How Do You Feel About That Ugly Word Baggage?

Personally, the word “baggage” is a term that rankles me.

Several posts ago,  in the comments section of the article titled Kip’s Challenge, I was quite pointedly and not-so-nicely accused of having baggage.  He made the comment that most men reading my blog would slowly back away from their computer monitors and retreat to the companionship of other men in a bar.  The implication being that relationship with me would be too much work. (Now, how he would know what other single men would or would not do since he is a.) not one of them and, b.) not a woman dating them, is beyond me, but, yeah, we’ll go with that for now.) Supposedly, Kip has an inside track to the normal healthy available  male mind (the aberrant, unhealthy and unavailable don’t interest me, for obvious reasons.

That comment of Kip’s elicited a flurry of comments which ended in Kip silently backing away from his computer monitor and retreating into silence without much of a fight.  It’s been said that silence is interpreted as agreement.  Need I say more about that?

I’m not entirely certain what Kip  meant by baggage, but if, as I think he did, he was referring to the typical things that people refer to when labeling someone as having “baggage” (kids, past failed marriages, life history and experience, a career, some debt, and a life of my own that I actually enjoy and am not willing to necessarily tube for some dolt with a penis and a pocketbook) then I suppose he is right.  I have baggage and loads of it.  The fact that he said it, doesn’t really bother me so much, the fact that he was the one saying it, when I know full well he is sitting on top of a load of baggage far messier and larger than my own, is what I found humorous.  But you can go read all that for yourself over there if you like.  I’d suggest you not waste your time…unless you actually like some drama.

Over the last two years, I’ve done some thinking about the word baggage, and Kip’s comment forced me to revisit and take another look at this ugly word.

It is an ugly, ugly word.  It is ugly because it attacks the person at the core of their being but doesn’t mean anything at the same time.

Upon entering the dating scene nearly two years ago,now, I like most others just coming out of a disastrous marriage, was in no shape to begin dating.  Even so, I ventured forth against the advice of good friends who knew me and knew better.  I dated for about six months, learned a lot about myself and eventually quite dating, because I determined my friends were right.  I need to sort myself out first before I was going to even be able to recognize a soul mate should he ever venture onto the scene. 

During this initial dating period, I tried several different methods of meeting people.  One of them being, online dating.  In fact, I tried nearly all the prominent well known ones and some of the not so well known ones.  During this online dating phase, I encountered the word baggage more often than I care to remember. 

Baggage is an ugly, derogatory word that contains a million diffferent meanings depending upon who is using the word and what their particular definition of it might be. It is like the word love in reverse.  People love God, or they love their significant other or their kids, and they love movie theatre popcorn or stiletto pumps, or lobster.  Another vague and meaningless word like this is the word, “good”.  What exactly is good?  He felt good.  That movie was good.  You are a good person.  Baggage is yet another word that is so vague as to be meaningless anymore except when it is used it can really sting.  Even if it isn’t true.

You often hear folks mention it in their profiles saying things like this, “Those with baggage need not apply.”  LOL!  Like, first of all anyone with baggage is really going to admit it and second of all, what exactly are you calling baggage there, buddy?  I mean, really? Seriously?  As if the person writing it who is pushing 50 has a clean slate themselves.  If they do, that’s the biggest piece of baggage!  Baggage for me (not divorced, a lot of drama associated with the past because the divorce settlement or parenting time was vague, too many financial loose ends involving the ex, a volatile or violent ex,  emotional instability, a prison record, unemployed, homeless, addicted) could be entirely different for someone else.  Most men seem to state kids, addictions, and insecurities as the main elements of baggage.  Most men do not include a stalker woman as one who has baggage since they mostly like to be stalked.  Expecially if the woman is beautiful, tiny and has had her breasts magically enlarged so that they are significantly larger than her buttocks.  What they don’t really recognize though, is that a woman like that (unless she paid for the services herself) is probably carrying a load of “baggage” (read insecurities and not comfortable in her own skin) and has even bigger expectations for relationship which don’t center around accepting the man as he is but instead focus on measuring him in light of the depth and breadth of his pocketbook.  But I digress.

Most of the time, when someone says, “He/She has a ton of baggage” it is intended as malicious insult aimed at undermining the recipient’s competence as an adult human being.  It simply means “He/she is incapable of doing life”.  They are an incompetent individual unable to deal successfully with the challenges of adult life, therefore they are being crossed off the list of life by someone, usually, who has enough baggage of their own as to make the person they are criticizing look bag free.

It doesn’t mean merely that person was not a good fit.  It doesn’t mean that  the person made some bad choices in the past but they are overcoming them and they’ll be alright.  It’s a completely derogatory term usually used by the middle aged single people for other middle aged single people.  And most people don’t mean “life experience” or “the past” when they are talking about it.  They definitely mean to lump all the person’s issues into one neat and tidy word without specifying anything but with the clear intent to verbally knock the person flat.  Because really, the term baggage is so vague, so broad, who honestly can argue with it?

To many, I would be someone with a lot of baggage: four kids, a home that I own that I have not foreclosed on, but which needs some cosmetic improvements and which has a yard that needs tending to in order to keep it beautiful, a diminishing debt load and a successful career that requires a lot of time and energy from me during 9 months of the year.  That would be baggage for some.

For others, my baggage would center around the fact that I have two marriages that didn’t work out.  Okay, I’ll say it: I have two failed marriages. And, yes, they failed because I was as much a part of the problem as the other person.  That admission somehow sends off alarms to all (well, at least the unhealthy insecure “all”)  that I’m incompetent in relationship.  People make assumptions instead of asking the critical question, “What was that about for you?”  For others, my baggage would center around the fact that I’ve spent a fair amount of time after my last divorce thinking through exactly that very question and reflecting not only on what the other person did or didn’t do that didn’t work for me, but also on how I contributed to the problem.  The result is, in some areas I’m very clear on what I will or will not tolerate in relationship.  I’m clear on what the foundations of a good relationship must be and how to recognize them. I’m becoming more and more clear on what my limitations are and what does or doesn’t work for me and my boundaries in this regard are getting firmer daily. I’m also unwilling to waste time in any relationship that doesn’t demonstrate at least the basics of emotional, financial and legal availability and the biggie: mutual  acceptance and respect .  Many men, especially those, who haven’t a clear concept of their own self identity, who are insecure or immature, and/or who need a woman to take care of them or fulfill them or to meet their self-centered needs, or who are simply stupid, can’t stand me.

