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reflections on californication

Probably one of the factors involved in the emotional discord I felt over the holidays was binge-watching one of the most depressing television shows I can imagine:  Californication. I freely admit to being hopelessly behind the cool kids, as I’m not willing to pay for that much cable and am, therefore, relegated to catching up on Netflix. I was intrigued by this show because of my undying love for the X-Files’ Fox Mulder, because revelations about David Duchovny Why-Don’t-You-Love-Me’s personal life made me wonder whether this was life imitating art or vice versa, and because I’d heard it was funny.

Instead, I found it sad.

Certainly there were funny moments. I, too, fell in love with the captivating Karen, although I couldn’t imagine the soft spot in her heart for Hank would not have hardened over in a more resolute manner over more than 20 years of his refusal to behave like a grown man. Sure, he possessed a certainly amount of chivalrous charm, but no woman’s gonna cling to that for two decades. It simply failed to suspend my disbelief, the most fundamental tenet of fiction. Perhaps that’s because the affable man-child reminded me so much of my ex and father of my children, whose juvenile behaviors have caused me no end of misery for the past couple of months (never mind the entire decade before that).

I was struck also by the similarities between his character and that of Mary Louise Parker in Weeds. Clearly she played the role with more depth, but they were two narcissists who could not seem to help themselves from making the same self-defeating decisions over and over again. My feelings for Duchovny now veer toward ambivalence, and I may have to revisit the X-Files to recapture the fondness I once felt for him — luckily for me, FOX just announced it has ordered six new episodes!

But my feelings for the entertainment industry and their persistence in creating an endless supply of drivel glorifying men who fail to self actualize (see also Mad Men, The Hangover series, etc.) are of frustration. Yes, I chose to watch this depressing and wretched series through to the end; I freely admit it. I consider it a bit of education in weeding out such types quickly in real life. But surely, there must be something interesting or entertaining about men who are faithful, loving, devoted, nurturing or mature — think of the characters in Parenthood, for example, or Downton Abbey… I’m sure there are more. These are fellows I’d be more likely to give my time — both on Netflix and in real life.


and, now, I can properly grieve…

A few days ago, I learned that a man I’ve known (very casually) is dying of a brain tumor. Let’s call him Tom (not his real name).

When I left one corporate job (right around the time I started this blog), a friend and mentor recommended I network with Tom. We set up a coffee appointment, talked about my experience, what opportunities or possibilities he saw based on his connections, and networking groups I should attend. Tom was excited for me, positive about my very broad skill set and encouraged me to think big.

We saw each other a few more times for coffee over the past couple of years:  the last time would have been over two years ago when he had left a job and asked me to return the favor. I shared some connections and helped him understand the organizational structure of the company I work for and see where there might be opportunities that aligned with his passions. He told me he’d take me out to dinner to thank me as soon as he’d landed the next job.

It was a year before I ran into him again, this time in our corporate cafeteria, where he was clearly having an interview lunch and didn’t have an opportunity to talk. And it was late autumn: buzz of a hiring freeze meant he wouldn’t be hired until at least the new year. What I didn’t know was that, in the meantime, he’d been diagnosed with and treated for a brain tumor.

Fast forward to this past fall, when I realized we were now working at the same company. In fact, Tom had the same role and leader as the object of my affections that I wrote about a couple of posts ago — you know, the one I haven’t managed to get over in two years… I reached out to Tom and suggested coffee or a happy hour, and he told me he’d been having some medical issues and would be back after the new year, at which point he’d reconnect.

Over the past few months, I checked every so often to see if Tom was online, but he wasn’t. I tried texting and social media, with no response. So I reached out to my unrequited love interest — you know, the one whose contact information I deleted for the sake of self preservation — who told me Tom had been out for awhile; that his tumor had come back, he was being treated and expected to be back in February. We vowed to let each other know if we heard news. Tom was the strong, athletic, vibrant type we knew would come back!

Except that he’s not. A few days ago, I heard from the same friend and mentor who’d introduced me to Tom in the first place that he’s declined rapidly and in hospice. I’ve felt gutted and raw and unsure how to grieve someone with whom I was never really very close; Tom was little more than a casual acquaintance and possibility to me. Now, not only did I have to share what I’d learned with my old flame, but the two of them are linked in my mind.

And that’s how I found myself grieving both of them last night:  I grieved for Tom, who I’ll never get to truly know, and for the man for whom I fell so hard and who didn’t return those feelings. Once again, I found myself wondering when I’ll be able to release that energy, that longing, that heartache and move on… I cried over it for the first time and, suddenly, I realized something:  this man, for whom I still care a great deal, was a near daily presence in my life for two years:  he was like a best friend. And I realized that the loss I feel is not for the love that never was, but the loss of my best friend.

It was a cathartic release and realization. I am still unsure what to do with this new perspective, but I am now confident that I can properly grieve these loses for what they were and are.

The other thing about perspective is how well it plays as a cartoon:  There’s me, with this huge thought bubble filled with everything you’ve read in this post and several others about the guy who should probably have a nickname or even a category on this blog because he’s played such a big part in my consciousness about men since we met. And then there’s him, with a thought bubble over his head that says something like, “Huh. Yeah, I know her…”


another douchey ending

Let me first begin by saying that I truly believe most people are good, kind and well-intentioned. I love men, and I think there are many wonderful ones walking this earth.

