Author Archives: failedatforty

About failedatforty

@failedatforty

can a modern woman love an old-fashioned man?

Here I shall reveal my latest idiocy:  I had happy hour with the guy…yeah, the one I can’t get over. Something inside me thinks:  it’s been a long time, I won’t still feel it, we’ll just catch up like old friends and then part ways. I keep thinking I will find a way to bless what I’ve learned and move on. And, even though I suspect it was just two colleagues keeping in touch to him, I have spent the last two days and will spend the next many more wishing and hoping that something inside him, something about the way he perceived me, would shift and that he would be compelled to call and ask to see me again.

Simultaneously, I wish something inside me would change and allow me to get on with my life and attract a relationship with someone who can love and appreciate me without ever waffling about it.

In other words, the happy hour was just one among an unabridged dictionary’s worth of missteps with Mr. Meltsmyheart.

I wish I could recall how it came up but, at one point, he complained to me that chivalry is dead and an old-fashioned guy like him didn’t stand a chance with women today, particularly liberated ones.

Okay…first:  WHAT?! Why the heck did he think I was (am) so head-over-heels interested in him? It was all that commanding, masculine energy that turned me to mush inside! It was my intuition telling me that, after a long day of putting on my man pants, going to work, making a million decisions and having to be in charge or everything under the sun, with a man like him I could relax into my femininity and enjoy it. It was knowing that he could treat a woman with respect. It was sensing that, if we ever became physically involved, he would treat those moments of intimate discovery with a certain amount of reverence. It was believing that he might have the maturity and relationship skills to cherish me. It was feeling a growing sweetness within myself whenever we were together.

I fell for him because of those feelings. And because of his kindness, warmth, wit, intellect, decency, calm, commitment, hard work and so much more. For all the right reasons, for once. And I still revel in all of those senses and feelings when he’s near! The way I feel in his presence always leaves me wanting for more. And probably that’s why I was so heartbroken that it never went anywhere.

Did I say all that? No. But I did tell him how far off he was, and just how much a woman like me desires more than anything to find a chivalrous man, with manners and decency — a man stronger than me, who can stand up to me and for me, a man worthy of leading our family. I offered up an example:  the Southern gentlemen I’d dated a few years back, who opened doors, arranged dates and knew how to properly behave. Ah, it was dreamy!

He was shocked, completely taken aback. “You just blew my mind,” he confessed.

I don’t recall exactly where our chat went from there, as we soon had to part to pick up our evening parenting duties. We hugged our goodbyes and, later, when I thanked him for a nice time, I teased that I liked poking holes in his theory of me, too.

…I just wish it were mind blowing enough to keep him coming back for more!


everything is better and worse all at once

I could hardly wait for spring break to come:  I was going to drop my children off at their father’s for the weekend, spend a morning with the friend in hospice I told you about (Tom), enjoy a pedicure, pack and get ready for our trip west…and then sunshine!

I didn’t hear from the children’s father on Friday. My daughter volunteered at the popcorn stand in the bingo hall at the local church fish fry. My son and I met some friends there for dinner.

Saturday morning, I was nearly sick with anxiety as I drove to hospice to see Tom…I had absolutely no idea what to expect. But he had been texting and asked for a latte, so I stopped to get us coffee and treats. I walked quietly into the room where he was sleeping and, as he woke, he recognized me immediately. We sipped our lattes and nibbled on muffins while he asked me about my children, life and work. He enthusiastically empathized with my parenting stories, saying “Oh, I know!” as though he’d raised a half-dozen himself (he is childless). Not long after he’d excused himself to clean up, a skiing buddy stopped by…and then a friend from high school…and then some family members. His room was like Grand Central. And I was both uplifted and comforted, knowing that he was surrounded by love and laughter — and that he was still very much able to enjoy reliving his many adventures.

Then, having connected with my ex, I dropped the children off that afternoon for an overnight with him. Minutes later, my daughter called, upset:  there was dried blood splattered all over the kitchen. I drove back and went in. His place was messier than usual; he seemed a little more disheveled than usual…but he convincingly argued that everything was fine, that he had merely fallen down, that he would clean up. My daughter was overly tired after a sleepover. He urged her to take a nap and me to go about my day. I left again. My daughter called less than an hour later, hysterical: her father had fallen and hit his head, she had called 911 and the paramedics were there. I rushed back to collect and comfort my children, then called my ex’s eldest and met him at the ER.

Sunday we visited the hospital again, as my ex couldn’t maintain his balance, seemed disoriented and showed signs of a brain injury. Aside from visiting, there was nothing more I could do:  no one would share details of his injury or treatment with me, the non-family. I cornered a compassionate nurse and told her of his sudden, steep decline over the past few months and the symptoms I’d observed. It was a terrifying blur, and I felt helpless and heartbroken.

And the next day, I took my children on our best vacation yet! We stayed with my ex’s son, played with my children’s new niece, lay by the pool, ran on the beach, ate sushi with my ex’s daughter — and the children loved their time with their half-siblings. I am perhaps all too conscious that these former step children of mine don’t have to be so welcoming as to invite me into their lives and homes, yet they are — if not familial exactly — then warm and generous in ways that continue to surprise me. And they love my children, their younger siblings. The time we spent together as a sort of family was an unexpected blessing and I am comforted to know that this family culture, not my ex’s disease nor his slow, one-sip-at-a-time suicide, will be their family legacy.

I have begun settling into the notion that I am now a full-time single parent, with no likely reprieve nor partnership in parenting on the horizon. This may be the new normal. It is heartbreaking and wrenching to grasp that he is no longer the fun-loving father he once was, much less the man I once loved. I am at a loss for how to make sense of all this to my children. I don’t write this to elicit pity or sympathy; I state it as fact. Facing their father’s coming death, whether imminent or prolonged, is no easy feat. Imagine! This is the man I once loved.

Acceptance and peace for these new circumstances is slowly dawning. I have purpose; I know clearly my true north. I will raise these children to be compassionate, loving, functional adults. And I will not do it entirely alone, as I see how their older siblings rally around and love them. And my family and friends, too. Regardless what happens to their father, regardless of what he is doing to himself, they will be raised in a loving, stable home.


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?


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 276 other followers