Thursday, August 31, 2006
Here's a quick funny (or pathetic) anecdote.
Mr. Match, whose name begins with "B" but is not "Bill", tells me about e-mails he keeps getting from a woman on Match.com. She wrote him over the weekend saying, "Hi Bill", and saying how she thought she had a date with him, showed up at the agreed-upon meeting spot, and was surprised when someone else showed up. In fact, she didn't know where she had met the man who showed up — didn't recall having seen him on Match.
But the story doesn't end there. There have been a couple of subsequent e-mails from this woman (bimbo? pre-senile?), all beginning "Dear Bill". Yesterday she asked if he wanted directions to her house for their date.
You know those people in life you come across whom you don't know whether to fear or pity? I'm thinkin' this is one of those.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
I told you I'm reading Mary Gordon's "Spending". I ran across a very funny bit of dialogue yesterday that's relevant here.
Monica has forced B to the doctor when his back "went out". They walk into the doctor's waiting room and his ex-wife is seated there. There's caustic dialogue between B and the ex-wife, Natalie.
I could have gone down on my knees to the nurse who appeared, called Natalie's name and led her off with a supportive arm around her waist, although she'd said her problem was a cervical vertebra.
"Lovely woman, your ex-wife," I said. "Sensitive creature. Kind of like a Fragonard."
"I've died and gone to hell," he said. "I'm about to see a doctor who's going to tell me I have ten minutes to live, and Natalie's lifted face will be before me for all eternity."
"I'm here, too."
"Oh, I forgot you're of the religion that invented Purgatory. Partial damnation."
"I'm going to choose to take that as a compliment."
"I mean it that way. How come you're friendly with your ex-husband?"
"Because I was happy to pass him on to someone else."
. . .
I liked that line a lot. May all exes find someone else and leave us alone!
I opened up my Ivanhoe.com newsletter just now and read "Too Many Men Is Bad for Society" No. No! Who started this ugly rumor? If I have a hard time getting a date with the current number of men in the universe, imagine what would happen if there were even fewer men. I might as well join a convent!
However, on the brighter side, here's what the researchers found:
The men who are not able to marry are more likely to be poorer and less educated than men who are able to find a wife, according to the researchers. With no family or outlet for sexual energy, these men could be part of trend toward increased levels of antisocial behavior and violence. (TJ, are you listening? Stop cavorting around and get down to business. I don't want to see you wind up in jail!) A positive outcome of an unbalanced society could be the raised social status of women, suggest the researchers.
Would I rather have experience a date or "raised social status of women"? Hmmm, that's a tough one!
Driving in to work this morning, I was pondering how much I like the interactions with Mr. Match, and how spoiled I'm getting by his treatment. That makes me think about how to ensure its continuance.
Y'know how the laboratory rat can successfully navigate the maze when he knows there's a nibble of cheese at the end. And he keeps improving his navigation speed with repeated cheese-rewards. I was trying to find the analogy with the way a woman treats a man and his responses to her — is she nice to him, navigating the maze, for the reward of his affection, his kind words? Is he nice to her, navigating the maze, because he likes the treatment he gets? Or is he just nice, a true gentleman, and would treat her the same way regardless of her treatment of him? Who's the rat and who's the cheese in that analogy?
I suspect all relationships start off with both partners treating each other well. We're on our best behavior, but when does that "best" adjective get dropped? Is she on her best behavior until she "catches" him, until she gets a commitment out of him? Does she then feel she can drop the pretense and just be herself?
I hope "myself" is exactly what I'm seeing at this point in time. I hope I'm smart enough, motivated enough, to keep these patterns of relating going through a long relationship. I look back at earlier non-John relationships and see things I wish I'd done differently. I hope I've learned those lessons.
The relationship with John was all about compatibility and caring. There was no fighting, no discord. The only day I wish I could do over was the day he died. I wish I had realized that afternoon what was happening and stopped frantically calling every medical professional to get him some help. I wish I had recognized the Cheyne-Stokes breathing and just . . ., just relaxed. I wish I had just sat and stroked his chest and arms and relished our last few hours together.
During the last year with him, I frequently thought of cross-stitching and framing a saying to put in the foyer: Kindness Spoken Here. I've told my sons several times that the only thing I care about being said about me after I die is "She was kind."
So that would be my wish, also, in a long-term relationship. That the affection and kindness and caring of the early weeks and months can stretch on and on into the continuing years. May they be long and happy.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Rereading yesterday's post, I'm not sure how Mr. Match would feel about the concept of "point of no return"!
And rethinking the conversation we had on Saturday night, when he said it's all about the competition: I don't parallel date. I don't know how. I have a hard time attracting one man, much less more than one. (Am I too intimidating? Or just too plain and ordinary?) But I wonder if a man will fight harder for your attention if he knows there's the chance you'll say "no" when he asks you out. When he called me from the plane yesterday morning, Mr. Match asked if he could see me Thursday night when he returns. If I had said I already had plans, how would he have reacted? Just gone home and done normal household things that night, or scurried around to find someone he could see?
Hopefully I'll never learn the answer to that question!
Monday, August 28, 2006
Today marks the passage of two months since Mr. Match's dart hit my photo on the giant dartboard that is Match.com.
For me, the magic number seems to be three months. If I can get past three months, I typically reach at least two years. Sometimes I think I'm not going to introduce a new man-in-my-life to anyone until I get past three months. If I could stick to that — not even mention his existence to anyone until that point in time — it sure would eliminate a lot of anxiety.
But I normally introduce the new man to my younger son before that time, because I trust his judgment. Because of all the time we've spent together in his teen and adult years, he knows me way too well. He tends to know what will and won't work for me. And he sees without the blinders of infatuation that I usually sport during the first few months.
So I guess I need to arrange a family dinner within the next four weeks, before I get past the point of no return.
When Mr. Match came over Saturday night, I mentioned something about a statement on this blog. He then became curious about reading it and we sat, laptop in hand, for half an hour discussing various blogged topics.
So here's the "hood ornament" issue from his perspective:
When a mature (of body, not of mind — my definition, not his) man walks into a restaurant alone, every man in the restaurant turns and looks at him and says to himself, "Loser!" It doesn't matter whether the man walking in alone is an in cognito Bill Gates or a cleaned-up street person, if he is alone, he's a loser. When the same man walks in with an age-appropriate woman who appears to be his wife or companion, those men in the restaurant don't even notice him. There's nothing special about him. But when he walks in with a drop-dead-gorgeous woman twenty or more years younger than he, he is instantly envied by every man in the room. In Mr. Match's words, the man with the "hood ornament" just "stuck it to" every man in the room. (He actually used other terminology . . . .)
He says it's all about the competition. Every man wants to win.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
On the advice of my dear friend and teacher Marcy Tilton, I am reading Mary Gordon's novel, "Spending". As I was lying in bed early this morning, waiting for the grandbabies to wake up in the next room, Mary Gordon's words jarred me:
"I know the importance of the look of things. So, naturally, I was tempted to suggest to him that he find someone younger. One of the thousands, millions of young women with perfect breasts and thighs and—in the words of a video I once spent twenty bucks on—buns of steel. I thought that if I were a man I'd do that, I wouldn't be able to resist, because the visual bombardment of beautiful female flesh is constant. Why not an eighteen-year-old with honey-colored arms . . ., with no legible marks of childbirth, without the inscriptions or incisions of fifty years?
He said he knew all about it, he'd done that, and he wanted me. He said it got boring, and above all I should understand how terrible it was to be bored. I said, 'But can the visually beautiful ever be boring?'
He said, 'Weren't you ever bored by your kids?'
And I remembered that I never found them unbeautiful but that sometimes I felt that if I didn't have an interesting conversation with someone, I would die, that after a while the touch of that beautiful skin wasn't enough.
'Is that what it's like?' I asked him.
'Yes,' he said, 'Now do you understand?'
I did, sort of, but I didn't quite believe him. I didn't want to talk much about it, though. I was afraid I'd change his mind, that I'd make such a good case I'd lose, whatever else, a lot of fun."
Personally, I'll take good-looking substance over mindless beauty any day!
Saturday, August 26, 2006
This story is a diversion from the normal focus of this blog, but it's a very sweet story. I'm not sure my kids have heard it before, so I'm going to memorialize it here.
Those who know me well know that I adored my daddy. He worked very long hours and, as a result, wasn't around a lot. But I like to think I've accomplished what I have in my life because of his influence on me. He died at the age of 70 when I was 34, and I still miss him.
Daddy was born and raised in Wachula, Florida, a little crossroads out in the sticks of South Florida, a little east of Sarasota. Daddy had one sister and five or six brothers. I believe he was the second oldest child. His father's job was to make orange crates, and he earned fifty cents a week. They were Florida Crackers in the truest sense of the word.
I was born in 1950 in Orlando when it was a small dairy and citrus town. I always knew my daddy was a Cracker and was proud to associate myself with that history, although my birthmother and her family (and all her ancestors to the early 1600s, I later learned) were all Yankees from Gloucester, Massachusetts. I had never heard Crackers spoken of with anything but respect. You have to understand that at this point in history, we in the South were very proud of being Southerners. When "Dixie" was played, we would stand. We still saw ourselves as very different from Yankees. It was a slower, more genteel life — in our perception, a more civilized life.
