Sunday, July 21, 2013

My First Alaska Date

This is from when I lived in Alaska in 2011. It's super old and of course, my style as evolved and such. But I was digging through some old material and just found it really funny so I thought I'd post for kicks!

I am single. Perhaps this is because I am a workaholic who can’t seem to squeeze in that sort of stuff. Or maybe because my dog, Dasher is a man hater who snaps and growls like a dragon at every guy who tries to take on that missing father figure role in his life. Or it could possibly be because I am the type of girl who writes blogs poking fun at my dates. Regardless of the reason, I am lingering in that lovely stage of singledom that automatically puts me “on the market” like cow at a county fair.

While I was in college, I didn’t date. I didn’t have time... at least, that’s what I like to tell myself. The truth is, I never really knew how to date. The whole charade is confusing. There are constantly those questions of “What am I supposed to say? How much information should I reveal on the first date? Should I flirt? How do I flirt? Do I call him or wait for him to call me? How long do I wait?” It’s as if dating is this big confusing game that out of my own stubbornness, I never learned how to play.

Now, add geography into the equation and that mess just scatters and thickens.
In my experience, like any other living thing like plants or animals, men change with their habitat. In the south, they are polite and chivalrous, but easily shocked once I speak my mind. On the west coast, they can handle an outspoken woman, but tend to suffer from a chronic Peter Pan syndrome of never wanting to grow up. So California’s got plenty of those 30-year-old beach bums shrugging with those, “I’m just not ready to get tied down yet” excuses. In the south, you make plans and keep them. On the west coast, plans don’t exist unless made 3 minutes prior. Traveling through Europe was even more confusing. In some countries, men were shy but paid for your dinner and drinks. In others, they were forward and expected you to fork up every cent of your share. Some countries were packed with reserved, quiet men while it was the norm for them to shout lewd remarks at you in others.

Naturally, I was curious about what Alaska men were like.
That’s when I went out with Harry. It was on my first Alaska date that I realized I’d entered a new world.
His name’s not really Harry.
I’ve got to protect this guy’s identity and I thought Harry was a suitable name because of the bushy fluff of man fur that smothered nearly every inch of his body.
Ok. When I read that aloud, that sounds really mean. Oops.
“No wonder you’re single, Maggie,” I thought after catching myself in my judgmental thoughts.
But in my defense, try to understand where I’m coming from.
I spent my entire adult life in the land of metrosexuality. Where I come from, a MANicure is perfectly manly and an eyebrow wax here and there is a cultural norm. In the big city, men are urban, smooth, and pretty. Before coming to Alaska, I spent 8 years in urban California: San Diego, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area. By my move to the last frontier, I thought body hair was something that  died out with evolution, like fangs.

I had to remind myself that men changed with their habitat. Of course my Alaska date had fur. Men needed to be slick chested for those hot, sweaty California beaches. But in Alaska, they need that fur to keep them warm in the winter. How dare I judge Harry for being hairy. Those tumbleweeds poking out of his collar was likely his key to his survival!

So, I ignored my fears of Harry being a closeted ware wolf with a love for Japanese food and focused on my sushi.
Once I quit fearing the fuzz, I enjoyed my dinner with Harry. I didn’t feel any sparks, but the conversation was pleasant enough so I agreed to go for a “walk” with him after dinner.

Driving to the place where we’d walk, Harry and I picked up the conversation again.
“I hit a moose on this road once,” he informed me.
I knew moose were abundant in Alaska. I already saw a few in someone’s yard nearly smack dab in the middle of downtown Anchorage, but I couldn’t imagine what I would do if I hit one.
“Wow, what did you do with it?” I asked.
Harry looked at me as if I had just asked him where babies came from.
“Uh, I ate it,” he said to me like I was the stupidest human being alive. “What else would I do with it?”

I thought about a time  in my life when I became curious about death. “What happens to us when we die?” was a common question before I began wondering about reproduction. I was about 5 years old when I convinced my mom to pick up a dead kitty on the side of the road. We buried it in my grandmother’s garden.

“I don’t know,” I responded, feeling foolish for my ignorance. “Bury it? Have a moose funeral?”

I would later find out that Harry was a compulsive liar. I’m assuming that this was one of the ones he told to impress the Alaska newbie because what Harry said he did was illegal. It turns out that when animals are killed on the road, whoever hit and kills an animal is required to report it. You know how sick people get on lists for organs like hearts and lungs? Well, Alaska does the same thing for road kill! There is a waiting list and when your turn is up, you have to stop whatever you’re doing to pick that animal up and feed it to your family!

