternoon.

I want these things like I want to breathe and right now that terrifies me.

* * *

Jilly and I recently moved, packed up and ventured forth into the great unknown of southern Columbia to test the waters once again as dual roommates. We haven’t lived together, just the two of us, since we left Vermont 4 years ago and part of me worries that too much has changed for that dynamic to work again.

I’m needier. She’s busier. And let’s face it – we’re 4 years older. I don’t know why that matters, but it sounds important.

This is why my sudden need for New England scares me. Do I miss New England in fall because of the memories I have or do I miss it because of the person I used to be when I last experienced it?

Is it possible to miss a previous version of yourself?

There’s been a lot of change – personal and professional – for Jilly and me in the last month or so. She’s handling it like a champ, moving with it instead of against it and relishing the feel of a new current against her. It’s one of her strengths, that she adapts so well to new things.

Me?

Not so much.

I’ve become static, introspective, and hard to live with, I’m sure. She’d deny it, because she’s my best friend, but I know it’s true. I’m not myself…perhaps because I’ve changed so much in a month that I don’t know who I am anymore. My birthday seems like it was years ago instead of a month and a half and I’ve already broken all those promises I made to myself.

For shame.

* * *

I miss my streams, my fall in New England.

I miss early snows and mountains and steaming cups of coffee placed precariously on porch ledges while leaves are raked and preparations are made.

I miss my family.

Most of all, though, I miss myself…

Maybe it’s time to change that.

Dear Generic Online Dating Site,

While ruminating on my single status, I tempted fate and examined one of your websites. I perused the gallery of eligible men. I even went so far as to fill out a questionnaire and wait with bated breath while your “Romance Experts” (and yes, the air quotes are definitely implied there) tallied my results and told me my most likely matches were a man who lives in his mother’s basement but is “seriously working on moving up to the second floor” and a goat farmer who misspelled the word “goat” in his profile narrative.

(Seriously, it’s a four letter word. How does one misspell a four letter word? How?!) 

Amongst all of this dating excitement, I have discovered that your website is, quite possibly, the most useless invention this side of a melon baller. Now, thanks to the advent of technology, I can be rejected through various online means by the very men whom you claimed were “destined to be my soul mate”.

This is, perhaps, the greatest irony of all…seeing as how in your delightful little questionnaire I indicated that I DO NOT BELIEVE IN THE CONCEPT OF SOUL MATES.

Haha…hoho…funny little online dating site, oh how you amuse me.

It’s amazing, really, how you have created a subcategory of desperation. I know that before your arrival on the scene I wasn’t exactly sure how to define my own desperation. I feel much better about it now. It shouldn’t be too surprising, then, that your television commercials and magazine advertisements have convinced women over the age of 15 that the most horrible thing in the world would be to live their lives without a wedding ring surgically attached to their ring finger.

“What do you mean you’re 22 and not married?! Inconceivable!”

“You do realize that if you’re not married by the age of 30, you’ll never get married. You’ll die alone, eaten by cats, and your neighbors will find you wearing a housecoat and granny panties instead of a silk kimono and a tasteful thong.”

And so on, and so forth. 

Being single has been reduced to a disease, an illness that should have a cure and proper course of treatment. Perhaps your “Romance Experts” could write an article for the New England Journal of Medicine on the Great Plague of Singledom. They could suggest pina coladas and getting caught in the rain as two excellent medications for this horrible sickness.

Single women all over the globe are slowly but surely convincing themselves that joining a leper colony would be preferable to being unmarried at the age of 35. We never worried about these things until your quaint commercials began popping up and telling us that being worried isn’t enough, that we should be absolutely terrified.

Shame on you, Generic Online Dating Site. Shame on you for making us so concerned about a future spent without a husband. Shame on you for telling us that it’s not okay to date just to date, but that we should, instead, be seeking out a long-term commitment. Shame on you for suggesting that I cannot hang my own shelves or unclog my own drain or kill my own mutant spiders.

I could probably even milk my own goats…

Regards,

Meghan E. Hunt

“So many out-of-the-way things had happened lately, that Alice had begun to think that very few things indeed were really impossible.” – Alice in Wonderland

Being a pin-up model was a little like falling down the rabbit hole.

I arrived with bushy hair and a clean face, wearing a t-shirt and jeans, and within an hour I was transformed into a woman from a different era altogether.

There was this sense of disassociating from the moment, of leaving behind the Meghan who is Director of Research and Planning, the Meghan who is modest and self-conscious and self-effacing.

It was like creating a set of characters all my own, like having multiple personalities captured on film.

It was amazing…

Atomic Cheesecake Studios is in Parkville, on the outer edge of Baltimore, and as we crest the hill that will take us to Stacey’s house, I suddenly wonder if we drove through a wrinkle in time and came out in 1959.

It’s a neighborhood of gloriously retro houses, like a set from Bewitched, and I want to learn how to wiggle my nose and live there.

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This story actually starts in August, just after my birthday.

It starts with Jessica’s birthday present, something Jilly had been buzzing about for almost a month.

We were just in Colorado, visiting the Red Hot Mama (Valarie) for my 26th and by the time we get back, Jessica is practically hopping around with excitement on our front step, a big card in her hand.

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