My understanding of the origination of the word "Cracker" was that the South Florida cowboys would be out rounding up the herds and would crack their bullwhips into the air to signal to their wives that they were coming in and it was time to get dinner on the table. I always heard that the women would say, "Here come the Crackers." I understand there are other theories, as explained in this article by Rick Tonyan.
When I was 21 I studied with Nadia Boulanger in Fontainebleau, France. A young black tenor from Orlando was studying there also, and from him I heard the first negative reference to Crackers. In his life experience, Cracker was applied to whites with the same disdain that the N word was applied to blacks. I was shocked to hear Cracker used as a perjorative.
I'm careful now about using the word Cracker. But it my mind it always has been and always will be an honor to be called a Cracker, for to me it denotes hard-working, clean-living, simple folk.
So here's the story:
In 1935, Theresa (pronounced ter-ESS-ah), had just gotten her nursing certificate and was working as a private duty nurse for a wealthy Chicago woman. Theresa was 22 years old and had grown up outside of Detroit. Also in the employ of this woman was a companion who would do the shopping and cooking. Theresa's duties were strictly nursing-related. The patient decided to go to Tampa for the winter, and took the companion and Theresa along. They lived in a hotel near what is now the University of Tampa.
John, sometimes called Jay or Jake by his family, had left home at 16 to move to Tampa. There he would get a job in a grocery store and each week send money home to his family. Now 22, he was working as a clerk in an A&P near Tampa Bay.
One day the companion was cooking dinner and realized she was out of butter. She asked Theresa to walk to the nearby A&P and pick up some butter and a couple of other items.
When Theresa walked into the A&P, dressed in her nursing whites, her navy blue cape, and her white cap perched on her wavy dark hair, Jay and another clerk were standing in the back of the store. They saw her walk in and flipped a coin to see who would wait on her. Jay won. Big time.
As the story goes, Theresa picked up the items she had been sent for, and walked to the front to pay. Jay checked her out and bagged her items. As he distractedly placed an open box of sample Ritz crackers into her bag, then pulled them out again, he said, "I don't know what I'm doing. I swear I don't."
Interest was established and they began dating. Very soon Jay proposed and Theresa accepted. On Easter Sunday they walked to a nearby church and were married, going back to their individual residences that evening. (I believe it was only about three months from their first meeting until their marriage.) Theresa didn't tell her employer what she had done, but just continued with her life.
In time they moved in together. Jay was promoted to manager of the A&P and Theresa continued her nursing career. One day he came home from a hard day at the A&P and Theresa asked, "Why don't you go back to school and become a doctor?" (I can't even imagine the incredulity he must have felt at that question.) A few weeks later, he came home from another hard day and said to her, "Were you serious about my going to school to become a doctor?"
Bear in mind that he didn't have a high school diploma. He had dropped out of school to help support his family.
Washington Missionary College, in Takoma Park, Maryland, had a program where you could earn your high school diploma while working on your college degree. They also had a three-year pre-med program, leading directly into medical school. Theresa and Jay moved to Takoma Park where he entered college and she worked in the hospital and for local doctors. In 1940 he finished his course of study at WMC and they moved to Loma Linda, California, where he attended Loma Linda College (now University) Medical School, graduating in 1944.
They ended up in Orlando, where he practiced medicine for the ensuing 40 years until his death.
Whenever I recount this story to someone, I am struck afresh at her belief in his abilities, her confidence that he could accomplish the rigorous course of study leading to his M.D. when he didn't even have a high school diploma. And I am impressed with his self-confidence and ability to see into the future from that apartment in Tampa to finally reach his successful practice as a beloved family doctor in Orlando.
Behind this successful man was a woman who recognized in him something no one else could see.
Mr. Match and I were talking last night about affairs. I foolishly had a couple. I would never do it again. I tell him adamantly that if he gets to a point of making a commitment to me, he's going to have to commit to working things out, of respecting the entity of the relationship first. We either work it out or we go our separate ways. We agree to walk together on the road we're traveling, or we don't start the journey together.
My affairs came because I was not being treated with respect in the marriage. I knew two weeks into my first marriage that I had made the biggest mistake of my life. But I hung in there and tried very hard to make it work — for ten years! With marriage #2, my stepdaughter would say horrible things about me to her father, and he would presume me guilty. Didn't matter that it was all fabrication on her 23yo part. She said it, therefore it must be true. He would then sink into a depression and not speak to me for three or four days running. When a man at work who admired me started paying attention to me and asking me to lunch, I was an easy target. Should I have known better? Of course.
I maintain that most affairs happen because the marriage or primary relationship is foundering. I believe that if both parties realize there's a problem and commit to fixing the problem, the indiscretion need never occur. But it's a two-way street. If I tell you there's a problem and I'm in danger of stumbling, you'd better darned well be willing to recognize your part in the problem and be part of the solution. If I tell you there's a problem, and you say something to the effect of, "get over yourself", you might as well recognize the handwriting on the wall.
I'm proud of the fact that I never again strayed. Through the would-be-homicidal stepson, the loneliness of John's illness, the freaking nightmare that was EEFFH, I never looked right or left. I'm proud of that. I know I can do it. I know that there's no personality disorder that makes me unable to recognize the consequences of my actions.
My integrity is my dearest possession. But I can be as filled with integrity as I want at work, and if I can't live my personal life with integrity, then I'm not a success, am I?
I hope I'm given another chance to revel in the thrill of success.
Friday, August 25, 2006
In 11th grade I loved the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations". Today I was thinking about the vibrations I emit as single woman longing for a man.
I'm feeling comfortable lately, from a relationship perspective. (Shhh, let's not share this little secret with Mr. Match.) But when I'm not feeling comfortable, when I'm feeling lonely and like my life is empty, the prevalent sense I carry with me is one of desperation.
I wonder if that desperation oozes out of my pores. Is that the reason no man turns 180 degrees to follow me down the corridor at work? Can he smell, sense, feel my desperation, my longing for a companion? Does a man only need a woman who doesn't need him? Is he loathe to hook up with a woman who is deep and self-examining and who knows she wants a companion?
I always believed John was drawn to me in part because I needed him. He was a man who needed to be needed. Ultimately, I lost him the first time around because, I believe, he perceived the other woman as needing him more than I. He watched me struggle through law school and believed I could do anything. I believe he had great respect for my survivability and therefore felt no compunction about taking her on and setting me free.
Can a woman be deep and self-examining and know she wants a companion without feeling desperation? Is it possible to have that overwhelming desire for a partner while maintaining an attitude of nonchalance? I certainly don't know how to do it. When I look back at all the various times of singleness in my adult life, I remember all of them as being filled with the overwhelming, driving desire to find a partner. (Which, by the way, I did — over and over and over again.)
<Personal note on>
To the Kayaker: I don't think I have poor taste in men. I think I made some poor choices. And I think you're never going to live down having made that statement to me! Oh, but your statement wasn't as bad as the one a colleague at IBM made about me circa 1982. She called me "flypaper for men". Hmmmm.
<Personal note off>
Am I alone? Am I the only woman who feels desperation? Is this unique to me or fairly widespread in the over-50 population?
I try to hold on to the belief that there's something good waiting for me right around the corner, but I'm anxious to get to that corner to find out who he is and where we're going. My clock is ticking. No, thank God, not my biological clock. My mortality clock. I only have x days left to my life. It may be 365x40 days (please, God, no!) and it may be 40 days and it's probably somewhere in-between those two numbers. But each of the days I live alone subtracts 1 from the number of days I have available to live blissfully un-single with whomever Mr. Right turns out to be.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
John and I met in March of 1988, a month or so after husband #2 and I had split. (You'll remember, this is the marriage about which the therapist said, "We've been beating this dead horse for two-and-a-half years now.) John had recently retired after 28 years in the U.S. Air Force. My friend who was to chair the auction for the Oratorio Society of Washington had experienced a falling-out with the OSW administration, so they were looking for a chair to step in two months before the auction and take over. Somebody said, "ask John, he's got time on his hands." Ever the bon vivant, he agreed, not realizing the amount of work that was involved. As soon as he agreed to the task, my friend said to him, "You'll want to talk to Jan. She wrote a database application that runs the whole auction. You can't do this thing without her." He called me and invited me to his first meeting with all the committee members. We had been singing together for four years, but had never met.
The meeting was being held on a Sunday evening in mid-March. That Sunday was also the day of my first year moot court competition. I was feeling anxious.
I had prepared my statements to the judge, had worked very hard to excel in this competition. As I stood before the judge, he asked me some question that I hadn't even thought about, that I didn't have the slightest idea of the answer. I stood there surrounded by classmates, teachers and judges, and dissolved into tears. I managed to extricate myself from the courtroom, walked into the hall, sank down on the floor and sobbed. Just sobbed. I was almost 38 years old, on my second divorce, and couldn't handle myself in the profession for which I was training.