Already on one date, I was learning so much about my new state.

After living in cities my whole adult life, I automatically assumed that we’d be walking somewhere with cement under our toes. So, I thanked myself for ditching high heels for my hiking sandals when we were trudging through a trail into the woods.

Now I know this sounds like a scenario leading up to a gory mess in a horror flick with the moose killing ware wolf leading his date into the woods, but no violence ever happened.

However, out of nowhere, Harry did begin screaming and clapping hysterically.
It was my turn to look at him like he was the stupidest human being alive.
“What are you doing?” I asked, both shocked and skeptical.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said with a smile. “I forgot that you’re new here. I’m chasing the bears away. They hate noise.”

Although things didn’t work out with Harry and he did not become my permanent bear defender, I am proud to say that I’ve been living in alaska for 2 and a half months and feel that a man without a beard is no man at all. I have not yet registered myself for the on-call road kill list though. :)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Peter Pan Syndrome

This article was written for the San Diego Reader. I'm waiting to hear back from the editor, but I thought I'd go ahead and blog it in the process.

The Peter Pan Syndrome

 When I turned 22, I decided that I wanted a boyfriend.
              I have no idea why. There was certainly no logical reason for it. Barely old enough to proudly strut past bouncers with my valid ID, I was wrapping up my final months in the Navy. Civilian freedom felt like the popped cork of a rattled champagne bottle. 
            I faced college, a career, and the option to book it to Timbuktu if I pleased. Right out of high school, Uncle Sam held me on a tight leash. I spent four years uncomfortably squirming in ranks like a rambunctious puppy. So, I am stumped as to how my heart mustered an innate desire to bounce from one commitment to another.
            Maybe a boy was the aspirin for my hangover - from booze and life. The two went hand in hand for me in those days.  At 21, I resided in the ideal habitat for my bar hopping infancy. My overpriced, two-bedroom, 550 square foot apartment was parked between Mission Bay and the Pacific Ocean. I gleefully crashed in the hub of beer bongs and body shots. Never mind the fact that my living room was in arm’s reach of my bed. I was stumbling distance from Corona littered white sand, a cheap cab fair away from the drunken surfer-soaked Garnet strip, and surrounded by chivalrous neighbors who never wore shirts and always had a line of cocaine or two to lend.
            But after a year of Jagerbombs ending with barefoot staggers into parties I would never remember and perhaps one too many walks of shame from this or that musician’s beer-stained sofa, I was haunted by an urgency to curl up in a fetal position.
            In hopes of decaffeinating my lifestyle, I moved to Pacific Beach’s older brother, Ocean Beach. Though still seaside and only 4 miles south, OB was my ideal harbor for a PB recovery. With all the perks of pubs, salty air, and wave-crashing melodies; mellow, dread-locked hippies replaced the amped frat boys. While PB was a line and a shot, OB was a joint and a beer.
            For the first time in my life, I resided roommate free. My digs were one of a complex of 6 coastal studios. My neighbors were young professionals living those years between Tuesday night keg stands and white picket fences. I immediately took on an adult routine of work, the gym, followed by healthy, semi-cooked Trader Joes dinner. I gave myself pats on the back for staying in on weeknights. Though I relished my newfound adult routine, I took notice of the unoccupied space in my bed. 