And then there’s a guy who I spent some time with maybe a year and a half ago. Despite being older than me, his last relationship of two years had ended…when his girlfriend, 24, moved out. In other words, we shared a love of excellent food and service, and had great conversation — but he was never in consideration for a relationship. And I made that clear.

We would go out for nice dinners, drink copious amounts of liquor and, then, when I was truly on the verge of being a mess, he would try to make moves. I would tell him that I didn’t know him that well, I wasn’t ready for that, I would be uncomfortable, and so on. Bear in mind we went out all of three or four times over a couple of months. He did not make refusing him easy. But if he’d seen me the morning(s) after, he would have been thrilled to not have to deal with the hung over mess I most often was after a night out with him.

Fast forward to this last fall:  This same fellow, a youthful and fit man in his early fifties, is retired and spends most winters abroad. We hung out once in the early autumn — we’d had lunch plans, but other appointments made me late, so we went shoe shopping instead. (Of course, he asked me to meet him at his house, where he first attempted to ply me with alcohol and seduce me.)

Okay, yes, by now a smart girl would have figured out that he has but one motivation…

So one night while I’m out by myself, he texts me to see if I’d like to meet for a drink. We settle on a place near my neighborhood, order a round of drinks and begin chatting. I request something that will warm me up, because I am coming down with a cold. He expresses his disappointment, because that means he’s unlikely to be invited to spend the night with me afterward. Ugh. So finally, in a very direct way, I explain that I enjoy his company and friendship, but I don’t share his feeling that our relationship simply must be consummated.

From that moment in the conversation, he excuses himself and goes to the restroom, comes back and picks up his phone, in which he is entirely engrossed. Though he is clearly ignoring me, I try to make pleasant conversation. He shows me a photo of his dinner date from earlier in the evening, a young blond woman. I tell him she’s cute. He tells me she wants him to take her abroad with him. I ask, “for a visit, or for the entire winter?” He tells me that she wants to join him for the winter. I ask if he’s considering it. He tells me yes, then goes back to his entirely engrossing mobile device…

I finished my drink, pulled out a credit card, paid and bid him adieu. He took the young blond — his former girlfriend, now perhaps 26, with him abroad.

I honestly hope the two of them are very happy together. And I am positively disgusted that he was trying to squeeze in a last-minute lay with me before committing himself to cohabitation (at the very least) for the next six months. What a pig!


my last failed relationship

Do you ever get yourself into something and then, somewhere along the way, you realize it’s a bad deal, but you’re in it and you forget for awhile how to get out?

That pretty much sums up my last relationship. Even looking back at how it began, there was nothing that really suggested it could last. Our early dates didn’t generate warm and fuzzy feelings inside me. And yet, somehow, I got sucked in. And, before I knew it, I found myself feeling as though I was four years into an unhappy marriage — to which I’d never committed in the first place.

For the record, we dated for approximately ten months.

He was positive at first and could be surprisingly sweet. But we disagreed about political viewpoints that made me think he was a closet misogynist. And life was throwing a few sucker punches his way. He became negative; he used language that painted himself as a victim ever so subtly; he complained about being broke and his health problems; he sucked me into his drama.

And it’s so easy to see now because TWICE since we’ve broken up, he’s done something so crazy I can barely recount it:

  1. Right around the new year, he called to ask if we could get coffee and talk. He said he needed a friend. I agreed to meet him. He told me about the woman who’d broken his heart. (This was all of two months after we’d broken up, mind you.) And then, before I understood what was happening, he was telling me how much he missed us and that we were steady and stable and I wasn’t crazy and couldn’t we just go back to where we were? To me, where we were was a realization that, no matter the circumstances, I was never going to want to move in with, much less marry him. To him, where we were must have looked different.
  2. Three months later, he called and said he needed a friend and would I meet him for a drink? I swore that this time, if he asked me to reunite, I would never answer his call or agree to meet him again. This time, he told me about the women he’d dated in the past few months — those who’d broke his heart, those whose hearts he’d broken — and his engagement. Yes, engagement. But he’d called it off. He’d asked her to marry him on Tuesday, then asked for the ring back on Friday. You see, women are all crazy and bipolar and couldn’t we just start over where we left off? Yep; he did it again! And I’m quite sure it’s never dawned on him how that might feel to me.

