Kicking Off The Holiday Season

j0422837 I have a friend who firmly believes that Halloween is the holiday that officially kicks off “The Holiday Season”.  Being a person who really knows how to entertain and, yes, even cook very fine meals, she is all about celebrating.  And she is good at it.  Whether you agree with my friend or not, by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, followed immediately by the day now known as “Black Friday”  (only in America and when did that happen anyway?), it is clear The Holiday Season is well underway. 

The Problem

In years past, I was all about Christmas and decorating and making everything festive and, like my friend, I enjoyed celebrating in the company of family and friends.  But somewhere along the line things went horribly wrong and suddenly, The Holidays, have lost their appeal to me.  Or maybe I’ve just become very, very confused about does and does not matter when creating those memorable holiday moments.

Okay, things didn’t really go “horribly wrong”, at least, not all in one big life changing moment.  It was more like a gradual decline and I think I did it to myself.  Too much pressure, expectations for myself and those of others (mostly in-laws), the demands of being a new mom, starting a new demanding career at the same time (oh, yes, I do wish I’d played Solitudethat card differently), and the gradual erosion and decline of a marriage.  Along the way, The Holidays lost their charm.  They became something to be endured; a source of pain, frustration and immense exhaustion.

After the second divorce, I tried the best I could to make Christmas memorable for my children.  This wasn’t easy, since I was now in the place so many people find themselves in after divorce:  broke…if not bankrupt. I was definitely the former, scrambling to avoid the latter.  Looking back, I don’t even know how I survived that first Christmas because child support hadn’t even kicked in.  The second Christmas was also pulled off with meager finances and the third Christmas, last year, was the first Christmas my children spent away from me.  That was tough! 

  Yes, I am fully aware that in spite of the pretty lights, the happy smiles on people’s faces, the advertisements that boast loving couples, happy families, and joyous, grateful children with lavishly decorated homes where trees are standing amidst a treasure trove of gifts, the cost of which might easily feed a small third world nation somewhere for a year, The Holiday Season for many, is a season of pain, regret, disappointment, sadness and deep loneliness. Many of us, especially those of us who are Singles in a World of Couples dread the advent of the holidays because it means we will be attending yet another office party alone, waking up Christmas morning alone while the kids wake up and open presents elsewhere, eating alone with no one to greet us in the morning or drink a toast with us in the evening.  That awareness can gnaw at us and deprive us of joy, energy, and contentment.

A Solution:

Now, if I let it, that could depress me.  I could spend my time regretting the misused past.  I could spend my time fretting that I am now unable to provide my children with what I’d always wanted and hoped to be able to provide them materially. I could feel badly that I don’t have significant other to share the joys and sorrows (or my hot tub!) with.  I could get weepy that things are not exactly what I wanted or how I planned or imagined.  I could despair that things are not better than they are.  Sometimes I do.  Not for long.  Maybe only about two hours a month…if that.

Solution:  I don’t let it.  I’ve learned to enjoy what I have and be grateful that I have it.  I’ve also learned that things can always be worse.  After all, as one friend recently said to me, “You have a roof over your head, a good job, you are paying your bills haven’t had to foreclose on your home or file bankruptcy, you and your kids are healthy and you have food on the table.  It could be so much worse, so chin up!”

I’ve learned over the last three years to think differently about many things.  I now think differently about my holidays.  I think very differently about the holidays on those years when my kids will be away for Christmas Day.  I’m not so hesitant anymore to ask out that guy friend to my office Christmas Party.  I just make sure it is someone who understands that this is not a Friends With Benefits situation or that I have any illusions about us as a couple.j0444098  I’ve given myself permission to be single and to enjoy it.  I’ve given myself permission to take full advantage of the times when the kids are away.  I’ve met enough people and have plenty of friends that if I want a date to an event I can have one.  If I’m sitting home alone on a weekend night it is because I have chosen it, not because I have no other choice.  I’ve learned to be at peace with myself.

I no longer feel that I’m missing life if I stay home…alone…curled up on my couch in my lounge pants and t-shirt…in front of the fire.  Would it be fun to be using my couch differently?  Of course, but I’m not desperately hoping that will happen or thinking that it must happen in order for me to feel validated and alive.

Mostly, I’ve learned that the off times, those times when the kids are away at their other homes is a great time for me to work on the many home improvement tasks I have lined up.  I don’t have to worry about kids wanting to help with the painting or spreading the mess throughout the house. I don’t have to stop mid project to fix a meal and clean it up.  It’s also a wonderful opportunity to catch up with some j0438433of my adult friends that I have a more difficult time connecting with when the kids are around. It’s a great opportunity to get caught up on laundry and if all else fails…

…it is a wonderful time to try to learn to cook a new dish! 

Yeah, like that’ll happen anytime soon!

I do have questions though for those of you out there who, like me, have a shared custody or a parenting plan that means your children will be away from you some or all of the holiday season. 

How do you handle the holiday season when you don’t have your children with you to celebrate?

How has divorce changed how you celebrate the holidays?

 

 

Post Breakup Part ‘Em Depression and Booty Calls

886706_88791559 “Have you experienced The Insane Weekend yet?”  he asked.  He was a person I’d brushed digital shoulders with some time back, nearly two years now, on a social networking (not dating) site.  While he lives locally, sort of, we’ve never met. We chat online every now and then. this was one of those now-and-then times.  Over the last two years, I’d become his outlet to rant about his latest relationship that didn’t pan out.  Since he’s also an FB friend, he knew something of the demise of the romance between Oz and I. He was trying to be helpful and commiserate.  Seems he’d just broken up with someone he’d intended to marry.  His situation, like my own, began in a gradual downward spiral and ended up plummeting to a disastrous end.