Once the competition was over, I walked out to my car and drove to the auction meeting. You can imagine the state of my mind. I walked into this meeting and just sat down on the floor and tried to pay attention to what was going on. So this was John's first introduction to me — a little waif, overwhelmed by life.
A few days later, I understand, he asked my friend whether I would like it if he asked me out. I had already been invited to my friend's daughter's bat mitzvah, so when my friend called to tell me what he had asked, she suggested I bring him as my date to the bat mitzvah.
The relationship took off quickly. He was lonely; I was lonely. He was nothing if not a helluva lot of fun and the life of the party. We would frequently talk on the phone into the night, sharing stories and hopes and dreams.
He had a 1917 rowhouse in Adams Morgan and his friend and next-door-neighbor had just bought a fabulous 1912 rowhouse in neighboring Mount Pleasant. After spending $250,000 renovating this townhouse, the friend had been appointed consul to the U.S. embassy in Madras, India. The friend and his new wife were disconsolate at leaving their new home and all their antiques and possessions behind. So an agreement was reached — John would take care of this fabulous [three stories plus English basement] house in exchange for a minimal rent.
One night, feeling, I guess, especially lonely, he and I were talking on the phone. He was talking about this plan to housesit for two years. At some point in this conversation, he talked about how big and rambling the house was, how alone he'd be, and asked if I would come live with him. I said I'd think about it.
I thought and thought, weighed, measured, and finally decided, after 8 or 10 more dates with him, that this would be a most enjoyable experience. So I looked for a romantic way to respond to his suggestion/proposal. He had asked me over for dinner one evening. I dressed carefully and stopped at the store to buy a single red rose and a card. I don't remember the sentiment on the card — something loving and lovely, I'm sure — and inside I wrote, "Yes, I will live with you and be your love."
I thought it kind of odd that he looked a little perplexed. I expected a joyous response, with his arms wrapped around me in a bear hug. But I got a sort of "oh, okay" response.
In time we started planning for the move. I bought fabric and made curtains and a comforter for our bed. We put together a lovely home amid his friends' possessions, and we made a happy life together.
Only months later did he admit to me that he never remembered having asked me to move in.
Years later he was to say that it was one of the best things that ever happened in his life. But I never forgot the sting that I felt when I realized I made such a bold move on a — to him — inconsequential statement.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Mr. Match is traveling this week. When he called last night, I read him today's post. He asked if I was writing specifically about him or men in general. I said I thought it was about men in general, but he was definitely a major figure in there.
I've gotten several e-mails from male friends today saying, basically, that older men seeking young honeys is an ego thing. I guess it's similar to the joke asking why the dog licks himself — because he can. I guess these guys run after the sweet young things because the sweet young things are responsive. Or at least some of them must be or it wouldn't be such a phenomenon. Meanwhile, we wise old (cultured, refined, lovely, self-assured, got-our-acts-together) broads are sitting here, twiddling our thumbs, waiting for these guys to realize that there's more to beauty that outward appearances.
The Kayaker, God bless him, wrote that a hood ornament can be fun for a little while, but pretty soon gets boring.
I'm actually surprised TJ hasn't commented on this topic, but then he's only 32, so I'm not sure what his experience with "younger women" is. I'm not interested in him being accused of statutory thisorthat.
I belong to a creative listserve, comprised of women who have attended the "Design Outside the Lines" workshops that Marcy Tilton and Diane Ericson moderate. We've been talking about "Altered Barbies" lately. I was thinking about ways to alter a Barbie to typify a hood ornament or "hot and cold running women". I was thinking about replacing her breasts with small old-fashioned faucet handles, you know the ones with white porcelain knobs and a little engraved H or C in the middle.
I'm not sure where this is going, so I'll stop for now and tell you a story later on. (she said, laughing at herself)
What is it with men desiring younger women? Is it simply the excitement of the conquest, the thrill of victory? Is it how studly they look to their peers when they've got this sweet young thing hanging off their arms?
The other day I told Mr. Match that I was going to the Pi Beta Phi house to play the piano for a rush party. I described these darling little 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds, so full of enthusiasm, sweetness, and innocence of what the life ahead of them holds. He said, "do you think they'd be interested in a 62-year-old man?" There is no question in my mind that he asked that in jest. But you gotta know it ran through his head, as it does through the heads of many men over, say, 50.
I heard the other day - don't remember where - that every man should have a woman who is half his age plus seven. The would mean Mr. Match would be with a 38yo woman. In fact, my 63yo brother's wife will be 38 on her next birthday. She's the same age as my daughter-in-law! My brother is a year older than his mother-in-law! (Remember the line "we are an American family" from "You've Got Mail"? I guess I'm part of an American family.) Truly, I don't know what my brother and his wife have to talk about. And think about how old he'll be when she's 50. I can't even do the math! Now my younger son - he just did the "plus seven". For them it works very well.
Men don't realize how good they've got it when they choose an age-appropriate woman, someone close to their own age. I know if I'm every lucky enough to find that one-more-man for my life, he's gonna be treated like gold! I'm sick of being single. I don't ever want to be single again. Yeah, if he treats me poorly, I'm going to set him straight and require that he treat me right. But if he treats me the way I'm getting used to being treated, he'll live out the rest of his life in happiness.
So, guys, do you want a hood ornament, or do you want substance, wisdom, wit, and true beauty that comes from a long life well lived?
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
My elder son suggested in his comment yesterday that it's a numbers game, but the number is greater than one. I certainly hope so! I've been married four times, plus a long-term engagement, and a couple more proposals beyond that.
If there is only one match for each person, one Mr. Right, then I used up my one long ago. Okay, so maybe only John was Mr. Right, and the rest were Mr. Almost-Right (or Mr. Not-Even-Close; was the Kayaker right when he said I have poor taste in men?!). But I want another happy relationship like I had with John. I want there to be more than one Mr. Right.
They say the higher a salary you're seeking when you're job-hunting, the longer it takes to secure that job. I sent out resumés for 17 months before I got my current job - not because the salary was so high, but because my skill set is so unique. When EEFFH and I were selling our million-dollar house in the Foothills, it took about eighteen months to find a buyer.
If you analogize those anecdotes to searching for Mr. Right, I wonder how many first dates I have to endure or how many months I have to keep up this dating exercise before I can find that one person with whom to walk for the rest of my life.
I do want a high-value man — one who treats me well, is intelligent, is easy on the eyes, and who knows how to laugh. And I do have a unique dating resumé, with a long relationship history behind me.
My current job is absolutely worth the 17-month search. Hopefully, when Mr. Right makes himself known, it will be worth all the interminable first dates it took to find him.
Monday, August 21, 2006
The headline on Mr. Match's profile states, "Could I be the man of your dreams? You'll never know if we don't meet." (And knowing the market as I do, I'd project that many women would read about him and answer "Yes" to that question.)
So this morning he told me he got an in-your-face e-mail from a woman on Match. He had never seen the woman's profile before receiving her e-mail. She had not shown up on any of his searches — was, simply, an unknown entity prior to this e-mail.
Evidently she wanted to know why he hadn't written her. She had never winked at him or e-mailed him, so it wasn't a matter of his being nonresponsive. And, BTW, he told me that even if he had seen her profile, there was nothing about this woman that interested him enough for him to begin correspondence with her. In essence, she said, "you are the man of my dreams and what are we waiting for?"
Hmmm. I see lots of attractive, seemingly desireable men on Match. (Yeah, most of them live in Southern California, but that's another post.) But it's a long way from "what an attractive man" (and assuming that a photo is an adequate representation) through compatibility, companionability, and basic social acceptability to "we're burnin' daylight; let's get moving". And I would also offer that there are lots of available ways to start a potential relationship short of aggression and confrontation!
A couple of Mr. Match's traits that I treasure are his laid-back view of life and the way he doesn't take anything too seriously. If that's the kind of guy you want, hitting him over the head with a baseball bat is clearly not the way to capture him!
I was thinking about how online dating is like being in an amusement park. We've already talked about roller coasters and merry-go-rounds. Let's think about my favorite when I was a kid: the arcade.
You remember what it's like to pay your entrance fee and walk through the gate of the amusement park or county fair? Your senses are assailed with a cacophony of sights and sounds and smells. Similarly, when you first register at an online dating site and start looking at profiles and photos, you're overwhelmed and excited by the number of apparently available single people in the age range and category you're searching.
It's like walking into the arcade. You go up to the game where your objective is to toss a ring over a soda bottle or a ping pong ball into a small fishbowl. Or for a more apt analogy, how about the shooting gallery, where continuously moving targets beg you to take your best shot.
So you carefully craft your profile and choose your best photo to better arm yourself to hit the target. You read profile after profile, you save your favorites, you decide where you're going to start, and you wink or send an e-mail. And another. And another. Maybe you receive a wink or e-mail in return. In my experience, you only occasionally hear back from those with whom you have communicated. So you take another shot.
Is it simply a numbers game? You shoot enough bullets and eventually you'll hit some target that will go down?
