Nov 10

Dear Readers,

For those of you thinking that Facebook is just another time-sapping vacuum for the proficient procrastinator, think again. Our dear social networking friend is currently being used to identify social trends, the latest being the most common times of year during which people experience a break-up.

London-based author David McCandless compiled and analyzed the annual data from over 10,000 Facebook updates to identify the most common times people end their relationships. And I don’t mean to brag, but I’m pretty sure he took all of his data from my status updates alone, which singlehandedly span far greater than 10,000 breakups.

McCandless discovered three peak breakup times throughout the year: prior to spring break (of course —- who wants to date somebody in April —- SO restricting), right before the summer holidays begin (obviously —- sharing a sunny day at the beach with your loved one —- SO lame), and several weeks before Christmas (undoubtedly —- if you haven’t been naughty, Santa will bring you everything you need anyway).

You might be wondering just how this information can help you. Well, if you’re half of a couple, and you notice one of these peak break-up times approaching, you can salvage your relationship by cutting off all communication with your partner, thereby obviating the possibility of a breakup. Being that a breakup requires the successful transmission of dire news from one party to the other, shutting down your computer, turning off your cell phone, and avoiding face-to-face interactions with your partner at all costs will ensure the continuation of your solid relationship without interruption. Once the peak break-up time passes, you can turn your phone and computer back on and resume contact with your partner, confident that you’ve avoided danger and that you’ll stay together forever, or until several weeks before Christmas.

And while I’d like to credit myself for deriving this ingenious data-driven plan for relationship success, please remember that I couldn’t have done it without the help of relationship status updates (that crucial component of a breakup that publicizes it for all to see, without which you might forget that you just ended your relationship) from which McCandless derived his statistics. So, thank you Facebook*.

*Facebook: Bringing People Who Shouldn’t Be Together, Together, for Longer Than Necessary.

–Troi out

Oct 20

The unfortunate thing about breaking up with a guy, when you happen to be a blogger whose best material comes from the very act of breaking up with a guy, is that people are actually pretty excited by your pain. During your immediate post-breakup week (the week in which your average non-blogger solicits sympathy from her dearest friends and family), your proclamations of devastation are met with rejoicing, as demonstrated by the following exchange:

Coworker: How are you?
Troi: Not good! My boyfriend and I just broke up!
Coworker: Awesome! So you’ll be back to writing blogs again soon?

Unsatisfied by this conversational exchange (women need a minimum of 539 painstaking and scrutinizing conversations about a breakup in order to sufficiently work through what happened and move on, whereas men just spit, shoot something, and start dating the next thing that walks by), you determine that you must not look sad enough, and adjust your facial expression accordingly for your next enounter with a friend, family member, or the employee at Starbucks who really regrets having asked you how your day was going even though his manager really stresses the importance of friendly customer service:

Friend: How are you doing?
Troi: [effortfully curving both sides of mouth downward so that sadness cannot possibly be missed, nor be mistaken for the classic one-sided facial drooping indicative of a stroke]: I’m TERRIBLE [emphasizing the adjective for added effect]. My boyfriend and I just broke up. Boy, I sure feel sad! [Inwardly applauding clear communicative intent that will surely result in significant sympathetic response by friend]
Friend: That’s great — now you’ll have some good material for your blog! I’ve missed your posts.

No longer devastated by your breakup, but by the celebratory mood your breakup has kindled in everybody but you, you realize that having pushed so hard to enlist your best friends as avid blog readers (through unscrupulous means, such as subscribing their email addresses to your blog site without their knowledge, but that’s beside the point, right?) may not have been the most savvy move. Because now you’re stuck wading through the breakup aftermath in a very expensive session with your counselor who has thankfully never read your blog, you think, although she did call you trekkychick during that last session.

On the bright side, everybody’s right. You’re back to entertaining the masses (all three of your readers, to be precise) with your blog posts.

–Troi out

Aug 15

Everybody will try to tell you that the hardest part of a break-up is the crushing devastation you experience when you lose the person to whom you’ve given your heart, and your heart along with it.

Everyone is wrong. Obviously, the real tragedy you’ll encounter is losing his friends, who turn out to be much cooler than he is. Because as delightful as you may be, they’re his friends, and thus their loyalties lie ultimately with him.