“The Insane Weekend?”  I typed back.  We’ve also never talked on the phone, only IM’d sporadically. 

“Yeah, the weekend where you cry your eyes out, want to die, don’t want the end of the relationship to be reality but it is.  I wept for two days and even prayed on my knees to a God I don’t believe in that He would take this reality from me. You act insane and you feel you’re going out of your mind with pain. You know, the insane weekend.”

I sighed.  Yeah, I thought.  Since 20 of October I’ve had plenty of those. 

“Yeah, I’ve had a few of those, I think,” I messaged.

We went on to talk about the breakup and healing process.  The pain when you finally realize conclusively that the someone you’d painted into your present and your future is erasing themselves out.  Decisively.  Finally. 

The pain that comes in spite of the fact that you also had very real concerns about the other person and their “stick-ability”, especially after the recent events.

The sense of rejection you feel.  The sense of loss.  The very real experiences associated with the death of anything, anyone significant, important, cherished. 

The fear that comes with envisioning a future by yourself, when it only days ago appeared to be filled with incredibly fulfilling companionship, love and hope.

The realization and the sickening dread that your current loneliness may well be your lot in life.

All these feelings we IM’d about and shared. 

He related the pain and confusion of breakup sex and the back and forth situation he was still dealing with. 

I was grateful that option is not possible for me, especially not now, since, as suspected The Wizard magically disappeared in a way that is convenient to do when you are 12,000 miles away and can simply unfriend a person, delete a contact and refuse to answer any email.  At least I am not in the place where the breakup sex and the subsequent delay of the inevitable is possible. I’m realizing, as I usually do in situations like this, that things are working out, or they eventually will, for the better.  In the meantime I’ve learned a lot about myself.  Good to know. The Insane Weekends are over.  Moving on.

Eventually, the IMing evolved to texting, since I had to get off the computer.  Still battling a cold/flu and feeling very weak after my first week back to work I really could only take so much sitting up and squinting at the small computer print.

By this time our conversation had turned from dealing with what we regretted and had lost, to thinking about the present and the future.  We both recognize that though our pain now seems to overwhelm us at points, it is not a permanent thing.  We began bantering about his upcoming plans to spend some time eating sushi on his brother’s dime the next weekend.  The conversation was gradually tapering to an end.

125199_4068 In the midst of this, I received a booty call. Well, it really was a booty text.

“You still up?”  the text said.

“Yeah, just heading to bed.”  It was almost nine o’clock.

“I’m not one to beat around the bush,” the Booty Texter replied.  “Want company?”

I almost laughed out loud. 

“I think I just got a booty text”, I texted to my other friend.

“I am in my pj’s, look like bat guano and can’t breathe.  I won’t be great company,” I texted Booty Texter.  “Wait!”  I went on, “Was that a booty call and I just missed it?”

Booty Texter didn’t deny it and he wasn’t giving up that easily.  He went on to mention that he was was also in his p.j.’s and could just slip on his slippers and come over.  He then mentioned his CPR skills. 

Really?!  Are you kidding me?!  What part of any of this is supposed to make me feel special, desirable and like he’s really into me? (None of it, that’s my point!) This also from a guy in earlier exchanges who said “he really liked me, but didn’t know about getting involved with someone with kids”.  Yeah, he should have just said, “Let’s be f*** buddies”, after all, he wasn’t “one to beat around the bush”.   As far as Booty Texter is concerned all I can say is, “Good to know his real intentions now rather than later”.  He’s clearly into no one but himself.  Good to know.

This booty call strategy must work for guys because they try it.  Apparently they’re getting rewarded for it enough to make it worth the effort.  Seems like a completely degrading place to go for a few seconds of gratification…if you could call it that.

The guy had to be totally desperate to want to get it on with an ill, snot oozing, barely breathing babe like me.  Add to this that I’d already470334_41429338 refused to go out with him once that evening when he invited me “over to his place for dinner”.  Right.  He was hard up enough to take rejection twice from the same person?  And don’t even tell me any of that is because “maybe he really likes you”.  Excuse me while the tears from my recent breakup turn into gales of hilarious laughter. 

This is my future?  I wondered. Wasting time with freaks like this to find out what?  They hope to get something for nothing? 

“Yep” I texted to my first friend.  “It’s a booty call and he’s not giving up easily.”

I texted a firm no to Booty Texter and he, like all the others before him, who’ve tried the same futile tact, ended the conversation in a huff but not before he’d put in his last “you’re really missing out” digs.

I’m pretty sure I’ll never hear from him again. 

I’m pretty sure I don’t care.

I let my friend know that the booty text episode had ended and shortly after that we concluded our own lighthearted and delightfully non-sexual banter and said our own good-byes, encouraging each other to keep our proverbial relational chins up.

It is times like these, that I am grateful, for the humor of life.  It is these times tlolhat make me wonder what I was so worried about a future alone for?  It is times like these that sitting at home alone by the fire with my one guard dog and two cats is really all I want or need.  No demands.  No pressure.  No pain.  Just lots of good old fashioned contentment mixed in with a bit of joy because I know I’m going to be okay, come what may. It is also at these times, interestingly enough, that my own internal focus and vision for my future become much clearer and more defined.

I’m done with The Insane Weekends. I’m done with online dating. I’m actually even feeling like I might be done with being sick. That’s the best part. 