I truly don't have an answer for what it takes. I just want to win that big teddy bear to take home and prop up on my bed.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
When you start a relationship, you have to figure out how to incorporate all those past relationships—the people and the stories—into the new relationship. For me, it's only the stories. I have not stayed friends with my exes. Oh, #1 and I see each other occasionally, as we share children and grandchildren. But I doubt he considers me his friend. I like his wife a lot, and think we could probably vacation together successfully, but the three of us won't be going places and doing things together anytime soon. My #2 and #3 have no contact with me; in fact, #2 would turn around and walk quickly in the opposite direction anytime he saw me when we lived in the same geographic area. John and I stayed friends after we split up in the early years, and I considered him my most treasured friend, but he was an exceptional man. I certainly didn't push him to maintain a relationship with me; he had made it very clear that he preferred the other woman and I tried to treat his choice with respect.
He had stayed friends with both his exes, and we often joked about having a three-story house where he could have one wife (or ex) on each floor. Mr. Match considers his wife #2 to be his best friend, and I have no problem with that. I told him last night that I was looking forward to meeting her sometime in the future, and he said he thought I would like her a lot.
I think the ex's behavior has a lot to do with how successful the extended family of relationships past can be. John's wife #1 had the habit of remembering only that they had been married for 20 years, not that they had also been divorced for 20 years. I tried to be gracious to her for the sake of their children and grandchildren. But sometimes she made it very difficult, as, for example, the totally inappropriate comments she made to me at his memorial service. His wife #2 had to be restrained from grabbing her when #1 made those comments.
But I will say in defense of both of them that they did not try to insinuate themselves into our life. They seemed to have a clear understanding of what was an appropriate amount of contact.
So I guess my question today is: what constitutes a healthy level of contact? And when the level of contact borders on unhealthy, how long does one allow it to continue before saying, "I know we were going to try to stay friends, but this clearly isn't working." And even if it's healthy, is a continued close relationship with an ex healthy in and of itself? Should I have to expect and accept my partner's having dinner with his ex one night a week? Somehow that just doesn't feel right.
How many ghosts can hang around a relationship before it becomes a seance?
As much as I question dating anyone who, past 50, has never been married, can't you see how much simpler that could be than having all these ghosts around?
Saturday, August 19, 2006
After reading yesterday's post, the Kayaker asked if I paid more for my ticket than he, as he was riding the same roller coaster as I. (His current relationship is about two weeks younger than mine, if I remember correctly.) So I guess he answered my question about roller coaster rides (and ceding control to the other party) being a uniquely female trait.
That made me start thinking about other amusement park rides to which I could make an analogy.
There's the merry-go-round. When I'm not in a relationship and trying, trying to find the right man, I circle back to considering all the men in the past that I have dated and gotten to know and then moved on from. Should I have ridden those carousel horses longer? I told you about the man on the Chesapeake with the insanely messy house. For seven years, I'd receive occasional e-mails from him signed "luM" (love you mostest). Well, I'll take non-passive-aggressive communication over random professed love any ol' time. (And here I must interject: "get a life!" You tell me I'm the standard by which you will judge all women in the future, that I spoiled you for all other women. Get real! We spent six months of our lives getting to know each other. It was seven years ago! You need to head em' up and move em' out and get over it!!!)
See, I can make wise choices, given enough time.
Oh yeah, I hooked up again with Emotionally-Unavailable-Emil two years ago, before my last European chorus tour. In the end, he was as unavailable in 2004 as he had been in 1991. And treated me just as badly. I've said it before: everything old is not new again, it's just older.
<Personal note on>
To the Kayaker:
You're wrong. I do NOT have poor taste in men. [sound of stamping foot] Really, I don't. I'm just a masochist!
<Personal note off>
I had a long phone conversation yesterday with my UCF piano duet partner, whose daughter left for college (in Florida!) yesterday. We grew up near each other in Orlando and had similar early lives. Now we have a shared love of New England and all the history and "settledness" of that geographic area (which is totally nonexistent in Florida). Her Westchester County neighbor suggested she had lived in New England in an earlier life, that that's why it was so comfortable to her. That made me think about the people who say our spirits choose the life we're going to live, the objectives we need to accomplish, before we come into this world to inhabit human bodies. I'm sorry, no sane spirit would choose to endure what my friend and I have endured. And our lives, as challenging as they are, are a piece o' cake compared to many other people. I think I'm going to have to reject that theory.
All I ever wanted was one husband, one nuclear family, one happy life to last my whole life. Oh, sorry, that was Ozzie & Harriet. (After reading this paragraph a couple of times I must amend it. All I wanted was to not have the non-communicative, cold, detached relationship my parents had. In my entire life I never saw my parents kiss. That's not my idea of life.)
All I want now is one man, husband or not, with whom to have a peaceful shared existence, an "old shoe" relationship, a respect-filled, laughter-filled, love-filled life to last the rest of my life. Am I merely a dreamer? Is it impossible? I hope not.
Friday, August 18, 2006
When I'm in a relationship that is just getting established, when we're figuring out where this thing is going, I am prone to serious emotional roller coaster rides. I'm curious about whether I'm the only person who does this, if it's an inherently female thing, or if all singles, trying to find that special someone to incorporate into their life, suffer from this malady.
When the man-of-the-moment says something indicative of the possibility of a future together, I am elated. I start weighing that possibility, envisioning social events or living situations or shared occasions. I look for pros and cons, positives and negatives. I am thrilled that he wants me, that he likes me enough to consider a future that includes me. (Ding ding - notice the Little Adoptee rearing her ugly head here — I don't have the authority to make choices on my own, but must wait to be chosen.)
And when he puts the brakes on, however momentarily, I am plunged into the depths. I immediately believe he's going to find someone else to decorate his life. I start trying to figure out what I'm going to do next: swear off men, go back on Match, give up on online dating and wait for the fates or the universe or whomever to drop someone onto my radar screen, move to the mountains of North Carolina and find some hillbilly to hang out with? I truly drive myself crazy.
And here I salute my friend of 25 years' duration 1800 miles to the north who lets me rant and rave when I'm driving myself crazy. He quietly reads my e-mails, ponders them and writes thoughtful and incisive replies, and reassures me that any man would be lucky to be a part of my life. I'm blessed to have such enduring and true friends.
I think the biggest challenge for me, in developing a relationship, is to be more status quo, more on an even plane and less subject to running like the wind to the edge of my sanity when something is said.
I want the man in my life to feel he can say anything to me, that he can be completely open and brutally honest. That's how Mr. Match is treating me right now, and I think I have the ability to thrive in this environment. If I can just get off this damned roller coaster.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
I was actually doing research for this blog (you believe that, right?). I was looking at men in California. Yummy, there are a ton o' good looking age-appropriate men in Orange County. (I would have to say the majority of age-appropriate men in Tucson look like they've been rid hard and put up wet.) I actually e-mailed one of these yummy California men whose profile mentioned that he had best seats in the house for the opening of the Pacific Symphony season at their new Segerstrom Hall home. I mentioned my friends who are now affiliated with PSO. He wrote back that I knew more people at PSO than he, and said he hoped his seats were the best in the house, 'cause he had paid $5,000 for them. (Eileen, we'd better make sure this boy is a donor as well as a subscriber.) And then he said he had just met someone and wished me well in my search.
Which led me to ponder how involved a man has to be with someone before he hides or removes his profile. There are several men whose photos I've been seeing on Match for in excess of two years. C'mon, in two years you've found no one? And if you have found someone, why is your profile still up there?
When one logs in to Match, the first thing you see is your own photo and the notation beside it of the number of people who have viewed your profile. If these people were logged in when they were looking at you, their photo is tacked up on a virtual bulletin board so you can see exactly who's looked at you. (If they were not logged in or their profile was hidden, you just see that the number has been incremented, but you don't see the viewer's profile.)
I have to admit that it's very addictive to log in to Match and see how many people have viewed you since the last time you were on. About 4:00 in the afternoon, you can almost sit and watch the digits flip. But with an addiction comes the amount of time required to feed that addiction. That's one of the main reasons I keep hiding mine; there are only so many hours in a day!
So are these otherwise-occupied guys leaving their profiles visible for the rush of knowing all those women, hot or otherwise, have viewed them? Are they simply lazy? Are they so sure the current interest is going to fail that they're not going to bother hiding their profile?
I'll tell you one thing: When a guy I'm seeing removes or hides his profile, I know the relationship has moved to a new level, at least for that moment in time.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
My point is that women state their objectives very clearly in their profiles. They say what they mean, and they mean what they say.
Men, on the other hand, tend to want hot and cold running women, according to what I'm hearing on the street. Their profiles don't indicate that. Their profiles say all sorts of wonderful things:
- I'd love to find a new friend, companion and sweetheart with whom to enjoy again life and love, work and play, travel and home. (I think he's talking about all of that in one person, not three separate women.)
- Life is short and my special person should want to make the best of our remaining years together!
- I'm searching for a partner who’s my companion - as much a friend as lover, passionate, confident attractive, fit, and shares similar attitudes, values, likes and wants.