Anyway, maybe that sort of explains why I haven’t written much lately and why I haven’t been dating lately. You see, when you attract someone who ends up hitching a ride on the crazy train, you have to take a moment to look in the mirror and wonder what’s going on with your own energy for you to attract a situation like that. And I’ll be honest, the emotional ground beneath my feet still feels a little shaky. I can’t really put my finger on why…but it does. So I’m not going to look for someone else who, at this moment in my life, is only likely to add drama. I’m going to take care of myself for awhile. And, if it so happens that someone comes along when I’m taking care of me, I’ll be okay with that.


wish you weren’t here

I never imagined my recent…wait, can we even really call four weeks ago recent? I guess…recent dalliance with the magnum would be more than it was. I think I was more disappointed that, for all his supposed years of wanting, his desire to woo me seemed to have fizzled out. But the real kiss of death was something that came out of his mouth… (actually, there were a lot of deal breakers that came out of his mouth)… but there was only one that made me wish none of this had ever happened:

He brought up a mutual acquaintance, one he knew I’d liked, and suggested that the two of us must have slept together… And then the name of this man brought up his visage and the memories and the same feelings flooded back as viscerally as if the scab had been ripped off to expose an open wound. He was all I could think about, even as I still think he’s a fool! And I still think he’s a far better man than the one I was lying next to at that very moment and, suddenly, I couldn’t wait to get the hell away from there and never come back.

Thing is, this mythologized man is someone I wrote about a couple of years back:  I wrote about how he had an uncanny knack of bypassing all my defenses, making me feel soft and sweet inside, coaxing out the very best in me and enabling me to relinquish control — and all we’d ever done is talk, hug and kiss. We’re creeping up on two years since that kiss and, despite fights and hurtful words and disparate values, I still feel that way. He still occasionally visits me in my dreams.

I texted him a few days later to see if he wanted to grab a beer before the holiday break ended, and he said he was flattered, but seeing someone, and that he’d bought his children a dog for Christmas. Four weeks have passed. My heart still aches.

I’ve since deleted our text history and his contact information. It’s a move meant to cut the cord for my own emotional health and self preservation. And my heart still aches to feel that feeling that, in more than a decade, I’ve only felt when with him. And, perhaps even worse, I wonder what is wrong with me that I can’t move on?


a man’s gotta be able to drive

…and by that, I don’t mean a car, necessarily, although it certainly helps in these parts. I mean he has to be able to grab hold of an opportunity and take forward action — not this lateral, side-stepping nonsense.

So, recently, when the magnum asked me when he could see me again, I replied to his text with “not sure. what do you have in mind?”

He replied:  “wine. dinner. beer.”

Me:  “ok. ask me on a date, then.”

Him:  “ok.”

Days later, I had heard nothing and I thought to myself:

  1. This doesn’t feel good to me. I want to be wanted, at least a little…pursued, if you will.
  2. I don’t like the way we communicate. Not once has a text or conversation between us stimulated my biggest erogenous zone, my mind.
  3. We’re in different places. I’m feeling myself again, enjoying my single life and thinking about being in an actual relationship with someone who’s also looking for a committed, life-long conspirator. The heart wants.
  4. It’s a terrible sign when a man doesn’t take the lead. Just think about being stuck in a relationship with someone who constantly leaves all the relationship-related work to you… Ugh! That was my first marriage! (My wasband actually said — without a moment’s hesitation — to a marriage counselor — when asked who was in charge of our relationship that it was me. Not us, as should be assumed in any relationship involving two or more people, but me, the person he expected would always take care of everything.)

A little more context:  the last time we’d seen each other, I mentioned that my ex and I were switching weekends so that my upcoming weekend was free — and, based on what he’d told me before, our child-free weekends were synched up. So he’d already had an open door to ask me out…if he’d wanted to. Over it.

So, if you’re reading this and you’re a guy, here’s your take-away:  a woman wants to be valued, asked out, planned for, picked up (if you know each other well enough for her to be comfortable with that), taken someplace special / thoughtful — where you have, of course, made reservations.

It sounds something like this:

“Hi, this is Chuck. I’d really like to take you to dinner Saturday night. Can I pick you up at seven?”

And your love interest, who will be exceedingly more intrigued by this powerful approach than the lame “when can I see you?”, responds positively and then you come back with: “Great, I’ve made reservations at [restaurant] at 8, and I’ll be wearing jeans and a sport coat, no tie.”

You’ve now told your date that you value her (or him) enough to plan ahead, pick her up and give her an idea of what to wear. Kudos. Great job! A winning approach.

It’s entirely true that I may not be representative of all women and not all women may be turned off by a lack of good communication. Some women even like to take the lead. To each her own…

And my own is not to waste more time where I don’t feel cherished.


besieged by emotional earthquakes

Not earthquakes, really; more like tremors. A shaking and unease where there ought to be some foundation. Anxiety about the mountains of work awaiting after the holiday, overwhelm about the housework, too much time cooped up in a house with only my children with the weather too cold to go out and enjoy it.

Seems I feel this way every year in the interim between Christmas and New Years. Not sure why, really.

This year I had insulation put into my walls — a messy proposition. The interiors of every exterior wall of our home had holes drilled every 16″ between the studs and insulation blown in. Then workers filled each of these holes with a styrofoam disk and slathered them in drywall mud.

After two days of dust, noise and workers, I was left with my belongings piled in the center of each room and covered in plastic covered with a thick layer of dust, patches that required sanding and some re-patching and sanding again, then priming, painting, cleaning and more cleaning. I’m still painting and putting things back in place.

The good news is that several consecutive ten to twelve hour days of cleaning took my mind off the existential tremors of insecurity about my work, my life, my finances, my future, etc.

Next year, remind me to go to Mexico instead.


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