I’m totally okay with that! 

The term baggage, however, is  one of those words which while intended to harm the person talked about, also implicates the person wielding the word.  When someone uses that word, eyebrows raise and the question goes out, “Oh, really, what do you mean?”  It works like this.  You use the word “baggage”.  The question goes out, “What do you mean?”  The word is uselessly vague so you must clarify the word and in clarifying the word you malign the other person somehow. When you malign another from your past, especially when on a date with a new person, it is the death knell.  You’ve succeeded in assassinating the person you were talking about but you made yourself look just as bad in the process. Baggage is an ugly word which when used reflects badly on both the person targeted but even more so the person using the word.

How do you feel about the word “baggage”?  What does that word mean to you?

Bad Behavior

Recently a friend shared with me how her boyfriend of nearly 8 months ditched her for a period time on their last date without saying anything to her.  It seems they were out with a crowd of people and he simply disappeared for a while with another one of the guys from the group.  My friend was not really left alone.  She was with other people she knew, but she was in a different city about 30 minutes away from her place  and dependent upon her boyfriend for a ride home.  He was not even in the same location with her for over an hour of the time they were out on their date.  When they met back up again, my friend, smart cookie that she is, ended the date and insisted that her boyfriend take her home.  He was surprised that she had had enough for the evening and was calling it a night a good two hours before the time they originally planned the date would end.

Surprised?   He was surprised that she was not going to put up with his bad behavior as if what he’d done was perfectly acceptable.

Another friend, recently met a man and went out with him for a first date.  He showed up dressed in an old tee shirt and a baseball cap. While on the date,  this man did not offer to buy her drinks but allowed her to buy his and did not say thank-you.  She never went out with him again.

Surprised?  Are you surprised that she was not going to put up with his bad behavior?

A third friend went out with a man who was attractive, intelligent, and paid without flinching for the drinks on their first meeting.  He went overboard to express his interest in her and to ask for a second date.  He told her he’d call her in two days.  He kept his word.  When he called he suggested they do something the next Saturday, she agreed.  He told her he’d call later that week to firm something up.  He called at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday.  She saw the call ring in on her phone, recognized the number and let it go to voicemail.  She continued on with the plans she’d made for herself that evening after not having heard from him by midweek. What were those plans?  A home pedicure and a quiet evening in…alone.  When I spoke to her later about her thinking she said this, “I have better things to do that to waste time on someone who demonstrates such bad behavior.”   I asked her what she’d do if he called again?  She said, “He won’t, but if he does, it won’t matter.  He had his chance and he already blew it.” 

Surprised?  Was my friend playing games in the way she dealt with the man’s bad behavior?  Was she too harsh?

Bad behavior.  It happens.  Men behave badly toward women and women behave badly toward men.  It is not my intent here to point out or villify one sex over the other, but for the puposes of this article, I am speaking mostly of men and their bad behavior with women.  I do recognize however, that the relational road is a two way street and both sides get mistreated. 

We  put up with the bad behavior because we are so afraid of losing the relationship. This is something I have been guilty of more often than not in the past.  A guy says he’ll call, then doesn’t.  A guy calls at the last minute for a date that evening.  Worse, he pulls the typical 11:00 p.m. bootie call. (Now, that I’ve never put up with not even in my college days when it was normal for a date to start at 11:00!) A guy takes a woman out to a party then ignores her the entire evening.  A guy spends his time looking over every female that walks by while out on a date with you, his girlfriend, of a year.  A guy says he loves you and wants to get married, two years later a date is still not set and he is waffling.  The guy says he wants to move in.  The scheduled date for moving in comes and goes and he and all his things are still not in the same residence with you and yours.  Bad behavior.  We put up with it because the alternative in most cases is kicking the guy to the curb.  We don’t kick the guy to the curb because that means so many unpleasant things.

It could mean loss of the relationship.  If it does, then there go the dreams, the hopes the imaginary future you’d built in your head about all the possibilities you two could have had/done together.  It means you now do not get to check the “in a relationship” box on MySpace or Facebook.  If the relationship tubes, it means pain and loss and grief and anger.  It may mean some lonely nights in front of the t.v. with a box of Kleenex.  It could mean some self recrimination as you wonder, “Why on earth did I waste so much time hoping he cared about me the way I cared about him when it was so evident he did not?”  It could mean a complete change in living accommodations and lifestyle and standard of living.  It could mean so many things that are seemingly worse than just tolerating the bad behavior. 

But tolerating the bad behavior is damaging to us.  By tolerating bad behavior from anyone, we devalue ourselves and risk losing or crippling our confidence and our self-esteem.  No one needs to tolerate bad behavior on the part of a significant other.  We also don’t need to respond to the bad behavior with similarly bad behavior. 

Bad behavior happens.  So, what to do when it does? 

Well, to answer this question, one must first be very clear about what they want from relationship and what they will not tolerate.  Once one is clear about these things, the rest is fairly easy.  Simply do not tolerate the unacceptable behavior.  No need to get mad.  No need to get upset. No need to waste any time wondering if he’ll change or call or apologize.  Just don’t tolerate it. No explanation is needed. 

I hate to sound so callous, but seriously?  If he’s treating you that badly before you’re in a “committed relationship”, what will he treat you like after?  It generally doesn’t improve. Further, why waste any more time in relationship that is mediocre, unsatisfactory, disappointing or just not working?  Life is too short and there are plenty of decent men out there ready, willing and able to treat a woman they care about with dignity, respect and integrity.

So, how would I have done each of those scenarios if I were taking my “No Tolerance” approach? 

In the case of  the first friend whose boyfriend took off for an hour without saying anything to her, I wouldn’t have waited out the hour to find out that he was gone for over an hour.  I’d have either asked a friend to take me home or called a cab the minute I found out he was nowhere around.  I would not go out with him again.  If he called and offered some lame-ass excuse for his behavior (which is the only kind he could offer in such a circumstance) I would politely listen.  I would not offer an explanation for my behavior other than possibly to say, “There’s just not much about that entire episode that interested me that much.”  No need to discuss.  End of call.  I would screen any further calls.  No tears, no drama, no need.  I’m worth being treated better than that.  At minimum, I’m worth an explanation and the opportunity to say I want to go home if the plans have changed.  Further, I would not have done that to him. 