- Divorced three years and now looking for my “soul mate” for that synergistic relationship.
Do these men say this because they think/intuit/know that's what a woman wants to hear, or do they really mean it? Do they think they really mean it, but once the woman starts falling for them, they either think, "if this babe fell for me, maybe there's something even better around the corner" or "man, this dating is fun stuff — I think I'll do more of it."
For me, when I read something in a profile, and start dating that man, I presume we're headed in the direction of our mutual objectives, as stated in our individual profiles. When he starts pulling back and soon says, "I'm not where you are" — as the Lemonade Tycoon did before so tactlessly breaking things off with me via e-mail — I start questioning my own words and thoughts. I go back to my profile and reread and study and analyze to see where I steered this boy wrong. And my analysis reveals I didn't steer him wrong. I said exactly what I meant — that I wanted one more man, one Mr. Right, to walk with me through the rest of my life.
If you merely want casual dates, pretty women to hang off your arm for concerts and parties and dining out, then please say so. If it's me you decided you didn't want a long-term relationship with, rather than that you changed your mind about wanting a long-term relationship, please have the courage and do me the courtesy to say so.
Most of us are smart enough to know that, by the time you've reached this age, we're not going to be retraining you.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Yesterday I was thinking about the concept of "you get back what you put in", sort of "you get what you pay for" but without the negative connotations. I was thinking about profiles I've read in the past where I thought, "what exactly did he think he was going to attract with that profile?" I was going to get on my high horse and talk about carefully crafting a profile to show clearly what kind of person you are and what kind of person you wish to attract.
So I ran over to Match and to Yahoo Personals to cut-and-paste some of the better examples of poor craftsmanship. And I couldn't find any! Maybe all the men with poorly written profiles have given up for lack of interest. Or maybe I've hidden their profiles so I didn't have to read them.
I think things are looking up! Men are being more introspective, more thoughtful. That doesn't mean there are more of them out there, but maybe that the ones who are out there are higher quality (she says with a wink).
Oh yes, there are other places one can post profiles, and some of those are less than stellar. I leave you tonight with one I saw on tucson.craigslist.com today. But before I shut up and let you read, I have to ask, "Do you think he's trying to get nominated for 'Best of Craig's List' or do you think he's really serious?" And my other comment is that there are things on this list that I don't even KNOW what they are! Is this 45yo man a male chauvinist pig, or is he just stoopid?
My perfect woman:
1. Height - Over 5ft but less than 6ft tall
2. Weight – Must be proportional as I’m not into BBW but prefer the racing models like BMW
3. Breasts – They must be real, size doesn’t matter but the shape does
4. Butt – I prefer the J-Lo backend so that excludes most Asian women
5. Muffin Top – You don’t have one
6. Posture – You don’t walk, talk and chew tobacco like a man
7. Grooming – I’m not into the Hollywood look. Keep it short and tidy
8. Attire – You’re not a slave to fashion and you don’t wear “mom” jeans
8. Teeth – You floss and brush daily, don’t bite and you see a dentist on a regular basis
9. Eyes – You’re not afraid to look at someone else’s
10. Piercing – Nipples, genitals and tongue are all off limits
11. Tattoos – Something small and concealed can be sexy. If you have one on your lower back I’m more apt to use it as a target
12. Gum Chewing – Not even if you can walk and talk at the same time
13. Awesome lips – Just for kissing and any other oral pleasures
14. Smells good – You ladies know what I mean
15. Hygiene – Slightly obsessed. A woman can never be too clean where it counts
16. Animal lover – This doesn’t imply bestiality
17. Ambitions – You are beyond being a player and finding a man to make your life easier
18. Motivated/Initiative – You go after the things you want and desire
19. High Self Esteem – You look in the mirror and like what you see
20. Father – You know him and have a great relationship with him. How else could you ever begin to understand the way a man thinks?
21. Mother – I’ll want to meet her ASAP so I’ll know what you’ll be like in the future
22. Neatness - Likes a tidy house as I’m a bit of neat freak
23. Educated - You can spell and formulate grammatical sentences. You have read the book “Men are from Mars and Women are from…”. You know how to balance YOUR checkbook
24. Sense of Humor – You don’t point and laugh
25. Religion – I don’t care as long as it hasn’t made you sexually inhibited
26. Passionate – You want a relationship and are willing to work at it
27. Tolerant – I’m not perfect and neither are you but that doesn’t mean we can’t be together
28. Non-smoker – I’m not 420 friendly! NO EXCEPTIONS!
29. Drugs – Off limits to you. This includes legal pharmaceuticals unless prescribed by YOUR doctor
30. Drink Socially – Of course. Does this really need an explanation?
31. Personality – You’re not bipolar, narcissistic, schizophrenic, paranoid, bulimic, anorexic, chronically depressed, autistic or sexually addicted to anyone except me.
32. Art – You don’t have a need to redecorate my humble abode as it’s the way it is by my design
33. Pink – You don’t own this crayon
34. Creative thinker – You don’t need me telling you what to wear, how to run your life or make decisions for you
35. Job – You have one but don’t consider it a career
36. Laid-back – Not a drama queen. Very rare for most women?
37. Fun – You like being with me more than your friends
38. X – He’s not crazy. I don’t want to hear how many times you’ve been stalked
39. X – Pays child support if you have non emancipated children
40. Abode – You don’t live with your X, your mama, your brother, uncle, aunt, cousin, etc. Sexy girlfriend is permissible
41. Criminal Record – I really don’t care as I’m anti big brother
42. Sex – Not as in gender. You put out, love it and don’t have more hang-ups than conquests. You know how to satisfy yourself
43. Fluffing – You know this has nothing to do with your hair
44. Tacos & Clams – I love diving for them but we all know you can’t dive alone. Want to be my dive partner?
45. Toys – You still enjoying playing with them, sharing them and receiving them as gifts
46. PMS – Just accept it and deal with it. Please don’t claim you’re not affected by it. This implies you’re either premenstrual or post menopausal. (See “Age” below)
47. Age – It’s just a number and has nothing to do with maturity. Let’s keep it legal though so somewhere between 18 and 50
48. You agree - Sex is to a man what talking is to a woman. So no talking on at least the first date! Don’t even try and sneak in a whisper at the door when we go our separate ways.
As you can see I’m not too picky. If this describes you, shoot me an email and we can chat. All emails with attached HOT photo will be replied to.
Monday, August 14, 2006
I would finally arrive home around 9:30. Sitting in the sink, rising a foot above the top of the sink and overflowing on all available counterspace, would be all the dishes that had accumulated since 5:35 that morning. Sitting on the couch would be [lazy] husband #3 and [lazy squared] 16yo stepson. (Okay, in #3's defense, I have to say he wasn't lazy outside the home, just inside. He believed everything outside the house was man's work and everything inside was woman's work. And let the record show that at this point in his life he was only working part-time.) I would say hello in as kind a voice as I could muster, then move into the kitchen and spend the next half hour cleaning and straightening, before falling into bed at 10:00 only to start the whole routine again in the morning.
<Editorial comment on>
You're probably wondering why I took the job in D.C. if I had a successful career as a piano teacher. Because #3 told me I wasn't bringing in enough money. How much money was he bringing in at that time? Oh, that would be a big fat zero. And yes, I did put up with this nonsense for two-and-a-half years, until [lazy squared] severely learning-disabled stepson threatened to shoot me when I told him to do the laundry that had piled up in his room to the height of three feet. After coming home every night for two months afraid for my life, I called it quits. And yes, there were guns and ammunition available in the house, and yes, I did ask #3 to lock them up, and no, he couldn't be bothered. Live and learn.
<Editorial comment off>
So what's the other end of the spectrum?
Mr. Match came over for dinner on Saturday night. We sliced and diced together and had a lovely evening. Sunday afternoon he called and apologized for not helping me clear the table. He was concerned that he had been thoughtless. Really!
I've said it before; I'll say it again. It's all relative!
(And I salute the U.S. Air Force and previous wives and fiancées for making this neat and clean, thoughtful and considerate man what he is today. I'm certainly the winner of this round!)
Sunday, August 13, 2006
It turns out that certain aspects of her new husband's life were not as she had been led to believe. Now she feels trapped and doesn't want to undergo another divorce.
So how do you determine what's real? As soon as I have a person's name, I start Googling. When I have some background and history, I search the public records in the locations where he has lived. I want to see marriages, divorces, properties owned, anything I can find. (I automatically assume the person has no criminal record, but then I've never been conned — God forbid that I ever have to search for criminal records!)
I'm sure my friend didn't sign an antenuptial agreement. I doubt that I would sign one again. I had to sign a 15-page agreement on marriage number two, and there was minimal wealth involved. He just wanted to make sure everything he had went to his children and nothing to me. I'm a generous person; I believe in sharing what I have with those I love. My desire to ensure my grandchildren's education and to leave a little nest egg for my sons is taken care of through insurance policies. If and when I remarry or enter into a primary committed relationship, my mate will be able to trust that he won't have to change his lifestyle if I predecease him. And I'm not going through another divorce. If he wants a divorce, he's gonna predecease me! (Just kidding - maybe.)