            Living alone, social media was my cure for isolation. It had been 4 years since I left my Tennessee upbringing. I’d been sparring with the South verses Southern California culture clash ever since. Initially, the differences were as trivial as my thighs touching. But once my country twang morphed to valley girl and I accepted my Barbie-post-Freshman-15 physique, I was rattled with new comparisons to my homeland. It seemed that an explosion of frilly white dresses, pastel-frocked bridesmaids, cake cutting, champagne sipping, and bouquet diving followed every Facebook login.  They all looked the same to me. A blushing bride, who I remembered from high school, was the focal point of the elaborate photo shoot. Her highlighted hair was professionally curled to correspond with her freshly spray-tanned complexion.  Her bouquet was strategically pieced together in shades of rose, blush, and ruby. She was always surrounded by a trail of gushing sorority sisters and former, familiar-faced high school cheerleaders. The maternity shots quickly followed, with the brides in church-appropriate blouses, eyes closed, faces pointed down at their protruding bellies, curled against their husbands in an upright spoon. 
             My initial reaction was, “Holy hell, those girls are way too young for marriage and babies!”
            I’d gather with my single girlfriends and fellow so-cal transplants, all of us raised in the in-betweens of America’s urban hubs. Through vodka soda sips, we’d rant about the fates of our childhood opponents. To think that the popular girls who we’d once idolized were tossing their lives into the pit of suburbia.  How awesome we were to be so independent.
            “By the time we’re 30 and ready to settle down,” we’d scoff, “They’ll be ending their second marriage with a whimpering little brat on each arm.” 
            Although my voice was often the loudest in these discussions, I sometimes wonder if I was just the head cheerleader of our state of denial.
            The truth is that my roots were undeniably factored in my growth. I still felt rude to dismiss an RSVP or show up to a social gathering uninvited.  I pumped up the volume to the country music station when nobody was in earshot. “Ya’ll” never escaped my vocabulary. I didn’t have a single betrothed acquaintance on the west coast, but the martial spree of my childhood playmates made me wonder if I was following the steps to adulthood accordingly. Dating felt like a healthy compromise.
            In all honesty, I’d never really dated before. Rather than the movies and prom, my high school boyfriends typically courted me to bong hits and back seats. Since moving to San Diego, I hadn’t sampled much of the local flavor. My first two years were spent chipping paint on a destroyer and looping in and out of Navy ports. I lived on the ship, so I stuck to the sailors. Then, I moved to PB and drowned myself in beach town debauchery.  I wanted casual and casual came as easily as my legs spread. But right along with the rest of PB, by the ripe old age of 22, lust lost its luster.
            That summer, along with my location, I vowed to mature my relationships. By no means was I constructing blueprints for wedding bells. But it was time to follow the motions of the dating charade. I wanted dinner, good conversation, and long walks on the beach. I was ready to forfeit the game of musical chairs for routinely spooning with one familiar person.
            I was certain that I knew what I was getting into. Sure, San Diego was a party town. The locals were less structured and more laid back. People settled down later in life than in rural America, so commitment was gradual. I wasn’t expecting over-the-top displays of flowers and plunges to open my car door. This was Southern California, for heaven’s sake!  But I had optimistic enthusiasm for Dan (not his real name).
            Though born and raised in the area, Dan was an East County boy. For those unfamiliar with America’s finest, a SD man can be summed up by his location. It is common knowledge that wealthy bachelors and ambitious young professionals in their late 20s to early 30s usually reside downtown or slightly northeast in Mission Valley. The Tijuana border spots like Imperial Beach, Chula Vista, and National City are full of Mexican and military families. While Coronado Island is packed with Navy officers, Point Loma is often for upper middle class civilian families with traces of young singles who want to live near the beach minus the hefty seaside rent. Just north of Point Loma is Ocean Beach, which, according to my friends, is full of bums.
            “OB guys inhale more marijuana than Oxygen,” they warn. “If you meet a man from OB, make sure he showers on a daily basis.”
            Only miles above are Mission and Pacific Beach, where eligible bachelors ditch the joints for blow and blackout intoxication. Though PB is bountiful hunting ground for one-night stands, steady dating is scarce in the frat boy paradise. Driving north from PB, the sweaty layer of grime seems to buff right off with sunsets and money.  The serene, hoity toity north coast of La Jolla, Del Mar, and Solana Beach is territory for San Diego’s elite and the finest of gold diggers. Just a few miles north east of downtown is North Park, which has become the up and coming trendy, hipster harboring locale for the city.
            “The new fad is these mustaches,” Yolanda (not her real name), my friend and an occasional North Park visitor says.  “You’ve got these mustache guys with big, square glasses in skinny jeans, suspenders, and a pipe. They wear these ironic t-shirts that have cutesy little phrases like ‘famous brand logo and catchy line’ printed on them. Hell, some shirts actually say, ‘Ironic Hipster Shirt,’ so they are being ironic with their ironic shirts.”
            “It’s not that they’re rude,” Yolanda continues. “They’re just too cool for everything. They’re the type of guys who will listen to Mumford and Sons, but will stop listening to them as soon as they get popular.”
            According to my girlfriends, the quality of North Parkers is a hit or miss, just like their sexuality. As notoriously gay Hillcrest’s next-door neighbor, the premium male specimens are often tragically unavailable to females.