I might even be done with “dating” per se for a while.  I just am really tired of the games, the dance, the eventual disappointment.  Not that there would always be a disappointment, but quite honestly, more and more I’m becoming convinced that if I just go about my life…if there even is someone out there for me…then he’ll appear when the time is right.  It will be more authentic and less artificial and staged.  I’m not saying I won’t ever date, but I’m not going to worry about filling my weekend social calendar either.  It somehow seems to do that anyway without much effort on my part. 

In the meantime, I have better things to do with my emotional energy than waste my sorrows on those who clearly are uninterested and unworthy.  I have far better things to with my time than sort through Booty Call Boys and Disappearing Acts in the hopes of finding Prince Charming. 

After all, in every scenario, Prince Charming went seeking Cinderella, not the other way around. 

Cinderella mourned the loss of her shoe but went on dusting in her rags till the dude showed up. And if he hadn’t shown up, something else interesting and magnificent would have happened to Cinderella. I’m certain of it. 

I have far more interesting things to do than read fake profiles, go out for coffee only to find it’s a no, go back to the drawing board again, and so on. 

Besides, it is far more likely I’m probably going to  bump into him at one of those classes I’ll be taking at The Home Depot on how to install sprinkler systems, lay tile, concrete walkways, or prune my trees because that is where I’m going to be spending my time anyway. 

KH_PG_LftHeader

How Rushing A Sorority Is Like Online Dating

sw_fake_ballot_sa03045 I’ve recently come to realize how many things in life are analogous to many other things in life.  One pretty benign, or so it seems, event turns out to represent what happens in another completely unrelated area of life. 

So it is with the sorority rush process and online dating.  I know, I know.  It seems like a real leap here, but go with me for a minute.

Way back in the day, when I was even more naive and wide-eyed than I am now, I had the opportunity to go through sorority rush, bid night, pledge a sorority and eventually be initiated. At the time it intrigued me, but over the years, I’ve often thought it a fairly efficient way of sorting through a vast number of potential prospects in a short amount of time in order to make an important decision effectively and quickly. And for many women the need to sort through a vast amount of emails to determine which contacts to spend time meeting and which to never bother with is imperative.

Greek_party1950s The sorority rush system is actually a highly developed matching system called the preferential bidding system and you can read about it .  In sorority rush, the organizations are matched with prospective members in a manner that gradually narrows the options based on stated preferences of the participants. The result is the prospective new member is eventually matched with an organization where she will live, interact, socialize, study, network, for the rest of her years at the university. It is also a lifetime membership to a national organization.  In other words, we’re not just signing a 30-day month-to-month rental agreement, here, folks. The decision bears some thoughtful, considered deliberation.  So it is with dating, that is, if you are doing anything that remotely resembles seeking out a partner you could build a relationship and a life with.

Enter the world of online dating, which I did nearly three years ago.  I spent some time on that Online Dating Planet for a bit and I noticed some things.  First off, all the things they say about men doing the pursuing and women the selecting were true for the most part.  Really.  I no sooner posted my feeble attempt at a profile, a few recent and accurate pictures, and I was bombarded with emails and winks from prospective suitors.  I recently read an article here where some women have thousands of emails to sort through.  I never had quite that problem, but then again, I also don’t exactly live in the biggest metropolitan area and I limited the distance of my contacts.  Whatever.  The point I am trying to make here is that sorting through all those prospective romantic interests is not unlike the Greek organization sorting through thousands of prospective members in order to meet their membership quotas for the year.  It is impossible to think of responding to every single one individually and meeting them all?  Well, there just isn’t time in a life to do it.

afrog 013aMy inbox was inundated.  At first, I spent hours, days, weeks attempting to reply to every wink or email I received.  It wasn’t long before I realized that was simply ineffective.  I had to put some systems in place for sorting.  Now the systems and criteria I implemented might be different for another woman, but they worked for me.  The same is true in sorority rush.  Some house won’t take those rushing as a sophomore, they only want freshmen.  Since I was a sophomore when I rushed, this instantly eliminated me from a number of quality organizations.  Nothing personal.  It was just reality.  Did I cry about it?  No.  I just went with the remaining options which were also very fine organizations. 

When we date, there are priorities and preferences that we have that provide the basis for our own sorting systems.  For me I eventually determined that I was not going to waste time with a guy who winked or only presented me with a message that said something like “nice smile”, “great profile”, and so on.  If a guy couldn’t take the time to create, at minimum, a brief thoughtfully worded message of interest, I wasn’t interested. (And, yes, guys…we can tell when you cut and paste messages! I deleted those too!) This reduced my inbox to a far more manageable number.  The remaining people made it through to the next round of eliminations. 

At this stage, I put in place some more discriminating criteria.  No picture, no consideration.  No words in the profile, no consideration.  If he was a smoker it was a no.  If he’d never been married or was way too young or too old, it had to be a no. These folks usually received a nice, courteous “no thanks”.

After this, I had to consider interests and potential for compatibility.  This is often difficult to determine just based on a digital p1-Our-House rofile on a dating site, but I did find that there were certain means to eliminate those contenders who would probably eventually opt out anyway in the end.  For example, the spirituality of the person is important.  If he’s out there in religious Looneyville where keeping up an image of doing the right stuff is more important than actually being an authentic, decent individual then we’ll rub and quickly.  Why even meet up for coffee to find that out?  Save time, energy and coffee money.  Just say, “no thanks”. 