My ex-boyfriend had such a devoted entourage that he sent forth one of his minions on a quest to collect a camping chair he’d left at my house following our break-up. Never mind that his minion neglected to bring as collateral the items I’d left at his place, including a pristine stainless steel wine bottle stopper, the loss of which has devastated my attempts to split the consumption of a Ninkasi 22oz Believer ale into two evenings of indulgence. As I hurled the camping chair at the minion’s head gently handed over the camping chair to my ex’s loyal friend, we exchanged expletives pleasantries regarding the recent disintegration of my relationship.

Minion: I heard from a friend of your ex’s first cousin’s neighbor’s sister that you’ve been in contact with [name to be withheld for confidentiality]. You realize that [name to be withheld for confidentiality] was friends with [ex whose name not worth mentioning] first and thus he retains sole custody of friendship in the event of your break-up, which occurred yesterday at 2:00am PST at your place of residence.

Me: It’s true that I have been in contact with [name to be withheld for confidentiality] but I assure you I obtained prior permission for said contact from [ex whose name I’ve forgotten]. And while it’s true that [ex] and I may have briefly exchanged the requisite post-traumatic 24-hour period of grossly virulent emails, we are now on sufficiently amicable terms to allow continued contact with mutual friends.

Minion: I was unaware of cordial relations and remain skeptical that a treaty has been reached so soon after battle. I will consult [ex] and if it is determined that you speak the truth, I will begrudgingly allow continued contact with mutual friends. It will be noted in the post-breakup paperwork that these friendships belonged first to [ex] and thus [ex] may revoke your cavorting privileges with said friends at any time. Now kindly remove this camping chair from my head so I may take my leave.

And so it came to pass that at the culmination of our failed relationship, I was given the green light to maintain friendships with his friends, for which I was truly appreciative.

It is not always the case, however, that an ex will so generously invite you to remain included in his circle of friends. Moreover, there are those cases in which remaining within the circle of friends creates a false sense of hope, for one or both parties, of impending reconciliation. There is generally a legitimate reason for a break-up, a reason which can become easily clouded if 48 hours later you’re immersed in the same circle with the same ex, possessing the same feelings you held just 48 hours earlier.

So don’t immediately plunge into the same circle, no matter how comfortable and familiar it may feel. This advice is easiest to swallow if you’ve maintained your other friendships. Letting his friends become your primary friend group is like betting your life savings on a hand of poker before seeing your cards. You’re going to need that twenty dollars someday, and you’re going to need the friends to whom you can freely and privately bash your ex share your sad feelings about your recently imploded relationship.

For more break-up advice, act now and purchase Troi’s helpful handbook, “Breaking Up Is Not Hard To Do, But Staying Together Sure Is,” and receive tips on the latest break-up technologies, including via instant messenger, text message, and even by cleverly downloading a break-up song onto his iPod! Breaking up has never been so easy!

–Troi out

Aug 6

for a limited time only, more available than your average man

But a good beer is comparatively easy to find, especially if you live in Portland, which boasts more breweries per capita than any other city in the United States. So while you may not find the perfect man, the perfect craft beer may still be within reach.

If you’re wondering what makes a craft beer crafty, let me assure you that it has nothing to do with arts and crafts, which is quite a relief for someone such as myself whose 7th-grade arts & crafts teacher told the class my self-portrait looked like an alien (I thought it was a compliment—-I love science fiction—-until she flunked me), nor is a craft beer the kind of beer you drink to get over the trauma of being called an alien by your 7th grade arts & crafts teacher. Rather, a craft brewer is small (producing less than 2 million barrels of beer annually) and independent. And while 2 million barrels may not sound small to the last person who tried drinking 2 million barrels of beer, it is nonetheless relatively small when compared to a craftless beer corporation such as Anheuser-Busch, whose production well exceeds 100 million barrels annually. Most importantly, craft beers can be absolutely delicious, whereas I bet you’ve never heard someone say, while sipping on an Anheuser-Busch creation, “Oh, this Bud Light is absolutely delicious!” unless he was in a Superbowl commercial.