            But something happens to San Diego east of Mission Gorge.  The change is one that all are aware of, but nobody can explain. It’s as if the I-8 is booby-trapped with an invisible teleportation tunnel that transports sunny so-cal to the South. Suddenly, the scene’s Bob Marley soundtrack melts to Toby Keith.  Patrons become friendlier and ensembles grungier. Strangers wave at passers by out of sheer politeness and sentences are polished off with “sir’s” and “ma’ams.” Even its suburbs, like Santee and El Cajon, cannot be properly annunciated without a country twang.  Venturing east always felt like stumbling into a Bermuda triangle that manipulatively swiveled my worlds together. I was in a part of California that felt like Tennessee.
            The people of East County take pride in their indifference with the rest of their city. They don cowboy hats and sip Budweiser, while clearly stating that they will not scrutinize you for your public display of Wal-Mart flip-flops and tattered jeans. They own houses with air conditioning and swimming pools, occasionally snickering at the extra grand of monthly rent their coastal neighbors fork up to live a whopping 15 minutes west. Their weekends are spent desert camping, horseback riding, and four-wheeling through sand dunes as if to claim the name of the true, original Californians dominating their western frontier. While one must have the right outfit and demeanor to truly feel welcome in the west, the east allows anyone to strut into a bar and be greeted by hospitable small talk with a slurring old man.
            Like his homeland, I expected Dan to be anti stereotypical San Diego. In many ways he was. Raised on a small, Ramona horse farm by his construction contractor dad and schoolteacher mom, Dan came off as a boy next door- an endangered species in so-cal. He stood at 6”2 with medium, soft build, sun-flushed skin, sandy brown hair, and a sincere, comforting smile. Dan was mildly handsome, but easy to overlook. Although he was a San Marcos Communications graduate, he’d struggled with the job market and eventually surrendered to a construction gig with his father. He was the type of guy content to nestle into ease and familiarity rather than dream. His humor, which made him feel like an old high school buddy to complete strangers, was his greatest attribute. Though Dan oozed mediocrity, I quickly found myself blindly, pathetically, and almost obsessively infatuated with him.
            For our first date, Dan picked me up in his late 90s, Chevy pickup that he called “Big Red.” He referred to the truck a “she” and occasionally patted her as if she were his beloved dog. Dan was attentive, opening every door and even reaching across my lap to fix my tangled seatbelt, sending me a brisk chill from our slight contact. As he drove Big Red through the city’s rolling palm, tree covered hills, he recited a series of random, useless facts about San Diego, like the city’s oldest sandwich shop and beach mileage.
            “I’ve never been the gatekeeper of important knowledge,” he humorously boasted. “But I am the Albert Einstein of pointless facts.”
            He took me to Mount Soledad, which was a small mountain near Pacific Beach, full of some of San Diego’s wealthiest. From there, we could see the entire city and a bit of Mexico. It was a pretty view, very typical for a date. There was a good bit of people sight seeing. I leaned against a railing on the side of the mountain, my face in the sun, staring off into the distance as Dan spouted out something about the historic discovery of San Diego.
Dan was pleasant and amusing to listen to. He rambled on about his childhood growing up in the country and his best friends he’d had since elementary school. Initially, I didn’t realize distraction of his captivating charm until he was long out of my life. I never once noticed how Dan would talk about the big wheels he played with as a kid, but never mentioned where he lived and who he associated with. Nor did I notice how Dan could never remember my career aspirations or the state I was from. I was too entranced by his chivalrous waltz of door opening, drink paying, and nose-diving for my dropped water battle cap. 
            Dan was nice to me. By carrying on the basic gestures that I was raised to require as a bare minimum, I latched onto him like a leech to a bloody scab.
            By the time he dropped me off that night, my tongue was halfway down his throat. 
            It turned out that Dan, my country-ish, useless fact knowing, Big Red driving boy next-door, was a meth addict.
            Although I never would have pegged him with the habit at first glance, when I reflect on our relationship, that’s exactly what being with him felt like- the unhealthy, dehydrating, emotional tornado that a meth addiction is.
            The man who gave me vivid images of his elementary school teacher mother, camping with his childhood buddies, and teaching his brother how to build Lego forts was that first hit that I was willing to drain my savings account to get more of.
            My Dan high drifted into the day after our date. I giddily downloaded, listened, and hummed to his favorite music as I cleaned my apartment and visualized our future together.
            But trouble in my paradise came quick. I learned that, like many San Diegans, he was a flake.
            Dan had a pattern of dropping off the face of the earth. Although he swore that his meth habit was in the past and that he was getting help, I later found out that his addiction had everything to do with his behavior. But in the beginning, I told myself that he was just from a laid-back beach city. Never following through with plans was part of that laid back beach culture. I was an outsider from a land of plan making and calling before canceling. I was from a structured world where people cared about things like timeliness. I had to adjust to the environment I chose to live in. I assumed that the way Dan acted was normal Southern California dating behavior. I was supposed to be cool and not care, so while massively suffering inside, I pretended not to.
            When I did show the slightest inkling of any emotion, like stress or frustration, whether it was towards him or not, Dan seemed afraid of it.
            “Shh… settle down,” is what he’d say, covering my mouth with his fingers as if he were calming down a hyperactive puppy jumping in his face.
            In person, Dan was full of promises and plans of the fun things we’d do together.