If he’s a guy who spent all his time out and about with no indication that he occasionally stayed home to rejuvenate and maintain his household, then I was out.  That’s a lifestyle that I can’t sustain with a time commitment that would destroy my ability to maintain my own home and my career, let alone keep my kids in clean clothing.  I’m wise to politely decline, no matter how attractive he might otherwise be.  Our differing preferences in how we spend time will ultimately create problems unless one or the other of us is willing to change and expecting one party to change in order to sustain a relationship (even before a relationship has been established) is not a good sign.  It would have been like me saying, “Yeah, I want to pledge that house but only if they will completely redesign their organization to suit me.”  So not going to happen!

So, you see how the process of matching by criteria and gradually eliminating the prospects is an efficient decision making tool? 

When I was looking to pledge a sorority there were certain things that were important to me: reputation of the otri_delta_slide_show_and_stuff_534rganization, involvement on campus, leadership of members, social life, priority placed on academics, philanthropy, networking potential and so on.  Of course, the actual architecture of the house and its interior were important to me, but these were minor in comparison to the things that really created the organizations “soul”.

When dating, we all have our own ideas of what we are looking for in relationship.  Tall, fit, active, handy, homeowner, non-smoker, spiritual, not spiritual, conversationalist, education, income, etc.  All these facets determine what we think will be a good fit for us.  It is not a bad idea to have these priorities or preferences.  It is actually a good thing and can prevent us from wasting valuable time and energy on relationships or individuals who are not a good fit.  If the organization I am looking at has no room for sophomores in their organization, then as a sophomore, I would have been wasting time and emotional energy hoping I could pledge that house and I may have missed the opportunity to become a member of an organization that would have been even more suitable for me.  On the other hand, spending so much time about what a guy looks like and how much he makes (having a job is good! Making six figures, not required) is a bit like obsessing about the structure aesthetics of the sorority house instead of paying attention to the quality of life that goes on within that house.

theperuviankiss All this effort before even deciding to meet with someone?  Yes, pretty much.  Oh, sure.  There were occasions when I made exceptions.  100% of those exceptions never made it past the first date.  Once I began putting some more systematic thought into the dating process, I found I was going out on dates that were more enjoyable and I was actually having more than one or two dates with a person.  I wasn’t dreading the proverbial coffee date and more and more of those coffee dates led to something more. Even after the something more, the process continued to be a two-sided matching process as my dates and I continued to get to know each other. Dating is like sorority rush and that’s not a bad thing!

What I’d like to hear from others is what kind of criteria do you use to eliminate people you don’t think will be a good fit for you?  Is it looks, income, personality, education, values (if values what values are important)? 

What’s your criteria when involved in the two-sided matching process of dating?

Heads Up! Seven Up!

lrg-32-valentine_082I remember it well.  The childhood game where seven children in the class are chosen to go to the front of the room.  On the directive, “Heads down thumbs up”, the seven students travel around the room, one by one touching the thumb of one of their classmates and returning to the front of the room. When all seven are back in their places the invitation, “Heads up, seven up” is issued and those seven students whose thumbs where chosen get to stand and try to guess who picked them.  If guessed accurately, they replace their classmate at the front of the room and then enjoy the privilege of getting to “touch a thumb” during the next round.  If not, the chosen student remains in their seat for another round. In this game, as in many such childhood games, there are the choosers, the chosen and those on the sidelines. 

As a teacher, I am amazed at how much kids still really enjoy this game.  As an adult, I am intrigued with the parallels which exist between this childhood game and life, particularly the life of those who find themselves, for whatever reason, single after 40. 

In Heads Up, Seven Up there are the choosers, the chosen and those who get sidelined.  The choosers in life, as in this childhood game, have the most fun or so it seems.  They are up front, making choices, determining by their decisions who gets to play and who does not.  The chosen, are given an opportunity to get in the game, but if they don’t make an effective choice, a perceptive determination, they remain as chosen or worse, they can be sidelined during the next round of play.  The sideliners are those un-chosen ones deemed by their peers as those who will not participate during a round of play. 

During the dating process, we all play each of these parts.  We can be the chooser, determining who we will select or who we won’t.  We invite some to play and sideline others.  We are confident.  We are in control.  We are choosing and shaping our destinies.  Most of us like this place.

Bikes and babes 3There are times in our lives, however, when the choices of others sideline us.  The partner who goes back on a commitment, the infidelity of a spouse, the unreliability or abandonment of the person you planned to spend the rest of your life with but who ended up choosing someone or something else instead of you.  Being served divorce papers, the death of a spouse, the pain of that precious connection going silent without explanation or, worse, just fizzling.  At these times, we find ourselves sidelined, inactive, unable to play, maybe by our own choice…for a time.  Often because of the choices of others or another who simply did not choose us.

Love and Relationship is one game everyone wants to play.  It is the one game that we all want to be involved in either as the chooser or the chosen.  We all dread the sidelines in the game of Love and Relationship.  We want someone to touch our emotional thumb and say, “I pick you!”  WeImage_0023 want someone to tell us they noticed us.  They noticed those things about us that make us special.  They appreciated those unique qualities in us enough to want to be around us and interact with us more often than not.  We want the opportunity to choose and be chosen.  When the words “Heads up, seven up” are called in the game of love we all hope we get to stand at least during one round of play. We hope our guess is right and that we can aptly match the feel of the touch to the owner of the hand.

None of us like the sideline position where we simply watch others play the game that we so deeply desire to be part of ourselves.  This sideline position can be a healthy respite for a time, as we heal from an especially disappointing round of play, but as a permanent state of existence it is simply not ideal.  For some it is even painful. 