In the case of  my friend who’s date showed up for the first date dressed carelessly and who behaved carelessly, I would have ended the date within an hour.  Fortunately for her, they arrived in separate vehicles and she was free to leave when she wanted without having to depend upon him for a ride.  (I’m a big advocate of doing this if the date is a first date with someone you don’t know very well or if it is someone you are meeting from online.)  I would not go out with this person again and I would screen all calls as well. If it doesn’t matter to you how a man dresses or presents himself publicly and if you don’t mind being his bankroll then this behavior might not bother you.  It goes back to being very clear about what you want and what you don’t want.  The direction I am steering my life, has no room for someone who cannot move fluidly from a nice formal occasion to a tee-shirt and jeans and back again as needed depending upon the occasion.  Knowing this about myself, helps me eliminate the would be contenders for my affection that aren’t a good fit, no matter how nice they seem to be.  And, no, there’s not much about being someone else’s bankroll that interests me all that much. That’s what I do for my children, not for my lover.  I’m not opposed to bringing what I can to the financial table, but he needs to be willing to contribute too.

In the case of the third friend whose date didn’t call until the night of the date, I’d have done exactly what she did and I have on several occasions.   I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again:  when a man is crazy about a woman, he doesn’t let her phone grow cold.  He doesn’t wait until the last minute to call.  He doesn’t give her his number and hope she’ll call him.  Again, I know what I want and what I will not tolerate.  I want a guy who is crazy about me and a guy who doesn’t call simply is not.  He’s not shy, he’s not busy, he’s not unable to call, he’s simply not interested.  That doesn’t work for me. 

It’s just bad behavior and I have already used up all my bad behavior moments in this life.  They’ve all been spent on past relationships, enduring very bad behavior when I should have been moving on and enjoying my life.  Instead, I allowed myself to experience a great deal of misery and pain which I could have avoided by recognizing the bad behavior from the start instead of overlooking, ignoring or excusing it. I only have time and energy left in my life to spend on giving the best of me (which is my time and energy) to those who are really truly going to appreciate it.

Romance Is A Game Best Played On A Level Playing Field–Act 3

Curtains rise on The Wild Mind staring pensively off in stage left direction.  Lights up. The Wild Mind wakes herself from her reverie, takes a sip from the mug, put it down absent mindedly and resumes typing at her computer.

ghost-picWho can even fight fair against a ghost? I had no chance to start with.

This brings up another key point that I wish I’d known all along:

The Beau started up contact with the Old Flame at the same time or shortly before he invited me to Christmas Eve dinner. I had no chance from the beginning, because as long as she was even a remote figment in his imagination, I could have been perfect and it wouldn’t have mattered. The living cannot compete against ghosts who still live and carry even the smallest hope of reincarnating themselves.

In a word, The Beau, was not emotionally available. Not really.

I suspected it but I did not know this.  He liked me a lot.  Had she not even been a possibility, I dare say we may have had a chance at a really, really good thing. But it could not ever be, because ghosts are powerful and will not be denied. 

It just was not meant to be between The Beau and I. I’m okay with this. I told him so.  I know there is someone out there for me somewhere.  (I’m skeptical, at this point, about my ever finding him, but that’s okay too.)

The Beau wants to remain “friends”. He said he’d hoped he could be that friend that I call first to tell him I’ve finally met Mr. Right.  While I don’t want to burn bridges unnecessarily, but I never wanted The Beau to play that role in my life. (Sorry, but that will probably be Semi-Professional Photographer Friend and not you, Beau. I already have friends like that in my life. That was not what I was looking for or what I needed when I started dating you. If it had been, you’d have been contacting me on Facebook the first time not on an online dating site.)

I told him that while I’m usually able to do be friends with people I date, I don’t think I can do that here. At least, not right away. He understands this to mean that I am sad, hurt and heartbroken that he’s choosing her over me. It really isn’t so much that at all. It was that this relationship, more than any other to date, for me, had all the signs of being completely viable and lasting…except that he just wasn’t that into me…in the most important way.

And, I so don’t want to be with someone who is into me,kinda, but just not enough.  I want him to be crazy about me or it’s not going to go very far even if I’m crazy about him. 

I also don’t want to be competing against unburied ghosts from the past.  It is not how I’m going to roll.

My disappointment comes from knowing I was right early on and not trusting myself earlier and just moving ahead with my heart. Instead, I kind of dabbled and played the “Well…Maybe….What if?….” game.

My sadness (if there really is any) comes from thus far in my entire life, not having one man who would really go to the wall for me in spite of me going to the wall repeatedly for them. thinkingTwo marriages which existed mostly because I made excuses for the men and held the marriages together at my own personal health and financial peril are enough. The dating scene has been no better. I’ve mostly met men who should not even be dating because they are a.) married and lying about it (read, The I. J.), b.) separated and working on it (read, still not available emotionally or legally no matter what he thinks or says) or c.) still in love with a past relationship that didn’t, won’t, or can’t work out (read The Beau and several current prospective suitors who are making bids for my time and attention but who haven’t quite thrown the dirt over the grave of their past loves).  The graveyard of past loves is not a safe place to go exploring for Mr. Right. 

This is all very confusing, because there is no way you know this going in to a relationship except by being very careful and paying very close attention (something I’m getting much better at doing), and there is no way you can possibly compete with the past or connect fully with the unavailable heart, while you’re there.  When you get out, you regret the whole bloody thing because the playing field was never level from the get go and it was just a big waste of time, except to confirm to you what you already knew about love, life and dating anyway. Who needs to experience all that just to find out you were right all along? I’d rather paint ceilings with rollers.

While I am disappointed (not distraught) on one one level that ” it “didn’t work out with The Beau and I, I really enjoyed our times together and I learned a lot.  It’s always nice to be in a relationship or to be thinking you might be heading that way.  On another level, I can do so much better than to spend my time wondering where I stand all the time.  I go back to my very opening point in these series of posts: When a man is into a woman, no one has any doubts about it, least of all the woman or man involved.  Am I making myself clear here.  I hope I remember that point.