            “I have to take you out in my kayak sometime,” he’d say. “Oh, and we’ll have to take Big Red off-roading out in Ramona.”
            One of Dan’s first promises was to help me get some of my furniture out of storage, which he eagerly volunteered for.
            I had a bad feeling he wouldn’t go through with his word, so I made sure to double check on his plans the night before. When he told me that things were still good to go, I convinced myself to ease up.
            “Relax, Maggie,” I said to myself. “He’s not like most people around here. He’s a good guy.”
            “Settle down,” I’d repeat Dan’s constant phrase in my head. “Settle down, Maggie.”
But the next day, Dan was mysteriously M.I.A.
            “I’m so, so sorry Maggie,” he stammered oh so genuinely a few days later. “I had pneumonia and took these strong sleeping pills. I was completely passed out. I’ll make it up to you, I swear.”
            “Oh, it’s totally fine,” I faked. “I understand. It’s cool.”
            Dan’s disappearing acts to flee town and come down continued until the end.
            My post Dan rebound was a 32-year-old musician name Ty (not his real name). Despite the band thing, on paper, he seemed like a legitimate adult. He was an entire decade older than me, but he was attractive, standing about 5”10 with black hair and tan skin. He had his Masters in Computer Science and worked as an Exchange Engineer. He lived in his own bachelor pad conveniently 5 blocks from me. Our normal routine was meeting about halfway between our apartments on warm, breezy nights, and then heading back to his place. Unlike Dan, Ty didn’t squirm at commitment. He feigned it. It only took a month for him to ask me to move in while offering to pay all of my rent and college tuition. In return, he wanted me to strut around in high heels with a vacuum and frying pan. Stupefied, I realized that I’d yet to see him sober. When he told me that he loved me, yet couldn’t remember my last name, I knew it was time to cut the chord.
            After a disastrous summer of the San Diego dating, I felt schooled on red flag spotting. Substance abuse, a lack of ambition, and entrapment were obvious warning signals.
            I needed to follow the general selection advice of my elders and pursue a healthy, sober, active young man with a career. Ryder (not his real name) fit the profile.
Twenty-nine-year-old Ryder stood at 6”4 with a lean, muscular physique. He had a pretty, boyish face with chocolate brown eyes against his tanned, southern California-born face. With thick, shaggy, brown hair that curled into wavy ringlets behind his face, he looked just like a younger and hotter version of actor, John Corbett who played Aiden on Sex and the City.
His tall, athletic frame scored him a basketball scholarship to the California Maritime Academy in San Francisco right after high school.  He was an operation’s manager at the Port of San Diego. Although I had absolutely no idea what that meant, I knew that he had no problem dropping a couple grand at Nieman Marcus on any given Tuesday. Although Ryder smoked, drank, and occasionally dabbled in a line of cocaine, he was an overall healthy guy. He worked out on a regular basis and was always in a basketball or football league.
Ryder was a catch. He was almost always sharply dressed, with dark blazers and designer jeans or khaki shorts with cotton white shirts that hung open for a breezy day at the beach. With brooding, intense facial expressions and smirks, I couldn’t spot a hint of loose, carefree happiness. From what I could tell, Ryder was composed, arrogant, and God damn beautiful.
Sexy, athletic, and successful, Ryder was treacherous territory to any women who dared to give a damn.
            When Ryder first went through the motions of touring me through his 1-bedroom apartment. It was nice, basic, but expensive. It was immaculately clean. To this day, I wonder what kind of fabric softener he used. Ryder’s digs very much reflected him. They were attractive, sleek, and well put together, but lacked any hint of uniqueness. His walls, carpets, and much of the furniture were white. The rest of it was black. The bit of artwork on his walls was black and white. When he handed me a beer, I was terrified of spilling it.
It only took moments of interaction to realize that a relationship with Ryder was less likely than my future presidency. He was blunt about the fact that his female relationships were never long lasting. 
            “I’m usually done with a woman as soon as I bang her,” he admitted.
            “Oh! This is my favorite show!” he interrupted himself as Two and a Half Men popped on his plasma screen.
            I had to write a paper on the sitcom for a media class. It’s about two brothers, Charlie and Allen. Allen is freshly divorced father who ends up having to live with his wealthy, playboy brother. While Allen has lived his life as a faithful, devoted husband and father, he gets screwed over by his domineering ex-wife. Allen is perceived as dorky, weak, and almost always the butt of all jokes. Charlie, on the other hand, is a successful commercial music writer who barely works. He’s usually sipping margaritas all day in his Malibu beach house and banging an ungodly amount of idiotic women. Nearly every female character is either a raging bitch or borderline retarded. Two and a Half Men is obviously a male fantasy. Charlie is the hero that most viewers, including Ryder, idolize.
            “I’m going to be just like that guy when I’m 40,” Ryder laughed.
            Ryder was exceptionally open with me about the amount of women he snagged.
            “Oh my God,” he said, rolling his eyes after checking his phone. “This slut will not leave me alone.”
            Holding his cell out to my line of vision, he flipped through photos of a firm, bare, flawless ass with a black, laced thong running up her crack.
            “I’ve been ignoring this chick for a week, but she can’t take a hint.”
During my life on San Diego’s beaches, I dated little and screwed often. But it turned out that there wasn’t much of a difference.  Actual dates only lasted until I put out, which was usually pretty quickly since I was never good at giving men a chase. There was no talk of the future and “girlfriend” or “boyfriend” titles were dangerous territory. There was no age limit for “not being ready to get tied down.” There were no rules, boundaries, or structure for appropriateness.