Just as in the game Heads Up! Seven Up!  everyone eventually gets to play at least once, so it seems is the case for most people in The Game Of Love.  How long each of us play or how often varies, but it seems that at one time or another we all get the chance to stand on cue and take a whack at making a choice. 

Where are you these days? 

  • Are you in the place of choosing? 
  • Are you there with your head down and your thumb up, hoping you will be tapped for the next romantic encounter?
  • Have you by your choice or the choices of others been sidelined? 
  • Where are you?  How do you feel about it?
  • If you don’t like your current place in the game, what, if anything, will you do to place yourself so that you are happier with your level of participation?

Authenticity vs. Cosmetic Surgery: Which One Wins Out in the Battle for Real Love and Lasting Relationship?

I was over at one of my favorite bloggy friends homesites today checking up on what she was thinking about things and she wrote a bit about cosmetic surgery and a better sex life.  Okay, I wanted to comment…but I totally didn’t want to take center stage with it.  Instead, I left some smart ass tongue-in-cheek comment that, hopefully, made people think but didn’t take over the conversation. My response as posted was:

Geez,
All those 80-year-old people in the retirement homes who are getting married these days are sunk without plastic surgery. How can they possibly have a fulfilling, rewarding sex life if they simply just don’t look the part of our plastic, superficial, Hollywood driven, hedonistic, entertainment oriented culture? Sucks to be them I guess!


I was responding more to the other commenters than to BigLittleWolf’s post.  My friend, BigLittleWolf, has some great things to say…and she’s way more diplomatic than I am. She said some really important things here and posed some great questions…in a far more diplomatic way that I would have.  I so wanted to call bullshit on some of the people leaving comments. You’ll just have to go there and read her post and make your own decision.   Her post clearly touched a few nerves with me because here I am, posting a response.

First off the issue of visual stimulation being a male phenomenon was presented.  I wanted to call bullshit on that because nothing could be further from the truth.  I can’t tell you the number of times my panties have gotten wet because the fireman on duty down at Fire Station #4 a block away decided to flex his muscle during a presentation to the school children.  Men don’t have a corner on the visual stimulation market.  They just have better marketing and a bigger market share at this time. Women get turned on my a guy’s good looks too.  If you want me to do the research I can, but, seriously, you can do your own and come to the same conclusions.

Second, the reason women don’t have the reputation for getting turned on by the visual in quite the same way that men do is because it simply takes a bit more for us to jizz in our pants than a pretty smile, some big biceps and a bulging set of boxer briefs. We are, after all, the ones being penetrated and encroached upon.  A deposit is often left and sometimes that deposit develops into an account that requires regular deposits and close supervision until it matures. If Mr. Bulging Boxer Brief decides to take his leave of what is now not just me but us, then who’s going to be left taking the responsibility for this new account?  She is. It behooves us to be extremely picky about those we allow to make deposits in our bank.  Looks simply can’t be the be all end all in relationship…for a woman. We need more than just a nice “vision” to make sex the best it can be.  (Note: how many men are getting penis extensions these days?) We need old school things like trust, connection, intellect, respect, loyalty and responsibility in order to feel safe enough to give up our most vunerable self to another for the long haul.

Finally, the entire cosmetic surgery and the whole recreate yourself from the outside out  trend is conspiring to undo authenticity and relationship in our country. Nothing is real anymore and most of us don’t even have our original teeth let alone our original body parts. This preoccupation with how things appear at the expense of seeing things and people as they really are concerns me.  After all, I still believe what my mama told me, “Beauty is only skin deep.”  I don’t care how big the price tag that beauty has on it.  Ten  years after those implants have been implanted and I’m going to have to be looking at further surgery am I going to be any better person for it?  Will my relationships be better because I have size 38 DD boobs in spite of the fact that I abuse my lover and mistreat the waitresses when we go out?  Will my life be greatly improved over the long haul because my muffin top over my size 3 pants is less that it would be hanging over a size 10 pair of American Eagle jeans?  Do I really need to have that reconstructive foot surgery to make my feet a size 6 from their original size 9.5 just because little feet are prettier?  Really?  Are my smaller feet going to make me more sensual, more considerate, more giving and more kind in bed or anywhere else? 

I don’t know.  The whole preoccupation with our physical appearance at the expense of becoming really quality people worth knowing bothers me just a bit.

Can you tell?  

Questions?

Why is it that some people can so easily find “a relationship” and for others it is the ultimately elusive thing?

Why is it that stupid women can find handsome intelligent men but beautiful intelligent women have a far more difficult time getting past the first date?

Why do mature adult people (supposedly given their chronological age) run off to Vegas to get married after only knowing someone for about six weeks? 

I have a friend who is young, gorgeous, together and intelligent and single.  WTF is up with that? She should not even be single for two seconds.  What is wrong with male America these days?

Why is it that some people make it last the first go round and others of us can’t help but screw it up from the get go?

Why is it that the ones that make it last aren’t even all that put together either…I mean…what?

Why is it that the good looking guys are stupid…mostly… and the ones who are good looking with a brain are married to stupid women…I mean, really, they are married to posts most of the time. 

At what point do you just throw in the towel on love and figure you’re just too old for that shit?

At what point do you just throw in the towel on ever  achieving your dreams because a.) you have too many kids to deal with for too much longer, b.) achieving your dreams would require the energy, optimism and fearlessness of a 20-year-old and you’re simply not 20 any more and have so many obligations to so many…I mean really…at what point does chasing that youthful dream become like the woman in her 50’s who tries to dress like she’s in high school.  Hmmmm….