The Beau, was courageous in talking to me about where he stood. I admire that. I gave him an out. He could have taken the chicken’s way out and responded to my text with, “Yeah, I’m not going to be able to make it. I’m wiped out.” Given the FB communiques it would have delivered the same message. He chose not to do that and instead delivered the message the tough way: face to face. I just wish it wasn’t in my living room, but okay. Live and learn. Next time, when I anticipate that news, I will suggest we go out, better yet, I’ll try to force a phone conversation.

Cue happy musical score as curtains fall.  The Wild Mind leans back in her chair and smiles.

To be concluded in the next post…

Romance Is A Game Best Played On A Level Playing Field, Act 2

Continued from previous post….sfcablecar1

Sure enough, The Beau met Old Flame on Thursday night in San Francisco (liar, his phone was not off, duh!)

The Beau then took about 25 minutes to tell me something that really only required 5 minutes discussion and which I already knew anyway.  I kept wanting to interrupt and say, “Cut to the chase, please” but I refrained due to the remote possibility that I could be wrong and he could be telling me that he finally once and for all put it on the shelf with the Old Flame and wanted to move forward with me. 

I now understand the very definite advantage to going silent.  If someone is going to give me that kind of news, I’m not sure I ever want to sit through half an hour of hearing about how much fun they have with someone who is not me in what happens to be my favorite city in the whole world.  That was the most painful part.  Da** him!  Now I have to pick another favorite city. 😀

Apparently, The Beau and Old Flame (who is, get this, almost 21 years younger than he..I so knew my being only 11 years younger was an issue for him) picked up where they left off, but since she’s living with a fiance of 5 years that she’s supposedly leaving, and because she lives in Texas, there are complications.  Even so, before leaving her on Friday, he told her “If you’re leaving him, I’m interested in pursuing us.”

This, from a man, who couldn’t make a 90 minute twice a month commute work out with someone who has no five year live in fiance still in the picture.  

Yeah.  Like I said: When a man is into a woman….he knows, she knows and there is no obstacle too great.

5blarge5d5banimepaper5dwallpapers_range-murata_dioma1_6__thisres__70420Okay, so none of this came as any surprise to me, though it was painful because it was so disappointing on so many levels. I really liked The Beau. He travelled easily and by this I mean, he fit seamlessly (from our perspective) into our family. I absolutely know, and I speak with confidence from experience not from arrogance or wishful thinking, that we could have blended our families so easily. There was just a high level of mutuality, compatibility, communication and willingness to negotiate without giving ourselves completely up. And we agreed on expectations for behavior from the kids. He also had a wonderful way of calling the kids out respectfully, humanely and without overstepping his bounds, something that is such a must have for me. I think that is important in a relationship but especially when kids are involved.

But for all that The Beau really liked about me and he did “like” me, I was, for him, what the I.J. was for me. Everything, EVERYTHING about me for him stacked up in the “works for me” category for him, except one very important thing: chemistry (while we had it in spades, or so it appeared, it just wasn’t what he had with the Old Flame) .

In addition, The Beau simply was not emotionally available because he had a ghost from his past that just wouldn’t die. He has to follow his heart. I get it. I do wish him all the best.

I did tell The Beau this, “Remember way back when I told you my When A Man Is Into A Woman Philosophy and you disagreed with me?”

He nodded. hes-just1

I continued, “You just proved my point. You think nothing of trying to pursue something in Texas, when 90 minutes killed you with me. When a man is really into a woman….” I let my voice drift off. 

What could he say?

I told him, he needed to follow his heart ( like he needed or cared about getting my permission) and that I totally understood. (I really do understand and I wouldn’t want him hanging anywhere near me if any part of his heart is still somewhere else.)  I told him that I am disappointed but only because the way he feels about the Old Flame, is how I someday hope someone will feel about me and vice versa.  I am unwilling to settle on that score.  I reminded him that this is what I was trying to tell him a month ago, when the status of our “whatever we had” changed. I also told him, that I predicted he’d be married to her by the end of the year. We shook on it.

I also told him I was removing him and her from my Facebook. Not because I’m angry, but because I don’t need daily reminders that I came in second. Not that love and romance is a competition. It isn’t.  I don’t view it that way.  But I do not need reminders daily that I spent the last three months entertaining the idea there might eventually be something, when in fact, there never was the remotest possibility.  Ghosts who are not dead are fully capable of reincarnating themselves.  The real and vibrant living have absolutely no hope against the imagination especially when it centers around ghosts from the past and thoughts of what could have been.  In dating situations like this the the playing field is just.not.level.

Cue sad, romantic music.  Lights gradually dim as The Wild Mind sitting pensively at computer (stage right), picks up coffee mug, leans back in her chair and stares thoughtfully into space (somewhere stage left).   Curtain drops on Act 2 as music fades.

To be continued…

Conversing With The Italian Job

So, I went for a walk tonight.

It wasn’t just any walk.

It was a walk to remember.

First off, it is the night before a school day and that, for me, is usually fully packed with no time for me. Hence, no walks and no workouts in the evening for me.  And, evening is when I work out best because I have to be at work at 0’dark thirty so getting up even earlier than that, well, screw it.  I simply refuse.  Let the world reject me.  I don’t care.

I hate doing anything before 6 a.m. unless it is making love with the love of my life whom I’ve yet to meet, so whatever already.

The I.J. and I decided to meet and go for a walk tonight.  We decided this on Valentine’s as we casually talked about stuff.  You know, stuff.  The conversation that is no conversation.  It’s fun, but takes you nowhere or it takes you everywhere depending…on…so…many…things.

So, we decided to set the time for 8:30.  I felt I could have my home reasonably settled down by then.  All kids would be back from events, dinner served and cleaned up and the two youngest in bed or heading that way.  At 8:20, I was in Target picking up some things I needed for tomorrow night’s presentation (thank God, these will be over for the year after tomorrow night) and I called him and said, “Let’s make it 8:45 and just come on up to the house.  He said okay.  We clicked off.

8:45 comes and goes.  I’m ready and waiting.  No I.J.

8:50 comes and goes.  I’m ready and waiting.  No I.J. and I think, “This is so not like him.”  Okay, now that thought right there freaked me out.  That I could, with complete confidence say, this was not like someone, was just…well…something I’ve NEVER been able to do where a guy was concerned.  I’ve always questioned and doubted because…welllllll….because I never really could trust the stupid guys because they were always so inconsistent.  The I.J. has yet to be inconsistent and therein lies the freaking out point….I knew without a doubt that he was not standing me up but that there had been a disconnect somewhere in our communication.  (Wow!  Amazing concept since the last two significant relationships I’ve been in were all about the guy playing games to manipulate and control.)