If you’ve yet to try it, my first suggestion is Sierra Nevada’s Summerfest lager. For those of you not familiar with Sierra Nevada’s beers, their most popular standard brew is probably their pale ale, and their winter offering, Celebration Ale, is definitely worth the celebration. Even their stout is far and away the best stout in a bottle I’ve yet to try. Their Summerfest lager is light (5.0 ABV) and hoppy without being overpoweringly so. I’m not typically a huge lager fan (I’ve heard they cut down trees), but this is a lager that appeals even to environmentally-friendly darker beer lovers such as myself.

If clearing forests isn’t your style, another craft beer to write home about (for me, I guess that would be the alien home planet from which my arts & crafts teacher thinks I sprouted) is Deschutes brewery’s 2010 Once a Decade Ale, which is more like Nine Times a Decade Ale for me when I add up the number of bottles I’ve purchased over the last few months. Vaguely reminiscent of a barleywine-style ale but without that sickeningly sweet finish, the Once a Decade Ale (also known as Jubel 2010) is 10% ABV, aged in oak pinot barrels, and is my favorite craft find of the year. And much like finding a good boyfriend, you won’t find another beer quite like it for at least a decade, so stock up on a few before they’re gone for good and break one open every couple of years to temper the dry spell. Speaking of opening your beer, the biggest trick to the Once a Decade Ale is its wax-dipped cap, which can be troublesome to open. I began with more conventional methods such as using a standard bottle opener. But when mainstream methods failed me, I panicked and resorted to biting, clawing, stabbing, and coaxing, while my roommate finally found success melting down the wax with a lighter. However, I’ve since seen effortless cap removals with your tried and true average bottle opener, so perhaps it was just me. It usually is.

So while choosing the right boy may be challenging, choosing the right craft beer is entirely possible—-if you’re fortunate enough to call Portland home.

–Troi out

May 30

Dear Readers,

In today’s installment of “At Least My Love Life Is Better Than Troi’s” we entertain the following question: Is it possible for your romantic love of a previous partner to remain and yet move forward into a new relationship with somebody new? Or must that romantic love pass prior to giving your love to another person?

Having traced the checkered history of my past romantic relationships (See www.troihasn’, I’ve found that I traditionally subscribe to the philosophy that moving forward works best when not looking backward. When I walk forward but look behind me, it never ends well, because I miss what’s right in front of me (dog poop, a pothole, a cliff that one time). Similarly, in the Decidedly Ineffectual and Shaky Attempt at Striving To Establish Romance (DISASTER) that is my dating life, I find that moving forward works best when I avoid lugging yesterday’s heartbreak into today’s relationship. Moving forward means setting my sights on something in my future, and accepting that the love from my past wasn’t meant to last.

It sounds so straightforward, but what happens when that love doesn’t leave? How do we navigate new love when our feelings for a former flame remain well past the relationship’s date of expiration?

I’d like to think that as I approach the age of thirty-one, I’ve become sufficiently evolved as to acknowledge that deep affection for a past love without allowing it to preclude my capacity for love of another person or prevent me from accepting into my life someone else’s love for me. And while in principle my evolution may have indeed reached such enlightened heights, in practice I’m a tadpole waiting to sprout legs so that I can walk this fine line rather than wade uncertainly around it.

Imperfect tadpole that I am, I’m gradually beginning to strike touches of illuminating gold when digging through the sands of my past to uncover life lessons so that mistakes made aren’t made again. I do believe that a person can acknowledge the presence of feelings that remain without being vulnerable to them. It involves acknowledging not only the feelings themselves, but the reason those feelings weren’t enough to sustain the relationship. This acknowledgment is crucial, as feelings are typically first to come and last to fade, long after we’ve conveniently repressed the reasons the relationship failed.

In a scene from one of my favorite movies, 500 Days of Summer, a character simultaneously mourns and fights the passing of a relationship that wasn’t meant to be. Another character tells him:

“You’re just remembering the good parts. Next time you look back, I think you should look again.”

When he looks back, he sees the perfect picture he’d painted, but he sees it for the first time against the backdrop of an imperfect pairing that couldn’t be salvaged by a few touch-ups.

It is an inevitable fact of my life that I have loved people with whom I wasn’t meant to be. But when I, too, take another look, I see a discrepancy in commitment and values that simply wasn’t bridged by the depth of my feelings. Every time I look back, I see the love that remains, but every time I look forward, I hope to see the possibility of love that shares not only depth of feeling but also shared values and a mutual respect for our differences that remain.

–Troi out

*Tegan & Sara

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