I have more questions, but if you can answer these  then you’ll be doing well.

Bonus Question:  Why can’t I meet someone and run off to Vegas and get married after knowing them for six weeks and actually have the damn thing work out?  (I already know the answer to this one and, yes, it has something to do with birth order and, well, I’ll just leave it at that!)

Take your pot shots…go ahead!  I dare ya! 

Oh, and don’t give me all this positive attitude crap. If you’ve been single, divorced or any of that for any length of time the inconsistencies and seeming inequities of life have crossed your mind in question form as well.  And the biggest question and the most unanswerable one is “Why?”

Positive is great and I’m all for it.  I’m a recovering “glass half empty” kinda girl.  I want the glass totally freakin’ full so whether it is half empty or half fricken full doesn’t matter….it isn’t where I want it to be and that is just sometimes not good enough.  Playing little mental games doesn’t really convince me that things are better…or worse…than they are.  They simply, currently are not what I want them to be…YET.

Big word, that word, “yet”. 

Bigger question:  When to let go of the “yet” and figure it ain’t ever gonna happen.  I really need to hear from someone in their 80’s or 90’s on this one because seriously, at 40-something, sometimes I’m so deep in the quagmire I can’t even see the map!  And in 40+ world the scales seems weighted to my disadvantage as a female.  Maybe, it’s my own myopic vision that is creating distortion.  What I do know is this:  as you age, especially if you are female, people stop looking at you.  They not only stop admiring you physically, they stop seeing you completely.  This is the demise of the elderly in our country.  They become disrespected, invisibile liabilities.  I’m not there yet.  Just today I had a perfectly red blooded male friend tell me that my jeans totally worked for me and this is a person who would have no problem letting me know he thought I looked like shit, so it was a valid compliment.  But that time of being invisible and unseen is not far away for me and it is certain for us all. I just am not sure I want to be one of those banging my head against an impossible wall if the liklihood and realities of love and dreams are long past.  Maybe at that point, it is time to shift focus and create new, different dreams.  I don’t know. 

Ahhhh!  Life!  Ain’t it great?  It’s the only test you can’t study for and you get only one shot at it.  Sometimes to be honest, I feel like I’m blowing my shot at it. 

Just sayin’.

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?

Dating Over 40: Lessons Learned

Last night I was talking to a friend.  She’s been dating a man for about a year and a half now.  She is frustrated.  She called me for help.  Well, to more accurately state it she called for encouragement, support and to have a safe place to rant.

In the last 12 days, they’ve seen each other once.  They live in the same town.

He didn’t spend the 4th of July with her, though he indicated he would and then never called.  She and her two kids spent the 4th with me and my youngest.

He routinely tells her he wants to get together with her then goes silent for days on end.

He was scheduled to move in with her in May.  It is now July and no further progress toward that end has occurred.

She called me wanting to know what she should do.

Like I would know.

In the last two years, I have dated a lot of people.  I have learned a lot.  I guess it shows.  Even though she’s been part of this journey all the way along she called me to hear again the journey and to get her head on straight.  She already knew what I was going to tell her.

I didn’t let her down.  I told her to kick the guy to the curb.

But…before I did that, I told her some other things that were helpful for me as I struggled through exactly the same fears, insecurities, and pain she is now going through.  What follows are some of those thoughts.

1.  First things first.  Figure out what you are all about.  It is imperative that you know what your must haves, and deal breakers are.  If necessary write them down.  Continue to revisit the list.  I know it sounds ooey gooey touchy feely but getting to know yourself and accepting yourself as you are (a work in progress and a mighty fine and unique work at that) is critical to your success not just in dating, but in life.  I personally also think that it is a good idea to know what areas you are not clear about or what areas or behaviors or qualities you are unsure if you can accept or not.  These are what I call gray areas.  For example, I know that I could not handle living with a chain smoker.  But, in the last two years I have dated several men who on occasion had a cigar with scotch outside in the evening or while playing darts out in the garage.  While, I have issues with smoking anything from a health perspective, if I found Mr. Right and he enjoyed a cigar on occasion, I think I could live with that. Cigars were a gray area for me.

I told my friend that before she could really make any decisions she had to decide what she wanted for herself and in relationship.  I also reminded her about the following:  She’s let the guy know that his on again off again behavior is not working for her.  He’s done nothing to change.  News flash for her:  He is not going to change.  She now has a decision to make.  Can she accept this relationship, his treatment of her and all that she is currently experiencing as it is and be content or not?  She can’t make those decisions till she knows what works for her and what doesn’t.  She admitted, that this current situation does not work for her.

2.  Expect to be made a priority.  I’ve said this more times than I care to recall, but when a man is crazy about a woman he goes to the wall for her.  The Taj Mahal was built for a woman.  All sorts of love songs, poems, and efforts are expended on the part of men to woo that one particular lady that captures his imagination and his heart.  She doesn’t have to drop hints, call him, stalk him or do any relational heavy lifting. If he’s broke and he’s into her he’ll do what he can, get a second job if need be to make life happen with her.  While I am currently speaking from experience on this one for myself, I would know this reality were true even if I did not.  How would I know because many, many, many men have personally told me this.  They simply won’t let the phone grow cold, nor will they leave any doubt in her mind (or anyone else’s for that matter) how they feel about her.  They even humiliate themselves by dressing up in silly knight costumes to propose in front of a crowd or they go to insane lengths to skywrite love messages and proposals for all including and especially her to see. 