My son suggested I just call him.  I balked, but only for 5 minutes.

I call at 9:00. 

“Hey, where are you?”

“I’m down here on the corner waiting for you.”

He’d not heard me or misunderstood that I wanted him to go ahead and come up to the house.   I knew there was a reasonable explanation and, to be honest, this also freaked me out, because after my last few experiences with husbands, men are definitely not to be trusted, so my completely trusting him and not even questioning it, was a huge thing.  Yes, I’m getting healthier with respect to all that, but it says more about the I.J.’s complete consistency and unwavering reliability than it does about me.  Had he been anything less than honest, I’d have figured it out.

So, I headed out the door for our walk and he met me halfway between the corner where he was parked and my house.  Don’t tell me meeting halfway isn’t significant, because I, in my mid-40 wisdom, know so much better.

The minute he met me, we turned in unison and began walking.  As we did so, he asked, “So, hey, do you want to go on up to J’s or do you want to go for a real walk.”  A man after my own heart.  J’s  is the little sports bar that is located in the little neighborhood strip mall between his house and mine. We’d talked about my walking up there and just meeting him there but he didn’t feel so comfortable with that with it being dark out and all.  I’ve never been to J’s.  I’m a tad bit old fashioned and only recently have been going in and hanging out at bars by myself and J’s is not one I’d explored yet.  So, we went to J’s.

I’m sad I didn’t get my full 40 minute workout in.

It’s okay, I worked out earlier today with my son.

And….drumroll please….

The I.J. and I had some real conversation.  (To know why this is important you’d have to read my password protected post so there.  If you want to read it ask for the password otherwise, just guess what it’s about from the context here and be okay with that. It’s up to you.)

I dont’ even know how this happened, but I simply started by asking questions, but not third degree type questions.  These questions were “what’s your opinion on that” kind of questions.

First off, I have to back track a bit and make it clear that I did clarify with him where I was on the fact that his divorce, filed though it apparently is, is not final. He seemed to understand and accept my perspective here. At least that is what he said…mind you he said it…not implied it…not grunted it…but said, “I totally understand that that is something that needs to be resolved before we can move ahead.”  Well, okay, honestly, I can’t remember exactly what he said but that was very, very close.

And, of course, my head was spinning about that statement alone.  I mean, wow, it was so…what an adult would say.  Go figure.  No tension, no drama, just the straight up reality.

He ordered Scotch, and strangely I waffled.  I usually go for a Long Island Ice Tea hands down every time and completely with confidence, but tonight was feeling like it needed something different so I ordered a Bombay Sapphire Martini.  We sat and chatted over our drinks, but it wasn’t just light small talk chat.

We covered a great deal of ground.

We talked about a lot of stuff that isn’t just small talk joking trivial fun stuff.

We talked about his recent dating history and mine.  We talked about a lot of stuff!  In a short amount of time! 

At one point, I shared with him my “Are we building a house or a playground” analogy (see previous posts about this).  I actually shared this with him in the context of saying how important I feel communication is in relationship and how, disagreement and differing perspectives don’t freak me out nearly as much as simple non-communication.

He cut to the chase with that and said, “I’d love to build a house with you.”

He told me he understood that “building a house” didn’t mean marriage or LTR, it simply meant an exclusive relationship where we take it a day at a time and see what happens.

He told me that my baggage, and he knows what it is, doesn’t phase him.

He told me he understands that I cannot even begin to build the house until I see proof the divorce is final.

He talked.

We talked. 

It wasn’t small talk.  It definitely moved us forward, or somewhere.  And, it gave me a glimpse into the fact that quite possibly here might be a man who could very well surprise me in so very many really wonderful ways.

Brave New Post Marriage Dating World

I have several friends lately who are just newly divorced and starting to think about dating again.  After many years in a marriage, no matter how bad it was, one can really miss the companionship of another adult.  And, yes, one misses the sex too.  Although, in some cases, the sex might have been nonexistent long before the marriage ended or it might have the reason the marriage ended. 

Whatever the situation, many of my now single friends are trying to negotiate this new world that I refer to as “Post 40 World” (even though some of us are not really post-40, all of us feel like it) where we are now single, in our 40’s, not ever wanting to be here at this stage of our lives and with a boatload of responsibilities (aka, baggage).  We try to date, and if our personal worlds don’t bring us near any prospective individuals that we can even consider talking with over coffee, we turn to the online arena.

Online dating has advantages and disadvantages.  It’s been said that in 2006, 1 in 8 married couples met online.  I can only imagine the number has swelled in the last few years. As one who recieved her graduate degree online, and feels fairly comfortable with the way the digital world can expand our ability to connect with those from places we might otherwise only read about in books, online dating doesn’t scare me.  However, I say that, knowing full well, I’ve been very, very fortunate so far.  Those I’ve met have been decent people.  Only one in probably a hundred or so folks have lied about their age and that’s pretty good.  No one, so far, has stalked me, though there have been several that I wished would have.  

Today I received an email from a friend who is just recently and hesitantly venturing out into the world of online dating.  He’s a card carrying member of “Post 40 World”.  Married his true love and when he did so he did it for life but she didn’t have the same agenda.  She’s moved on and now he’s here in “Post 40 World” wondering how to navigate the terrain.  Well, like I’m the world’s greatest expert in this.  Anyone who reads my blogs can tell I struggle with trying to figure out how to do the dating thing when things are so very different than they were when you were in college and had your whole life (and your best body) going for you.  So, I gave my friend some pointers.  Here’s what I said.  Look the advice over and see what you would add:

1. Create an alias and don’t reveal your true identity until after you have met the person in the flesh.  Okay, you can give out your first name, but much other than that, just don’t!  Remember, if they have even your last name they can find out exactly where you live.

2.  Don’t believe the pictures. I’ve been burned and had many friends who’ve been burned by the fake picture. It’s disappionting and a huge waste of emotional time and energy when it happens. Hold everything at arm’s distance until you meet. 

2a.  Be very cautious of someone who doesn’t post any pictures and isn’t willing to send you any.  Be equally cautious of the person who posts a picture that looks airbrushed or like it is of a magazine model.  (It just might be.)

