Ashley Kelsch Has High Standards — and Thinks You Should Too
The podcast host examines the fine line between what she expects from friends compared to potential suitors
When my kids entered their high school years, I adopted this motto as a mother: “I’m really effing cool… until I’m not.”
It was born from commentary made by others directly to me or my children. People said things like, “I bet you are/have the coolest mom,” and our response was, “Yeah, until I’m/she’s not.” Depending on the day, it might come with a laugh or awareness that I was in a not-so-cool moment. Such is parenting.
My kids often resorted to wondering how they were supposed to know when I was going to respond coolly or not. And how could I be cool one minute and then, like a flash, not cool at all?
I can empathize with their confusion.
The only retort I could give them was to say, “It’s a fine line and you have to learn how to tread it.” It turns out, this metaphorical line was not only reserved for my kids, but also for the people I date. Although, I’m only just now realizing this. Thanks to Instagram.
It’s not uncommon for me to have people sliding into my DMs to compliment my work, a message I shared or an outfit I put together.
Messages like, “You seem like you are so fun — the way you think is so open minded and different,” or “I wish you were a stylist. I’d hire you,” and “You’re so easy going.” (This is where I started to question what they were saying.)
Other messages like, “A guy stood you up? You get ghosted?! How’s that possible? He wasn’t interested in you? Whaaat?” This is what inspired me to share my dating stories with the hashtag #NotYourDatingGuru.”
It’s an odd moment when you realize this is what people think of you, and yet…
Last month, a guy left me a message telling me I was beautiful, kind and smart. I later joked with my buddy Josh that clearly this guy didn’t know me. Literally NO ONE says I’m kind. Unless you consider being clear as being kind. Josh said that it’s not that I’m not kind, but of all the things one might list, “kind” would be ninth or tenth on that list. “Sweet” might follow it.
The truth is, as a friend, I am pretty laid back. You can cancel plans. Hang up and not call back for six months. Be late picking me up. Ask me why I talk about sex so much. Challenge my work by saying, “Do you think people will want to hear about those topics?” I invite all of it, but this attitude ends the second we are potentially dating.
That “I’m really effing cool … until I’m not” feeling activates, and suddenly, most everything you do is being scrutinized or analyzed.
Is it fair? Absolutely not.
“If you’re going to come into my world… I’m going to expect you to do the same. The bar is not low. This is my life I’m talking about.”
This is precisely why I’ve been letting people know when they express interest in wanting to date me, before they’ve gotten to know me, that maybe they don’t. What they want is to be my friend. It’s a much more enjoyable version of me for them.
The second I let you into my dating orbit, your words and actions are non-negotiable.
You can’t invite me to a concert and then not follow through. I’ll never forget that time and it will underscore not only every future invite, but I’ll privately question if you can keep your word. Sure, it’s a concert invite now, but later it could be a bill you said you’d pay, or making out with someone else because you “forgot” we made plans to only make out with each other. You can’t arrange to spend time with me, cancel a couple of hours before and then invite me to your event the following day because you’re worried the numbers might be low and throw in “can you bring 6 of your hottest friends?” without me heading to Instagram to question WTF is happening. And by the way, I am the hot friend…
But I would never do that to a friend. I’d probably be relieved that they canceled and would roll in with as many people as possible to their event the following day.
Like I said, I’m really effing cool until I’m not.
My friends don’t affect my personal life the same way a potential partner does. I can’t help but get the feeling (based on over a decade of dating) that most people will want to come in, mess with you and your life and not offer you much in return. And I’m not here for it. (Kids are included in this and I probably have mine to thank for learning to hold boundaries without emotion.)
If you’re going to come into my world, a world where I prioritize my people and commitments, you better bet I’m going to expect you to do the same. The bar is not low. This is my life I’m talking about. I’m a believer that we are all adults and people get to cancel plans and change their minds. You can do it all day. It just won’t happen with me if we are dating.
I’m not naive that as soon as I start dating someone, I become very thoughtful and considerate of their needs.
I must be an acts of service kind of person, with material gifts running a close second. I hear them make mention of wanting or needing supplements and I’ll send that stuff to their door. It’s who I am and want to be in a relationship, so when I’m dating someone, this behavior turns on instantly. I’m not resentful when it’s not reciprocated. The dating scene is not for the faint of heart and can be incredibly disappointing if you just let anyone in. It can jade you, and we don’t want that.
Being really effing cool… until you’re not means being authentically you — protective of your time, priorities and people and knowing how to advocate for yourself. Try it. I promise it will show you very quickly if someone is taking you seriously or not.
Ashley Kelsch, former owner of Teddies for Bettys, a lingerie and well-being store, is a top-certified coach who works with parents and caregivers of teenagers and young adults who are struggling to understand their child’s gender identity and sexual preferences. She helps guide her clients from confusion and conflict to curiosity and connection by teaching them how to manage their thoughts and emotions. She also has a weekly podcast called House of Other: a modern update and sex-positive education about human sexuality, gender sexual diversity, intimate justice, trauma healing, consent and loving relationships. Ashley continues to explore “your brain on dating, love and relationships” through her writing and with her private clients. You can follow her on Instagram @house_of_other and read more of her Tribeza columns here.