Message here?  Expect him to expend some significant effort in order to make being with you a priority.  If he’s not doing this it is because he’s just not feeling it.

3.  Expect to be treated with respect and consideration.  This, my friends, goes both ways. Men and women both should have this as a core relational value.  For me, this reigns supreme and is an underpinning for any successful relationship. For my friend last night, thinking about this was the real eye opener.  When a person says they’ll do something and doesn’t come through on their word and especially when there is a consistent pattern of doing this with no real explanation (and sorry, my phone went dead just doesn’t cut it) the person is being disrespectful and inconsiderate.  Does he listen to you?  Does he value your input when making decisions?  Does he make good on his agreements with you? Is he respectful of your life, your activities and your family obligations or do you somehow end up feeling like what matters to you is just somehow not that important to him?  How does he pay attention to you when you are out with a group of people or does he disappear till the end of the evening when it is time to leave?  Does he indicate that he cares about your happiness and well being (however that’s demonstrated)?  Hopefully this is one area that is definitely reciprocal. 

What’s the logic behind this one?  Think about it. Relationships and habits of interacting do not necessarily improve over time, unless two people are working at it and committed to it.  It is generally the case that two people will begin to grow more comfortable with each other, they will tend to assume the feelings are known, and things get more casual and more is taken for granted.  Establishing patterns of interacting respectfully from the get go is critical.  It is much more difficult to insist on this after the relationship is established if it hasn’t been an expectation from the beginning.  If you start out allowing a guy to treat you badly, he’s probably not going to improve much.

4.  Value yourself.  Here’s the deal.  If you don’t think you are worthy of respect, consideration or that you are worth expending some effort on to connect with, no one else is going to think so either.  It will be difficult for you to proactively chart your happiness course if you don’t first see yourself as just as valuable and worthy of good treatment as the next person.  If you come at this relationship thing from the perspective that you can’t do any better, this is better than nothing or that you have to make exceptions due to your age, weight, income or number of children or whatever you will always sell yourself short. 

I can’t tell you how many times men and women alike told me all along this journey that my biggest difficulty in finding a quality person or developing a quality relationship was going to be the fact that I have four children.  While, my children are a huge consideration and something any prospective beau must be willing to accept, I never bought that excuse.  All it meant for mewas that anyone who found the fact that I have four children and two ex’s a problem, wasn’t the guy for me.  After all, I’m not looking for a father replacement for any of them.  I’m not even looking for any parental assistance.  I’m looking for good quality connection and companionship for me.  Yes, he’s got to be an excellent role model, but he would be if I chose him based on his innate character anyway.  I simply refused to allow myself to sink into despair based on what so many other people told me about this one.  I determined that no relationship was better than something that just kinda sorta worked and it was far superior to a bad relationship. And, funny how life is, seems just the person may have wandered in who is a great fit for me and who is confident and competent enough that he’s not in the least intimidated or alarmed by four kids and two ex’s.

I don’t know what decisions my friend will arrive at for herself.  She’s feeling pretty blue about her current relational realities right now and she’s having a tough time facing facts.  I understand her angst.  I’ve been there.  She’s a wonderful person with so much to offer but before she can really offer any of it, she’s got to believe it about herself first.  So do the rest of us. This is all sometimes easier said than done.

Best Excuse Ever?

Okay, this post is only partially poking fun. 

Why is it we find it so difficult to be direct and honest with each other.  Somehow, the act of saying, “No thanks” or “I’m really not interested” or “I’d really rather not, thank-you” without cushioning it with some fabrication or white lie is difficult for us. Okay, let me narrow it down.  It seems to be difficult for us in the U.S. on the West Coast (since I have no other frame of reference culturally, let’s go with it for the sake of dialogue).  When someone wants to be with us or invites us out, it is difficult to say, “No thanks.”  Instead we say we are busy, we make up excuses we uncomfortably fabricate some prior commitment. We also do this (c’mon, you know you have, I have too) when we are in a relationship and don’t know quite how to end it.

What’s more, we buy into these excuses when others use them to escape us.   While these excuses may sometimes be valid and legit, many are excuses people give each other when they are just not into the other person and are too wimpy to simply say so.  Because they could be legit, it is often tough to tell when they aren’t really legit.  So we give the partner or our date the benefit of the doubt.  This is probably reasonable to do one or two times.  The problem is we give them the benefit of the doubt again and again and again and…you get my drift.  Before we know it, we’ve wasted a year or two or seven of our lives.  Here are a few of the more common excuses I’ve heard since entering the dating scene two years ago and hanging with other single women/men and hearing about their dating woes.

“I’m not feeling well.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t.  I have family coming in from out of town.”

“I have to work.” 

“I’m too tired after working.”

“I’m helping a friend move.”

….and so on and so on.  I’m sure you can come up with a few yourself.

Just yesterday, I heard the greatest excuse ever though.  From a healthy man  who was telling his girlfriend of nearly two years why he couldn’t get together with her (for now the 6th evening in a row).  Here’s the excuse, ready? 

“I couldn’t call or come over because I was having chest pains due to stress.”  (The stress of not dealing straight with your girlfriend, maybe?)

Okay, excuse me for just a moment while I wipe up the mess I caused by choking with laughter and spewing my drink all over the table when I heard this.  Seriously? 

Her response? Even better.  But first you have to know that she introduced the whole topic to me by saying, “He had a really good excuse for not coming over or calling last night.”