To me, an antenup turns a relationship of love and caring into a business relationship. It removes the trust and puts up a wall of self-protection. But I'm open to being disabused of that opinion.
So does one insist on full financial disclosure? Mr. Match and I are pretty open with each other about our financial situations, but verbally, not in writing. I don't feel I need to see all the paperwork. [But we're not in a committed relationship; we're just at getting-to-know-you.] I have been very clear that I'm not looking for a knight on a white horse. I believe in taking care of myself financially, and in sharing the financial burdens of a shared life. Am I too trusting?
I choose to believe that one cannot be "too trusting". I choose to believe things work out the way they're supposed to.
I hope to never be proven wrong.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
So that line of thought brought me to - what else can/do I not do when I'm in a relationship.
The obvious is makeup and hair on Sunday morning. Every other morning, I don't feel human until I've showered, washed and dried my hair and applied makeup. Sunday mornings I tend to stay in my jammies, unwashed and hair all over my head until 10:00 or so. Now, with the hope I'll get some face time, I'm ready much earlier. That way, if I get a quick phone call inviting me to brunch, I'm ready to go.
Personal grooming aside, there's the trolling-for-men action. When I'm in a relationship, I don't look left or right. Mind you, I don't mind my fella looking around and even commenting on the competition. So long as I'm by his side, and I'm the one he's commenting to, why should I care? I've got the best — they can have the rest. But when I'm not in a relationship, I'm keenly aware, 24x7, that I've got a hole in my life. I make it a point to walk to the cafeteria once or twice a week, and I scope out every man I pass — is he tall, is he nice looking, does he dress decently, is he wearing a wedding ring, did he even notice me? In the cafeteria, I sit alone at a table near the route to the exit. I work my crossword puzzle, eat my sandwich, and glance up fetchingly to scope out every wedding-band-less man who walks by. Of course, I take no action. Even if I noticed a man who met all the listed criteria, I wouldn't do a stinking thing about it. I might hope that he would turn around and catch up with me and strike up a conversation. But that never happens, so what's the point?
So is that why I, why we, all end up online, scoping out all the available singles, sorting through all the fish? Even if they don't respond to my winks, I know (or at least believe) they're there for a purpose. Hopefully that purpose is the same as mine: to find someone with whom to spend time, or establish a life.
Friday, August 11, 2006
I think I found what I want. I'm just waiting around for him to decide I'm what he wants (or not). While I'm waiting, there are plenty of better ways to spend my time than crewsin' guys on Match. The guys that are out there are either not interesting to me or, if they're interesting, I already winked at them and they didn't respond. My side of the ocean is pretty empty.
But then maybe I'm just innocent or naive. In an e-mail I receive by subscription each day, I followed a link to an online dating site I had never heard of. OMG. I'm comfortable with men seeking women and vice versa. Because of the people with whom I've associated in my musical life, I'm also comfortable with men seeking men and women seeking women. But on this site, there were lots of other options one could choose. (No, I'm not talking about sheep!) I looked for a moment, then quickly closed my browser before anyone could figure out I'd been there. I guess maybe there are lifestyles about which I'd rather not know.
I mentioned about a month ago that, if I were looking for some sort of alternative lifestyle or no-strings-attached physicality or whatever, the Internet would absolutely not be the place I'd go to try to find it.
But back to my search for a traditional lifestyle: Each time my relationship-of-the-moment ends, I think, "Not going there (online) again. Just going to let it happen naturally." And after six or eight weeks of no dates and no prospects for date, I go there again.
Maybe in this day and age, the Internet is how things happen naturally. I will always hope that isn't so, but may have to concede that it is.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Dr. Robin's statement, which I immediately copied down, was, "you tend to marry someone who articulates your inner voice." If that's so — and it absolutely was so for me in my first marriage — then how do you change that? Do you try to translate your inner voice into a better message, or do you try to change the pattern of the type of man you marry? Or both? (Now there's a tall order!)
I think I've been successful through the years of therapy in changing my inner voice, but there's still the Little Adoptee, perched in the attic of my brain, calling down that I'm unacceptable and I'd better watch my behavior. Sometimes I can shut her up, throw her a piece of chocolate so she'll go away, but sometimes not.
I married my first husband because my mother said I'd never get a man. He proposed. So there. Showed her! Husband number two was a little better choice, but still not a choice. More of an acquiescence. He asked, he wanted me with him, he accepted little unacceptable me. I married number three because we were buddies, pals, friends, and I needed health insurance. I married John for all the right reasons. He had similar losses in his life (death of his mother at age three, placement by his father into an orphanage shortly thereafter, a series of foster homes, six months at a time, for the next few years). He and I gave to each other the acceptance and unconditional love that we'd always been seeking. And then he died. I agreed to the long-term engagement with EEFFH because I was out-of-my-mind lonely and he played a good courting game.
So I guess, as I think about these relationships and the dating I've done for the past three years, that it's both - change your picture and change your pattern. When I'm with Mr. Match. the reflection of myself that I see is the person I want to be. He encourages or enables me to see the strong and smart me that's been hiding inside lo these many years, just waiting for the right situation so I can emerge.
I've had so much fertilizer (i.e. manure) dumped on me for so many years, it was inevitable that I would bloom mightily at some point!
I want to know if my potential partner is a negotiator or a yeller or a deep freeze or a crawl-in-his-hole-of-depression or a sarcastic meanie or a who-me?-mad?-I'm-just-going-to-hold-it-against-you-forever or, simply, a person who doesn't fight, whom nothing fazes.
I've had the depression. He would go four or five days without speaking to me. (At the five year mark, our therapist said, "You know, we've been beating this dead horse for two-and-a-half years now.") And I've had the hold-it-against-you. When he finally let it all out, it took him one hour per year we had been together to dump it all. There's working-things-out for you! John never fought. Uncle Sam had taught him to choose his battles. There were no differences in the marriage worth losing one's life over.
On Christmas morning six months after John died, I went to see "You've Got Mail." I was lonely and thinking about trying to start dating again and scared about doing so and thinking of trying online dating. So this seemed like a good movie to see. Then the scene where Joe Fox is trying to prepare Kathleen Kelly for meeting NY152, who is really him. He says, "and the worst thing we would fight about would be what movie to rent on Saturday night." And I totally broke down, because that's the kind of marriage I had had and was afraid I would never have again. I sobbed through the rest of the movie and walking to the car and for the half hour drive home. I couldn't stop sobbing.
So how do you ask someone what kind of fighter he is? How do you convey the real question — will you treat me with respect even when you disagree vehemently with me? And do you believe his answer? Is this one of those questions that can only be answered by actions?
Do you wait for the shoe to drop and you wait until the moment before you take your last breath and then if it hasn't dropped you breathe a sigh of relief?
I hope I'll get the chance again. And I hope he'll be someone who can treat me with respect, as I will strive to do with him.
Just don't discount my feelings. Please.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Further to this morning's discussion about justafarmboy wanting, then not wanting, what I wanted: I wonder if a responsive date/mate leads me to believe he wants exactly what I want in a relationship. If so, what does it take for the projected-upon partner to communicate clearly to me that there's been a misunderstanding?
In the last two or three weeks we were together before he took off for the Pacific Northwest for the summer, justafarmboy was just as physically present as he had been from day one of the relationship, but he was more and more emotionally distant. I excused and reasoned it away, but also knew it wasn't going to get talked-about. He was a terrific conversationalist, and we could talk at length about Cone 10 glaze recipes or favorite restaurants in Portland or the latest episode of "Lost". But touchy-feely things just weren't on the agenda.
So after the "I'm just not where you are" e-mail, I started questioning my perceptions and wondering if I had simply been projecting my feelings onto him.
Then, to confirm or deny that sense, I started paging back through old e-mails. (A word to the wise: don't ever say anything in an e-mail that you are afraid might come back to haunt you later.) He did. He did! He did say kind and loving and affectionate and — be still, my beating heart — flirtatious things to me as recently as four weeks before he fled Tucson for cooler climes.
So I'm not crazy. I didn't make this up. He did have feelings for me and desires for a relationship that somehow got waylaid on his way to becoming a Lemonade Tycoon.
And what was the bottom line for me out of that four-month relationship? I was able to hold the contents of that final e-mail at arm's length and say, "It's not about me."
I'm grateful for small wonders!
Justafarmboy and I used to frequent Frost. Yes, farm boys like gelato, especially those whose only European travel involved Italy and they want to relive that experience.
So feeling the smoothness of that gelato on my tongue made me start thinking about the fun we had together and the failure (or starvation) of that relationship. In the Match profile that justafarmboy saw when he began communicating with me, and in all our face-to-face communications after we started dating, I was very clear that I was lonely and wanted someone in my life, and that I didn't parallel date — I explored one relationship at a time. He indicated he wanted someone in his life. And yet, when it came down to choices at the end, he said, "I'm not in the same place you are regarding us."