After Ryder, I hastily began dividing San Diego men into 3 categories. There were the mediocre, underachieving lads, like Dan, who were supposed to be the nice guys. They unleashed brief stints of warm, gentlemanly charm. Because that sort of treatment was so unusual in the area, women sunk their teeth in them like a starving stray dog to table scraps, even if the scraps were moldy and stale.  
Then, there were the Ty’s, unlike most SD males, were eager for commitment, but were damaged and needed mothering. The Ty’s were dangerous territory for the ladies fed up with the monogamy-phobic’s.
            Finally, there were the Ryder’s who were such a rare, together package that they possessed a gravitational pull to all females in proximity, allowing them to relish in an endless merry-go-round of available snatch.
Though entirely different, I spotted one undeniable shared attribute: Immaturity. 
I once heard a girlfriend of mine say that Southern California men had “Peter Pan Syndrome.”
            “They don’t want to grow up,” she told me. “And the So-cal’s sunny beaches stacked with gorgeous, insecure women is their Neverland.”
            We were drinking cocktails and bitching out our dating frustrations. At the time, I was seeing Dan and stressing out over one of his MIA stints.
            “He says that he’s not ready for a relationship,” I said, rolling my eyes. “He’s twenty-freaking-eight years old and not that attractive. What the hell is he holding out for?”
            “Funny how they always give you the ‘I’m not ready for a serious relationship’ line after they have sex with you. Never before,” she scoffed.
            My friend’s theory for Peter Pan Syndrome was that, because Southern California was so full of beautiful women, that beauty was a dime a dozen. Women are held at a much higher physical standard and have significantly steeper competition than in other areas of the country. Their self-esteem takes a blow because of it. And, since there are so many stunners in So-cal, the men are spoiled. They can toss one aside knowing that another will come right along. Already insecure, the ladies tolerate it. So, men rarely feel the need to work for a monogamous relationship. They get bored easily. They want more.
More is always at their fingertips.
At 23, I left San Diego to venture north to UC Berkeley, an entire planet apart from its southern state counterpart. I traveled the world, eventually landing back in the South, a region with its own cultural flaws. I acquired higher quality dates than in my party girl heyday. Though I still encountered many Peter Pans, it was never at the intensity that I witnessed in San Diego. Initially, I assumed that infection levels had everything to do with my age and not my location. Typically, a 22-year-old will put up with a hell of a lot more crap than a 28-year-old. But, keeping tabs with my San Diego sisters came along with amusingly horrific tales of the mating rituals of Neverland.
            There was Yolanda’s stint with Pablo (not his real name), a 30-year-old Navy veteran who resided in a Spring Valley bachelor pad of 5 men. Pablo spent his evenings demanding obedient, rotating women to fetch his beers and make him sandwiches.
            Then there was Tiger (not her real name), my ravishing, tattooed, punk rock Barbie doll friend who was unexpectedly dumped by her Hobbit boyfriend.
            “He said that he couldn’t imagine being with the same person forever,” she explained of her birthday breakup fiasco. “I had no idea. We had amazing chemistry and never talked about marriage. He just assumed that’s what I wanted. I noticed that he had a wandering eye, but I tried not to think much of it until he ended it. “
            My friend, Jaclyn (not her real name), a busty brunette beauty and current Playboy employee reflects on her San Diego dating days as a bigger girl with trauma and bitterness.
            “I eventually lost the weight after a series of insane diets and surgery,” she tells me in a jaded tone. “But when I lived in San Diego I was a plus size model and that environment made me loathe myself. I worked hard. I made straight A’s in college. I was ambitious, but I never felt smart, skinny, or pretty enough. Weight is extremely looked down upon. When I was able to get a boyfriend, I felt used. I was always picking up the tab or forking up their car payments.”
            Even the 50 and 60 something mothers of friends were dealing with seniors who didn’t want to be tied down.
            “My last boyfriend told me our relationship wasn’t going anywhere,” Melinda (not her real name), a twice-divorced 58-year-old mother said of a recent ex she’d been steadily dating for 3 years. “My response was, ‘you’re 70. Where the hell can it go?’”
            Every San Diego female I have spoken to swears that their city is infested with Peter Pans and every male admits to being one or having been one, though The World Health Organization does not recognize Peter Pan Syndrome as an official psychological disorder. Its title is named after the famous character created by Scottish playwright and novelist, J.M. Barrie. Although Peter Pan Syndrome can affect both genders, it is more commonly spotted in males. Like the eternal child recreated in Walt Disney and flicks like Hook, a Peter Pan is a man who is childish with his relationships and behaviors. He typically struggles with maintaining a career and blames others for his mistakes. He is self-centered, often to the point of cruelty in his intimate relationships. He claims to care about others without ever acting like it.  Peter Pans tend to put off their responsibilities, often using drugs and booze as a reality escape. Peter Pans are extremely sensitive, so they guard their emotions. This causes them to often objectify women with macho, chauvinistic language and behavior.  Although they usually have a hard time remaining monogamous, when they do maintain relationships, Peter Pans gravitate towards women who are maternal, nurturing, and maintain a high tolerance for their bullshit. Both sexually and emotionally, Peter Pans are takers and not givers.