3. Don’t spend a lot of time chatting online.  Exchange a few emails, get to know enough to determine if you would like to meet or not, then meet.  You can create this big fantasy online and then when you meet be completely disappointed and heartbroken.  I’m not sure why this happens, but it does.

4.  Be cautious of the person who after a few tries still finds excuses not to meet or talk on the phone.  I personally hate to talk on the phone, but will do it.  I’d rather just meet. If the person is unwilling to do either, suspect that a.) they are not really interested in a relationship like you are or b.) they are not really female. 

5. Be very suspicious of those who cannot communicate reasonably well in writing.

6. Never entertain further communication from those who ask you for money…it is probably a scam from someone outside the country.

7. Trust your gut (you already know this, I know).  If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

8.  Don’t make a dinner date your first meeting. Something light and casual like coffee or a walk is great.  It can be shortened or lengthened as you feel and you don’t have to endure a long night with a lot of expense if the interest factor just isn’t there.  

9.  Obviously, don’t tell anyone where you live until you’ve checked them out and know they are who they say they are. 

These items are the most salient points I could think of on the fly.  I realize I am pretty inexperienced in this realm, after all, I’ve only been dating for about a year and a half. I’m still evolving in my view of what it is all about. I feel I’ve had a good experiences overall with online dating, but I’ve also been very foolish and very lucky because worse things didn’t happen than did (in other words, it could have been so much worse and you could have read about me in the papers…I’ve really been that fortunate).  I also live in a much smaller area and not a big metro urban area…so, maybe the risks are fewer?  Not sure about that one, but it sounded good.

What else can everyone add to help those out who are trying to find their way in this Brave New Post Marriage Dating World?

If I Doubt, Then He’s Out

Alright.  Enough with my whining and moping, pondering and postulating.  I have been enlightened.  I know for sure how a woman (and I think a man, but I’ll leave that for the men to decide, since I am not one of them and cannot possibly presume to understand what their take might be) can be sure that the “person of the hour” is really that into them. 

I’ve wondered about this and theorized about this both publicly and privately long enough.  From the not getting things quite off the ground to going completely silent after there’s been a great deal of supposed chemistry and intimacy (apparently that was only a one-sided deal), there are a million things that masquerade as a potentially decent relationship but which leave us feeling disappointed, sad, cheated, maybe even foolish for wasting the time in some instances and heartbroken for years  in others. I’ve felt all of these things and more and I’m certain I’m not alone. We wish we would have read the warning signals better or heeded them earlier but at the same time we loved every minute of what we imagined or thought was going on.  Or maybe we didn’t.  Maybe it was all just a miserable attempt to fix something that never was going to work but which somehow pushed our buttons in some weird way and we were drawn in.  Who knows what the deal is or why?  It didn’t work out.  No one likes to leave something they thought was valuable and  heading to the next level feeling cheap, used and invalidated.  I suspect, that is how most of us end up feeling on some level when we finally realize (after we’ve invested our time, money, energy and hearts) that the person of our affections is simply not that into us.  Forget that, it is how I end up feeling and I hate it.  I really would rather avoid that at all costs.  So, I strive to answer the question…how can I know…before it is too late.

I now know. 

At least, for this moment. 

I could change my perspective in ten minutes, but for now, I think I know.

Part of my conclusions come from my readers.  All three, or maybe it is now five of them, who actually comment.  I’m especially indebted to the men who’ve chimed in (I hope you won’t stop chiming) because your perspectives have in every instance confirmed what I already suspected to be the case with men and how they show their affections.  I also know from women who’ve travelled my same path and shared about it.  This would be friends, colleagues, other bloggers, anyone I’ve bumped into, shared coffee with or read who had the guts to tell their story.  They confirm what I suspected all along.  They confirmed what I was afraid to face all along.

My conclusions also come from deep within myself.  They don’t automatically surface from “deep within” because, quite frankly, I’m just not all that in touch with me all the time.  This would explain all the wandering, rambling and cloudy thinking I demonstrate (no really it is not my sub normal IQ at work here).  Deep down, I just know when he’s just not that into me…

Now, I could be wrong…

I’m willing to entertain other perspectives and viewpoints…

I’m willing to consider that hunger….

anger….sadness…anxiety….

fatigue or loneliness…..

 insecurity and fear…

may impair my judgement…but…

I suspect I might be really close on this one…

Ready?

Here’s how I think I know that I can be sure whether or not he’s really that into me:

“If I Doubt, Then He’s Out”

Okay, now I’m not talking about after the first couple of meetings/dates when you’re wondering if things are going to launch.  I’m talking about when you are into the deal and you are still wondering “Where the hell do I stand with this guy?”  The mere wondering is my answer. 

Truth is, we know.  We know what we want.  We want the fire, the passion, the “feelings”, the “chemistry”, the everything…and we want it to be coupled with a compatible relationship that can go the distance.  I want him reaching for my hand in the car instead of me always being the one to reach for his.  I want him to initiate the affection as much as or more than I do.  I prefer the more than I do and that will have to be a lot because I’m a touchy feely sort (well, not weirdly so, I hope).  I’ve had these experiences.  I’ve had guys who were so into me that they were willing to try to make love to me in the clearance sweater bin at Macy’s, but, sadly, I’m simply not that much of an exhibitionist.  I’ve had guys who were so into me that after the very first date with me I received flowers on my desk at work the next day.  No, not one or two pretty orchids in the latest seasonal arrangement of greenery and Baby’s Breath.  I’m talking the 12 long stemmed blood red roses in a vase that communicates in girl world, “Wow!!!!  He’s really into you!!!! Who is this guy?  We didn’t even know you were dating someone! Oh, do tell!”  

Compare this with the situation where everything seems simply “nice”.  The dutiful call every day is made, regular time spent together occurs and is very fun, things seem to be “all systems go” on the surface but in every instance you’re left wondering. Wondering where you stand and if he’s really into you…or…if he’s just biding time…till…gulp…sick feeling in pit of stomach…something “better” (younger maybe?  prettier maybe?  thinner maybe? wealthier maybe? or even worse feeling in pit of stomach just anything maybe? ) comes along.  This isn’t just insecurity kicking in here.  This is real doubt. 