Did he change his mind? Did he decide he didn't want a close relationship, a friendship filled with caring and love? Or did he just not want that relationship with me? His statement continued, "I want to figure out why and how to get there." That indicates to me that it wasn't me. I personally think he realized it was more work than he wanted to undertake to build and maintain the kind of relationship he saw possible in front of him. For the first time in my life, when this man broke things off with me, I was able to say, "It's not about me."
And that brings me to today's premise: do men really want caring, loving, monogamous relationships? I personally believe most women do, but I know there are those that don't. Are they the cynics in the crowd, and the rest of us the dreamers, the idealists? Do men know this about women, so their profiles are worded to indicate to women that he-and-she are thinking alike regarding desired relationships? And then once they've snagged her, they try to recraft the relationship into what they want, believing she-with-the-big-heart will be changed with that mid-course correction?
Very, very few men say, "I'm looking for someone to hang out with, no strings attached, no relationship involved." In fact, the last time my friend, the kayaker, put his profile out there, his first draft indicated he wanted, among other things, "a playmate". Several friends who proofed the draft advised him to excise that phrase from an otherwise enticing profile. We knew what he meant, but we were afraid it wouldn't come across well in his profile, wouldn't draw to him the type of woman we knew he wanted. (Although I think he would tell you himself that sometimes he doesn't even know the type of woman he wants.)
So many questions. So few answers.
I watched bits and pieces of "Must Love Dogs" again over the weekend, and to paraphrase a line from that movie: The function of all this pain and heartache that you go through is to break your heart so it can grow back bigger.
We're all lonely and looking, but we have very big hearts.
Monday, August 07, 2006
Maybe my thinking is too simplistic. Maybe having grandchildren versus not having grandchildren is no different than having a dog versus having a cat or an Acura versus a Chrysler.
I adore my grandchildren — everyone who knows me knows that about me. And I will willingly, if not gladly, endure great sacrifice to see my sons and DIL succeed and live well (within reason).
But how many men who have not experienced fatherhood will smile kindly when their woman breaks a date or causes other strain on the relationship in honor of her bond to her children? When I see and consider establishing communication with a man who is potentially a good match in all other areas, I pause when I see he has no children. I assume that, if presented with hardship to the relationship caused by my connection to my children, he would split or, at the very least, feel less positively about me than he had previous to the hardship.
The man from El Paso with whom I was involved last year had no children. At some point he told me that one of the factors that had drawn him to me was the fact that I was such an active grandma. He viewed that as indicative of my propensity to compassion or caregiving or ability to dispense tender loving care. He saw it not as a threat but as an added asset.
Mr. Match and I had tentative plans for Sunday afternoon when I learned that my services were needed with my grands. I mentioned this to him, and his immediate response was, "Family comes first." Now there's a man who gets it.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
(And with a tip o' the hat to Dave Barry: I am not making this up. It's too horrible to be fiction. I think not even Stephen King could make this up!)
We've referred to this man as EEFFH. He holds a Ph.D. in engineering and is an incredibly brilliant man, sought-after around the world for his computer networking knowledge. At the time of this story, he was a tenured professor at a nameless university in southern Arizona. Tenured professors in computer science at this university typically teach one class a semester, leaving the motivated and self-disciplined faculty members with lots of time for research and writing. But that's the motivated ones. Not the ones who started companies that went through the roof on the Swedish stock exchange at IPO, resulting in their being possessed of more dollars than sense. EEFFH was neither motivated nor self-disciplined.
His classes were routinely scheduled for afternoons, three days per week. Let's say he had a class that was held at 3:00 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He would plan to leave our foothills home at 2:00. He would get in the shower at 1:15 or 1:30, shave, brush his teeth, put on clean clothes, and drive off in his S430.
When he arrived home from work around 5:30, he would immediately strip down to his underwear and we would sit down to dinner. This was a man who loved to eat, as evidenced by his 350 pounds spread over a 5'10" frame. (Kiddies, can you say "slob"?) As he ate, he would spill — steak sauce, au jus, butter, whatever was pooling on his plate — down the front of his undershirt. Meager attempts would be employed to mop up the spill, but the cotton T-shirt actually did an excellent job of absorption.
After dinner he would settle into his recliner to watch some television on his monster screen. After an hour or so he would move into our bedroom. He TiVo'd O'Reilly and Hannity & Colmes and other such shows-for-screamers and would spend the next two hours sunk into the easy chair and ottoman, volume turned high enough that the yelling could be heard in the other wing of the 5,300 square foot house. He would doze off and on until getting up and crawling into bed, still wearing the T-shirt and briefs stained by steak sauce or au jus or whatever. He would not say good night; the only times I knew he had gone to bed were the few times he turned the television off before retiring. You'll notice I make no mention of his brushing his teeth before retiring. Oh, and whenever he used the toilet, he either didn't know to point his urinating device (trying to be PG-rated here) or he couldn't reach it because of his apron of fat, so he would splatter all over the floor in the bathroom. (I figured this out after about a year of living with him when the rug by his toilet was stained and reeked of urine. I thought the cat had caused the damage, but on further inspection realized it was human, not feline, urine!) (Trust me, I never used his toilet. The house had enough bathrooms that I had my own!)
The night would pass. He had some dental condition (I guess; he never went to a dentist in the four years we were together, so I have no solid information.) that caused him to drool as he slept, and the drool was always bloody. He would wake up in the morning with blood-stained drool decorating his T-shirt along with the aforementioned steak sauce-and-whatever melange.
He would get up, move to the kitchen and prepare a pound of bacon and several eggs, or a 16-oz. steak and several eggs. (He loved the Atkins diet!) This would be consumed while watching some news show on the kitchen television. Again, about every third bite would be accompanied by spilling on his T-shirt. After breakfast, he would go settle in either at the computer or in front of the television or his ham radio and while the day away until it was time to shower and dress for the university. (You'll notice I make no mention of his brushing his teeth after breakfast.)
Only when he got in the shower four or five hours later to prepare for class did he throw the T-shirt stained by 24 hours of drooling, dribbling and dropping into the dirty clothes.
This pattern went on, day after incredible day, year after horrific year, altered only by the scheduled class time.
And this was my reward for choosing to be honorable rather than shallow when I saw his schlumpy shvitzing obese self coming out of Customs at Dulles and thought for the briefest moment about rejecting him based on appearance. Four years in hell.
- - -
Mr. Match apologized when he came over for a drink last night. He was wearing the red T-shirt and khaki shorts he had been wearing all day while he ran errands and worked on the computer and he hadn't shaved (hadn't shaved for only one day!). There were no stains on him. He wasn't stinky from sweating all day. His hair was combed and he was filled with the enthusiasm that only a self-disciplined, motivated man can exhibit. Trust me, Darlin', you don't know how good you looked!
It's all relative.
Saturday, August 05, 2006
You are paging through your favorite dating site. You see someone who catches your eye. You wink. He winks. You e-mail. A day later he e-mails. It continues, then the frequency increases. Then you exchange phone numbers. You're very nervous when you know he's going to call. What will his voice sound like? Will he like your voice? Will you have anything interesting to say or merely giggle like a silly teenager?
You make it through the first call, and the second, and then the frequency of the calls increases. Soon you're talking several times during the day and maybe the last thing before going to sleep and maybe on the morning commute.
You like what you hear. You look forward to the calls and the conversations and the facts and stories you're going to discuss in the calls. You share your dreams with him, your hopes, your fears — a large part of your memories and your being. Each time you share some detail of your life that is very precious to you, you feel you have have done something very special — you have shared yourself and allowed this new person in your life to get to know you better.
But guess what. He might not even have been listening. He might have been watching the football game with the sound muted so you wouldn't know. Or he might have been doing Sudoku or the crossword. Or surfing the 'Net, shopping for his next car or book or woman.
Or he might have ulterior motives.
But in your mind he knows you better for today's conversation and in your mind you are closer to each other for having had this conversation.
(Okay, in defense of the sensitive men of the world, some of whom are heterosexual, there are men who do actually listen when you talk to them. You can really get closer to a man by conversing with him. If this happens to you, treasure the experience. It can be rare!)
So this pattern continues until some point — a week, a month, three months later — you decide to meet. You go into this meeting already in love with his mind, his speech patterns, his voice. Then you meet him and he's morbidly obese, a fact he's successfully hidden from you. Or he's wearing white socks with his dress shoes. Or he just doesn't light your fire. His mind lights your fire, you love the connection of all the phone calls and e-mails. But he's got a gap between his two front teeth or his hair is unkempt or he's blond and you prefer brunettes.
This, my dears, is why I subscribe to the theory of meeting as soon as possible after establishing that there might be some interest. Interest first, chemistry second, then getting-to-know-you and emotional intimacy thereafter.
And how do I know this so well? Y'know the "morbidly obese" reference above? That was EEFFH. I was absolutely swept off my feet with his long-distance romancing, with his frequent and heartfelt communications, with the flowers and the gifts. Little did I know, separated by over 4,300 miles, that the boy had a telephone addiction. I was in love with his brain. When he walked out of Customs at Dulles the first time I laid eyes on him, I wondered, "What have I gotten myself into?" But in the same instant, the good person inside me replied, "How shallow would I be to reject this wonderful man based merely on his appearance." So in the interest of not being shallow, the good person got to live through four years in hell. Honey, I've paid my dues. When I die, I've got automatic entrance to Hilton Head for time already served.