            Although there is no official date for Peter Pan’s conception, this man-child epidemic seemed to flourish in the 80s, increasing over the decades and exploding during America’s economic decline in the early millennium. Peter Pans are known to have sprouted from the Boomerang generation, which are the offspring of the Baby Boomers. The Boomerang children are young adults of modern day Western cultures who tend to move back in with their parents (boomerang back to childhood) after a brief and failed stint of independence. 
            Nobody, including the Peter Pans themselves, can pint point exactly what causes the extended adolescence, but everyone has their theories.
            “When I was in my 20s, women never dated down,” explained Simon (not his real name), my 48-year-old bachelor cousin.
            Having been divorced and in the dating scene for 4 years, Simon is well aware of the common complaints of middle-aged single females. 
            “But women don’t need men anymore,” he continues. “They’re more educated than men. They are more ambitious. They can control their pregnancies. They can have a baby without a man. Hell, they can even have sex without a man.”
            Only in the past couple generations have women been economically independent. Compared to males, they are still primarily underpaid but dominate in education. According to Society Pages, American women will have 62% of the country’s Masters degrees by 2020.
            “Before, men needed to be able to take care of a woman,” he adds. “Now, the women are taking care of themselves. That pressure to make something of yourself in order to nail a chick is gone.”
            Others blame the economy.
            “In the 90s, it was unthinkable for a college graduate to work a service job,” said Joshua, a 28-year-old self-proclaimed underpaid accountant. “Now you’ve got Starbucks employees with PhDs and a hundred grand in student loan debt. It’s almost impossible to settle down and make that white picket fence family when corporate America isn’t handing you a steady salary and retirement plan.” 
Many blame the media.
            “Look how popular Charlie Sheen is!” pointed out Bailey (not her real name), a 31-year-old San Diego resident who recently separated from a 45-year-old Peter Pan.  “This is what even middle aged men are looking up to.”
            So, is San Diego an ideal Neverland? Its residents say, “yes.”
            “All it takes is a stroll down the Garnett strip to see it,” says Yolanda. “There’s always those tanned, greased up 35-year-olds pounding shots on a Monday afternoon.”
            “The Peter Pan syndrome is absolutely worse in San Diego,” admits Dane (not his real name), a 35-year-old recent recovering Peter Pan. “Up until last October, my goal in life was to bang as many girls as possible. I’m from Northern California and there is just more pressure to find a wife in your 20s. In San Diego, you’re not as pushed become an adult. You’re actually afraid of it. You’re in denial of your age.”
            San Diegans point out many factors that make their city a playboy haven.
            “Most people tend to get more promiscuous in the summertime,” Bailey says. “They’re on vacation mode. They’re going to parties, traveling out of town, and wearing more revealing clothing. Then they couple up more during the colder seasons. But there are no seasons in San Diego. It’s always summer.”
            “There’s a lot of trust fund babies with no responsibilities here,” says Jaclyn, who now resides in Los Angeles. “Cities like LA and San Francisco are more cut throat. People are pursuing their careers and you have to really fight to survive. But San Diego is where so many rich people go to retire. They’ve got their overgrown momma’s boys hanging around with no ambition and plenty of cash at their disposal.” 
            Lisa (not her real name), a 32-year-old San Diego lifer, says that tourism and new residents are a major contributor to the Neverland atmosphere.
            “Not only is San Diego a big vacation spot,” says Lisa. “But people come from all over the country to live here. This is a major military town, so that brings in a lot of young guys that want to party. People come here to have a good time at the beach, not to buckle down and start a family. “
            But the dominant theory for San Diego’s Peter Pan density is the gobs of young, thin, tight, busty, and easy-to-nail Wendy’s.
            “I don’t think that all San Diego men are assholes,” Yolanda explains. “They just have such a huge pool of pretty girls to choose from. This isn’t the family oriented Wisconsin. San Diego is all about partying and getting tan 5”7 blondes with big tits and gorgeous bodies. And can you blame them? The people make up a big part of San Diego’s scenery.”
            Although every female I interviewed swore that the main reason for Peter Pan Syndrome was the much higher abundance of females than males, the US Census Bureau disagrees.  In 2012, there were 2.57 % more males than females in San Diego. I remembered why my friends and I always called it Man-Diego.