Communication is both a verbal and a nonverbal transaction. When given an option,  people generally believe a person’s actions over their words every time (if the two are in disagreement, that is). Behavior or the lack of it combined with the words, the tone, the hesitations, the silences communicate and don’t communicate volumes.  In any of the cases where men were head over heals for me, I never once for a moment questioned it…even if the relationship got tense at points…even if the relationship was one that I wasn’t that excited about.   Those men who’ve been brave enough to put themselves out there and commented on past posts confirmed my theory (at least enough for my sloppy but very valid research). My conversations with married men who are still in their first marriages and pushing 20 years who absolutely adore their wives, confirm my hunches too.

I think the bottom line is:  When he’s into you, you know and there is absolutely no room for doubt. 

If you don’t absolutely know then, my dear, you really do know…he’s just not that into you.

Whenever  you wonder or doubt, you also know.  If you wonder or doubt what he’s about then he’s not IN to you, he’s OUT there either killing time, considering his options (who wants to be an “option” anyway?) or simply uncertain himself.

For me, no need to waste anymore time wondering past a certain point.   If we’ve been dating for any length of time and I don’t know that he’ll go to any length to  hang the moon in my sky then, guess what?  Hate to say it, you know it’s coming so I’ll skip it.  But, for myself, I know.  I’ll never wonder again.

If I do then the very act of wondering becomes my answer.

How Can A Woman Be Sure?

You know, much has been said about how men and women see the world differently, especially when it comes to dating.  I’m just wondering, since I am female, how I can know for sure that a man is really into me.  I mean, what specific things should I be able to rely on in terms of his behavior, attitudes, words, etc. that let me know he is into me or he is not sure he’s into me or he’s not into me?  Sometimes I think women read things differently than men intend.  I just want to know…how can I tell if he is really interested, or not so much?

Any thoughts?  Guys, please don’t hesitate to respond.  Your words here could be golden.

Online Dating: 10 Things Men Should Definitely NOT Do

Don’t you love all these dating advice sites for guys that are written by guys?  I think they are funny.  Here’s a guy telling another guy what works with women.  What the first guy is really getting from the guy he gets advice from is what works for that guy with the gals he’s meeting or being successful with…doesn’t mean it will work for you…unless what you want is what he’s getting exactly. 

To put it differently, it would be like me going to ask advice about how guys think from a woman.  How the hell will she know???  She’s not one of them.  She might be close.  She might even be right on.  I might even listen to her and take her advice, but not before I check it out with my guy friends.  The ones I know I can trust.  The ones who feel comfortable with me enough to tell it like it is.  These are the guy friends I would never date or become romantically interested in for one of two reasons:  a.) because they are married to my very good girl friends or b.) they would tell me point blank, “Hey, it’s just really hard to get romantic with one of the guys”.

So for all the guys out there, who hope to try to make an impression with a woman online so that you can put yourself at the top of the email pile and maybe even make it into her favorites list, I’ve provided this list of my top ten most reliable behaviors that will get a guy blown off, ignored or deleted.  

I confessed in an earlier post that I was a bit of an online dating junkie.  At one point, I was on, I think, three different sites at one time.  I’ve explored nearly all of the really notable ones, free and paid, for long enough to form a strong opinion about which approaches from men really work and which don’t work at all.  I’m pretty successful in the online forum for reasons that have to do with sincerity, truth and a good picture that really looks like me. Plus, I think it helped that I grew up as a tomboy.  (The Barbie Doll shoes really annoyed me.) I kinda get the mentality of bonding over doing something  instead of  the just talking thing…something most women don’t get but which many men, bless their hearts, endure anyway. 

But I’m talking and not doing, so I’ll cut to the chase.

10 Things You Should NOT Do When Approaching A Woman Online

1.  Don’t be self-absorbed.  Clearly, this should be a no brainer, but I’ve received a ton of emails where the man talks only about himself.  If I don’t know the guy, there’s nothing there to help me connect with him.  What you are thinking is you want to give her information that will help her make an informed decision about you.  Sadly, you’re assuming too much in what it is that she is making her decisions upon. She’s thinking, man if I get into relationship with him am I going to have to put up with him talking about him all the time?  She’ll hit the delete key, send a “thanks but no thanks message” or, worse, she’ll block you.

2.  Don’t treat this online forum as a job interview.   Would you do that at a cocktail party?  Would you start interrogating someone you were attracted to about their past relationships, their preferences for sexual frequency and whether or not they’d be comfortable with you coming up from behind and grabbing them by the boobs in public? (Yes, all these things have happened to me and to other women I know.)

3.  Don’t fall in love too soon.  Dude, until you meet her and date her…a lot of times…or, at least until she tells you otherwise…she is still just a digital image paired with some words.  Don’t go being all smitten and stuff and talking about how gorgeous she is and how you think the two of you were meant to be.  She’s making decisions based upon how you treat her, talk to her and think about her.  If you think she’s an “object” instead of a person, she’ll disappear. Treat her like another human being, not like the beauty you are attracted to.  She’ll become that beauty in your face-to-face life if you can respect her and love her for her mind and her contribution to this world (beyond just the airbrushed or real beauty).

4. Don’t be afraid to be you.  Women are all about relationship.  We want to connect.  We want to connect with those we relate to. If you are trying to be something you are not, we will see through this eventually.  Hopefully, for everyone involved, this happens sooner rather than later, but there are plenty of divorce statistics out there that state otherwise.  If you are a funny, humorous light hearted sort express that.  If you are more serious and thoughtful let that be apparent.  The woman you are hoping to attract will be attracted to the real you.

5. Don’t try to impress her with how many dates you’ve been out on recently.  That might work if you’re trying to impress the guys, but for use female types this simply translates as “we’re just one of many options” you have.  No one wants to be an “option”.  All of us want to be the person you’d slay dragons for.  If you try this approach we will read it as you’ve already decided that “you’re just not that into us”.  We’d be fools or unhealthy to invest in that.

6.  Don’t expect her to do all the work in setting up the first meeting.  Take the bull by the horns.  Suggest something, anything.  It is never okay to make her a.) call you when she’s free or b.) tell you what it is that she wants to do if you’re the one approaching first.  In this area, you must take risks and forge ahead trusting that if she is not okay with it she’ll be decent and kind enough to counter your proposal with another option.  If she kicks you to the curb because you missed on the first idea for a meeting, is that such a bad thing?   After all, if she treats you like that after such a kind gesture, do you want to be in a  relationship where that treatment is the norm?  I mean, really c’mon.  You’re a great guy.  You deserve some respect.