“Oh?” I asked.  Seriously, no excuse is good.  Either you want to be with me or you don’t.  It’s that simple.  If you do, you will.  If you don’t,  you won’t.  If you aren’t I’m not spending any time wondering about it. My friend clearly doesn’t share my perspective.

“Yeah,” she said, “I mean, I could see that.  That happens to me too.”  Really?!  Okay, then!  We’ll go with that. 

I seriously don’t think I need to even mention it, but because there are morons out there who will actually attempt to convince me that there is a medical condition (I’m sure they’re right) that has these symptoms, let me just say this:  Whether there is a medical condition or not is not even the freaking point.

T he point is this: This is someone you supposedly love who supposedly loves you.  You are in pain and you don’t even tell them about it  until after the fact?  You don’t give them the opportunity to comfort and care about you in your time of need.  What’s more you don’t even call to say “here’s why I can’t come over?”  If it is that serious, you should have been over at the ER getting it checked out and even so, significant other should have (out of consideration and respect at the very least) have been notified.

I’m sorry.  I just don’t buy it.  On so many levels it just smacks of  just not being able to say the truth. 

If my friend is okay with that, then I wish her the best.  She is, after all, the one who will have to live with herself and her choices and his behavior.  I just know that what she is experiencing would not work for me, for so many reasons.  I simply desire something more and better than all that.

Ditch Mr. Options

Last night was movie night.  At my house, my kids and I have recently discoverd On Demand movies.  This is where you choose the movie you want to watch, pay a fee and watch the movie.  It is certainly cheaper than buying the movie, more convenient than running down to the local video rental store and renting it and since I’ve lost the last movie I rented from Netflix, it’s what we are doing now to provide the programming for our movie night.

Last night’s pick was dictated by the 18-year-old and me since we were the only ones watching.  She chose “He’s Just Not That Into You”.  It was a cute movie and showcased a number of dating disasters which we’ve all probably encountered or created regardless of our place in the life cycle. One of the overriding themes of the movie,however, was the tendency that women have to overlook the obvious and hope for the best in a relationship.  I call this tendency the tendency to make excuses for men’s bad behavior.

If a guy doesn’t call he’s not interested.  If he doesn’t want to have sex with you he’s not interested.  If he doesn’t want to be with you he’s not interested.  These were some of the main points of the movie.  I happen to agree with them.  But many of us women, make excuses or create fantasies about how he could still be into us and be unable to call, not be interested in us physically, and not want to spend time with us.  He’s busy, he’s tired, he’s got a lot of stuff to do at work. 

I used to make these very same excuses for the people I dated.  I no longer do this. 

If he says he’ll call and he doesn’t I waste no more time thinking about it.  I have all the information I need.

If we’ve been dating for a while and things are still platonic, that’s great, but he’s not in the candidate pool for next romantic partner where I’m concerned and I don’t spend a lot of time wishing or wondering when he’ll make the move to take the relationship to the next level. He won’t.  I won’t let him.  He’s not interested. I get it.

If  he says he’s into me but continually makes time with the guys or work more important than spending time with me, I no longer spend much time or energy on this.  He’s not into me.  If he is, he’s not enough into me.  I’m not wasting any time wondering why or wishing things were different or making excuses for him. He’s not into me, that doesn’t work for me.  Next!

These are relatively easy ones to figure out though.  The tough ones are the ones where every thing seems good on the surface: he calls, you spend regular time together, he’s indicating sexual interest. It seems like a relationship.  But something doesn’t quite sit right.  Maybe it’s the fact that he said he’d call at noon and he ends up not calling till 4 or 5.  Maybe it’s that he said he’d see you in a few hours and six hours later you still haven’t heard from him.  He does the minimum expected relationally to keep you from calling it quits but he doesn’t quite demonstrate the kind of caring, considerate interest that we all know a guy would demonstrate if he were into a gal. These are the tough ones to figure out when you’re caught up in one.

It is hard to leave a relationship that isn’t working.  We don’t ever do it unless we have to because we all love the companionship and we hate the Friday and Saturday nights alone or with strangers.  We are wired for that intimacy and connection that a good love interest can provide.  However, when it goes sour it is painful and like getting a shot or going to the dentist we fight it. 

I have a friend who is currently going through this situation. She’s been dating the guy for a year and a half.  Here are the facts as I know them:

  • They’ve been dating for a year and a half.
  • He was scheduled to move in over a month ago, to date, he still hasn’t moved his stuff over nor are they any closer to joining households than they were a month and a half ago.
  • He routinely says he’ll be over in a couple of hours, four, five, six hours later and he is still AWOL, and hasn’t called.
  • He chooses time with the guys over time with her consistently.
  • He leans on her financially and bails on his part of the financial obligations.
  • He says all the right stuff, but doesn’t do enough of the right things.
  • To my knowledge, other than moving in together, which doesn’t seem to be happening there has been no further discussion about moving the relationship to the next level, a conversation my friend would really like to have.

This is the guy I call Mr. Options.  In my opinion, this guy is stringing my friend along, getting what he wants out of her but holding out in case something better comes along.  It wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out exactly what I think of this behavior on the part of the guy.  I also bet you can guess exactly what my advice would be to my friend.

Yep.  You guessed it.  She ought to ditch him and move on. 

But she won’t, because she’s still in the denial stage and making excuse after excuse for him and accepting his paltry statements which are unsubstantiated by his behavior as adequate proof of his interest.  He’s not interested enough.  Raise your standards, girlfriend.  You’re so worth so much more than that.