In many ways, my days in San Diego were anything but traditional. Southern California beach life was wild and free. It was the norm for women to strut outdoors in bikinis under the continuously blazing sun. Everyone kept their sexuality out in the open like liberated flower children.  Men weren’t expected to court women, pay for things, or even keep their plans. Monogamy was a practiced by few. But for some reason, the beach girls believed that they needed men. I was one of many willingly and repeatedly treated like crap. So, why did we put up with it?
            “A combination of the economy, technology, the media, and whatever else has somehow flipped Biology on its head,” my cousin, Simon explains. “People aren’t getting attacked by lions, tigers, and bears anymore. The woman doesn’t need the man to protect her while she cares for the offspring.”
            And I wondered, is the Peter Pan Syndrome a social disaster or simply a side effect to a constantly changing world?
            My female peers and I grew up believing that males had an advantage over us. We were told that, since women had nearly 30 to 40 less baby making years than men, our gender would be rushed to settle down and procreate. Women were programmed to nurture and men to spread their seed. Men were sexual. Women were emotional. Our little bit of power was our ability to call the shots on the when’s and where’s to get it on, since men were expected and accepted to constantly want it. But with that power came responsibility. It was our duty to instate the morality in intimacy. We spread our legs too late and we were prudes. Too soon, and we were whores. They slut-shamed us. We slut-shamed each other. And we slut shamed ourselves.
            “The fact is,” Simon continues. “ The world is going to change no matter what you do. You can’t always control the way it changes. But you can control the way you change.”
            There are probably dozens of ways for Wendys to dodge the Peter Pans of Neverland. They could ditch the trendy bars for more mature art shows, museums, or coffee shops. They could leave Neverland altogether for the realities of chilly winters and belly bloat wrapped in Christmas sweaters. Or, ironically, they could celebrate the cause of the Peter Pan Syndrome: Women do not need men.