7.  Don’t ask her how successful she’s been in the online dating forum.  This question shows up like this:  “So, having any success here?”  or “So, I bet you have all the guys wanting to meet you!”  First off, we have no idea how to respond to that with kindness.  If we are successful and we tell you that,  what will you think?  (Please note that women, especially ones with good photos and well written profiles…okay…skip the profile…ones with good photos and lots of them…are going to get more mail than they could possilby respond to in a 24-hour period if they worked straight through.) If we tell you honestly that we aren’t having much luck…well…what will you think then?

8.  Don’t give up too easily.  Guys, remember, that many of us are single moms with careers and we might be homeowners in our own right as well.  (Meaning, we bought the friggin’ house ourselves and didn’t get it gifted to us as the result of a divorce settlement, death, or judge’s signature at the expense of some poor man who may have had to claim bankruptcy in order to avoid contempt of court charges.) This requires our time and if we are real people we won’t be able to respond right away all the time.  Kids have concerts, we have lives, houses need to be maintained and we simply need to sleep sometimes.  Be patient.  Don’t assume that because we didn’t respond the first time we didn’t care.  Don’t also assume that if our response is brief that we are just not that into you.  We might have wanted to connect, but the kids were demanding our attention, the account we have to have that big proposal ready for  is meeting with us the next day or the car dropped its rear differential in the street three hours ago and we have no idea how we’re going to get that repair done.  Please cut us some slack. We are willing to make room for you in our busy lives, but not till we know you’re going to be willing to accept our busy lives. Be patient.  I cannot say this enough.

9.  Don’t come on too strong.  I know that sounds strange after what I just wrote, but listen, if you pounce, you’ll suffocate.  You’d run too.  Have fun with it.  Don’t make it the end all most important thing ever.  Relax.  Friendships, relationships, love, is a bit of a dance.  Don’t force, just be the fun you, the thoughtful you, the true you that you are but be very careful of overdoing it.  I might add that if you feel like you are being you and at the same time you feel like you are coming on too strong, maybe you should pull back.  A woman in love can never get enough of her man’s attention or affection and she is always deeply appreciative of it even if she can’t necessarily carve out the time to respond at that exact moment.  If you are feeling weird about things, listen to that.

10.  Dont’ go silent.  Say something.  Understand that women are verbal creatures.  On the playground as kids you guys settled differences by physically laying into each other.  We, girls, learned the “more socially acceptible” method of being catty, using our vocabulary and really learning that words, as well as sticks and stones and fists, can hurt and leave deeper scars.  We also learned that words can create worlds, characters, perceptions and evoke really positive emotion too.  We live and love base on the words you tell us (as long as they match your actions).  Please, don’t just email us and say, “Hey!”.  Don’t email us with tons of pictures of you and your life and no verbal explanation.  Don’t just grunt.  We need to connect with you and we do it with words.  This is never more important than in the online forum where the first meeting is completely textual and verbal.

And I might add, that if you really want to make an impression you should consider what your elementary schoolteachers told you and use good punctuation, capitalization and accurate spelling.  Even if she’s not all that smart, your emails will be easier for her to read and understand.  If she is all that smart, she won’t give you the time of day if you can’t communicate well in writing.  If you find that too tedious, take your chances.  If  you can’t present yourself well in writing, what  makes you think she’s going to think you can present yourself well in person? 

Okay, have fun with that one fans and skeptics alike! I’d really like to hear perspectives that maybe I, in my finite wisdom, have not considered.  Do enlighten me.

In the meantime, enjoy your online dating experience.  It can be frustrating, heartbreaking and disappointing, but it can also be a great way to get to know other people in your world when your world doesn’t allow you to cross their paths in real time.  It can also be a great source for putting yourself in the path of romance.  After all, 1 in 8  married couples in 2006 met online.  I’m sure that statistic has grown since then.

Demise of the Fairy Tale

Ahhh, infatuation, passion, romance…love!  The fairy tale everyone seeks…the nightmare many experience after the “I Do’s” are said.  The truth of the matter is the relationship before marriage is carefree, romantic and, yes, dreamier, than it often turns out when reality hits.  This is the shock many face when the fairy tale crumbles and deteriorates:

Vodpod videos no longer available. Okay, so life and romance don’t always crack up to be what we hope or expect when we enter in.  However, this is not to say that things can’t be very, very good in spite of the garbage that life can throw at us and that we heap upon ourselves with our own insecurities, weaknesses, and stuff.

I think, if two people can be realistic enough about how life can really zap the romance and passion out of a relationship and if they can remain focused on the good things while still working to improve the less than ideal things, then maybe, maybe they will weather the storms of life and the natural progression of romance from something passionately fiery to something deeper, more settled and completely secure for both people.  That is, if something completely secure can occur.  I think many mistake the transition from fiery passion to a settled deeper love as a loss of love rather than a transition to something better, deeper, finer than what the first relationship could contain.

I know I’m looking for that first passionate relationship that is fiery, exciting and fun, but I’m also long past the days of believing that a good stable long term relationship will stay this passionate, exciting way forever.  I believe it evolves into something deeper, richer, more fullfilling and wonderful than any romantic passion could do alone.  Yet, it is not without romance and passion.  It is just that the nature of the romance and passion have changed.  The relationship beocmes deeper, richer and far, far more meaningful that the first romantic involvement was.  It is the glance across the table at dinner when my kids are squabbling and he squelches the riff raff effectively without excalating the tension.  It is the brief touch at the counter as the dishes are being cleaned up, indicating “I’ll be there for you later.  Meet me at 10 in our room.”  It is collapsing in bed after a grueling and discouraging day, too exhausted to move and finding the energy to say physically, “I love you, no matter how tired I am.” It his him returning the favor in ways that are meaningful me that might be tests of sheer endurance for him.  It is simply knowing, beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are good for him and he is so very good for you and that together the two of you are better than either of you ever were apart. It is knowing that he has your back and you have his…no matter what. 

The fairy tale doesn’t exactly look the same after 5, 10, 15, 20 years of marriage.

I think it is even better than most can even imagine. 

The deal is, it just doesn’t happen by accident. 

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