It’s 1:30 in the morning, I can’t sleep: yet another of the countless nights lost because my body is jumpy and tense. Why? Because of a guy (insert exasperated sigh that’s not due to sexual exhilaration). I’m tired of being abandoned, broken, or used for sex, and it’s not easy navigating the mess that has become our 21st century dating world.

No amount of relationship advice from girlfriends, guyfriends, or Steve Harvey dating books will teach someone how to do this the right way until they look into the psychoanalytic mirror and realize why they keep sabotaging potential friendships or relationships.

After hearing my girlfriends complain about their boyfriends, I think I’m happy to be single, but I’m still battling the loneliness and the need to cuddle at odd hours of the night. I’d buy a cat, but they’re not allowed in my building and they could never be the big spoon.

I think the number one mistake I make is that I care too much. I fall too quickly because I’m forcing the wrong person into the wrong mould in my mind, and the problems arise from there. Accept who “Mr. Right” is. Then accept who “Mr. Right now” is. Talking and flirting with a couple of men at a time doesn’t make you a whore, slut, or bitch as long as you pair everything with class and remember who’s most important in all of this: you. Just like everything in life, it takes practice. We all wish it would come out right the first time, but then how would we grow?

Taking dirty pics and texting all day long — not always a good idea. Thinking you have the upper hand because you flirt and tease? That’s actually making you lose power. It isn’t always a powerplay once the relationship develops into something more, but it definitely is about power at the beginning. You have to establish how you want to be treated right from the start. If you let your dog pee on your bed, he will keep peeing on your bed (note: men are not dogs… mostly).

I’ve decided to create some rules for myself so that I don’t get lost along the path of sexting for attention only to feel guilty and confused afterward. One of my many mistakes was that I didn’t know what I wanted when I got myself involved. I didn’t know if I was down for casual sex or if I wanted to get myself into another relationship. After hearing my girlfriends complain about their boyfriends, I think I’m happy to be single, but I’m still battling the loneliness and the need to cuddle at odd hours of the night. I’d buy a cat, but they’re not allowed in my building and they could never be the big spoon.

Another mistake is that I let guys know from the beginning that I think I’m different, smart (maybe), witty (yeah), a woman who really does understand men (meh), how to manipulate them (a little), and I usually just tell them directly, “I could make you fall in love with me if I wanted to, but that wouldn’t be much fun” (back away slowly, boys — she’s not okay). Don’t tell them, just show them! It’s at this point that I really wish there were tutorials on YouTube that would not only teach you how to do Marilyn Monroe’s cat eye makeup, but also how to text with the same elegance and sensuality that she might have had. Based on that, I realized that I don’t need to text all day long, be perfect, flirty and entertaining. You may have great chemistry with a guy, but through texting, you can ruin everything in one sentence or, perhaps, nervously over-text and observe a clean-cut vanishing act.

Here comes another factor — one of the most important: your confidence. Sometimes I’m on target, sometimes I come off as having low self-esteem, and sometimes I seem like I have too much. I’m still working on perfecting this one, but I’d say rate yourself on a confident to non-confident scale, and try to become as close to the middle as you can. I had a hard time getting over my ex, not because I was so deeply in love with him, but because I idealized his strengths and resented myself for lacking them. He’d keep school, family, and friends as his priorities and would do things for all of them. Now that I look back, he wasn’t exactly selfish, but he didn’t treat me right, so let’s stop ruminating. Moving on!

Oh yeah, get over your ex completely before you start dating again. Sure, he was a big part of your life, and he might still live in your basement smoking that poor quality weed and stinking up your house. But how do I know this, think it’s simple, and yet I still blabber on about him as if it were okay? Sometimes I’ve lied and said that he was just a friend so that I wouldn’t feel guilty talking about him. I forgive myself for being that silly, but I don’t want to put someone through listening to that and waste their time — and neither should you. I used to tell myself, “no one really gets over their first love,” and I kept holding myself back from full recovery. If he wasn’t a good boyfriend, why would he be a good friend afterward? Just cut it.

Next: date and talk to several guys at a time. When one disappoints you, the other might not and when you realize who you like more, there you go. Men have been doing this since the beginning of time, so why the hell can’t we? In the dating realm, just remember to be smooth. People who put their relationships ahead of their friendships, ditching friends for a make-out session? Not cool. Fighting on the phone in front of them? Not polite. Save the drama for Jersey Shore. The only drama should be when you’re in a committed relationship and you do things to purposely piss off your significant other so that you can have angry sex. Do it the right way, people! The better the friendship, the better the relationship, the better the sex (if that’s whats important to you). The longer you wait to get to know each other, the easier everything becomes but it’s a long and steady path that you can’t skip through. Have hope.

I’ve considered getting my uterus removed in order to avoid dealing with the idea of being responsible for a child’s life, messing it up with the divorce from my idiot husband, and withering away in deathly suburbia. I’ve considered becoming “an artist,” or buying lots of cats, or being on high doses of anti-depressants so that my libido subsides. But I’ve realized that I have a lot of love to give, and I want someone to love me — that’s what I’ve figured out after many failed dates and a 5-year-long relationship. The dates are actually fun. It’s what happens afterward — usually through texts and ambiguous sexual puns — that ruins things.

Last but not least, I’d say to not be afraid of making the first move! What are you afraid of? A “no”? I ask for guys’ numbers, I ask them out on dates. It’s fun, empowering, and sometimes shows them you’re special. I was dancing with some guy at Sneaky Dee’s (hip-hop night, of course) and when he asked for my number, I eventually gave in and put in “I will not have sex with you.” I was pretty tipsy, but I was also tired of men in general. You know what? It made him even more interested and also made him realize that I’m not your ordinary woman. Later on, he asked me out! (Personally, I usually prefer more of a pursuit, but this was nice.)

Don’t be afraid to hand someone your number or flirt a little with the guy next to you in class. There are plenty of fish in the sea, and if you mess up, embarrass yourself, or come off as a crazy cat lady, follow the advice of Jay-Z in “On to the Next One.” I’m not using men and spitting them out, I’m just living my life and opening up to new people on a daily basis so that I can grow. I’ve got me a date on Friday. I’ll keep you updated!

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