And how does all this relate to the current state of affairs? First day. Mr. Match winked, I replied, we met for a drink that same day. We got steps one and two out of the way. Now we're just enjoying the getting-to-know-you phase, without having to worry about what we'll think when we set eyes on one 'nother.
A good move, if I do say so myself.
Friday, August 04, 2006
My therapist once asked me what I liked about EEFFH, and I replied, "Well, he has beautiful eyes." At that moment in time, it was all I could come up with. But it was something.
John whistled — all the time. And when cooking, he always flipped the kitchen towel over his left shoulder; it was, to me, a signature action. John and I always slept "spooned" together. When he would get up on Saturday or Sunday morning to make an "oh-dark-thirty" tee time, he would take his pillow and tuck it into the small my back, the spot he had just vacated, to take his place so I wouldn't notice his absence as I slept on.
The first time Mr. Match cooked dinner for me and I saw him flip the towel over his shoulder, I almost passed out. Justafarmboy also whistled, but with a fabulous vibrato. How many people do you know who have a vibrato in their whistle? And he knew all the words to the songs from the 60s and 70s that I know and love. Husband #2 had a cute way of shoving his reading glasses up on his forehead. I don't know why I thought that was cute; it just was. Husband #3 had a good ol' boy air about him at times that made one think he could never "polish up" — but it was cute. Emotionally-Unavailable-Emil would hold my coat for me. As I slid my arms into the coat, he would lift it up on my shoulders and then wrap his arms around me from behind. I still think of that, 15 years later, on the rare Tucson occasions when I struggle into a coat.
But there are also the traits or characteristics that I either don't like or notice the absence of. And I'm not talking about toilet-seat-up nonsense. Any woman who is so self-centered that she can't notice whether the seat is up or down, and who feels the men of the world should make allowances for her, well, she's got bigger problems than toilet seats! Why don't we all just put not only the seat down but lid down? Wouldn't that solve the "problem"?
Oops, got sidetracked there. Justafarmboy was very even-tempered. That can seem like a good thing until you notice there's no enthusiasm about anything! When I started going out with Mr. Match and saw his enthusiasm — infectious enthusiasm — I thought, "Oh, how I've missed that." And public displays of affection. I like when a man reaches over and takes my hand as we're walking together. Or at the very least, doesn't flinch when I reach for his hand.
Someday soon I'll tell you another nightmare-inducing bedtime story about some of EEFFH's traits. When I would tell girlfriends this story, they would ask how I could stay with him for four days, much less four years. But you'll have to wait for that treat.
I don't need my car door opened for me. But I always notice and appreciate when it happens. I don't need the man to walk on the outside as we're walking down the sidewalk, but there's something very suave and debonair (and protective) when he automatically shifts to the outside after we cross the street. The Southern Belle in me cherishes that action.
The bottom line is this: no matter how many cute or endearing traits a man possesses, if he is unwilling or unable to connect emotionally, unwilling or unable to communicate effectively within the relationship, or, simply, just too lazy or apathetic to put energy and thought into the relationship, no coat-holding or whistling — shoot, no toilet-seat-replacing — can fix that. Nor, quite frankly, do you want it to.
Respect, love and honor in a relationship beats a whistle every time.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Are there women who spend time on an online dating site just looking for a friend, someone to casually date, someone they have no intention of integrating into their lives? I question that. It's certainly not my pattern.
When Mr. Match and I sat down across a cocktail table five weeks ago, his first question to me was "What are you looking for?" I said, and believed, that I was looking for someone to hang out with for the summer — a casual date, a man who could dress himself and not embarrass me in public. I wasn't looking for love. And, Zowie, lightning struck the table between us. Before the date was finished, I had leaned over and kissed him, because he was so darling, because I just couldn't help myself.
I believe that every woman hopes and dreams that there's a man out there who is just right for her. A man her mother and daddy will like, her kids will enjoy, her colleagues will think looks good with her, is well-suited to her. A man her friends will applaud for having the good sense to care about their dear friend, whom they know to be a truly fine person.
Within a couple of dates, I start wondering how my kids will like my new gentleman. I reflect upon their likes and dislikes of previous partners to see where there are intersects or disconnects. I rehearse in my head the ideal first meeting. I try to prepare my gentleman as we're building up to that first introduction: you'll like her, she's smart and talented; he's my heart; those babies are the dearest things in my life. If he truly cares about me, won't he truly care about these people who are so important to me? And will my children be able to see how happy this man makes me and tolerate any idiosyncrasies that aren't as endearing to them as to me?
With each man I encounter, I dream that he's the one who will carry me through the rest of my life. I hope, I fantasize, I project, I hold my breath that, finally, I'll be able to have happiness in my life again with someone who will love me and care about me and be ever-so-grateful that he found me out of all those online photos.
I dare to dream, to believe, that the man exists who will love me as I will love him, who will enable me to have my fondest dream come true.
I was very, very lucky once (okay, twice — I found him and then I found him again). The eternal optimist in me believes that maybe, just maybe, I could be lucky again.
Birth parents love each other, and out of this love grows the natural child. Adoptive parents choose to take a child into their life and love that child, as if it grew out of their love. (Okay, so that's a gross generalization, but stay with me here.) At my beloved daddy's memorial service, one of his associates said: when Dr. Crews was asked if one of his kids was adopted, he would reply, "Yes, but I can't remember which one."
I want one more primary relationship in my life, to last me the rest of my life. I put myself out there, I wink and e-mail and go on first dates and, infrequently, subsequent dates. I find someone who seems to be a good fit, who seems to be a nice person. I continue dating him and getting to know him better. I try to imagine a long-term relationship with him. I wonder whether my family will like him, will accept him. I try to imagine vacations with him, what we'll do when we retire, how we'll adjust to life together, whether we'll fight and how fair we'll fight. I wait for chemistry to happen, for the Petri dish to overflow. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it feels imminent but doesn't quite make it.
So my Question of the Day is this: is it nature or nurture; is it choice or chance? At some point, do we aging singles need to say, "I choose to love this person. I find a great many traits in this person that I treasure, respect, and honor. And I choose to support this person in the good times, and I choose to communicate honorably and work through the bad times to make them good times. I choose to make a mature, informed decision and move forward with my life with this kind, intelligent, trustworthy person who brings great joy, laughter, fun and love to my life."
The only problem with that premise is that it takes two mature adults to make it happen. If one person in the equation is scared to death of making another mistake, then this informed choice is probably not going to happen. And then the other person, the one who was ready to say, "I know a good thing when I see it and I'm ready and willing to commit to this person" is back to square one — the posting of the photos and profile and the waiting for winks and the checking Match.com 10 times a day to see if anyone has expressed any interest in him or her.
boring, Boring, BORING! I just want to get on with Life! When asked if I succumbed to chemistry or made an informed choice, I want to be able to respond, "Yes, but I can't remember which one."
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
I know men who will not initiate contact with a woman on Match.com, no matter how attractive they find her to be. I know women who never wink first. And these are not just women in my age range who were raised to believe that a nice girl doesn't call a boy. There are even 30somethings who believe the man must make the first move.
I occasionally will write a man whose profile I find especially compelling, even if I'm not interested in starting something with him. It's basically the same theory under which I will spend an hour in a wearable art gallery, such as Artemesia in Taos or Santa Fe Weaving Gallery or Limited Additions in Tucson, and discuss with the owner the ins and outs of the garment construction without buying any of the merchandise. I believe the owner, understanding my knowledge of and appreciation for fibers and quality construction, will be complimented by my admiration.
Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe she only wants to hear what I have to say if my comments are accompanied by a sales slip. Maybe the men who write fabulous profiles only want to hear from me when I'm a potential date or mate, even if they are geographically undesireable and a face-to-face meeting is completely impractical.
When I look back at the various long-term men in my life, they have always been men who chose me. I cannot recall an instance when I laid eyes on a man, decided he was the one for me, and set out to convince him of that fact and win him over. Is that indicative of low self-esteem — the old "I don't want to be part of any club that accepts me as a member" situation?
Conversely, with the three marriages that ended in divorce, I did the walking. I got to a point where I knew that I had to leave in order to retain any self-respect (or, in a couple of cases, my life), so I packed up whatever I had walked in the door with, and walked right back out the door, ten, five, and two-and-a-half years later.
You're probably sick of hearing about my Little Adoptee. God knows I'm sick of living with her. But I suppose placing that much power in the hands of the man in any relationship could very easily be related to my fear of abandonment and need for acceptance. "I'll sit here quietly until you decide if you want me. If you do, then we'll move forward. If you don't, then I'll go away just as quietly as I sat here waiting."
How's that working for me, you ask. Not terrifically well, but it's really the only way I know to do it, so I guess I'll keep on with this tactic until something else occurs to me. Something probably far wiser.